The Unlikelies by Carrie Firestone

unlikeliesSadie was more than prepared for a boring summer.  Her best friend was going away to work at a summer camp and she was going to work at a farm stand selling fruits, veggies, and $12 chunks of cheese to “citiots” who were on their way from NYC to the Hamptons.  Then, something completely random happened.  When a drunk and belligerent man pulled in to the farm stand, Sadie became a bit of a hero.  Rather than let him drive away with his toddler screaming and crying in the back seat, Sadie physically stopped him from leaving.  It wasn’t all that simple, though.  As she struggled to take away his keys, she actually had her head smashed off a toolbox and ended up with a major concussion and a terrible scar to show for her efforts.  Video of her daring deed went viral and she was nominated for an award at a “homegrown heroes” luncheon that honored local teens.

Though they would have been unlikely to come together on their own, these teens felt an instant connection and decided to start hanging out as a group.  Before long, they were working together to take down internet trolls while leaving care packages for the people who had been bullied.  I don’t want to give away too much, but I think it’s fair to say that their good deeds soon escalated with the help of a generous benefactor.  Though I was glad to see a book featuring brave and generous characters from a wide variety of backgrounds (both ethnic and socio-economic), I have concerns about the dangerous situations into which these teens placed themselves and can only hope that readers will know better than to emulate those particular acts of heroism.

Happy Reading!

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The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin

the-big-fDanielle had always planned on going to Ohio State.  And, since her mom was renowned for her work as a “college psychic” (who helped families pick the perfect school), she didn’t bother applying to any back-up schools.  Although no one was surprised to find out that she got accepted, she wasn’t sure what to do when she was notified that they rescinded her acceptance.  How could that even happen?  Well, Danielle failed AP English.  So, she had to find a way to replace that failing grade if she wanted to earn back her acceptance.  Plus, you know, find a way to tell everyone that she was no longer going away to Ohio State in the fall.  Ack!

I was very pleased to see that Danielle took it upon herself to come up with a new plan and that her new plan involved redemption rather than admitting defeat.  I was also happy to see that, though this is definitely a romance, Danielle didn’t intend to rush out and find herself a boyfriend…  It just kind of happened when she least expected it.  Readers who enjoy a coming of age story with light romance and family/friend drama should definitely check this one out.

Happy Reading!

Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos

life-in-a-fishbowlJackie Stone wasn’t the most popular girl, but her life wasn’t really terrible either…  That is, until her father (Jared) was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Then, her life quickly spun out of control. With his family’s future financial security in mind, Jared made the decision to auction his life to the highest bidder on eBay.  That is where we meet several of the other narrators — a billionaire who wants to win so that he and Jared can compete in their own “Hunger Games,” a nun who wants to win so that she can help people find God and see that the Catholic Church values all life, a producer who wants to sign Jared’s family up for a reality TV series, and an online gamer who simply feels compelled to try and win so that she can help this man die with dignity.  I don’t think it is much of a spoiler to say that eBay took down the auction, since it clearly violates their human remains and body parts policy.  And, based on the title, I don’t think it very “spoilery” to even acknowledge that Jared did, in fact, agree to contract with the American Television Network for a reality TV series.  What I won’t spoil, nevertheless, is what happened *after* ATN stepped in.  Suffice it to say that it was kinda crazy but also not completely outside the realm of possibility.

Between Jackie, Jared, Glio (the name the brain tumor gave itself), and the bidders from eBay, I initially found it a little difficult to follow the myriad of perspectives.  I am glad that I kept going, nevertheless, because this story was filled with such great food for thought.  Individual rights and privacy of minors in reality TV series and euthanasia were merely the tip of the iceberg!  Despite the morbid premise, the story managed to be much more quirky than depressing and I am fairly certain I laughed more often than I was sad.  If you enjoyed Reality Boy, you should definitely read this book as well.

Happy Reading!

The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth

one-safe-placeDevin never knew life before the Earth got too hot.  All he knew of that time was what his grandfather told him.  But, despite the fact that he grew up in the “after,” he wasn’t really aware of the hardships that affected most people.  Growing up on the farm, he learned how to make due with what the animals and the land provided.  As long as he and his grandfather worked hard, they had all they really needed.  When his grandfather died, though, it became too much for a single person to manage.  So, Devin set off to the city to see if he could find anyone to help him work the farm.  For the first time in his life, Devin experienced true thirst and hunger.  He was also exposed to the darker side of humans when he encountered people who were willing to hurt others and steal in order to survive as well as those who ignored the suffering of others.

After settling in with some other orphaned children who taught him to scam and scavenge enough to get by, Devin began to hear rumors about a special home for children.  If the rumors were to be believed, it was a place in which children would have more than enough food and toys for all.  Even better?  There was a chance that the children could be adopted by families that could provide for them!  Some of the orphans believed in this place, but others thought it was a mere fairy tale.  When Devin met an older boy who promised to bring him to this home for children, though, he decided to take a chance.  As it turns out, this home really did exist… but something was not quite right.  This book is technically “middle grade” fiction, but teen and adult fans of dystopias should definitely check it out.

Happy Reading!

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

inexplicable-logicBefore Salvadore started his senior year, his life seemed to make much more sense.  Applying to colleges and thinking about both his history and how his life might change in the near future, though, started him questioning everything he thought he knew and understood.  Sal was adopted, but it wasn’t a “typical” adoption.  His dad, Vincente, and his birth mother were very good friends before she ever met his birth father and became pregnant.  So much so, in fact, that Vincente was the “birth coach” when Sal was born.  Although Vincente was gay, he even married Sal’s mother so that he could adopt Sal more easily before she died of cancer.  Sal never missed his mother too terribly because he had been too young to really remember her, but also because he felt so loved by his adoptive family.  Despite their different ethnicities (he was white and his adoptive family was Mexican-American), he never felt like an outsider.  When a few kids at school started directing racial and homophobic slurs at him and his father, nevertheless, Sal even started questioning his place in his family.

I don’t want to spoil any of the plot for y’all, but I think it is fair to say that this story includes several major, life-changing events that affect Sal and the people he loves most.  As he did with Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Sáenz handled coming of age, family dynamics, and evolving friendships with both realism and beauty.  I was especially grateful for the adult characters, like Vincente and Mima.  Sal’s best friend, Samantha, and new friend, Fito, were amazing characters as well, but I find that it’s far less common for a YA novel to have such fully-developed, accessible, vulnerable, and honest adults.  If you haven’t read anything by this author, you need to fix that problem immediately…

Happy Reading!

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

before-i-let-goWhen Corey moved away from Lost Creek, Alaska, she promised to come back to her best friend Kyra.  And Kyra promised to wait for Corey.  But, only a few days before Corey was scheduled to go back, she received word that Kyra had died.  In the middle of the harsh Alaskan winter, Kyra had supposedly fallen through some ice and drowned.  To Corey, who knew that Kyra suffered from Bipolar Disorder (and how very thick the ice could get in the middle of winter), it seemed much more likely that Kyra had chosen to break that ice and taken her own life.  The insistence that it was an accident wasn’t even the most bizarre thing, though, as far as Corey was concerned.  Even more bizarre was the way the small town’s people reacted to Kyra’s death.  For her entire life, the people of Lost Creek had never cared for Kyra or her art, but they were suddenly displaying her artwork all over the place and talking about how well liked and respected she had been.  Instead of acknowledging that Kyra had been suffering from depression, her mother insisted that Kyra was truly happy near the end.  And, even though Corey had grown up in Lost Creek and only moved away a short time ago, people suddenly treated her coldly, called her an outsider, and warned her not to “pry into other people’s business.”  When she carried on asking questions to try and understand what had happened, Kyra’s mother simply said, “Her death was inevitable, and so be it.”  Say what?!?

I absolutely loved Nijkamp’s first book, This Is Where It Ends.  I saw on Facebook that a friend had read this ARC, so I immediately messaged her and asked if she had an actual physical copy and, if so, whether she would *PLEASE* send it on to me.  Luckily, it was and she did!  Just like TIWIE, I could not put this book down!  I read the first 150 pages in a single shot and only stopped at that point because my husband would have been upset if I chose my book over dinner with him and our daughter.  😉  I read the rest of the book in one more sitting and almost considered re-reading it to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  Sadly, this book is not slated to be published until January 2018, so it looks like most of y’all will need to wait to read it.  But just trust me and put it on your TBR list now…  It will be worth the wait.

Happy Reading!

Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy

divided-we-fallDanny Wright signed up for the Army National Guard when he was 17 years old because he felt compelled to both serve his country and to honor the memory of his father, who died while serving in the Army.  At first, he was proud to wear his uniform and excited to get to train with high-powered guns… but that all changed only a short time after he finished bootcamp.  Why?  He was called in by the Governor of Idaho to help with protests in Boise (about a proposed new federal ID card) and things got very out of hand very quickly.  One accidental shot turned into a firefight in which civilians were injured and killed, and people started making comparisons to the Kent State shootings that took place during a Vietnam War protest in 1970.  Knowing that he fired the shot that started it all, and seeing how quickly people snapped to pass judgement when they did not have all the facts, he was glad that the Governor pledged to protect the identities of the guardsmen who were involved.  But, how long would the Governor be able to protect them when the President of the United States of America was demanding answers?

I especially appreciated the way Reedy worked in both extreme news coverage and polarized social media reactions.  I was impressed to see a YA novel tackle the very complex topic of federal government/federal laws vs state government/states’ rights, but the audiobook impressed me even more.  Much like Countdown, this audiobook uses a variety of sound effects and multiple readers to create sound bites that mimic news broadcasts and to set apart the non-narrative portions of the book.  The only “down side” to listening to this audiobook all at once (on a road trip) was that the “near future” setting seemed entirely too plausible and actually made me feel a little anxious as if I were really listening to the news.  :-/

Happy Reading!