Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Testing - Joelle Charbonneau

      The world is trying to rebuild after The Seven Stages War.  Most major cities like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles have been decimated.  The buildings and houses are in ruins, and the water is so contaminated that it cannot be purified.  Malencia Vale, Cia to her family and friends, lives in Five Lakes a small colony.  Each year the government of the United Commonwealth evaluates the scores of all the graduates.  The highest ones are chosen and taken to the Testing Center where they are put through four different tests.  Only twenty make it to The University each year.  This year graduation day comes and goes with no word from a Tosu City official.  Cia is worried because she knows she did well enough to get selected.  The day after graduation Cia and three others are told they have been selected to go through the testing.  They leave the following morning.  Cia breaks the news to her family.  Her dad, who also went through the testing, tells her about nightmares he's had about people he may have known during The Testing.  He tells her not to trust anyone including Tomas, her closest friend, who is also going for The Testing.  The four of them are some of the last testing candidates to arrive, and all the others are buzzing about the four from Five Lakes.  Five Lakes hasn't had a testing candidate, let alone four, in over ten years. 

      Everyone is divided up and the testing begins.  Phase one tests their knowledge of History, Math, Reading and Language, and Science.  Some candidates don't come back after phase one, including Cia's roommate Ryme, who kills herself.  Phase two has boxes brought in and all the candidates in the group are to complete one box and then start a new one.  They are to complete as many as they can in the time given.  Several more candidates don't return after phase two.  Phase three tests how well the candidates work together in groups.  After this test the remaining candidates are told whether they pass or not.  Out of the initial one hundred and eight candidates only fifty-nine remain after three phases of testing.  The fourth phase is the longest and difficult.  The candidates will be put in an area that hasn't been revitalized and travel back to Tosu City.  The starting point of this journey is Chicago.  Cia and everyone else remaining have to travel 700 miles to just outside of Topeka, Kansas.  This phase will test every strength and weakness Cia and all the other candidates have.  This phase is the true test to see who is fit to go on to the university and then become leaders of the world. 

     I loved this book.  After I finished reading it, especially the last chapter, I had chills running down my spine.  When I added this book on Goodreads, I glanced at the first few reviews and people were saying The Testing was The Hunger Games rehashed.  While I did see some similarities to The Hunger Games, this book is it's own story.  Fans of The Hunger Games and other dystopian novels will enjoy this book.  There is a sequel coming out in January of 2014 called Independent Study.  I'll be eagerly awaiting the sequel. 


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Culling: The Torch Keeper Book One - Steven Dos Santos

The Establishment has a recruitment day each year.  Five "lucky" people are chosen and they face a series of tests with one person coming out the victor.  Each person has two incentive lives hanging in the balance during the tests.  If they fail then the incentives are killed.  The last one standing gets to join the Imposer task force.  For Lucian, recruitment day is the way he can protect his four year old brother.  Lucian tries to get caught on purpose during curfew, but runs into an old school mate Digory.  Digory is working for the resistance and tries to get Lucian to join the rebellion.  As they run from the Imposers, Digory escapes and Lucian is caught.  Lucian is taken to see the Prefect, who happens to be his Uncle.  Cassius assures Lucian that he and Cole will be fine.  Cassius transports Cole and Mrs. Bledsoe, their surrogate mother, to the city so they can watch the ceremony from his private box.  When the fifth recruit kills herself, Cassius names Lucian as the fifth recruit.  Cassius uses the reason that his own flesh and blood is being corrupted by the resistance and an example will be made.  The recruits are isolated from each other on a boat and taken to an island to begin their training.  Their days are filled with calisthenics, fighting techniques, map reading, land navigation, compass use, first aid training, and basic combat training.  When the five are taken in the middle of the night they are told to put their training to good use.  Their mission is to make it to the radio tower in one piece.  Everyone makes it to the radio tower to pass phase one of their training.  Phase two and phase three are even more grueling.  Through out all of this Lucian finds himself falling in love with Digory.  When graduation day approaches it is all but a happy day for Lucian and Digory.  Everyone sees their families but Lucian.  He shares an emotional moment with Digory before the ceremony begins.  During the ceremony it is reviled that Mrs. Bledsoe has died leaving Lucian with one incentive, his brother Cole.  Digory also has one incentive, his husband.  It is decreed that Digory and Lucian incentives will serve as the others incentives during the trials.  The trials are where loved ones will be sacrificed and friendships that existed during the earlier phases of training will be no more.  Only one can walk away with their life and the lives of their incentives. 

I really enjoyed this book.  As the story progressed I wanted everyone, both the recruits and their incentives, to survive.  Of course their can only be one recruit and their incentives who survive.  The author made you care for all the characters, even when they died.  I think there might be one or two characters who "died" that will probably pop up in the next book of the series. 


Wednesday, June 05, 2013

No Man's Land by S. T. Underdahl

This probably was written as bibliotherapy.  The author is a neuropsychologist who treats folks with Post Traumatic Stress disorder.  The best audience for this title might be friends of teens who are dealing with the issue.  It could help in understanding what that friend is going through.

Dov is the younger brother of a recent  high school graduate who was a success in school and appears to be on his way to being a success in adult life.  He had joined the army reserves, he was getting married and going off to college.  Then, unexpectedly his unit was deployed to Afghanistan.  His family is tense with worry about him. Reader's can feel the tension.  When an improvised explosive device explodes and kills all but Brian, the family is relieved that Brian is coming home.  Only it isn't the same Brian who left.  But, they want him to be.  They celebrate, make his favorite meals, take him to his favorite places, even hunting.  The hunting trip seems counter intuitive.  I just cannot believe that the parents are so clueless to think that someone just returning from violence would want the hunting trip.  Its on this trip that it first very obvious that something is amiss.  Brian just doesn't behave normally.  And Dov discovers a pistol in Brian's duffel.  Dov has seen other questionable behavior such as heavy drinking and patrolling during the night and shared with a friend who suspects PTSD.  Its when Dov is driving the still physically recovering Brian to get yet more alcohol and arguing with Brian that things come to a head.  Dov hits the car of a friend who's father wears a turban and Brian draws his pistol to secure the area as if back in Afghanistan.  I think the disorder is well explained.  I could feel the family's wish that everything was ok and looking the other way until they could no longer do so.  I enjoyed the part about the poetry discovered and how clueless Dov was about Miranda.  Scarlett seemed like a vehicle to make the story work rather than a fully realized character.  Both Scarlett and Dov turn up working jobs all of a sudden.  While not unrealistic, those jobs were mentioned only once and were no way expected or woven into the story.  So they seemed like filler words.  That's what bothered me, but then I like character driven stories better than issue driven stories.  Overall its an ok story for teens wanting to know more about PTSD in a nonclinical way.  JDW6/5

Monday, June 03, 2013

How My Summer Went Up In Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

Rosie has always been impulsive.  When she sees her ex-boyfriend with his new girlfriend, she is pushed over the edge.  She decides to return to Joey's house that night with a box filled with mementoes from their relationship,  she sets the box on fire in his driveway and walks away.  
On the first day of summer vacation Rosie is not only accused of setting Joey's car on fire, she is also served with a temporary restraining order. She has to stay away from Joey until their court date.  Rosie is not only heartbroken Joey was her first love, but she is angry.  Rosie's parents decide that a cross-country road trip with their neighbors responsible son and two of his friends is just what is needed to keep Rosie out of trouble and away from Joey until their court date. Rosie who wasn't to keen about the trip attempts to hitchhike back home to try to get back together with Joey, when her plan fails she has some second thoughts and decides to try enjoy the trip. She manages to find romance along the way, meet her new best friend and discovers a new way to constructively channel her anger issues.
A good summertime read.  

Saturday, June 01, 2013

My Summer of Pink & Green By: Lisa Greenwald

Lucy Desberg cannot wait for summer, Claudia, Lucy's sister is coming home from college. Construction has started on the eco-spa that Lucy developed with the help of a grant and was able to help save her family's pharmacy.

But nothing is going as plan when Lucy's sister comes home for the summer she brings her boyfriend, Bean and the eco-spa construction is harder than they thought.

Lucy's BFF, Sunny, has a new boyfriend, and Sunny is spending more time with him. Lucy feels left out!  Lucy's feels uncomfortable spending time with Yasmir, Sunny's brother, she does not know if Yasmir likes her or if Lucy's likes Yasmir!!!  

Gary the major spa investor decides to hire a consultant with the construction and the grand opening, therefore Lucy feels that she is not needed in the planning or anything. Along with Gary is his daughter that is nothing like Lucy and she wants to be friends with Lucy but Lucy does not like this idea, better yet Lucy does not like anything the way everything is going on.

Lucy just wants to find out the solutions to her life and family's business.

This novel demonstrates will power and not giving up because there is always light at the end of the tunnel.