Review Hacklet: Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres ~ A harrowing teenage memoir

Jesusland_cover

Sister & Brother…..before the &h1t hit the fan

Verdict/Summary: Being a teenager is hard enough, but Julia and David Scheeres really had it rough. Readers will empathize with seventeen year old Julia’s honest voice as she remembers her strict upbringing in rural Indiana, her horribly dysfunctional childhood, her traumatic introduction to sex, her conflict between wanting to fit in at school and her desire to defend her beloved adopted black brother David from racial taunts, and her stubbornness of spirit after being sent to a totalitarian religious reform school in the Dominican Republic.

1 heartIt’s really hard to put this one down because you want to know if Julia and David turn out OK. Continue reading

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Review Hacklet: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell ~ Love with high stakes

Q: Could this cover be more perfect?  A: No. No, it could not.

Q: Could this cover be more perfect?
A: No. No, it could not.

Verdict: An 80’s-nostalgic love story between two outcasts that can be easily appreciated by teens (and older) today. It has Romeo and Juliet undertones and references, but manages to avoid cliché or senseless tragedy.

Perfect for: Readers who love tales of romance between relateable, realistic characters; Aficionados of alternative 80s music and 80s comic books.

Summary: Set in Omaha in 1986, Eleanor, a new student at her high school, is instantly deemed to be a mockable outcast due to her unruly mop of red hair, “fat” body, “weird” clothes, and her redneck stepdad and rundown house. Park is socially in limbo: his dad is a strapping white guy veteran with generations of roots in the area, but his mom is from Korea; usually Park is tolerated or ignored by his classmates, but other times he becomes the target of teasing because of his Asian features.  Park tries his best to exist under the social radar, but when Eleanor ends up as his school bus seatmate, he fears that he will be associated with her and therefore be teased as relentlessly as she is. Over the weeks, however, Park’s empathy for Eleanor begins to outweigh his fears and he begins to make small gestures of friendship.  Eventually the two find that they have more in common with each other than anyone else they know. But can they let a relationship develop in the hostile social environment of their high school? And can Eleanor risk the wrath of her controlling, alcoholic stepdad?

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Sophomore Slumps vs Sophomore Bumps: When a sequel disappoints…or surprises

I liked the COVER of the sequel more at least...

I liked the COVER of the sequel more at least…

I just finished the sequel to The Liar Society, a book that I really liked. Unfortunately, I felt like the second book in this series made the characters flatter, the plot less interesting and less believable, and the writing more strained.

Instead of writing a Full Hack, I decided to explore the risks and rewards of sequels. It seems that conventional wisdom says that the original is always better than the sequel. But I know that I have often been pleasantly surprised by a sequel that outshines its predecessor. And I’ve also been crushed by sequels that are not just not-as-good-as-the-original, but just utterly disappointing.

Read on for my list of my top Sophomore Slumps and Sophomore Bumps. I’d love to hear about yours in the comments!

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Review: Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson ~ My Fave of 2013 (so far)

alif_cover

The perfection of this cover isn’t evident until you read the book. Perfection!

No Hacking Needed <3

No Hacking Needed ❤

Verdict: An exhilarating mix of action, fantasy, technology, philosophy, love, politics, religion, metaphysics, and semiotics. Oh and also: genies.

Perfect for: On the back cover there are blurbs describing this book as “a multicultural Harry Potter for the digital age” and “A Golden Compass for the Arab Spring”. I feel like these comparisons are not particularly accurate, other than the fact that I think they are trying to get across that Alif is the kind of fantasy book that is rooted in the world we live in now and that wants to explore some serious issues all while providing the reader a riotous adventure. I also think these comparisons speak to the fact that both adults and teens can enjoy this book on many different levels.

Summary: [Disclaimer: I started reading this book without knowing anything about it, and it was really cool figuring out what was going on.

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Review: All You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin ~ Sister/Sister Part TWO

Lying to Others vs Lying to Yourself

Lying to Others vs Lying to Yourself

Some redeeming elements; major hacking needed

Some redeeming elements; major hacking needed

Apparently it’s “YA Books about Younger Sisters Who Lie and Older Sisters with Psychological Problems Triggered by Strange Incidents” week here at LitHacker Central. First The Opposite of Hallelujah, now All You Never Wanted.

Verdict: This book seems to explore the different ways that lying to others and lying to yourself can be damaging. While this book has some strong writing and explores some interesting psychological issues, there are too many aspects that seem rather unrealistic, and the ending is somewhat abrupt. If you’re going to choose just ONE unstable older sister/lying younger sister book this week, choose The Opposite of Hallelujah instead.

Perfect for: People who like psychological fiction or somewhat unreliable narrators.

Summary: Thea and her older sister Alex are now living in a too-extravagant house (nicknamed “Camelot” by Thea) in tony Greenwich, Connecticut after their mom marries a rich man. Before this marriage, the girls and their divorced mother were barely getting by in their tiny apartment but they had each other and were pretty close. Now their mom seems to be always flying somewhere with her new husband – for vacations or charity events – and the girls are often left alone to adjust to their new reality. Told alternately in a forceful first person (Thea) and distancing third person (Alex), we learn that these sisters have dealt with the changes in their lives in very different ways. Formerly nerdy Thea has decided that conspicuous consumption and outrageous but borderline believable lies will make her interesting and popular. Meanwhile, Alex, who has always been somewhat of a golden girl, seems to be in the midst of a nervous breakdown that is getting progressively worse – for a specific reason that is revealed later in the novel. Continue reading