South Branch Staff Picks Category: Young Adult

The Book of Unknown Americans

Book of Unknown Americans coverThe Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henriquez, is a novel written as a series of interconnected stories, each of which could stand on its own. The book tells the story of several immigrant families from Panama, Mexico, Nicaragua and Latin American countries who end up in Delaware. The stories are told in first person and are narrated by different members of the same family. We learn their backstory, what brought them to the United States, and in some cases a little about how they got here, as well as getting a vivid picture of what life here is like for them, living as immigrants in a country with a culture and language so distinct from their own and one in which immigrants are not always openly welcomed.

The families all live in the same apartment complex, owned by another immigrant, and their lives are at once interconnected and often isolated, each family with its own challenges and obstacles to overcome. The core of the stories involve a family who comes to the US to provide educational opportunities to their daughter, who was brain damaged in an accident, and her relationship with the son of another tenant. At the same time, Henriquez interweaves this story with that of the other tenants, who face language barriers, economic hardship, and discrimination, among other challenges.
Hernandez’s writing draws you into the lives of her characters and you feel their disappointments and frustration and their small moments of joy as well. When I finished the book, I was left hoping there would be a second book so I could continue following their stories.
Written by: Rachel L.

Spare Parts (DVD)

Cover of DVD: Spare PartsCalling all teachers, outreach personal, social workers, counselors, and just about anyone who wants to feel inspired. This must-watch movie focuses on four Hispanic boys (based on a true story) with different challenges in their lives that find that innate desire to succeed. All they needed was the push from one teacher that saw their abilities and holds them to nothing more than the highest standards. George Lopez acting as Dr. Fredi Cameron is a substitute teacher that through the mist of his own personal problems finds a way to connect with these four high school students and pushes them to compete amongst the elite colleges in the United States in a robotics competition. The journey to this competition is a success on its own, whether or not they win or come in last I will leave for you to find out.

Review by Maria R.

 

 

Other titles you may enjoy:

DVD cover: McFarland USADVD cover: Million Dollar Arm

Hecho a Mano: suin a la colombiana(Audio CD) Monsieur Periné

Hecho_a_ManoReady to explore the music scene in other countries? Take an audio visit to Bogotá, Colombia with the new album by Monsieur Periné: Hecho a Mano.  Inspired by the “gypsy jazz” of the 1930s, these young intrepid musicians have crafted a new sound, mixing latin classics and a jazzy swing to create suin a la colombiana, or “swing, Colombian style.”  A huge part of their charm is in the way they’ve switched up classic jazz instruments for those from a more Latin tradition.  Listen for the clarinet and accordion, but also the Charango, a string instrument from the Andes, among many others. This upbeat, 12-track album is a great addition to a party mix, or just for listening in the car. Be warned: you may find it difficult to keep from dancing…

 

¿Tienes curiosidad por  saber lo que es popular en otros países? Toma un viaje musical a Bogotá, Colombia con el primer disco de Monsieur Periné: Hecho a Mano.  Ellos han creado un estilo nuevo y único, inspirado originalmente por el jazz gitano de los años treinta y como muchos otros géneros.  Aunque sea difícil definir exactamente, han llamado su estilo “suin a la colombiana”.  Gran parte de su sonido encantador viene de haber cambiado los instrumentos clásicos de jazz por instrumentos y ritmos reconocidos de música latina. Nótese el clarinete y el acordeón, pero también el Charango, un instrumento de cuerda de los Andes y varios otros más.  ¡Disfrútalo!

Review by A.smith

Unwindby Neal Shusterman

Unwind

Unwind

Unwind is a dystopian thriller by Neal Shusterman that follows three teens on the run from a government that believes in “unwinding” and body harvesting. This all sounds great and fine on paper, but what happens when you’re the one that’s selected to be unwound? Risa, Connor, and Lev find out. Risa is a ward of the state without any parents and without an overwhelming talent in her selected field; she needs to be unwound to make room in an overcrowded home. Connor is a trouble maker and has always pushed the limits in school and at home. His parents cannot handle an unruly child any longer. Lev is a tithe. He was born and raised as a donation. What happens when they fight back? What happens when they don’t want to be unwound? What happens when they run? This is the first in a series of four. Although controversial in topic, this disturbing novel inspires deep thought about organ donation and one’s personal right to make decisions regarding his or her body

If you like this book, here are some other recommendations: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow and Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro.

By: Megan

Ransom by Lois Duncan

Ransom

Ransom

It’s the end of the school day and you’re excited to start the weekend.  But when you realize the bus driver has his own agenda…Follow the cheerleader, the loner, two brothers, and an army brat as they discover they have been kidnapped on their way home from school.  Pick up Ransom by Lois Duncan today and enjoy the twist and turns of this fast moving book.  From the bestselling author of I know What You Did Last Summer, Lois Duncan will keep you wanting more.  

If you like this, you may also like: Twisted by Laurie Anderson and Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan.

Daughter of Smoke of Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Are you looking for a book that is filled with fantasy, action, and romance; well Daughter of Smoke and Bones is the book for you. Imagine living a double life, in which one you’re a normal 17 year old and in the other you’re running errands collecting teeth for a monster; well welcome to the life of Karou. Everything has been going great until the Angels start to appear, and Karou is faced with the ongoing war between “Good & Evil” and the love of her lives! “Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”

You may also like Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr; Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers; City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.
By: Maria R.

Twisted Fairy Tales by Maura McHugh

Twisted Fairy Tales

Twisted Fairy Tales

This collection of short stories is not for the faint-hearted! While hearkening back to the macabre roots of the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales, each of these stories features a plucky or clever heroine to cheer on—forget about pining princesses or damsels-in-distress.  The stories are briskly written and acutely psychological, with the whole collection brought together by the atmospheric illustrations of Jane Laurie.  There are the token popular tales of British and German origin, but mixed with several lesser-known tales, such as “The Red Shoes,” and “Molly Whupple, ”as well as some treasures from other cultures, like “Vasilisa’s Fire,” and “The Island of Skeletons”.  Get into the Halloween spirit with this book today!

By Allison S.

The Hunger Games, Songs from District 12 and Beyond

The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond

The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond

If you can’t get enough of the Hunger Games, even after all the books and the movie, check out this CD!  This album stands out among soundtracks as it varies from the typical collection of epic scores that fill a movie.  Instead, this becomes another look into the world itself, bringing together the voices and talents of several modern artists and groups such as Arcade Fire, Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, The Decemberists (and more!) showing off songs that were not in the movie.  All of the songs on this album were created especially for this project, and each one brilliantly captures a moment from the first book/movie, often told from a new perspective.  Lovers of genre-blending will appreciate the mix, as most songs blend folk and pop/rock, but with a little grit and grunge on the fringe, echoing your favorite characters’ struggles, triumphs and heartache.

 

By asmith

Deadline by Chris Crutcher

Deadline by Chris Crutcher

Deadline by Chris Crutcher

Imagine going to the doctor and finding out you only have 1-year to live and keeping it a secret. Deciding not to undergo any type of treatment for his rare disease, Ben Wolf decides instead to make a mark in his small town of Trout, Idaho. Ben’s plan is to petition for the name change of Main Street to Malcolm X all while frustrating his biased history teacher. Follow Ben, star cross-country runner turned football player in his humorous yet realistic world as he manages to keep his life as “normal” as possible in Deadline.

 Books you may also like: Speak by Laurie Anderson, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Pact by Jodi Picoult, The Fault in our Stars by John Green

 

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeless

Perfect Chemistry It’s senior year for Brittany Ellis, Fairfield High School’s Head Cheerleader and she wants her last year to finish perfect.  But when she finds out her chemistry partner is Alex Fuentes, the bad boy gang member from the wrong side of the tracks, she knows the year is bound to be a deadly chemical reaction – of love.  Can Brittany survive the year and keep her squeaky clean reputation or will her Alex bring her down with his handsome good looks?  Read Simone Elkeless’s Perfect Chemistry, part 1 of the Perfect Chemistry series.