20 January 2011

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Following the "five days of the unspeakable," Finnikin holds onto the memories of afternoons spent with his friend Prince Balthazar and Balthazar's cousin, Lucian . . . friends who have been lost to him in the destruction of their country.  But when Finnikin is summoned to meet with Evanjalin, a young woman who claims that Balthazar is still alive and that Finnikin must travel with her to get to him, he's both afraid and drawn to this adventure.  Finnikin doesn't know if he can believe that his homeland can be put back together, fearing that disappointment would destroy him too.  And yet, the belief in the survival of the Prince disallows him to refuse the journey.

Evanjalin turns out to not be who Finnikin believes her to be -- but will she lead him to destruction or to a new level of life?  There is a lot to this story and the plot moves slowly, deliberately, and solidly for the majority of the book; it is not until the end where the pace picks up rapidly, unceasingly, and unrelentingly, making for a heart-pounding and ultimately extraordinarily successful story.  By the end of this one, you'll know the characters almost as well as they might know themselves.

Melina Marchetta is a Printz Award-winning author, so of course she's worth checking out.  This is her first fantasy novel.  Recommended to high school readers looking for a good solid book and who are willing to put in the time it takes to get to the fantastic finish.
Call number: YA MARCHETTA; YA CD MARCHETTA (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

11 January 2011

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalup

Scavengers are poor and desperate.  They need to keep hunting for the next profit of goods that translate into wealth just to stay fed and sheltered.  They form bonds for survival. 

Along the gulf coast, at Bright Sands Beach, Nailer works with a crew of scavengers, pulling copper wire to make quota for the bosses to hand up to the big companies like General Electric, Patel Global Transit, and FluidDesign.  When Nailer makes it out of an oil drum alive, despite being left for dead by a crewmate, he's nicknamed "Lucky Boy," even though his wounds only prove that he's lucky he wasn't left for worse.  Still he survives that and, with the help of Pima and her mother Sadma, he and his dad also survive the storm that rips apart their beach that night.  Lucky, indeed.  On a rare day off following the storm, Pima and Nailer take advantage by exploring a bit, looking for some good scavenge.  What they find is the wealthiest clipper they've ever seen, shipwrecked and forcefully abandoned.  And what they find on the ship -- the young, beautiful, rich, troubled, barely alive daughter of the owner of Patel Global -- is what turns out to be the beginning of a horrific adventure.

This is a dark tale of survival -- of nature, economics, social, and self.  It's incredibly written and the characters are unforgettable in their realness and complexity.  Recommended to older readers with a stomach for violence and a curiosity for adventure.  This title was just announced by the American Library Association as the winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.  Read it.
Call number: YA BACIGALUPI (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

Taken by Norah McClintock

Steph has never been content living in the small town that she and her parents moved to a few years ago.  Two years ago her dad died in a car accident, and now her mom is dating Gregg and things for Steph have just felt worse and worse.  She and her mom fight a lot -- mostly about Gregg -- and she doesn't have too many friends.  She even lost her Grandfather shortly after being able to spend an entire summer with him learning about the woods, nature, and survival.  As if things weren't annoying enough, now her mom is being overprotective since two young girls have been kidnapped and one has been discovered murdered right outside of town.  Everyone is worried about a serial killer.  Steph wasn't worried until she was walking home alone at the end of a the day and felt an arm come tightly around her body, hand tightly over her mouth.

Waking up with her hands and feet tied together in an abandoned shed in the middle of the woods was probably the scariest moment of Steph's life.  But now she must fight her way out of the unknown woods, escape her kidnapper, and frantically avoid being the serial killer's next victim.  After a history of running away, will anyone be looking for her?  Will anyone believe who took her or where she's been?  Recommended especially to reluctant readers and anyone looking for a quick suspenseful read!
Call number: YA MCCLINTOCK (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

The Hotel Under the Sand by Kage Baker

Ship-wrecked and alone, Emma finds a young man - a ghost - named Winston who tells her the story of his life as a Bell Captain at the Grand Wenlocke Hotel.  This was a very special hotel, erected by a very special wealthy family of Wenlockes, inside of which time stopped for its guests.  A four-day stay in real time could truly become a four-month vacation, so the guests were always very happy.  But one day, the Storm of the Equinox set upon the island and buried the entire Grand Wenlocke deep in sand.  As the fates would have it, the Storm of the Equinox came again that very night, uncovering the Grand Wenlocke for Emma and Winston to re-discover!  The re-Grand Opening of the Hotel drew the attention of many strange characters, including a sailor (looking very much like a pirate) called Captain Jack Doubloon, who is in possession of a slip of paper, passed down from his grandfather, which told of a treasure within the Grand Wenlocke.  The unlikely assortment of young Emma, Winston, Mrs. Beet,  and Captain Doubloon set out to solve the riddles necessary to uncover the treasure, and along the way they run into Masterman Wentlocke, a very young runaway, as well as the evil uncle chasing after him.

Treasure or no treasure, Emma and Winston and their crew uncover just how extraordinary the Grand Wenlocke is, especially when filled with friendship and family.  This unique story is recommended to most young readers -- its originality is refreshing without being confusing, and moments of tenderness are made all the more touching as they are balanced out by swashbuckling adventure.
Call number: YA BAKER (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind by Marilyn Kaye

Amanda Beeson isn't an average teenager.  As far as she's concerned, She's WAY better than average.  She's the "it girl" at Meadowbrook Middle School, with the most stylish clothes, parents who bow to her every whim, and a circle of girlfriends that everyone obviously wants to be part of.  And Amanda certainly doesn't jeopardize her popularity status by being nice.  She's "mean girl" extraordinaire, more often than not going out of her way to say something negative about her classmates.  The twist is . . . Amanda is mean as a way to protect herself.  Literally.  Once Amanda starts to feel pity (oh no!) for someone, she momentarily winds up in their body, living their experiences, feeling their emotions.  It's terrifying and it's painful, and Amanda will avoid it at all costs.

When she wakes up one morning as classmate Tracey Devon -- a loser -- she truly discovers that she has no control over her "gift."  She doesn't know how to stop being Tracey.  There's no way uber-cool Amanda can live like this!  What if someone finds out who she really is?!  Amanda's interest is peeked by Tracey's "gifted classes," a small class of students who seemingly have nothing in common.  But the more Amanda learns about them, the more horrified she becomes -- how crazy are these special kids?  How crazy is Tracey?  And -- ohmygoodness -- how crazy is she?!

Recommended for pre-teen and teen girls looking for some drama with their mystery.
Call number: YA KAYE (Series) (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

03 January 2011

War Games by Audrey and Akila Couloumbis

Set in a Greek town during World War II, Petros, his brother Zola, and their cousins feel pretty safe.  The war feels far away from their normal life.  But first they have to navigate around Italian soldiers, and then the German military takes over.  Petros's older cousin is away fighting for their safety, and no one knows how bad it will get or when it will end.  When a German Commander is expected to move into Petros's family's home, no one knows how safe they'll be now.

War Games tells a story that never gets any easier to hear about young boys and girls living during a time of war.  This is based on the true story of the experiences of one of the authors, and suspense is built with detailed writing to force readers to take the time to get through the pages, skillfully depicting the realistic day-by-day insecurities of not knowing what comes next.  Recommended to middle school boys, particularly those with an interest in histories and stories about war.
Call number: YA COULOUMBIS (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.