TeenLit Book Reviews

October 2000

Goddess of Yesterday

Caroline B Cooney

Goddess of Yesterday, by Caroline B Cooney is an absorbing historical fiction novel. The rating is a 3.5 (1-4, 4 being the best). The most appropriate reader audience would be young adult females, ages 11-14. The main character, Anaxandra, lives in the early 13th century in a world full of rivalries and deception. Her self-reflection is brought to life in the widest range of historical settings. The story begins when King Nicander of Siphnos takes Anaxandra as a hostage. Early on, Nicander and his family are killed by pirates. Anaxandra takes on the role of Nicander's princess daughter so that she would not become a slave. She lives in constant fear of punishment by the Greek gods that she so firmly believes in. As the plot thickens, the story becomes complicated to follow, unless the reader is familiar with basic facts about this period in Greek history. Fortunately, the relevant information is included in the afterward. A major strength is the reader's insight into the inner-workings of Anaxandra's mind: the thoughts of a twelve year-old living in the 1200s. One weakness is the abrupt ending without even a reference to a sequel. I would highly recommend this book.
Reviewed by Katie. Grade: ----- in Menlo Park, - Link directly to entry

China’s Son

Da Chen

It’s the year 1962. Your eyes open, revealing dried yams, chopsticks and eager eyes all subsumed within the obscure town of Yellow Stone in Southern China . Like every other baby you enter the world armed with a bag of opportunities, or do you? It was acrimonious, a pot spitting its contents, and began in 1966 – it was termed the Cultural Revolution and tarred many a person within the population with the epithet ‘bad’. Your ancestors were land lords, people many cocked a snook at due to Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s ideas which the wealthy and poor “pro-revolutionists” alike drank like adages. Thus your fate has been donned; you are to become nothing more than a farmer. That life was to be lead by Da Chen, the protagonist and writer of this book. The book is a memoir of his youth and what become of demure Da with nothing but drawbacks lacing every bridge. Da has four siblings of which he was the youngest. His three sisters, Si, Ke and Huang, and brother Jin were forced to drop out of school due to the political reform. They, thus, turned to their only other avenue: farming. Da’s education was threatened many a time by the authorities but Da, in elementary school was the top student, and thus he remained. I was fascinated by his thirst for knowledge and his determination to complete his studies. As it’s a true story it makes one reflect on one’s own life and I can with candor admit that I as a being have grown from all that Da experienced. One also discovers the acerbic antics of this so called revolution , in that for e.g. Da was the only member of his entire school who was banned from joining the Little Red Guard’s , a communist organization for the youth . I was angered by many of the goings as I’m confident any reader would be for e.g. intellectuals were the tortured refuse of China . The people lived in a commune and many fathers’ either farmed the land or, as Da’s did, were responsible for “mining” it.- many books are either set in England, America or Australia and this location informs one of the inhabitants’ cultural and living conditions during that period in history. During Mao’s reign he fed his people with the idea that education was of no relevance and thus Da, the shunned ‘enemy’ of china, reverted from a student of note to an insouciant smoker, drinker and gambler. At one period in his school career he had not a friend and when he did eventually make friends they cared not about his family being landlords as all the others had. Da was integrated into their “family” and soon adopted their ways – the result was that school hibernated lying dormant until the death of Chairman Mao. A death which sparked ideas about education and suddenly there was this lust for knowledge. College became ‘the’ fad and examinations were being held in search of 100 possible applicants. These could be of any age and political background. If one was accepted you were made as the government was willing to pay for your tuition and there was a promise of a job. Da’s studies lay in taters as before Mao went on his “vacation” academics meant nothing and after all he was the grandson of a landlord, a nothing. What becomes of this boy will amaze you – I know I was juggling tears and smiles at the end of this book. I think it’s quite controversial to pin a rating on such I book as it greatly depends if this book’s attributes will interest you. For e.g. if you are a fanatic of soppy romance novels don’t attempt it and if the book had to be rated by such a person the rating would be rather low. However, I am a lover of history and could drown in other’s cultures. Bearing that in mind I dub this book with a rating of 4 (on a 1-4 scale). If you wish to leave home and travel back in time without incurring the expense of a ticket or magical portal this book is for you. The diction is of a basic and easy to comprehend level – what a quick palatable read! From cover to cover I digested this book and the hope this book gives to any dreamer of reaching their utopia is so profound that I sincerely recommend this book.
Reviewed by Nicole. Grade: ----- in Johannesburg , South Africa , - Link directly to entry

She’s Come Undone

Wally Lamb

This is the life story of Dolores Price, an over-weight, abused girl from a divorced household, written geniously by a man. Lamb follows her from age 4 to age 40, and it's amazing the way he describes things that happen only to woman from a perspective that is so uncannily a man's. This story deals with divorce, over-eating, depression, rape, insanity, and controversial issues. I'm not sure i'd recommend it to anyone who is immature enough to get embarrassed at sexual situations or language. It has adult content (though very well done) and a lot of 'vulgarity', but that only emphasizes this story's real life objective. Dolores goes through just about every problem imaginable, and at times, this book just made me want to cry and scream. It's an interactive story. I suggest reading it, but not for anyone under the mental age of 14. It's tough at parts, and isn't really appropriate for immature minds.
Reviewed by Vada. Grade: 10th Grade in Harrison, - Link directly to entry

Gone From Home

Angela Johnson

Gone From Home, by Angela Johnson, is a series of twelve stories of young people gone from home. This book can be read by boys or girls, ages 13 and up. This book is really short and makes for easy reading. The stories deal with hope, compassion, and hardships teens have to or can deal with. There is a different main character in each of the different stories. The stories are from 2-12 pages long. This book is very good and some of the stories you might be able to relate to, I could. Some of the stories have surprise endings to them and that makes it all the better. Hope that you choose to read this book, I definitely recommend it.
Reviewed by Crystal. Grade: ----- in Watkins Glen, - Link directly to entry

Songs of Faith

Angela Johnson

That summer was a “hot summer, a sad summer, an everybody-going-away-and-leaving-me summer…” for Doreen. Her father has moved to Chicago after the divorce, her best friend moved to the east coast and her brother stopped talking. Somehow, joining in with the rest of the country celebrating the bicentennial just doesn’t feel right. Through it all, Doreen learns about herself and the strength she has inside and she learns to keep her mind and heart open, no matter how things might hurt because you never know what you might miss if you don’t. The major strength is Angela Johnson’s richness and depth when telling a story. You often feel that you are eavesdropping on the characters. However, the story line was somewhat difficult to follow. It is told in first person narrative but the speaker, Doreen, changes subjects so often that it’s hard to keep up. Johnson’s fans, though, will appreciate the storytelling. This would be most appropriate for grades six and seven but not for those students who have trouble reading as they will have great difficulty following the characters. I would give this an overall rating of 2.
Reviewed by Donna. Grade: ----- in Atlanta, - Link directly to entry


John Neufeld

Twink, by John Neufeld, is a true story about a young girl who was born handicapped but discovers the joy that life has to bring. After being handicapped since birth, Twink developed a disease that is very deadly. She has an operation that saves her life, but a few days later, she finds out that the operation cost her her eyesight. She is very grateful for her life and praise to God every morning for the day that is dawning. “ Twink was crushed. She had to be. But she soared afterward...” I think this quote showed how much courage or bravery Twink really has. The author of Twink I felt rushed the ending a little bit. I wish he would have explained a little more about what Twink’s future was going to be after the book ended. I believe that if you like to read about people who have a disability that they learn to deal with, that you would enjoy this book.
Reviewed by Chelsea. Grade: 7th Grade in Worthington, - Link directly to entry

Food Fight

Janet Bode

"Food Fight" is a book about eating disorders targeted to America's most at-risk group- adolescent girls. This is their book as much as it is author Janet Bode's. Sprinkled throughout the facts and statistics of anorexia and bullimia, are bits and pieces of the writings of young girls. They write about their families, their friends, their lives at school, and mostly, their body image. One writes: "I hate my entire appearance. My hair is too thin and I wish it was curly. I hate my face. My ears stick out and now I have acne... but the worst is my weight... I can't stop thinking about food. I am fat. I am disgusting." It only makes it worse to realize that this girl is ten years old. In fact, "Food Fight" makes one aware that the problem of eating disorders is getting worse. The girls who develop the disorders are younger and younger. Clearly American girls are in trouble, and Bode wants us to do something about it. This book is her contribution to the battle against anorexia and bullimia. It serves as a sensitive guide to these girls, girls who are so often labled as "over-achievers" or "good" girls. On the outside, Bode notes, girls who develop eating disorders may look as though they have everything going for them. But on the inside they feel upset. But Bode wants people to understand that an eating disorder is not just a problem with an individual girl. It is a problem with families, with society, and with American culture. She explains the many reasons why a girl might develop anorexia. It may be triggered by a comment her father makes. It may be that she sees a skinny woman in a magazine ad, or all the supermodels she sees on TV. For whatever reason, the girl begins to think her life would be better if she just lost a little bit of weight. It often begins with a diet. But then she wants to lose more and more. Often, before she or her family notices, her problems with eating have spun out of control. Most frightening of all is the fact that studies have shown that children as young as two years old have already learned the message that thinner is better. Is it any wonder that, as Bode notes in a chapter headed "Food for Thought", in one school 43% of girls in 5th through 8th grade had dieted? And 54% felt they looked fat? Despite these alarming statistics, no one has really listened to young girls themselves about their thoughts on eating disorders- no one, that is, until Janet Bode. As author Janet Bode explains in her concluding chapter, this book was a project on many levels. Bode spoke to experts on nutrition and eating disorders. She spoke to parents. But what makes her book unique is that she collaborated with a grammar school English class and used the writings of hundreds of girls in the seventh and eighth grades. Although many books have been written on this topic, this is the first book that takes it into account that the age of girls afflicted with anorexia and bullimia is getting younger and younger. This is Janet Bode's wake-up call. It is both well-written and easy to understand. It is informative and educational, with instructions readers on nutrition and good diets; diets meant not for losing weight, but rather achieving health. It is a guide for parents also, instructing them to the warning signs and the steps to take to help build a girl's self-image and prevent eating disorders. It is personal and sensitive, the stories of these girls are all too familiar. These girls are our friends, sisters, daughters, and maybe even ourselves. All in all, Janet Bode has written a wonderful and necessary book that certainly gives us food for thought.
Reviewed by Adinah. Grade: ----- in , - Link directly to entry

The Guy Book

Mavis Jukes

This is more of a informative book than one which you could sit down and read with a cup of hot chocolate. I reate to it well as I am still going through puberty and that is bascially what the book is about. I would give it 2 out of 4 as I did find it quite boring although very informative. This book would be suitable for pre teens and teenagers. The book is set in the style of a car manual to try and make it as interesting as possible but it just didn't work for me.
Reviewed by Andrew. Grade: ----- in , - Link directly to entry

Wilderness Peril

Thomas Dygard

The book I read was Wilderness Peril by Thomas Dygard . This book is about two teenage boys who get into a life-threatening adventure in the woods . The teenage boys go on one last camping trip together before they go to college . After canoeing all day the boys go on a hike . They decided to get blueberries for tomorrow morning`s breakfast pancakes . While in a field they find loose dirt . The boys are courise so they dig up the dirt . “Under the loose dirt there were two bags of money “. The bags contained three quarters of a million dollars ! They next morning they headed to a checkout point while being chased by a angry hijacker . The boys barely made it out and they handed the money over to the FBI . This author did a excellent job with suspense . I wanted to keep reading the book ,although I wish the author would have described the characters better . This is a great book for people who love mysteries and lots of action .
Reviewed by Kyle. Grade: 7th Grade in Worthington, - Link directly to entry

Lucy the Giant

Sherri L. Smith

Lucy the Giant, by Sherri L. Smith, is a fictional novel, about a six-foot tall, sensitive and awkward heroine. The rating is a 3, (1-4, and 4 being the best). The audience who would most enjoy the book would be young adults, male or female, aged 11-14. The reader is quickly introduced to the main character, a tenth-grade student, named Lucy, who lives with her alcoholic father, and her loving stray dog, Bar. This is an odd name for the dog she loves, and the place she hates, the bar, where her father goes to drink. For a moment she thinks that Bar can bring comfort to her lonely life in the small Alaskan town where she lives, since her mother left the family eight years ago. Early on, Bar, dies, and sadly, Lucy can only afford a tin can for the ashes. Lucy runs away, and without much difficulty gets a job on a crab fishing boat, under the assumed identity, of an adult named Barbara. Life doesn't necessarily become easier, but at least the Bering Sea of Alaska is beautiful, and life is different. As a crew member leading an adult life, she feels far away from the emotional dangers she had experienced at home. Her new family seems safe. The feeling of safety doesn't last very long. Lucy a.k.a. Barbara, comes to realize that problems follow you wherever you go, unless the change is positive and internal. This theme is developed particularly at the end of the novel, which ends somewhat predictably. Not much is solved, at least not the relationship with her father. She does however, find ways to comfort herself by enjoying her good memories, and the pleasure she takes in understanding herself, and this is an important change.
Reviewed by Katie. Grade: ----- in San Francisco, - Link directly to entry

Harris and Me

Gary Paulsen

Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen is a funny boyish story.The main character and the farm boy Harris have a great time and many adventures on the small farm. The main character has no true home because his parents have drinking problems and he has to leave. When he comes to a small farm, he finds a weird family. Harris always cusses and has far out ideas, Louie, the farm hand eats faster than lightning, and Harris’ sister slaps him all the time. On one adventure Harris and the main character play cowboys, Harris uses a real shotgun while riding a horse. Needless to say Harris sees stars. this book is great if you like funny adventures. The author did great on the adventures, but if you don’t like foul langauge, read carefully, Harris loves to cuss!
Reviewed by Nick. Grade: 7th Grade in Worthington, - Link directly to entry

Akiko in the Castle of Alia Rellapor

Mark Crilley

Akiko in the Castle of Alia Rellapor is a humorous science fiction title aimed at 5th through 6th graders but of interest to older pre-teens that enjoy graphic novels or computer games. This easy to read “chapter” book (155 pages) captures the flavor of the popular Akiko comic book series, with black and white comic style illustrations, sound effects, lots of dialogue and little narrative. This is the second adventure of Akiko, a precocious 4th grader, who is transported to the Planet Smoo, where she and her non-human traveling companions attempt to rescue Prince Froptoppit from the Alia Rellapor’s castle. The first book in this series is Akiko and the Great Wall of Time. Akiko, a strong, level-headed girl who dresses in jeans and a T-shirt, is a nice role model for young girls but equally attractive to boys. This is a witty, quick read which would satisfy younger readers. It deserves a rating of 3.
Reviewed by Jan. Grade: ----- in Chelsea, - Link directly to entry

Harriet Spies Again

Helen Ericson

Harriet Spies Again, by Helen Ericson, is a continuation of Louise Fitzhugh's famous bestseller, Harriet the Spy. I'm sure fans were excited to hear of the sequel, but, unfortunately, they will be disappointed. Although Harriet Spies Again is clever and entertaining, it is not nearly as exciting as the original. The characters are not as developed and the plot is pretty unrealistic. I am sixteen, and felt the book was too young for me. I first read Harriet the Spy when I was about eight and thoroughly enjoyed it then. I believe that Harriet Spies Again is suitable for ages 9 to 13. Both younger and older readers will be equally bored. Harriet Spies Again picked up where Harriet the Spy left off. Harriet's parents are leaving for a few months and her beloved nanny Ole Golly is coming to care for her. Harriet is shocked to discover that Ole Gole is not the same person as she was before. Instead, Ole Golly seems to be hiding something, and Harriet will stop at nothing to determine what it is.
Reviewed by . Grade: ----- in , - Link directly to entry

33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women’s History

Tonya Bolden

33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women’s History edited by Tonya Bolden, is a great historical non-fiction book. I would rate this book a 4, because it really showed me a lot about women’s history that I didn’t know already. I found it very interesting and would recommend it to anyone ages 13 and on, even if they aren’t interested in women’s history, both female and male. The book contains many short stories, poems, quotes, and pictures that all reflect the awesome women that have changed the way women act and think today. This book is also a great resource to use for projects, papers, research, and debates. There aren’t many books today that completely reflect women’s history, but this is one that does.
Reviewed by Arlene. Grade: ----- in , - Link directly to entry

Midnight Predator

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Anyone who has read any of Amelia's books knows what I'm talking about when I say her books are to say the least addictive! So it isn't a shocker this is another wildly perfect book. It is mostly about a vampire hunter named Turquoise Drake, and her life. Her life mostly is a real mixture of being a vampire hunter trying to deal with her life and deciding what she wants in her life. After some catastrophic and tear-jerking things happen with her family she is force her the path of working with vampires, Along with some thriller in the mix to when a she is sold into slavery as a job to kill a particular vampire. While under ownership she encounters a previous master who decides to create havoc for Turquoise. Which threatens her life more then ones. I really love how the characters are so well developed with there own untold but unquestionably noticeable quarks to there personality. The only weakness is if any is the cliffhanger end! But I predict anyone who picks this book up will be able to put this one down! Rating: 4++ Reader: Anyone 13 and up who likes Amelia's twisted life of vampires and humor
Reviewed by Candace. Grade: ----- in Brooks, - Link directly to entry
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