Swim the Fly by Don Calame

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Matt and his friends set a goal each summer. This summer, the goal is to see a naked girl in real life — no pictures, no internet. Aside from his misadventures encountered while searching for an elusive naked girl, Matt is also struggling to impress his swim-team crush, Kelly. In an attempt to get the girl, Matt volunteers to swim the fly at his team’s meet. The only problem is that the fly is the hardest swimming stroke, and Matt has never competed in the event before. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Matt’s summer is filled with hilarity, near-misses, and some serious consequences.

If you’re looking for a hilarious read, this is it. The plot is a bit (ok, a lot) predictable, but the characters are incredibly funny. I laughed out loud more than once when reading the book (and I don’t do that often). Pick this up if you’re in the mood for a light, not challenging read that will keep you entertained.

Rating: 4/5 

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

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Skink — No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen

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When Richard’s rebel cousin, Malley, runs off with a boyfriend she met online, he knows it’s up to him to save her. Once it’s clear that the police won’t move fast enough, Richard sets off through Florida swamplands in search of his runaway cousin. Along the way he meets Skink, a seemingly homeless, eccentric man who claims he is the ex-governor of Florida. With Skink’s help, Richard gets ever-closer to finding Malley, though her boyfriend-turned-kidnapper always seems one step ahead of the team. In a race against time, Richard and Skink must use every resource available to find Malley before her kidnapper disappears with her forever.

If you like funny books with a little bit of danger and adventure mixed in, give this one a shot. Skink alone is enough of a draw to make the book worth reading, and his hilarious, crazy antics will keep you entertained. Richard can be a bit of a whiner, but he also has some pretty funny scenes. Aside from that, there’s plenty of action and drama once Richard and Skink team up against Malley’s kidnapper. If you’re looking for a lighter read that still has some adventure, this one might be for you. Give it a read!

Rating: 3.5/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Boys Don’t Knit (in public) by T.S. Easton

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After Ben Fletcher is caught attempting to steal alcohol for a party, he receives a probationary sentence in which he is required to take extra-curricular classes. Though he believes he is signing up for pottery with his beautiful teacher, Ms. Swallow, Ben finds himself stuck in a knitting class taught by the mother of his crush. At first, he hates the idea of knitting, but then realizes that the methodical movement helps him with his anxiety issues, and that he’s actually an excellent knitter. But some of Ben’s friends and family are not as accepting of the hobby ( they believe knitting is for girls), and Ben must find a way to hide his new passion, or else risk total humiliation.

I LOVED this book! I also love knitting, so I admit to being a bit biased. But, really, this book was hilarious, exciting, and a really fun read. It is a British book, so there is some British slang, but it’s not so much that it renders the book unreadable (which is kind of what happened with Trouble, another British novel). If you’re not a knitter, there may be some parts where you don’t understand the knitting references and become bored, but just skip over those parts. There’s plenty of action and hilarious misadventures to make up for the knitting jargon. I also really enjoyed how this book called into question the act of genderizing activities. Should it matter if something is considered a “girl” or “boy” activity? If you love it — go for it!

Rating: 4/5 

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here. 

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How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Brag; Illustrated by Kevin O’Malley

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Focusing only on their untimely and often graphic ends, Bragg presents this compilation of mini “death” biographies of prominent historical figures. Arranged chronologically (by death date) and including plenty of extra historical facts and infographics, this piece is sure to interest readers of levels. As many young adults are fascinated by the demise of others, this would be an excellent book to use when planning history lessons. Sections are short, illustrated,  and leave many opportunities for reader discussion, debate, and further research.

This book was great! It’s a little on the gory, side, but it’s hilarious and definitely paints a different picture of historical people. I learned a lot of little facts that I didn’t know before, and it was SO much better than reading a history textbook. Of course, the author skips over much of each person’s life, and it’s not in-depth coverage at all. So if you’re doing a report, you’ll want to use more than just this book as a source However, it’s a great place to start — really entertaining and fun to read! Pick this one up if you’d like to know more about historical figures or if you just love history/biography.

Rating: 4.5/5

*Lone Star Book, 2013

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw

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Diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at age two, Shane Burcaw has little memory of his life without a wheelchair. As his disease progresses, Shane must rely more heavily on those around him to survive, and he knows that his life will be severely shortened by his condition. But Shane refuses to let his situation dominate his thoughts and actions. Where many people would become depressed and bitter at the injustice of the disease, Shane responds with humor and goodwill. Though the odds are overwhelmingly against him, Shane starts his own nonprofit, Laughing at My Nightmare, INC., a movement dedicated to helping others meet adversity with positivity.

I LOVED this book! Shane is both hilarious and honest, presenting the struggles of his life while still being grateful for every experience. This is not your typical “sick lit” book. Shane doesn’t want your sympathy. His message is simple: you have no excuse not to live every day to its fullest; no excuse not to work hard to achieve your dreams and make life better for others. Though he would certainly have every right to complain about his circumstances in life (how many of us take for granted the “simple” ability to walk?), Shane instead decides to take what he has and run (or wheel) with it. Founder of a nonprofit, motivational speaker, significant social media personality, and now an accomplished author, Shane has accomplished more (with less!) than others may have thought possible. But Shane never lets the opinions of others limit his life choices. If you are interested in more of what Shane has to say, follow him on Twitter at @shaner528 and on Tumblr: http://laughingatmynightmare.tumblr.com/

*Rating: 5/5

*YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, Finalist, 2015

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

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A terminally ill leukemia patient, Travis Coates elects to have his head cryogenically frozen in the hopes that he may one day find a body donor. Five years later, Travis is one of only two patients who successfully receive a head transplant, thus making him a healthy sixteen year old boy again. However, while to Travis it seems that time has stopped the day of the surgery, the rest of the world continued in his absence, and he finds that his five year “nap” has drastically changed his life.

I LOVED this book! Whaley’s first novel, Where Things Come Back (2011, and also reviewed on this blog) won the Printz, so I thought I’d give this one a shot. Best decision ever. All the characters are hilarious and easy to relate to, and the plot has a crazy amount of twists and turns. Whaley also tackles some pretty heavy issues — love, family, what it’s like to come back from the dead. You know, the usual. If you read (or are waiting to read) John Green’s Fault in Our Stars (2012), this one might be a good read for you. Travis has the unique perspective of narrating from the eyes of the grieved — that is, what it’s like to be the dead person, instead of the people sad about losing the dead person. Definitely not a story told every day. However, though it’s humorous, the book is never disrespectful. It gives you so much to think about, and you’ll be telling all your friends to read it next. If you’re an award watcher, keep your eye on this one. Noggin (and Whaley) is going places!

This one has a great book trailer! Click here to watch.

Rating: 5/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

 

After his mother forces him to befriend a now terminally ill childhood acquaintance, Rachel, Greg Gaines’ chameleon-like strategy of skating through high school is brought to an end. Through Greg’s relationship with Rachel, his secret film-making hobby is brought to light, and he is talked into attempting to make a movie for “the dying girl”. Thrust into the limelight and faced with a friendship he has no idea how to handle, Greg must confront his inner feelings and stop running from a life he tried so hard to ignore – his own.

If books about leukemia can be funny, this one is it. Of course, the disease is not funny at all, and it’s tough to watch Rachel dealing with her battle. However, Rachel is not the character telling the story. Greg is, and he’s hilarious. Sometimes his humor can get pretty nasty — to some that’s a drawback, but I always found it entertaining. That said, sometimes his self-deprecating humor (like the way he tells you to stop reading his book over and over) becomes over-used and annoying. Also, I walked away from this book wondering what Greg really learned. Not that every book needs to have some kind of life lesson, but I wanted to see Greg actually face something. It kind of fell flat. Overall, though, a good book that I feel looks at what it really means to have a terminal disease, and the impact of the experience on everyone that person touches.

Rating: 3/5

*YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2013

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.