April 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review the Latest from Armentrout, Caletti, and More

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Readers who ripped through Jennifer Armentrout’s “Lux” (Entangled) and “Convenant”  (Spencer Hill) series will find all of the steaminess plus suspenseful twists in her latest title, Don’t Look Back. When was the last time you read a YA novel with a plot that hinges on the survival of a plant? In Deb Caletti’s The Last Forever, a teen strives to keep the memory of her mother alive by nurturing a rare pixiebell plant. Finally, we have second takes on two teen favorites, Noggin from John Corey Whaley and Sekret from Lindsay Smith.

ARMENTROUT, Jennifer. Don’t Look Back. Disney/Hyperion. April 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781423175124.

Don't Look BackGr 9 Up—Samantha loses all of her personal memories after being missing for many days. She goes back to her everyday life despite having no idea who anyone in her life—or even herself—is. As she learns more about who she was before and memories resurface, she begins to question what she and the people in her life are capable of and what happened while she was missing, especially after her best friend from before turns up dead.

I really, really liked this book. It was suspenseful and intriguing, but also had a touch of romance and teenage drama. It was interesting because you are in the dark about what happened just as much as Sam is.

I think all the aspects of the book are compelling. I liked it all; however, I really liked the idea of her trying to figure out her life without having any memories, and the whole mystery aspect of the book compelled me the most. People who liked the Mara Dyer series (S & S) would especially enjoy this book.—Grace B., age 15

CALETTI, Deb. The Last Forever. S & S/Simon Pulse. April 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442450004.

The Last ForeverGr 8 Up—Tessa feels heavily the mortality of her world, of the people she loves, the places she knows… and her dead mother’s rare pixiebell plant. Stuck in a tiny coastal town with her grandmother and the plant, Tessa tries to keep the pixiebell alive, along with her mother’s memory and love. With the help of a boy, Tessa may obtain immortality for her plant and memories.

This book was pretty good! Unique and sweet. I really really enjoyed it. I thought it’d be cheesy and it wasn’t. The voice is amazing and there were bits and pieces that were just gorgeous. The story pulled you into itself… really good. I’d recommend the for teenage girls who like a sweet story. Summer and plant lovers will enjoy this, and girls who love their moms and memories will love this too. And a cute boy doesn’t hurt, right?—Emma, age 17


SMITH, Lindsay. Sekret. Roaring Brook. April 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781596438927.

Gr 8-12—In Soviet Russia just after the Cuban Missile Crisis, a KGB psychic program embarks on a mission to see the future, look inside people’s minds, and even change their thoughts. However, when Yulia is reeled into this world, it appears that things are not as good as they might seem: she can seemingly trust no one, and the KGB’s spies are up against a powerful counterpart in the CIA. In a tale of love, espionage, and unfathomable power, Yulia must learn how to survive by relying on only herself.

SekretIf anything, this book was a page-turner. I didn’t want to stop reading, didn’t want the story to ever end. The plot was great. I loved the idea of the psychic program, and the unique twist on it. Sometimes, being psychic is looked upon as an amazing ability that people would kill to have, and this book showed the darker effects of this power. Overall, I think it was a captivating novel that had me reeled in from beginning to end.

That being said, there are some awkward places. For example, when Yulia and Valentin are in the vault room together for the first time, there is a sentence about Valentin, who “crosses his legs funny.” I’m not sure if the author was trying to imply what I think they were trying to imply, but I feel that it was unnecessary to the book and only served to make me a little bit uncomfortable. I also think that Sergei’s character was developed rather abruptly: he went from being the nice guy to being extremely aggressive, then suddenly switched back to being kind.

The plot was beautifully crafted. First and foremost, it was about espionage, which I can never resist. There was also a lot more “dark” material than a lot of books I have recently read, and I think that this allows for more balance, in that not everything ends with smiles and celebrations. I usually cringe at love stories, but the relationship between Yulia and Valentin just made me want to read more.

I’m on the fence, trying to decide whether this book was great. It was very complex, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it made the book a little bit hard to follow at times. When it ended, I wanted to know more: what happens to Yulia and Valentin? Does Larissa live? What about Mama and Zhenya? I’m really hoping that there will be a sequel, because I have a lot of unanswered questions.—Lucy L., age 14


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

NogginGr 9 Up—Normal teen boy Travis Coates’s life suddenly becomes not-so normal when his head is removed. Five years later, he finds himself back from the dead, reattached to someone else’s body. I wanted to like this book, I really did. The concept was amazing—a boy with cancer whose life is saved by swapping bodies with someone else. However, the plot was pretty lacking. His biggest struggle is his girlfriend, who has gotten engaged to someone else. A decent, interesting read, but it fell short of its potential.

The most compelling aspect, hands down, was the technology in the book that allowed the main character to be resurrected. It’s a different take on cancer because instead of curing the cancer, the doctors in the book removed the entire body. I’d recommend this for  readers who can stand realistic fiction with a romantic subplot. Possibly John Green fans as well.—Eunice L., age 14

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Dodie Ownes About Dodie Ownes

Dodie Ownes left the glamorous world of retrospective conversion and disco to jump on the library vendor train. Since then, she has been learning at the feet of the masters about all things library. Dodie lives in Golden, Colorado, where even the sign which arches the main street says "Howdy."

Empowering Teens: Fostering the Next Generation of Advocates
Teens want to make a difference and become advocates for the things they care about. Librarians working with young people are in a unique position to help them make an impact on their communities and schools. Ignite your thinking and fuel these efforts at your library through this Library Journal online course—April 24 & May 8.