Tall Story

By Candy Gourlay

From Goodreads: Be careful what you wish for …Andi is short. And she has lots of wishes. She wishes she could play on the school basketball team, she wishes for her own bedroom, but most of all she wishes that her long lost half brother, Bernardo, could come and live in London, where he belongs. Then Andi’s biggest wish comes true and she’s minutes away from becoming someone’s little sister. As she waits anxiously for Bernardo to arrive from the Philippines, she hopes he’ll turn out to be tall and just as mad as she is about basketball. When he finally arrives, he’s tall all right. But he’s not just tall …he’s a GIANT. In a novel packed with humour and quirkiness, Gourlay explores a touching sibling relationship and the clash of two very different cultures.

I felt in my gut I would like this story before I even opened it up to the first page.

At times Tall Story reads like a fairytale. Or, like it’s namesake, a tall tale. It has a magical feel, as it darts and weaves around, behind, and in front of its initial storyline, all the while keeping the reader still balanced and rooted squarely in the story’s center. It’s also simultaneously very grounded in our world. Some serious moments punctuate this tale, dealing with issues like culture, immigration, fear, and death. Though often it’s hard to focus on those sometimes heavier issues while you’re being entranced by Bernardo or amazed and amused by Andi. Both characters are full and real and a joy to read.

In all, this is a magical, funny, quirky book, with real-world depth, about traditions and stories and and most of all family. And one that I would wholeheartedly recommend.

Standout Script: “A river ran on the other side of the hill but not close enough to irrigate the fields. Bernardo pushed his finger into the side of the mountain and carved a stream from the river down to the fields, bringing irrigation and fresh water to the village. ‘If you look closely at the hillside,’ Old Tibo said, ‘you can just see giant footprints where he trod.’”

“The sun was turning into a red fist in the gathering dusk. I realized that we were approaching the new sports centre crouched at the end of the road, its dome bulging above the trees like an overturned coconut shell.”

“I stole the ball off the Reds’ point man and raced to the opposite end of the court. I stopped at the three-point line and jumped. Swish. You would have needed a poop scoop to scrape their jaws off the asphalt.”

Published: 2010 by David Fickling Books.

Stolen

By Lucy Christopher

From Goodreads: Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back? The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don’t exist – almost.

Why it’s my type: I chose to pick this up to see what I’d been missing. But in a very specific kind of way. I’d written a rough story once, during school, about a girl being stolen by a man who had watched her for years. Sound familiar? I’d had a single image come to me of a girl waking up in a bed not her own and not knowing where she is. I thought the story was a solid idea, however, for various reasons it didn’t work. This story works. And here’s why: the letter format. With the letter format, Gemma is able to be specific about things without it seeming superfluous. She is able to have had the time to think about circumstances, to better work out scenes and conversations, her feelings, and everything else.

The book teems with enviable description–most especially of the bare Australian land into which Gemma is thrust. I could have never expected to have had so much trouble putting down a book that features only two characters and endless sand. But the sense of place is just undeniably captivating and meaningful.

Gemma’s struggles are rough, disgusting, terrifying. Christopher doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the nitty gritty stuff. And even though it’s sometimes difficult to read, it only helps you more fully identify with what Gemma’s gone through.

Recommendation: OK so I had one other reason for picking this one up. The talented Maggie Stiefvater had only good things to say about it. She said in her recommendation that there are no easy answers with this one, and I totally agree–and am glad.

Standout Script: “I turned away from you and ran straight into the pond. I let the water cover me as I sank down, down into the cold, dark deepness, and my hair got tangled up and caught in the weeds.”

“For the past couple of days, the air had felt alive, clinging to my ears like it was trying to get inside and pressing its heat against me. I wondered, sometimes, if I stood outside with my arms open wide and waited, whether the air would press me all the way back home.”

“I pressed on the accelerator again, and you started running beside the car, still grasping on to the mirror. You pulled at it, as if you thought you could stop the whole vehicle with just your strength. I put my foot flat to the floor. That was enough. With a shout, you tumbled back into the dirt, leaving the side mirror hanging by some wires, bashing against the car. I heard you screaming behind me, your voice hoarse and desperate. And then there was wide, open space in front of me.”

Published: 2009 by Chicken House Ltd.

Story of a Girl

By Sara Zarr

From Goodreads: When she is caught in the backseat of a car with her older brother’s best friend – Deanna Lambert’s teenage life is changed forever. Struggling to overcome the lasting repercussions and the stifling role of “school slut,” she longs to escape a life defined by her past. With subtle grace, complicated wisdom and striking emotion, Story of a Girl reminds us of our human capacity for resilience, epiphany and redemption.

Why it’s my type: This is a book of small victories. Mistakes, and simple gestures. Betrayal, and unexpected friendship. Desperation, breakthrough, and growth. All the while trying very hard to be deceivingly scant. And even though she wouldn’t believe it, Deanna will stick with me for a long time. She’s not a character I could effortlessly immerse myself in, but still, she’s someone I recognize, and I’m glad to have been able to experience her perspective.

Recommendation: I suspect many girls could relate to what Deanna goes through, and find comfort in her company.

Standout Script: “‘What about her? She’s the one who left!’

I turned back over and looked at Darren. . . ‘Did she say sorry?’

He looked down, picked his Safeway jacket up off the floor. ‘Yeah. But I don’t know if that’s enough.’

‘What else is there?’ . .

‘Well, you know, she has to, like, prove that’s she’s going to be a good mother and not do that again.’

I handed him a pair of socks out of the pile on the bed. ‘Like Dad wants me to prove I’m not who he thinks I am?’

He took the socks from me and held them in his hands. ‘I’m not like Dad.’

‘If you say so.'”

Published: 2007 by Little, Brown and Company.

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.

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.