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Hip-Hop High School

1 Apr

Title: Hip-Hop High School

Author: Alan Lawrence Sitomer

Genre: Urban Fiction

Recommended Age: 15-18

Scale: 7.5/10


This book is a sequel to Sitcomer’s  first book The Hoopster and readers are introduced to Andre’s (the protagonist of The Hoopster) younger sister, Theresa. She’s smart and capable and trying very hard to rise above her current station in life. Theresa is surrounded by different examples of lives to lead. Her brother has shown her that she can do more and go to a terrific University, her best friend seems to have chosen gangs and partying, and Theresa feels very alone and confused. She finds solace in hip-hop music. She also tries to follow in her brother’s footsteps and blend in with the culture that surrounds her. This  juxtaposition causes friction.

Enter Devon. Devon has a tough reputation and an ambition for academic success. He and Theresa work hard on their college applications, determined to leave their current lives behind. Disaster strikes, Devon is shot, and Theresa is left to figure out the next step for both.


I dreaded delving into the world of urban fiction. I had this preconceived notion that these books would be depressing, but I actually found that this was uplifting. I think it’s a beautiful story. Theresa’s path probably reflects that of many young adults. More specifically, I think that students would be able to relate to her struggle of wanting to both achieve and fit in with her peer group. At times I thought that the dialogue sounded stiff and that the author may have gone overboard with the slang, but some readers might enjoy that and think that its authentic. Overall, I thought that this book was worth reading and I will read it again.

Read Alikes:


Get Test Smart

31 Mar

Title: Get Test Smart

Genre: Homework Help/Nonfiction

Author: Laurie Rozakis

Recommended Age: 12-14

Scale: 6/10


This book is basically a how-to take tests guide for a middle school audience. Students will be able to find advice and tips on how to avoid state dependent learning.  There are also sections instructing students on how to: write a persuasive essay, analyze a map, and brush up on math skills.  How to Get Test Smart includes sample questions so students can practice their new skills.


It was awful for me to read and it contained useless advice like, “Get to Class on time! The early bird catches the worm!” Having said that,  some readers might get something out of it.  The author included a study schedule and I thought that was ingenious.  I think it’s a habit that people should start as soon as possible and it was nice to see that in there.  The book strikes me as containing a lot of information that probably seem obvious to most young adults, but again, it might be useful to some. I didn’t love and wouldn’t recommend it, but neither would I weed it from a collection.

Vampire Diaries

31 Mar

Title: Vampire Diaries

Genre: TV Show

Show: Season 1, episode 1

Recommended Age:  High School!

Scale: 8/10


The Vampire Diaries is an American show. The season 1 pilot episode set a record number of viewers for the CW channel and it is one of the most watched shows on television.  The first episode introduces the audience to the main characters. We meet Elena and her brother, both of whom seem fragile after their mother’s untimely death. We also meet two brother vampires and are introduced to the idea that the town is haunted by supernatural beings.


I’m already fighting a horrible vampire addiction. I actually cannot sleep if an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer isn’t playing at a comfortable remove and I have the entire three seasons of True Blood memorized. For my own sanity,  I really did not want to expose myself to more vampire related media, but this seems to be quite popular with young adults and it seemed like something I should know more about.

I really enjoyed this episode. The characters were beautiful to look at, the acting was solid, and I would probably watch this again. However, the dialogue did seem wooden and I kind of found myself wishing that Buffy would come busting out of the forest, stake raised, ready to kill some vamps.

It’s diet Buffy. There’s no wit or humor here. Just good looking people with blood lust. I  would have rated this higher if it had just been a little smarter.

If you liked this, then you might also enjoy…..

Mick Harte Was Here

30 Mar

Title: Mick Harte Was Here

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Author: Barbara Park

Ages: Early Teens (12-14)

Scale: 8.5/10


The narrator of this story is Phoebe and she tells the reader about the days leading up to her brother’s death. Her brother Mick is (was) ten months younger and was one of the funniest and coolest kids at her school. He was adored by pretty much everyone he ever met. Phoebe’s loss is even more poignant and palpable and she spends much of the book wondering if the events that caused Mick’s death were somehow her fault. Her parents are scientists and are unable to comfort her or themselves. The book ends after Phoebe gives a presentation at her school during health and safety week. She goes on to describe that Mick would be alive today if he had only worn his bike helmet.


Barbara Park made me cry.

This woman can write about grieving. I think young adults would be strongly affected by this particular book. The ending is especially heart rendering and after reading it, I immediately  wanted put on my bike helmet. The only things I didn’t love about this book were the loose ends. I like my sad stories to have a happy ending, but this didn’t. The parents were still a long way from healing. Phoebe still seemed like a shadow of her former self.

Overall, I would strongly recommend this book to teens.

Read Alikes:

Teen Vogue= Diet Awesomesauce

30 Mar

Title: Teen Vogue

Genre: Magazine

Author: N/A

Age: 13 and up

Scale: 7.5/10


Teen Vogue is a magazine for young adults. The magazine usually consists of: a celebrity interview, several beauty features, two fashion spreads, several advice columns, a DYI project, and several articles on a variety of subjects.  The magazine is exceptionally well designed. The colors are bright and primary, the fonts are usually bold and unique, and the photographs are fun and light.


I always think of Teen Vogue as being Diet Sassy.

Sassy was an excellent Teen magazine that folded in the early nineties and chronicled the Riot Grrl movement, grunge, and the third wave of feminism like it was nobody’s business.  Sassy and Teen Vogue share many similarities. Young girls are the target audience for Teen Vogue. Sassy was also designed  for young women. Teen Vogue’s layout is bright and fun and the photo shoots usually show a range of models and body-sizes. Sassy was renown for the same thing. Teen Vogue tries to focus on celebrities that young women might view as role models. Sassy did this too.

The similarities end at the content.

Sassy seemed to think that young women should look up to PJ Harvey, Debbie Harris, and Courtney love. Teen Vogue likes to feature harmless young country singers like Taylor Swift.  Sassy delved into the light and airy side of writing occasionally, but generally the bulk of the writing was clever, inspired and witty. Teen Vogue  underestimates  its readers by keeping the articles light and fluffy.

Whoever thought we would miss the nineties?

Overall, I don’t hate Teen Vogue.

I appreciate the design.

I understand that many girls would enjoy this.

The Do It Yourself Project is usually easy and cute.

I just think that there’s a big gaping hole in the magazine industry for teen girls who want a little substance served with their monthly side of fashion.

Rest in Peace Sassy. You remain beloved and missed.

Read Alikes:

Terror in the Harbour!

25 Mar

Title: Terror in the Harbour

Author: Sharon Mackay

Genre: Historical Fiction (also Canadian!)

Recommended Age: 12-14

Scale: 6.5/10


Our Canadian Girls, is a book series for young girls, that examines various themes within different historical settings. The goal of these books is to combine history lessons with great, relatable stories. This particular story is about Penny, who has to grow up very quickly after the Halifax explosion. Her home is destroyed and Penny has to try to keep her family together after the disaster.


This was okay. I enjoy the idea of this series, I’m just not sure about the execution. It seems to me that the Dear Canada series is much better. This book was almost too short to properly get a sense of both the characters andthe tragedy. I’m not sure that I would reccomend this.

Read Alikes:

The Espressologist

24 Mar

Title: See Above

Author:Kristina Springer

Genre:Young Adult Romance

Recommended Age: 15-18

Scale: 7.5/10


Jane Turner, a quirky and independent seventeen year-old barrista, starts setting customers up on dates based on their coffee preferences. Orginally, Jane is thrilled. The job breaks up the boring nature of her work, earns her some bonus points with the manager, and is fun. However, the job stops being fun once she realizes that she managed to set her best friend up with the perfect boy.Long story shot, Jane and said boy (whose name is Cam) end up together and she and her best friend manage to patch things up.


Well. I liked it. It was frivilous and breezy and it took my mind off the boring stressful parts of being a grown-up. I think that the author perfectly captured the mannerisms of seventeen-year-old girls and it made me feel like I was listening to my boyfriend’s little sister talk. There are some problems with this book. Its obvious and it plays out like your typical romantic teen novel, but in a way that can be satisfying. Overall, I would reccomend this book.