Midnight at the Electric

Midnight at the ElectricMidnight at the Electric
By Jodi Lynn Anderson
Published June 2017
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Do you like futuristic fiction?  
How about historical fiction?  
How about contemporary characters?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, check out Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson. It’s set in the year 2065 when the Earth’s resources are running out and colonisation has begun on Mars. Adri has been chosen as a Colonist, one of only a handful of the planet’s brightest minds, and will soon be sent to start a new life on Mars. While waiting to embark, she spends time with a long-lost cousin and uncovers a family mystery reaching from 1910s London to 1930s Kansas and New York.

I loved the multi-time period mystery aspect of Midnight at the Electric. Each main character was so acutely shaped by her own time period. Lenore is reeling after the first World War. Catherine is trying to get by and care for her family in the Great Depression. Adri yearns to find a way to save humanity after we’ve destroyed our planet’s resources. Even Adri’s elderly cousin has her own time period. She grew up in the late 1900s (as I did) and she makes references to her past that I found hilarious. This story is an excellent reminder that everything we do has ripples that affect those around us but also generations to come.

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Tara

Book Review: Caraval

caravalCaraval
By Stephanie Garber
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Caraval is a lavish performance. Caraval is an elaborate game. Caraval is a mystery and a fantasy where nothing is real. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t hurt you. Once a year, in a different locale, a man named Legend hosts Caraval, inviting a select few to participate in an utterly one-of-a-kind experience in which the players interact with each other and with actors to solve a mystery and win the grand prize–a granted wish.

Scarlet has dreamed of attending Caraval since she and her sister, Tella, were just girls. On her tiny island home, at the mercy of her cruel and manipulative father, Caraval seemed like a perfect escape. But an invitation never came.

Now that she is nearly grown anticipating an arranged marriage to a man she’s never met, Scarlet, Tella, and a roguish sailor are on their way to Caraval. But when Tella is kidnapped and placed at the center of the mysterious game, the dream becomes far too real and dangerous for Scarlet. She must solve the puzzle and find her sister before the nightmarish illusions of Caraval drive her mad.

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I loved the imagery, the magic and the adventure of Caraval. I can easily see why Scarlet would dream of this experience. The whole idea is exciting and a little frightening, as is the story. Parts of the tale are intricate and beautiful while others are creepy and compelling.

I heartily recommend Caraval to fans of fantasy, romance, adventure, mystery, and suspense.

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Tara

Book Review: The Hate U Give

the hate u giveThe Hate U Give
By Angie Thomas
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Starr Carter is torn between two worlds. Her home is in the projects where wearing the wrong color can get you shot, where police officers can be more dangerous than the gangbangers, where “snitches get stitches” and loyalty is everything. But she is equally at home in her elite, suburban prep school where the students’ biggest concerns are basketball games and dating drama.

When Starr witnesses her childhood friend, Khalil, being fatally shot by a cop, she’s the only person alive who knows what really happened. But sharing what she saw could destroy her place in both of her worlds.

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So many feels. This book is full of feels. I am so sad for Khalil’s family. I am enraged at the cop who shot an unarmed teenager and the society that created him. I feel sympathy for Starr and her family and the dilemmas they face. I fear for their safety. I am warmed by the obvious love they share.

Sometimes, when an author has an important topic to discuss within the pages of their book, they skimp on character development and plot. Not this author. Starr, Khalil, their families, and their friends are fully realized and realistic. Their troubles and reactions are all too real. They feel fear and anger but also love and humor and joy.

If The Hate U Give sounds good to you, you might also like:

American Street by Ibi Zoboi  (Place hold.)

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon  (Place hold.)

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds  (Place hold.)

X; A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz  (Place hold.)

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Tara

New from the Author of Divergent

Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark, #1)Hey, guys.  Now that all the Divergent books have been made into films, author Veronica Roth has begun a new series with Carve the Mark. Roth has continued to focus on futuristic dystopian fiction for young adults. In Divergent, society was split into five factions; in Carve the Mark, the protagonist’s home planet is divided into two completely separate and warring cultures. The peoples on either side of a vast plain have been caught in violent conflict for generations with multiple assassination attempts all around. So, naturally, there will be star-crossed lovers! I don’t want to get too into spoiler-territory so I’ll keep things kind of vague here.

Carve the Mark is full of space travel, fight scenes, love scenes, snarky sarcasm, teen angst, things that would cause people of any age to feel angst, and mystery. What it doesn’t have is an original plot. I fell like I’ve read this story before. And the name on that book was not Veronica Roth. It’s not uncommon to be able to tell a writer’s influences and inspirations from the stories they tell and how they tell them. And that’s fine, as long as they rework the bits and bobs that they’ve borrowed into something new and different. While Carve the Mark had a lot of exciting moments, it didn’t feel new and different.

If you enjoyed reading Divergent, I’d still recommend Carve the Mark.I But, if you read a lot of futuristic dystopian fiction for young adults (as I do), don’t be surprised if you experience a little literary deja vu.

Saving Red by Sonya Sones

Saving RedSaving Red
By Sonya Sones
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In order to complete her school’s community service requirement, Molly has to take part in her city’s annual homeless count. As she walks around on a cold December night counting people who appear to be homeless, she sees a red-haired girl only a few years older than herself. Molly becomes determined to reunite this girl with her family. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Molly’s mission to “save” Red has more to do with Molly’s own painful past than with Red’s needs.

While I admire Molly’s compassion, I find her methods problematic. Molly brings Red food and clothes and rents her a hotel room so Red can bathe, but she never asks Red what *she* actually wants. She assumes that she knows what’s best for Red and goes so far as to lie to her in order to gain Red’s compliance.

Molly never asks why Red is living on the street. Perhaps, Red had run away from home to avoid physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Perhaps, there are reasons she doesn’t want to call her family. Red has her own reasons for doing things, but we don’t learn about them until the end of the book because Molly never asks.

I give Molly props for not believing all the negative stereotypes of homeless people and those with mental disabilities, but she falls for the idea that they are helpless and incapable of making choices for themselves. While it is true that many homeless and mentally ill people need and appreciate help, it is important to recognize their individuality, integrity, and agency.

Saving Red attempts to humanize the homeless but falls a little short of the mark.

Punkzilla

8565535Punkzilla
By Adam Rapp
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Jamie, better known as Punkzilla to the tough street kids he lives with in Portland, is on a mission. He needs to get to his older brother, named P, before he dies. P has an extremely aggressive form of cancer and Jamie hasn’t seen him in a long time – not since Jamie was sent to military school and subsequently went AWOL – not since P came out as gay and moved to Tennessee to live with his partner and write plays.

And so, fourteen-year-old Jamie is on a quest to get from Portland, OR to Memphis, TN as quickly as possible with little money, no friends and even less luck. He starts off on a Greyhound bus but gets beat up in a public restroom during a layover and the bus leaves without him. He starts to hitchhike and meets the very best and worst of humanity along the way. He tries desperately to call his brother, but P’s phone is disconnected. Is he even still alive?

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In a series of letters – some sent and some never delivered – the reader learns about Jamie’s family, why he was sent away, what he experienced at boarding school, why he left, and how he lived on the streets of Portland. Along his journey, Jamie encounters physical violence, sexual abuse, mental illness, issues of sexuality and gender identity, deception, theft, drug use and homelessness. Punkzilla’s portrayal of these topics is sometimes disturbing and frequently profane but always open and candid. I loved the depth of each character in Punkzilla. Even if they were minor characters that disappeared after a few pages, they made sense and felt real. The letter-writing format allows the reader to really get into Jamie’s thoughts and emotions as he struggles to understand himself and the world. Because of the violence, sex, language, and heavily emotional themes, I would recommend Punkzilla for high school or older readers.

Book Reviews – It’s the End of the World!

What would you do if you knew the world was about to end?

17332270This is the question posed by both Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts and We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach. Both stories follow a group of seemingly unconnected teens as they grapple with, not only their own mortality, but the inescapable end of everything they’ve ever known as an asteroid hurtles toward Earth. Both books ask the same question, but they offer very different possible answers.

We All Looked UpIn Tumble & Fall, three young people from Martha’s Vineyard search for truth and meaning and love during the last week of existence. They seek to solve personal mysteries and find solace in the ones that they love. We All Looked Up has a darker perspective. Told that they all have 2 months to live, most people shrug off rules and other people’s expectations and embrace their own desires. For some that means forgetting about their GPA and immersing themselves in music. For others, that means chaos and violence.

What would you do if you knew the world was about to end?

The question isn’t just about asteroids and disaster, is it? It’s really about what you want – from your life, from other people, from yourself. The question that is really at the core of these books is: why are waiting for these things, why aren’t you pursuing them today?

Tumble & Fall

By Alexandra Coutts
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We All Looked UpVivian Apple at the End of the World (Vivian Apple, #1)
By Tommy Wallach
Available for download on OverDrive and Axis 360 apps.
View details.

And, if you want a more humorous approach to the Apocalypse, try:
Vivian Apple at the End of the World
By Katie Coyle
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Tara