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YA Book Review: The Girl In Between

Ever heard of Kleine-Levin Syndrome?  Neither had I.  It’s also called Sleeping Beauty Syndrome, if that gives you a clue what it’s all about.  Bryn, the main character in Laekan Zea Kemp’s YA novel, The Girl In Between, suffers from sleep.  She falls asleep suddenly and sleeps for days or weeks at a time, waking to find whole chunks of her life missing.  She has dealt with this mind-boggling disease since she was 12, and since it’s so rare, there is no cure, only new studies to take part in and wishful thinking.

the girl in between

 

But Bryn’s problems are even deeper than the average KLS.  See, when she goes into the sleep state, she doesn’t just lose consciousness like other KLS sufferers.  She goes somewhere else.  Her dream place is full of her own childhood memories: places she’s been, things she has owned, houses in which she has lived.  She is always there alone, living a whole other life in her memories.

Until.  Until one day, a boy her age washes up from the ocean that surrounds her dream place.  He has no memory of who he is, where he came from, or what he’s doing there.  And every time Bryn falls prey to KLS, he is there.  Bryn spends her waking time trying to be normal, dealing with her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Drew (who is a real class act, let me tell you), and trying to get over her absent father (who could be lumped with Drew for all his charm), while grappling with the idea of her mother being in a new relationship, but after the boy shows up, she is determined to find out why he is in her head and how to get him out of there.

This boy is different.  He doesn’t treat Bryn like she’s some freak of nature the way her classmates do.  He looks at her and Sees her, unlike Drew.  And as Bryn races against time to solve the mystery of him, she also begins to fall in love with him.

In the meantime, new doctors from Germany show up with a new medication that might help her.  But her episodes are coming closer and closer together and she just knows she has to find the boy in the real world before she falls asleep for good.

Because shadows have started showing up in the dream state.  And they’re bleeding into her waking life.  And she doesn’t know what they want, only that they intend her harm.

Yeah, it’s a good book.

But it’s not just a riveting story.  It’s also full of real-life insights that hold true whether you’re 17 or 57. Like this gem concerning Drew:  “For every girl in the history of girls there is always that one guy she can’t seem to shake,” or this one: “That’s what they do.  They cut you into pieces with lies and false apologies and those three little words that manage to gut you in just the right way.”

We’ve all known That Guy, haven’t we?

This book is amazing for teens who are dealing with something beyond their control, especially health issues, because it lets them know they aren’t alone and that their feelings and reactions are perfectly acceptable.  It’s also an intriguing mystery with a little believable fantasy thrown in.  Finally, it’s a pretty cool love story with a lesson about how a girl should be treated in a relationship and how she should not.

You know I’m not about reading levels, but I say ‘teen’ here because there is a bit of realistic language peppered throughout.  Not a whole lot, not overwhelmingly so, but a couple of F-bombs are dropped.  I found that they were used mostly only to make a point and, let’s be honest, I’m not offended by it.  However, I don’t necessarily want my Littles thinking it’s an okay thing, so I have to warn you–if you’re thinking of picking up this genuinely good book for your kid, just know that it’s a little PG in that respect.

But even if you don’t want your littles reading F-bombs, pick it up for yourself.  Or your sister.  Because wow.

Love wins,

KT

Story Time: The Giving Tree

Story Time: The Giving Tree - Crafts, activities, and free printables to go with the picture book

Earth Day is this Friday, and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate it than to do a Story Time on Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.  We are huge Silverstein fans in this house.  His poetry is one of the myriad ways I introduced the Littles to verse.  This particular book… It is the consummate environmental children’s book.  It is so lovely, the idea that a tree could love a boy so much she would give him everything.  When you think of all the things trees do for us–provide us with warmth, with our very homes, give us shade and fruit, even supply the very paper you might print my freebies out on–when you consider all that, you have to also remember that there isn’t an unlimited supply of trees on the planet and we should do our level best to replace what we use.

Why?  Well, I believe Silverstein would tell you trees have feelings, too.  And I would have to agree.

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Holy Lil’ Bear Book Club, Batman!

lil bear book clubI was pretty excited when the big white box came in the mail this week.  The one with the little sticker in the middle that had a sweet little bear on it.  You see, I had read recently about a website that offered a monthly book club for littles and since, you know, I am All About books for littles, I Had To Check It Out.

lil bear book club collage 

The folks over at Lil’ Bear Book Club were kind enough to send me a box pronto.  And they did not let me down.  I think my very favorite thing about this particular club was the packaging.  Because there are many book clubs out there, right?  But this one is special.  I mean, really special.  Because your little, if you sign up, will receive a box in the mail every month that contains from 2-4 books in it.  And those books will be individually wrapped, then wrapped together in tissue paper.  I’m not going to lie, I haven’t been a little for at least 30 years, and my heart still pounded when I saw those rectangular presents sitting there in the box.  My Littles, who claim to be big now, stopped in their tracks when they saw the box of gifts.

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“What is That?”  they asked.

I couldn’t contain my grin.  “Books.  There are books in there.”

And my teen and tween boys lit up.  “Let’s see ’em!”

So we opened our presents.  This particular box had board books in it.  Lil’ Bear Book club has two options:  board books and picture books.  The board books option is a little cheaper than the picture books option, but they are both quite reasonably priced.  You can sign up for month-to-month books, which will run $16.99 a month plus $5 shipping and handling.  Or you can sign up and pay for a whole year at once, and you save $1.99, paying $180.00 for 12 months of books.  At 3-4 books a month, that’s $5 or less a book.  You can also choose a 3 month or 6 month option, both of which also save you a little cash.  And you’re not just getting books here.  You’re getting a service.  You’re getting a monthly Christmas morning for your littles, who will not only enjoy getting their own mail, but will have the added bonus of that mail being comprised of wrapped gifts.  Every month.  It’s like having a year-long  birthday.  I’m not breathing right, I’m so excited.

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Listen, I really didn’t know what to expect book-wise from this club.  Some book clubs just aren’t worth it, right?  But I was pleased to open my presents and find quality, relevant books inside.  And yeah, they’re board books, but Littlest jumped all over the Dinosaur Train book, because when they were small, my Littles Loved That Show.

littlest dinosaur train

Middle’s favorite was Jack and the Beanstalk.  Because everyone loves fairy tales and the illustrations in this one were hilarious.

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Me?  I was a big fan of the third book.  Because this a book club and sometimes you get what you pay for and sometimes you don’t.  In this case, you totally do.  If you have a preschooler or a little just learning to read, imagine how much she would love this book:

Um, I love that!  No cheesy, cheap board books here.  Lil’ Bear provides the good stuff.

I think it is probably the best thing in the world that a book can transcend age and expectations, that if we see one that draws our interest, we can read it without worrying about grade level, a rating, or some other censorship.  That my Littles devoured these board books just like they would a Jim Butcher novel or a Walking Dead comic.

You want your littles to be that way, too, right?  I can’t think of a book club that would be better to join.  I highly recommend checking Lil’ Bear out.  Even if you only join for a month or two, you’re going to make your littles feel so special.

Anything you can do to keep them reading, you should do.  Creating these kinds of memories to associate with reading?  Yeah yeah, Mama.  That’s the stuff.

Love wins,

KT

YA Book Review: The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You

Let me preface this by saying this YA romance is not my usual fare.  This kind of book tends to remind me of the absolutely god-awful books available for teens during the 80s, and I try to steer clear of them. I have never been a fan of a romance novel for any age.  They seem rather plot-less, mindless, and well, full of drivel.

worse than me cover

Then I have to tell you that I Loved Loved Loved this book.  A bunch of really smart girls who attend a school for nerds, love comic books, and are such great characters they don’t have to have anything supernatural happen to them in order to be interesting?

Oh Yeah.  I’m in.

And it turns out this book is far from plot-less.  I would be lying if I said I couldn’t wait to see what Trixie and her friends got up to next, or if I didn’t admit that I really didn’t want this book to end.  The main story was about Trixie’s hate-love relationship with her lifelong nemesis, Ben West.  I say hate-love because they have hated each other since they first met (in the first grade) in a kind of Elizabeth-Mr. Darcy Pride and Prejudice kind of way.  Their favorite pastime is matching wits with each other, and their friends worry that someone will end up taking skin in one of their daily battles.  Then Trixie gets left behind in the haunted house at the school’s Harvest Festival and has to ask a masked clown to help her out.  The clown is gallant and sweet and leads her away from the horrors with gentlemanly grace, and Trixie spends days fantasizing about who was behind the mask and whether he would make–gulp–boyfriend material.  Imagine her humiliation when the clown turns out to be Ben West.

But that’s not the only thing going on here.  A slew of seniors in this school for the intellectually gifted have been tagged for cheating and student rankings are running amok as the cheaters get pulled out of the running.  As the number of alleged cheaters grows, Trixie and her friends begin to wonder if cheating really is happening or if something more sinister is going on.  Remember when I said I usually figure out the mystery pretty quickly?  One of the reasons this book rocked is that the characters distracted me so well I forgot to try to figure it out.  I wasn’t necessarily shocked at the reveal, but I didn’t figure it out myself.

My favorite part was when Trixie, a die-hard comic reader, sewed a strip of Star Wars fabric into her Winter Ball formal dress.  Love reading about a teenage girl who knows herself well enough to take that kind of risk and be completely comfortable with it.  And these characters?  Anyone who is or has ever been a teenager will totally relate to them.  Especially anyone who has ever been proud to know all the characters of Tolkien’s trilogy, all the actors who ever played Dr. Who, or one of the languages introduced by Star Wars.

Yeah yeah.  Be a geek and be damn proud of it.

And it doesn’t hurt to suddenly realize there is someone in the world who completely gets you and fall madly in love.

That’s the stuff.

Love wins,

KT

This post is linked to Literacy Musings Monday

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