THE DOGS by Allan Stratton

Cameron and his mom have been on the run for five years. His father is hunting them. At least, that’s what Cameron’s been told. When they settle in an isolated farmhouse, Cameron starts to see and hear things that aren’t possible. Soon he’s questioning everything he thought he knew and even his sanity. What’s hiding in the night? Buried in the past? Cameron must uncover the dark secrets before they tear him apart.

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Influenced by his own past, author Allan Stratton discloses his personal connection to the book’s themes in the included Q+A.  Heavy themes like: domestic abuse, bullying, and mental health issues are portrayed throughout this eerie, teen thriller.

After moving in, Cameron quickly realizes that the creepy (just look at that front cover!), isolated farmhouse has a strange history. As a reader, it was easy to be immediately hooked by the mystery of the farmhouse, and like Cameron, I was curious to uncover the truth. The plot moves at warp speed; especially when Cameron makes one little mistake and sets of a frightening chain of events!

More praise:

“It’s about ghosts and terrifying danger and going mad all at once. I didn’t know what was real and what was imagined until the very last page. I loved it!” —Melvin Burgess, author of Carnegie Medal winner Junk

“It is increasingly rare to find genuine, convincing narratives that have us looking over our shoulders. The Dogs is such a narrative…What would it be like if the most frightening thing in your world lay at the heart of your own family? Stratton imagines this horror full and convincingly.” —Quill & Quire, starred review

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

‘A compassionate, funny, heartwarming story about a band of misfit teens. It’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for the YA set’ – Susin Nielson

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This book came to my attention as a recent recipient of the 2013 Governor General Literacy Award for Children’s Text. This award winning title beautifully captures life for those living with OCD.  Through OCD group therapy, readers learn the many aspects and triggers of OCD.  Their therapist, Chuck encourages them to choose superheroes as alter-egos, and they are referred to by their chosen name the remainder of the book.  There are a few touches of comic book Wham! Pow! type illustrations throughout.

The main character Adam (aka ‘Batman’) identifies his compulsions as ordering, tapping, counting, and magical thinking (threshold issues with entering certain doors).  We watch as Adam gets progressively worse as his family stress begins to take a major toll on him.   Although he falls for fellow group member, Robyn immediately, he painfully recognizes that he is affecting her recovery and breaks it off. His struggles are well documented in his homework lists instructed by Chuck.

Through his councillor Chuck and the group therapy sessions, I learned a lot about OCD.  Toten’s research to portray Adam and mental health issues is evident. Although the right med combination and dosage helps, I can’t imagine daily life for these individuals.  I can only hope that one day, Adam attains his ‘heaven’, “a quiet mind. Quiet. Shh (p.208).”

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Fangirl follows twins Cather & Wren, as they explore college, the changing nature of relationships, and first love. What differentiates this book from others is the focus on fan fiction.  Cath is obsessed with the fantasy series, “Simon Snow”, and spends most of her time thinking and writing about characters Simon and Baz. However, issues arise when extrovert Wren begins to drift away from fandom to experience all that college life has to offer.

The book opens with a Wikipedia-like entry about the Simon Snow series. Immediately, it is evident that Simon Snow is a reflection of Harry Potter.  Every chapter begin with an excerpt of Gemma T. Leslie’s “Simon Snow”  or a fanfixx.net entry by Magicath. While I could manage snippets of Simon Snow, I completely skipped over the long passages when Cath begins reading it to Levi. I didn’t care to read a story within a story and preferred to read about Cath’s socially awkward life rather than Simon Snow’s fictional characters.

Although Cath’s social anxiety hindered her ability to meet people, she did fall for her roommate’s ex-boyfriend and happy go lucky, Levi.  In all honesty, I found is surprising that Levi would pursue the standoffish, immature and inexperienced Cath.  As their relationship slowly progresses, the intimate scenes are always sweet, not explicit.  Levi is just one of the distinctive characters that play a role in this book. The rest of the supporting cast of characters are well written, and relatable in their own way.  The family dynamics are interesting and mental health issues are evident.

Overall, I thought Fangirl was refreshing for new adult fans.  If you’re looking for a dark story with a tragic bad boy love interest, look elsewhere.  I had a smile on my face reading this book, especially when I picked up on the pop culture references (including Twilight!).  Even if you aren’t a fanfiction enthusiast, I think you will still enjoy this coming of age college tale.

Bookit Review: Miracle by Elizabeth Scott

I am starting my first Teen Advisory Group (TAG) this fall and I wanted to be able to book talk some of our new releases.  I picked this title up because It looked like a fast paced read (thick spacing between lines, and a fair amount of dialogue), and it also had a review blurb from the author Jay Asher who created a lot of stir with his book 13 Reasons Why about a young teen committing suicide because she was bullied.

From Goodreads:

Megan survived the plane crash—but can she survive the aftermath? An intense, emotional novel from the author of The Unwritten Rule and Between Here and Forever.

Megan is a miracle. At least, that’s what everyone says. Having survived a plane crash that killed everyone else on board, Megan knows she should be grateful just to be alive. But the truth is, she doesn’t feel like a miracle. In fact, she doesn’t feel anything at all. Then memories from the crash start coming back.

Scared and alone, Megan doesn’t know whom to turn to. Her entire community seems unable—or maybe unwilling—to see her as anything but Miracle Megan. Everyone except for Joe, the beautiful boy next door with a tragic past and secrets of his own. All Megan wants is for her life to get back to normal, but the harder she tries to live up to everyone’s expectations, the worse she feels. And this time, she may be falling too fast to be saved.

I had never read any of Elizabeth Scott’s titles before but I did enjoy reading this book. Although, this term never appears in the story, Megan’s character is dealing with the medical condition Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I found Megan’s experience to be realistic, and was not surprised when I went on the author’s website and found out that she also suffered from this condition.  I appreciated that Scott wrote the story in first person from Megan’s perspective. Although, her character is not always likeable it makes the story more believable. Her parents and friends are trying to be supportive, but none of them have the guts to recognize her struggle and try and help her. However, two great supporting characters; her hot neighbour Joe and an elderly lady named Margaret, are able to see her struggle and help her get through it because of the hardships they have had to deal with in their own lives. Overall while it is an emotional story, I am happy to report that Megan’s character was not too emotionally intense! Sometimes the portrayal of young adult characters becomes annoying when they are constantly agonizing over some issue or another. Miracle does a great job at walking the line in conveying the struggle and pain of Megan’s character while keeping the story interesting and moving along.

I give it 4 out of 5

Happy reading,

Bookit

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