I thought this book was kind of like a Davinci Code for tween and teen readers. There is a lot of mystery, tons of action, and a “bigger picture” that readers catch glimpses of throughout the story. (This is the first in a series.) Although I feel this book probably could have been edited down to be quite a bit shorter, I think the fast-paced action is likely enough to keep even reluctant readers turning pages. Plus, the movie rights have been bought by Reliance Entertainment and Kintop Pictures, so I have a feeling this book will be in high demand as soon as the trailer starts making the rounds.
Will West’s parents constantly remind him to be as average as possible. They won’t tell him why, but they think it is very important for him to fly under the radar. So, he stays in the middle of the pack in cross country, he gets average grades, and he doesn’t do much else. All his careful calculating is wasted, though, when he slips up and scores off-the-charts high on a national standardized test. As a result, he gets invited down to the principal’s office for a meeting with a woman named Dr. Rollins, who extends an offer for a full scholarship to a secret, elite prep school… and men in black also start following him. When his mom starts acting like a robot/zombie and his dad sends strange text messages, Will decides he needs to run for it. With the help of a local taxi driver, who assumes Will is on the run from the police, he makes a mad dash for the airport — where he boards a plane for the secret prep school with the hope that he will soon begin to make sense of what is happening to him.
I made it a point to listen to this audiobook last June because it had been added to a local summer reading list. Since I had already been thinking about reading it, I didn’t even feel like I was doing homework as I sometimes do when I am trying to familiarize myself with summer reading titles. How lovely! While I am willing to admit that it wasn’t quite what I expected, though I can’t quite put into words what exactly that means, I was far from disappointed.
Jacob grew up listening to his grandfather’s outrageous stories about strange children with amazing powers — like invisibility, super strength, and levitation — as they looked through pictures from the home in which his grandfather had been raised. He believed his grandfather when he was very young but, as he got older, started to think that the pictures “proving” their peculiarities looked so fake. After all, what sane person would believe that there was a girl with a mouth on the back of her head and another who could float like a helium balloon? Still, it was kind of fun to imagine. That is, until the day his grandfather called him absolutely terrified about being unable to find his guns when the monsters were coming to get him. When Jacob found his grandfather’s body in the woods, and saw something he couldn’t explain, he had to decide whether he would choose to believe in the bizarre stories his grandfather had told him or if his grandfather had simply been suffering from delusions or dementia. And only one thing would set his mind at ease — a trip to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
Fans of this book should be happy to learn that movie rights have been sold to 20th Century Fox. According to Ransom Riggs’ blog, Tim Burton is set to direct and the screenplay with be adapted by Jane Goldman [who also wrote the screenplays for X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass, and The Woman in Black]. IMDB has a projected release date of July 31, 2015 but no further information. I, for one, am pretty excited to see how this develops.
This was one of those audiobooks where I didn’t really feel like I completely “got it” but I kept on listening anyway. It won a 2014 Printz Honor, so I figured it must have literary merit even if I wasn’t feeling it, right? Either way, I now have the ability to “booktalk” it to any library patrons who might ask what it’s about, and that is always key.
Standish Treadwell lives in an alternate reality in which “the Motherland” [England?] is in a race to the moon and operates much like WWII Germany — with ghettos of people segregated from the rest of the population and forced to work in labor camps for mere scraps of food. (Especially since I had just listened to Rose Under Fire, the constant deprivation and brutality definitely reminded me of the Holocaust.) He lives in Zone 7 (one of the poorest areas) with only his grandfather, since his parents ran away in an attempt to escape the totalitarian regime. Standish attends an all-boys school in which teachers openly favor kids from well-to-do families and those who come from families of government informants. It’s not uncommon for kids to pick on or beat up on one another, and teachers often discipline via corporal punishments like caning. Though he seems to be concerned that he has a learning disability of some sort [dyslexia?], Standish is quite clever and determined to figure out a plan to stand up to his government for the good of all mankind.
I know I am always telling people not to judge books by their covers, but I am certainly guilty of this infraction from time to time. Somehow, I saw the cover of this book and thought it would be more fantastic than it was. Maybe it was the banner that says “Believe in the unbelievable…” Maybe it was the castle in the background. But, somehow, I had my mind set that those kids would be involved in mystical time travel. Yeah… Not so much! Although, there were chapters that took readers back to the early 1900s to discover the history of the Water Castle and the ancestors of the main characters, those main characters most definitely did not travel through time themselves. And that was OK. Even though this story wasn’t what I thought it would be, I still thought it was extremely cool.
Ephraim Appledore-Smith’s family relocated to Crystal Springs, Maine, after his father had a stroke. Though his mother had inherited the house quite some time ago, Ephraim and his siblings had never been there before. His mother decided to move to Crystal Springs because she had hopes that a specialist who lived in that area would be able to help her husband with his recovery. After their arrival, though, Ephraim became obsessed with the possibility that the local water had special, mystical properties and that he could use it to cure his father. After all, that was how the “Water Castle” came to be in the first place; his ancestor, Orlando Appledore, built the house because he was convinced that the Fountain of Youth was in Crystal Springs. After floundering to find his niche in the new town/school, Ephraim became part of an unlikely trio — with Mallory Green, whose family has always worked as caretakers of the Appledore property, and Will Wylie, whose family has long feuded with the Appledores. First brought together by a polar explorers research project, the three banded together with a determination to find the fountain of youth themselves.
Cent [short for Millicent] is a 16-year-old girl who, despite being homeschooled in the remote Canadian wilderness, has seen more of the world than many people will see in a lifetime. She sometimes takes off at a moment’s notice to go shopping or surfing half way around the world, but her parents don’t own a private jet or helicopter. In fact, the helipad on their property is so overgrown with weeds it’s barely recognizable. How do they get there, then? They jump. All they have to do is concentrate on where they want to go and they can teleport themselves. Though unable to jump herself, Cent has always been brought along by one of her parents. Until one day, while snowboarding without permission, when she nearly gets caught in an avalanche and accidentally learns how to jump herself. Cent gets excited by all the possibilities her jumping has opened up to her… but it terrifies her parents. Not only do they have the usual parental worries of their daughter getting hurt in the usual ways, but they’re also worried that Cent could wind up kidnapped by the scientists who once held her father captive in an attempt to discover how jumping actually works.
River was orphaned when his parents died in a car crash, and he’s also shorter than he should be because his legs’ growth plates were fractured in the crash. He now lives with his aunt and pretty much only has two friends — Freak and Fiona. Freak has plenty of problems of his own, thanks to his alcoholic father. And Fiona is popular enough that she pretends not to know River and Freak when other people are around. To make matters worse, they live next to a place the local newspaper calls “Hellsboro” — the area surrounding the old Rodmore Chemical plant where an underground coal-seam fire makes the land inhabitable.
After all of that, I can understand if you’re hesitant to believe that this is a great/often-funny middle grade book, but it really is! My son and I actually laughed out loud fairly often as we read this story. How is that possible? Because it doesn’t focus so much on the depressing stuff; that’s all more of a footnote, really. The story centers around all the craziness that happened after they found a rare crayon in a sofa by the curb in front of the Underhill Mansion. If you want a funny story about cell phones, genetically modified foods, flash mobs, and brain control (presented as a nice blend of realistic and science fiction), I suggest you check this one out.
To say that Josie Moraine has a very unusual life would be an understatement and a half! Though she is only in high school, she already lives on her own and works two jobs — as a clerk at a local bookstore and as a maid of sorts for the brothel where her mother works. That’s right… Josie’s mother is a prostitute. Not to mention a cold, calculating, unloving woman who only ever seems to think of herself. And, as if that isn’t bad enough, Josie’s mother also happens to be in love with an abusive gangster-type. So, when her mom disappears from the French Quarter the very same morning that a man turns up dead, Josie isn’t sure what to do or what to believe. She has never wanted anything so much as a chance to get out of the “Big Easy” and to get a good education, but her mother and her mother’s foolishness always seem to get in the way.
One of the things I enjoyed most about this story was how the entire cast of characters was so well fleshed-out. I get annoyed when authors skimp on developing the supporting characters, but Sepetys did not disappoint! My favorite was Willie — the brothel madam who knew Josie was bound for bigger and better things, regardless of the fact that many people assumed/hoped she would simply follow in her mother’s footsteps. I loved that Willie did her best to support Josie and to encourage her to want more from life instead of being upset that Josie didn’t want to join the [ahem] family business. If you like historical fiction and/or mysteries, this is a book you won’t want to miss.
It wasn’t exactly easy to be an independent teenage girl in New York City in 1911, but Aurora Lewis wouldn’t let societal norms dictate her life. She refused to give up on her musical studies to attend a “finishing school” because she was determined to play violin in a symphony someday. When she arrived at violin lessons one Saturday morning, though, she found the studio a mess and the window open — despite the winter chill in the air. Looking down from the window, she found her teacher dead on the sidewalk… and was accused, by street hooligans, of having pushed him! Although the police cleared her when they deemed his death an accident, Aurora wasn’t satisfied with that result and decided that she and her friends would have to solve this murder themselves. This book was well written, fast-paced, and full of interesting musical and historical facts. I bet even reluctant readers would get lured in to this story!
The only problem I have with this book is that it’s the beginning of yet another series! Don’t get me wrong… I love many of the trilogies and series I have read and/or am in the process of reading. But, it makes it so hard to keep up with everything I need to read and the waiting can be torturous at times. Since I really enjoyed The Scorpio Races, though, I thought it was worth getting sucked in to another trilogy!
Even though the rest of her family has psychic abilities, Blue was born without the ability to do more than to amplify the powers of others. Because of this amplification, Blue is always expected to be present for the parade of souls on St. Mark’s Eve. At this parade, her mother records the names of the people who are marching — because they will die sometime in the next year. And, though Blue has never been able to see anyone before, she both sees and hears a Raven Boy named Gansey. Blue has always had a policy of avoiding Raven Boys [a.k.a. students of nearby Aglionby Prep] because they usually mean trouble. But, she is both inexplicably drawn to Gansey and curious whether she saw him because she is his true love or the reason for his death.
The number one complaint I had about this audiobook was PRONUNCIATION! It always bothers me when the reader gets a word wrong and everyone else involved in the production of that audiobook misses it. (One of my *favorites* was when the narrator for Twilight book said soul-der for the word “solder” — which is actually pronounced sod-der.) Now, I studied Greek Mythology in elementary school, high school, and college, and all of those teachers managed to use the same pronunciations. So, when I was listening to this book, I was jolted out of the story every single time the narrator pronounced “Hera” as hee-rah [instead of hair-uh] and “Gaia” as gee-uh [instead of guy-uh]… I know that the pronunciations of Greek Gods’ names can vary, but it didn’t exactly set my expectations very high for correct pronunciations when he said brassiere for “brazier” in the beginning of the book. [OK. My pronunciation rant is over!]
Believe it or not, though, despite the first paragraph of my review, I really loved this story! I thought it was a great creative twist on the whole Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and an awesome way to get kids to compare and contrast the Greek and Roman gods. People who haven’t read the other series, which began with The Lightning Thief, can probably even just start with this spin-off series because Riordan did a great job including snippets of back-story about important people and events to catch people up (or to refresh the memories of people who did read them).
In this story, Jason wakes up on a school bus with no memory of his past or knowledge of the people he’s with. The girl who’s holding his hand? She says she’s his girlfriend, but he doesn’t remember anything about her. He is also purportedly best friends with a guy named Leo but doesn’t remember him either. Jason has no idea where they are or where they are going. All he knows is that his name is Jason, he is apparently a student at Wilderness School (a school for juvenile delinquents), and something is not quite right about the teacher who is supervising their field trip. As readers quickly surmise, Jason is a half-blood like Percy Jackson. But, unlike Percy Jackson, Jason has a natural tendency to refer to the gods by their Roman names…