Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book Review: The Only Ones by Aaron Starmer

Hey everyone! I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving!On my little break I had a chance to read The Only Ones by Aaron Starmer.

"Call it coincidence, call it fate. This is the place you come. There's nowhere else. There's no one else. This is the entire world." These words welcome Martin Maple to the village of Xibalba. Like the other children who've journeyed there, he faces an awful truth. He was forgotten. When families and friends all disappeared one afternoon, these were the only ones left behind. 

There's Darla, who drives a monster truck, Felix, who uses string and wood to rebuild the Internet, Lane, who crafts elaborate contraptions, and nearly forty others, each equally brilliant and peculiar. Inspired by the prophesies of a mysterious boy who talks to animals, Martin believes he can reunite them with their loved ones. But believing and knowing are two different things, as he soon discovers with the push of a button, flip of a switch, turn of a dial... 

The Only Ones was such an adventure to read. I started out this book not knowing anything about it, so much so that I hadn't even read the inside cover before jumping right in. It follows our main character Martin from his lonely island home, where he had lived secluded from the world his entire life, to the mainland where everyone had, as far as anyone could tell, vanished off the face of the Earth when no one was looking. All except a small thriving town of forty some kids, that is. The entire book caried the underlying question of "where did everyone go?" as we follow Martin and his newfound neighbors through the story. I was so enticed by the dynamic of the characters and really felt their dedication and desperation as they held onto their hopes that Martin could bring their families back with his crazy machine. Aaron Starmer did a fantastic job of sucking me right into the story and bringing me along for the ride. 

The Only Ones wouldn't be a book I would quite place as dystopian but I'm certain that any readers who are fans of dystopian or science fiction should give it a look. Happy reading!


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Today is ROC the Day!

Happy Tuesday TBF readers!

Today is ROC the Day! Please support and join TBF today as we celebrate this special day in our Rochester community.

Here is the link to our donation page: RIGHT HERE!

Thank you so much for all of your support!


Monday, November 21, 2016

ROC the Day for TBF

Happy Monday TBF readers!

In case you didn't know, on Tuesday, November 29, the Rochester community will come together to ROC the Day and we need YOU to join us! It’s 24 hours of unprecedented community giving. And it’s your chance to make a real difference right here in the Greater Rochester region.

The Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival is celebrating its 12th year on Saturday, May 20th 2017. This is a one day FREE event that connects teens with the authors and illustrators they love. The authors who attend TBF have well-written, diverse books and love speaking to teen readers. We are able to coordinate a FREE event every year, thanks to generous support from community partners and donors.

How can you help?

Join us on ROC the Day and support TBF! The ROC the Day TBF page is right HERE!

Thank you all so much!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Hey readers!

It’s almost Thanksgiving, which means free time and family – and though you may have a great time during the holidays, it can often get pretty stressful. Why not grab a book for when you need a little down time – especially a warm, wonderful book like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz?

Summer 1987. Aristotle Mendoza is bored and friendless. He lives with his mother and father, and though they are incredibly loving to him, they don’t talk about the hard things – his father’s experiences in Vietnam during the war, or the fact that Ari’s older brother is in prison. Ari spends most of his time at the town pool, even though he can’t swim, and it’s there that he befriends Dante, another Mexican-American boy who’s in just as much need of a friend as Ari is. As the weeks go on, Ari and Dante become inseparable, true kindred souls. Over the course of the next year, they must weather the many hardships put in their paths – distance, familial conflict, and, most importantly, self-discovery. Only through relying on each other and the strength of their relationship will Ari and Dante come through the other side better than before.

Aristotle and Dante has been one of my favourite books for years. I first read it back in 2013; I don’t think I was entirely sure of what to expect, but I knew that it sounded interesting and had won awards. (A lot of awards – the Printz Honor Award, the Stonewall Book Award, and the Lambda Literary award, just to name a few.) Sometimes when YA books win a lot of awards they end up being pretentious or high-brow, but Aristotle and Dante remains approachable and relatable throughout. Narrated by Ari, the novel is in many ways a coming of age novel; but in most other ways, it’s a story about relationships, with friendships, family, and romance all playing important parts throughout the book. Aristotle and Dante gives the reader a glimpse into Ari’s life during the hardest times he’s yet had to deal with, and we get to see him grow and become stronger throughout.

Those aren’t the only reasons this novel is so amazing though. Unlike many other YA novels, this one paints a detailed portrait of a teen’s position in and relationship with his family, with Sáenz creating complex adult characters right alongside his equally complex teen characters. Also, the book features primarily – if not completely – minority characters, especially Mexican-American and queer characters. This is not only refreshing on a larger scale – since there are overwhelmingly few YA novels featuring main Latinx characters – but it is especially wonderful to find Latinx characters in a YA historical novel too.

For years Aristotle and Dante has been the book I turn to for comfort in the hardest of times. Ari and Dante’s story has stuck with me every time I re-read it, and I hope that Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s words will affect you just as deeply as they’ve affected me. I can’t wait to meet him this year at TBF!

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Book Review: We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Hello TBF readers,

“Think about the absurdity of life.” So starts Henry Denton in the first paragraph of We Are the Ants by Shane David Hutchinson. And quite frankly he has a right to.

Henry Denton has spent years being periodically abducted by aliens. Then the aliens give him an ultimatum: The world will end in 144 days, and all Henry has to do to stop it is push a big red button.

Only he isn’t sure he wants to.

After all, life hasn’t been great for Henry. His mom is a struggling waitress held together by a thin layer of cigarette smoke. His brother is a jobless dropout who just knocked someone up. His grandmother is slowly losing herself to Alzheimer’s. And Henry is still dealing with the grief of his boyfriend’s suicide last year.

Wiping the slate clean sounds like a pretty good choice to him.

But Henry is a scientist first, and facing the question thoroughly and logically, he begins to look for pros and cons: in the bully who is his perpetual one-night stand, in the best friend who betrayed him, in the brilliant and mysterious boy who walked into the wrong class. Weighing the pain and the joy that surrounds him, Henry is left with the ultimate choice: push the button and save the planet and everyone on it…or let the world—and his pain—be destroyed forever.

This book is one of the rare few that I can truthfully say almost made me cry. I loved everything about it- the themes addressed, the relationships between the characters and especially their overall growth as the story goes on.

The main character Henry is one of the most well-developed characters I've found. He’s curious about the role humanity plays in the universe and overall, considering its vastness, how much our existence really matters. The question throughout the book about whether the human race is worth saving is also fascinating as you delve into Henry’s point of view while he deals with grief, bullying and ultimately hope. Also, as someone who loves science fiction, watching his interactions with the aliens was one of my favorite parts.

However not only Henry but each of the characters in the novel have similar depth. There's Audrey, his former friend, who is still dealing with her own sadness and guilt after the suicide of the third in their group, Jesse. There's Diego, the artist who Henry finds himself falling in love with and who has a murky past of his own. Even the bully who harasses Henry every day has his own secret doubts.

Overall though, the most amazing thing about this novel was the way that the characters grow. I don't want to give away anything about the ending but I can tell you that each of them learns and changes throughout the story. Although not everything turns out happily-ever-after, by the end of the story, the characters all come in more to themselves and grow up, even the adults. This is amazing to watch and really reminds me why I love reading

As for whether or not the world ends- I'll leave that for you to find out.

Katie G.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Book Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Image result for labyrinth lost
We all get scared and want to turn away, but it isn’t always strength that makes you stay. Strength is also making the decision to change your destiny.

Hello everyone! I’m very happy to share my first book review for the TBF blog and I’ll be starting with the wonderful Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova, which is the first of the Brooklyn Brujas series.

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.
Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin.
The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

If I could give this book more than five stars I would. I haven't ever read a book like Labyrinth Lost, and I have the feeling I won't read one like it ever again. It was the book I've wanted for years without even knowing it, and it is the book that I could read over and over and still find new parts to love. It was full of diverse characters that all stood out to me, and I even loved the villains. The worldbuilding was incredible and the world of Los Lagos reminded me of a creepier Wonderland. As the main characters traveled into the heart of Los Lagos the world kept me questioning and just as I thought I knew what was happening, new twists and turns would pop up and I would grow to love this book even more. This isn’t just a book about witches and magic, it’s a book about real people, and their journey to accepting and embracing themself.  I recommend this novel to fans of Alice in Wonderland and those who like diverse books full of magic and adventure.

So if you haven't picked this wonder up yet, I strongly recommend you do, and I hope you love it as much as I did. Look forward to another review coming next week from one of our amazing bloggers!