Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Guest Blogger Book Review: Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

Hi TBF fans, I’m sure you know the adage, “no one lives forever,” but can you honestly say, “you are not afraid that the time you have is limited?” This is a question Mara and her classmates have to answer for themselves because one-by-one the seniors at Covington High are spontaneously combusting.

Aaron Starmer has written a book like no other.

The main character, Mara serves as narrator and major player in the effort to find out why the kids are being completely obliterated. Is it the kids who do drugs? Did the government do something to them when they went to visit D.C. in eighth grade? Can Mara’s best friend Tess confirm her scientific theory which will explain the phenomena? No one can say for sure. 

This is a story of a class of seniors from suburban New Jersey who are trying to figure out who they are and what matters most to them at this pivotal time in their lives. Here’s how Mara tries to explain it at the start of the novel:

To describe how you feel after a girl explodes in your pre-calc class is a tad tricky. I imagine it’s similar to how you feel when any tragedy comes hurtling into your life. You’re scared. You’re fragile. You flinch. All the time. You may have never even thought about what holds life together. Until, of course, it comes apart (p. 9).

TBF readers, if you are someone who has a sense of humor which can run a bit dark and twisted, this is a book for you.

I have to admit, I never got used to the kids meeting their demise by spontaneous combustion. Also, you should know that Mara has a penchant for curse words – rarely does she share with you what’s going on in her world without using an explicative to make her point.

On the other hand, I would say these volatile elements are really just the backdrop to the seemingly more significant issues facing them as they count down the days until graduation -- issues like, what about senior prom? Should I take the SATs? Will I pass pre-calculus? Will we all still be friends after high school? Is this what love feels like? How do I know for sure?

I promise as you read Spontaneous you will be rooting for Mara and her friends all the way.

Happy reading!
Dr. Jones

Dr. Laura Jones is a literacy education professor at Nazareth College and serves as a member of the planning committee for the annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival. She is proud to be a part of this community partnership working to connect middle school and high school students from across New York State with authors of young adult literature.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Guest Blogger Book Review: Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

Click here to find this book at your local library!
Tragedy is something that affects us all in different ways. David Levithan uses three different characters to take readers on a journey that explores the emotions involved following the tragic events of 9/11. Each chapter of the book is told by a different character giving the reader an inside glimpse to the characters true feelings and emotions.

Claire, Jasper and Peter are all impacted by the events of 9/11 however their feelings range from complete disconnect to wanting to be right in the center of it all. Although these three characters are on a different journey looking for some kind of peace or closure they are all connected in some way. As the story unfolds the connection between these three becomes deeper and more profound. This does not happen without each of them encountering a hurdle with one another and/or alone.

Claire is a high school senior. She lives blocks away from the Twin Towers. Claire is at school when the first plane strikes and her instinct to help others kicks in. She rushes to her brother’s school where she offers support to his teacher. This isn’t where here need to help others ends. Throughout the story her quest to helps others is what helps her ease her own pain.

Jasper is home from college. His parents are visiting his grandmother in Korea. Jasper sleeps through the entire thing and wakes to NYC being devastated by the terrorist attack. He struggles with feeling connected to the events that occurred. Jasper is unsure about how he can help and when he decides to go give blood he is shot down because of his sexuality. This disconnects him further from the events that have occurred

Peter is the only character that actually witnesses one of the planes strike a tower. Ironically he is waiting in line at Tower Records to by a CD. It is Peter’s connection to music that helps him cope the 9/11 tragedy. Songs that he heard previously now hold new meaning to him and he finds a peace in coming together with others because of music.

This isn’t a story about the history of 9/11 so if that is what you are looking for you will not find it here. This is a story about humanity and the connection we all have to one another when tragedy strikes despite our differences. I enjoyed reading this book especially since I remember 9/11 so vividly myself. However you do not need to have lived through 9/11 to find yourself engaged or connected to these characters or the book.

"This, I think is how people survive: Even when horrible things have been done to us, we can still find gratitude in one another"
-David Levithan p. 76

*Yarritza Delgado is a graduate student at Nazareth College. She is also a third grade teacher in RCSD. She enjoys reading young adult literature in order to find ways to connect to her students and she encourages her own children to read them as well. Yarritza hopes to one day use her literacy specialist degree to help continue to educate and encourage young adults to read.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Book Review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige is a great book. It is dark and gripping. Danielle’s books always make me laugh. I can’t wait to meet her and hear more about these amazing books.

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero. But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still a road of yellow brick—but even that's crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas. I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. I've been trained to fight. And I have a mission: Remove the Tin Woodman's heart. Steal the Scarecrow's brain. Take the Lion's courage. And—Dorothy must die.

I would recommend this for anyone who likes fractured fairy tales. Lovers of Marissa Meyer will enjoy this series. I absolutely love fractured fairy tales and this satisfied that part of me very well. Can’t wait to see you all at TBF!


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Book Review: Sidescrollers by Matthew Loux

Hello fellow readers! I'm back for my last book review before TBF in may. this week: Sidescrollers by Matthew Loux!
Brian, Brad, and Matt are best described as lovable, perpetual losers. They're good guys who just lack direction and are all too happy to be enjoying that lazy time after high school. Their favorite thing to do in life is to play video games, eat junk food, and kick around the suburban town they live in. All of this tranquil laziness is interrupted when Brian, Brad, and Matt discover that the new girl, Amber (of whom Matt is sweet on), is going to that night's big local rock show with Richard, the bully football jock. Determined to steer her away from Richard, the boys are launched of of their lazy rears and forced into a grand adventure. Chased by an irate football team, a vengeful troop of Girl Scouts, and a stalking evil cat that may actually be possessed by Satan, our heroes are thrust into a giant rock 'n' roll video game adventure.

While i love reading regular books, I have a special place in my heart for graphic novels and was really happy when I found out that Sidescrollers was one. Overall, this book was just a blast to read. The three main characters, Brian, Brad, and Matt, jumped off the page with every panel and their actions throughout the book had me laughing and rooting for them the entire time.

The art style was really pleasing to look at, which only made the book all that more enjoyable. It's a quick read (i read it in about a day or two), but it's worthwhile none the less. The plot was super engaging the entire time, making this book really hard to put down. The entire story takes place over one day, but so much goes on that it really does feel like a "rock 'n' roll video game adventure" the blurb described above.

In conclusion, if you're a fan of graphic novels or a quirky high school adventure, then you should definitely pick this book up next time you're at the library!

Happy reading TBF friends. this is Katie C. signing off. Peace!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Guest Blogger Book Review: Tricks by Ellen Hopkins

Can't wait to read this book?
Click to rent it at your local Monroe County Library!

Have you ever wondered about the journey of the person standing next to you? How did they get here? What are the experiences they have been through? Have you ever wondered the lengths people have to go to survive another day in the world? If so, Tricks by Ellen Hopkins will fulfill your curiosity. This book’s five story lines had me grappling over my own questions about life, love… and the value of the human body.

Tricks takes an in depth look at five young teenagers from different parts of the country in this free-verse novel. Eden, Whitney, Ginger, Cody, and Seth all come from vastly different backgrounds with different motives as to why each of them want to leave their homes. However, there is only one underlying reason why these characters create trouble for themselves-- love.

Eden’s parents think she has been overcome by the devil after being caught riding in a car with a boy. Seth’s dad refuses to accept his son’s sexuality. Whitney falls for the bad boy after being brutally dumped. Cody is trying to keep peace in his house after a tragic loss. And Ginger, she is just longing to finally find the happiness she deserves.

I have always been told in my life love makes people do crazy things. This motto was put to the test in this book! You will read about the ups and the very lows of finding, or thinking you found, that special someone. What was most intriguing to me was my ability to understand why the characters acted the way they did, yet to still be left puzzled by their actions at the end of the book.

Hopkins discusses a “hot lava” topic in this book, prostitution. The best audience of this book would be older teens in their last year or two of high school. While this book is chalk full of vulgarity, the language and descriptions of scenes in the book are not for the faint hearted. Each character’s journey leads them into prostitution for one reason or another. Because prostitution is a central theme to all of the characters, many topics which come hand in hand with prostitution are mentioned. Topics such as addiction, sexual assault, homosexuality, and HIV/AIDS all find a way into at least one of the characters’ stories. Intermittent humor and quick, fiery mouthed characters keep the book from seeming overly dark and gloomy. Tricks helped open my eyes to the lengths people go to in order to survive and the value people place on love.

Happy Reading!
Shannon Hickin

Shannon Hickin is a seventh grade health teacher in the Rochester, NY area. She enjoys discussions about controversial topics and opens her doors to all positive, productive dialogue! In her spare time, she practices what she preaches and lives a healthy, active lifestyle that her students can look up to!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Guest Blogger Book Review: Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King

Hi TBF readers!

I just recently finished reading Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King. Do you like mysterious, unexplainable phenomenon, science fiction adventures, or heartfelt stories about finding one's own identity? Then this book is for you. Follow Glory and her friend Ellie on their own journeys of self-discoveries and a quest for knowledge that will change their lives forever.

One of the things that attracted me to this story is the image of the girl on the front cover. Who is she? What does she see as she peeks at me? As I started reading about this girl, Glory O'Brien, I discovered there is a lot more to her than meets the eye. Who is this daughter of Darla O'Brien, the photographer? Who is this friend of Ellie Heffner, the girl next door? Who is Ellie Heffner, the girl with the hippie parents? Who are these girls who can see the future? These are questions that Glory has to answer for herself in the midst of some unusual circumstances in her life.

One crazy night in the summer, after drinking the dust remains of a dead bat, both Glory and Ellie find they can see everyone’s infinite histories and futures. These “transmissions” show them the details of people's lives in the past, present, and future, which ultimately leads them to discover there will be a Second Civil War in fifty years. Glory realizes the upcoming events are important for future generations to understand about society, and thus begins to write down all the relevant visions she sees in a book titled, Glory O'Brien's History of the Future. However, she does not realize until later that she will also be a key player in the upcoming war, which changes her whole perspective about her identity.

This is the story of a girl who is trying to figure out who she is, why she matters in this world, and what her future will be. Here's how Glory explains her quest for truth in her own life in the novel:

I saw Ellie looking at Dad and I could see she was seeing his infinity and I wondered if she saw any future. I wanted him to have a future. I wanted me to have a future...I wanted to know if my grandsons would be part of the machine. I wanted to know if my granddaughters would be stolen. I wanted to know everything…if there was anything. I was so tired of empty. (p. 155)

This book is written for a mature reader, both because of the narrative style as well as the themes presented.

Overall, I believe you will find this book intriguing and engaging as you travel with Glory to discover the hidden truths behind each scene. To find this book at your local library, please click here.

Happy reading!
Anna Antonik

Anna Antonik is currently a graduate student studying to become a Literacy Specialist at Nazareth College. Fascinated with books from an early age, she has always been the bookworm in her family, and enjoys reading new novels to add to her home library. She has the pleasure of taking a Young Adult literature course this semester, and is excited to share her newest read from class, Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A. S. King.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley

Hey TBF readers! its April now and there's a month left before the Teen Book Festival is upon us. That means just a few more posts from each of us bloggers before you get to meet this years authors! To make sure you're all ready I have another great book for you this week!

176327For Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, life has not been a fairy tale. After the mysterious disappearance of their parents, the sisters are sent to live with their grandmother--a woman they believed was dead! Granny Relda reveals that the girls have two famous ancestors, the Brothers Grimm, whose classic book of fairy tales is actually a collection of case files of magical mischief. Now the girls must take on the family responsibility of being fairy tale detectives.

I think Fairy-Tale Detectives is a great book to be my last book review of this blog season. As great as the various teen genres are, for me at least, I need to take a break from time to time and read something silly and fun like this book. 

Sabrina and Daphne Grimm are two young sisters who have been bounced between foster homes since their parents disappeared. Suddenly out of the blue their presumably dead grandmother, who lives in the seemingly sleepy farm town, Ferryport Landing, files for custody. They would quickly discover that Ferryport Landing was far from any ordinary town, with all the fairy tale legends living quiet lives unable to leave. I really thought their adventure was silly and fun, with the three little pigs as police men, snow white as a school teacher, and Prince Charming himself leading the town as its mayor. It was fun to watch the two siblings grow and learn through the story, as they work through their mistrust of supposed Granny Relda and take on the responsibility it is to be Private Investigators of the fairy tale community. Michael Buckley did an amazing job of writing the classic fairy tale characters we all know and love so that they could interact with his own new and exciting additions. 

I thought this book was a nice one to sit down and read for my last post of the season and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! This is the first book in a whole series and like many other blogging books before I'm excited to sit down with the sequels and see these books through. That's it for now! 


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Guest Blogger Book Review: Identical by Ellen Hopkins

Click here to find this book in your local library!
"We are exact
Kaeleigh and me.
Mirror image identical
twins. One egg, one sperm
one zygote, divided,
sharing one complete
set of genetic markers.

Good, bad. Left, right.
Kaeleigh and Raeanne.
One egg, one sperm.
One being, split in two.”

To anyone who has read an Ellen Hopkins book, you will know that her writing style strongly portrays the dark, dirty truths of strong issues facing many teens. Ellen Hopkins writes her books in free verse. As you read, be sure to take note of where the words are located so you don’t miss any of the hidden parts of the story (don’t only read left to right).

This book follows identical twins, Kaeleigh and Raeanne, as they move through life with an alcoholic father and a mother who lives out of the home while she is on a campaign trail. These sisters are dealing with the issues of eating disorders, cutting, strong sexual urges, sexual abuse in the home, drug abuse, attempted suicide, drunk and high driving, and mental illness.

I don’t want to give too much away in the story, but I’ll give you a little insight. Kaeleigh and Raeanne were in a horrific car accident a couple years prior to this story with their parents—their father at the wheel. This led to an estrangement between the mother and father, as well as some barriers in the relationship between the twins. As you read from the perspective of both twins, you never see them interact with each other directly. Instead, you are tuned into their thoughts about their own lives as well as their judgments on the choices of each other. As a reader, you are brought along as the girls face life-altering situations, addictions, and disorders. Though mysteries are solved and some situations are bettered, Identical doesn’t exactly hold a happy ending—though it is still very worth the read! (The plot twist is extraordinary and unexpected!)

Though not for the faint at heart, I would recommend Identical particularly to those interested in psychology. This book definitely has some trigger warnings for the issues I mentioned above, and there is a lot of strong language throughout the book. Both are things I would be glad to know before reading, but are not things that would keep me from picking up this incredible book by this amazing author!

I promise as you read, you will be digging for an explanation and constantly surprised by the events our main characters live through.

Happy reading to all!


My name is Paxton Brewer and I am a graduate student at Nazareth College in the Literacy Education program, though I have a degree in mathematics and teaching certificates in birth through sixth grade, inclusive. I am an avid reader, especially of Young Adult books, and am thoroughly enjoying the secondary literature class I am currently taking that pushes me to read YA books I might not normally pick up. I am looking very forward to this year’s TBF!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Guest Blogger Book Review: Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

Sending My Love to Astrid Jones and A.S. King

Hi, I’m April and I’m a graduate student at Nazareth College studying Literacy Education. I am so excited to begin my career as a teacher after I get my master’s degree in August! I was immediately drawn to Ask the Passengers after reading a review stating that it was about a teenager struggling to fit into her small town due to their narrow-minded ways. I immediately related to that message, as I also grew up in a small town with people who struggled to love and accept each other as easily as I did. After reading the book, there is no doubt that Astrid and I are similar in many ways, and I know that many other readers will connect with her too.

Feeling defeated by her narrow-minded town and perfectionist mother, Astrid Jones spends her time sending love to anyone she can. Able to escape from her own reality, she imagines the lives of people in the planes she see’s soaring across the sky. While trying to find peace and self-acceptance in her own life, she is constantly feeling pressure from her mother, best friend, and girlfriend to take actions that they want her to do. After getting busted at a gay club with her friends, Astrid is forced to face her challenges head-on and she suddenly struggles to send her love anywhere.

Ask the Passengers provides readers with an authentic portrayal of the lives of a group of LGBTQ teenagers who identify as being gay and questioning. Some of the teens are more comfortable and accepting of their sexuality, while Astrid finds herself continually questioning hers. The teens struggle to find acceptance from the people in their small town where some people are not quite as accepting of the LGBTQ community. Forced to come out not only to their families, but to the entire school, the teens find strength from each other and within themselves to overcome negativity and hate. A.S. King’s masterful portrayal of teens who accept their sexuality in different ways and on different levels provides readers with a variety of characters they will relate to and empathize with.

While told from Astrid’s perspective, Ask the Passengers shows a variety of behaviors and actions taken not only by the teenagers, but also their families. These relatable representations of family dynamics and high school struggles, paired with the theme of acceptance and love, are what make this book such an important and valuable read for young adults.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially high school students who are feeling like their thoughts and actions make them different from their peers. Any reader can find a friend in Astrid Jones. You are not alone.

Go here to find information about Ask the Passengers and where you can check it out from the Monroe County Library System!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Guest Blogger Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Hi! My name is Jenny, and I am studying Young Adult Literature as part of earning my M.S. in Library Media from St. John Fisher College. The best part of this program is reading great new books that I will be able to share with students when I am a teacher librarian! I am very excited to participate in the Teen Book Festival. I have always been a book lover; I wish there had been TBF when I was younger!

I recently read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, and I am happy to share my first book review with you.

Do you remember meeting your best friend? That feeling of, “oh, yeah, I get this person!”? Ari and Dante meet at a swimming pool during the summer of 1987 in El Paso, Texas. And these 15 year olds become friends almost instantly, despite their different personalities. Dante is a confident artist, swimmer, and lover of poetry and books. Ari…is not sure about anything … his family, school, and friends. They bond and form a deep friendship…sharing books and laughter as Dante teaches Ari to swim. Both boys have interesting relationships with their parents. Dante is close and affectionate with his mom and dad, while Ari has difficulty communicating with his Viet Nam War veteran father and his mother who is grieving for the imprisonment of Ari’s older brother. The contrasts between the boys tessellate… they sometimes seem very different from each other, yet they both question themselves, their parents, and how life works. Over the course of two summers, Ari and Dante’s friendship grows as they learn to trust and communicate with each other and also to accept themselves for who they are as they figure out the secrets of love and friendship.

“When I got home, I sat on my front porch.
I watched the sun set.
I felt alone, but not in a bad way. I really liked being alone. Maybe I liked it too much. Maybe my father was like that too.
I thought of Dante and wondered about him.
And it seemed to me that Dante’s face was a map of the world. A world without any darkness.
Wow, a world without darkness. How beautiful was that?”
I loved the language and pace of this book, and how Saenz carefully unfolded the story of two friends. This is a love story, and not an easy story. Set in 1987, LGBT was not widely accepted. The main characters are Mexican–American, and there are hints of prejudice in their lives. However, those issues are not the focus of the novel; it is more a story of self-awareness and acceptance.

Benjamin Alire Saenz masterfully creates convincing characters with beautiful dialogue interspersed with brutally honest and painful scenes. Like the characters, Saenz is Mexican-American and gay. The authentic voice that his characters speak with rings true to life. And like all teenagers, Ari and Dante have fun together; this book is funny and tragic at times. Just like life.

I highly recommend Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. It is a thorough and satisfying read. It might make you laugh. It might make you cry. It WILL make you appreciate the beauty of friendship and falling in love.

P.S. After writing this, I heard “Tear in My Heart” by Twenty One Pilots playing on the radio. I listened to the lyrics and thought, “wow, I bet Ari would have liked this song better than “Alone” by Heart. On the first page of the book, Ari turns on his radio, hears “Alone” and is “miserable”. But then I started thinking…and I looked up the lyrics to both songs. And both songs fit with Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Ari is miserable because he is alone. Pretty simple symbolism, and when you read the lyrics, you will get it too. (F
ace palm for me because I missed it!) After you finish reading, listen to “Tear in My Heart”, and read the lyrics. And then sing it for Ari and Dante.