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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.

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

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

 

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

22 Jul

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: February, 2015
Audiobook Narration: Amanda Dolan

Mare Barrow is a Red – meaning her blood is red.  At 17, she lives in poverty, facing conscription to the army at the age of 18.  Only those Reds who have an apprenticeship avoid automatic conscription.  But Mare is an indifferent student and a petty thief and expects to join her brothers on the front line.  Her best friend has an apprenticeship until his master dies unexpectly and suddenly he is about to be conscripted.  Now Mare has to be clever to protect her friend.  But the Grand Plans fail, Mare’ sister is hurt, the family is desolate.  And Mare meets a young man who ends up getting her a job at the Palace working for the Silvers.  The Silver’s blood is silver but more anyone with silver blood has a strange power.  Powers follow families: one family sparks flames, another reads minds, another controls metals.  And in a freak accident, it turns out that Mare is freak of nature – a Red with Silver powers.

Now everyone wants a piece of Mare – the Queen, the Red Rebellion, and both of the princes.

“Anyone can betray anyone.”

I listened to the audiobook read by Amanda Dolan.  I loved her voice.  So many YA audiobooks have a high pitched female voice but this was lower, pleasant and fit with the tone.  The book was performed well and the book itself was fun to “read.”

Recommended: Grades 6 & up

Calamity – The Epic Ending

5 Jul

Calamity, Book 3: The Reckoners series

By Brandon Sanderson

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Publication Date: February, 2016

Our house really enjoys Brandon Sanderson books and we have both young adult and adult books around.  My rising senior son read the book first and I only had one question.  Did this book actually end the series?  (I have some bad experiences with books that I thought ended a series but then they kept popping up new ones.). The answer is “Yes”. 

In the first book, Steelheart, Sanderson introduces us to David and a world living under Calamity.  In this book, David still makes interesting metaphors and is still in love with FireFight (read the 2nd book).  But the momentous understanding of the end of the second book and the lose of his mentor, Prof, is huge.  How does it play out in Calamity?  Well things are not quite as they seem.  Can Prof be brought back to himself or will he continue to rampage?  What is the right way to handle things and what is David risking?

It’s a roller coaster ride in Atlanta or in post-Calamity, Ildithia, that is nothing like the Atlanta I live in.  How will David handle things? Will they lose more people? Will they recover Prof?  And, how does he handle the Epic named Calamity?

Recommended: Grades 7 & up