Monday, March 7, 2016

I Become Shadow

Ren Sharpe is a shadow.  When she was fourteen, a secret government program kidnapped her from her bedroom, convinced the world she was dead, and began training her to protect someone who will become important in the future.  In their defense, she would have died in a few months anyway.

A few years ago, a super powerful satellite somehow managed to reveal not just crystal clear images of earth but earth in about forty years.  Since then, F.A.T.E. has been kidnapping and training teens who would've died in the regular course of their lives to protect people who will be important for one reason or another--political leaders, scientists, etc.

This training has turned Ren and her friend Junie into killing machines.  To complicate matters, Ren has developed feelings for Junie that could only get in the way.  As soon as the training is over, she will probably never see him again anyone, so what's the point?

Once she is linked to her F.I.P. (future important person), she feels an intense longing to be near him.  Gareth is an engineering student at Texas A&M, so F.A.T.E. sets Ren up as his neighbor.  She's not supposed to interact with him, just to watch over and protect him.  But, of course, things go sideways, and Ren and Gareth soon find themselves in a battle of life and death with no idea who to trust.

Joe Shine's debut novel is full of action, and I can definitely see a lot of people enjoying it.  For me, it was difficult to overcome some of the nagging plot holes, and the bizarre opening trip to the gynecologist that had nothing to do with the rest of book.

Been There, Done That

This is an interesting idea for an anthology.  The premise is that everyday experiences can be transformed into fictional events.  A plethora of popular children's and YA authors have each submitted two stories--one that's real and one that is fictionalized.  Some of the fictional accounts are very close to the originals, but some veer into the fantastic.

This was an interesting read from a writer's perspective to see how themes and ideas from real life can translate into fiction.  None of the stories in this collection is particularly mind blowing, but it is the concept that will make this book a standout for kids.  Young readers will enjoy seeing this behind the scenes look at the writing process.  In fact, the reason I picked this one up is several students read it and told me they enjoyed it.

Kids who like short stories can enjoy this book, but it is best placed in the hands of aspiring young writers!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Truth About Twinkie Pie

Thanks to a million dollar prize in a cooking competition, GiGi and her big sister DiDi are starting a new life in New York!  All GiGi has ever know is her home in small town South Carolina where pretty much did nothing but study.  DiDi has been taking care of her since GiGi was a baby and their mother died, and big sister is determined to make her little sister a success.

GiGi wants to start fresh at this new school where no one knows her.  It's the perfect opportunity for reinvention.  Of course, she'll keep studying and making good grades, but a little fun never killed anyone.  That's why she's decided her recipe for success will involve a lot more friendship and a lot less studying in the library alone during lunch.

It seems to be working from the start.  When she literally runs into a beautiful and cool boy named Trip on the first day, she is pleasantly surprised to find a genuine friendship developing.

But, of course, it can't be that easy.  Mace has been friends with Trip forever, and she takes an instant dislike to GiGi.  Things get worse when GiGi catches Mace and DiDi hanging out.  DiDi never lets GiGi hang out with her at the salon, so why is she suddenly so friendly with her own sister's mortal enemy?!

When GiGi decides to make a grand gesture to fix her relationship with her older sister, she discovers a shocking secret that makes her doubt everything.

I really enjoyed Kat Yeh's book about friendship and family.  There are several laugh out loud moments, and GiGi's personality shines through on every page.

House Arrest

Timothy is on probation for a year.  That means the only place he can go without his mom is school.  He's under house arrest for a year!  He also has to check in with his probation officer and his therapist every week and keep a stupid journal that's supposed to show how sorry he is.

But he's not sorry.  Why is Timothy on probation?  He baby brother is really sick, like he needs someone watching him 24/7 almost died right after he was born sick.  Timothy's dad didn't stick around for long after the baby was born, leaving his mom alone to work and take care of the family.  She's doing the best she can, but medicine and nurses are expensive, so Timothy didn't even hesitate when he saw the man's wallet on the counter.  He just took it and bought the medicine his baby brother needed.

Now he's just made everything worse because his mom has to worry about his probation on top of everything else. As things continue to get worse for his family, Timothy decides to do whatever it takes to get help for his little brother, even if that might not seem like a good idea to anyone else.

I really enjoyed K. A. Holt's new verse novel.  It's touching and funny, and everyone will be rooting for Timothy and his brave family!

The Thing About Jellyfish

There is no way Franny could have just drowned.  She was a really good swimmer.  When Suzy's mother tells her, "Sometimes these things just happen," Suzy can't believe it's true.  Her best friend (former best friend?) couldn't just die like that especially not with so much anger left between them.

Maybe that's why she's so quick to jump on the idea of the jellyfish.  It's rare but possible it could have been in the water with Franny.  It's venom is so powerful, Franny would have drowned before anyone could save her.  This makes more sense than the idea that Franny's death is just a random event.

It's just not right that Franny's death could be random, that the last words she and Suzy exchange were in anger.  Suzy thought there would be more time.  But there wasn't.  Now there doesn't seem to be anything at all worth talking about, so Suzy remains silent.

No one else knows what she's thinking as she dives into research to try to prove a rare jellyfish killed her former best friend.

This was a good read about grief and emotion.  My only complaint would be in the growing tension between Suzy and Franny.  The final event that forces the two apart is pretty extreme, and it's difficult as a reader to understand Suzy's behavior and to really imagine a situation where anyone would think what she did was ok.  Yes, the book was good, but I'm a little conflicted.