Category Archives: Reviewed by Chrissie

Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews

Some Assembly Required

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If and when my library teens want to discuss what is going on in their lives, they know I am available as a sounding board, a shoulder to cry on, or as a resource for finding agencies that can provide further help.  Some of my teens have come to me while they were in the process of coming out and/or transitioning.  Thankfully, there are brave young people like Arin Andrews who are willing to share their own stories so that transgender and cisgender people can better understand both the obstacles transgender people face and the resources that are available to them as they decide how they would like to move forward with their lives.

I thought Arin did a great job of explaining the process of [female to male] transitioning both simply and thoroughly; the fact that he managed to do so without being didactic was very impressive!  Though Arin’s transition involved both hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery, he was careful to explain that there are many people who opt to transition differently and that all choices are valid.  I was especially grateful for Arin’s candor about dating and sex, since I am sure many people are curious about how that all “works,” when one or more of the people in the relationship is transgendered.  I think this book would be an excellent resource for someone who is preparing for or struggling with his/her own transition, but I also think it is an important book to share with cisgender teens.  As a woman who feels perfectly at home in the body into which she was born, it has taken years of conversations with transgendered teens to even begin to fully appreciate their struggle.  I can only hope that the open sharing of stories like Arin’s will help future generations to be more understanding and empathetic and that the struggle for trans rights will soon become a part of history.

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld

So Yesterday

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I’m not quite sure how I read [and loved] Peeps, the Uglies series, the Leviathan series, AND Afterworlds but managed not to get around to this book until now…. Though I felt the references to pop culture and technology definitely dated the story a bit, I think it is still relevant enough to recommend to today’s teens.  After all, society still cycles through “cool” fashions and trends.  And I don’t think many people really consider WHY and HOW things become “cool” — they just fall into the trap of wanting the next “cool” thing.  I encourage my kids (my biological children and the ones I work with) to question everything instead of just taking other people’s word for it.  I also encourage them to trust their own instincts and to find their own style instead of caring what other people will think.  As long as you’re not purposely trying to offend other people, I think you should embrace what you love and just go with it.  Hopefully, this story will help some tweens and teens see the light.

Hunter Braque was a “cool hunter.”  He was literally paid, mostly in free shoes, to report upcoming trends and fashions to a major corporation he called “The Client.”  (Throughout the story, Hunter left out the names of the brands/companies to which he was referring — but he gave just enough information that the readers could likely fill in the blanks on their own.)  Hunter actually worked for a woman named Mandy, who reported back to The Client after “cool tastings” (aka focus groups).  When Hunter met Jen, he just knew Mandy would want to meet her, too, and got her an invitation to a cool tasting.  Jen’s new perspective earned both Hunter and Jen an invitation to a super-secret meeting with Mandy, but then Mandy never showed up.  After hearing Mandy’s cell phone ringing from inside the abandoned building, Hunter and Jen broke in and found a stockpile of the coolest shoes they’d ever seen.  They weren’t sure what to think, but they were pretty sure Mandy was in trouble and that it had something to do with those shoes…. Action and mystery combine for a super-fun read that also questions the conformity and consumerism that run rampant in our society.

A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery

A Million Miles Away

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It was hard enough for Kelsey to deal with the death of her identical twin sister, Michelle, but that was only the beginning of her heartache.  Michelle’s most recent boyfriend, Peter, had just deployed to Afghanistan before Michelle’s tragic accident,t and Kelsey didn’t know how to get in touch with him.  She thought Peter deserved to know what had happened, but she didn’t even know his last name — and he was one of those guys who didn’t have a Facebook page, so she couldn’t just stalk him down via her sister’s page.  When she finally ended up talking to him, via Skype, things got out of hand very quickly.  Between the glitchy connection and the fact that she was Michelle’s identical twin, Peter mistakenly thought he was talking to Michelle.  Before Kelsey could correct him, though, an attack on his base made him cut the call short.  She kept meaning to set the record straight, but pretending to be Michelle made it feel almost like Michelle wasn’t actually gone, and she worried what might happen to Peter if the news distracted him from his mission in Afghanistan.

When I initially read the description for this book, I had no sympathy for Kelsey’s predicament.  I was horrified to think that she would even consider impersonating her dead twin.  But, as I read the story, I couldn’t help but feel bad for her.  It was very easy once I saw how it actually played out.  She never intended to hurt anyone, but she just kept digging herself deeper.  The compounding lies ate her up inside, but she was worried even more about how Peter would take the news.  And then, of course, there is the fact that she started to fall in love with him.  Talk about drama!  Fans of Sarah Dessen and Sara Zarr should definitely give this book a try.