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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Top Teen Titles #45-49

#49Vanishing Act by Jodi Picoult.  Atria Books, March 2005 ISBN:  9780743454544, 432 pp.

Publisher’s Description: Delia Hopkins has led a charmed life. Raised in rural New Hampshire by her beloved, widowed father, she now has a young daughter, a handsome fiance, and her own search-and-rescue bloodhound, which she uses to find missing persons. But as Delia plans her wedding, she is plagued by flashbacks of a life she can’t recall…until a policeman knocks on her door, revealing a secret about herself that changes the world as she knows it — and threatens to jeopardize her future. With Vanishing Acts, Jodi Picoult explores how life — as we know it — might not turn out the way we imagined; how the people we’ve loved and trusted can suddenly change before our very eyes; how the memory we thought had vanished could return as a threat. Once again, Picoult handles an astonishing and timely topic with under-standing, insight, and compassion.

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, TeenReads

Diane’s note: If you have teens in your library, you know how they seize upon the newest Jodi Picoult title. This title was so full of issues that I have found teens and adults either love it or hate it. I do have a favorite quote: “It takes two people to make a lie work: the person who tells it, and the one who believes it.”

#48 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2) by JK Rowling. Scholastic, 2000. ISBN: 9780439064873, 341 pp.

Publisher’s Description from Powell’s: “Ever since Harry Potter had come home for the summer, the Dursleys had been so mean and hideous that all Harry wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature who says that if Harry returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor and a spirit who haunts the girls’ bathroom. But then the real trouble begins — someone is turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects…Harry Potter himself!”

Quotes from Readers:  “I loved Harry Potter so much and discovered my students wanted to read this second title in the series even more avidly than I.”

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari,

Awards: Mythopoeic Fantasy Award (Children’s Literature, 2008, Parenting Book of the Year Award (1998, ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2000, Whitbread Shortlist (Children’s Book, 1998), ALA Notable Children’s Book (2000), Public Libraries’ Chart Toppers (Fiction, 2001 – 2002), School Library Journal – Top 100 Children’s Novels (No 86), Best Books (2000)

Diane’s note: Spiders! Oh, that wasn’t the most important part of this book, but the spider scene still scares me. Special moments from this Rowling title include Dobby the house elf, Moaning Myrtle, Polyjuice Potion, the Whomping Willow, and The Burrow.

#47 Paper Towns by John Green. Dutton, 2008. ISBN:  9780525478188, 305 pp.

Publisher’s Description: Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life–dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge–he follows. After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues–and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees of the girl he thought he knew. Printz medalist John Green returns with the brilliant wit and searing emotional honesty that have inspired a new generation of readers. Enigmatic Margo is dramatically captured in a unique dual-cover treatment.

Quotes from Readers: “I am a Nerdfighter, so naturally I would vote for what I think is Green’s best book. But even if I’d never watched a Vlog Brothers video, I would still recommend this book to any teen I meet. It has literary references for engaging intellectual potential, mingling with the notion of how well anyone can ever know or be known, and general teen wackiness that includes pranks and a road trip. It makes you think, it makes you feel, and it’s hilariously funny.”

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, TeenReads, TeensReadToo.

Awards: Edgar Allan Poe Award (2009: Best Young Adult Mystery Novel), Edgar Award (April 2009: Best Young Adult), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee 2011 (Teen Fiction, Young Adult ficiton, YA fiction, paperback), Voted #1 in YALSA’s  Top Ten Teen Title.

Diane’s note: I’m such a fan of John Green that when I saw him riding up an escalator while I was riding down, I nearly climbed over to chase after him. Paper Towns hooked me with the unpredictable twists, and I found myself laughing out loud. I don’t think I’m the only reader who was irritated with Margo’s unattainableness or who noticed the similarity in characters with those in Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines. Still, there’s something about this title and its bizarre settings.  For me it was a very satisfying mystery.

#46 A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. Delacorte,  2003. ISBN:  9780689875342,  403 pp.

Publisher’s Description: Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother’s death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls’ academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions “for a bit of fun” and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the “others” and rebuild the Order.

Quotes from Readers: “Even readers who think they don’t like fantasy will like this one.”

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, TeenReads.

Awards: ALA Teens’ Top Ten (2004), Iowa High School Book Award (2007), New York Times bestseller (Children’s Chapter, 2003), ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2004), Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award Nominee (2007)

Diane’s note: I loved this first book by Libba Bray. English boarding schools mixed with the paranormal and the exotic Indian setting in the opening. <sigh of glee> This is the first of the Gemma Doyle series and a hit with fantasy fans.

#45 The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #4) by Phillip Pullman. Knopf, 1966. ISBN: 9780679879244,  399 pp.

Publisher’s Description: In a landmark epic of fantasy and storytelling, Philip Pullman invites readers into a world as convincing and thoroughly realized as Narnia, Earthsea, or Redwall. Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called “Gobblers”—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person’s inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, TeenReads.

Awards: Listen Up Award for Young Adults Young Adult Library Services Association, Carnegie medal in literature (1995), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (1997)

Diane’s note: The Golden Compass is one of the first fantasies my oldest son and I read simultaneously (before he discovered Harry Potter).  I was captivated with Lyra and her journey. He liked the terrible polar bears. When I realized there were more novels to come in this series, I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. I don’t think my son went on to finish all three, but I have kept his collection for him to rediscover.

Vanishing Act


  1. susan norwood says:

    Diane, these are all wonderful books; but, it’s unlikely that our reluctant, below grade-level kids would read them. They would consider most of them to be too thick and complicated. I still haven’t read The Book Thief for this reason. I know it’s going to be good, but I need time to really read it, and not just skim it. The kids who like to read will read just about anything you put into their hands. Fantasy, such as Sabriel, appeals to our strong male readers. Emphasis on strong.

    Would you write a blog on what the reluctant readers are likely to read?

    Since I work with you, I know that you have a big shopping bag on the check-out desk that is full of requests. What do the students want?