Friday, June 26, 2015

The Impossible Knife of Memory (Booktalk)

Hayley's high school experience is a piece of cake compared to her real job, living with her father. He's a veteran who barely survived his tours of duty in the Middle East. His PTSD-related flashbacks involve ambushed foot patrols, gruesome IED explosions, and suicide bombers living in ghost villages.

"You take care of him more than he takes care of you," her boyfriend Finn remarks.

So Hayley has some PTSD of her own. This is what it takes to be her:
- the ability to spend a lot of time on the road while Dad drives a big rig
- knowledge of how to keep the evil stepmom away
- the talent to keep drugs, alcohol, and firearms away from an often suicidal man
- stalling techniques to keep anyone from  coming home with her, ever
- signature-forging on school forms

These are skills most high schoolers don't need to perfect in order to keep a parent alive. 

The Impossible Knife of Memory
 by Laurie Halse Anderson. 391 pages. 2014: Speak (Penguin). Booktalk to high school (use discretion).

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin (Booktalk)

Rose isn't like everybody else. When she gets upset, she may blurt out, "Two, three, five, seven, eleven, thirteen!" She loves prime numbers: they make her feel safe.

It's easy to upset Rose, who has Asperger's. She's smart, and her brain works differently than many people's brains. She needs a lot of order and routine in her life to feel safe. It drives Rose crazy when people break rules, laws, or routines. When she would ride to school every day on the bus, she would catch every single little thing the bus rider did wrong! Obviously, this drove the bus driver nuts, and she asked that Rose _stop_ riding the bus. No one likes a backseat driver.

There's a bright spot in Rose's life: her dog, Rain. Rose's dad found Rain in the rain and let Rose have her. But Rose's dad has some problems: his temper; his annoyance with Rose; his carelessness. Here's something sad: he let Rain outside during a massive storm and Rain did not return.

Rose is determined to get Rain back, even if she has to call and visit every animal shelter for miles around. But will her father sabotage her again?

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin. 240 pages. Feiwel & Friends, 2014. Booktalk to grades 3-8.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King (Booktalk)

Glory O'Brien, age 17, has not been having a glorious life so far. Her mother killed herself years ago; her dad has eaten his grief and went from an original 120 pounds to 240. He won't get rid of the oven that his wife used to kill herself with, either. He won't go into his wife's photography darkroom or even discuss her. Glory doesn't have many friends, and she often actively dislikes her "best" friend, Ellie. Glory is happy to be graduating from high school in a few days: she wants to get away from all that is trivial and tedious. Why bother having anyone sign her yearbook? There's no point.

The only thing Glory likes is taking photographs; that was about all her mom liked, too, it seems. So when Ellie - often the holder of illogical and harebrained ideas - suggests that the two girls drink the remains of a dead bat, Glory decides to comply. What's the harm? Ellie had joked that the dead bat was God. Ellie is just plain weird.

Here's the good news: neither girl gets sick from drinking dead bat remains. But there's bad news, and it's literally "the future": the future that you and I will inhabit, if we live long enough. Both girls start seeing visions of it, and it's no place that women would want to live in.

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King. 307 p. 2014. Little, Brown. Booktalk to upper high school: contains mature themes.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee (Booktalk)

Ophelia isn't supposed to walk through the museum alone. It's got hundreds and hundreds and rooms: it's huge and chilly and she doesn't know her way around. But her father works there now, and she's curious.

She walks into a little gallery. It's a got a rope blocking it, but she goes under the rope. There are no museum guards in there, and it's very still and quiet.

The room has an empty, peculiar smell. She goes through a closed door, which leads into another little room. It has a faded mural of mountains and a blue sea and a boy with a sword. Above this scene is painted the phrase, "The Marvelous Boy."

If you look closely enough at the painted mural, you'll see a tiny door: it's part of the blue sea in the painting. There's a tiny keyhole there, and Ophelia looks through it.

There is a large blue-green eye looking back at her!

Museums are full of dead things from the past, but this one has a live boy concealed in an obscure room.

And he doesn't know his own name.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee. 228 p. Knopf: 2014. Booktalk to grades 4-8.