Tag Archives: young adult

River Rat: The Storm Treasure by Joseph Fleck

River Rat: The Storm Treasure by Joseph Fleck: After a major thunderstorm, Joey goes for a ride down the Narragansett River on his homemade raft looking for treasures. This brief story is the sort you’d listen to your grandfather tell: somewhat interesting but without much in the way of drama or conflict. I also imagine it would be far more engaging if I knew the people involved. But at less than 100 large-print, illustration-rich pages, there’s no time to get bored.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Grover G. Graham and Me by Mary Quattlebaum

Grover G. Graham and Me by Mary Quattlebaum: Ben Watson is just arriving at his eighth foster home, which is his first experience with foster siblings. He unexpectedly bonds with one-year-old Grover G. Graham, to the point where he resents Grover’s teen mother. This is more or less a slice-of-life story. It was pretty predictable, following the traditional plot arc, and honestly I probably wouldn’t have even finished it were it not so short. However, Quattlebaum’s books for younger readers are mostly awesome, particularly Pirate vs. Pirate. So check that out instead.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick

The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick: I spent most of this book having absolutely no idea what was going on, but in kind of a good way. Boy lives in an unspecified city in Victorian Europe as the servant/companion of grumpy magician Valerian. When the owner of the theater where Valerian performs turns up dead, Boy and Willow (the servant of a singer at that same theater) are the prime suspects. In addition, Valerian is scrambling to find a certain book within the next few days or else face certain doom. I loved the strange semi-magical qualities of this realm, and I was glad that the last page labeled it as Book One because there are all kinds of loose ends left dangling. I would read the next book in the series were I to happen upon it, but I won’t be actively seeking it out. Interesting universe, just not one I’m dying to get back to.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen: Hannah opens the apartment door to symbolically let in Elijah during a particularly boring Passover celebration with her family and suddenly finds herself in 1940s Poland just as all the Jews in the village are being rounded up to be taken to a concentration camp. I’ve read about the Holocaust on a number of occasions, but every new account reveals new horrors. Though this particular story is fiction, a lot of the details were straight from survivors. For a young adult novel, this is a pretty detailed description of life in the camps without being excessively graphic, and as expected, it’s something that will stay with me for a very long time.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Extras by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Corine Montbertrand; 11 hrs 45 min on 10 CDs): I almost didn’t read this book at all. I was so upset at the end of Specials that I figured I might as well just give up on the series, since Extras was supposed to be just sort of an additional story rather than a continuation. But a friend of mine convinced me to give it a try and I am so glad I did. While the first three Uglies books took place somewhere on the west coast of what used to be the United States, for this book we have been transported to Japan. It’s been a few years since Tally’s adventures and the Mind Rain (the removal of the lesions causing people to be Pretty-heads) has caused the world to go a little bit crazy. In Japan, Aya lives in a world of face rank – measures to fame compared to the other people in her city. They live in a reputation economy, where relative fame means more credit to purchase items. Aya is a kicker – what we’d call a vlogger – and in order to become famous she goes undercover with a secret clique of fame-shunning maglev-surfing girls. When she unwittingly stumbles upon the biggest story in the world, she attracts a whole lot of unwanted attention.

This isn’t just another story taking place in the same universe as the rest of the series: it actually is connected. Loose ends are tied up and I felt extremely satisfied by the end – and getting there was a hell of a lot of fun as well. Radical Honesty – the physical inability to lie or even hold back the truth – was an interesting plot device that ended up being more funny than contrived. I loved all the new characters and while I guessed at the truth behind the mystery pretty early on, I still enjoyed watching them figure it out. And, of course, the appearance of some of my beloved characters from the previous books was much appreciated. Definitely a worthy finale to the series.

A note on the audio: Despite my dislike of Monterbrand’s stoned-sounding male character voices, I was impressed at how well I was able to distinguish between each of them here. Hiro was especially entertaining.

Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Specials by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Corine Montbertrand; 11 hrs on 9 CDs): Though the title really should have prepared me for this installment of the Uglies series, I spent much of this novel in a state of anxiety because I really hated Tally and I didn’t want to hate Tally. Alas, that lasted until the part when I cried, then I spent the rest of the book feeling pretty despondent. On the bright side, Shay is back in my good graces and All Is Not Lost, but I sure hope Extras cheers me up a little bit.

A note on the audio: Montbertrand shines as always. I am sure her narration played a part in my unhappiness, since I clearly care about these characters.

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Corine Montbertrand; 11 hrs 15 min on 10 CDs): I am so glad I had the next book in the series in hand when I finished this one, since it ends on a “Tally noooooooo” cliffhanger. But up until then, I really enjoyed it. The romance aspect was handled much better, though it probably didn’t hurt that I totally fell in love with Zane. I got pretty tired of Shay, but luckily she wasn’t as prominent a figure here as in Uglies. Mostly I just really enjoyed returning to this world with its strange rules and fascinating technology. The introduction of Andrew Simpson Smith opened up a whole new layer of interesting subplots to this world, and was one more reason I was so glad not to have to wait between books. I was amused by how all the Pretties talked like Joss Whedon characters. I have to admit I’d totally be a Pretty. I like to think that I’d be all brave and independent like Tally and Zane, but the truth is I’d be perfectly content being vain and lazy like the rest of the Pretties. I’ll hold off on judging the whole series until I’ve finished it, but I definitely liked this installment.

A note on the audio: I’ve been consistently impressed with Montbertrand’s ability to create voices that manage to change between transition from Ugly to Pretty while still keeping the character’s voice distinct. I will say that I really hate Shay’s and Dr. Cable’s voices, but that’s actually a compliment because I also think they’re absolutely perfect for those characters. My only real complaint is that all of Montbertrand’s male characters sound bored or stoned. But oh well.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth (unabridged audiobook read by Emma Galvin; 11 hrs 11 min on MP3): This is not a good book to read while on a YA dystopia kick unless you simply cannot get enough of it. The influence on Roth by giants like Collins and Westerfeld is too painfully evident. Our heroine is Beatrice, native of the Abnegation Faction which values selflessness and comes across a bit like an extreme form of Amish. Each Faction is built around a separate value: Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peace), and Erudite (knowledge). At the magic age of 16 (what is it about that age in young adult fiction?), you choose the Faction you will spend the rest of your life in – that is, if you pass the initiation. Feeling like she’s not nearly selfless enough to live in Abnegation, Beatrice chooses Dauntless at the last second, and is launched into a crazy world of thrill-seeking and combat. There was plenty of action, and it was kind of fun watching Beatrice grow from a timid Abnegation to a self-assured Dauntless in little jumps. That was enjoyable and believable. The rest of it, while perfectly fine as far as it went, felt like something I’d heard before. It’s certainly not a bad novel. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more had I not recently read so many other YA dystopia novels. As it is, it was nothing more than a pleasant diversion while recovering from surgery.

It’s interesting how many YA dystopia novels focus on societies where your life path is chosen from a limited number of possibilities and can never change. My guess is that this is in response to the typical teenage angst regarding all the choices they find themselves facing: colleges, careers, relationships. Sometimes it feels like it might be nice to have it all decided for you. Of course, these stories always involve someone who breaks the mold, thus showing the importance of being free to make your own choices. I also think it’s interesting that it’s mostly women (though The Giver by Lois Lowry is a notable exception). Despite the occasional repetition of theme, I still find myself drawn to dystopia stories, YA and otherwise.

A note on the audio: Galvin was fine. Not very memorable, but the characters’ voices were distinct without being caricatures, which is really all I can ask for in a narrator. I’d like to thank Bewitched Bookworms for this book: I won it in one of their monthly Whisper Stories in My Ear contests. Thanks so much!

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (unabridged audiobook read by Carolyn McCormick; 11 hrs 37 min on 10 discs): Katniss is back home in District 12, richer than ever but still not safe from the Capitol’s reach. I enjoyed the story, even if it was clearly just a bridge between the first and third books in the trilogy. The love triangle was completely forced, reminding me eerily (and embarrassingly) of something I wrote when I was about 14. I like both guys and can understand Katniss’s dilemma, but it was still pretty unbelievable. All the same, it was fun to dive back into this weird world of specialized Districts, and I look forward to reading the third installment that has garnered such strong reactions.

A note on the audio: McCormick continues to shine. I wonder if seeing the movie will be weird after getting so used to her voices for all the characters.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Corine Montbertrand; 12.5 hrs on 11 discs): Tally is an Ugly, eagerly awaiting her 16th birthday so she can undergo “the operation” to become Pretty, which transforms her to have all the most evolutionarily desirable physical traits. Then she will move to in New Pretty Town and reunite with all her formerly Ugly friends. Until she meets Shay, who speaks of a place where no one becomes Pretty, where everyone is free to look however they look. When Shay disappears, Tally must find her or risk her worst nightmare: Ugly For Life. Obviously there’s more to this whole Pretty deal than it seems at first; of course there’s something to be said for accepting yourself as you are, but if the only change was cosmetic this wouldn’t be a dystopia story. The “hover” technology was a lot of fun from a SF point of view, but the romance was pretty unbelievable: they go from absolutely nothing to twu wuv in no time at all. It felt pretty forced; I guess you can’t have YA without some kind of relationship. Still, I really enjoyed this one. The ending was reasonably satisfying while being very clearly the start of a larger story. I’m curious to see what ends up happening to Tally and her friends.

A note on the audio version: Montbertrand was a good choice for narrator. Though her voice for Shay was pretty annoying, it was also absolutely perfect for the character. I was especially impressed with the subtle shifts in intonation for the same character before and after their Pretty operation. I look forward to hearing her interpretations of other books, most especially the rest of this series.

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