The Takedown: Who do you trust?

4 Mar

thetakedownThe Takedown

By: Corrie Wang

Publisher: Freeform Books, an imprint of Disney
Date: April 2017

“I’ll warn you in advance. You’re probably not gonna like me.” (page 1)

With those two sentences, the book begins in and just a few lines later, Kyla Cheng explains that you leave high school either scarred or worshipped.  On page 2, she concludes that you only leave high school one way.

In the near future, where the state controls some aspects of everyone’s technology, Kyla Cheng is a 17 year old, beautiful young woman who has everything.  She is  valedictorian of her high school class at an exclusive school.  She is class president and the hottest guy in school is her best friend.  But she isn’t nice.  She’s aware of her looks, her leadership and uses it to control her world.  But when a video goes viral showing her having sex with a teacher, her world breaks apart.

It’s not her in the video, but how can she prove it?  Who believes her?  Are her closest friends part of it or her only support group?  The principal becomes the enemy whose only concern is for school, not the victim.  In fact, there is amazing amount of lack of support for the victim.  Her friends support, then avoid, then support, then…

To be honest, there is so much packed in the book, that I was surprised to realize that the entire book takes place in two short, intense weeks. Corrie Wang takes the reader on a steady pace thriller of whodunit with a dash of what is and isn’t real in the online world.  As much as the reader wants to help Kyla solve the problem, at the same time, she really isn’t likable.  But she is vulnerable.  Can you survive in the future without technology?  Can you survive in the future with technology?

Recommended: Grades 9 & up

 

Why We March

14 Feb

whywemarchWhy We March: Signs of Protest and Hope – Voices from the Women’s March

By Artisan
Publication Date: 07 March 2017

Special note: All royalties from the book will be donated to Planned Parenthood.

One of the biggest movements of our time is an unprecedented world-wide coordinated Women’s March held on January 17, 2017.  This is compilation of 500 signs from around the world of men, women and children marching.  The signs cover women’s rights, but they also show their view of other issues like the election, the Affordable Health Care Act, LBGTQ rights and a number of other items.  The photographs are beautifully displayed.  A few quotes, maybe 10 total, are interspersed  throughout.  You have to pay special attention to the little pink words under the pictures that show where in the world it was taken.  The page with four countries showing the same message was moving.

sobad

Photo by Rachel Alemany

I did not see my personal favorite sign in the book. (“So bad, even introverts are here.”)  But, I may have missed it.  In any case, like any protest, some of the signs are rude or inappropriate, but it is as much of history as the actual election was.  Still, I cannot recommend the book for elementary schools.

Recommended: Grades 7 & up

When – Murder, Mystery, Thriller

4 Feb

when

When by Victoria Laurie

Publisher: Hyperion
Copyright: 2015

Before Maddie knew what numbers were, she saw the little squiggles on everyone’s forehead.  At the age of 6, when Maddie’s father (9-23-2004) is killed, she learns that the numbers are the death date of each person.  She doesn’t even have to see the person; just see a close-up photo and she knows the day they will (or did) die.

At 16, Maddie is an “A” student living with her alcoholic mother and trying to survive high school.  She keeps her head down and hangs with her best friend, Stubs.  To make a little extra money, she “reads” peoples’ death date.  She sees a photo of a child about to die and tries to warn his mother.  That’s when the story really takes off.

This is a murder mystery with accusations and arrests of people close to Maddie.  How can she possibly help?  All she can see is a number.  And all the FBI can see is a girl who seems to know all the victims. Can Maddie make a difference or will she be swept along by events?  The possibilities are unraveled and all that’s left is a thriller ending.  After the race to the finish, my favorite scene is the one in the next to last chapter with Mario.  After all, we can all make a difference in each other’s lives.

This book is a nominee of the 2016-2017 Georgia Peach Book awards.  This lists also serves as the high school Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl books.

Highly Recommended: Grades 7 & up

Flying Lessons

29 Jan


24561496Flying Lessons and Other Stories

Edited by: Ellen Oh
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Compilation Copyright 2017 by We Need Diverse Books

How often do you actually stop and read the book’s Forward first?  Sometimes I do but often I may or may not come back to it.  How much does it really add, when I just want to dive into the book?!  But for some reason, maybe because it was short or maybe because it started with “Dear Reader,” I started with the Forward that editor Ellen Oh wrote.  In two short pages, I saw her with a mangy kitten and, … well, you read it.  Suffice it to say that this short little story set the tone for me.

Flying Lessons and Other Stories visits little pockets of society or groups and shares a piece of the American pie.  Matt de la Pena, Newberry award winning author, tells the story of a young man wanting to play basketball at the highest levels. And learning to listen to advice that a quiet man gives.  I know Tim Federle’s Secret Samantha personally. And, I certainly know the feeling of sneaking into the library to get away from life.

At the ALA Midwinter Convention in Atlanta, I heard several of the authors talk about this book.  I chanted a Choctaw phrase with the rest of the audience.  I knew that the organization We Need Diverse Books was behind this anthology, but I didn’t really know what that meant.  Apparently it means that there are many, many stories out there to tell and listen to and to share.  After all, we all need something to look forward to.

Recommended: Grades 4 & up

 

It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

23 Jan

itstartedwithgoodbyeIt Started with Goodbye
By: Christina June
Publisher: BLINK
Date: 2017

Tatum is a rising high school senior.  She lives with her father who travels the world, her stepmother that she calls by first name and her stepsister that she has never talked to other than courtesy words.  And Tatum is under arrest.

To have her misdemeanor dismissed, Tatum is grounded for the summer except when she does her hours of volunteer work and goes to her babysitting job.  Completely grounded.  Chores in the house and hours in her room.  Then her step-grandmother arrives and things start to change.

Christina June has a talent for taking a beloved fairy tale – in this case, Cinderella, and making it real.  From the very beginning, you can hear Tatum’s voice and it sounds just like a teenager.  The whine, the resentment, the hope, and the love all jump around for attention.  Is Tatum the perfect young lady?  No.  She breaks the rules.  But she’s not mean. After all, she is Cinderella.  I’ll leave it as an exercise for the readers to discover what her glass slipper actually is.

I met Christina June at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference this past weekend.  She was on a panel of Young Adult (YA) writers talking about strong, female protagonists.  This is a wonderful story with a strong female teenager.  Does the story wrap up too neatly?  Well, yes; because it should.

Recommended:  Grades 6 & Up

 

Need by Joelle Charbonneau

12 Nov

need-by-joelle-charbonneauNeed

by Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher:  HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November, 2015

What is the difference between want and need?  That’s only the first question in this exciting psychological thriller for young adults.  Teenagers in a midwest high school receive invitations to a special website called “Need”.  Students place their request for a “need”,  complete some inconsequential action as directed and their “need” is fulfilled.  But how inconsequential are these little acts? Very quickly, things escalate beyond their control and teenagers start dying.

Kaylee knows that it’s too good to be true but she can’t help but ask for what she needs.  Can Kaylee find a way out and save others along the way?  Or is it too late?  Will her need be met?

This is a psychological thriller, a mystery, and something you need to read.  Joelle Charbonneau also wrote The Testing series, which I highly recommend.

Recommended: Grades 7 & up

 

Relic by Heather Terrell

22 Oct

relicRelic
Series: The Books of Eva

Author: Heather Terrell
Publisher: SoHo Teen
Publication Date:  October, 2013

Audiobook: Blackstone Audio
Narrator: Angela Brazil

Eva lives in the Aerie in New North, a frozen tundra, after a world-wide catastrophe happened with major flood killing the majority of the world 200 years before.  Eva is a maiden following the ways of the Lex.

Eva loses her twin brother and decides with only months to go to take on the Testing.  The Testing sends young people (males and Eva) to the frozen tundra to survive in the ice and find relics of the past to prove that the New North ways are best.  Fiction is not allowed and the name of the pre-disaster false god is Apple.

This book is packaged as a Hunger Games-type dystopia, but its really not.  There is a hidden conspiracy.  But Eva was not forced or encouraged to do the Testing.  And I throughout the book, I wondered at Eva’s physical abilities capable of making this journey in just a few short months.  Clearly she’s smart, if misguided.  And clearly she has rebelled in small, insignificant ways in the past.  I got tired of hearing about the god Apple.  I would have preferred any other name rather than make it out like all of society has this one singular tech device.  Coke and Tylenol make the bad list too.

Even with those complaints, the book does move.  There is an element of romance, though its subsumed in the frantic concerns for what she finds.  And there is the question of who to trust and why.  I’m curious about the second book, but I haven’t sought it out yet either.

I borrowed this book from our library in an MP3 version to listen to on the way to work.  I thought Angela Brazil had a great voice and really brought the characters to life.

Recommended: Grades 6 – 8.