Oh. Em. Gee! I didn’t even know this book was out until I saw something about the second book coming out this July. Even though I am not a huge graphic novel reader, I try to push myself to read at least a couple a year so that I can stay in touch with what it out there for my library patrons who do prefer graphic novels. Since I am also a huge fan of Scott Westerfeld’s work, especially the Uglies series, I figured it was a good bet that I would enjoy this one. I am happy to report that reading this was a lot more fun than work! 😉 In fact, I read this entire book in only three sittings because it was so hard to put down.
In Poughkeepsie, NY, there has been a Spill. No one really seems to know what exactly happened. They just know that it is no longer safe inside the Spill Zone. Military personnel guard the perimeter and people don’t tend to go inside except government scientists in hazmat suits. There are all sorts of weird things happening. Animals morphing into strange creatures. Inanimate objects moving around despite a lack of wind. And, in the words of Addison Merrick, the dead have become “meat puppets.” Though she was not in town when the Spill happened, he little sister was. Because they are allowed to stay in their home, which is inside the Spill Zone, Addison has taken to exploring and taking pictures she can sell to support her sister. But, how long will it be before her explorations take her too far?!?
Speaking of Westerfeld’s Uglies series… Check this out! (#squeeeeeeee)
Jessie thought that she and Chris needed a break. Just for a week. Just to get a little perspective before graduation. Chris seemed to think they should get married right away, but she thought he was wrong. Why? Because Chris was being scouted for a full-ride baseball scholarship and could likely end up playing in the big leagues. She thought that she would just weigh him down, regardless of how often he told her that she would only make his life complete. And she was pretty sure her own college and career aspirations would not work out if she followed Chris off to college, since his school didn’t have the environmental conservation major she had her heart set on. Besides, she wasn’t really sure what she could truly offer him since she thought of her upbringing as “white trash” and was embarrassed to even bring him into her home, which was dangerously full of her mom’s hoarding piles.
When Chris disappeared, though, Jessie had to find the courage to speak out about the secrets Chris had been keeping and to dig deeper. She knew that Chris had been jumped a few weeks prior, by some other local baseball players who accused him of only getting a scholarship because he was black. Even though she told the police about how they had used hate speech while they attacked him, and that she was concerned that those same guys were involved in his disappearance (since he was running in that same area when he disappeared), the police seemed content to think he ran away. After all, those other guys came from good families and had an alibi for the night in question…
Every week, Chris had written Jessie a love letter. As she struggled to work through her emotions and to try and figure out what happened to Chris, she decided to write him a letter of her own — but she insisted that it was NOT a love letter. If he wanted a love letter, he would need to come back to her. This book would make a great conversation starter about racism, mental health, friendships/relationships, communication, and more.
Because I enjoyed Dashner’s Maze Runner series, and am not-so-patiently waiting for the theatrical release of Ready Player One (by Ernest Cline), I thought this seemed like an audiobook I should probably check out. I mean, what’s not to like about a fast-paced technological thriller, right?!? Much like in Ready Player One, a lot of this story took place in a virtual world. Rather than just using goggles and gloves to connect to that virtual world, though, the people in this story use “coffins” that provide their bodies with physical sensations to make it feel as if they are actually experiencing the sensations (both pleasure and pain) of the VirtNet.
Michael is a gamer who spends more of his time in the VirtNet than in actual reality. And, who can blame him? Most of his friends are people he has never met in real life, and his hacking skills mean that he can be better, faster, and stronger with only a few lines of code. Rumors begin to circulate about a “bad” hacker who is using his skills to trap people in the VirtNet against their will, which causes the victims to suffer brain damage and memory loss in real life. Shortly after meeting a girl who claimed to be a victim, Michael was contacted by someone from the government who asked him to use his hacking skills for good by tracking down the perpetrator. Sounds simple enough, right? Yeah… Definitely not! If you want lots of action and adventure set in a high-tech virtual world, you’ll definitely want to read this one.
I am NOT the kind of person who enjoys spoilers, and I *never* flip to the end of the story to sneak a peek… but I somehow really enjoy stories that start out telling you how things are going to end and then go back to the beginning to show you how it all went down. I had forgotten the synopsis of this story when I started reading, and it started out innocently enough. Ben was talking about how he and Rose came to be a couple — with her basically picking him and telling him she was going to be his girlfriend. A little abnormal, but not scandalously so. I am a sucker for love stories, although I was pretty sure the title meant they had broken up, but then it became clear something had happened to Rose. She had died in some tragic way, and Ben’s story was going to tell the reader how it happened. What I wasn’t prepared for, nevertheless, was when Ben ended the first chapter asking, “So why’d I kill her?” Say WHAT?!?
I was recently talking with a colleague about Nancy Pearl’s “four doorways” into the book — characters, language, setting, and story — and I think this book had all four but story was my primary doorway. I was sucked right in because I just had to know more about Ben and what could compel him to kill the girl he claimed to love, let alone claim that he wasn’t sorry, felt absolutely no guilt, and was not looking for absolution. I especially liked how we got to glimpse into Ben’s past to see how he had been shaped by both the injury and tragedy of his childhood to become the young man he was when this story took place. If you are a fan of mysteries that don’t follow a typical crime show formula, you should check this one out.
Some people seem to think that money can buy happiness, but I’d be willing to bet that Davis Pickett isn’t among them. Not only could money never replace Davis’ mother, but the existence of his father’s fortune actually complicated all of his relationships. His father was distant, always consumed with work, and Davis was never sure whether potential friends actually liked him or his money. Being rich, as it turns out, had made him very lonely. And then, to top it all off, his father disappeared the night before a police raid on his home related to a fraud and bribery investigation. All sorts of old “friends” came out of the woodwork in hopes that they could collect a reward for information leading to the capture of the fugitive billionaire. And though Aza technically ended up at Davis’ home as a result of her friend Daisy’s plan to try and capitalize on the reward, a spark of their earlier friendship remained and quickly rekindled.
The two had met years before at a summer camp Aza called Sad Camp, since they both had a parent who had died, but Aza was sure that Davis wouldn’t remember her. As it turned out, though, he remembered all sorts of details about her — like the fact that she suffered from anxiety-induced thought spirals, had a perpetual injury on the pad of her middle finger [because of a compulsion caused by her thought spirals], and loved Dr. Pepper. Perhaps that spark was more than just friendship?!?
I will never cease to be amazed by how well John Green captures the essence of being a young adult. He not only captures the unique blend of abstract thinking, idealism, and self-discovery that keep me coming back to YA, but he accurately depicts the mental health struggles, like depression and anxiety, many young adults face. “True terror isn’t being scared; it’s not having a choice in the matter.” His characters are relatable without being too cliche. If you have enjoyed John Green’s other books, you will likely enjoy this one too. And, if you have never read anything by John Green, what are you waiting for?!?
When 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.
Kyla Cheng is NOT a likeable character, and she is just fine with that. She knows that people are sure to be jealous of her for many reasons, including but not limited to her valedictorian rank, popularity, and beauty. What she didn’t expect, nonetheless, was for someone to hate her so much that they went above and beyond to ruin her life. How did they ruin her life? First of all, they found a way to edit a video to make it look like Kyla had been caught having sex with her young/hot English teacher — which most people wouldn’t believe because they didn’t think there was good enough technology to make such a seamless video even though Kyla swore it wasn’t real. As if that was not enough, they also managed to hack their way into her college applications to submit them early… and with completely horrifying answers to the personal essay questions! All of this, of course, is multiplied by the fact the viral video is connected to her social media profile, which is also linked to those of her family members. She is determined to figure out who made the video so that she can get it removed from the internet, but will she be able to befriend her hater and/or track her [she is *sure* it is a her] down in order to delete the original file?
This is a great book for opening a conversation about the implications of living in the digital age and using social media, since it shows just how quickly a picture or video can go viral and how impossible it can be to get these things off the internet once they’re out there. I recommend this book to fans of MT Anderson’s Feed.