Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fall Into Reading 2008

Teen Lit Review is planning on participating in the Fall Into Reading 2008 Challenge - sponsored by Callapidder Days. We each have a book or two to put on the list - BUT - we want to give our readers the opportunity to suggest books for us to read and review this fall. So, leave a comment telling us the name of a book you are interested in getting read and reviewed on Teen Lit Review! We'll post our list when the Challenge officially begins! Also, let us know if you're participating so we can check out your list!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Hannah Fowler

By reviewer Greta Marlow
Title: Hannah Fowler
Author: Janice Holt Giles
Primary Audience/age group: Older teens (15+)
Genre: historical fiction
# Of pages: 219
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Year of Release: 1956
Part of a Series? Yes, Giles wrote a series of books about pioneers
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend: Yes

Description: (from book jacket) “Samuel Moore and his daughter Hannah set out for the border country with a party led by George Rogers Clark but left to follow the Kentucky River to Boone’s Fort. As the story opens, Hannah is nursing her father, injured when an axe slips and cuts his leg. By the time Tice Fowler…stumbles upon them alone in the wilderness, Samuel is dying from blood poisoning. When Samuel dies, Tice takes Hannah to the fort, where women are scarce, and Hannah finds herself besieged by suitors. Only with Tice, as silent and downright as herself, does Hannah feel at ease. Finally, she turns to the bashful Tice and asks him to marry her and take her away from the crowded fort. Together, they stake their claim to land, build a cabin, and start a family. They endure the harsh frontier life, the threat of hungry wolves, a killing blizzard, and Indian raids.”

Review: Although this book was written for adults, I think it is appropriate for older teens who are looking for a realistic portrayal of the lives of our country’s pioneers. Reviews of the book usually focus on Hannah as a “strong pioneer woman,” and she surely is that. But the book is really about Hannah AND Tice, about their love for each other and how they worked together to make a home in the Kentucky wilderness as some of the area’s first settlers. They face challenges from nature, from the law, and from the Indians, who aren’t pleased with these white invaders.

Rating: 3, for violence

Positive: Hannah and Tice, despite an awkward beginning, come to love each other in a way that goes far beyond “romance novel”-style love. I think it’s quite positive for young readers to see how Hannah truly loves Tice, even if he’s not young and handsome, and how he loves her, even if she is plain and bashful. It is a love built on partnership and respect. Another positive aspect is the way the community comes together to help each other when someone has a need, whether it’s convenient to do it or not.

Spiritual Elements: Religion is not specifically mentioned. It is implied – or maybe taken for granted – though, that they have religious faith. Hannah prays while she is an Indian captive, and she wrestles with the dilemma of having to do something immoral in order to escape and get back to her husband and baby daughter.

Violence: There’s quite a bit of violence in the book, ranging from Tice cutting open Hannah’s father’s abscessed leg to Hannah murdering an Indian in order to escape captivity. Although Giles didn’t overdo the gore, she also didn’t gloss over the violence. I don’t think this is violence that will give anyone nightmares. It will, however, help young people understand that our pioneer ancestors lived in a time when violence was a part of their lives in ways we don’t have to worry about today (e.g., crude medical procedures, butchering their food, childbirth with no pain-killing drugs).

Language: The book doesn’t use objectionable language. Some readers may find it difficult to catch on to Giles’ use of dialect.

Sexual Content: Just as with the violence, Giles portrays sexuality as a part of life. The references are generally subtle and always within the context of Hannah and Tice’s marriage. When Hannah has been sold as a wife to one of her Indian captors, she fears she will be dishonored and that the dishonor will come between her and Tice once she escapes.

Other: In our culturally sensitive time, some people may be offended by the portrayal of Indians in the book. I think it’s important to remember Giles is writing about history, and so uses the attitudes people of that time would have had toward the Indians, their enemies. However, Giles didn’t allow her portrayal of the Indians to fall into stereotypes – they are shown as having both good and bad traits and motivations.

Rating: 3

Recommendation: This is an older book and may be difficult to find in a library, but it’s well worth the search. I first read it when I was a teen, and I was deeply influenced by the remarkable character of Hannah. Although it doesn’t have the “sparkle” of some recent books, Hannah Fowler has a substance that will stay with a reader for a long time (in my opinion!).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Guardian In The Wings

By Reviewer Angi
Title: Guardian In The Wings
Author: Michael A. Corneiller
Primary Audience/age group: 12+
Genre: YA Christian Fiction
# Of pages: 172
Publisher: Xlibris Corporation
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? Yes
Rating: 5 (View Scale)
Recommend?: Yes

Description:
David, Michael and Jack have been friends since childhood and as adults their bond has grown even stronger. They are all handicapped and find their faith and support for each other helps them through the obstacles of life.
One of them mysteriously has only three fingers on one hand- the result of which his parents never truly explained. When his mother becomes stricken with cancer, she reveals the truth of an extraordinary gift he has been given. He has the ability to take away the pains of others, to heal them. But the gift carries a cost. Is he willing to pay the price?
The trio is drawn to a woman's humanitarian program to serve mankind, and decide to join. Their decision triggers a chain of events that will eventually restore a fallen hero's self-esteem and faith. But a complication arises when a group of children is placed in deadly jeopardy. Who will make the ultimate sacrifice to save their innocent souls?

Review: I found Guardian In The Wings to be a bit confusing in the way it jumped around. Within a chapter the author may jump around from one situation and set of characters, to another, to another. To be honest though - I’ve never been a fan of that type of writing (or Movies - have you seen Vantage Point - this jumps like that). Perhaps I have a simple mind, or when reading fiction I prefer to keep it simple - I don’t know - maybe if Corneiller had waited until the end of each chapter to change the scene it would have been an easier read. I just felt like it was hard to get emotionally invested in the story when I was only with the characters for a short while before being transferred.
That being said, the story was a good one, that made me laugh, cry, and sit on the edge of my seat to see what happens next.

Rating: 5

Positive: It was nice to read a story about three boys who are close friends and turn to God for support. Usually books like this feature girls or are all about the trouble boys can get into. I was glad to read a book like this, I know my 13 year old son will enjoy it as well.

Spiritual Elements: Guardian In The Wings is completely centered on God and His love and how it can change people.

Violence: None

Language:
None

Sexual Content: None

Other: The people in the story aren’t perfect - they deal with real everyday issues, bullies at school, teenage rebellion, dishonest co-workers, divorce, spousal abuse - but always in a manner that brings it back to God and his love. There was never any detail of a situation that was inappropriate for readers 12 and up. The main characters served God with their whole heart and had an enviable friendship.

Recommendation: Guardian In The Wings was a very clean read that I would recommend for ages 12 and up, boys and girls alike!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Winner

Our newest book winner is lisalmg. Congratulations on winning Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Jewel D. Williams.

Thanks to all who participated. More reviews and book giveaways will be coming soon.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made Book Giveaway



This contest is officially closed.

The teenage years can be such a challenging time, especially if teens do not have access to morally-sound guidance. Jewel D. Williams has addressed many situations teenage girls will face in her easy-to-read study-guide style book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. In it, she speaks of her difficult circumstances and how she was able to overcome them with God's help. The book would be great for individual or group study. Please read the entire review here.

Teen Lit Review is excited to give away a copy of the book. Here's how to enter:

1. Leave a comment and be sure we have a way to contact you, either through a blog or email address.
2. Please spread the word of our giveaway by posting about it on your site. This is not required but appreciated.
3. You must be a US resident.
4. The winner must respond within five days of the winning announcement.

The winner will be drawn Monday, August 18, after noon CST.

Do you want to be the first to hear about our newest book reviews and giveaways? Sign up for our Teen Lit Review newsletter through Feedblitz located on our sidebar.

Thank you to all our readers and supporters!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hoot

By Teen Reviewer Katelyn

Title: Hoot
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Primary Audience/ age group: 10+
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Number of pages: 292
Publisher: Yearling
Year of Release: 2002
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend: Yes

Description: (From back of the book)
Roy Eberhardt is used to the new-kid drill. His family has lived all over, and Florida bullies are pretty much like bullies everywhere. But Roy finds himself oddly indebted to Dana Matherson. If Dana hadn’t been mashing his face against the school bus window, Roy might have never spotted the running boy. And the running boy is the first interesting thing Roy’s seen in Florida.

He was running away from the school bus. He had no books, no backpack, and no shoes. Sensing a mystery, Roy sets himself on the boy’s trail. The chase will introduce him to some other intriguing Floridian creatures: potty-trained alligators, a sinister pancake PR man, some burrowing owls, a fake-fart champion, a renegade eco-avenger, and several poisonous snakes with unnaturally sparkling tails.

Life in Florida is looking up.


Review: This book was a very fun read. It’s basically about some unlikely friends trying to save these little owls. Carl Hiaasen wove this story with fun characters, who fight for the owls (not always nicely, but sometimes through creative vandalism) and the environment that God made us. This is a story that teaches friendship, environmental awareness, and standing up for what you believe in and what is right.

Rating: 3 for disrespectful attitude towards adults, and a violent bully who likes cigarettes, and a few cuss words.

Positive: When Roy finally finds friends he sticks by his them, no matter what the cost. He takes an injured friend to the hospital, and since he only knows his friend by a nickname, gives the hospital his own name instead to make sure that the friend receives the medical care he needs (technically this is lying, see below). He stands up to a bully, (but not for other people, just for himself) and he shows compassion when he sees the running kid, trying to take him shoes so the kid doesn’t step on nails. Roy’s friends don’t have the best family life, but Roy’s is good. His mom is saddened by the fact that the mom of one of Roy’s friends doesn’t want her own kid. Roy says that even though they were his parents, they were still the best friends he had. Roy, though he does take part in the vandalism, tries to find a legal way to save the owls. He is extremely wary of getting into trouble. Roy comments that just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right.

Spiritual Elements: The only spiritual elements that I saw in this book were toward the beginning when Roy’s having problems with bullies. Garret comments that he should start going to a catholic school. Roy tells him that his family is Methodist. Garret replies “Then convert dude…seriously!”

Violence: The bully, Dana Matherson, was rather violent. He picked on smaller kids multiple times and then choked Roy. Roy, not wanting to be choked to death, punches him in the face. Roy is punished for this. He is suspended from the bus and has to write an apology letter (It should be noted however that Roy is glad that he’s suspended from the bus, and his apology letter isn’t the most sincere). Dana later squeezes Roy to the point he can’t breathe in a closet. Beatrice comes to Roy’s rescue, and you’re not really sure that she didn’t beat him up. You do know that she ties him to the flagpole and hangs all his clothes (except his underwear) on the flagpole above him. Dana’s mom gives him a fat lip on a tussle over Roy’s apology letter. A kid’s arm is bitten by a dog and becomes swollen and infected.

Language: The language was pretty minimal in this book. We had 2 d- -ms, and 4 a- -, that usually had smart at the beginning.

Sexual Content: Roy moons Dana. Beatrice stays the night at Roy’s house but not for romantic reasons. Her parents are fighting at home, and she’s not sure of where else to go. Nothing happens that night. He sleeps in the bed, and she sleeps on the floor. There are no kisses in this book.

Other: Mullet Fingers vandalisms some. Though it’s portrayed as funny in the book (things like putting alligators in toilets and spray painting windows so it looks like it’s still night outside), it’s still vandalism and “malicious mischief.” Roy has little to no respect for his vice principal and talks back to her. He lies to make sure another kid gets the medical attention he needs and lies by omission to his parents. The pancake people lie about the owls, too. A few adults lie about their part in the groundbreaking ceremony just to make themselves look better. Roy lies to Dana, telling him that he stole cigarettes and hid them. He tells Dana where to find the “stolen cigarettes”, and Dana is arrested for trespassing. It is said multiple times that Dana smells like cigarette smoke. The owls are referred to as being “about as tall as a beer can”. The vice president of Mother Paula’s Pancake House smokes a cigarette. It’s said that Roy tried to run away from home when he found out that they were moving from Montana to Florida. Mullet Fingers lives on his own, in a junk-yard, and has run away from home and different boarding schools multiple times.

Recommendation: I would highly recommend this book. Its fun to read and easy to connect with. Haven’t we all had that moment where we drive down what used to be a beautiful road and find it’s now got bulldozers parked in the new dirt lot? This is a story about some kids who say enough is enough! And then they take a stand against it. Carl Hiaasen weaves a fun tale with friendship as the main thread.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Just Ella


By Teen Reviewer Katelyn

Title: Just Ella
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Primary Audience/ age group: 11-14
Genre: Fairy Tale
Number of pages: 218
Publisher: Aladdin Fantasy
Year of Release: 2001
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 3 View Scale
Recommend? Yes

Description: (From back of the book)
It's a familiar story: In spite of the obstacles put in her way by her wicked stepmother, Ella goes to the ball, sweeps Prince Charming off his feet, and is chosen to be his bride. Now she's comfortably ensconced in the palace, awaiting marriage to the man of her dreams. It's happily ever after time, right?

Wrong! Life for Ella has become an endless round of lessons and restrictions; even worse, Prince Charming turns out to be more like Prince Boring. Why can't she talk with him the way she can with Jed, her earnest young tutor?

Slowly, Ella comes to realize she doesn't want the life she fought so hard to win. But breaking her engagement proves more difficult -and dangerous- than escaping her stepmother's tyranny.


Review: This was a book that I enjoyed a lot. Ella is rather witty and very smart. She's not afraid of standing up for what she believes in. I think Margaret Peterson Haddix took the story of Cinderella to another level, where it's not always so clear whether or not Cinderella is going to end-up married. And if she does, will she still get her happily ever after?

Rating: 3 For violence and mention of rape, though none occurs.

Positive: Just Ella is a story of finding what you really want in life, and then striving for that goal, no matter what stands in your way. I think girls really need to remember what they want, not what the world wants, and work towards that (as long as it matches what God wants too!) In it she discovers that love is very different from an infatuation, and you need to really know someone before you marry them. This book also reminds everyone that the world can have some really crazy ideas, and that beauty is only skin deep. Ella cares for the "commoners" when no one else does, and suggests that leftover food be sent to those who are starving, though you never really know if it happens. Jed sets up a camp for those who have lost their homes due to war. Ella becomes annoyed when she is lied to for her own "protection" and always encourages people to tell her the truth about what happens. This book is very supportive of thinking for yourself.

Spiritual Elements: As part of Ella's lessons, she does receive lessons on the religion that is practiced in the kingdom. It's not really clear about the religion that is practiced there, though it does mention The Book of Faith. Ella herself isn't a true believer, though she did have a neighbor she was close to that was, and speaks highly of. She comments on a time when her neighbor's husband was injured and couldn't work. They ran out of food and refused to beg, so her neighbor prayed, and later found food on her front porch. Her neighbor never knew who sent the food, but Ella knew her father did. Jed says that maybe her neighbor should have just prayed to Ella's father. Ella responded that Mrs. Branson (the neighbor) had a sense of peace and hope, that her father (a non-believer) respected, and that it wouldn't have done any good since her father hated beggars. She comments to Jed that her religion lessons were so dull that she thought they were her royal genealogy lessons. Jed also says that though he's the son of a priest, (not just any priest either, the priest to the king) he wasn't really raised to be religious. He says 'State religion- you'll soon learn this- it's got nothing to do with God. It's all show. Smoke and mirrors. If any of these people really believed what they mumbled about, they'd go do something, instead of just talking' (pg. 47).

Violence: There's a tournament, but you don't read anything about what really is happening outside the tent. When an argument gets out of hand, Ella and Charming resort to violence. They wrestle. Charming later kills Quog, and it is said there is blood on his hands. Ella hears the screams of men at war.

Sexual content: A couple of kisses, and Quog points at Ella and says "I want". You later discover that he was on death row for rape.

Language: God's name is used in vain once, and the toilet spot in the dungeon is referred to as the "crap hole".

Other: Ella does not have respect for her elders, but her elders aren't making very good choices. Madame Bisset is rather evil, (SPOILER WARNING!) putting Ella in the dungeon when she refuses to marry Prince Charming. The fashion for a while is to go extremely thin, but Ella (who ironically started the fashion indirectly) condones this. Later, the fashion goes to extremely fat, showing how wacky the world can get.

Recommendation: I think the biggest concerns would be the part where Charming kills Quog, that part may be too much for some. I would recommend ages 12+, not because of violence, but because I don't think younger children would enjoy the book as much, and would probably not understand the few political aspects at play here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Outriders

By Reviewer Angi
Title: Outriders (The Birthright Project, Book 1)
Author: Kathryn Mackel
Primary Audience/age group: 12+
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction, YA Christian Fiction
# Of pages: 320
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Year of Release: 2007
Part of a Series? Yes, 1st in the Birthright Project Series
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend?: Yes!

Description: From the back of the book: Delivered through the polar ice by a whale, their journey is nothing short of miraculous, their mission, nothing short of impossible. Their quest is to reclaim God’s birthright and preserve the original creation that is being mutated out of existence.
This daring team roams the blighted earth. They are Outriders, young warriors who wield swords and wits to protect the birthrighter camps. When rookie birthrighters arrive from the Ark, however, the battle turns into something no one expected. Not only must they battle the merciless warlord Alrod and his horde of gigantic mutants, but a new and more powerful enemy has revealed itself, a darkness that threatens to destroy the world they’ve been charged to save.


Review: Outriders (The Birthright Project, Book 1) is set in the future after the Earth has been basically destroyed by war. Surviving Christians were led by God to build an underground Ark from which they eventually send their “called” believers (aka missionaries) on missions - they protect those that need protecting, send specimens back to the ark, and spread the word about the grace of God. I really enjoyed the characters in this book - they were well developed and relatable. They weren’t perfect, yet God used them to spread His message and protect His people. I know that after my 13 yr. old son reads it he will anxiously urge me to get him the rest in the series.

Rating: 4 for mild violence and intense scenes

Positive: The relationship between the Outriders was very realistic and each character was written in such a manner to illustrate to readers that while we are all different and imperfect - God uses us as we are to change us into who He wants us to be.

Spiritual Elements: The whole book is a fight of good against evil, darkness against light, right against wrong. All the while acknowledging the One True God and His Spirit that dwells within believers.

Violence: There are many battles and intense scenes. Nothing gory or graphic - just intense.

Language: None

Sexual Content: The evil warlord Alrod keeps his eyes open for pretty virgin girls that can birth a child for him because his wife is unable to have children. No details on attempts to impregnate girls are given.

Other: There are a couple instances where ale is referred to being consumed, one time someone is referred to as being drunk on ale.
There are many statements on social issues that you may or may not take issue with ex: at one point the Outriders “wondered if there had been some point during or after the Endless Wars when mankind could have stopped this pillage, this rape of the environment and one another for selfish gain.”
Alrod gathers people from surrounding villages and “morphs” them into odd/disfigured creatures.

Recommendation: It took me a while to get into this book, but about 1/3 of the way in, I was hooked. The beginning is somewhat confusing as you try to figure out what environment they are living in and the details of their existence. However, once through that you are taken on an adventure that will have you cheering out-loud for the Outriders.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

It's Not About Me

By Reviewer Angi
Title: It's Not About Me (A Second Glances Novel, #1)
Author: Michelle Sutton
Primary Audience/age group: 16+
Genre: YA Christian Fiction
# Of pages: 352
Publisher: Sheaf House
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? Yes, 1st in the Second Chances Series
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend?: Yes, 16 and up!
Description: From back of the book: Annie has it all. She’s attractive, graduated with honors, was accepted at the college of her choice, has supportive parents, good friends, and a steady boyfriend who loves her. The focus of her life is to please everyone and not make any waves. Her reputation means everything to her.
But one night Annie’s safe world is shattered. As she fights to put the pieces of her broken life back together, against her will she is caught in a war between two brothers, both of whom claim to have her best interests at heart.
Who will Annie choose? And will she finally come to know the One whose love will never fail, even in her darkest hour? Will she learn the truth about life - that it’s not about “me”?
Review:
Watch out Judy Blume! The whole time I was reading this book I kept thinking it reminded me of the Judy Blume books I read as a teenager (Forever, Deenie) - but much better - because Sutton includes characters who rely on Christ to guide them through the tough teenage years. The issues are tough ones that all teens face - Christian or not; sex, alcohol, choosing friends wisely, bad things happening to good people, betrayal, anger, and authority. However, in a non-preachy, very real way, one of the characters pushes another to examine their relationship with Christ. Is it real? Has it changed you? Why do you go to church? This is the type of book teen girls should be reading rather than the trashy Gossip Girls or Clique series. To remind teens to take their difficulties and their relationships to Christ, to pray for help in making their choices is great life-changing fiction
Rating: 3, includes mild talk/intent of sexual situations and a couple instances of intense violence

Positive: Annie is a very likable girl who I believe most teens will identify with in one way or another. Her relationship with her parents is one of respect. Many of the characters in the book express their desire to save sex until marriage.
Spiritual Elements: It was refreshing to read a teen book that explored real teen issues within the context of being a Christian. A challenge to examine your relationship with Christ is clearly presented.
Violence: There were several instances of violence, one was an attack on a teen girl by a stranger. A knife is used and blood is spilled. Later in the story there is a fist fight between the brothers.
Language: I don’t recall any bad language being used. Yea!!!! See, you can write “edgy” fiction without using curse words - it just takes skill and creativity!
Sexual Content: There is a lot of pressure by one boy for a girl to have sex. He puts his hands in some inappropriate areas, though it is mentioned, no detail is given. It is revealed that one of the minor characters had multiple partners and was raped one night after having passed out from drinking.
Other: There are some characters who drink alcohol. Alcohol use is not glamorized in any way and consequences are clearly seen. One character tells her friends that her dad beats her.
Recommendation: I highly recommend “It’s NOT About Me” to teen girls ages 16 and up. The content is too intense and sexual for teens younger than that. Though the topics are tough - sex, alcohol, obedience to parents - they are real issues that teens deal with. To have a book that shows teens that Jesus loves them, and forgives them despite their mistakes, is refreshing and exciting. I wish I had access to books such as these when I was a teenager, it may have pointed down a better path than the one I took. Michelle Sutton’s style is easy to read and pulls you in - I couldn't put it down until the last page was turned.