Archive Page 2

The Girl I Used To Be by April Henry

Genre:  Suspense/Mystery

229 pages

Iowa Teen Award Winner 2018-19

Olivia was born with the name Ariel, but it was changed after her mother was murdered in the forest while their family was looking for a Christmas tree.  Olivia was only three at the time and everyone believed her father killed her mother and then dropped her off at a Walmart and disappeared.  She’s never been able to remember anything about the attack, but life has not been easy as she was passed around to foster homes and even suffered a failed adoption before deciding to emancipate herself.  Everyone is shocked when it is discovered that her father actually died the same day as her mother.  So who killed them and why did they release Ariel?  Could they still be out there waiting to finish her off if she starts asking questions?

April Henry does it again with a fast, suspenseful mystery story where Olivia tries to find out what happened to her parents all those years ago.  Coming back to her home town is overwhelming at first and she decides she doesn’t want anyone to know her true identity, but eventually she finds that it’s really nice to reconnect with her roots.  There are many characters to keep track of that are not particularly developed, but could all be potential suspects.  Olivia is very strong, motivated, and independent which makes her a good protagonist.  Reluctant readers and mystery readers will enjoy this title.

Advertisements

Zero Day by Jan Gangsei

Genre: Mystery/realistic fiction

# of Pages:  359

2018-19 Iowa High School Award Winner

Addie Webster was kidnapped from her home when she was 8 and there has been no trace of her ever since.  Then, after her father becomes president of the U.S. she mysteriously shows up again and claims to have escaped from her terrible captors.  The head of the NSA finds her story troublesome and enlists her former best friend, Darrow, to keep an eye on her and see if she does anything unusual.  Darrow is offended at first, but unfortunately has some deeds in his past he would prefer did not become public and agrees to keep an eye on Addie.  He is surprised to find that she does exhibit some unusual behavior, such as being able to hack and take down a video posted by a bully in a threatening manner.  He’s happy she did it of course, but where did she get such computer skills if she was raised in a compound with no connections to the modern world? What is she up to and how far will she go to get what she wants?  Most importantly, is any part of her still the Addie he remembers playing board games with as children?

This book is fun, surprising, and fast paced.  Readers will enjoy the unusual set up, but will most likely see through some of the lies that take Addie awhile to figure out.  It is set up to continue and I’m sure that readers will want more after the exciting ending and subsequent cliffhanger.  Many of the characters are not fully developed, but as the series continues I’m sure they will develop further.  This would be a popular title to share with reluctant readers, not because of its length, but because of its ability to grab the reader from the very beginning and keep him or her guessing until the very end.

 

Flashfall by Jenny Moyer

Genre:  Futuristic Fiction

# of Pages:  342

Iowa High School Award Winner 2018-19

Orion works digging in the treacherous mines of Outpost Five.  They are mining for cirium, which is the only thing that protects humans from the radiation poisoning due to the flash curtain that has sent most humans under the protection of the cirium protected city.  If Orion and her partner, Dram, can mine 400 grams of cirium they will earn their freedom into the protected city, but so far no one has ever lived long enough to do that.  Orion is special in that she can hear the cirium calling to her and she ends up finding a huge deposit that she knows will ensure her freedom, but there are forces trying to keep her from succeeding.  Then, newcomers come to Outpost Five and many of the things they tell Orion make her question everything she has ever known.  Who can she really trust and who, in fact, is out to make sure she fails in everything she tries?

Fans of Red Rising will like this title because it has an unusual setting and plenty of action.  The author does not shy away from killing off characters so it’s hard to predict who will live and who will die.  The struggles of Outpost Five are terrible and neverending, but without Orion none of the Outpost community would stand a chance at survival.  There are many surprise twists in the plot as they try to find out what the government is really up to and how they can go about changing the terrible fate they have been dealt.  Readers who want action/survival should definitely check this series out.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Genre:  Fantasy

Holly Chase was a wealthy, beautiful, egotistical daughter of a movie director who lived to judge others.  Therefore, it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise when she was visited on Christmas Eve by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.  Yet, Holly chose not to take this experience seriously and laughed it off as a joke despite the ghosts’ warnings that she would die soon if she didn’t change her ways.  Shortly after her disastrous Scrooge experience she is hit by a car and dies.  She wakes up in the office of the company who choose the “Scrooge” each year and she is now required to work here to prepare for each Christmas Eve, but then must also act the role of Christmas past.  She thinks she’ll be stuck in this existence forever until one year her Scrooge is a teenager just like her, and unfortunately, she can see the similarities between herself and her new Scrooge and for the first time she begins to feel bad about the kind of person she really was when she was alive.  Can she save him from the same fate even if she has to break a few rules?

Anyone looking for a fun Christmas read should check this one out.  Holly is brash, bratty, insensitive, and sympathetic all at once.  She’s trying to do better, but doesn’t really know how.  The supporting characters are all fun and colorful, but the focus is definitely on Holly and most of the other characters are not as developed.  The story itself is fun and the reader wants to root for Holly despite her difficult personality.  Recommended.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  398

There is an island that is almost totally cut off from the rest of the world where a set of triplets are born every generation.  The queen immediately knows what power each of the girls will have and when they are a few years old they are separated so that they can hone their craft.  When they come of age they must compete in a bizarre set of rituals in which only the last one alive can become the next queen.  Katherine is a poisoner, but she while she has become adept at administering poisons she has not yet become immune to them herself.  Arsinoe, the naturalist, has not yet found her familiar, which is like her animal soul mate, but she has been very happy growing up alongside her best friend, Jules, who is a very talented naturalist.  Finally, Mirabella, the elementalist, is very gifted and can easily manipulate water and fire.  It is expected she will easily take the crown over her weaker sisters, but once the games begin everyone has a few surprises in store for the waiting spectators.  Who will end up with the crown?  Whom can the sisters really trust in this process?  Who will get hurt along the way?

This series has received a lot of attention from my students, but it did take me awhile to get into the story and the characters.  Once I did become immersed in the characters I not only wanted to finish the first one right away but wanted to read the second one as well.  It’s definitely a unique story that does not rely on plot details seen in other fantasy series.  There is still a lot that needs to be revealed about these characters, their motivations, and the ultimate outcome which will keep readers engaged for a long time to come.

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

Genre: Mystery

# of Pages:  421

On their very first day of school, six kindergartners are mysteriously abducted from school and do not surface for eleven years when they are all mysteriously dropped off with no memories and only their parents’ addresses clutched in their hands.  One of the original six, Max, does not return with the others and the realization that he hasn’t returned breaks his family even more.  His sister, Avery, decides to start investigating on her own to see if she can find out where Max is.  The others, meanwhile are struggling as well.  Scarlet comes home to a mother who has become obsessed with the idea that aliens stole her daughter and Caleb comes home in time to witness a tragedy.  They have been told repeatedly that it’s probably a good thing they can’t remember the last eleven years and the horrors they witnessed, but most of them still want to know where they have been especially since they are exhibiting knowledge in certain areas and they don’t know why.  They have missed most of their childhood and they each need to figure out how they fit into their own lives again.  Will they ever learn the truth behind their disappearance?  Where is Max?

Mystery readers will love this book because it is engaging, but also believable with many unusual facts they need to put together in order to get a general idea for what happened to them.  They know they may never know everything, but even learning the person responsible would be helpful when trying to move on.  The characters are all developed so that the reader can understand their feelings and motivations, while also understanding how hard it would be to go through something like this.  The ending is also very satisfying while not being too tidy or predictable.  Recommended.

The Possible by Tara Altebrando

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  292

Kaylee lives a fairly ordinary life for a teenage girl until she is approached by a woman doing a podcast on Kaylee’s birth mom.  Kaylee’s birth mom is famous for possibly having telekinetic powers based on a photo taken when she was a teen, although her powers were never proven. She’s also known for murdering her infant son and going to prison for it, which is why Kaylee has lived with her adoptive parents ever since and has no memory of her life with her mom at all.  Kaylee’s parents are against her interviewing for the podcast because they are afraid it will dredge up painful memories, but Kaylee feels like she needs to know the truth about her mom and agrees to help.  Once the podcast begins airing it becomes a local phenomenon and many of Kaylee’s classmates begin to wonder if she has telekinetic powers too since she is an excellent softball pitcher and a girl she doesn’t particularly like gets hit by a falling tree branch.  Suddenly, Kaylee isn’t sure what to believe anymore.  Is it possible her mother has special abilities and if so, could she?

This story is engaging right from the beginning.  Kaylee’s need to meet her mother and bring closure to her past is all very understandable, but it plays out very realistically and that’s hard for her to handle.  As she navigates through the twists and turns in this story, Kaylee learns a lot about herself, her parents, her mom, and her friends.  The ending is satisfying, but it’s the realistic writing style that will really help readers to identify with and care about Kaylee and her story.


Advertisements