Allie Navarro went away to a CodeGirls summer camp where she learned how to create her very own app, and she was super excited to share it with her friends when she came back home. Even more exciting? She would have the opportunity to enter her app into the upcoming G4G (Games for Good) competition! Her app was eligible because it helped people to find other people near them with whom they “clicked” even if they didn’t know each other yet. Basically, it was a friend finder and it worked to make the world a less lonely place.
Through a series of questions, much like online dating websites, Click’d was able to match people by their interests. This way, the kids in her middle school (and anywhere else her app spread) would be able to get to know people outside of their usual friend groups. When you finished the questionnaire, you would get access to a leaderboard of the top 10 users with whom you Click’d — and then the app would send you on a scavenger hunt to find them! The app utilized the phones’ geolocation functions to tell people when they were near a match with a series of “bloops” and flashing lights — and then it gave users a photo clue pulled from the user’s public Instagram feed. Or, at least, that was what was supposed to happen. Somehow, though, there was a glitch that accidentally utilized private photos from the users’ phones some of the time. Would she be able to fix it in time to present at G4G? Would she just present it without admitting to the coding error? Definitely a good conversation starter about honesty and integrity.
I like the fact that this story raised issues about privacy and phone/internet safety concerns without resorting to R-rated problems. There were embarrassing photos and screenshots of conversations that were supposed to be secret, but no sex acts or nudity involved. I am not sure whether that was done intentionally so that parents, teachers, and librarians would feel more comfortable sharing this book with younger tweens, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. I appreciated that there were no quick fixes, lots of hard work, and plenty of growing pains as the story worked up to the G4G competition. I also loved the fact that it concluded with a happy yet realistic ending. I thought that since my own middle-schooler is away at a computer programming summer camp this week, reading (and reviewing) this book was definitely apropos! And, though the book will not officially be released until early September, I think I might just offer to let him read my ARC when he returns. 🙂
Nina Faye was most definitely not a hopeless romantic. Her own mother told her (when she was only 14 years old) that there was “no such thing as unconditional love,” and she took that message straight to heart. Nina’s work in a high kill shelter and her obsession with stories of saints who had endured horrible tortures to prove their love for God only reinforced her mother’s statement. And because she was aware of the fact that love was “conditional,” she made it her mission to figure out the conditions of love for the people in her life. Not only did she try to figure out what she should do to make sure her parents didn’t stop loving her, but she also started to keep track of the conditions by which she could keep her boyfriend happy. But what if knowing those so-called conditions of love is not enough?
This story was a brutally honest, often heart-wrenching, look into the struggle many girls face with both loving and being loved. As the story alternates between Nina’s own story and the stories she is writing for her senior project (inspired by the stories of the tortured saints), readers are able to witness Nina’s life and better understand her frame of mind. Since it describes both sex and torture in graphic detail, nevertheless, I feel compelled to state that this book is not for the faint of heart.
As a child of the 80s (having been born in 1979), this book felt so much like coming home. All of the references to 80s pop culture, especially geek culture, were just so spot-on! I was not an arcade kid, since we didn’t have an arcade close enough to my house, but I definitely played more than my fair share of video games on personal gaming consoles like the Atari 2600 and NES. I also have fond memories of playing puzzle and sim games on the Commodore 64 and Mac Classic in “computer class” at school. I also watched waaaaaay too much TV and too many movies, so most of Cline’s references felt like a conversation with an old friend. It’s beyond obvious that Ernest Cline was a fellow geek and that he loved all the cheeseball 80s stuff just as much as my friends and I did. For real… If you are a fanboy/fangirl of geeky 80s pop culture, you NEED to read this book!
Even better than the reminiscing, though, was the foreshadowing of what could come to be if we (citizens of the world) don’t change our reliance on fossil fuels and unplug a little from the world of “social media” to actually interact with the people and the world around us — in real life! Imagine, if you will, a future in which most people around the world are so immersed in a virtual reality “utopia” known as the OASIS that they rarely leave their houses. Since most people no longer have their own vehicles or even the financial means to utilize public transportation, the OASIS was the closest thing they would ever get to traveling. Kids even started to attend school in the OASIS because the virtual world created it’s own schools to let pressure off of the failing public school system. When I read one quote, I wondered if Cline was really just that attuned to the forthcoming changes in our society back in 2011 or if he somehow traveled through time to 2016 before he finished his story — “Now that everyone could vote from home, via the OASIS, the only people who could get elected were movie stars, reality TV personalities, or radical televangelists.”
One of the creators of the OASIS, James Halliday, had very few friends and never married or had any children. By the time of his death, he had even been estranged from his former business partner and one-time best friend for about a decade. So, before he died, he crafted an elaborate “Easter Egg” hunt within his virtual world to determine who would receive his fortune. Halliday’s last will and testament was announced to the world with a video chock-full of 80s references and explained that his heir would need to use their knowledge of Halliday’s favorite things to puzzle out the location of three keys and three gates/trials he had programmed into the OASIS. Everyone went nuts at first, but excitement waned after the first five years and only hardcore Gunters (a condensation of “egg hunters”) like Wade kept up the hunt. When Wade finds the first key and his name shows up on the leader board, though, the OASIS is suddenly hopping again and the competition stirs up adventure, danger, and even romance. I can’t wait to see how the movie of this book turns out…
Posted in action/adventure, audiobook, book review, dystopia, GLBTQ, LOL, mystery, romance, sci-fi/fantasy, sports, you think you've got problems?
Tagged Ernest Cline, Ready Player One
Jane led a relatively quiet life. She was raised by her Aunt Magnolia, who was an adjunct professor best known for her work as a wildlife photographer. Sadly, Aunt Magnolia was lost on one of her adventures in Antarctica, and Jane was left completely alone. Though able to make ends meet, Jane barely did more than mourn her aunt, work, and construct umbrellas. Construct umbrellas? Yes, you read that right. Jane was a bit of an artist, but her works were elaborately themed umbrellas rather than photographs or paintings. (One of her favorites, for example, looked like a speckled bird’s egg.)
Everything changed, though, when Jane was visited by an acquaintance named Kiran Thrash. Kiran insisted that Jane should come home with her — to her estate, Tu Reviens, for a gala. Though Jane was reluctant to go, she recalled a time when Aunt Magnolia had made her promise that she would go to Tu Reviens if she was ever invited. With nothing much to lose, she agreed. And this was where everything went wacky… Not only did Jane meet a variety of people — everyone from Kiran’s family to the caretakers of the Tu Reviens property — but she also found herself in the midst of a great heist. Right as everyone was ramping up and preparing for the gala, some very famous (and very expensive) artwork went missing.
This was nothing like the Graceling [fantasy] stories, though I don’t think fans of that trilogy will necessarily be disappointed. Jane, Unlimited was very much a mystery/spy story, but it had coming-of-age, romance, and science fiction elements as well. In fact, I can’t imagine having to pin it down to a single genre. Since it is very character driven, and there are SO MANY characters to get to know, it was a little slow for me to get into this one at first. I think that perseverance paid off, but I feel compelled to “warn” readers, nevertheless, that this book has a bit of a Groundhog’s Day feel to it. There were several times where I wondered if I had lost my place and read something over again only to realize that only some, not all, of that information had been revealed before. I can’t say much more without giving away any spoilers, so I will just have to ask you to trust me on this one and read it when it comes out in September. (Hope you like it as much as I did.)
A while back, I decided to stop posting about the subsequent books in the various series I’m reading. This was for a variety of reasons, but the two most important reasons were because (1) it was just too tough to keep up with all of the series I am interested in finishing and (2) I wanted to provide more variety for my blog readers. Well… I am going to have to break that rule today because I just have to tell y’all about Stars Above!
First of all, I think it’s important to note that some of this story takes place before Cinder, and some of it takes place after Winter. If you haven’t yet read the other books in the Lunar Chronicles yet, do yourself a favor and GO READ THEM FIRST! 😉
I really enjoyed the opportunity to look at the stories we’ve already read through the eyes of different characters (like when Kai first meets Cinder, as told through his perspective), and the fact that readers have a chance to get a little more background on characters like Michelle Benoit and Carswell Thorne. But I think my favorite story in the collection was “The Little Android,” which was a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.” Meyer’s unique adaptation of fairytale characters (Cinder from Cinderella, Scarlet from Little Red Riding Hood, Winter from Snow White, and Cress from Rapunzel) is one of the things I love the most about this series, so I was glad to get a “bonus” tale in this collection of stories. It’s hard to believe I waited almost a full year after it was published to actually get around to reading it, but I guess that is what happens when your TBR pile is out of control… 😉
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.
During his senior year, Adam was assigned to be an aide for the school psychologist. At first, he had a lot of downtime, which was kind of hard to deal with (since he had ADHD), but he found small ways to keep himself busy. After all, he didn’t want to complain and end up with a much harder job. All of that downtime went away, though, when the psychologist asked that Adam become an escort for a student who kept missing/avoiding his appointments. As it turned out, the student was a freshman named Julian — and Julian actually used to be Adam’s foster brother! Adam was overjoyed, at first, to be reunited with Julian, but then he started to worry about the younger boy. Julian was much quieter and much more sullen than he used to be, and he didn’t seem willing to open up to Adam anymore. Adam wondered whether it was simply that Julian had changed a lot since they parted ways about five years prior, but he worried that Julian was hiding something about the “uncle” who took him in when he left Adam’s house.
Would Adam be able to reconnect with Julian to find out what, if anything, was wrong? Would he be able to, at the very least, get Julian to attend his appointments with the school psychiatrist and to open up to her?
While it is important to have “tough reads” like this out there — so some people will realize they are not alone in their suffering and others will be able to empathize with those who have suffered horrific abuses — I think it is important to warn people about the graphic descriptions of abuse in this book. I know there are far too many children who are living this horrible reality, but there is also no need to scar the emotionally immature tweens and teens who aren’t yet ready to learn about the darker side of humanity. (I would hand this to readers who could handle Living Dead Girl and The Lovely Bones.)