November 18, 2017

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A Dose of Family Drama | Adult Books 4 Teens

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With the holiday season approaching, we present a handful of picks that give a new spin to the definition of family and offer plenty of food for thought. The full versions of these reviews originally appeared on the Adult Books 4 Teens blog.—Angela Carstensen and Mark Flowers

Jensen, Lisa. Alias Hook. 368p. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne. 2014. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781250042156; ebk. ISBN 9781466839717.

Gr 9 Up–An inventive spin on J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Hook is reincarnated and fitted with a new crew each time he is defeated by Pan. He has been trapped in Neverland for 200 years and wishes for nothing more than a true death. But something else is afoot. He knows that his crews are made up of old Lost Boys, wandering back to Neverland as adults, but never has a “Wendy” returned until Stella makes her appearance. After some initial bafflement and bluster, Hook and Stella fall in love, and together they attempt to unravel the mystery of the curse that has kept Hook prey to Pan for so many years. Jensen’s attempts at mythology here, especially the specifics of the curse, are a bit convoluted, but it doesn’t much matter—the heart of this highly affecting novel is the intertwined stories of the redemption of a seemingly irredeemable man, and the powerful love story of Hook and Stella. Jensen’s take on the importance of childhood and Neverland is surprisingly consonant with Barrie’s. Teen fans of the original play and novel, the Disney film, or any other variant since should highly enjoy this unique offering.—Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA

Straub, Emma. The Vacationers. 304p. Riverhead. 2014. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9781 594631573; ebk. ISBN 9781101618042.

Gr 9 Up–In this delightful concoction, family and friends come together for two weeks of summer vacation on the island of Mallorca. Franny is a freelance magazine writer about food from different regions. She’s currently not speaking to her husband, a magazine editor recently dismissed for sleeping with an employee only a few years older than their daughter, Sylvia. The teen cannot wait to start at Brown University in the fall. All she wants from this vacation is to lose her virginity and try to forget her best friend’s betrayal. Cue Joan, the gorgeous local college boy Franny has hired to tutor Sylvia in Spanish. Also in attendance, Franny’s best friend of 40 years, Charles, to provide comfort and counsel. Charles and his husband, Lawrence, are waiting to hear whether they’ve been chosen to adopt a baby boy. Sylvia’s older brother Bobby and Bobby’s much-older girlfriend, Carmen fly in from Miami. Straub fleshes out all of these characters, effortlessly illuminating their foibles and mistakes, mitigated by the grace of forgiveness and familial understanding. Just as a great recipe is balanced and spiced, so Straub mixes the stress and comedy of a family vacation spent in close quarters to delightful effect.—Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

Tingle, Tim. House of Purple Cedar. 326p. Cinco Puntos. 2014. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781935955696; pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781935955245. LC 2013010570.

Gr 9 Up–Tingle takes us to the Oklahoma Territory of the late 1800s. While on an outing with her family, 11-year-old Rose watches as her grandfather Amafo is beaten by Marshall Hardwicke for no apparent reason. Instead of retaliating, Amafo goes home, only to return to town the next day to meet Marshall eye-to-eye. His nonviolent approach is disconcerting for the Marshall, who cannot let it lie and is determined to avenge his anger at what he considers to be an affront. Readers learn about the Choctaw way of life as they follow Rose as she tries to make sense of the Marshall’s violence. Tall tales and fabulous characters intersperse with a story that unfolds, highlighting the racial tension and violence that festers in the Marshall. Told in retrospect by Rose, this tale will transport readers back to the dusty plains where life is hard, and where racism allows acts that can scar a town, even as it brings it closer together. Give this suspenseful tale to teens who can handle a novel that jumps from one character and narrative to another.—Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA

Yanique, Tiphanie. Land of Love and Drowning. 368p. bibliog. ebook available. maps. Riverhead. 2014. Tr $27.95. ISBN 9781594488337. LC 2013044381.

Gr 9 Up–The Virgin Islands is the main character in this debut novel. St. Thomas, like its inhabitants, comes of age after it transfers from Danish to American rule in the early 1900s. Distinctive multiple narrators tell the story of the wealthy Captain and his beautiful but “wild” wife, Antoinette; his daughters, Eeona and Anette; and his son Jacob, conceived with his mistress. When Bradshaw’s ship sinks, taking the lives of his crew with him, the island and his family are changed forever. Eeona longs to escape the islands, Anette craves the security of a committed relationship, and Jacob falls in love with the wrong woman. History is reflected in their lives and times: when World War II breaks out, Jacob and his friends head to the mainland as soldiers only to face a racism that did not exist at home; the rise of civil rights on the mainland fuels a growing rebellion on St. Thomas. Mature themes weave throughout these stories, including sexuality and incest. Recommend to teens who enjoy strong characters, a tumultuous historical time period, and a setting that embraces music, madness, and Caribbean magic.—Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA

This article was published in School Library Journal's October 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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