This Is Not the End by Chandler Baker

this-is-not-the-endImagine a world in which every person had the opportunity to resurrect someone on their 18th birthday.  It sounds kind of cool at first, but then you have to imagine making that incredibly difficult choice.  Do you think YOU could choose to bring someone back if you had to go through all the people you’ve lost in your lifetime and only pick one person?

For Lake Devereaux, the choice is nearly impossible.  You see, her parents have long expected her to use her resurrection to bring back her brother who had an accident and became a quadriplegic.  (There’s just that tricky little thing about how they would have to be sure to kill him first — minor detail!)  To complicate things even more, though, Lake ends up in a devastating car accident in which both her boyfriend (Will) and her best friend (Penny) die.  Not only does she need to go through the painful physical recovery after the accident, but she needs to sort out her emotions in a few short weeks before she turns 18.  She needs to decide whether she will go through with the original plan her parents concocted or whether she will bring back one of her friends.  Would she and Will have ended up breaking up at some point anyway, or was he her one true love?  And could she really feel right not choosing Penny even if it was for Will?  What will her parents do if she doesn’t choose her brother?  And does she even care?  Such a great premise for a story… I’m only sad that the rest of y’all have to wait until August to read it.

Happy Reading!

Little Monsters by Kara Thomas

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…

Happy Reading!

YOU by Charles Benoit

youThis book has one heck of an opening line — “You’re surprised at all the blood.” — and it only gets better from there!  Do you enjoy a story, like Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick, that starts at the end and then goes back to tell you how everything ended up where it did?  Are you intrigued by sociopaths, like Rosa from My Sister Rosa, who are convincing enough actors that most people won’t catch on but who have no conscience and thrive on controlling other people?  If so, I can practically guarantee that you will love this book!  I read this whole book in less than a day — but I *did* take a break to have dinner with my family, even though I kinda wished I could have ignored real life and just finished this book in one sitting.  😉

I think the thing I liked the most about this story is that Kyle was such a “normal” guy.  He wasn’t really a bad kid, but his life certainly played out so that other people tended to see him as a loser.  Looking at things from his perspective made me wonder just how many of the “bad” kids in high schools around the country are simply misunderstood.  But, I digress.  It didn’t so much matter what other people thought of Kyle so much as how and when everything went so wrong for him.  Was it actually his fault?  Did someone else do this TO him?  And is there any way for him to fix things or is it already too late and too far gone?

Happy Reading!

 

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

challenger-deepCaden Bosch was a really nice, really smart guy, but mental illness took quite a toll on his life and his relationships.  To readers, it was immediately evident that Caden had split from reality because he alternated between life in the “real world” and a journey on a pirate ship.  To his family and friends, though, it simply appeared that Caden was becoming more distant and acting strangely.  How so?  One perfect example is the fact that his family thought Caden was on the track team.  While he did, in fact, intend to go out for the track team, he ended up quitting after only a few practices.  So, why did they think he was still on the team?  Because he would be gone for hours at a time and returned with worn shoes and sore feet.  Instead of attending track practices, though, he was walking around town for hours on end, utterly absorbed by his own thoughts.  Aside from the walking, Caden’s mental break was also evident in his art work.  As a gifted artist, he began to struggle with the fact that he could no longer create artwork simply because he felt like it but, rather, because he felt that he HAD to get the images out of his head.  How awful that must have been!

This book was amazingly well-written.  Though confusing at times, the pacing and structure were very clearly intentional.  And by the end, it was also clear that the “real world” had inspired the delusions Caden experienced.  As someone who has had plenty of personal experiences with depression, anxiety, and obsessive thoughts, I still had no concept of what life might be like for someone living through the delusions and hallucinations associated with schizophrenia until I listened to this story.  One important clarification, by the way, is that although this story was inspired by the mental health challenges and experiences of Shusterman’s own son, Brendan, it was by no means intended to be a memoir.  Fans of Shusterman’s Unwind dystology (dystopian series) will be pleased to see that this departure from his standard writing style still contained plenty of humor and adventure.

Happy Reading!

The Compound by S.A. Bodeen

the-compoundEli and his family have been living in the compound for 6 years now.  Even though his father had enough money to build and furnish a compound that is practically a luxury mansion, Eli is far from happy.  First of all, there is the fact that his twin brother, Eddy, and his grandmother never made it into the compound — and that he feels at least partly responsible for Eddy’s death.  Second, there are the problems with their food supply that make him wonder whether they will have enough food to get them through until the end of the 15 year containment.  Third, and most importantly, there is the fact that Eli isn’t sure if anyone else has even survived the nuclear war that prompted his father to lock them all inside the compound in the first place.  When Eli’s father suddenly starts to behave more erratically than normal, the rest of the family wonders how many secrets he has been keeping from them and exactly what it means about their future…

Mystery and adventure?  Check.  Dark family secrets?  Check.  If you are looking for a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, you will definitely want to check this one out!

Happy Reading!

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

defy-the-starsNoemi Vidal is a teen soldier from Genesis, a former colony of Earth that is now fighting for independence.  She loves Genesis and is more than willing to lay her own life on the line to help in the fight for independence — especially since she doesn’t really have anything to lose.  As an orphan, she is not even worried about leaving anyone behind if she should die.  The biggest problem, nevertheless, is that she has a very high likelihood of dying because the “mech” (robotic) armies have been overpowering the human armies of Genesis for decades.  She knows there must be *some* way for Genesis to prevail, but she isn’t all too sure she will be around to see whether it can be done.

Abel is a mech who *should* be her enemy, but he’s technically programmed to follow her command.  You’re probably thinking, “What?!?  I don’t get it.”  Well… When Abel was programmed, it never occurred to his creator that he might fall into “enemy” hands, so he didn’t include anything in Abel’s programming to specify that a non-Earth human should not be allowed control.  Add that little “glitch” to the his extraordinary talents, and you have a most unusual mech.  You see, most mechs only had one purpose — some were soldiers, some were mechanics, others were medics, and so on.  Abel was a prototype mech who was programmed to do all of those jobs and more.  He was even given DNA from his creator, practically making him a child rather than just a creation.  Topping it all off is the fact that, after being left all alone on a spaceship for thirty years, his programming evolved enough that he seemed to develop feelings and a personality.  A personality that makes him *resent* the fact that he needs to follow Noemi’s orders.  (His sass kind of reminded me of Iko from The Lunar Chronicles!)

I don’t know how much more I can say without getting all “spoilery” on you, but I think it goes without saying that a human who has been taught to mistrust mechs and a mech who doesn’t want to serve a particular human make for a rather unlikely team. But Abel doesn’t really have a choice and Noemi doesn’t really have any other special advantages in the fight against Earth, so teaming up is the only logical conclusion.

Happy Reading!

The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend

other-f-wordMilo’s moms are really great, but he sometimes wonders what life would be like with a mom and dad instead of two moms.  I mean, he loves his moms and all.  And he knows that they love him too.  But he just feels like they don’t “get” him sometimes and that maybe a dad, by virtue of also being a guy, would understand him more.  So, when Milo’s doctor suggests that genetic testing of his biological father could help develop a better treatment plan for his insanely varied and severe allergies, Milo latches onto the opportunity to find his bio dad.  The first step of which is to reach out to his half-sister, Hollis, whom he had met as a young child.  Hollis also had lesbian mothers who used the same sperm donor, which is how they came to meet in the first place, but she wasn’t really interested in finding her dad.  Nevertheless, reconnecting with Milo and his moms seemed to be the first thing to make Hollis’ mom, Leigh, happy since Hollis’ other mom, Pam, died years before… So, she decided to roll with it and see how things turned out.

What started out as a suggestion to request genetic testing relating to Milo’s allergies quickly morphed into something else.  After posting to a message board for the clinic their moms had used, Milo and Hollis discovered that they had three more half-siblings.  What were they like?  Would they get along?  Would they be able to work together and find their donor/dad?  What would this new “f-word” (family) look like in the end?!?

Happy Reading!