TeenLit Book Reviews

October 2000

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

What Janie Found

Caroline B. Cooney

What Janie Found, by Caroline B. Cooney, is the sequel to three other novels, all based on a similar theme. The genre is fiction, for a young adult audience, ages 13-16. The rating is a 3 on a scale of 1-4, with 4 being the best. Someone who has read the first three in the series would be the best reader of this book, but it is remarkable how easily this novel can stand alone after a brief reading of the introduction. The main character, Janie, was kidnapped at age three, and brought up by her kidnapper's parents, after her kidnapper disappeared. This unlikely plot is balanced by the more common and well- developed themes of love, guilt, family attachments, and all of their complexities. These universal themes help the reader go beyond the unlikely plot. Janie's need to know her kidnapper, Hannah, and the details about her life, drive this novel to a peaceful conclusion. A major strength is the character development of Janie, and also, surprisingly, the character development of Hannah in her absence. One weakness is the implausibility of the events, but again, this is countered by the universal nature of the more important themes of the novel.
Reviewed by Katie. Grade: ----- in San Francisco, - Link directly to entry

Catherine Called Birdy

Karen Cushman

Catherine Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman, takes place in the Middle Ages in A.D. 1290. The setting is the Village of Stonebridge, outside of London, England. It is the story of 14 year- old Catherine whose diary writings tell the story of her wish to be free of the suitors who her abusive father has chosen for her to marry. As the story develops, so does her keen, funny and disrespectful sense of humor. This is clearly needed as she tries dismiss suitors that she would never choose for herself. In the end she is content being herself and finds an acceptable man to marry. She continues to wish, and feels that she has wings and freedom, even if she never leaves home. The main character, Catherine, sees herself as a “plain gray and brown goose”(Cushman, 31). In deciding what “birdy” best describes her she says “I think I love geese more that any other birds because no one else does. They are not small and delicate like larks and sparrows, or swift and clever like hawks and falcons. They do not sing like nightingales, and cannot be trained to talk, or dance, or do tricks. They are cunning, greedy, shortsighted, and stubborn--much like me, now that I think on it.” (Cushman, 30). Her goal is to be different from other girls of her time. She wants to choose her own husband, and stop pursuing traditional girl’s roles, which she feels will not allow her to be comfortable with herself. Her biggest obstacle is carving out a unique identity free from the control of her father. She resolves this challenge by developing a better understanding of herself and learning that she doesn’t have to leave home to be free. She is able to hear this from the fortuneteller Madame Joanna who tells Catherine “You are lucky. Little Bird, for you have wings, but you must learn to master them. Look at the baron’s hawk there on her perch. Just because she doesn’t flap her wings all the time, doesn’t mean she can't fly” (Cushman, 104-105). Another challenge for Catherine is to find a safe way to express her feelings in a society where women are not outwardly emotional. She is able to do this by complaining to her diary. The reader learns about how medieval life is defined by social roles based on economic class and inherited position. Girls are born to grow up, be married off, and have children. Women’s work also consists of spinning, sewing, and making ointments and potions. Young boys have the right to play, and men can work at a paying job. In contrast, most modern women are free to make choices about their lives and it is not at all unusual for women to work outside the home. Young girls and boys both have opportunities to be educated. Catherine Called Birdy is highly recommended for readers ages ten to fourteen. It would be particularly fascinating for a young adult who already had background information about the Middle Ages. The greatest appeal would be to a female reader who could most easily identify with the emotional life of the main character. The many rich details of medieval life are a colorful addition to a simple story line. Katie R.
Reviewed by Katie. Grade: ----- in San Francisco, - Link directly to entry

Falling From Fire

Teena Booth

As if being a teenager isn’t hard enough, Teresa Dinsmore also has to deal with her mother, the frequently married town beauty; her wild sister, and just not fitting in anywhere. That is, until the fire\ In Teena Booth’s debut novel, an outcast freshman gets the opportunity to reshape her life after a raging fire destroys her home. When Teresa is flooded with attention after the disaster, she begins to wonder if this sudden fame could be just what she needs to find her place, both at home and at school. The answer to this question and more await you in “Falling From Fire.”
Reviewed by K’si. Grade: ----- in , - Link directly to entry
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