February 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review Spring 2014 Releases, Second Take on Whaley’s ‘Noggin’

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Though there’s time travel in Subway Love and a body transplant in Noggin, all of the featured titles here could loosely be labeled contemporary young adult fiction. While one teen attempts to escape from suburban atrophy in The Other Way Around, another finds her way out through dance in Warm Up. What’s not to love about YA books?

KAUFMAN, Sashi. The Other Way Around. Carolrhoda Books. March 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781467702621.

121813otherwayaroundGr 8 Up—If one word were to describe Andrew West, it would be underachiever; with a completely apathetic attitude toward school, despite his mother’s constant nagging, Andrew is not looking forward to the future–nor does he have any plans. When his Uncle Kirk and cousin Darryl visit for Thanksgiving, Andrew is only reminded of how dysfunctional his family is. After his cousin Darryl wets Andrew’s bed, Andrew decides that he’s had enough and runs away to visit his grandmother in Indiana until the holiday is over. But when Andrew learns at the bus station that his grandmother has died (a fact that his controlling mother and absentee father were too scared to tell him), he instead joins up with a group of traveling teenagers self-named the Freegans. As Andrew travels with the group in Shirley, an old RV camper, he finds himself introduced to a whole new lifestyle, complete with dumpster diving, trapeze acts, squat houses, and organic farms. He learns the stories of his fellow travelers, teenagers from troubled backgrounds parading as adults. Far from home and living a life that is totally opposite from his suburban life with his family, Andrew begins to confront his problems and discover what he wants for the future.

The Other Way Around by Sashi Kaufman is a mix of adventure, romance, and coming-of-age. Andrew is funny and genuine, and despite his complete lack of motivation and occasional irresponsibility, he is someone I would like to know in real life. The characters he meets are unique, if not a little bit eccentric. Additionally, although I cannot ever imagine myself running away like Andrew did, his journey was an interesting learning experience that provided not only Andrew but also myself with a glimpse into a different perspective and lifestyle. The optimistic ending wrapped the story up nicely, leaving me satisfied and entertained.—Kayla T., age 17

LEACH, Sara. Warm Up. Orca. March 2014. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781459804289.

121813warmupsGr 6-9—Jasmine always thought of dance as a series of steps that come one after another, and that is all. When she earns a spot on a dance competition team, she feels overwhelmed by the many steps and the choreography she must memorize, not to mention the extremely strict teacher and other competitive dancers who are out for each others’ blood. How could she enjoy dance like this? In the end, she, her teacher, and her teammates work together to discover the true meaning of dance, teamwork, and friendship.

Warm Up is a sweet story that will surely leave a smile on your face. Not only does it capture the beauty and emotion of dance, but also the power of friendship. Jasmine is a girl who you cannot help but love and cheer for. She brings out happiness in herself and her teammates, as well as her straight-laced dance instructor. You will not want to put the book down as you wait for the characters in the book to come together as a true team,. This book is simply a sweet, refreshing breath of fresh air.—Michaela B., age 14

HAN, Jenny. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. S&S. April 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442426702.

121813toalltheboysGr 8 Up—Margot is leaving Lara Jean. Margot is leaving Kitty and Daddy, too, but Lara Jean has to take over when Margot leaves for college in Scotland, and Lara Jean isn’t ready. In reality, Lara Jean isn’t ready for any kind of change—not Margot and Josh breaking up, not Margot leaving for college, and definitely not for the list of things she has to take care of when Margot leaves. In the midst of dealing with her new-found responsibilities, letters are sent—letters that were never meant to leave a box in Lara Jean’s room. When the letters are received, Lara Jean has to figure out how to keep her secrets, whatever secrets she has left.

Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was a book I knew would keep my interest the moment I started reading it. Lara Jean’s story is about more than letters written to boys she has loved, but it is also about the love she feels for her family. As the middle child, she struggles to figure out where she fits within the family dynamic, while also trying to fill Margot’s shoes. Lara Jean is a relatable, honest character, and so is her story. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before speaks for itself about the romance, but it should never be passed off as just a love story; it is a story about overcoming the obstacles you face when you must grow up quickly.—Destiny B., age 16

WHALEY, John Corey. Noggin. S & S/Atheneum. April 2014.Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442458727.

12413nogginGr 9 Up—You only live… twice? For Travis Coates, this is the case.Once his body became sick, there was no saving it. So Travis died, simple as that. However, the complicated part was the science breakthrough that allowed his head to be frozen until it could be attached to someone else’s body. Five years later, Travis wakes up and gets what most people can’t have, a second chance at life. However, while nothing has changed for Travis, everything has changed for everyone else. To Travis, he just took a nap, and he suddenly woke up to a new body and the future. To everyone else, Travis came back from the dead after they had already let him go the first time. His best friend Kyle has been living a lie, his girlfriend has a fiancé, and his parents are hiding a secret from him. Add in the fame from basically cheating death, and Travis is in for a hectic ride on the roller coaster of life for the second time, of course.

Noggin tells the funny yet emotional story of a teenager who gets another chance at life. Not through magic but science, Travis cheats death. However, the book does not focus on the science breakthrough itself but the effect it has on Travis and everyone around him. While the public and media sees him as some miracle or abomination, Travis is just another sixteen year old boy, trying to keep his world from falling apart. Trying to make light of the situation, Travis makes silly, little jokes about his head situation all throughout the book, and I find him an amusing character. His persistence in trying to win his girlfriend back is understandable yet a bit selfish. But overall, he seems to take his revival—or whatever you would call it—considerably well. This book also made me realize that people say they “understand” all the time, but they don’t. They pretend to understand the situation when in reality, they have no clue whatsoever. While I probably can never understand how it feels to be back from the dead, I can safely say I did enjoy the book, and I recommend it to anyone.—Vy M., age 15

BASKIN, Nora Raleigh. Subway Love. Candlewick. May 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763668457.

121813subwayloveTeenager Laura lives in Woodstock during the 1970s with a hippie-lifestyle mother and unpredictable boyfriend, and a brother who couldn’t care less about her. This life was not what Laura would have chosen, and had her parents never divorced, everything would be different. She would be an urban kid, living in New York, knowing every inch of the city, and riding the subways like a pro rather than a helpless teenage girl visiting her father in the city on the weekends. All of this changes, however, when one fateful day, Laura’s path is crossed by a boy across the subway platform pointing a camera at her. Jonas becomes captivated by the pretty hippie girl he glimpsed, but is troubled by her sudden disappearance. This leads him to continually look for the girl in the subway, a seemingly hopeless task in the city of eight million. Despite the odds, the two reunite but together they face another huge obstacle—Jonas is living in the year 2013, while Laura lives in 1973.

The cover of Subway Love was initially one of those that I instantly judged. I admit that I was hesitant to pick up the book, but after reading the story, I am very glad that I did. This book was unlike any other that I have ever read due to the main characters and the way that they interact with one another. These star-crossed lovers meet on a subway and instantly connect. They don’t realize the time difference of their lives except through gradual misunderstandings of simple references, such as Facebook or Starbucks. Written from both Laura’s and Jonas’s point of view, readers are able to visit both the past and present to witness the determination of two young lovers to stay together. This book overall was a fast read and unique, and I would highly recommend it to anyone.—Jazmine W., age 16


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