My son and I both love fantasy fiction, and we’re both suckers for ARCs from beloved authors… So, when I heard that Holly Black and Cassandra Clare were writing a middle-grade fantasy series together, I just knew I had to get my hands on a copy of this ARC. (The good news for anyone reading this review is that the book came out September 9th and you can read it without scheming to find an ARC!)
And do you know what was even better than opening a random, unexpected package to find a copy of this ARC? When it arrived in the mail on the very day that we were ready to start a new book. Awesomesauce! I knew these authors were awesome and that a collaboration between them was likely to be epic, but I also kinda expected that this book would be somewhat formulaic and predictable, like many of the other middle-grade fantasies I’ve read. Thankfully, I was wrong. Although there were some parallels to other books we’ve read, the story was fresh and there were a couple of plot twists that blew our minds!
Callum’s father has always taught him that magic is bad and that the Magisterium, a school that teaches adolescents how to hone their magical abilities, is evil. So, when Callum had to go in to test his magical acuity at the Magisterium, he did his best to fail. For some reason, nevertheless, Master Rufus chose Callum to be one of his apprentices. Even though neither he nor his father wanted him to attend, being selected meant that Callum had to go to the Magisterium… As soon as he started to learn how to use his magic and began to make friends, though, Callum started to wonder if maybe his dad was wrong after all…
After reading and enjoying Surf Mules and Ghetto Cowboy, I was looking forward to seeing how Neri would handle this topic. Once I downloaded the ARC and started reading it, though, I second-guessed my decision. Some of the depictions of violence literally made me sick to my stomach. When I got to the very first knockout, I had to put the book (well, Kindle) down and just read something else because I was so utterly disturbed. I was talking to a friend about it and saying that I didn’t know if I could handle reading this story, but he reminded me that this is an important story to have available to teens and that pushing myself beyond my comfort zone to finish this story would make me better able to recommend it to those who needed it. After all, this isn’t a fantasy or science fiction story with gratuitous violence; this is a contemporary, realistic story about an actual problem in urban neighborhoods. Real teens are “playing” the knockout game, and Neri’s story can help people — whether players or outsiders — better understand the factors that lead people to play and the faulty logic many players use to justify their participation. People who don’t actually read the story might fear that Neri glorifies the game, but anyone who reads the whole book will understand that, though he humanizes the players and explains the motivations they might have in playing this deadly game, he makes it clear that their cop-outs and excuses do NOT justify their destructive actions. So glad I made myself go back and finish this one. Hopefully, the timely publication of this book will succeed in educating and deterring would-be players.
Nell and Layla were extremely close when they were little. So close, in fact, that Nell got confused and started calling her sister and herself by the collective name Nellaya. Now that they’re both in high school, things have started to shift. Though they attend the same school and play on the same soccer team, Layla has become more closed off and secretive. Nell is doing her best to be her own person instead of living in her sister’s shadow, but she misses the closeness they once had. Though Layla used to tell her everything, she feels like Layla isn’t telling her *anything* anymore. Nell wonders what could be causing this change in her sister and fears it has something to do with the rumors that Layla is dating the cute, young art teacher whose supposed conquests of students are frequent fodder for gossip. She wants to know the truth, but she is also afraid of what she might learn. After all, what will/should Nell do if she finds out the rumors are true?
Though I don’t think this book was written as well as The Things a Brother Knows or Harmless, I thought Reinhardt did a good job writing about the struggle between loyalty and honesty.
I’m thinking I Read YA Week is a perfect opportunity for me to catch up on some blogging… and I may even actually use my Twitter account to tag my posts! ;-) Day 1 is supposed to be something I recommend, and this book definitely fits the bill. I have read several of E. Lockhart’s other books — my favorite of which was probably The Boyfriend List — and I was over the moon when my friend Molly got me the ARC of this book. Although I slacked when it came to posting a review, I handed it off to a friend immediately upon finishing and was happy to hear that she passed it along as well. This book has legs!
Cadence has spent every summer of her life on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts with her entire extended family. Hired help does all the work while the family enjoys a life of luxury and leisure. She missed last summer, which she spent in Europe with her father, but she is back and trying to piece together what happened two summers before. All she knows is that she sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and now suffers memory loss and crippling headaches. No one in the family is supposed to talk to her about it because it upsets her and then she ends up forgetting anyway — the doctors have decided it’s best if they let her recover those memories on her own. I almost couldn’t get over the shock of what had happened when her memories finally sorted themselves out, and I was in awe of how well everything that seemed so strange finally fell into place. This is a great summer read for people who like mysteries and don’t mind shedding a few tears.
Becca Williamson has a rather unique job. Instead of working after school in a fast food restaurant or at a clothing store in the mall, she breaks up couples for money. Of course, she can’t just tell everyone what she does. That would be pretty dangerous — at least socially, if not literally. So, she advertises anonymously (on the school bathroom wall), wears a disguise when she meets with clients (via webcam), and collects payments via PayPal. You may wonder, “Why Becca is so anti-love?” Well, it has an awful lot to do with the fact she’s had to deal with the fallout from her sister’s fiance calling off their wedding only hours ahead of time [about a year before the beginning of the book].
The premise of this book was pretty interesting, but I thought the delivery fell a bit flat. I don’t usually give spoilers, but I can’t explain what I didn’t like about this book without saying that Becca didn’t seem to learn anything from her experiences as The Break-Up Artist. At the end of the book, I would have expected Becca to have a little remorse over what she had done and a better understanding of how relationships require work and honesty. Instead, she seemed to still feel justified for what she had done. REALLY?!? Some people might enjoy this story for all the drama, but I can’t see myself specifically recommending it to anyone.
This was one of the most messed up books I have ever read. (I don’t mean that as an insult, by the way. I am referring to the content, not the writing.) It was like driving by a terrible car accident — you know you shouldn’t look, but you just *have* to see for yourself what’s going on. And although I did think it was a bit hyperbolic, it wasn’t completely outside the realm of possibility either. I mean, the Catholic Church is pretty well known for brushing things under the rug and covering things up to save their reputation, so why wouldn’t it be possible for a Catholic school to have insane hazing issues and major problems with student discipline in general? Let alone the fact that there have been so many darn hazing stories in recent years — many of which involved high school students and adults who looked the other way. Part of me wanted to reach into the story to slap the snot out of the so-called adults who let the insanity continue, and part of my wanted to stop reading in case something truly horrific happened because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle it. I think this story is like a more modern version of Lord of the Flies — only with adults who just stood by and watched everything unfold.
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…