“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Monday, August 4, 2008

Vibes • YA fiction

by Amy Kathleen Ryan
October 2008 • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt • YA fiction
Be careful what you are thinking -- Kristi Carmichael can read minds. Or can she?
Story: Lovably snarky teenager Kristi is convinced she has ESP, but recent events have proved her perception skills to be a bit off. Maybe her friend Jacob isn’t always thinking about her breasts. Maybe her mother didn’t chase her father away. And maybe, just maybe, hot guy Gusty doesn’t think she’s disgusting. In this bitingly funny but utterly sweet novel, Amy Kathleen Ryan has created one of the most vivid, deliciously disdainful teen voices in contemporary YA fiction.
Story behind the story: Teens are already embracing Kristi! Here are some quotes from enthusiastic advance readers:
“It doesn’t take a teenage psychic to realize that this story holds a shockingly real outlook on high school life.”—Cara, 14, Glastonbury CT
“An absolutely fantastic book..” —BookChic.com, 18 Lynchburg VA
"Hilarious, supernatural, original, and witty. Vibes will now be considered a must read in my book.” —Hilary 16, Columbus OH
"If you ever thought reading people’s minds would make it easier to understand other people, Amy Kathleen Ryan is here to tell you that you’re dead wrong. Funny, fresh, and heartfelt, Vibes zigs when you expect it to zag, and will have you laughing out loud.”—Barry Lyga, author of The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl and Boy Toy.
FYI: all the review copies have been sent. To hear what your colleagues have to say about VIBES, click on the "comments" link below.


Tina Ristau, Elementary Media Specialist said...

Kristi Carmichael has a bad attitude about a lot of things: her mother, her father, her school, and her classmates. Kristi also thinks she posesses the ability to read people's minds. Kristi's ex-best friend, Hildie, is another of Kristi's problems. Hildie's brother, Gusty, is the boy Kristi has a huge crush on, and when a school assignment has them working together, the two of them are finally able to spend time together.

It is easy to identify with Kristi and why she has a bad attitude. Her dad left their family two years ago and while he was gone in Africa met another woman. Her mother is a career woman who is not home a lot. Because Kristi thinks she can read people's minds she often feels as though others are thinking negative things about her.

While Ryan's story does talk about Kristi's mind reading ability, from the beginning I was skeptical. What Kristi seems to possess is perhaps better defined as intuition (or perhaps even paranoia). While I questioned this as an adult reader, I am interested to see the young adult's take on things.

While I have never read anything else by Ryan, I enjoyed this book very much and feel that Kristi is easy to identify with because she is not perfect and has her own struggles with things. The romance within the book of Kristi and Gusty is another enjoyable part of this book and I was rooting for them throughout the book. Ryan includes just enough sexual tension, but nothing improper for younger young adult readers.

I think this book will be enjoyed by all who pick it up.
Rating 4 stars
-- Tina Ristau, Media Specialist, Irving, Waterloo, Iowa

Vikki Terrile, YA Services Coordinator said...

I LOVED this book! Kristi is a tough, smart, funny, wickedly creative girl, the likes of which we don't often see. On the surface, Vibes is about Kristi's belief she's psychic and the hurt she feels overhearing what are pretty universally negative things about herself. But it's more about figuring out who you are and how you connect to the people and the world around you, and being really truly brave enough to do it.

Amy Kathleen Ryan does a great job of making Kristi bitchy and sarcastic with an undercurrent of anxiety and sadness running through all she does and says and thinks. You certainly don't have to be as intuitive as Kristi to sense all the emotion she's struggling to avoid feeling.

Teen and tween girls in the mood for a romantic, moving, entertaining, YOU-GO-GIRL kind of story will love Vibes as much as I did.

4 stars (plus some extra watermelon slices!)

Vikki Terrile, Coordinator of Young Adult Services, Queens (NY)Library

Martha McClintock said...

Life is tough if you can read people’s minds and what you hear is a constant barrage of criticism and even comments about your “ginormous boobs.” As if life wasn’t already tough enough for Kristi, whose father left to work in Africa with his new love, whose mother is a workaholic who barely notices her, and whose old best friend is now her worst enemy.

Kristi does not help to make her life easier. She deliberately carries out elaborate practical jokes that hurt others, secretly keeps a cat in the house, knowing that it aggravates her mother’s allergies and openly mocks a classmate suffering from anorexia.

When Kristi is paired up with handsome boy for a character education project, Kristi is forced to examine her feelings and actions.

What makes this book work is the refreshing heroine, flaws and all. You can’t help but root for her even while cringing as she plows into yet another situation with no thought for anyone but herself.

This book can be enjoyed on several levels; as fresh and funny chick lit or as a thoughtful look at the way our perceptions of the people around us really does affect our realities. I’d give it a solid 4.

Martha McClintock Peoples Academy Librarian Morrisville, VT

Jennie said...

Kristi is psychic. Life isn't easy when you can hear the popular girls thinking such things as Why is she such a drama queen? and Why does she wear those horrible outfits? Life really isn't easy when the most beautiful boy in school, whom she shouldn't care about, but does, thinks sick every time he sees her. It doesn't help when your best friend's head is full of gross fantasies involving your ginormous boobs somehow being wet. Opera at full volume is really the only thing that can keep the voices at bay.

But that's all background. The real drama of this story has nothing to do with the voices Kristi hears. The drama comes from sources readers will identify with--the mean popular girls, the mean not-as-popular girls, ex-best friends, boy friends who want to be your boyfriend, and serious parental drama.

What's even better is that Kristi is definitely human. She's mean and makes wrong decisions. Sometimes she learns, sometimes she doesn't. She's an excellent biting voice to YA fiction, a la Cyd Charisse in Gingerbread.

The book looks pink and light. And it is pink, but there's a reason Kristi is wearing such dark eyeshadow. This isn't depressing, but it's not fluffy. This is a book that has meat, while still being funny. Highly recommend. 4.5

Bastet said...

It’s hard enough to wonder what the other teens at your high school think of you. It’s worse to know what they’re thinking. That’s Kristi’s problem – ever since she started hearing her friends’ thoughts. She knows her friend Jacob thinks about her breasts and that the cutest guy in school thinks she’s disgusting. She knows her former best friend thinks she’s stuck up and her mom only thinks about her job. It only gets worse when her dad returns home for his first visit since he left home and Kristi’s mom two years ago.

You’d think being a mind reader would help you understand people, but it turns out Kristi screens the thoughts she hears through her own anger and insecurities. It’s almost as if she’s so convinced of how other people see her that she only hears the thoughts that agree with her own opinion. The awkward beginning romance and misunderstandings with Gusty – the cutest guy at school will be a big draw for teen readers. Kristi’s individuality (she crafts her own clothes) and sarcastic comments about her friends and school are hilarious. I love a book that combines humor, teen angst with a feisty flawed heroine and this book was just that. I would recommend it highly to readers who liked Meg Cabot’s supernatural mediator series or to realistic fiction readers looking for something a bit different.

I'd rate it a solid 4.

Kay Bowes, Youth Services Librarian said...

Ryan, Amy Kathleen. Vibes. Houghton Mifflin. 9780618995301. $16.00 (Ages 12 and up)

Kristi is able to read minds, or so she thinks. That’s why she feels like such a loser; especially when the cutest boy in school (she doesn’t have a crush on him or anything) always thinks “Sick!” when he sees her. Kristi is lonely and seems friendless, except for the new heavily-acned new boy, Mallory.

This slice of high school life told in the first person is right on the mark. It touches on relationships, friends, misconceptions of events and other teens, fashion (Kristi has a “found” wardrobe), adults and especially non-understanding of the teens themselves.

This is a literate treatment about coming-of-age that is fresh, funny and thoroughly enjoying. Girls will see themselves in many of the characters, who are so realistically drawn. This book should fly off the shelves.

Kay Bowes, Youth Services Librarian, Brandywine Hundred Library, Wilmington, DE

Lianne Johnson said...

"It isn't easy being able to read minds. People think up some pretty nasty sewage. Like the other day-I'm walking home from school when I come across an old guy walking his smelly Doberman. He's definitely a candidate for this year's Stodgiest American Award. Black suit coat, grey pants, white stuff in the corners of his mouth. He takes one look at my thick legs in their fishnets and my skirt I made out of Mylar birthday balloons and my tank top that barely contains my ginormous boobs and finally the eyeliner I cake over my eyes because it makes me look dangerous, and he thinks: Ugly bitch."

After reading a hook like this by Amy Kathleen Ryan in the YA novel Vibes, I am immediately sucked in to this teenager's angst filled life. Being an avid fantasy buff, I believe the narrator's assertion that she can read minds. It is only after a few chapters that I start to suspect that the narrator may not be reliable: in her mind reading assertions or her self- perceptions. Easily readable and filled with wonderful voice, I would strongly recommend this book to any teenage girl.

Lianne Johnson

jlarkin said...

"If you're wishing you were psychic, too, believe me, you do not want to know what people are thinking. People are mean, nasty, selfish slobs, and 99 percent of the time their brain vibes hurt your feelings and you have to go around trying not to remember that Gusty Peterson, the cutest guy in school, looked at you yesterday and thought, sick.

And so begins the story of Kristi, an adolescent girl who thinks she can read minds. She isolates herself, has few friends, hates her mom, hates her dad, and thinks she's fat. Sounds like many teenage girls I know!

This was a great book. It started off a bit slow, but picked up speed when Mallory entered the picture and the chararacter education project begins. I loved reading about Kristi confronting her fears with Gusty - her long-time secret crush. I also loved seeing her realize what her father is really like and, in turn, understand her mom. Funny, sad, angry, confused, and chaotic - Kristi goes through all of the emotions - something girls will definitely relate to.

Patti Harju said...

I just loved this book! I will be passing it on to my teen daughter to read. Kristi is a character that we can all relate to at some time in our life. She is mad at her mother, her father left two years earlier, her former best friend has nothing to do with her and the guy she has had a crush on thinks she is sick. Oh yeah, she knows this because she can read people's thoughts. She is one girl who refuses to conform and her individuality shines, especially in her unique wardrobe. She makes her clothes from things she finds - plastic bags, curtains, anything. She is a teen, and as a teen stumbles along the way to finding herself and misses things that are obvious to everyone else, but does it with heart and you can't help but love Kristi (and want to give her a hug.)
This is a wonderful book. I look forward to more from this author.

Cynthia said...

Amy Kathleen Ryan’s new YA novel, Vibes, is written in the first person, present tense. As Kristi tells her story, readers discover that she protects herself in a shell of individuality by wearing a wardrobe created mostly from found goods, and plugging in her earphones to tune out the world. She sees herself as overweight and unattractive, and-–except for her “ginormous boobs”–-she believes others see her this way as well, after all, she can read their thoughts. Kristi is distrustful of “beautiful people” who get through life on their looks, as opposed to people like herself who must have brains to thrive. Protected from feeling hurt behind a wall of cynicism and distrust, and cocooned by the opera music offered by her earphones, Kristi moves through Journeys, a high school so alternative that it doesn’t even call itself a school, feeling friendless and fatherless (he left home two years ago). Her relationship with her mother is strained at best, and her best friend is Minnie, the cat she keeps hidden in her room because her mom is allergic to pet dander. Kristi’s voice is strong and true, and as the novel unfolds her self-discoveries satisfy the reader. Vibes will speak to readers who can identify with adolescent angst. Appealing mostly to teen girls, Vibes may engage boys who value individuality.

As an adult, I initially found Kristi’s defenses too caustic--although teens would love just what turned me off–-and her psychic “abilities” suspect, but by the midpoint, I was enjoying Kristi’s journey of self-discovery and I imagine teen readers will be engaged from page one.

--Cynthia L. Winfield, teacher Massachusetts certified in English 6-12 and Reading K-12

Readingislove said...

I really enjoyed this book. I actually wanted to not teach so that I could finish it. :)

I am an 8th grade teacher and am looking for books to put into my classroom library.

I think I will add this to it, but make sure those who read it know there's a little adult content.

At first I wasn't sure about why the main character continued going back to her boobs...kind of threw me. I wished the author would not have done that at first because it just didn't seem necessary, but by the end the book was so entertaining, it kind of canceled the whole inappropriateness out.

Overall, a great and entertaining book.

Allyn Hunt said...

Vibes has an interesting premise about a high school girl who happens to be overweight, constantly angry at her mother, plays dirty tricks on random pedestrians, hates school, and she thinks she is psychic. The setting of an alternative new-age high school, Journeys, adds a new dimension also with the class names: math equals “The Language of the Universe” and English is “Story as Cultural Artifact”. The book does pick up towards the middle after much discussion of the main character’s chest and her self-loathing. Although it ends nicely, I would not feel comfortable about putting this on my classroom library shelves due to the language and sexual innuendo. I score this book as a three.

A. Hunt
8th Grade Language Arts
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Lori said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lori said...

by: Amy Kathleen Ryan

Rating: 4

Vibes is a GREAT book! Kristi is a believable, screwed-up character. She has self-image issues, family problems, and problems fitting in at her (strange) alternative school. In other words, she is a pretty typical kid in today's world. She goes through some self-discovery throughout the book and realizes she is not without fault.

I know the girls in my middle school classes will love this book! I will have a hard time keeping it on the shelf!

I am definitely looking forward to more books from Ryan.

Lori Stolaski
St. Thomas Aquinas Academy
Milwaukee, WI

Jen G said...

Kristi Carmichael is a snarky and complicated high school student who happens to think she has psychic abilities. Although not much different from your average coming-of-age story, Kristi’s wit and world view catch the reader’s attention immediately. Attending an alternative high school, Kristi has a crush on Gusty (her ex-best friend’s brother) who she believes has no interest in her. She has an instant connection with newcomer Mallory, who appeals to her outsider personality, but then must make a choice between them when while working on a school assignment together Gusty (after several attempts) reveals he feels the same way about her. Kristi also has to deal with her father’s return home after a two year absence and her mother’s new job. A savy reader will question Kristi’s psychic abilities (and realize it is just intuition) within the first chapters and will find that thread tedious by the end of the book. It took me awhile to adjust to Kristi’s teen speak narration, complete with many Jesus and Christs. Also, as mother of a mentally challenged son, I balk at the use of retard as an adjective (p. 34 and 101). Overall, I felt Kristi was likeable character who realizes a lot about herself, others, and growing up. I give this book a strong 3, as I felt a connection to the protagonist’s wit and world interpretation but I didn’t have to set everything aside to finish, nor do I feel it worth a whole picnic (although maybe a quick afternoon read before napping). Jen Gassman, La Porte City, Iowa, Union High School teacher librarian.

Sharon Reidt, Brooks Memorial Library said...

High school is difficult enough if you are a “normal” teenager. Now imagine how hard it would be if you had secret psychic powers! Amy Kathleen Ryan winningly explores this conceit in her new novel Vibes. The novel is narrated by Kristi, an outcast teen who delights in crafting clothing from found objects, listening to opera arias at extreme levels of volume, and hiding her cat from her allergic mother. Kristi has problems that many teens face – divorced parents, a severed friendship, and a crush on The Hottest Boy in School. Her reactions are tempered, for better and for worse, by her ability to read minds, a talent she discloses to readers on the first page. Much to Ryan’s credit, this aspect of the story is related in such a matter-of-fact fashion that we do not question her abilities, and apart from this, there is no supernatural atmosphere hanging over the story. Kristi is a believable character, and many high school teens may find themselves relating to her and the situations she finds herself in. The story is so engagingly told that I had trouble putting it down – it’s definitely a 5/5 book!

Sharon E. Reidt
Periodicals Clerk
Brooks Memorial Library

Anonymous said...

The young adult fiction Vibes will be in my picnic basket but not before it makes the rounds in my writing and reading classroom. Amy Kathleen Ryan has written a story whose main character struggles with her life and with good reason. She's totally trying to figure out what's been dished out to her for a family, friends, school, body, psychic gifts...

What? Psychic gifts? I love a story which weaves the threads of reality into the unknown and leaves the reader still wondering but with some of the questions answered. This first person narrative is a perfect read for anyone who's affected by divorce and the adjustments which must follow. An array of interesting characters impressed me with just how complicated and tricky life can be. The transformation in our main character is fabulous and we're left applauding her gutsy yet passionate approach to high school life and family turmoil. Every word of dialogue, inner and outer, is so believable and totally real. I found myself transported back to my own crazy high school days and reliving some of those wildy alive but trying times...full of crazy teachers, questionable friendships, romance, unsettling times at home and just life as it is through the eyes of creative, intelligent, and compassionate teenager.

Jacquie Leighton, MIddle School ELA, Maine

Mila said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mila said...

This book is a definite 4. It could be a 5 but for its predictability.
Kristi, our heroine, is a jumble of inner thoughts. She's mean, she's nice. She tries very hard to be independent and all-assured, she's filled with self-doubt and self-concious about her image.
YAs will find this read easy to relate because the language that the author (Amy Kathleen Ryan) use flows very nicely from page to page. Ryan only looks from one perspective. Kristi's. That really helps reader to identify with the character.
She doesn't make Kristi more mature and understandable than most teens but, she shows that most teens are not as immature and selfish as they appear to be. A little bit self-absorbed, maybe.
The book touch a lot on the issue of acceptance and self-image. Doing so without being preachy.
Will definitely create new fans for Ryan.

Estrella said...

I loved Vibes. It was easy to relate to, funny and I kept rooting for Kristi to finally "get it". I thought her love of opera was a fresh idea and could easily imagine the lamenting opera songs playing over the harsh thoughts coming from the ridiculously good looking kids.

Kristi's revelations about her relationship with her father are refreshing. Too many books let a man who walks away from his family with no explanation off the hook.

Kristi's creativity was inspiring and her growth was fascinating to watch.

I give this book 4 stars!

Ari said...

I rate this book a very strong 4.

I had a hard time putting it down and really enjoyed getting to know the main character, self-loathing and all. I always enjoy when I can get into the minds of new people, people completely different from myself.

I have already put this in my library and the kids are loving it, there is actually a waiting list. I think right now my kids can strongly relate to those imperfect heroes. The ones who are important and wonderful and beautiful - they just don't know it themselves.

Ms. V
7th and 8th grade ELA

RickertsZoo; Summerfield, NC said...

The self discovery of the character of this book is a well scribed journey that felt realistic and appropriate. I was drawn in immediately, and although I didn't care for the behavior or actions of Kristi, I learned to appreciate and respect her. There are many life lessons that can be crossed into reality from this book-acceptance of others; seeing others and yourself through their eyes; admitting weakness or error; parents are human; what you hear is not always what you hear; etc...

The angst of teens is superbly written and as you read you are taken on a emotional ride that isn't always fun, but is a great ride!

As a mother of a 14 year old and teacher of 11 year olds, I was surprised to see the intended audience was 12 and up! Perhaps if the article the girls were reading, "How to give good oral sex" could be changed, I would feel better? That just seems a bit much. Overall, the mature themes that are intwined within the elements of the book would require some warning for the middle school media specialists I believe.

I would mark this book a 4.5 out of 5.

wordwarrior said...

Thank you Amy Ryan for a superbly written book!!!! Vibes is a wonderful read that illustrates well the struggles of adolescents in High School. Kristi Carmicheal thinks she is psychic and that she reads minds. Maybe she is, maybe she's not but she is expertly intuitive. Unfortunately she misinterprets she friends and family sometimes. Vibes is so well done that I could picture the students in the High School I work at in Ryan's book. Kristi is doing her best to fit in and not lose her identity through being strong and self assured. She doesn't always read her classmates "Vibes" accurately which makes her all the more appealing. Ryan has done a wonderful job building her characters and her descriptive language paints the readers canvas expertly. I would recommend this book to any of my students.
Rating 4.5 stars out of 5!

Anonymous said...

From Janae, a seventh-grade reader:

The book VIBES is a sarcastic story of a freshman through senior year of high school. The same drama: Boys, peer pressure, and more. It seems funny in the book but when it happens to you it is a little harsh.

There were a few things I didn't really like, like it never stayed on one topic, it kept switching up. But I totally like the humor and creativity in the books.

I also like the interactions between characters. It was a little cool to see two boys kind of wanting a "dork" which is what she's made out to be and then one of the boys is popular. It totally shows another side of popular boys and destroys the myth that popular boys would never fall for any girl who's not popular.

cupcake said...

I teach high school sophomores and juniors, and constantly am on the hunt for YA literature. There is something so lovely and interesting about "Vibes" that I added it to my classroom library and actively encourage students to read it.

Kristi's voice sounds familiar without sounding predictable. Her story is not unique, yet it doesn't sound like something I've read 1,000 times before. Amy Kathleen Ryan has not written the most original story, but she wrote it in an original way. I was captivated by Kristi and wanted things to work out for her. She is relatable and distinctive.

A good read for teens (and even those of us who bid adieu to our teen years some time ago).

Amy Parsons
High School English Teacher
North Carolina

Anonymous said...


Kristi thinks that her ability to read people's thoughts helps her to understand them. Throughout the book she acts (and reacts) based on the thoughts she "receives" from others around her--her friends, her mother, her former friends and even her cat.

Her life is not easy. Her father left Kristi and her mother two years ago, and Kristi has been bitter and distant ever since. The guy she liked seems to send negative thoughts at her which even depresses her further.

Kristi is different--she is not super skinny like some of the other girls, she makes her clothes from "found" materials, and she has huge boobs, which she believes others others notice constantly (and maybe they do).

But, the book really exemplifies that message that things are not always what they seem. Being able to read people's thoughts does NOT help you understand them, and Kristi learns that life is full of risks which must be taken to reap the rewards.

I rate this book 4 stars. It is a wonderful read for middle school through high school.

pkramer said...


Kristi thinks that her ability to read people's thoughts helps her to understand them. Throughout the book she acts (and reacts) based on the thoughts she "receives" from others around her--her friends, her mother, her former friends and even her cat.

Her life is not easy. Her father left Kristi and her mother two years ago, and Kristi has been bitter and distant ever since. The guy she liked seems to send negative thoughts at her which even depresses her further.

Kristi is different--she is not super skinny like some of the other girls, she makes her clothes from "found" materials, and she has huge boobs, which she believes others others notice constantly (and maybe they do).

But, the book really exemplifies that message that things are not always what they seem. Being able to read people's thoughts does NOT help you understand them, and Kristi learns that life is full of risks which must be taken to reap the rewards.

I rate this book 4 stars. It is a wonderful read for middle school through high school.

Pamela Kramer
Reading Teacher
Highwood, Illinois

Sandra Stiles said...

My students will be able to identify with Kristi. Many of them have gone through, or are currently going through family situations similar to Kristi's.

She is a creative girl, making clothes out of "found" items. She struggles to discover who she is and how to deal with everything that is on her plate. Teens will see themselves in her. I rate it a 4