Six Must-Read Teen Novels

It’s been awhile since I reviewed a book, so I thought I would go all over-achiever on you all and talk about SIX books!

Why six, you ask? Well contrary to how little I have been posting about books, I have been a reading machine. I’ve read something like eleven books so far in 2014 and six of them were books that my seniors are currently reading for their Book Clubs.

All six books knocked me right out with how awesome they are, so I thought I would share in case you need an awesome read, that will be quick, yet keep you hooked throughout the whole book.

teen novels

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On Writing

I’m probably one of the last people on earth to read this book, and nothing I will say here will be new. However I like to get down my thoughts for posterity and if there is a chance that you write and you haven’t read this book yet, well here you go.

Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference (74).

Even with all of my writerly friends telling me I have to read this, it was never high on my To Read list because I don’t believe I will ever write fiction. I just don’t want to.

A few months ago, my friend Leigh Ann told me she had an extra copy and would I like it? It showed up a few weeks ago and due to lack of space on my book shelves, it sat next to my bed.

Since I have been plowing through books this year already (seriously, as I type this it’s January 6 and I am on book #3 of the YEAR already!), I ended up grabbing it since it was handy. I’m so glad I did.

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A Lady in France {Review}

I have a friend named Jennie who wrote a book.  And then she published that book. Then we all clamored to get the book because our friend Jennie wrote it. A few of us jumped a the chance to review it before we even read it.

As soon as my copy showed up and I held it in my hands, my stomach turned over.

I love Jennie. What if I don’t love her book?

Then I told myself that I was being silly. After all, I love to read her writing on her blog, so why wouldn’t I like this?

I’ve read books written by bloggers before and to be honest, I thought it was going to read like a collection of blog posts (like the other ones did).  I was a little nervous. I didn’t think a memoir should read like a blog.

My worry was for nothing. Jennie’s book is a book, not a blog, not a collection of blog posts.

I was captivated from the very first chapter where Jennie describes her time as a study abroad student in France. The detail she uses is rich and lovely and takes you with her to each place she lived: France, Asia, Africa, New York City.  I’ve only ever been to NYC, but I feel like I’ve been to the other places now.  Or at least in my head I have been there.

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Hands Free Mama

I have a bit of a problem with over-extending myself.  Perhaps you have noticed.

I get asked all the time how I do it all, and three times over the holidays I have seen aunts and uncles and other relation who tell me “I follow you on Facebook/your blog and you are BUSY!”

I never know what to say to that.  Thank you?

I used to be proud to rattle off all the things I do: teach high school full-time, take two online class toward my next pay increase, teach a college course, blog, freelance, oh and I’m a mom and wife too.

I realized this month that when the third person (one of the members of our church) commented on how busy I am, I started to feel the blood rush to my cheeks in embarrassment. I know they were only making small-talk. It was a lead-in before telling me what  nice job Eddie did in the Christmas program and before a comment on how cute it was when Charlie pointed and yelled “EDDIE!” during the program. This person was just showing interest in our family and being kind.

But I was embarrassed. Ashamed at how much time I spent on other things besides my family.

The day before Christmas break started, I had planned to give my students an in-class essay assignment so I would have two full weeks to get through grading the 120 of them.  Nature had other plans. We got a wicked ice storm Thursday night, school was cancelled, and Christmas break started early.

I had zero work with me at home to do.

So I started reading a book.

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Bossypants {a book review}

I like Saturday Night Live.

Ok. That is not really an accurate statement.

I really really love SNL and if you play against me in the SNL Trivial Pursuit, I will hand you your booty on a platter. And I won’t be a good sport about it.

Out of all of the glorious female cast members over the past 35 years, Tina Fey is one of my favorites. I think it’s because she started out as a writer. She was only cast to do the news with Jimmy Fallon. She was head writer. She was brought back after she left to play Sarah Palin. She…well, she is weird and awkward and hilarious and I want her confidence.

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Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? {Book Review}

“The stories we surround ourselves with can either move us forward or hold us back. A word in the mind is like a pebble in the shoe: both can bring our journey to a full stop.”

Because I enjoyed her first memoir, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, so much, I was eager to read Rhoda Janzen’s follow up, Does This Church Make Me Look Fat.

While her first book took a quirky and funny look at what it was like to go back to her parents’ Mennonite lifestyle after living a scholarly, very NOT Mennonite life for so long, this book had a more serious tone.

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Ellen Foster {book review}

Oh but I do remember when I was scared. Everything  was so wrong like somebody had knocked something loose and my family was shaking itself to death. Some wild ride broke and the one in charge strolled off at let us spin and shake and fly off the rail. And they both died tired of the wild spinning and wore out and sick. Now you tell me if that is not a fine style to die in. She sick and he drunk with the moving. They finally gave in to the motion and let the wind take them from there to there. ~Ellen Foster

The cover of Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons has a quote from Walker Percy claiming, “Ellen Foster is a southern Holden Caulfield…” That is what hooked me. A female, southern Holden?  Sold.

Other than the fact that they were both on their own throughout the novel, there really were no similarities.

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Mennonite in a Little Black Dress {book review}

It’s my mom’s fault I am such an avid reader.  In the 35 years that I have known my mother, I have never known her to have fewer than five books checked out of the library at a time.  There is a spot near their fireplace that is a bottomless piles of books–the titles change each time I am there, but the pile is constant.

Mysteries are my mom’s brain candy of choice and I would not be surprised if she has read every mystery in our local library.  Twice.  From time to time she will read a non-mystery book that someone recommends to her.  (In fact, she picked up The Great Gatsby after my review of the movie.)  A couple weeks ago she asked me if I had ever read Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen.  It was autobiographical and pretty “cute” my mom said.

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The Memory Keeper’s Daughter {a review}

There is nothing more frustrating to me as a reader than when characters fail to communicate with each other and get angry and make life-changing choices based on that miscommunication.

It’s also what propels me through a book the fastest because I have to know how messed up they are going to make their life by doing instead of talking things over.

This was my love/hate relationship with The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards.

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Cold Sassy Tree {book review}

Cold-Sassy-tree-225x300I think I’ve mentioned I like a story set in America that reveals a bit of history, yes?  Well I was talking to a colleague the other day about other novels we may have hanging around the high school that I could use in my American Lit class.

He pulled Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns out of his cupboard and recommended it.  After polling the lunch room, I may be the only person who has never read this book…or heard of it.

At first I didn’t know.  It was an old, ugly copy that I was given and the title was dumb.  But it was set at the turn of the 20th century in the South, and it was about a family and well, that is the combo I needed to sell me on reading it.

Like I said, the novel begins in 1906 in the small Southern town of Cold Sassy.  The narrator, a young Will Tweedy who is 14 at the start of the story, tells about his family–specifically his grandfather, E. Rucker Blakeslee the owner of Cold Sassy’s general store who marries a Miss Love Simpson just three weeks after his first wife passes.  This causes a ruckus not just in the family (Will’s mom and aunt are appalled that their father would marry before their dear mother’s body is even cold), but the town is in an uproar about how improper it all is.

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