Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“Of Metal and Wishes” by Sarah Fine September 16, 2014

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:25 am
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Of Metal and Wishes cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

320 pages; published August 2014

The Basics

Wen’s life is disintegrating. After her mother died and she was forced to move into the compound of a factory where her father serves as the doctor, she gets drawn into the social tension that grips the Itanyai workers when 200 Noor willing to work cheap are brought in. As illness and injury grip the compound, Wen is drawn into the mystery of the “Ghost” who haunts the workers.

Book Talk

It starts as an angry impulse. Wen is embarrassed after one of the new, barbaric Noor workers lifts her dress and shows her underthings in the factory cafeteria. She impulsively approaches the shrine other workers have set up to communicate with the factory Ghost and – while also proclaiming her disbelief – challenges the Ghost to avenge her. When the Ghost grants her wish in a terrible way, the ripple effect of her flash of anger lead to death, social unrest, a budding forbidden romance, and the slow reveal of all the factory’s many dark secrets.

Random Thoughts

  • The author has taken the concept of the Phantom of the Opera and moved it to a startling post-industrial Asian setting. Her creative re-telling and the beauty of the writing create something deeply compelling.
  • This was an intense book. I was at turns enthralled and disturbed, thoughtful and grossed out.

But Wait, There’s More!

This is a series opener. Of Dreams and Rust is set for publication in August 2015.

I’ll Recommend This to …

  • Fans of Phantom of the Opera
  • Readers who love romantic stories
  • People with a high tolerance for gore
  • Older teens who love fantasy and dystopia
 

“The Name of the Star” by Maureen Johnson October 9, 2013

The Name of the Star cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

372 pages; published September 2011

The Basics

On the very day that Rory Deveaux moves from Louisiana to London, someone starts recreating the Jack the Ripper murders. As Rippermania grips the city, Rory gets drawn into the center of the increasingly strange mystery.

Booktalk

Louisiana native Rory Deveaux is a fish out of water when she shows up to the London boarding school where she will be spending her final years of high school. It’s hard to say which is funnier – her wacky stories about the bayou town and redneck neighbors she left behind, or her hilarious observations about the strange life of English schoolchildren.

But Rory’s new life also has a dark side. On the same day she landed in London, a killer began recreating the Jack the Ripper murders in gruesome detail. Then Rory comes face to face with a mysterious stranger on a dark London night – a stranger no one else can see. As news spreads of her odd encounter, she finds herself pulled ever deeper into the baffling and vastly creepy mystery.

But Wait, There’s More!

This is just #1 in the Shades of London series. #2 in the series – The Madness Underneath (February 2013) is also very satisfying; #3 – The Shadow Cabinet – is due out in 2014.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Mystery lovers
  • Fans of ghost stories
  • Anyone with a sense of humor
  • Readers fascinated by famous serial killers like Jack the Ripper
  • Honestly, anyone who asks for a good book. I loved it that much!

 

 

“Starglass” by Phoebe North August 18, 2013

Starglass cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

448 pages; published July 2013

The Basics

Born on the spaceship Asherah, Terra will soon be part of the first generation to arrive at Zehava and populate a new world. But Terra and others chafe under the totalitarian rule of The Council which guides them. Forced toward a career in botany and a loveless marriage, Terra’s rebellious spirit grows after she witnesses the murder of an innocent man by the Captain’s Guard.

Booktalk

Terra is a lot like the characters in other stories, maybe even like people you know. She is mourning the death of her mother. Her father is a drunk who embarrasses her on a regular basis. She feels awkward in school and around boys. She’s jealous of her much-prettier best friend. But Terra’s life is unique because it has been lived entirely on a spaceship bound to populate a new planet. Launched 500 years before by a group of secular Jews in an effort to preserve Jewish culture, the Asherah will be landing soon on Zehava. This is just as Terra is approaching her 16th birthday – leaving school to start a career chosen for her by The Council and desperately agreeing to marry her father’s talmid (apprentice) so the same Council won’t choose her husband as well.

With all this weighing down on Terra, she takes a wrong turn on the way home one evening and comes face-to-face with a horrifying sight – members of The Captain’s Guard murdering a man in cold blood. The revelations that come next will shake Terra – and all of Asherah – to the core.

 

“The Selection” by Kiera Cass June 14, 2013

The Selection cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

327 pages; published April 2012

The Basics

America Singer lives in a world defined by strict castes and repressive rules, but she has the ultimate opportunity for caste-climbing. She has been chosen to participate in The Selection, in which she is one of 35 girls who compete on TV to be the next queen of Illea.

The Booktalk

Who doesn’t want to be a princess? Well, America Singer doesn’t. Although she is only a Five in a strict caste system that pretty much deprives everyone below a Three, America has a profession that she likes and a boy that she loves (even though it’s in secret.) So, she is very much NOT excited when she is chosen to participate in the ultimate reality TV courting show – The Selection – in which 35 girls compete to be the bride of Illea’s handsome crown prince, Maxon. America is down-to-earth, funny, and temperamental. She even yells at Prince Maxon the first time they meet. She couldn’t be less suited as princess material. So why is she still around in The Selection?

But Wait … There’s More!

The Selection kicks off a fast-moving trilogy. The Elite was released in April 2013 and will be followed by The One in 2014.

Random Thoughts

  • This book is wildly popular at my library. Given the topic, I was hesitant to read it because I thought it might be too ridiculous, but I enjoyed the character and the writing was spot on. I raced through books 1 and 2. Now, I’m quite impatient for the 3rd.
  • One of the blurbs on the back of The Elite describes the series as, “like The Hunger Games (without the blood sport) and like The Bachelor (without the blood sport) …” It is an apt description.
 

“Bad Taste in Boys” by Carrie Harris May 4, 2013

The Facts

201 pages; published July 2011

Bad Taste in Boys cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Basics

Kate Grable is a science nerd and volunteer medic for the tragically bad high school football team. When the desperate Coach starts injecting the players with a new kind of steroid, instead of improving their win record, he turns them into flesh-loving zombies. Kate is either going to save the day or have her lips chewed off.

The Booktalk

I think the really important lesson of Bad Taste in Boys is that it’s very stupid to inject yourself or others with something when you don’t really know what the something will do.

Here’s the truth of the matter. This is a very silly book. But it is also just plain funny. And it has zombies.

The zombies are created right under the nose of Kate Grable, a wannabe doctor who manages the Ace bandages and EpiPens for the totally awful football team at her high school. The job also gives her important proximity to Aaron, the untalented the totally adorable quarterback. After Kate says heck no to injecting players with some mysterious vials of liquid, the Coach does it himself and – boom – zombie football players.

The change comes on kind of gradually and in some cases, it’s hard to notice. Until fingers come loose and feet start flying. Oh, and until the newly minted zombies start supping on human flesh. But Kate does notice and – having lost part of a lip to a linebacker – she plunges in to unravel the medical mystery and try to save the day.

Random Thoughts

This is far more of a campy, fun read than a hard-hitting, award-winning novel. However, I absolutely give it my personal award for Awesome Cover Art on a YA Book. I mean come on, look at those lips!

 

“When We Wake” by Karen Healey March 14, 2013

When We Wake cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

296 pages; published March 2013

The Basics

Tegan Oglietti was having a lovely day in 2027 until she was shot and killed on the steps of the Australian Parliament House. The next time she opens her eyes, 100 years have passed. Tegan is the first successful story to come out of an experiment in cryogenics. Quickly dubbed the Living Dead Girl, Tegan has a whole new Australia to get used to and – as far as Tegan is concerned – the government has a lot of explaining to do.

Booktalk

Imagine what it would be like to blink and wake up 100 years from now. Think about what would have changed. Fashion – people would dress differently. Maybe whole new fabrics would have been invented. Speech – slang would be different, maybe other ways of talking. Technology, certainly. Social issues. The environment.

That’s what Tegan Oglietti is dealing with. Back in 2027, she was having a nearly perfect day – headed to a protest with her new boyfriend and her best friend. She doesn’t even remember the fatal shot that tore through her.

But now, she’s awake – the first person to be fully revived by Australian doctors working to perfect the science of cryogenics. Tegan has a lot more to deal with that just getting used to a world with no blue jeans, no red meat,  weird new slang words, and disturbingly racist No Immigration policies. Tegan soon realizes there’s more to her revival than her doctors and military handlers are willing to say. The Living Dead Girl has made a discovery nearly as chilling as being frozen in the first place.

Random Thoughts

It is interesting how things collide. The cryogenics in this story depend on “something” derived from tardigrades aka water bears aka moss piglets. The day after I read the chapter that introduces the tardigrades, I had a family walk into the library and ask for help finding information about “a microscopic creature whose name sounds kind of like the Tardis from Dr. Who.” What are the odd of encountering the same microscopic creature in two days??

 

“Matched” by Ally Condie November 23, 2012

Matched cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

369 pages; published November 2010

The Basics

Everything in Cassia’s world is controlled by The Society and Cassia is a model citizen, living by the rules. She is excited to find out who has been chosen as her Match. But she’s not ready for what happens. Her microchip shows her not one, but two boys. The Society never makes mistakes, but they have this time – and it is a mistake that throws Cassia into a wild tailspin.

Booktalk

Cassia lives in a world where everything is decided by The Society – what she reads, the art she sees, the music she listens to, what she does at school, what she eats, how she exercises, where she will work. They even monitor her dreams. Now, on her 16th birthday, The Society has used carefully statistical analysis to determine who Cassia should marry – which boy is her Match. But when she is shown not one, but two options, Cassia’s clear, simple life path becomes jumbled and confused. Although she is told sweet, safe Xander is the one she is really meant to Match with, she finds herself drawn to Ky, whose dark and mysterious past is the source of much intrigue. The pot is stirred further when her grandfather encourages mild subversion, sneaking her a copy of a poem not in the approved 100. Cassia finds herself wondering – for the first time in her life – whether The Society really knows best.

Random Thought

I’m not the biggest fan of romance and page after page of girls mooning over boys, but I was riveted by many of the ideas of The Society. In order to combat all the chaos and noise of life in the “old world” (ours), The Society chose 100 songs, 100 books, 100 poems, 100 pieces of art and they have become what is. Nothing new is created or permitted. Also, everyone in The Society dies at 80 and the discussion of that dictum was though-provoking to say the least.

Wait! There’s More

This is the first in a trilogy that is now complete with Crossed (2011) and Reached (2012).

Awards/Honors (source: GoodReads.com)

  • Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of the Year for Fiction (2010)
  • YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (2011)
  • Teen Buckeye Book Award Nominee (2012)
  • Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2013)