Lisa reviews recipients of The Flume Award. You can see more of Lisa’s picks on our Goodreads page!
The Flume NH Teen Reader’s Choice Award was created in 2005 in response to a New Hampshire teen’s request to have a book award geared towards high school students. This award is a state-wide venture led by a collaborative effort from school and public librarians. Each year teens nominate titles, published within the last two years, they think deserve to be recognized. Librarians narrow the group of titles to a shorter list. Teens then vote for the winning title from that list.
What better way to learn what “kids these days” like than to read the books they feel deserve recognition in the form of an award? I enjoyed most of the books on the list and have my favorite, but alas, I am ineligible to vote. I can’t wait to see what the kids think is the best of the best! We will know the results in May and we’ll let you know who took home the Flume. In the meantime, my “peeper” rating system will let you know what I think deserves a look.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Any readers who have passed through adolescence will immediately recognize themselves in Dante and Ari, and the angst of being a teenager. Both boys are loners, but for different reasons. Dante is outgoing, but marches to his own drummer – making him less than popular with his peers. Articulating his thoughts and feelings is difficult for Ari which, combined with his righteous anger over his older brother’s incarceration, tends to alienate potential friends. As the boys cope with family problems, uncertain futures, and their own sexual identities they learn to trust each other and ultimately themselves.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Ahh, first love. It’s wonderful and awful at the same time, as Eleanor and Park learn during their sophomore year. Sadly, the “awful” part comes from their environment. Eleanor is poor and socially awkward, which her peers point out at every opportunity. Home offers little relief thanks to her cruel stepfather. Park is a quiet lover of music and comic books amid a family of sports nuts. They find solace in each other on the school bus.
Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell
Wren and Cath are twins who have spent much of their lives wrapped up in the fictional world of “Simon Snow”. So much so that Cath has become a popular fan fiction author with a large online following. When the girls go off to college, Cath finds herself very much alone as the outgoing Wren has chosen to live apart from her and embark on a very active and self-destructive social life. The reader travels with Cath through her freshman year as she learns to live with a stranger (roommate), falls in love, deals with academic pressure and watches her sister make serious mistakes all the while maintaining a popular online presence.
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
Zoe (an alias) is a teenage girl who was caught in a love triangle with two brothers. After the death of one of the boys she adopts a false name and begins a one sided correspondence with a death row inmate in Texas. Zoe attempts to excise her guilt by describing the relationships and justifying her behavior with each of the boys in her letters. It is an unconventional form of therapy but seems to work for her.
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Readers are in for a treat from the very first page, as the author describes 1950 New Orleans so vividly you can almost smell the Cajun cooking wafting from open windows. Our heroine, Josie, is a character who inspires readers with her bravery and resourcefulness. Her mother is a prostitute, a selfish woman who neglects her daughter and wants only material things. Josie desperately wants to go to college and does all she can to make that dream a reality. She works hard in high school and has two part time jobs; one in a bookstore, where she also keeps a one room apartment, and another running errands and doing housework in the brothel where her mother works. When her mother gets involved with a mobster and a man is found dead, Josie gets caught up in a mystery that threatens to ruin all her plans for a new life.
Winger by Andrew Smith
An unlikely rugby player, the very small and very young (14 years old) junior Ryan Dean is on the team for his speed and agility. Due to a minor offense, Ryan finds himself assigned to the dorm of last resorts at his boarding school. The book contains a number of Ryan’s illustrated musings about his life; he is crazy about his best friend but she does not return his adoration, he also has a crush on the biggest, meanest bully’s girlfriend which, as you might expect, doesn’t end well. The book takes a surprisingly serious turn at the end and leaves the reader with a lot to think about.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Book one of the Mara Dyer trilogy
Mara Dyer has experienced a tragic event so horrific even she can’t remember it. In a late night display of bravado, Mara and her friends break into and explore an abandoned insane asylum. Their escapade ultimately leaves Mara’s best friend, boyfriend, and another classmate dead. In an attempt to help Mara recover, her family relocates to Florida, hoping that a change of location will give Mara a new lease on life. But Mara can’t escape the past that easily. Mara’s sleep is filled with nightmares, her days with hallucinations and/or ghosts. Additionally, people who make Mara really mad wind up dead under decidedly odd circumstances. On the upside, with all this happening in her life, Mara manages to find love, falling for her school’s most sought after boy, who has a few secrets of his own.
The Selection by Kiera Cass
Book one of “The Selection” series
A: The Selection.
Thirty five girls from the provinces of Illea are chosen to compete to become the bride of Prince Maxon. Entrance into the competition is voluntary, however those who do enter are elevated to a higher caste and therefore are assured a more secure future.
America Singer is of a low caste, her family is very poor, and still she is reluctant to enter the competition, despite the fact that it would ease the financial burden on her family. She agrees to the competition only after her boyfriend insists that she join the Selection, thereby relieving him of responsibility should she later experience regret over what might have been. America is not interested in marrying the Prince, but once she meets him at the castle, they become friends and eventually an attraction develops. Amid the excitement of the fancy dresses, rich food, and the overall luxuriousness of palace life, the castle is being regularly attacked by rebel forces. Fear not, there are plenty of handsome men around to protect the women.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
As the 40th anniversary of the treaty between humans and dragons approaches, tensions run high in the land of Goredd. Dragons and humans coexist in an uneasy truce, but when one of the royal family is assassinated dragons come under suspicion for the crime. Each group thinks themselves superior to the other, allowing bigotry to run rampant. Our heroine, Seraphina, finds herself in a predicament: her deepest secret is that she is half dragon, half human. and it’s a secret that is getting harder and harder to protect. Few have as much to lose as she if the treaty is broken and war breaks out. Through her position as Assistant to the Music Master at the castle, she becomes a trusted confidant of the prince and princess. Together they solve the mystery of the murder and attempt to maintain peace.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Book one of The 5th Wave series
This is an ambitious book in that it includes aliens, conspiracies, a love story, a pandemic, gun play, a chase scene involving Hummers, and so much more. Even with all this, it isn’t a daunting read. As soon as you are introduced to the two main characters you can’t help but root for them. The book is told in turns: Cassie’s story and Ben’s story. While each are having vastly different experiences, they will ultimately find themselves working together toward a common goal – defeating the aliens.
This Youth book review was brought to you by Lisa Q. Harling. When not conducting Story Times or reading the best that kids’ authors have to offer, Lisa enjoys writing witty PSAs on Facebook, playing with her dogs and keeping up with her two adventurous sons. If you have suggestions for future book reviews, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.