“Museum of Heartbreak” by Meg Leder

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Penelope Marx wants what most teenage girls want: a dream boyfriend. At seventeen, she’s never been kissed, and Penelope and her best friend Audrey fantasize about what they want in their perfect boyfriend. On the first day of school, Penelope meets Keats, an attractive boy who at first glance seems to embody all of the characteristics of Penelope’s dream boyfriend. She develops a crush on Keats and starts dating him after getting close to him at a party he hosted. Meanwhile, Audrey and Eph, Penelope’s two best friends, start hanging out with other people. As a result, Penelope goes to a fair by herself and meets Grace and Miles, two members of Nevermore, the school’s literary magazine. Penelope joins the Nevermore staff and reads the pieces that students have submitted for consideration. She recognizes one of the anonymous submissions as Keats’s, and she is torn whether to include it since she does not like the story. Keats has also started treating Penelope with disrespect, and hanging out with Cherisse, Penelope’s archenemy. Penelope is then faced with a tough decision: stay with Keats and be disrespected or be without a boyfriend. In addition, her friend Eph is becoming more attracted to her, and she is afraid that if they date their friendship won’t be the same.

Penelope is very socially awkward, quiet, and quirky, which readers can pick up on through her dialogue and her actions. Many teenage girls will be able to relate to the social awkwardness Penelope has when she first meets Keats. Penelope also lives in New York City, and Leder uses her personal knowledge of the city to create a descriptive setting that includes eclectic coffee shops, thrift stores, and flea markets. To go along with the title, Museum of Heartbreak, each chapter has an illustration of an object adjacent to a museum-style description in place of a chapter title, and the chapter that follows reveals why the object is included in Penelope’s museum. That was a unique touch to the novel that connected to the overall museum theme. Teens who like novels that feature friends, love, and heartbreak should check out Museum of Heartbreak.

Check this book out or put it on hold

-Caylee P.

“The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things” by Ann Aguirre

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This is the first YA book I’ve read in which I wasn’t waiting to figure out what the problem is. Usually, I spend the first few chapters wishing the story would hurry up and get to the point already. That is not the case here.

The protagonist, Sage Czinsky, is a 16 year old doing her best to make high school a less-terrible experience for everyone. Sage is an environmentally active, “crunchy-granola” type who sticks to her principles even when it’s inconvenient. This girl is interesting and it’s nice to see anyone in high school, even a fictional character, work hard at trying to be a good person. But our heroine has a past, and as much as she does her best to stave off her darker side, it unexpectedly rears its ugly head.

Sage begins leaving kind words on post-it notes on the lockers of her classmates. Whenever she finds someone struggling or having a difficult day, she leaves a sticky note with small but kind observations of what she notices about them. She never really knows what kind of affect her post-its have, but figures from a few changes she’s noticed that they were overall positively perceived. It isn’t until her classmates learn of Sage’s tragedy that she’s able to see the overwhelming support from nearly the entire school when they leave post-its on her locker. Just as she did for them, they are able to return the hope that she always offered in dark times. In Sage’s case, we see that the good she has done nearly atones for the mistakes of her past, but since it will always be a part of her, she will probably be unable to see that for herself.

One of the messages that I took away from this book is that your past can catch up with you, but life is not about what you did in your past, not really. Life is about how you treat the present, and even though you may be flawed, you can still help and be good to others.

This is probably one of the best books I’ve read in a while. I love the fact that the protagonist is a flawed yet strong heroine, and her boyfriend (yep, she has a boyfriend, and that part of the story is something you shouldn’t miss) is a significant part of her life but not her entire life. I am tempted to write that this novel is well crafted and funny.  While it’s true that it is, I can’t say that because I fancy myself to be(come) a better writer than that. Plus, that saying is not too original.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

-Cicely D.