Tuesday, June 29, 2010

By the Time You Read This, I'll be Dead

By the Time You Read This, I'll be Dead
Julie Anne Peters
Hyperion, January 2010
Realistic fiction

It seems that there are a number of "teen problem" books coming out lately (well, probably since the mid 90s), but this one is by far one of the best. Peters' novel is amazing; it doesn't feel like a preachy don't-kill-yourself book or an overly depressing my-life-is-so-horrible book either - it feels like a highly realistic account of a teen who has been bullied her whole life and doesn't feel she can continue to live.

Daelyn’s  been the victim of bullying throughout her life and now she’s simply counting down the days until she can commit her final act on Earth. It’s destiny that she finds a Website to help her in her quest. She has the motive, the means, and the determination. Then she meets this boy, Santana, who makes her examine her choice of death over life. But is he too late to save her? And is she too damaged to save him? From Julie Ann Peters' website

Daelyn can't speak, so you are completely in her head, listening to her thoughts, which is perfect for this type of book. Although we hear her every thought, we don't know everything at every moment. Slowly we learn why she can't speak, how she's been bullied, and why she is planning to commit suicide. Peters has created a very "real" character in Daelyn; you want her life to be different, you want the adults around her to see what's truly going on, you want her to be with Santana, ultimately you want her to find a reason to live.

What is so wonderful about this book aside from the amazing characters, is the ending. It's doesn't end in some big I-have-changed-and-now-see-life-is-worth-living moment or in a horrible suicide scene. It just ends. We don't know what Daelyn decides to do. You have to decide for yourself what choice she makes in the end, which is absolutely wonderful. It fits with the tone of the book and makes it feel even more realistic. The book just wouldn't be as good if we knew for certain what her choice was.

I must also rave about the cover. I love this cover. The gray tones with the red petals - beautifully designed. The title text fading fits the theme of the book so well. Everything fits so well together to create a feeling of the tone of the book. It's just wonderful.

Like I said this book is amazing, depressing, but amazing. The writing is wonderful, the characters are super realistic, and the end - oh the end - it's perfect.

Get this book immediately and begin reading

Sunday, June 27, 2010

When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me
Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books, July 2009
Realistic fiction with fantastical elements

A few weeks ago a friend recommended I read When You Reach Me after I told her I had just finished re-reading A Wrinkle in Time. She told me nothing about the plot only that there was a connection to A Wrinkle in Time and that it was amazing. I didn't read the back or anything else about the book, so I really had no idea what it would be about.

After reading about 10 pages I was totally in to it. She was right it was amazing.

Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:

I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.

I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that haven’t even happened yet.  Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.
From Rebecca Stead's website

I absolutely loved this book; read it in about two sittings. Everything about it works. The plot may seem a bit confusing and scattered in the beginning, but once you reach the end everything falls into place perfectly.

When You Reach Me is one of the best middle grade books I've read. Stead is very aware of what that age group is looking for and will relate to. Miranda's voice is definitely that of a twelve year old; her actions, thoughts, and concerns are all ones 10-13 year olds can easily relate to. The romance elements are minimal and only hit on first kisses; friendship and growing apart is the major focus. Both of which are perfectly appropriate for middle grade.

Beyond truly knowing her audience, Stead's writing itself is smart. It's interesting from the first line to the last. The book's pretty short, only about 200 pages, but Stead packs every page with important details that all come together at the end of the book. The book is packed with odd, fantastical elements which all must stay consistent throughout the book and come together to make sense in the end. Stead does an amazing job of this.

This book most certainly deserved to win the Newberry Award.

Get this book immediately and begin reading

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Before I Fall

Before I Fall
Lauren Oliver
HarperCollins, March 2010
Realistic fiction with fantastical elements

Initially I was concerned about how Oliver would make this plotline interesting and orignial, and not just a Groundhog Day retelling. It had to be more than the same basic events over and over again; there had to be something really good to keep me reading about the same day seven times.

And there definitely is; I couldn't put it down.

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all; the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High - from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrronding her death - and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.
From the HarperTeen website

Sam isn't a very nice person, actually she's a bit of a bitch. But she's a far cry from many of the one dimensional mean-girls characters that riddle YA at the moment. In fact none of the characters are flat, not even Sam's younger sister who only makes minor appearances. You are drawn into her life as she attempts to figure out why she's reliving her last and discovering what sort of person she really is. oliver creates a character whose changes and growth we can actually believe. We want her to change, to help the outcast, to kiss the boy, to find herself before it's too late.

Although the entire book is just one day over and over again, Oliver has repeated just enough to get you into Sam's mindset as she struggles to figure out what's happening to her and how to stop it. She doesn't repeat the unnecessary or let the novel get bogged down in the middle around the fourth time she relives her day. Being able to do this makes Lauren Oliver a brilliant writer - at least in my humble opinion.

Before I Fall makes you think about all the things you've said and done and how they may have affected someone else, without being preachy or overstated.

Add to the top of you to-read pile

Friday, June 25, 2010


Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic, August 2009
Paranormal romance (werewolves)

Just finished reading Shiver for the second time in anticipation of the July release of Linger (the second book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy). It was just as wonderfully amazing as the first time I read it last December. Maggie Stiefvater is an amazing writer and I am so very excited to see where the story ends in the final installment, Forever due out in 2011.

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. one yellow-eyed wolf - her wolf - is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Same has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human ... unitl the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human - or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.
From Maggie Stiefvater's website.

The writing is absolutely amazing; the prose is beautifully crafted. Maggie knows exactly how to get you really "into" a scene, a moment, a feeling. The tone - the novel's core feeling - seeps from every scene. The longing Same and Grace feel for each other and their understanding that time is running out for them comes through every part of the novel. You can't help but hope that they will find a way to be together and Sam will avoid shifting.

Beyong the wonderful writing, the characters are all realistic and interesting. From the very beginning you're drawn into Grace and Sam's story. The novel opens with Grace being attacked by a pack a wolves. It's not a violent, introduction, as one might expect; Grace is calm and unafraid. immediately you want to know why she's attacked, why she's not scared, and who the yellow-eyed wolf who saves her is.

I especially enjoyed the narration shifts between Grace and Sam. By shifting the story between the two you are pulled into their story even more. These shifts aren't every other chapter, but are clearly carefully thought out as to whose viewpoint a moment would be best told through. The chapters vary greatly in length as well, which helps push the story forward and keeps the pacing from dragging in the middle.

Beyond the content, this book is one of the most beautifully designed I've seen. The cover is gorgeous; the blue graphic art with the red blood spot for the dot on the "i" all work perfectly. Plus the entire interior text is a beautiful dark, dark blue. So very pretty and original.

I absolutely loved this book and am eagerly awaiting the next two.

Get this book immediately and begin reading

Friday, June 11, 2010

Welcome to Bookland

I figured it was time to start up a blog to ramble about "bookland," i.e. the publishing world, books in general, reading, basically anything literary.

Last fall I began getting my Master's in Publishing at PSU and have become more and more interested in all things book with each passing day. That being said my reviews and posts will be from publisher's viewpoint, as well as a reader's. So I'll probably ramble about awesome covers, interesting marketing ideas, and the publishing industry in general.

My main interests lie in Young Adult and children's books, so the majority of the reviews and general information here will likely revolve around those genres.

Time to start writing about reading.