16 December 2011

Best Book for Teenage Boys

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (March 1, 2012, Amulet Books)
Review by Kenzie Helene

There are some books you read for intellectual purposes. Books with layers of meaning, making you think deeply about the philosophy of life and how you’d like to live yours. Books that make you cry or laugh, or generally change the paradigm you view the world through. They’re usually layered with intense words, phrases that provoke thought whether or not the reader wants them to.

Then there are books like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Even while it includes all of the themes, despite the main character arguing that it absolutely doesn’t, it is a book that is fun to read. It definitely is not one of the books that you would see on a high school curriculum, even though students would probably relate to it more than Macbeth or Of Mice and Men. The best part is reading it right as the semester ends, as a glorious rebuttal to all that learning they made you do for fifteen weeks.


Greg Gaines gets through high school by maintaining connections with everyone, not enough to make friends, but enough to make sure that he is bullied by no one. As a flabby kid with a rat face, he thinks that this is the best way to survive until graduation day. Of course, he does have one friend, a guy named Earl with whom he makes movies. Gloriously bad movies.

He’s going through his senior year with the best of luck. He’s at the top of the food chain and there is nothing to stop him. Until his mom tells him that his ex-girlfriend, Rachel, has leukemia. Greg is convinced that this means nothing to him, especially since there relationship ended years ago. Still, Greg starts hanging out with Rachel to appease his mother. Earl, of course, tags along. As his relationship with Rachel develops into real friendship, he is cornered into making her a film, one that showcases how good his skills are. Greg’s senior year veers from being about invisibility to everyone knowing who exactly he is, whether he likes it or not.


William Wordsworth attempted to change poetry, to write it in “the language of man” for all to enjoy it. Jesse Andrews takes this a step further and writes in the language of a male teenager. The interactions between Earl and Greg are exactly the way that my lunch table used to talk, the innuendos, the overabundance of swearing, and the general grunts being able to be deciphered only by others the same age. Greg’s mindset is exactly the one that I saw a lot of people take in my high school, where they avoided bullying by avoiding friendship. From the moment I started reading his narrative, I clicked with Greg as if he attended my senior year with me.

Greg is a character that constantly insists that the book contains absolutely no themes. From the beginning to the end, he is reassuring the reader that he has learned absolutely nothing from this experience and the book is just a waste of time. He actually insults the reader for continuing passing through the pages instead of setting it down. It’s just so funny, but doesn’t distract from the fact that he actually had changed from knowing Rachel.

In all, the book is one that I’d recommend not only to those who read often, but those who normally don’t read. If you have a teenage boy in the house that hasn’t picked up a book since Captain Underpants, then Me and Earl and the Dying Girl might be the novel to trick them back into reading AND enjoying it.

13 December 2011

Heartbreakers Heal Hearts, Too!

The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten (December 27, 2011, HarperTeen)
Review by Kelly Lucas

Once upon a time, a girl was playing around on Goodreads and saw a title by a favorite author. That title was The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers and that author is Lynn Weingarten. From that moment, I knew I HAD to read this book. No, seriously, I continued to pester Lynn and her publisher about Advanced Reader Copies until that fateful day: the day Lynn told me that I was receiving an ARC.*

Even though I was in the middle of reading two other books at the time, had loads of GRE studying to do, and my room was a mess, I began to read it right away. This almost never happens. I buy a book and it sits on my shelf for the next year before I have time to read it. Seriously, I *still* haven’t read The Last Little Blue Envelope and it’s been on my shelf since May. These things take time. Except, I had been waiting for SSH for almost a year, if not more.

The title doesn’t give you much and the summary on Goodreads is very vague. I had no idea what was going to happen in this book. I knew these girls were heart breakers, and I knew Lucy had recently had her heart broken, and this is why I love this book. LOVE. Not past tense, present. Reading SSH was such a joy to my day that I wish I was still reading it. Lynn’s voice in Wherever Nina Lies was so different from what I normally read. I fell in love with her writing then. Lynn has the gift of a story teller, except more so. You may think you’re sitting down with her books, but she’s actually there with you. She sits you down, cuddles underneath the blankets with you, and tells you the story like she had lived it herself.

Lucy is fifteen and in love her boyfriend, Alex. Typical, yes? Let’s continue. First day of sophomore year, she approaches Alex and, ohmygoodness, he breaks up with her. Lucy does what any girl would normally do, runs to the bathroom and cry. What Lucy didn’t know is that three girls have been paying a bit too much attention to her.

Olivia, Gil, and Liza invite her into their group to do one thing: make a boy fall in love with her in seven days and then break his heart to collect the tear. The catch? Once Lucy breaks a heart and drinks the magic potion, her heart will be unbreakable. Who would really say no to that? Lucy decides to go along with their plan, but use their magic to win back Alex instead.

Lucy is your typical 15-year-old girl who just had her heart broken. She wants to fix it and get her boyfriend back. While she’s very smart, she’s also a bit naive. Olivia, Liza and Gil are seniors and wish to share their knowledge of boys and how to make these boys not only like, but fall in love with Lucy. Lucy is using them while they in turn are using her. Honestly, they’re nut-jobs. If three girls had told me they had magic to make boys fall in love with them, I would have done the same thing Lucy did. Lucy was hurt and did not have another option. I felt for her because I had been there, not only when I was 15, but earlier this very year. I connected with Lucy as if I was her. This hooked me in and made me keep reading. I wanted to know how Lucy would get Alex back and if she really would. I wanted to know how she tackled the secret sisterhood and their witchy ways.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I learned from this book about love. After dealing with a cracked heart, I was starting to heal. While it is a bit of a paranormal tale, I view it as a bit of a dating journal as well. No girl likes to have a broken heart and this book is your magic potion.

*That day’s joy ALMOST matched my joy for Pottermore. ALMOST. 

UPDATE: I totally forgot to tell you guys that we're doing a CONTEST. Just follow our blog and comment on THIS post and you'll be entered to win a copy of The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers! What else! I'll leave it open until the end of this year [Dec. 31, 2011]! 


Congrats to Allison for winning! But stay tuned for more contests throughout 2012!

02 December 2011

Pass Me a Bottle of Yorick as I Reread This

Croak by Gina Damico (March 20, 2012, Graphia)
Review by Kenzie Helene

From the very first sentence, Croak drags you into the life of Lexington, a teenage girl living in New York City. Lex had always been a good kid. She got straight A’s, was a hall monitor, and followed all the rules. That is until she started getting uncontrollable bouts of anger and hurting the other students in her school. When the principal threatens to expel her on the last day of junior year, her parents offer to send Lex to her Uncle Mort’s farm for the Summer, hoping it will change her attitude. It certainly does, but how is Lex supposed to get used to living with a group of Grim Reapers?


Gina Damico, the author, does amazing things with the cast she presents in her novel. Uncle Mort is an uncle I wish I had in my family, with crazy hair and motorcycle. Oh, and he’s a Grim Reaper. While readers get to meet Lex, her twin Cordy, and Uncle Mort, they also get to meet other famous people who have drifted onto the afterlife, like Edgar Allan Poe and a few dead founding fathers while Lex and a group of friends venture into the afterlife. Each of them has their own quirks and faults that makes them not only more realistic, but fun to read.

While the characters in Croak are imaginative, it is the setting that truly evokes a response while reading. Croak is a small town in Upstate New York. When people from other states picture New York, they picture big skyscrapers, great shopping and important landmarks. Upstate New York is nothing like that. There are cows and farmland and during the Winter months, a lot of snow. However, Croak is nothing like the traditional Upstate New York town. It’s small on the outside, but just like the TARDIS*, it’s bigger on the inside, a private world that visitors are forced not to notice. The description of their personal twist on alcohol, Yorick, and their pack of death-finding jellyfish just make me want to visit. Unfortunately, Croak has their own methods of making tourists leave.

Lexington battles the constant fear that what the Grims do is wrong. Grim Reapers are not allowed to interfere with death or take the soul of anyone who isn't dead, but Lex can't help but feel that if she were to kill murderers, rapists, and other criminals, the world would be a much better place. The power to control death is a heavy one and brings up the question of what would the reader do if placed in the same situation. The saying about absolute power is that it corrupts absolutely.

While I’m absolutely distraught because my copy of Croak has been returned, I can’t wait for it to come out in March. I’ll be waiting at the bookstore to get a physical copy into my hands. As a fellow upstate New York-er, I am more than hoping that Damico might come and sign this awesome book near here.
*Doctor Who Reference, a time traveling spaceship that is bigger on the inside.