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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: memoir

My internet connection has been having problems – this is without images and posted later than I would’ve liked.

I’ve decided to write a collective review of the first three Louder than Words books, because each title is around 150-170 pages, and I feel this kind of review will cover them more thoroughly than three short reviews.

I’ve blogged about the series before, but here’s a quick refresher: It’s a collection of memoirs, consisting of blog entries, diary pages, poems, etc, of teens in their own words.

Chelsey by Chelsey Shannon:

When she was fourteen, Chelsey’s father, a cruise ship entertainer, was violently murdered. The teen had already experienced parental loss with the death of her mother, to Leukemia, when she was six. Orphaned, Chelsey channels her emotion and anger creatively with writing. Shouldered with the burden of continuing school in the midst of being uprooted from her home, wanting to remain where it’s safe and familiar, she comes to terms with the loss. Chelsey finds solace in words, and eventually applies to the writing program of a performing arts school.

Emily by Emily Smucker:

Emily’s plagued with dizziness, stomaches, and fevers lately. Eventually, she learns she has West Nile, and it’s incurable. Suddenly, all of her plans for senior year put on hold. Now even the simplest things like traveling and attending classes are a struggle. Despite her diagnosis, Emily tries to continue her life as normal, even as her friends go on with their lives, while she’s left behind. A Mennonite, Emily’s faith both gives her strength and makes her question God’s plan with her diagnosis, until she finds peace with her situation.

Marni by Marni Bates:

Marni’s father is basically a stranger, her parents are divorcing, and school’s anything but easy. Unable to cope with the stress surrounding her, Marni begins plucking her eyebrows. At first it’s just heeding her sister’s beauty advice, until the urge to pick extends to her eyelashes, then hair. Scared to confront her family with the truth, Marni confesses to a classmate her habit and is met with disgust. Finally, after a talk with her mother, Marni finds a name for his disorder: trichotillomania and learns she’s not alone.

Each of the books in the series has an editor’s touch (Smart Girls’s mastermind, Deborah Reber), but the final products still bear the teen’s words. There’s almost a sense of voyeurism here – as if we’re reading an online journal we’ve stumbled upon. Within each account of the girls’ ordeals, I got a real sense of the author’s personalities from their writing – from Emily’s quirky sense of humor with her wryly-named cane, John McCane, to her diatribe against pink jellybeans. In their respective books, Chelsey’s complex search for an appropriate religion, and Marni’s resilience despite an absent father and troubling stress disorder stand out. The stylistic choices among the three authors differ, also reflecting the girls’ personalities well. Chelsey describes her ordeal chronologically, while Marni and Emily favor a more free-writing approach, using flashbacks and random anecdotes.

While I enjoyed all three books, Marni really struck a chord with me with its account of Trichotillomania, as I had a coworker and classmate who was stricken with the disorder. Reading a first hand-account of “trich” let me see what she was going through, as her situation was similar to Marni’s.

There’s been a deluge of biographies for adults on the market, but little for teens. Before Louder Than Words, “real” accounts for teens were the anonoymously-penned Annie’s Diary or Go Ask Alice. Now with the introduction of Marni, Emily, and Chelsey, Louder Than Words offers true stories teens were able to relate to, and definitely fills a niche. In the back of each title, readers will find book club discussion questions providing talking points for teens and parents.

Copies for review provided by the publisher.

Release Date: August 2009
Publisher: HCI Teens
Format: Paperback


I have the above three titles to give away to one winner. Simply leave a comment on this post to enter. Contest begins August 12, 2009 and ends September 9, 2009.


HCI Communications has released a new series that’s the first of its kind – a completely teen-authored memoir line for teens. Each of the teen authors shares their powerful stories, with the volumes consisting of poetry, diary entries, and prose. The tough topics covered include Emily Smucker’s battle with the West Nile virus, Marni Bates’ suffering from trichotillomania, and Chelsey Shannon’s emotional loss of her beloved father.

The team behind the memoirs is taking an unique step with the series, offering an array of online content, including live videochats with the authors and editor. The schedule is below, taken from editor Deborah Reber’s website Check out more content including the trailer, excerpt from the series, etc at There’s even playlists from the authors.

Monday, August 10, 8-9 p.m. ET – Deborah Reber, “How the Louder Than Words Series Came To Be”
How were the teen authors chosen? How were the books put together? How much of what happened is true? What has been the most fun part of the project for you? What’s been the hardest part? Are there more books coming? How can I be a Louder Than Words author?

Tuesday, August 11, 8-9 p.m. ET – Marni Bates, author of “Marni”, Compulsive Behavior and How the Internet Can Help
Marni Bates answers questions about her book, “Marni.” Marni has trichotillomania — a irresistible desire to pull out her own hair. What do you have? Marni discusses how the Internet helped her understand the problem, and also how she feels about having her secrets revealed in a book.

Wednesday, August 12, 8-9 p.m. ET – Emily Smucker, author of “Emily” – Sickness and Faith, Pickles and Cake
Emily Smucker will answer questions about what it’s like getting through senior year with a chronic illness. Emily is a Mennonite but, don’t worry, it’s not contagious. She’ll also talk about blogging and writing books.

Thursday, August 13, 8-9 p.m. ET – Chelsey Shannon, author of “Chelsey”, Assembling a New Life with Pieces from the Past
Chelsey Shannon talks about fashioning a new life for herself after her father was murdered a week before her 14th birthday and she had to move away from home and school. She’ll talk about overcoming grief, and how she discovered a group of women writers who helped her get over.

Friday, August 14, 8-9 p.m. ET – Deborah Reber – How to Break Into Publishing for Teen Writers
Description: On Friday, series editor Deborah Reber will answer questions about how teen writers can break into publishing.

You can find all the videos this week at Kyte: Louder Than Words TV. The live streams are saved so you can replay them later if you miss the live chat.

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and you can learn about it here.

Here are the books I received and checked out this week. I also ordered my final three textbooks (ever) for my classes, but though they won’t be nearly as fun as these.

For Review

Part of the teen memoir series, published by HCI Books this month. Each of the girls has a story to tell. One has West Nile. One was orphaned at thirteen. And another suffered from the stress-related disorder trichotillomania.

Emily by Emily Smucker

Chelsey by Chelsey Shannon

Marni by Marni Bates

From the Library

Crunch Time by Mariah Fredericks

Looked fairly interesting. Appropriate read after I’ve finished two whirlwind semesters in a row.

And finally, I bought these. Because.. how could I not?