Tell Me a Secret

By Holly Cupala

From Goodreads: It’s tough living in the shadow of a dead girl. . .In the five years since her bad-girl sister Xanda’s death, Miranda Mathison has wondered about the secret her sister took to the grave, and what really happened the night she died. Now, just as Miranda is on the cusp of her dreams—a best friend to unlock her sister’s world, a ticket to art school, and a boyfriend to fly her away from it all—Miranda has a secret all her own.When two lines on a pregnancy test confirm her worst fears, Miranda is stripped of her former life. She must make a choice with tremendous consequences and finally face her sister’s demons and her own. In this powerful debut novel, stunning new talent Holly Cupala illuminates the dark struggle of a girl who must let go of her past to find a way into her own future.

Why it’s my type: I don’t know what is was about this book. I’m not sure if I can’t remember because I’ve waited a while since finishing it to write this, or that it just has some unnameable draw. But I couldn’t put it down. I actually read it so quickly that I neglected to mark any pages for my usual ‘standout script,’ even though I remember quite well that the writing is awesome. It’s difficult to explain, even in my head, but Cupala wrote in a way that felt even more than it showed. Or so it seemed to me. And this seemed to be why I felt so immediately tapped into it, emotionally. I wasn’t outside of it, admiring the gorgeous setting; I was in it. The pacing had a personality, the sentence structures were like little poetic puzzle pieces, and you just had to keep moving in order to attempt to figure out the whole, and especially the highly seductive sister Xanda. Which was all kinds of alluring and mysterious.

Recommendation: When I initially chose to pick this up, I thought, this cover purrs: I’m not what you think. And it’s true, this story is much more than its simple synopsis seems. It’s almost like a poetic painting, which depicts something so real and raw its both miserable and beautiful simultaneously.

Published: 2010 by HarperCollins.

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An Abundance of Katherines

By John Green

From Goodreads: When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl. Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself by Printz medalist John Green, acclaimed author of Looking for Alaska.

Why it’s my type: In the slightly altered but still immortal words of Martina McBride: This one’s for the boys. Boys of the world, if you’ve ever been a man scorned, a Dumpee as Colin says, this one’s for you. If you love inappropriate humor, like the funniest fat jokes you’ve ever heard in your life, this one’s for you. If you can relate to the idea of trying to figure out the world and your place in it mathematically, rationally, then this one’s for you. And if even though you relish in those aforementioned fat jokes, you still secretly don’t mind when you learn something here or there about yourself, this one’s for you too. But girls of the world do not be disheartened; I’m with you and I loved every second of this story. Maybe I should rephrase my opening statement: This one’s for the boys and the girls.

Recommendation: It’s hysterical, clever, and contains some of the best dialogue I’ve ever read and the best characters I’ve ever met. This is my first meeting with him, but I’ve quickly learned you’d be remiss not to acquaint yourself with John Green.

Standout Script: I really don’t want to spoil too many of the laugh-out-loud moments in this book, but here is a small one.

“Mr. Harbish grunted in agreement, then turned to Hassan. ‘You need to learn the value of not watching that awful Judge Judy, for starters. If you call me in a week and have a job, you can stay wherever you want as long as you want, as far as I’m concerned.’ . . ‘What a d*ck,’ Hassan said once they were safely inside the Hearse. ‘It’s one thing to accuse me of laziness. But to malign the good name of America’s greatest television judge–that’s below the belt.'”

Published: 2006 by Dutton Juvenille.

Wildwood Dancing

By Juliet Marillier

From Goodreads: High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It’s an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle’s hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm. But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he’s there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena’s sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom–an impossible union it’s up to Jena to stop. When Cezar’s grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can’t imagine–tests of trust, strength, and true love.

Why it’s my type: Oh. Dear dear dear. Why did this book have to end?? I want to live in this book. I put it off for a little while, after having ordered it in the mail. I think I suspected its amazingness and didn’t quite feel ready for it all until now. I just knew I would love it. Let us sing–These are a few of my favorite things: fairy tales, The 12 Dancing Princesses in particular, sisters, love stories, total reader transportation, and unexpected but (later) totally comprehensible twists. This one has ’em all. I found so much to relate to in Jenica, and I believe I gained some insight into myself through her journey as well. An absolute cream of the crop kind of read.

Oh, I forgot to mention one tiny little thing.

This amazing cover! This is my first encounter with Kinuko Y. Craft, and I am in love and will never love another. This cover. I stared at it almost as long as at the actual pages of the book. I doodled, attempting to copy some of it. I was and am inspired by it. It adds so much to the book, breathing visual life into Marillier’s words.

Standout Script: This was a story’s story. So many twists and turns, heart pumping highs and lows, and I was so fully enveloped into its world that I will have to revisit it again (really, it’s my duty as blogger :)) to really notice and better appreciate its turn of phrases. But I leave you with a tiny taste:

“An instant later Tati was by my side and, to the tinkling music of ice fragments shifting in the water and the solitary hoot of an owl, five little boats slipped away through the mist to the Other Kingdom.”

It is but an unsatisfactory morsel.

Recommendation: Please, please check this one out if you, like me, have never grown out of fairy tales, and all the magic and wonder they have to offer. You’ll find lifelong friends in Tatiana, Jenica, Iulia, Paula and Stela, and a beloved story you’ll likely revisit as you would your favorite fairy tale volume.

Published: 2007 by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Ash

By Malinda Lo

From Goodreads: Cinderella retold. In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love. Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

Why it’s my type: Um, do I even need to say that gorgeous cover? Gorgeous! Inviting. Haunting. Intriguing. Perfect visual match for Lo’s words. Mwah Mwah! OK. But the design appreciation doesn’t stop there. The first letter of every chapter is beautifully enlarged and crafted so as to almost be a tiny visual story in and of itself. You’ll just have to pick the book up to see what I mean. 🙂

Lo’s writing is lovely. Subtle in its beauty, it’s like the design concept of less is more. Nothing too fancy going on here, but you’re going to take note of its quiet artistry nonetheless.

Finally, though I didn’t fall in love with Ash as I normally tend to do with my protagonists, I really appreciate Lo’s original take on the Cinderella story. And that includes much more than a female love interest. The whole ambience was different. In a really nice, refreshing way.

Standout Script: “The dining room was dark and Ash lit the candles with shaking hands. As the room came into light, it was as if the world had shifted: three place settings, three chairs, three plates. There had never really been a place for her, after all.”

“All around her she felt the Wood breathing, her senses alive. It was as if she could see the leaves unfurling gracefully from their jewel-like buds, the young beetles creeping purposefully forward on the earth.”

“(She) cracked the egg on the countertop, watching the shell splinter. She peeled it away and salted the damp, slippery white surface . . . When she bit off the top, the yolk fell in golden crumbles onto the scarred wooden table.”

Recommendation: Though I did feel a bit dissatisfied with the sort-of? love triangle Ash seemed to be a part of, and the last time we see Sidhean, still I recommend picking this one up for the writing, the atmosphere, and the originality of the retelling.

Published: 2009 by Little, Brown Young Readers.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

By Brian Selznick

From Goodreads: Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

Why it’s my type/Standout Script: “You will eventually spot a boy amid the crowd, and he will start to move through the train station. Follow him, because this is Hugo Cabret. His head is full of secrets, and he’s waiting for his story to begin.”

So ends the first page of this magical story, which is filled to the brim with so many of my favorite bookish things–killer illustrations, an intricate mystery, and so, so much heart. I don’t want to give too much away of the script, because it seems to me that all of the best parts are best because of their places among the others–their places within the story as a whole. But trust me when I write that there are many that are worth reading through to find.

The book itself is bulky enough to appear more than a little intimidating at first, but moves at a much quicker pace than anticipated as it’s mostly packed with original black and white drawings so detailed and seemingly fresh, you’re sure some pencil must have rubbed off on you after every flipped through page. If you love art, or even if you’re just a casual admirer, this book is worth picking up just for that–to gape at and sniff–story be damned. Fortunately, there’s more: intrigue, an automaton, dreams of the most bizarre and beautiful kind, and an awesome chase scene! I’m already anticipating buying this for my youngest brother for Christmas, and he’s not even in the ‘children’s’ market. I think the cinematic nature of the book, the frequency of pictures especially, will be more inviting to him than a traditional novel.

Recommendation: Hugo has stolen a little piece of my heart (and even a couple tears) with his story, and I’d be willing to bet he’s clever enough to do the same to you. This one’s a keeper.

Published: 2007 by Scholastic.