Teens

Category Archives: Reviews – Staff

These book reviews are from librarians you know!

Curl Up & Read: Calvin

Posted on June 3rd, 2016 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff, Teen Services
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Calvin

Title: Calvin by Martine Leavitt

Read by: Anna, a Teen Central Librarian

Summary: Calvin is a young teenager with a lot of similarities to the Calvin & Hobbes comic strips by Bill Watterson. What Calvin isn’t prepared for, however, is the seemingly sudden diagnosis of schizophrenia. He can hear Hobbes talking to him and he can’t seem to make the tiger go away.  In a rash decision, Calvin takes his friend, Susan, on a hiking trip across frozen Lake Erie in an attempt to find Bill Watterson and get him to write one last comic strip… without Hobbes.

Genre/sub-genre: contemporary fiction

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Length: 181 pages

Personal thoughts: 

Such a small book for such a serious topic! But without many books for teens about schizophrenia, this is a good addition to the list. The author did a great job making this topic readable, lighthearted, and at the same time, serious, as Calvin explains his story in a letter to Bill Watterson.

The characters, while loosely based on the Calvin & Hobbes comic strips, had enough originality that they stood apart from the comics.  I do wonder though, if having Calvin talk to Hobbes, a cute, fun-loving stuffed tiger makes schizophrenia seem a little less of a big deal. After all, who wouldn’t want to talk to a tiger like Hobbes? The anchor to this plot, is the fact that Susan can’t see Hobbes or hear him when he’s talking to Calvin. But what if she’s also a manifestation of his schizophrenia? The questions keep you reading and keep you guessing at what will happen next, who’s real, and who isn’t.

While I enjoyed the plot for most of the book, the ending threw me a little because it seemed too abrupt and too easy for something as huge and scary as schizophrenia. At the same time, it was good to see someone like this have a better ending than most.

While I felt this book did have some minor flaws, don’t let them stop you from giving it a read. I highly recommend this to anyone who is a Calvin and Hobbes fan, or those who may be struggling with Schizophrenia or know someone who is.

 

anna250-150x150

Looking to borrow this library book? Look no further!

Wondering if we have the original Calvin & Hobbes comics? We do!

Need a library card? Wondering how long you can borrow this book? Borrowing and Circulation information can be found here.

*”Curl Up & Read” posts book reviews by Anna, Teen Librarian at Teen Central, the first Friday of every month.

 

Curl Up & Read: Reunited

Posted on May 6th, 2016 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff, Teen Services
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Reunited

Title: Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham

Read by: Anna, a Teen Central Librarian

Summary: 3 ex-best friends, 1 concert, 1 1976 green VW camper van, and 1 long road trip. How bad could it be?

Genre/sub-genre: contemporary fiction/humor

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Length: 325 pages

Personal thoughts: 

Hilariously funny and achingly real, Reunited had me hooked from page one.

Summer, Alice, and Tiernan are well developed characters, that easily drive the story forward, and keep the reader turning pages. With the point-of-view rotating between the three ex-best friends, we get to see their fears, their anger, and their joys, as they navigate the wild events of their road trip and attempt to forget the night they broke up at the school dance several years before. Along the way, the girls learn a little something about life, love, friendship, and about themselves.

Peppered throughout, are the catchy lyrics to Level3’s songs, including title and album information, making the band feel that much more real and a part of the story.

The ending was unpredictable, realistic, and hopeful. It’s clear that there is still work to be done for these three friends, but the ending was every bit satisfying. I’m just sorry I didn’t read this sooner.

I recommend this for anyone who enjoys reading contemporary fiction about best friends and music, especially with a good dose of humor.

 

 

anna250-150x150

Looking to borrow this library book? Look no further!

Need a library card? Wondering how long you can borrow this book? Borrowing and Circulation information can be found here.

 

*”Curl Up & Read” posts book reviews by Anna, Teen Librarian at Teen Central, the first Friday of every month.

 

 

Reading Backwards, Watching in Japanese: Erased & Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus 11

Posted on April 12th, 2016 by jkenney@private.bpl.org in Books, Movies, Reviews - Staff

This new installment on our teen blog includes two great titles from our friends in Japan. First, Erased, or Boku dake ga Inai Machi (The Town Where Only I am Missing, BokuMachi) is the hit new series that just finished on Crunchyroll and other anime outlets. Second, Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus Volume 11, adds another wonderful samurai epic to the manga shelves at the Hyde Park Branch.

 

ErasedErased is a mystery-thriller with a scifi base. The hero, Sartoru Fujimuna, discovers he can go back in time whenever he experiences an intense trauma. He is falsely accused of a crime when he is older and gets transported back to his grade school days, shortly before the mysterious disappearance of his classmate, Kayo Hinazuki.  The character art work and development is strong and original in this new series. Costumes are realistic yet interesting as you might expect from a present day drama. The animation shows great virtual cinematography at many scene changes and “camera” pans. I remember seeing at least one “zoom and truck” depth effect made famous by Alfred Hitchcock in the movie Vertigo. The technique creates a perspective stretching effect while holding the subject in focus and in mid frame. The director, Tomohiko Itou, also combines vertical panning and rotation of the camera effects on particular scenes, adding to the psychological thrill. And of course, the story features a movie film reel effect that represents Sartoru’s ability to go back in time, changing history and helping his friends. But can he save himself? This series will have you yearning for more after the very first episode. There may be a spinoff, but unlike other famous titles that seem to go on forever, Erased is a “well made play” and the story is woven together tightly in 12 episodes. Some development and suspense do get lost from the manga, but this is a common situation when manga are converted to anime. Here, it is done well and for the usual reasons of time and production effort. The series is really good and I strongly recommend it for anime fans. Watch it in Japanese with English subtitles. It’s good for you to read, and the voice acting spot on! The story just concluded on Crunchyroll and we watched it faithfully at Anime Club here in Hyde Park. You can find it at Crunchyroll, Funimation, or Anime Planet.

 

Lone wolf and cubLone Wolf & Cub Omnibus 11 is a steady-paced, suspense-infused, shonen manga. This was the first time I read any of the series and I was greatly impressed. It’s the number one selling graphic novel! The story is by Kazuo Koike and the art is by Goseki Kojima. Translation by Dana Lewis. The artwork features amazing pen and ink brush technique. Pen strokes provide minute detail and brushwork adds great shadow effects, both light and dark.  The story follows a young ronin, Ogami Itto with his son Daigoro, and an aged master ninja Yagyu Retsudo. Yagyu is held prisoner by a court poisoner-tester who once saved Daigoro from horrible frostbite when he was a baby. Ogami and Yagyu are sworn enemies and have an outstanding challenge to duel to the death. Great Bushido and Ninjutsu codes of honor run deep in this epic and the contrasts among other characters are stark and varied. The pacing of the story lends to the suspense and gravity of the epic. Finally it culminates in a fantastic series of fireworks signals, dramatic sword play, self sacrifice, and a bold festival procession. There is mild gore in some spots, as might be expected, but the fantastic landscapes, cityscapes and ink washes provide a strong balance of beauty in the story. Weather and night time effects, even illustrated in black and white, enthrall the reader. I highly recommend this title for samurai and shonen manga fans out there. You can request this volume from the BPL in hard copy here or in ebook format here. And this series is set in the western left-to-right format so you don’t even have to read it backwards!

 

 

john250-150x150Did you know that in addition to physical books and DVDs, your library card gives you access to anime and graphic novels online? The BPL subscribes to Hoopla, a streaming service that allows you to check out and enjoy the media you love on your computer, tablet or smartphone. You can learn more about the BPL’s digital media collections here.

Want company while you’re watching anime? The Hyde Park Teen Anime Club meets on Thursdays at 2:30 p.m.

 

*”Reading Backwards, Watching in Japanese” features reviews of anime and manga by John, the Teen Librarian at the Hyde Park Branch, on the second Tuesday of every month.

Curl Up & Read: Symptoms of Being Human

Posted on April 1st, 2016 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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symptoms

Title: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Read by: Anna, a Teen Central Librarian

Summary: Riley Cavanaugh is attending a new school, has debilitating anxiety and a congressman father running for re-election, and hasn’t come out yet. To anyone. Riley is gender fluid, which means some days Riley identifies as a boy and some days Riley identifies as a girl. With all of this going on, how on earth is Riley supposed to blend in, make friends, come out, and survive high school?

Genre/sub-genre: LGBTQ contemporary fiction

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Length: 335 pages

Personal thoughts: 

“People are complicated. And messy. Seems too convenient that we’d all fit inside some multiple-choice question.” – Riley Cavanaugh

This book is long overdue, because until now, stories about gender fluid people have been non-existent. Real and relatable, Symptoms of Being Human is a great look into what it means to be different in a way most people aren’t used to. No pronouns are used for Riley in the book, yet the author’s writing makes it feel very natural, not forced. Preferred pronouns (of which there are a lot of options) aren’t even mentioned by Riley’s therapist and transgender support group, which felt odd to me. Yet the lack of pronouns does serve as a reminder of just how binary society considers gender, and how much we gender everything without even thinking about it.

Riley’s story is very character driven. Riley’s parents are realistic, fully-developed and caring adults, just trying to do the best they can without knowing Riley’s secret. While there were a few minor friends I wanted to know more about, I loved Riley’s two friends from school. Solo and Bec were as well rounded, quirky, and engaging as Riley and they stood out as cool people I’d want to be friends with if I could.

This is a powerful and inspirational story that won’t let you go. I highly recommend this title for anyone who may identify as gender fluid and those who want to know what it means to be gender fluid. That said, I also highly recommend this title for those people who enjoy contemporary teen fiction and are just looking for a good read. Read on!

 

 

anna250-150x150Looking to borrow this library book? Look no further!

Need a library card? Wondering how long you can borrow this book? Borrowing and Circulation information can be found here.

 

*”Curl Up & Read” posts book reviews by Anna, one of the Teen Librarians at Teen Central, on the first Friday of every month.

Anime Review: Serial Experiments Lain

Posted on January 27th, 2016 by jkenney@private.bpl.org in Movies, Programs, Reviews - Staff, Reviews - Teens, Teen Services

serial lain

Serial Experiments Lain [R 17+] is a powerful science fiction anime series from 1998.  This psychological thriller centers on the experience of Lain Iwakura and her introduction to cyber-life in “The Wired” [Internet].  After a tragic suicide by a girl in her high school class, she and many other classmates receive emails from the girl after she has died.  This mystery sets the scene for the main thrust of the story.

Other characters include Lain’s best friend Arisu Mizuki and her larger circle of friends, Masami Eiri – apparent designer and god-like figure of The Wired, Knights – “men in black” who are ambiguously involved with the wired, Lain’s family and father who is a computer expert, and a group of younger children who provide another perspective to the developing sense of cyber-life.

Masami serves as the main foil in the series.  A large portion of the plot centers on ideas of self, divinity, physical versus spiritual, real versus virtual, and other wrenching questions often faced in the teen years.  The visual palette contains strong use of “white field” contrasts and fills as well as other shadow fills using “blood pool” and collage-like patterns.  The white fields get repeated emphasis as a sunlight effect in the morning scenes as Lain leaves her house for school.  After a few appearances, the technique is familiar and the artistic style of the series is clearly set apart.  Its continued use serves to amplify the sense of drudgery and emptiness that Lain experiences going to school.  At the same time, the technique itself is stark and almost blinding, creating a confusing crosscurrent to an otherwise static and low energy scene.  It’s truly masterful.  The soundtrack is very strong with its selection of music and an audio “hum” effect that is used to represent the ever-present activity on The Wired. It is usually combined with views of power lines and transformers at scene changes.

Serial Experiments Lain has received notable praise from the critical community and I strongly recommend it for Anime fans.  You can watch it for free on Kissanime.com and Animefrost.com