You need to read this book and you need to read it now! SHIP BREAKER is one of the more powerful books I've read in a long time. It is so clear to me why this was a National Book Award nominee. This is a smart book. It is beautifully written with vivid descriptions and raw emotion. It was gripping from the very beginning and full of action: adventure on the high seas, evasive manuervering, hand-to-hand combat, and life or death situations.
Set in a rough world where people are fighting for the littlest scraps of money and food in order to survive, this book has fantastic, complicated characters who are put in horrifying situations of survival. The world that Nailer has grown up in, and the family he has to cope with, has created a strength, determination, and integrity of character rarely seen in one so young. He is a good boy who came from bad and his spirit hopes for better. I wanted to be Nailer's friend - or at least take him home to take care of him.
In his book, Paolo has created an evocative world touching on issues of oil use, poverty, big corporations, government, religion, abuse, addiction, class, luck, faith, family, and friendship. It's about loyalty, trust, hardship, work ethic, true meaning, earning respect, and fighting to take care of one's self. It touches on important questions: How far would you go to survive? What would you do to fight for what's right? What would it take from you? Paolo does it all with such a deft hand that I never felt that I was being preached at, but instead felt that I was drawn into this world and pulling for the characters.
SHIP BREAKER was heart-wrenching at times, but left me with a sense of hope. And, really, that's what I look for in really good books - it doesn't have to be a happy ending, but I need it to be a hopeful ending where I can feel confident that the character I've grown to love and care about is going to be okay in the end. And these particular characters in this books are ones who give me hope for people and morals as well.(less)
I'm always on the lookout for books that will appeal to the boys in my classes. I struggle to find those books that will really engage them through contemporary situations and humor - well I've now found another one to add to my highly recommended for boys list with THE FOURTH STALL. Chris Rylander has created a funny book with heart. Mac, so nicknamed because he can get anything kids want and can solve their problems, thinks he has everything under control at his school as he works from his office in the basement bathroom that no one uses. He has long lines out the door everyday at recess of other kids needing help, and he runs a tight ship of a highly organized business with his best friend, Vince, who is the money guy. The two of them pretty much have control of the school and help people with all kinds of problems - whether it be bullies, dating, homework, or loans - Mac has what kids need. He takes payment or favors for his work. The payment is being saved up so Mac and Vince can go see the Chicago Cubs play in the World Series - if they can make it there. He has an internal network throughout the different levels of the school hierarchy who help him do what he needs - for a small fee. He thinks he has it all under control, until the day Fred walks in with a problem to solve that changes it all for Mac. Someone is infringing on his territory. Now he has to figure out how to solve the illegal gambling ring problem Staples has brought to his school.
This book has a full cast of characters who are each entertaining in their own right. As much as I adored Mac, some of his helpers (I'm looking at you M) were laugh-out-loud funny. The way that Mac runs his business is somewhat mobster-style and is impressive as such a well-oiled machine. Mac's voice is also greatly engaging in this book. It's written as if he's talking right to the reader with asides and side notes. It's like hearing a story from a good friend (almost Ferris Buehler style). Chris throws in some great similes that bring more character to the story overall. The one aspect I was a little concerned about was the slight glorification of the school bullies. There is a whole range of types of bullies in his school and Mac (humorously describing them all) uses them to do his dirty work. He pays them to be his muscle and while they have his back in the end, I worry if it puts them in too good of a light. I do think, though, that because of the humor and tone of the book, and the way they help protect Mac in the end, that it overall has a positive message about sticking together and standing up for oneself. The book also deals with friendship and trust and honesty between friends Mac and Vince. There's action and mystery and scheming and humor and friendship. It's a great middle-grades book to recommend to boys that should engage them in reading.(less)
A can't stop reading, action-packed, smart dystopian thriller told from two perspectives. In my mind, a cross between The Hunger Games and Divergent....moreA can't stop reading, action-packed, smart dystopian thriller told from two perspectives. In my mind, a cross between The Hunger Games and Divergent. Loved!
LEGEND was a book that I couldn't put down. I do love dystopian books, and this one was a fresh concept of a no longer United States divided into the Republic and the Colonies. There wasn't much to go on as far as how we got to this point, although there were little clues along the way that make me think we could get more backstory in the next book - and I do hope there will be a next book! In some books, it would bother me that I didn't know how they got to this point, but in this one, I barely even noticed it because I was so wrapped up in the action-packed, suspenseful, intrigue aspects of the story. I appreciated debut author Marie Lu's writing style. It was very straight-forward and focused on the action and details of what was going on, constantly moving the pacing forward with little clues for both the reader and the characters.
Speaking of characters, I was hooked on both Day and June, which was good because the story unfolds from alternating points-of-view (clearly noted in chapter title, text font, and color). I appreciate the complexity of stories written from multiple perspectives, and it really works for this case and is so necessary for discovering the whole truth of what's happening. Day and June both have heart and want to do what's right for their families, and they both have big brothers to be admired. I'm a sucker for a great big brother in a story (probably because I'm the only girl with an older and younger brother myself), and this one has two to love! Day and June are believeable in their actions and intentions, and they're smart, but young. It's all of that that helped me to root for them both to figure out the political situation, work together, and succeed. The romance elements are there, but don't take over the focus of the story; they were written with a deft hand. Secondary characters abound and we get to know their role in the story as it unfolds - some become even more important than I could have thought.
I ended this book with a feeling of contentment, hope, not wanting it to end, wanting to go back and re-read it, and desire to read the next book! I was definitely emotionally invested in this book and these characters. LEGEND is perfect for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT. I will absolutely be passing this recommendation on to my students.(less)
THE UNWANTEDS was an absolute joy to read. I think every middle school teacher should have this book in his or her classroom. In fact, just reading the first chapter to my own students had them clamoring to get their hands on a copy to find out what happens next. This middle grades dystopian-fantasy is about friendship and loyalty and family ties and creativity and trust and working togther and discovering what's important in life and fighting for it. Lisa writes this book in a third person narrator style along the lines of classic fantasies like Narnia.
The creepy dystopian world that Lisa created in this book is frightening in the fact that any child who is creative in any form or way, is considered Unwanted and sent to their deaths. Unbeknownst to any of them, they actually enter the world of Artime, where creativity is supported and encouraged and thrives in this fantastical world that is hidden from the Wanteds and Necessaries in Quill. It takes the Unwanteds awhile to learn to trust that they are able to be creative and don't have to hide it and can thrive there. It's a wonderful message to send to children that they should embrace their creativity and there can be many different types of strengths in the world. There are pieces of this world (the chalkboards!) that are so creative and entertaining that they made me wish I could visit Artime. The fantasy elements of this story are wonderfully balanced with the political intrigue elements of the dystopian world that keeps the two sides at odds with each other and suspensefully moves the plot forward.
This all leads to a battle at the end, which is entertaining in the ways that the fighting occurs on the side of the Unwanteds and the way they use their art, music, and acting skills against the Quillitary. There are many secrets and surprises that come out in the end, and everyone learns that there are those who can't be trusted, but there is a positive resolution. The way to winning this battle is through teamwork and trust and working together creatively and helping each other. The book leaves an ending that shows there will be another. This feels to me like it can be another epic fantasy adventure over several books and I look forward to seeing where Lisa takes these characters and this world next.(less)
INSIGNIA is one of those books that was really hard to stop reading at night to go to sleep-I never wanted to stop turning the pages as it was a nonstop thrill ride in a virtual reality, corporate-sponsored, dystopic future. At first, I was a little intimidated by the world the author created – because there are some corporations and sponsors and military terms that I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep track of, but it ended up being surprisingly easy to follow. This is definitely a plot-driven book, and at 464 pages, there’s a lot of plot. I was worried I’d get to parts where I didn’t really care or they felt slow, but that never happened! There was always some sort of action (either virtual or real) that kept the pacing moving forward at a perfect speed. The descriptions of the settings were perfectly done, and I especially liked all of the historical (including mythological) references in all of the virtual reality training scenarios. It was such fun to see how the characters interacted with these simulations, and nicely provides some subtle history lessons for students reading this book as well.
This book has elements of a fish out of water story (kind of in a Harry Potter way of discovering a new “school” and people and how you’re changing because of it), corporate and political intrigue, an awkward teen wanting to be accepted, friendship, power, control, life or death fights, and the fate of multinational corporations and alliances hanging in the balance (no pressure there!). The author wielded a deft hand at balancing the action, technological, and teen self-esteem/friendship elements of the story in a way in which none felt over or underdone. There were also some great comedic moments to balance it all out as well.
The characters really make this book though. All the action and excitement and plot an author could add, won’t make a difference if I don’t care about or like the characters. And in this book, I loved the characters. I adore Tom and was rooting for him the whole way, and the secondary characters who are his friends were so entertaining. There were some great teen girl supporting characters as well, and what I really liked was that they were actually some of the better computer programmers. And Vik, as Tom’s roommate at the new school, provides great comic relief in the midst of serious situations.
INSIGNIA is just an exciting book, and a scary look at a future that might not be too far off. I absolutely loved it and can't wait for more people to read it and start talking about this fabulous debut! This is a book that my students (especially boys) who are into gaming or computers will love. I will be adding it to my “you liked this, try this...” list with BRAIN JACK by Brian Falkner, TEEN, INC. by Stephen Petrucha, and EPIC by Conor Kostic. I’d also recommend it to those who liked DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth (both books have the same editor at HarperCollins!). I'm so glad to hear this one is going to be a trilogy because I can’t wait to see what happens after the big finale of this one (but thankfully, no cliffhanger ending)! Make sure to add this one to your list of July releases you’ll want to read!(less)