Checking in with our challenge participants!


Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 16 of 25


Juvenile-in-justice_coverJuvenile in Justice – It was really hard to get my hands on this book. I tried to buy it for my YA room and was told we couldn’t get a copy, plus no one in my system has it. I finally managed to snag a copy through ILL. It was a tough book to get through. I went from hating the juvenile delinquent system to horror at the actions of these kids. The photos are both gorgeous and disturbing. I found myself hanging on to it to show coworkers and friends some of these haunting images. I finished in over a week ago and it is still very much in my mind.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – I loved this. I was giggling from page one, despite the bit about the dying girl. The voice of the main character feels very realistic. Greg is snarky, self-deprecating, and confused about life. He has no giant epiphany moment, which I was expecting and would have made the book less real to me, so I was happy about that. This was just an absolutely hilarious read that also managed to make me cry at the end. I cannot recommend it enough.
Lioness Rampant – I finally finished the Alanna books! I loved them all the way through. I enjoyed that these books were more about telling the story of Alanna’s life than setting up a plotline. Pierce takes her time with each of Alanna’s quests and travels, making each chapter an enjoyment, rather than having the reader race to the end of the book just to see what happens. It was all about the journey here, which is the same for Alanna herself. Although, I did race to the end of each of these. I couldn’t stop myself.
Up next: I’m now working on Dodger and I Hunt Killers.



Tracking her reading:

Read so far: 4 of 25

SeraphinaComments: I’m working on Wonder, which I hadn’t planned on reading. However, the author is speaking at Tacoma public library this weekend and I wanted to attend. I’m nearly finished listening to it and it is wonderful but… I’ve spent almost the entire time crying while I read. Maybe it’s a little too close to having a kid – people tell me all the time that I’m suffering from being a new parent when I get weepy or overly worried. But I remember how it felt to have all those tests to see if you were high risk. And it makes me really thankful to have a child who has so few problems. And there’s the beauty of this family and August’s friends… They’re such wonderful people. Of course, now I’ve gotten to a chapter that I suspect will feature an animal dying and I had to turn it off. I was called in for jury duty last week and have been on a case almost the entire time, which has been a little harder to do than I thought. It was on the way in to this hopefully last day of the case that I got to this chapter and I couldn’t go in a sobbing mess. If anyone in the group has already read Wonder, how much more crying am I going to do?

Oh, and since we didn’t talk last week, I finished Seraphina and LOVED it! Yes, it was a slow book. But t was amazing and worth it. I’m excited for the sequel. The cast of characters, particularly her grotesques, made it for me. I adore Lars. I think what gave me fits with this book was that the world was so fully realized that the references were hard to understand. The saints, the language, I just had a hard time getting used to it. Now, of course, I’m wondering what a sackbut instrument is. And I’m having a hard time with the spelling, since I listened to this one too. The way that Orma is pronounced on the audio made me think his name was Alma. Anywho… More dazed and confused Orma please! Once I got past the language, it was amazing. The characters are so fully realized and the setting so detailed, it’s a world you can easily get lost in.



Tracking her reading: here at NFNT

Read so far: 18 of 25

PureComments: Annie Sullivan & the Trials of Helen Keller

I thought the way the panels were used, and the way that the art illustrated Helen Keller’s growing awareness of the world around her was very clever, and possibly one of the best/most visceral interpretations of that process that I’ve ever come across.
On the one hand, this is the first Alex award winner I’ve read this year that I actually thought had a shot at appealing to teens. On the other hand, I finished it last night and had no impulse to go look up when the sequels are coming out, or go stalk her author site to find out where she is in the writing process.
I had continuity/character development issues with this book. I felt like characters would make leaps of logic that I understood because I am a reader and the leaps of logic adhered to the narrative conventions of this form of novel (obviously there’s a conspiracy, obviously there’s a counter-insurgency movement, obviously X/Y isn’t dead), but it didn’t make sense for the characters in the novel to be making those A to K leaps of logic. Also, I completely failed to understand what was so special about Pressia (one of the main characters) that made everyone want to protect/follow/defend her.
I will say, I also had gross-out issues with the novel. The mutations edged over the line of too gross for my personal taste level, without quite compelling enough of a plot to get me past the ick-factor (unlike, say, The Marbury Lens which was also way over my personal horror line, but the writing and the story were so compelling that I could get past it).
Final analysis – it was fine as an example of a slightly more grown up dystopian novel, but on the whole I would recommend Hunger Games instead (not that they have similar plots at all, but they have a kind of similar vibe?).

To be very snide, I feel as though I have learned an important lesson about tolerance. Okay, I think it’s fair to say I did not love this book. It’s also fair to say, I didn’t hate it. Mostly I kind of wished it wasn’t about the main character, and that all the side characters got more screen time.

My problems with this book were two-fold. (1) I really disliked the voice of the narrator for the August sections of the book on the audio. This has nothing to do with the quality of the book itself, but required something of an act of will to continue listening to the audio (for anyone else – eventually you get to other narrators). (2) I kept being told that August was a ‘cool and funny’ kid by a variety of different narrators in the book. The problem was that the August sections of the book never really demonstrated that for me, so it became an endless cycle of tell-don’t-show, and for a book that’s going to be centered around a central message of ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ then the central narrator does in fact demonstrably have to be a cool and funny kid.

The White Bicycle
I really loved this. This was somewhat unexpected since my initial impression from the cover copy on the book was that it was going to be entirely too earnest and ‘feel good’. But, the voice of the narrator is wonderful, and I liked being inside her head. I think that perspective is what makes the book work. And, while I don’t really have anything to compare this to, the narration and the voice felt very authentic.

Up next: Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie



Tracking her reading: at her library tumblr

Read so far: 13 of 25

20130408-124232.jpgComments: I finally finished two of the Great Graphic Novels picks — Trinity and Annie Sullivan. I decided that while I admired a lot of the parts of Trinity, especially the explanations and visualization of science, on the whole it didn’t quite gell for me. I wanted to be more invested in the people and the discussion of the consequences of this weapon’s creation, and I just wasn’t via this particular text.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed Annie Sullivan. I loved the way the title depicted Helen Keller’s world with vague colors and shapes, and the careful structure of the panels was beautifully done. I also like that it’s simple enough for younger readers to get in to but also sophisticated enough to work well for teens (and adults.)

I also finished listening to Wonder, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would despite feeling a little bit like I was Learning a Valuable Lesson by the end. For the tweens and young teens its aimed at, I think it will mostly work, but I do feel as Petra feels — we’re always told how great Augie is, but much less shown it, and I felt like the concluding “Oh Captain My Captain” moment was a bit over the top.

Up next: I’m about half-way through Dodger, and from there I’m not yet sure



Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 7 of 25

MeandEarlandtheDyingGirlComments: I did finish Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, and it was fantastic. It was completely authentic in the voice of a teenage boy (and all that comes with that), and it was emotionally weighty without being melodramatic. Totally awesome.

Up next: I’m halfway through 8 or so books. So, if I can ever buckle down, it should move very quickly…


Tracking her reading: here at NFNT

Read so far: 10 of 25

ProtectoroftheSmall4Comments: I’m wrapping up the Protector of the Small series now. It’s great fantasy, but I loved Alanna a little more. I find that I respect this main character, Kel, a crazy amount, it just isn’t quite as captivating as the Lioness.

Up next: Once I’m done those I’ll move on to some audio books and draw for a bit. I have The Watch that Ends the Night and Code Name Verity all ready to load.


Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 7 of 25

Comments: Okay, I’m admitting defeat. Between reviewing and writing and everything else, I’m giving up on the challenge. There are several books that are going on my to-read list, but otherwise, I’m done at 7 books (my count once I finish Moonbird).

Extra discussion: are these books wow or just ok?

Petra: I feel as though all of my reviews of the challenge books are somewhat negative. I like books, really, I swear. I even like books that were on this list, it’s just I think I’d read most of them already before the challenge started.

I loved all the Alanna books – I grew up on the Alanna books and have read and reread them so many times I can practically quote them whole sale. I was thrilled that Tamora Pierce won.

I loved Code Name Verity (print & audio) and I’m eagerly anticipating the companion book that’s coming out this Fall.

Seraphina was one of my favorite fantasy books of the year.

I was totally sucked in by I Hunt Killers, and I’ve read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks more than once. Heist Society is a series I stalk. And while I liked Scorpio Races more than Raven Boys, that’s just a matter of degree.

Sarah: I’m right there with you, Petra. I grew up with Tamora Pierce books, sobbed through Code Name Verity in record time, and sped through Raven Boys, I Hunt Killers, and The Disreputable History. However, I had read all but I Hunt Killers before the challenge. Still, I feel like most of the ones I hadn’t read yet, I don’t love. Which is why I have a huge pile of books that I’ve started and not finished… and my number is very slow to go up.

Petra: Glad to hear it’s not just me.

I did enjoy Me, Earl & the Dying Girl (a lot more than I enjoyed Fault
in Our Stars – which are fascinating as a pair of books that approach a similar subject matter is such totally different ways). And, as I said, I unexpectedly really liked The White Bicycle, even though I really really didn’t anticipate.

  • Robin B.

    | She/Her Teen Librarian, Public Library of Brookline

    Editor in Chief

    Robin E. Brenner is Teen Librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts. She has chaired the American Library Association Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List Committee, the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee, and served on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She is currently the President of the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table for ALA. She was a judge for the 2007 Eisner awards, helped judge the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards in 2011, and contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. She regularly gives lectures and workshops on graphic novels, manga, and anime at comics conventions including New York and San Diego Comic-Con and at the American Library Association’s conferences. Her guide, Understanding Manga and Anime (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award.

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