Category Archives: 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

Shelley Pearsall. Jump into the Sky. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.

Jump into the SkyChange is nothing new to thirteen-year- old Levi Battle. He is well acquainted with getting passed around and traded off among relatives. His mother, Queen Bee Walker, a beautiful but demanding jazz singer, abandoned Levi as an infant in an old Ford in the parking lot of a jazz club because she was dissatisfied with her unglamorous lifestyle and the weight of her maternal obligations. His father, Charles Battle, left Levi behind to serve as an army lieutenant in World War II. By contrast to his family, Levi views himself as a person who sticks around, even though his relatives are constantly shifting.

In his father’s absence, Levi lived first in the custody of his grandmother. Upon her death, he was transferred to the care of his Aunt Odella. The novel begins in the spring of 1945. After three years of housing her nephew, Aunt Odella has decided that since the war is almost over, the time has arrived for Levi to depart Chicago and reconnect with his father who is stationed in Fayetteville. Truth be told, she is tired of her charge and wants a reprieve from her responsibility. For three years she has slept on a cot in her living room to make space for Levi in her cramped apartment. With the end of the war in sight, Aunt Odella sees the opportunity for her personal liberation too.

So Aunt Odella packs Levi onto a train from Illinois to North Carolina with a suitcase and a bag of fried chicken. Levi is panic-stricken. He fears that he will arrive at his father’s army post unwanted. As the train travels further South, Levi faces another unexpected trouble as well–racism. Before relocating, Levi was unaware of the full extent of regional differences toward race. He is unaccustomed to the open hostility that he meets in the South. On his route and upon his arrival to North Carolina, he makes a couple of honest faux pas that do not jibe with the laws of Jim Crow. In one hard lesson, a shopkeeper threatens Levi’s life when he asks for a Coca-Cola. Following that encounter, Levi understands Southern racial etiquette with greater clarity.

With a little bit of luck, Levi manages to arrive unharmed in Fayetteville only to discover that his father’s unit has moved out to a new, undisclosed location. Yet again, he has been deserted, albeit unintentionally. The people in Levi’s life do not appear to discard him totally out of malevolence. Outside factors seem to nudge between Levi and his family and snip the ties. During his time in North Carolina, Levi encounters an old sweetgrass basket weaver named MawMaw Sands who teaches him that at the center of every basket is “a knot of pain” that anchors its foundation. In MawMaw Sands’ opinion, pain and sweetness are interwoven in life. Levi’s life appears knotted with an especially large amount of pain. His challenge is to clutch at the sweetness he can find and braid it in, no matter the struggle.

Novelist Shelley Pearsall sends Levi on a journey to unexpected locations across the country in pursuit of his father. Family, is not so easily found or established, and, as Pearsall reveals, these bonds must sometimes be learned anew. This book is intended for children and young adults, however, Pearsall’s memorable characters and witty narrator could hook readers of any age. Additionally, the portrayal of racism from Levi’s adolescent and unfamiliar perspective is poignant in its genuine and innocent surprise.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Children & Young Adults, Coastal Plain, Cumberland, Moore, Pearsall, Shelley, Piedmont

Roland Smith. Kitty Hawk. Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2012.

I, Q: Kitty Hawk*This blog post highlights the third book in an on-going series. Some of the information provided for context might contain spoilers for events that occurred in the previous two books.*

Quest “Q” Munoz and Angela Tucker are just your normal, everyday teenagers – with rock star parents and inside connections to Secret Service operations, of course. This is the third book in Smith’s action-packed I, Q series. The first two books, I, Q: Independence Hall and I, Q: The White House, were set in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. respectively. For this next installment, Smith selected the smaller, but still historic, town of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. His series is aimed toward younger readers, but people of any age could find interest in Smith’s colorful cast of characters.

At the start of the series, Q’s mom, Blaze Munoz, married Angela’s dad, Roger Tucker. Angela’s mother, Malak Turner, a former Secret Service agent, is dead, and Q’s father, Peter “Speed” Paulsen, is a limelight-loving rock star. The happy couple formed a new band called Match and released a hit single, which prompted a nation-wide tour. Step-siblings Q and Angela are along for the ride, which has proven much bumpier and more suspenseful than expected. In the first book, they meet Tyrone Boone and his huge, slobbery dog, Croc. Boone, a roadie, is charged with looking after Q and Angela. But Boone is more than an old roadie; he’s a retired CIA agent with his an independent team of agents called SOS, or Some Old Spooks. And Boone has plenty of suspicions surrounding Angela’s mother’s death. Or supposed death…

By the third book, Q, Angela, Blaze, Roger, and the SOS group are in Washington, D.C. for a special concert at the White House. But a terrorist ghost cell has kidnapped President J.R. Culpepper’s daughter, Bethany; they plan to use her in a hostage video against the U.S. government. So Q, Angela, and the SOS team chase the terrorists down I-95 to rescue the president’s daughter. Unfortunately, there is a brutal hurricane headed right in their direction. SOS has help from a few other sources luckily, including Angela’s very alive mom, Malak, who is working to infiltrate the terrorist group. Yet Boone and Croc have some eerie talents and are pretty capable of taking care of themselves.

Smith sets a fast pace to the story. The book spans a single day with chapters segmented roughly into hour or two-hour blocks to keep the sense of urgency high. However, Smith cuts the tension with moments of humor, especially when Q’s father Speed shows up and almost derails the whole chase. With distractions like ostentatious rockers and violent hurricanes, Smith leaves his audience on the edge of their seats, turning page after page. Will Q, Angela, and the SOS team save Bethany in time? Or will the ghost cell succeed in their scheme?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Dare, Novels in Series, Smith, Roland, Suspense/Thriller

Jennifer Estep. The Mythos Academy Series.

  • First Frost (e-novella). New York: Kensington Publishing, 2011.
  • Touch of Frost. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2011. 
  • Kiss of Frost. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2011.
  • “Halloween Frost” in Entangled, ed. Allison Brennan (e-short story). Authors4theCure, 2011.
  • Dark Frost. New York: Kensington, 2012.
  • Crimson Frost. New York, Kensington Publishing, 2013.
  • Spartan Frost. New York: Kensington Books, 2013.
  • Midnight Frost. New York: K-Teen, 2013.

Gwendolyn Frost is a normal teenaged girl– well, as normal as any of the teenagers attending Mythos Academy. High in the mountains of western North Carolina, the academy provides a safe place for teens like Gwen to get an education. Gifted with supernatural abilities, all of the students are the descendants of ancient warriors or mythical creatures. But Gwendolyn doesn’t think her powers are very exciting– sure, being a Gypsy with the power to find lost objects and read people’s thoughts has its uses, but it’s not like being a Spartan or a Valkyrie and being gifted with abnormal strength, speed, and agility. Gwen wishes she were as talented athletically as her peers, particularly because she has a crush on the school’s most popular and good looking boy.

Everything changes, of course, when a supernatural threat looms over the academy. Somehow Gwen finds herself at the center of the fighting– as the champion of the Greek goddess Nike herself. How does a simple Gypsy girl with no talent for swordplay become a goddess’s champion? And can she even survive? Find out in this exciting young adult series, reminiscent of Percy Jackson’s The Lightning Thief  and the 1981 film Clash of the Titans.

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, Buncombe, Children & Young Adults, Estep, Jennifer, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Series

Jen Calonita. The Grass is Always Greener. New York: Poppy, 2013.

thegrassisalwaysgreenerThe conclusion to Jen Calonita’s Belles series finds half-sisters Mirabelle and Isabelle Monroe each facing her own crossroads. The Monroe family is used to an easy life, but that changed when Isabelle “Izzie” Scott (in reality Monroe) arrived. Hailing from the nearby struggling community of Harborside, the daughter State Senator and family patriarch Bill Monroe never knew existed has certainly made life interesting in the affluent town of Emerald Cove. No one has felt the changes more than Izzie’s half-sister Mirabelle.

Originally a quiet conformist, Mirabelle has started to march to the beat of her own drum. She’s pursuing her own interests in painting, as well as a quirky, artistic boy named Kellen. Izzie has changed her life,  but nothing is perfect. Kellen is moving away, and Mirabelle’s novice artwork faces harsh criticism from a teacher. Will she stay true to her newfound path?

Although used to blazing her own trail, Izzie has trials to face as well. Shortly following the death of her beloved grandmother, an aunt Izzie never knew about arrives in town. Zoe Scott had a terrible falling out with her sister, Izzie’s mom, before Izzie was ever born. Now Zoe wants to make amends and take her niece away to live in California. Izzie isn’t sure if she wants her aunt in her life, much less if she wants to leave the Old North State. Additionally, Savannah Ingram, the alpha girl of Emerald Preparatory, looks ready to make Izzie pay for disrupting the status quo. Forced to work with the snobby queen bee on a project, Izzie is sure she’ll be miserable. But is Savannah really as bad as she thought? Torn between the lessons of her meager upbringing and the challenges of her new, shinier life, Izzie must decide what her future will hold.

Both girls are about to turn sweet sixteen, and at this rite of passage they must decide who they will be. But since Isabelle and Mirabelle Monroe first accepted one another as sisters, one thing is certain– whatever they face, they’ll face it together.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Calonita, Jen, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

C.K. Volnek. Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island. United States: Spark Books, 2011.

ghostdogofroanokeIt feels like fate when Jack Dahlgren’s family inherits his great-aunt Ruth’s home on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. His dad has lost his job, and all the family’s savings are gone. But twelve-year-old Jack doesn’t want to live on Roanoke Island, especially in a house that the kids at school say is haunted. He also feels responsible for his little sister’s accidental fall off of a nearby sea cliff, which put her in a hospital in Raleigh. On top of everything, a hurricane is bearing down on the Outer Banks, howling like a monster.

…Or is it a hurricane? There’s definitely some stormy weather, but there’s also something dark and scary living in the woods near the Dahlgrens’ new house. When Jack investigates, he finds a mysterious, vanishing mastiff, and something much wilder. Later, Jack meets and befriends their Algonquin neighbor, Manny Braboy, who explains it all– the evil living in Jack’s woods is a Witiku: a demon summoned by the natives of Roanoke Island in the sixteenth century to rid the island of all invaders. Incredibly, Manny tells Jack that he, Jack, must be the one to defeat the Witiku. The twelve-year old is skeptical, but when Manny takes him back to the sixteenth century to observe the events of the Lost Colony unfold, he begins to believe. Will Jack defeat the Wikitu? Will Roanoke Island finally be at peace? Will Jack ever be happy in his new home?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Dare, Historical, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Volnek, C. K.

Kathleen Thomas. Blackbeard’s Treasure. Greensboro, NC: Tudor Publishing, 2009.

Blackbeard's TreasureMatthew and Lauren Bakker, and their cousins Haley and Luke Bakker, are all set for a fabulous six weeks of summer camp on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Everyone is excited about different parts of the camp, but Matthew is focused on one thing only: Blackbeard. The most infamous pirate to terrorize the coast of the Old North State, Blackbeard supposedly left mountains of treasure behind when his ship Queen Anne’s Revenge sank in 1718. Matthew has been reading a book about the bloodthirsty buccaneer, and it’s not long before his enthusiasm infects his sister and cousins. Incredibly, when the four children arrive at summer camp, they discover that an underwater archaeological expedition is in progress nearby to find and recover Blackbeard’s ship for a local university.

Unfortunately, more than one person is interested in the sunken pirate galley. A private collector thinks he can beat the academics to what could be the discovery of the century. He’ll stop at nothing to steal the priceless wreck from under their noses and sell its treasure on the black market. Yet, the children come to suspect that a modern-day privateer is the least of their worries. Could Blackbeard’s angry spirit be haunting the beaches and coves of the Outer Banks, as well? With the help of the archaeologists, their harried camp counselors, and a crusty local former sailor, the four young troublemakers are determined to protect the treasure and thwart the ghost…by hook or by crook.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Carteret, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Thomas, Kathleen

Shannon Greenland. The Summer My Life Began. New York: Speak, 2012.

summerElizabeth Margaret (“Em”) has her whole life in front of her–and every step of it has been mapped out by her high-achieving, status-seeking parents and maternal grandmother.   Advanced placement classes in high school, admission to Harvard, summer internships at dad’s law firm, a career in law or medicine.  Em and her sister Gwenny laugh at their parents’ pretensions but neither girl dares to jump off the path that their parents have charted for them.  But they do dream about it.

Em sees a chance to step off the treadmill for at least a few weeks when she receives an invitation to spend the summer with her Aunt Tilly on the Outer Banks.  The invitation unsettles Em’s mother and grandmother.   Aunt Tilly has never been mentioned by either woman.  After phone calls back and forth between Boston and the Outer Banks, a compromise is reached: Em can go south for a month, but she must come back to Boston to spend the second half of her summer vacation at the law firm.

Em doesn’t know what to expect, but she’s up for whatever it is. Or maybe not.  Aunt Tilly is as fun loving as her parents are uptight; the staff at the B&B that Aunt Tilly owns are like a family; Em gets a chance to practice her culinary skills; and there are not one but two handsome boys to hangout with.  But as Em spends time with her aunt and the B&B staff she learns how each got to this place, and not all the stories are happy ones.  Parents die, children are separated from their families, and not everyone who has a child is ready to be a parent.  This summer on the Outer Banks will change Em’s life forever.

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

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Filed under 2012, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Greenland, Shannon