Growing up is hard to do.

Linda Vigen Phillips new book, Crazy, is due out in October and, judging from the trailer, it’s gonna be a spell binder. CRAZY (Eerdmans/October 2014)


She asked me if I would be willing to review it, which made me think that maybe I could do that for others of you who would like to have reviews done. If you like the way I review books, please feel free to contact me. See if you can get an ARC copy, so I can get the review out ahead of time. But do understand that I might not be all positive about your book. I’m also open for doing interviews. The one I did with Carole Weatherford is about a year old, but will give you an idea of what I can do. Carole gave me a list of questions and answer from which to pick, but I can stretch my mind and come up with questions on my own, if you’d prefer.


If you’re wondering how I have all these books to review. They are sent to me by Emily Griffith who owns a firm that provides book reviews for the Children’s Literature Database. She sends me 5 books at a time, usually once a month, and after I’m through reading them I send the reviews as attachment to an email. It’s a good way for me to see what’s being published and what the marketing department thinks will sell. I get to keep the books. Check out the database at




Now on to this week’s reviews:


Family dynamics are very complex, as we all know, and are exacerbated by our own insecurities or arrogance. And that’s from a 73 year old woman, who has had a lot of years to trying to figure the dynamics out. But try remembering back to when you were a teenager. How did you feel about your family and yourself back then? Probably lots different, huh? The three books I picked for this blog entry include stories of kids navigating life as a teen. Hope you find them interesting.




I hope most of you have not mourned a dead sibling when you were still a child. My children and my sister’s children have, so I know how much it hurts. This story has a powerful impact.


Adios, Nirvana

Conrad Wesselhoeft

      Jonathan’s twin brother, whom he calls Tellamachus or Telly, died last year during their sophomore year in high school when they thought they were on the top of the world and he can’t deal with it. So he’s in jeopardy of flunking his junior year. His friends, whom he calls his thicks, are trying to help him sort things out, as is his high school principal, Gupti R. Jacobson, PhD. Last year he won a major poetry award, but he dismisses that as a fluke. Telly was the talented one; a standout guitar player and skateboard rider. Jonathan was happy being his shadow. But now he’s floundering. Gupti and Jonathan’s English teacher, Dr. Robert Bramwell (a.k.a. Birdwell) team up to get him to believe in himself and in living. Birdwell gets him a job ghost writing an elderly World War II veteran’s war story and Gupti insists he perform a song from the wimpy rock group she likes. Reluctantly, Jonathan begins to relate with the world again and, with the help of all the people who believe in him, he starts to believe in himself. This is well written book about surviving life’s hurts and learning to thrive despite the pain.

BIBLIO: 2010, Houghton Mifflin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Ages 14 +, $16.00.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-547-36895-5




I’ve also reviewed the sequel to this book and have gotten fonder of the characters.

The sequel is: Ask Amy Green: Dancing Daze


Ask Amy Green: Boy Trouble

Sarah Webb

      First off the title bugs me. Although thirteen year-old Amy Green helps out, she is not the advice columnist—her seventeen year-old Aunt Clover is. Plus the book really isn’t just about boy troubles; in fact it is more about finding one’s place in the world and not judging people without getting to know them. Amy is not in any particular group in her Irish school, but her best friend, Mills, has started hanging around with a wannabe popular girl named Sophie who tries to leave Amy out of the group. So Amy ends up not having in real friends in school until she gets to know Seth, who is in her art class. He is reticent about making friends because of comments he’s heard Amy’s friends say about him. But they do eventually start dating. Amy does have a chaotic home life having to frequently babysit her toddler half-brother and infant half-sister and deal with her mother’s partner. She also is having a hard time dealing with her father’s new wife, Shelley. Amy doesn’t know they’ve gotten married until after they announce their going to have a baby. Plus, Shelley pushes Amy’s dad to do things that were supposed to include Amy, like get a puppy, but then does snarky things like commandeer Amy’s bedroom for the baby. In the end, with the help of Aunt Clover and Seth, Amy learns to rise above the petty stuff and restore peace to her family. Clover seemed a bit too wise for her young age and I don’t believe girls really use words like “fave” and “fab” with regularity. It was nice the author provided a glossary of Irish teens’ terms.

BIBLIO: 2010 (Orig. 2009,) Candlewick Press, Ages 12 +, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan         

FORMAT: Young Adult          

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5006-3




Sometimes unappealing main characters can have merit, if they learn from their mistakes.


Swoon at Your Own Risk

Sydney Salter

      Seventeen year-old Polly Martin is a brain, but also obsessed with boys and dating. She agreed to take a summer job at the local water park, because her now ex-boyfriend wanted her to work where he does. She has a tendency to passively agree to do things others want her to do, but generally ends up ruing her decisions. She’s angry with her father, who left the family for another woman; young woman. And now Polly’s mom is working as a waitress at the local hamburger hangout. Plus Grandma, a.k.a. Miss Swoon, the world renowned advice columnist, is going to be living with them, so Polly has to share her younger sister Grace’s room. Polly is so caught up in her own self; she doesn’t see the problems the rest of her family’s having. I found her to be a very unsympathetic, selfish character. She’s so self-centered; she doesn’t understand why her best friend won’t speak to her anymore. She can’t even see that Xander, the kid down the street, has turned into a handsome and caring young man. But in the end Polly does come to an understanding of who she really is and what the others around her need from her. There is humor in the story and teens will relate to Polly’s struggles for self understanding.

BIBLIO: 2010, Graphia/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., Ages 14 to 18, $8.99

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-15-206649-9



2 thoughts on “Growing up is hard to do.

  1. Thank you all for your comments. I hope I answered your questions in this week’s blog, Linda V. Phillips. I’d be happy to review your book, especially if you can get me an ARC. I’ll let Emily know that I’ve reviewed it so she can include it in the database. Sarah

  2. Sarah,
    You are amazing. Lots of reading and reviews.

    Adios, Nirvana by Conrad Wesselhoeft caught my attention. It reminded me of two different sets of twins I know with illnesses and death in their families.

    Keep reading and reviewing!

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