Review below originally posted on Heise Reads & Recommends in May, 2011. Reread with audiobook done May 23-24, 2012. Reread with student book club...moreReview below originally posted on Heise Reads & Recommends in May, 2011. Reread with audiobook done May 23-24, 2012. Reread with student book club February 18-19, 2013. Each time read the book in just two days - that should tell you something!
I finished this book over a month ago (and I lost sleep because I was up reading until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore), and I'm still in awe of the genius writing of Gayle Forman. When I first read IF I STAY, it was because I had heard so much about it - little did I know what I was in for. Gayle Forman has a unique ability to draw a reader into a book and grab at your emotions and twist and turn them until you feel so caught up in the character's journey that you would do anything just to give the character a hug or a helping hand. Her books are not ones that you can put down. It's an emotional journey to read IF I STAY or WHERE SHE WENT, but one that you must take! But make sure you read them in order!!! (and if you haven't read IF I STAY yet, why the heck not?!?)
WHERE SHE WENT takes place three years later and switches view points from when we had insight into Mia's thoughts in If I Stay to now seeing Adam's anger, heartbreak, and despair. Adam is now a big rock star and his band has hit it big and is heading off on a European tour, but Adam is devastated, and as the reader, you feel it from the first pages. The Adam I loved in the first book is still there somewhere, but he's been beaten down and lost himself when Mia broke up with him. The writing is straight-forward, but pulls you in instantly. This is contemporary realistic teen fiction writing at it's best. This book very much has the feel of a "one night in the life of" kind of story. It's takes place in New York, it includes chance encounters, it flashes back to Adam's perspective of what happened with Mia and her family, and it shows us where Mia is now.
The thing I love the most about Adam and Mia is the way they are always looking out for each other. They are such a great, honest couple because they truly want the best for the other, but they've been through such grief and tragedy that they need to resolve those issues before they can be happy and hopeful together. The journey that Adam and Mia have to take to understand each other, forgive each other, communicate their true feelings, and hold on to each other is wrought with emotion, frustration, and love. And ultimately, this is a true love story - one that was three years in the making. Read this one - you will begin your own love story with Gayle Forman's writing. I'm so glad she revisited Mia's world and explored how Adam would have reacted to the tragic events in the first story. It's realistic, it's gritty, and it's hopeful. I can't wait to see what she has in store for us next in her writing career!(less)
A weird thing happened to me when I started reading DIVERGENT. I kept turning pages although I couldn't figure out why. I'm not sure if I went into this with a little bit of a skewed perception. I have already been hearing so much hype for this debut book, and I had just finished another dystopian that was haunting in an entirely different way. But, I just couldn't put this book down. I couldn't quite figure out what it was that was making me want to keep reading because it wasn't feeling mind-blowing to me, in fact, it was seeming a little bit predictable, but in the end, I LOVED it. I read it so fast that when I finished, I wanted to go back and reread the whole thing again to pick up on things I may have missed the first time around. So, I guess what I'm saying is, it took me a little while to feel fully engaged in the characters and this world, but at the same time I never wanted to put it down. DIVERGENT is an engrossing read. It's scary in showing how easy it was to get to this point with a world built of the five factions. It was really interesting to see how the world ended up divided by the five different strengths people valued. It is definitely a book that caused some deep thinking/analyzing (as any good dystopian should!) of our current societal beliefs.
DIVERGENT has a page-turning, action-packed, fast-paced, twisting plot from the very beginning to the very end full of heart-pounding thrills and wrenching shocks of sadness. This book definitely has a thriller feel to the plot as well. Smaller plot points would be important and keep me wanting to read and then the big overall conflict came together at the end in a way that was not totally expected earlier on in the book. I loved how it deals with fear and bravery in interesting, thought-provoking ways. It has lots of commentary on people and perceptions and control and fear and focuses on figuring out what true strength is. Some parts were horrifying in what this world has become (when it started with the best intentions) and shows the worst part of human nature. Other parts were inspiring in how people with the best intentions can use their strength to overcome odds and work for those they love.
DIVERGENT has likeable characters and I enjoyed spending time in Beatrice's head. I did feel that some secondary characters could have been developed a little bit more though. Ultimately it's about Tris' journey to figuring out how she can go against what she's always been conditioned to do/believe. Tris is a strong, kick-butt, take-no-crap character who always does what she thinks is right, but with a caring heart. She's so smart, but doesn't always realize it, but when she finally does, her bravery and intelligence shows through in unexpected ways. Tris struggles in this book between family obligation and what she thinks she wants. She's having to start dealing with the consequences of actions and discovering how she can affect her world. Seeing her insecurities and struggles through her eyes, but most especially seeing how she dealt with them with sass and wit, really made the book for me. Some parts seemed a little predictable - it was obvious who was going to be the love interest, but I still enjoyed seeing how that played out and how they grew closer. I felt that way about most things though - the way everything was tied together in the end made me feel better about the whole book because it all made sense. It was just an exciting book and a fast read - make sure you have time to get through it because you won't want to put it down.(less)
I really enjoy Elizabeth Eulberg's books. I loved her debut novel, THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB (read my thoughts here), and thoroughly enjoyed PROM & PREJUDICE as well. There's just something so easy about her writing style - it's comforting and familiar. Her books are quick reads and so enjoyable. They're just happy books. Sometimes (especially on a snow day) I just really want a light-hearted book, and that's what Elizabeth delivers, but always with a good message. Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice is a classic for a reason, and with PROM & PREJUDICE, Elizabeth has delivered a cute contemporary twist on the classic. Some scenes were so familiar from the many interpretations I've seen and read of Austen's original work, but with the new Lizzie, Darcy, and Jane, they all felt like friends I would have wanted to have in high school and it felt so contemporary.
The importance placed on getting a prom date at Longbourn Academy is entertaining, and setting it in a boarding school gives the perfect background for analyzing class differences and the problems that can cause. I found myself rooting for all of them to figure it out and see the goodness in each other. There are issues of prejudice by many in this book - and it's really about misconceptions and assumptions made before one knows the person or gives them a chance to prove themselves different and worthy of positive thoughts...hmmm, maybe something we should all take away from a book. I like how Elizabeth writes her characters - they're flawed and real and make mistakes and are easy to relate to. Another aspect that was subtle was the love of piano playing that this Lizzie has. Elizabeth places references to several classical music pieces throughout as a part of Lizzie's identity as a scholasrship student due to her gift at playing piano. As a former cello player, I always appreciate references to classical musicians such as are scattered throughout this book. I thought it was interesting that both of Elizabeth Eulberg's books feature music as a prominent piece of the action. PROM & PREJUDICE is a really cute contemporary reboot of the classic story and you'll read it quickly and enjoy every page.(less)
First read July 10-11, 2012. Reread November 5, 2013 for Champion's release. Full of action & emotion & intrigue. My heart was pounding the who...moreFirst read July 10-11, 2012. Reread November 5, 2013 for Champion's release. Full of action & emotion & intrigue. My heart was pounding the whole time. I am heart-broken & anxious for the final chapter of this series. (less)
THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER is one of the most interesting books that I have read in awhile. It blew my mind, kept me on my toes, crawled under my ski...moreTHE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER is one of the most interesting books that I have read in awhile. It blew my mind, kept me on my toes, crawled under my skin, tugged at my heart, and won't get out of my head. It is a multi-layered story: part psychological thriller, part epic teen romance, part high school story, part mystery, part family dynamics, and part suspense. Oh, and I can't forget the slight paranormal tendencies (in the mental sense not creatures) underlying the events of this book. It is a page-turning, hard to put down, want to know what will happen and how the main character will figure it all out kind of book. It starts with a note from Mara setting up the premise that she's going to be telling you her story (under a pseudonym) of why her life is not normal. It's definitely a book you have to read with an open mind so you can just go with it. At times I thought, "oh, this is like ___" only to find out I was wrong, but I could definitely see the influences of other YA books, but done with unique twists. There are lots of "what is going on?!" and "did that just happen?!" moments, but that's what made it so much more readable.
Michelle Hodkin (a debut author!) has an engaging writing style that is a nice balance of descriptive, exciting, humorous, suspenseful, sarcastic, and intelligent. It just draws you in without even realizing it and you find yourself negotiating "just one more chapter before I go to sleep" fifteen times in a row until you can't keep your eyes open anymore. Parts of this book (especially the dialogue) were so smile to myself entertaining I found myself rereading them just to soak them in more and deeply process the subtle references and entertaining quality.
And the main character Michelle has written in Mara? Not the most reliable, or most sane, but she's got an awesome sass to her that I love, and underneath her insecurity and unsureness has a strength and integrity that drew me to her even more. Mara doesn't remember what happened the night the building collapsed and her friends were killed. One of the best parts of this book is the way that Mara's memories of that night start to come back to her. We get flashbacks through her dreams as she gets them - leaving us feeling as unsure as Mara does about what's going on - but eventually we finally get the whole story of that night and the story comes together really well. It's written in the way that makes you feel like the character is feeling at that point in the book - you'll be scared, hopeful, worried, confused, happy, and freaked out when Mara is feeling that way as you go through the story with her.
Should we talk boys now? How about my newest (and quite possibly best ever) literary crush - Noah Shaw. Really, after reading it, I sigh just hearing his name. I love, love, love Noah's character. He's got a great way of talking (and lots of hidden secrets to come) and interacting and being that is just captivating. The parts I found myself rereading the most were the interactions between Mara and Noah. Now, I should warn you, at first I was a little skeptical because he seemed like the stereotypical bad boy, insta-crush, jerk to girls, love interest character, but there's much, much more than meets the eye (or rumor mill as the case may be) with Noah Shaw. Don't let his early interactions fool you - there is an epic sort of romance that develops between Mara and Noah that will have you swooning by the end.
Secondary characters deserve a mention too - maybe because I have two brothers myself and am the middle/only girl, I really enjoyed Mara's relationship with her brothers - especially her older brother Daniel. He's great. He watches out for her, covers for her, protects her, and pushes her to get out there. I want a big brother like him. We also see Mara at her new school after they move out of state and meet her new friend Jamie. He is awesomely sarcastic and witty and good comedic relief. He also serves as commentary to set the stage for what's going on in the new school's dynamics. I enjoyed reading both Daniel's and Jamie's characters; I would have liked a little more of Jamie though.
This book all leads up to an ending that is unexpected and left me wondering What?! How did that happen?! It made me want to go back and reread the whole book with that new perspective and see if it changed my thoughts on earlier parts of the story. It ends at a point that added a final cliffhanger of a twist and left me hoping that there would be more - and there will be a sequel (thank goodness because I need answers!) You may feel a little off balance at the end of this one, but I truly think that's part of the reason that it is so good. I want my stories to surprise me once in awhile and this one was definitely surprising. Be on the lookout for THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER in September!
I fell in love with Maggie Stiefvater's writing when I read SHIVER, the first book in the trilogy. Of course, the fact that I had heard Maggie speak at a conference, and her personality engaged and entertained me from the start, helped me realize that I needed to read her writing. As soon as I read it, I knew I loved it - and promoted it to all of my students as better than Twilight (and for 8th grade girls, that was a big deal!) The things that I loved most about the start of the series was the unique mythology of the wolves, the plotting of the building tension of the book, and the beautifully lyrical way in which Maggie writes - along with the sweet honesty of the love between Grace and Sam.
I feel as if this is a bittersweet review for me because I've so loved living in the world of The Wolves of Mercy Falls, so I'm sad to leave them, but I feel good about where things were left in the end. However, I do have to say, the end of the book is a little open-ended. Things are all wrapped up, but it's not necessarily a happy ending for all, nor is their entire future certain. The overwhelming feeling I had at the end of this final book was one of peace with each main character's place in the world and satisfaction with the choices they had made to get to where they were. And hope for their futures. There was a sense of each character knowing themselves better by the end - who they wanted to be and who they really were and how they could be happy.
There were twists in this book and with certain characters who acted differently than expected, but in a good way. It's ultimately a love story - a sweet, tragic, complicated, deep, meant-to-be love between Sam and Grace. It's a love between Sam and his adoptive father Beck. It's a love between Cole and his bandmates. It's about these characters fighting for their loved ones and struggling to find a way out of the mess that is the wolf hunt, in order to save those they love - all written in Maggie's beautiful, lyrical writing. There is a subtleness to the story, in the everyday descriptions and events taking place within the bigger context of the plot. There is also a ticking clock in the back of the reader's mind as the hunt gets closer. I have to say that I think Cole is one of my favorite characters, mostly in his interactions with Isabel, but also for the journey he makes to become the person he is at the end. There is a sense of redemption to this story for all of the characters as they face up to their mistakes in the past and figure out a way to face the future head on. The plot keeps moving and kept me turning pages. When I saw Maggie at her signing she said that she started writing in order to make her reader's cry, and you might just shed a few tears over certain characters, and the ending of this beautiful series. If you haven't read any of it yet, go get the books now, and if you haven't read this final one, do so soon! (less)
I really loved THE UNWANTEDS when I read it last year - it's a great mix of dystopian and fantasy in a spot-on voice that Lisa McMann wrote with for her first jump from young adult (which are also great) to middle grades books. It is also highly engaging and makes a great book talk opportunity to hook middle schoolers with the premise of kids being "sent off to their deaths" for being creative in any way. Knowing all of that, I was eagerly anticipating the release of ISLAND OF SILENCE to find out what would happen to Alex and his friends and the magical land of Artime now that Quill knew of their existence. I was not disappointed.
From the very start, I was drawn right back into this fantastically creative, yet at times frightening, world that Lisa McMann has created with this series. I didn't have any of that feeling of trying to remember what happened in the last book that I read over a year ago. All of the favorite characters were back including the magical creatures that Mr. Today created. While the Artimeans are figuring out how to handle everyone knowing about them, we alternate chapters with Aaron back in Quill and his continuous struggle to gain power back and eliminate his twin brother and all of the magic. Aaron is systematic and smart and frightening in his single-minded focus on ridding Quill of Artime. Meanwhile we have many characters who we don't know if we can trust because they're acting suspiciously, and a few who seem to be "double agents" but we're never really sure. As we get further into this story, there doesn't seem to be such a clear-cut right or wrong way to act for many of these characters. In addition, we're introduced to the islands outside of the one these characters all live on, now that they know there is more beyond where they exist, and find out there may be more evils out there than even exist in Quill.
Along with all of the external battle going on, Alex has his own internal battle to contend with. He just doesn't see himself as the leader that he needs to be and others want him to be, and he has to figure things out. Because Alex's own twin has turned out so evil, and his own parents don't want anything to do with him, he does feel very alone. This is where the creatures of Artime come even more into play as Simber and Ms. Octavia and Ms. Morning and Florence and Clive and the others all become the support system that he needs. My absolute favorite scene of the entire book comes on pages 168-169. It exemplifies the battle that Alex is having with himself, and why he feels the way he does, and what Artime means to him. I adore that scene (and I love Simber!) so much it has stuck with me for days.
It seems such a universal feeling for kids (and some adults) to want to feel included and able and believed in and supported and to have someone who will always be there for you. This book has that universal theme of needing someone to believe in you throughout. As Mr. Today says, "There will always be times we struggle, make bad decisions, even fail. What's important is not that we fail, but that we learn and grow. And that we know that there is always someone out there who believes in us" (p. 250). That's the type of book quote I want to always remember and post on my classroom wall. This kind of message, along with all of the excitement of the story, but with this at its heart, is part of the reason that I love this series.
Overall this book was a strong second book in a uniquely creative series with action, emotion, plot, excitement, characters, and heart that draw the reader in. The ending definitely left me hanging though, and I am dying to read the next book to find out what happens with Alex and Artime next. I was left heartbroken by the events toward the end of ISLAND OF SILENCE, but hopeful at the same time. That's a pretty good place to be left in an engaging book series.
I don't know for sure how many books will end up being in this series, but I do know absolutely for sure that I will be reading them all and sharing them with my students as well. This is a series that should be in every middle school classroom and book-talked for students to snatch it up. Just this week one of my students picked up the first book because he loved THE HUNGER GAMES and HARRY POTTER and since THE UNWANTEDS is touted as a combination of the two, he wanted to read it for sure. The next day he walked up to me hold the book in his hand and said, "This is the best book I've ever read in my whole life." No higher praise than that!(less)
I absolutely love Kate Messner's books and writing style! They're intelligent and descriptive with realistic characters and interesting plots, and wri...moreI absolutely love Kate Messner's books and writing style! They're intelligent and descriptive with realistic characters and interesting plots, and written really well for a younger middle grades audience. HIDE AND SEEK is a satisfying sequel to CAPTURE THE FLAG; although I'm not sure I actually want to visit a rainforest myself anymore - there are some creepy creatures. I hope there are many more books to come in this series of mysteries, heists, and secret societies. (less)
This is a must-get book - I can't wait to get this into the hands of teens because I think they're going to eat it up. I adore Lisa McMann and have enjoyed all of her other books, so I was excited to see she'd be signing advanced copies at NCTE this year. Ever since I read the synopsis of this book, I knew I wanted to read it...and it totally lived up to, and exceeded, my expectations. The great thing about Lisa McMann's young adult books, just like in the WAKE trilogy, is the ease with which she writes that makes for a fast read and in a style that engages my more hesitant student readers as well. CRASH was unputdownable and I read it in one day, which was good because I was dying to know what would happen and how it would all turn out.
The plot of this story is suspenseful and fast-moving. There are layers to what is going on with family and school and the visions and romance and everything that's happening that keep the reader going. The reader goes along with Jules as she tries to figure out what exactly is happening to her, and we find out more about her home life as we go along as well as what's happening to her at school and with the boy she's been in love with since she was a kid. This all comes to a head in the last third of the book as the visions become more insistent and Jules realizes time is running out for her to figure out what's happening and save the people she cares about.
I so enjoyed the characters in CRASH. Lisa McMann has written relatable, entertaining, and endearing primary and secondary characters in this story. The voice of Jules is fantastic, especially the sarcastic top 5 lists throughout. I'd want to be friends with her for sure. There is also so much humor in this story, especially in her interactions with her family, that kept me engaged throughout. Her family situation is not always the best, but her sibling relationships are something everyone would hope for. She has an incredible older brother in Trey, who happens to be gay, which is handled in such a subtle, matter-of-fact, honest, realistic way which I really loved. I really felt like I was reading about real teens and real things that would happen to them, with the added context of the fantasy elements of the visions added in.
CRASH is a book for readers who like romance, quick-reads, suspense, mystery, science-fictiony/fantasyish predicitons of the future, family stories, and those who just want an engaging, fun, exciting read. I'm super happy to hear that there are going to be four books in this series. I definitely want more of this story and engaging world Lisa has created in the Visions series!(less)
I really, really loved HOURGLASS. It reads like a contemporary with science-fiction (and somewhat supernatural) elements, but also has a little mystery and a little suspense and a little romance and a little bit of family stories thrown in. It's a well-rounded story, and hard to describe or pinpoint exactly what the main focus is because all of the parts are so enjoyable. There's just a good feeling to this story - the setting and vision elements are well described - and I love the little town they're living in.
I liked the main character, Emerson, a lot. She's not in a good place because of the traumatic events of her past and the visions she's seeing, but she's working through it. She's tough and strong and earnest and looking to feel like she's not crazy. Once she learns about and meets other people who have "abilities" she starts to find a place for herself where she can feel she belongs and is somewhat normal. Who can't relate to wanting to feel like you belong?
The whole time travel aspect of the story is really interesting and unique. The Hourglass is mysterious - in fact I want to know more about it - I'm still not sure I understand the organization after the first book. The author did a good job of explaining the physics and the elements of time travel without confusing me and in a little bit at a time way that helped me to absorb it, just as Emerson needed to. Towards the end, there was lots of action and unexpected twists and turns; however, I did feel that it almost went a little too fast at the end (there were so many game changer type things that happened) - I didn't have time to soak in each thing that happened before the next twist - maybe because I was reading it too fast because I wanted to know what would happen?
And, of course, there is romance. There's Michael and then there's Kaleb. I don't want to say too much about them or what their abilities are, but I can say, I can see Emerson's draw toward both of them. One seems way more obvious than the other to just be the good friend, but with the time travel elements, it seems we never know what is going to happen, and both boys are looking out for Emerson.
Secondary characters were great in this book. I loved the relationship Emerson has with her older brother Thomas who has basically had to take care of her, and his wife Dru is one of my favorite characters in the whole story. I'm also waiting for the sequel for Emerson's best friend Lilly to be fleshed out a little bit more - I know there's something we haven't learned about her yet that is going to be important.
Overall, I wanted to jump into this book and live with these characters. I liked them all that much. And the writing made it easy for me to spend a little time with them, although I did feel some parts were a little rushed, but I think because I wanted to savor this story a little longer. I should also mention, it has pretty short chapters, so it is easy to find stopping points, although you won't want to put it down! Overall, I really liked it, but it did feel like a first book to a series, so I will definitely be looking forward to the next book in the series in 2012!(less)
Once again Simone has written an edgy urban romance with a twist. Once my students read PERFECT CHEMISTRY, they pass it on to their friends and are clamoring for more like it. For that reason, I'm really glad this was a series of three books each featuring one of the Fuentes brothers. Fans of PERFECT CHEMISTRY and RULES OF ATTRACTION will definitely enjoy this third book in the series focusing on the youngest brother, Luis.
I have to say I liked this one more than the second book. It didn't feel like it was the same story again, but took a different angle on a familiar idea. I liked these characters and loved the way that my favorites from the first two books showed up in this one to support Luis. One of the aspects that I appreciate so much in Simone Elkeles' books is the strength of the family unit and their support for each other. I really do enjoy books with two points-of-view also, and this one has it in a very engaging way. I liked Nikki - she is a strong female character who isn't going to just take what people give her, but fights for what she wants and knows is right. One caution: This book was a little more descriptive in the mature scenes than the others seemed to be. That didn't stop many of my students from wanting to read it, but it is worth a cautionary moment.
I wish there were going to be more Fuentes brothers stories, but since there aren't, we'll have to settle for a new series from Simone Elekeles, with the first book in the FULLRIDERS series coming in 2013. Overall, if you've enjoyed her previous books, you should definitely grab this one for a quick, fun, romantic read. If not, what are you waiting for? Get PERFECT CHEMISTRY as soon as you can.(less)
I had heard this debut title many times in the past few months, and then I saw it on a lot of Best I've Read lists for 2010, so I finally picked it up to read because I was in the mood for a girly, light-hearted book. PARANORMALCY totally fit what I was looking for. It is a really cute, flirty book about a sassy girl who thinks her life is one way, and finds out it's not exactly what she thought, all while falling for the new boy in the picture and dealing with paranormal creatures. Although the cover is somewhat dark, the book itself deals with the paranormal in a humorous way with lots of jokes about them, along with the serious plot of what's happening to Evie.
Evie just wants to be a normal teenager going to school and prom, unfortunately, she isn't. She works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency because she is special - she is the only human who can see through the "glamours" of paranormal creatures (it has faeries, vampires, werewolves, hags, banshees, trolls, mermaids...any paranormal you can think of) so she is put to work tracking them down. She finds them when they're causing trouble, verifies that they are paranormal, and then tags them and tells them they have to report to the closest IPCA office. She's good at her job, although, she doesn't have a family and she lives in the IPCA headquarters. She has her own area and all-access to the facilities, but her best friend is a mermaid and she never gets to leave without special permission and someone accompanying her. Then the weird dreams start, and the cute boy who is almost invisible breaks in, and her ex-boyfriend faerie won't leave her alone - and everything changes for Evie and the IPCA.
I really loved how fun this book was. Although it was dealing with a main conflict that was serious, the overall mood of the book was fun. The plot moved the book forward quickly, in fact I read this book in just two days. It was hard to put down because I always wanted to know what was going to happen next. It had a bit of a mystery aspect to it in trying to figure out what Evie's dreams meant and wondering who was really the good faerie trying to help her or the bad faerie out to get her - if a faerie even can really be good. Now about character: Evie is just a normal teenager with wanting to have her first kiss, go to prom, be at a normal high school, and rebelling in her subtle ways along with all of it; but she also has this crazy paranormal world she's dealing with and all of the politics that play a part in it - along with struggling with basically being the center of that world because of what she can do. So, there's a lot of pressure for her, but she handles it all in a kick-butt girl fashion with her sassy humor and flirty ways. However, the way she is written, it's so easy to relate to her and what she wants and what she's struggling with. There is a fun romantic plot to this story as well, with a bit of a twist as Evie isn't sure what her powers might be, if any, and Lend has powers that may be difficult for any girl to deal with. All of the characters are written in a fun, relateable way, and overall, it's a really cute book that I highly recommend. I'm glad it's going to be a series as I would love to go back and live in this world and see what happens to Evie next.
A sweet picture book about a military dad - comparing the American soldier to a superhero. Has some nice contrasts in the language for modeling compar...moreA sweet picture book about a military dad - comparing the American soldier to a superhero. Has some nice contrasts in the language for modeling comparisons. (less)
I ADORE this book about the roots of friendship, and popularity, and the fleetingness of acceptance in the high school social hierarchy. It's about figuring out what one really wants, what's really important, and who really matters. Both of the main characters have voices that were so true and honest. It was refreshing that they were both well-rounded and the focus wasn't on boys (although boys do, of course, play a secondary role to the main point of the story-this is YA after all!), but it was refreshing that wasn't the main focus - it was about this friendship, why it started, why it failed, and if it could be saved. It was about girls and the pressures they feel about friendships and rivalries, even if they don't want them that way. It was one of the most interesting contemporary books that I have read recently and the vocal music piece added another level of sophistication to it and heightened the drama.
I love that we get to hear the story from both Brooke and Kathryn's points-of-view in alternating chapters, and that it alternates sections from senior year and junior year (when it all went down). It was a very effective way to tell this story (instead of strictly chronologically) to leave the reader in a bit of suspense as to why these two girls are such staunch rival - and then to find out that they were friends at one point. Tension built throughout the story as we get clues and eventually get the full story of what happened and what turned these two girls into friends and rivals. The big competition looming at the end adds the perfect prize at the end. Wealer writes in a straight-forward and engaging style as we see into the minds of both girls and how they perceive the same situations so differently. One of my favorite lines from this book highlights the writing style and voice and gets to one of the themes in this book about rivalry, "But I don't shatter; I'm not made of glass. Anyway, the parts that break aren't on the outside."
Ultimately, this book shows that sometimes you really don't know someone else, nor can you see yourself clearly as others do. It's a fascinating look into perceptions and intentions and misperceptions and true desires. This is a fantastic new addition to the contemporary genre - and a great YA book! I highly recommend getting this one - it will be a quick read because you won't want to stop until you find out who wins the big competition at the end.(less)
I liked CINDER a lot - it was one of those books that kept me turning pages because of the well-paced plot and I didn't want to stop reading it. It was a little predictable, but also exciting. There were parts I thought I knew what was going to happen, and they ended up a little different, but overall I felt like I knew many of the big things were going to happen before they occurred. Now, because this is a retelling so has a basic structure of familiar things I would look for, that's to be expected, but I wanted more of the big moments to be more a surprise to me. However, I still really enjoyed reading it, and can see that this would actually be good for my middle school students.
This book is full of political intrigue, suspense, action, and not knowing what would happen next or how things would work out. There is an intergalactic battle brewing and it adds another whole element to the tension of the story beyond just what is going to happen to Cinder. There was strong world-building as I felt as if I was there with the characters and understood what was happening and why they were dealing with the things they were, but it wasn't overly drawn out with lengthy sections for exposition. It was worked right in and pieces were slowly revealed to the reader as the characters learned them. There are androids and cyborgs and netscreens and ports and all kinds of technological advancements which add a great science-fiction element to the story as well.
One of my favorite parts of the book was the characters. Cinder is just a warm-hearted character - I was really pulling for her to make it through all of her difficulties. I liked her and I wanted her to come out on top in the end. She is kind and caring even though she has not received this same treatment from others in her life. She is brave, but she has no idea how brave until she is faced with some difficult choices, and realizes what she would and can do to help save people. She is finding her strength throughout this book, and she does it all with an integrity of character that is admirable. She may not be physically 100% human, but that doesn't mean that she doesn't have the feeling and thoughts of one (contrary to what some might believe).
There were some great secondary characters (Peony, Ito, Kai) who were endearing as well and made it possible to believe that Cinder would have the will to get through some of the stuff she's going through. And, there are also the requisite evil characters who I really hated (as I was supposed to). Prince Kai is actually my favorite character and he has the start of a sweet romance going on, but he has a whole lot of other issues to deal with as well. I have to say that I would have liked even more of Kai; although, the third person writing style gives us a lot of insight into his character and feelings, but mostly from Cinder's perspective. Kai is strong and sweet and young and looking for something to help him through as he is forced to grow up really fast, and I was definitely supporting him throughout.
The ending was intense...I'm not sure where this story could go next. It was previewed a little bit in the final conversation, but I'm still not sure what to expect from the second book. I'm glad this is going to be a quartet of books, but can't believe that means we'll have to wait until 2015 to get the end of the story! I will definitely be picking up the rest of the books though to see what happens with Cinder and Kai next!(less)
3.5 stars Quick read. Characters a little underdeveloped and immature (perhaps their decisions are more realistic to what real teens experience with hi...more3.5 stars Quick read. Characters a little underdeveloped and immature (perhaps their decisions are more realistic to what real teens experience with high school drama and reactions before thinking through things), things happen quickly, but an enjoyable romance with a focus on the Native American life in the southwest. My students will love this one.(less)