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Returning the week of May 2!

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Distress Call 911 #1: Twist of Fate By D.L. Carey

“Oh, no! Severed limb!”

Distress Call 911 #1

I’m always on the lookout for forgotten series with weird or unique concepts… but this one, in which teenagers learn a valuable lesson about not peer-pressuring their friends’ identical twins to serve as organ banks takes the cake…

The Plot:  The Yellowjackets are a group of high school volunteers who train with the local police, fire department and ambulance corps to assist in emergencies in suburban Detroit. Also in 180 pages they have more drama than an entire season of Adam-12 and Emergency! combined. Continue reading

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Jean and Johnny By Beverly Cleary

It all starts the night Johnny Chessler asks Jean to dance…


Beverly Cleary celebrates her 100th birthday on Tuesday, and so OF COURSE we are looking at another of her early YA titles today! Best known (do I really need to say this?) for the Leave It to Beaver-style adventures of sisters Ramona and Beezus Quimby and neighborhood everyboy Henry Huggins, Cleary’s YA romances from the 1950s are less well-known, although they have been consistently in print for nearly 60 years: Fifteen, The Luckiest Girl, Jean and Johnny and Sister of the Bride were all reissued by Dell in the 1980s as part of their Young Love series.

Which of these is my favorite? The answer is “Whichever one I just finished re-reading.” Continue reading

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And This Is Laura By Ellen Conford

Is Laura’s talent for seeing into the future a gift or a curse?

And This Is Laura

Like her contemporary, Lois Duncan, Ellen Conford takes a rather casual attitude towards teenagers with psychic powers. Instead of focusing on suspense, however, Conford largely focuses on the humorous potential of suddenly realizing that you are a middle-schooler with The Gift.

The Plot:  Thirteen year old Laura Hoffman is an ordinary teenager in an extraordinary family: her older brother is a prodigious jazz composer and captain of the high school debate team; her older sister an actress and bowling champion (!); her 7-year old brother is a whiz at memorization (mostly TV commercials) and is undertaking a personal mission to count all the way to one million. Her parents are no slouches, either: Mrs. Hoffman is a former B-movie actress who has found success as a writer of pulp paperbacks (Gothic romances as Fiona Westphall, and westerns as Luke Mantee); her father is such a scientific genius that a company pays him to sit in a laboratory all day and think up new ideas.

As the book opens, Laura is a trifle uneasy about starting Junior High and uncertain about trying to follow in her sister Jill’s footsteps by auditioning for the school play. Continue reading

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A Wild Heart By Dale Carlson

Jona was pure trouble…

a wild heart

A Goodreads review tipped me off as to the reason for this book’s existence: as a “a high-interest, low-reading level title” it was presumably intended for remedial high school literacy programs.

Which is why a far-fetched story involving crushing poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism, a suicide attempt, date rape and a quickie marriage seems to be written for first graders. Continue reading

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Angel Face By Norma Klein

This week, from the archive!

Lost Classics of Teen Lit, 1939-1989

Norma Klein often shares space with Judy Blume on the American Library Association’s list of “most frequently challenged or banned books”; Blume was in fact the editor of an anthology that featured banned and challenged authors, including Klein. But while Blume garners controversy through her emotionally honest depiction of teenaged anxieties, Klein goes straight for shock value. Which is to say, while the divorcing parents in last week’s book were realistically flawed as human beings, this week’s parents are just a @#^$*%! train wreck that crashed into the side of the mountain and exploded.

Angel Face by Norma Klein

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Dear Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories By Norma Fox Mazer

These stories about eight young women who have grit and humor are unforgettable.

Dear Bill

YA short story collections are usually a mixed bag, what with spinster school teachers dropping dead at square dances, Barry Cowsill taking you away from All That, PTA moms agitating for nudism, grade school kids getting involved in germ warfare and allegorical dead chipmunks.

This collection, from YA superstar Norma Fox Mazer, maintains both a higher standard of quality and more serious and sophisticated themes than anthology collections.

Mazer’s (arguably the more famous half of the YA Mazers) output was at its height during the 1970s and 80s, primetime for dealing with sex, drugs, terrible parents and other difficult situations. Even the “romance” stories in this collection are decidedly non-fluffy. Continue reading

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