Alive by Scott Sigler

alive-scott-siglerBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Del Rey, 2015
  • Edition: First
  • Description: 345 pages; 22 cm.
  • Interest Level: YA
  • Summary: “For fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Red Rising comes a gripping sci-fi adventure in which a group of teenagers wake up in a mysterious corridor with no knowledge of who they are or how they got trapped. Their only hope lies with an indomitable young woman who must lead them not only to answers but to survival.”  Retrieved from http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/246640/alive-by-scott-sigler/
  • ISBN: 978-0-553-39310-1
  • Subjects:
    • Space Travel – Fiction
    • Diseases, Juvenile – Fiction
    • Survival Scenarios – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation: I killed the thing that was attacking me in my coffin.  I’ll do the same to anyone who tries to keep me locked up in this place.

Plot Summary:  Em is awakened by something stabbing her in the neck and finds herself both under attack and confined, in what she takes to be a coffin.  How she got there and where she is a mystery to her that she immediately knows must be solved.  After freeing herself she finds another girl in another coffin who she frees.  Together they find and free others, all young adults who believed themselves to be about twelve but are all around nineteen or twenty.  Together they work to figure out who they are, where they are, and how to get out.  There is no food or water, and there is evidence that someone is in there with them who is dangerous.  Each of them came from a coffin-like container and they find others that contain dead children, with evidence that someone damaged the coffins and killed the inhabitants.  Added to that is the conflict between them that is developing as their shock wears off and their personalities begin to reemerge.  The battle to lead the group eventually leads to conflict and death but Em is determined to get them out alive regardless of any threats, from within or without.

Critical Evaluation:  Scott Sigler is a writer of science fiction horror for adult readers and he does a good job with the kind of material he writes.  Alive is his first attempt at breaching the Young Adult market and it is less than successful.  While the book is interesting and not a bad read, it fails as a YA book because the characters don’t feel like young adults.   They feel like adults, and this is to be expected once you realize what they actually are.  Moreover, the characters are generally unpleasant and unlikeable.  I know that was probably deliberate as the personalities of the escapees were a reflection of who they really were but in order for a reader to care about them there needs to be some degree of likability and they really had little to none.  The other problem I had with the book is that the pace is slow and Sigler spends too much time trying to get to the point of the story.  I understand that the idea was the group was trying to get out of a maze or whatever it was they were trapped in but it took so long it became tedious.  If the purpose was to create tension, it failed.  Overall, Sigler did what may writers of adult fiction do when they try to write YA books; he created a story with less violence, less sex, and with young characters and thought he’d written a YA novel.  But it, like many other attempts by writers of adult fiction, falls short because he didn’t really create believable young adults, just characters who are young.

Author’s Brief Bio:  “Scott Sigler is the New York Times bestselling author of sixteen novels—including Alive and Alight—six novellas, and dozens of short stories. He is also the co-founder of Empty Set Entertainment, which publishes his YA Galactic Football League series. He lives in San Diego.”  Retrieved from http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/79648/scott-sigler/

Genre Designation: YA Science Fiction

Possible Curriculum Links:

  • Space Travel
  • Cloning

Book Talk Ideas: What would be the first thing you’d do if you woke up in a place and didn’t know how you got there or where you were?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:

Reviews:

Why this book was selected.  I’ve read some of Sigler’s adult materials and wanted to see if he could successfully bridge the gap between adult and young adult while still being interesting.

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

the-girl-from-the-wellBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Sourcebooks Fire, 2015
  • Edition, First
  • Description: Hardback, 258 pages ; 21 cm.
  • Interest Level: YA; Lexile Level 940
  • Summary: I am where dead children go.  Okiku is a lonely soul. She has wandered the world for centuries, freeing the spirits of the murdered-dead. Once a victim herself, she now takes the lives of killers with the vengeance they’re due. But releasing innocent ghosts from their ethereal tethers does not bring Okiku peace. Still she drifts on. Retrieved from publisher; http://www.sourcebooks.com/store/girl-from-the-well.html
  • ISBN: 978-1-51816-139-1
  • Subjects:
    • Ghosts – Fiction
    • Japanese Mythology – Fiction
    • Family Issues – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation: He drowned the little girl with the gap in her teeth whose ghost now clings to him, tethered to him by his crime.  Now I will kill him and she will be free.

Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OIeGix-hEw

Plot Summary: When Okiku was alive she was a servant in the house of a handsome Japanese lord whose life she saved from a retainer who plotted his death.  In retaliation for her actions the retainer frames her for breaking a valuable plate and her lord gives him to her to punish and kill.  She is tortured to death and thrown down a well, her spirit seething with rage and a desire for revenge against all who kill innocents.  Hundreds of years later, still exacting vengeance on killers around the world she comes across a boy, Tark who is half Japanese.  She saves him and his cousin Callie from a serial killer but that is only the beginning of her relationship with them.  Both can see her and she forms a relationship with them, drawn to Tark by his pain and fear.  Tark is possessed by a demon which has killed his mother and seeks to fully control him.  His mother had protected him by covering his body with tattoos but they are fading as the demon grows stronger.  Returning to Japan, the three must work together to end Tark’s nightmare or he will die.

Critical Evaluation:  I personally think that Japanese horror and ghost stories are some of the most frightening ones in world literature.  The Kwaidan, a movie version of several of the most famous ghost stories, is an truly frightening experience and is clearly the inspiration of many of the modern Japanese horror movies and this book.  The ghost is a vengeance spirit, murdered unjustly by an evil man but also with the tacit knowledge and approval of someone she loved and respected.  The level of horror in this book and the degree of violence is probably less than many of the movie being made today but it still provides a significant degree of blood and death.  Younger readers might find it a little too creepy but older ones should enjoy the thrill of fear.

The book is written from the point of view of the ghost for the most part but also from a third person perspective focused on Callie who is the American cousin of the cursed boy, Tark.  These two female characters are the focus of the story in that it through them that the boy will be saved.  Overall, this is an interesting look at the stories of another culture and at the role of females in traditional male dominated societies.

Author’s Brief Bio: Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Rin-Chupeco/e/B00IMD8L4O

Genre Designation: Horror

Possible Curriculum Links:

  • Japanese Culture
  • Mythology

Book Talk Ideas:  Does revenge make you feel better when someone hurts you?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:

Reviews:

Why this book was selected.  Japanese culture, mythology and history have been a source of interest for me for many years.  I am very drawn to the ghost stories found in the culture and this book draws heavily on those traditions.

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey

the-fifth-waveBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA)
  • Edition: First
  • Description: 457 pages; 23 cm         
  • Interest Level:  YA
  • Summary: After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.   Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother-or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. Retrieved at http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16101128-the-5th-wave
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-16241-1
  • Subjects:
    • Extraterrestrial Life – Fiction
    • Survival Skills – Fiction
    • War – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation: They say that the world has ended, that the war has been lost.  But as long as I’m alive and he’s alive, the war will never end.

Book Trailer(s):

  1. First Wave: https://youtu.be/fpmIjDo3B1s
  2. Second Wave: https://youtu.be/oQjA8lDlBVs
  3. Third Wave: https://youtu.be/Gd0FApGRlJs
  4. Fourth Wave: https://youtu.be/RG5BQVz0cLQ

Plot Summary:  Cassie’s life was so ordinary that she didn’t realize how wonderful it was until it was all gone.  When the aliens came and the inevitable attack started the end came like a rock rolling downhill; unstoppable and increasing in speed as it nears the end.  There were four waves of attack:  the first wave took their electricity; the second caused massive tectonic movements with its accompanying earthquakes and tidal waves; the third wave was disease; and the fourth wave in which humans were hunted by unseen silent alien killers.  Cassie and her little brother survived all of them but were separated. Now she is alone and desperate to rescue him from what she now knows are aliens masquerading as humans.  Alone in a dangerous world, she is trying to get to him and save him.  The only question is whether that is even possible in a world where anyone you meet might be the enemy and the enemy is everywhere.

Critical Evaluation:  Some writers are really good at creating believable characters that are compelling and keep the reader involved in the story regardless of the quality of the story.  Some writers create great stories but populate them with characters lacking in dimension and interest.  Yancy has managed to do the first.  He has created a lovely cast of characters almost each of which stands out as an individual person often fully developed and genuine.  You like Cassie; she is not a hero or particularly brave but she is determined and very human.  She is also a complete survivor who will do anything she can to stay alive at least long enough to find and rescue her brother who is the last remaining member of her family.  Evan, who loves her, is an alien inhabiting a human body struggling with who he is and what his place in this world is.  He has a duty but he discovers to his despair he also has a heart and it belongs to Cassie.  The story itself is not unique nor is it well thought out in certain places.  For example, in a world being invaded by aliens who are the only ones with technology that still functions, the siting of a drone over a survivors camp followed by the arrival of a ‘rescue’ military force with a school bus for the kids, did not seem to be suspicious to the military type survivors of the camp.  That is not logical and it’s is poor story construction.  Despite this failing, the book and the story is good and worth the readers time.

Author’s Brief Bio:  Rick is a native Floridian and a graduate of Roosevelt University in Chicago. He earned a B.A. in English which he put to use as a field officer for the Internal Revenue Service. Inspired and encouraged by his wife, he decided his degree might also be useful in writing books and in 2004 he began writing full-time.  Since then he has launched two critically acclaimed series: The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, for young readers, and The Highly Effective Detective, for adults. Both books are set in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Rick lived for ten years before returning to Florida.  Rick lives with his wife, Sandy, his three sons, two dogs and one lizard.  Retrieved from https://www.fantasticfiction.com/y/rick-yancey/

Genre Designation: Dystopian Science Fiction

Possible Curriculum Links:

  • History & political development

Book Talk Ideas:  What would you do if the power just died?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:

Reviews:

Why this book was selected.  I was required to read it for a course and thought it was good.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan:

magnas-chase-book-oneBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Disney Hyperion, 2015
  • Edition: First
  • Description: ix, 497 pages: illustrations ; 22 cm.
  • Interest Level: Tween / YA
  • Summary: Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers. One day, he’s tracked down by an uncle he’s never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. His uncle tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god. The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years. When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision. Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die… Retrieved from publisher at http://books.disney.com/book/the-sword-of-summer/
  • ISBN: 978-1-41048-316-4
  • Subjects:
    • Mythology / Norse – Fiction
    • Family issues – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation: So, I’m sixteen years old with crazy relatives and a sword I pulled out of the river just by willing it?  Does that mean I really have to die today?

Plot Summary: Magnus Chase has been living for the streets of Boston for two years following the death of his mother at the hands of furry blue eyed monsters.  Estranged from her brothers whom she told him not to trust, Magnus has been avoiding authority figures of all kinds as well, living by his wits and with the help of other homeless friends such as Blitz and Hearth.  But when he turns sixteen Blitz tells him that people are going to kill him and that someone is looking for him.  This leads to his being found by his uncle Randolph who convinces him to summon some mystical weapon from the waters of Charles River and oh, by the way, his father was a Norse god.  This all leads to Magnus summoning the sword from the water, being attacked by a fire demon named Surt, and then dying in the battle.  Normally this is where the story would end but in this case it just ends the first part since he is then carried to Valhalla by a Valkyrie which is where his real problems begin.  After that it’s just one thing after another leading to his saving the world and meeting his father, in true Riordan fashion.

Critical Evaluation: Magnus Chase and the God of Asgard: the Sword of Summer is very much a Rick Riordan book.  You have your witty, devil may care young hero who must find out who he really is and what his place is in the world as he has come to know it.  You have all kinds of brave young compatriots willing to risk life and limb to help the hero and you have a bunch of pretty standard bad guys all drawn from some aspect of mythology in this case Norse mythology.  And you have the god-like absentee parent who really, really cares for the kid just not enough to stick around and be a parent.  But, it is a fun read and one that many kids really enjoy so who am I to complain.  The writing is professional, crisp and satisfying if not very challenging.  The story is formulaic but not boring.  Overall it is a good middle school through 10th grade read that will appeal to boys in particular but also to a few girls.

Author’s Brief Bio:  Rick Riordan is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over twenty novels for young readers, including the Percy Jackson series, the Kane Chronicles, the Magnus Chase series and the Trials of Apollo. He is also the author of the multi-award-winning Tres Navarre mystery series for adults.  For fifteen years, Rick taught English and history at public and private middle schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Texas. While teaching in San Antonio, Saint Mary’s Hall honored him with the school’s first Master Teacher Award.  While teaching full time, Riordan began writing mystery novels for grownups. His Tres Navarre series went on to win the top three national awards in the mystery genre – the Edgar, the Anthony and the Shamus. Riordan turned to children’s fiction when he started The Lightning Thief as a bedtime story for his oldest son.  Rick Riordan now writes full-time. He lives in Boston with his wife and two sons.

Genre Designation: Fantasy Adventure

Possible Curriculum Links:

  • Mythology
  • Family issues

Book Talk Ideas: What if you had lived your whole life thinking your father was one thing and found out he was someone completely different?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:

Reviews:

Why this book was selected.  The author is very popular and I am interested in Norse mythology.

Midwinter Blood by Marcus Sedgwick

midwinterbloodBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Roaring Brook Press, 2013
  • Edition: First
  • Description: 262 pages; 22 cm
  • Interest Level: YA
  • Summary: Seven stories of passion and love separated by centuries but mysteriously intertwined—this is a tale of horror and beauty, tenderness and sacrifice. Retrieved from http://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250040077
  • ISBN: 978-1-59643-800-2
  • Subjects:
    • Reincarnation – Fiction
    • Mythology – Fiction
    • Cults – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation:  Where I have seen her before?  Why do I feel like I’ve known her forever?

Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/IbMwHdTrcfc

Plot Summary:  Two souls travel through time in many different incarnations centered on a place called Blest Island, always finding and then losing each other, only to be born again and start the story over.  Eric and Merle, sometimes mother and son, sometimes lovers, sometimes siblings, but always searching or holding onto the other.  The book starts with Eric who is a journalist in 2073 coming to a strange island to do a story about a plant and meets Merle a beautiful girl who lives there.   From that meeting the book moves backwards in time, each section detailing a different life the two had experienced together.  In 2011, Eric is a boy and Merle is his mother, whereas in the next era (1944) Eric is the father and Merle is daughter who died when she was only twelve.  The next era was in 1902, Eric was an aging, rich and formally famous artist and Merle is a little girl who saves his life and becomes a feature in his last painting.  The story from 1848 is about two ill-fated lover of the same names and a ghost who tells their story.  Further back in time, the next tale is set in the 10th century, when they were brother and sister haunted by a creature that had been their uncle or perhaps, father.  Finally, the story goes back to the beginning and resolves the relationship between the final Eric and Merle.

Critical Evaluation:  This is an unusual book in that is has more in common with a collection of short-stories than it does with a novel.  There is an overarching theme that runs through the stories but they are all different.  The writing is good and very poetic in style and tone, and the stories are interesting.  But the book fails for me because the stories are each so interesting that I would like to see them in a more complete form than they are presented.  There is also the recurring element’s which seem significant but whose importance are not explained such as the hare’s and hare related artifacts that appear in each story.  And of course, the dragon imagery which is also seen in the form of an orchid that plays an important role in some of the stories.  All in all, the book is good but at the same time, unsatisfying.  You always feel as if you are missing a part of the story and want a more complete resolution.

Author’s Brief Bio:  Marcus Sedgwick was born in Kent, England. Marcus is a British author and illustrator as well as a musician. He is the author of several books, including Witch Hill and The Book of Dead Days, both of which were nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award. The most recent of these nominations rekindled a fascination with Poe that has borne fruit here in (in The Restless Dead, 2007) the form of “The Heart of Another” – inspired by Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Of his story, Sedgwick says, “This was one of those stories that I thought might be a novel originally but actually was much better suited to the tight form of the short story. I had the initial idea some years ago but was just waiting for the right ingredient to come along. Poe’s story, as well as his own fascination with technique, provided that final piece of the puzzle.”  Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/110234.Marcus_Sedgwick

Genre Designation: Horror

Possible Curriculum Links:

  • Poetry
  • Mythology

Book Talk Ideas: What would make you want to be reborn as a another person?  Who would you come back to be with?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:

Reviews:

Why this book was selected.  This is a very popular book at my library, so much so that it was ‘lost’ and I had to buy another copy.

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

welcome-to-the-dark-houseBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Hyperion, 2014
  • Edition: First
  • Description: 357 pages ; 22 cm
  • Interest Level: YA
  • Summary: What’s your worst nightmare?  For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.  And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project. Not everyone is so charming, though.  The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.  By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run.  Adapted and retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18459190-welcome-to-the-dark-house
  • ISBN: 978-1-42318-172-9
  • Subjects:
    • Juvenile psychology – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation:   What was I thinking?  I should have stayed home and not answered that sick elf’s mail.

Plot Summary: Ivy survived the slaughter of her family by a serial killer when she was around ten years old and she’s lived with the fear that he will come back to finish the job.  Now, happily ensconced in a new family with a new name, she finds herself invited to participate in a contest that requires each contestant to submit an essay about their worst nightmares.  Seven winners are chosen to attend a weekend at the Dark House where they would met a notorious horror movie director named Justin Blake.  There Ivy meets an assortment of other kids all of whom have had some kind of trauma in their lives and who are a bit on the odd side.  In the manner of all ‘teen slasher’ offerings the kids disappear one by one until only Ivy and a boy name Parker remain.  What happened to the others and who is behind it all is a mystery that needs to be solved before either of them can go free.

Critical Evaluation:  I’ve always like horror stories but I’ve never like that particular sub-section of the genre that focuses on the abuse and murder of teenagers in what are generally obscenely violent ways.  And while this book is not graphic in nature, the sense is that these kids, some of whom are really annoying (also a trend in this kind of story), do meet a grisly and generally undeserved fate.  The author has drawn on many classic movie ideas to create her story and she has populated it with the required assortment of both boys and girls but frankly, they are interchangeable in terms of character development.  We learn about their back stories in first person chapters each told from the point of view of a particular individual.  Despite the way she sets each chapter up, you don’t really get a good feel for who the characters are as individuals.  They all tend to blur together, expect for Shayla who is without a doubt written to be the most annoying and shallow characters in the books.  She stands out only because she was so irritating, not because her character is well defined or fleshed out.

While the germ of the book is an interesting one – the survivor of a serial killer being lured into the grasp of another serial killer – Stolarz fails to deliver on the potential of the book.  It is trite and extremely derivative lacking any compelling, or actually interesting, characters or story.

Author’s Brief Bio:  Laurie Faria Stolarz grew up in Salem, MA, attended Merrimack College, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston.  Laurie Faria Stolarz is an American author of young adult fiction novels, best known for her Blue is for Nightmares series. Her works, which feature teenage protagonists, blend elements found in mystery and romance novels.

Stolarz found sales success with her first novel, Blue is for Nightmares, and followed it up with three more titles in the series, White is for Magic, Silver is for Secrets, and Red is for Remembrance, as well as a companion graphic novel, Black is for Beginnings. Stolarz is also the author of the Touch series (Deadly Little Secret, Deadly Little Lies, Deadly Little Games, Deadly Little Voices, and Deadly Little Lessons), as well as Bleed and Project 17. With more than two million books sold worldwide, Stolarz’s titles have been named on various awards list.  Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/58846.Laurie_Faria_Stolarz

Genre Designation: Horror

Possible Curriculum Links: None

Book Talk Ideas:  What would you do to meet one of your favorite celebrities?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:

Reviews:

Why this book was selected.  This book was added to the library at one of my schools and is very popular so I decided to check it out.

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

the-girl-from-everywhereBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2016
  • Edition: First
  • Description: 454 pages; map; 22 cm
  • Interest Level: YA
  • Summary: Nix’s life began in Honolulu in 1868. Since then she has traveled to mythic Scandinavia, a land from the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, modern-day New York City, and many more places both real and imagined. As long as he has a map, Nix’s father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place, any time. But now he’s uncovered the one map he’s always sought—1868 Honolulu, before Nix’s mother died in childbirth. Nix’s life—her entire existence—is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix’s future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who’s been part of their crew for two years. If Nix helps her father reunite with the love of his life, it will cost her her own.  Retrieved from https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062380753/the-girl-from-everywhere
  • ISBN: 978-0-06-238075-3
  • Subjects:
    • Time Travel – Fiction
    • Pirates – Fiction
    • Fantasy & Mythology – Fiction
    • Father/daughter relationships – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation: He loved her, my mother, more than anything in the world.  To get her back why wouldn’t he sacrifice me?

Plot Summary: Nix is a time traveler and the daughter of a time traveler.  Born in Hawaii in 1868 to a Chinese mother and a 20th century time traveler, she has sailed aboard her father’s ship from one port and one time to another her entire life.  Her father, a man of many weakness, uses special maps to chart their movement from place to place and time to time, where they plunder and collect items they can use to obtain the greatest map of all: a map that will take him back to the moment before Nix’s mother dies giving birth to her and that will allow him to be restored to the love of his life.  He seeks this obsessively even if finding it would mean losing Nix, his only child since changing the past might me she would never exist, at least not as she is.  Nix is torn by a desire to help him and a desire to be free of his quest.  She is also torn by her attraction to a young man in Hawaii and a friend she has known for many years who works on the time traveling ship.  Now the map lies within their reach if they can twist the strands of time in their favor but will her father really pay the price to get back one loved one at the cost of another?

Critical Evaluation:  Nix is a very interesting character; born in one century but living in many.  She is also character who has seen things that should exist as the maps can take them not just to other times and places but to other realities where myths and magic really do exist.  But she feels like a 20th century teenager, which makes her believable because she was raised by a 20th century man and spent time in that century herself.  Regrettably of the various characters hers is the only one that feels fully developed and believable.  Her father is too much the selfish, hippy-type who is willing to do anything and sacrifice anyone to get what he wants to be either likeable or even interesting.  How such a man learned to navigate through time is both unexplained and unbelievable considering how much time he was either intoxicated or high.  Her friend Kashmir is also a bit underdeveloped but definitely more interesting and admirable than her father.  The other characters – two shipmates and a love interest – are equally shallow and vague.  Despite these failings regarding character development, the story is unique and intriguing.  The idea of using hand-drawn maps to move from one time to another is fascinating and has tremendous potential.  As this is her first novel, I fully expect her to correct any characterization flaws in future works.

Author’s Brief Bio: Heidi grew up in Hawaii where she rode horses and raised peacocks, and then she moved to New York City and grew up even more, as one tends to do. Her favorite thing, outside of writing, is travel, and she has haggled for rugs in Morocco, hiked the trails of the Ko’olau Valley, and huddled in a tent in Africa while lions roared in the dark.

She holds an MFA from New York University in Musical Theatre Writing, of all things, and she’s written books and lyrics for shows including The Time Travelers Convention, Under Construction, and The Hole. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, her son, and their pet snake. Retrieved from http://www.heidiheilig.com/about-heidi/

Genre Designation: Fantasy

Possible Curriculum Links:

  • History / American / Hawaiian
  • Pirates
  • Hawaiian/ Polynesian culture and mythology
  • Chinese history and mythology
  • Mythology

Book Talk Ideas: Where would you go if you could travel in time?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:

Reviews:

Why this book was selected.  I have always been intrigued by time travel stories and this one was unique to say the least.  It is an excellent addition for any collection.

Silver by Chris Wooding

silverBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Scholastic Press, 2014
  • Edition: First
  • Description: 313 pages; 22cm.
  • Interest Level: YA
  • Summary: When a boy is bitten by a strange silver beetle, he becomes the first victim of a mysterious infection. But this is no ordinary virus. It turns flesh into metal, and pupils into machines. As the virus spreads and more terrifying, blood-thirsty machines appear, a small group manage to barricade themselves inside the school. Can they keep the machines at bay long enough for help to arrive? Is help even coming? Meanwhile the virus is spreading and its victims are changing… evolving… becoming stronger… The world as our heroes know it is turning silver. Will any of them survive?  Retrieved from http://www.chriswooding.com/the-books/silver/
  • Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/t-mQi9MlKVA
  • ISBN: 978-0-545-60392-8
  • Subjects:
    • Alien life – Fiction
    • Boarding schools – Fiction
    • Communicable diseases – Fiction
    • Survival – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation: Beetles don’t attack people!  But that beetle bite him and another one flew into my camera.

Plot Summary: Paul, who lost his parents in a car accident, is now the new kid at the Mortingham Boarding Academy.  After six months he still hasn’t settled into the school and is frequently in trouble.  But things begin to change when two students find a strange silver beetle near the school, and shortly after during a class outing near the pond, the students are attacked by a bunch of those same silvery gray beetles.  And that’s just the beginning.  The bugs are spreading some kind of disease that takes over any biological matter and turns it into a cybernetic organism.  First it’s the animals that are infected and turned into something very alien, then its people.  Two boys bitten by the bugs at the pond get sick, then the headmaster is attacked by a strange silver dog.  All are sick and getting sicker.  As the silver spreads Paul and some of the other students must find a safe place in an increasingly unsafe world.  Any form of life, no matter how big or small that is infected by the disease becomes a part of a hive like life form always seeking to add to its mass any uninfected lives.  Isolated and terrified, who will survive, or will anyone?

Critical Evaluation:  Chris Wooding doesn’t write for the faint of heart and this book is a good example of that.  He creates a story that moves from a bucolic English country school scene to raging, apocalyptic nightmare in just a few hours.  There is no time for adjustment or planning; it’s survival on the fly for a group of kids, fighting against something they don’t understand while struggling to make it from minute to minute in a world gone mad and deadly.   Wooding’s characters are fairly well fleshed out, though not as three dimensional in every case as one might want.  Then again, not many of them live very long so why work hard to create completely developed characters.  The book is a little on the violent side but most YA readers should be able to handle it if forewarned.  Overall, for science fiction horror it is an excellent effort and a good source of chills.

Author’s Brief Bio:  Chris Wooding grew up in a small town in Leicestershire, where not much of anything happened. So he started to write novels. He was sixteen when he completed his first. He had an agent by eighteen. By nineteen he had signed his first book deal. When he left university he began to write full-time, and he has been doing it professionally all his adult life.

Now thirty-two, Chris has written sixteen books, which have been translated into twenty languages, won various awards and been published around the world. He writes for film and television, and has several projects in development.  Retrieved from http://www.chriswooding.com/about/

Genre Designation: Science Fiction / Horror

Possible Curriculum Links:

  • Computers & programming
  • Biology
  • Diseases / plagues

Book Talk Ideas:  What can you do to avoid catching a disease?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:

Reviews:

Why this book was selected.  I love creepy science fiction and this one was very scary in an age appropriate way, of course.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

yaqui-delgadoBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Candlewick Press, 2013
  • Edition: First
  • Description: 260 pages; 22cm          
  • Interest Level: YA
  • Summary: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. That’s what some girl tells Piddy Sanchez one morning. Paddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui Delgado is or what she’s done to piss her off.

But Yaqui isn’t kidding around. Paddy tries to focus on finding out more about the father she’s never met and balancing honors courses with her job at the neighborhood hair salon, but avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. She’s forced to decide exactly who she is versus who others are trying to make her become – and ultimately discovers a rhythm that is all her own.  Retrieved from https://megmedina.com/booksandreviews/yaqui-delgado-wants-to-kick-your-ass/

Reader’s Annotation: Who is Yaqui Delgado?!  And why does she want to kick my ass?!

Plot Summary: Piddy Sanchez is happily working her way through high school with the hopes of someday being veterinarian for elephants and kittens.  She works hard and is at the top of her class.  Then her mother falls through the steps of their apartment building and just like that her world falls apart.  Her mother moves them to a new and nicer place but that involves moving her to a new school, which is definitely not a nicer place.  Although her first few weeks at the new high school is successful – she in with the smart kids and her teachers love her – it isn’t long before she is informed that some other girl named Yaqui Delgado thinks she after her boyfriend, is a stuck-up skank, and needs to be taught some respect.  Yaqui intends to kick her ass and there’s nothing she can do about it no matter how hard she tries.  Eventually, after enduring weeks of harassment Piddy is stalked and assaulted in front of her own home.  Worse, one of the girls in Yaqui ‘gang’ films it and it ends up online.  All of this, both the avoiding of the threat and Piddy’s eventual beat-down cause her to let other aspects of her life slip into disarray, forcing her to make some serious decisions about her life and how she lives it.

Critical Evaluation:  This is one of the best books I’ve ever read dealing with bullying and the interpersonal relationships of kids in middle or high school.  Medina’s portrayal of Piddy is so believable that you come away thinking you’ve actually met this person somewhere, or that you were that person at some place or time.  By focusing only on the victim the book sends a strong message about who we should really be concerned about when someone harasses or bullies another person.  Regardless of the motivation or issues of the bully, it is the victim who deserves our care and protection. This book brings the victim to life in a way that makes her sympathetic but not pathetic.  Piddy doesn’t understand why this person hates her so much.  She tries to figure out if there is a way to resolve the issues before something terrible happens but can’t because logic and reason don’t play a role in this situation.  And that is why this book is so successful to me.  Bully’s just don’t need a reason to hurt others and Medina makes it clear whose side we should be on.

Author’s Brief Bio: Meg Medina is an award-winning Cuban American author who writes picture books, middle grade, and YA fiction. She is the 2016 recipient of the Pura Belpré honor medal for her picture book, Mango, Abuela and Me, and the 2014 Pura Belpré Award winner for her young adult novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, which was also the winner of the 2013 CYBILS Fiction award and the International Latino Book Award. She is also the 2012 Ezra Jack Keats New Writers medal winner for her picture book Tía Isa Wants a Car.

Meg’s other books are The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind , a 2012 Bank Street Best Book and CBI Recommended Read in the UK; and Milagros: Girl from Away.  In March 2014, she was recognized as one of the CNN 10 Visionary Women in America. In November 2014, she was named one of Latino Stories Top Ten Latino Authors to Watch.

Meg’s work examines how cultures intersect, as seen through the eyes of young people. She brings to audiences stories that speak to both what is unique in Latino culture and to the qualities that are universal. Her favorite protagonists are strong girls.  When she is not writing, Meg works on community projects that support girls, Latino youth and/or literacy. She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia.  Retrieved from https://megmedina.com/about/

Genre Designation: Realistic Fiction

Possible Curriculum Links:

  • Hispanic Culture / Variations within immigrant populations
  • Sociology

Book Talk Ideas:  How would you deal with someone who thinks something about you that isn’t true?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:

Reviews:

Why this book was selected.  I had to read it for an assignment; lucky for me otherwise I’d have never read it.

The dead girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender

dead-girls-of-hysteria-hallBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Point, 2015
  • Edition: First
  • Description: 329 pages ; 22 cm
  • Interest Level: YA
  • Summary: “Sixteen-year-old Cordelia and her family move into the house they just inherited in Pennsylvania, a former insane asylum the locals call Hysteria Hall–unfortunately the house does not want defiant girls like Delia, so it kills her, and as she wanders the house, meeting the other ghosts and learning the dark secrets of the Hall, she realizes that she has to find a way to save her sister, parents, and perhaps herself.”  Retrieved from Follet’s Titlewave site for the book.
  • ISBN: 978-0-545-63999-6
  • Subjects:
    • Haunted houses – fiction
    • Ghosts – fiction
    • Mental illness – fiction
    • Women’s rights – fiction

Reader’s Annotation: I never wanted to come to this stupid place in the middle of nowhere, anyway.  Now, I’ll never leave.

Plot Summary:  Delia made a mistake; she listened to a boy she thought liked her and things didn’t work out as planned.  So, instead of a wild trip to foreign shores, she’s grounded and under constant watch by her loving and concerned parents.  Oh, and she just inherited a huge house in the middle of nowhere that her parents have decided to ’fix up’ and sell.  There’s just one problem.  The house is really an old mental asylum; the aunt who left it too her committed suicide; and the town thinks the place is haunted.  Unfortunately for Delia, they are right.  But that’s not the problem.  The problem is the house decides to keep Delia and it does that by killing her.  And that’s where her problems really start.  You see the house is haunted by lots of girls that the house killed or caused to die.  And it will not let them go.  So it’s up to Delia to discover the truth behind the house and find a way for them all to be free before the house can claim another victim: Delia’s little sister Janie.

Critical Evaluation:  Katie Alender writes some of the best YA ghost stories on the market today.  They aren’t bloody or horrifically scary but they are very well written, full of relatable characters, and have good solid stories.  In this particular case the book is a stand-alone story unlike some of her others which are series.  The characters are clearly defined within a few pages of the book to be people who can relate to and understand.  The main character, a girl named Delia is killed by a haunted house and spends the majority of the book trying to figure out how and why she died.  The other ghosts she meets in and around the house are as fully fleshed and vibrant of characters as any living person could hope to be.  The entity that is the house and villain of the story is genuinely creepy and disturbing.  The story is just frightening enough to give most tweens and teens the shivers without giving them nightmares.

Author’s Brief Bio:  “Katie Alender grew up in South Florida. She is the third of four children and the child of three very loving and encouraging parents.  She attended high school at the Palm Beach County School of the Arts, studying Communication Arts. From there, she went on to the Florida State University Film School, which led her to her current hometown, a tiny hamlet on the West Coast known as “Los Angeles.”  She enjoys writing, reading, sewing (especially quilts), gardening, photography, and hanging out with her husband, her daughter, and her dogs, Scooter and Frodo.  Her first brush with publication was the article “So You Want to Live On Mars?” published in Sassy magazine in December 1991.” Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1562974.Katie_Alender

Genre Designation: Horror/Ghost Story

Possible Curriculum Links:

  • Mental health treatment issues
  • Women’s rights, historical
  • Ghosts / supernatural

Book Talk Ideas: Do you believe in ghosts?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:

Reviews:

Why this book was selected.  Katie Alender is a very popular writer at both of my libraries and this is her newest book so I thought I’d try it.  I’m glad I did because it’s really good.