Book Review: Everybody Lies

25 Jul

everybodyliesEverybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are
By: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
Publisher: HapperCollins Books
Copyright: 2017

We are wired. And information on everything from our location to our friends and acquaintances can be found online.  We also do surveys, health studies, and other programs.  All of this information can be combined, synthesized, analyzed and reviewed.  What can we learn from Big Data?  We learn that Walmart knows that when a hurricane is predicted, people buy strawberry pop-tarts.  We learn that the chances of a person with poor parents becoming rich not only matters on the country you are from (U.S. has an average close to half of Canada’s average), but what city in the U.S. you live in.  Research becomes so easy in some cases, that people start to overload on the research instead of thinking about the problem.

The book tells the story of various big data, highlighting the Google giant itself and the information you can glean.  But the book is not written as a research paper.  It is written in the first person with the author talking about himself a good bit.  In some ways, the writing is a little egocentric and just a tad too informal.  I did not need all the political side remarks to get the point of the book.  Further, someone who is offended by those side comments may not get the real point of the book: All of us are defined by our data, no matter what we tell ourselves or others.

Recommended: Grades 7 +

 

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As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti

3 Jul

asyouwishAs You Wish

By: Chelsea Sedoti
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date:  January, 2018

Eldon is a high school senior in Madison.  It’s a dusty, desert town on Nevada State Road 375.  His afternoon job is to man the full service gas station and charm people into thinking the town is ordinary and unimportant.  But Madison has a secret.

There is a secret cave where everyone on the day and hour of their eighteenth birthday gets to make a wish.  One wish.  And that wish will come true.  You can wish to be thin, popular, rich, the football star or anything else.  But most of the people in Madison seem to regret their decisions.  His birthday is coming up.  What will Eldon wish for?

Honestly, I wondered at the start of the book if Eldon would wish for what eventually happened.  The premise was set in the first three chapters.  Eldon is the book’s narrator and while you want to like him, all of his encounters with other high school students seem rude or offensive.  At the end of the book, he admits he needs to grow up, but I was waiting for it much earlier.  Then there’s the premise that any magical cave would hand over the power of a wish to an 18 year old.  Or that the townsfolk, with years of experience in bad wishes, doesn’t keep a chart and explain to students what they should wish for and how to word it.  Or even how large an effect it can be.

I do think the title needs changing.  As You Wish by Carey Elwes is a favorite (as is the movie The Princess Bride) and this is just so far removed from that humorous story.

Mildly recommended: Grades 6-8 (middle school only); I don’t think high school students would enjoy this.

 

before I let go by Marieke Nijkamp

2 Jul

before I let go

By: Marieke Nijkamp

Publisher: Sourcefire Books

Publication Date: 2018

Corey and Kyra are best friends in the very small town of Lost Creek, Alaska, pop. 246.  Corey’s mom moves the family to Winnipeg and days before she comes back to see her best friend, Kyra is dead.  It seems impossible for the bright, bipolar friend to be gone and Corey keeps her plane reservation and flies to Lost.  Gone just a few months, Lost is different.  Instead of the social outcast that Kyra had always been, Corey finds her honored.  Over and over Corey is told that she’s an outsider and that Kyra was loved by Lost.  Corey can’t believe that Kyra would be loved by everyone and she sets out to investigate her friend’s “murder”.

This is an incredible psychological thriller that will take you on a trip.  What really happened to Kyra? Who is to blame and why is Corey suddenly an outsider in this small community.  Kyra paints during her manic depression periods and then tears them up.  But suddenly her pictures are everywhere.  Will Corey find the truth?  Will anyone believe her?  Or will Kyra’s picture of her inside a burning building be a real prophecy?   No matter what anyone says, Kyra didn’t survive her town. “We call them hero days,” Kyra said, “because that is when we fight fear itself. And we win.”

The story bounces from the moment to any period in the last two years.  The girls conversations bounce to the action of the moment.  The story races along, back and forth in time, trying to give glimpses of what happened to Kyra and what danger Corey is in.

Highly recommended: Grades 8 & up.

Two Nights by Kathy Reichs

30 Jun

twonightsTwo Nights

By Kathy Reichs
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: July 11, 2017

Sunnie is an ex-troubled kid, an ex-Army vet, an ex-cop and not the most pleasant to be around.  But, when she is dragged in to a case, she takes it strongly and personally.  There is a child, kidnapped and who-knows-what for the purposes of a fringe radical group.  It’s up to Sunnie, her twin brother, and the police on the job to find the child and stop the madness.  Only Sunnie’s constant anxiety keeps her alive.  Can she save the child?  Should she?

This is a fast-paced thriller with the interspersed vignettes that make little sense until you near the end of the book.  What is happening to the child?  Is it the vignettes?  Is it something else?

I had not read a novel by Kathy Reichs before and this certainly kept me on the edge of my seat.  While I’m now in high school, I don’t think I’ll purchase it simply because I’m not seeing those sort of thrillers moving in the checkout area.  I will be sure to recommend that students go down the block to the local library if its in their interest areas.

Recommended: Adult

 

 

 

 

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