I am pretty sure the only Ann Brashares books I had read before this ARC were from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. It looks like I never reviewed them on this blog, though, so I can’t simply link to what I thought of them. Instead, I will quickly summarize by saying that they are basic contemporary “chick lit” books. They primarily dealt with friendship, dating, and body image — and they were both realistic and well written enough that I’m not surprised to see that they’re still popular. While this book was also well written and has a romantic element to it, it was VERY different in that it has a science fiction angle.
Prenna James is an immigrant, but she didn’t come from another country — she came from another time. She, along with the rest of the people in her tight-knit community, traveled back in time from a future in which global warming had destroyed the world. Warmer temperatures melted the polar ice caps, caused massive floods, and also allowed mosquitoes to thrive. Even though cancer had been cured, human existence was threatened by a blood-borne plague reminiscent of AIDS. Prenna’s time-traveling community has many rules, but the most important rules are to blend in, to avoid making any changes to “the past,” and to avoid intimacy with outsiders. Despite worries about getting in trouble, Prenna has a hard time following the rules. She just can’t understand how they can just sit by and watch people destroy the world instead of trying to make a difference. Plus, of course, there’s the fact that she’s falling for an outsider named Ethan…
In honor of Teen Tech Week, I decided to review a book that I read as a digital ARC. (If there are any teachers/librarians out there who would like to get digital ARCs, by the way, I highly recommend checking out Edelweiss and NetGalley.) Though I was reluctant to use an e-reader, I really have come around. Though I still prefer “real” books, I am learning to appreciate my e-reader — especially when it means that I will have a better chance of receiving, and sometimes even instant access to, a review copy!
I don’t recall where I first saw the cover of this book, but I was intrigued by both the title and the cool cover. I wanted to find out more about it and whether it might be a good fit for my library’s YA collection, but I couldn’t find any professional reviews. So, I decided to get a digital review copy from Edelweiss and read it myself. I am SO glad I did! I loved the main character, Gabe/Chunk, and thought the unique way the story was told — in the form of a written statement/police interview — worked surprisingly well.
Gabe’s “friends” call him Chunk [a reference to a character from an 80s cult classic, The Goonies], and he has long accepted that moniker. After all, he is fat. Huge. Beyond hope. After his mom left, he and his dad both began to feed their feelings. One of Gabe/Chunk’s biggest problems is his addiction to soda — but the money from the soda machine in the school cafeteria helps to fund the school pep band, so he is OK with wasting his money and drinking all the extra calories… until the day he finds out that they’ve been bamboozled. Without public knowledge, the school board decided to take the money from the soda machine and give it to the cheerleaders for a new dance squad! Gabe/Chunk decides that he is not only going to enlist the help of his friends to win back the money for the band, but he is going to let his grandfather [a former champion body builder] help him win back his body. Though I admit that the description sounds like it could get a little preachy, I am pleased to report that this story was often hilarious and that Gabe/Chunk had an authentic teen voice. I’m definitely hoping for more from this author.
I was very resistant to use an e-reader for quite some time, but recently got a Kindle Fire so my nearly-4-year-old daughter could have a tablet to play with while her older brother plays video games. (She doesn’t quite get how to play yet and always gets frustrated. But, I digress.) The main point is that I still didn’t really anticipate that I would actually use my tablet to read ebooks. Until, that is, my director told me the first chapter of Cress was available on NetGalley! (For those of you who don’t know, Cress is book three in the Lunar Chronicles — which began with Cinder and Scarlett.) It was amazing… but it was only one chapter. So, I decided to see what else was available. As I was browsing through titles to request, I found this book. Talk about kismet! I was anxiously awaiting the new season of Downton Abbey and just *knew* this would give me a quick fix. I was not disappointed!
Charlotte Edmonds is expected to be a perfect lady. After all, how will she land the perfect husband if she doesn’t dress, speak, and act exactly as society expects? She seems to be a constant disappointment to her mother, Lady Diana, who has her sights set on a marriage proposal from Lord Andrew Broadhurst before Charlotte even makes it to her first season. Even though her best friend, Fran, seems content to play by the rules and to hope for a marriage proposal from a suitable man, Charlotte longs for more — for fun, spontaneity, and a career as a writer. When Charlotte spies a scullery maid, Janie, sneaking away from a garden party to wade in the lake on a hot summer day, she decides to try it too. Thus begins an unlikely friendship between the girls. Secret rendezvous and rule-breaking abound as Charlotte and Janie try to find a way to live the lives they want instead of the lives they’ve been pigeonholed into, and all of The Manor’s secrets come spilling out. The ending is tidy enough, but just begs for a sequel.
I GOT TO MEET LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON, Y’ALL! ;-)
Because I’m the [2013-2014] President of the Youth Services Section of the New York Library Association, I got to sit at the head table during the 2013 YSS Empire State Award Luncheon. Since Laurie Halse Anderson was the 2013 ESA winner, I had the honor of meeting/lunching with her! It was amazing to have the opportunity to get to know [even briefly] an author whose work has so affected me and the teens I work with. In addition to discussing her research for her next book, our mutual love for the Sterling Renaissance Fair, my work at my library and with YSS, and her views on “reluctant readers” — she thinks we should switch to the phrase “readers with very high standards” — we also took the super-hilarious profile picture my Facebook link now sports. Yeah… That happened! The icing on the cake, though, was when I received a signed copy of this ARC.
Hayley Kincain’s father is a military veteran who is haunted by his past. Though he obviously suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he refuses to get professional help. Unfortunately, Hayley plays into the illusion that they can manage on their own and lies to everyone, including herself, about how well her father is doing. After returning from the Middle East, her dad has spent much of his time running from his past while self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. He has decided to try moving back to his hometown, though, so he can provide Hayley with more stability — like being enrolled in a traditional high school instead of being unschooled as they travel around the country in his big rig. Sometimes, it’ll seem like he’s getting his act together… But then something will trigger his PTSD and he’ll spiral out of control all over again. Fortunately, Haley manages to reconnect with a childhood friend, Gracie, and make a connection with a guy named Finn whose friendship [and love?] might just give her the strength she needs to face her harsh reality.
I am so grateful that someone let Susan Beth Pfeffer in on the “secret definition of trilogy” [as Scott Westerfeld put it when he wrote the dedication for Extras]. I was not OK with leaving the Moon Crash Trilogy as it ended in This World We Live In… I needed to know what happened next! Luckily, Susan Beth Pfeffer listened to her fans and kept writing even when her publisher wasn’t [initially] interested in a fourth Moon Crash book.
Miranda’s younger brother, Jon, is now 16 years old. As the baby of the family, he has gotten used to a life of relative privilege. Even when food was extremely scarce, people made sure he was fed. When work needed to be done, others worked harder so he didn’t have to. And when Alex had only 3 slips to get into an enclave — which would provide more safety, food, and educational opportunities for the people within — everyone agreed that those slips should go to Jon, his stepmother, Lisa, and her baby, Gabe. Many clavers got in simply because of the money and power they had before the moon crash, so Jon’s so-called friends often remind him that he’s a “slip” and could be kicked out if he doesn’t play along/act the part of a claver well enough. Since his “job” is playing soccer and his status as a claver gets him as much food, booze, and trouble-free mischief as he wants, though, Jon is often all too happy to play along.
People in White Birch, including some of Jon’s own family members [Miranda, Alex, and his mom], are known as grubs and often work for clavers in the capacity of domestic servants, drivers, and greenhouse workers. I was extremely uncomfortable with Jon’s hateful attitude toward grubs and how cavalierly he acted despite his family’s position, but I could see how easily a teenager might dissociate for the sake of fitting in and surviving in such a harsh reality. As much as I hated Jon and the things he did, it made all too much sense that a spoiled kid raised in a post-apocalyptic world would turn out this way. Luckily, Jon experienced some decent character development and the ending left me feeling like there was hope for Jon and his family… and maybe even a fifth Moon Crash book! ;-)
Let me begin by saying that this book is technically a “follow-up” to Suck It Up, but it definitely works well as a standalone story. (I didn’t go back and read the first book and I still understood/enjoyed this book just fine.) The basic premise of the story is that 16-year-old Morning McCobb has “outed” himself as a vampire and is now the poster child of the International Vampire League (IVL). Opposite the IVL, of course, there are extremist, anti-vampire groups like MOP (Mortals Only Party) and IMPALE (International Mamas and Papas Against Leaguer Equality), who are doing everything in their power to stop the IVL from getting Congress to pass the Vampire Rights Act (VRA). Even though this story is all about vampire rights, it’s nearly impossible to miss the correlation between the IVL’s struggle — complete with a Vampire Pride Parade — and the struggle for LGBT rights in America today. Cheesy humor and puns abound, helping to keep the story light, but some pretty important messages still come through. And, since many of my library teens are active in their school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), I’ve decided to feature this book and to give away my copy of the ARC at our Book Club program this afternoon as we prepare for Banned Books Week.
Olivia can’t remember life without pageants. After all, she has been competing in them since she was only 3 years old. Her mom is not as crazy as some of the pageant moms who’ve made the show Toddlers and Tiaras so infamous, but she is still pretty pushy. She allows Olivia to eat anything she wants and doesn’t worry about dieting, for example, but she also pressures Olivia to practice her walking, smiling, singing, and interview skills for hours a day.
One day, after church, Olivia had a chance encounter with a runaway boy named Danny. When she walked outside to get a little time alone, she heard someone calling out from the toolshed. Danny was hiding there while he waited for a connecting bus to Chicago, and he was really hungry. After Olivia snuck him some food, the two started talking. Danny, apparently, ran away because his mom was pressuring him to take shots of growth hormones [since he was extremely small for his age] even though he didn’t want the painful treatments. Olivia understood all too well how it felt to be judged by appearance alone, and she worried that Danny would not be safe traveling alone… So, to help her new friend, and to escape the pressures of her own life, Olivia went along with Danny to Chicago. I thought this was a great story about love — not only romantic love love, but also learning to love yourself and learning to love your family members despite their flaws.
Guster Johnsonville is impossible to please. His tastes are so refined that practically any food his mother cooks may as well be garbage. She gets so utterly frustrated with his refusal to eat that she packs all of her kids into the car and heads to New Orleans, sure that something will appeal to him there. Guster follows his nose to a dark building with the word “Patisserie” in the window and even the sign stating “Closed for Business by Order of the City of New Orleans” was not enough to keep him away. The Old Pastry Chef who worked there was so impressed by Guster’s particular palette that he told him about a secret recipe known as “The One Recipe” or the “Gastronomy of Peace” and gave him a strange, old eggbeater. Almost immediately, a devil-like chef in red appeared and attacked the Old Pastry Chef. As he lay dying, the Old Pastry Chef said just one more thing to Guster: “Get it to Felicity!”
No one in his family has much of an idea what they need to do now, but Guster is sure of two things — (1) The Chef in Red will stop at nothing to retrieve the eggbeater, and (2) he just HAS to figure out how to make the Gastronomy of Peace. I would recommend this book to fans of series like Percy Jackson and the Olympians and 39 Clues.
BOOK OF A
OK. If you are still reading, I trust that you have read the first two books of the Maze Runner Trilogy (Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials)… That means you already know that Thomas and the Gladers have found their way out of the Maze and that they thought they had been rescued from WICKED (World in Catastrophe, Killzone Experiment Department) but were actually being collected to be sent into the Scorch Trials. While they didn’t know whether they could trust anything they were told by WICKED, they had no other choice than to believe that they had been infected with the Flare and would find the cure if they could survive the Trials. Despite the devious creatures and Cranks they had to fight off, many of them (including Thomas) survived until the end.
This book opens with Thomas in an isolation chamber at WICKED headquarters. He has been there for three weeks and has no idea where the other Gladers are or how they are doing. When the Rat Man comes and lets him out of the isolation chamber, Thomas is informed that he is actually a Munie (someone who is immune to the Flare) and that all of these trials have been an attempt to map his Killzone (brain) to develop a cure. Now, WICKED claims that they are very close to a cure — as long as the Gladers who have survived the trials cooperate. Thomas is unsure how he feels about all this. Is it really worth all the pain and sacrifices he and his friends have experienced if they can find a cure? Is a cure even possible? And why should he trust that “WICKED is good” after all the lies and horrors of the past?
Alex has a brain tumor and doctors don’t seem to think she has very much longer to live. With this in mind, she decides to take a hike into the mountains to say her final goodbyes to her parents (whose ashes she is bringing along). While she is out in the wilderness, though, something very strange happens. Birds fall from the sky, dogs begin to act strangely, and some people simply drop dead. Because all of her electronics mysteriously died at this very same instant, Alex presumes that there must have been some sort of a large EMP (electromagnetic pulse). Fortunately, she is not completely alone. She has the companionship and help of two people she met in the woods — Tom, a soldier who is home on leave, and Ellie, a girl who’d been on a trip with her grandfather when he died as a result of the EMP. Trying to find their way to a place with enough supplies to keep them alive would have been quite challenging enough, but they also discovered that they need to worry about “The Changed” — teens/young adults who act almost like zombies, attacking and eating other humans they come across.
This was another rather gruesome story to read, but I stuck it out because it was such a cool concept, so well written, and so suspenseful… I just HAD to know what would become of Alex, Tom, and Ellie. I should have read the fine print before I started this story, though, because it’s the first book in a trilogy, so I still don’t know how it ends! Oh well. I guess I would rather read a great book that leaves me desperately awaiting a sequel than read a bad story, right?