Archive for July, 2011

The Fight by L. Divine

The Fight by L. Divine
ISBN-13: 978-0758216335
Dafina, New York, 2006
208 p.

GENRE: Chick-Lit

TEASER: When KJ breaks up with Jayd because she won’t give it up, all she wants is a clean slate. But can she avoid fighting with Trecee and stop all of the drama?

SUMMARY: After being dumped by KJ, a cute and popular basketball player, because she wouldn’t give up the cookies, all sixteen-year-old Jayd Jackson wants is to start her junior year off without drama. This is easier said than done at South Bay High, or Drama High as it’s nicknamed. Drama High is a predominantly white school in a wealthy part of L.A. with a small population of Compton kids. Jayd is book smart and street smart and not afraid to put up a fight when people start hating. Her ex-best friend Misty starts is telling lies to Trecee, KJ’s new girlfriend. Now Trecee wants a fight. Is there anyway Jayd can stop the fight and the drama?

CRITIQUE: The book is written in first person voice. The language is very causal with some Ebonics. There are moments where this makes it confusing to read. However, I felt that it was not so overly filled with Ebonics that it would confuse the reader. There are numerous flashbacks in the book. This would sometimes annoy me but I felt that it was done well. They were not separated from the main text but they were distinguished by italicizing the flashbacks. Another interesting feature of this book is that each chapter has a quote from a rap or R&B artists at the beginning that relates to the chapter.

This book deals with race issues quite a bit. I really enjoyed how the community and some of the social issues were treated in this book. There is a scene where Jayd meets the South Central clique and is criticized for being smart. They look down on her for her academic achievements, and don’t believe she is really from Compton. There is also a lot of pressure on Jayd to have sex. Even her girlfriends think she’s not normal for not sleeping with KJ. There is also mention of social tensions with biracial relationships.

Divine did an excellent job at creating believable social structures and characters. On her website she states that she is writing for the girls in her community. She wants to get them into reading by creating characters they can relate to.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: L. Divine grew up in Compton. She has a Masters in African American Studies and Educational Psychology from UCLA. Aside from being an author she is a teacher in the L.A. Unified School District. She began writing the Drama High Series to inspire teens to read for pleasure.

The Drama High series began in 2006 and now contains 14 volumes. She is working on a new series; Drama U. Divine is very active in her community, volunteering in community programs and schools focusing on African American teens. She currently lives in L.A. with her two children.



CHALLENGE ISSUES: Possible challenges for violence, drug use, and alcohol

DEFENSE: I would ask that people remember why these books were created. These books are based from a real community with similar issues.

I would also suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.


BOOKTALKING IDEAS: L. Divine wrote the Drama High series for the teens in her community. Do you think that Jayd is relatable to teenagers outside of her community?

WHY INCLUDED: I felt like it was important to have a chick-lit novel that related to African American teens. Much of the chick-lit out on the market is whitewashed has little diversity.


The Pain Tree and Other Teenage Angst-Ridden Poetry
Collected and Illustrated by Esther Watson and Mark Todd
ISBN-13: 978-0618047581
Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 2000
64 p.

GENRE: Poetry

I sob within,
Knowing you’ll not come
And I’m alone.
Possibly forever p. 33

SUMMARY: The Pain Tree is a book of original poetry written for and by teenagers. The poems are on a variety of subject about growing up, loneliness, heartache, and acceptance. There are twenty-five poems and Mark and Ester have Illustrated the pages beautifully to capture the emotion of the poem.

CRITIQUE: the art is funky and cool. The poems are melodramatic and angst ridden. It’s not high quality poetry but it is real poems from real teens. Anyone who had an emo poetry phase will understand why these poems are so well-loved. They were inspired by real emotions, no matter how over dramatized they might be.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Esther Watson was born in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX. After graduating from high school, she packed her things and moved to California. Mark Todd was born and raised in Las Vegas. They met in college in California and later moved to New York. Mark and Esther’s illustrations have appeared on CD covers and magazines.






BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Discuss the emotional healing that can be had from writing poetry.

WHY INCLUDED: I wanted to include a book of poetry in this collection. I am guilty of writing emo poems when I was a teen. THis brought back memories.

Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 1 by Hiromu Arakawa
Japanese Titles: 鋼の錬金術師 Hagane no Renkinjutsushi
ISBN-13: 978-1591169208
Published by Viz Media
Run: August 2001-June 2010
Volumes In Series: 27

GENRE: Manga

TEASER: Edward and Alphonse Elric have attempted a heinous and forbidden act of alchemy, they tried to resurrect the dead. Now they must search for the fabled philosopher’s stone to restore their bodies.

SUMMARY: In this alternative universe, alchemy is the most advanced science known to man. Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric try to use this power in order to bring their mother back from the dead, a dangerous and forbidden act in the practice of alchemy. Th result causes Edward to lose a leg and and arm and Alphonse to lose his entire body. Edward now has prostetics called automail which he can manipulate with his alchemy. Alphonse’s soul is trapped inside a suite of armor. The Elric brothers seek to restore their bodies and to do that they need to find the fabled Philosopher’s Stone.

Edward joins the ranks of the stae alchemists where he becomes and agent. Edward is the youngest state alchemist in history. He is also one of the few alchemists who can preform alchemy without an alchemic symbol.

CRITIQUE: This manga has a little bit of something for everyone, magic, humor, mystery, horror, and drama. In this first volume we’ve just been given a taste of the Elric’s story. However, their characters and personalities already shine through. The characters in this series are complex and well written. The art is attractive and easy to follow.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hiromu Arakawa is a female mangaka (manga artist). She was raised on a dairy farm with five sisters. She often portrays herself as a cow with glasses. Fullmetal Alchemist has been adapted to two different anime series. Some of her other works are Raiden 18, Stray Dog, and Silver Spoon. She currently resides in Tokyo.



CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some readers might be bothered by the issue of raising the dead, adverse religious views, and violence.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.


BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Discuss the laws of alchemy as they apply to the series.

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the most popular boy manga right now. It has complex characters and themes. I was initially drawn to the series because of the use of alchemy.

PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives
Compiled by Frank Warren
ISBN-13: 978-0060899196
Regan Books (imprint of Harper Collins), New York, 2005
288 p.


TEASER: What’s your secret?

SUMMARY: This is the first book in a series for the PostSecret project. PostSecret is an ongoing mail-in art project created by Frank Warren. People from all over can mail their secrets on homemade postcards anonymously and selected entries will be posted on the PostSecret website, added to one of the books, or put in a museum exhibit. Participants are asked to send in an anonymous homemade postcard with a secret that is true and that has never been revealed to anyone. The secret can be a regret, a confession, a fear, and embarrassing habit, betrayal, or desire.

CRITIQUE: I really appreciate the variety in this book, not only from the secrets but from the art as well. There are cards written in sharpie on a standard note card, original paintings and drawings, and many collages. There is even a postcard written in Braille. There are confessions of love, loneliness, abuse, rape, odd habits, self harm, infedelities, prejudices, sexuality, fears, etc. At least one of the secrets in this book will be something you can relate to.

One of my favorite secrets from this collection is a humorous one. It reads, “Once I was asked by a doctor if I was hearing voices. The voice inside my head shouted: TELL HIM NO!” Another secret that hit a cord with me was a simple brown paper card with eight vintage stamps with pictures of old trains and wagons in the corner. It reads, “I found these stamps as a child, and I have been waiting all my life to have someone to send them to.” At the bottom, “I never did have someone.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Frank Warren started PostSecret in November of 2004. He printed out 3,000 postcards inviting people to share a secret with him that was true and had never been revealed. He handed these cards out on the street, in art galleries, and hid them in the pages of library books. Even after he stopped passing out postcards secrets kept trickling into his mailbox.


READING LEVEL: General Adult

CHALLENGE ISSUES: People might challenge the fact that the book contains sexual situations, self harm, eating disorders, rape, abuse, and destructive thoughts.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: Contemporary Art, Art Appreciation

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: How do you think this process of secret sharing can be healing?

WHY INCLUDED: I have been a fan for this project since the year it began in 2004. Even though some of the content may seem inappropriate, it’s actually quite relevant to their lives. These secrets are things that teens may be feeling. In fact, there are many young adults that submit entries to this project.

Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
ISBN-13: 978-054722399-5
Clarion Books, New York, 2009
312 p.

GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Witches, Time Travel

TEASER: Every member of Tamsin’s family is a powerful witch…except her.

SUMMARY: Tamsin comes from a long line of witches. When she was born, there was a prophecy that she would be the most powerful among her family. But her powers never appear. She grows up feeling like an outcast. She tries to distance herself from her talented family members as much as possible by attending boarding school in Manhattan. When she’s home she must work in the family bookstore/magic shop. One day when working in the shop she accepts a job from a handsome stranger, pretending to be her talented sister. But Tamsin’s in way over her head. With the help of Gabriel, a childhood friend, Tamsin must go on a quest through time that will unlock secrets of her family and even herself.

CRITIQUE: The story is told in first person point of view through the protagonist, Tamsin. The characters are well written. Tamsin feel like an outcast from her family. She distance herself physically and emotionally from her talented sister and parents. Tamsin assumes that her family is ashamed of her but she realizes throughout the novel that her own self hatred blinded her to how much her family cares for her. Much of Tamsin’s bitterness is tied to her older sister Rowena who is an extremely gifted witch. She is also smart, beautiful, and is about to marry a kind, handsome young man. Rowena’s character is also given depth. We see later in the novel that she isn’t so perfect, nor does she want to be.

The plot was unique and will keep you on your toes. The dialogue is witty. This books has a lot of elements to it, a little bit of mystery, magic, romance, and time travel. Warning, this books is the first in a series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carolyn MacCullough was born and raised in Connecticut. She has traveled to Iceland, Scotland, and taught English in Sicily. She teaches creative writing to adults and teenagers at Gotham Writers Inc. and the New School. Her other novels are <emAlways a Witch, Falling Through Darkness, Drawing the Ocean, and Stealing Henry.

McCullough says she always wanted to be a writer, except for those times she wanted to be a ballerina, veterinarian, pilot, or princess. She currently resides in New York City. She claims that she spends just as much time writing as she does procrastinating.



CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some may challenge the fact that this book contains witchcraft and underage drinking and smoking.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.


BOOKTALKING IDEAS: How do you feel time travel was dealt with in this book? Do you see this as a new trend within the genre?

WHY INCLUDED: This title caught my attention because the main character was the one without magical powers. I included it for it’s originality and complex characters.

The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal
ISBN-13: 978-1606840795
Egmont USA, New York, 2011
336 p.

GENRE: Fantasy, Fairy Tales

TEASER: When the princess of Thorvaldor was cursed at her christening, the King an Queen got another child to replace her until she reached her sixteenth birthday. Her birthday has passed. The princess is safe, but what about the false princess?

SUMMARY: As the heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia has strived to be the elegant princess that her parents want. Just after her sixteenth birthday all of this changes. She is called to the throne room where her parents tell her she is a false princess put in the place of the real Nalia in order to protect her from an evil witch’s curse. She must leave her best friend, Kiernan behind as though she never existed. She is cast out of the only home she has known with practically nothing but her new name, Sinda. She is sent to live with her only relative, a bad-tempered aunt who is a dyer in a small distant village. No matter how hard she tries she cannot adapt to the life of a village dyer. But soon she begins to show signs of dangerous and powerful magic inside of herself. She must go back to the city that used to be her home and find someone to teach her how to use her new powers. She is reunited with her friend who refused to forget her and becomes entangled in a web of deceit and intrigue that will put the entire kingdom in grave danger.

CRITIQUE: The story is told in first person voice through the protagonist Sinda. I loved the plot twists in this book. I also thought Sinda was well written. We see Sinda go through an identity crisis after she arrives at her aunt’s. She tries to ajust but she feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere anymore. She is also faced with the realization that she is in control of her life when she comes into her powers. She has always had her life planned out and scheduled for her. Now she can pursue the life that she desires. I also appreciated the thought that went into the other princess’ character.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eilis O’Neal is a managing editor for the literary magazine Nimrod International Journal. She resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The False Princess is her first novel. her middle name is Arwen. She enjoys going to Renaissance festivals and watching shows by Joss Whedon.



CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some might have problems with the use of sorcery.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.


BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Sinda seems very accepting of the fact that she is not a peasant. Do you think this is believable since she has been pampered all her life?

WHY INCLUDED: I wanted to included a fairy tale book and this is my current favorite. There are fairy tales where the real princess is switched in order to protect her. I love that we get to take a look at what might have happened to the girl who took her place.

Final Fantasy XIII
Published by Square Enix
Released March 9, 2010
Platform: PS3, Xbox360
Rated T 13+

GENRE: Video Game, Role Playing

TEASER: Cocoon is not the paradise that they thought.

SUMMARY: Final Fantasy XIII is a role playing video game. The story takes place in Cocoon, a utopia-esque world in the sky. The people of Cocoon belief that they are living in paradise and that they are safe under the Sanctum’s rule. In order to protect the people of Cocoon, the Sanctum has ordered the purging of all people who have come in contact with Pulse, the world below. These people are l’Cie. They are given a focus and must complete it or be turned into a monster. Now Lightning must fight against the Sanctum to save her sister how has been made a l’Cie.

CRITIQUE: The camera controls are pretty good. There’s lots of range and it’s easy to control. The maps are also quite nice. The ability to zoom in on the maps is a nice feature. Aside from the fact that the cut scenes are gorgeous, you have the ability to skip cut scenes and pause them. This is not something that if offered in many games. The graphics are the best I’ve ever seen. The storyline is very well written. The characters are unique and interesting. I would play this game just for the cut scenes. The data logs are rather intimidating at first. For a new comer, it is quite confusing. Overall I enjoyed the game.


CHALLENGE ISSUES: This game contains violence.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.



WHY INCLUDED: Final Fantasy was my first pick for a video game mainly because the graphics are so stunning.

College in a Can: What’s in, Who’s out, Where to, Why not, and everything else you need to know about life on campus by Sandra and Harry Choron
ISBN-13: 978-0618408719
Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 2004
352 p.

GENRE: College Prep

TEASER: Here’s everything you need to get by in college.

SUMMARY: This book contains lists of everything you may need to know before, during, and after college. It addresses very useful topics like studying, essay writing, how to keep up in class, and tips for getting along with you roommate. In turn, there are topics that are not exactly vital to the college experience, like which TV shows are most popular among college students.

CRITIQUE: The variety in this book is astounding. I appreciated the honest and non-judgmental voice the book was written in. FOr instance, on the section for drug advice, the author’s explain why each drug is a bad idea in ways more than the classic, “it will kill you brain.” The author’s are practical and informative on the issues.

There are also some bits of advice that I’m sure parents won’t be too thrilled about. Aside from practical information on sex and drugs, the authors offer advice for how to sleep in class and get away with it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sandra Choron worked as an editor for ten years. she is the founder of the literary agency, March Tenth Inc..

harry Choron was a dentist for twenty-five years before he go into the book business. After leaving the world of dentistry, he became a graphic designer, literary agent, and writer for March Tenth Inc.






BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Did you find some of the list in this book pointless? If so why?

WHY INCLUDED: Older teens read through a lot of material in order to prepare themselves for college, I know I did. This book was to the point and has loads of useful information.

Hope In Patience by Beth Fehlbaum
ISBN-13: 978-1934813416
WestSide Books, 2010
312 p.

GENRE: Realistic Fiction

TEASER: Ashley has just moved to Patience, TX after being taken away from her sexually abusive step-father. She’s trying to heal but she can’t stop the urge to hurt herself.

SUMMARY: Ashley Asher has been repeatedly abused by her step-father for six years. When she finally goes to a teacher after a vicious rape by her step-father, she is sent to live with her biological father whom she has never seen before. This is the story of Ashley’s journey of healing and hope.

CRITIQUE: This novel is written in the first-person perspective through the protagonist, Ashley. Beth’s novel Hope in Patience is certainly hard to read at times. It is sure to hit a cord for its heartwrentching descriptions of Ashley’s inner struggles. This novel is very honest and real. It does not have an easy fix for everything. Most of the characters were well done. There were a few characters that I felt were a little one-demensional.

Although I feel that this novel is an important story to have available for teens. The writing was not always clear. I felt there was a bit too much time spent on some of the school material. I understand how the lessons in Beth and Mr. Man’s class were apart of a message that your experiences don’t define you, but they still help make you who you are. Just as Ashley’s abuse didn’t define her but it did make her into part of who she is and will become.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Beth Fehlbaum is an author and a teacher for at-risk youth. She drew from her own experiences of abuse to write this novel. The Patience books began as a therapeutic project for Beth’s own journey to healing. Many of the characters in her novels are inspired by people that she has dealt with in the past. She lives in East Texas with her husband.



CHALLENGE ISSUES: some might be uncomfortable with the topic of child abuse, rape, self harm, and pedophilia.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.


BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Why do you fee it is so important for this book to be available to teens?

WHY INCLUDED: This book talks about a very important topic that is not addressed nearly enough in young adult literature. It may be hard to read for some but these problems are very real.

Fruits Basket Vol. 1 by Natsuki Takaya
Japanese Titles: フルーツバスケット, Furūtsu Basuketto
Original Run: January 1999-November 2006
Published by TokyoPop
Volumes: 23

GENRE: Manga, Comedy, Romance

TEASER: Has Torhu finally found a real home? Can she keep the Sohma’s curse a secret and avoid the attention of the head of the family?

SUMMARY: Fruits Basket is the story of Tohru Honda. Tohru is and orphan who has been living in the woods in a tent because she has no where else to go. When Yuki and Shigure Sohma find out they offer her a job as their housekeeper. But there is as curse on the Sohma family. Anytime they are hugged by a member of the oposite sex, they turn into a animal of the Chinese zodiac. After she discovers their secret through a series a of hilarious events, will Tohru be able to keep on living with the Sohmas?

CRITIQUE: This first volume is a great entry into the series. The dialogue is very funny and entertaining. There are elements of comedy, romance, and action. The first volume doesn’t get too dark or heavy. There are a few moments when dealing with Tohru’s family. When she moves in with her relatives after the remodeling is done on their home they are very cruel to her. They make it clear that she is not wanted their. There are also hints of future tensions within the family. Akito will prove to be a character of conflict within the story.

The art is very feminine and sometimes childlike which is common for girls manga. i am not always a fan of this style of drawing but this manga was so funny and cute that I hardly noticed. Torhu is also the type of character who annoys me but I found myself actually liking her in this series. This cast of characters is quirky and fun. THis should be very entertaining series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Natsuki Takaya is the pen name of Naka Hatake, a female mangaka (manga artist). Other series by Takaya are Phantom Dream, Because You Smile When I Sing,, Hoshi wa Utau , and Tsubasa: Those with Wings. Fruits Basket has been adapted into a twenty-six episode anime series.

Takaya grew up in Tokyo. She enjoys drawing girls and children the most. She also is a fan of the Final Fantasy video game series.






BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Talk about the Chinese zodiac and all of it’s respective parts.

WHY INCLUDED: I have been hearing for years about the glories of Fruits Basket. It is also one of the most popular shokjo mangas in the world.