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The Lovely War by Julie Berry

Teen Advisory Corps member Zoe had this to say about The Lovely War by Julie Berry. 

Sometimes young adult books seem to fall prey to repetitive formats and cliches. And sometimes a book like Lovely War by Julie Berry comes along and suddenly Greek gods are sitting around a World War II-era hotel room and narrating a story that takes place during the previous world war. Despite all the fantasy, somehow, Berry also manages to construct an honest tale and weave together readers’ emotions like the Fates themselves. Through four main characters, Hazel, James, Colette, and Aubrey, we gain insight into a wide variety of perspectives of war and see the struggles facing those two sets of lovers in a way that represents those of so many more.

Lovely War is a study of the relationship between the titular ideas: love and war. And that’s the amazing part of the story, how it’s not just entertaining but meaningful as well. Through James’s perspective, we see the psychological destruction of war, and how that damage affects those like Hazel who love suffering soldiers. Colette represents the true tragedy of war as she has lost so much, and Aubrey helps bring the oft-overshadowed story of black WWI soldiers to life. Their lives intersect like music, fitting as Hazel and Aubrey play piano and Colette sings.

Love, readers learn, is the vital ingredient for surviving war. This Aphrodite explains between glimpses into the lives of humans. And here the book is optimistic, offering hope even for those thrust into the atrocities of war. Plus, Lovely War makes for a very educational historical fiction, as we’re introduced not only to real-life battles but to changing musical trends and civil rights progress as well. Thus, Berry’s writing produces a unique rhythm as it follows a complex melody, suggesting haunting beauty along the way.

Books: 
Lovely War Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780451469939
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Viking Books for Young Readers - March 5th, 2019

Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E Smith

When the power goes out all across New York City, Lucy and Owen meet for the first time in an elevator. Not having any other plans once they are out of the shaft, they decide to spend the rest of the day together, and end up talking about postcards. However, once the power comes back on, the blackout’s spell is broken and Lucy and Owen return to their routines. A few days later, they both find out that their families are moving in complete opposite directions, and they realize this might be the last time they see each other. But as they continue their new adventures, it becomes clear that they still think about what could have been. Through a series of postcards, emails, and meet-ups, Lucy and Owen find their way back to each other in  The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith.

 

I was drawn to this story because I thought the premise of being stuck in an elevator was creative, and I was interested to see how the story would go from there. The story was well-developed and I felt transported to where the characters were in that point in time. I also really enjoyed the connection the characters shared with getting caught in the elevator during the blackout, and their postcard connection. It was really enjoyable to watch the characters grow and discover themselves, too. For lovers of geography and unexpected meet-cutes, The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith combines both in an unforgettable way.

Books: 
The Geography of You and Me Cover Image
$10.99
ISBN: 9780316254762
Availability: Backordered
Published: Poppy - March 3rd, 2015

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Pre-order Today! Due out July 2019!

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim is an enchanting story described as Mulan meets Project Runway, that later develops into an adventure of epic proportions. Filled with trials, romance, and a pair of magic scissors. Maia will take you on her quest to become the greatest tailor in the land.Where you mill travel with her through a beautifully crafted world of war, riches, and natural power; where you will experience every possible emotion. 


If there's not a sequel I will die inside.
 

- Maggie S

Books: 
Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1) Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780525646990
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Books for Young Readers - July 9th, 2019

Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith

Hugo and his girlfriend Margaret were going to spend the last part of summer going on a train ride across the United States before starting college. At the last minute, Margaret breaks up with Hugo but encourages him to still go on the tour. The only problem being that everything was booked under the name Margaret Campbell. Hugo’s solution is to find another Margaret Campbell who is willing to be his travel companion (solely for the purpose of being the name of the reservation). He gets plenty of responses and in the end he chooses Mae—an aspiring filmmaker who’s looking for an adventure, and a new film idea. At first, their companionship is strictly business, but as the ride continues they realize it may be something more.

 

Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith is a contemporary approach to the intrigue of the strangers on a train premise. I immediately fell in love with Hugo and Mae, but as the story continued I loved them even more. Both characters are dealing with a sort of pressure that they try to work out on the train—Hugo is expected to go to college on scholarship with his siblings, and Mae was rejected to her dream film program for college. It’s this in common that really brings them together and helps encourage them. You couldn’t help but cheer on Hugo and Mae. In addition, the story was light-hearted making it even more enjoyable to read. You also get glimpses of the two families and what it’s like traveling by train. One of my new favorite romances, Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith is a wonderful story of self-discovery on one train ride.

Books: 
Field Notes on Love Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780399559419
Availability: Backordered
Published: Delacorte Press - March 5th, 2019

Together at Midnight by Jennifer Castle

Kendall and Max haven’t seen each other for a while, but they run into each other when both happen to be in New York City during the winter holidays. Kendall and Max exchange small talk. However, during this exchange, an accident occurs—and none of the bystanders tried to change the outcome. Kendall and Max are unable to forget that evening and feel guilty about not stepping in to do anything. So, when they meet at a diner to talk about it, a waitress overhears their conversation and dares them to perform seven random acts of kindness—one for each witness at the accident—before January 1. At first, they take it as a bit of a joke, but soon realize that maybe it’s a good idea.  


Together At Midnight by Jennifer Castle is a heartwarming story about two teens trying to make a difference. At first, it is about completing the dare, but by the end, it is about doing the right thing from their hearts. Max and Kendall are inspiring characters that made me think about the little moments that we overlook, and how one kind gesture can make a person’s day (or prevent certain outcomes). In addition to Max and Kendall’s perspectives, Castle also includes the perspectives of the people they help. This is a neat inclusion because it allows the reader insight into their situation and an understanding of  how the kind gesture helps them. Together At Midnight by Jennifer Castle is a hopeful book that shares the goodness of people.

Books: 
Together at Midnight Cover Image
$17.99
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780062250513
Published: HarperTeen - January 2nd, 2018

The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson

Best friends Abby and Riya have spent their junior year miles apart. Wanting to fix things between them, Riya invites Abby on a trip to Europe over the summer. Abby doesn’t really know what to expect from the trip, but heads to Europe to meet Riya. Unexpectedly, Riya’s cousin Neel is also tagging along on this adventure. While Riya is annoyed by his presence, Abby doesn’t seem to mind him too much. The girls moving from country to country with Neel in tow makes for an interesting itinerary—Neel always has a tour arranged, or something else to rush off to, while the girls prefer a laid-back approach. The dynamic of the trio changes as secrets are revealed or kept secret, making for an emotionally rocky trip.


The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson is an entertaining tour of Europe, perfect for the armchair traveler. Even though their friendship isn’t always perfect, Abby and Riya are a great duo. They both look out for each other and are actively working to become the friends they once were. They also balance each other well, which creates a nice dynamic between the two. I also appreciated that this story is really based on friendship and while there is a romance that develops, it doesn’t consume the story (after all, friendship was the basis behind the whole trip). In addition, Culbertson includes many wisdoms in the story among humor and history tidbits, that all work together to make the book especially interesting. The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson is the story of two friends, set in the rich culture of Europe.

Books: 
The Wonder of Us Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780545731515
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Point - April 25th, 2017

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

It was an ordinary day for April May, until her subway card didn’t work and she had to walk home. On her way, she stumbles across a new art installation. At the time she doesn’t think much of it, as many artists come to New York to show their sculptures. But, something about this statue catches her eye, and she decides to call her friend Andy to come see it, too. He agrees that it is impressive and they decide to make a video about it. They also name it Carl. The two don’t think much about it until the next morning when they find out that other Carls have popped up around the world, and that their video has gone viral. They become instantly famous. From that point, April and Andy’s lives are changed as they navigate fame and the mysteries surrounding Carl.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green is a fun and interesting read. It is easy to relate to April because she is such a human character. When she first encounters Carl, she reacts as anyone would and makes light of the situation. As  she gets caught up in the adventure and excitement of being famous, she also discovers that there are possible dangers ahead. Green’s humor really comes through the pages and you can’t help but laugh out loud. But the story also keeps you on your toes. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is filled with humor, intrigue, and suspense until the very last page.

Books: 
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An Absolutely Remarkable Thing: A Novel (The Carls) Cover Image
$26.00
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9781524743444
Published: Dutton - September 25th, 2018

Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence by Michael Marshall Smith

Don’t let the title fool you; this tale is anything but ordinary. In fact, the titular character in Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence winds up on an adventure that’s wild even by fiction standards. It all starts reasonably enough, with the eleven-year-old going to stay with her grandfather following her parents’ separation. But Hannah soon finds out her grandfather has been involved in a plot with the actual Devil for more than 100 years. All three, plus a talking mushroom, set out on an adventure taking them anywhere from Siberia to an amusement park in Santa Cruz.

Michael Marshall Smith weaves a story that is impossible to predict. I had no idea where it was going, and enjoyed the surprise that awaited me each time I cracked open the pages. Smith’s writing exudes creativity as he jumps from perspective to perspective throughout the tale. Some may find this format too confusing and unorganized, but I personally enjoyed the variety of stories and seeing how they all wove together. Humor is another outstanding characteristic of Smith’s novel. Nearly every page, it seemed, had a funny line or two. In a story that involves some rather hellish scenes, these gags may be necessary.

Despite the comedy, the novel has some serious messages to express. For example, Smith doesn’t try to portray his characters as perfect but instead has them discover the importance of continuing with their lives even if they’re stuck in a rut. And of course the Devil is a character of questionable moral-standing, but Smith uses him to show a necessary balance of good and evil that rests in the hands of humanity.

Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence is a novel for those searching for creativity, fantasy, and humor, along with sentient mushrooms and squirrels.  

Books: 
Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780008300159
Availability: Backordered
Published: Voyager - November 6th, 2018

The Opposite of Always by Jason A Reynolds

Claire L reviewed The Opposite of Always by Jason A Reynolds - Pre-order your copy today! Due out March, 2019

Jack and Kate’s story starts on the staircase at your typical college party. Immediately, they connect over their mutual love for cereal. Jack gives Kate his number, but doesn’t hear from her for a few days. When he finds a message from her on his phone, he invites her to the first of many outings—and finally to prom. She doesn’t show up, and Jack is worried and confused. He learns Kate has an illness from which she eventually dies. Jack is absolutely devastated.

In his devastation, Jack finds himself experiencing deja vu. Suddenly, he’s back at the staircase where he and Kate first met. Just like the first time, she says “Excuse me, man, but you’re sort of damming up the steps.”


Justin A. Reynolds writes with humor and thoughtfulness as he explores the finality of death in Opposite of Always. While this was not always an easy book to read with its inevitable ending, there were so many laugh-out-loud moments. Jack had so much hope, and his hope was contagious. I actually enjoyed Jack’s re-experiencing the day he and Kate first met as it brought a familiarity to the story. I also liked how Jack re-evaluates his decisions each time he’s sent back. In addition, I loved Jack’s friends and relationship with Kate because it reminded me of how important good friendships are. Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds is an optimistic and humorous take on a more serious topic.

 

- Claire L

Books: 
Opposite of Always Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062748379
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Katherine Tegen Books - March 5th, 2019

Strange Days by Constantine Singer

If one thing can be said about Constantine Singer’s Strange Days, it is definitely sci-fi. From time travel to aliens and mind control, this novel has it all. Plus, Singer throws in a healthy dose of music. In fact, that’s how we first find our protagonist, Alex. From the beginning, he’s hearing the sound of guitars coming from within his own head, and from there everything just gets more, well, strange. After receiving several messages from his future self, Alex ends up as part of a group of teenagers trying to save the world.

The most remarkable part of Strange Days, I think, is the way Singer weaves music into the story. He artfully depicts abstract concepts, like the embodiment of a person’s lifespan, in a way that incorporates music and makes visualization easy. And like a rapid song, the novel progresses at a brisk pace. Although I found it to drag a bit near the middle, Strange Days is generally filled with twists that keep the story exciting.

Even while Strange Days makes use of such out-of-this-world aspects, the setting seems plausible. The technology, such as self-driving cars and phones that attach to the ear, is easy to imagine becoming a reality in coming decades. Readers are also introduced to a diverse and interesting cast of characters representing different races, sexualities, and occasionally periods of time.

Really, Strange Days is a very original sci-fi story despite its incorporation of so many tropes of the genre. It keeps readers guessing as to the direction of the plot as they learn more about the characters they meet. And to balance out all the science, Singer creates brilliant musical imagery. So you’ll enjoy Stray Days if you have a soft spot for aliens, time travel, or mind control. And also electric guitars.

Books: 
Strange Days Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781524740245
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers - December 4th, 2018

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