Dancia Lewis has tried very hard to be so normal that she's invisible, even though she's anything but. When people around her are in trouble, crazy th...moreDancia Lewis has tried very hard to be so normal that she's invisible, even though she's anything but. When people around her are in trouble, crazy things happen. Danica's worried that she'll use her powers to protect somebody and wind up really hurting, or even killing, them. All her work to remain under the radar has been useless, though, because people have noticed. Suddenly, she's offered a full scholarship to the prestigious Delcroix Academy. As Dancia adjusts to being one of the least academically-talented students in the school, her new misfit friend points out that there is something strange going on, that there's a more sinister, ulterior reason for recruiting them.
The Candidates was a fun intro to a new series. This book really sets up further series developments, and especially sets up minor characters for larger roles and surprises in the future. I do feel like I've read a plot like this a few times this year already, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The story also did not end how I thought it would, which is usually a plus for me. I'll definitely read the next book in the Delcroix Academy series.(less)
Keller lives in a world of strong women. She is being trained to be a Tracker, a person who guards the borders of her land from monstrous men and muta...moreKeller lives in a world of strong women. She is being trained to be a Tracker, a person who guards the borders of her land from monstrous men and mutants beyond. Many things are forbidden--friendship, reflection, pride, frivolity. Those things were how the women of the past were, why they were cruelly dominated by men. Keller's sisters have discovered a secret, though. Laing, a feisty, charismatic girl, has found the door to an old dwelling from the world of Before. As the girls explore this strange land, learning about those who existed before, will prove to be their salvation or their downfall?
Nomansland is a dystopian future in the extreme. The society is fun in a totalitarian way, not allowing friendships to form other than one assigned confidante who would report any secrets told to her directly to the leadership. Within this context, Keller's character chafes against her own realization that this is a terrible way to live, and her need to do as she has always been told. There is a lesson learned in the end, regarding free-choice. I never really felt the weight of how much was at stake if Keller turned her back on different parties. Sure, we see punishment, but the writing never really reached a highly dramatic point. Part of it may have been that I didn't get drawn into any of the characters sufficiently to really, passionately care about her. Nonetheless, Nomansland is a solid story and will make readers glad that they live in our world, not theirs.(less)
The town of Arcane exists at a crossroads, a place of power where strange things can happen. Natalie Minks had grown up hearing strange stories from h...moreThe town of Arcane exists at a crossroads, a place of power where strange things can happen. Natalie Minks had grown up hearing strange stories from her mother, so she knows that there is something wrong about the new traveling medicine show that has come to town. As the story unfolds, she notices the show is filled with automata that seem to work without any source of force, something that is against the nature of physics itself. Natalie works to find out what is really happening at the show, and how she can stop it before it destroys her town.
The Boneshaker is a bit reminiscent of Something Wicked This Way Comes with a bit of The Devil Went Down to Georgia mixed in. The story mentions deals with the devil, trickster demons, and the battle between good and evil. I enjoyed the parts of the story that were based on folk tales. Sometimes, the emphasis on historical detail slowed the story down for me. In fact, the beginning was very tough for me to get into; however, things picked up after about 100 pages. It's a good read for people who like a strong female protagonist, and carnival-atmosphere evil.(less)
Gaia has been raised by her mother to be a midwife. Since they live outside the walls of the city, the first three births each month must be given to...moreGaia has been raised by her mother to be a midwife. Since they live outside the walls of the city, the first three births each month must be given to the Enclave to be given privileged lives. After Gaia's parents are taken prisoner, she plots to enter the Enclave and find them. What results is the revelation of the Enclave's unstable genetic population, and the degree of surveillance and control the leaders have over everybody. When the act of saving an innocent life equals all-out rebellion, Gaia must race to save those she loves and escape the Enclave.
I thought that Birthmarked was a great addition to YA dystopian lit. As the story progress, the plot thickened and the stakes got higher, resulting in an intense ending. Gaia must question everything she has been raised to believe, and decide what path she will follow. There is a good amount of action, and hate-worthy villains. I look forward to reading a sequel.(less)
Cass is having a rough time. Her best (and possibly only) friend, Julia, was killed in a car accident. Now Julia's friends are putting on a musical th...moreCass is having a rough time. Her best (and possibly only) friend, Julia, was killed in a car accident. Now Julia's friends are putting on a musical that Julia wrote before her death. The problem: the female lead, Heather, is the same girl that terrorized Cass three years earlier by calling her a lesbian in front of the whole school. The story switches between Cass's journey by bicycle to take Julia's ashes to the Pacific, and her struggle to figure out her new relationship with Heather, all while trying to come to terms with what her sexual orientation may or may not be.
I liked the idea of this book. Using a journey to discover the self, and then making amends with the past sounds like a great concept. However, I never really got into the story or the characters. Julia never seemed like much of a real person to me, and I couldn't relate to Cass. I also couldn't wrap my head around doing a "Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad" musical, probably because that is so far off of the radar of what I'd be into. I'm sure this is probably a good book for somebody, maybe a teen trying to come to terms with who he or she is, but it just wasn't for me.(less)
Aura has always felt like she and her mom were alike. They both looked the same at the same age, and they both are very artistic. That’s why Aura is s...moreAura has always felt like she and her mom were alike. They both looked the same at the same age, and they both are very artistic. That’s why Aura is so afraid when she looks at her mother–she thinks she’ll wind up being schizophrenic too. Aura sees art as the source that feeds the disease, and the more art her mother produces, the worse her hold on reality becomes. Aura must struggle to take care of her mother, even in the face of the fear that the one thing she needs will destroy her as well.
A Blue So Dark is a powerful book. It draws you in from page one with intense, poetic writing. Aura’s story is extremely painful. The reader can see what potential she has, and how much she loves her mother, but it seems like life has taken a very bad turn for the worse. Her father is no help, having abandoned his family when her mother’s illness became too much. I felt compelled to keep reading, no matter how dire Aura’s situation became, because of the hope I felt on her behalf. I hope others will stick it out, too, because the story has a believable, positive resolution that is made even sweeter by the darkness that precedes it.(less)
Will Halpin has decided to switch schools, from an all deaf school to a regular public one. However, being new, deaf, and fat doesn't automatically ma...moreWill Halpin has decided to switch schools, from an all deaf school to a regular public one. However, being new, deaf, and fat doesn't automatically make him a member of the popular crowd. After a trip to the local coal mine leads to the death of the school's BMOC, Will and his new friend, geek Devon, team up Hardy Boys style to try to crack the case. The result is a hilarious, sometimes dangerous adventure that proves to be far more interesting than anything that happened to Will at his old school.
I really enjoyed The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin. The main character shoots off tons of funny one-liners that only we are privy to, as well as hilarious marginalia written in his school notebook. The mystery part of the story isn't too big of a deal, and keeps you somewhat guessing, although I wasn't too concerned with the big reveal. Instead, it was fun to see the chemistry develop between Will and Devon, much to Will's initial chagrin at being matched with the nerdiest kid in his class. It was nice that we get see the world through the perspective of somebody who is deaf, since I haven't seen many books coming from that angle. The story and the way it was told reminded me a *little* bit of Louis Sachar's Holes, but just slightly, and in a good way. (less)
Follow the diary of a quiet, artistic kid who moves to a new town and reinvents himself as "Happyface." As long as he wears a smile, he is able to mak...moreFollow the diary of a quiet, artistic kid who moves to a new town and reinvents himself as "Happyface." As long as he wears a smile, he is able to make friends, meet girls, and be the person he always wanted to be. However, we slowly discover that the smile is just a mask, and as hard as you try, eventually you need to face those things you are trying to forget. When his new friends start to uncover some of Happyface's secrets, even his silly grin can't fix his broken relationships.
Happyface is full of the drawings and the ideas of a teenage, artistic boy going through some major life changes. The readers of his journal are the only people who can see what he is really feeling, but we slowly come to realize that he is hiding secrets from even himself (and us). The true story slowly unravels to reveal a foundation of pain and fear.
The reason I did not rate this higher is that I didn't really like Happyface's character. I think it hit a little too close to home, by reminding me of some boys I knew in high school. There were a lot of points in the story when I just wanted to shake some sense into him, make him stop feeling sorry for himself, and give him a dose of self-esteem, all of which left me feeling overly frustrated and disconnected from the character. I know that this book will appeal to those who can better relate to Happyface's personality. I just think the book and I were not well-matched.
I received a free advanced reader copy of this book from Little, Brown, and Company at the ALA Midwinter Conference.(less)
Nailer has a hard life. He lives on the beaches of the Gulf Coast, crawling into toxic shipwrecks to salvage the copper wire that lays deep inside. He...moreNailer has a hard life. He lives on the beaches of the Gulf Coast, crawling into toxic shipwrecks to salvage the copper wire that lays deep inside. He could die any day doing the work he does, and he cannot trust most of the light crew he works with. Nailer dreams of the day when he can encounter the illusive “Lucky Strike,” a find that will be big enough to rescue him from his life of poverty and uncertainty. When Nailer and his crewmate discover a perfect, recent ship that has recently wrecked during a City Killer-level hurricane, he thinks this is his chance. But there is still one person left alive on board–a beautiful, rich girl who is in trouble. Nailer needs to make a choice on which gamble to take: keep the ship as his, or help rescue the girl and incur that wrath of all that will follow.
It took me a while to pick up Ship Breaker. From the publisher blurb, I got the feeling that the story would just be too dark and dreary for me, which is the whole reason it took me so long to read this ARC. I just wasn’t sold on the idea of following a character into such a terrible life. I pictured an experience like the one I had when I read Gary Soto’s Buried Onions for library school. It left me feeling completely drained and wishing I’d never had to live that character’s terrible life. Fortunately, the recent praise for Ship Breaker, including the 2011 Printz Award, convinced me to give it a chance.
While bleak at times, Ship Breaker has enough high points and happy moments to elevate it above being a depressing book. Nailer is a strong character, and you find yourself rooting for him, and for him to remain good inside. I also really appreciated the few good people he was able to surround himself with: Pima, Sadna, Nita, Tool, and Candless. Characters were a very strong element of this book. Two in particular reminded me of characters in Huck Finn. Nailer’s father, Richard Lopez, was very much like Huck’s dad. Richard was a drug addict and abused Nailer whenever it suited him. He also relied on Nailer to bring him money. The complete lack of fatherly love and the cold, serpentine, chaotic anger of his character made him a force to be reckoned with. On the flip side, Tool, a half-man, turned out to be much more than his ilk were every supposed to be. In his humanity, his goodness, and his ability to think for himself despite being viewed as less than human, Tool was this story’s Jim.
Ship Breaker‘s plot was fine, with plenty of action to move the story along, but the characters were what really made this book for me. The future dystopia was well-rendered and believable. I can see why this book gained so many fans.(less)
When orphan Trey Laporte wakes up with his room trashed, he has no clue that he’s both the cause and the victim. After his discovery, his day becomes...moreWhen orphan Trey Laporte wakes up with his room trashed, he has no clue that he’s both the cause and the victim. After his discovery, his day becomes even stranger. He’s rescued aggressively from the home where he stays by a suave by scary vampire, Lucien Charron, who claims to have known Trey’s parents. He also tells Trey that he’s in mortal danger. Trey must learn to quickly master his newly discovered lycanthrope nature if he’s to have any chance of surviving an attack from the monster who killed his parents. And, oh yeah, he also needs to save the world in the process.
Wereling is a fairly fast-paced book. Trey learns a lot about himself and his history in a very short amount of time. Throw in the fact that he’s suddenly come into a life of luxury, a new world of demons, and a new set of characters, and you’ll see why the book has to move quickly in order to fit all of the exposition and plot into the short amount of pages it takes up. Feasey doesn’t meander on small details–instead, he jumps from action to action. There are small hints of romance, but nothing overpowering. This is by no means a book centered on a relationship. Rather, it features a realistic schoolboy crush. I’ve read some reviews that have criticized the book for having overly formal, cardboard language. While the language sounds a bit different than I’m used to, I chalked it up to being British. I’d rather read a book with elevated dialog than one that is dumbed down, so I didn’t see it as a fault at all.
I think Wereling is a solid pick for middle school aged boys. The ending sets up the readers for a sequel: Dark Moon, coming out February 1, 2011.(less)
After failing at nearly every job available, Benny Imura agrees to be apprenticed to his older brother as a zombie killer. Benny looks up to other zom...moreAfter failing at nearly every job available, Benny Imura agrees to be apprenticed to his older brother as a zombie killer. Benny looks up to other zombie killers in his small, fortified town, but hates his brother because of his earliest memory...the First Night, when Tom carried Benny away running from his mother as his zombie father attacked her. Now Tom needs to teach Benny that not is all as it seems in the land outside of their perimeter. After Benny's friend is kidnapped by some very scary zombie hunters, he and Benny need to venture out into the wilderness to come to her rescue. Benny has to not only face thousands of hungry zombies, but also needs to come to terms with his past.
Rot & Ruin was a very solid YA debut for author Jonathan Maberry. I enjoyed Maberry's Patient Zero a bit more than this one, because I thought there was far more action and a more intricate plot, but I understand that there are different expectations for adult v. young adult fiction. As far as the YA genre goes, this is a very good book. It doesn't get too wrapped up in romance, there are real stakes, not just concerning zombies, but also dealing with family dynamics and ethics, and the teenage male narrator isn't obsessed with sex, which always irks me in make protagonist YA fiction. Maberry has good reason to be proud of this one.(less)
Nick Gautier has a rough life. His father is in jail for committing multiple murders, and he gets bullied at his private school because he is a schola...moreNick Gautier has a rough life. His father is in jail for committing multiple murders, and he gets bullied at his private school because he is a scholarship kid with a stripper as a mother. Try as he might, everybody seems to want to believe the worst about him. As he nearly gives himself up to committing an atrocious crime, he does that right thing and is almost killed for it. Almost killed, that is, until he is saved by a mysterious, wealthy stranger. Soon, Nick is earning top dollars working for this strange man, and discovers that there is far more to this world than what we see. Nick learns that zombies are very real, that classmates of his are actually demons, and that the football team is so strong because they are shifters. Nick must help figure out why living students are turning into flesh-craving zombies, and why so many of these dark demons are interested in him.
This was the first book I'd read by Kenyon. It felt as if it was written toward a male audience, because of the action and male pov. Nick's character was fun enough, but got on my nerves from time to time because of his awful grammar. He's supposed to be a scholarship kid and bright, but uses "ain't" constantly. Kenyon throws a lot of characters and supernatural mythos at the reader, and I admit to getting a bit lost. The book feels like one never-ending adventure because Nick is constantly being thrown into new, dire situations. Overall, the story was fun and a bit wacky. (less)