Regine’s Book: A Teen Girl’s Last Words by Regine Stokke

Regine's Book

I couldn’t possibly do any better than the publisher’s book description, so I am copying it verbatim:  Regine’s blog about living with Leukemia gained a huge following, and eventually became this book. She writes openly about emotional and physical aspects of her 15-month struggle to recover, and explains how her disease impacts her life. In the course of her illness, Regine has photography exhibits, goes to concerts, enjoys her friends & family, and advocates for registering as a blood and bone marrow donor. She was a typical teenager with an amazing will to live; and the lessons she learned have relevance for all of us. She died at home on December 3, 2009 with her family and cat by her side.  This book actually reminded me quite a bit of Jenny Downham’s book Before I Die, aside from the sad fact, of course, that Regine’s story wasn’t fiction.

Reading this book has helped me to better understand what many cancer patients go through, and it has also helped me to put some annoying bits of my own life into perspective.  Is is the end of the world if I get stuck in traffic on the way to work?  No one will die if I get to the library five minutes late.  Is it the end of the world if I forget a coupon and accidentally pay an extra dollar or two for my groceries?  Hardly.  Poor Regine really did get some “end of the world” news — as a teenager, no less — and still managed to stay extremely positive.  Even after reading her blog/book, I can’t wrap my brain around how she was able to muster up the will to carry on and to hope for a cure when every indication was that her condition was beyond hope.  Though her life was short, she lived as fully as possible and gave her life purpose.  She did a lot to raise money and awareness for cancer treatments like bone marrow transplants — and she inspired me to go to to add myself to the national bone marrow registry.  (You can register yourself, too, if you’re a healthy adult between the ages 0f 18 & 44!)

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

Being the new kid at school can be really tough.  But being the new, fat, deaf kid in a school without an interpreter or a captioning system?  I can’t even imagine!  Luckily, Will Halpin has an uncanny ability to lipread and doesn’t much care what the “cool kids” think.  He has surmised, though, that everyone else is practically willing to kill each other for an invite to the upcoming birthday party of an über-popular jock named Pat.  This story isn’t just about the difficulties Will faced with main-streaming and making friends, though.  The real story is about how Will and Devon Smiley forged their new friendship while trying to figure out how Pat ended up dead during a field trip to the Happy Memory Coal Mine.

I enjoyed this story for a number of reasons, but first and foremost is the fact that there a good mix of humor and mystery.  It was definitely more Castle than CSI, if you know what I mean.  The fact that Josh Berk even managed to include a lot of information about deaf culture in a way that was neither clunky nor didactic was also awesome.  The original book cover is honestly the only thing I didn’t like about this book.  Luckily, it has been re-released with a new cover that is more likely to appeal to teens and also hints at the mystery within.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Clay Jannon knows there is something odd about the bookstore in which he is newly employed, with its mysterious owner, its towering shelves accessible only by ladder, its section of encrypted books and its anxious late-night customers.  When he meets Kat, a data visualization expert at Google, they work together to decode the store’s strange volumes.  Their discovery reveals a secret society bent upon breaking the ultimate code encrypted by Aldus Manutius, the famed early 16th century printer.  Clay and Kat harness the resources of Google in an attempt to crack the code, a challenge that also leads them across the country to break into the society’s headquarters.  There, they discover secrets about the society that its president is determined to protect.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore seamlessly blends — and celebrates — old school and new school technologies in a fun romp of an adventure and an engrossing read.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Dog Stars

This is the story of Hig, a flu survivor, who with his faithful but elderly dog, Jasper, works hard to survive.  Life is tough in the future after the majority of the population has died from a new strain of the flu.  There are no zombies, vampires or werewolves in this story, but it is still downright scary!  Most of the remaining population are not nice people.

Hig’s only human friend works with him to survive, and he can still fish, hunt, cook, and fly his 1956 Cesna, but Hig misses life as it was.  One day he flies beyond his return point in the hope of finding something more.  Full of philosophical musings, sometimes meaningful, sometimes less so, this is an enjoyable and high-tension story of characters you will care about.  Ignore the swears —  life is brutal here.

Son by Lois Lowry


When I read The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger, I thought it was a trilogy.  I had thought the story to be pretty well wrapped up at the end of Messenger, to be honest.  I was more than happy, nevertheless, to find out I was wrong.  Not only am I a big fan of Lois Lowry, but I have a major weakness for dystopias!

This story begins in the same society as The Giver, but Jonah is not the main character.  Instead, we see the society through the eyes of a young girl named Clair.  We are with Clair as she gets her work assignment — to be a birthmother — and also when the delivery of the “product” she was carrying goes wrong and results in a Caesarean.  Although she is made to wear a mask and can’t see the baby, she manages to find out that her baby, #36, was a boy.  A son.  Her love and longing for her son is unheard of in that society, so she has to pretend not to think about him and can never admit that she dreams about being able to raise him as her own.  I can’t say much more without major spoilers, but rest assured that this tale will reunite characters from all of the books in the series while demonstrating the lengths to which a mother will go for her child.

One Moment by Kristina McBride

One Moment

Maggie is suffering from memory loss, but she isn’t really sure whether she wants to get back those missing memories.  Why?  Because those memories would fill in the details of exactly what happened immediately before and after her boyfriend, Joey, accidentally fell to his death.  The story her friends gave her [and the police] is that Joey died as the result of a cliff dive gone wrong… but Maggie is afraid there might be more to it than a mere slip.  Could it have been something *she* did wrong?  After all, Joey had jumped from that cliff countless times, and he was supposed to be helping her with her first jump.  Her best friends — Adam, Shannon, and Tanna — are doing the best they can to support her, but they’re having a hard time even managing with their own grief in this tragic time.  A perfect blend of mystery and contemporary realistic fiction, especially if you’re in need of a good cry.