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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Top Teen Titles #25-29

#29 The Secret Journal of Brett Colton by Kay Lynn Mangum. Deseret Book Company, 2005. ISBN: 9781590383995 , 352 pp.

Publisher’s Description: Kathy Colton can’t stand her brother, Brett. Her family talks as if he were perfect! All Kathy really knows about her brother is that he died of leukemia when he was seventeen and she was only two. But when Kathy turns sixteen, she discovers her brother’s hidden journal – a journal written especially for her – and learns about the brother she never knew. At the same time, Kathy is mortified by an assignment to tutor Central High’s quarterback Jason West, a football jock who, even worse, is a Mormon. The Secret Journal of Brett Colton weaves the dual stories of a dying brother and a coming-of-age sister who learn the importance of loving family and friends and nurturing faith.

Quotes from Readers: I just couldn’t stop reading this book. It exposes bigotry.  LDS literature, too.

Online reviews: GoodreadsShelfari.

Diane’s note: Aha! Another title to add to my list of “to-be-reads”. My teens love drama and dying in their books. Cancer and leukemia are on their watchlist, also. I’m curious how the LDS Mormon interest plays out in this title. We don’t have that many diverse religious titles on this list so I was pleased to see some variety. Most of the reviews for this book mentioned the reader crying throughout, but that it was a good cry. How do you indicate that in your cataloging records? This would be a handy tag to have. Have you read The Secret Journal of Brett Colton? Do tell us more. #28 Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden. Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1982. ISBN:  0374303665, 233 pp.

Publisher’s Description: This groundbreaking book, first published in 1982, is the story of two teenage girls whose friendship blossoms into love and who, despite pressures from family and school that threaten their relationship, promise to be true to each other and their feelings. Of the author and the book, the Margaret A. Edwards Award committee said, “Nancy Garden has the distinction of being the first author for young adults to create a lesbian love story with a positive ending. Using a fluid, readable style, Garden opens a window through which readers can find courage to be true to themselves.” The 25th Anniversary Edition features a full-length interview with the author by Kathleen T. Horning, Director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. Ms. Garden answers such revealing questions as how she knew she was gay, why she wrote the book, censorship, and the book’s impact on readers – then and now.

Quotes from Readers: This book could have saved my sister.

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, ShelfariTeensReadToo.

Awards: Margaret A. Edwards Award 2003, ALA Best Books for Young Adults (1982), ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults (1997.03|Lesbian/Gay Tales, 1997), ALA 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000 (48), ALA 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-1999 (44)

Diane’s note: I was in high school in 1982 when this was published but never saw this title in my high school collection. It wasn’t until I was in graduate school that I discovered Annie on My Mind. At that time, I felt voyeauristic reading this love story as I was still struggling with my religious upbringing in regards to homosexuality. Looking back nearly 30 years after the book was written, it seems slow and sweet, but nowhere near as shocking as when I first read it. Despite it’s aging, Annie on My Mind remains a title that has had a huge impact on GLBT teens and deserves a position on my bookshelves. One of my favorite titles that didn’t make this list is Mayra Lazara Dole’s Down to the Bone. It was more explicit, but the sweetness of the story remains in my memory.

A couple years ago I placed my rainbow sticker in the library door window as a symbol of being a Safe Place. Unfortunately, that only works when everyone in the library agrees to the concept and I’m still doing professional development training with my staff on anti-bullying and tolerance. In the meantime, I wonder if any of you have received the Safe Space Kits from GLSEN? Do you have staff members who are there for emotional support? I can identify four teachers immediately who are supportive of GLBT teens, but I can also identify an equal number who would not be supportive due to their religious viewpoint. Have things changed that much since 1982?#27 Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block. Harper Collins, 2004. ISBN: 9780060736255 , 128 pp. (Originally published 1989)

Publisher’s Description: (referring to new cover) Fifteen years ago Francesca Lia Block made a dazzling entrance into the literary scene with what would become one of the most talked-about books of the decade: Weetzie Bat. This poetic roller coaster swoop has a sleek new design to match its new sister and brother books, Goat Girls and Beautiful Boys. Rediscover the magic of Weetzie Bat, Ms. Blocks sophisticated, slinkster-cool love song to L.A.the book that shattered the standard, captivated readers of all generations, and made Francesca Lia Block one of the most heralded authors of the last decade.

Quotes from Readers: Colorful and magical and vibrant and, as a young teen, unlike anything I’d ever read before.

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari.

Awards: ALA Best of the Best Books for Young Adults,  ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, Parents’ Choice Gold Award

Diane’s note: This remains one of the weirdest titles I’ve ever read. Fantasy, Hollywood in somebody’s dream,surreal characters that don’t really deal with their problems. Yet the poetic verse flowed and it was a quick read. I have yet to read the sequels, so ’nuff said. The newer covers are definitely more appealing to me that the original one or even the Nook ad.

#26 The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. Macmillan Children’s Books, 2001. ISBN:  033048205X, 240 pp.

Publisher’s Description: She’s just a New York City girl living with her artist mom… News flash: Dad is prince of Genovia. (So that’s why a limo always meets her at the airport!) Downer: Dad can’t have any more kids. (So no heir to the throne.) Shock of the century: Like it or not, Mia is prime princess material. The worst part: Princess lessons from her dreaded grandmere, the dowager princess of Genovia, who thinks Mia has a thing or two to learn before she steps up to the throne. Well, her father can lecture her until he’s royal-blue in the face about her princessly duty no— way is she moving to Genovia and leaving Manhattan behind. But what’s a girl to do when her name is PRINCESS AMELIA MIGNONETTE GRIMALDI THERMOPOLIS RENALDO?

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, TeenReads.

Awards: BBC’s Big Read (Best loved novel, 2003, No 99), South Carolina Junior Book Award Nominee (2002-2003), ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2001), ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults (2003.04|Lock it, Lick it, Click it: Diaries, Letters and Email, 2003), ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers – Top Ten (2001), TASL Volunteer State Book Children’s Choice Award (2002-2003), ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (2001).

Diane’s note: I have to admit I loved this book. It was simply fun, lighthearted, a quick read, and read like a teen. I even owned it in elementary for my fourth graders because it was so entertaining. Some of the later titles in the series I saved for middle school.  There are many titles out there where the main character discovers he or she is royalty. This title stands out because it is so funny – how many times can I state that? Sometimes you just want something to read where the characters aren’t dying, dealing with drugs, cancer, and their sexuality. Meg Cabot is a wonderful writer who reflects teenage angst with quick phrases and snappy journal entries. Hold out a book by Meg Cabot and I’m going to snatch it out of your hands to enjoy.

#25 Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Harper Collins, 2008. ISBN: 9780061431838 , 432 pp.

Publisher’s Description: On Jellicoe Road, the trees make breezy canopies like a tunnel to Shangri-la. From the outset they bear witness to tragedy. There, twenty-two years ago, on the prettiest road you’ve ever seen, three children lost their families in a car crash. Jellicoe Road is their story and that of the generation that follows. In the present day, Taylor has also been marked by tragedy, abandoned by her mother when she was a girl. This is the story of her seventeenth year— the year she becomes a leader at the Jellicoe School and plots to win the territory wars that the students play with the Townies and the Cadets, the year she falls in love, and the year she learns why she belongs to Jellicoe.

Quotes from Readers:

I could spend all day talking about why I love this book and write more words than Marchetta uses in telling this story to explain why I think it’s so brilliant. What’s most important, though, is that as compelling and wonderful as I found it the first time I read it, it was even more rewarding on subsequent readings, yet it remained just as magical.

A complex and magical read.

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, TeensReadToo.

Awards: ALA Best Book for Young Adults , Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Book , Michael L. Printz Award

Diane’s note: Everyone who recommended Jellicoe Road to me said, “You’ve got to keep reading to page 125 (or 150 etc)” My first thought was “Who is going to struggle through 125 pages hoping the book gets better?” But I did. It wasn’t that it wasn’t good – it was very well written. It was confusing in the beginning, but compelling. Or maybe it was the fact that it had won the Printz award that compelled me to keep reading. No matter what it was, Jellicoe Road is an amazing read by an author who hooks you into her story and then drags you with her down a rollercoaster ride of twists and turns. Jellicoe Road is a book that changes you while you read it. Each character is well-developed and any reader who stays with it will be rewarded.