Eleanor has just moved back in with her mother after being kicked out of the house a year earlier by her stepfather. Park is a half-Korean teenage boy who doesn’t quite fit in with his peers. When Eleanor starts at the local high school, she sits next to Park on the bus, and after a rough start, the two begin to get to know each other through comic books and music. Set in the 1980s, this is a great love story, but it’s not the kind of meet-cute one might expect; instead, this is a story of realistic love in the midst of unfortunate circumstances.
Rainbow Rowell does a great job of balancing the two characters and giving equal time to their perspectives, even switching between the two for chapters or as little as a single sentence at a time in order to show both sides of a given situation. The audiobook employs two narrators to help differentiate between these characters and really bring the characters to life, making them feel like close friends.
The author also does well to balance the love story with the more serious issues of bullying and abuse and difficult home situations. Eleanor & Park is a book for fans of Rowell’s other novel (also new in 2013) Fangirl, and especially readers who enjoy the co-written books by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, including Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, which share similar themes, characters, and multiple perspective formats.
In Rainbow Rowell’s newest book, we meet Cath, a freshman in college whose greatest pleasure in life is writing fanfiction about Simon Snow—an 8-book popular fantasy series (think Harry Potter). While Cath is famous online for her fanfiction, in real life she’s the shy half of twins, who prefers staying in most nights, and now has to adjust to college life, making friends, and writing her own fiction, not to mention starting her first real relationship. Fangirl is a fun read, full of witty dialogue, wonderful characters, and a sweet, innocent romance. When you’ve reached the end, you’ll wish there was more to read.
The story takes place in an alternate 1985, where Thursday Next, intrepid Special Operative battles an arch-villain who’s kidnapping characters from classic literature. As a member of the Literary Detective Division of the Special Operations Network, she pursues literary crimes such as forgery, plagiarism, manuscript theft, and the abuse of literary characters.
In Japser Fforde’s world, matters of literature receive the kind attention we reserve for professional sports or Hollywood celebrities. The novel is fun and diverting with a great arch-villain and an intrepid heroine.
Full of literary allusions, this is a good novel for readers of classic fiction. People are able to pop themselves into novels, while fictional creations are able to escape into the real world. There is also a funny bit where a production of Richard III is done with boisterous audience participation à la The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The Eyre Affair is the first of seven in the Thursday Next series (the next is Lost in a Good Book).
This eerie short story will make you question your faith in any long standing traditions. The whole town has gathered for the annual lottery, but no one seems too happy about it. There is a general uneasiness about the crowd which Jackson masterfully cultivates until the final shocking moment. You will never look at your neighbors the same again. Check out The Lottery today.
The Age of Miracles is a moving story about coming of age during a time of great uncertainty in the world. Eleven-year-old Julia navigates the trials and tribulations of middle school while the Earth’s rotation has begun to slow. As Julia deals with the loss of friends and the joy of a first love, birds begin to drop dead from the sky and daylight lasts 48 hours. Emily Janice Card does an excellent job of narrating Karen Thompson Walker’s haunting and beautiful prose. This is a must read that will stay with you long after you have finished.
I was excited to read Out of the Easy after I finished Ruta Sepetys‘ first novel (and if you were discouraged by the depressing nature of Between Shades of Gray, this one isn’t quite as dark). Her sophomore effort features Josie Moraine, a strong, spunky teen trying to improve her circumstances in 1950s New Orleans. Surrounding Josie is a colorful cast of characters from all walks of life.
I love the way Ruta Sepetys writes a story, but she always leaves me wanting just a little bit more. In both Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy, there are a few plot points I wish she had addressed. Overall, though, I highly recommend her novels – while they’re classified for teens, I think people of all ages will fall in love with her characters and settings.
Check out Jennifer’s review of Between Shades of Gray.
Louis Sachar’s Holes is a young adult book with short, bite-sized chapters that make you want to read the whole thing in one sitting—and you do. It follows young Stanley Yelnats who is unjustly sent to a correctional facility in the desert, most likely on account of a 100-year-old family curse, where he is forced to dig holes to “build character.” Every detail in the book is intertwined into a well-crafted plot which bounces back and forth between the present and past. It has quickly become one of my favorite books.
After you read the book, be sure to check out the movie version of Holes.
Scat by Carl Hiaasen (2009)
Scat is a book in the teen section which parents and grandparents should read and recommend to their children. Carl Hiaasen writes in the same style as he does in his adult fiction, but without the profanity. Adults will find this Florida environmental issue of the black panther very informative. Hiaasen’s quest continues to make his readers aware of environmental issues using interesting topics, writing style and suspense.
Read an excerpt from the book and read reviews at Amazon.com.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (2005)
When my teenage reluctant-reader niece raved about this book, I just had to see what the buzz was about this hot bestseller. Although I am not much of a romance reader, I found this book a fun read with interesting characters and enough suspense to keep me reading into the wee hours.
Listen to the author speak about Twilight, visit her website, and check out the Twilight guide website.
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (2006)
I read this for my young adult literature class. It was fast paced and has a very important (and different) narrator. The book talks about Nazi Germany but also about the growth of a young girl. And what book lover doesn’t want to know more about the book thief?
Watch the video to see the author discuss The Book Thief, read the reviews at BookBrowse.com and listen to NPR’s interview with the author.