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November 21, 2008 Edition

Suck it up, by Brian Meehl

Modern day vampires who want to blend with mortals attend IVL – that’s International Vampire League – where they learn to control their shapeshifting (now renamed Cell Differentiation, or CD), and drink soy-blood substitute. Morning McCobb, a comic super-hero enthusiast who has longed for the glory of a radioactive spider bite, finds it ironic that he got bitten by a vampire instead and is stuck forever at 16, the youngest, skinniest, geekiest one in his graduating class at IVL. But he’s also the one chosen by the founder of IVL to come out of the vampiric closet and show humanity how, well, human vampires can be. Slapstick goth ensues as Morning works towards Worldwide Out Day, opposed by a loner vampire with a lot to lose.

Roots and Wings, by Many Ly

When Grace’s grandmother dies, the trip back to Florida for a proper funeral is a chance for Grace to untangle some mysteries. Like who her father is, and why her mom and grandmother moved away from the Cambodian community in St. Peterburg to Pennsylvania, where they are the only Cambodians. She also wants to know more about what it means to be Cambodian, but quickly finds herself in a deep cultural tangle as old family history, Cambodian traditions, and American life threaten her mother’s hard-won happiness and the image of the grandmother Grace now realizes she barely knew.

The Last Exit to Normal, by Michael Harmon

At 14, Ben set his life to “self-destruct” when his father announced he was gay, his mother stormed out with a suitcase, and his father’s partner, Edward, moved in. Now 17, Ben’s a skate punk with attitude to spare, and a list of bad behaviors as long as his arm – and the most recent one has bought him a summer in East Montana, in the house where Edward grew up. Miss Mae doesn’t allow any backtalk or laziness in her home, and doesn’t hesitate to twist ears to get her point across, but once Ben decides he’d rather avoid punishment than make his own point, he finds there’s plenty to like about life in Rough Butte. Dry humor and plenty of family tension salted with a few warm fuzzy moments make this a quick and compelling read.

Kitty Kitty, by Michele Jaffe

Though she’s been forcibly relocated from Vegas to Venice by Dadzilla and sure her rocker boyfriend has wasted no time finding a new girlfriend, utterly hip Jasmine is still determined to be the Model Daughter to make amends for the teeny tiny ruckus in “Bad Kitty.” So she tries to ignore the uneasy feeling that her only friend in Italy is right when Arabella claims someone’s out to get her, and she works hard on creating a personal Trouble-Free Zone. All is for naught when her cousin the Evil Hench Mistress Alyson and her friend Veronique show up. Soon, between trying to stay sane and decide which pizzeria makes the best pizza, Jas has to solve the mystery of Arabella’s murder, keep the Evil Hench Twins off her back, and figure out whether the hot gondolier is interested in her or is a sinister part of the plot.

The Opposite of Music, by Janet Ruth Young

Billy’s an ordinary teen, worried about being uninteresting and too tall, when his father develops some new behaviors that give Billy something worse to worry about. Moody, unable to sleep, eat, or work, and increasingly agitated, Bill Senior is diagnosed with depression and Billy, his younger sister Linda, and their mom rally around him. At first, they try the doctor’s prescriptions, but Bill’s skin erupts in a rash from the first one and the next gives him nightmares, so the family takes things into their own hands, doing their own research and dedicating their lives to helping Bill get well. Poignant and yet funny, this is a family you’ll love to cheer for.

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