By the Time You Read This, I’ll be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

Daelyn doesn’t want to live. After a string of botched suicide attempts she is determined to get it right and starts looking at a website for “completers.” She’s tired of the bullying and the loneliness and she is determined to end it all. Then some boy named Santana begins to sit with her after school and he just won’t leave her alone. She doesn’t want to make any connections because she doesn’t plan on staying around but Santana won’t let up and she starts to have doubts.

Julie Anne Peters is one of my favourite authors but for me this wasn’t one of her greatest books. I really struggled connecting to Daelyn as a character and I had a difficult time feeling anything for her. It might have just been that I have a problem with the topic, but I just couldn’t get past it. There were a few things I did really enjoy that I thought made this book stand out that I think will appeal to many readers. First, the main character is silent. Daelyn cannot talk and that made for a very unique reading experience that I really enjoyed. Also, Peters leaves the ending very vague, so the reader can decide what happens, which is rather creative. Also, I think those who like to read issue fiction will find a lot of the elements they are generally pulled to in this book. So while I didn’t necessarily love this book, I still encourage you to read it and make your own decision.

You might enjoy By the Time You Read This, if you like books with:  real life serious issues, not a lot of focus on romance, sensitive and emotionally evocative storylines, quick and fast paced plots

Also by Julie Anne Peters: Luna, Between Mom and Jo, Far From Xanadu, How to do you Spell G-E-E-K?

If you liked By the Time You Read This, you might also enjoy: Willow by Julia Hoban, Crash into me by Albert Borris, Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Additional Info:

Ontario Association for Suicide Prevention. This is a list of Crisis and Contact numbers throughout Ontario

 gURL – great website just for teens, has information and resources on suicide, bullying and other difficult issues teen face.

Rating: W4/4   C2/4   P2.5/4   O3/4   PP2/4   CR3.5/4

Grade Level: JS


Looking for Alaska by John Green

Miles ‘Pudge’ Halter is tired of his life at home; it’s uneventful and lonely. As someone who memorizes people’s last words, he’s looking for something more from life; the Great Perhaps. So he decides to enrol in Culver Creek Boarding School to shake up his life. There he finds friends, love and more adventure than he can handle – by the name of Alaska, the beautiful yet crazy girl who lives down the hall.

From the back of the book: (about Alaska) She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. After, nothing is ever the same.

I so deeply loved this book. Green did an amazing job of creating radiant and magnetic characters. Readers will enjoy the duality of Pudge’s dry whit with Alaska’s desperate brokenness. Where he is awkward and innocent she is wild and crazy. The story itself was incredibly well written, with the climax being at the middle of the book. I was so grateful for this as it gave a sense of fullness to Pudge’s story. Green’s incredibly poignant use of language solidifies the excellence of this novel; creating a story that is both sweet and heartbreaking. You will laugh and you will most definitely cry. Of all the YA novels I’ve read up to this point, this one is the most highly recommended. It was simply wonderful.

My favourite quote from the book…bare with me it’s long.

“Just like that. From a hundred miles an hour to asleep in a nanosecond. I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together, in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane. “

You might enjoy Looking for Alaska if you like books with: a male voice, poignant observations on life, strong characters, a slower paced plot, realistic storylines rather than fantasy or science fiction, awkward and candid humour

Also by John Green: An Abundance of Katherines, Will Grayson; Will Grayson, Paper Towns

If you liked Looking for Alaska you might also enjoy: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, The Perks of Bing a Walflower by Stephen Chbosky, Nick and Norah’s Infinate Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga,

Additional Info: won the Michael L Printz Award. Also, Paramount has the rights to the movie and Josh Schwartz (think O.C) will write the screenplay and direct. It has been renamed ‘famous last words’ and is expected to be released 2013.

Author website:

Rating: W4/4   C4/4   P4/4   O3/4   PP3/4   CR3/4

Grade: S (sex, language, drinking, smoking)


Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

“…and in my head I wrote the story of a girl who surfed the cold green ocean, when one day she started paddling in the wrong direction and didn’t know it until she looked back and couldn’t see the shore.”

Since she was 13, Deanna Lambert has been known as that girl; the girl that got caught having sex in a car with a senior by her dad. No matter what version of the story is told, she’s always the slut in the car, and when you hear something enough you start to believe it yourself. Years later she still can’t shake the reputation, even her dad hasn’t forgiven her. She’s lonely and sad and she can’t stop from making stupid mistakes, but she knows she wants better and she’s starting to believe she deserves it.

Story of a Girl is a very tender look at a flawed individual as she learns about forgiveness and redemption. I didn’t find Deanna that compelling of a character, but I enjoyed her story and her process of moving on from the person her community had made her out to be. The pacing is very well done and any reader would find it difficult to put down. There was a lot of supporting characters which in some ways distracted from the story, but there were a few like Darren, Michael and even Tommy that were wonderfully created. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever read, and I feel like the storyline is actually pretty common, but I definitely enjoyed reading it and I think that it would have a lot of appeal to those who typically read real life fiction.

You might enjoy Story of a Girl if you like books with: real life issues, a character that experiences growth and more of a focus on character development than storyline

Also by Sarah Zarr: Sweethearts and Once Was Lost

If you liked Story of a Girl you might also enjoy: Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti and Just Listen by Sarah Dessen.

Additional Info: was a 2007 National Book Award finalist.

Author website found here.

Rating: W2.5/4   C2.5/4   P2.5/4   O1.5/4   PP3/4   CR3/4 (I also LOVE the title)

Grade Level: JS

Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman

After escaping the clutches of her middle school drama queen friends, Charlie wants to start high school drama free. Things go well for her; on the first day she makes a few great new friends and joins the newspaper. Things are even better when her old next door neighbour Will shows up looking amazing. Things seem to be going fine for her and her new friends as they navigate the ups and downs of high school, including dating, grades, sports, etc. That is until Will gets caught in a horrible hazing scheme gone wrong and someone ends up in the hospital. Charlie is torn between doing what is right and her feelings for Will, and at the end of the day she might just lose everything…

Readers who enjoy realistic fiction that puts a strong emphasis on the daily grind of being a teenager in high school will love this book. Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials is witty and sweet and Wiseman does an amazing job of creating down to earth and relatable characters. While there isn’t too much in the way of plot development, the book reads rather quickly as you just can’t get enough of the dynamic Charlie. It was definitely honest and fresh and I appreciated the balance between highlighting the importance of friendship and relationships and the realities of bullying and insecurities. I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience, and feel that despite some negative reviews it definitely does add something to the YA sphere.

 “ all the teens and kids I work with. I tried my best to write something that would reflect your experiences of what it is like to be your age today – for the good, the bad and the ugly. I believe what you are dealing with is important and should be respected as such. I hope I did right by you.” – from the book’s acknowledgements.

 You might enjoy Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials if you like books with: realistic high school setting, characters that you could encounter in your real life, a focus on friendship rather than relationships, humour.

 Also by Rosalind Wiseman: Queen Bees and Wannabes and Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads (Boys, Girls and Other is actually her first YA novel)

 If you liked Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials you might also enjoy: Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood by Eileen Cook, Something Maybe by Elizabeth Scott, Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen and The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk

Additional Info: Did you know that one of Wiseman’s other books, Queen Bees and Wannabes was the basis for the movie Mean Girls?

Author website: – amazing website/resource

Rating: W4/4   C4/4   P3/4   O2.5/4   PP3/4   CR3.5/4

Grade Level: JS

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Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?

 Before, Parker was perfect. Before, Parker was head cheerleader and girlfriend to the most popular guy in school. Before, Parker was a teacher’s pet and was getting good grades.

Now she shows up at school drunk, skips class and the school has her on suicide watch.  The only thing she wants to do is disappear, she definitely doesn’t want to talk about it. Blaming herself for something horrible that’s happened, Parker tries her best to prove that she’s not feeling anything at all, and just wants to stay out of everyone’s way until she graduates. But the past has a habit of catching up with you.

Cracked up to be is a haunting story of a girl’s self-destruction. Courtney Summers gives the reader a character that is broken and heartbreaking, yet completely loveable. While some may find her bad attitude frustrating, I found Parker’s dark humour and frailness compelling. I also especially enjoyed Summers’ commentary on some of the pressure of being popular. “I didn’t want to be popular because it was easier; I wanted to be popular because in high school that’s the best thing you can be: Perfect. Everything else is shit.” There is a lot of dialogue which makes the story move quickly. Summers also does a brilliant job of using repeating flashbacks to give the reader a bit more of the ‘incident’ each time. Overall, I thought this was a really great story with some surprises, poignant observations and beautiful characters. 

You might enjoy Cracked up to be if you like books with: a lot of dialogue, fast moving plots, a very central main character, real life elements, serious issues, suspense

Other books by Courtney Summers: Some Girls Are

If you liked Cracked up to be you might also enjoy: Crash into me by Albert Borris, Beautiful by Amy Reed, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Black Tuesday by Susan Colebank

Author’s website found here.

Rathing: W4/4   C4/4   P4/4   O3.5/4   PP3/4   CR2.5/4

Grade: S

Getting Revenge On Lauren Wood by Eileen Cook

“She might have forgotten all about me, but I certainly never forgot about here. Not for one single day.”

In the final weeks of 8th grade Lauren did something to her best friend that was unforgivable, something so publicly humiliating that Helen, her best friend, had to move. Helen has never forgiven nor forgotten what Lauren did and has plotted revenge ever since. When Helen gets the opportunity to move back to her old town in senior year she takes it and sets in process a revenge plan that will topple Lauren: take her boyfriend, take her cheerleading and take her popularity.

I love this from the summary on the book: “Watch out Lauren Wood. Things are about to get bitchy.”

I’m not sure what it says about me that I loved his book. I thought it was light, refreshing and completely hilarious. I couldn’t get enough of Cook’s witty writing, every day characters and ultimate revenge plan. Despite all the horrible things that Helen ends up doing, I can’t think of a character I’ve rooted for more. I just kept holding my breath waiting for the shoe to fall, for her to go too far; I was hooked. It’s a quick read, there isn’t a lot of depth, and frankly it is a book about revenge, but it’s fun and easy, adorable and funny. I highly recommend it.

You might like Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood if you like books with: fast pacing, whitty and sarcastic and somewhat dark humour, a high school cheerleader gets what’s coming plot.

Also by Eileen Cook: What Would Emma Do?

If you liked Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood you might also like: The Summer I turned Pretty by Jenny Han, Peace, Love and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle, The Naughty List by Suzanne Young and Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott

Author’s website found here.

Rating: W4/4   C4/4   P3.5/4   O2/4   PP3/4   CR3.4

Grade Level: MJS

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

“Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood. If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life.”

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of yet another boarding school. No matter what he does, trouble seems to find him. After a relaxing trip with his mom, Percy is convinced things will be better, but that is until he finds himself fighting a Minotaur and escaping to some weird hero summer camp. Turns out that not only are all those Greek myths about gods and monsters true, but many of them want him dead. As the son of a god, Percy soon finds himself in the middle a celestial battle, and he’ll have to come to terms with his new world if he’s to stop the gods from starting a war and make it through the summer alive.

There was a lot of things I really liked about this book, and there were a few things that I felt were lacking. I LOVED the concept of using popular mythology to create a modern day quest/adventure story. The Greek gods are fascinating to read about; however, at times I felt Riordan expected too much previous knowledge of the myths. For the most part he did a great job of explaining and describing  the gods and their stories, but there were a few times I was confused and had to Wikipedia who did what, etc. An appendix would have been helpful. I thought Percy was a great character, and the writing was very accessible to a wide audience. Some of it was a little predictable, but overall I thought it was a great story. It also provided a great basis for a much larger story that will be continued in the series.

You might enjoy The Lighting Thief if you like books with: a lot of adventure and feature a quest, multiple prominent main characters supporting a protagonist, witty writing, mythology and other worlds, Greek history, books in a series.

Other works by Rick Riordan: The Kane Chronicles: Red Pyramid, The 39 Clues Book One: The Maze of Bones, Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (see below for list of books in the series)

If you liked The Lighting Thief you might also enjoy: The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer,  and Walking with the Dead by L.M Falcone

Additional Info: there is a Lightning Thief movie

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series: 1) The Lighting Thief 2) The Sea of Monsters 3) The Titan’s Curse 4) The Battle of the Labyrinth 5) The Last Olympian

Also try these companions: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Ultimate Guide by Rick Riordan and Percy Jackson: The Demigod Files: A Survival Guide to Greek Gods and Monsters by Rick Riordan

Non-Fiction connection: The Greenhaven  Encylopedia of Greek and Roman Mythology by Don Nardo and The Complete World of Greek Mythology by Richard Buxton

Author website found here.

Rating: W3/4   C3/4   P3/4   O3/4   PP4/4   CR4/4

Grade Level: MJ