Thursday, May 31, 2012

All Good Children - Catherine Austen

Max, his younger sister Ally, and his mother are on their way back to New Middletown from Aunt Sylvia's funeral, which makes Max and Ally miss the first week of school.  The first day back Max gets into a fight at school and is suspended for another week.  Instead of lazing around the apartment his mom makes him do chores and take Ally to school and pick her up.  They both notice something not right with the kids.  They are just standing in line and very calm, not running around and talking with each other like regular kids should be.  Max pays more attention the next day and notices the same thing as the day before.  After Max goes back to school the football coach lays into him about missing the first two weeks of school and practice.  As punishment he is to coach the middle school football team on Saturdays.  This gives him a way to check on the kids at the middle school to see if they are becoming calm and obedient.  At first they are regular kids.  Then after vaccinations are given at the school, all the students become like the kids at Ally's school.  Max's mom doesn't believe him at first, but when she goes to the middle school football game she realizes something is not right.  When the vaccinations come to the high school the kids in detention are done first.  Max and Dallas are among those kids and they are surprised when Max's mom is one of the nurses administering the vaccinations.  It takes two shots, one in each arm.  Max and Dallas are spared the second shot because of Max's mother.  They pretend like they have gotten the shots and are calling everyone else "zombies".  Max and his mother make plans to take Ally and leave New Middletown either heading north or south.  In the next few weeks Ally is given the vaccine, and it comes down to Dallas and Max being the only ones with any emotion left.  As Christmas Eve, the day they plan to escape, approaches Dallas becomes more and more zombie like.  Max fears that he will tell someone what Max and his mom are planning.  Can they escape without being caught or will Max fall to the vaccination that will make him more obedient?

This is a good book along with it being a bit on the creepy/scary side.  It is set in the near future, so it is possible that human society could become this way.  I hope that humanity will evolve beyond this and not have to resort to vaccines to keep our children in line. 

T.B. 5/31/12

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Miseduation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

In a short summary, this novel is about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules.

Grandma Post was baby sitting Cameron, her granddaughter, while Cameron's parents were visiting Quake Lake (an infamous campground turned into a lake after a horrible earthquake). At this time Cameron and her best friend Irene Klauson were shoplifting, which was the same day Cameron's parents died in a car accident, but that's not the only think Cameron feels guilt about that day. While her parents were away, Irene dared Cameron to kiss her, and she did. If that wasn't bad enough in the late 80's, Cameron liked it and was kissing Irene when they received word of her parents' death. Feeling guilty, Cameron begins to push away from Irene, who eventually leaves town to go to a private girls' school where she turns preppy and has a boyfriend. In the meantime, Cameron's Aunt Ruth comes to take care of Cameron with the help of Grandma Post now that Cameron is an orphan. During the summer Cameron begins a friendship with a fellow swimmer named Lindsey, who helps Cameron confront her homosexual feelings. Their summer romance ends and they're forced only to communicate through the phone and letters. In the meantime, Cameron keeps up her friendship with fellow male track star Jamie and a new popular girl Coley, whom Cameron forms a crush. Eventually Coley confronts Cameron about their feelings and, although Coley has a boyfriend, she and Cameron kiss and begin a secret affair until they are nearly caught. When asked about her relationship with Cameron, Coley tells everything, playing the weak victim in Cameron's manipulations. As a result, Aunt Ruth and her future husband send Cameron to a place called Promise, a Christian camp/school set on "healing" teens of these homosexual urges and other sinful ways. There Cameron becomes friends with Jane and Adam, the three of them fighting everything Promise tries to promote while they stay true to themselves and confirming that homosexuality is not something that can be "cured."

The final part of the novel is somewhat unusual, as Cameron dips into Quake Lake to find healing in her parents' death and how she is trying to figure out who she is. It is a very open ended close to the novel since you don't really know where the characters go from there, but there is hope that everything will be okay for them.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Planet Tad - Tim Carvell

Tad has five new years resolutions: 1. start a blog, 2. finish seventh grade, 3. figure out how to do a kick flip on his skateboard, 4. get girls to notice him, and 5. finally start shaving.  He has got one resolution done by starting his blog.  Whether is listening to his younger sister practice for her oboe recital, being partnered with the co-captain of the field hockey team to take care of an egg for health class, helping his sister rehearse the part of Gretel for her play, playing the part of Hansel in the play because the kid who was going to play Hansel got sick, asking a girl to the Valentine's day dance, starting to grow a mustache and then using styling foam to shave, or making a volcano for the science fair (along with twelve other students).  Tad is just a regular kid trying to navigate his way through seventh grade and then eighth grade next year, and trying not to embarrass himself in the process.  In some instances embarrassment does get him noticed, but not in the way he wanted to be.  Does Tad make all five of his resolutions?  You will have to read his blog to find out.

I was laughing from page one of this book, and continued laughing throughout.  This has got to be the funniest book I have read.  It even has the mood Tad is in at the top of each blog entry, which makes you want to read the entry to see why he is embarrassed, confused, Jedi-ish, amused, or monkeyish among many other moods he is from day to day.  It was a nice departure from the vampire, dystopian, and zombie books I was reading before this one.  Any book that takes a dig at Twilight, references Harry Potter, talks about Battlestar Galactica (the newer series), and references Star Trek The Next Generation gets a thumbs up from me.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Monster is one of Walter Dean Myers's most popular books and is occasionally taught in school. It is written as a script and journal, a unique style that I felt both helped and hurt the story. While I know teens enjoy the book, I felt that it lacked something.

Steve Harmon is a 16 year old boy who is on trial for participating in a robbery that ended in homicide. In order to cope with the reality that he might be facing life in prison, Steve documents what's going on during the trial in a script as if what's happening to him is actually a movie rather than his life. The story, therefore, is the trial written out as a script. Mixed into the script are the occasional journal entry that reveal some of Steve's inner thoughts and fears, along with a few flashbacks from his life.

The fact that this is written as a script makes it an exceptionally fast read, which probably appeals to a lot of teen readers. The novel also doesn't hold back too much on the unpleasant aspects of jail-life. In other words, it gives a decent reality check of what might happen if you get caught in an unsavory situation. On the other hand, Steve somehow seemed to escape the truly horrible aspects of jail on a personal level - others were abused but not him, yet he was probably the youngest one there. Is that realistic, especially since he doesn't explain how the others left him alone? Even though he doesn't cry at night, he still seems like an easy target. Did the author hold back so as not to offend or turn-off readers? At the same time time, I felt that the trial pulled back from the actual story - you're looking at it rather than being a part of it. True, that's what Steve seemed to be doing, but as a reader, it's better to be a part of it. The story lacked character development. People came in and out of the story without making a mark - although Myers does do a good job of giving the characters realistic voices, so they seem real but they could still be anyone. Even Steve, whose head we get into, seems to be missing something. You can't tell if he's innocent or guilty. I ended the novel wanting more. It all went by too fast.

For teens this is a great novel to introduce them to many different things from unique storytelling to trial life to consequences of actions to life in jail. There are many things to talk about such as whether or not he's really guilty or not, how does a person's past change his or her credibility, and how should Steve be punished if he was merely a participant yet not completely involved. While the novel does have that working for it, as a whole it still lacks something in my eyes in terms of story telling and development. A little more would have made it better.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Starters by Lissa Price

In Nancy Farmer's House of the Scorpion adults, especially one elderly person who wishes to live forever, clones himself and uses the clones for replacement body parts. Most of the clones are believed to be brainless. In Lissa Price's book microchips implanted in teens known as starters and very elderly folks known as enders live a sort of virtual life through body sharing. Enders can perhaps even take over the body of the young person forever. The teen would never be allowed to experience his/her own life and grow up. "The Old Man" Prime Destinations' ceo has worked out the how, does the recruiting of volunteer starters, surgeries, and the connections and monitoring. Its a very secret organization for very wealthy enders. It prefers to use unclaimed minors. These are teens with no relatives so they won't be missed should the ender decide to keep a body forever. Only, starters, with relatives, want the makeover plastic surgeries that make volunteers beautiful and sneak into the program. Some have disappeared. Callie enters the program for the promised money that will help her get medicine and food for her and her little brother. They are unclaimed minors who have been squatting in various abandoned buildings and running from marshalls. Callie knows just how awful the institutions in which captured kids are housed. She has seen the kids being driven to slave labor in mines and fields and so on. All of this is happening because of a war in which biological weapons were used on America. This caused all adults roughly under the age of 90 to perish, leaving only elderly and kids, many of whom had no known elderly relatives. Helena,the ender who chooses Callie's body has a mission, to find her missing granddaughter. She has the microchips altered to allow her to assassinate the originator of the horrible body sharing program and end it before more kids give up their lives to enders. Something goes oddly wrong and Callie and Helena can communicate with each other in Callie's head. Callie becomes convinced that Helena is right about needing to stop the program just as her little brother disappears. She is on a mission to both find her brother and bring down Prime Destinations. This makes the story not just dystopia but also a mystery story. Its hard to understand how Callie chose who to trust. Also, with all the tracking going on, its hard to understand her continued use of Helena's car and home even after Helena disappears and is presumed dead. Situations had to be carefully set up to make this story work. But its a fast and mostly exciting read with a possibility of a sequel.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Jade Notebook

This is a novel that takes place in Mexico, in a small town called Mazunte. You learn by reading the novel, that the town is trying to raise turtles, and  help turtles survive in their environment.

Zeeta is a teen looking for her father who has traveled  to France, and lived there. Zeeta believes her father could be disguised as a fisherman, or something else in the town, where she lives. Zeeta is the daughter of Layla, who lives with her.  Zeeta lives in a row of  rental bungalow's that is close to the beach. The Center for Turtles is interesting and gives tours to many people who are interested. The bungalow's are Zeeta's family property, and are believed to be haunted by people who live in the village or possessed.  One day Zeeta awaken's to find  a dead chicken in front of each door of  the bungalows.

Wendell is a good friend of Zeeta, and works for the Turtle Center, for an interim period, before he enters College. Zeeta decides to visit a man in the village who gives guitar lessons.  Zeeta has always  wanted to play guitar, so her dream is coming true. 

The name of  Zeeta's Father was "Tortue", which means turtle in French. "Meche"  is another name for  Zeeta's missing father. Zeeta's father slept under a small boat that was located on the beach. He could see the turtles  twenty-four hours a day. Zeeta's father was able to save Wendel, and his daughter from death. Wendel's rescue was from  the ocean, and Zeeta on a rock cliff near the beach. Zeeta was hanging from a cliff, and very scared . 
Wendel went away to College, and tells Zeeta he would return.  Wendel returns for a weekend, and surprises Zeeta .  It turns out that every one in town where Zeeta lives is related to each other in one way or the other. The novel has a  good ending.  Although Wendel attends College away from where Zeeta lives, she manages her life.
This read is good, and I recommend.reading this novel.
LRD/ 5/17/12

Monday, May 14, 2012

Second Chance Summer by by Morgan Matson

This chick lit. This is a "beach read." This is similar to Nicholas Spark's book The Last Song, though with more plot and well rounded characters. I do not usually enjoy books like this. But, this is engaging. Taylor's brother Warren calls it the best of times, the worst of times for one of the many classic novels he has read. And, it was. Taylor's family has not been back to their summer cabin in the Poconos for five years. That summer ended badly for Taylor. Now her father is dying from cancer and wants to spend one last summer as a family, doing family things at the lake. Taylor is dreading the summer, she never apologized to the people she hurt. Big brother Warren has better things to do than hang around the cabin all summer. This is one reason the family had been renting out the cabin for the past years. Little sister Gelsey, doesn't know anyone, doesn't make friends well, just wants to dance. And so the summer begins, tentatively at first, then better and better as old friendships are renewed, Warren has his first real date, Gelsey makes a first real best friend, and sadly father slips away but leaves behind uplifting letters to all his kids to open upon high school graduation, college graduation, other special events over the years. And he also leaves behind his belief that his kids are alright, even though imperfect. This was well worth the read, and it doesn't take too long either. JDW 5/14

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Night She Disappeared By: April Henry

Kayla is a High School student, who works at a Pizza Shop called Pete's part-time. One night she works for her friend Gabie. That night Pete's receives an order to be delivered, where a man orders a pizza giving the fake address for the delivery. He is hoping for Gabie, but Kayla drives her car and goes ahead looking to find the address in the dark. She wants to make a delivery of the pizza. Near a river in a deserted area Kayla meets someone she must have recognized there. She got out of the car to meet him. The man knocks her unconscious , and throws her into his vehicle. He takes her to his house. Locks her in a room of his house. He brings her food, and water but not often. He demands that Kayla call him Master. She plays along. It takes fourteen days to find where Kayla is located. Drew and Gabie were snooping around, and decide to call the Police to help them out. They find Kayla in poor condition in a room of the house. Dirty, and thin was Kayla when she was found by Drew, and Gabie. The Police arrived late at the scene. So Gabie, and Drew had to get some weapons to use that were in their cars to help Kayla out of her situation, and to give her some help. Gabie arrives in Miguel's car and reports to the police, and thinks she has located where Kayla is. The good thing is the man Miguel does not have a real gun, it is only a BB Gun. Kayla made some weapons from different things she had in her room. She whacks the kidnapper when he unlocks her door to the locked door in the face, and blood was drawn. She tries to hit him with a tire iron,but Kayla misses, but Miguel, puts screwdriver into Kayla's neck .All of a sudden sirens are heard, and police are coming. The police get to the house, and call ambulance for the injured. Even though the teens were injured. Drew, Gabie and Kayla were rescued and taken to the Hospital. The novel was very good, and a thriller to read.

LRD 5/3/12

Kayla, Drew and Gabie work for Pete's Pizza. Kayla and Gabie have cars so they do the deliveries. On one fateful night, Gabie asks Kayla to switch nights with her. That night a man calls in an order for three meat monsters pizza delivered at what turns out to be a fake address. Drew is taking the order and finds the voice familiar but cannot connect it to a face. The voice asks for Gabie, but its Kayla delivering. That night Kayla does not come back. Drew calls 911. Her car is later found by the river along with a bloody rock. It looks like she knew the person she met there. There was a white truck seen in the area, perhaps the kidnapper. The story is told in alternating voices. Gabie and Drew are left behind to speculate. Drew wishing he could remember something about the call that would help the investigation. Gabie feeling guilt, it should have been her, after all. She's the one that the caller asked for. Both dealing with all the publicity, all the scary stuff like strangers coming to Pete's Pizza, like is Kayla dead? Will Gabie be next? They meet with the psychic investigator and Kayla's parents as well. When a possible suspect commits suicide there is an assumption that he did indeed kidnap Kayla and that she is dead. There is even a funeral. Kayla awakens, from being knocked unconscious, in a small locked, windowless room with a TV and a row of water bottles. A man she recognizes as a regular at Pete's occasionally brings her food. He demands that she call him MASTER. She is not the one he wanted. His frightening voice is heard only twice here's what he is thinking: Will Kayla work for his purposes anyway? How should he dispose of her? Should he try for Gabie again? Kayla's fear and her strength can be felt. And, she plans, making weapons from a broken plate and the slats of the futon she sleeps on. Then Drew hears the voice again, sees the owner, follows him to a near tragic action packed finale. Its the feelings of Kayla, Drew and Gabie, so real, so intense that make this story riveting.  Its Gabie's absolute beliefe that Kayla is still alive that  makes a reader want to race to the end. A fast, easy missing persons story, well worth the trip. JDW 5/8/12