Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The School for Dangerous Girls by Eliot Schrefer

Angela is a dangerous girl. She lives the fast life, stealing money from her parents, hanging out with much older guys...and her grandfather's death...that's another horrible story. Her parents have tried everything they can, and what they discovered is Hidden Oak.

Hidden Oak is not just another prep school. It's designed specifically for dangerous girls, i.e. girls who haven't lived up to parental expectations; girls who have rebelled and continue to live a destructive lifestyle; girls who can't or wont life up to their parents social reputations; and girls who have problems, either psychological or emotional, that their parents can't handle. It's a four year school and there are two tracks for students - one is academic, the other is to fight for your life.

Angela makes it to orientation with a chip on her shoulder and plans to leave. But things don't turn out the way she thought. Stripped of all personal belongings, she realizes quickly that Hidden Oak isn't a typical school. You can't talk about what brought you here, you are pitted against other students, the facilities are moldy and falling apart, and your every move is recorded. And that's just the first month.

Angela makes it through orientation and is put into the elit gold group, but she can't quite shake the feeling of dread when it comes to the girls she met during orientation. What happened to Juin, a self-leader and big rebel, or Riley a follower and not to be trusted? She soon finds out when she is demoted into the purple faction and sees the truth for what it is....Now in a life or death situation where everyone is an enemy, Angela realizes that she must maintain her dangerousness in order to survive.

Sober, enthralling, mysterious...those are only a few words that qualify this book for YA readers. They will become engrossed in the lives of all the characters, from students to teachers, and wonder what the outcomes will be and how each girl will be impacted. Strong characterizations and situations will draw readers in, and although the ending doesn't live up to the denouement, this book will fly off shelves, and is an excellent companion book to Todd Strasser's Boot Camp.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

In a hotel room


And you didn't answer the phone...

These and other words keep crowing Lia's mind.



Her life is completely disconnected. Lia now lives with her father and his new wife Jennifer, as well as Jennifer's daughter Emma. Dr. Marrigan, her mother, was someone she couldn't take anymore. Not after the treatment she was put through. But with patience and lying and jumping through hoops, Lia was discharged, but she took along her secrets with her.

One thing Lia can't stop thinking about is how she caused the death of her best friend, Cassie. She sees her on her bed, in the store. Lia can hear her voice, and Cassie is telling her how easy it is to leave. And the scariest thing Lia hears? Cassie tells her she's nearly there....on the edge...ready to die...
But now Cassie is dead and Lia hides her pain in so many ways. She does it through quarters hidden in her bathrobe. She does it through mentally counting calories every time she takes a bite. She does it through cutting. But is it enough?

This is another riveting tale by Anderson that takes the reader into the physical and psychological trauma of Lia, who is battling anorexia. You see the psychology of Lia's mind through Anderson's writing techniques from analogies to corssed out word and word replacements to a blank page. You see Lia physically waste away and can only hope she doesn't run into the arms of her dead friend, who keeps calling her, but turns to those who are living, even though she can't trust them. With many books out there about anorexia and how teens deal with this problem, I consider this to be top-notched, not only because of Halse Anderson's strong writing and past reputation as a YA author, but also because of the complete and brutal truth she exposes.

Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas

Anke knows what she sees is wrong, but she also knows she hates being ignored. She's like a piece of furniture...without thought, without sound, overlooked. It's an ambivalence in her that she can't overthrow, but there's nothing to do about it. She wants attentions, but her mother is silent. She wants her father to notice her, but not in the same way he sees her brother or sister. She wants to be part of her sibling's circle, but they won't let her in. Life on the outside looks pretty good to everyone else, but life on the inside is diseased.

Anke decides she needs something in her life and tries out for the volleyball team. When the team is announced, she is nervous about being overlooked again. And then...her name is read out and she is now part of something. It's unfamiliar territory, but one she slowly becomes a part of. The most important lesson she's learning? How to shout and call for the ball, possess it, make it hers. And this lesson begins to trail into her personal life with her family.

But is her voice one that needs to be heard? Is it something Anke wants others to hear? She knows she's the catalyst. Say something and her family will disintegrate. Don't say anything and her family will still disintegrate, but in a completely different way. The big question - is it better to hide family secrets and still have one, or expose those secrets and fracture the semblance of family? Anke doesn't know the answer, but the emotional waves that toss her around, from the bruising on her brother's face to her sister's bedroom door closing in the dead of night; from her mother's absence to her father's heavy presence, creates an inner person within Anke that will decide her fate.

Written in free-verse, this is a book, that although is a fast read, will make readers stop and think. The enemies Anke faces, from those in flesh and blood to those hiding behind her emotions, portray themselves subtly, leaving the reader to uncover the horrors she faces, not only with her family, but in her relationships with her friends, both guys and girls. Powerful book worth reading.