Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Ransom Rigg’s novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children tells the story of Jacob and what happens when he returns to the house that his grandfather lived during World War II. Jacob’s grandfather always told magical stories about his time spent on a small island off Wales, Cairnholm, where his parents sent him during the war.

Jacob always loved his grandfather, and loved his stories when he was little. As he grew, the stories became unbelievable, and Jacob wasn’t sure what to think about his grandfather’s childhood. When his grandfather is mysteriously killed, Jacob suffers through some post traumatic depression which he uses to convince his parents to allow him to travel to the island where his grandfather spent time.

Once Jacob and his father arrive at Cairnholm, Jacob discovers what happened to the home where his grandpa lived. The home was bombed on September 3, 1941 and all but his grandpa was killed. But he makes many more exciting, unbelievable discoveries once he ventures to the bombed out home and finds a secret world filled with his grandpa’s friends.

This is a whimsical, great read. I wasn’t sure what would happened and the middle and end of the story was very surprising.

Read November 2015.

Vanishing Girl

Lauren Oliver’s Vanishing Girl starts as a teen drama and finishes with a psychological mystery. Two sisters, very different from one another, are dealing with their parents separation in their own way. Nick, the perfect sister, of course, never causes the problems that Dara, the problem child causes. When Dara starts dating Nick’s childhood best friend, their sisterhood becomes troubled and its worsened when Nick crashes a car that both girls were in.

After the accident, the break in the sister’s relationship grows deeper. When Nick returns to her mother’s home a couple of months after the accident, she’s no longer the “good” sister. Returning to her old life without her sister by her side is hard at first, but she soon gets a job and things start to feel somewhat normal again, except that Dara refuses to talk to her.

Nick tries to investigate what Dara is up to and why they were on the specific stretch of road when she crashed, she ends up uncovering more than she bargained for in their little peaceful coastal town.

This was an enjoyable read. I’m not positive this was a Young Adult book even though I categorized it as such, and I think many age groups would enjoy it. It was a pretty quick, easy read too. Perfect for the summertime.

Read August 2015

Orphan Train

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline tells the story of two young girls abandoned in childhood and suffer through the abuse of the welfare system set up to save them. Vivian Daly was orphaned as a young girl and put on a train from New York City to the mid-west in an attempt to find her a home during the Depression. Vivian’s story is told as a mirror to modern day Molly Ayer, who entered the foster care system as a young girl and is months away from aging out.

Neither girl’s childhood was warm and cuddly, but they each have their talisman as a reminder to whom they are and where they came from. A Claddagh necklace for Vivian given by her grandmother in Ireland and a necklace with a fish, a raven, a bear charm given to Molly by her father. Vivian and Molly find each other when Molly needs to perform a community service after getting caught stealing a book from the library. Although a victimless crime, she almost loses her foster placement until her boyfriend’s mom works out a deal with her elderly employer, Vivian. Kline weaves the two stories together as each girl struggles with the life they’ve been forced to lead. Neither had much love in their young lives and do not let people into their heart easily.

In Vivian’s life, the orphan train changed her entire life, but in real life it had to have changed so many more. I don’t know who would have thought to take orphaned or street kids from New York and ship them off to such a different world. The options laid out for older children like Vivian (really Niamh at this point) and Dutchy are bleak and dangerous. The smaller children, like Carmine, have better chances, but they’re still open to potential horrors since there is little oversight or follow-up for any of the children.

This was a great young, adult novel. There were very complex ideas of family and survival that would resonate with many angst filled teenagers as well as adults.

Read April 2015

afterparty

When I picked up Ann Redisch Stampler’s afterparty, I didn’t realize that it was a young adult novel. I’m not opposed to reading YA and many times I really enjoy the book, but this book really was meant for a young reader. Emma is the good girl built by her father’s idealism and overprotectiveness. She has an interesting past, having moved around every couple of years following her father as a traveling professor. She changes her name with the moves, but isn’t allowed to grow into the teen that she is. Her skirt length is regulated as are her after school activities and friendships. Her father supposedly is a Psychology professor who can’t see how ridiculous his helicoptering is.

After moving to LA for her father’s job, somehow Emma is enrolled in a super exclusive private school where the uber wealthy children attend. Of course Emma meets the bad-girl Siobhan on her first day and starts breaking all her fathers super restrictive rules. She’s mildly bullied, nothing compared to what I think would’ve happened, and her and Siobhan create a pact to make Emma cool. They create a French boyfriend and excuses to get Emma out of the house to attend crazy high school parties with the goal of checking off a teenage activity to-do list before the big Afterparty.

There are some interesting aspects of this book and I was surprised by the twist at the end, but this was a simple read. I think most teenagers are capable of more complexity that what Stampler gives them. At the end, I didn’t look back favorable on this book. There are many flaws in the storyline that I couldn’t get over, even with the twist at the end.

Read February 2015

The Fault in Our Stars

John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is a tragic love story between two teenagers, Hazel and Augustus, who both have battled cancer. Augustus lost his legs to cancer but is in remission. Hazel undergoes an experimental treatment that keeps her cancer at bay but keeps her perpetually weak and requiring oxygen. Hazel had been terminal prior to the treatment and still lives life separated from her peers. Her mother makes her attend a cancer group for kids where she meets the charismatic Augustus.

This is a teenager’s story written for teenagers, but there’s a lot to like about this book. Most of the main characters are suffering and dealing with issues that I, as an adult, have yet to come across, yet they are still so young and immature and hopeful. There’s a lot in the book is unrealistic but it allows the characters to experience places that they wouldn’t have otherwise. One way the two connect is by reading and loving a fictional story about a kid with cancer, An Imperial Affliction. Not only can they both relate to the story of cancer, but the author left the ending ambiguous. As if the kid just died while writing it and there was no more to know.

I read quite a few reviews that stated that both the characters were unbelievably intelligent and thats what makes their conversations so interesting. But reading this as an adult and having been around kids who have been sheltered from normal childhood things, I don’t think its their intelligence that makes it so well written. I think Green gets that these are kids who had to grow up quick. These are kids that spent an abnormal amount of time hanging around with adults and not enough time with kids. But these are still kids. Hoping to grow up. Hoping that tomorrow will be a little bit better, or at least not a little bit worse. And Green gets us to hope with these young souls that the world won’t be a horrid place filled with hospitals and treatments.

While this is a very sad book, about sad things, the sweetness of the romance and young love fill the book with hope. I would recommend this book, another one with a box of tissues, to everyone. Not just the young adult crowd.

Read January 2015.

A Bridge to the Stars

Henning Mankell’s A Bridge to the Stars is about a young boy discovering the world around him. Joel Gustafson’s mother left him when he was much younger and this defined much of who he was at the age of 11. Joel’s father worked long hours at the lumber mill, but shared romantic stories of his former self as a sailor. Its hard to say if these stories are what provoked his nighttime adventures, or if it really was the dog wandering by at night.

Joel is a lonely kid who carried around his sense of abandonment and fear that his dad will leave him too. In gaining his own adventure stories while traversing his small, cold town in the middle of the night, Joel gains an insight into his neighbors that everyone around him misses. He develops friendships that change who he is at his core.

I read this novel almost 2 months ago now so many of the details of the story have escaped my memory, but the beauty and whimsy of the characters and writing has stayed with me. This book was written for a younger audience but it screams of a great writer. The words and story are beautifully told, which I was not expecting from the author of the Inspector Wallander series. This is such a departure from the crime novels where Mankell’s starkness of character and scene drive the depth of those stories. I feel silly writing this paragraph, but it really was the writing that carried me away.

I loved this novel so much, that I’ll probably end up reading it again. Its a quick, easy read, and the story really carries the reader the whole time.

Read July 2014

The Age of Miracles

Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles tells the story of the earth’s rotation slowing and what happens to as the days grow longer. Julia is 11 year old girl who plays soccer and has sleep overs with her best friend when she learns that the world is slowing. Although no one could predict what this slowing would do, it almost immediately impacts everyone in Julia’s life.

As the world around her tries to adjust to the progressively longer days, Julia is doing her best to grow up. When the governments around the world decide to remain on a 24 hour day clock to keep businesses going, the population separates by those on clock time and those on real time. As the days and nights grow the environment around Julia starts to die off. Birds. Grass. Eucalyptus Trees.

In the middle of these changes, Julia deals with the lose of friendships and first loves while watching the world and the life she knows falling apart. She gets her first bra while having to deal with her parents relationship falling apart. Life still happens even as the world changes.

Walker gives us a narrator that is in “…the age of miracles, the time when kids shot up three inches over the summer, when breasts bloomed from nothing, when voices dipped and dove.” And to this narrator the world is undergoing a negative kind of change.

This was a great story and and quick read. Walker brought me into her dystopia and made me appreciate our current world. I appreciate the sunshine and strawberries a little more today.

Read June 2013