Sweet Valley High Series, 2008 by Francine Pascal

SVH #1 Double LoveSo how big of a nerd am I? Pretty big, my teenage friends. Pretty damn big .So big that when my brand spanking new copies of the revised-and-updated-for-the- ipod-generation Sweet Valley High volumes 1 & 2 came from the publisher (yeah, sometimes it’s kinda cool being an unpaid teen book blogger—you do get some freebies), the first thing I did was run right over to my living room bookshelf and pull down my copies of the original versions, circa 1983 to compare. Yes, dear readers, I am the proud owner of the first 100 original SVH paperbacks, collected through the years from friends and second hand bookstores. When I was in 7th grade, my best friend Amy H. had the whole series sitting pretty on her white painted bookshelf in her huge canopied bed-bedroom, and to exorcise my adolescent envy of that unbroken line of perfect paperbacks (Amy was VERY neat), I was determined to hunt down my own set. Were they completely unrealistic and unapologetically soap opera-ish? Absolutely, but there was just something so reassuring about those perfectly turned out teenage sisters, their wholesome school and agreeable family—Elizabeth was good and Jessica was bad, and you could take that to the bank. Plus, you have to remember, this was 1983. YA literature was in a rut. SVH #2 SecretsThere weren’t a million and one chick lit series to choose from like there are now. It felt like me and my friends graduated right from Beverly Cleary to Danielle Steel and V.C. Andrews. So, what’s the verdict on the new girls? Well, from just a casual perusal, SVH appears to be just as cheesy and squeaky clean as I remember. Now sixteen year old California twins Jessica and Elizabeth have cell phones, drive a red Jeep Wrangler instead of a Fiat, and Elizabeth maintains a blog as well as writing for SVH’s website. But Elizabeth is still pining for captain of the basketball team Todd Wilkins, and Jessica is still chasing anything in pants. Of course, nothing too sexy ever happens in Sweet Valley. In Double Love, when Jessica accidentally gets in over her pretty little head with SVH dropout Rick Andover, a notorious playa, the cops conveniently show up before Jessica’s virtue is threatened. I know, too tame for you, right? But if your little sister keeps stealing your Gossip Girl books and she’s already read all of the Clique, throw these shiny new paperbacks her way. They oughta hold her—at least until the next Clique comes out. And who knows? Maybe she’ll grow to love good old Jessica, Elizabeth, Enid, Todd, Bruce, and the rest of SVH gang as much as me and my Gen-X compatriots did. Now that you’ve traveled down nostalgia lane with me, I’d love it if you would post YOUR memories of your fav series from when you were a kid.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E.Lockhart

frankieHigh school sophomore Frankie’s tired of being her blustery dad’s baby bunny and playing sweet sib to her cool big sis Zada. She’s given the opportunity to prove that she’s more than just a pretty face and a smoking’ pair of legs when she discovers the existence of a boys-only secret society at her older-than-Moses private school. A secret society that her v. popular, v. cute upperclass boyfriend Matthew just happens to be a member of. But Matthew doesn’t know that she knows he belongs to it, and the longer Frankie waits for him to tell her, the more she begins to doubt his feelings for her. If he likes her so much, then why doesn’t he trust her with his deepest, darkest secret? Meanwhile, she;s decided to teach Matthew & crew a little lesson by secretly infiltrating their “Loyal Order of the Bassett Hounds” via email and pretending to be head “dawg” Alessandro “Alpha” Tesorieri, Matthew’s best friend. Alpha’s too embarrassed to admit to the rest of the hounds that he’s not the one perpetrating the amazing pranks that are growing from Frankie’s fertile mind, and also pretty pissed that he can’t figure out who the mystery prankster is. So, who will crack first–Alpha, Frankie, or Matthew? And what will the fallout be when one of them decides to come clean? This rollicking good read, which breaks the mold on the so-called “chick lit.” genre with its crackerjack plot and refreshingly smart heroine, references all sorts of interesting trivial doodads you’re gonna wanna look up, like panopticons, P.G. Wodehouse, and “neglected positives.” It’s also by the ever-inventive E. Lockhart, who just gets better with each book. This one will easily make my top ten of the year, if not one of my favorites of ALL TIME, so go out and get it already, will ya? And don’t blame me if it’s already sold out!

Night Road by A.M. Jenkins

Whatever you do, don’t call them “vampires.” Why, they’re nothing like those cartoon-ish pasty-faced blood-suckers who hiss and turn into bats. Cole and his crew may be immortal and allergic to sunlight, but that’s about all they share in common with the murderous undead who haunt every strip mall multiplex screen. Instead, they call themselves “hemovores,” blood-eaters who got that way from a “smart virus” that rewired their systems to crave hemoglobin instead of hamburgers. Quiet and subtle, hemovores revere the humans they feed on, realizing that they would soon die without their life-giving blood. Now Cole, who after centuries still hasn’t fully adjusted to the hemovore life himself, must teach newly turned Gordon how to get around after dark. The best place to do that is the open road, where a new town every night guarantees that no one notices if a feed goes wrong. Except Gordon’s not exactly the most cooperative student. And, despite the decades under his belt, Cole is hardly a patient teacher. So when these two take a road trip together along with Cole’s wise-cracking friend Sandor, nothing goes as planned, and before long these hemovores are on the run—from each other. A moody and broody look at what it means to live (and drive) forever, this is the perfect choice for that next long car trip with your parents that feels ENDLESS.

Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper

newes from the deadTwenty-two year old scullery maid Anne Green is NOT having a very good day. First, she was hung by the neck after being found guilty of a crime she didn’t commit. Then, she wakes up in total darkness, not being able to move or speak, and realizes that instead of standing at the pearly gates, she is actually STILL ALIVE IN HER COFFIN! Worse yet, just on the other side of the rough wooden planks, doctors are deciding which of her lovely limbs they’re going to carve up first in the name of science. See, Anne’s body has been requested for dissection by the good physicians of Oxford University, and her parents are too poor to demand it back. So unless Anne finds her voice, and soon, she’s going to go all to pieces—literally! Based on the true story of a young woman in 1650 England who survived the hangman’s noose, this enormously hip historical fiction by Brit author Mary Hooper is written in chapters that alternate between Anne’s increasingly anxious voice as she recounts the events that led to her almost-end, and the room outside her coffin, where a young medical student begins to notice signs of life in Anne’s ice-cold corpse. Utterly-un-put-down-able, you will find yourself frantically reading ahead to see if Anne lived through the noose just to fall prey to the doctors’ scalpels. If you’ll pardon the pun, it’s a ripping good read!

Jack: Secret Histories by F. Paul Wilson

jack the secret histories In the early 1980’s, long before cell phones and iPods arrived on the scene, Jack, his friend Eddie, and Eddie’s sister Weezy spend most of their time either playing Pole Position on Atari, or biking through the spooky Pine Barrens that border their suburban New Jersey neighborhood. One hot summer day as they are exploring the Barrens, the trio come upon what looks like an ancient burial mound. Poking around in search of treasure, they are rewarded instead with the discovery of a far more recent (although still pretty decomposed and gross) body and a mysterious black box, covered with cryptic symbols that will only open for Jack, much to Weezy’s vast disappointment. Turns out the body is a ex-member of the town’s oldest and most exclusive society: The Ancient Septimus Fraternal Order. And he wasn’t just murdered, he was carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey! Soon after Jack and Co. report what they have found, other members of the Order begin to bite it, one after another. What’s going on here? Is there a serial killer on the loose? If so, why is he only targeting Order members? The answer may lie in the secrets of the black box, but until they can figure out what the symbols mean, they’re stumped. So Jack, using only his Hardy Boy-like powers of deduction and trusty bike, starts poking around in all the wrong places. Will Jack discover who the murderer is before he becomes the killer’s next victim? This highly entertaining mystery is the little brother of the adult published Repairman Jack series. But you don’t have to have read the original books to enjoy the heck out of this one. Even though F. Paul Wilson spends a little too much time explaining to readers that they are in 1983, it’s great fun watching amateur sleuths solve mysteries without the help of Google or past episodes of C.S.I. Why, it’s almost like Nancy Drew! Or Scooby Doo and the gang riding around in the Mystery Machine! (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click here.)

Huge by Sasha Paley

April and Wil have both ended up at Wellness Canyon (read: FAT Camp) for the summer. But while April saved all her babysitting money for a year to attend the exclusive teen weight loss spa, Wil is being forced by her famous fitness parents to go to camp and lose weight –or else! When this unlikely pair is assigned to room together, sparks predictably fly. But when they are both kissed and dismissed by the same “barely chubby” football jock, the unlikely allies partner up in a plan of sweet revenge (can you say, “Ex-Lax?”) This lightweight story about heavy issues pairs well with Cherie Bennett’s Life in the Fat Lane or Myrtle of Willendorf by Rebecca O’Connell. It also reminded me of the fav fat camp story from my youth, Jelly Belly by Robert Kimmel Smith. But I date myself–whether you like summer camp stories or weight loss victory laps, you’ll HUGE-ly enjoy Huge.

Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers

Johnny is a black-nail-polish-and-eyeliner-wearing recovering alcoholic who loves The Cure, The Ramones, and, ever since rehab, Blondie. Maria is a Goth-girl-on-the-rocks who dances by herself to Nico, The Clash, and Patti Smith. Neither one thinks anyone will ever love them, until they pogo into each other in a mosh pit at a local all-ages club. It’s Love and Rockets at first sight, except for the troubling fact that Maria initially thought Johnny was gay. Why? Just because he likes to Robert-Smith-it up a little? Johnny knows he’s not gay, or he wouldn’t dig Maria so much. But what do you call it when you like girls, but you secretly want to try on that little white dress from the thrift store that looks exactly like the one Debbie Harry wears on the cover of Parallel Lines? This hip work by newbie author Meagan Brothers encourages readers to explore the meanings of all the shades of gray that exist between gay and straight. Johnny and Maria’s romance is realistic, sweet, and quite unlike any other I’ve read about in teen books. After all, how many girlfriends would encourage their boyfriends to enter a drag contest? If you like Freak Show by James St. James or Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger, you’re gonna love DHSF.