Slam by Nick Hornby

Slam When it came to his life, Sam was pretty easy going–like his idol, skateboarding legend Tony Hawk. Basically, he intended to skate (as in board, not roller) his way through high school, get into a good college and make his single mum (who had him when she was a teen and therefore never got to go to college herself) proud. That was the plan anyway. Until he got slammed. But this wasn’t like all the other times he took a tumble off his board. This time it felt like, “The wheels had come off the trucks, the trucks had come off the deck, and I’d shot twenty feet into the air and gone straight into a brick wall…and there wasn’t even a mark on me.” That’s because Sam’s been slammed with the hard fact that his ex-girlfriend Alicia is pregnant. And no matter how much he’s like to run away (and does briefly, in a comic sequence that literally defines the phrase “in denial”) Sam knows he has to do the right thing. But when one of your main coping stategies is to ask your poster of Tony Hawk for advice, you know you aren’t ready for fatherhood. Sam couldn’t be more unprepared. But life isn’t about to wait around for him to catch up. Since one of my Top Ten Books of All Time is his slacker masterpiece High Fidelity, I couldn’t be more pleased to see that Nick Hornby has finally turned his attention to the teen peeps. Though his subject is serious, Hornby writes with a light and humorous touch that will have you laughing even as you feel for the poor guy. Like when Sam is actually confronted with the reality of birth: “Would Alicia make those noises? Could I ask her not to?” and “I’m still not sure what the cervix is. It doesn’t seem to come up in normal life.” If you enjoyed Judd Apatow’s riotously funny summer flick Knocked Up, you’re gonna love Hornby’s Slam. Though each writer approaches the topic of unplanned pregnancy in his own unique way, both stories share the same great sense of humor.

P.S. If you’d rather cry than laugh when it comes to baby drama, check out Hanging on to Max by Margaret Bechard instead.

Breaking Up: a Fashion High Graphic Novel by Aimee Friedman and Christine Norrie

breaking upThis little bit of raspberry-flavored fluff reads like a graphic novel episode of “Sex in the City: the High School Years,” without the, well, sex. Our narrator, brainy brunette Chloe, relates the story of her junior year at Georgia O’Keefe “Fashion” High like a pint-sized Carrie Bradshaw, complete with cute outfits and mild bouts of insecurity. Along with her three BF’s; sex kitten Mackenzie (a blond, man-stealing Samantha Jones doppelganger) cynical Isabel (a TOTAL Miranda if I ever saw one) and way-too-sweet Erika (SO annoyingly Charlotte), Chloe shakily navigates the stormy waters of high school in the leaky boat known as “Popularity.” As each girl faces her own personal trial (Chloe likes a geek-chic boy that she’s embarrassed to introduce to her friends, Mackenzie is mackin’ on another girl’s boy, Isabel’s parents have her on lock-down and Ericka is struggling with whether or not she wants to go “all the way” with long-time beau Kyle) they come to discover that their friendship is changing—and not necessarily for the better. Suddenly they can’t always be trusted to be there for each other, and begin to wonder if this is the end. Especially mean-girl realistic is the slightly masochistic relationship between Chloe and Mackenzie. Mac has always been the group’s charismatic leader, but when Chloe finally stands up for herself and declares her love for Trekkie Adam, will Mac allow such an insurrection, especially when it threatens her own popularity? Breaking Up is escapist chick lit at its best: clean and sweet until the claws come out! Christine Norrie’s blushing, pouting girls, reminiscent of Mattel’s My Scene Barbies, are just a bit too good-looking, with nary a zit or muffin top among them, but I didn’t care, because this is escapism after all, and who wants REAL high school when I can have High-School-Musical high school? I totally hope Aimee Friedman and Christine Norrie come out with a second installment of the Fashion High series–I’ve already made a space for it between my Sweet Valley High original paperbacks and Sex in the City complete DVD collection!

God Save the Queen by Mike Carey and John Bolton

god save the queen
This is the untold story of crazy Queen Mab; her regal rival Queen Titania, their battle for the throne of Fairie and the changeling teen who gets caught in the middle. Rebellious British teenager Linda likes living life on the edge, especially when it includes hanging out with slick elfin motorcycle boy Verian, who has taught her how to shoot up “red horse,” a hallucinogenic combination of heroin mixed with her own blood. The potent mixture not only gets her high, but also gives her frightening visions from the land of Fairie. Linda can see the tortured souls trapped in the dark heart of evil Queen Mab, who has stolen her rival Titania’s throne and forced Titania herself out into the human world to search for help. From Titania, Linda learns that her mother is a fairy, which makes Linda herself half fey. It is Linda’s dual-nature blood that makes “red horse” so powerful, allowing her to see into Mab’s heart. Now Titania is forced to call on her former friend and her teenaged daughter to help her destroy Mab. Because only Linda, who is both fairy AND human, can expose Mab’s black heart…with her unique, intoxicating blood. This darkly compelling graphic novel, richly illustrated in John Bolton’s photo-realistic style, is not for the faint of heart. It’s just as much horror as fantasy, more Stephen King than J.K. Rowling. But those who enjoy Holly Black’s Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale and its sequels will find this bizarre “Midsummer’s Night Dream” meets “Nightmare on Elm Street” completely captivating. As scary as she was, I couldn’t turn my eyes away from Bolton’s Mab, a pulp-fiction nightmare in black and purple bat-wing taffeta and dirty white cotton candy hair. Depictions of drug use and some gratuitous thong scenes make this one strictly for the high school set. But trust me tweeners, you wouldn’t want to flip this one open anyway–just one panel of Bolton’s murderous skeletal fairies on demonic black horses was enough to give me the heebie jeebies–and I’m thirty-something!

Kiss My Book by Jamie Michaels

kiss my bookAll of Ruby Crane’s dreams are coming true. At just fifteen, she has sold her first novel, and has as a result traded her mousy brown locks for blown-out platinum waves, caught the romantic attention of sexy upperclassman and suggestively named Jordan Lush, and squashed the ego of every mean girl in her Manhattan high school who ever shot her a glare. Ruby is on top of the world—until she isn’t. All it takes is one reporter to whisper the word every writer fears: plagiarism, and Ruby is hightailing it up north to lick her wounds and mourn the loss of Jordan with her eccentric New Age aunt in the tiny town of Whispering Oaks. Ruby swears she will never WRITE or READ another word ever again. She even goes so far as to change her name and chop off her hair. But she discovers its’ not that easy turning her back on her lifelong passion for books, especially after crush-worthy local boy Jacob turns out to be a classics-spouting hottie who can utter lines from Shakespeare and Chaucer at the drop of a hat. Ruby’s summer-in-hiding turns out to be a book-worthy adventure, including investigating a hundred year old romantic ghost story and organizing a protest to keep open a local bookstore. But through it all, the question remains: DID Ruby plagiarise her novel? And if she did, will she ever have the courage to face up to what she’s done and accept the consequences? Clearly based in part on the plagiarism controversy surrounding real-life seventeen year old author Kaavya Viswanathan’s first novel, Kiss My Book is a delicious little paperback original with a chewy moral center that teens can gnaw on long after they finish the story. Michaels is clearly in love with literature, which comes through loud and clear with Ruby’s many mentions of her fav titles. So if you like books about books, then you need Kiss My Book!

Dead High Yearbook, edited by Mark McVeigh and Ivan Velez

dead highWelcome to Dead High! At this killer school, the only way to get your mug into the annual yearbook is to lose your head…or heart…or some other vital organ. In the boarded-up basement of a condemned high school, this year’s staff is hard at work creating the ultimate high school keepsake, making sure that everyghoul, I mean, everyone is included. Within it’s blood-smeared pages, you’ll find It-girl Rowena, who made the mistake of cuddling a little too close to her new puppy (which just happens to be a demon-possessed Chihuahua—watch out, Paris! This could happen to you!), Louis, whose nasty old grandma-turned-zombie held him hostage for midnight snacking purposes, and Clara, who was so determined to take the SATs that not even decapitation was going to stop her, among many others who had the bad luck of biting it too young. This half-cheesy, half-scary collection of short stories featuring teens meeting their untimely, supernatural ends reminded me of some of the best Tales from the Crypt storylines. I for one enjoy getting my shiver on, and I applaud McVeigh, Velez & crew for giving us a good old-fashioned, full-color, gory teen-themed horror-fest. I enjoyed every blood-curdling minute of it, and if you’re a fan of the Cryptmaster & co., you’ll (grave) dig it too!