Saturday, July 28, 2012

Starters by Lissa Price

Callie and her brother live on the streets.  After the virus wiped out everyone except for the young and the very old, children have nowhere to go unless they have grandparents who are willing to claim them.  With Tyler sick all the time, Callie has no way to earn money other than to go to Prime Destinations.  The company allows old people - enders - to rent and inhabit young bodies for short periods of time.  Prime Destinations gives Callie an extensive makeover and then hooks her up to the machine that allows for the transfer.  When she wakes up a few days later she has no memory of what the ender did with her body while she was asleep.  But during her third rental Callie suddenly wakes up in a club where her renter has been partying.  Obviously, something has gone wrong and Callie is unsure about what to do.  She quickly discovers that her renter has planned to do something other than just have a good time but Callie doesn't know how to stop her from ruining her life.  This is a unique story full of twists and turns which makes it read very fast.  Lots of fun but a bit creepy at the end if I'm understanding who all is renting and being rented.

Ichiro by Ryan Inzana

Ichiro lives in New York City and is very proud of his American father who died in the Iraq war.  When his mother takes him to Japan for the first time he has to spend all his time with his grandfather Sato.  Sato takes Ichiro around Japan to various temples and to the Hiroshima Peace Park, telling Ichiro the stories of the gods and about the results of the nuclear bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.  At first Ichiro is skeptical and doesn't see why he should care but he slowly begins to understand more about the cost of war.  He also realizes that he can love and honor his father even while questioning what's right. 

Pandemonium by Chris Wooding

In this graphic novel Seifer is kidnapped and expected to act as the missing Prince Talon since they look exactly alike.  Seifer comes from a small town and doesn't know anything about acting like royalty and he has to learn quickly.  The country is facing invasion from their neighbors and it's up to Seifer to keep everyone happy and fooled, all while trying to stay away from the prince's elephant-sized cat that keeps trying to eat him.  This is an interesting and funny story which is obviously leading into several sequels.  Like many other graphic novels I've read, I couldn't figure out what was happening in several of the illustrated action panels.

Shelter by Harlan Coben

After his father's death and his mother's entry to rehab, Mickey is living with his uncle and starting at a new school.  During orientation he meets fellow new student Ashley and they begin dating.  Things are looking up for Mickey until Ashley disappears without a trace and Mickey discovers that she made up her name and her family.  In his search to find Ashley, Mickey is drawn into several other mysteries involving exotic dancing, a young girl who fought against the Nazis and what really happened to his father.  This mystery seemed a bit all over the place to me and not especially well written.  The characters felt like what an author thinks cool or quirky teens would be like.  Still, there is a lot of action and an interesting cliffhanger at the end.

Shift by Em Bailey

Olive used to be the most popular girl in school until her parents separated and she tried to commit suicide.  Now she is back as an outcast with only her new best friend Ami to keep her company.  When new girl Miranda shows up Ami and Olive are fascinated with her. Miranda blends into the background in every way but soon begins copying everything about Olive's former best friend Katie.  Before too long, Miranda is the most popular girl and Katie seems to be fading away. Olive and Ami begin to believe that Miranda might be a shapeshifter who feeds off of the energy of others while taking over their lives.  Although she is warned to stay away from Miranda, Olive can't help but keep investigating until Katie dies and Olive learns a secret she has been keeping even from herself.  Unsure of her own sanity, Olive questions her initial feelings about Miranda and finds herself being slowly drawn into Miranda's world.  I liked the premise of this book but I'm not sure about how it all played out.  I wish the shapeshifter story had been made more explicit and I was sad when I found out Olive's "secret she was keeping from herself", although that did make for an unexpected twist in the story.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams

London and her brother Zach were as close as twins.  They traveled the world with their missionary parents and became best friends in the process.  But after the family decided to settle in one place something happened that caused Zach to kill himself.  Since his death, London and her parents have been torn apart.  Her father has retreated into his faith to keep going while her mother blames London for Zach's death and refuses to talk to her at all.  London herself is barely hanging on.  She is brought out of her isolation a bit by the arrival of very cute boy Jesse and his sister.  Drawn to Jesse, London is torn when her ex-boyfriend Taylor wants to begin dating again.  But has Zach's death and the problems he left behind left her too damaged to resume a normal life ever again?  This is an emotional story with several layers that are revealed as the book progresses. 

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

Althea knows that she must marry for money, not love, in order to keep her family afloat until her four year old brother is old enough to take care of the estate.  Althea's grandfather spent the entire family fortune on their home, an overblown castle built right on the edge of a cliff complete with a moat.  Although Althea's two stepsisters have money, they refuse to spend any of it on keeping the family and the castle solvent so it's up to Althea to marry a man rich enough to keep them going.  When Lord Boring takes up residence in their small town Althea is immediately taken with him.  Not only does he have money, he is very attractive as well.  Boring seems to be as interested in her as she is in him but his awful friend Mr. Fredericks always seems to be around at the most inconvenient moments.  Keeping the Castle owes a big nod to Pride and Prejudice but with a few plot devices of its own.  But how can you go wrong with a Pride and Prejudice-type story?  Light, romantic and fun.

Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci

In alternating chapters of text and graphic novel, Tessa slowly reveals events that have left her damaged.  During a trip to the fair with her best friend Tessa is forced to bring along her younger sister Lulu.  When the three girls meet up with several boys, including Tessa's crush Charlie, the teens decide to go into the sideshow together.  Charlie and Lulu emerge from the darkness holding hands and begin dating seriously, making Tessa jealous.  Her life is further complicated by her secret relationship with loner Jasper.  The narrative chapters take the reader through events as they happen while the graphic novel sections show Tessa after the tragedy that changed her life, a tragedy that leaves her feeling like Medusa.  Often I think that graphic novels are gimmicks intended to supposedly increase interest in a book.  The illustrations here are used to foreshadow events in the book and add to the story, although they are best understood in hindsight.  A nice mix of two different art forms.

Fair Coin by E.C. Myers

Ephraim comes home from school to find that his mother has overdosed.  Even more surprising, he discovers that the reason for her suicide attempt is that she saw his dead body after he was hit by a bus.  When Ephraim investigates he finds that the dead boy has an unusual coin. With the help of an anonymous note he discovers that he can make wishes come true when he flips the coin.  His first wish turns his alcoholic mom into the perfect mother with an important job.  But some wishes don't seem to turn out exactly as he wanted, especially when his best friend Nathan gets involved and wishes to date the girl of his dreams.  Concerned about what changes he might be making to others around him Ephraim vows to stop using the coin.  But Nathan isn't willing to give up the power and neither is the shadowy man who has been trailing Ephraim.  I expected this to be a standard "be careful what you wish for" book but it took off in a different direction.  The reality of what the coin is doing could be a little confusing but the author does a decent job of keeping the reader up to speed, unlike lots of other books in this genre.  And who knew there were so many different nicknames for Nathan?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Unison Spark by Andy Marino

The world is divided in to the privileged, who live above the canopy in the Eastern Seaboard City and have access to Unison (like a virtual Facebook), and those who live below the canopy and can barely get a signal strong enough to run a cell phone. These worlds collide when Ambrose Truax, son of the inventor of Unison, wanders into the subcanopy world and Mistletoe saves him from the men who are chasing him. Ambrose has no idea how to protect himself in this world and it falls to Mistletoe to teach him. But first they have to rid themselves of all the tracking devices that Unison has implanted. As their friendship evolves, they discover they share an odd, disturbing dream. As they unravel the meaning of the dream they discover they are involved in a much bigger mystery than they thought.  I might have liked this story better if I'd had a clue what was happening.  Too much techno jargon that didn't add to the story.

The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt

Drew spends her day's working in her mother's upscale cheese shop adoring older surfer dude Nick as he makes pasta in the front window of the store.  Each day her mother puts out the foods that can't be sold anymore and they are gone in the morning.  When Drew loses track of her beloved pet rat she carries with her everywhere, she returns to the shop at night.  Along with her rat, she finds Emmett Crane at the dumpster.  Emmett appreciates cheese and pasta and knows a lot about rats.  Emmett and Drew begin meeting more often but Emmett is mysterious in some ways.  Drew discovers that her mother is also keeping a secret - she is going on dates with someone in a silver car on the nights she claims to be working late at the cheese shop.  When Drew finally uncovers Emmett's secret, she decides it is time for her to take a leap of faith with him.  This story was obviously meant to be deep and moving.  I liked the notebook of lists from her father but the rest of the story felt as though it was trying too hard to me.  Given how devastated Emmett was from his father's departure, I had a hard time being on board with his vision which caused him to leave home as well. 

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder is a cyborg and an amazing mechanic.  She was adopted several years before by a man who died shortly thereafter from the plague that is sweeping throughout the world.  Now Cinder lives with her stepmother who hates her and her two stepsisters.  Hearing of her skills as a mechanic Prince Kai brings his broken android to Cinder for repair.  The prince is immediately drawn to Cinder but she tries to downplay her interest, sure that he would reject her if he knew the truth about her.  The prince has more issues to handle when his father contracts the plague and the controlling queen of the moon people threatens war unless the prince agrees to form an alliance by marrying her.  When Cinder's beloved stepsister Peony falls ill with the plague, her stepmother blames Cinder and "volunteers" her for experiments being conducted to find a cure.  All volunteers for the research die quickly after being injected with the plague but surprisingly, Cinder's cells defeat the virus in a matter of minutes.  Cinder finds herself at the center of interplanetary intrique as she questions who she really is and how she can help save her sister.  This book started just a bit slow and ended on a huge cliffhanger - which I HATE because I think the story could've been wrapped up.  But despite those problems, the action throughout was fast paced and many storylines were intertwined very well.  The huge surprise about who Cinder is wasn't really a surprise to me but it was satisfying nonetheless. 

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Anya is the 16 year old daughter of a dead crime boss.  Her father's mafia business included selling black market chocolate which has been outlawed in the United States.  Although Anya loved her father and often relies on advice he gave her, she has no desire to join the family business since she has seen firsthand the dangers of that life.  She witnessed her father's murder and is caring for her older brother who became mentally impaired after he was shot by some enemies of the family.  Anya also cares for her younger sister and dying grandmother.  But the business forces its way into her life when her ex-boyfriend is poisoned from some illegal chocolate she gave to him and her brother begins spending time with extended family members.  Anya's life is further complicated when she begins dating a new boy at school who just happens to be the son of the new District Attorney.  This story is The Godfather for teens - just when Anya tries to get out, they keep pulling her back in!  I really enjoyed the entire story and all the characters.  It offers something unique in the YA lit world.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Narrator Julia recounts the year she was 11, the year the Earth began to spin slower and days became longer and longer.  The slowing, as it is called, was unexpected and leaves scientists baffled as to the cause.  But the effects of the slowing grow daily.  The first obvious problem is time.  With days no longer 24 hours long - and increasing every day - clocks lose their meaning.  Quickly the world becomes divided between those who decide to maintain a 24 hour day regardless of when the sun is shining, and the "real-timers" who decide to follow day and night patterns regardless of how long each of those periods is.  But other problems accumulate for humans as the slowing continues.  Animals die, plants perish and gravity increases, among other issues.  Despite the events around her Julia is mostly concerned with growing up, the state of her parents' marriage, and whether her crush Seth likes her.  Although the events of this story revolve around an 11 year old, the book reads as adult fiction to me, not young adult.  It is basically a slice of life story even though the genre is science fiction.  Reviews for it are great but I found it unrelentlessly bleak and depressing.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Auggie is going to be attending public school for the first time in his life when he enters fifth grade.  He has been kept at home because Auggie has a major facial deformity that causes people to gasp when they see him.  Going to school is just as difficult as Auggie imagines it will be, but he also finds some unexpected things such as two friends who are able to see beyond what he looks like.  The crafting of this book is unusual.  Although the story is about Auggie, each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character in his life.  The events in each chapter overlap a bit so the reader can see how two characters interpreted the same event, but each chapter also moves the story forward.  Auggie's story kept me interested throughout but I felt that he and his classmates acted a few years older so I was always surprised when the author reminded me that they were just in fifth grade.  I love a happy ending but I can't help but feel that it is a bit false since Auggie will continue to have problems throughout his life.  Still, this book has important lessons for teens (and adults!) but they are presented through an entertaining, heartwarming story, not in a "here's something important for you to learn" way.