Monthly Archives: May 2010

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Teen Librarian Monthly May 2010

The May edition of TLM is available to download here

Inside My Head by Jim Carrington

Guest review by Charlie Morris
Inside My Head tells the story of fifteen year old Zoë recently moved from London to rural
Norfolk with her mum and dad. Not best pleased with her parents decision to move she is
about to discover what life will be like at her new school.
Already at the school are Paul Knaggs the resident bully, David, Knaggs’ sidekick and
Gary Wood their desperately unhappy victim. Constantly bullied Gary is the school loner
and in the eyes of the other kids, he is the lowest of the low, the son of a ‘farmer’. As
Knagg’s unremitting bullying escalates and Gary’s temper reaches breaking point, David’s
loyalty to his bully friend is put to the test.
When Gary is suspended from school for fighting back he is befriended by Zoë who has a
totally new perspective on the situation. As David struggles with his conscience, the need
for him to take a stand against Knaggs before the situation gets completely out of control
becomes more and more urgent.
Inside My Head started life as a short story inspired by anti-bullying week and portrays the
gritty realities of teenage life in a small rural community. Narrated from the points of view of
the main characters the reader is offered a look inside the heads of the bully, the victim,
the best mate and the newcomer making for a challenging examination of the impact of
bullying and the consequences taking a stand which keeps the reader guessing until the
very end.

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Guest review by Charlie Morris
Perfect Chemistry is the story of Britney Ellis, the archetypal airhead; blonde-haired, blue-eyed, cheerleading, BMW-driving, American rich girl. At her school in suburban Chicago, Britney and friends are admired, envied as well as despised in equal measure by the other students.

Alex Fuentes is at the same school, but that is where the similarities to Britney end. Alex is a Mexican American tattooed Latino Blood gang member, a motorbike riding bad boy outcast from the majority of the school as well as being held in low regard by most of his teachers.

Britney and Alex are worlds apart, but when they are forced by their science teacher to become lab project partners sparks begin to fly as they discover that outward appearances can be deceptive. The story centres on exploring whether their feelings for each other will be enough to overcome their own and others prejudices in a world completely unforgiving of their relationship.

Told in alternate chapters in the first person by Britney and Alex we slowly learn that Britney although materially privileged has her problems. Her older sister is severely disabled and living at home. Britney is often her main carer, their mother and father unable to cope, wrapped up in their own busy lives. Britney has taken on adult responsibilities and is constantly bowing to the parental pressure of maintaining her ‘perfect’ image at the cost of her own happiness.

Despite his hard-man exterior Alex also has responsibilities to his family. He became a gang member to protect his mother and two younger brothers after his father was killed in gang violence. He has paid a high price for this with most of the school afraid of him and the gang forcing him into a life of crime when secretly he would like to go to college even though it seems totally out of the question.

Perfect Chemistry confounds expectations as stereotypes are quickly challenged when both Alex and Britney are revealed to have more to them than first meets the eye. Despite the love story plot being at times a little unrealistic the characters are well developed and engaging throughout.

Most interestingly the book provides a well-researched background into the difficulties experienced by Mexicans living in suburban America in its frank portrayal of racial tension and division in American schools, although the book slightly suffers from having an author who is not herself Mexican evident as the elements of the book written from Britney’s perspective looking in on Alex’s life have a stronger voice than those when Alex himself is speaking.

Perfect Chemistry is aimed at an older teen audience and is adult in content with references to sex, drug taking and violence although these are all relevant to plot development and give the book a more realistic edge. Despite this Perfect Chemistry is at times a little too saccharin-sweet and disappointingly defaults to a slightly contrived, formulaic ‘happy ending’.

Perfect Chemistry will attract a primarily romance-interest reader, especially due to its cover featuring the Alex and Britney characters embracing, however it does deserve a wider readership as it has interesting characterisation to offer for UK teen readers as a story of racial division in modern America.

Teen Librarian Monthly April 2010

The April edition of TLM is now available for download here

I'd tell you I love you, but then I'd have to kill you by Ally Carter

Knowing that the quickest way to a man’s heart is through the breastbone is of no help when you are trying to win it
If James Bond had not sprung fully-formed from his creators mind and if he had not had the disability of being male, then the chances are that he would have been a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women.

I’d tell you I love you, but then I’d have to kill you is the first book in the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter and introduces the reader to Cammie (the Chameleon) Morgan, a resourceful young woman fluent in 14 languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways. She is, in fact the perfect spy in training. She is also a teenager, with all the shortcomings that being 15 years of age brings.

Being trained as a superspy is no help when she meets a cute boy when she is out on assignment, add to this a devilishly attractive male teacher and a troublesome new classmate and you have the makings of La Femme Nikita meets Gossip Girl (only far superior).

I’d tell you I love you but the I’d have to kill you is BRILLIANT! A New York Times bestseller, it has strong female protagonists that will appeal to teen boys as well s their female counterparts. It has been my guilty pleasure read this week and it made me the envy of my Teen Book Group.

I am now looking forward to Cross my heart & hope to spy

Fire Djinn by Linda Davies

Set three months after the events of Sea Djinn, Fire Djinn opens with Finn Kennedy and his fellow Light Fighters Georgina and Fred enjoying a night under the stars in the deserts of Dubai. Struck by a plea for help and a vision of destruction they are again plunged into the battle between the Djinns of the Dark and the Light for the life of the world.

Bleaker in tone than the first book; Fire Djinn is just as compelling and entertaining. Ushering in new villains to challenge the at times reluctant heroes with a horrific plot to scorch the face of the world leaving only a chosen few survivors dedicated to serving the dark. With the Light Fire Djinn missing and his forces scattered and broken, Finn and his friends stand alone, his allies in the sea kingdom being of limited use against the earth-bound power of the Dark Fire Djinn.

Linda Davies makes good use of the characters standing in the many shades of grey between the Light and the Dark. I was kept guessing about the motivations and allegiances of a number of the characters up until the end. The secondary characters are proving to be just as interesting as the primary protagonists, with a number of new faces popping up and hopefully staying around to be fleshed out more in future books. A number of the story strands from Sea Djinn were tied up in Fire Djinn and others were expanded and elaborated on. There is a firm sense of continuiity from the first book and Fire Djinn felt like a firm continuation of a solid narrative. The main characters are developing nicely and the morals within the tale are subtle and give pause for thought long after the end of the book.

An epic book that starts with a bang and burns through its pages to a satisfying conclusion and set up for further adventures!


I apologise for the break in transmission but Teen Librarian is back! I seem to have overcome the posting problem with the site and posts will be starting up again this evening!