I recently went through the list of the YALSA 2018 Teens’ Top 10 nominees and made a plan to read all of the books I hadn’t yet read. There are 25 books on the list and I had only read 7 of them. Gah! While I recognize that I may not get it done before they announce the winners, what with all the other books I keep on adding to my TBR list, I figured I had to at least try! I had just finished my audiobook and this one was readily available to me, so I went for it. I didn’t even read any of the summaries before getting started with requesting books and audiobooks. I decided I would read them “blind” because they are included on the list of nominees and that is all I need to know to trust that I will enjoy them. My verdict so far?!? Wow! At a time when real world racial tensions are high and the “religious right” are working to pass laws that justify and allow for bigotry in the US, this book sometimes felt a bit too real and less like an escape.
In Erthia, there are many different races — Elves, Fae, Gardnerians, Icarals, Kelts, Lupines, Selkies, Urisks, Vu Trin, etc. — and they have all been raised with certain beliefs and prejudices about each other. Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the famed Gardnerian Black Witch, though she has been raised in seclusion and without any magical training. Why bother when she has no magical abilities of her own, right? When her uncle allows her to attend the illustrious Verpax University to persue her life-long dream of becoming an apothecary, he asks that she focus on her studies and promise him NOT to be wandfasted (think arranged marriage) until after she has completed her studies. Unfortunately, though, Elloren’s Aunt Vyvian would like nothing more than to wandfast her to a powerful Gardnerian in order to compensate for the girl’s lack of magic and to protect their family’s socio-political standing.
I appreciated the fact that Forest so thoughtfully explored stereotypes and prejudices. Though it was tough in the beginning of the story to see how accepting Elloren was of the racist ideals and stereotypes with which she had been raised, I think it was very necessary to set the stage for her awakening. From xenophobia and racism to misogyny and homophobia, this story line pushed Elloren/readers to challenge her/their pre-conceived notions and to see how people in power often try to skew people’s perceptions to suit an agenda. One of my favorite quotes was from Professor Kristian, when he was talking to Elloren about how history books written by different groups of people had very conflicting depictions of what actually happened:
Real education doesn’t make your life easy. It complicates things and makes everything messy and disturbing. But the alternative, Elloren Gardner, is to live your life based on injustice and lies.
Xifeng is a beautiful girl, but she has an ugly secret. Her aunt has been teaching her dark magic, and she plans to use that magic to fulfill her fate — to become the Empress of Feng Lu. The only problem is that, while foretold by the cards, this fate is not guaranteed. Xifeng still has choices to make, and some of those choices are nearly impossible. Will she be able to sacrifice a relationship with the man she loves in order to become a lady in waiting for the current Empress? Will she be able to kill people who potentially stand in her way? This anti-heroine reminds me of Malificent (from Sleeping Beauty) or Queen Levana (from The Lunar Chronicles). No matter how much I want to detest her, I felt sorry for her because I knew some of her history and how it shaped her to be so cold and calculating. A marvelous fantasy, but not for the feint of heart.
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)
Cliff Hubbard was probably the biggest loser in his school, both literally and figuratively speaking. He was 6’6″, 250 pounds, and had a physique that earned him the nickname Neanderthal. And, ever since his brother Shane killed himself, his life at home had become increasingly terrible as well. So, how did he end up getting a girlfriend and becoming friends with the über cool and extremely popular quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman? Well, it all started when Aaron met God. After awaking from a coma, which resulted from a drunken boating accident, Aaron Zimmerman claimed that he had met God and that God had entrusted him with a list of tasks to complete in order to make Happy Valley High School a better place. And The List, as it was often called, apparently required the assistance of Cliff Hubbard.
While I don’t think there are a ton of teens out there who will suddenly be called upon by God with specific lists of ways to make their own schools suck less, I think it is entirely possible that this book could inspire greatness. And although the circumstances of HVHS might not align exactly with the circumstances of every high school, readers can certainly draw some parallels between The List and the ways they could reach out and help out people in their own schools and communities. I highly recommend that Nerdfighters who want to end Worldsuck check this book out when it’s published in May.
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.
If you’re a Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS) fangirl like me, you will probably agree that Patrick Ness must be a huge BtVS fan too… I mean. You can’t help but get a Sunnyview/Hellmouth vibe from everything going down in Mikey’s small town! (I can’t seem to recall where, exactly, it was other than some hick town in Washington state… Did he ever mention the name of the town? Anyway…) I don’t make this comparison to BtVS lightly, by the way, because there are just so many parallels. Between all the supernatural creatures that randomly show up and attack the teenagers in their town, the fact that the adults seem to be in complete denial of what has been and is currently going on, and the fact that the story is a tongue-in-cheek offshoot of the classic “chosen one” theme, I can’t imagine a BtVS fan who would be disappointed in this story. Mikey even reminds me of my favorite BtVS characvter, Xander, who once said, “They’ll never know how tough it is, Dawnie. To be the one who isn’t chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realizes because nobody’s watching me.”
That being said, I don’t want people to think I’m saying this was just a BtVS ripoff, either. The characters in this story are most definitely unique, as is the plot of the story. I enjoyed the fact that the supernatural elements of the story were almost periphery to the main plot. I honestly think that the interpersonal relationships, dysfunctional families, and personal struggles of the characters could have kept this story afloat even without the battles between the chosen ones (who all seemed to be “indie kids”) and the supernatural creatures like vampires, werewolves, and the Immortals. It was rather ambitious of Ness to merge teen angst and tough issues with a lighthearted, satirical supernatural story — but it worked very well.
Even though Kacey was new to Broken Falls, she seemed to fit right in as soon as she arrived. Her step-mother and step-brother were kind and loving, and her little [half] sister adored her. She even ended up with a couple of close friends, Bailey and Jade, almost immediately. But then something must have happened because her friends suddenly seemed distant. Although they would usually show up and practically force her to go to a party even if she initially said no, they didn’t even text her before they went to a big party without her. That would have been strange enough on its own, but then Bailey never made it home from the party. And then Kacey found a bloody smear in the barn where the girls had recently performed a seance. As the new girl in town, especially one with a troubled past, she was afraid everyone would think she was to blame for Bailey’s disappearance. As the investigation proceeded, though, Kacey started to worry less about herself and more about whether someone who was close to her had something to hide…