Tuesday, November 30, 2010
What makes a person a person? If your brain is scanned and uploaded to a computer and placed in a man-made body are you real? Popular Lia Kahn has a fatal accident--but in the future those with money can essentially have their brains transplanted into bodies that will never feel pain or die. Lia feels like herself--she has all of her memories and feelings and she has learned to control her new body. But she is unable to return to her old life. Even her best friends and family see her as a "skinner" or a "mech" and as much as they pretend things are the same Lia realizes that her previous life is over. Her only choice seems to be to join up with other "mech heads" who are taking full advantage of their new invincible status. It's an intriguing concept (and ultimately a pretty depressing concept). I enjoyed the book but I did not feel as connected to Lia as I would have liked to. She was a selfish, mean character before the accident and after the accident I don't think she had the emotional depth that a teenager who had lost everything would have had. It joins a growing list of books dealing with how far science can go to save a human life, including Eva by Peter Dickinson, Airhead by Meg Cabot, and The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (a much better book with more ethical questions raised). By the way, this book has some mature content and I recommend it for 9th-12th grade readers.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Zoobreak is the sequel to Swindle, a book which was a very pleasant surprise for me. I was expecting a book about a dog or baseball and in reality it was a crime novel with 6th grade criminals. Well, Zoobreak is much the same, but for some reason I was not as enthralled in this story. The same cast is back—Griffin, the "man with the plan" and his group of friends are rescuing animals from a floating zoo where Savannah's pet monkey is being kept illegally. They decide to steal all 40 animals and then they must hide them from their parents, the police, and the evil owner of the floating zoo. This book has the same appeal as Swindle so I'm not sure why this one didn't pull me in. I guess there were so many implausible holes in the plot this time that I just couldn't stop thinking about them. Maybe I was just in a bad mood, though. If you liked Swindle you will probably also like Zoobreak. And Gordon Korman is awesome so you can never go wrong with his books.
Friday, November 12, 2010
This is the first children's book written by a hugely popular author of legal thrillers for adults. Theodore Boone is not your typical 8th grader—he's the son of two lawyers and he has his own "law office" and he knows every judge and bailiff in town. He's fascinated by the murder trial that is going on in his small town. A guilty man is about to be set free when Theo finds out about a witness to the crime that could change everything. But the witness is afraid to come forward and Theo must decide what to do. I liked all the courtroom drama but there weren't enough twists and turns to keep the plot moving forward and there was no surprise ending, either. It was an enjoyable read and I think some kids will like it but I think it could have been better, especially coming from a great writer like John Grisham.
Friday, November 05, 2010
Abdul is 15. He has no family left and he fled Iraq looking for a better life. Four months later he is homeless and hungry, living on the coast of France, and looking for a way to get to England. He makes it aboard the rickety boat of an unscrupulous smuggler along with a few other migrant teens. After a struggle with the smuggler the teens take over the boat and must work together to get themselves to England. Interspersed with the present-day action are flashbacks telling each story. Rosalia is a Roma girl, sold into the sex trade, with no safe place to go. Cheslav has fled a Russian military boarding school. Abdul has a horror story of his own from war-torn Iraq. The true dilemma of this book is that even if the young people get to England they are not safe there and not wanted there. There are no easy answers in this book but it sheds light on world issues that many teens probably know nothing about.
Ellen Hopkins writes books about teens with big problems. In Burned, Pattyn's biggest problem is her abusive, alcoholic, strict Mormon father. When Pattyn is caught fooling around with a non-Mormon boyfriend he sends her to live with her aunt in rural Nevada. There she is free to question her religion, learn to drive, herd some cattle, and fall in love with an older man. Unfortunately, her happiness can only last for the summer and when she returns to her oppressive home things come to a head. For most of the book I thought it had less drama than a typical Ellen Hopkins book, but then I got to the ending. I don't want to spoil things for you, but get ready. It's not a feel-good book. This is definitely for high school readers who like books dealing with teen issues.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
The heroine of this fantasy/adventure/mystery/romance is Katsa, a young woman "graced" with the gift of fighting. Gracelings like Katsa are easily identified by their eyes that are two different colors. In the first chapter of the book, Katsa encounters another Graceling fighter named Po who becomes an important character in the book. After rescuing an old man from an unexplained kidnapping and renouncing her own king and kingdom, Katsa sets off with Po to discover who kidnapped Po's grandfather. What they find is another Graceling who has fooled the entire kingdom and must be defeated. There's plenty of action and adventure here, but also a pretty mature love story and a well-developed fantasy kingdom. Recommended for fantasy fans 8th grade and up.