Friday, December 31, 2010

Enchanting Review: Hate List

YA contemporary
Little, Brown
ISBN# 9780316041454
408 pages
Paperback available now

Rating: 5 Enchantments

Valerie Leftman didn’t mean for anyone to die. Her hate list was her way of venting back at those who bullied her. Her boyfriend Nick though had other plans. Five months ago, Nick opened fire at their high school killing and wounding people. Valerie never thought he’d actually use the hate list. In her attempt to stop him, she’s shot in the leg protecting one of those she hated.

Now the town can’t make out if Valerie is a villain or hero. She decides to go back to school to confront those who did survive. Valerie must come to terms on what happened that tragic day in order to make amends and move on with her life.

Wow. One image kept coming to me when I read Valerie’s tale. My sister’s funeral. Her ex boyfriend murdered her then turned the gun on himself. At the funeral the father of the guy who killed my sister showed up. I was furious. How dare he? But my mother taught me a lesson. She told me the father didn’t pull the trigger and that he was hurting too as he lost a son. That same feeling came back to me when reading HATE LIST. Valerie’s emotions and struggles are shown in such an intense and powerful way. Also she shows us the Nick she loved so he’s not such a monster. That’s one thing I love about this story. It would be so easy to just dwell on the graphic horror of the shooting and show Nick as a crazy monster. Instead the author gives us characters that are fleshed out and have us care.

The writing is powerful and gripping. Life isn’t all roses when Val shows back up at school. Her own family has issues too with her part of the tragedy like her father who believes she’s at fault too. There are others like the girl Valerie saved who go out of her way to be friends though others around her ridicule and just hope Val disappears. The ending of this book had me in tears when Val and her friend go to all those who were affected by the shooting. Haunting and riveting, this is one tale that really stays with you.

Jennifer Brown writes and lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband and three children. She’s also a columnist for the Kansas City Star. Read more about her at

Kim Baccellia
December 2010

Enchanting Review: Med Head

YA Non-fiction
Little, Brown
ISBN# 9780316076173
302 pages
Paperback available now

5 Enchantments

Corey Friedman is an ordinary teenager with issues that take all his strength and courage to overcome. This is an account of his thirteen year journey dealing with OCD, anxiety, and Tourette’s symptom.

Wow. Reading Corey’s story amazes me. What he went through as a child with the daily ridicule of his peers and then the pure hell of a life time of different drugs, totally is awe inspiring. My own son deals with sensory issues and I’ve dealt with a school system that wasn’t supportive. I can’t even imagine what Corey’s parents went through. What is really inspiring is Corey’s voice. His descriptions of the meds that caused serious issues are so real. I felt for him when this one so-called expert in the field of Tourette’s, ends up just viewing Corey as a test subject even when the one drug she prescribes to him causes him to want to end his life.

Corey also shows the reader what it’s like to basically be a guinea pig to a wide assortment of meds. His OCD and Tourette’s were very extreme. One way Corey dealt with the pain was self-medicating with alcohol. But this book doesn’t just dwell on the negative. It shows Corey’s successes and triumphs. My favorite part is when Corey shows this one school founder that he will make it out in the real world. And he does with determination and persistence.

The story is haunting and Corey’s personal journey through years of medical turmoil will stay with you. At the conclusion are notes from Corey’s parents, personal photos, and also info on OCD and Tourette’s.

James Patterson is the author of Maximum Ride novels, Witch & Wizard, and a number of other books. He lives in Florida.

Hal Friedman has published five works of fiction. He lives with his wife, Sophia, at the edge of a forest in northern New Jersey.

Kim Baccellia
November 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Enchanting Review: Forge

Historical YA
ISBN# 978-1416961444
304 pages
Hardback available now

5 Enchantments

Fifteen-year-old escaped slave Curzon lives in fear of being discovered. After a chance encounter, he finds himself a member of a battalion under the leadership of George Washington which ends up at Valley Forge. Not only does Curzon deal with hiding his true identity from the other soldiers but the harsh conditions of the war. Also he can’t forget Isabel. Will they meet again? And will he survive?

This is the stunning conclusion to Chains. The rich writing, details, and setting make the reader feel as if they’d been dropped right into the middle of the Revolutionary War. I love Anderson’s eye to fine details to what the soldiers ate, wore, and how they interacted during this time. Curzon’s character is multidimensional. You can feel his conflict on how he feels towards a white friend he made on the battle field to the anger that his race still is considered not good enough to be free. There is one scene where he’s invited to go to this one officer’s home. He goes to the kitchen where he encounters some slaves. When the officer sees him there, he refuses to feed him.

What I really love about these books is how well Anderson brings emotions to the surface. I felt anger, sadness, and even horror at what Curzon sees at Valley Forge. She’s able to paint a harsh, realistic picture of the numbness that must happen to someone who witnesses war.

I highly recommend this book to fans of Anderson and also to any school library. Both Chains and Forge would be great books to use in discussions of the Revolutionary War and how freedom didn’t include all men at that time.

Laurie Halse Anderson is an award-winning author of Speak and Chains, which were both National Book Award Finalists. Laurie lives in northern New York, where’s she’s working on Isabel and Curzon’s final adventure. Find out more on her blog at and

Kim Baccellia
October 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Enchanting Review: I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend

Historical YA
ISBN# 978-0385739405
Hardcover—Available Now

Rating: 4.5 Enchantments

I WAS JANE AUSTEN'S BEST FRIEND is a fun historical read for any Jane Austen fan. Actually based in part on fact: Jane's cousin did send a letter letting the family know of Jane's illness and both girls were brought back home with the Austen family, the tale veers off mainly into fiction from then on.

I very much enjoyed I WAS JANE AUSTEN'S BEST FRIEND. Ms. Harrison does a terrific job transporting the reader back in time to 1791 and the Austen family home, making them feel like they are right there watching the story unfold. Cousin Jenny is a great character. Having lost her mother and spent the last few years at boarding school, she's delighted to find herself rescued alongside Jane, and at home with her Aunt Austen and family. The fact that she had to sneak out to get the letter sent however weighs heavily on her mind, as the scandal could ruin her reputation if found out, as it is especially important that the girls make good matches, since there aren't much funds for either of them. Only Jane knows the truth of how the letter was truly sent. When the young Captain that helped Jenny that night arrives in the area, Jenny is panicked, what if he tells the truth?

Ms. Harrison creates a fun and enthusiastic young Jane Austen in her novel. Jane is full of life, loves hanging around her brothers, writing down her stories and sharing them with Jenny and her family. Her relationship with her mother is a strained one, the reason behind which comes to light later in the book when she takes Jenny to meet George, her other older brother who lives in town. I especially enjoyed the scenes with Jenny, Jane and George where the girls are trying to teach his alphabet in the hopes that he'll be able to one day put words together.

Filled with memorable characters, I WAS JANE AUSTEN'S BEST FRIEND has definitely earned a spot on my keeper shelf. Visit Ms. Harrison online at

Enchanting Reviews
October 2010

Enchanting Review: Jump

Contemporary YA
Tricycle Press
ISBN# 978-0385739405
224 Pages
Hardcover—Available Now

Rating: 4.5 Enchantments

Spoiled. Egotistical. Popular. All can describe Brinkley Harper, the undisputable Queen of Story High. She's currently being forced to see a shrink, the peculiar Irirangi, so she can stay at Story High after an 'incident' with one of the other students, not to mention she's personally responsible for four girls leaving the school. When Irirangi ends the first session by telling Brinkley she has some very special therapy planned for her, Brinkley could never imagine what's in store. Within days of their first meeting, strange things start happening. First, she finds herself inhabiting the body of that freak Miranda of all people. But a funny thing happens, Brinkley begins to see just what her and her friends behaviour looks like when she's on the receiving end of it. And twenty-four hours as Miranda, gives her a glimpse of a life she'd never imagined. Unfortunately, Miranda isn't the last jump she makes.

So for the first few chapters, I really didn't like Brinkley much at all. Selfish, stuck-up, a bully, all are adjectives that barely scratch the surface of Brinkley. But as the story moves on, not only does Brinkley start to see a new side of herself that she isn't all that proud of, the reader sees what Brinkley isn't showing the world. Her boyfriend is more arm candy than anything else, her parents could be the definition of absentee and her housekeeper is the closest thing to family she has. Her growing friendship with Miranda was one of my favourite parts of the book, especially when she confided in her what was really going on and Miranda didn't quite believe her. As Brinkley matures, and starts to discover who she really wants to be, she becomes a far more likeable person. One of the best scenes is when Brinkley decides to get back at the guy Carly likes, after a jump into the other girl's body, where she was ignored and overheard the guy's remarks about 'her'. Definitely one of my favourites in the book.

All in all, I found JUMP to be an enjoyable read.

Ginger Rue was the advice columnist for Sweet 16magazine and has written for Girls’ Life, Teen Vogue, and Seventeen magazines, among others. Visit her online at to learn more.

Enchanting Reviews
October 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Enchanting Review: Enchanted Ivy

YA fantasy
McElderry Books
ISBN# 978-1416986454
310 pages
Hardback Available Now

4 Enchantments

Lily Carter’s dream college is Princeton University. When she finally gets to visit the campus, her grandfather tells her that she’s been selected to take a secret Legacy Test. If she passes, she’ll get an automatic acceptance to Princeton.

But Lily finds out the Legacy Test has some secrets which includes her family. Along the way she meets Tye, a cute college boy with orange and black hair who claims he’s a guard. Also talking gargoyles who tell her there is a gate between our world and a magical one. Lily needs to gather all her strength and courage to unite both worlds and unlock her own family secrets.

I loved Sarah Beth Durst’s first fantasy INTO THE WILD. In that story she has creatures from children’s fairy tales exist right along our world. Durst is an expert on weaving such a world. ENCHANTED IVY is no exception. I loved Lily’s persistence and determination to get into the college of her dreams. Even when she finds out both her grandfather and mother hid some secrets from her, Lily refuses to give up. One of my favorite scenes has to be when she climbs up to one of the gargoyles, unfazed by how strange it all is, and listens to him. Or when she continues to watch out for Tye, even if he isn’t all he seems to be.

Durst casts a spell on the reader with her fantasy world filled with talking gargoyles, cute shape shifter boys, and heroic knights. Let’s just say I’ll never think of Princeton in the same way again! I especially like Tye, the mysterious tiger boy with an impish sense of humor. His loyalty to Lily makes him very likeable too. This fun, colorful world is sure to become a favorite of fantasy lovers.

Sarah Beth Durst is the author of INTO THE WILD and its sequel OUT OF THE WILD. She is a graduate of Princeton University. Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband and children. Visit her at

Kim Baccellia
September 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

Enchanting Review: The Less-Dead

YA Contemporary
Delacorte Press
ISBN# 978-0-385-73675-6
229 pages
Hardback Available Now

Rating: 3.5 Enchantments

Noah Nordstorm likes to rebel, especially against his father who just happens to be the host of a popular Christian radio show. Noah is embarrassed of his father’s messages which he feels are spreading hate. Then a couple local gay teens are murdered. Noah is convinced the killer called into his father’s show.

Noah then meets Will Reed, who happens to be into poetry and is also gay. Noah at first feels strange around Will. When Noah finds out Will has been kicked out of his latest foster home, he tries to reach out. Then tragedy hits. Noah is filled with guilt and determined to find the killer. He’s also wants to show his father and others like him that spreading anti-gay propaganda is behind the recent killings.

This book haunted me and brought the recent gay hate crimes to light. I totally believe in the message--that it’s dangerous to label others and justify this by using the Bible. I agree with the author that God is love, not hate. Also I thought the author’s interpretation of the scriptures used to flame anti-gay propaganda was interesting and insightful.

But this story is more than that. It’s a murder mystery where a teen searches for the killer of a friend. Noah at first seems unlikeable but I could understand some of his reactions as I’ve been around mega conservative Christians too. His struggle to separate himself from his father’s intense views is something I know teens can relate with. The author does a great job of showing this during a family dinner scene where Noah’s father actually meets someone, in this case Will, who happens to be the very person he uses in his homophobic radio messages.

The problem I had with this otherwise engaging tale, had to be that I felt at times the storyline was a tad bit too preachy and forced. Also I kind of guessed who the killer was.

This story does address a subject that is sure to resonate with teens, especially those who live in ultra religious homes where anti-gay propaganda is preached.

April Lurie lives near Austin, Texas, with her husband and their four children. You can read more about her work at

Kim Baccellia
July 2010