Seriously? I Read That?

Posts Tagged ‘young adult

hungergamesI was starting to feel like the only one in YA-lit land that hadn’t read The Hunger Games. That feeling soon turned into “well, it’s probably overhyped anyway…”

Sour grapes, and all that.

Let me just say, wow! This lived up to the hype. I didn’t want it to end. I was completely captivated by the dystopian world Suzanne Collins created.

Katniss is a great character, strong and likable. There’s compelling amounts of drama and a nice dash of romance. Sometimes in books like this, romance can seem forced, included only to appeal to teenage girls. Not so in this case. Katniss and Peeta’s love story adds another dimension to their fight to survive the Hunger Games, the brutal reality show competition used as a means of control by the tyrannous government of Panem, formerly North America.


The Hunger Games
is just wonderful. I can’t wait for the sequel.

Rating: 5 mockingjays out of 5.

Seven Tears into the SeaSeven years ago, Gwenn had a strange experience at the beach with a dark haired boy. He tells her:

“Beckon the sea, I’ll come to thee…
Shed seven tears, perchance seven years.”

It’s an experience shrouded in mystery and gossip and drives her family to move away from Gwenn’s beloved beach. Now, Gwenn has returned to Mirage Beach to help her Nana run the inn. But as Gwenn finds herself drawn more and more to the sea, she finds it impossible to forget the words the boy spoke. Have the boy’s words sealed her fate? What about the odd prophecy her Nana saw in her scrying mirror?

“The power which commands the waves will pull you back, […] Back to a reunion no mortal can imagine and no female can resist.”

Will Gwenn reunite with the boy from the beach? Gwenn must decide if destiny is unavoidable or if destiny can be a choice. Seven Tears into the Sea by Terri Farley is a rich, mythical novel, seeped in Celtic lore.

I’ll start by saying if I had known what this was really about, I probably wouldn’t have read it. Too much to suspend disbelief over, I suppose.

Anyway, I did read it and it wasn’t bad by any means. The prose is taut and has an almost forboding sense about it. The characterization is fairly well done and the plot moves at a good pace. But like I said, just not my cup of tea.

If you like Celtic mythology and folklore, you might want to pick this up.

Rating: 3.5 buckets of raw fish out of 5.

shadowedsummerIn a small Louisiana town where nothing exciting has happened since the disappearance of Elijah years before they were even born, fourteen year old Ivy and her best friend Collette, bored with their lives in a boring town, dabble with magic and spirits. It’s all play until Ivy sees the real ghost of the missing boy, Elijah. Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell is a story of a girl haunted by much more than a ghost as she struggles to solve a mystery, navigate a stormy friendship and a first crush, and deal with her own coming-of-age.

While the young girl haunted by a ghost plot has been done before in many incarnations, Shadowed Summer is worth the read. Early on, it becomes apparent that it’s as much a story of a family, a town, secrets, and tragedies both small and large as it is a ghost story. That’s not to say the ghost story is superfluous or feels tacked on to ride the paranormal trend wave. Elijah and his haunting of Ivy is the catalyst that forces Ivy to reevaluate her friends, her family, and all that she has been told.

The setting, post-Katrina Louisiana, in a town named Ondine, where Ivy says people are “bred with God and superstition in [their] blood” is what really won me over. I don’t think this would have worked as well had it been set in suburban New England or amidst urban sprawl. This is an atmospheric novel. It’s very Southern-feeling, mossy and humid.

The characters are likable enough, though at times they seem a little younger than they actually are. Overall, Shadowed Summer read like a middle-grade novel, and I think it would be entirely appropriate for the older members of that audience.

Recommended.

Rating: 4 witch boards out of 5.

jumpedTold in three alternating perspectives, Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of one school day in the life of three very different girls at an inner city high school: Dominique, the tough basketball player determined to teach another classmate a lesson; Trina, the pretty and artistic girl unaware of what she’s in for once the final bell rings; and Leticia, the observer of it all from start to finish who must decide to take action and warn Trina, or just let it happen.

This novel shines. The prose is honest, and at times has almost a Slam poetry feel to it. But the real centerpiece of the novel is the characters. Jumped is almost a character study in a way. Each of the three girls are much more than they seem. The writing never stoops to stereotypes or caricatures.

For me, Leticia is the one who brings everything together. Her observations reign the other girl’s perspectives in and put small details in focus. At one point, Leticia sums up the crux of the novel, the reason Trina is getting jumped, a fact of life that Trina is not aware of, and Dominique follows without verbalizing:

“When you’re an outsider, you should know your situation. Know who you are when you step out. Know what you can and can’t do.”

However, Leticia’s observations are not meant to influence readers into judgments of the characters. Readers are really left to decide for themselves what to think of the characters and their actions.

Jumped is a gritty, compelling novel from start to finish. I’d consider this award-worthy.

Rating: 4.5 sketch books out of 5.

Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia
Published: March 1st 2009 by Amistad
Binding: Hardcover, 176 pages
ISBN: 0060760915
Reading Level: Young Adult

The Book of MichaelIs life something that can picked up where you left off? The Book of Michael by Lesley Choyce tackles that very question. After being wrongfully accused and convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Lisa, sixteen year old Michael’s life is over. Or so he thinks. After six months in prison Michael is released. The real killer confessed. But for Michael, freedom isn’t what he imagined. Innocent is still guilt in some people’s eyes. Michael is forced to live and grieve in a world that let him go to prison for a crime he did not commit.

Oh, I’ll admit it took a good number of pages for this book to grow on me. Initially, reading The Book of Michael reminded me of the Covenant House books my grandmother used to get in the mail. Good boy from good family meets bad girl from bad family. Bad girl introduces good boy to bad things like rap music and baggy pants. Good boy gone bad smokes a little weed and next thing you know he’s in prison. Thankfully, that tone didn’t continue for too long, and the novel transformed into a rather well-done piece of work. I was even pleasantly surprised at the relatively positive portrayal of teen sex and the importance of libraries in prisons.

There’s a nice twist at the ending that might polarize readers, but I thought it added something extra to the book. It shows that sometimes redemption and justice isn’t something juries, judges, and lawyers can give. Sometimes it’s something that has to be internally created on one’s own terms, as Michael finds:

“at times the world is not such a terrible place after all. It has given us permission to get on with our lives as best we can. And I am convinced that this is enough.”

While not the best piece of literature ever written, I think The Book of Michael is a necessary work, and would probably make a good fiction companion to No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row by Susan Kuklin.

Rating: 3.5 books on I Ching out of 5.

The Book of Michael by Lesley Choyce
Published: October 4th 2008 by Red Deer Press
Binding: Paperback, 224 pages
ISBN: 0889954178
Reading Level: Young Adult

Shift

The summer between High School and college is an exciting, often scary time for most teens. With one foot in childhood and one in adulthood, it’s a time for change, burgeoning independence, and new experiences. For best friends Chris and Win, a cross-country bike trip is the epitome of a transitional summer that went wrong. So wrong that only one of them comes home. So wrong that an FBI agent follows Chris to college demanding answers. Shift by Jennifer Bradbury is an exploration of not only a life-changing trip, but also what it means to be a friend.

I adore this book. Besides being an incredibly well-written and well-done, it’s a highly believable book. The characterization is great. That fact that I found myself alternating between loving and despising Win, is, I feel, a testament to just how realistic and three dimensional Bradbury’s characters are.

The ending was an ending that needs a day or two to sink in. It’s not a “happy ending”, but it’s the right ending, even if all along I hoped for something different. At first I felt that there was no real closure, but the more I thought about it, I realized that maybe that sense of non-closure made the novel even better, more real, more honest. Ending aren’t always clear. People don’t always act like they should, and punishment can be a relative term.

Highly recommended. This is a great entry in a genre that needs more compelling male narrated books.

Rating: 4.5 coded postcards out of 5.

Shift by Jennifer Bradbury
Published: May 20th 2008 by Atheneum
Binding: Hardcover, 256 pages
ISBN: 1416947329
Reading Level: Young Adult

Skeleton Creek

Something strange is going on in Skeleton Creek and Ryan and his best friend Sarah are determined to find out what that something really is. There’s just one small problem: Ryan is trapped in his house with a broken leg after an accident at the local dredge, the apparent hot-spot of strange happenings in Skeleton Creek, and his and Sarah’s parents have forbidden them from contacting each other. But Ryan and Sarah decide that the risk of getting caught is outweighed by the importance of what they must do. Ryan and Sarah continue digging into the mysteries of Skeleton Creek, aware of the danger they may already be in.

Skeleton Creek book 1 is presented as Ryan’s journal. Inside are clues and remembrances of his accident and research he and Sarah have undertaken. As Sarah continues her own investigating, she sends Ryan passwords to videos she has uploaded to her website. Readers are invited to view the videos, using the passwords provided in the book.

Like Cathy’s Book and The 39 Clues series, Skeleton Creek is an interactive book. The story exists in print and in online videos, making the book more of a live experience. Ryan’s journal is narrated as it happens, so readers are sucked right into the action.

Skeleton Creek is a voyeuristic experience. While reading the journal and watching the videos it is as if you’ve come across something you shouldn’t really be privy to.

Skeleton Creek is a quick, fast-paced read with plenty of creepy, atmospheric suspense. The sense of creepiness is only heightened by the videos which add a nice dimension to the book, blurring the line between reality and fantasy. Quite a few moments made me a jump a little. Very well-done.

It should be noted that while the book can be read and understood without the videos, the videos should be watched to get the full experience (not to mention to see the amazing cliff-hanger).

Book 2 comes out this fall. I’m positive many readers will be counting down the days until they can get another glimpse of the mysteries surrounding Skeleton Creek.

I’m very curious to see how the rest of the series will play out, both in terms of plot and execution.

Rating: 4.5 “little birdies” out of 5.

links:
sarahfincher.com
skeletoncreekisreal.com

Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman
Published: February 1st 2009 by Scholastic Press
Binding: Hardcover, 144 pages
ISBN: 0545075661
Reading Level: Young Adult


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Books That Go Bump in the Night- Halloween and scary books for kids and teens. My other blog.


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