Amy Says Read This

Seriously, you should totally read this.


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Teenage Waistland by Lynn Biederman & Lisa Pazer

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Biederman, L., & Pazer, L. (2010). Teenage waistland. New York: Delacorte Press. ISBN: 9780385739214

Annotation: When four teenagers apply to be part of a clinical trial for the lap-band weight loss surgery, they are thrust together and help each other come to terms with the deeper reasons behind their obesity.

Reaction: This book was super engrossing from the first chapter; my husband had to actually pry it from my fingers so I’d go do some homework. This is not normally the type of book I check out from the library, as I read primarily fantasy, but as a person who deals with weight issues, I am always interested in “fat stories.” These teens are considered morbidly obese, according to their BMI, and they are all looking for a way to lose the weight and experience what they think regular teenage life is supposed to like.

To the characters in this book, their surgery initially seems like an easy way to change their lives, but, thanks to mandatory group therapy sessions, they begin to realize their weight issues run much deeper than fat. After tragedy strikes a couple members of the group, they all begin to look more deeply about why they gained all the weight in the first place.

I will admit, that towards the end of the book, the story gets a little sappy and touchy feely as the teens all deal with the psychological issues behind their weight gain, but I sat down and finished it in probably less than twelve hours. The story is told from three different third person limited view points, and each of the characters is compelling, but I was particularly interested in the drama of East’s life, which kept me reading to find out what happens to her and Char.

Author’s Website: None


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Lovetorn by Kavita Daswani

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Image from Goodreads.com

Daswani, K. (2012). Lovetorn. New York: HarperTeen. ISBN: 9780061673115

Annotation: When Shalini’s father’s new job moves the family to Los Angeles from India, she has to learn how to survive in American high school, and eventually she begins to question the marriage that was arranged for her when she was three.

Reaction: I feel like I don’t often see Young Adult novels with an Indian (the country, jsyk) protagonist, though that could be a symptom of me simply not noticing these books. I am always fascinated by stories featuring Indian culture, since it is so different from what we experience in the US.

This is a story about a sixteen year old girl who has been engaged to her best friend since she was three years old. She loves her fiance, but the distance and culture shock of coming to the US cause Shalini to doubt her relationship. When she first starts at her new school, Shalini clings to the familiarity of her Indian heritage, but as the year progresses, she comes to embraces both the cultures in which she lives. Complicating her transition to American life is her mother’s deep depression and rejection of anything American.

This is a great book for anyone who is interested in Indian culture and wants a glimpse into what it might be like for a teen from India. The romance is strong in this book, so I’m not sure how much boys will enjoy it, but I think it would be a great introduction to another culture for those teens interested in realistic YA fiction with a romantic twist.

Author’s Website


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I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Klassen, J. (2011). I want my hat back. Somerville, Ma: Candlewick Press. ISBN: 9780763655983

Annotation: A bear is on a quest to find his beloved missing hat.

Reaction: I LOVE this book. I saw it read during a preschool storytime I was observing, and it is so funny. The story is simple enough, the art is delightful, and the humor is subtle. When I read it at my own storytime this past week, the kids “helped” Bear on his search for his hat, and though they may not have gotten the joke about what happens to the hat thief at the end of the story, they did enjoy the book. When I first saw it read and when my husband read it, we laughed out loud at the illustrations and the simple story. Klassen is a delightful storyteller, and his seemingly simply illustrations convey a lot.

Klassen also just published a companion story called This Is Not My Hat about a fishy hat thief, which just won the Caldecott Medal for illustration. That one is also great, but my preschoolers DEFINITELY didn’t get the joke.

This is on my Top Ten Favorites (and my Amazon wishlist).

New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books (2011)
Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor (2012)
Selezionato Mostra Internazionale d’illustrazione per l’infanzia di Sarmede (2011)

Media Used: Illustrations created digitally and in Chinese ink

Author’s Website


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The Last Princess by Galaxy Craze

Image found at Goodreads.com

Image found at Goodreads.com

Craze, G. (2012). The last princess. New York: Poppy. ISBN: 9780316185486

Annotation: After simultaneous natural disasters have destroyed modern society and left England isolated, the princess Eliza has to find a way to save her family from a crazed dictator who is determined to eliminate the British monarchy.

Reaction: Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The plot is fast paced and easy to read, and I kind of enjoyed that Eliza is a descendant of the current queen of England some unknown generations removed. Eliza is a strong heroine who does what it takes to survive not just the devastation of the land itself, but also the crazed dictator who wants to kill her entire family and crown himself as king.

I really like the premise of the book and the way Craze humanizes the British monarchy; despite Eliza being a fictional princess, writing her as a descendant of the current queen sort of makes me rethink how I view the royals as distant, practically mythological figures. The world building in this book is also good. Craze transforms the UK into a terrifying landscape that it almost familiar, which is a little heartbreaking, to be honest.

Unfortunately, the prologue of the book set my expectations a little low. In the first three pages, the queen, Eliza’s mother, dies of poisoning after receiving a gift basket from an unknown sender and eating the practically extinct fruit. OF COURSE the mystery fruit is poisoned! Are you new to being royalty? I’m not the queen, and even I know that you don’t eat fruit when you don’t know where it comes from! After that, I was prepared for all sorts of ridiculous and terrible plot points. Thankfully, the book pretty much only goes up from there. But while the story is engaging (and not terrible!), it’s also not super surprising. To anyone paying attention to any book ever written, the reveal of Wesley’s, Eliza’s savior and protector, true identity comes as no shock. It’s not badly done, it’s just not the huge surprise it’s supposed to be in the story.

Cornelius Hollister is a villain whose actions are horrific, but the character himself nor his motivations are super well defined. The best explanation we get in this book is when he tells Eliza that he does what he does because her family feasted while the people starved, though he is not trying to set himself up as a benevolent equalizer of the people. His regime puts one more in the mind of Hitler, causing the common folk to rally around Eliza and fight to reestablish her the Windsor line as monarchy.

My criticisms aside, I did genuinely like this book, and I might even read the sequel when it comes out. I read this book in about two days, probably totaling less than twelve hours reading time, so anyone looking for fast, intriguing post-apocalyptic YA novels should definitely pick this one up.

Author’s Website: None


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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Miller, M. (2012). The Song of Achilles. New York: Harper Audio. ISBN: 9780062126122 (US paperback edition)

Annotation: After being exiled by his father, Patroclus grows up with the half divine Achilles. Eventually, their friendship blossoms into love, and they become central figures in the Trojan War and the epic Illiad.

Reaction: My Bachelor’s Degree is in Religious Studies and Classics (as in, Classical Civilizations). I love stories about those ancient civilizations or their art or literature. I like the familiarity of these stories, and I love the heartbreaking bittersweet tragedy that so many of them have. I LOVE the Iliad; it was one of my favorite things that I read in college, and a huge part of my love was due to the larger than life figure of Achilles. I loved reading the story of his rage and pride and heartbreak. I loved that a figure such as Achilles could be so undone by the death of his “beloved companion.” I even loved the movie Troy, unashamedly and unironicaly.

In school, my instructor waved off the homoeroticiscm as a part of the culture that cannot even really be compared to our cultural norms. So it never even occurred to me to think of Patroclus and Achilles as a love story, but I am so glad Madeline Miller did. She has told a really beautiful, heartbreaking love story involving two men, one of whom was Aristos Achion: Best of the Greeks. And one of the things that I love most about the romance is how it’s Not A Big Deal, for the most part. There’s a few mentions about how men did not have male lovers, though they it was a common practice for boys, and how the pair tried to keep their relationship on the downlow when camped at Troy (though they shared a tent and spent all their time together; I feel confident that ALL THE GREEKS KNEW), and obviously Achilles’s goddess mother hated Patroclus for being inferior to her golden son, but mostly? They are two people in love with each other and NO ONE CARES. It’s great.

She has lovingly retold the myths and stories surrounding Achilles and Patroclus, and the amount of effort and research and dedication she demonstrates in her telling awes me. It’s been awhile since I’ve read the Iliad or any other literature about Achilles, but from what I remember, Miller’s version is very faithful to the original.

This story is told from the first person perspective of Patroclus, and I spent the entire book wondering how she would handle the telling of the aftermath of his death, of Achilles’s grief and rage. I was sort of expecting that she would handle it the way that she did, and I did not mind it. Seeing those events unfold through Patroclus’s eyes was all the more poignant and heartbreaking. (I also spent the entire book hearing Brad Pitt scream, “HEEEEEEECTOOOOOOOOOR!” over and over and feeling my little heart break a little.)

I would give this book to anyone who loves mythology, epic battles or starcrossed (and gay!) lovers. This book is ABSOLUTELY, 100% in my Top Ten Favorites. I know it’s early in the year still, but I think this is going to be one of my favorite books read in 2013. So beautiful and wonderful and epic and heroic and lovely and everyone should read it!

(Note: I listened to the audiobook, narrated by a man with a delightful, soothing voice that perfectly suited the tone of the story.)

2012 Orange Prize for Fiction

Here’s a great video of the author talking about this book:

Author’s Website


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Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Baker, E. D. (2010). Wide-awake princess. New York: Bloomsbury. ISBN: 9781599904870

Annotation: Annie’s fairy godmother gift is that no magic can touch her. After her older sister, Sleeping Beauty, pricks her finger and sends everyone in the castle into enchanted sleep, it’s up to Annie to find the solution.

Reaction: E.D. Baker has a pretty prolific series that is spun off from “The Frog Prince” (apparently, the first volume was the inspiration for the Disney movie The Princess and the Frog). I haven’t read any of those yet, but based on how quick and fun this one was, I might have to check it out. I actually don’t know why I didn’t pick up The Frog Princess from the library, as I’m pretty sure they had it on the shelf, and I had to request this one.

Anyways, the cover for this book is just delightful. It really sets the tone for the story; as the princess gazes out over a sleeping castle, the reader can see the adventure brimming in her eyes. This princess is full of spunk and ready to get out and see what the world has to offer. After everyone in the castle is asleep, she sets off to find her sister’s True Love, collecting as many princes as she can in the hopes that one of them can break the spell. Along the way, she meets many familiar fairy tale faces, wicked witches and enchanted princes, and she comes to realize that she wants more than magically beautiful, boring perfection.

This was a fast, fun read. I love all the other fairy tale characters Baker throws in the story, and I love Annie’s independence. She’s a great role model for young teen girls, and I do look forward to reading more of her adventures.

Author’s Website