Tag Archives: Jeff Zentner

All that and there’s a basset hound, too!

4 Apr

It’s only been a month, but it feels like forever since I’ve written about books. After floundering around thinking about which book I’ve read in the last month, I finally settled on one that has a basset hound, because what’s better than books and bassets, right?

The basset hound in Jeff Zentner’s Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee  is not the main character. He does make several appearances though and provides both comic relief and comfort.

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Publisher’s Summary: Every Friday night, best friends Delia and Josie become Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood, hosts of the campy creature feature show Midnite Matinee on the local cable station TV Six.

But with the end of senior year quickly approaching, the girls face tough decisions about their futures. Josie has been dreading graduation, as she tries to decide whether to leave for a big university and chase her dream career in mainstream TV. And Lawson, one of the show’s guest performers, a talented MMA fighter with weaknesses for pancakes, fantasy novels, and Josie, is making her tough decision even harder.

Scary movies are the last connection Delia has to her dad, who abandoned the family years ago. If Midnite Matinee becomes a hit, maybe he’ll see it and want to be a part of her life again. And maybe Josie will stay with the show instead of leaving her behind, too.

As the tug-of-war between growing up and growing apart tests the bonds of their friendship, Josie and Delia start to realize that an uncertain future can be both monstrous…and momentous.

I’m going to be honest here, the story takes a bizarro turn when the girls meet the producer they think will change their lives. However, it also does a great job tackling how friendships evolve as young people grow older, the complex feelings around parental abandonment, and the excitement and uncertainty as high school ends and teens prepare to move on to the next phase of their lives.

 

When good kids make bad decisions

17 Apr

We often tell 6th graders who have done something really stupid, that this is the time in their life when they can make mistakes and truly learn from them, never repeat them. We let them know that, when they are older, the consequences of their actions will be more severe. We say this when they turn in a friends work as their own and mess around in the bathrooms. We have really good kids.

But sometimes, really good kids make tragic mistakes, and it adults don’t tell them this is their chance to learn, they want them punished.

That is the premise of Jeff Zentner’s second novel, Goodbye Days.

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Publisher’s Summary:What if you did something so terrible that it literally steals your breath away?

Something you wish you could take back every waking minute of your life. Something everyone is guilty of doing at one time or another—but this time, it destroyed life as you knew it forever.

“I would tell you that I definitely killed my three best friends. Here’s the cruel irony for the writer I am: I wrote them out of existence.

Where are you guys? Text me back.”

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. But now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, a powerful judge is pressuring the district attorney to open up a criminal investigation.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a “goodbye day” together to share their memories and say a proper farewell.

Soon the other families are asking for their own goodbye day with Carver—but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these goodbye days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?

Although intended for a slightly older audience, this is a YA novel that I can easily put on my 6th grade shelf. There is a little romance, but the book is intelligent and heart-breaking.

The 2017 William C. Morris Award Finalists!!!!!

5 Dec

Here they are!

I’ve only read 2 of the 5, but I now have the 3 I’ve yet to read on hold at the library.

Book cover, Girl Man's Up

Girl Mans Up written by M-E Girard, published by HarperTeen, and imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Gender expansive Pen wants to be seen for who she is, not defined by her appearance. Her Portuguese parents want a traditional girl; her friend Colby treats her like one of the gamer guys. But it’s Blake who helps Pen learn to respect herself and “man up.”

Book cover, Rani Patel In Full Effect
Rani Patel In Full Effect written by Sonia Patel, published by Cinco Puntos Press.

After a devastating family blowup, Rani, aka MC Sutra, shaves her head, stops hiding her love of writing dope rhymes, and attracts attention with her new look and rapping skills. Despite finding a community where she can express herself through poetry and rap, the years of abuse take their toll.
Book cover, The Serpent King

The Serpent King written by Jeff Zentner, published by Crown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a Penguin Random House Comapny.

In a small southern town, senior year finds three misfit friends facing the prospect of their separate futures with both hope and dread. Dill fears he will never escape his snake-handling father’s poisonous legacy. However, Lydia, a fashion blogger, and Travis, a fantasy warrior, foresee hopeful futures.
Book cover ,The Smell of Other People's Houses

The Smell of Other People’s Houses written by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, published by Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a Penguin Random House Comapny.

Life in 1970s Alaska proves difficult for teens, native and non-native alike. In four distinct voices, Ruth, Alyce, Dora, and Hank express the heartbreak and tragedy altering their lives forever—poverty, unwanted pregnancy, death, and abuse. However, when their lives intertwine like invisible threads, each may receive a chance for redemption.
Book cover, Tell Me Something Real

 

Tell Me Something Real written by Calla Devlin, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, and imprint of Simon & Schuster.

The Babcock sisters—brash Adrienne, faithful Marie, and shy Vanessa—spend their summer waiting while their mother slowly wastes away from leukemia. When shocking and devastating information about their mother’s illness surfaces, the girls turn to each other for the love and support they don’t find at home.

Small town debut

16 May

Last year was taken up with debut YA novels I couldn’t write about so I am excited to get write about Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King.  I wonder what this year’s Morris Committee thinks of this one.

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Publisher’s Summary: Dillard Early Jr., Travis Bohannon, and Lydia Blankenship are three friends who have one thing in common: none of them fit the mold in tiny Forrestville, Tennessee. Dill, a talented musician, grew up in a Pentecostal snakehandling church, playing in the praise band. During his freshman year, his father went to prison for a heinous crime, leaving Dill and his mother impoverished.

Travis is a gentle giant who works at his family’s lumberyard and is obsessed with a Game of Throneslike fantasy series, much to his abusive, alcoholic father’s displeasure.

Lydia comes from a loving upper-middle-class family and runs a popular fashion blog that’s part Tavi Gevinson, part Angela Chase, and part Dolly Parton. She’s actively plotting her escape from rural Tennessee for bigger and better things, to capitalize on her Internet fame. This will mean leaving behind Dill—whose feelings for her run deep.

But that’s not Dill’s only problem. He has a cursed name. His grandfather, Dillard Early, became consumed with slaughtering snakes in grief and vengeance after one killed his daughter. He wore their skins pinned to his clothes during his descent into darkness. The whispering and staring locals called him “the Serpent King” before he committed suicide by poison. Dill’s father, also named Dillard Early, was the pastor of Dill’s church, whose parishioners handled serpents and drank poison as signs of faith.

Caught between his mother’s pulling him to drop out of school to help pay off the family debts and Lydia’s pushing him to go to college to escape Forrestville’s whispers and stares, Dill is quickly approaching a reckoning. One that will force him to confront the legacy of darkness—serpents and poison and self-destruction—that is his inheritance.

There are some weaknesses, predictability and some unrealistic elements you might expect in a debut novel, but overall, they are flaws I can live with. It is sad and funny and captures the ups and downs of living life in the goldfish bowl of a small town.

 

 

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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