Category Archives: Children & Young Adults

Diana L. Sharples. Running Lean. Grand Rapids, MI: Blink, 2013.

Running LeanCrazy Stacey bubble butt.
Never keeps her big mouth shut.
Chubbikins, Chubbikins.
How much does she weigh?

Voices from Stacey Varnell’s childhood still haunt her, even into high school. Stacey struggles to see herself as she is now, a pretty, talented teen. As a child, Stacey’s overprotective parents focused an unrelenting eye on her due to her health problems and a series of heart surgeries. Stacey’s mother forbade her to exert herself physically and she kept Stacey indoors, fearful of her health and fragility. Classmates taunted Stacey about her weight. Their teasing sparked Stacey’s obsession with dieting and calories. No matter how much weight Stacey drops though, she sees a chubby version of herself staring back in the mirror. Surprisingly, Stacey’s helicopter parents don’t seem to notice her compulsive habits (she’s a master at shuffling food around her plate), and her friend Zoe reinforces Stacey’s dangerous behavior.

The only person who seems to notice is Stacey’s boyfriend, Calvin Greenlee. Eight months ago, he and Stacey became smitten with each other; she was the new city girl who had just relocated with her family to the country. Over the course of several months, their courtship developed slowly – first a youth event at Calvin’s church, then Homecoming. When Calvin’s brother Michael died in Afghanistan, Stacey supported Calvin through his pain. He felt as if Stacey understood his grief naturally, unlike any of his other friends. In spite of Stacey’s artistic temperament, she’s consistent. She is always there for Calvin. Lately, however, her behavior has started to alarm Calvin. Stacey complains of dizziness and she looks sickly. He doesn’t like or trust her friend Zoe, and the feeling is mutual. Zoe badmouths Calvin to Stacey, calling him a “farm boy” and other insults. Stacey and Calvin’s relationship grows tenser as Stacey’s mental and physical health deteriorates.

Calvin’s other main devotion is his vintage Yamaha Enduro motorcycle that has seen better days. He loves his bike. His friends, the ugly duckling turned swan, Tyler, and the tomboyish Flannery enjoy motorcycles and outdoor activities. Stacey’s insecurities cause her to suspect that Flannery dislikes her. She fears that Flannery and Calvin’s friendship will develop into a more serious relationship. Stacey sees flirtations where Calvin insists there are none. Ironically, as much Stacey feels left out, Calvin feels equally shut out when he tries to express his concern about her health. Stacey isn’t sure how to communicate her problems to Calvin.

After Stacey becomes more erratic, Calvin seeks his friends’ advice. Observing Stacey closely and piecing together all the evidence, Calvin stumbles upon the truth. He feels daunted by Stacey’s eating disorder, a disorder that she won’t even admit to. Some web research shows Calvin that they aren’t the only couple out there battling this problem, but it doesn’t give him any clear answers or the promise for a cure. Calvin tries to encourage Stacey to eat better and reassure her flagging sense of self-worth. He tells her that she’s smart and beautiful, and the single object of his affections.

Despite Calvin’s well-meaning attempts, Stacey can’t shut out her obsessive thoughts about her appearance or stop her harmful actions. Her past has fueled her poor self-esteem and distorted self-image. All she wants is to hang on to Calvin, but Stacey’s fixation on thinness, perfection, and control threaten their relationship, and even worse, her life. Will Calvin be able to rescue Stacey from her internal torment, or will he lose her just like his brother?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Children & Young Adults, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship, Sharples, Diana L.

Sheila Turnage. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing. New York: Kathy Dawson Books, 2014.

The Ghosts of Tupelo LandingA laugh floated down the stairway, secret and low. My heart jumped. So did Dale. “Steady, Dale,” I said, my voice shaking. “Don’t leap to conclusions. A good detective starts with the obvious and works toward the strange.”

Sixth grade is about to start, and scrappy orphan Mo LoBeau is convinced that the Desperado Detective Agency needs a new case to crack. Since the Agency (comprised of Mo, her friend, Dale Earnhart Johnson III, and his dog, Queen Elizabeth) successfully solved a murder, they’ve only been hired on for two lost pet cases. Mo wants something ground-breaking to rev up business and make a name for Dale and herself as sixth grade sleuths. Luckily, she doesn’t have to wait for long–a new case is right about to fall into her lap.

The novel opens the day of the auction of The Old Tupelo Inn, which creates big buzz around the small town of Tupelo Landing (population now 147, following the past summer’s murder). Just about everyone in the town is at the auction, including Mo, Dale and one of Mo’s caretakers, Miss Lana, the owner of the local diner and Old Hollywood aficionado. Miss Lana has her heart set on an umbrella stand, but after an unfriendly woman from out of town (dubbed “Rat Face,” by Mo) makes a move to buy the Inn, Miss Lana hastily outbids her and by accident becomes the new owner of The Old Tupelo Inn along with the partial contents of the property and some very serious fine print.

According to the fine print, the inn is haunted by a ghost. Mo, and Dale after plenty of coaxing, set out to identify the ghost. Their mission couldn’t have come at a better time. A few days later, Miss Retzyl, their new teacher, tells the class that as part of the 250th anniversary of Tupelo Landing, she wants each student to interview a town elder. Mo’s arch-enemy Anna Celeste Simpson (aka Attila) somewhat unfairly claims Mo’s adoptive grandmother and the richest and nicest old person in town, Miss Lacy Thornton.

But Mo is ready to one-up Attila. She names the unidentified ghost of The Old Tupelo Inn as her interview subject. To Mo, “there ain’t nobody older than dead.” If she and Dale can determine the ghost’s identity, then they’re sure to have the best report and earn themselves a little extra credit in the process. Finding a ghost and convincing it to reveal who it is and why it’s haunting the inn isn’t an open-and-shut case however. Meanwhile, the presence of a new boy called Harm Crenshaw in Mo’s class irks Mo almost as much as living in Tupelo Landing irks Harm. He informs everyone he meets that he is only temporarily staying in Tupelo Landing until his brother Flick (a confirmed, good-for-nothing punk) can collect him to return to Greensboro. And Miss Lacy signs on to bankroll Miss Lana’s staggering bid for the ramshackle Old Tupelo Inn, yet it surfaces that Miss Lacy might not be as rich as everyone believes her to be. Could Miss Lana and Miss Lacy’s ownership of the inn be in jeopardy?

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing is novelist Shelia Turnage’s second Mo LoBeau mystery. Turnage creates a magical setting in the fictional Tupelo Landing — it’s a wacky, charming small town. Outrageously spunky and spirited Mo has a lively voice and her narration makes the pages turn quickly. Don’t let the young adult packaging stop you from picking up Turnage’s follow-up to Three Times Lucky. With Mo as your guide, Tupelo Landing is quite an entertaining place to pass some time. Click here to read a blog post on the first novel in the series, Three Times Lucky.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Children & Young Adults, Coastal Plain, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Turnage, Sheila

Shelia P. Moses. The Sittin’ Up. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014.

The Sittin' UpStanbury “Bean” Jones Jr. is excited to take part in his first “sittin’ up.” Now that he’s twelve, his parents agree that he’s old enough to be a part of the custom. A “sittin’ up” is equivalent to a wake. Novelist Shelia P. Moses explains in an author’s note that this tradition occurred in the town of Rich Square, North Carolina because after embalming, the undertaker would not keep the bodies of deceased black townspeople, so they were taken home the night before the funeral. The ritual of bringing the body home was phased out over time, however, the ritual of gathering of family and friends to honor the deceased remained.  A “sittin’ up,” according to Moses, is held for the sake of living, to comfort those left behind and suffering from the loss of loved ones.

The year is 1940, and the people of Low Meadows are still struggling with the economic fallout of the Great Depression. The novel opens with Bro. Wiley on his death bed. At the ripe old age of about 100, Bro. Wiley is at peace that his death is drawing near. He is ready to join his forebears in the so-called “Slave Grave.” That sentiment is not shared with the rest of the community. News of Bro. Wiley’s passing weighs heavy with grief and sadness.

Although Bean is interested in the prospect of participating in his first “sittin’ up,” he feels regret that Bro. Wiley had to die. The novel focuses upon the process of preparing for Bro. Wiley’s sittin’ up. What should normally be a routine custom though goes awry with an impending storm that threatens to disrupt arrangements for the sittin’ up. No matter the forecast, Bro Wiley’s sittin’ up ends up being a transformative experience for Bean and the rest of Low Meadows.

Moses’ story is driven by characters, their culture, and a strong sense of place. She covers plenty of ground in 226 pages. The Sittin’ Up addresses a number of small-scale community dynamics from the local outcasts like the town drunk, Real Kill, and Florenza, a flirty bootlegger who is busy making sweet eyes at Reverend Hornbuckle, to tensions between Bean’s father Stanbury and his lazy, lying brother-in-law, Uncle Goat. The novel touches upon historical elements like the enduring effects of the Great Depression and the economic and social environment of sharecropping. Moses also creates additional tension with the town school teacher, Mr. Creecy, who refuses to excuse his students, and Mr. Thomas Wiley, the landowner who wants the children to stay home and harvest crops. Racial tensions between whites and blacks are featured.

Moses balances death and tragedy with life and new beginnings, and she explores the close bond between Bean and his friend Martha Rose “Pole” Cofield, and Bean’s maturation as a young adult. Moses includes an author note at the conclusion of the book, referenced at the beginning of this post. Read it first (there aren’t any spoilers) because it gives great context to the novel and it shows Moses’ personal experience as a native of Rich Square, North Carolina. In 2008, UNC-TV featured Moses on a half-hour Bookwatch segment. Read past blog posts on Moses’ work here.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Children & Young Adults, Coastal Plain, Historical, Moses, Shelia P., Northampton

Lights, Camera, Novel: Alexander Key’s Escape to Witch Mountain.

If you’re in the right age bracket, you might remember Escape to Witch Mountain from your childhood. Which format and version you recall depends on your generation. Novelist Alexander Key first wrote the book in 1967. Key began his career as a well-known illustrator who eventually transitioned into writing. His writing can be described as science fiction for kids. Key was born in Maryland and spent many years in Florida before moving to the mountains of North Carolina with his wife and son. A fan page on Key says that he and his family made the move after they “decided Florida was growing too fast.” Much of Key’s work is currently out-of-print. Escape to Witch Mountain is one of Key’s best known titles. The book tells the story of orphans Tony and Tia who possess supernatural gifts and are on the hunt to figure out their origins before the evil Lucas Deranian reaches them first.

In 1975, Disney released a film adaptation of the novel directed by John Hough, which, at the time, became one of their most popular live-action movies. The movie follows the basic plot from beginning to end with some noticeable modifications. First, the setting was relocated from the East coast to the West coast, where the movie was filmed. In the novel, Father O’Day helps the children on their quest and protects them from Deranian. In the movie, O’Day plays the same role, but his character is a widower named Jason O’Day. Deranian is the central villain in the novel, whereas in the movie he becomes ancillary to his mastermind boss, Aristotle Bolt. The child actors who play Tony and Tia aren’t perfect physical matches for their book counterparts who are supposed to look unearthly with their olive-skin and light hair. Instead, they look like wholesome child actors.

 

This clip, from TCM, shows Tony and Tia’s arrival to the orphanage. The movie’s portrayal is much lighter and more innocent: Miss. Grindley is kinder and Truck, a bully at the orphanage, is much less threatening. Yet the most surprising change is Tia speaking. Muteness is a major feature of her character. In the novel, Tia is seen as an oddity because she does not speak out loud. Instead, she carries a pad and pen around to communicate with other people. She is able to converse with her brother telepathically. Another clip from TCM shows that the movie still includes her telepathic communication with Tony.

Disney created a sequel called Return from Witch Mountain in 1978, also directed by John Hough. The same child actors, Ike (now known as Iake) Eisenmann and Kim Richards, reprized their roles as slightly older Tony and Tia. Bette Davis and Christopher Lee starred as the movie’s villains who hoped to manipulate the siblings’ powers. Four years later, Disney released yet another sequel, Beyond Witch Mountain with a new director. By this time, the original Tony and Tia has grown out of the roles and were recast. The plot appears to pick up from after the original 1975 Escape from Witch Mountain adaptation and it ignores the story-line from the 1978 Return from Witch Mountain. This second sequel was created as a pilot for a possible TV series. But since no networks expressed interest, no other episodes were filmed.

Over a decade later, in 1995, Disney remade Escape to Witch Mountain as a made-for-TV movie. The movie shared some elements with Key’s story, like orphaned siblings with powers (renamed Danny and Anna). Most of the TV movie departed from the original plot though, for instance Danny and Anna are initially separated. Finally, in 2009 Disney produced its latest rendition, called Race to Witch Mountain with Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb and Carla Gugino. Like the 1995 adaptation, Race only shares some passing similarities to Key’s novel and the 1975 film. Adolescent Tony and Tia were remodeled as teenaged Seth and Sara. As the years passed, it seems that each revision departed further from the original, maybe as a means to refresh and modernize the story, while still maintaining essential characters and motivations.

Escape to Witch Mountain and its many adaptations are nostalgic classics. Alexander Key’s novel is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog and has been previously blogged on here. The film and TV adaptations are not available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. If you’re local to the area, Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) and Race to Witch Mountain (2009) are available at the Chapel Hill and the Durham Public Libraries and could make an interesting back-to-back screening of two adaptations thirty-four years apart.

Sources consulted here: The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s BooksJenny’s Wonderland of Books blogLos Angeles Times (on the child actors from the 1975 & 1978 films), New York Times, Roger Ebert, TCMTCMDb, Thru the Forgotten Door: Into Alexander Key’s Magical Worlds (Alexander Key Fan Site, hasn’t been updated since about 2004), Wikipedia (Alexander KeyEscape to Witch Mountain — Novel, Escape to Witch Mountain — 1975 Film, Return from Witch Mountain, Beyond Witch Mountain, Escape to Witch Mountain — 1995 Film, Race to Witch Mountain), The Witch Mountain Experience (Fan Site, hasn’t been updated since about 2007)

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Filed under 1970-1979, 1975, 1978, 1980-1989, 1982, 1990-1999, 1995, 2000-2009, 2009, Children & Young Adults, Key, Alexander, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Jennifer Estep. Midnight Frost. New York: Kensington Publishing, 2013.

Midnight FrostGwen Frost can’t stop having nightmares. They’re eerily realistic and they all end the same way, with dreamy Logan Quinn, Gwen’s (almost) boyfriend, stabbing her in the chest. Since Jennifer Estep’s last Mythos Academy installment, Logan and Gwen’s developing relationship has been brought to a screeching halt following Gwen’s arrest and trial for the crime of releasing Loki from his imprisonment. Now Gwen has no idea about Logan’s whereabouts. And his absence is weighing heavily on her, along with the increased attention from the rest of the student body. Students don’t just point and stare – they’ve created a phone app to track Gwen’s every move.

She might be Nike’s Champion, selected by the Goddess herself, yet Gwen has her doubts. She isn’t strong or fast like the other students of Mythos Academy who have warrior lineages. Students descend from Vikings or Amazons, or even Spartans. Gwen  is just a Gypsy, albeit a Gypsy with the mysterious skill of psychometry, a magical trait that allows her to learn about people or objects simply through touching them.

And the Reapers want her dead.

During a botched attempt to poison Gwen in the Library of Antiquities, librarian Nickamedes is poisoned instead. Professor Metis works what magic she can to keep Nickamedes alive, but it’s up to Gwen and her friends to seek the antidote to the deadly Serket sap. Their trek leads them to the Denver branch of the Mythos Academy. A rare flower, Chloris ambrosia, grows in the Eir Ruins near the school and contains the antidote to cure Nickamedes’ poisoning. Despite an early threat en route to Denver, the journey feels easy, a little too easy. Sure the Reapers want to kill Gwen. But why are they luring her all the way to Denver?

Midnight Frost is the fifth book in novelist Jennifer Estep’s Mythos Academy series. In this volume, readers will discover a few more details about Gwen’s father, Tyr Forseti, plus some unsavory information about her paternal relatives. There is a map of the school’s Library of Antiquities in the front of the book and a few brief indices at the back of the book on the Warriors and the Magic, the Mythos Academy, the Students, the Adults, and the Gods and the Monsters to get readers entrenched in Gwen’s world. Estep keeps her characters relatable. She merges the supernatural with the everyday; characters possess extraordinary powers yet exhibit normal teenaged impulses too. Estep also blends many strands of mythology. What other book could readers pick up that combines elements of Norse, Egyptian and Greek mythology, and feature a cheeky talking sword?

Young adult readers ages 13 and up will enjoy this mythological urban fantasy series.

If you’re new to this series, start by reading our first entry on Estep’s Mythos Academy. Or, check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Buncombe, Children & Young Adults, Estep, Jennifer, Mountains, Novels in Series, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Marilee Haynes. a.k.a. Genius. Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media, 2013.

a.k.a. GeniusHow can somebody who can’t even open a locker be called a genius? Well, Einstein couldn’t tie his shoes. So maybe Gabe Carpenter really is a genius. In any event, his IQ test results peg him as exceptionally bright.  However, Gabe isn’t sure that he wants to be labeled as some kind of child prodigy. To Gabe, middle school is about blending in and his survival strategy is to go unnoticed. If you blend in, then you can avoid the gossip mill. Unfortunately for Gabe, now that his sister Sabrina spilled the news, it’s going to be impossible for him to fly under the radar.

As if being the central subject for hallway taunts wasn’t enough, Gabe’s newfound status as resident genius jeopardizes his relationship with Maya, his second-best friend. Maya wears “the smartest student at St. Jude Middle School” label with pride and she’s not pleased to see Gabe steal that title away from her. Gabe’s teachers and parents have raised their expectations too. Getting Bs on tests isn’t acceptable any longer. Now that Gabe is a certified genius, his parents loan him out to tutor other St. Jude’s students, which wouldn’t so be difficult if Gabe didn’t have to tutor his crush, Becca. Teaching math while feeling tongue-tied isn’t easy, even for a genius.

The school also enrolled Gabe in a special extracurricular class for gifted students. Only six students in at St. Jude’s can take the class.  Maya, his former second-best friend, and Linc (short for Lincoln Jefferson Truman, thanks to a pair of overly ambitious parents), his best friend, are in the Greater Achieving Students class as well. Rachel, the cutest girl at St. Jude’s, Ty, the basketball star, and Cameron, wise-cracking smart talker round out the remainder of the Greater Achieving Students.

Sister Stephanie, or Sister Stevie as she prefers to be called, instructs the course. She explains that the class will focus on science and literature primarily and there will be no grades. The goal for the program is to enrich the selected students’ minds rather than quantify their intelligence like the rest of their classes. Principal Dooley and Sister Stevie decided that the Greater Achieving Students should participate in a state-wide competition that will pit them against middle schools all across North Carolina. Sister Stevie insists that the students work as a team to beat the reigning champion, Overton Prep. But getting six different personalities to collaborate is no simple task. Can the Greater Achieving Students at St. Jude’s pull it off? Or will tensions, like over Gabe’s genius, get in the way?

Marilee Haynes writes convincing from the perspective of a seventh-grade boy. She covers all the bases: girls, social acceptance, bodily functions, friendship, and pizza. Her lively characters and funny situations make a.k.a Genuis a playful and zippy read. But Haynes packs some substance into the book through a bit of family tragedy and the notion that a student is more than a grade or a label.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Children & Young Adults, Haynes, Marilee

Emma Carlson Berne. Under Pressure. Minneapolis: Darby Creek, 2013.

under pressureThe title, Under Pressure, nicely sums up Elise Heisel’s life–or maybe just how she sees it. Elise comes from a family of UNC Tar Heels. Four generations of her family have gone to UNC and made good.  Her dad was president of the student body in his senior year, and her mother was a star player on the women’s rugby team.

Elise dreams of going to UNC and playing for the university’s women’s soccer team.  She is an excellent ball handler on the soccer field, but when Elise compares herself to her teammates, she thinks that she lacks stamina and power.  When her high school coach announces that a UNC scout is coming in two weeks to check out the team, Elise goes into a panic.  What can she do to make herself stand out? Elise succumbs to the lure of performance enhancing drugs. When they seem to loose their edge, she decides that it must be because she is carrying too much weight.  In just two weeks, Elise jeopardizes her health, her friendships, and her dream of playing for Carolina.

Under Pressure is a realistic portrayal of how quickly a teen can get in trouble, and the ways family and friends–consciously and unconsciously–affirm or denigrate a girl’s sense of self-worth.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Berne, Emma Carlson, Children & Young Adults

Bennett Madison. September Girls. New York: HarperTeen, 2013.

September GirlsSeventeen-year old Sam isn’t excited by his dad’s resolution to spend the summer at a quiet little beach town on the Outer Banks, but he isn’t surprised by the scheme either. Earlier that winter Sam’s mother dropped all her responsibilities and abandoned her husband and her son to spend time at Women’s Land, which the book implies is something of a feminist commune. Prior to her departure, Sam’s mother, a “frumpy kindergarten teacher,” adopted radical feminist tenants, like the SCUM Manifesto, so the act is something of personal (or self-satisfying) liberation for her.

Sam’s dad has dealt with the change by throwing himself into hobbies from yoga to knitting to cooking. Sam jokes “if there was a tear-off sheet on a bulletin board in Starbucks he was willing to give it a try.” So his latest idea to relocate temporarily to the Outer Banks is one of many distractions from the reality of his wife’s abandonment. Jeff, Sam’s brother, has returned from college recently and helps somewhat to plug the hole left by their mother. With Jeff and Sam in tow, their father packs everything up and heads for the beach, even before Sam’s school year ends.

After several months of dealing with his fragile father and pressure from his friends–and now Jeff– to “man up” and “get laid,” Sam wants to escape. He is troubled by ideas of love and manhood. The men in his life don’t exactly provide a shining paragon of masculinity. But soon Sam’s attention is diverted by another presence on at the beach, the Girls. They are blonde and beautiful and, to Sam, interchangeable. Sam watches them working menial summer jobs around town, taking cigarette breaks, flipping through magazines, lying on the beach. Yet the strangest part is not that the Girls are everywhere, but that they are all interested in Sam. They eye him with a lustful hunger.

Sam is befuddled that the Girls notice him rather than his hunky brother, or any other hunky guy around the town for that matter. He is scrawny and awkward, hardly a chick magnet. Then he meets one of the Girls, DeeDee. Normally they travel in pairs, but DeeDee seems different from the rest of the Girls. She and Sam bond, and he feels genuine affection for her. But she hesitates. There is a mystery of an otherworldly nature surrounding her and the rest of the Girls. When Sam learns the truth behind the secret, it alters his relationship with DeeDee irreparably.

Novelist Bennett Madison captures pitch-perfect the crude exchanges between Sam, Jeff, and their father, and Sam’s constant cynicism sounds like a teenager attempting jaded and world-weary angst. Madison structures the novel traditionally and from Sam’s perspective with numbered chapters, but he weaves in parallel chapters from the Girls with named chapters. The interspersed chapters from the Girls read like an echo and function similarly to a Greek chorus, summarizing background information and responding to and supplementing the story’s action. These chapters also successfully bolster the mythic quality of the story. However, Madison maintains a clean balance between the fairy tale and the reality. Madison’s treatment of Sam and his story is based the development of a boy tripping around the edge of manhood and a confused family trying to mend life’s rips and holes.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Currituck, Dare, Hyde, Madison, Bennett

Clay Carmichael. Brother, Brother. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2013.

Brother, BrotherMem always had two rules for Brother: “Never assume anything and Pay attention, pay attention, pay attention.” When he came home late and tired after working at double shift at The Elms Rest Home and then getting into a fight with his best friend, Cole, seventeen-year old Brother didn’t think to check in on his grandmother. The next morning he found her dead in her bedroom. Mem’s death was not a total surprise to Brother. She had been sick with breast cancer and the doctor estimated she had only weeks left. But her death was still a blow. Mem raised Brother as his adoptive mother after Brother’s birth mother left him with Mem as a toddler. His mother died in a car accident soon after she passed Brother over to Mem. His father’s identity remains a mystery. The truth died with his mother. Or so Brother thought. That identity might not be a secret for much longer.

Brother discovers from the undertaker, Bayliss, that Mem had a newspaper in her bed when he came to take her body. The newspaper contained an article about the reviled Senator Gideon Grayson, and his son Gabriel, who recently suffered an overdose. Mem was the housekeeper’s daughter for the Grayson family. But that’s not the eerie part. Gabriel and Brother are spitting images of one another – and, feasibly then, twins separated at birth. After he sees the picture, Brother sets out for the Grayson family home, on Winter Island off the coast of North Carolina, to find his brother and learn the truth behind his parentage.

Before Brother leaves his small-town with his faithful Australian shepherd mix, Trooper, he winds up saddled with another unexpected burden. Cole has vanished. Cole was a flashy big-talker who dreamed about winning a fortune through cards or the lottery. Presumably, Cole skipped town to seize such an opportunity. In his absence, Cole left behind his little brother, Jack. Along the way to find his twin, Brother, Jack, and Trooper meet Kit, a teenaged girl, who helps them on their trek to the Grayson home. As they journey closer to the island, Brother is mistaken for Gabriel, and the reaction is anything but pleasant–it turns out that Brother’s long-lost twin has quite a reputation.

When they reach the island, the Senator’s stepdaughter Lucy intercepts them. She hides the band of castaways in a cottage on the island and delivers them food and other supplies. Lucy insists that the three fugitives remain hidden, at least initially. She assures Brother that he must wait for the right opportunity to approach the Senator. Over time, Brother suspects that Lucy might not be as sweet as she pretends. He grows restless and ready to march into the Senator’s estate, named – amusingly enough – Eden. But Brother would be wise to remember Mem’s two life rules. Eden is unlike his small town. It is full of the most disingenuous types of people around: politicians, lawyers, and their lackeys who spin lies in any direction they want.  To get to the truth, Brother must think savvily. The truth he hopes to uncover though might be much more poisonous than he could have ever imagined.

Novelist Clay Carmichael revises the prince and the pauper tale for a modern audience and weaves in elements of a road trip story. The book is geared toward young adults, but has content that could grip readers of many ages. Carmichael is a Chapel Hill native with a degree in creative writing from UNC-Chapel Hill. She currently resides in Carrboro. For information on her first novel, Wild Things, read this post.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2013, Carmichael, Clay, Children & Young Adults, Coast

Lisa Williams Kline. Season of Change. Grand Rapids, MI: ZonderKidz, 2013.

Season of ChangeIn Season of Change, the fifth and final installment of the Sisters in All Seasons series, Diana and Stephanie have returned with new challenges. The stepsisters overhear fighting between their parents, Lynn and Norm, and Stephanie unwittingly finds a brochure advertising marriage counseling in their bathroom. While the thought of another divorce makes Stephanie distraught and anxious, Diana acts nonchalant and indifferent about the evidence of marital discord. She tells Stephanie not to worry about the conflict. In Diana’s experience, not fighting is much worse than fighting.

Soon after the girls suspect trouble, Norm and Lynn announce that they are taking a quick weekend vacation to reconnect and refresh their relationship. They have decided that Stephanie and Diana will stay for the weekend with Lynn’s parents who live on Lake Norman. Stephanie feels uncomfortable with that arrangement. She believes that her presence at Diana’s grandparents will be unwanted and out-of-place since she is their granddaughter through remarriage and not by blood. Her sensitivity is heightened because she is already nursing an open wound. Stephanie’s mother has been consistently unavailable when Stephanie has needed her the most, devoting her time to her new husband, Barry, instead of her daughter. The weekend of Norm and Lynn’s vacation, Stephanie’s mom has a trip to Asheville planned with Barry and she does not intend to cancel it for Stephanie. Meanwhile, Diana faces difficulties with her horse, Commanche, who has gone lame. She visits and cares for the horse, but she cannot ride him and is not certain when he will be well enough to ride again. Diana is also practicing driving, and not without some usual parental stress and novice mishaps.

Throughout the series, Stephanie and Diana’s relationship has been rocky. Neither girl felt they could understand the other; shy and nature-loving Diana and social and artistic Stephanie clashed at first. They each wanted to sever the relationship between Norm and Lynn. Now, with what looks to be another potential divorce, the girls are starting to question their initial desires and to understand that they have grown more attached to each other than they realized. Do they really want to be separated? What will happen when Norm and Lynn return from their weekend vacation? Novelist Lisa Kline has penned another absorbing book in her Sisters in All Seasons series. Diana and Stephanie are relatable characters, and their problems and adolescent milestones – divorce and family strife, boy trouble, summer jobs, driving, and more– are realistically portrayed. This is a great read for teen readers and readers fond of young adult novels to sneak in before the end of the summer.

Check out this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

To start at the beginning, take a look at the posts written on the previous volumes in the series:

  1. Summer of the Wolves
  2. Wild Horse Spring
  3. Blue Autumn
  4. Winter’s Tide

 

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Children & Young Adults, Kline, Lisa Williams, Novels in Series, Piedmont