Archive for January, 2010

Scat by Carl Hiaasen

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/ Mystery

# of Pages:  371 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

2010 Iowa Teen Award Winner

Scat begins with Nick and Marta in their biology class cringing that they will be called on by Mrs. Starch, who is the meanest teacher in the school.  Instead, she calls on Duane and assigns him a major paper when he admits he failed to do the assignment.  Duane (who’s nickname is Smoke because he has started a few fires in the past) storms out of class and everyone wonders if there will be any repercussions for Mrs. Starch singling him out in class.  The following day, the class takes a field trip to a nearby swampy area.  Around lunchtime they are evacuated due to a small wildfire, but Mrs. Starch sends the bus ahead so that she can return to find an inhaler that a student dropped.  She never returned to school and no one can find her.  Nick and Marta decide to investigate further in order to see if something terrible happened to her when she returned into the swamp.  Meanwhile, Nick’s father returns from Iraq injured and the entire family must come to terms with the fact that nothing will ever be the same again.

Carl Hiaasen has once again created a story in which the characters are interesting and colorful and an environmental issue is discussed.  In this book, Hiaasen addresses some of the endangered animals in the Florida area and the lengths the government and other protection agencies are going to in order to protect these creatures.  The pacing of the story seems natural and the story is revealed in a timely and appropriate manner.  Nick’s father serving in Iraq is something many students can relate to and while there is always hope for his prognosis, he does not return from war unscathed.  Any fan of Hiaasen’s previous books will enjoy this one.

But I Don’t Want To Be a Movie Star by Margaret Pinder

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  250 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Katriona Shaw lives in England with her parents, but during the summer she is sent to live with her grandmother, Noni.  Noni used to be a major movie star and lives a life of luxury to prove it.  Kat has never felt a strong connection with her grandmother and does not hide the fact that she would rather be home skateboarding with her friends.  Everything changes when Noni finds out she could be up for a part in a movie.  She is supposed to meet with one of the executives about whether or not she would be right for the part and it is all she can think about.  Unfortunately, she falls off of Katriona’s skateboard and sprains her ankle shortly before the meeting.  Convinced she would be unable to audition with a sprain, Noni and her stylist come up with a crazy and ridiculous idea to fool the executive into thinking Noni is in perfect health.  The stylist transforms Kat to look like her grandmother so that she can go to the meeting instead.  Despite Kat’s protests, they convince her to at least try this for her grandmother and she reluctantly agrees.

The plot of this story, while humorous and fast paced, seems a bit ridiculous.  Obviously there are talented people who can transform young people to look older, but it seems unlikely that a granddaughter of 15 could be made to look exactly like her 62 year old grandmother in a way that someone close up would not be able to tell the difference.  This story also has some pacing issues.  For example,  for half of the book Kat is merely a sulky teen visiting her grandmother against her will and then the plot takes a quick turn as they prepare for this Hollywood meeting and ends rather abruptly.  Teens who like funny, silly books will be a fan but anyone looking for more substance should keep looking.

Envy by Anna Godbersen

Genre:  Historical Fiction/Romance

# of Pages:  405

RAC Book:  Yes

In this sequel to Rumors Elizabeth and Diana Holland are still reeling from the shocking murder of Elizabeth’s husband, Will, as well as the surprising wedding of Diana’s beloved Henry to Penelope.  Elizabeth refuses to be seen in public despite the urging of her mother who wants her to get back into society.  Diana is refusing to receive any correspondence from Henry as he tries to explain his behavior.  Eventually, Diana relents and believes his reasons for marrying Penelope, but quickly realizes that it is unlikely they will ever be together.  As hard as Henry pulls away from the marriage, Penelope finds ways to force him back in and eventually they must face off in order to see if the marriage will last.  Meanwhile, Lina must find a way to hold onto her newly acquired status and is surprised at what lengths she will go to in order to live in the same circles as the Holland sisters.  Finally, as Elizabeth deals with her unending sadness over losing Will she starts to wonder if there might not be another reason for her poor health.

This third installment of the Luxe series picks up where Rumors left off and reveals everyone’s motivations as they struggle to keep what they want in this elite Manhattan society.  The ending again packs a punch as two main characters make surprising choices.  Readers will look forward to the fourth installment when it will be revealed if any of these characters will actually get to be happy in this difficult society.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  382 p.

RAC:  Yes

Marcus and his friends choose to skip school and go downtown in order to participate in a tech savvy scavenger hunt type game and are caught in the middle when terrorists blow up the Bay Bridge in San Francisco.  Marcus and his friends pull out of the crowd running for cover in order to get medical attention for their friend, Darryl, who was injured after the blast.  Instead of going to a hospital, however, they were transported by Homeland Security to a facility in which they were detained, questioned, and tortured for information on the terrorist attack.  Marcus had several items on him that they wanted access to and when he refused to give them passwords they would use terrible tactics to get him to talk.  His parents were not notified of his whereabouts and he was not allowed to consult with an attorney.  When they finally released him a few days later he was warned not to tell anyone what had happened or else they would come for him again.  Marcus vows to wage war on any government who thinks they can take away the rights of its citizens in the name of security.

This story asks the reader to think about what he or she would do in some difficult situations that are only slightly exaggerated.  The book portrays this world of suspicion and doubt in a way that anyone could see it actually happening.  The question is what would you do if you felt your rights were being stripped illegally?  Marcus’s story encourages communication and discussion about government control and inalienable rights.  Students who like espionage novels will like the technology and creative plans Marcus uses in order to try and reveal the truth.  Highly recommended.

Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  371

RAC:  Yes

In this sequel to The Looking Glass Wars, Redd is struggling to find her way back to Wonderland in order to battle her niece, Alyss, for the throne.  Meanwhile, Alyss is trying to rebuild Wonderland after Redd’s reign of terror and destruction.  Alyss wonders if they will ever be the happy and secure place that Wonderland once was.  Dodge, Alyss’s best friend, is now the head of security and desperately wants to find time alone with Alyss (which is difficult now that she is queen) so that he can tell her how much she means to him.  Hatter Madigan is holed up in a cave far away mourning the loss of the love of his life without plans to ever return to combat until a diary with a surprising message convinces him otherwise.  When Wonderland is attacked and Alyss’s personal bodyguard is taken captive Alyss must decide if it is Redd or if a new nemesis has in fact revealed himself.

This sequel is action packed and every bit as exciting as the first.  Alyss’s struggles as queen are believable despite taking place in a fantasy world.  Readers can identify with many of the characters because their motivations and feelings are written in a way that anyone can understand why they feel the way they do.  The ending is a bit abrupt, but luckily the third installment is ready to pick up where that one leaves off.  Recommended for anyone who loves fantasy and fantasy series such as The Lightning Thief or Maxiumum Ride.