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It’s been a long time since I’ve read some good high school fiction. Artichoke’s Heart was just what I needed. Rosemary Goode is just trying to survive high school. She tries not to get noticed, and comforts herself with food. When one of her mom’s beauty shop clients draws attention to Rosemary’s growing weight, Rosemary knows she needs to make a change, and for the first time in her life, she wants to make a change too.

Artichoke’s Heart has everything–underdog heroine to cheer for, perky cheerleaders to hate, cute “boy next door,” a little drama, a little romance, and a plot that makes you believe that if you had to do high school all over again, just maybe, it could be better.

Through recorded cassette tapes, Hannah reveals to her friend Clay the 13 reasons why she committed suicide.  Suspenseful and heartbreaking; I had a hard time putting it down.  The alternating narration between Clay’s life and Hannah’s voice on the tapes keeps the story moving quickly.

The one feeling I was left with overall though, was that suicide is a glamorous way to go.  In the end, Hannah is able to explain her reasons for killing herself, make her enemies feel bad for hurting her, and bid farewell to her grief-stricken almost boyfriend.  It’s the ultimate, “They’ll miss me when I’m gone” fantasy come true.  If I had a child reading this book, I would definitely want them to explore this topic from other points of view.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

02nd October 2009

A horrible accident forces Mia to make the most difficult choice of her entire life.  The tension in this book begins with the opening sentence, “Everyone thinks it was because of the snow.  And in a way, I suppose that’s true.”  Immediately I was drawn in, waiting, wondering what was going to happen and hooked until the final page.

I would absolutely love to see this book on film.  The alternating between Mia in present day, and the flashbacks that provide the back-story keep the tension high, and would be fantastic on the big screen.

Quinn and Sprout live with their mother, aunt and grandma.  They see their father every other weekend.  Quinn tries to make it all work and makes numerous excuses for her fun-loving yet distant father, until she discovers something about him.  His house is filled with “trophies” that he has stolen from the many women he has married and divorced.  In an impulsive act, Quinn reaches out to her stepsister, Frances Lee, and the 3 sisters together embark on a journey to return the trophies to their rightful owners.  On their journey, the girls discover much about what true love really is and isn’t.

High school girls (and their moms) should read this book.  It’s one of the best books about dating (even though it’s a novel) that I’ve ever read.  Without being preachy or condescending, the characters, both old and young, share what they’ve learned about true love and men who are worth loving.  Some examples:

  • “This is who he is, who he will always be, and no amount of your love is going to change that.” p. 69
  • “When it comes to relationships, second thoughts should be promoted.”  p. 139
  • “Love is never unsafe.” p. 176
  • “A relationship–it shouldn’t be too small or too tight or even a little scratchy.  It shouldn’t be embarrassing or uncomfortable or downright ugly.  It shouldn’t take up space in your closet out of a guilty conscience or convenience or a moment of desire.  Do you hear me?  It should be perfect for you.  it should be lasting.  Wait.  Wait for 100 percent.” p. 312

Gone by Michael Grant

14th August 2009

When everyone over age 15 mysteriously vanishes from the town of Perdido Beach, the remaining kids are left to survive on their own, cut off from any contact with the outside world.  Albert and his friends look for answers, while trying to care for the younger children.  Caine and his gang also try to find answers, while trying to gain control of the town through fear and intimidation.

This was an action-packed novel of survival and teenage independence.  I would have loved it as a teenager, and even now, I really enjoyed it.  The mix of sci-fi and horror made for an exciting read.  It’s not going to be a classic book, but it’s definitely a great summer read and I’ll probably pick up the sequel too.

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