Staff Book Reviews!

by Anna

Forest Gate by Peter Akinti.  Read by Jessi Snow/ Copley Teen Room
Two boys try to commit suicide by hanging themselves; one is successful in doing the job.  The story takes off from there by the sister of the dead boy (Ashkin), Meina, and the survivor and best friend of Ashkin, James.  Meina is now the only one left in her family after both her parents were killed in Somalia.  The book goes back and forth between Meina and James telling their stories.  James has struggles in his own life with his mother being addicted to crack and his brothers selling drugs, and he struggles with depression of his own.
Broken Glass Park Ready by Jessi Snow/Copley Teen Room
Russian immigrant Sascha is living in Germany with her two half siblings and a foster mother.  Her mother and mother’s boyfriend were both killed by Mom’s ex husband Vadim.  Vadim is serving time in prison while Sascha feels she’s serving time in her own life with the murder of her mother on her head and the way it’s destroyed her little brother.  It’s a raw read.  Sascha’s toughness is appealing as well as her strength and desire to take care of her family.  I liked this book a lot, it reminded me of Adam Rapp books where you just don’t have that uplifting feeling with the book, it’s pretty dreary, but you have feelings for the characters.
The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To.  DC Pierson.  Read by Jessi Snow/Copley Teen Room
Darren is into comics, superheroes, video games, and drawing.  He isn’t the most popular kid in school, but the focus of the book isn’t on that but rather the friendship between Darren and his new friend Eric.  Eric isn’t the most popular kid in school either, they both share a love of superheroes, video games, and the two embark on a friendship fueled by making a comic book together.  Very funny!
Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead.  Frank Meeink Story, as told to Jody M. Roy.  Read by Jessi Snow/Copley Teen Room
The start of Frank Meeink’s life was met with violence, drugs and alcohol by his parents and other family members.  The life was seen as normal, so when Frank is recruited into a neo-Nazi chapter it seemed like a natural next step.  By the time Frank was 16 he was deep into the white supremacist movement and was skinhead gang leader.  Jail time was had as were children by more than one woman.  When the Oklahoma City bombings happened something clicked in Frank’s head making him realize the life he chose is not the life he wants.  He begins to look at the prejudice and racist beliefs he held onto so tightly and starts to reevaluate his life.  Frank ends up sharing his story with the Anti Defamation League and is encouraged to meet and speak to children and people all over the US about his experiences as a neo Nazi.  Even with this experience Frank is still met with struggles and it’s not as easy seeing more than half his life had been hate, addiction, and violence.  Frank obviously has flaws and is aware of them but its’ the journey he goes on to find the route of his flaws that helps to understand the violence and hate he participated in.  The incidents of violence and hate he shares aren’t gratuitous but serve as lessons.
Girl In Translation.  Kwok.  Read by Jessi Snow/Copley Teen Room
Ah Kim (Kimberly) and her Ma move to NY City in the 1980’s from China.  Ma’s sister Paula helped bring them over and in turn they have to live in squalor and work in a sweat shop.  This is how Ma has to pay her debts to her sister.  In China Kimberly had no problems excelling in school but in NY she struggles with the language and fitting in.  We follow Kimberly and her mother through their struggles of just surviving, literally.  Kimberly works so hard to get into a private school where she excels and eventually finds her voice to let her aunt know that she and her mother haven’t been treated well by her.  The story has a lot of great moments and characters like Matt the boy Kimberly falls in love with from the sweat shop to Annette the stable loyal friend Kimberly made in grade school and Kimberly and Ma themselves.
Citrus County.  John Brandon. Read by Jessi Snow/Copley Teen Room
Toby is a “bad boy” but not the typical one that smokes or plays around, instead he acts out by kidnapping a four year old girl and holds her in an abandoned cabin for a few weeks.  Shelby is the girl that gets involved with Toby and she’s the “good girl”, the one that does well in school and when her sister gets kidnapped holds herself and her father together.  Shelby and Toby are such three dimensional characters that you can just get inside both their heads, even in Toby’s messed up one it’s great!
Lean on Pete.  Vlautin.  Read by Jessi Snow/Copley Teen Room
Yes, what a great read!  Valutin’s simple and straightforward writing immediately pulls you into the story.  Even though it’s seemingly so simple the characters are strongly developed and you get such a feel for them.  Charley is so sweet and caring and the mistakes that happen and when he gets in trouble you just ache for him.  Del, Charley, Ray have such depth, even the smaller characters are so descriptive—Silver, the homeless guy that Charley encounters.  Charley has such a level of maturity and level headedness that is so impressive considering what he’s dealing with.  The teen appeal-yes there is!  It’s a great story that pulls you in.  Charley is a teen and although he’s dealing with severe circumstances I think that teens can identify with him.  I loved this book.
Insatiable.  Cabot, Meg.  Read by Jessi Snow/Copley Teen Room
Meg Cabot does a vampire book!!! And it’s pretty good.