Category Archives: teen lit

My Brother’s Keeper

Patricia McCormick’s My Brother’s Keeper isn’t as good as Sold. This novel’s hero Toby just wants life to return to normal and that’s not going to happen. The best he can hope for s that things get better. After his father left, his mother checked out emotionally and the family has no real adult at the helm. Toby’s older brother Jake is using drugs and hanging out with losers. His younger brother Eli is too young and dreamy to really get what’s going on in the family.

That leaves middle child Toby to hoist the world onto his shoulders and try to keep things normal. The only wise person in Toby’s world is Mr. D. the owner of a baseball memorabilia shop who gives Toby words of wisdom and a rare baseball card. The minute Toby got the card, I knew Jake would get it and sell it.

After the dad, who never shows up or calls, abandons the family, money troubles increase. Mom was catatonic for a spell and now works at a hair salon where she meets a new boyfriend. Her dating, which was clandestine at first, makes the mom seem very adolescent.

I felt sorry for Toby, but he was tackling an impossible problem. Obviously, he couldn’t and probably shouldn’t have covered for his brother for so long.


At the climax, mom’s on a date when Eli and Toby fight over the cat. Jake’s out with his druggy pals. Eli goes out to rescue the cat and guilt compels Toby to find Eli. He can’t and return home at 11 pm to find the police at his condo. The police found Eli dangerously close to the highway trying to get the cat and they also found Jake who’s in custody and destined for rehab.

In the real world when a parent goes out and the kids were in such situations, the police would be derelict not to take the kids to child protective services. They’d have to investigate the mother, but McCormick doesn’t go that route.

This slice of life novel doesn’t end with a bow, but it also doesn’t offer much hope. I bet Jake’s back on drugs and unless the new wealthy boyfriend marries mom, the other two boys don’t have much future ahead of them. I like McCormick’s style, but got sick of the narrator and wished there were more characters. Poor Toby has one friend that we don’t see enough of and there are no other relatives in his life. It’s depressing how isolated these people were on their own. Also there were no chapter breaks. I longed for some.

I’m reading about novel writing now and such books exhort writers to ensure that if you take the character at the end of the book and place him in a circumstance similar to his first problem at the beginning, he’ll behave very differently. I’m not sure Toby would despite anything he says. The plot does not follow conventions of featuring a hero who takes action or changes significantly. I expected Toby to come forward and alert the mom to what Jake was into. Now that wouldn’t happen in real life, but I wanted Toby to do something and that’s what the family needed.

I can see that McCormick wanted something edgy, but this just didn’t satisfy.

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Posted by on August 31, 2011 in teen lit, YA


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Guys Read Website

Hey, know a boy who should be reading more? Stumped how to lead this horse to water? Check out Guys Read, a website designed by author Jon Scieszka to encourage boys to find great books and read them. There’s a lot more than Harry Potter out there.

These books look good. I may read some.

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Posted by on July 26, 2011 in Children's Lit, teen lit, YA



Sold by Patricia McCormick


Excruciatingly heart-breaking, Sold introduces us to Lakshimi, a Nepali girl, just thirteen when her parents, a hard-working mother and gambling step father sell her.

A National Book Award finalist, this poetic novel for teens, tells the story of a girl who’s never seen a phone, bus or TV is pulled away from everyone she knows and loves and traded like chattel for a pittance, which her stepfather is sure to soon waste. She’s taken from city to city till she reaches India and is kept in a brothel enslaved and unable to earn enough to ever pay off her debt.

The story’s power comes from its first person narration, Lakshimi’s sensitive and simple observations of all around her, the other girls, their children, Mumtaz, the woman who runs “Happy House.” This novel shows readers the fate of the nearly 12,000 Nepali girls who’re sold to Indian brothels every year.

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Posted by on March 31, 2011 in contemporary, fiction, teen lit


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Monsoon Summer

Mitali Perkin’s Monsoon Summer tells the story of likeable Jasmine Gardner’s summer in India. Her mother was adopted as a tot from an orphanage where she gets a grant to start a clinic. Leery at first, India’s monsoon madness eventually infects even guarded Jazz as she opens her heart to her mother’s homeland and uses her business acumen to help Danita, an orphan and friend whose considering marrying a rich geezer for financial security. Throughout the summer Jazz worries about her friend/object of unrequited love, Steve who’s back in Berkeley running their business and fending off cool girls.

I enjoyed the characters especially Jazz who overcomes her own doubts and preconceptions about herself as the summer progressives. The teen novel shows a realistic encounter with a different culture and addresses issues bi-cultural people feel as they come to terms with their identity and how others relate to them. This won’t be the last of Perkin’s books for me.

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Posted by on March 26, 2011 in teen lit



Wendelin Van Draanen’s novel for teens shows two takes on the same events, which neighbors Juli and Bryce experience. As soon as Bryce moves to the neighborhood, Juli is smitten. Bryce is definitely not. At all. Instead he’s annoyed. As they move from second to eighth grade the tables are turned.

Each chapter describes one main character’s view of the same events and people carefully showing how each person has a different take on life and how incomplete views warp our responses and opinions.

The story shows the ups and downs of being a child coping with school, peers, parents and grandparents. Although I sometimes found myself doubting that the dialog was realistic, I did enjoy this perceptive novel.

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Posted by on March 24, 2011 in fiction, teen lit


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