One for the parents… Preparing Your Teens For College!

prepare college

This is a great handbook for parents who are interested in shaping their kids into well-rounded, well-grounded young adults instead of just surviving the teen years and pushing their kids off to college. Which, hopefully, is most parents. I appreciated that Chediak actually started with building the character and faith of teens before anything academic, making this focus of this on building up and truly preparing students throughout high school. Every student will have unique experiences and face different challenges throughout his/her educational career, so the more we can do to give them the tools they need to thrive, the better off they are. If I have one criticism, it’s that it’s long and could feel overwhelming, but the way he has it broken down into separate “conversations” with key points and the end of each makes it more user friendly for parents who might not have time to sit down and do a complete page by page read-through.

A fun new YA romantic comedy

I’ve been a fan of Cassie Mae for a while. She writes fun romantic young adult and new adult titles, which I’ve reviewed here before… Friday Night Alibi, Reasons I Fell for the Fat Funny Friend, and Switched. She’s back again, writing under the pen name of Becca Ann, and this time it’s a joint novel with her writing partner, Tessa Marie.

In King Sized Beds and Happy Trails, best friends since forever Ryan and Lexie are going on their senior class trip to a ski resort, and through a series of events (all of which make me shudder as a teacher of teenagers who takes students on overnight trips, because if this happened on one of my trips, OMG), they end up sharing a cabin. Just the two of them and one king sized bed.

For Lexie, this is no big deal. She’s sharing a cabin with her best friend, which doesn’t matter much since she’s there to finally catch the eye of one of their classmates who she’s been obsessing over. For Ryan, though, this is a very big deal… his feelings for Lexie went from friend to much-more-than-friend a while back, and watching her pursue another guy is horrible. Thankfully, it’s not long before Lexi realizes the other guy is kind of douchey when she has Ryan so close to her and, well, then things get interesting.

I really love Lexie and Ryan in this. Their story in told in an alternating POV between the two of them which was really well done.  The overall story was cute, funny, and sweet. I recommend this to upper high school and college – though it’s technically Young Adult, it feels more like New Adult to me. I know I’m definitely looking forward to another Lexi and Ryan story already!

Want to join in some fun? Becca Ann and Tessa Marie are hosting a release party today with giveaways on Facebook. It’s a public event, so stop by, join, and enter to win prizes all day long!

king sized beds

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

fangirl

This book is exactly what YA novels should lead into and what the NA genre in general should strive to be. Wow.

Fangirl is the story of Cather, a twin trying to find her own way in her first year of college. Throughout the book, she deals with her dad’s health, her mom’s abandonment, her sister’s rebellion, her first love, and her obvious talent for writing. What I love about Cather, though, is that she’s not your typical book heroine. I mean, she’s strong, but it’s an understated strong. She wouldn’t consider herself strong, but she’s incredible. She knows her passion and goes for it whole-heartedly.

What I love even more than Cather and her writing talent is Levi’s adorable self. There’s something about the way he talks to Cath that is irresistible, and as much as I don’t usually go for country guys, but his sweetness and ever-present flannel are perfect.

Another Little Piece of My Heart – blog tour, giveaway, and deleted scene!

A couple of weeks ago, I told you all about Tracey Martin’s new release, Another Little Piece of My Heart. I loved it. Click the book cover (which is super cute, by the way) to learn more bout it.

Another Little Piece of My Heart

Today, I’m excited to be a part of her book release blog tour and share with a deleted scene with you AND a chance to win a gift card, a signed copy of the book, and some book swag. Yay!

First, the deleted scene from Jared’s POV:

“Dude, I can’t believe you’re doing this.”

Mike’s shaking his head at me from the doorway. Ignoring the disbelief in his voice, I toss my empty Coke can in his recycle bin and grab my guitar. “You’ve said that like five times now. I’m doing this. Let’s go.”

Let’s go before the event is over. Let’s go before Mike’s asshole roommate, Zach, shows up. Let’s go before I decide trying to win my ex-girlfriend back using the very same method that made her hate me is not the best decision I ever made.

Let’s fucking go.

Mike unlocks his car, and I carefully strap in my guitar case on the back seat. Smacking a mosquito, I climb in the front. Let’s go before I contract Lyme Disease or Triple E.

Neither of us say much on the drive to Eliot Beach. I don’t know what Mike’s thinking as he plays with the radio, but my mind is so far away I can barely hear the music. Connecticut, New Hampshire, Connecticut… My memories ping pong back and forth until I’m dizzy with them.

For the past two years, my last memory of Claire was the way her lip trembled that day in the mall, her brown eyes wide and almost eerily unseeing. Her face vacant and distressed. It didn’t make for a good last memory, not for a girl whose smile used to make my heart stop, and whose one-liners used to make me wonder how I’d duped her into thinking I was smart enough to hang out with her, and whose lips on my skin…

I should stop there. She’s not mine to kiss anymore, and if I follow that line of thought, I’ll just get depressed.

Point is, that scene didn’t make for a good last memory, but I’m the one who made it my last memory. Until a few weeks ago, that is, when I ran into her in the strangest, most unlikely place in the entire country. How does that happen? What kind of twisted deity arranged for that?

I hadn’t wanted a second chance. I’d told myself I’d moved on. But her constant presence was too much.

I didn’t deserve a second chance. So I told myself she was better off. But the way she played that day in the park was too irresistible. I knew then I had to have her back anyway. She’s either my muse or some demon sent to torment me.

So here I am, either about to do something really romantic or something incredibly stupid. With my luck, probably stupid. If I hadn’t been an idiot two years ago, I might not have lost all that time.

My stomach twists thinking about it, and I consider that downing that Coke so fast was not a good move. I close my eyes, concentrating on my new song and playing air guitar with my seatbelt. It helps relax me, but it’s not performing the song tonight that’s making my insides roll like the waves.

Finally, Mike parks under a streetlamp by the house where Claire’s family is staying. I force myself to breathe. I inhale the scent of the beach through the open car window and realize I’m about to spin my thumb ring off.

Mike realizes it too. “You sure you—”

“Yes, damn it.” I pry my fingers away from the ring and open the door. “Don’t ask me that again.”

But he asks me that again when we reach the coffee shop, too.

I shoot him a nasty look, and he laughs, and now I know he’s just trying to bug me. “Come on.” I push him into the crowd.

The shop is packed, laughing and whispering people spilling onto the boardwalk. Over the ocean, the sky is already turning dark and the temperature is dropping as fast as the light is fading. But inside the store, it’s barely brighter.

The show’s begun and the lights have been dimmed. I follow Mike to the counter, grateful that no one’s paying any attention to the guy the with the guitar case for a change. That’s because some other guy with a guitar is already performing, regaling everybody with my least favorite Dylan song. I tune him out, just like I always try to tune out Dylan whenever anyone puts on his music.

After signing some paper and buying some over-priced coffee, I worm my way to the back. Mike’s head is swiveling around, searching for Claire and company, I guess. I let him look out for friends. I have to look out for my guitar. There’s not enough room for all of us.

“Found them,” he whispers at last, just as the guy on the makeshift stage finishes. Mike motions with his cup to the other side of the room, and I push hair out of my eyes, squinting through the mass of bodies that block my view.

It’s Claire that I find first. Of course. It could be that crazy orange hair—what the hell was she thinking dyeing it orange of all colors?—but I think it’s just that my gaze will hone in on her no matter what. Especially with that hair, she’s like a flame. I can’t not stare.

But she doesn’t seem to notice me. She’s not noticing much if I had to guess. Her face is strained. She looks nervous. I can’t tell from here, but I’d bet she’s gripping her case strap with white knuckles.

Poor Claire. I used to tell her all the time she shouldn’t be nervous about performing because damn, she’s good. But I don’t think she ever believed me.

If she’d let me, I’d make her believe it. But I’m not sure she will.

My hand runs to the Buddha charm hanging around my neck, a tiny silver thing that she once gave me for my birthday. Although I’d stopped wearing it because it was too painful after we split, I kept the charm in my guitar case this whole time. When I finally put it back on tonight, I was thinking I needed the Zen. From the looks of it, though, Claire might need it more than me.

That’s it. I have to go to her now. I have to say something.

I pick up my case, ready to risk clocking a bunch of innocent people with it in order to cross the shop, but then the guy at the mic calls out her name. Too late.

As usual for me.

I settle back against the counter instead, drinking coffee I don’t really want.

“You coming?” Mike asks while Claire gets settled up front.

There’s only one seat open at the table since she got up, so I shrug. Not worth assaulting people to get to it. “I’m good.”

As soon as Mike moves away, I return my attention to Claire. She’s tuning her guitar and saying something to the owner. Even from this distance, I can feel the spark in her—the heat and the life—and I wonder if other people can too. It’s this crazy way she lights up a room that make my lips dry, as though needing her to wet them for me. Her wide nervous eyes and that smile filled with self-doubt only add to her presence. It makes her charming too. And it’s making me crazy.

Some girls think they’re the hottest things on the planet, and I’ve met way more than my share of them. But they have no idea.

She is, without question, the hottest thing on the planet, and she doesn’t even know it. And if she did, she wouldn’t care. That’s part of what makes it so true.

Claire’s talking, and I have to refocus to hear her. “But I did have an ex who wrote more than one unflattering song about me. So this is the song I wrote about the experience.”

I cringe and drink more. If that’s the worst she has to say about that whole ordeal, she’s being too nice. I’m guessing “Romeo Must Die” is one of the least angry songs she wrote in retaliation. Not sure I want to hear the others.

Then she starts to play, and even though I’ve watched videos of her performing this song online, watching her live is amazing. She’s changed so much. Gotten so much better.

And right there I decide she’s the hottest, most talented girl on the planet, too. I might be a bit biased, but screw it. I’m allowed to be. She sounds damn good. Someone else can play critic.

I can’t drag my gaze away until she finishes, and then I assess the audience. They’re smiling and staring at her like I was. That’s my girl, I start to think, except she’s not.

“Um, yeah. New song,” Claire’s saying. “Let’s hope I don’t forget it like I’m forgetting what I’m saying, you know? It’s called ‘That Girl.’”

I lean forward with interest until I hear her lyrics. The words wrap around my chest like a rope, pulling me toward her and crushing the life from me at the same time. I’m not sure what to think, what to make of this plea that she’s singing. But it’s directed at me. I can sense that through and through.

At one point I almost catch her eye but she quickly looks away, and for a half beat, she fumbles. I hear the rhythm crash like the breakers on the rocks. Then she recovers, almost seamlessly.

I don’t, and I close my eyes.

“So why can’t I make you see?

That girl is gone

This girl is here

That girl’s a ghost

This girl is near

That girl hurt you

This girl hurts too

This girl’s sorry for what she did to you”

As her clear, silky voice fades, the room bursts into applause, but I can’t move. Why is she apologizing? I’m the one who’s supposed to apologize. She did that years ago. I’m the one who refused to listen.

I’m the one. And she’s the one. It’s my job to make her see, not the other way around.

For the first time tonight, I feel a little less crazy about what I’m going to do. Not any less nervous because there’s probably never a time when telling the girl you love that you need her in your life is not going to be vomit-inducing, but less crazy. Hopeful even.

I remain by the counter, finishing my coffee for several more performers, but I don’t hear a damn thing until my name. When the owner calls out “Jared Steele,” sounding hilariously confused, I’m ready. Inside, I know I’ve been ready for longer than I care to admit. Claire’s been stuck in my head and heart like the catchiest damn tune ever, so it’s time to make good on this unexpected second chance.

What music hurt, it must also be able to heal.

——————————————————————————————

Now, check out the rafflecopter giveaway for the prizes! I hope you win!

 

The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian

In a rare deviation from my obsession with fiction, I’m highlighting this new book (it comes out tomorrow) for those teenage girls concerned with diet.

When I was in high school, I decided I thought the idea of meat was gross, so I wasn’t going to eat it. The problem, though, was that I wasn’t smart about how I replaced meat’s role in my diet. I basically just had a lot of dairy and a lot of carbs, which didn’t work out so well for me.

My vegetarianism didn’t last very long like that. After a horrible stretch of time in college where I actually tried the Atkin’s Diet (ALL meat – SO gross), I finally found my way back to a heather, easily maintained vegetarian diet that I really enjoy. There’s not much about meat that I miss at all.

As a teacher now,I’m always hearing about girls who are trying to watch what they eat, or who want to be vegetarian to see if they’ll lose weight, or some variation on that. I think this is a valuable resource.

Not only does The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian include some meal and recipe ideas, but it also explains the nuts and bolts of a vegetarian diet, including how to make sure you’re still being healthy while changing your diet.

So, if your New Year’s resolution involved some form of dieting or cutting back on meat, you should check this out. As a long-time vegetarian myself, I know this would have been incredibly valuable to me in high school!

Enjoy. :)

HELP WANTED!

Do you have a love for teen fiction that you’d love to share?

Do you often finish a book and wish you could tell people about it?

Pimples, Popularity, and Protagonists is looking for a few high school or college aged contributors for a monthly or biweekly post on the site. If you’re interested, contact me!

A Bookish Beginning to the New Year…

enders game7891b-justoneyear36644-rennison1Divergentare you experiencedspeak

 

Last year, I gave you lots of book recs for Christmas gifts, and from the feedback I got it seemed like you guys really appreciated the help. I’m sorry my list is so late this year. Where did all the time go? How is it 2014 already?

Anyway, let’s consider these ideas for good ways to get your year started off with great stories.

For the upper HS/College aged student who would love to travel: Gayle Forman’s books, Just One Day and Just One Year, center around a girl traveling during the summer after her high school graduation and the guy she happens to meet while in England. That description doesn’t do it justice AT ALL, so just trust me. If you’re only getting one of them, get Just One Day.

For the high school/college girl who loves all things British: Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison. This series of books makes me laugh out loud constantly. It centers around Georgia Nicholson, a high school girl with a crazy sense of humor, a crazy family, a crazy cat named Angus, and a crazy crush on a very cool, very hot guy. This series goes on for ten books, and all ten are equally as hilarious. In fact, I love them so much that I once used every bit of my birthday money to buy them all in matching editions. True story.

For anybody who likes to think and be inspired: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card was just made into a movie about  month ago. The movie was good. The book is infinitely better. People need to read the book. In a lot of ways, Ender reminded me of Jonas from The Giver – both boys are young when they take on the responsibility of changing their worlds for the better, and I’m a sucker for a story showing a young adult making a difference. What impresses me about Ender’s Game, too, is a completely unexpected and really beautiful display of compassion and empathy at the end.

For those who like a good dystopian trilogy: The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth. There are lots of things I like about this. The whole dystopian, perfect society that’s actually completely horrible mostly because of the government thing is really well done in Roth’s trilogy. I also love the protagonist, Tris, because she’s smart and is beyond driven to do the right thing in all situations, causing you at times to want to yell at her through the pages of the book because you actually WANT her to think about herself a little bit. Tris’s love interest, Four, is incredible and totally book-crush worthy. And, without giving anything away, the ending of the trilogy solidified for me a few things about Veronica Roth: she’s super brave, she clearly has faith, and she’s one amazing writer. I put the last book down full of emotions from the book and full of respect for Roth.mpathy at the end. That’s all I can say without giving it away, but know that it’s good. Really good. And it’s not an easy read – I’d even say it’s not necessarily a YA book, but people would argue with me – so it’s good for readers aged 8th grade and up through adulthood, really.

For high school and college girls, period, because we live in crazy times: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. In Speak, the protagonist lives through the repercussions of breaking up a big summer party resulting in several upperclassmen getting busted. How did she break up the big party? By calling the police due to something horrible that happened, though we don’t find out what happened until the end of the book. It’s a powerful and important book about the power of your voice and the necessity of speaking out against awful actions.

For the teen (or adult for that matter) interested in classic rock and the Woodstock-era: Are You Experienced? by Jordan Sonnenblick. I really, really loved this. I’ve been a fan of Sonnenblick for a long time, and this might just be my new favorite of his. In it, the main character is transported back in time to experience the Woodstock festival, where he learns crazy things about his family and befriends Jimi Hendrix. Really. It’s not at all cheesy, either, in the way it’s done… totally realistic historical fiction with a smudge of mysterious time-travel.

I’d love to hear what’s on your to-read list for 2014!

Another Little Piece of My Heart by Tracey Martin

Another Little Piece of My Heart

Claire’s life has been completely turned upside down, between her mom’s cancer and death, the realization that her college fund has disappeared, and the break up with her first love, Jared, which was her mother’s dying wish. And, as if that’s not enough to send any teenage girl into a sinking spiral of depression, there’s also the little detail about Jared turning their break up into a song… and getting his big break by ranting about her and their big break up. Now the radio isn’t even safe.

Then, months after all of this happened and right after her high school graduation, Claire’s family heads to the beach for the summer. At the beach, Claire really shines and shows her worth as a character because she doesn’t mope around and ignore the world, though we’d certainly understand and forgive her if she did. Instead she goes and gets herself a job in the local grocery store to try to earn back some of that college money. She’s not a helpless little whiny girl. She’s a get out there and get whatever job you can kind of girl. I like that about her.

Of course, though, she just has to run into Jared. He comes into the store while she’s working, and they spend the summer working through the break up songs, arguing, and more.

This is really a sweet story. I loved the characters and the romance of it all, and the song-writing and music focus was fun, making it stand out from your typical YA romance. I’ll definitely be checking out future Tracey Martin titles!

Another Little Piece of My Heart is available as an ebook, and is actually on sale at Amazon right now for $2.50. I’m telling you, this is a great way to spend $2.50!

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

roomies sara zarr tara altebrando This book made me want to go back to college. Not like now, as an adult, adding college classes to the insane list of everything else I already do, but like be 17 and about to start college for the first time again. (No, I’m not saying I’d wish away my family or anything crazy like that. Calm down.)

Roomies does a great job of capturing two girls’ emotions as they transition from high school at home to living on the campus of UC Berkley. Elizabeth (known as EB) is an East Coast only child living with her single mom of questionable morals. Lauren is a native San Franciscan living with her parents and seemingly dozens of siblings as one big happy family. When they find out they’re going to be roommates, EB starts off an e-mail chain of correspondence spanning the remainder of their summer as they wrestle through the important things leading up to college:

  • Who brings what stuff?
  • What happens to my high school friendships?
  • Long distance romances… yes or no?
  • How can I leave my family?
  • How can I NOT leave my family?
  • Am I really ready to grow up?
  • Will we get along and be able to live with each other?
  • Can even I do this?

On top of all of that, which was fun to watch as EB and Lauren grew up over the course of the summer and developed a great foundation of a relationship to start their college experiences off with, the story is told in alternating points of view, which I love. I’m a sucker for a well written story with multiple points of view. I find it fascinating. And in this case, with Zarr and Altebrando both writing (I assume they each wrote one of the girls), they really FELT like two completely different people instead of one person writing two characters. It was cool.

I’d recommend this for girls in high school, probably tenth grade and up, and for college/adult women as well. There’s a lot here to make you reflect on your own college experience. It made me wonder how my college years could have been different if I’d had a chance to get to know a roommate before moving in. Or what I would have done differently that summer before college knowing how those high school relationships would fade away so quickly once I moved across the country.

Anyway, I really enjoyed these two characters and seeing how their final summers at home played out. I’d also really like to see a follow-up of their first year in college or something. While the story ended well and I felt satisfied that it was sufficiently finished, I also wanted to know more about them.

Make sure you check it out! Roomies releases on December 24 and can be ordered here on Amazon.

A great New Adult resource!

So I like New Adult. A lot. I think about college and how many HUGE life decisions you make during those four years, and I’m really a fan of any books specifically targeted to that age group to help college aged people (and those of us permanently stuck there mentally – I’m still hemming and hawing about a Master’s degree) through all of that stuff.

What I’m not a fan of, though, is the New Adult books that make it seem like college is all about running around sleeping with as many people as possible. That’s gross. It IS possible to successfully make it through college without being skanky.

I saw this link posted in twitter and Facebook, so I had to check it out. I like several of these titles, some of which you can find review for in the archives of this blog. So go check it out! Find some new NA reads that are not all about sex. :)

Nice Guys in NA: New Adult Worth Reading