Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Girl Mans Up

Girl Mans Up  by M-E Girard

Pen doesn't want to be a boy.  And she isn't.  So why does everybody have these weird ideas about her?

Pen likes to dress in baggy jeans and her brother Jimmy's t-shirts.  She doesn't want to be her mom's "princesa."  She doesn't want to get married to some guy and go to nursing school. She wants to hang out with her buddies--guys like Colby, who plays first-person shooter video games almost as well as Pen, and who totally has her back.  

Or...does he?

Readers will see that Colby lacks the loyalty and respect Pen craves long before Pen catches on.  But when Colby tries to sexually assault her, even Pen can see what a ratbag her "friend" really is.  At that point, Pen has to make some changes.  And none of the choices she might make will be easy.

This book features some fabulous allies, including an older brother and (to Pen's surprise) a couple of girls.  

Three cheers for a strong gender-fluid protagonist, a teen romance that does not fly apart at the seams by the end of the book, and a sibling who is friend, brother, and parent to Pen.

Recommended for readers ages 12 and up.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Aftercare Instructions

Aftercare Instructions  by Bonnie Pipkin

17-year-old Genesis Johnson walks out into the waiting room at the Planned Parenthood clinic and discovers that Peter, her boyfriend and one true love, is gone.  Cramping and bleeding after the abortion she has just endured, Gen can't believe he has abandoned her.  But he isn't waiting for her, and he won't answer her calls or texts.  What else could it mean?

Events are revealed in alternating formats:  the present day episodes are a straightforward narration, but flashbacks to the past are written as a stage play starring Gen, Peter, and a few important supporting characters.  The details revealed build a story that will surprise readers almost as much as it surprises Genesis herself.

The chapters are titled with excerpts from the aftercare instructions booklet provided by the abortion clinic, which serves as an anchor point for the story and also offers insight into events as they unfold. 

Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


Tomboy: a graphic memoir  by Liz Prince

Liz was a kid who knew what she liked:  boy stuff.  Boy clothing, boy toys and games, boy sports, boys as friends.  She also knew what she didn't like:  girl stuff.

Her road to adulthood was bumpy and full of uncertainty.  Was she a lesbian?  Transgender?  A complete freakazoidal weirdo that nobody would ever like (except her mom, because that's her mom's, like, job)?  

Would Liz ever conform to gender norms?  And more importantly:  would Liz ever want to comform?

This quick-paced graphic memoir is full of angst, but it's also funny.  Liz may not be much like other people, but she's got a handle on that now.  Her story is worth reading--and sharing.

Recommended for ages 14 to adult. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Once and For All

Once and For All  by Sarah Dessen

Louna is a high school senior set to graduate in a few weeks.  Her summer job is (as always) helping with her mom's wedding planning business.  Her college plans are set, her best friend is in place, and there is no romance for Louna on the horizon--which is just as well.  She has survived being in love with the perfect boy, but recovering from that wasn't easy and she's not eager to do it again.

Then Louna meets Ambrose:  trouble-making brother of the bride, always late, always fidgeting, always irreverent, always flirting with every girl he meets.  Louna wants nothing to do with Ambrose.

Because this is a Sarah Dessen novel, readers totally know where the story is going and where all the characters will end up.  The journey is familiar and relatively predictable, but it's still kinda fun.  Behind-the-scenes details of wedding planning are amusing, the banter between characters is catchy and cute.  There are some poignant details scattered gently into the story, but this is essentially a rom-com that should have starred Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks when they were both 17 years old.

Gold star for the appropriate mention of a condom, but no body parts on the page.  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Illuminae : the Illuminae Files_01

Illuminae  by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Breaking up was hard enough for Kady and Ezra.  Then their planet got bombed by a hostile corporation.

Rescued by separate ships, Kady and Ezra stay in touch, kinda.  But when one of the other rescue ships is destroyed by the rescue ship Ezra is on, there is clearly a problem, and it's possible that only Kady can solve it.

A crazed artificial intelligence that makes HAL 9000 look like a Teletubby.  A virus that is turning some of the survivors (and some of the crew) into zombies.  And that hostile corporation ship still in pursuit.  

What could possibly go wrong?

This isn't the greatest book I've read this year, but it's certainly the don't-put-downablest book I've read in a long time.  The audiobook is produced with a full cast, and perfectly captures the suspense.

No sex (a few vague references to "the time we..." but no details).  LOTS of violence and blood and gore (zombies!).  All the swear words are bleeped, even in the audiobook.  As the introduction to the book says, "...the story kicks off with the deaths of thousands of people, but god forbid there be cussing in it..."

Recommended for ages 12 to adult.  The story may be too intense for young or sensitive readers. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Pearl Thief

The Pearl Thief  by Elizabeth Wein

15 year old Julia Beaufort-Stuart knows that her life is about to change in many ways:  the family estate has been sold to pay debts.  This will be the family's last summer spent at the old castle--and they will be surrounded by workers and strangers busily changing over the traditional home into a boarding school.

Even so, Julie never expected to get banged on the head and left for dead by the side of the river.

Part coming-of-age story, part murder mystery, part historical tale, part exploration of the culture of Scottish Travellers ("gypsies" is an impolite term), this book is a page turner from beginning to end.  It is also, astute readers will note, a prequel to this author's award-winning Code Name Verity, and many of the scenes in Pearl Thief add light to scenes and situations in the other book.  

Highly, highly recommended.  I am perishing to hear the audio version.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Star-Crossed  by Barbara Dee

12-year-old Mattie is thrilled when her 8th grade class mounts a production of "Romeo and Juliet" but things get complicated when the handsome boy in the leading role ducks out of the play...leaving Mattie to play the part of Romeo, opposite the beautiful Gemma as Juliet. 

Gemma, whom Mattie...likes.  Like, a lot.

Mattie has a lot of questions about her crush on Gemma, and nobody around her gives her the answers.  

However, several people--including her best friends, her older sister, a sympathetic teacher, and even Gemma herself--allow Mattie the freedom to explore some answers for herself.  That is what makes this gentle little story so nice.

I learned about this book when the author wrote about a terrible experience booktalking in a school where she was asked to refer to the book only in general terms.  In other words: avoid talking about the book.  Even when asked direct questions about it.

As often happens, censoring a book sometimes inspires people to seek that book out.  

That's how it worked with me, anyhow.

Having read the book, I've got to say:  

It's a great book.  And I plan to talk about it.  A lot.  In schools.  To students.

With positive reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus as well as the sexy librarians here at Sex in the Library, you know that although "Romeo and Juliet" was a tragedy, Star Crossed definitely isn't. 

Highly recommended for middle-grade readers, ages 10 and up.