Review: The Islands of Chaldea, by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones (2014)

This is Diana Wynne Jones’ last book, finished by her sister Ursula after Diana’s death. It was a light, pleasant, fairly generic fantasy: four islands, different from each other and always at war; children with mysterious destinies; magical beasts in the form of pets; a main character who has to … Continue reading

Review: Loser/Queen, by Jodi Lynn Anderson (2010)

Cammy is a “loser” in typical high school novel style: she’s awkward, shy, the butt of jokes, and only has one friend — Gerdi, the perpetual Danish exchange student. When she starts receiving mysterious texts promising to help her get revenge on her popular classmates, she does what the texts … Continue reading

Review: Hope Was Here, Joan Bauer (2000)

The bones of this story are pretty standard YA. Unable to deal with a baby, Hope’s mom Deena dumps her with Deena’s big sister Addie. Addie is a transient diner cook, so Hope grows up working in restaurants up and down the east coast. At the beginning of the book, … Continue reading

Review: Vintage Veronica, by Erica S. Perl

3 out of 5 You know the drill: Veronica is friendless at school, ignored by her mom, quirky and unappreciated, etc. She cultivates a wacky vintage style, with as many ruffled skirts and bowling shoes as she can get her hands on. Her love of the clothes lands her the … Continue reading

Smile, by Raina Telgemeier

This autobio-graphic novel chronicles the toothy trials of Raina’s adolescence, during which she basically had her entire mouth reconstructed. I loved it! She gets middle school girl relationships perfectly, the way a group of friends chooses one to pick on. They don’t even know they’re doing it, necessarily, but enough … Continue reading

The Teashop Girls, by Laura Schaefer

It’s the end of 8th grade, and Annie and her BFFs-4-eva Genna and Zoe appear to be growing apart. They’ve always hung out in Annie’s grandma’s tea shop, the Steeping Leaf, where Annie works after school. Since they were little they’ve called themselves the Teashop Girls. But Genna and Zoe … Continue reading

Climbing the Stairs, by Padma Venkatraman

In 1942 India, Vidya is primarily concerned with convincing her parents not to marry her off until she can go to college. Those hopes die when her father is seriously injured at an independence march and Vidya, her parents, and her brother move to Madras to live with her father’s … Continue reading

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly

Callie Tate lives on a wealthy farm of pecan trees and too many brothers in turn-of-the-century Texas. One day she gathers the courage to ask her intimidating grandfather about the two different kinds of grasshoppers she sees in the fields, and he tells her to figure it out herself. From … Continue reading

Becoming Naomi Leon, by Pam Munoz Ryan

Naomi and her little brother Owen are content living with their great-grandmother in a trailer park — Naomi carves soap into animal shapes, hangs out with the (clearly flaming, even though the text doesn’t say so explicitly) librarian at school, and watches Wheel of Fortune every night with Gram and … Continue reading