Young Adult

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

Nasty! A lot of nasty in this story, and that’s what makes it so good. Sit back, suspend your disbelief and get ready to be hooked.

Margot knows nothing about her family, there has always been just her and her mum. That has been enough, but Margot has been emotionally shut out by her mum, and now she has a clue to her mother’s past and she runs off to investigate. What she finds is a town full of damaged people, huge secrets and very scary going ons. She finds a grandmother who is manipulative and downright creepy, and cops who are trying to pin a crime on her gran. And before that there is a fire, a terrifying, nasty and destroying fire.

This was an audiobook, read amazingly well by Lauren Ezzo, she got the tone just right, the pace and her reading set just the right notes.

I really enjoyed this, found it hard to stop listening to and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author. Give it to kids who loved One of Us is Lying.

Thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for giving me access to this great audiobook.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi

stampedA history of racism. A history of slavery. A serious look at why it is that people believe that they are a superior race. Told in an accessible way which is engaging and real. I listened to the audiobook because I wanted it immediately after watching a conference keynote between the author of this book Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi who is the author of the book that this is a spinoff from, Stamped from the Beginning which won the National Book Award. It was moving, one of the most powerful talks I’ve ever seen.

This book is a must if you want to be in touch with the Black Lives Matter movement, if you’ve wondered why people are so angry, why statues are toppling around the world. This book is written so that teenagers will have an insight, will know their history, but it is a book that will work for anyone. There is power in the words in this book. The power to inspire people to make change, to adjust attitudes. This is a book to hand to someone who makes the racist comment, the off colour comment.

Jason Reynolds said something that I’ll always remember. If you have a disease you work to find a vaccine, the vaccine hurts but in the end it does good. Being anti-racist actively and consciously is the vaccine, you have to tackle those who are racist for their own good and the good of the world.

Read this book, learn stuff and make a better world with the knowledge you gain

Burn by Patrick Ness

burn

As I always do with a Patrick Ness, I had pre-ordered this.  I had some worries going into it because the last couple of books haven’t been my faves. I was so hoping he wouldn’t disappoint me with this one. And he hasn’t. This is a return to form. What works best for me with this author is when he doesn’t try to do too much with his stories. This one is a dual storyline but it is way more successful in this novel than in Release. You know that the stories are going to combine and you just can’t wait for that to happen.

It is set in Washington State in the USA in the 1950s there is rampant racism and homophobia and so much judgement of people it makes you quite uncomfortable. Sarah’s dad has just hired a dragon to help with the farm work. The dragon will work to clear paddocks of rocks and trees, he is not to be spoken to and while there is a truce between dragons and humans, you shouldn’t get friendly or close to him. Sarah’s dad is very clear on this. However the dragon knows Sarah’s secret and they begin to talk. At the other end of the country a young man is heading north on a mission to kill Sarah. He has been given a mission from on high and he must fulfil his duty. On the way he will meet another young man who will change his life and also change the future. There is a whole bunch more going on in this book but to reveal too much would be way too spoiler alerty.

I loved Sarah and her dragon. I loved all of the love in the story. There is a lot of love! Love for parents, for other people, for dragons and for humanity. There is also a lot of hate, for those who are different to ourselves, for those we are suspicious of and those we don’t understand. It is the balance of these that makes this story so good.

It is an exciting book to read, there is a heap of tension and a lot of action. Patrick Ness is so good at having his little guys wield enormous power and that is exactly what happens here. Grab a copy for your school, have a read and then share it with all your students. I think they’ll love it!

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Doesn’t this blurb just sound awesome, a little bit of geeky sciency stuff, a dollop of social mgravityedia savvy, a great big romantic sky, two young men, completely different, NASA, astronauts and themes of loneliness and isolation, first love and space. Come on, this book appears that it has it all. But, and it’s a big one, it is really hard to connect with these characters. I really wanted to but it just didn’t happen. Now that I’ve been finished it for a week or so I find it hard to remember the characters names or to rekindle feelings for them. I wanted more. I wanted it to be a little bit more gritty, for people to get a bit more messed up by the bad things that happened in the story. People die in here, I’m not telling you who, but that is big, but the reactions of those affected just didn’t seem to hit the mark.
I loved all the social media stuff, loved the villian of the piece, it is all totally unrealistic but I was in there hoping that this would carry me off and give me a great big case of the feels.

It is ok, I know of students who will love it, I’ll buy it and promote it and encourage people to read it, but it could have had a heap more depth.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me access.

The Blossom and the Firefly by Sherri L. Smith

If I was to sum this up in one word, that word would have to be the word stunning. A gloriously atmospheric, melancholic dive into a world we never see portrayed, the world of the women who cared for and loved the Japanese pilots as they set off to sacrifice themselves in war. This is the story of a pilot and a young high school student, their lives disrupted by a war not of their making, and their gradual realisation that small kindnesses have a lasting effect. That their short lives are to be sacrificed for a cause is one thing, but the depravations of war are another, food is short, suspicions run rife in the towns and even though there are small pleasures to be found in simple things, it is difficult.

Hana our heroine is a lovely sensitive young woman, dutiful and dedicated. Juro our hero is a gifted musician and his violin plays a pivotal role in this story. These two characters come from very different lives but they meet due to the war and through tragedy blooms something beautiful.

I’ve always loved books set in Japan. This is due to the fact that I’ve lived there twice in my life when I was young and loved it. I was totally engrossed in this novel and shed a tear in the end. I love the fact that it is different to anything else out there for young adults at the moment. I’ve ordered copies for our library because I’m sure there is an audience for those who want to read something different, something based on real historical events.

Thanks so much to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me access to this glorious book.

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

This book is a happy little bundle of froth. A story of an unlikely romance with a nice play on the social media obsession and a bunch of lovely little twists. Pepper and Jack come from different backgrounds and have different family lives. Pepper lives in an uptown apartment with her mum, her sister is away at college and does not get on with her mother. Pepper runs the social media account for the family business a national burger chain. She is a high achieving control freak. Jack works in the family business, a deli on the other side of town. He is a twin and has a close and loving extended family living with him. Jack has invented an app for the kids at school to chat on and this is how these two connect, but they don’t know who they are on the app as it anonymises them. These two are good at water sports and are at the pool all the time. Opposites attract and you can see what is going to happen. Young love will bloom but it will take time and be fraught with difficulties.

I really enjoyed this book, it is full of quick one liners and witty banter. A winning book for the school library and one that will have lots of appeal. There is a lot going on and the pace is really good to keep you turning the pages. A great choice for romance fans.

The Hive by Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden, Jennifer Beals and Tom Jacobson

Crowd sourced social justice, I can see why the idea could occur but as this book shows vividly some things are just built with way too much scope for manipulation.

This is a brilliant contemporary story, already we have a world where you can be taken to task on social media for saying the wrong thing, for backing the wrong idea but The Hive, a government initiative of social justice takes it to a whole new level. The concept is great, lets let the people decide what is right and wrong, lets unleash their opinion and use social media to praise or punish them.

Cassie’s dad was a brilliant IT guy, he was cutting edge brilliant and the government used his knowledge to make the beginnings of The Hive. But the very thing he helped to build is now turning on his beloved daughter after his death. Cassie knows her way around a computer, she knows how to hack but even this cannot protect her from the rage of people voting against her in The Hive. Her ratings skyrocket and she is being hunted to the death. Cassie can’t believe that this is what her Dad would have wanted, he was a good man, it must be something else and she is determined to find out the truth behind The Hive and the people who run it. She is in this danger because she tweeted a comment about The President’s daughter which has raised the ire of him as well as, it seems, everyone in America. She is going to be held to account for her comment and that might even mean that she is killed.

Cassie is rescued by an unlikely source, but can she trust him? Can she trust anyone? She is on the run and if it weren’t for extreme resourcefulness and clear thinking she’d be already dead. Something is going on, something very sinister and Cassie is going to have to sort it out but also keep herself safe.

This is a great book. The action is relentless and the pace doesn’t let up throughout. Cassie is a great character, resourceful as anything but even with that you find yourself yelling at her to take more care. She is reckless and sometimes that gets her deeper in trouble than ever. This is a great addition to any school library, your geeky kids are going to totally relate to a heroine who has the power to change the world.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me access to this fantastic read.

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

sarahSarah Byrnes is worth it, she is the glue in Eric Calhoune’s life at school and after school. Sarah’s damaged face is one of the few things that makes Eric (Moby) feel that someone else has it worse than him. These two have built a friendship based on their mutual misfit status at school. Eric is overweight – really overweight, he is bullied by the bastards and he is the only person that Sarah talks to. When Eric discovers that he has a great deal of talent at swimming and begins to lose weight he worries that the bond between them will be broken, their commonality will be broken, so he decides to maintain his large status and stay fat so that he doesn’t lose Sarah. If he did lose her as a friend she would have nobody and he can’t do that to her. It is a fragile thing this friendship, a change might upset the delicate balance, he is swimming madly, training a lot and also eating to make up for it. It is a fantastic concept! Loyalty stretched to it’s limits!

This book introduces the most marvellous characters, the teacher who is taking a class where everyone gets to discuss issues they want to talk about, a dangerous proposition but this teacher is a gem, she manages a group of kids with extreme views. The issue that they end up discussing is religion and how a persons behaviour isn’t necessarily a good fit with their actions. But wait, there is a bunch more stuff in here. There is bullying, hypocrisy, self image, child abuse and courage but that really only just scratches the surface.

This would be the most fantastic book to study in an English class. So much to discuss, multitudes of issues you could sink your teeth into. I’ll be buying another copy and recommending it to Yr 11 and 12 students. A book to remember.

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

ghostThe beginning of this book is so thoroughly creepy I was hooked from the first lines. A young girl tied to a stake about to be burned to death, everyone is watching and nobody is helping her. The tone changes immediately and you realise that you have been reading the ending and now you spend your time wondering how those horrific scenes will come about. Creeping menace, lots and lots of it, abound in this book!

Sil’s family are spending the summer in an experimental archeology exercise in Northumberland close to the moors and near to the ruins of Hadrian’s Wall. They are living life as it was in the bronze age. Wearing tunics, living in a primitive tent together, cooking over a fire and foraging for everything they eat. It is not fun at all. Sil’s dad is a domineering, bully of a man. Her mum is meek and mouselike. She is beaten and submissive to her husband. Sil has become used to doing exactly what her dad requires because it is easier and she is less likely to end up with bruises. The way that Sarah Moss has written him is so good, you really feel his simmering anger! Along with Sil and her family, there are 3 university students and their professor who are living the ancient lifestyle with them as part of their studies. One of the students is a young woman who becomes close to Sil and who, partly inadvertently, leads Sil astray and into danger.

This is a small book with a great big story. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a book which would appeal to reluctant readers due to the instant entry into the action and the easy vocabulary. It is very well written and I’m going to be buying copies for school. I would recommend it for junior high school age students. Although it is set in Britain near the ruins of Hadrian’s Wall I think that young people anywhere would relate to it.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to this book.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D Schmidt

jupiterThis is an absolute gem of a book. I loved the characters from page 1, I shed tears at the terrible things that had happened to Joseph in his young life, I desperately wanted things to be ok for him. This tiny and completely perfectly formed novel is one I meant to read ages ago but didn’t quite get to, I’m so pleased I’ve read it now. It is the story of Joseph who has been removed from his abusive father, sent to prison due to something terrible that he did to a teacher because a kid gave him drugs and he went crazy. He loved a girl and fathered a child and now he is being fostered by the kindest family you could ever meet. But Joseph is so damaged it seems like he might never thaw from the angry, het up, damaged young man he has become. His foster brother desperately wants to melt him and over time you see the relationship between the two boys develop over a shared love of cows and the trials of going to school in the most miserable climate you can imagine.

Gary D. Schmidt does place so well, you feel so much for these people living in this miserable cold, you feel the skin on their fingers freezing and their breath turning to ice crystals. You feel the warmth of the animals and your emotions are tugged and pulled at the beautiful sparse writing. Crikey this is good!

If you are a high school librarian and you haven’t read this and don’t have it in your collection you are missing a gem. Buy 3 copies and share this with your reluctant readers, your country kids and your teachers.

And look!  Molly made a book trailer for it.

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

thunder

Well, thank goodness for that! It would have been so upsetting if this novel hadn’t lived up to the first in the series. The ending sets us up brilliantly for a third and gives us a new hero, but that is getting ahead of things.


The story picks up with Rowan reinventing himself from Scythe to justice maker, he is taking the bad out of the Scythes. Expunging the bad and keeping the good. This is of course totally outside the rules and he is in hiding. Citra is now a fully fledged Scythe and is working alongside Marie, her humane approach to killing is not efficient and she is under pressure to work faster. She gives people time to prepare for death and there is an argument that she should be working more efficiently. Back from the dead is Goddard, evil as ever, he wants control of all the Scythes and sets about making that happen. Citra is a threat to him, so he is out to get her.

This story is full of great twists and turns, unexpected characters from the past and with an ending which sets you up nicely for the next one. I don’t know anybody who hasn’t loved these books and I think this is an author who is so reliable that you can trust him to take you on an exciting and thrilling ride. That is certainly the case with this book. As we powered towards the end, the tension was full on!

My boys are fighting to get their hands on this and I’m going to need lots of copies. A very good read.

This Story Is A Lie by Tom Pollock

LieThe title says it all. Loop upon loop, lie upon lie, it isn’t the narrator who is unreliable in this story, it is everyone around him. Just when you think you have it sorted there is another twist and you are duped again.

Pete is the shy mathsy nerd to his twin sisters confident angry, rebelliousness. These two are as different as siblings could possibly be yet there is a strong bond, they have been bought together by their love of their mother, a frightfully important scientist who is doing secret work. Dad is never spoken of and is mysteriously absent. Pete is friendless and isolated but not unhappy as he has security and love at home, this helps when he is bullied and picked on at school.

As more or Pete’s problems are revealed to us, his paranoia and his obsession with counting and managing his life by dealing with it using numbers, you begin to realise that all cannot be what it seems. Things come to a head at a large function where his Mum is to be awarded the highest award in the country for science by the Prime Minister. All hell breaks loose, there is violence and suddenly Bel is missing and Mum has been stabbed. At this point you realise this is a thriller. The pace is wild and the action is kick arse. In the extreme.

This is one of those books where you have to suspend your disbelief and just go along for the ride. It is full on! I was guessing all the way to the end, Bel is such a cool character, totally kick arse and nasty and at the same time so loving to her brother. I loved being in Pete’s headspace, the wheels turning while he tried to figure out what was going on, who he could trust, who was good and who was evil.

This is movie ready and I have cast the characters already in my mind. It isn’t for the faint hearted and there is violence and gore all over the place. Tom Pollock does a brilliant job of keeping you guessing. A really cool and interesting concept and I enjoyed every second.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me access.

La Belle Sauvage, The Book of Dust, book 1, by Philip Pullman

dustAfter reading this I’m ready to forgive Philip Pullman for all the books he has written that I didn’t want to read. This one made the wait worthwhile. It takes you into Oxford where His Dark Materials began and we meet Lyra as a baby, but this story isn’t really about Lyra it is about Malcolm Polstead, the son of the publican of the Trout. The pub is close to a convent and in the convent there is a baby, a baby who needs to be protected from dangerous forces who are out to get her. Malcolm and the kitchen maid Alice rescue baby Lyra in Malcolm’s canoe and begin a journey which will be terrifying and deeply fulfilling.

I knew from the first page that this was going to be wonderful. The fact that the peacocks were called Barry and Norman was enough for me, I felt that I was in safe hands, that Philip Pullman was going to make me smile and fear and worry about the characters who were coming along as the chapter progressed.

The presentation of the book is lush and gorgeous, the cover alone is a thing of beauty. The illustrations at the beginnings of the chapters are simple and perfect. The print is large and friendly and makes the book seem like a giant, but it isn’t really. It is a manageable size and best of all, it never talks down to it’s reader, it understands that it is for a reader of all ages. I just loved it.

Timebomb by Joelle Charbonneaux

timebombLook at all those 5 star reviews and I’m giving it a 3.5. I found it hard to get into at first, it felt a little bit messy at the beginning, however once the story gets going it really rocks along. You’ve got a lot of characters being set up at the start which you need, but there are so many people I just got a little bit lost. Then once they are all at school on a Saturday for their various reasons you realise they are in terrific danger and then it becomes a great big rollicking survival story. Being stuck in a multi story building where bombs are going off is a very scary scenario and the story is about how they survive and deal with this horrible situation.

I like Joelle Charbonneau’s writing, her The Testing and it’s sequels are one of my really popular books at school, she does tension and teenage drama really well. She has a lot of characters in here and they all have issues. The kind of issues that teenagers all over the world are dealing with, these are all dealt with really well. A few of characters I didn’t actually come to grips with until they were at the centre of the action but the majority of them were people I came to understand and feel for.
There are some really good plot twists and as the book goes on, it is as tense as a really good crime novel.

In summary, it is a good book, thoroughly engaging once you get into it This is a novel which has mass appeal, I’ll definitely be buying copies for my students.

Thanks very much to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Sparrow by Scot Gardner

SparrowOne of the best books I’ve read this year! Scot Gardner is one of my favourite authors, he gets teenagers and he writes them well. This one is particularly good. It is the story of a boy called Sparrow, it takes place in dual time settings, beginning on an uninhabited island where he has washed up after his ship sinks, this island is far from idyllic, there are terrible creatures everywhere all of which want to hurt (or even eat) him. We also meet Sparrow before this happens when he is living on the street, helping out in cafes to try and get free food to keep himself from starving. We begin to find out how he ended up in this situation and there is nothing good about his past life. He has been abused, mistreated, lied to and abandoned. Despite all this Sparrow is loveable and kind to others.

Sparrow’s journey from abandoned urchin to imprisoned youth is gripping. I fell in love with him from the very first sentence and I cried at some of the appalling things that happened to him. Sparrow’s relationship with the cafe people is wonderfully written, very realistic, full of pathos and at times raw and edgy.

If you are looking for books for teenage boys just head out and buy all of his books for them. They are properly real and beautifully constructed, but their real beauty is in the characters of realistic boys who deal with the crap life throws at them in amazing ways. A real contender for my YA book of the year.

Below is Scot Gardner reading the first chapter.  You should definitely listen to it. Definitely!

Under the Lights by Abbi Glines

underI’ve been generous with these two stars. As the book went on I disliked the characters, their attitudes and the way they carried on more and more. I hadn’t realised that this was book 2 in the series when I started it, I don’t think it mattered that I hadn’t read the first one, and I’m not going to read it now. I’m a bit gutted as I’ve bought the series for school on the strength of reviews I’d read, I should have realised from the gushing that it wasn’t going to be for me.

At the beginning I enjoyed meeting Willa who has had a very troubled life, with a mother who is flakey and we hear over and over how Willa ruined her life because she was born when she was too young. Luckily for Willa she has grown up with her grandmother mostly, having loads of fun with the children of the family her grandmother works for in ‘the big house’. Then Willa goes back to live with her mother and discovers sex drugs and social media and is involved in an event which lands her in juvenile detention. Now she is back at grandmothers house and rebuilding her life. This is all good!

Then we encounter the boys from the big house and the guys and girls they are friends with and it all turned to custard for me. The attitudes towards the girls are horrifying, there is not a single ounce of respect for them from the boys. The comments on their sexual behaviour are horrible, on what they wear, on what they look like. I thought this was a novel with attitudes from the 1950s. Sexist and classist and redneck. I finished it in the end because it was a bit like watching a train wreck, you know it is awful but you can’t take your eyes off the horror. I really need to strip off a star. There, I feel better now.

I hate the idea that this is popular with teens, I hate the idea that the attitudes portrayed in this novel are considered acceptable by young people in this so called enlightened age. Don’t read it.

A response to the question Why Don’t Kids Read NZ Young Adult?

Tonight I have read an article in the wonderful The Sapling which has made me cross.  I’m responding here because I’m forming my thoughts and this is my blog and therefore my opinion.  This is a bit stream of consciousness, so apologies for it’s rantishness.

In the article, promoting her book review site, Eirlys Hunter makes the argument that NZ kids don’t read young adult fiction written by New Zealanders. She asked teenagers if they had read Margaret Mahy, and they hadn’t heard of her.  I can assure her that she is right in supposing that teenagers currently at school right now will never have read Mahy or Tessa Duder or a heap of other NZ writers who were popular in the 90s. This is for a really good reason.  These books will have been weeded from libraries long ago. We have to keep our collections current, they have to cater to the tastes of our current students.  If we cater to students by providing the books they should read, we will have no readers.

Now, I’ve been working in school libraries for nearly 18 years now, I have never read the Tricksters, The Catalogue of the Universe or Memory, in all honesty I’ve not even heard of them. While they might be admirable books, they are not books that I would ever attempt to pitch at a 14 year old in 2017.  But maybe a movie of The Changeover will start a Margaret Mahy resurgence, but maybe not.  Books and authors are not perennial in the YA world.  Despite the marvellousness they might have, they fade.  It is totally the same as with adult books.  20 years ago everyone was reading Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy, now they are not (I do understand that they are not literature!)

If you ask some students now if they have read some of the common crop of New Zealand authors, people like Mary Anne Scott, Brian Faulkner, Fleur Beale and Melinda Szymanik you will find that there are quite a few who have.  Definitely not lots of them, but definitely some.  These are students who have either had a book sold to them by an awesome librarian, or they have come across the book been attracted in some way, in some cases this is definitely because of the cover!  There are certainly some dreadful covers floating around the NZ YA world.

I don’t think it is true that NZ YA is better than other places, there is some pretty ordinary stuff published here sometimes, but there is also some excellent stuff.  It is the same in every country.  The Self-publishing boom is getting even more books out there, and a few of those are great.  But when the Council tell us that only a small percentage of teenagers read, and some of the borrowing stats around the country would bear that out, you need to do more than just tell people that they should be reading books ‘from the olden days’.  Our teenagers want the cool stuff.  They are totally influenced by social media and librarians who are purchasing books are equally impressed.

It is a strange thing that reading, which is supposed to be pleasurable and a lovely thing to do, can so often be treated as a ‘should’ kind of thing by some of us.  That students are asked to write ‘proper’ reviews, of at least 500 words.  Surely that just turns something that could be fun, into something that is now work.  A surefire way to kill a love of reading is to make it a chore. Or worse, to make it homework.  Kids are already doing all kinds of other stuff which is drawing on their time, they don’t need to be guilted into writing pedantic reviews.  There are kids who yearn to be published authors, there are heaps who are writing for fun in their spare time but forcing it, taking away the joy and insisting on terms which are outdated and irrelevant to their lives.  We old people have to accept that the world has changed.  And engage with what youth think is cool.  Want to see some decent reviews by the target audience.  Go to this Goodreads List.  Read the reviews of people who read YA.  Who are the target audience for YA.  And then go and check out this You Tube channel.  There are lots of people who do this stuff.  They are not the book reviews of old, they are much more likely to be read by teenagers and they are the opposite of ‘proper’ book reviews, but I can guarantee the books are more likely to be read by teens when they are recommended in this way.  So yes, peers are the way to sell books to teenagers, But don’t discount librarians working in their libraries recommending books to readers, selecting great books and chatting to readers every day.

I want to address a comment in the article:

A side issue: how is it possible that, in many secondary schools, a student can study English for five years without meeting a single New Zealand book on the curriculum?).

Well that is simple.  They haven’t been set as prescribed texts.  Schools can teach whatever books they like.  They tend to go for books from which they have seen great exam responses in previous exams.  Some of the books they do read are amazing.  In our school we have class sets of books by David Hill, Denis Wright, David Hair, all New Zealanders, while some students might not encounter those books, lots will.  And there is another thing, you need to get teachers to read the books.  In every school, in every English Department, you struggle to find a bunch of teachers who are reading YA, let alone those reading NZ YA.  There is a lot of good talk about reading and it’s importance to literacy by English teachers across the land, but very little in the way of reading the product and .  It constantly amazes school librarians!

And while I’m ranting, were you aware that it is considered in literacy circles that school librarians are inherently connected with literacy in schools! Yes, I know.  Ridiculous, but it is a fact.

I could go on.  But it is late and there is a leaders debate to watch.

 

 

Otherworld by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller

otherworldI’m always looking for books which the gamer guys, the Ready Player One guys will enjoy, this book fits the bill really well. In the same way as RPO you are immersed in the game with competing with other players. You’ve left your body behind and you are in the virtual reality of a world which feels completely real. It is very cleverly done, scene after scene with a very real feeling, an almost breathless ride, action pushing forward all the time. There is a lot of tension between the characters, mystery and mayhem are all taking place in a breathless rush.

There is such a lot going on that it gets a bit relentless at times. It has a feel of a book which is written for a specific audience and which nails that well, but at the same time there is a slight feeling of emptiness. Maybe the characters could have been developed a bit more. Simon’s obsession at all costs, even to constantly endangering his life for the sake of his friend are at times unbelievable. There is a huge conspiracy, bad doctors and dodgy hospitals all over the place, Simon in in the game and trying to save his friend. There is a lot going on. I got a bit over the relentless struggles inside the game but I can imagine that these would be thrilling for the target audience of teenage boys.

Given it is labelled #1 it is obvious there is going to be another and I’ll definitely be buying this for our library.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to this title.

A love story starring my dead best friend by Emily Horner

First book of the school holidays and it was a great choice.  This is a great cross-over novel, meaning written with appeal to both teenage and adult readers.  Emily Horner has a great website with lots of good stuff about this book and a thoughtful blog as well.

Cass is desperately missing her friend Julia.  Julia was killed in a car crash and it has rocked all her friends and her boyfriend, but Cass and Julia had one of those friendships which was deep and complex.  A finish each others sentences kind of friendship.  Julia was obsessed with drama and was writing her masterpiece when she died, the friends decide that they should put on the show she wrote.  This creates lots of difficulties because it isn’t exactly  your standard school musical, the title is Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad which is enough to set alarm bells ringing with the school staff.

In the meantime Cass sets off on her bike, to complete the journey to California that she and Julia always planned to make, bringing Julia’s ashes with her in a tupperware container.  The bike trip is beautifully written.  The relationship she has along the way, the feelings this brings on and the mechanics of the relationship are written in a realistic way. Tentative and scary, but also with comfort. The lonliness of being on the road, the dangers from big trucks, people you meet and dealing with the memories of someone you love who has gone from your life, dealing with your emerging sexuality and also love, lots of love in many forms, all make for riveting reading.  This is a wise book.  I know my girls would have loved it when they were teenagers, but it is also a book I would give them now.  This book has lots of the feeling you get when you read John Green or David Levithan and I’m really looking forward to reading more by Emily Horner.

 

 

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

I’m doing a crosspost here, this is also posted on the school blog.  This book is so aptly named.  It is a wondrously beautiful book.  It is big, it is beautifully designed and it contains a really well crafted story, both in words and in pictures.  Wonderstruck is one of those books which will appeal to lots of people for lots of different reasons.  If you read books for a great story this book has one.  If you love art, drawing and design, this book has loads to offer you.  If you think books are things to be treasured then Wonderstruck is certainly one which people will want to treasure.  It is a book to buy as a present, it is a book to own.  But first you might want to borrow it from the library.  The first book by Brian Selznick is a poor battered thing in our library because it has been so widely read over the years.  There is a blog post about it here.

Wonderstruck is two stories, one told in pictures and one told with words.  It is the story of a young girl living in New York who runs away from home, and it is also the story of a young boy 50 years later in a small lakeside town.  You know that somehow the two stories will connect and when they do it is a moment of wonder.

Below is a video of the author, walking around inside the incredibly detailed drawings from the book.  This author is truly one of the great authors for young people today and I hope lots of our students pick up the book and take it home and spend time in the world of Wonderstruck.