Lauren Oliver: Edgy and Intriguing.

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver is about Nick and Dara, sisters who are close in age. Until a major accident, that Nick has no memory of and one that leaves Dara scarred, the sisters were inseparable. The story, told from both their points of view, jumps back and forth before and after the accident. This helps the reader understand why the two are estranged.
When they were children, Nick was always in charge and Dara tagged along. As they got older, a rift started forming. Nick remained the sensible one, but Dara became wild, longing for attention and the spotlight, always in trouble. The summer after the accident, Nick decides to swallow her pride and reach out to her sister, but Dara disappears. In the background there is another story, the disappearance of a young girl, allegedly abducted from a parking lot. Nick connects the two disappearances, going on a hunt for Dara. This leads her back to the night of the accident, evoking painful memories. Vanishing Girls is not Oliver’s best book, but it keeps the reader absorbed in the story.

Oliver’s debut novel, Before I Fall, is the better book. Samantha Kingston and her three best friends, rule the school with their better-than-you attitudes and stilettos. Friday, February 12 is like another Friday night, except Sam and her friends end up crashing their car. Sam’s life as she knows it is over. The next morning, when she wakes up in her bed, it is February 12—again! At first, Sam thinks it’s dream, but she soon comes to realize she is trapped in some sort of bizarre limbo as she relives the same day several times.
Before I Fall is a blunt and a fierce look at high school social circles and the careless cruelties and bullying that occur on a daily basis. There are many multi-dimensional characters. The complex and careful plot, peels back layers of Sam's life, emphasizing life lessons without lecturing. Every page is captivating and satisfying.


How To Read Until Your TONGUE is NUMB!

My thumb with willy dumb adder words (translation: "My tongue was REALLY numb afterwards").

Previously recorded for National Poetry Month, celebrating Dr. Seuss, poetical literature, and libraries!  With a far from perfect but definitely determined reading of Fox In Socks, by Dr. Seuss.

Take the tongue-twisting challenge and read it out loud, fast as you can!

Click here to visit the OC Public Libraries catalog and reserve a copy today OR click here to reserve the e-book edition.


California Young Reader Medal Nominee Part II

True (…Sort of) by Katherine Hannigan

Delly Pattison wasn’t always bad. She used to have a smile that went “up to her eyeballs” and a penchant for mashing words together to create new, wonderful ideas. The trouble started when she was 6 years old and let all the chickens out of their cages at the county fair (she wanted to set them free). From then on, it seemed that everything she did branded her as bad, bad, BAD. By the time Delly was eleven, “she took a turn. And it wasn’t for the better.” 

Delly is on her last chance with her school and with the town police officer, when a new kid comes to town. Ferris Boyd doesn’t speak and hates being touched, but Delly sees her as a “surpresent” – a present that’s a surprise. Delly inserts herself into Ferris’ life, bringing along her little brother RB. Even though Ferris doesn’t speak, she teaches Delly how to listen, and more importantly, how to ask the right questions. Delly and RB know Ferris doesn’t speak for a reason, and they create a hideaway, a place where she can feel safe.

And then something terrible happens, and Delly has to make it right, which is not easy when you have such a reputation for trouble.

This is a wonderful story with characters that spring off the pages. I felt Delly’s pain and understood why she became the way she did. I worried for Ferris and fell in love with RB. Delly’s word mash-ups made me smile, as I rooted for her to leave the trouble behind.

True (…Sort of) is a California Young Reader Medal (CYRM) Award nominee in the intermediate fiction category. The other nominees are A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean and Wildwood by Colin Meloy. In my post about A Dog Called Homeless, I wrote that if the other two nominees were as well-written, then California students would have a tough decision voting for their favorite. True (…Sort of) is certainly well-written and I would be hard-pressed to say which of the two is my favorite. I do not envy the students that have to choose between these two excellent books.


California Young Reader Medal Award Nominee

A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean

Nominated for the 2015-2016 California Young Reader Medal (CYRM) Award* for intermediate readers, this is a story that touched my heart. Cally’s mother has died, her family is devastated, and she has stopped speaking because “talking doesn’t always make things happen, however much you want it to.”

But Cally still sees her mother, and whenever she sees her mother, she also sees a mysterious dog she names Homeless. Adrift and lonely, Cally is befriended by her blind neighbor, Sam, and together they try to find Homeless a home, say a final goodbye to her mom and heal her family’s broken heart.

A Dog Called Homeless is Sarah Lean’s first novel. It is a kind, thoughtful story with a fabulous aha-moment wrap-up. There are two more titles in the intermediate category of the CYRM nominee list that I will also review: Wildwood by Colin Meloy and True (…Sort of) by Katherine Hannigan. If they are as well-written and touching as this story, then California students will have a tough decision on their hands voting for the medal winner.

*The California Young Reader Medal program was created in 1974. California children read, nominate and vote for their favorite books. To be nominated, a book must be an original work of fiction by a living author that is published within the last four years. The CYRM committee reads all the suggested titles and selects the list of nominees for consideration.


The Connections Between Time Beings

In A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki uses multiple narratives to create a layered story that crosses time, oceans, and possibly even worlds.

Sixteen-year-old Nao is miserable. Born in Japan but raised in California, she is now back in Tokyo, where she feels like a foreigner. Her classmates bully her relentlessly, her American friends are distant and uninterested, and her father is in a state of severe depression. Nao decides that her life is not worth living, but before she takes any action, she first wants to write a tribute to her beloved great-grandmother. However, this soon becomes a diary of Nao’s own troubles, many of which are much darker than any teenager should have to face.

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, author Ruth discovers a tattered freezer bag among the ocean debris washed up on the shore of a remote Canadian island. She carries it home with the intention of throwing it in the garbage. When her husband insists on opening the bag, she finds a well-preserved lunchbox containing, among other things, Nao’s diary. Ruth pages through the diary, expecting to be bored by run-of-the-mill teen angst. But as she begins to read, she is soon intrigued by Nao’s story, and begins to draw parallels between Nao’s terrible loneliness and her own sense of isolation.

As Nao’s diary entries become more melancholy, Ruth begins to grow concerned about the girl. What happened to her? Is she still alive? Could her family have been affected by the recent tsunami? While attempting to find some sort of information confirming Nao’s existence, Ruth discovers that she is no longer sure what is real and what is imaginary. She initially scoffs at her husband when he suggests the possibility of quantum mechanics and parallel universes, but later begins to wonder if something strange is at play after all.

I have to admit something: While I had heard good things about this book, the main reason I picked it up was the cover. The contrasting patterned stripes are beautiful and attention-grabbing, and unlike anything else I saw on the shelves. The same could be said for the novel itself. The separate storylines are woven together in such a way that you can almost imagine Nao’s diary as a series of letters written directly to Ruth. By using the voices of two very different people, the author has created an absorbing story that keeps from becoming overly complicated despite occurring in multiple time periods.

A Tale for the Time Being was shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award, and won the 2013 LA Times Book Prize for Fiction. It is also available in ebook and eaudiobook formats through the OCPL OverDrive website. And if you’re in the mood for more time-bending tales, check out Life After Life, The Bone Clocks, and How to be both.