As an avid reader, I've come to appreciate the aphorism that says, "Read books. Don't believe them." Some of the most powerful books young adults findAs an avid reader, I've come to appreciate the aphorism that says, "Read books. Don't believe them." Some of the most powerful books young adults find - Go Ask Alice, A Child Called "It" - aren't quite what they claim to be. While they document serious subjects, they aren't clouded with complexity or nuance. By drawing a lineage from "Breath to Breath" to these earlier books, I mean it as both compliment and criticism. All three are simple and earnest; again, that can be for good or ill.
The verse novel moves along simply and without difficulty. William, about to be a senior in high school, has arrived in sunny California to live with his estranged dad, fleeing some tragedy in Kansas (problems with the law, dead Grandfather, etc.). William struggles to build a new life. While there's some friends, a job, and athletic success, he's also dogged by some very strange omens that he can't quite shake. The tension builds nicely, even if the climax is over-the-top and a little problematic. While the story does a good job rendering the contradictory thoughts and behaviors that sometimes bedevil young men, the resolution is pure white-knight fantasy over sinister villainy. That is to say: completely unrealistic.
Even though the story orbits around violence, abuse, and sexual assault (kudos for depicting a male survivor), it offers hope and lots of "if in need of help, contact...." resources at the end. The 'inspired by a true story' tag on the cover feeds into the need some teens have for authenticity in their reading, as does the explicit depiction of abuse.
My chief complaint is that the climactic heroism at the end is superhero-style wish fulfillment of the sort that makes for spiffy Hollywood endings, but isn't available in reality. (view spoiler)[William gets his triumphal revenge, conquering his abuser and 'saving the children' in a scene that's almost "Pulp Fiction" like. But he's beaten up a younger boy, stolen a gun, and stalked a preschool class. These bad behaviors are swept away with "nobody wants to prosecute a hero." I wanted him to have some greater insight to his own actions and take responsibility for them, but instead he gets away with high crimes because he meant no harm and it all turned out right in the end. I think a lot of young men get into trouble thinking that way. I wish Lew had been a bit better about this. (hide spoiler)] Teens who read this sort of story want to believe it, however unbelievable it may be. Give to readers of Crank and Street Pharm.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
For some readers, this will be a four or five star book. Kids who live and breath basketball will find a kindred spirit here in Waltman's D-Bow. He'sFor some readers, this will be a four or five star book. Kids who live and breath basketball will find a kindred spirit here in Waltman's D-Bow. He's a freshman-almost-starter who has some school skills, but whose passion is hoop. Waltman doesn't skimp on the games, plays, and on-court detail. And there is more to this: a love interest, a friendship under stress, and big decissions that effect more than just our protagonist.
It is a longer book, and there are teams of players to be processed, so I wonder if reluctant readers will be able to fathom it all. There's a truly interesting racial discussion between D-Bow and his father, if that's of importance to the readership.
Liked it. A bit easier to read and follow than Tap Out, if a bit less realistic. Fans of MMA will appreciate the cage bits. Reluctant readers will appLiked it. A bit easier to read and follow than Tap Out, if a bit less realistic. Fans of MMA will appreciate the cage bits. Reluctant readers will appreciate the short chapters....more
An effective follow-up to the first book, full of action in the midst of complete social colapse. This is almost entirely clean - save for a bit of apAn effective follow-up to the first book, full of action in the midst of complete social colapse. This is almost entirely clean - save for a bit of apocalyptic murder - such that middle schools can collect it, but it is real enough to hold the attention of HS kids who have a jones for society falling apart but aren't ready for the horrors of Ashfall or the literary demands of The Road.
The beauty of this series is how genuine the themes are. Adam is annoyingly noble, Herb is impossibly wise. But Walters gets the nuts and bolts of survival right. This volume also includes more discussion of the difficult moral choices society must make: whom do we help? Whom do we ignore? When to we defend, when do we attack?
The final book will make-or-break the series. I'm looking forward to it. ...more
I liked this debut. Alexander introduces us to a twin brothers who may be in 8th grade, but who read a bit older, and their relationship is great. TheI liked this debut. Alexander introduces us to a twin brothers who may be in 8th grade, but who read a bit older, and their relationship is great. The play on the same team, except when they fight like only brothers can. Towards the beginning, I was a little confused as to who narrates the story; at first I thought that it alternated between the brothers, but I think only one actually talks. This title could easily work for Freshman and Sophomore readers who love basketball, family, and don't need R-rated activity. There's a honest, even earnest heart to the story that moved quickly and heartrendingly to the end. I might suggest following this with Boy21 for those who like the b-ball angle, Coaltown Jesus for those who like the message.
Props for having a mom who's the Vice-Principal. There's also a small but interesting female character who plays hoop, so there's plenty of cross-gender appeal, even as this works for guys who might be disinclined to the likes of Sonya Sones and Lisa Schroeder.
I hope Alexander has a few more of this sort in the fire. I know that he has a readership ready to embrace his stories if this is any indication of what's to come. ...more
This is a good beach-read about Alex supporting her best friend through cancer treatment, fooling around with a boy and coming to terms with the premaThis is a good beach-read about Alex supporting her best friend through cancer treatment, fooling around with a boy and coming to terms with the premature death of her father. Despite the heavy subject matter, Halpern keeps the darkness at a distance and seeds the story with ribald humor and references to many important slasher films. I found it genuinely entertaining.
Alex is a determined teen who works a job, watches horror flicks, and engages in sexual escapades without apology. This aspect of the book was genuinely refreshing: Alex falls refreshingly outside of stock YA character tropes.
If occasional expletives are troublesome, this book isn't the right choice. And there are several sex scenes, both solo and coupled. They are integral to the plot, but frank in a way that is rare for American YA. The right reader will probably enjoy seeing a strong but struggling girl make some brave choices. And some foolish ones. With honest consequence and believable growth.
Lately, dystopian visions dominate the landscape for teen readers. Some have zombies (Ashes), some have vampires (The Hunt), most have malevolent goveLately, dystopian visions dominate the landscape for teen readers. Some have zombies (Ashes), some have vampires (The Hunt), most have malevolent governance (Among the Hidden, Uglies, Divergent). This one sticks to what might actually happen if we can accept the conceit of a massive, simultaneous, world-wide failure of computers. By page 15, normal has ended, beginning as a power outage and slowly sinking backward a century. This isn't The Hunger Games or The 5th Wave; more like Ashfall or perhaps Tunnel in the Sky.
"The Rule of Three" is a survival story, realistically taking readers through what might happen when our beloved technology fails and we revert to the eighteenth century. Walters tells things from Adam's perspective. He's a serious sixteen year-old protagonist to whom many readers will relate. Although it is just over 400 pages long, the pace is generally good and the story believable.
Unlike Lucifer's Hammer or Mike Mullin's books, this is almost 'G' rated. There is no swearing, no drinking, no sex, no cannibalism (it is the first in a trilogy. Who knows what lies ahead). The inevitable brutality is distanced enough for sixth graders. Yet it is realistic and detailed enough to feed those hungry to know 'what if?' While I had minor misgivings - characterizations are thin, female ones especially so - I'll be suggesting this and looking forward to the next books in the series....more
Because I read the ARC of Game, I've been waiting two years for this one. Has it been worth it? Yes and no. On the up side, this book picks up where tBecause I read the ARC of Game, I've been waiting two years for this one. Has it been worth it? Yes and no. On the up side, this book picks up where the "Game" cliffhanger left off and keeps rolling along with plenty of Jazz, Howie, Connie, twisting and turning to a decisive conclusion. There's still moments of enjoyable humor and sheer terror (usually not on the same page). On the down side, there really isn't enough of Grandma and Sheriff G. William, and the body count is the lowest of the series. And on the personally-disappointing front, Lyga telegraphed a major plot point such that I saw it coming a mile a way, and that sapped some energy from the story.
Still, Mr. Lyga has tied up a completely enjoyable story. Jasper Dent will offer readers hours of reading thrills and chills. I've heard that a TV series/movie project is in the works, but I'm glad I got on board early. It has been quite a ride....more
Excellent action-adventure. I think that it is compelling enough, twitting and turning unpredictably, to hold the attention of experienced book-nerds,Excellent action-adventure. I think that it is compelling enough, twitting and turning unpredictably, to hold the attention of experienced book-nerds, but the short chapters and straightforward language will make it good for less-confident readers. I'm beginning to think that this series is a great bridge for teens to enter the adult-thriller genre. Readers of Anthony Horowitz and Robert Muchamore could pause here on the way to Robert Ludlum and John le Carré. I'm pleased that while more is revealed in this volume, the essence of the first remains intact. Happily awaiting the conclusion to the series. ...more
From the first page this is a compelling, character driven story. Cassie has been living in the wild of the Obed wilderness, taking care of her young,From the first page this is a compelling, character driven story. Cassie has been living in the wild of the Obed wilderness, taking care of her young, mute sister Jenssa while surviving the predations of a meth-using mom, limited resources, and haunting memories. When the girls are brought back to civilization by their almost-too-good-to-be-believed father, Carrie's adjustment and struggle make for heart-felt reading. Murdoch has crafted a strong, distinctive narrator, whose voice is a mixture of backwoods-bumpkin and autodidact-elevation. It was a pleasure to read.
The first section of the story is perhaps the strongest, as Carrie shares nuggets of her life in the woods, of how she managed to eek out a spartan existence that had its pleasures and beauty. The middle section of rejoining suburban teen life is slightly less compelling - there's a boy, mean girls, a dog - but I appreciated the way Murdoch wove in believable details of Cassie's mental state without becoming fixated on the horror show of her past.
The last section brings everything to a close in an honest way. Hand this to fans of Carol Lynch Williams's Glimpse or perhaps Beauty Queen and Crank. This is more character driven and lyrical, but still easy for even modestly engaged readers. I'm looking forward to more books from this author....more
Could have been great, but just turned out so-so. The first third really intrigued me, showing that going to lockup is a real experience, that one dayCould have been great, but just turned out so-so. The first third really intrigued me, showing that going to lockup is a real experience, that one day a person is driving her motorcycle, and then later that day she's getting a red jump suit. Sadie has a fascinating, warm relationship with her three year old niece; the relationship with her sister didn't quite work as well for me, but these are real people. There are great issues raised - families, trust, the difference between guilt and innocence, who is a friend - and some memorable moments.
Then, "Juvie" bogged down. There were too many girls in the block, or perhaps they weren't distinct enough. The flash-backs didn't really build tension or enrich my feelings for the characters. By the end, there wasn't any momentum, and the book coasted to the finish. I suppose that I wanted to see Sadie have some profound shift, take some really responsibility for her part in enabling her sister AND mother AND father, but Watkins didn't play it that way. All the pieces fall into place, feeling a bit too convenient for my taste....more
A 120-page verse novel that packs a solid punch, though not a knock-out. The fourteen-year-old protagonist, Walker, is grieving for Noah, his older brA 120-page verse novel that packs a solid punch, though not a knock-out. The fourteen-year-old protagonist, Walker, is grieving for Noah, his older brother who died too young but had also made life hard on their single mom. Then Jesus appears.
Normally, this wouldn't be a set-up for my kind of story, but Koertge's Christ is closer to Christopher Moore's than Sunday School. The two guys - Jesus and Walker - work out some metaphysics, crack some jokes, and our protagonist's life makes a bit more sense by the end.
This book would make a great whole-class text: short, readable, and provocative. There's nothing controversial - beyond the all-too-human, wise-cracking Jesus - and there's plenty of thoughtful moments to ponder. Kids looking for a semi-serious book may also appreciate this take on the All-Mighty. ...more
As a kid, I'd visit the local book shop and marvel at the covers of Don Pendleton's "Executioner" series that stretched over several feet of shelf, moAs a kid, I'd visit the local book shop and marvel at the covers of Don Pendleton's "Executioner" series that stretched over several feet of shelf, more than thirty five titles. Never actually read one, but there was something exciting and appealing about a saga that was obviously worthwhile. With so many books, they must be good, right? The same phenomenon draws readers to The Hidden Staircase and The Tower Treasure, readers who appreciate being able to finish one title an pick up the next. Harlequin has built a publishing empire on that gambit.
"Conspiracy" will certainly appeal to readers who want a clearly laid-out reading path. One book per month, each under 200 pages, each entirely plot driven. As an adult, I found this first volume to be completely devoid of characterization; every person is a type: concerned mother, earnest best friend, sinister villain, and so on. And that may work for its intended audience.
Because the main character is fifteen, this can work for teen readers a bit older and younger. There's nothing remotely objectionable - beyond standard TV-show violence - that would keep it out of an elementary school library. There's none of the warmth and humor that really good books have, but there's no shortage of action. Comparisons to the television series "24" are apt. Cal lurches from one implausible situation to the next.
I do wonder if American readers will pick up that it is set in Australia. There's no specific mention of this and the text is largely free of confusing colloquialisms, but it begins on January 1st, and the weather is hot. A small point that probably weaker readers will miss and stronger readers will catch.
This isn't as satisfying a story as Robert Muchamore's "Cherub" books, and Cal isn't Alex Rider (of Stormbreaker) or even Charlie West (of The Last Thing I Remember). Still, if "The Bourne Identity" is the kid's idea of a great movie, this may be a good place for him to cut his teeth and develop his action-story chops. Lord has supplied plenty of easy-to read pages....more
Evan is a typical guy in boarding school, although he clearly has some issues around sex and relationships, perhaps because his mother died a while baEvan is a typical guy in boarding school, although he clearly has some issues around sex and relationships, perhaps because his mother died a while back and his father moves so often that friendships are unfamiliar. So he's a jerk and a loner, but believable and familiar. Evan is sent to the hospital after a vicious attack, and the book looks like it will be about his recovery and redemption. There is swearing and drinking and pot smoking and casual - and not so casual - hooking up. There's a pretty girl. Evan visits to a therapist. And yet the book is fresh and unpredictable.
Evan's relationship over the summer with Baker is rich and believable and I found its complexity both refreshing and exhilarating. Mesrobian does an excellent job with Evan as a flawed, conflicted character, but she also does well with the many minor characters who flesh out the lake community for the summer. This isn't about justice but about growth and recovery, sexuality and masculinity. And so many other things.
The final 50 pages didn't quite satisfy me, leaving loose ends and unanswered questions. But then again, life is often loose and incomplete. The story is well worth reading. ...more
Dang it, Barry Lyga, that is one Grand Canyon of a cliff hanger. And because I read an ARC, I have to wait even longer than those who buy it on publicDang it, Barry Lyga, that is one Grand Canyon of a cliff hanger. And because I read an ARC, I have to wait even longer than those who buy it on publication day. Dang. If you liked I Hunt Killers, you'll love this second, larger helping: the characters are richer, the plot as suspenseful, the murders graphic (who knew that there's a word for having one's eyes removed? Enucleated.) and frequent. Nothing here that will REALLY shock older teens, at least not those raised on a steady stream of CSI and "Silence of the Lambs" re-runs.
The characters get fleshed out a bit more, as we come to know them better. Jazz is still front-and-center, but Connie and Howie have their own moments, which is both enjoyable and frightening because Lyga delights in introducing likable characters so that his roster of psychopathic Billy Dent-wannabes can have someone sympathetic to snuff. As Jazz would say, "People Matter." I found myself reading the the ends of chapters first, to be sure that the person featured in that section would be alive at the end. The tension was astonishing.
Because the conclusion leaves so many loose ends, some readers will want to hold off reading this until the third one is out. I, for one, am waiting in line....more
More like a two-and-a-half. The promising title never fully delivers more than a routine problem novel about bullying. On the plus side, some readersMore like a two-and-a-half. The promising title never fully delivers more than a routine problem novel about bullying. On the plus side, some readers will appreciate the NYC setting and the Latina characters who pepper their speech with Spanish. I thought that most of them felt flat, and it took more than a hundred pages to get into the teeth of the story. Don't be fooled by the title: this isn't especially rough stuff, mostly PG. ...more