height=  height=  height=

Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

in a sentence: An emotional roller coaster though one mans betrayal of a remarkable friendship, and his struggle of making it right again.

Hassan and Amir are two childhood friends in 1960s Afghanistan. While it is clear that they share a certain bond, the depth of that bond runs deeper than either realizes. Amir is a bit of a brat, and often finds ways to "test" Hassan's loyalty...only to be flooded with guilt afterwards. If only Amir had been as loyal and loving when the neighborhood bully had his hands on Hassan...

I was initially wary with the length of this novel, but found that I couldn't put it down once I started! The historical elements of Afghanistan, the cultural snippits, and the social inequalities are all handled in a very conversational way. And of course, the story - oh man. Tearjerking loyalty, unspeakable foes, vying for the love of his Baba, secrets, lies...whew! While Amir moves on with his life, it is clear that he is always thinking of Hassan, just below the surface.

This read like a memoir, and felt like I was watching a movie. It was so vividly visual without making it seem so, and the characters and emotions - while raw - are incredibly (and sometimes shamefully) easy to relate to. This had all the elements of a good solid drama, with the intense emotion of a memoir - I loved it.

Favorite Quote: "For you, a thousand times over" - could that BE more tearjerking?

Fix Er Up: how nothing went untainted for Amir (the marriage, only to have no children of his own) ... a little over the top for me, or maybe I was just hoping for something untainted to happen at some point in his life.

Title: The Kite Runner
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Genre: Drama, Historical Fiction, Friendship

Review: Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange

In a sentence: A creative peek into that surface-surly Mr. Darcy's mind from Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice.

As a "P&P" fan, I loved this. I thought the creativity that Grange used with what he was thinking during the tale was interesting and true to what was most likely in Jane Austen's mind while writing the novel. Without being mushy-gushy, there is definitely an undertone of a romantic in this man, and it comes through in his diary. You don't necessarily have need to read P&P to get the gist of the happenings...but it would help. We find out more about Georgiana his sister, that despicable Wickham, and that woman you love to hate - Caroline Bingley.

While the style of writing wasn't necessarily the same as Austen's, it was ok. This was a fun read, and an interesting take on the events in P&P. The diary format is fun, and makes it a quick read as well. A borderline romance and historical fiction make for a quaint and worthwhile read - nothing outstanding here, but enjoyable none the less.

Favorite Quote: (when Elizabeth prompts for how Mr. Darcy fell in love with her) "I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew I had begun." (290) sighhh

Fix 'Er Up: if this had been written in a more "Austenian" style.

Title: Mr. Darcy's Diary
Author: Amanda Grange
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Review: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

in a sentence: Two men, one desperate journey.

The Steinbeck classic is by far one of the most utterly and realistically depressing novels ever. George and Lennie are living a less than desirable life as roving ranch hands in California during the Depression, and to make matters worse, Lennie is "simple minded". George and Lennie have been through many trials together, by force or by fate, and this novel takes us through their final trial together.

The tone of depression and fading hope is lightened by George and Lennie's friendship, but not to a sappy degree. I think young adult readers will find it refreshing that this tone is consistent throughout the novel, and the fellow ranch hand characters encountered are unique. No sugar coated beginning, middle, or conclusion to the novel - a realism that is appreciated by the young adult audience. I think where this novel fails to reach young adult readers will be with resonance and relevance. Sure there are morals to be learned, and it is an amazing story - "so what?" young adult readers might ask. I am not surprised this was a challenged title, because of the drab and bleak outlook with periods of violence and harsh language, but again this is the realism that young adults (especially teens) admire.

I rate "Of Mice and Men" a 4Q and 2P according to VOYA standards. While the conversation, tones, and overall writing is pretty good, I think it might be challenging to overcome as a young adult reader. The title, though well known, isn't the most popular with the teens - partly because it is a required reading with some schools which creates a stigma, and party because it just lacks the appeal for a general young adult audience.

Title: Of Mice and Men
Author: John Steinbeck
Genre: Challenged Title, Classic

Review: True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff

in a sentence or two: LaVaughn has wanted to go to college since 5th grade, and despite the odds of being in a crappy apartment building, part of a school where shootings aren't rare, losing her two best friends to Jesus, and to top it all off - boy drama, she fights for her hopes of college to happen.

LaVaughn is 15, and opens the self narrated novel by talking about the importance of why and how to avoid boys. Her options are less than desirable to her, and so she creates her own - basically playing it smart and focusing on her path to college. It's interesting that she strives for college both for her education and as her means of escape from the situation she lives in. Rightly so, the majority of her narration focuses on school, boys, and friends - the centripetal forces of any teenage girl's life...with a little mom tossed in for good measure. LaVaughn indulges the reader with her insights on her situations, and the way she expands on her thoughts draws the reader closer to her and makes it less of a narration and more of a journey.

The characters in LaVaughn's life are amazing and unique. However, they cleverly designed by the author so the reader may find themselves connecting them with people in our own life. While there is a twist with the love triangle that develops early and finishes late, I feel like the novel could be complete without it. This novel is really about LaVaughn and her life, which is so much more than boy drama (although that is never downplayed from her perspective). I love how the novel is written in verse, and highlights the inner ceiling-painting artist in LaVaughn. The creativity of the execution of the text and the mass amounts of authentic teenage feeling are perfect together. I (as the adult reader) never felt bad for LaVaughn, and I don't think I was meant to. The reader is invited in for this deceptively heavy journey, to feel as LaVaughn does and she (refreshingly) never feels sorry for herself.

With the authentic young adult voice and creative prose format, I give this book a 5Q and 4.5P according to VOYA standards.

Title: True Believer
Author: Virginia Euwer Wolff
Genre: Poetry/Verse Novel
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Amazon | Goodreads

Review: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

in a sentence: "In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."

The epic love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy has been made into several movies, the latest of which stars some hip young hollywood actors and actresses. While this book is a classic, it's recent popularity as a movie has made it a popular young adult read as well. The writing is witty, clever, and the reader is taken along for the rollercoaster ride of Lizzie and Darcy's relationship from casual acquaintance to absolute infatuation. Lizzie struggles with 4 other sisters (yikes) an overbearing mother (yikes again) and a loving, but pretty complacent father. While she doesn't have a great interest in finding a husband, even if she wanted to devote herself to it completely she has to give attention to her perfect relationship with her older sister, and support her family during her younger sister's frivolous boy-crazy episodes. Lucky for her, Darcy is infatuated enough for the both of them - and she doesn't even know it. (insert dramatic romantic sigh here)

I loved this book - and I adore the movie. The story is so classic, so clean, refreshing, and timeless. The early 1800s setting of the novel creates a nostalgic and classic feel for all of the characters. I think young adults will appreciate the timeless "boy meets girl" story, and all the twists and turns along the way. The reader is privy to the obvious attraction between the two long before they are - which is quite exciting and keeps the reader's interest. Unfortunately, I feel that the writing is a bit difficult for some readers to absorb into. While there is a intriguing and enjoyable aspect to the 1800s style, it might be overwhelming and a turn off to young adult readers.

Using VOYA standards, I give this a 5Q (it is a Jane Austen novel after all) and a unfortunately low (but realistic) 2.5P.

Title: Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Austen
Genre: Romance, Lisa's Faves, Classic, Chick Lit
Publisher: Tribeca Books 
Amazon | Goodreads

Review: Inexcusable by Chris Lynch

in a sentence: Keir is a good guy...right?

The novel opens with the haunting first line "The way it looks is not the way it is" - whoa! Keir is a graduating high school senior with a best-friend/dad, and two sisters. He drinks way too much, is liked by everyone, and is a self proclaimed good guy. Between Keir narrating his final year of school and giving a brief bio on his life for our sake, he fills the reader in with his current situation - which is shady at best. Without revealing too much of the plot, he is alone, with the girl he loves, defending his good guy status. Again, WHOA!

This book is spooky, creepy, and intriguing all over the place. The best part about it is the reader hardly realizes how creepy and what a thriller the novel actually is until the ending. The author's choice of telling the story from Keir's first person perspective is amazing, and really shapes the book. All of the character development, insight, emotions, and appeal are completely based on the reader's interpretation of the events and the story. I wouldn't say it's a nail biter, it's much too subtle for that...but it is a page turner all the way.

According to the VOYA standards of review (Q=quality and P=popularity), I give this a Q=4.5 and a P=4.5 . I don't know if they do ".5" or not, but I do! There were some occasional lapses in the literary quality I felt like which were centered around dialogue, but very few. And while I feel this book can (and should) be read and enjoyed by all young adults, I am weary saying that any single book is appealing to every young adult reader...although in this instance I am very tempted.

Title: Inexcusable
Author: Chris Lynch
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Amazon | Goodreads

Review: Harley, Like A Person by Cat Bauer

in a sentence: 14 year old Harley Columba is your average well-liked, smart, and charismatic teen. Until she realizes she is probably adopted, starts drinking and doing drugs, and loses her best friend. Did I mention her home life sucks too?

Harley faces some real struggles in this novel. While some of them might not reach all teens (feeling adopted, physical abuse, etc.), I feel that the emotions and the way she deals with them are very true to the young adult experience. As the adult reader, I could sense things coming, that lying only makes things worse, and all of those words of wisdom that come from making the wrong choices like Harley. She uses art as her escape from the world, and so creates an incredibly healthy and beautiful outlet which sets a great example for young adults struggling with the difficult stuff in life. From the young adult perspective, Harley is someone we can identify with either though personal experience or through someone we know - and that really hits home with the reader.

While I liked the rawness of Harley and the writing, with her struggles, with having shreds of hope for her fall to the ground with yet ANOTHER bad choice. I got pretty bored during the middle of the novel from where she is sidetracked from her main goal from the beginning of finding her real father to where she gets on the bus to NY. Some of the middle of the novel served to show her downward spiral, her relationship with her mother, and the [seemingly pointless] relationship with Mrs. Tuttle, and to help the reader relate to Harley. However, I feel a vast majority of it was a waste of my time, and resulted in a rushed ending when she FINALLY finds her father in New York. The novel builds and builds to a rushed conclusion, which I found to be really disappointing. The conclusion in itself was very realistic and in tune with the rest of the book, but ultimately disappointing from a literary standpoint.

Again - I feel that as far as characters to relate to and readability, the novel is great. She makes bad choices, some good ones, and then more bad ones to create an awful situation for herself that many of us have been in before. The reader hopes for Harley, and walks beside her though her personal struggle which is a microcosm overshadowed by the alcoholic step-dad and crabby mom reality. However, the novel really lacked the necessary literary quality for me because of the drawn out and somewhat plateaued middle of the book and the ending that just fell flat.

Author: Cat Bauer
Title: Harley, Like a Person
Genre: Coming of Age
Publisher: Winslow
Amazon | Goodreads

Review: Beware, Princess Elizabeth by Carolyn Meyer

in a sentence: Princess Elizabeth, the beautiful bastard child of Henry VIII, struggles through her sister Mary's persecution and her romantic trials through - and eventual abandonment - of marriage. All of this while she is waiting to become Queen of England.

The historical fiction novel is told from the point of view of Elizabeth herself, which creates a memoir sort of feel for the reader. Elizabeth faces some tough stuff, such as having to fake giving up her faith, watching her brother suffer and die on the throne, and then finally face a seemingly never ending persecution from her older sister (whom she already dislikes a great deal, and vice versa) through forcing marriage proposals and moving her around the countryside to live in dank and dungey castles. Not exactly a sisterly love to be desired.

The book is very readable, as if you are looking into her personal diary. She is presented in such a real (and young adult) way that it's almost impossible not to feel sorry for her and secretly hate Mary along with Elizabeth's burning passion. The writing quality is solid, and the characters are well developed and relatable. While history may seem boring to some (okay most) young adults, the author presents this in a way that makes it both interesting, informative, and enjoyable. While there were some parts of the novel that seemed redunant, like Elizabeth moving from place to place, Mary's several unsuccesful pregnancies, etc. - the diary-like flow kept you wanting more. That and Elizabeth's wit and insight as well make this novel one that is worth reading and recommending to adults and young adults alike.

Title: Beware, Princess Elizabeth
Author: Carolyn Meyer
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Gulliver Books
Amazon | Goodreads

Review: Red Scarf Girl by Ji Li Jiang

in a sentence or so: Ji-li is a very smart 12 year old girl with a loving family, a leader at school, and close friends. When the much anticipated and supported Cultural Revolution begins, she soon discovers the confusion and horror that humanity is capable of.

Ji-li's story begins with the start of the Cultural Revolution in China. She is passionate about the revolution, about Chairman Mao, and about getting rid of "fourolds", or the old ways of life to make China a new and better country. She witnesses other families torn apart by the persecution and pointing of fingers of the "authority figures" who were just days before the local weirdos. Her entire world is dumped upside down when her plans for school changes, her social status in school and at home changes, and her family is no longer happy and smiling, but worried and having late night discussions in the bathroom in secret. Throughout her story, Ji-li is faced with the wonderful revolution or staying true to her family, and what exactly both sides mean to her.

This book was incredibly conversational and I felt (as the reader) I was friends with Ji-li from the way she wrote. The reader is able to feel her frustration and experience the confusion. Her words are that of innocence that is quickly fading with her struggle to please schoolmates, Chairman Mao, and her family - which is impossible because of their differing values. This memoir serves to fill in all of the world what it was like for a 12 year old during this time in China, and her story is just one among many. The young adult reader in me felt confused right along side Ji-li. What was she supposed to do? Give herself totally to her country at the expense of her family? Give up on her country to be with her loving family? The adult reader in me knows how the Cultural Revolution ends, and just hopes she will be able to make the "right decision" and stick it out. This memoir takes us through the most difficult time and decisions of Ji-li's life, and it does so in a simple eloquence that keeps the reader turning pages and hoping the best for Ji-li and her family.

Title: Red Scarf Girl
Author: Ji Li Jiang
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins
Amazon | Goodreads

Review: Amandine by Adele Griffin

in a sentence: Lonely Delia moves with her loving parents to a new town, again, and on her desperate search for a friend is picked up by the dramatic Amandine whose friendship goes from weird, to worse.

This novel is slathered with anxiety and the overwhelming feeling of discomfort through and through. Delia is awkward, overweight, and self-conscious. She is noticed by the overly confident, underweight, and bizarre Amandine. Perhaps it's her desperation to find a friend, or that Delia is just intrigued by Amandine's 'stage presence' that she allows their friendship to continue despite red flags all over the place. The reader feels for Delia and her frustrations. She has great parents, they just lack a little in the compassion and understanding department. No matter how great her life may be at home, her relationship with Amandine is rocky and unhealthy, and a total thrill ride for her and for the reader.

I am still in awe of how Adele Griffin was able to completely capture the angst of Delia in a caring and real way. The young adult reader in me feels for Delia, while the adult reader feels bad for Delia. The line is thin, and is walked very well. Amandine's character is outrageous, but believable in context of a teenage girl with social issues. This was an incredibly quick read, and the fact that it's hard to put down makes it that much quicker. The young adult reader within me was completely absorbed in the subtle drama and tense emotions from all of the characters. The dialog reflects the angst in Delia, and the reader is always guessing as to what is going to happen, when the turning point is, etc. The biggest shortcoming of this novel is that I feel it could potentially only reach out to young adult women will be unable to stand the test of time.

Title: Amandine
Author: Adele Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Edgy, Problem Novel
Publisher: Hyperion
Amazon | Goodreads

Review: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

in a sentence: A 15 year old is faced with starvation and desperation while discovering true love and family all at the same time.

Daisy is a teenage girl with an evil stepmother, a nonchalant father, and an eating disorder. After she is shipped off to live with her never before seen cousins in England, her journey begins. She (and the reader) encounter mystically intriguing characters with a lifestyle completely unlike her own. Much to her own surprise, she fits right in with them, and falls in love with them all in their own way. The peaceful country landscape creates a serene start for this story, before everything changes thanks to war.

The journey we as the reader experience through Daisy is incredible, to say the least. She falls in love with her cousin, learns how to be a farm girl, and begins to learn about the mother who died in birth - all before the "real" story begins. The vivid emotions and experiences described by Daisy are scary, sad, exhausting, and completely enthralling. A young adult reader would be drawn in by her writing, her view of others, and her private thoughts that are all so authentic. The author doesn't shy away from gruesome details of war or the struggle that they face every day. The raw emotions are always present in the novel, which I think really sets it apart. While the emotions present are what really make the story consistently raw and real, there are elements of the journey we can't understand. It is this lack of understanding experienced both by Daisy and the reader, combined with the raw unusual language and punctuation and the wide array of emotions, that make the novel something haunting and amazing.

Title: how i live now
Author: Meg Rosoff
Genre: Coming of Age, Edgy, Lisa's Faves
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Amazon | Goodreads

Review: The Body of Christopher Creed

in a sentence: A class reject mysteriously disappears and the while the whole town gossips about what
could have happened to him, a select few try to find out why.

This story is a very solid read for young adults. The plot is both strong and believable, as are the characters. The main character is the "typical teen" and allows for a "typical teen reader" to relate easily. However, Torey (the main character) is more caring than most, and we as the reader feel sympathetic towards that and his efforts. The high school drama and cliques are all too real, and the author does an outstanding job of character development while staying true to the reality of high schoolers - meaning there are no abounding epiphanies within the novel. The main character and a choice few progress, but the majority remain in their snobby rut. The reader is always drawn deeper into the dark mystery of what happened to Christopher Creed while being intrigued by the dirty little secrets of the town. Young Adult readers will be reluctantly drawn into the gossip, showing them how easy and sneakily that can happen to even the most conscious among us. The setting of the novel takes place in "Smalltown USA", with the amazingly vivid backdrop of thick woods and a spooky Indian burial ground which makes for an easy transport of the reader into the character's experience.

While this novel packs a lot of wonderful qualities, there are a few which I believe disqualify it from the level of the Printz award. While the author was pretty consistent with the characters and avoidance of stereotypes, I thought she did slip into some associated with the "boons" in the novel by associating verbal abuse, physical abuse, and neglect present in all the families from the other side of the tracks. The dialogue between the characters and the main character's thoughts are sometimes broken or trying to be too current or edgy, which might kick some Young Adults out of the story. While presenting the moral of the story - to treat others as we wish to be treated - in a new and very creative way is one that all readers should hear and will be able to relate to, it does come off as a bit preachy.

Title: The Body of Christopher Creed
Author: Carol Plum-Ucci
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Problem Novel, Printz Winner
Publisher: Graphia
Amazon | Goodreads

Review: The Pigman by Paul Zindel

in a sentence: A young woman and a young man prank call an old lonely man, and form an unlikely and somewhat unhealthy friendship.

John and Lorraine are two students who hate school, have less than desirable family lives, and few friends outside of each other. Their relationship with Angelo Pignati - known as the Pigman - begins with a prank call made by Lorraine during one of their after school games. They notice the desperation in the Pigman, and are drawn to spend time with him. Over time, they receive many blessings from the relationship in the form of food, gifts, acceptance, laughter, and freedom. John and Lorraine throw it all away by having a huge party in the Pigman's absence, and sever their beautiful relationship forever. The Pigman's death is soon thereafter, and they place the blame on themselves. They know what a unique relationship was forged, and set to write this novel in order to share with the world their experience with Angelo Pignati.

The narrator switches between Lorraine and John each chapter, which provides an interesting point of view. This allows the reader to see the other lead character through someone else's eyes other than their own, and lets us peek into the family life of the narrator. There is no great detail put into the families, which I believe is intentional. Young adults reading this book can identify with the parents presented in the novel, whether it is their own or a friends parent, and don't need to know the specifics of their situation to recognize the parent and their reactions. This is very respectful of the author towards the young adult readers. The changing relationship between John and Lorraine, while obvious to the reader, is subtle and barely touched on in the novel in order to keep the main focus on their relationship with the Pigman. The plot of the novel creates high emotions in the reader, while carrying on in a pace that creates a depth in the relationship and actions of characters in the novel. The reader is at times frustrated with John and Lorraine, but can't help and feel sorry for them too for wanting a safe haven to be cared for unconditionally. The novel is tragic, but there is light with their relationship with the Pigman. There are serious emotions in here, which all young adults are familiar with and will find true to their experience. The author creates a novel with authentic characters that young adults can relate to and respect, despite their poor choices.

Title: The Piman
Author: Paul Zindel
Genre: Coming of Age, Classic
Publisher: HarperTeen
Amazon | Goodreads

Review: Shattering Glass by Gail Giles

in a sentence: A classic high school "geek to chic" story, with a lethal twist.

This clever story follows the lives of 4 boys and their goal to transform the class nerd to Mr. Popular. They are led by a charismatic and irresistible friend, with many secrets. The story is narrated from the point of view of the best friend of the leader, Young, and takes place at a private high school in Texas. The kids are wealthy (for the most part), the parents are disinterested (for the most part), and there are plenty of opportunities for things to get out of control. The story is suspenseful and all of the characters are easy to relate to on some level with the reader. This book speaks to the high school experience, if not with the dramatic playing out of the events, then with the struggles of 'leaders and followers' in cliques. The reader can feel the frustration, the irritation, and the tensions mounting throughout the novel. The discomfort and frustration are immediate within the reader with the opening paragraph of "Simon Glass was easy to hate. I never knew exactly why, there was too much to pick from. I guess, really, we each hated him for a different reason, but we didn't realize it until the day we killed him" (Pg. 1).

This was an amazing story. The young adult reader will immediately connect with at least one of the four popular-yet-flawed male leads, the nerd, or the caring girlfriend on the outer circle. There is a character in here for everyone to relate to. It was an interesting choice for the author to choose the best friend of the leader, Rob, to narrate the novel. While the other boys' reasons for being popular are obvious to us, because we are from the narrators point of view, we don't really know why he's popular. The dialog exchanged between the teen characters is real, the leisure activities seem so natural, and the brief yet vivid descriptions of scenes draws the reader in to what may already be familiar territory of school, friends houses, and parties. It was especially interesting how the author chose a quote from a character to start off each chapter from five years in the future. It is revealed slowly through these what to expect, what the final result is, and what happens to them. It serves as an epilogue of sorts while developing the plot along. I was very close to nominating this novel, but I felt that while this was a really good read with a great story, it just shy of the award level. Parts of the characters came off as predictable and hokey, but only briefly. However, young adult readers can sense a hokey character from a mile away, and that might kick them out of parts of the story. Despite it's minor flaws, this is still an outstanding work of literature for young adults.

Title: Shattering Glass
Author: Gail Giles
Genre: Edgy/Problem Novel, Lisa's Faves
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Amazon | Goodreads

Review: Keesha's House by Helen Frost

in a sentence: A poetic journey through the challenging lives of 7 teenagers.

Coming from a non-poetry fan, this book was incredibly easy to read and follow. Each poem is written by a different teenager (as portrayed by Helen Frost), but they are all connected. They write about their struggles at home, school, and work in a way that is easy to follow and keeps the reader interested and hanging on for more. I was sucked in immediately by the use of language, conversation, and range of emotion expressed in the different poems. All of the poems are unique to the teenager's character they express, and is consistent throughout the novel.

The use of the open-ended poem to keep the story moving was interesting at first. I thought I would have a hard time keeping the characters straight and their situations in order, but I had no problem at all. The writing is clear, the poems are excellent, and the emotions expressed through them is awesome. An interesting twist that came twice in the novel were the poems from the parents or concerned adults. Their point of view was presented in poetic form as well, and up to that point the reader had only heard the teen point of view. The author's use of Keesha's house as an image to represent safety and acceptance was interesting, considering from all other viewpoints it would be seen as dangerous (the man who owns the house) and unsafe (teens living alone) and illegal. The author touches on the hardships and different scenarios faced by teens, and the impossible struggle they are asked to face - all while giving them a completely unique voice.

Title: Keesha's House
Author: Helen Frost
Genre: Poetry, Printz Honor Title
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Amazon | Goodreads

Review: Kit's Wilderness by David Almond

in a sentence: A story based journey with Kit Watson through the semi-dream/semi-reality experience in his family's hometown during his Grandfather's final times.

The story begins simply enough, with the coming home again to support a Grandfather during the loss of his Grandmother. We journey with Kit as he starts a new school, meets new people, and uncovers a plethora of family history within this small town that goes back hundreds of years. There is a genuine goodness in Kit, and a strong desire to know more that draws the reader to him. The elements in the book range from dark to light, fantasy to reality, and everywhere in between. Emotions run high in both the stories that Kit writes and in his real life relationships with the town.

The blending of reality and fantasy is incredible. The reader becomes blurred in what is really happening and what is not, and therefore puts us right in Kit's shoes. The comic relief of Allie is welcome in this otherwise heavy novel, and is tastefully done. The reader's heart breaks for John Askew and his dark and troubled past. The plot moves swiftly, but takes time to truly develop emotions and situations in a respectful way. The reader is kept in the dark with Kit, and I found myself having "ah-ha" moments at the same time as intended - nothing was revealed a moment too soon. It was gutsy to put a book of this intensity and darkness out there to a young adult audience, but it is done so respectfully and honestly and so genuine. The challenge of blending reality with fantasy is met in this novel, and takes it to a truly higher level of literature.

Title: Kit's Wilderness
Author: David Almond
Genre: Fantasy, Lisa's Faves
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Amazon | Goodreads

Review: The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book One) by Philip Pullman

in a sentence or two: Lyra, an outspoken young woman, is growing up in the bowels of a historic university when her whole world changes. Lyra must go on an adventure to search for the mystery of Dust, and is often encouraged by her comrades - a polar bear, gypsies, and her golden compass.

The story starts off in the first pages with sympathetic characters and an intriguing location. Lyra is outspoken, brave, a leader, and has many traits that the reader desires for them self. Her journey towards the mystery behind the kidnappings of children and their relation to Dust introduces more strange characters. While some of these characters are not so loving, the majority of Lyra's companions characters are developed to be compassionate, kind, supportive, and treat her as a peer even though she is so young. The journey is full of ups and downs, and is a bit of an emotional roller coaster for the reader as you travel with her to the unknown, feel her anxiety, and want desperately to be strong like she is through it all. The reader connection with Lyra is easily made, and easily maintained. The ending leaves the reader wanting more, as the first book in a trilogy usually does.

It's incredible how drawn into this story the reader can become. A majority of the tale takes place in the arctic north, and the descriptions of the wind, snow, and cold chill the bones of the reader snuggled up in bed. The connection forged with Lyra is immediate and consistent throughout the novel, and that is largely in part to her nature and to her being the narrator of the story. While the story itself was intriguing and quite a journey, I feel as if the author went off on tangents from time to time in regards to personal interests rather than the story. There is a specific point where Lyra (whom the reader most strongly connects with) is sleeping, and the adults have a conversation. This conversation could have easily been tied into the book to include Lyra (the young adult reader), but was not. The writing is deep, intricate, and calls close attention to detail throughout the novel, so this was especially jarring. There were other points throughout the story where I felt a little bored, or weary of where the story was headed. It definitely picked up in the beginning, parts of the middle, and the end but was by no means consistent. That being said, I am still drawn in enough to read the rest of the series!

Title: The Golden Compass
Author: Philip Pullman
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers 
Amazon | Goodreads