Book reviews: Young Adult and Adult Fiction Books reviewed by NHS Students

 

Revis, Beth. Give the Dark My Love.  Razorbill, 2018. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1595147172. 368p. Gr. 7-9.  Genre: Supernatural Fantasy.

A teenage medical alchemy student goes to a elite school, determined to find a cure for the plague that is killing people from her rural, impoverished region.  She uncovers secrets about necromancy that threaten to take her to the “dark side.”  What could go wrong?

 

Weeks, Sarah. Soof. Scholastic Press, 2018.  $17.99.  ISBN: 978-0545846653. 208p.  Gr. 3-7.  Genre: Realistic Fiction.

This sweet little book is about a young girl trying to figure out who she is and why her family doesn’t understand her.   On top of all this, her family is struggling with bad luck.  It’s a great book for younger readers about communicating with your family, especially when times get hard.

West, Hannah.  Realm of Ruins: A Nissera Novel. (Nissera Chronicles, book 2). Holiday House, 2018. $17.99  ISBN: 978-0823439867. 464p. Gr.7+  Genre: Fantasy. 

This book is the 2nd in the Nissera Chronicles and it reminds me a lot of fairy tales I read when I was younger, but with a dark edge.  It was very interesting and exciting but at times hard to follow because the transitions between scenes were rough (it makes it a better book for older readers.)

Jean, Emiko. Empress of All Seasons. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018.  $18.99 ISBN: 978-0544530942.  384p. Gr.9-12  Genre: Fantasy.

I really liked this book and think it should be popular with other high school readers. It weaves together fantasy and Japanese folklore, which gives the story more atmosphere and depth.  I loved the characters, because they aren’t perfect and they face huge obstacles like real people (even though they are far from that!)

 

 

Tahir, Sabaa.  A Reaper at the Gates. (Ember in the Ashes series, book 3). Razorbill, 2018. $19.99 ISBN: 978-0448494500. 480p. Gr.9-12 Genre: Fantasy. 

This is sort of Game of Thrones combined with The Living Dead. It’s a complicated story that uses magic and mythology and multiple points of view to keep the reader interested.  It’s got romance, horror, and a lot of bloody violence – not really a book for younger or more sensitive readers.

 

Oelke, Lianne.  Nice Try, Jane Sinner. Clarion Books, 2018.  $17.99  ISBN: 978-0544867857. 432p. Gr. 9-12  Genre: Realistic Fiction.  

Jane is a troubled teen who got expelled from her high school.  Her parents enroll her in a GED program at a nearby community college where she has a chance to be in a student production called House of Orange.  The production gains popularity because of her snarky humor and she gains a fan base.  The characters are all easy to relate to and funny, I think it will be popular with kids who like realistic fiction.

 

 

Brayden, Elyse.  Shadow State. Imprint, 2018. $17.99  ISBN: 978-1250124234.  288p. Gr.9-12  Genre: Thriller/Action. 

I liked this book, it kept me interested, though I wasn’t crazy about the ending.  The leading character gets embroiled in a government conspiracy coverup and they give her drugs to make her forget what happened.   The romance, family secrets, and cliff-hanging action would make this a good book for high school.

Kaufman, Amie & Meagan Spooner.  Unearthed.  Disney-Hyperion, 2018. $17.99 ISBN: 978-1484758052. Gr.9-12.  Genre: Dystopian/Sci-Fi.  

This book has everything: nonstop action, strong and believable characters, intriguing settings, and enough surprise to make it stand out from a lot of the formulaic dystopian teen fiction on the market these days.  I liked that the leading character was a strong female and that there was a bit of romance thrown in, but not enough to distract from the fast plot line.

McGhee, Alison.  What I Leave Behind. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2018. $17.99 ISBN: 978-1481476560.  Gr. 9-12.  Genre: Realistic Fiction.  

Wow – this book hit me hard in the gut, it was so sad.  It wasn’t what I was expecting but it was easy to read and kept my interest.  It was amazing that the author stayed with the 100 chapters of 100 words each without sounding too mechanical.  There are some topics in here that could disturb others – suicide and rape – but it’s not so much about victims as it is about mourning and finding a way to honor the memory of those we love and lose.

 

Kristoff, Jay.  LifeL1k3.  Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2018. $18.99 ISBN: 978-1524713928.  Gr9-12.  Genre: Dystopian/Sci-Fi. 

At first, it was kind of hard to get into reading this, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down.  The leading character’s logic can be a little confusing at times, but that makes them more human (in contrast to the “lifel1k3” androids around her) and easier to relate to.  There’s a lot of romance and drama in this fast-paced thriller.

Lix, Caryn.  Sanctuary. Simon Pulse, 2018.  $19.99  ISBN:  978-1534405332.  Gr. 9-12  Genre: Dystopian/Sci-Fi 

Every single aspect of this book was amazing, and I am glad it’s going to be a series!   There was a lot of violence in it, though, so it’s not for everyone.  It reminded me a lot of Ender’s Game, but with a strong female character who is a lot more complex.  The author manages to throw in a dash of romance into this space-thriller, too.

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Book review: The Storm Crow, by Kalyn Josephson

Josephson, Kalyn. The Storm Crow. (Storm Crow series, book 1.) “Advance Reader Copy.” Sourcebooks Fire, to be released July 9, 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 9781492672937. 350 pgs. Ages12+. P8Q7

Princess Anthia of Rhodaire’s life is turned upside down when the neighboring kingdom, Illucia, invades one night and destroys everything, including the Rhodaire’s magical, glorious, elemental crows which are the power behind the kingdom’s success. While deeply depressed by the loss of her mother, who was killed in the invasion, Thia is sent to Illucia (very much against her will) to marry Prince Ericen as a way of salvaging what little is left of her land. Before she leaves, Thia discovers a crow egg in the rubble of the city, and she and her best friend and guard Kiva come up with a plant to hatch the egg and save their country. The story is exciting from the beginning to the end. The female characters are very strong, and the prince Thia is to marry seems like a villain at the beginning, but we see that he may not be what he seems on the surface. This is the first book in a duology, and I look forward to seeing how things end.

VERDICT: Teen readers will like the fast pace, rich descriptions, and interesting characters.  This was an ARC, and will be published on 7/9/2019.

June 2019 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Sky without Stars, by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell

Brody, Jessica & Rendell, Joanne. Sky Without Stars. (System Divine, Book 1). Simon Pulse, 2019. $19.99. ISBN 9781534410633. 582 pgs. Ages 12+. P7Q6

I have mixed feelings about this very long reimagining of Les Miserables. I liked the world the story was set in- there is an interesting blend of futuristic technology and historical and cultural detail that hints at French history, along with the feeling of an epic story. The author was good at setting up situations that make you feel the contrast between the affluence and advantages Marcellus grew up with, the poverty and violence that Chatine is use to, and the protected ignorance of Alouette in her underground library. However, I felt that the character development wasn’t as strong- with each of the three main characters, it seemed like the personalities of the three main character shifted around a lot. The inconsistencies in their personalities had me putting the book aside a number of times, wondering if I wanted to finish it.  I really enjoyed the unravelling of the characters’ complicated backstories though. In the end, I liked the book well enough to finish it, and hope the sequel solves some of the character development problems.

VERDICT: Teens who like fiction with a historical influence may like this book.

June 2019 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: The Weight of the Stars, by K. Ancrum

Ancrum, K. The Weight of the Stars. Imprint/Macmillan, 2019. 378 pages. $18.99. ISBN 9781250101631. P7Q7

Ryann Bird’s ambition of exploring space had to take a back seat to caring for her younger brother and his infant son following their parents’ accidental deaths.  Sheer determination keeps the family together, living in a trailer in the poor part of town.  At the affluent school she attends, Ryann coasts through her senior  year classes, spending time with her collection of misfit–sometimes delinquent–friends.  A sympathetic teacher assigns Ryann the task of befriending a new girl, the involuntary celebrity daughter of one of the first astronauts to go on an all-woman manned deep space exploration.  Ryann’s attempts at friendship fail and a nighttime visit leads to a life-threatening injury.  Ryann then takes on Alexandria’s self-appointed task of listening for radio communications from her star-bound mother.

Verdict:  What begins disguised as a contemporary realistic problem novel transforms by turns to a love story, a caper novel, and a science fiction space opera with a fully characterized butch lesbian protagonist and a heartbreaking romance.  I appreciate the rare inclusion of a butch lesbian as the protagonist, but I was not gripped by the story itself.  In some ways, the cross-genre switches threw me from the story.  I needed more words for the sections to flow from one form to the next.  Despite this, the story reverberated through my thoughts over several days after I finished reading the book.  I will look for future books by this author.  The design of the book jacket is unusual and appealing. The wave pattern on the jacket repeats in the foredge decoration.  Recommended for high school and public library collections.

June 2019 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Captain Rosalie, by Timothée de Fombelle, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, translated by Sam Gordon

de Fombelle, Timothée. Captain Rosalie. Illus. by Isabelle Arsenault. Trans. by Sam Gordon. Candlewick, 2018. 60p. $15.99. ISBN 978-1-5362-0520-6. Ages 10+. P7Q10

As her father fights in World War I and her mother works in a factory, 5-year-old Rosalie believes she is on a secret mission spying on the enemy while disguised as a little girl. She goes to school early in her French village and sits in the back of the classroom with older children and listens to her mother read letters from her father in the evening. Rosalie’s life changes when her mother receives a blue envelope and the father’s letters stop coming. Determined to discover what has happened, she runs away from school to find the envelope and read the letters. Instead of the happy descriptions of life at home when her father returns her mother “read” from the letters, she finds the dirty, misery of her father’s life and the revelation that he has died. Watercolor and ink sketches accompany two-page spreads with dark backgrounds highlighted by Rosalie’s flame-colored hair or the blue ink of the letters.

Verdict: The grimness of war is relieved by the love of Rosalie’s mother for her daughter, the warm understanding by one of the older students for Rosalie, and Rosalie’s own resilience. A tremendously powerful story in quiet, spare tones.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Tamaki, Mariko. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me. Illus. by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. First Second, 2019. 289p. $24.99. ISBN 978-1-250-31284-6. Ages 14+. P9Q9

The on-again, off-again relationship between selfish classmate Laura Dean who keeps cheating on Frederica (Freddy), 16, and then pulling her back has formed a toxic cycle that Freddy doesn’t know how to break, but her communication with an advice columnist and help from best friend Doodle to see a psychic gives her a way out. Black and white panels infused with pink display a diverse, mostly queer, cast of characters in Berkeley and high school who are close to adulthood and searching for answers in both romantic and platonic relationships. Verdict: The realistic depictions of different kinds of love will ring true with readers whether straight or queer, and the illustrations expand the painful story of growing up.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Supernova, by Kazu Kabuishi

Kabuishi, Kazu. Supernova. (Amulet series). Graphix/Scholastic, 2018. 197p. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-545-82860-4. Ages 10-14. P8Q8

After ten years, the epic Amulet series is one book away from its finale, and the eighth book sets the foundation for the culmination of Emily’s work to save worlds beyond the Earth. She returns to Alledia and frees the elves despite her lack of magic stone control and imprisonment in the Void throughout adventures showing personal growth, family, and courage. As in earlier books, brilliant color highlights the battles and fast-paced activity with strange creatures and vivid Gaboda trees. Kabuishi also transfers much of the plot to focus on Emily’s younger brother, Navin.

Verdict: Lovers of this series will continue to be fascinated with the ongoing saga; those who read this without the earlier books will return to pick them up.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.