Monday, March 31, 2014

This is What Happy Looks Like, by Jennifer E. Smith

This is What Happy Looks Like follows the unfolding love story of two teenagers, Ellie and Graham. Their story is atypical though, because it begins accidentally when Graham sends an email to the wrong person. Ellie is the unintended received, and they strike up a conversation. They don't know anything about each other really, but before long feel more connected to each other than they do to anyone else. 

Given that Graham's an up-and-coming movie star, it's no surprise that he bites at the chance to film his next big job in Ellie's hometown in Maine. The problem is that Ellie has no idea the guy she's been spilling her guts to is THE Graham Larkin. On top of that, while Ellie's been more honest with Graham than she has been with anyone else, there's still a part of her past that she hasn't shared with anyone. It involves her father, and it makes a relationship with a high-profile movie star essentially impossible. 

Just like I loved The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I also love This is What Happy Looks Like because of Smith's witty writing and lovable characters. I can't wait to recommend this book to my female students, especially those who have read all of Sarah Dessen's books and are ready to branch out. 

Also Try: Anything by Sarah Dessen; How to Save a Life, by Sara Zarr

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Body in the Woods, by April Henry

I am a huge April Henry fan, and love the way her books captivate even my most reluctant of students. The Body in the Woods was a little different to me than her other novels, but I still loved it. The most striking difference between this novel and her others, to me, was that it was a little bit "harder" if you will: it looked at more in-depth at some ugly, real-life issues, like the "homeless scene", drugs, etc. It seemed to present a really accurate depiction of these things, but did come off as a little more YA than her previous novels.

Anyway, The Body in the Woods is about three teenagers, Ruby, Alexis, and Nick, who are a part of Portland's Search and Rescue (SAR) team. They're called out of class one day to participate in a routine investigation for a handicapped adult male who's gone missing in a park. However, their experience turns out to be anything but routine when they stumble upon a dead body.

Their involvement in the case should be minimal, but the three (especially Ruby) are convinced that there's something the police are missing. They're not convinced when the police make an arrest in the case, and vow to continue looking and find the truth. But, will they get so close to the case and the murderer that they endanger themselves?

What I love about April Henry's writing is that it keeps you guessing and is fast-paced; that's what my students love about it as well, and this novel continued that trend.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Blood Wounds, by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Blood Wounds was such a departure from Pfeffer's other books that I've read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! 
Blood Wounds is all about Willa, the ugly-stepsister type to two princess types. Willa's stepsisters are privileged, poised, and experienced - everything that Willa's not - but they've always considered each other family and gotten along really well. They live harmoniously with Willa's mom and stepfather (the girls' dad) in a nice house, and Willa only gets slightly annoyed that the girls get their every desire from their mother.

However, the idea of this "happy family" comes into question the second Willa starts receiving strange phone calls about a man named Budge. It turns out that "Budge" is Willa's biological father, and that he's wanted for the murder of his wife and three daughters - sisters Willa didn't even know she had. Hearing of her father's new family and difficulties sparks feelings in Willa that she didn't know she had, and leads her to question everything she's known up until this point. 

I loved Willa's character, and I loved the way Pfeffer explored the idea of family and the dynamics of blended families. It was interesting to read the "sisters'" different perceptions of each other and of the way things were in their family.

Also Try: Any book by April Henry; See Jane Run, by Hannah Jayne; If You Find Me, by Emily Murdoch; 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Belle Epoque, by Elizabeth Ross

I read Belle Epoque, by Elizabeth Ross, as part of YALSA's "2014 Hub Reading Challenge" - it was the first book I read for the challenge and I loved it!

I was intrigued by the premise behind the novel from the start. In 1800s Paris, rich society people hire "foils" - ugly girls - to work as their friends/escorts, in an attempt to make themselves look more beautiful and desirable my comparison. I just thought that was such a funny concept and had to read the book!

The novel follows Maude Pichon, who runs away to Paris in hopes of making something of herself. However, she discovers that life is harder for a girl like her than she would have imagined, and she's ashamed to take a job at the Durandeau Agency, a "repoussior" agency - the agency that employs and hires out ugly girls. Maude experiences instant success at the agency, and becomes the exclusive employee of the Count and Countess Dubern. Their daughter is debuting into Paris society, and they want ugly Maude by her side to ensure that she secures the most desirable of bachelors. Maude becomes caught up in the extravagant lifestyle and even begins to develop a friendship with her employer. However, she can't help but feel like she's living a lie. Despite all the warnings from her mentor at the agency, she gets carried away and winds up hurting herself and those she's close to.

I found some parts of the plot highly predictable and almost a little stock, but overall the idea behind the novel was so interesting and unique to me that I was able to overlook those parts. I'd recommend this novel to girls, especially those interested in Paris or making a new life for themselves.