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STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

SCARS book cover

Kendra must face her past and stop hurting herself--before it's too late.

Awards: #1 in the Top 10 ALA Quick Picks, ALA's Rainbow List, a Governor General Literary Award Finalist, Staff Pick for Teaching Tolerance.

Yes, it's my own arm on the cover of SCARS.

HUNTED book cover

Caitlyn, a telepath in a world where having any paranormal power at all can kill her, must decide between saving herself or saving the world.

Awards: A finalist for the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award.

PARALLEL VISIONS book cover

Kate sees visions of the future--but only when she has an asthma attack. When she "sees" her sister being beaten, and a schoolmate killing herself, Kate must trigger more attacks--but that could kill her.

Awards: 2013 Gold Winner, Wise Bear Digital Awards, YA Paranormal category.

STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

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Teen Books That Have Something to Say


Twilight

Review

Twilight
by Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown Young Readers,(October 2005)
ISBN-10: 0316160172
ISBN-13: 9780316160179

My rating:



Preface
I'd never given much thought to how I would die—though I'd had reason enough in the last few months—but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.
I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly back at me.
Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something.
--Twilight, Stephenie Meyer, p. 1.

17-year-old Bella moves to Forks, WA to live with Charlie, her father, and also the police chief of the town. Bella is sure she'll hate it. It's rainy (she loves sun), small town-ish, and her father doesn't know how to talk to her. She soon discovers someone who makes her love the place—Edward, a stunningly handsome, broodish teen, who, along with the rest of his family, keep a distance from the others at school. Edward acts both angry with Bella and exceedingly protective of her, saving her life, and she finds herself attracted to him. She finds out he's a vampire who is drawn to her scent, but this doesn't stop her from wanting to be with him. They fall in love with each other, and have to deal with what should keep them apart—Edward's desire to kill her and to protect and love her alive.

This gripping romantic-suspense fantasy has two heroes—Bella and Edward--who both have strong moral compasses, deep attraction for each other, but who are initially kept apart through Edward being a vampire. The danger that is there is underscored by the way Edward repeatedly kisses or touches her neck, where readers associate a vampire sucking. Some readers may find this offputting, others may find it a reminder or thrill of the danger.

Meyer uses many everyday details and setting, and an understanding of lust and love, to help make the story feel real. The observed details in relationships, including Bella and her parents, feel keenly observed. Bella moves through normal life for quite a while, with many hints that there is something strange about Edward, before she discovers the truth, and although readers may know about Edward before reading the book, this does not take away from the well built-up suspense and intrigue. Meyer skillfully slowly reveals secrets and information that help add to the suspense and keep the reader hooked.

There are many moments where the reader will understand before Bella does what is going on, or what the hints mean (such as Edward and his family all having old-fashioned names, Edward and his family not eating food, or Edward ducking out of science class when the students' blood is tested), and this may add to the reader's enjoyment. And there are other suggestions of mystery that keep the reader in suspense—also adding to the pleasure of the book. There are also some nice brief infusions of humor.

Bella's intense attraction to Edward, her obsession with him, and the ways she acts and reacts to him, feel real and believable. Anyone who's ever been in love will be able to identify with it. The tension in their relationship, and whether they will be able to be together and be happy, is strong, and helps to pull the story forward. However, the way in which Bella repeatedly seems to not care if Edward kills her, as long as she's with him, is irritating, unrealistic, and not a good message.

The greatest tension and forward momentum of the book seems to be the attraction between Bella and Edward and the things that keep them apart, and the secrets that are slowly revealed. Once Bella knows who he is, and Edward and his family completely accept Bella, some of this tension is gone, even though Bella is then threatened by an outside vampire. For me, the story took an over-the-top dramatic turn at that point, that made me lose some of my belief in the story world. However, I kept rooting for the characters to win.

There were a few threads or suggestions that seemed important but were never picked up again or resolved, such as the many suggestions in the beginning of the book that Bella is markedly different or special (through her being able to smell blood when Edward says people can't, her sallow pale skin (the vampires are also very pale), her ability to see Edward's extraordinary abilities when no one else observes them, etc.), as well as that Billy, a Native American who is aware of the vampires, may tell Bella's father or somehow interfere with their relationship. And, if Edward and his adopted siblings do not age, how is it that they've lived in Forks for decades (according to Jacob and his great-grandfather), when children and teens quickly visually change? These threads were, at least for me, left hanging, and continued to niggle at me.

Bella's hypotheses about what gives Edward his extraordinary strength, speed, and other abilities seem childish or obtuse, and not like the smart character she otherwise appears to be. As well, she is told the truth about Edward, instead of putting it together herself. It would have been more compelling and hero-like if she'd figured it out herself. And the way she manipulates and uses a younger boy to hear the truth about Edward is off putting; the reader may briefly lose empathy for her.

Although Edward being so protective of Bella makes him more appealing and likeable, the intensity and frequency of his protective actions seem a little over-the-top or not fully explained, especially at first. That Edward saves Bella multiple times also increases his appeal, as does Bella repeatedly telling us how deeply safe she feels with him. His protectiveness is especially appealing since Bella caretakes both her parents in ways that they should be taking care of her, so it's refreshing that someone takes care of her for a change--even though that taking care is laced with danger. It also greatly helps that Edward and his family suck animal blood instead of human blood, making a choice to not be monsters.

Bella and Edward, especially, are well-drawn characters, but Bella's girl friends at school seem to blur together, and didn't have enough that characterized them. Bella and Edward are both highly likeable characters—they both have inner strength, strong ethics, devotion to each other, and humor. Bella has spunk, bravery, a deep love for Edward, and a hero-like protection of Edward's secret, and her physical clumsiness and shyness also help balance out her hero status. Those "flaws" also help make many small moments in the novel seem more real. Edward is fiercely protective of Bella, and swoops in to save her many times (acting as a hero, even a super hero), he's charming, attractive, and has extraordinary, superhero-like abilities. His pained inner conflict between the vampire side of him wanting Bella's blood and the human side of her that loves her deeply helps make him more real.

Meyer writes with talent and skill; her book is absorbing and interesting, and rarely ever pushes the reader out of the fictional world. The many emotionally true observations and actions add layers of depth and believablility to this rich fantasy.

Although I do not usually enjoy vampire stories, this book pulled me in. I found myself not wanting the book to end. This is a very enjoyable read, full of suspense, romance, fantasy, and hero-like characters. Highly recommended.

If you enjoy this book, Meyer has a sequel: New Moon (2006).

-Added January 2007


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