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Utopia, Iowa

3.29  ·  Rating details ·  134 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Jack Bell has an unusual gift—or curse, depending on your point of view. And he’s not the only one. In Utopia, Iowa, anything can happen.

An Urban fantasy (small town urban) with paranormal elements (ghosts, witches, fortune-cookies that come true, an astral traveling movie-theater owner, a goddess, a banshee). Kind of funny. Utopia, Iowa is a place where the people are st
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 10th 2015 by Candlewick Press
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American Mensa
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
review by Tyler S., age 16, Baton Rouge Mensa

The novel Utopia, Iowa is a fantasy story set in a somewhat familiar feeling little town in Iowa. It tells the story of high schooler Jack Bell, who has a fascinating gift to see and communicate with the ghosts of the deceased. This gift may also be a curse, however, as he attracts the attention of some malignant creature from the world of the dead, and must work together with his gifted and normal friends and family to keep himself
Sharon Falduto
Jul 20, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was all right. I think it could have been better. It had a nice setup--a town full of people with special gifts (like being able to see the dead), suddenly has mysterious deaths, and it's up to a high school kid to solve the crime!

I kept getting distracted by the details. Utopia, Iowa, is allegedly in the northeast. The kid lives "across the street from the Mississippi River." (I guess maybe that's a thing?)

They snuck to Iowa City for beers. No, you didn't drive 2 hours to
Aug 21, 2017 rated it liked it was a good adventure story. Had some seriously large holes in things - unresolved plot points and people but overall interesting.
Jenni V.
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: i-own
I picked this book solely because I'm an Iowan. It was a quick read and I would read more about these characters if the author decided to make this into a series. I think it's geared to a younger audience and will pass this along to my teen girls now that I'm done with it.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Principal Thompson was not happy to see me again so soon. I wasn't happy to see him, either, but unlike him, I wasn't rude enough to say so directly."

"I got on my bike an
Feb 22, 2015 rated it liked it
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

I really wanted to like this book. I am from Iowa and so the title and concept appealed to me. However, I was sadly disappointed. The book was (gasp and egads) predictable.

Let me start with the parts I did enjoy. The plot has several different strands thst interact. There is a very slight murder mystery. There is a creepy and compelling mysterious monster (supernatural force?). There is the annoying side plot of hi
Ms. Yingling
Nov 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Jack Bell wants to write screen plays for movies, but he doesn't necessarily want to leave his small hometown. Home to a college of magic, and filled with people with a variety of magical talents, Utopia is the place where Jack feels most comfortable. When a college girl is killed and appears to Jack (since he can see ghosts), he gets drawn into the investigation. Detective Bloodsmith is a big suspicious of Jack, especially after a girl from his school is also killed, and Jack was the last perso ...more
Alice Liu
Nov 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
3 stars first half/5 stars second half. Part of this book is a paranormal murder mystery revolving around teenager Jack Bell, who sees dead girls too often for his own liking. I found moments of this book particularly engaging and clever enough to make me laugh out loud, but I struggled to get through the first half. From the start, the book felt like it was trying to be two things at once, but never being fully committed to either. Supposedly Jack is a movie buff and dreams of making films. The ...more
Parts of this urban fantasy novel are strong, very strong, but others left me looking for more details. Aspiring screenwriter Jack Bell sees dead people, a talent that is not all that unusual for someone living in Utopia, Iowa. A lot of folks in his town have strange gifts, after all. But while Jack is simply trying to get through the rest of his senior year and deal with his long-standing crush on his best friend, Ash, teenage girls start dropping like flies and seeking out Jack to help solve t ...more
RobinLeigh Morgan
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-own-books
I received of copy of “Utopia, Iowa” through an internet giveaway and the following is my honest opinion of this book.

I found reading this endeavor by Brian Yansky a sheer delight to read. I love the quirky town of Utopia, Iowa; which is a real name for a settlement in Iowa. The author gives his readers of quote from Wikipedia concerning this town under the subject of utopia. If you read this you’ll find out the significance for this town having name, and for the author ultimately ch
Derek G
Apr 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Jack Bell has an unusual gift or curse depending on your point of view, he's not the only one in this small odd town if Iowa. While reading this book I did not quite agree with all of the choices made, hence the three stars. Jack has a crush on his best friend, Ash; Jack can see ghosts and actually communicate with them to see how they died or who they were. I would recommend this book to most teens and maybe younger adults.
May 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: royal
Utopia, Iowa is not your typical Midwestern small town. It was built on sacred ground—constructed, perhaps, by gods—and so it should come as no surprise that many in the town possess certain gifts (or curses, depending upon your perspective). Jack Bell possesses the gift of being able to see dead people. Normally, this doesn’t hinder his day-to-day existence, but recently he has been contacted by not one, but two murdered girls, and this makes him a person of interest in Detective Bloodsmith’s b ...more
Feb 15, 2015 rated it liked it
I received a free advanced copy through LibraryThing, and I was excited (like always). This book was good, and I quite enjoyed it, although some parts were really predictable (I can easily predict anything from book in general). A portion of the book was more like a paranormal mystery type that revolved around the life of the adolescent, Jack Bell, and him seeing dead people (girls).

The book was quite good actually, but the only thing that was a bit confused was on how the author kept interrupt
Mrs. Strudthoff
Sep 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Utopia, Iowa, is a little town on the Mississippi River. It's a quirky town; some people have "gifts" or curses--depending upon how you look at it.

Jack Bell's gift is that he can see and talk to the dead. Because he's been dealing with this gift for so long, having conversations with dead people doesn't bother him that much. But when murdered Utopia girls start to talk to him, Jack becomes a suspect in their murders. How can he help the police without telling them that he talks to de
Feb 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Jack and Utopia, Iowa both won my heart in this fun tale that kept my interest despite a needing a bit of plot tightening. Utopia is a special town where many of its citizens have gifts, or curses, depending on your point of view. Jack can see and talk to dead people, his Gram is a powerful potions witch and little sister Amanda - well, watch out world when her powers develop! Jack gets pulled into a murder mystery and is a major suspect to non-believer Detective Bloodsmith.

One of th
Courtney Johnson
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book wasn't really what I expected. Basically, this town is full of people with supernatural powers. There are the non-believers, but most people believe. Our main character has powers of his own, and that is to see dead people. He starts getting dead girls talking to him about their murders and he has to figure out what is happening. In between chapters, there are small excerpts of another narrative, one that confused me. We find out later in the book that it is from a ghost who has been p ...more
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: z4-2015-read
Utopia, Iowa. This small town may not be everyone's utopia. Many people in town have special gifts, and Jack's gift is being able to see dead people. A murder has happened in town and several older residents sense a dangerous magic. Yansky tries to weave two stories together in order to describe and solve the murder, but I felt that these interruptions in the story were never going to connect. Thankfully, the plot of the main story was pretty solid. I wish the monster scenes at the end had not b ...more
Noah Mojet
"Utopia Iowa" by Brian Yansky, is about a high school boy who deals with his ability to see dead people, and fighting off the ancient evil ghost king while deciding about his future and college. In my opinion, this book was not the greatest, I feel like the author didn't explain the story very well, like in the end they made grandma an important character when she was barely mentioned throughout the book. In addition, to the lack of detail I believe that they kind of speed up the ending of the b ...more
Erin Moulton
Oct 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Meet Jack, basically your average teenager, except that he lives in Utopia, Iowa, which means he has a special gift/curse--he can talk to ghosts. So when two girls in Utopia end up dead, Jack becomes a ghost P.I. As Jack hunts down the cases, he starts to look suspicious to the local police. Amidst the mystery and police dodging, Jack is also a regular kid, aspiring to be a screenwriter. He has a crush on his best friend, Ash, and he is dealing with a sudden fallout in his parent's marriage. ...more
Sandra Stiles
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Imagine living in a town where everyone has a special gift. This is the type of town Jack bell lives in. For Jack, who has the ability to talk with dead people, life becomes very complicated. Two girls have asked for his help making him the prime suspect in their deaths. His parents and friends have their own drama going on. I loved the first person point of view. I know not everyone is a fan, yet I felt it was nicely done and made the story feel more personal. This is one for you to check out.
Amusing but somewhat slight. Touches on teen fear of change, how scary it can be when adults are seen as flawed, and romantic relationships, but none of the themes are really explored and resolution is sudden and too neat. The integration of the supernatural story flows well with the main story, and Jack's walking-IMDB knowledge will interest some readers and be a repetitive gimmick for other readers.
Mar 27, 2015 rated it liked it
It's been a few days since I've read this book and I've honestly forgotten most of it already, which is never a good sign. Really, that pretty much sums the whole thing up: it wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great.

I really liked the idea behind Utopia being supernatural, and I was very intrigued by Amanda and her budding powers. However the university subplot made no sense, and the solution to the murders was pretty convoluted, so I ended this book feeling mostly confused.
Nov 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book through goodreads First Reads Giveaways. I thought that the concept was interesting. I did not like that I didn't know that it was going to be as paranormal as it was until I was halfway through the book. I liked i though. I normally do not read books like this because they cannot keep my attention, but this time, I sparked my interest right away and I was excited to finish the book
Jennifer Lynn
Apr 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
The ideas behind Utopia, Iowa are catchy and engrossing. While there were certain points I thought could have been done better, the creativity still caught my attention and had me engrossed in the goofy, fun mysteries and also have me crossing my fingers hoping the author decides to make this town into a series.
Sep 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
I gave this book a two star because when I read the title and I thought since it said Utopia and was thinking that it would be a new place in Iowa. The book was really confusing with Gram and the ghost that he talks to. There were so many conflicts in the story that it made me not want to read it anymore.
Feb 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: galley
Good book. The whole spirit thing was pretty cool. And the mystery and everything made it really interesting. I liked the ending, but it was sort of obvious that some things were going to happen. Like him ending up with his best friend and his parents staying together. Overall it was a pretty good book though.
Jun 27, 2016 rated it liked it
I loved the book, except for the ending. I think the ending was to quick, and too much happened. The rest of the book was really great. This is a good book for people who like sci/fi fantasy and subtle romance (just the slightest bit, but it's there).
Erin Triplett
Feb 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-books
The story was decent. I felt like the ending was rushed and not really final. Also, I got really tired of the phrase about "gifts--or curses, depending on your point of view". It didn't need to be repeated verbatim so many times (at least twenty).
Jul 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: summer-2016
Great start, but petered out towards the end. Last few chapters rushed to the end.
Reviewed for VOYA fall, 2014
Jun 22, 2015 rated it liked it
I was enjoying this book until it ended suddenly with too many loose ends. I was prepared to give it 4 stars up until the last chapter. Disappointed.
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I write fiction for young adults and for adults.