Bitter End

 

Title: Bitter End

Author: Jennifer Brown

Summary: As senior year begins, Alex has it all figured out: She is going to finish school, then take an epic road trip with her two best friends Zack and Bethany to Colorado before college: That is where Alex’s mom was headed when she died in an accident when Alex was little. When she starts tutoring, then dating the gorgeous new boy in school, Cole, everything changes.

At first, she couldn’t be happier: Cole is sweet and charming, and pays attention to her in a way that her remote dad and mean-spirited sister do not. Alex can understand why Cole gets annoyed when she makes plans with her friends, especially Zack. And it doesn’t really bother her when he gets a little angry when she says stupid things. Soon, however, Cole’s irritation turns into something much darker and Alex finds herself in what seems to be an impossible situation: Keep silent or lose the only person in the world that ‘loves’ her.

While this might sound like a standard abusive-relationship book, author Brown does a great job showing you how a smart girl like Alex could fall into such a situation. You might not like watching her sucuumb to such cruelty, but you will start to understand why it happens to people every day. This is an important book on a challenging subject, and one that is worth your time.

Who will like this book: Anyone who likes intense, realistic fiction. Readers who have been, or know anyone who has been affected by dating violence.

If you like this, try this: But I Love Him by Amanda Grace. Dreamland by Sarah Dessen. Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn, which describes abusive relationships from the guys point of view. Hate List, also by Jennifer Brown.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

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Nothing

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Title: Nothing

Author: Janne Teller, translated by Martin Aitken

Summary: Seventh-grader Pierre Anthon announces to his classmates on the first day of school that nothing really matters, so nothing is worth doing. He promptly leaves class and climbs a plum tree where he remains indefinitely, every day taunting and raining down insults on his former friends, driving them to outrage and despair with his new philosophy. Something must be done to prove Pierre wrong, narrator Agnes and her peers decide: Life isn’t pointless. Each member of the class decides to sacrifice the thing that means the most to them, creating a “heap of meaning” in an abandoned sawmill in town. And since they are all friends, they all know what things hold the most meaning for each other…

At first the sacrifices are small: A pair of shoes, a fishing rod. But as each classmate raises the stakes on the person who comes after them, the items added to the pile become more personal, more intense, and more gruesome than the last, with devastating consequences that no one can foresee. This Printz-honor book, originally published in Denmark, takes a philosophical idea to a terrifyingly creepy conclusion. A great piece of psychological horror, this might be the most dangerous (in a good way) book I’ve read in a long, long time. 

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who are into intense fiction, especially ones that start off slow and build in excitement. Budding existentialists. Anyone interested in psychology, or who just like to have their minds warped. 

If you like this, try this: Shattering Glass by Gail Giles. Godless by Pete Hautman. Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

I Am Not a Serial Killer

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Title: I Am Not a Serial Killer

Author: Dan Wells

Summary: John Wayne Cleaver is not a serial killer…yet. He might be a sociopath: He has no empathy for others and cannot relate to their messy, irrational feelings. To keep the monster inside him at bay he meets with a psychiatrist and follows strict rules of his own creation – no stalking, no obsessing, and no imagining what people would look like as bleeding corpses…Until the day a body turns up behind the laundromat.

And not just any dead body – one that has been mutilated and appears to be missing parts. John is convinced it means a serial killer is in their midst. When he decides to track down the killer, John gets much more than he bargained for. As he embarks on an intense, violent journey of self-discovery, John must outwit his demonic adversary and keep the evil inside him under control.

Who will like this book?: This book is recommended for older, mature teens – it is not for the weak of stomach or faint of heart. Readers of intense fiction who don’t mind a little bit of the supernatural mixed in with an otherwise realistic story. If you are a fan of the TV shows Dexter or Criminal Minds, you’ll love this book.

If you like this, read this: My Father’s Son by Terri Fields. Acceleration by Graham McNamee. Killing Britney by Sean Olin.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Wintergirls

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Title: Wintergirls

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Summary: Lia isn’t surprised when she hears that her childhood best friend, Cassie, has died. After all, she’s not too far behind: Lia is an anorexic, struggling to quiet the voices that tell her how worthless, ugly and fat she is, all the while fighting the urge to eat. Anything. Lia has been in and out of treatment twice, but Cassie’s death from bulimia-related complications sends her into a downward spiral. Feeling her friend’s presence everywhere, Lia strives to reach her goals: 95, 90, 85 pounds and less. She knows exactly what she is doing, but she doesn’t want to  stop until she is like Cassie – a Wintergirl, neither living nor dead.

A devastating look into the mind of a person suffering from a severe eating disorder, this book makes no excuses and doesn’t have any easy answers. This harrowing story will remind you of Anderson’s best: Speak, Catalyst, and Twisted, and will keep you on the edge of  your seat.

Who will like this book?: Fans of intense fiction. Like many other books by this author, it is an important story that most mature teen girls should  read.

If you like this, try this: You Know Where to Find Me by Rachel Cohn. Cut by Patricia McCormick. Identical by Ellen Hopkins.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Life As We Knew It

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Title:  Life As We Knew It

Author:Susan Beth Pfeffer

Summary:  Have you ever gotten about half-way through a book and were struck with the almost irresistible impulse to flip to those last few pages –  and you fight that impulse for the rest of the book?   The impulse is born not out of  the need to finish some mega-hit bestseller before someone spoils the ending for you, but rather because you are so invested in this story and in these character’s lives that you need to know what happens to them.  Author Susan Beth Pfeffer has created one such story in Life As We Knew It. 

Miranda, a sixteen year old high school student, records the usual teen woes – step-parent issues, friend problems, massive crush on an unattainable local Olympic hopeful, etc. – in her diary.  Along with the rest of the world she thinks nothing of it when it becomes known that a meteor is about to crash into the moon.  With unconcealed excitement people around the world wait to see this once in a lifetime astronomical event, but the scientists were wrong about the potential outcome of the meteor crash.  

No one could have imagined that life on earth would change so drastically:  Massive tsunamis, newly erupting volcanoes, and earthquakes strike throughout the world and with a ripple effect, touch the lives of everyone on the planet.  Through Miranda’s diary we experience the horror of these disasters and how she and her family must change if they are to survive this new world.

Who would like this book?:  Don’t be fooled by the science fiction set-up – you won’t find a truly in-depth scientific explanation as to the how’s-and-whys leading to this natural disaster.  Rather, this book’s focus is on self-examination and relationships with family and the world around oneself.   This book’s universal appeal is that it builds off of a question most of us have asked of ourselves – “If a disaster struck, how would I react?”

If you like this, try this: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the dead and the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer, Unwind by Neal Shusterman, The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Recommended by: Jennifer, Branch Teen Librarian

M is for Magic

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Title: M is for Magic: Stories

Author: Neil Gaiman

Summary: Neil Gaiman is best known for his science fiction and graphic novels. But in recent years, he has also written books for younger readers, including the soon-to-be-a-movie Coraline, and the Newbery Award-winning The Graveyard Book. A great way to get introduced to this versatile author is this excellent short story collection.

From a boy who goes to a party with beautiful girls who happen to be ghosts, an old lady who finds a very precious item at a thrift store, to the chilling answer to why a stray cat gets injured every night, these stories will haunt you.  Read it with the lights on!

Who will like this book: This terrific collection would work for older teen readers (and adults) who like their fantasy with just a touch of horror, or comedy, or cold-sweat creepiness.

If you like this, try this: Keep going with Gaiman: Try Coraline. For mature readers, American Gods. And for fun, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Dr. Franklin’s Island

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Title: Dr. Franklin’s Island

Author: Ann Halam

Summary: When the newly-acquainted Semi, Arnie, and Miranda’s plane crashes in the middle of the ocean, they are the only survivors. Stranded on a mysterious island they wait desperately for rescue. The days tick by without a sign and the three must start exploring the island. One day Semi sees a pig with human hands instead of hooves. Thinking it was an illusion, she passes off it as an effect of island fever. Shortly afterwards, Miranda and Semi stumble upon a cave and within it a small village. Captured within seconds, the two are to be the new guinea pigs for the scientific testing of Doctor Franklin. They might have once dreamed of being able to fly or to breath underwater; but Miranda and Semi never expected that they’d get the chance to do so as a bird or a dolphin. In this horror fantasy, the two girls must learn to survive under Doctor Franklin’s roof without losing their humanity.

Who will like this book?: People who want the thrill of a sci-fi/fantasy horror. Or those whom enjoy reading about mad scientists. It’s a very deep book and can be a bit slow at times, but parts of it are so skin-crawling that you won’t be able to put it down.

If you like this, you should try: The Red is for Remembrance series by Laurie Faria Stolarz. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

Recommended by: ZZ, resident of Fairfield and avid reader