A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to … Adulthood – Alice, I think by Susan Juby

aliceWhat a great book – a misfit teenaged girl trying to fit in against all odds!  I love it!  Oh the situations Alice finds her in – you can feel her angst – sometimes it was almost too easy to relate to.  Although I wasn’t laughing out loud I found the book to be very funny and comical.

I have to admit though that I was a little taken aback by the ending – I won’t ruin it for anyone – but maybe I was expecting more – really hard to say.  It took a turn I was not expecting and then I felt like I was left hanging with no closure.

This is a book that I think many young girls struggling to “find” themselves could easily relate to – and it’s a great read – easy to follow and very easy to become involved in Alice’s life.  One that I would definitely recommend.


YA Magazines – Seventeen

seventeenAh yes – the classic teen magazine for girls today.  All about fashion and beauty tips – what’s happening in the world of celebrity teens, what are they wearing and eating.  Let’s be honest – most of us have read one or two or several of these types of magazines when we were all growing up – and we’re now letting our daughters read them.  Really now – how can you resist picking it up with captions like  ” Free mascara” or “Look pretty now!”  How can any teenaged girl resist these calls?

Browsing through my daughter’s latest edition, I was drawn to the number of pictures vs. the number of words in the magazine.  Hmmm….  why does she “read” this I wonder?  She tells me that she reads every word in each issue that enters the house.  The more I look the more I’m thinking that the ads outnumber the content – but sometimes it can get tough to differentiate one from the other.

All in all – the magazine must be meeting its goals – providing young adult girls with a lot of information about make-up, hair and relationships, that by the end of the day, it can be touted as fun and pleasurable “reading” – or maybe it’s just a way to encourage these young ladies to spend money they don’t necessarily have.  As a Mom, well I’m not convinced it’s adding any value to my daughter’s education – but she claims it is – learning about the new trends in hair styles – needing to know what’s really happening with those celebrities…  I have to admit she does seem to know more in these areas than I do today.

dg Discovery Girls is another YA magazine that makes it into our house.  I thought it would be interesting to look at both here.  Not sure whether DG can really be considered a YA magazine – as it claims to be for readers aged 8 and up?   Expecting to find stories and fun girly stuff I was a little surprised that it too was looking at fashion, hair and celebrity lives.  Guess I didn’t expect 8 and 9 yr olds to enjoy this – guess I was wrong.  Although when you look through the magazine – all the comments and posts made by readers are between the ages of 11 and 12……

There were stories though in this magazine – however they tended to concentrate on relationships- hunh???  But I was extremely pleased to see a number of book reviews and ads for new and upcoming books.  But again – the magazine had more pictures than words.

These two magazines were definitely geared towards two different age groups – but I did feel that realistically they were encouraging their target market to think and deal with issues beyond their age.

Reviews – The Keys to the Kingdom – Mister Monday by Garth Nix (audio CDs)


Mister Monday is the first in a series of seven books, where a young boy Arthur embarks on a wonderful adventure to save the “Will”.  The young lad starts his day in a new school, has an asthma attack while trying to run in PE class and ends his day as the Heir to the Lower House and unknown hero to his own world.  His adventures place him in many situations where he must decide who to trust and who not to trust – truly forcing him to become more responsible and rely only on himself.

The fantasy world that Arthur has been cast has many links to ideas and thoughts that many of us have had as children.  For instance, my favourite, children are washed between the ears.  How many times have we heard this said to us as children?  The Lower House is full of exciting adventures and situations, that I really enjoyed reading about it.  The fantasy world and how easy it was for a reader to live in this world with Arthur makes it an appealing book to the young adult community.

I chose to listen to this book on a set of audio CDs and found this was a very interesting and challenging way to “read” a book.  At first I was a bit lost listening to the book, since listening to the CDs did not allow me to go back and reread a passage for clarification or go back to make sure that I really understood the situation.  After the first 4 – 5 chapters I was able to more easily follow the book.  This was also the point where I couldn’t wait to get back into the car and hear the next few chapters.  Once I got over the novel “reading”  aspect of this book, I became an instant fan and am looking forward to “reading” the next book in the series.

This was the first book by Garth Nix that I have read and have become an instant fan.  Researching into other books Mr Nix has written, they all take place in a variety of fantasy worlds and they all seem to be in a series:  “The Old Kingdom”, “The Seventh Tower” and of course “The Keys to the Kingdom”.  Although series may not appeal to every reader, I believe that once you get hooked onto a series, you’re determined to read them all.


Ages 12 and up

Reviews – Cathy’s Key by Stewart|Weisman|Brigg


Cathy’s Key is a sequel to Cathy’s Book, where a teenage girl follows a message from a webpage directed to only her in an attempt to save her boyfriend, Victor from what she believes are horrible experiments to study the immortal gene.  She travels to St Louis on a Greyhound bus where she meets Jewel on her way home.  Jewel befriends Cathy by talking with her, nosing around in her diary and her sketchbook.  By the time, Cathy reaches home, she has lost her diary and her cell phone to Jewel and has forged a strange new friendship with Jewel’s brother, Denny.  The story leads us through Cathy’s escapades and encounters with her mother and her best friend, Emma.

The situations that Cathy creates can be easily related to in today’s familial environment.  The struggles of a recent high school graduate, the growing pains of a friendship, the feelings felt for a boyfriend, all very real and true today.  The immortal aspect of this book kept this reader very interested in the next steps.  This book was the second in a series of three.  There were a few references to the first book and I felt that I  have understood some aspects of Cathy’s Key had I read Cathy’s Book first.

The book was an easy read and written in a way that reflected how teenagers talk and relate to each other today.  The dependence on the cell phone and texting for instance were great.  I think any teenager today could relate to how lost they’d be without their own cell phone and how they would be drawn to answer texts from a stranger.

At first, I was worried that the immortal aspect would be overwhelming and turn me off, but quite the contrary, the whole immortality of some of the characters in the book kept me interested and wanting to know more.  It didn’t take over the book, and in the end I viewed the book  as one that dealt with relationships of a teenager.

While looking for previous and other works by Stewart|Weisman|Brigg, I visited the Cathy’s Key website and was very impressed with how the authors have used all the different types of technologies available to promote active engagement in this and the two other books in the series.  YouTube, MySpace, and blogs – great ways to get the young adults and adults engaged with the characters of this book.


Ages 14 and up

Stewart, S,. Weisman, J., and Brigg, C. (2008).  Cathy’s Key. Philadelphia, PA:  Running Press

Book Website: http://www.cathyskey.com/

Reading Rants! Gemini Summer by Iain Lawrence

gemini_summerI really enjoyed this book – although I needed a box of tissues to get me through.  I went into this book not really knowing what to expect and was pleasantly surprised by how easily the story flowed and how real it was!  I really like the couple of chapters early on that forced you into the future – they always kept me wondering how we’re going to get there.  The historical facts and the fears experienced by folks during that time period came through loud and clear.

I especially appreciated the family aspect of the story – it was refreshing – yes they experienced a terrible tragedy – but it did not end with a broken family – they stuck it out and the story ended on a happy note.  Not something that you see too often today.  And yes – truth be told I’m a dog lover – so that really pulled me  in from the very beginning.

I’m definitely curious about the other works that Iain Lawrence has written and will be running out to the library to check them out real soon!  If anyone has read any – I’d love to hear which one you’d recommend – at first glance “The Seance” looks really interesting…

Lawrence, Iain.  (2006).  Gemini Summer. New York, NY:  Delacorte Press.

Author’s website:  http://www.randomhouse.com/features/iainlawrence/

YA firsts – The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The_OutsidersAfter working with my girls on homework and essay questions relating to this book, I was finally able to sit down and read it myself.  I thoroughly enjoyed it but I was left wondering why the Ontario school boards are using it in their Grade 7 curriculum.  I see the age link – we’re seeing this story unfold through the eyes of a 14 year old – I see the “us” and “them” or the “inside” and “outside” group roles…  But I have to wonder whether kids, at least those not living in areas of high crime and gangs – can really relate to the book?  So I asked the experts in the household – and their answer was – “We had to read it for school”.  They both enjoyed the movie and were able to discuss differences between the movie and the book – but that was the extent of it.

To me – the topic was a bit dated –  look at the year it was first published – 1967.  Can today’s young adults truly identify with this story?  I’m not convinced.

It was an easy read and a pleasure to follow.  I read it in one sitting so it kept my attention.  But I would look at my environment more closely before recommending it.

I was lucky to read a copy that included a section titled “speaking with S.E. Hinton” at the end of the book.  Having never read any other works from this author I was quite shocked to learn that S.E. Hinton was “Susan Eloise” Hinton.  Learning about the inspiration of this book, when she wrote it and why she chose to use initials rather than her real name was enlightening.  It allowed me to peak into this author’s life a bit and gave me a greater appreciation for the book and respect for this author.

Hinton, S.E. (2003).  The Outsiders. Toronto, ON:  Penguin Books Canada Ltd.

Author’s Website:  http://www.sehinton.com/

YA section of a local bookstore and the Main libary in town

We are fortunate to have a large chain bookstore in our city.  Finding the Young Adults section in this store is quite easy.  Straight down the main aisle and smack-dab in the middle of the store.  The display is appealing to the YA group, according to my girls.  A large table with the latest and greatest Vampire books greets you in the middle with shelves behind it housing the remaining collection.  One thing that really grabbed my attention was the rack of Teen magazines – right there beside the table.  This is great!  We’re a generation of one-stop shoppers (ok I am) and having the magazines intermixed with the books is great!  Don’t have to walk around the store or to the far corner to find that magazine.  Of course you have the many piles of the Twilight series books still around – and new series with very similar covers – Black backgrounds with shady faces.  Appealing? hmm…  not sure…

I thought it would also be interesting to visit the YA section of our Main library – as a comparison/contrast.  Walking onto the Children’s floor of our library – you are immediately greeted with a long shelf of YA Audio books.  I was amazed!  WOW!!!  I didn’t realize they existed for YA and Children’s books.  Browsing through the collection I found a couple of authors and titles that were mentioned in class.  So – you guessed it I checked them out to try them on my commute to class next week.  Anyway, back to the library, after checking out the great and large Audio book collection, I wandered off to the YA section.  Well…  not too much to talk about here.  Your usual long shelves of hard cover books, placed alphabetically by author, along with several revolving bookcases for the paperback books.  Very tight space, since there is a large collection.  However, we are very lucky though to have an active Teen’s Advisory and activity planning.  Movie nights, art classes, etc… for the children and young adults alike.