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Perfect Is as Perfect Does

Perfect Is as Perfect Does

posted by:
November 20, 2012 - 8:15am

OriginPia, the heroine of Jessica Khoury’s novel, Origin, is a perfect girl, or so she has been told all her life. In fact, Pia is far from perfect, but she is immortal. For years, a team of scientists has been working to create an immortal human being, and Pia is their first success. She has been raised in Little Cambridge (better known as Little Cam), a research facility hidden in the middle of the Amazon. The scientists, who have studied Pia since she was born, raised her to believe that she is perfect, and trained her to take over their operation permanently once she has passed all of their tests.

 

Most of the process of creating immortal beings has been kept secret from Pia, as has any information about the outside world. Beyond the scientific training deemed appropriate by the project’s directors, Pia is kept largely ignorant. However, with the arrival of a new scientist, things begin to change in Little Cam; Pia begins to question her life and everything she has been taught. This pushes her to sneak out of Little Cam, leaving for the first time in her life, at which point, Pia meets Eio, a boy around her age. As their relationship develops, Eio tries to convince her that Little Cam is dangerous and that she should flee. The mystery deepens the more Pia investigates his claims and considers leaving.

 

Origin imagines a future drastically altered by scientific advancements. Pia’s investigation into Little Cam’s quest for immortality leads her to ask—at what cost? Khoury offers readers a thought-provoking story full of science, romance, and suspense. Teen and adult readers alike will enjoy Khoury’s debut novel.

Laura

 
 

Dystopian Dynamite

Dystopian Dynamite

posted by:
November 13, 2012 - 8:31am

CrewelReaders of the dystopian fiction genre will thoroughly enjoy Gennifer Albin’s debut novel Crewel. Albin has created a world which is fascinating and imaginatively detailed, with believable characters that are both likeable and imperfect. In the novel, the inhabitants of Aras are fortunate to have The Guild oversee their civilization. This governing body of men instructs the Spinsters in fulfilling the needs of its citizenry. Only the most gifted and talented girls are selected for the elite role of Spinster, whose job is to weave together substance and time. Through this process the population can be fed, sheltered, kept safe, and everyone’s life can run smoothly. 16-year-old Adelice Lewys is an extraordinarily gifted girl who would be an obvious selection for this elite role. However, since she was a young girl, her parents have secretly been training her to be clumsy and awkward in an attempt to hide her ability from the Guild.

 

If Adelice fails to prove she can weave during “testing” she can look forward to a life just like her mother’s. She will have a prearranged marriage, a job determined for her, possibly as a secretary or a teacher, but most important to Adelice, she will be allowed to maintain contact with her family. To pass the Guild’s test means being taken away to the Western Coventry, never to see her parents or sister again and unfortunately this is just the situation she finds herself in. Events take a tragic turn when her parents try to help her escape before the official retrieval.

 

Watch out Suzanne Collins, step aside Lois Lowry, there is a new author in town that will truly captivate your fans. Crewel is fast-paced, with an intense plot, and will grip readers from page one as Adelice discovers the truth behind the perfection.

Jeanne

 
 

Departures and Arrivals

Departures and Arrivals

posted by:
November 6, 2012 - 9:11am

Ask the PassengersAsk the Passengers, by A.S. King, is a unique, yet highly relatable coming-of-age story set in a small Pennsylvania town. Astrid Jones’ life is complicated, to say the least. She may very well be the most responsible member of a household that includes a dad with substance abuse issues, an overbearing mom who only sees things her way, and a popular younger sister who teeters on the edge of perfect. Astrid’s holding down a job at the local Mexican restaurant, while navigating the demands of high school academia and the social scene as defined by her particular group of friends. She’s trying to come to terms with her own secret--she is increasingly attracted to a girl at work. She keeps her clandestine encounters with Dee hidden from everyone.

 

Who can Astrid open up to? As strange as it may seem, she sends her thoughts and love to the people on the airplanes that pass over. Surely they won’t share the same small-minded attitudes of everyone around her. Astrid lies on the picnic table in her yard in an almost meditative state, telepathically communicating with the passengers. King intersperses their stories throughout the narrative, making this novel an especially intriguing read. Teens will be instantly drawn to the acerbic Astrid, an immensely likable character surrounded by more than her share of drama. Known for her Printz- honor book Please Ignore Vera Dietz, and the critically-acclaimed Everybody Sees the Ants, King has become a favorite go-to author for well written, insightful realistic teen fiction.

Paula G.

 
 

Is Anything More Important than Being Popular?

SpeechlessChelsea Knot is superficial and selfish, a major gossip and a snob. There is actually very little to like about the main character in Hannah Harrington’s novel, Speechless. After lying to her parents to attend a party, and blackmailing a classmate for a fake ID, she drunkenly stumbles into a room where two guys are making out. In typical Chelsea fashion, she runs to tell her best friend, but this time spreading a rumor leads to horrific ramifications and one of the boys ends up in a coma, the result of a severe beating.

 

Against the wishes of her friend, Chelsea reports the jocks responsible for this act of violence, sacrificing her status in the popular crowd by turning in their peers. After reflecting how her words have been responsible for almost getting a classmate killed, Chelsea takes a vow of silence in order to refrain from hurting anyone else. At school she finds herself ostracized and bullied by those she once considered her friends. She endures the constant ridicule and abuse with the assistance of an unlikely support system.

 

The author crafts an amazingly heartfelt story about the true meaning of friendship and how kindness and generosity can help heal. With an authentic voice, Harrington depicts the metamorphosis of a self-centered teen as she discovers how it feels to care about others. Without saying a word, Chelsea is able to forge honest relationships while learning to forgive herself. What will it take for her to start talking again? Will it result in the old Chelsea returning? Will her new friends still like her? This story is one of soul searching, personal growth, and courage. Speechless compellingly represents the advantages of being your own person.

Jeanne

 
 

Fifty Shades of Crime

Fifty Shades of Crime

posted by:
October 23, 2012 - 8:01am

CrusherHigh school dropout Finn Maguire spends his days selling pseudo-food at the Max Snax and his nights watching tv with his stepdad, an unemployed actor trying to write his own perfect role. When Finn arrives home from work one night, he finds his stepfather bludgeoned to death with his 1992 Best Newcomer award. The pursuit of the killer drives the story in Crusher, the debut novel by Niall Leonard. 

 

In working-class London, corruption is rampant and Joseph McGovern (a.k.a. The Guvnor) rules the streets with an iron fist. Finn’s stepfather was using The Guvnor as a springboard for his script, spinning a loosely-fictional yarn about the crime lord and his subordinates, one of whom plots a violent takeover. The police seem doggedly-focused on Finn as the main suspect in the murder, so he decides to launch his own investigation. He fears that the script may have hit too close to home, so he begins at the Guvnor’s mansion. Playing dumb, he bumbles his way into a job so that he can keep searching for clues. He soon begins uncovering secrets and revealing connections that turn his world upside-down.

 

Leonard, husband of best-selling author E. L. James, has written for many British television series including Wire in the Blood and Ballykissangel. He packs Crusher with heart-pounding action, leaving the reader as breathless as a boxer in the final round of a bout. The raw language and violence make the novel an appropriate read for older teens and young adults. Recommended for fans of true crime or gritty realism such as Sons of Anarchy.

Sam

 
 

Vampires at the Barn Raising

Vampires at the Barn Raising

posted by:
October 23, 2012 - 7:44am

The Hallowed OnesJust when you think you’ve read every possible permutation of the teen vampire trope, along comes an author to prove you wrong. Laura Bickle’s entrancing coming of age novel The Hallowed Ones follows Amish teen Katie as she contemplates marriage to Elijah. As one of the Plain folk, Katie knows she must follow the tenets of the Ordnung with unquestioning devotion. But Katie wants more from life than chores and family. She looks forward to her Rumspringa, a time when Amish youth are allowed a taste of the outside world before being baptized and fully committing to the church.

 

Bickle has created a believable, likable heroine. Abundant details of cloistered Amish life are smoothly woven into the narrative, making for a fascinating read. The author slowly builds suspense, as limited knowledge of something terribly wrong in the outside world filters into the sect. Soon, no one is allowed in or out of the fenced community. Some type of biological weapon has infected men, turning them into insatiable, flesh-tearing vampires. Only sanctified ground is safe.

 

When Katie offers asylum in her family’s dog barn to a badly injured young man, she knows it is the ultimate act of rebellion. Their relationship grows as she nurtures him back to health. Alex admires her for her intelligence and resourcefulness, rather than gentleness of word and deed. A rift grows between Katie and Elijah, as she resists committing to both him and the church. As the novel draws to a close, it becomes apparent that there are vampires within the gates. Katie’s resolve is put to the test. She has an ally in elderly Mr. Stoltz, the community’s Hexenmeister. He alone understands the true nature of the invasive evil. Vampires blanch at the sight of his protective hex signs and missives to heaven. How can they eradicate the evil within? Readers will be riveted by this uniquely told novel that skillfully blends bucolic realism with unspeakable horror.

Paula G.

 
 

Don't Read at Night

Don't Read at Night

posted by:
October 19, 2012 - 8:11am

The TurningJust in time for Halloween, The Turning by Francine Prose will wind up your anxiety level and tighten you in the grasp of fear. This teen novel is a retelling of the classic Henry James novella The Turn of the Screw. The setting has been updated to take place in the present day, and is told through a series of letters exchanged between a teenage boy named Jack and his girlfriend Sophie. Sophie’s father has procured a summer job for Jack, babysitting two children for a considerable wage on a remote island. The couple realizes her father’s motivation is an attempt to end their romance, but in order for Jack to attend college with Sophie in the fall he has no choice but to take the position. When he is informed that there will be no phone service, television, or internet connection available he almost changes his mind. Through their correspondence, the reader experiences Jack’s loneliness and initial misgivings as they progress to outright distress.

 

During the boat voyage to the island, some elderly passengers recount the story of a tragic drowning death of a couple attempting to elope from the island years before. They also allude to some mysterious happenings in the more recent past, painting Jack’s destination in shadowy details. On his arrival to the children’s home, feelings of dread and foreboding emanate from the creepy gothic mansion painted funeral black. It is full of confusing darkened hallways and unused or locked rooms. The children themselves are unusual, formally polite, dressed in old-fashioned attire, and frequently exchange furtive glances alluding to secret confidences.

 

Ghostly apparitions begin haunting Jack: a tall menacing man watches him through the library window; a beautiful woman stares from across a field. No one else in the household seems aware of these spirits. Sophie grows increasingly alarmed as Jack’s letters reflect how the stress of the situation is taking a toll. This is a frightening tale, which pays homage to the original, and exposes a new generation of readers to some real creepy fun.

Jeanne

 
 

After the Flash

After the Flash

posted by:
October 18, 2012 - 8:11am

Poison PrincessKresley Cole opens her new Arcana Chronicles series for older teens with Poison Princess. Evie Greene is a sixteen-year-old cheerleader from a privileged upbringing whose life changed last year when she began having apocalyptic hallucinations. She begins her junior year of high school desperate to fit in and get her life back, but the terrible hallucinations begin again. This time, other strange things start happening to her. Evie knows that telling anyone about what she sees would definitely cause her mother to send her back to the Children’s Learning Center, a mental institution for disturbed children where she spent the summer “recovering” from her visions.

 

Then, the Flash happens, and everything that Evie saw comes true. The blinding light and heat kills most people, leaving behind only ash. All plant-life dies, and the Bagmen, zombie-like creatures desperate for water, now roam the world that was left behind killing the survivors to drink their blood. Evie meets up with another survivor, Jackson Deveaux, the gorgeous Cajun bad boy who tormented her during her last week of school. Evie is now suffering auditory hallucinations and debilitating visions where she sees the evil Poison Princess and hears voices telling her that the Major Arcana, other people with talents based on the most powerful cards in the tarot deck, are hunting her down. When Evie was a child, her grandmother called her Empress and told her that one day the Arcana would come for her. Jackson and Evie set out for North Carolina to try to find Evie’s grandmother who Evie believes can explain what is happening.

 

Readers who know Cole’s Immortals After Dark series for adults are familiar with her remarkable talent for world-building. The world that she creates for this new series, along with the complex tarot card-based mythology, builds slowly throughout the book. It does take some time for the reader to understand where the series is going, but the payoff is huge. Readers will be clamoring for the next story in the series to find out what happens to Evie when she finally understands and accepts her fate.

Beth

 
 

Body Snatcher

Body Snatcher

posted by:
October 17, 2012 - 8:11am

Every DayWhat makes us who we are? Our parents tell us it is what’s on the inside that counts, and not how we look. David Levithan turns this old adage on its ear with his newest book Every Day. The reader follows A, the main character, through the changing days of life—literally. Every morning, A wakes up in a different body. Always approximately the same age, always in the same geographical area, but never the same body twice. A can access the body’s knowledge and memories, but A remains a separate person existing inside of someone else.

 

This nomadic life is all A has ever known, and it is usually fine, until one morning A meets Rhiannon, the girlfriend of the body A is inhabiting for that day. An instant spark ignites, and suddenly A does not want to leave her. A begins “kidnapping” people in order to be near Rhiannon. Should A share the secret with her, and would she believe it? Is there any way for them to have a future together?

 

Author/Collaborator/Editor Levithan has created a fascinating character in A, who is neither male nor female, thin nor fat, tall nor short, white nor non-white. As the reader plunges in, seemingly endless questions arise. Does A live the perfect life, forever experiencing a new day, or is it a perfect trap? How much do we really touch other people’s lives every day? Do we really exist if no one else knows or loves us? Every Day makes the reader think about the intangibility of life and love, as well as what makes us each unique.

Sam

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Some Say the World Will End in Fire

AfterEven after the smoke clears, technology fails, science runs amuck, society as we know it collapses and the power-drunk take over, there is still a glimmer of hope for mankind. After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia presents tales that take place after of the end of the world as we knew it. Editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling commissioned work from some of the most popular and critically acclaimed authors for young adults. The resulting stories are both disturbing and thought-provoking, leaving readers pondering the what-ifs.

 

Carrie Ryan explores the zombie territory that made her name as a writer in “After the Cure,” where the teen protagonist has been “rehabilitated” from her former life as a member of a pack of the bloodthirsty undead. The zombie plague began as a diet drug gone wrong; the girl’s secret--her taste for flesh has merely been sublimated. Science again spins out of control in “Fake Plastic Trees” by fantasy author Caitín R. Kiernan, where a replicating “goo” intended to provide food for an ever-expanding population goes rogue. The nano-assemblers creating the substance begin rapidly transforming “just about anything” into plastic. Narrator Cody tells her story after The Event, but the threat of mutating strains of nanos persists.

 

Echoes of Nazi and Khmer Rouge soldiers brutalizing families under a dictator’s orders make Susan Beth Pfeffer’s “Reunion” one of the most chilling stories of the lot. Set entirely in an office where the walls and even the lone window have been painted a dull brown, the leader of a totalitarian government in a nameless location has fallen. Isabella’s mother seeks her oldest daughter, who had been taken away years ago by soldiers and given to a childless colonel and his wife. How will they know for certain which of the brainwashed young women is really Maria?

 

An afterword by the editors chronicles a brief history of teen interest in the dystopian genre, which has its roots in often-assigned adult classics written by authors such as H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, Ray Bradbury and William Golding. The stories of After make worthy thematic companions.

Paula G.