Childrens book reviews by StorySnoops, judge a book by more than its cover, serving fresh scoops of new books for you every day
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Archive for October, 2010

Super Scoop Friday–Al Capone is a winner!

Friday, October 29th, 2010

I want to share a book with you that was a double hit in our house. By double hit, I mean that both my 10 year old daughter and my 7 year old son enjoyed it equally. That’s pretty rare.

We visited Alcatraz in the summer and it was very cool. What was not cool, according to my kids, was the fact that I bought a book in the gift shop  -  not the handcuffs and toy guns they begged for. But there it was , the Newbery Honor Winner Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko, and I, being a StorySnoop, saw it as the perfect teaching moment.

We started reading it aloud together and despite the initial groans from my daughter, they actually paid attention for four chapters. They loved the main character, Moose, who just moved with his family to Alcatraz for his father’s job. They grew a soft spot for Moose’s sister, Natalie, who bore a striking resemblance to their own cousin, and immediately recognized that she, too, was autistic. The baseball scenes are exciting and the underlying tension, suspense, and curiosity surrounding the famous prisoners over in cell block D do not disappoint, and make this book hard to put down.  I can’t tell you what happens next. That woud spoil it. I can’t tell you that Al Capone is in charge of washing Moose’s clothes and he may or may not slip a note to Moose. Lip buttoned. No more!

Impatient by my slow pace, my daughter took the book to school. A few days later, she was finished and asking for the sequel, Al Capone Shines My Shoes. She devoured that, proclaimed it as good as the first and is now drawing a map of Alcatraz for her book report.

Ahh, love those perfect teaching moments.  But you do not need to visit Alcatraz to enjoy this book. There are many pictures online of the famous cell block D (“The rooms are so small!”), the warden’s house (“It’s all crumbled down with no roof!”) and the guard’s watchtower (“So many stairs!”).

Check them out–you’ll be glad you did.

-Shannon, StorySnoop

The Great Escape

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

I am the first to admit that I have used reading as a form of escapism.  During a particularly stressful time in my life, I will adjust my reading selections so that they are more entertaining than enlightening.  There is nothing better than disappearing into someone else’s life or being completely absorbed by a story in order to get out of my own head.

This can be useful for young readers as well.  My teen daughter buried herself in the House of Night series during a stressful time and didn’t come up for air until she finished the seventh book.  But is it necessary for books that entertain to also be vacuous?  I just read two books that illustrate very different approaches.  Both are written for girls age twelve and up, and both are more entertaining than literary in nature.

In Airhead by Meg Cabot, high school junior Em Watts is not a stereotypical teen girl.  Rather than hang out with girlfriends and keep up with the latest fashion trends, Em prefers to read or play video games with her best friend Christopher.  She refers to girls who are preoccupied by their appearance as members of the “walking dead.”  Through a bizarre twist of fate, Em is reluctantly forced to live the life of a world-famous supermodel, literally.  Airhead is totally fun and engaging, while featuring a strong female role model and offering positive messages about inner versus outer beauty.

On the other end of the spectrum there is The Belle of the Brawl, written by the author of the popular Clique series.  This story takes place at a boarding school for the most gifted girls in America.  While this seems like a positive premise, most of the characters are like the “walking dead” described by Em Watts — obsessed with beauty and boys.  The plot brings out the worst in these girls, as eighty-eight of them compete to “land” one of five boys at the school.  The result is lots of scheming, backstabbing, and revenge plotting.  Entertaining?  Maybe.  But at what cost to our daughters?  I’m just saying.

-Jen, StorySnoop

Teen Read Week wraps up with guest blogger Wade Wallerstein, on Freak Show and Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

To celebrate the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Teen Read Week, StorySnoops is hosting a series of interviews with YA lit authors and enthusiasts.  Started in 1998, Teen Read Week is YALSA’s annual event encouraging teens to read just for the fun of it.  We hope you enjoy this series as much as we enjoyed putting it together!

Our friend Wade Wallerstein is our guest blogger today, wrapping up our Teen Read Week interview series.  He is a high school sophomore, who writes for his school newspaper. Currently on his nightstand? In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote. Enjoy!
-The Snoops

Usually, when it comes to literature, homosexual characters are cookie cutter stereotypes: big and flashy, abrasive and sparkly, overly feminine and ‘fabulous.’ Upon first opening Freak Show and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I was disappointed to discover that the main gay characters in both novels fit these descriptions to a tee. I myself am a gay teen, and yes I do have my rhinestone-studded ‘gay’ moments, but I often feel that the gay community in general is mis-portrayed in books. Upon further reading, however, I was immediately captivated by Billy Bloom, a seventeen-year-old drag queen, and Tiny Cooper, a 300 lb. high school junior. Billy Bloom courageously shows up at his conservative Southern school decked out in full on drag, while Tiny Cooper fearlessly presents a play of his life for the student body.

Freak Show chronicles Billy’s struggles with romance, bullying, and being fabulous on a daily basis despite threats to his health. He befriends a football player and sets out on a campaign to win the illustrious title of homecoming queen, and maintain his glitter-coated complexion – both tasks not easily completed in the deep swamps of Florida. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is the story of two Will Graysons, one a manic-depressive homo-goth, and the other a straight, laconic indie kid who is also best friends with the aforementioned Tiny Cooper. The two Wills fatefully meet on a street corner in Chicago, where immediately goth-Will and Tiny hit it off. As Tiny tries to produce a play of his life and manage a relationship with goth-Will, indie-Will also tries to find love in a fellow hipster Jane.

As I read both stories, the over-the-top portrayal of characters kept me enthralled – I read Freak Show in a day and WG,WG in two. Both are extremely uplifting tales of breaking barriers and finding love, which ultimately are things that everyone, no matter their sexuality, yearns for. As a gay teen, it was comforting to know that the struggles that I face on a daily basis could be so much worse than they actually are, and that there are others out there with similar experiences and viewpoints. L, G, B, T, Q, or A, you will ADORE Billy Bloom and his, to put it delicately, flair for the dramatic, and Tiny’s HUGE personality (and waist). As such universal characters, you may be able to see a little bit of yourself in both of them. Freak Show and Will Grayson, Will Grayson remind us to stay positive, stay fabulous, and not to take anyone’s crap!

-Wade Wallerstein

Thank you for joining us for our Teen Read Week series.  If you’d like to see all of the posts from this week, click here.  We hope you’re inspired to pick out a great book and read, just for the fun of it.

Meet Cassandra Clare–just named to the 2010 Teen’s Top Ten!

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

To celebrate the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Teen Read Week, StorySnoops is hosting a series of interviews with YA lit authors and enthusiasts.  Started in 1998, Teen Read Week is YALSA’s annual event encouraging teens to read just for the fun of it.  We hope you enjoy this series as much as we enjoyed putting it together!

Our guest today is Cassandra Clare, author of the wildly popular urban fantasy series for young adults, The Mortal Instruments.  The third book in the series, City of Glass, was just voted number two in this year’s Teen’s Top Ten!  Her books have also been in the Teens’ Top Ten in 2008 and 2009.

Welcome Cassandra!

Why did you choose to write novels for a young adult audience?  Does writing for this audience pose any unique challenges for you?

I didn’t so much choose to write for young adults as I chose to write about young adults. When I developed the idea for City of Bones, Jace, Clary and their friends were always teenagers. I wanted to write about coming of age and the difficult decisions we make when we are deciding what kind of people we want to be. Young adult is a marketing category, decided on by the publisher. I suppose the books could just have easily have wound up in paranormal romance. I wouldn’t say the genre poses unique challenges for me as I have never written a book targeted to or about adults — so that would be the challenge.

What appeals to you about writing fantasies?  Is fantasy your own favorite genre?

Fantasy appeals to me because of its powerful allegorical nature. In “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, high school wasn’t just a hellish experience, it was actually hell. In writing about Clary, I am writing about the feeling that a lot of teenagers have that they are different somehow, alienated, unlike others. Only Clary actually very literally is another kind of species of human. In writing about Tessa, I can literalize the experience, which is often strong in adolescence, of feeling that your identity is fluid and shifting, that you’re not sure who you are yet.

At what point in your life did you become interested in writing and how did you make this interest a reality?

I’ve always been interested in writing. I began writing fiction when I was about twelve. I subscribe to Scott Westerfeld’s theory that you have to write about a million bad words before you start writing good ones. It was many years later than I had a manuscript I thought I could show to an agent, which was City of Bones. That was back in 2004.

What were some of your favorite books when you were a young adult?

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander, the Lord of the Rings, War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, anything by Robin McKinley, Diana Wynne Jones or Neil Gaiman, any of the Bordertown stories by Terri Windling, Ellen Kushner, Charles de Lint, and others.

What books are currently on your nightstand?

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves and Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon.

Thanks so much Cassandra!

Two new books in the Mortal Instruments series — City of Lost Souls and City of Heavenly Fire – will be released in May 2012 and September 2013.  Be sure to pick up Clockwork Angel, the first in a trilogy of prequels to the Mortal Instruments series, Infernal Devices.  You can also get updates on Cassandra’s website and blog.

If you’d like to see the rest of the interviews in our Teen Read Week series, click here.  And check back tomorrow to hear from our friend and guest blogger, Wade Wallerstein.

-The Snoops

It’s Teen Read Week–meet Teen’s Top Ten nominee Emma Clayton!

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

To celebrate the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Teen Read Week, StorySnoops is hosting a series of interviews with YA lit authors and enthusiasts.  Started in 1998, Teen Read Week is YALSA’s annual event encouraging teens to read just for the fun of it.  We hope you enjoy this series as much as we enjoyed putting it together!

Our guest today is Emma Clayton, author of the dystopian thriller The Roar, which has been nominated for YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten this year.  In addition to writing young adult fiction, Emma is a freelance illustrator and has studied film and screen writing.

Welcome Emma!

Why did you decide to become an author?

I don’t remember deciding to become an author.  The first thing I wrote was a screenplay while I was studying film and I enjoyed that so much, I felt compelled to write something longer.  I feel like a storyteller, set builder and prop maker.  Through studying film I learned about classic narrative structure and the importance of ‘mise en scene’; how my story’s environment helps to generate mood, meaning and depth. People often say The Roar has a filmic quality and I think this is the reason why.   I became an author because I enjoy telling stories, set building and prop making!

What made you choose to write for young adults?

I love the optimism and energy in youth literature.  The first novel I wrote was for adults and I didn’t finish it because I felt the pressure to say something that hadn’t been said before.  I found myself naval gazing while I was writing, rather than enjoying myself.   But the moment I decided to write for children and young adults, I felt my imagination expand and all that energy rush in.  It’s still a challenge, but I enjoy it much more.

I also aspired to write a novel my son would read.  When he was twelve, he became a reluctant reader and preferred watching films and playing computer games.  So I tried to bring him back to literature by writing a book that was interesting enough to keep him engaged.  I used everything I’d learned about film and games to create an interface between the mediums.  I also realized I was writing for a generation, not just my son.  I liked that idea.

Why do you think dystopian literature has become so popular among young readers recently?  What appeals to you about the genre?

While I was writing The Roar, I didn’t realize I was part of a new movement in dystopian literature.  In 2004 everyone was obsessed with wizards.  But I felt I was reflecting the real life concerns of my readers.  In The Roar I observed the influence of reality television, the threat of war, the deterioration of our environment and the potential for global, economic melt down. There are cycles for all genres. The dystopian genre seems to pop up in times of crisis, when people are worrying about the state of their world.  So I guess it makes sense it’s popular now.  This is a difficult time to be born.

The dystopian genre appealed to me because it’s possible to take a current issue, place it in a future context and look at it with greater objectivity.   I also like the fact that dystopian ideas can be free and wild.  I like inventing new things that may or may not exist one day, such as Tank Meat.  This is fun.

The Roar is compelling to both book lovers and reluctant readers alike.  How are you able to make your writing connect with all types of readers?

My objective was to write a book that didn’t patronize my readers in terms of content or vocabulary, but still negotiated the stumbling blocks that made reluctant readers put books down.  I tried to maintain the pace of the action, avoid heavy passages of description and make my story as exciting as possible.  While I was writing, I was thinking, ‘what is the best thing that could happen next?’…  and not just for my readers, for my own enjoyment too.  I felt I entered into a pact with them; that we all wanted to have fun.  I also made assumptions: that my readers are smart, even if they don’t read much, and that they have a huge store of images already in their minds, either through watching films, playing games or by observing their own world.  And that all they needed from me was triggers to make my ideas come alive in their imaginations.  They don’t need everything explained to them.

What were some of your favorite books when you were a young adult?

I read a lot of classic fiction as a young adult.  The genre, ‘Young Adult,’ didn’t exist then, so like many people of my age, I jumped from children’s books to adult books.  I also read a lot of pulp romance, because my mother enjoyed it, and horror, because my brothers enjoyed it.   I’d read any book that was left around the house.  But these were my favorites:

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy

Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

Vanity Fair, William Thackeray

Ham on Rye, Charles Bukowski

Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen

White Fang, Jack London

What books are currently on your nightstand?

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, by Alan Sillitoe

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami

The Maze Runner, James Dashner

Thank you Emma!  You can keep in touch with Emma via her website. If you’d like to see the rest of our Teen Read Week interviews, click here.  And join us tomorrow to hear from author Cassandra Clare!

-The Snoops

It’s Teen Read Week–Check out Sarah Dessen at StorySnoops!

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

To celebrate YALSA’s Teen Read Week, StorySnoops is hosting a series of interviews with YA lit authors and enthusiasts.  Started in 1998, Teen Read Week is YALSA’s annual event encouraging teens to read just for the fun of it. We hope you enjoy this series as much as we enjoyed putting it together!

Our guest today is Sarah Dessen, the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Dreamland, Lock and Key, Someone Like You, and This Lullaby, among others.  Sarah is known for her strong teenage voice.  And congratulations are in order–her book, Along for the Ride, was voted in to the 2010 Teen’s Top Ten!

Welcome Sarah! What made you want to write for a young adult audience?

To be honest, I kind of fell into it. I’d written a couple of novels before trying one with a teenage narrator, and my agent wanted to market it as a YA. I hadn’t written it with that audience in mind, but she told me to trust her, and I am so glad I did! It’s been the perfect place for my voice and my writing. I thought I never wanted to think about high school ever again. Guess I was wrong.

Are any of your books autobiographical in nature?

Not really. I think they are more about the kind of things I WISHED would happen to me in high school, you know, that I’d find some great understanding or become someone else over a summer. I was always hoping for big changes. Now I get to write them, which I guess is the next best thing.

What do you wish your high school self knew that you know now?

I wish I could tell her how little it really matters what anyone else thinks about you. I spent way too much time worrying about other people’s opinions and attitudes. I wish I could have those hours back.

What were some of your favorite books when you were a young adult?

I loved Judy Blume, and Lois Lowry. A Summer to Die just blew my mind, again and again. I also really liked Southern novelists like Lee Smith and Kaye Gibbons. They made me think I didn’t have to be from New York to want to be a writer.

What books are currently on your nightstand?

I just finished Kate Atkinson’s When Will There Be Good News, which I LOVED, and just started One Day, by David Nicholls. I have a lot less time to read since I had my baby three years ago, but I still try to do it whenever I can.

Thank you Sarah!

Sarah’s tenth novel, What Happened to Goodbye, will be released in May of 2011.  In the meantime, you can keep up with Sarah on her website and her blog. If you’d like to see the rest of our series on Teen Read Week, click here. And come back tomorrow when we are joined by author Emma Clayton!

-The StorySnoops

Celebrate Teen Read Week at StorySnoops with Jennifer Brown, author of Hate List

Monday, October 18th, 2010

To celebrate YALSA’s Teen Read Week, StorySnoops is hosting a series of interviews with YA lit authors and enthusiasts.  Started in 1998, Teen Read Week is YALSA’s annual event encouraging teens to read just for the fun of it. We hope you enjoy this series as much as we enjoyed putting it together!

Our guest today is Jennifer Brown, the award winning author of Hate List, which has been nominated for YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten this year.  In addition to writing young adult fiction, Jennifer is a humor columnist for The Kansas City Star, and Wednesday Featured Blogger for Mom2MomKC.

Welcome Jennifer!

Your debut novel, Hate List, tackles some pretty dark material.  Do you have a connection to the topic of school shootings?  Was the book inspired by a real-life incident?
Fortunately, no, I have never had any personal involvement in a school shooting. However, I would venture to say that we are all touched by the topic, even if we’re not personally involved. Any time there is a senseless tragedy, we all have the opportunity for inner reflection and perhaps outward change. Whether or not we act on that opportunity is up to us. As a mom of three, school shootings have always really frightened me. And saddened me, because I always think…this could have been avoided. This child was in pain. How did this happen? What can we do to make it never happen again? As a mother, I wish I had answers to these questions. But as a writer, I know that any time there are questions…there’s a potential story to be written.
What message were you hoping to convey with this book?
I don’t know if I really set out to convey a specific message while writing the book. My goal in writing is always, first and foremost, to provide entertainment. Reading should be enjoyable, even if you’re reading about a heavy topic. The story should be something you want to keep coming back to. That said, if my readers were to come away thinking, I would be satisfied. Particularly if they came away thinking about how our lives are interconnected and how hateful words and actions can snowball into something really devastating. In the story, Dr. Hieler continues to tell Valerie to “see what’s really there,” and I would say that’s sort of the theme of the entire book, and what I’d hope for readers to come away wanting to do — to see what’s really there. To see people for who they really are, rather than what their reputation or first impression or the gossip says they are.
You are also a humor columnist.  Do you plan to incorporate humor into a young adult novel in the future?
No, probably not. My humor is very “domestic mommy” in nature. It doesn’t translate well to fiction (I’ve tried), and especially not to teen fiction.
What were some of your favorite books when you were a young adult?
Well, of course I was a big Judy Blume fan (who isn’t?), especially when I was younger. As I got older I started to really get into Stephen King books. A friend of the family bought me a grocery sack of his paperbacks at a garage sale when I was a teen, and I read them all, and then re-read many of them. Still to this day, I rush out to buy a copy of his newest book as soon as it hits the shelves.
What books are currently on your nightstand?
I don’t actually have a nightstand, but there is a pile of books and magazines on the floor next to my bed, including George Carlin’s Brain Droppings and an assortment of leather-bound Hemingway novels. Also, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein and Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.
Thanks so much Jennifer!
Thank you! This has been fun!
For more information on Jennifer, be sure to check out her blog. If you’d like to see the rest of our series on Teen Read Week, click here.  And come back tomorrow when we are joined by author Sarah Dessen!

-The StorySnoops

Teen Read Week–Meet Lea Johnson, YA Book Queen!

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

To celebrate the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Teen Read Week, StorySnoops is hosting a series of interviews with YA lit authors and enthusiasts.  Started in 1998, Teen Read Week is YALSA’s annual event encouraging teens to read just for the fun of it.  We hope you enjoy this series as much as we enjoyed putting it together!

Our guest today is Lea Johnson, nineteen-year-old author of the YA Book Queen blog, which features reviews, interviews, and contests related to young adult literature.

Welcome Lea!

Hi! Thanks for having me! =)

How long have you been blogging about YA lit and what inspired you to start?

I’ve been a YA book blogger for little more than a year now. I’ve always been such a huge bookworm, but I never had anyone to really discuss books with. I ended up stumbling into book blogging, and I started my blog with hopes that I would discover more YA novels, expand my reading choices, and really connect with other YA book lovers.

How do you handle reviews when you really don’t like a book?

It’s always a bit of a challenge when I have to review a book that is not quite my style. Sometimes I’ll use a bit of humor to make the review lighter. Mostly, however, I try to be as honest as possible without being cruel. There is a point when it goes from being critical, or even jokingly poking fun at a few points in the book, to being overly cruel. I’m all for critical honesty, but doing it as nicely (without sugarcoating it) as possible. At the end of my negative reviews, I include a couple links to some of the more glowing and raving reviews I come across, that way my readers can get a few more opinions. Even if I hate the book, I’ll always make a note somewhere in my review that everyone should read a couple chapters in the bookstore first, or a few more reviews (and to not cross it off their list completely, because everyone has different tastes regarding books).

Teens today face many pressures to succeed in school and be active outside the classroom and in their communities.  How have you balanced these pressures and managed to continue reading for pleasure?

There have been a couple times where I took off time from reading and blogging because my life became so hectic, and I hated it. After that, I started to bring a book with me wherever I go, and to put one in my car. That way, it’s easier to find and make some free time to read. It truly is a balancing act, but it comes down to getting what needs to be done finished right away (school, family obligations, work), and let the rest fall into place (read between classes, when you’re waiting for the bus, on break, et cetera).

How do you see YA lit fitting into your life in the future — a career choice, a hobby?

I adore YA lit too much to not have it in my life in the future, one way or the other. I hope that I will be able to make a career revolving around YA lit in some way. It would just be perfect to somehow find my way into some aspect of the book industry. But even if that doesn’t work out, then I know I have a great hobby to continue on with!

What are your favorite YA books of 2010 so far?

Oh, this is torture! There have been so many great books so far this year! But I think these seven have been the “WOW!” books for me:

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Molly Fyde and the Blood of Billions (#3 in The Bern Saga) by Hugh Howey

- Exit Strategy by Ryan Potter

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Split by Swati Avasthi

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

When I Was Joe by Keren David

Thank you Lea!

If you would like to read more of Lea’s thoughts on all things YA lit, be sure to visit her blog, YA Book Queen.  If you’d like to see the rest of our series on Teen Read Week, click here.  And come back tomorrow when we are joined by author Jennifer Brown!

-The StorySnoops

It’s Teen Read Week–what are you reading?

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

To celebrate the Young Adult Library Servce Association Teen Read Week, StorySnoops is hosting a series of interviews with YA lit authors and enthusiasts.  Started in 1998, Teen Read Week is YALSA’s annual event encouraging teens to read for pleasure and to visit their libraries for free reading materials. This year’s theme is Books with Beat.

Our Teen Read Week interviewees include celebrated authors Cassandra Clare, Sarah Dessen and Jennifer Brown, as well as YA Book Queen blogger Lea Johnson and a special teen guest blogger. We hope you enjoy this interview series as much as we enjoyed putting it together—stay tuned!

For some added fun, the Snoops wanted to share our favorite YA reads of the year.  Enjoy a good book!

-The StorySnoops



Super Scoop Friday–Flash Burnout

Friday, October 15th, 2010

I loved the book I read last weekend! Flash Burnout is the debut work of author LK. Madigan, and won the William C. Morris award this year, which honors a first-time author writing for teens. Madigan, who is a woman, does an authentic job getting into fifteen-year-old Blake’s head and giving him an interesting and comic voice.  As a woman myself, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of Blake’s thoughts and actions, but they certainly SEEM authentic to me, and that’s what’s important, right?

Blake is torn between two girls.  One is his girlfriend, Shannon, with whom he thinks he just might be falling in love.  The other is his friend, who happens to be a girl, Marissa, who needs him when her meth-addicted mother comes back into her life.  The crux of the story is Blake’s struggle to be the best boyfriend he can be, while at the same time, not turning away a friend in need.

Blake is blessed with a supportive family.  He can’t seem to keep his hands off of Shannon and is contemplating taking the next step with her, but his folks realize this, and there is a very funny sequence when his dad gives him “the sex talk”.  And of course, the modern day sex talk now includes not only birth control, but disease protection and a clear statement on the fact that “no” means “no”.  (Thank you, Blake’s dad—in spite of your embarrassment—he really did think about your words in the heat of the moment!)

Marissa and Blake are friends through their photography class.  They have an instant and deep bond when Marissa realizes that a photo Blake took of a homeless woman is her meth-addicted mom whom she hasn’t seen in over a year.  Blake is a good guy, and wants to help Marissa, but because of the nature of her problems at home, she doesn’t want him to tell anyone else.  As one might imagine, this leads to all sorts of problems between Blake and Shannon, and when Marissa finally hits bottom in the struggle with her mother, she and Blake give in to their attraction to one another.

Though this is something the reader may have seen coming, the story doesn’t proceed from here as one might expect.  This book is not the typical rom-com story line where we hate one member of the love triangle, and it’s easy to root for the “right” pairing.  Rather, this book is about Blake and his growth as a person.  Blake is a normal teenager, obsessed with sex, but wanting to do the right thing by his friends.  He makes many missteps, but in the end learns that whether intended or not, actions have consequences.

In spite of the heavy subject matter in Marissa’s family this book isn’t particularly gritty.  There is a wonderful sub-plot about photography, as well as an epilogue of sorts with two music playlists made for Blake by his brother’s girlfriend (one for when he is feeling sad-sad, and one for the slightly different mood, mad-sad!).   Definitely worth a read.  Older teen girls will certainly enjoy it, and I am very curious to know what older teen boys will think…is Blake the real deal?

-Eden, StorySnoop