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
Place a hold.

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
Place a hold.

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
Place a hold.

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
Place a hold.

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Tara

Book Review – All-American Boys

All American BoysAll-American Boys by Jason Reynolds is not a fun read. I did not laugh until I cried. Mostly, I just seethed. You see, All-American Boys is about racism and police brutality.

Told through alternating viewpoints, the story revolves around two young, All-American kids in an all-American city. One is in the ROTC and is an amazing artist. One loves basketball and partying with his buddies. One is black. And one is white. One gets beaten by a police officer. One witnesses it.

Rashad just stepped into the convenience store to grab a snack. It didn’t matter to the cop that some lady had tripped over him, making him drop the bag of chips he’d been holding. All his attempts to explain were just “resisting arrest.” And the police officer beat him senseless for it.

Quinn wanted to stop off at the convenience store on his way to a party. But, as he turned the corner, he saw his best friend’s older brother beating up a boy he knew from school. Nobody saw Quinn there and he didn’t want to tell anyone what he saw. The whole thing was already recorded and online, so what does it matter? But it does matter. This event and others like it have formed a rift through Quinn and Rashad’s city and all over the country. And Quinn must decide which side he’s on.

All-American Boys is not a fun read, but it’s an extremely important one. I loved every uncomfortable, horrifying, empowering minute of this book. You can place a hold on it here.

Book Review – Fangirl

Thinking about heading to college in the Fall? Do yourself a favor and read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell before you go!

Cather is many things. She’s a twin, a college freshman,fangirl a dutiful daught
er. But, most of all, she is a writer. She and her twin, Wren, have been writing “Simon Snow” fan-fiction together for years and they have hundreds of online followers. In fact, they do pretty much everything together. Their mother left years ago and their bipolar father goes through spurts of intense, manic energy; Cather and Wren
have to keep an eye on him to make sure he remembers to do things like eat and sleep.

And now, even though Cather is moving only across the state to attend college and even though Wren will be on the same campus, everything is changing. Wren wants to have separate dorm rooms. Cather gets stuck rooming with a complete stranger whose annoying friend (boyfriend?) is constantly hanging around. She’s worried about her father who is now alone. And none of her professors think that fanfic is “real” writing!

 

carry onRainbow Rowell is amazing at creating characters that are realistic and lovable. Cather is strong and opinionated but also introverted and confused. Sometimes she’s unfriendly. Sometimes she beats herself up for saying or doing something stupid. It’s so easy to sympathize with her fears and her frustration. And, while Fangirl is realistic fiction, Ms. Rowell weaves fantasy in through Cather’s “Simon Snow” fanfic, and scenes from the “original” Simon Snow books. These are fictional books written by a fictional author that exist only in Fangirl. They are a little reminiscent of the Harry Potter series and I was kind of disappointed that I couldn’t read Simon’s full story. Ms. Rowell must have heard my psychic plea, because she published Carry On (Cather’s ongoing fanfic about Simon and his nemesis Baz) last yearBut that’s a review for a different day.

 

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Tara

Book Recommendation: Fall of a Kingdom

fall of a kingdomGenre:
Fantasy / Action-Adventure

First Released: 2003

Part of a Series?
Yes, it is the first book in the Farsala Trilogy

Book 2: Forging the Sword
Book 3: Rise of a Hero

Brief Synopsis:

“Stories are told of a hero who will come to Farsala’s aid when the need is greatest. But for thousands of years the prosperous land of Farsala has felt no such need, as it has enjoyed the peace that comes from being both feared and respected.

Now a new enemy approaches Farsala’s borders, one that neither fears nor respects its name and legend. But the rulers of Farsala still believe that they can beat any opponent. Three young people are less sure of Farsala’s invincibility. Jiaan, Soraya, and Kavi see Time’s Wheel turning, with Farsala headed toward the Flames of Destruction. What they cannot see is how inextricably their lives are linked to Farsala’s fate — until it’s too late.” (Amazon)

Where can I find it in the library?
This will be on the second floor of the library in the Vortex.

Call Number: YA F BELL

Commentary

I have a weird relationship with this novel. When I first discovered it, its original title was Flame and a part of Bell’s Book of Sorahb series. I absolutely loved it and kept waiting for another one to come out. I was waiting, and waiting, and waiting. I had to know what happened next to Jiaan, Soraya, and Kavi! I’d check the shelves of the library to see if they ever got book two. Years and years pass. Eventually, I resigned myself to realizing that there probably would never be book two.

Then one day, there was a new series on the shelf by Hilari Bell: The Farsala Trilogy.

I was super crazy excited!

I loved Flame, so maybe this would be good too! It stinks that she never finished the first series, but hey! Something new!

Imagine my surprise that Fall of a Kingdom seemed vaguely… familiar… It’s like when you see someone on the street or at the store and you know you know them from SOMEWHERE and just can’t figure out quite where. So I pulled Flame off the shelf. I began tearing through the pages, comparing the two books. They were identical!

Apparently, Hilari Bell had renamed her series! Those sneaky publishers! Luckily for me, all three books of the Farsala Trilogy were available! I was able to check them out all at once (muahahaha) after so many years of waiting. I DID MY WAITING. TWELVE YEARS OF IT. IN AZKABAN (oh wait).

Now, after all my babbling, why should you read it?

Fall of a Kingdom is a high fantasy novel. It has elements of magic, action, world-building, the whole shebang!

The best part? It’s complete! Finished! No waiting for the next book because it’s already right there on the library shelf! Do you have any idea how many fantasy series I’m waiting on the next book for? Of course you do! We’re probably waiting for the same books together!

I also enjoy that despite the main characters being two boys and a girl (which is usually all you need for an author to decide HEY LET’S HAVE A LOVE-TRIANGLE. YOU GUYS LOVE LOVE-TRIANGLES RIGHT?) there is no love-triangle! The occasional one in the occasional novel is fine. But it’s so prevalent lately.

oprah giveaway

YOU GET A LOVE-TRIANGLE. AND YOU GET A LOVE-TRIANGLE. YOU ALLLLLLLL GET LOVE-TRIANGLES YAAAAAAAY!

Fall of a Kingdom is a story about three characters trying to find their place in their kingdom and where they fit into it. Will they get overtaken by the enemy that is trying to invade? Will all be saved or lost? Only you can figure that out by checking it out today!
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Ashe