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review & discussion: “locked in time” February 24, 2010

Posted by Katie in reviews.
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Hi, everyone! It’s time for another first-read/re-read challenge between me and Mandy from Edge of Seventeen! This time our selection is one of my favs — “Locked In Time” from Lois Duncan.

Here’s how the book club works. I’ve got a review, some questions Mandy and I emailed about, and at the end of the post is a chance to win your own copy of the book. Then, head over to Mandy’s post to see her review, the rest of our discussion and enter again to win a chance for the book!


Nore comes home after a year at boarding school following the death of her mother. But Louisiana isn’t really Nore’s home, it’s home to her father and his new family – stepmother Lisette, and stepsiblings Gabe and Josie. Her new family welcomes with what appears to be open arms…but it doesn’t take Nore long to start to suspect that something fishy is going on in the house around her – and more specifically, with her new step-family.

I went through a really big Lois Duncan phase when I was a tweenager. My library had only two little turnstile shelving units for teen books and I read all of them. Which meant I read every Lois Duncan, Lurlene McDaniel, and whatever Apple Paperbacks were on the shelves. I was probably too young for the books because I was always jumpy after reading a Lois Duncan book.

This book creeped me out so bad – I distinctly remember having nightmares about being buried alive. You can imagine that reading this book as an adult had me shaking my head about why I had been so scared. First of all, Nore is never buried alive! (She does spend some time in a cemetery though…which I might have chalked up to being buried.) The ending still wound up giving me the shivers because the climactic scene involves one of my worst fears ever and poor Nore has to experience it!

Even though the book didn’t scare me nearly as much, this time around I feel like I appreciated the book’s setting and descriptions more than I used to. I had actually forgotten that the book took place in Louisiana!

I love Nore as a character, she’s smart and doesn’t shrug off her suspicions. She’s got this minor superpower (always knowing what time it is) that winds up coming in handy quite a few times. Also, she only takes matters into her own hands when the adults in her life refuse to listen to her. Which is SO refreshing compared to what teens in books do now-a-days! (Yikes, I’m sounding old.)

Lisette is this totally old-fashioned, manners and etiquette mother and I remember rolling my eyes at her all the time. Still wound up doing that during this re-read. Gabe and Josie were much more tolerable than I remember! Especially Josie. But I wonder if that’s because I know the end of the book or because I’m an adult and can better sympathize with people.

I think my biggest complaint in this re-read is that the ending feels so tacked on and conclusion-y. It almost feels like an older Nore is writing the last chapter (which could be – because she does say that she’s writing down the story), but it actually drew me out of the plot and kind of jarred me. I wanted more falling action, I wanted to find out what happened immediately afterwards instead of years in the future.

All in all, this was definitely a good re-read. It didn’t make me as nervous, but I found new things to appreciate about the book. Now, Little Brown is updating some of Duncan’s books – I know “Killing Mr. Griffin” is the one that she’s working on now. I’d like to see this one updated (removing the cassette tapes!) so that it might get new life on a library shelf. Our mangled paperback copies still see circulation, so I know the teens are still reading.


Katie: What did you think of Josie as part of the story? (I feel almost as if her story is more interesting than Nore’s this re-read. I’d like to see a companion book written from Josie’s point of view, after this story takes place.)

Mandy: It’s neat; I could see Josie in Nore’s role if Nore wasn’t around. Josie is this ambiguous character who wants to do what her mom says because Lisette is a powerful woman, and at the same time Jo also wants to follow her own sense of what’s right. She’s trapped in that rebellious stage at thirteen.

I was surprised when Lisette first drugged Jo so she wouldn’t pitch a fit about Lisette’s actions. It’s when I first thought of Josie as being different than her mother and brother. Gabe didn’t fool me for a minute. But I was constantly surprised by Jo’s actions–I first thought she was just fickle in her affections, but then I realized that she really did have a bond with Nore.

My biggest question about Josie, when I finished the book was, why didn’t her story continue? I felt that it fell into this stagnant pattern after the events at Shadown Grove, and like you, I would have loved to see a sequel. I mean, Josie has this dramatic personality and she never really does anything with it. I’d have love to see her really break out.

Katie: Why do you think stepmothers/stepfamilies always wind up getting such a bad rap in books?

Mandy: I think stepmothers had a worse rap at the time this book was published, versus now. Now, throw a stone and you’ll find an extended family rooted through many step-family members. I have a stepson myself and my partner’s parents are separated so our family has a lot of branches. But I think this type of family network was less accepted even twenty years ago. When I was young, my friends always complained about their “stepmoms”. Maybe now we are more communicative about relationships in the family. I don’t know. I just feel a shift in teen fiction towards the stepmother/father being an okay person. Versus step-parents in teen fiction from the eighties and nineties, where they try to kill you in the book. I’m thinking of the great steps featured in books like King Dork by Frank Portman and Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen.

But evil step-parents are a total trope in storytelling. Moreso the stepmother, I think. Who’s always jealous of your beauty and trying to kill you. Think apples and talking mirrors and housecleaning hardships. Interestingly, the opposite of the evil stepmother in storytelling is the fairy godmother, who’s more of an aunt figure.

Katie: What did you think of the town and the setting?

Mandy: The description in Locked in Time was very well done. It had all the sensations going for it, in the writing, and I loved this deep look into the setting of Shadow Grove.

I don’t think that the Town really sticks out in my mind because the characters didn’t really spend much time there.

My favourite scene, the one that sticks out the most, is the same one that was so powerful for you: the graveyard scene where Nore is hiding and playing that mental memory game with herself to pass the time. She tries to remember one memory from each year of her life, until she can get out of her hiding spot. She keeps it up to calm her nerves and settle her mind and I totally started this exercise too! Just like you. I think it’s kind of a neat thing to do.

But the way this scene is written in the book, I’m not surrpised it held so strongly in your imagination.

Katie: So, did this satisfy your craving for scary? Or did it border on just mildly creepy?

Mandy: It was creepy. Locked in Time creeped me out. But, if I had read this book when I was like twelve or so, I would have found the premise of a dangerous adult as your caregiver a truly frightening scenario. I mean, at that age you are dependent on your caregivers for almost everything. Imagine if one of them was evil and the other one was completely unaware? Chilling.


Both Mandy and I have a copy of the book to give away. Fill out the Google form to enter (all I need is a name and an email)! Twice the chance to win! Good Luck! (Giveaway ends March 10th.)

Click here to go to the Google form to enter for a chance to win!


review: “invisible i” January 26, 2010

Posted by Katie in reviews.
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Invisible I by Stella Lennon & Melissa Kantor.
HarperTeen // Hardcover // 304 pages.
Reviewed from library copy.

When Amanda Valentino disappears from school, Callie is suddenly called into the vice principal’s office along with two other classmates — Hal and Nia. The only thing that the three of them has in common is Amanda and what she left behind for them to find. Can they figure out the clues from Amanda in order to find their friend?

Number one — thank you, thank you, thank you for deciding to create one author name (alias Stella Lennon), HarperTeen! You have made the lives of librarians easier.

This is an amazing concept novel. Think of it as “The 39 Clues” for teens. It’s an interactive, multi-author journey to find Amanda. Teens are encouraged to join in the search at The Amanda Project, where they can write themselves into the story as Amanda’s classmates or teachers. There will be eight books total, all written by well-known YA authors.

Honestly, out of all three of the characters, I was least interested in Callie. I really want to learn more about Hal and Nia (and I’ll get to in the next two books), but that made reading “Invisible I” just a little bit frustrating for me.

My biggest problem with the book was that it felt like nothing but question after question. The novel takes a while to set up the plot, and we don’t receive a lot of answers, but I really enjoyed the ride. I am hoping that the pace of the books will pick up as we go along and discover more about Amanda.

My teens are really liking this book and I know some of them are participating in the online portion. I’ll be interested to see if the series picks up momentum or loses it as it progresses.

A good solid start to a mystery series for public libraries.

SWAN catalog
The Amanda Project
Melissa Kantor


review: “the everafter” December 18, 2009

Posted by Katie in reviews.
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The Everafter by Amy Huntley.
Balzer & Bray // Hardcover // 256 pages.
Reviewed from library copy.

Madison Stanton is dead. She may be dead, but she has no idea where she is. All Maddy knows is that she’s alone, it’s dark, and she’s surrounded by objects she lost in her former life. When Maddy touches the objects, she’s taken back to the time and place she lost them. And what Maddy soon discovers is that she can manipulate the events and change her history. And if she can change her history…can she change her death?

I’m still not sure entirely what I think about this one, and it’s been a long time since I read it.

But, let’s talk about what I loved — Madison and Gabe’s relationship, the questions this book raised on life and death, the original take on the afterlife. The objects that Madison sees and the memories they are attached to are so real and relatable, they were the perfect way to connect readers to Madison.

Things I didn’t so much love — the cover. The orchids have meaning, but they look liked flowers with skulls on them to me. That’s what I honestly thought they were until I got the book in my hands! But the lasting impression I have of this book, the taste it left in my mouth is what leaves me feeling conflicted still. The way that the book ends does not leave me feeling hopeful or particularly good. And I don’t mind sad endings, but this one was just unsettling.

Overall, I think this novel is well-written and interesting. What I really want to know is how teens are reacting to this book. And I’m still waiting to hear from my teens on it. I can definitely see this novel working for teens, but I think it will definitely have to be book-talked to get it into their hands.

SWAN catalog
Amy Huntley


review: “devoured” November 10, 2009

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Devoured by Amanda Marrone.
Simon Pulse // Paperback // 304 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Megan is haunted by the ghost of her twin sister Remy who died in a car accident when the girls were little. While Megan has grown up, Remy remains a confused girl. Megan takes a job at the Land of Enchantment over the summer, trying to hold onto whatever kind of a normal life she can have. But when things at the Land of Enchantment start to go awry, Megan discovers that she’s not the only one who can see Remy. Add that to the vision of a dead girl that Remy keeps showing Megan and this summer will be anything but normal.

Okay, “Devoured” was a very surprising mix of mystery and supernatural romance. I wasn’t expecting the mystery, and it seriously wound up being my very favorite part of this book.

And let’s get one thing straight — this is not necessarily a straight-forward fairy tale re-telling, it is a fairy tale after the fairy tale. Confused? The book has elements from Snow White, but it’s more about what happens after the traditional story.

I really liked the relationship between Megan and Remy. I felt like it was a twist that I hadn’t seen before and it immediately engaged me in the plotline. Why is Remy showing Megan this? Etc.

And you all know that I’m thrilled whenever a YA author manages to sneak in a little bit of Broadway. Marrone wove the Broadway world into the book through Megan’s best friend Nicki (whom I loved).

Throw in a love triangle between Megan’s boyfriend Ryan and her co-worker Luke and you’ve got yourself a solid sell to teens.

(And the cover is simply gorgeous. I love the richness of all the covers.)

SWAN catalog
Amanda Marrone


review: “the splendor falls” October 15, 2009

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The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore.
Delacorte // Hardcover // 528 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Sylvie’s dreams of being a ballerina were shattered by a broken leg just as she had reached the top of her career. After mixing some pain pills and champagne, Sylvie gets shipped off to Alabama to work through her problems. What she didn’t count on was the mystery of her town, two cute boys vying for her attention (and infuriating her at the same time), and a crazy Southern family.

This book is so hard to sum up in my normal summary section because it has so much going on. It’s a slow and steady read, keeping readers interested but with a smooth, quiet build. There’s mystery, history, romance, and a bit of the supernatural. Really, something that almost any teen could find interesting in one book. The different elements are blended well, the book is only the stronger for the mixture.

Sylvie is an excellent character, well-developed, with flaws and strengths. She really worked for me as a leading lady — her heartache over not being able to dance really hit home for me (as a violinist, I had a serious wrist injury in 9th grade…long story, long time ago). I also thought that her family situation was very realistic and that a lot of teens (and maybe myself a bit) could relate.

The history of the novel is well researched and explained throughout the book, but not in an information dump way. The explanations come naturally through a professor and other town members. The supernatural elements in the book might surprise some readers, but there are clues along the way that some may pick up on.

And that brings me to Rhys. Of which I can only basically drool in response. (I’m having a hard time trying to figure out if I like him or Justin [from the Maggie Quinn: Girl Vs. Evil series by the same author] better…)

Only complaints are the cover — I’m still not sure what a purple rose has to do with the book…Sylvie does some gardening, but other than that? And the overuse of Gigi (Sylvie’s dog) as a plot device.

Bottom line? Probably a YA book for older or more patient teens, but a welcome addition to public library collections.

SWAN catalog
Rosemary Clement-Moore


review: “when you reach me” October 7, 2009

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When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.
Wendy Lamb Books // Hardcover // 197 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

In 1978 New York, sixth-grader Miranda is no strange to science-fiction and mysteries. After all, her favorite book is Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time. But it’s different when the mystery is in her real life. Miranda begins to receive notes, notes that promise to save her friend’s life if she follows directions. Baffled by the notes, Miranda tries to make sense of them while dealing with typical sixth grade friendship and family issues. But will she figure things out in time?

I’m going to come out and say it right now — this is my pick for the Newberry. This book is everything that I want literature for children and young adults to be. Really, truly a perfect book.

Miranda is a relatable character, one that tweens will be able to see themselves in despite the time difference. Her world is fleshed out and each character has moments where their personality shines through brilliantly. Her friends, her family, even the neighborhood becomes part of the story.

The softly-building mystery is fantastic. I felt like all the questions that I had kept me reading, but didn’t rush me. I didn’t mind taking this journey with Miranda, at her pace. (Sometimes I do mind and just want to know what happens!) The mystery is beautifully blended into the story — there are clues from the beginning for readers who want to solve the mystery themselves.

I do have one concern about this book which I think hampers it significantly and that’s the cover. I don’t normally comment on the cover because it isn’t the result of the author’s work, but this cover is pretty bad. It makes sense once you read the book, but it doesn’t help the sell. I’ve been telling tweens/teens to read it with A Wrinkle In Time (required reading at our school district) and a lot of them are finding it that way.

Add it to your collections now…or wait until it’s announced as the Newberry.

SWAN catalog
Rebecca Stead