Wednesday, October 15, 2014

From James Ryan Daley, Author of Jesus Jackson

The author discusses his debut novel in "How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love YA," a fine post about excellence no matter the genre. We're looking forward to Jesus Jackson!

Find his post HERE, at The Poisoned Pencil's blog.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Up Next -- JESUS JACKSON by James Ryan Daley

Our October Pick!

Jonathan Stiles is a 14-year-old atheist who is coping with his first day of ninth grade at the fervently religious St. Soren's Academy when his idolized older brother Ryan is found dead at the bottom of a ravine behind the school. As his world crumbles, Jonathan meets an eccentric stranger who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jesus Christ (except for his white linen leisure suit and sparkling gold chains). Jesus Jackson, as he calls himself, offers to provide faith to Jonathan. He also suggests that Ryan's death may not have been an accident after all. Jonathan teams up with Henry, his new best friend at St. Soren's, to investigate. The two boys find footprints leading to the ravine that match Ryan's sneakers.

They are assisted by Ryan's grieving girlfriend, Tristan, who also thinks the accident theory is bunk. The police, however, will not listen. But Jonathan knows something the police do not know: Shortly before his death, Ryan was doing cocaine with fellow footballer and number one suspect Alistair not far from the ravine where his body was found. An inspired Jonathan battles sanctimonious school psychologists, overzealous administrators, and a cavalry of Christian classmates on his quest to discover the truth about Ryan's death -- and about God, high school, and the meaning of life, while he's at it. But he keeps getting distracted by Cassie -- Alistair's quirky younger sister -- who holds the keys to the answers Jonathan is searching for, but but who also makes him wonder if he should be searching for them at all.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Review Time: DISCONNECTED by Lisa M. Cronkhite

A Joint Review By: Destiny Geddis and Kaley Whittle

Disconnected by Lisa M. Cronkhite has an interesting premise, but unfortunately, the book did not end up as expected. While we found certain aspects of this book to be appealing, overall the entire YA Review Team (as we are forever now christened by Kaley Whittle) felt that these ideas and plots were not well executed within this story.

Something our group felt annoyed with (which is of no fault to Cronkhite) is with the immense spoiler on the back cover. When you read the first chapter, which is written so that you do not realize that Milly and Amelia are one, it can be a bit confusing. Why is this girl talking as if Amelia is another person? The back leads you to believe this is common knowledge going into the book, and spoils the eventual revelation of Milly's Split Personality Disorder.

One of the other issues our Team had with this book was the unbelievable-ness of Milly's character. As a group of teenagers, we thought that it just did not feel like Milly was one. It's hard to connect or sympathize with a character when all your doing is thinking, "that's not right."

On a more serious note, Milly self harmed. Often pressured by Amelia to do so, she cut her hands and wrists on multiple occasions. As a definite trait of Milly's character, we would like to be clear that it was not Milly's self-harm that made us so angry, but instead the author's presentation of this very real issue. Cronkhite showed an almost romanticized view on self harm, with Milly entering an almost dream-like trance every time she injured herself. With self-harm being such a prevalent issue in our society, especially within the YA age group, we felt that this portrayal could have been handled better.

There is another concern that one of our members expressed, but stating it would be a spoiler to the story, and this is a spoiler-free review. If you would like to know more, click that lovely little "Read More" button below. If not, consider this the end.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Review Time: DEATH SPIRAL by Janie Chodosh

by Kaley Whittle

Death Spiral, in and of itself, was an awesome book. I can say, as a fifteen year old girl, that Faith Flores was incredibly relatable, even though we lead such different lives. Mrs. Chodosh captures teenage angst so well, I was entirely convinced that somebody my age had written the book.

Now that we have the mild fangirling aside, let's talk about the book in a more serious manner. Death Spiral, which is narrated by Faith, quickly shows that she is not like most girls. She's the rule-breaking rebel, with very clear ideas on life and love and the world around her. Her mother, however, is just a little bit disconnected. An addict of the highest degree, her mother swears that she is now clean. And Faith believes her. That's not the problem.

The problem is when the cops come to retrieve her mother's body from their apartment, a body that just so happens to look like its owner died of a heroin over-dose.

With suspicious characters and lies swirling around her in a metaphorical tornado of madness, Faith sets out on her own to find out what exactly happened to her mother. With her passion for science and sarcastic comments, who knows what or who she might find. Oh, and don't forget Jesse, her loveable little blonde-haired, blue-eyed, extremely attractive partner in crime:

“I try to see Jesse through my aunt's eyes and imagine what she's thinking with his orange pom-pom ski hat, oversized flannel shirt, unlaced Converses, and torn jeans looking like he just robbed a Goodwill store. But there's something soft about Jesse, too, something honest in his indigo eyes that always seem to be looking behind what you're saying for something deeper.”

Jesse showed up one day in Faith's science class, and the first thing he did was challenge her. He didn't stop when the bell rang either, Jesse would show up at the most in-opportune times and drive Faith insane. But he was smart, as smart as she was, and no matter how she tried, she couldn't keep him out of her life. Much to Faith's annoyance, when Jesse found out about her mom, he signed himself up to help her solve the mystery. She never expected him to actually be of use, because Jesse wasn't just there to look pretty. Jesse was there to help. And kiss her every now and then.

This book stands out in a crowd, just like Faith. Death Spiral takes something nobody would ever think about, the death of another junkie, and turns it into somebody's life. Somebody relatable, somebody you could imagine yourself meeting on the street. There's high school, there's chase scenes, there's things that some might classify as illegal, and there's a romantic undercurrent that just so happens to rock.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Up Next -- DISCONNECTED by Lisa Cronkhite

Milly doesn't want much -- get to school on time, score good grades so no one will get on her case, have a friend so she doesn't look like a total loser. Just stay under the radar and get through the day, that's all Milly wants. But every minute of every day is a battle for Milly, because Amelia is there-hiding her phone, losing her homework, whispering in her ear that she looks like a pig. Sometimes Milly wishes Amelia was dead. But since Amelia shares Milly's body, that's a dangerous thought. Amelia has always been there, but since their parents died in the car crash, she's been making Milly's life a living hell. Grandpa George doesn't help; he's okay to live with, but he's so remote, and old. It's at the point where Milly can't take it any more, but she's sure people would only lock her up if they knew-or at least that's what Amelia says. Sometimes Milly cuts herself, for the release. Her only other relief is to write in her journal, where she can let her feelings out. The problem is, she doesn't remember what she's written when she's done. She doesn't remember much about her past.

But Amelia knows.

Meet Lisa Cronkhite

Midwest Author Lisa M. Cronkhite’s love for writing began as a teen, when she filled her journal with the details of her torrid romance with her first boyfriend—now known as her husband of over two decades. She picked up writing again after her first bipolar episode and psychotic break, when her doctor recommended it as a coping skill. Pencil in hand, Lisa dove into crafting poetry.
Over the years, Lisa published poems in print and online magazines such as Poetry RepairsGrey Sparrow PressSacramento Poetry CenterPoetry Salzburg Review and many more. Her short short stories have appeared in magazines such as Suspense Magazine and the YA Fiction magazine Suddenly Lost in Words.She took a writing course at the Institute of Children’s Literature, earning six college credits and her certificate in July of 2009. Disconnected is her fourth novel (following Dreaming a RealityDemon Girl, and Deep in the Meadows).
Lisa is a mental health awareness advocate and writes to shed light on the struggles of such illnesses in the hope of promoting patience and understanding. She lives in a small suburb just outside of Chicago with her adoring husband and two beautiful children. When she is not writing or enjoying the presence of her loving family, she likes to hang out with Bruce, her Boxer/Shepherd mix, and Stormy, her gray tabby cat. She is working on her next novel, Purple Haze.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Our First Selection -- DEATH SPIRAL by Janie Chodosh

Death Spiral, the first release from The Poisoned Pencil, is an edgy tale introducing sixteen year old Faith Flores.

Faith Flores is a work in progress. She wants to go to college and study science, but she's not exactly college material. Thanks to her junkie mom, Faith has never known a stable life. But when her mom drops dead, Faith is the only one who cries. The cops say it was an overdose, but Faith doesn't buy it. Her search for the truth leads Faith from the drug houses and methadone clinics of North Philly to the million-dollar science labs of the pharmaceutical industry.

Meet Janie Chodosh

As an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, I majored in “all things interesting,” a list which included courses in biology, ecology, natural resources management, creative writing, and poetry. After college I moved to Yosemite National Park where I worked as a naturalist and educator and learned to rock climb, back country ski, and entertain myself with nothing more than a field guide, a trail, and a pair of binoculars. Later, as a graduate student in the University of Montana’s environmental studies program, the list of “all things interesting” expanded to include Spanish and environmental education. For my thesis, I traveled to a rural community on the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico to develop an environmental education program focusing on neo-tropical migratory songbirds (a fancy title for birds that breed in the north and winter south of the border). At age thirty, I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico to work as the education director for the state Audubon Society and later as a teacher.
Although I didn’t publish my first book until the secret age of somewhere past young, I have always been a writer. (If you don’t believe me just check out the boxes and boxes of stories, diaries, poems, plays, and random thoughts I have written since I could first hold a pencil).  I am also a scientist wannabe, but since I realized I only liked to muck around in the field in cool places and would never actually be a scientist, I married one.
When not writing, I like to hang out with my family, rock climb, try to grow a garden in the arid southwest, bird watch, travel, and attempt to play Klezmer music on my violin.