January 13th, 2007

Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell, knowing

In the Garage by Alma Fullerton

Barbara Jean hates her birthmark, a portwine stain on her face which her peers and her mother have made fun of ever since she was little. In fact, her mother often put BJ down, then ultimately abandoned her family. Now a teenager, BJ is more self-conscious than ever. She doesn't like how she looks. She doesn't like how much she weights. She doesn't think she'll ever really fit in. She doesn't confide in her father. She only talks to Alex, the boy who has been her best friend since he stood up for her on the playground years ago.

When two popular girls, Victoria and Rachel, start acting friendly towards her, BJ can't believe her good luck. She starts hanging out with them more and more. She fails to notice that her best friend Alex is having problems of his own, fighting to keep his band together and secretly struggling to come to terms with his orientation.

The beginning of the book is actually the ending, showing a grief-stricken BJ dealing with the aftermath of a horrific event. The story then rewinds, revealing BJ's upbringing, her friendship with Alex, and a betrayal which no one expected.

The story moves along very quickly, a great selling point for reluctant readers. In the Garage is told in alterating chapters, with BJ's thoughts written in first-person prose while Alex's thoughts are shared through his poetic journal entries, which should attract readers of both genders. The dual narrative will be appreciated by those who enjoyed Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, while the plot regarding the dark side of the high school social scene will intrigue fans of What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci.

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Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen

Life has made Holly tough. She grew up quickly, too quickly. Her mother was a heroin addict; her father, who knows. She was a witness to her own mother's death due to a drug overdose. After that, she bounced around from foster home to foster home, living in five houses in less than two years.

At the age of twelve, Holly finally succeeds in running away from her abusive foster family. She thinks living on the street will be nothing compared to the abuse she suffered at the hands of the various adults who were supposed to take care of her throughout her life. She decides to go to California all by herself. She doesn't need anyone or anything - or so she thinks.

As with story Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dumphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen begins as a class assignment and is written in first-person journal entries. Even though Holly despises her teacher - remember, she thinks adults aren't trustworthy - she keeps writing in her journal throughout her travels. She sleeps outside on park benches, stows away on trains, and steals food to fill her empty stomach.

The author did a great deal of research for this book, and it shows. Runaway is a real eye-opener of a book. It deserves a lot of attention, and will inspire a great deal of discussion in the classroom and in the home.

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fangs4freaks by Serena Robar

"What can I say? I'm not a complicated chick."

Readers first met Colby in braced2bite by Serena Robar. Back then, she was a popular high school cheerleader -- that is, until she was bitten by a vampire and turned into a half-vampire herself. After proving her worth to the immortal vampire council, she was named the Protector and permitted to exist.

In fangs4freaks, Colby trades in her pom poms for Greek letters. Now a college freshman but still the Protector, she has been given the honor of leading a sorority filled with other half-bloods. Think Legally Blonde with bite. She decorates all of the main rooms in various shades of pink and names the house Psi Phi (pronounced "sci fi"). She is super excited to meet her new "sisters" and welcomes them with open arms.

Unfortunately, one of those girls comes out swinging, the second comes in bunny slippers, and another is British-Russian royalty who comes with oodles of luggage and a maid. The last two girls hail from California and are used to a party scene. Just when the sorority sisters are starting to get settled, a murder shakes up the house - and one of the other girls might be the murderer.

fangs4freaks is just as funny as its predecessor. Colby has grown up just a smidge since braced2bite and is getting stronger and smarter with every mission, but she's still a teenage girl at heart. Throughout this story, Colby yearns to get closer to her boyfriend, Thomas, a no-nonsense Vampire Investigator, and trades quips with her cynical best friend, Piper. If you're looking for a romantic comedy with a touch of mystery and a ton of vampires, sink your teeth into this series.

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Stake That! by Mari Mancusi

In the book Boys That Bite, readers met Sunshine and Rayne McDonald, twin sisters who are physically identical but psychologically opposite. Sunny is as perky as her name implies, while Rayne dresses in black and wants to become a vampire. When Magnus, the vampire who was supposed to sire Rayne, accidentally bit Sunny instead, the two worked together to find a cure for her vampirism and fell in love in the process.

That's all well and good for Sunny, but what about Rayne? She still wants to be a vampire, and she really wants to stop being mistaken for her sister. Stake That! gives readers a chance to walk in Rayne's shoes - make that black leather zip-up boots - as she discovers that, instead of being one with the vampires, she has been chosen to slay them. The bad ones, that is. Now she's going undercover and hitting the vamp clubs downtown, fake ID in hand.

The book is set up like Rayne's online blog, complete with comments from random folks and Instant Message conversations with her best friend Spider. She shares details of her training experiences, her attempts to reconnect with her estranged father, and her growing interest in Jareth, a British vampire who helps her figure out how a blood disease is being passed around a vampire bar.

Stake That! offers more laughs and teen angst than violence. As they did in the previous book, the characters often Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which will crack up those who watched the television series. This book's best audience will be kids and teens that want a light vampire story.

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Read my review of the first book, Boys That Bite.

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Playlists

I just realized that I had yet to archive my book-related playlists here, so I'll now post three back-to-back and create a tag for playlists.

Note that my playlists are just that - lists. I won't have downloadable tracks or whatnot. I don't have iTunes or anything of that nature. Sorry!

Yes, I will take requests. If you would like me to write up a playlist related to a book I've read or a favorite character, simply leave a comment below and let me know.
wings, believe

Playlist: I Was a Teenage Popsicle by Bev Katz Rosenbaum

I Was a Teenage Popsicle is a futuristic comedy revolving around Floe Ryan. When she gets sick, her parents have her frozen, then get thawed out ten years later. Sadly, her parents are still, uh, chilling out -- and her little sister is now her big sister!

Floe is fun, and she deserves a soundtrack that matches her laid-back California lifestyle and her time in the freezer. When author Bev Katz Rosenbaum held a soundtrack contest, I came up with the following playlist - and I won!

Popsicle Toes by Diana Krall
Summerbreeze by Emiliana Torrini
Bend Time Back 'Round by Paula Abdul
The Future Says Run by Tonic
Frozen by Madonna
Future by Frank Sinatra
Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt

Read my interview with author Bev Katz Rosenbaum.

Read my book review of I Was a Teenage Popsicle and its sequel Beyond Cool.
Fringe, contemplative, swing

Playlist: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

HER INNER SONG: A Playlist for Speak

Lemon by Katy Rose (Melinda)
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Rubbed Out by Duncan Sheik (Mr. Freeman's view of Melinda)
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Made of Gold by Jonatha Brooke (Melinda's parents)
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Rinse by Vanessa Carlton (Rachel)
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Fragile by Maria Mena (Melinda)
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Come Rest Your Head by Tonic (David)
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Pain by Jimmy Eat World (Melinda)
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Just a Little Girl by Amy Studt (Melinda)
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Read my interview with Laurie Halse Anderson.
Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell, knowing

Playlist: Looking for Alaska by John Green

LOOKING FOR ALASKA: An Acrostic Soundtrack

Tracklisting for the double-disc special edition entry:

Love Won't Last the Afternoon by David Poe
Out of My Head by Fastball
Only You by Harry Connick Jr.
Killing Me Softly With His Song by Roberta Flack
If I Told You by Idina Menzel
No Net Below by Jonatha Brooke
Green Eyed Lady by Velvet Chain

From Me to You by The Beatles
Old Enough To Love by Ricky Nelson
Run by Four Star Mary

A Praise Chorus by Jimmy Eat World
Ladder in My Tights by Amy Studt
Always by Anthony Rapp
She Runs Away by Duncan Sheik
Konstantine by Something Corporate
All Will Be Forgotten by Holly Brook

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I thought way too much about this.
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