Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: R is for Revenge

Earlier today I reviewed The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine. In this book, there is a nice little revenge subplot. It reminded me that I wanted to finish up this post about books that have revenge themes. So here are 5 more YA titles that deal with revenge. We all want a little revenge at some time in our life.

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Publisher’s Description:
What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, who she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her archnemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she caused irreparable damage to the people around her—and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s Side Effects May Vary is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality

Karen’s Thoughts:
This is a really well written book where a lot of interesting things happen, including some very good character development and issues.  The idea of getting revenge on those who have wronged you as part of your bucket list was very interesting. And then – Alice goes in to remission and has to face the consequences of what she has done. SEMV is also very interesting because it explores the concept of the very angry young woman. There are lots of great Angry Young Men books – including Reality Boy by A. S. King – and it was interesting to explore the psyche of the angry young woman, especially when it is done in such a well developed way. You may not like Alice (though I actually did), but her story is compelling. You can read my complete review here.

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

Publisher’s Description:

Postcard-perfect Jar Island is the kind of place where nobody locks their doors at night, where parents can sleep easy, knowing their daughters are tucked away safe and sound in their beds.

But bad things can happen, even to good girls . . . and sometimes, the only way to make things right is to do something wrong.

Lillia used to trust boys, but not anymore. Not after what happened this summer. And she’ll do whatever it takes to protect her little sister from the same fate.

Kat is over the rumors, the insults, the cruel jokes made at her expense. It all goes back to one person–her ex-best friend. Someone needs to teach her a lesson, and, with Lillia and Mary behind her, Kat feels up to the task.

Four years ago, Mary left Jar Island because of a boy. But she’s not the same girl anymore. Now that she’s got friends who have her back, he’s going to be in big trouble.

Three very different girls who come together to make things right. Will they go too far?

Karen’s Thoughts:
I loved the setting of this story and the way that Han and Vivian weave some paranormal elements into this tale of revenge. It’s the first book in a series, Fire with Fire is the second. As revenge stories go, this is highly entertaining and has a lot of dynamic relationships and tension. Very enjoyable and definitely recommended. I am looking forward to the next book in the series Ashes to Ashes, which comes out in September. 

Marie Antionette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender

Publisher’s Description:
Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots.

But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette.

Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger . . .

Acclaimed author Katie Alender brings heart-stopping suspense to this story of revenge, betrayal, intrigue — and one killer queen.

Karen’s Thoughts:

Ghosts often want revenge and I love a good ghost story. And this one is more fascinating to me because the ghost is Marie Antoinette. I liked the ghost story aspect of the story but didn’t love other elements. But teen readers looking for a fun ghost story won’t be disappointed. 

The List by Siobhan Vivian

Publisher’s Description:
An intense look at the rules of high school attraction — and the price that’s paid for them.

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn’t matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, “pretty” and “ugly.” And it’s also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two

Karen’s Thoughts:

This is a really well done look at the high school pecking order. I highly recommend it. If I am remembering correctly, Vivian based it in part on some true events that were covered in the news. Told from alternating points of view, The List will remind anyone out of high school why they never want to go back. And teens who are trying to run the gauntlet that is high school right now will definitely identify and want to discuss. This is a must read.


Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke

Publisher’s Description:
From international phenomenon Cornelia Funke, the bestselling author of Reckless and Inkheart.

Eleven-year-old Jon Whitcroft never expected to enjoy boarding school. Then again, he never expected to be confronted by a pack of vengeful ghosts, either. And then he meets Ella, a quirky new friend with a taste for adventure…

Together, Jon and Ella must work to uncover the secrets of a centuries-old murder while being haunted by terrifying spirits, their bloodless faces set on revenge. So when Jon summons the ghost of the late knight Longspee for his protection, there’s just one question: Can Longspee truly be trusted?

Karen’s Thoughts:
More vengeful ghosts! Technically, this book is MG lit. I checked it out but haven’t read it yet, oops. Publisher’s Weekly said, “Despite the book’s length, the story moves quickly, filled with daring midnight expeditions and close calls with death.” (Publisher’s Weekly 3/19/2012).

Now it’s your turn to share: What are your favorite revenge stories? Please leave a comment and let others know. We’re all looking for a good revenge story to read.

Friday Fun: My Side Effects May Vary Bucket List

I have already reviewed the amazing Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy, you can read that here. But in the book, Alice – who is dying – creates a Bucket List. I have always wanted to create a bucket list. So I will. Right now.

1. To take The Tween to Paris

In my last semester of graduate school, I was planning a trip to Italy. Visiting Italy has always been my dream. But during that last semester I discovered that I was pregnant with Thing 1. Now a Tween, she is obsessed with Paris. So my dream has changed: I want nothing more in life than to be able one day to take her to Paris and experience this with her. I want to see her dream come true and share it with her. We have redone her room in a Doctor Who visits Paris theme. She swears I promised her that if she made all As and Bs in High School I would take her (wouldn’t I have said all As?). And of course I want to bring my fantastic husband and Thing 2 as well, because I am all about my family.

2. To write a book – which just came true!

I have always been a reader. And I have always dabbled in writing, mostly poems. Actually, mostly bad angsty teenage poetry. In the 6th we made boys in our classroom. Mine was the compelling story of a shoe that hated being one of a pair, she wanted to be unique. So she set off on her own, arriving at a carnival, only to discover that she really did want to go home and be with her family. Yes, it was as bad as it sounds. I have long discovered that I am not a fiction writer. Or a good poet. But I can share my passion for being a YA librarian. Thus my book. But I would also like to write a book about the #SVYALit Project (see #3), because the cause is so important to me. So I hope that I am not done with this one yet. Also, I would love to turn my The ABCs of HG: An Unconventional Picture Book into a real book with medical information about Hyperemesis Gravidarum at the beginning or end and sell it so I can donate all proceeds to the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation (www.helpher.org).

http://www.alastore.ala.org/detail.aspx?ID=10930

3. To end sexual violence against everyone

Seriously. I’m tired of hearing stories from the people I love and from the teens I serve about the damage that has been inflicted upon them. It’s not okay. Ever. We need to change the culture. As a corollary, I would like to one day be able to sit at a dinner with Christa Desir, Carrie Mesrobian, Trish Doller, Elizabeth Fama, A. S. King and Laurie Halse Anderson and say thank you so much for all of your hard work on this project and for your inspiration and support.

http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2014/02/svyalit-project-index.html

4. To have season passes to a local amusement park

Yes, I realize this is shallow. But The Mr. and I have always struggled financially, working hard but making little. It’s a really big deal to make enough money to go to Six Flags or Disneyland or wherever we might be living at the time. This week is Spring Break and we were going to take the kids to Six Flags, until we realized how much it would cost. And I know that we are not alone. I think all of the time about the number of kids that will never get to walk with barefeet on the beach, will never get to experience the joy of jumping on a plane and visiting a new place, and will never get to go to the nearest theme park. Which is why I also try and use this platform to raise awareness about teens and poverty. But one day, I hope to have enough extra cash lying around to buy season passes, mostly because it would mean that we aren’t eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the three days before the next pay day as we wait to have the funds to go grocery shopping. And I guess the corollary is that I would like to find a full-time teen services librarian job once again so I can make this happen, but also because it would mean the downward trend in libraries was no longer so downward.

5.  To go to Comic Con in San Diego 

I fully embrace my geekdom. I have loved Science Fiction and Fantasy since before I left my mother’s womb. I need to be here among my people. It would have been nice to have gone while Buffy or Firefly were still on the air. Or last year when Doctor Who was celebrating its 50th anniversary. But I’ll take any time over no time. And I really want to be able to go with my husband, who I adore, and Mary and Mike, my mentors and adopted family who share my Sci Fi passion.

I have a few other little dreams. Like, I would love to be on NPR. And yes, I know that also proves what a geek I am, but I listen to it as I drive back and forth to work and it makes my bucket list. I would love to go see an episode of Sherlock or Doctor Who being shot, preferably with Tom Hiddleston as a guest star (wouldn’t he make a great guest star on these two shows?) I would love for my husband to get a job with regular hours so that he could spend more time with his girls (he is a great father) and be in better health. And I used to drive every Sunday to eat dinner with my friends and adopted family and I would love to be in the position to do this again. And I would love to have all the time in the world to finish my ever growing TBR pile. But that’s every book lovers dream.

But all in all, I’m very happy with my life. I’ve had an awesome week. I have some awesome friends and co-bloggers here at TLT. And my family, well they kind of rock.

Be sure and read Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy. And don’t forget to make your own bucket list.

Book Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

I was taking Zofran, the anti-nausea medicine often given to cancer patients, for Hypermesis Gravidarum during my last pregnancy – sick, barely surviving, and on bed rest – when my best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer.  We spent the next 7 months sharing horror stories about vomiting, her from chemo and me from HG, Zofran, and more by phone.  We bonded over our shared misery – and fear.  Who else could I turn to who could understand that sure the Zofran might take the edge off of the nausea, but it didn’t help enough and it came with its own consequences.  Since this time, I have been fascinated with cancer stories.

And when I say cancer stories, you are probably thinking The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which I do in fact love.  But in all honesty, one of the first cancer stories I can remember reading is A Time for Dancing by Davida Wills Hurwin.  Written in the 90s, this is the story of two best friends – both dancers – and how their friendship is affected when one of them is diagnosed with cancer.  What I remember most about the book was how angry the girl is, and understandably so.  She has something in common with Alice.

Meet Alice.  Alice used to take dance, but she quit when she began high school.  She started dating. And one day she sees something that dramatically impacts her life.  But she doesn’t have time to process it because one day at school she faints.  It turns out, Alice has cancer.  So Alice put together a list of things she wants to do before she dies, and some of the items on that list include taking revenge on various people in her life.  Dying is a messy business.

So she enlists her friend Harvey – not a Pooka, a real friend – and together they work their way through most of the list.  But then, Alice goes into remission.  Suddenly Alice is no longer dying, and she is left dealing with the not only the emotional aftermath of her illness, but of all that she has done in the name of dying.

SEMV is told in alternating view points in both the past and the present, so you have to pay attention to who is telling the story – Alice or Harvey – and when.  This format works really well for this story as there is the slow reveal that builds suspense and keeps you turning the page.  But this is, ultimately, a rich study in character.

Alice is a first class bitch with a capital B.  She is angry, not just because she is dying (which is reason enough), but because of THAT thing and the events that unfolded around it.  She is mad at the world and the people specifically in hers.  And yes, she is mad that she is dying.  She is not nice about it at all, and it is a revelation in how honest and raw and completely boiling over with rage Alice can be.  She uses her illness to her advantage at times, she manipulates, she schemes.  And although you hate her, Murphy gives her those moments that still allow you to feel some compassion for her; she occasionally lifts the veil of anger and gives Alice that spark of humanity that allows you to completely empathize with this flawed young lady.  And then, Murphy punches you right in the gut with a few things.  It is a glorious emotionally messy roller coaster.

But Harvey . . . I love him.  Some will say this is Alice’s story, but I say it is Harvey’s.  Harvey is the tried and true lifelong best friend who made the mistake of falling in love when the other person didn’t, not really.  But when Alice calls and asks for help, Harvey will be there time and time again.  But this being used, it changes you, and it is so fascinating to watch Harvey spiral.   It is interesting to note that this is an example of an abusive relationship, and it is Alice that is abusing Harvey, not physically but very much emotionally in the way she manipulates and leads him on; there are not a lot of examples of this in YA lit but it does indeed happen so I was glad to see this portrayal.

Murphy is a gifted storyteller and presents us with some contemporary fiction that is achingly real and honest.  The truth is, dying is a messy business.  Everyone handles it differently; there is no one right way to die.  Murphy pulls back the curtain and presents us with another point of view and in doing so gives us a compelling read about people spiraling out of control in anger and desperation and their attempts to put the pieces back together again when that spiral is stopped, or at least put on hold for a while.  There are no happy endings here, but maybe the possibility of healing and growth.  Well, I guess the fact that she is no longer dying is a happy ending, but they’ve made such a mess of things that there is a lot of rebuilding that needs to happen.

For those who need to know, there is language, drug use and some mild sexual situations.  Highly recommended.  Coming in March from HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray. I received an ARC from a friend to review.

Texas Debut Authors Panel Recap

Last night I had the honor of hosting 6 up and coming debut authors from the DFW area at my library branch in Grand Prairie, Texas.  2012 Printz and Morris winning author John Corey Whaley was our host for the evening moderating the panel, and he is a very funny guy.  In fact, everyone on the panel was informative, entertaining, and great to spend an evening with.  If you have a chance, I highly recommend inviting them to your school or library to talk.  We talked books, both writing them and reading them, fears, guilty pleasures and more.

So, let’s begin our recap shall we . . .

John Corey Whaley

  • Was once a middle school teacher, though he claims he wasn’t a very good one.
  • He absolutely does not like Faulkner. At all.
  • He just turned in his next book, which he can’t talk about.  But the theme is apparently “absurdity”.
  • Has recently moved and is getting ready to make another move and teach a class on writing.
  • Is currently reading The Shining because he wanted a book that would creep him out.
  • Is a gentleman and really wanted to make the evening about the debut authors.

Lindsay Cummings

  • Is the author of the upcoming The Murder Complex, set in a future where the murder rate is higher than the birth rate.
  • She absolutely loves Twilight and doesn’t care who knows, she says she owns it.
  • She is afraid of “those creepy men who hit on you.” And you know, that is a legitimate fear.
  • While writing she asks herself, “What would Angelina Jolie do?”
  • She says that The Hunger Games is her “guilty pleasure”. 
  • Has 3 dogs
  • Is only 21 years old and is about to get published. She wrote her book when she was in her teens.


Mary Gray

  • Is the author of the upcoming The Dollhouse Asylum, where teens are forced to reenact the lives of tragic literary couples or die.  Such an intriguing concept.
  • Although I begged, she would not say which literary couples appear in the book.  I am intrigued.  Which couples do you think have to make an appearance?
  • Mary Gray is the mother of 3, so finding writing time can be a challenge.
  • Her favorite book series is His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers, book 1 is Grave Mercy and book 2 is Dark Triumph.
  • Is also a huge fan of The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, which inspired her to write a creepy book.
  • She is afraid of strawberries.  I’m not making that part up.
  • Does not like Dickens.

Jenny Martin

  • Is the author of the upcoming book Tracked, a science fiction space race with deadly consequences.
  • Is afraid of “jerks”
  • Does not like James Joyce
  • Can write anywhere with any type of background noise
  • Is a librarian (Woohoo for librarians!)
  • Says her guilty pleasure is Supernatural (how is that a guilty pleasure I ask!) and if you visit her on Twitter, you can see a picture of her with Sam, played by Jared Padelecki.
  • Is reading House of Leaves and Eleanor and Park at the moment.

Julie Murphy

  • Is the author of the upcoming Side Effects May Vary, a story about a girl who his diagnosed with cancer, goes and gets retribution on all the people she doesn’t like or has hurt her in life, and then finds out she has gone into remission.  Again, such an interesting concept for a book.  When discussing writing Murphy said she was interested in knowing what kind of girl she would be, what would her family be like, etc.
  • Hates Jane Austen but loves Degrassi, Blue Valentine and British TV Shows.
  • Told the funniest story about being severely sunburned when she received the call that her book had been sold and how she could barely hold the phone because of the pain.
  • Is afraid of Cicadas because bugs just shouldn’t be that big, it’s scientifically incorrect.
  • Is an academic librarian.
  • Thinks the most beautiful couple ever appears in the book The God Shaped Hole 
  • Says everyone should read Eleanor and Park RIGHT NOW.



Heather L. Reid

  • Is the author of the recently released Pretty Dark Nothing from Month9Books, a story about a girl who sees demons in her sleep and doesn’t know if they are real or if there is something wrong with her.
  • She recently moved back to Texas from Scotland.
  • Is a gamer.
  • Says it took over 7 years to get her book sold and published.
  • She knew she wanted to be a writer as a kid. (Many others on the panel did not. Mary Gray was the only other panel member who said she has known for a long time, since childhood, that she wanted to be a writer.)
  • Is afraid of roaches. She said this is weird, we all assured her it was not, perfectly reasonable fear if you ask me.
  • Says the Shining is the creepiest book she ever read.

Victoria Scott

  • Is the author of The Dante Walker series, a book about a teenage boy who dies, becomes a soul collector for the devil, and is then given 10 days to collect the soul of a girl named Charlie.Book 1 is The Collector, already out.  Book 2 is The Liberator, coming out in August I believe.
  • Is terribly afraid of monkeys. Animals should not have thumbs – she believes this strongly.
  • Watches Teen Mom as her guilty pleasure.
  • Listens to hard rock like Korn.
  • Is more organized than others on the panel in her writing process. She has outlines, character profiles, etc. in a series of folders and subfolders on her computer. Most of the other panel members said they did not outline and wished they were more organized.
  • Is reading and recommends Scorched by Mari Mancusi, she says her excellent writing makes her feel so inadequate as a writer.
  • Says The Hot Zone freaked her out and then tried to freak us all out about the Ebola virus.  Corey Whaley talked about the movie Contagion, which I am actually obsessed with and watch almost nightly in the background when I read (something about it makes good background noise).  I was very upset when I accidentally erased it – and everything else – off of my DVR.

I want to give a heartfelt thanks to everyone on the panel for their time and such a wonderful library program and discussion. Everyone in attendance gave lots of compliments on the night.  I was encouraged to hear how all the various writers came to write ya books and that they had both an appreciation for teens and teen literature.  One of the panel members said they actually liked being a teenager.  I think that means they were doing it wrong. I am loo kingforward to reading all the books, they sound so good.