Thursday, May 29, 2008

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

Main Characters: Brother and sister, Ted and Kat
Location: London, England
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Fiction, Mystery

This is a really well-constructed locked-room mystery. Ted and Kat take their cousin Salim to ride on the London Eye--that huge ferris wheel-like attraction on the River Thames. Before they buy their own tickets, they are approached by a man who says he has a ticket he can't use. Since Ted and Kat have both ridden it before, they give the ticket to Salim and watch him get into the car. They keep their eye on the car the entire way around so they can greet him as soon as he gets off. But when the car arrives back at the starting point, Salim is not on it.

While their aunt panics and the police are stumped, Kat and Ted decide to try and solve the mystery themselves. Ted is the one who is able to come up the how because his brain is "wired differently"--he has Asperger's Syndrome and sees things in ways that others don't--while Kat is able to figure out the why.

Of course, now I want to take a trip to England and ride on the London Eye!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Fruits Basket Vol. 18 by Natsuki Takaya

Main Character: Tohru Honda
Location: Japan
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Manga, Fantasy

Yuki hears a rumor that when Machi was younger she tried to kill her little brother. Her family rejected her and made her live on her own. Yuki and Kakeru go to visit her and she tells them that she was not trying to strangle her brother, she was putting another blanket on him because she thought he was cold. But her parents overreacted and since they prized her brother above all else and pretty much ignored her, they kicked her out. Machi had tried always to be perfect to gain her parents' love and now that they've rejected her, she is rejecting perfection. That is why her room is a mess and why periodically she has these outbursts where she messes up the student council room. Yuki feels sympathy for Machi, and maybe, just maybe, a little bit more.

Hiro's mom has her baby, a little girl named Hinata, and Hiro is absolutely smitten with her. He encounters Kisa and Hatsuharu. He tells them that he's been keeping a secret--Rin is trying to break the curse so Akito punished her by throwing her out of a second-floor window. Hiro witnessed it, but Akito told him not to tell anyone. Now that he's a big brother, Hiro realizes that it is wrong to keep the secret. Intercut in this scene (in a very effective and beautifully drawn way) Kureno defies Akito by breaking Rin out of the room where Akito has imprisoned her (the cat's isolated room) and takes her to a hospital.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fruits Basket Vol. 17 by Natsuki Takaya

Main Character: Tohru Honda
Location: Japan
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Manga, Fantasy

We learn the deep dark secret about Akito! And I can't tell you because I don't want to ruin the surprise! Doesn't make me feel any sympathy for him, though--he's still a manipulative and abusive person.

The kids are making paper flowers for the graduation ceremony. Some girls steal Yuki's flowers and wacky hijinks occur. Yuki tries to understand Machi a little better.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Fruits Basket Vol. 15 by Natsuki Takaya

Main Character: Tohru Honda
Location: Japan
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Manga, Fantasy

Yuki tells Kakeru a bit about his isolated and lonely childhood, and admits that though he loves Tohru it is because he has found in her the nurturing care that he yearned for from his mother.

Meanwhile, rehearsals for the play are not going well. Tohru just cannot be mean as the stepsister. Quickly the script is rewritten to accommodate the personalities of the cast. Cinderella (Hana-chan) dresses in black and would rather run a yakiniku shop, Prince Chaming (Kyo) would rather dance with the stepsister, Tohru, and Tohru breaks character long enough to almost declare her feelings for Kyo. Momoji brings his video camera and tapes the play. Tohru asks him to take a copy to Kureno so he can see Uo-Chan as the stepmother.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Kat Got Your Tongue by Lee Weatherly

Main Character: Thirteen-year-old Kathy
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Fiction, Mystery

A teen-age girl wakes up in the hospital. You've been in an accident, she's told. You're name is Kathy, she's told. But she can't remember anything--not who she is, not where she's from, and not what she did that was so awful that her classmates refuse to talk to her anymore.

Kathy is as clueless as we are and so we go on this journey of discovery together. I can't say much more because I don't want to spoil, but I was thoroughly engrossed from beginning to end.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Main Character: Helmuth Guddat Huebner
Location: Germany
Time period: 1940s
Genre: YA Fiction, Historical, World War II, Holocaust

This book tells the story of Helmuth Guddat Huebner, a teenager who resisted the Nazi regime and was executed for treason. I especially enjoyed the contrast between the behaviors of Helmuth, his brother Gerhardt, and his stepfather Hugo. Helmuth chafes under the Nazi rule almost from the very beginning and slowly eases into resistance--though with each successful step he grows bolder. Gerhardt agrees that the government is wrong but feels that loyalty to the country is supreme. Hugo is almost a caricature of a "good Nazi," loud, uncouth, and bullying, though the author's note reveals that he changed after Helmuth's death. This book pairs nicely with The Silenced by James DeVita which was inspired by teenage resistance fighters during WWII but is set the near-future.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Main Character: High School junior D.J. Schwenk
Location: small town Wisconsin
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Fiction, Sports--Football
Series: sequel to Dairy Queen

At the end of Dairy Queen, D.J. had decided to try out for her school's football team. She makes the team and is well accepted by the boys. The only complication is that her sort-of boyfriend, Brian, is the quarterback for her school's biggest rival and they will inevitably have to play against each other. Off the field, there is another complication with Brian. When they are alone on her family's farm or on long drives, they get along fine, but when Brian is with his friends he pretends he hardly knows her. As hard as that is, her problems are only going to get worse this year. She injures her shoulder in a game, and is told that if she continues to play football she will not heal well enough to play basketball. That choice becomes moot when one of her older brothers, now playing college football, is seriously injured in a game, and D.J. is the one that stays with him in the hospital as he tries to face the possibility that he is paralyzed.

The first book was a blend of humor and romance. This one takes a darker tone, and I ached for D.J. She is so young to have to shoulder the burdens of her whole family; she is strong but she does have a breaking point. I certainly hope that life treats her better in the third book, which, according to the author's website, is currently in progress and due out Fall 2009. I can hardly wait.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

My Mother the Cheerleader by Robert Sharenow

Main Character:
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Time period: 1960
Genre: YA Fiction, Historical, Civil Rights Movement

Not what you might expect from the title. Set in New Orleans in 1960, the "Cheerleaders" of the title were the women who would go down to yell all sorts of abuse at Ruby Bridges as she would go in to the elementary school. When a visitor from New York comes down and stays in the boarding house owned by Louise and her mother, events are set in motion that culminate in a night of terrifying, brutal violence.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Silenced by James DeVita

Main Character:
Time period: Not too distant future
Genre: YA Fiction, Dystopian Society

This book can fit in with stories about the Holocaust--it is inspired by young people in Nazi Germany who formed a resistance group. In some ways it brought to mind "The Wave," the 1980s book about a teacher who tried a different way of teaching the Holocaust.

The Silenced also fits in well with some recent YA fiction that deals with oppressive governments and resistance movement--particularly The Hidden Children series by Margaret Haddix or Epic by Conor Kostick.