Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, by Laurie Ann Thompson (book review)

book cover of  Be a Changemaker by Laurie Ann Thompson published by Beyond Words Simon PulseUnfair things bother you, a lot.
It’s time to do something about it!
But how to make it happen?

If you have an idea for fixing the world, jumpstart it by getting this book at your local library or favorite independent bookstore, and visit the Be a Changemaker website to share your stories and questions.

How are YOU going to change our world for the better?

Book info: Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters / Laurie Ann Thompson. Beyond Words/Simon Pulse, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Ever gotten so angry about something that you vowed to make it right? Started a great helping project, but run out of ideas or enthusiasm? Get good advice on making a difference in the world from those who’ve tried, failed, and then succeeded so that you can devote your energies to your cause.

Each chapter begins by profiling a youth-led nonprofit group along with their challenges and successes. Be sure that you think through your passions, skills, and the problem that’s bothering you before jumping into your venture. Learn how to work the media, plan a stellar event, and avoid burnout so that your idea goes the distance.

With good research, a dream team and adult mentor who share your vision, and savvy planning, you can truly Be a Changemaker  and make positive things happen with the tools and tips in this book.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on

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Play Me Backwards, by Adam Selzer (book review) – his soul to Satan for chance at her heart

book cover of Play Me Backwards by Adam Selzer published by Simon Schuster BFYRTo turn his life around, Leon needs some help.
His best friend Stan has just the solution… for a price.

Socially inappropriate behavior is the norm, whether hanging out in Satan/Stan’s black basement (has anyone seen his parents recently?) or the breakroom of the low expectations ice cream place where the best friends “work” (well, they get paid for being there) – but this slacker decides that another chance at having ultra-cool Anna in his life is worth some real effort.

Even if you missed Leon’s earlier misadventures in How To Get Suspended and Influence People,  it’s time to search for the perfect Slushee flavor, visit your local library or favorite independent bookstore to get Play Me Backwards,  and decide for yourself if Stan deserves an extra A in his name!

And yes, there is an EP of songs from/inspired by the crazy-funny novel here, each track complete with backward message.


Book info:  Play Me Backwards / Adam Selzer. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Leon’s had no reason to stop his slide from junior high genius down to senior slacker until Anna’s imminent return to Des Moines shocks him into agreeing to Stan’s personality makeover plan – for the price of his soul.

For years Stan has said he’s really Satan, and maybe his unfailing hangover remedies prove it. But can his master plan make Leon cool again before Anna arrives from  England –  listening to Moby Dick  on unabridged audiobook, finding the Great White Grape Slushee, joining the yearbook staff, and going out with a popular girl – whaaat? Hanging out with Stan and the other goths/slackers in the back room at work is more Leon’s style, but he doesn’t want Anna to think he’s a loser, so here goes.

Somehow cheerleader-cute Paige winds up on the Slushee hunt when Leon rescues her after she’s dumped on Valentine’s Day, and and their drives together turn into something more.

Now, to sneak a satanic poem into the yearbook and finish that zillion-CD whale tale…

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Afterworlds, by Scott Westerfeld (book review) – transforming death, embracing life

book cover of Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld published by Simon TeenOne book with two stories, two heroines.
Two girls, one creating the other.

Lizzie’s plunge into the realms of death and love underscores her creator’s path from aspiring high school writer to published YA author as Darcy Patel discovers what so many authors have told me: writing is hard, but rewriting (and rewriting and rewriting) is so, so much harder.

Scott Westerfeld’s new novel isn’t a tale of writing, but a twinned narrative about rewriting a novel and rewriting a life short-circuited by not-death. Love is a prominent and problematic feature of both stories, a great deal like real life where the darn details of everyday can get in the way of what’s really important.

Releasing on September 23 (most new media goes on sale on Tuesdays…), Afterworlds  will get big buzz because Scott is a big YA author – and because this big two-in-one volume is that good.

Book info: Afterworlds / Scott Westerfeld.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Deferring college for a year to rewrite her first novel, Darcy is excited to move away to New York City, exhilarated to find love, and mystified about how she can craft her story’s ending that her editor requires in this novel-within-a-novel.

On a routine trip between her divorced parents, Lizzie is trapped in a doomsday terrorist attack, plays dead so the killers will ignore her, and discovers that she can now sense ghosts – so begins the mystical love story that Darcy wrote to add to her college applications (2000 words a day for a month makes a 60,000 word novel).

Her family’s Indian heritage provides the mythic basis for this afterworld, a tragic incident from her mother’s hometown inspires the ghost girl in Lizzie’s house, but Darcy invents handsome Yamaraj, who has been living among the dead for centuries, confirms that Lizzie is a psychopomp who helps dead spirits cross over, and falls in love with her.

Guided by an agent, a publisher, and a math-savvy little sister to watch her budget, Darcy feels even luckier when fellow writer Imogen hand-holds her through apartment-hunting and then holds onto her heart.

As they both plunge into rewrites of their very different young adult novels, Darcy and Imogen walk an emotional tightrope between togetherness and writing time. As Lizzie and Yamaraj fall in love, she ignores his warning against seeking vengeance while trying to comfort a little dead girl.

Two complete and compelling novels intertwined in a single volume = Afterworlds.

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Buzz Kill, by Beth Fantaskey (book review) – dead coach, teen sleuth, too many suspects!

book cover of Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey published by Houghton Mifflin HarcourtOne geeky teen girl reporter with few friends.
One new quarterback with no personal history.
One rival cheerleader/reporter with a grudge.
One dead coach with a long list of enemies.

There are more motives for murder, offbeat theories, and potential killers in this story than you can shake a honey-stick at, as loner Millie tries to prove that her dad couldn’t have killed the coach and finds an unexpected ally in new-to-Honeyville Chase who fends off cheerleader Vivienne’s advances as smoothly as he quarterbacks the team to victory.

And how I wish that the video of Viv’s humiliating encounter with the Stingers’ mascot was really on YouTube!  Grab this at your local library or favorite independent bookstore for a fun football Friday read anytime.


Book info: Buzz Kill / Beth Fantaskey. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2014. [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: When the Stingers’ belligerent head coach is murdered at his own football field, Millie puts her reporting skills (and deep knowledge of Nancy Drew mysteries) to work to find the killer.

Millie’s rival on the school newspaper staff is trying to pin the crime on her dad (who’s been named as acting coach), the cute new quarterback (who has no background online at all) decides to help her investigate, and her librarian (who’s guided her through those difficult years after Mom’s death) reveals a decision which shocks her dreadfully.

With 100% overlap between the suspect list and the roster of Coach Killdare’s enemies, socially inept Millie and suavely charming Chase discover motives aplenty, find clues that don’t add up, and unearth some dangerous secrets in this funny maybe-romantic mystery, along with an inept detective, old movies, homemade pie, a smelly dog, and international paperweights. (One of 6,000 books recommended on

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Dirt Bike, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly, by Conrad Wesselhoeft (book review) – grief, honor & gaming

book cover of Dirt Bikes Drones and Other Ways to Fly by Conrad Wesselhoeft published by Houghton MifflinPlaying chicken with big trucks on the highway,
joysticking into the Drone Zone,
adrenaline removes Arlo’s grief…for a while.

Trying to cope with Mom’s murder, Siouxsie’s progressive neurological disease, Dad’s retreat into the bottle – Arlo keeps his dirt bike running, scrounges change to play Drone Fighter at his tiny town’s online cafe, but then what? One early morning phone call changes things (but not everything).

Traveling recently through bone-dry northern New Mexico where the author strands this small town, I can see why anyone there would want to find a way to get away, even if it means trading the make-believe of gaming for real drone piloting and its violent consequences.

Read this April 2014 book now – right now!

Book info: Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly / Conrad Wesselhoeft. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2014. [author blog]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Arlo’s gaming skills could pay his sister’s huge medical bills, his dirt bike prowess could salvage his reputation in their small New Mexico town, but it’ll take something more to rescue his family from their endless grieving for Mom.

When the US Air Force wants Arlo to fly real reconnaissance drones over Pakistan from their base at White Sands, based solely on his Drone Fighter video game world ranking, the 17-year-old’s journalist dad is skeptical – until the Colonel erases their debts for Siouxsie’s treatments.

When gorgeous Lee slides into dusty Orphan County to stay with her aunt until her dad returns from his Afghanistan deployment, Arlo thinks she’ll scorn scruffy dirt bikes after leaving her smooth Harley in Seattle – until she helps his Evel Kneivel-style jump go higher and farther.

Zooming down I-25 from the New Mexico-Colorado borderlands whenever the Colonel phones, Arlo has too much time to think on his way to White Sands. Even if he can discover the most-wanted terrorist’s whereabouts with his drone, how can he recover what his family lost when Mom was murdered?

Mountain vistas, Mom’s ashes spread atop the mesa, small-town football as seen from the snack bar, and a moto-stunt for the ages fill this don’t-miss novel about love, grief, and honor.

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Green Teen Cookbook Winner!

book cover of Green Teen Cookbook published by Zest BooksThanks to everyone who entered the drawing for a free autographed copy of The Green Teen Cookbook. Reading all the summer things that y’all like to cook with made me so hungry!

I numbered the comments (excluding my responses) from 1 to 17, entered 1-17 into the random sequence generator at , and it gave me this list:

screenshot of showing winner is number 16



So commenter #16 is our winner! Jenna, watch your email for my note from to get your mailing address so that Zest Books can send your Green Teen Cookbook directly to you.

Update: because Jenna lives out of the USA, the autographed copy will be sent to commenter #8 (next on the random list): Connie Burke!

Happy, healthy cooking to all – and watch BooksYALove for more YA books beyond bestsellers (with no spoilers)!

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Giveaway deadline soon!

book cover of Green Teen Cookbook published by Zest BooksJust a quick reminder that Sunday is your last day to enter the giveaway for autographed copy of The Green Teen Cookbook by commenting over here on my recommendation for this yummy title.

After these chilly nights in Moscow for #IASL2014, my fellow school librarians and I are ready to warm up with some Chicken Noodle Soup with Cheese Muffins like Roscoe shows in the book. Does your weather have you longing for hot food or for cool treats?

See y’all Stateside soon, and I’ll rev up the Randomizer and see which comment number comes out as the winner!


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One Death, Nine Stories (book review) – his last act triggered many firsts

book cover of One Death Nine Stories edited by Marc Aronson & Charles R Smith published by Candlewick Press “Kevin’s dead?”
“I can’t believe it!”

As they did in Pick Up Game  (my review here), the editors asked one YA author to write the first story on the collection’s theme of initiation. Then eight other writers took strands from “Down Below” as they introduced teens whose lives were impacted by Kevin’s life and death, each tale one of a pivotal line crossed, a change that can’t be undone.

Like a kaleidoscope’s image changes when it’s passed from one viewer to the next, these nine interlocked stories show many different images of the 19-year-old New Yorker, darkness with glints of hope, questions of racial identity, parental affection, and the bonds of friendship.

Just published today – come over to Kevin’s neighborhood, meet his sister, his running buddies, the funeral home cosmetologist, the dead ends and new beginnings.

Book info: One Death, Nine Stories / edited by Marc Aronson & Charles R. Smith. Candlewick Press, 2014.  [Marc Aronson's website] [Charles R. Smith Jr.'s website] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Initiations in teen life – joyous, bitter, tragic – weave together this short story collection of the many firsts experienced after Kevin’s death by teens who knew him and some who’d never even met the 19 year old.

The anthology begins as Rita Garcia-Williams takes us to a teen’s first day of work at his uncle’s funeral home as drifting-along Morris suddenly realizes that he went to high school with the guy in that body bag.

Mick first meets Kevin as an altar boy in “Initiation” by Ellen Hopkins, but won’t play along to “The Next Next Level” of dangerous deeds in Torrey Maldanado’s story.

Kevin’s track teammate “Running Man” must outrace a bullet, tells Charles R. Smith, while Jackson starts football “Two-a-Days” down in Chris Barton’s Texas wondering about this Kevin guy whose death caused so many messages online.

“Just Once” Candy would have liked Kevin to give his affection without the bleak insults, chronicles A.S. King, while Kevin’s little sister reclaims his personal effects and finds herself saying “I Have a Gun” in Will Weaver’s tale.

Nadira’s “Making Up the Dead” (by Nora Raleigh Baskin) and making something of herself, while the college “Connections” described by Marina Budhos aren’t enough to keep Kevin in this world.

A strong collection of short stories about a life cut short and the choices made by those left behind.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on

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Looking back at crazy school days

Did you read every BooksYALove recommendation this summer? No?

Well, be sure to check out these two very different books about school that you might have missed (click on the title link to open its page in a new tab/window):

book cover of Target Practice: Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack published by Graphixbook cover of Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer published by Knopf Books for Young ReadersTarget Practice,  by Mike Maihack – Great combo in this graphic novel with talking cats, aliens, and the Queen of the Nile as a curious teen.

Kate Hattemer’s Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy pits those who think “For Art’s Sake” reality show is their path to success against the kids who think it’s ruining their school.

Remember that you still have time to enter the free giveaway for an autographed copy of The Green Teen Cookbook from Zest Books. Go to my original recommendation here and comment by 11:59 pm Central Daylight Time on Sunday, 31 August 2014 to be entered. I’ll toss all the comments into Randomizer when I get back from #IASL2014 in Moscow, and we’ll see who the lucky winner is!

p.s. Do either of these schools resemble yours?

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OCD Love Story, by Corey Ann Haydu (book review) – counseling, compulsions, Cupid?

book cover of OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu published by Simon PulseObsessions and compulsions.
An unsought-for chance at love.
5, 6, 7, 8…

What are the odds that the sweet guy that Bea met during a blackout would be in her new therapy group? That they’ll make it past date #8? That Bea can control her obsession with the fabulous couple she overhears at the therapist’s office?

If Bea keeps denying that her OCD is spiraling out of control again, she might lose Beck (everything in 8s – taps, handwashing, daily gym workouts), her best (and only) friend Lisha, and her own sanity.

Find this 2013 paperback at your local library or favorite independent bookstore (these are both search tools – no affiliate links ever on BooksYALove).


Book info: OCD Love Story / Corey Ann Haydu. Simon Pulse, 2013.    [author site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: When familiar compulsive behaviors won’t keep her most recent obsession at bay, Bea struggles to stay close to her new boyfriend whose own OCD may end their relationship after Date 8.

Whatever triggered Bea’s OCD a few years ago has been firmly locked away by the Boston teen, and she doesn’t agree with Dr. Pat that group therapy will help. But there she finds Beck, the boy she kissed at a dance after the power went out, a guy with his own secrets, sorrows, obsessions, and compulsions.

Suddenly obsessed with the safety of a couple she overheard at Dr. Pat’s office, Bea finds compulsions once again overtaking her daily life, despite the welcome distraction of time with Beck. Can her sanity withstand the strain? Can her relationship with Beck last beyond his obsession with the number 8? (One of 6,000 books recommended on

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