BookPage Teen Top Pick, September 2014
Set near the San Francisquito Canyon in Los Angeles County, 100 Sideways Miles is the coming-of-age tale of one teen who learns to live with the tragedies and oddities of his life using his own unique type of mathematical coping.
“So, really, what’s a nice girl like me doing working at a ghastly ol’ crematory like Westwind?” Caitlin Doughty asks near the beginning of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, her by turns shockingly gruesome, mordantly funny and, ultimately, richly thought-provoking memoir about working in an Oakland, California, mortuary and crematorium.
The end of the world might seem like an odd time to care about music and art; why worry about Shakespeare when civilization has collapsed? But in Canadian writer Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, it seems perfectly plausible that a Traveling Symphony would cross the wasteland that exists 20 years after most of the world’s population has died from a flu epidemic.
Thirteen-year-old twins Noah and Jude are so close, they “smush,” pushing themselves together, shoulder to shoulder, exactly as they did in utero. Noah is dreamy and artistic, while his sister Jude is fearless and popular. When their mother announces that both twins should attend CSA, a nearby fine arts high school, Noah is elated, but Jude is less than enthusiastic, as she fears that Noah’s talent far outweighs her own. Three years later, Jude is now attending CSA, but Noah was not accepted. The once-fierce love between the twins has morphed into fierce hatred.
Twelve-year-old Candice Phee figures that her life needs fixing. Her father and her uncle need to end their longtime feud, and her mother needs to find a way out of her depression. Also, her pen pal Denille needs to finally write back, and her new friend Douglas needs to return to the real home he claims is in Another Dimension. Candice knows she can solve these problems, big and small, because she’s daring, determined and bursting with creative ideas.
Mac Barnett, author of the Caldecott Honor-winning picture book Extra Yarn, turns a popular children’s game into a high-wire act in his latest offering. In many picture books featuring people and animals, the animal world serves as the background. In Telephone, the opening spread features a wordless panorama in which children playing outside offer a clue of what’s to come for the many birds sitting on the telephone lines high above.
Gregory Maguire steps out of Oz and into Tsarist Russia in this magical twist on the classic prince and the pauper folk tale.
Ramita Navai sets it straight from the beginning: “In order to live in Tehran, you have to lie,” she writes in City of Lies, a gripping portrait of life inside Iran. “Lying in Tehran is about survival.”
At the time Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, he did not have a definite plan for dealing with the postwar South. Although 360,000 Union troops had died during the Civil War, the North had not suffered the widespread devastation of the Southern states. The nine million white citizens and four million former slaves who lived in the former Confederacy faced a grim future.
While there’s something fascinating about old medical equipment and collections of oddities, it’s harder to truly appreciate the reality of life before modern surgery, let alone the ostracism and pain faced by individuals who suffered from conditions routinely corrected today. In this compelling biography of Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter (1811-1850), Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz brings a poet’s sensibilities to the life of an American surgeon who was at the forefront of advances in medical education and reconstructive surgery.