Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson
I enjoyed listening to Hattie Ever After, although I’m not sure if I read Kirby Larson’s first book, Hattie Big Sky. Hattie is now 17, an orphan, and working at a boarding house in Great Falls, Montana. Her friend Perrilee wants her to move to Seattle, and her boyfriend Charlie, just back from World War I, wants to get married. But Hattie has a dream, and impulsively takes a job as seamstress to a vaudeville troupe that is heading to San Francisco. Hattie’s big dream is to be a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. She gets a job at the paper, but no writing is involved. Her entry-level job seems to pay pretty well, and she’s saving money to visit Perrilee. But then her new friend Ruby Danvers, who knew Hattie’s Uncle Chester, needs the money to visit her daughter. Ruby is quite friendly, but is not what she seems.
Hattie eventually gets some chances to write for the paper, beginning with a bet to get an assignment to cover a baseball game. A minor earthquake, an opera star who want to go flying and a visit from President Wilson provide some more opportunities. But Hattie has to decide just how important her dream is. San Francisco in 1919 comes to life, and Hattie is great company and often funny. I thought the narrator, Kirsten Potter, had a more mature voice than expected for a teenager, but was otherwise excellent. The author spent a lot of time with maps, online newspaper archives, and an old city directory to make San Francisco seem authentic. Now I need to listen to Hattie Big Sky, about her earlier adventures on a homestead in Montana.
In honor of Black History Month, here is a list of recent African American Fiction. There are lots of young adult titles this year.
Dickey, Eric Jerome. An Accidental Affair.
Jackson, Neta. Come to the Table. on order
Johnson, T. Geronimo. Hold It ‘Til It Hurts.
Monroe, Mary. God Don’t Make Mistakes.
Morrison, Toni. Home.
Perlman, Elliot. The Street Sweeper.
Roby, Kimberla Lawson. The Perfect Marriage.
Weber, Carl. The Family Business; The Man in 3B.
Austin, Lynn. All Things New.
Mathis, Ayana. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.
Wimberley, Darryl. Devil’s Slew
Day, Zuri. Love on the Run.
Evans, Harmony. Lesson in Romance.
Girard, Dara. Secret Paradise.
Hart, Regina. Smooth Play.
Hill, Donna. Everything is You.
Perrin, Kayla. Surrender My Heart.
Rochon, Farrah. A Forever Kind of Love.
Washington, AlTonya. His Texas Touch.
Mosley, Walter. Merge; Disciple.
Morrison, Mary. If I Can’t Have You.
Souljah, Sister. A Deeper Love Inside. on order
Carter, Nikki. On the Flip Side.
Flake, Sharon. Pinned.
Hartman, Brett. Cadillac Chronicles.
Magoon, Kekla. Fire in the Streets.
Nelson, Vaunda Micheaux. No Crystal Stair.
Simone, Nin-Ni. Hollywood High.
Volponi, Paul. The Final Four
Walker, Brian. Black Boy/ White School.
Reached by Ally Condie
Reached is the final book in the Matched trilogy. The Rising against the Society has begun, and Cassia, Ky, and, surprisingly, Xander are all working for the Rising. Ky is a pilot, Xander is a medic, and Cassia sorts, trades with the archivists, and starts an outdoor art/poetry gallery. Xander and Ky both love Cassis, which is no secret to readers of Matched and Crossed. Rarely together, the trio still work in concert to find a cure for the plague, which has mutated, and to search for their families. Cassia learns that she has lost memories from taking the Society’s red tablets, and struggles to remember a red garden day with her grandfather. The story is fast-paced, with lots of action, and reads quickly for a 500+ page book. There is often a question of who to trust, as well as the motives of the mysterious Pilot, leader of the Rising. A very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy; new readers will want to start with Matched, the beginning of this popular young adult series with crossover appeal for adults.
Dodger by Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett is best known for his humorous fantasy series set in the Discworld. Some of them, with young witch Tiffany Aching and the tiny gnomes known as the MacFeegles are written for teens, as is Dodger, but this book is set in Victorian era London. Dodger, 17, is a tosher who scavenges for coins and other lost treasures in London’s sewers. One night he hears a scream and climbs out of the sewer to rescue a young women from thugs. Newspaperman Charlie Dickens is next on the scene, along with another gentleman and they take Simplicity and Dodger to a safe house. Dodger is smitten, and agrees to look for the thugs. Dodger’s landlord, an elderly Jewish jeweler, takes him to get a suit and recommends a shave. Of course, the barber is the murderous Sweeney Todd, who is caught by Dodger, who later interrupts a robbery at Dickens’ newspaper. The plot just gets more complicated from there, with Dodger and Simplicity having numerous adventures, but it’s definitely fun going along for the ride and enjoying glimpses of life in London from all angles. Even the bits in London’s sewers make for fascinating reading. Funny in parts, sad in others, well worth a look for readers of historical fiction or humor.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
A beautiful story, both funny and sad, about two teens who just happen to be living with cancer. I know, who wants to read a book about teens with cancer? The book sat in my drawer at work for at least a week before I finally picked it up, and then I had a hard time putting it down. Hazel, 16, hates going to cancer support group, but has made friends with Isaac. When Isaac’s friend Augustus enters the picture, he quickly makes friends with Hazel. They talk about books, play video games, and visit the park. Gus drives badly. Pretty normal teens here. But Hazel doesn’t want to be Gus’s girlfriend, because he already had a girlfriend who died from cancer. They have loving parents, talk about the big questions of life and death, and even take a trip to Amsterdam to meet Hazel’s favorite author. Hazel really wants to know what happens to the people (and pet hamster) after the book ends. The visit doesn’t go as expected, but is quite memorable, just like Hazel and Gus. Readers of The Fault in Our Stars will laugh, maybe cry, and will definitely think about this book after it ends. Recommended for teens and former teens. For more about the book, visit John Green’s website.
Ashfall, by Mike Mullin
Alex Halprin, 15, is alone for the weekend in Cedar Falls, Iowa, while his parents and sister are visiting his uncle’s farm in Illinois. Suddenly, his world changes when a huge rock falls through the roof. Taking refuge with his neighbors, Alex learns that Yellowstone’s supervolcano is erupting, 900 miles away, showering them with ash, and days of sonic booms and darkness. Alex finds skis and travels east to find his family, scrounging for food and water along the way. Darla Edmunds and her mother take him in when Alex collapses after a fight. Darla has rigged up a bicycle to grind corn, so their farm is self-sufficient.
Later Darla and Alex search for a way across the Mississippi River while conditions (ash, snow, and anarchy) worsen. There is plenty of violence, so this gritty post-apocalyptic read is not for everyone. Alex and Darla are convincingly flawed, and we root for them as they fall in love and struggle to survive. For more about the author and a sequel, Ashen Winter, visit his website. This would be a good readalike for Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. For more dystopian or post-apocalyptic books like Ashfall, check out Denise’s book display of readalikes for The Hunger Games. Another readalike is Shipbreaker, reviewed earlier.
Ruby Red, by Kerstin Gier
First published in Germany in 2009, this is the first book in a time travel trilogy. Gwyneth, 16, is a bit of a klutz. But this time, her dizzy spells mean her world is about to change, and that she is the twelfth in a circle of time travelers, not her cousin and classmate Charlotte. Gwen meets an 18th century Count, her great-great grandmother, and a missing cousin, all in the company of 18-year-old Gideon, a more experienced time traveler. Ugly school uniforms, a best friend who researches time travel and history while Gwen sleeps, a mother who’s too busy to listen or explain, gorgeous historical costumes, and a variety of London settings make for a book that’s easy to like. Suspense, humor, adventure, and some romance will have you looking forward to translations of Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green.
Ten Miles Past Normal, by Frances O’Roark Dowell
Janie Gorman wants to be a normal, ordinary high school freshman, not the crafty farm girl who occasionally smells of goat. Her junior high friends have a different lunch period, so Janie hangs out in the library with the other misfits, where she finds one potential friend. Art class has possibilities, not yet realized. Best friend Sarah, an over achiever, writes Janie notes to get her through the school day until last period Women’s History, where the girls are inspired to learn about a local civil rights leader. Sarah and Janie share a crush on Jeremy Fitch, who plays in Jam Band every Friday. Monster Monroe gives Sarah and Janie a lesson on playing the bass so they can join the band, with unexpected results.
Back on her family’s small organic farm, Janie confides in the goats as she milks them, suddenly has nothing in common with her cheerful mother, and wishes she never came up with the idea to move to a farm. Her mother now bakes awesome bread, but also blogs about life on the farm, and about Janie. Janie is doomed. For more about Janie, visit the author’s web site.
I listened to this book, and thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I’m many years past high school. I’m not sure if I identified with Janie more, or her mother.
This is the unlikely book I recently selected for the library’s evening book discussion group. An award-winning dystopian novel written for teens was not an obvious choice, but the group found it interesting and discussible. Dystopian fiction has become popular for teens and adults, but what is it? Dystopia fiction is often set on Earth in a possible future where something has drastically changed, and not for the better. In 1984, it’s government and civil rights that have changed. In Life as We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer, an asteroid hits the Moon, sending it closer to Earth, and causing climate upheaval and power outages. In Ship Breaker, climate change has led to higher sea levels and destructive hurricanes. Petroleum powered vehicles are gone, and corporations seem to have taken over from government. New Orleans has been submerged, rebuilt, and destroyed again. Nailer, a young teen boy, lives in a shack on Bright Sands Beach and works as light crew stripping copper wire from inside tankers abandoned on the Gulf coast. His father Richard is an abusive addict, and only his crewmate Pima’s mother Sadna is a trustworthy and caring adult. After a storm, Pima and Nailer are looking for shell fish when they find a wrecked high-tech clipper ship, with one young survivor. Their choices and adventures could end Nailer’s life or bring some luck into it. Luck and fate, loyalty and hard work are the main principles of Nailer and Pima’s world. Ship Breaker is a fascinating look at a world we hope won’t happen, and the memorable characters who inhabit it. Read more about the book and the author here .