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Benioff, David. City of Thieves. 2008. (YA Fiction Benio.D)
Leningrad, 1942. 15 year-old Lev is thrown together in police custody with an oddly-calm and charismatic deserter named Kolya and transported to the elegant home of a big cheese in the NKVD (that's Stalin's secret police). Here they're given an assignment by the big cheese himself: In this frozen winter city where the populace is so wracked by hunger and lack of food that some have taken to cannibalism, find one dozen eggs for the colonel's daughter's wedding cake in one week. Succeed and they'll get their food ration cards back, fail and they'll be starved corpses in no time. With writing as sharp as nails, David Benioff's crackling WWII-era novel captures Russia in the early days of the siege of Leningrad and the evolution of an unlikely friendship between two young men. With its fast-paced writing, ribald jokes, impossible (but lovable) main characters, absurd dialogue, well-knitted plot and tension-rife run-ins with bloodless Nazis, City of Thieves is a scary, compelling riot.
Cabot, Meg. Abandon. 2011. (YA Fiction Cabot.M).
A near-death experience, a horrible incident at school, and a move from Connecticut to Florida have turned seventeen-year-old Pierce's life upside-down, but when she needs him most John Hayden is always there, helping remind her of her visit to the Underworld. A re-telling of the Persephone myth, this new Cabot novel is an emotional, compelling ride into darkness and back.
Cabot, Meg. How To Be Popular. 2006. (YA Fiction Cabot.M)
Sixteen-year-old Steph Landry finds an old book on how to be popular and decides to change her social status by following its advice, much to the bafflement of her two best friends. Funny!
Cather, Willa. My Antonia. 1918. (YA Fiction Cathe.W)
Lasting in impact and stunning in beauty, My Ántonia is the classic story of Jim Burden, a young boy displaced to a Nebraska farm after the death of his parents, and the years-long, loving relationship he builds with Ántonia, a girl recently emigrated from Bohemia. The book is written by Cather in episodes that span Jim's life from 9 years old to his early 20s, with each tale throughout standing as its own masterful short story. There's the day Jim kills the murderous 5-foot rattlesnake with a garden hoe; the Russian immigrant's deathbed tale of the bride he threw to the wolves; the snowbound and silent Christmas on the farm that precedes a tragedy, and more. Described often as a memory novel, My Ántonia is also an immigrant novel with a cast of unforgettable characters, an ode to American pioneering life, a book about landscape - how the danger and lush poetry of the natural world is all wrapped up in human desire - and the story of two friends who share the experience of trauma about which neither can speak.
Egan, Jennifer. A Visit From The Goon Squad. 2010. (Fiction Egan.J)
Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs, confront their pasts in this story about how rebellion ages, influence corrupts, habits turn to addictions, lifelong friendships fluctuate and turn, and how art and music have the power to redeem. Every chapter is told from the point-of-view of a new character who is somehow connected to one of the chapters that came before. This strange, compelling, unforgettable journey even includes a remarkable chapter told as a Power Point presentation.
Garcia-Marquez, Gabriel. Of Love and Other Demons. 1994. (Fiction Garci.G)
On her twelfth
birthday, Sierva Maria, the only child of a decaying noble family in an
eighteenth-century South American seaport, is bitten by a rabid dog.
Believed to be possessed, she is brought to a convent for observation.
And into her cell stumbles Father Cayetano Delaura, who has already
dreamed about a girl with hair trailing after her like a bridal train.
As he tends to her with holy water and sacramental oils, Delaura feels
something shocking begin to occur. He has fallen in love, and it is not
long until Sierva Maria joins him in his fevered misery.
Hautman, Pete. The Big Crunch. 2011. (YA Fiction Hautm.P)
Split into four sections that follow the seasons in a year, Pete Hautmann's sweet new novel is the story of June and Wes, two juniors who share powerful feelings for each other unlike anything they've felt before. Told in alternating voices so that we get to know Wes and June personally and at once, The Big Crunch begins, as these things so often do, with Wes noticing something he can't really describe, something special - maybe even funny? - about the new girl's eyes. Their orbits approach one another slowly over the early school year months until a quick kiss after a chance meeting at the mini-mart surprises them both. There are conflicts in their way - she's sort of dating his best friend and her dad's job moves the family to a new city every few months - but they can't shake each other now that they've collided.
Hopkins, Ellen. Perfect. 2011. (YA Fiction Hopki.E)
Northern Nevada teenagers Cara, Kendra, Sean, and Andre, tell in their own voices of their very different paths toward perfection and how their goals change when tragedy strikes.
John, Antony. Five Flavors of Dumb. 2010. (YA Fiction John.A)
Music, it seems, has a way of following high school senior Piper Vaughan wherever she goes. She hasn't paid much attention to it for obvious reasons - she happens to be deaf. To make matters worse, her dreams of attending Gallaudet University have just been tossed like a heap of garbage onto a dead end street. Her parents raided her college fund to pay for a cochlear implant for her sister. In a move that's so-crazy-it-just-might-work, Piper agrees to manage a rock band at her high school in order to make some money. Piper doesn't know that much about music, but she's got all the right ingredients of a manager - she's savvy, gutsy, highly motivated, and desperate to make money. Can she do it? What begins as a simple business decision soon changes into something altogether unexpected. Music seeps into her veins, and she's feeling the rhythm. Whether it's Ed's steadiness and calm mastery of percussion (or repeated glances her way), Tash's angry rock, or the way Kallie feels the raw emotion of a song enough to let it change her world, Piper's hearing it. Five Flavors brings on the rock, and I keep playing it over and over in my mind like you would a favorite song.
Kidder, Tracy. Mountains Beyond Mountains. 2003. (YA B Farme.P Kidde.T).
Inspirational to its core, this is the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners In Health, an organization committed to health and fighting diseases in Haiti and other poverty-ravaged areas of the globe. Farmer is an unflinching, tireless, and brilliant advocate for the health of the poor, a man who has made genuine strides in combatting the onset of tuberculosis in nations like Haiti and Russia. Farmer believes in ready accessibility to medicine for all people - especially the poor - and is willing to go to extreme lengths to get it. One memorable scene sees Farmer walk on foot over mountains for 5 hours at a time to deliver a dose of medicine to an ailing elderly patient. Warning: This may make you want to work for, donate to, become a part of Partners In Health and/or Doctors Without Borders. It's that compelling and that urgent.
King, A.S. Everybody Sees the Ants. 2011. (YA King.A)
Overburdened by his parents' bickering and a bully's attacks, fifteen-year-old Lucky Linderman begins dreaming of being with his grandfather, who went missing during the Vietnam War, but, are they dreams? Lucky has noticed that when he awakens, he's holding an object given to him by his grandfather in the dream. During an impromptu visit to Arizona, his mother, the surprising antics of his aunt and uncle and their beautiful neighbor, Ginny, help him find a deep, new perspective. Lucky's sad pawing-through the waters of depression, familial dissolution, and the legacy of war is strange, with laugh out loud moments, and takes a brave look at bullying, misogyny, trauma, war, denial, looking for the best in people, and the ways people surprise can surprise you - good and bad - when you see what's going on behind the facade. Great themes, great story: pick it up for a surprising read.
Kwok, Jean. Girl In Translation. 2011. (YA Fiction Kwok.J)
When Kimberly Chang leaves Hong Kong for New York City, the one thing she is good at no longer comes easily. She speaks only a few words of English, and for the first time in her life, she struggles at school. Straddling the world of two languages, she hears excession for exception, twosheen for tuition, limiteetees for limitations. She lives her days in translation -- not just with words, but in a twofold existence. We fell under the spell of narrator Kimberly Chang from the very first line of this luminous immigrant story. Her plucky, smart and humorous narrative filled with adversity, romance, heartbreak, and compassion held me in its grip until the very last page.
Lansens, Lori. The Girls. 2006. (YA Fiction Lanse.L)
Since their birth, twin sisters Rose and Ruby Darlen have been known simply as "The Girls." Raised by Aunt Lovey, the nurse who took rthem in after their mother abandoned them, they have lived all their lives in the small town of Leaford, in an old farmhouse bordered by cornfields. This is the story of their shard life, two sisters who are ordinary in most respects but who have a relationship of profound and unmatched intimacy. For Rose and Ruby are conjoined twins, connected inseparably, facing the world side by side. The Girls is the affecting chronicle of their incomparable life journey, a heartrending story of love between literally attached sisters.
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