Karen Hesse. Stowaway. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2002. ISBN 978-0689839894 320 pp. $
Hesse makes history so alive in this fictionalized journal based on the voyages of Capt. Cook and his sail ’round the world that you can practically smell the salt air. Whether readers are drawn by the natural history, the adventure, or the diary format, all will become quickly immersed in this richly detailed story about a stowaway on a fantastic voyage.
Anderson, M.T. Burger Wuss. Gardener, 2005. ISBN 978-1844282890 220 pp. $
M.T. Anderson serves up a McHit in this hysterically funny satire of the teen problem novel, revenge, and employment in the fast food industry. Mr. Nice Guy Anthony, age 16, has done everything right and been a perfect gentleman with his girlfriend Diana–why does he find her horizontal with her co-worker Turner from the burger joint O’Dermott’s? Diana quits her job when the scumbag wants nothing to do with her, and Anthony takes her job in a plan to exact revenge on Turner. Wuss no more, Anthony gets into fights, steals a promotional condiment dump, and creates a bona-fide fiasco involving Burger Queen, O’Dermott’s rival restaurant. Will Mr. Nice finish last in this tale?
This is a laugh-out-loud funny book. Anderson has a keen ear for teen dialogue, and the words sound genuine. Quirky yet real characters include the nosy but well-meaning neighbor who eavesdrops on her cell phone, Anthony’s best friends Rick and Jenn, who are sickeningly sweetly in love, and anarchist co-worker Shunt, determined to destroy O’Dermott’s from within.
The in-your face cover and strong title will make this book leap off the shelves into reader’s hands; the humor and honesty will keep the reader engaged to the end. Highly recommended for fans of Rob Thomas and Ron Koertge.
Norma Howe. The Adventures of Blue Avenger. Harper Teen, 2000 (reprint). ISBN 978-0064472258 299 pp. $
A boy who becomes the superhero character he invented is actually treated as one in his very forgiving high school. Blue saves the student newspaper, invents a perfect weepless meringue pie, and lands the girl of his dreams in this silly-yet-sophisticated novel about free will.
In spite of the charm, humor, and willingness to discuss issues, I couldn’t suspend my disbelief to believe that a teen who attends school with a towel tied around his neck wouldn’t be harassed to tears by peers, but older students who enjoy books like The View from Saturday or Holes (that are dappled with interesting factoids that seem insignificant but reappear in the ending) will love this book.
Schroeder, Andreas. Scams! (True Stories from the Edge). Annick Press, 2004. ISBN 978-1550378535 160 pp. $
Some of the biggest scams of all time are presented here in engaging narrative, each story more outrageous than the last. Learn about the discovery of a fake “lost” tribe that even National Geographic believed, the initial radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds and the subsequent broadcast that still causes riots today, a book collector who evaded debtors and sold out his family to feed his obsession, and more.
Highly browsable, this is an especially appealing book for reluctant readers. Kids will be fascinated to read about stories in which adults get the wool pulled over their eyes, and will learn something about little known events in history in the process. Sure to be a hit with readers who favor books on UFO’s, the occult, or Ripley’s “believe it not” type tales, the sturdy paperback is very reasonably priced and sure to be a hit. Students learning about the Holocaust may find the chapter about the Nazi counterfeit operation of particular interest.
A sources appendix offers sources for further reading, many from very dated books and articles. Because one chapter note only lists one internet source, this reviewer can’t help thinking how funny it would be if one of the scams was made up.
Cann, Kate. Diving In. HarperTeen, 2007 (reprint). ISBN 978-0060886011 352 pp. $
Heroine Coll, influenced by her feminist-to-the-point-of-man-hating mom, rightly believes that her first sexual relationship should go beyond the physical and as she holds out for “holistic sex,” her boyfriend Art, a former player, becomes more and more frustrated. Much of the first book is taken up with the struggle between head, heart and hormones.
In book number two (The Deep End), when Coll and Art do finally become lovers, the intensity of the relationship becomes too much for baggage-laden Art who skips off to New Zealand.
In book number three (Sink or Swim), Coll is recovering slowly from the relationship that left her ravaged when Art, interested in being “just friends” returns. But is there really such a thing between men and women?
Protective parents will complain that this book is “too” for teens–too sexy, too honest, too promiscuous–but the sexual relationship between Coll and Art is mature and tasteful. Collete describes the overwhelming emotion of being physically intimate, rather than play-by-play of what goes where, and condoms are mentioned regularly, with a subplot of a best friend’s abortion amplifying the disasters of going skin-to-skin, even one time.
The flawless writing, realistic story, and complex characters blend together to give a sense of “I know what she means!” about the short series. This is Forever for the new millennium, British style: A smart girl falls in love and has a sexual relationship that runs its course with no harsh repercussions (such as disease, pregnancy, or death). Hopefully a three-in-one version of the series will be published soon, because it is impossible to not want to read all three books in one sitting.