Bethany's Readers' Advisory

The place to go for readers' advisory on books for children, teens, and adults

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek By Maya Van Wagenen August 11, 2015

Filed under: nonfiction — Bethany @ 10:31 pm
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Popular_comp9.indd“School is the armpit of life.” This was how Maya’s friend Kenzie described it. Maya agreed. Her description of her school was something most of us can understand. There are jocks and popular people and not-so-popular people and cliques and gossip and drama. Maya thought there was no way to change your standing in the social structure of school. But one day she came across an old book from the thrift store. It was written in 1951 and called Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide. She decided to spend her 8th grade year following all of the advice in the book, no matter how embarrassing or complicated. She wrote this book about her experiences. Some things were pretty easy such as stand up straight to look taller and thinner. Some things were hard such as sitting at every table in the cafeteria and talking to everyone in school at least once. She learned a lot, not all of it good, but sometimes with surprising results. This a true story about Maya’s real life and how it changed from one old-fashioned self-help book and a lot of courage.

This was an absolutely charming book about a girl making the best of her situation. I felt like I could relate to Maya’s struggles and wished I would have been as brave and confident as she became by the end. As I read this, I thought of several teens who would enjoy it as much as I did.

5 out of 5 stars


Everything That Makes You by Moriah McStay July 30, 2015

Everything That Makes YouFiona Doyle knows what it’s like to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. When she was 6, an accident during a family outing left her face terribly scarred. Fi Doyle never had that accident. Fiona is a music buff; she has a guitar and notebook after notebook full of songs she’s written but will not sing or play for anyone. Fi is a star lacrosse player destined to play for Northwestern. But when Fi has an accident, her life is changed forever.

Fiona and Fi are two different stories for the same person, each with different joys and sorrows, talents and shortcomings. For anyone who has ever wondered, “What if…”

I liked the Choose Your Own Adventure series when I was a kid. I would read through it making one set of choices, then read it again and make the opposite choices. It is interesting to think how one event can change the course of your entire life. This book had some thought-provoking moments and some cheesy moments. I would recommend it to teens who like realistic fiction with a lighter touch.

3 out of 5 stars


Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero July 19, 2015

Gabi a Girl in PiecesHave you ever wanted to read someone’s diary? Here’s your chance. Gabi is a senior in high school. Her life isn’t perfect. Her best friend got pregnant without even telling Gabi she was having sex. Her other best friend just came out to his parents and got kicked out of the house. Her father is addicted to meth and might or might not come home at night. And Gabi’s mom is always on her case about not being easy… even though Gabi’s never been past first base. Some things about life are good, though. She has her friends, she’s figuring out how to use poetry to express her feelings, and she has food… so much good food. Things just might turn out okay.

This was one of the best books I’ve read all year. It dealt with a number of controversial topics in a realistic way. Gabi’s voice seemed authentic and her reactions to difficult situations were unflinchingly honest. I have already recommended this book to a number of teen girls and mothers.

5 out of 5 stars


When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris July 10, 2013

Filed under: adult memoir — Bethany @ 5:37 pm
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When You Are EngulfedA collection of witty essays by humor writer David Sedaris. Stories include his time living in France, using LP album covers to scare away birds terrorizing him, his adventure to Tokyo to quite smoking, and his avoidance of the bulkhead in an airplane at any cost, including the wrath of his seatmate.

I tried to read a David Sedaris book several years ago and couldn’t get into it. I discovered the key to my enjoyment of his work is to listen to the audiobook. Sedaris reads his own books, and his voice telling the stories makes all the difference. I laughed out loud so many times during the book. I even rewound the book to listen to parts again. Other people have said this isn’t his best book, but I enjoyed it as my first.

5 out of 5 stars


Wonder by R.J. Palacio December 17, 2012

WonderDeformed.  That’s the word that most people use to describe August Pullman’s face.  He has a rare genetic disorder and even after all the surgeries, his face is noticeably different.  He has gotten used to the stares, the double-takes, the comments. Up until now, Auggie’s mother has homeschooled him.  As he’s going into fifth grade, his parents bring up regular school.  Auggie is accepted to Beecher Prep and the principal even introduces him to a couple kids before school starts.  But will his classmates ever be able to look past his face to see him for who he really is- a regular kid just like them?

Ever feel like all you can see are your flaws?  This is the kind of book that will make you how easy things are when your eyes are in the right place, your ears look like ears, and people don’t gasp in horror at the sight of you.  Those who get to know August realize he’s funny, smart, and… a regular kid.  But middle school is a hard place for those who don’t fit in and your heart goes out to the big struggles of such a young person.

5 out of 5 stars


The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen July 15, 2012

Jessica is a runner.  She loves the feeling of the wind in her hair and the way it makes her feel alive.  But after an accident, Jessica wakes up to realize she’ll never run again.  Everyone keeps telling her that it’ll be okay, that things will get better.  But she can’t imagine how her life can ever go back to normal when she’s missing the foot she always took for granted.

This was a moving story of a track star whose life changes forever when an accident results in a below knee amputation.  I felt Jessica’s pain and frustration as she struggles with her new reality.  Her depression and negativity seemed realistic; her strong support system and inner strength are inspirational.

5 out of 5 stars

2012-2013 Golden Sower nominee



Bossypants by Tina Fey January 25, 2012

Tina Fey started her life in show business at Summer Showtime, an acting camp that did double-duty as a refuge for gay teens.  With a short, less-than-glamorous stint at the front desk of the YMCA, she went on to do an improv show in Chicago.  After a nerve-wracking interview with Lorne Michaels, she became a writer for Saturday Night Live and later created her own comedy show, 30 Rock.  Sprinkled throughout the book are stories of her childhood, memories of her near-death experience on her honeymoon, tips for a successful fashion shoot, opinions of Photoshop, tales of motherhood, and her true feelings about Sarah Palin.

This book was hilarious yet poignant and had a nice balance of truth and sarcastic asides.  I really enjoyed it and found myself laughing out loud more than once.  I would definitely recommend this to any adult, especially those who have seen her on TV.  Her voice really shines throughout the book.


Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Filed under: adult memoir — Bethany @ 7:32 pm
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Mindy Kaling, best known for her work on The Office, has written a book of stories, lists, and random thoughts.  Learn how she got her start as a comedy writer and actress, the qualities a great friend must possess, how to tell if you’re dating a boy or a man, and the essential pieces to Mindy’s funeral, should you find yourself planning it one day.

It was fun to read about a celebrity who is so honest and self-aware.  Her writing style is reminiscent of conversations with my sister.  The book wasn’t quite as funny as I had hoped, but it was a quick, fun read.


Beauty Queens by Libba Bray November 13, 2011

Filed under: drama,humor — Bethany @ 11:35 pm
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Contestants from all 50 states board a plane for the Miss Teen Dream competition.  On the way to the island destination, the plane crashes, leaving only a fraction of the contestants alive.  Now the girls must survive alone on a deserted desert island.  Or are they alone?

What started as a humorous, witty commentary on the roles of advertising and consumerism in the lives of Americans today, slowly degraded into a silly, tiresome attempt at female empowerment.  I was really disappointed in the last third of the book.  It seemed too forced and I almost didn’t finish.


Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson November 8, 2010

This powerful novel is an emotional and disturbing glimpse into the mind of Lia, an 18-year-old girl suffering from anorexia. The story begins as Lia finds out that the lifeless body of her long-time friend Cassie has been discovered alone in a motel room outside of town. Lia is haunted by the fact that she didn’t answer when her partner in starvation tried to call her 33 times the evening of her death. Lia attempts to ignore the ghosts from her past by working toward her body weight goals, eating only when she is being watched and hiding her deteriorating body from her disjointed family. The deeper she slips into the disease, the further she is from the “real girl” she used to be. The descriptive language of her physical and emotional pain and Lia’s internal dialogue of self-abuse make this a powerful read for the older teen or adult.


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