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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: young adult

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.


Ted Bell’s Nick of Time is part of the Alex Hawke series, Bell’s line of spy adventure novels. Nick of Time is the first young adult addition to the series, and serves well as a stand alone title. I found it enjoyable without being familiar to the earlier books.

Nick of Time is an enthralling read from beginning to end. The lead character, Nicholas McIver, is alive in the 1930s, but the character is so well-written, he could fit seamlessly in any time period (and soon does). Nick is plucky, adventurous, and is rich with boyish charm and a fervent desire for heroics of that of hero, Admiral Nelson.

His sister, Kate, is just as charming and precocious. She’s admiring of her brother, and the moments between the two characters were some of my favorites. The two live with their family in a lighthouse in the smallest of the Channel Islands, on Greybeard Island. Nick spends his days sailing the waters around the island, and develops a keen sense of every rock and reef surrounding them. One day, out on such an excursion, Nick discovers a mysterious chest, sent from 1805 by his ancestor, the Royal Navy’s Captain Nicholas McIver. Inside Nick finds a time machine, along with a letter, and learns the Captain and his entire fleet, Nelson’s men, are under attack by the treacherous Billy Blood. And he’ll stop at nothing to get the time machine, a double to the one he possesses. Meanwhile, the Nazis have their submarines in English waters and are closing in.

Kate and Nick enlist the help of the Lord Alexander Hawke, and his right-hand man, Commander Hobbes. Hobbes and Kate stay behind in 1939 to warn Churchhill of the impending Nazi invasion, while Hawke and Nick travel back to 1805 to help defeat Billy Blood, who travels throughout time, kidnapping children and livestock, and holding them for ransom. It is then that Nick discovers how he truly is a hero.

Nick of Time is action-packed from start to finish. It’s well-paced, with a mixture of fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction. Although my grasp of history isn’t that impressive, the details within the novel kept me riveted, from the descriptions of Nick’s encounters with his ancestor to the battle scenes, which moved quickly and weren’t bogged down in gratuitous detail. The emotional content of the novel also kept me hooked, especially in a poginant scene between Nelson and Nick. Nick of Time is a young adult book, but will capture the attention of any reader with its richly drawn characters, exciting action, and tender emotion for parents, for one’s country, and for family.

Nick of Time is available in hardback now from St. Martins. Copy for review provided by the publisher.

Today I help end author Chris Rettstatt’s blog tour for The Sky Village, first book of the Kaimira Code series.

I interviewed him about his writing process, future Kaimira code books, and the influence of his favorite science fiction on the series.

In The Sky Village, another character, Lizard Girl, is mentioned as one of the mysterious book’s stories. Rom and Mei previously thought the stories they read were simply childhood fiction, but realize they are real accounts of each other’s lives. How many other Kaimira children will there be?

The third book in the series will reveal the identity of the third Guardian. But there are references in The Sky Village that there might be more Guardians. Exactly how many and who they are is still a mystery.

As the Kaimira Code is a five book series with differing characters, plots, and locations, I imagine a great deal of research has to go within each. What are the challenges of writing about such diversity, rather than one set of characters in a few locations?

A big part of the challenge is exactly what you’ve said, doing the research to get each location right. And though this is fantasy, I wanted to represent cultures in a way that would feel authentic, not only to American readers but also to people who grew up in those cultures.

But this is also where a lot of the fun is. I love going to a new place and losing myself in the culture. And when I’m writing, I love trying to find just the right details to give a similar experience of that culture to the reader.

On your blog, you mention you’re a parent of twin girls. When they’re older, what characteristics from your characters would like to your children to have?

During the wedding ritual in The Sky Village, Ai-ling’s parents tell her that they’ve tried to raise her to be “happy, healthy, strong, and wise.” This was inspired very directly by what I want for my own daughters.

I’d also like for my twins to learn early that even the most intense emotions are manageable, which is something Rom and Mei have to learn.

Finally, I want very much for my twins to be independent and adventurous. This is the hard one, because my instinct is to come running every time they encounter an obstacle. But when I see how proud they are, even at this age, to have worked something out on their own, I know I have to try to let them figure out their world in their own way.

Despite being the first book, The Sky Village already bears a rich mythology of its own, with its history of demonsmithing, the brief story of the Trinary Wars, etc. There’s excerpts in the novel from diaries and histories – would you ever consider expanding these plots into their own series, such as a book of Sky Village tales, etc?

That’s a dangerous suggestion. I love coming up with stories that fit the various nooks and crannies of the Kaimira storyverse, so much so that I tend to go overboard. But I can say that if readers want more Sky Village stories, It will be my pleasure (literally) to write those stories. And I’m hoping readers will write some of those stories, too.

You appear to be quite the science fiction buff, as evidenced by the technological aspects of the Kaimira Code, as well as your blog writings mentioning the genre. Are there any elements from science fiction or fantasy that inspired the series?

My favorite books as a child were fantasy and science fiction, and it’s still a favorite genre of mine. There are tons of influences that found their way into Kaimira, and probably a lot more that that I’m not even aware of.

A common theme since the beginning of Science Fiction was fear of science. We’ve seen so many stories that pit humanity against science and technology, and they never get old, because just as we’ve started to relax about a certain science, a new one comes along to scare the bejesus out of us.

And stories about humans against the untamed wild go back to the days of cave paintings. And these stories keep coming back, because the more we conquer nature, the deeper our fear that nature’s going to fight back.

Kaimira weaves both themes together, with science on one side, nature on the other, and humans stuck in the middle just trying to survive.

If it was possible, what animal-machine hybrid would you want as a pet?

The answer to that question changes daily. Some days I’d say Feifei, because I love the idea of a beautiful little pet you can keep in a pouch around your neck. Other days I’d say Spot, particularly if I were going to battle. But today my answer is going to be Robertson’s demon Shakes (whose name is short for Shakespeare).

I always ask authors…If you could live inside any children’s book, what title would it be and why?

Where the Wild Things Are. I’d love for every day to feature a Wild Rumpus and then be back home by dinner.

Thanks to Chris for letting me participate in his blog tour. Be sure to read my review.

Watch the book trailer below!

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

Zoe Marriot’s debut, The Swan Kingdom, is a fantasy based on the Han Christian Anderson tale The Wild Swans. The cover art (pictured left) reflects the beauty and power within in the novel.

Princess Alexandra, of Farland, lives in a “beautiful and lush Kingdom,” that’s kept alive by the enaid, “the life of the world.” She’s taught in the ways of healing magic and “workings” by her mother. Alexandra grows up loved by her mother and doted on by her brothers, which help offset the distance she feels from her father. After her mother’s death, a mysterious woman banishes Alexandra and her brothers. Alexandra, armed with perseverance and fierce love might vanquish the woman and restore order to her kingdom.

Alexandra is an excellent character, as her mannerisms and inner self are realistic – like any young girl in her mother’s shadow, she has doubts in her abilities, and looks upon herself as the least favored in her father’s eyes. Marriot’s prose is electric and brings Alexandra alive, with stirring passages as Alexandra must confront not only the outsider who has banished her and her brothers from their kingdom, but also her doubts.

Marriot writes very sparingly, without overly flowerly descriptions of the kingdom and the magic within, and the effort leaves a powerful novel rooted in a familiar tale, yet with a magic all its own.

The Swan Kingdom is available now from Candlewick Press.

Copy for review provided by the publisher.

I began Skulduggery Pleasant one night, after my power had gone out during a particularly rough storm, which was a fitting enviroment for the novel, I felt. I read it aloud to my mother, and together we entered the world of Stephanie Edgley and didn’t look back.

Stephanie Edgley is your average twelve-year old girl who attends school, listens to music, and feels like she doesn’t quite belong in her quiet and normal life. Oh, and her best friend is a talking fire-conjuring skeleton named Skulduggery Pleasant.

Derek Landy’s debut novel Skulduggery Pleasant begins with a frenetic pace and doesn’t let up for the length of the book. A worthy contender with the likes of Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket’s works, it’s the tale of a hidden family secret, a stolen sceptre, powerful magic, and darkness unseen. The dialogue is fast and witty, and written very tongue in cheek. Landy’s style reminds me of a Christopher Moore for the younger set.

After the death of an author uncle, known for his tales of magic and darkness, Stephanie enters into his secret life led (reluctantly) by Skulduggery Pleasant. Landy’s character of Stephanie Edgely is a welcome addition to the children’s literature world. She’s headstrong yet determined, and the dialogue is completely accurate for a girl of her age. She’s a real child, still navigating the careful world between childhood fantasy and adult realizations.

Also notable is Skulduggery Pleasant. More than just a skeleton, he’s a complex character with a rich and carefully-crafted history. But Skulduggery is only one great part of the novel. The rest of the world is just as enchanting, with a tailor who crafts clothes unique to the wearer and nearly invincible, vampires, and tricky trolls, not to mention a peculiar Canary Car.

The novel captivates the reader from start to finish and is the promising start to a seven book series. The book is available in hardcover now from HarperCollins.

An excerpt is available on the book’s official site. Viewers can also read character profiles and an interview with the author, watch a video starring Skulduggery, listen to scary MP3s, and enhance their desktop with creepy wallpapers inspired by the novel.

Review copy provided by the publisher

According to the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation, over 35 million Americans will suffer with an anxiety disorder or depressive illness each year. Also, “OCD strikes about 1 in 40 adults and about 1 in 100 school-aged children.” Despite these statistics, only a few novels dare to approach the issue.

Crissa-Jean Chappell’s debut novel, Total Consant Order, tackles this issue deftly, in the story of Fin, who develops depression and OCD after the demise of her parent’s marriage. What enhances the novel is the author’s personal connection to the issue. She herself experienced depression and was treated with Paxil. Chappell takes a slow and steady route with the novel, and builds the anxious inner world of Fin carefully. We’re introduced to Thayer, an outsider, the only kindred spirit in Fin’s world, and who might be the only one who can truly understand her.

Chappell doesn’t go to extremes, aiming for maximum drama, and treating her novel as if it were a Lifetime movie. The prose is crisp and clean, with each word working to envoke a feeling from a reader. The novel balances Fin’s search for stability with her counting obsession with the search for relationship with her mother, and reconciling with the idea of her parents divorce. Fin’s reaction to Paxil comes as a crushing blow to her emotional and physical health, and the author writes realistically, channelling her own experience, and giving voice to a disorder that affects so many.

Total Constant Order is available in October 2007 from Harper Collins-Teen.

Be sure to visit Crissa-Jean Chappell‘s website and her Myspace!