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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: teen

In no particular order..

The Summer Before by Ann Martin. Have I not rhapsodized about my love for the BSC enough? Maybe a little more is needed! I am so excited for this new book and am dying for an ARC of it.  This new Publisher’s Weekly article got me a bit more excited.  It could be five pages worth of Claudia’s outfits and I’d buy it. (April, Scholastic)

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney.   Underground student justice league. Said league  inspired by To Kill a Mockingbird. Boarding school scandal. Need I say more? Plus Daisy liked my mockup cover! (Fall 2010, Little Brown)

The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell.  I just love superheroes. Just love them. And to see them in YA fiction makes me really happy.  Judging from the excerpt the author posted on her website, this superhero is snarky, which I always enjoy.  (May, EgmontUSA)

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. I’m a huge fan of Riordan, and have been lucky enough to correspond with him via email once or twice. I started reading the series when it was first released and haven’t looked back.  I love his writing for children (even though adults appreciate it too!), it’s layered with such humor, and depth, with relatable situations.  A new series is bound to be just as good as Percy Jackson.  (March, Disney Hyperion)

The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride.  With a plotline that sounds like a good Law and Order: SVU episode, The Tension of Opposites looks like it feeds into my recently-kindled need for some good thrilling YA. A kidnapped teen turning up after two years missing might sound like it’s “ripped from the headlines” as the blurb on Goodread states, but what headlines can’t tell you is the emotional toll and grip such an event has on those left behind. And that’s what I want to see in this novel. (May, EgmontUSA)

Palace Beautiful by Sarah Deford Williams.  A mysterious journal hidden in an attic. 1918’s flu epidemic, and a parallel to the present-day characters? Sounds like a book I would’ve loved to have existed when I was eleven, and reading Castle in the Attic. (April, Putnam Juvenile)

The Deadly Sister by Eliot Schrefer.  A girl who believes her sister is a murderer? That’s enough of a tagline for me. (May, Scholastic)

A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis.  First, the cover art is adorable. And the title! Second, it’s about a young witch in Jane Austen’s England!  Who wouldn’t want to read? It’s also the first of a series. (April, Atheneum)

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. A new twist on the old tale of changlings, The Replacement looks excellent because it’s from the viewpoint of the replacement.  (September, Razorbill)


The review below might contain slight spoilers.

The Faustian Bargain is a popular worldwide legend about the devil. The bargain is the ultimate an individual might pay: the price of his soul for a devilish favor. Another Faust by Daniel and Dina Nayeri is the tale of five children and how they unwittingly make such a deal.

In locations around the world, five children vanish without a trace. Five years later, they appear at an elite New York party on Christmas Eve, accompanied by their governess, Madame Vileroy. As strikingly beautiful as she is devious, Vileroy has endowed each of the teens with a mysterious gift. The gifts are special, fitting for each child’s personality, and allow for some fun and mischief, such as Valentin’s ability to stop time leads to replay a scene over and over helps a nerdy classmate win over the popular cheerleader. The gifts also enable them to advance beyond their peers. But as it’s a Faustian Bargain, the gifts may have devastating consequences.

Another Faust’s characters and the historical backgrounds of the novel are the features I enjoyed the most from the novel. Each chapter opens in a different historical period, such as the time of the Romanov family or Egyptian pharoahs. If there’s dialogue, the speakers often aren’t named. This only adds to the sinister nature of Vileroy and the bargain. The scenes darkly echo the underlying tone of the chapter they open.

My favorite such scene is below:

“Why do you care about all of this? Why would someone like you bother helping someone like me?”

“Because some things that seem unimportant now can change the course of human history – and I am a student of human history.”

“Well, I’ve only ever been a failure. I sign here?”

“Lots of big accomplishments begin with failures.”

“Like what?”

“There was a man who owned a clothing store that went bankrupt.”

“Let me guess. He learned from his failure and started over as Georgio Armani.”

“No. He left the clothing business. He became president and dropped a bomb on Hiroshima.”

Another Faust by Daniel and Dina Nayeri

The characters varied in personality and villainy, and the use of different viewpoints gives the reader a thorough view of their complexities. As Villeroy has erased their previous memories and implanted new ones (only one child knows the truth), they’d formed an awkward little family, and are siblings. I was so both horrified and intrigued by Victoria, the power-hungry teen who would stop at nothing – and I mean nothing – to win even above her brothers and sisters. Save Victoria, I wanted all of the teens to gain redemption even as they used their gifts to “cheat” over other students: Christian, the skilled athlete. Bice, who only wanted to hide away. Belle, as beautiful as she was odorous. Valentin, the liar with the soul of a poet. As they struggle with the unexpected consequences of their gifts and deceit, you’ll be asking: to what lengths will someone go to win? And what happens when they reach that point?

This book grabbed me instantly. The first chapter , illustrating each of the children’s lives before they were taken was so engrossing as it spanned countries and social classes, it got my attention and didn’t let go until the last page. I read this on vacation, and I spent more time by the pool reading, than actually swimming. The ending was nothing like what I expected and if this title is indication, the second in the Another series will be just as suspenseful.

Another Faust is available this week, and it’s a must-read. Just don’t sell your soul for it.

Check out the book trailer below.

Copy for review provided by the publisher.

Title: Another Faust
Author: Daniel and Dina Nayeri
Date: August 25, 2009
Publisher: Candlewick
Pages: 400
Format: Hardback

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The Story Siren

Related Content

Liyanaland – Interviews with all the characters and the authors, plus a book playlist and more)
The Epic Rat – Interview with Daniel Nayeri

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.

Don Calame is an author, a blogger, and screenwriter. And yet he took time out of his busy schedule to grant me an interview about Swim the Fly, superheroes, comedy, and more. Be sure to read his debut novel, Swim the Fly. You’ll find my review here and you can visit Don at his website,

Every year, Hollywood offers up another account of that one ultimate teen summer experience. What are some of your favorite summer comedies? Did you watch any for inspiration while writing Swim the Fly?

There have been so many great teen comedies over the years. I’m a huge fan of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Say Anything,” as well as “Better Off Dead.” I could go on I guess. “Election” is great, “Superbad” and “American Pie” were both hilarious, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” is a classic. Then there are the slightly more obscure films that I really enjoyed like “Gregory’s Girl” and “Three O’Clock High” and “Last American Virgin.” Wow, a lot of those were from the eighties – I guess I’m showing my age.

I didn’t watch any films for inspiration, though. I read a bit of what was out there already for teen guys but it was difficult to find anything (for me) that really spoke to what it was like at that age. I did, however, love Melvyn Burgess’ “Doing It.” Thought it was very funny but also had a truth and heart to it.

In your interview with Steph Su Reads, you mention Monty Python as a comedic inspiration. A comedy nerd myself, I have to ask: What’s your favorite Python routine? Movie?

That’s a tough one. I can watch many of them over and over and they still make me laugh. I love the “Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge” sketch and “The Cheese Shop,” bit. “Crunchy Frog,” and “The Argument Clinic.” “The Spanish Inquisition” and “The Ministry of Silly Walks.” I don’t know. I can’t choose.

Also, I love all of the Python films. If I HAD to choose I guess I’d say “Life of Brian” but the others have so many funny scenes.

Which of the Swim the Fly characters are you most like?

I probably should say Coop because everyone seems to love him and the confidence he exudes. I do think there’s some of me in all of the characters but if I’m being completely honest I’d have to say that Matt is probably most like me. The situations he gets into, the way he feels about things, his awkwardness, the way he sees the world. A lot of that comes from what I remember it being like at 15.

The dialogue of Swim the Fly really caught me with its authenticity and simpleness, it felt like snatches of conversation I’d overhear at the mall. As a teacher, you appear to have honed a real feel for the teen set. Do you get feedback from any teens during you writing process?

I tried to write conversations that my friends and I might have had. I don’t think that kind of thing changes. The things that occupy your mind at that age. Of course, you have to update the language a bit and so I’d eavesdrop on my sixteen-year-old stepson and his friends quite a bit. The whole “that’s what she said” chapter in the book came from that. I don’t know what I’ll do when he goes off to college. I might have to start going to the malls and stealing bits of conversations.

On your website, I noticed a Spiderman doll, and you mentioned you wrote two screenplays for Marvel. If you had a superhero power, what would it be?

That Spiderman doll was one I’ve had since I was eight years old. It’s not in such great shape. His suit is threadbare, one of his arms hangs loose and his right leg is broken at the knee. If he had to go into battle in the shape he’s in, he’d be toast.

Having superpowers is a tough gig, I think. You’d feel so responsible. Like you had to save the world and you wouldn’t be able to and you’d always feel like you came up short somehow. Still, I don’t know that I’d be able to turn down the ability to fly if it was offered. Or maybe if I could instantly transport myself somewhere and I could avoid all the hassle of airports and the tiny seats in airplanes.

And the question I always ask..

If you could live inside any children’s book, which title would it be and why?

Something peaceful, I think. There’s too much going on in “The Wizard of OZ.” And if you had to live inside the Narnia books you’d always be going to battle. Same with “The Lord of the Rings.”

Maybe I’d choose a nice picture book like “The Night Before Christmas.” Although, you never actually do get to Christmas morning in that story, do you? You’d always be stuck in Christmas Eve. Which would kind of suck.

I do absolutely love “Where the Wild Things Are.” I guess I’ll choose that one. I just saw a trailer for the movie that looks sort of promising. I just hope they don’t screw it up. I think it would be hard to get the tone of that book right. That’s the problem with movies. And the great thing about books. Your imagination has infinitely better special effects and the stories become so much more personal and intimate when you’re the one envisioning it. Even with picture books. You provide the details and the things that go on in between pages.

Daria Snadowsky’s Anatomy of a Boyfriend‘s narrator is seventeen-year old Dominique, whose grasp of the male figure lies between the pages of Grey’s Anatomy, which she reads religiously, aspiring to become a doctor. While attending a local football game at a neighboring high school with her boy-crazy friend, she meets Wes, track star, 6’1, blond hair, blue eyes, the epitome of the quintessential boy next door. Dom falls for Wes. Hard.

In a way she’s never felt before. Soon their flirty IM exchanges escalate to more, and Dom finds herself becoming intimately acquainted with a living specimen of the male variety. Snadowsky writes a believable portrayal of a teen relationship, with both participants eager to explore, yet hesitant for their first time.

And then, as Dom puts it, “came the fall.” As the weather changes, so too changes the relationship between the two as they part for college, and struggle with managing a relationship while so apart – both physically and emotionally.

Anatomy of a Boyfriend is the real deal. Here is the true anatomy, the heartbeat of teen fiction. This is teen love at its center: raw and wounding and surprising. Euphemisms are tossed aside, in favor of the correct terminology of the male body, sex is not a footnote to the story, a single moment shared by the characters. Love is portrayed in a daring way as Dom experiences her first genuine relationship. While smart academically, she’s not so well-versed in in ways of the heart, and her agony over Wes comes through clearly. Snadowsky dedicates the novel to Judy Blume,and while in the beginning she follows in Blume’s path with strong and realistic female characters, she breaks to forge her own path as Dom navigates her new world.

Anatomy of a Boyfriend is available in paperback September 23 from Random House. Copy for review provided by the author.

Mei takes flight with the Sky Village, a series of hot air balloons anchored together. Separated by her parents by the complex war between machine, beast and man, the twelve year old is alone in her new surroundings, as her father goes off to rescue her kidnapped mother. A stranger among the Sky Village citizens, Mei must learn their traditions after a peace treaty between human and bird is severed.

Meanwhile, in the shell of Las Vegas, thirteen year old Rom and his sister, Riley, fight daily for survival amongst the demons and beast that roam the ruins of the city. Rom scours the city for water and bits of technology he can barter, but Riley’s taken by demons – animal-mechanical hybrids, and Rom must travel underground to rescue her. Forced to fight in the demon-battling circuit, Rom discovers an untapped power within himself.

The two soon discover they can communicate through a journal, a book they previously considered a storybook where they read of other children’s and each other’s adventures. Animus, the mysterious being within the book, reveals a startling secret to their genetics: the kaimira gene in their DNA embodies them with beast and mek quailities.

When Animus ask for release, Mei and Riley are forced to confront their new inheritance, and face the remnants of the world: the aftermath of the Trinary wars, in which man, beast, and machine fight for control.

Monk and Nigel Ashland’s The Sky Village oscillates between pulse-raising action, and heartfelt takes on grief and loss. Both primary characters are richly written, and the emotional travails Rom and Mei face come across in sharp paragraphs and gripping situations. The depth of familial love is captured perfectly as Rom helps his sister construct puppets modeled after their parents, and Mei relishes her time with one of her mother’s pets.

Though a teen series, Rom and Mei wrestle with adult situations as both must save those around them by recognizing and controlling their newfound genetics. Throughout The Sky Village profound questions are raised, such as a futility of progress in science, the price of power, and what differentiates man, beast, and machine. The Sky Village is an exciting new entrance into the children’s literature world, and a worthy contender.

The action journeys from the page to the screen with the companion website, where the rest of the novel’s journals and excerpts are revealed.

The Sky Village arrives in hardback July 8 from Candlewick Press.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Percy Jackson is back and better than ever. Cliche beginning, but it fits! Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series is one of my favorites and now the fourth installment of his adventures has arrived: The Battle of the Labyrinth.

(This will contain very minor spoilers)

The series’ hallmark,to me, is the sharp writing and realistic characters. Percy, while his problems aren’t exactly normal, what with deadly enemies and vengeful gods, not to mention quite a few life-threatening situations. Yet Percy is relatable as well, as he’s burdened with typical teenage worries: fear of fitting in, family troubles, etc. The rest of the characters are just are razor-sharp, with faults and fears even as they battle mysterious creatures and experience perilous adventures.

The Battle of the Labyrinth starts with a familiar scene to the series’ readers: Percy entering yet another school. And as you would expect, things are off to a very weird start. Familiar characters remain and new characters appear. Soon things take off with a bang.

Riordan’s captivating action and the dialogue creates a bigger fan out of me with each new installment. The books are incredibly engaging, and aren’t bogged down in endless descriptions, but get right to the heart of the action, yet achieve an equal balance of character and adventure. The language is universal, as are the themes: identity, family, love, loss, making the series’ appeal to a wide audience. Percy and his friends (and foes) come across on the page so well, they become old friends and as the action escalates, you’re right there with them.

As previously mentioned on this blog, I’d prepared a presentation at a children’s literature conference on the use of the hero’s journey in the Percy Jackson series. As the series progresses, Riordan’s development of the convergence of both worlds – mortal and god – is even more refined and clever in The Battle of the Labyrinth with more enemies, and is a rollercoaster ride (we begin with a cliche, we close with a cliche) to the very last page. Amongst demonic cheerleaders, an odd dude ranch, the Sphinx, and of course, the Labyrinth, it’ll be difficult to pull yourself away.

Okay, bring on the next one! No, seriously.

Copy for review provided by the publisher