The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Image“It’s all in the view. That’s what I mean about forever, too. For any one of us our forever could end in an hour, or a hundred years from now. You never know for sure, so you’d better make every second count.”

After her father dies, Macy hopes to work at a library or more importantly, the library information desk where she can waste the summer away as she waits for her boyfriend to come home from some geeky camp. Instead, Macy finds herself working for a catering business, or more specifically, Wish Catering, where she finds a random group of friends, but more importantly, she finds Wes.  He’s kinda weird and doesn’t really fit in with her lifestyle, but she’s comfortable enough with him to talk about her father’s death and finally face the grief that was threatening to overwhelm her.  In her novel, Dessen tackles such issues as denial, grief, comfort, sadness, and love as the reader engages with the story and watches as Macy fills her life with happiness again.

The book, while being quick paced and having some likable and wacky characters, seemed a bit unrealistic and cliché to me.  This book will probably be enjoyed by young adults, but adults (especially adults that have experienced grief) will have a hard time relating to the issues Macy is faced with.  Macy’s attitude that she needs to be perfect in order to be liked is an overdone cliché and a bit immature for older readers.  The characters, while somewhat likeable, are a bit flat and sometimes annoying. After all that, I would only recommend this book to young adults and wouldn’t recommend it to those 20+.

To read a few reviews, click here and here!

Blog Review — Jane Yolen’s Journal

Two to four posts a month keep readers of Jane Yolen’s blog up to date on her reading, writing, travels, and other adventures. Personal stories make Yolen feel relatable and accessible, but the real treasure is her talk about her own experiences with writing, including her struggles with editing (and re-editing) stories in order to both satisfy her editor and keep the stories cohesive, and her ongoing receipt of rejection letters. Yolen also occasionally shares her poetry–in fact, a recent post describes her process of finding just the right words to express a thought on in-between spaces, helped in part by a chance to bounce ideas back and forth with a friend. Along with her blog, Yolen’s website offers resources developed/gathered for children, writers, teachers and storytellers, as well as information on her poetry, her travel schedule, and awards she’s won.

Yolen keeps her website content-rich and current, emphasising, again, her accessibility, as well as her commitment to connecting with her readers. Like her writing, which includes fantasy, science fiction, non-fiction, poetry, picture books and graphic novels, Yolen’s website promises broad appeal and plenty of content. Whether readers are long-time fans or newcomers looking for stories about dragons-dinosaurs-folklore-the end of the world, Yolen’s blog is a great place to find out about who the author is and what she writes.

Note: IE seems to have some trouble with her Works and Book Trailers pages–scroll down to the bottom of the page, or try Firefox instead.

The Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L’Engle

The Arm of the Starfish coverWhen Adam Eddington is recommended for an internship in Portugal with marine biologist Dr. Calvin O’Keefe, he’s ready for the challenge. His confidence is shaken, though, when the doctor’s daughter, Poly, is kidnapped while temporarily in Adam’s care. Adam rescues Poly, but doing so places him in the middle of a conflict between Dr. O’Keefe and those with plans for his research—a conflict in which the “good guy” is far from apparent (for Adam, at least), and the potential for serious abuses of power is real. The Arm of the Starfish is on one level a spy novel, complete with exotic locations and conflicting powers supported by networks of allies and secret passwords. At its core, however, the story’s focus is on the question of trust: newly aware of his inability to handle things alone and faced with two very convincing stories, Adam is left with no option but to offer his loyalty to one side and accept the consequences.

Whether writing realistic fiction, fantasy, or political suspense, L’Engle has a knack for asking universally relevant questions in creative and engaging ways. With attention drawn to A Wrinkle in Time for its 50th anniversary, this is a great time for readers to discover some of L’Engle’s other novels. An added bonus: L’Engle’s characters have a habit of reappearing in other novels. Those familiar with Wrinkle will find out what happened to Meg and Calvin here, while those first introduced to L’Engle’s world through The Arm of the Starfish can follow Adam to A Ring of Endless Light and Troubling a Star, or rediscover Poly in Dragons in the Waters and An Acceptable Time.

Read the Kirkus review, or the more involved Tor review.

The Sad Book by Michael Rosen

“Sometimes I’m sad and I don’t know why.Image
It’s just a cloud that comes along and covers me up.”

Sometimes people are sad for no reason at all, but in this story, Michael is sad thinking about the death of his son who died suddenly in his youth. Michael copes with his sadness by telling himself that everyone is sad at one time or another and tries to do something everyday that will make him happy. He goes on to explain how sometimes people try to cover up their sadness to make it more acceptable for others.  In other moments, he explains how he’s just angry at his son for “dy[ing] like that”.

This book is a very personal story that can be emotionally felt by older children and adults alike; especially, for anyone that has a loved one pass away very suddenly and doesn’t understand what happened or even why it happened.  I do not recommend  this title to younger children, because the topic is quite heavy and can be very burdensome to a younger child. In addition, grief and suffering are presented in a very abstract way and may be more confusing to younger children than helpful  As with any book, I recommend reading it to understand whether or not the book is appropriate to give to someone coping with their loss.

To read a review, click here and here!

Blog Review — Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry is a prolific writer for children and teens, perhaps best known for her Giver series. Her blog is a frequently updated, journal-style publication, located on the her website alongside videos, copies of past speeches, book news, and a handful of frequently asked questions (though she does her best to respond to those who e-mail her directly). Lowry’s writing is chatty and personable, but while portions of her website are explicitly aimed at the students and teachers most likely to be reading her books, the subject matter and tone of her blog seem more suited to adult readers. Most posts are short musings about personal experiences, from having her roof repaired after Hurricane Sandy to discovering via the audio version of her latest book, Son, that she has overused certain words. The tone is matter-of-fact, sometimes rueful, occasionally weary.

That said, if the goal is to gain a bit of insight into the mind and experiences of the author behind the stories, Lowry’s blog is a good choice. Less focused on ideas or on the writing process than some, Lowry’s posts tend to come across more like personal letters, updating friends on events, memories, and small curiosities that have been on her mind lately. The material does not seem to be polished for a particular audience, and readers may appreciate the trust that that implies.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (“inspired by an idea from Soibhan Dowd”), illustrated by Jim Kay

A Monster Calls coverWhen bad things are happening, it can be tough for a thirteen year old boy to get his hands on the truth. Conor’s mom is sick, and ever since his teachers found out, they’ve been letting him get away with anything. At home, his mom and grandmother argue over how much to tell Conor – but neither asks him whether he wants to know. And then, one night, a monster arrives at Conor’s window, demanding that Conor tell the truth that he’s been hiding from himself.

The best first: Jim Kay’s illustrations are glorious — dark and detailed, with an emotional strength about them that grabs the attention and adds hugely to the power of the story to linger in the imagination. The characters are believable, and Ness does a great job of bringing the reader into Conor’s experience, offering comfort for those who have experienced something similar, and increasing understanding and compassion in those who have not. The fantasy element adds mythic depth to the story — in keeping with the theme of the novel, there’s a sense of universal truth here, even as the majority of the story lives in the particulars of selfish fathers and guardians too caught up in their own pain to see and address the needs of a child. Although, to me, the story doesn’t quite fulfill its potential — it stays too much on the surface, moves along too quickly, to really develop the depth of truth it hints at – this is absolutely a novel worth sharing.

Read about how Ness and Kay turned Siobhan Dowd’s idea into A Monster Calls, or read a review written from a doctor’s perspective.

Watch a trailer (and see a sample of the illustrations!):