Sixteen year old Hattie Brooks is an orphan. Shuttled from relative to relative throughout her life, Hattie travels to the tiny town, of Vida, Montana, to claim her late uncle’s homestead. She must brave harsh conditions. Also, the book is set in World War I, and Germans are all suspected of being “spies,” and Hattie makes friends with one of the Germans living in the area, and must face the scorn of others. This book’s beginning was a bit abrupt. It didn’t even give time to develop Hattie’s character before she was shuttled off to Montana, but other than that, it was a very enjoyable read. I liked the descriptions of the harsh Montana weather, from freezing winters, to boiling hot summers, and the instability of it all. Also, each chapter started with a letter from Hattie to her friend Charlie, who is fighting in the war. I love Hattie’s character. She’s brave, strong, and resourceful. There is also a wonderful cast of supporting characters. Also, Larson, the author, lives in Kenmore, Washington. The ending of the book is really sad, but a good ending. 283 pages, 4.5 stars.
I didn’t think that I would like this book, but I did. A lot. Like Brian Selznick’s other book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, half of the story is told in provocative black and white drawings. The drawings tell the story of Rose, a girl obsessed with one actress, who keeps a scrapbook on her, and Ben, a boy who longs for his father, who he never knew. Though their two stories are fifty years apart, they surprise and intertwine in surprising ways. I really loved some of the drawings, especially the ones that were of New York City. They felt so real, despite being black and white. The ending of the book was just perfect, too. I definitely want to read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and would recommend Wonderstruck to anyone who’s looking for a quick, but wonderful and thought-provoking read. 628 pages, 4.9 stars. (Don’t let the number of pages fool you. Half of them are drawings, and the rest go by quickly.)
Marcelo is a seventeen year old boy who has hears music that nobody else can hear- it is part of an autism-like condition that no doctor has been able to diagnose. However, his father doesn’t really believe in the music or Marcelo’s differences, and he makes Marcelo work in the mail-room of his law firm for the summer… to join “the real world.” Marcelo meets Jasmine, his coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm. He learns about competition, jealousy, anger and desire. Marcelo’s father is a real jerk. Marcelo had been planning on working at his special school and training ponies, which I personally think sounds awesome and way more interesting, but instead, he’s forced to sit at a desk all summer long because his father wants him to “learn about the real world”. But he does learn something, I think, from the experience. But this is a really sad book, and it made me really angry at different times. 311 pages, 3 1/2 stars.
This book starts out being really confusing, but then it gradually begins to make sense. But I still don’t get some aspects of the plot. Taylor Markham is 17 years old, and she was abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road, which is the seemingly beautiful road on which so many bad things take place. She is taken in by Hannah, who works at a boarding school, and she goes there for high school. But it’s way more complicated than that. Taylor is battling her own emotions and her school is fighting a territory war with these Townies (from the Jellicoe Town) and the Cadets, Sydney boys who come for six weeks to train every year. But it’s set in the present day, so it’s really weird. Also, the leader of the cadets is Jonah Griggs, who once betrayed Taylor when she tried to run away at age 14 to find her mother. Though this book was confusing, there’s something oddly beautiful about it, and there’s an amazing cast of characters that support the plot. It was originally published in Australia under the name On the Jellicoe Road. 419 pages, 3.25 stars.
This is a serious, but funny book. I know, I know, contradiction! But it’s true. For example, it’s about a very serious subject: a Native American boy, Junior, who leaves his reservation to go to an all white high school, but he also likes to draw cartoons. His cartoons are very funny, and always correlate with what’s going on in the story in a very humorous way. Junior leaves his reservation on the advice of his geometry teacher. I liked this book, which was interesting, though it may be a bit cliched. I’m not sure.One of my favorite things about the book was the voice of the narrator. He sounded exactly like a teenager would sound, always viewing everything in a funny, weird, teenager-ish way. One of it’s “themes” is to never give up, no matter how unlikely it seems that you’ll succeed. I’d never read Sherman Alexie before, and I liked the book pretty well. It was a good book, but I think people here make a big deal about it because he writes about Washington state. But thanks Mr. Gacek, for recommending it to me. 230 pages, 4 stars.
This fanciful and funny book was written by the same author as the Book Thief, which is one of my favorite books. I Am the Messinger is certainly not as serious as the Book Thief at first glance, but it is actually pretty meaningful. Ed Kennedy, an underage cab driver without much of a future inadvertently stops a bank robbery. Then, he gets an Ace of Diamonds in the mail, with some addresses on the back. That’s when he becomes “the messenger.” He is chosen to care about people in need in many different ways, and to help them. But one question remains. Who’s behind Ed’s mission? I really loved this book, though the plot doesn’t sound that interesting at first. But it was a clever book, and I liked the characters, including the Doorman, his stinky, coffee-loving dog, his ever-cursing mother, a whole host of dysfunctional friends, the people who he’s helping, and of course, Ed Kennedy himself. I really enjoyed reading this book, which was a pretty fast read. Also, the ending was really sweet and just felt right. 357 pages, 4.9 stars.
In 1986, Henry Lee is in a crowd outside the Panama Hotel, which was once the entrance to Seattle’s Japantown. It was boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. Henry remembers a young Japanese American girl, Keiko Okabe, who he innocently befriended in the 1940s. He flashes back, and this is their story. I found the plot very interesting. I didn’t even know that Seattle used to have a Japantown. You know, we always think of the Nazis as the bad guys in World War II, which they were, but some pretty bad things happened in the US too. Innocent Japanese people were rounded up and sent away from their homes just because of their nationality. It’s really horrible to realize that the US did that. They also had the right to send away Germans and Italians, but they didn’t. Just the Japanese. This book is very sad, but it also had hope in it too. And I love the ending; it was bittersweet, which is the feeling that this book is really all about. 285 pages, 5 stars.
This is a retelling of the Grimm’s Brothers story of the twelve princesses cursed to dance each night underground for an evil king until they die. I really loved this retelling, it was exciting and interesting, and felt like an old fable. Though a retelling, it was pretty faithful to the original story and had the typical elements of a fairy tale: magic, a hero, and a curse of some sort on a beautiful princess (in this case 12 of them!) I read this book in about two hours, so it was a pretty easy read, but also very engaging and entertaining. It is set on the continent of “Ionia,” loosely based on 19th century Europe, in a country similar to Germany. I really liked the descriptions of the underground world of the King Under Stone, as the cruel king is known. There is a fanciful forest, a strange lake full of black liquid, and a beautiful but sinister palace. The author writes in a straightforward and beautiful way. I really love retellings of fairy tales (Ella Enchanted, Fairest, etc.) but this one of the best yet. I’m pretty sure Jessica Day George has written others, and I look forward to reading them. 272 pages, 4.75 stars.