Books & More from the Teen Scene

Book reviews and other reflections from one of Oregon's young adult librarians

“The Story of Owen” by E.K. Johnston September 22, 2014

The Story of Owen cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

312 pages; published March 2014

The Basics

Siobhan is a gifted musician. Owen is the youngest in a line of famous Canadian dragon slayers. Siobhan enters his life as his algebra tutor, but soon finds she had really be recruited as his bard, charged with the task of helping change the way the small community of Trondheim and the world behind see the work of the dragon slayers who labor to save humanity from carbon-emission-and-people-eating dragons.

Booktalk

It’s not easy being a dragon slayer. Dragons are ruthless in their pursuit of carbon emissions and people are idiots about not only making the emissions, but about the dragon slayers during a battle. Lottie Thorskard–once the most famous dragon slayer in Canada and maybe the world–paid a terrible price for the shortcomings of others. Now, she is determined the things will be different for her nephew, Owen, dragon slayer-in-training and high school students struggling in algebra. Using algebra as a cover, Lottie arranges for Owen to take on a bard, Siobhan, with the idea that she will use her considerable musical talents to shine a positive light on the world of the dragon slayer. Siobhan, Owen, Lottie, and the entire community of Trondheim are in for more danger and excitement that any of them could have imagined.

Random Thoughts

  • This book is droll and clever, but not quite as action-filled as I thought it might be for a book about humans battling dragons. On the other hand, the characters are completely charming and the social commentary is pointed and biting. It is more of a thinking person’s action/adventure.
  • Owen’s aunts, Lottie and Hannah, may be my favorite literary couple this year so far. I simply adored them both.

But Wait, There’s More!

The Story of Owen is book 1 in The Dragon Slayer of Trondheim series. Prairie Fire is due out sometime in 2015.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Smart readers with sophisticated senses of humor
  • Teens who want a little climate change allegory mixed into their adventure stories
  • People who want a teen book with no romance, but a true mixed-gender friendship
  • Aspiring writers who want to read something deliciously crafted
 

“Fake ID” by Lamar Giles February 10, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Mystery,Realistic,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 2:45 pm
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Fake ID cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

320 pages; published January 2014

The Basics

Nick Pearson is thrown into a tailspin when Eli Cruz, his only friend in his new town of Stepton, Virginia, is killed just as he is about to break the story of a huge community scandal. Nick’s search for truth is complicated by his need to keep more than a few secrets of his own.

Booktalk

Nick Pearson isn’t feeling at all like himself – with good reason. In the four year since his family joined the Witness Protection program, he’s had five identities, five made-up backstories, and five new homes. Now, he’s arrived in Stepton, Virginia and the wheels are really coming off. Nick’s formerly mob-connected father is acting more suspicious than ever. His mother is cracking under the pressure. And his new friend, Eli Cruz, is convinced that something about Stepton is rotten to the core. When Eli turns up dead, Nick has to face facts. Eli was right. And since it looks like the mayor and the police are in on whatever diabolical scheme has been cooked up, it will be up to Nick and Eli’s stunningly beautiful sister to sort fact from fiction.

Random Thoughts

  • How many people are there – really – in the Witness Protection program? Like attending boarding schools, I suspect this is one of those things that happens more in literature than in real life. Then again, how would I know?
  • To be honest, this won’t rate as the book of highest literary quality published in 2014, but it was fast-paced, well-written, and definitely entertaining.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Boys who have a hard time finding something to read
  • Mystery fans
  • Readers interested in a new voice in young adult fiction

 

 

“Money Run” by Jack Heath May 28, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Mystery,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:44 am
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Money Run cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

256 pages; published April 2013

The Basics

Ash is a 16-year-old master thief. Benjamin is her super-techie-genius sidekick. Together, they are planning the daring, high-stakes heist of a lifetime – ripping off the super-rich, super-crafty Hammond Buckland. When a deadly assassin and a team of government agents get added to the mix, it’s clear that nothing about this mission is going to be easy.

The Booktalk

Hammond Buckland is not just rich, he’s super-rich, crazy rich, so rich he doesn’t know what to do with it all. Ash – ingenious teen thief – wants some of what he’s got and she has chosen today to steal $200 million dollars she knows is hiding in his fancy office building. It’s the most ambitious heist she and her techie-backup Benjamin have ever tried. Ash knows it’s going to be a challenge. She loves a challenge. But she never could have bargained for what she gets – a wild cat-and-mouse game involving a dangerously evil assassin, mysterious passageways, suspicious powders, and one flying car.

It’s non-stop action with endless mind-boggling twists on this Money Run.

But Wait … There’s More

Billed as #1 in the Ashley Arthur series, Money Run offers a great lead in to more adventures with a charming youthful criminal duo. Second in the series, Hit List has been released in Australia.

 

“Etiquette and Espionage” by Gail Carriger May 11, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fantasy,Fiction,Science Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:50 am
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Etiquette and Espionage cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

307 pages; published February 2013

The Basics

Sophronia has a special talent for getting herself into undignified situations and causing trouble. After her latest mishap  Sophoronia’s quite proper mother has had enough. It’s off to finishing school with her wayward daughter. Sophoronia’s horror at the thought of being “finished” into a proper lady is soon replaced with delight as she discovers that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is as likely to teach you how to poison your tablemate as to do a proper curtsy.

The Booktalk

Sophronia is not like other girls. She likes to climb and sneak and invent and take things apart and generally cause trouble. Exciting? Yes, but not a great fit for her proper Victorian household. After she manages to hit a guest with a flying trifle as part of a “modification” to the household dumbwaiter, she is unceremoniously shipped off to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Horror of horrors for Sophronia, who has no interest in being a lady.

But she soon discovers not all is as it seems in the string of dirigibles that make up Mademoiselle Geraldine’s. After she is brought aboard by a werewolf and greeted by a vampire, Sophronia discovers that her lessons in eye fluttering and proper curtsies will be coupled with knife-throwing and the subtle art of poisons. And there’s a ready-made mystery to unravel. Sophronia is going to have an exciting year indeed.

 

“Thirteen Days to Midnight” by Patrick Carman February 6, 2013

Filed under: Fiction,Science Fiction,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:03 am
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Thirteen Days to Midnight cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

304 pages; published April 2010

The Basics

Jacob is grieving for his adoptive father, who died when their car crashed into a tree. But he also has other things on his mind – a beautiful new girl at school, his best friend, the future – and the very odd fact that nothing seems to be able to cause him any physical harm since his father, just before the crash, whispered, “You are indestructible.”

Booktalk

It’s a simple question: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

But there are downsides to every superpower, aren’t there? If you could fly, would you be able to learn to control your ability before smashing yourself into a building? If you could read minds, what would you do when you heard things you didn’t want to know? If you had invisibility, would you have to be naked all the time for it to work?

What if you were indestructible? What if nothing could hurt you and you simply couldn’t die? Is there a downside to that? Jacob Fielding is about to find out. It would seem his adoptive father has given him this power – passed it along just before his own death. But cheating death is a tricky thing and not without consequence. With no one to help him understand how the power works, what will Jacob do and who will it put in harm’s way?

Random Thoughts

This book was exciting and interesting, made more so for me because it was set in the author’s hometown, which made it local for me. It’s not a common setting, so it was a nice touch.

 

 

“Zom-B” by Darren Shan November 19, 2012

Zom-B cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

174 pages; published September 2012

The Basics

B is a street-wise bully being raised by a violent, white supremacist father in London. Amid growing reports of zombie attacks in a small Irish village, B is backed into several situations where it is called into question of how deep B’s personal racist sensibilities run. And then, the zombies attack.

Review

This book was quite a surprise. Written by a master of young adult horror, it’s remarkably light on the spurting blood and the brain eating … until it’s not.

Although the zombies are milling around the edges from the beginning, but meat of the book is spent on B and B’s response (or lack thereof) to a father who spews disgusting racial hatred at every turn and beats on B and B’s mother if they mount the slightest challenge. B wanders between mirroring the father’s nastiness and being sheepish about it and wondering if – perhaps – dear old Dad isn’t pretty reprehensible. B’s thoughts get really stirred up after visiting a Holocaust exhibit and getting a talking-to from a respected teacher.

“I know Dad’s no saint but I’ever never thought of him as a monster. But if Burke’s right, and I take Dad’s side, the way I’ve gone along with him for all these years, won’t that make me a monster too?”

And speaking of monsters, the zombies continue to close in as Dad pooh-poohs the gruesome footage of an attack in Pallaskenry, Ireland until the zombies – as the reader knows they will – finally descend on B’s school and the nightmare-inducing grossology lesson begins.

While not at all likeable, B is an compelling character and “Zom-B” is an exciting set-up for a new series.

 

 

“Ripper” by Stefan Petrucha October 12, 2012

Ripper coverThe Facts

427 pages; published March 2010

The Basics

After 14 years in an orphanage, Carver Young has been adopted and offered the chance to apprentice to Pinkerton Agency detective Albert Hawking. Tasked with finding his own father, Carver is drawn into a far larger mystery that may lead him into the path of a serial killer.

Booktalk

Jack the Ripper stalked and murdered at least 5 women in the East End of London between August and November of 1888. He was never caught. Yet, no later murders were proved to be linked to him. Where did he go? What did he do next?

Fourteen-year-old orphan Carver Young knows. Adopted by eccentric, brilliant detective Albert Hawking of the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency, Carver – who has always wanted to be a detective – become embroiled in the frantic search for a manic brutally murdering the wives of New York socialites. As Carver and the mysterious members of a shadowy agency called the New Pinkertons thread the clues together, the ties between these cases and 5 famous murders in the East End of London become unmistakable. As Carver digs even deeper, he discovers his own ties may go even deeper.

Random Thoughts

The author has some good fun using Theodore Roosevelt and his spirited daughter, Alice, as characters in the story. He even works in one of Alice’s most amusing and famous quotes – “If you don’t have anything nice to say about anyone, come sit here by me!”