Tag Archives: YALSA

Cracking the Hub: My Friend Dahmer

reading challenge logo - finisher

Last week I finished The Hub Challenge just before the deadline elapsed.  Stay tuned to see if I win any prizes. 

Back to the books.  The twelfth book I finished for this challenge was My Friend Dahmer by Derf (Backderf).

My Friend Dahmer was honored by the Great Graphic Novels, Alex Awards, and Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. It is a graphic novel about the infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and the author who was Dahmer’s friend during high school.
 
The artwork is notable.  It imparts meaning, despair, suspense, and an overwhelming creepiness.  We know what Dahmer ended up doing, but in those carefree days of high school Backderf and his friends had no clue of what their “mascot” Dahmer would do as an adult.  The reader sees a young man isolated from society and enduring a difficult family situation while trying to restrain and dampen the disturbing urges emerging from the recesses of his mind.  His friends saw an increasingly strange and self-medicating Dahmer withdrawing from high school life.
 
This was a quick read.  It was a fascinating read, and ultimately it will be an unforgettable read.  For those of our readers who are on the queasy side of things – don’t worry, most of the disturbing events happen off the page and are merely alluded to in drawings and text.  When you read this graphic novel – don’t skip the Sources section where you learn more about how the author researched the book as well as more details of Backderf and Dahmer’s adolescence and adulthood.
 
What do you think – should the author have included more detail about Dahmer’s crimes in this graphic novel?
 

Cracking the Hub: Love and Other Perishable Items

Hub Reading ChallengeI’ve been reading steadily through The Hub Challenge.  I just finished my eleventh book, Love and Other Perishable Items, by Laura Buzo.

Love and Other Perishable Items was nominated for the Morris Award – which honors a book written for young adults by a previously unpublished author.  Readers are introduced to fifteen-year-old Amelia as she 1) starts her first job and 2) starts crushing on her unattainable university-aged coworker, Chris.  Amelia and Chris are both searching for meaning in their lives.  Amelia is infatuated with Chris and doesn’t stop thinking about him, but there is much about Chris that she doesn’t know.  In Chris’s diary entries we learn more about him: his crushing depression, despondency, self-medication with drugs and alcohol, and Amelia is barely mentioned.
 
I liked how the author switched perspectives and writing styles in this novel.  After all, don’t most people want to know what’s really going on in the minds of the person they’re crushing on?  There are a lot of adult situations regarding drugs, alcohol, and sexual situations in this book – I’m not sure if this is because of cultural differences between the U.S. and Australia, or just the world the author wished to create for the story.  It also bothered me that the Amelia’s parents are pretty much absent from her life.  This becomes a fairly important plot point in the novel.
 
What do you think – where are all the parents in YA lit, and does this story read like something that should be published for adults or teens?
 

Cracking the Hub: Girlchild

Hub Reading ChallengeI’ve been reading steadily through The Hub Challenge.  I just finished my tenth book, Girlchild, by Tupelo Hassman.

Girlchild was one of the Alex Award Winners for 2013.  Girlchild is definitely an adult novel with mature and troubling content.  Rory lives in a trailer park in Nevada where a code of silence prevails despite alcoholism, domestic disputes, and abuse.  Rory’s mom clearly wants something better for her daughter, but her habit of trusting the wrong people have damaged Rory the most.  The writing style is unique – chapters are just a few pages long and provide a glimpse into Rory’s life jumping forward and backward in time.  Other chapters contain passages from social worker reports, portions of books, and in some cases are completely blacked out.
 
This book is described as heartbreaking.  It delivers “heartbreaking” in spades.  Readers meet a child full of life and personality and watch as she’s ground down by the cycle of abuse, addiction, poverty, and tragedy.  The ending is somewhat open to interpretation.
 
Have you read Girlchild?  What did you think about this Alex Award Winner?
 

Cracking the Hub: Drama & Steve Jobs

Hub Reading ChallengeI’ve been reading steadily and am a third of the way through The Hub Challenge
I just finished my eighth book, Drama, by Raina Telgemeier and my ninth book, Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal.
 
Drama was an honor book for the Stonewall Award as well as one of the Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens and Top Ten Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults. Drama follows a middle school girl who designs sets for the drama club and all the drama that surrounds their production of Moon over Mississippi.  Friendships, romance, and drama abound in this relatively short story.  I don’t usually read graphic novels, so it was a nice change of pace to read this light story where the art is instrumental to understanding the story.
 
Today I’ll give you a two for one post – I also finished reading Steve Jobs by Karen Blumenthal which was a finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction.  Blumenthal repeatedly jumps between a speech Jobs gave at a college graduation in 2005 and back to his chronological life story in this narrative biography.  You won’t find dry recitations of facts here, rather, the book is more like linked stories that show how Jobs’ reacted in situations, his early influences, and how his charisma and difficult personality made an odd sort of sense and influenced his life’s work.  Steve Jobs was not always a pleasant person to be around, but he was never ordinary.
 
Next up: Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

Cracking the Hub: Pure

Hub Reading Challenge

I’ve been reading steadily and am a third of the way through The Hub Challenge.  I just finished my seventh book: Pure by Julianna Baggott.

First off, let me tell you that Pure was one of the Alex Award Winners for 2013.  The Alex awards are given to ten books published for adults that have teen appeal.  Pure is most definitely an adult novel, but the main characters are teenagers.
 
In a dystopian world where detonations leave some “pure” humans undamaged in a dome and physically altered survivors struggling to survive in a destroyed environment, Pressia has managed to maintain hope that things will get better.  This book is mostly a quest: a quest for survival, a search for a parent, and an escape from intolerable conditions.
 
I have mixed feelings about this story. Baggott wrote an affecting memorable tale I won’t forget; I found the images uncomfortable and intense. I read dystopias because I like the thought that there is hope despite the madness of the world’s conditions.  I don’t usually write about books I don’t like, and yet, I found this book left me almost without hope and I am unlikely to read the sequel when it is released.
 
If you’ve read Pure, leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.  Is the writing fresh?  Does it leave you feeling hopeless?
 
Next Up: Drama by Raina Telgemeier.

Cracking the Hub: Unchained

Hub Reading ChallengeI’m about a month into The Hub Challenge and have just finished my sixth book, Unchained by L.B Tillit

Unchained is about a teen boy, Ben, who has been neglected his entire life by his parents. He figures out that to get by in life he just needs to be tough and everyone will leave him alone. He falls in with the local gang, but before he can be initiated in, he gets sent off to foster care. Living at Miss Dixie’s house is the best time of his life, but it’s not permanent. The gang is always there, pressuring him to join in and help them out.

This wasn’t my favorite book I’ve read for the challenge, but it is fast moving. With short chapters and lots of action it’s no wonder it was on the Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Reader’s  list. I think fans of Perfect Chemistry and Sharon Flake will enjoy this quick read.

Next up: Pure by Juliana Baggott

Cracking the Hub: The Running Dream

Hub Reading ChallengeI’m about a month into The Hub Challenge and have just finished my fifth book.

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen was fantastic. We experience the year after a high school track star, Jessica, gets into an accident and has a leg amputated. If reading that sentence gives you the willies, you can imagine what Jessica’s character goes through. We see Jessica’s progress from anger, hopelessness, and despair as she at first comes to grips with her new reality. Then we see her slowly adjust, find hope, and effect change in her town.

Jessica does have a few assets to help her through this journey – a mega-supportive best friend, loving parents, a track coach who doesn’t give up on her, new friends, and an incredible work ethic. A year ago I heard good things from other librarians about this book, but I passed it over. I’m glad I gave it another chance. This year it’s on the Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults list, and last year it won the 2012 Schneider Family Book Award.