Tag Archive | Young Adult

The Thing About Leftovers

by C.C. Payne

True confession time: I’m a retired woman, on a budget in a town of 600 people with a teeny library.  To feed my book habit, I enter EVERY contest I can find.  Every Single One. Most times I am unaware of the author, and often don’t even bother to read the book description.  There was over a year of my life when a brain injury meant I was unable to read, and once healed I vowed to read like a maniac. So, I contest like mad.  blog

I won The Thing About Leftovers and eagerly began the book several days ago.  A few pages in, I became suspicious and started looking closely at the book information. I was saddened when I read: Penguin.com/Young Readers Ages 10 up.

FYI, I am way up past 10 years old.


But, I’d won the book, the author had kindly personalized it and mailed it quickly.  I determined to stick it out. I figured at 52 I could read faster than a 10 year old and would zip through to ease my guilt.

A funny thing happened….I became absorbed. I actually read it in two days, not to get it over with, but because I couldn’t put it down.

Payne wrote a novel with a compelling main character, Fizzy, a sad young girl who had her life ripped from her when her parents divorced.  Mom relocated to another town.  Dad found another woman. Fizzy became the new student (outcast) at an unfamiliar school.  Most teachers were uninterested, old friends abandoned her, Mom began a new relationship and Fizzy was lost.  Leftover from an old world, unsure of her place, feeling unloved, this is the story of pain, loss, rebuilding.

The Thing About Leftovers punched me in the gut.

I lived much of Fizzy’s life. My mom was married and divorced three times. There were multiple dads among the siblings, and by marriage number three I was one of the last remaining kids at home.  I had the stepfather who moved in and took over.  I lost my older siblings who fled and remained away for decades.  The only other sibling who stayed was drinking at 19, an alcoholic in his 20s and dead at 37.  My purpose as a youngster was to be the peacemaker.  To make people laugh. To be good and not cause problems.

My entire childhood was fractured and upon my parent’s deaths I was freed and packed away (much) of that pain.  I worked very hard to create a different life for my kids where they were loved unconditionally and my marriage was strong and filled with joy.

Payne crafted a novel which caused me to remember.  I remembered through Fizzy and I cried.  Several times I actually had to stop reading because I felt so much pain for a fictional character, and for me who had forgotten how hard my childhood was all those years ago.

I am sure my reaction to Fizzy’s mom is much more vitriolic than the author intended, but I felt anger any time she was in the story. Every “yes, ma’am” uttered by Fizzy hurt me.  Even though the book ended on a positive note, with some moral (hopeful) lessons for other readers, this reader hurt and felt lots of discomfort.

I am glad I won this book.  I am glad I’m polite enough to have stuck with it because the catharsis was liberating.  It’s amazing how much I’d packed away and completely forgotten.  It says a lot about the writing skills of the author that she was so spot on describing the angst experienced by many of us during our formative years.





Book #38 – The Maze Runner

by James Dashner blog

I came late to this party of Dashner books, but the benefit of that is the sequels are already written.  Young friends bought and delivered me this book to read – that is high praise.  For teenagers to not only love the material, but purchase it and encourage others to enjoy it, is impressive.  So glad for the gift of a book as well as a new favorite series.  Even before finishing Maze Runner, I downloaded book two for a seamless continuation of the story.

This is a futuristic, dystopian young adult novel set in a world created by unknown people for unknown reasons.  Populating the world are  boys/teenagers who appear at regular intervals, delivered in a mysterious “box” and without memories of themselves or previous lives.  The boys have created their own society, and operate in a system which requires working to maintain their lives, but also to determine a way out of this maze in which they live.  Unlike the chaos which naturally developed in the classic “Lord of the Flies”, this society maintains order and all serve a purpose.

I have enjoyed YA novels for years, and when my own boys were growing up, we frequently listened to them on audiobooks for long car rides.  This ended, however, when they were old enough to realize most YA books feature young girls.  Their vehement protests that they were not interested in teen girls saving the world led us away from fiction and to non-fiction.  Not a terrible thing, but what I liked about Maze Runner is that this was a book young men could read.  Girls can enjoy it as well, but it was just nice to have male characters featured who were not vampires in love.

4.5/5 Stars



Book #16 – What She Left Behind

by Tracy Bilen WhatSheLeftBehind

Love my young adult fiction which lets me enter a story without having to invest my entire soul and brain.  This YA suspense novel reminded me so of my childhood days of reading Nancy Drew – had Nancy been a little bit “loose” with the Hardy Boys.

Main character Sara comes from a dysfunctional family with an abusive father who, unfortunately, is an ex-police officer.  With that connection to the law, there appear to be no options for the family to escape.  Alas, one chooses escape via suicide which leaves the rest of the family tattered, unsettled and even more the subject of abuse.

This was a no-brainer read, yet the ending was enjoyable and even somewhat unexpected.  It is always nice as a more than middle-aged mom to walk the halls of high school life from a distance.  For a short time, anyway.

I enjoyed the characters, the dialogue was not at all cheesy and there was enough suspense to keep me page turning.

3.5/5 Stars

Now, full disclosure for those who are following my reviews – young adult fiction is about all my brain can handle for the time being.  If you are intrigued, and want to learn why, please check out my “real life” blog:


Book #14 – Devil’s Wake

by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due devils-wake

The best praise for a novel is when immediately upon finishing, the reader is googling to find out if there is a sequel.  I did and there is – just published and will be read as soon as I can get a copy.

A few years ago I used to joke that you couldn’t swing a young adult novel without hitting a vampire.  Vampires everywhere on those shelves designed to attract teen readers.  Perhaps I am racist (are vampires a race???), but I don’t like vampires.  I just can’t get into vampire romance, vampire angst, vampire anything.  Now, zombies on the other hand – those I like: movies, books, documentaries, etc.

“Devil’s Wake” in many ways is the retelling of the same old zombie story – for some unknown reason, bang – zombies everywhere.  This one, however, set with teens as main characters, feels different.  It feels as realistic as a zombie outbreak can feel.  The characters seem plausible, just the right amount of mayhem, and the Scooby Doo and gang feel to trying to find a place of safety.  It was a comfortable read.  I liked it all and finished it in one night.  Was it as deep as “War and Peace”?  Nope.  But it was just what I needed to pass a night without a lot of effort.

4.5/5 Stars

Book 6 – Birthmarked

by Caragh M. O’Brien book 6

Before getting into the review of the material, I want to discuss the “controversy” among my friends regarding the medium of audiobooks.  I LOVE audiobooks, and am constantly listening to one.  I am also a very frugal person but have treated myself to a monthly subscription from audible.com; so for those that know me, this shows the depth of my enjoyment in listening to books.  Even as a teen I owned a Walkman and listened to those terrible quality tapes which always seemed to come unwound (remember using a pencil to twist those little round holes?).  Graduating to a huge disc player many years later felt like a lottery win.  Imagine my delight when just two years ago I discovered the invention of a little thing called an iPod Touch and downloadable books!  It was like catapulting from a Flintstone lifestyle right into the Jetsons.

When I talked about both reading and listening to 52 books this year, I was shocked to hear the opinion that listening to an audiobook was not reading, and should not count.  I am still baffled at this belief.  I think both are viable ways in which to become engrossed in a story.  One of the arguments against audiobooks was that since I listen while engaged in other activities (i.e. treadmill, cleaning), I am not fully absorbing and therefore not getting the complete value of the material.  My counter to that was when I read a book I am a very fast reader, and when tested once, I am part of the population which apparently skips little words (in, the, and) but still gets the content.  Also, a narrator sets the pace of an audiobook, versus the reader who (let us all admit) can sometimes skip ahead in either a particularly exciting scene where you just have to know the outcome, or a boring scene that is not keeping your attention.

So, how did this debate of the century conclude: It’s my blog, my rules.  Audiobooks count as reading.

To the story of Birthmarked – it was okay.  I like dystopian fiction, and even as a middle aged Mom, I really enjoy young adult fiction.  There is something nice about knowing that the material is not inappropriate.  I had high hopes for Birthmarked based on the premise of the story – a futuristic society which sounds shockingly like the Middle Ages.  There are two groups in this world, those who live inside or those who live outside the wall.  This is a story about a young midwife from outside the wall, what happens to some of the babies, the haves and have-nots and a twist at the end which gives insight into why the outside babies are meaningful.

Why did I not enjoy the book?  I cannot say.  The story was good, premise was interesting, in this case the narrator painted great pictures with her voice and inflections, but something just didn’t click.  There are two more in the series, and although they’ll remain on my reading list, I am not sure when or if I would pick them up.  Here is an interesting piece of data to use in the audiobook is a book debate – I know that if I were to read the next two books I would not use the audio format.  Why?  I can check out paperbacks from the library and I wouldn’t want to invest anymore  money into this series given my opinion of the first book.

2/5 Stars