Category Archives: action/adventure

Nerve by Jeanne Ryan

nerveWhen I read Need, I couldn’t get over the sneaking suspicion that many of today’s teens would probably be all too tempted to complete random tasks to win prizes without considering the implications of their actions.  The fact that the tasks were done anonymously seemed like a perfect way to convince people to participate…  But, then I read this book.  And it made me wonder if the quest for fame might be a better way to snag this generation.  With reality TV being as popular as it is, and with  many teens already sharing nearly everything they do on various social media platforms, this book struck me as entirely too plausible.  My only complaint?  I wish I hadn’t started this book when I was so tired.  It nearly killed me to put it down and to wait to finish it the next day!

Just imagine a majorly popular reality TV show that accepts “audition” videos from anyone who wants to seek both fame and fortune for completing dares of increasing difficulty.  Viewers all assume that the show is being televised, so things must be on the up-and-up.  I mean, they couldn’t possibly get away with running a reality TV show that really puts people in harms way…  Could they?  Vee sends in her audition on a whim, basically to prove to herself that she can.  And, when her audition garners enough attention that she is offered a space in the competition, she decides to try it out.  She figures she will just compete for a little while and get some cool prizes before quitting.  But, then she gets swept up in the momentum of the competition.  Before she knows it, she is in over her head and she isn’t sure whether there even IS a way to get out while she’s ahead.

Happy Reading!

Violent Ends by Shaun David Hutchinson

violent-endsThis book was a haunting read.  Any book about school shootings strikes fear into my heart, being that I work with kids and have children of my own, but this one was particularly eerie.  I know I’ve read books before that gave harrowing depictions of the different perspectives of characters experiencing a school shooting — like This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp.  But, what makes this book stand out from the crowd is that it provides the perspectives of many different characters’ interactions with Kirby Matheson [the shooter] in the days, months, and even years leading up to the shooting.  The author explores a variety of relationships people had with Kirby, effectively highlighting the many clues that were missed or ignored.

When compiled in a story such as this, it becomes rather obvious that the young man was struggling with anger and depression and that someone should have stepped in; that an intervention may have been able to prevent this tragedy.  But, as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.  I can only hope that readers will take this book to heart and apply the information garnered to recognize if and when the people around them are struggling with anger and depression.  If we can increase the chances that people will recognize someone in need of help, we can increase our chances that we can get people the help they need before they resort to violence.  For more resources, check out the CDC’s page on Injury Prevention & Control: Division of Violence Prevention.

Happy Reading!

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

hello-goodbyeClare and Aidan are high school sweethearts who are about to head off to college. Though they care for [and maybe even love] each other, they aren’t sure whether they should try to stay together after they move 3000 miles apart — with Clare attending Dartmouth and Aidan attending UCLA. Starting college and learning to live away from their homes and best friends will be difficult enough, but trying to maintain a relationship without sacrificing the authentic college experience seems impossible… At least, to Clare it does. She is bound and determined to spend their last night in town revisiting all the places that had significance in their relationship so that they can say goodbye with enough closure to move on. Aidan still isn’t sure he’s willing to give up on their relationship. But will one last night provide him with enough time to change her mind?

Heartbreaking at times, but with plenty of moments of levity, this book is a roller coaster of emotions. Though I enjoyed Smith’s other books — The Geography of You and Me and This is What Happy Looks Like — I found that they were a little bit of a stretch. This story is a much more realistic scenario and I think it will likely resonate with more readers. If you’re unfamiliar with Smith’s books but enjoyed romances by Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han, you should definitely check out Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between.

Happy Reading!

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

salt-to-the-seaI couldn’t believe how shocked I was when I read Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray.  I mean, I had taken a world history class with “in depth” unit about WWII and didn’t really know much of anything about what Stalin had done — nor had I even heard of the [Soviet] Holodomor (roughly translated to “death by hunger”) that rivaled the well-known [German] Holocaust.  After reading Between Shades of Gray, though, I felt like I had a much better grasp of WWII history…  And then I read this book.  How is it that there is yet another major piece of WWII history that has flown under the radar for so long?!?

Before reading Salt to the Sea, I had never even heard of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.  I was stupefied to learn that OVER NINE THOUSAND people died in this tragedy.  Prior to reading this book, I would have been willing to bet that the Titanic and the Lusitania were the two largest maritime tragedies of all time.  Even when you combine the death tolls of those two ships, nevertheless, they only account for about a third of the losses of the Gustloff.  I wish American ethnocentrism didn’t extend to history classrooms in which *world* history is being taught, but it seems pretty evident to me that the anti-Germany sentiment surrounding WWII and the lack of American passengers aboard the ship have both contributed to a lack of American attention.  People from all walks of life [civilians, refugees, and soldiers] and of all ages [from babies to senior citizens] were aboard that ship.  It was a tragedy of unbelievable proportions.

Thank goodness Ruta Sepetys!  With her well-developed characters and gripping plots, Sepetys is providing readers with compelling stories that will also spread awareness of these previously unknown tragedies.  Who knows?  Maybe her books will even lead to better coverage in future history textbooks and classes.  I can only hope that the multiple points of view provided by this particular story will resonate with readers and finally bring much-deserved American attention to the great number of lives that were lost in the Baltic Sea [almost exactly] 71 years ago.

Happy Reading!

Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

23354047[1]It’s really hard to put a label on this story.  On one hand, this is a quirky story about a girl who is new to town and trying to figure out how she might fit in.  On the other hand, it’s a mystery/crime novel in which a teenager thinks he might be able to prove a link between the kidnapping of a local girl and his own sister’s disappearance almost a decade ago. When the girl [Zoe] first meets the boy [Digby], it seems they might never get along.  After all, Zoe is just kinda bored and trying to take everything in, while Digby’s a bit manic and often acts without thinking things all the way through.  Digby frequently speaks his mind, to the extent that some people might find him rude, but I think Zoe found it rather endearing.  After all, she didn’t *have* to join him in all of his crazy adventures… but she just couldn’t quite find a reason to say no.

Some people might think this book is a little too cliche, but I really enjoyed it.  The fast-paced action and laugh-out-loud dialogue simply worked for me.  Though the plot is nowhere near the same, I thought this book read a lot like Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick.  Maybe it’s because it starts off in the middle of the insanity and then brings you back to the beginning to show how it all started?  Maybe it’s because one character is just so over-the-top and the other is so straight-laced it’s hard to believe they could end up working together?  I can’t say for sure exactly what it was, but I am happy to report that I absolutely LOVED it!  This would be a really fun book to read during the school break next week.  Last minute Christmas gift, anyone?!?

Happy Reading!

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

hatchetI am almost embarrassed to admit that I had never read Hatchet before.  I’ve handed this book out to countless kids operating under the mistaken impression that I had actually read it back when I was in elementary school.  I mean, I clearly remember talking about it in 4th grade… But, as it turns out, I only knew the basic premise of the story and filled in the rest of my so-called memory with bits and pieces from another survival story we read at the time — My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.  Luckily, I decided to take the time to listen to this story to “refresh my memory” now that my son was reading it in school.  (Oops!)

Brian was a fairly typical “modern day” kid.  He spent most of his time on school and leisure activities, and he depended on adults much more than he ever realized.  He wasn’t fat, necessarily, but he wasn’t exactly fit either.  Finding food always meant going to the fridge or the pantry — at most, to a grocery store.  So, when his flight to visit his father for the summer ended with a crash in the Canadian wilderness, Brian was not sure he had what it would take to survive.  The only other passenger had been the pilot, and the plane crashed because the pilot had died of a heart attack.  With nothing more than the clothes on his back and the hatchet [a gift from his mom] on his belt, Brian had to find both shelter and food enough to last until he was rescued…  If he even *could* be rescued.  Because no one, including Brian, knew exactly where his plane went down.

It’s no wonder Hatchet is the “gold standard” for survival stories.  Paulsen masterfully balanced Brian’s hope and drive to survive with suspense surrounding the real-life dangers of the Canadian wilderness.  I think this book would be an excellent precursor to lessons on disaster preparedness and survival skills, and it’s also sure to be a hit with kids who already enjoy wilderness-based activities like hiking and camping.

Happy Reading!

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

far far awayJeremy Johnson Johnson was rather unlucky.  Not only did his mom leave him and his dad, but his father became so crippled by depression that he became a total recluse.  Jeremy became, in essence, the adult of the household and started taking care of things to the best of his abilities.  After Jeremy was involved in a prank gone awry, though, he was ostracized by the townspeople who had previously given him enough work to get by.  With the final “balloon payment” of the mortgage on his father’s bookstore [aka his home] coming due very soon, Jeremy began to panic.  Fortunately, he had a friend, Ginger, who had a crazy plan and a guardian angel of sorts, Jacob, looking after him.  Whether he was actually an angel is debatable, but there was no doubt that Jeremy could definitely communicate with the ghost of Jacob Grimm — one of the famous Brothers Grimm.  Jacob was pretty sure he had not yet passed on completely because he still had a purpose on earth, and he was certain that his purpose was to keep Jeremy safe.  Readers who are familiar with Grimm fairy tales will surely guess that something “grim” is in the cards, but they’re not likely to guess exactly what until it’s already too late.  This clever combination of old-fashioned fairy tales and modern storytelling has plenty of suspense and plot twists to keep readers on the edge of their seats, and I’m glad I can finally settle back in mine again.  :-)

Happy Reading!