Genre: Historical Fiction
# of Pages: 391
In this companion to Between Shades of Gray, a group of individual refugees are trying to escape the final dangers of war as the Russians close in. Joana, Emilia, Florian, and a few others end up coming together to try and escape the final horrors of this war. They endure many difficulties on their journey (and they all have their secrets), but eventually make it to the ship called the Wilhelm Gustloff and are granted passage to freedom. The ship is meant to carry 1500 passengers and instead thousands of women, children, and wounded soldiers fill every corridor of this luxury liner. Unfortunately, tragedy and heartache are not behind them quite yet.
The characters in this book are all different and yet interesting in their own way. They’re all escaping something and wish to forget their pasts yet for various reasons they cannot. The story of the Wilhelm Gustloff is in itself very interesting because it was a bigger tragedy than the Titanic, but yet very few people even know about it. Sepetys always finds a way to tell the stories of those people and events that were not properly told in history books. Students at my school have greatly enjoyed learning about Stalin’s regime in Between Shades of Gray and I think they will also enjoy this title and its unique perspective on this terrible war.
** Special Review**
Genre: Futuristic Sci/Fi Thriller
# of Pages: 259
Avalon wakes up in her cryochamber and learns that she has been frozen for 100 years. She also remembers that when her father predicted that a meteor would strike earth, and completely decimate life as they knew it, only 5000 people were allowed into the underground habitat that was created to sustain life until humans could return to the surface again. Since such a limited number of people were allowed into the habitat only younger people were allowed and Avalon was forced to say goodbye to her beloved father. Upon reawakening, Avalon notices some strange happenings in the habitat including that some people seem to be getting deathly ill when they are supposed to be immune from such diseases due to a vaccine everyone receives once they come out of the cryochamber. Who could be behind this? Whom can she trust in this new place surrounded by people she does not know? Should she speak up and ask questions or simply take the safer route and follow the rules?
Fans of futuristic novels such as The Testing, Alive, Across the Universe, or Red Rising will enjoy this title. The plot moves quickly and the characters are interesting and engaging. There is some resolution, but the ending definitely leaves room for a sequel. While some aspects in the story can be found in other similar titles, there is enough originality here to draw readers in and make them want to know what’s going on in this strange habitat controlled by a few people. Recommended.
# of Pages: 354
Sarah has lived in one exotic location after another her entire life since her parents are both scientists and often move to where they can conduct research. After the recent passing of Sarah’s mother, they are still grieving but decide to carry on with a previously scheduled educational safari so that they can earn some extra money. Shortly after the five teenagers arrive, Sarah’s dad is called away to stop some poachers and she is left to entertain them in the middle of a semi-desert. Hours go by and Sarah’s dad does not return and finally she receives a very panicked call over the radio from a frantic man who sounds like her father claiming it was a setup and he was being chased. The call cuts out with the sound of gunshots. Sarah and the other five teenagers are alone, with little food, and no transportation. They decide to go looking for help and must rely on Sarah’s survival skills in order to survive. They eventually find a silver lion who tries to attack them and Sarah knows something unnatural is going on and more than likely whomever created that monstrosity would do anything to keep it quiet. Can Sarah get the others to safety? Will she ever find out what happened to her dad? Where did the silver lion come from and is there some illegal experimenting going on?
Fans of survival books will enjoy this title. There are multiple scenes in which one or more of the teens is in serious danger due to some natural wildlife threat, like snakes. However, once they uncover the silver lion they face many dangers from humans as well as the people behind the altered animal want desperately to contain the situation at all costs. The characters are sympathetic and relatable as they truly just try to just survive this very unexpected situation and in the process must face the many reasons they all wanted to escape to the Kalahari in the first place.
# of Pages: 298
Rio and her twin, Bay, were born in the underwater town of Atlantia and it is now their chosen time to decide if they wish to stay below or go up to the surface for the rest of their lives. People in the underwater city believe that life above ground is dangerous, labor intensive, and fairly short while residents of Atlantia are believed to have an easy life where most people live a very long time. Unfortunately, their mother, Oceana, was recently found dead and many suspect foul play. Rio has always dreamed of going above, but now that their mother is gone she has promised Bay she will stay with her down below. All decisions are final in this ceremony and there is no going back and forth allowed. Rio is shocked when Bay ends up leaving her and choosing to live above the water, but she is ushered away before Rio has a chance to ask her why. She does have time to utter one word that alerts those near to her of what she truly is, which is a siren. Her mother has trained her to keep that truth a secret for reasons unbeknownst to Rio. Can Rio survive in the one place she has wanted to leave her entire life without her mother or sister? Why would her sister choose to leave after making her promise they would stay together forever? Is it possible to bridge the two societies together?
This novel is fresh and interesting right from the beginning. It feels like yet another futuristic story, but the setting and characters quickly help you to forget all of that as you cannot help but get immersed in the story. Rio has many plot details to figure out in order to find out the truth of her family and Atlantia itself. While many great characters are introduced, it does take Rio awhile to discern whom she can and cannot trust which makes the journey more interesting for the reader. It also appears that this is going to be a stand alone novel which is refreshing in a world where every book seems to have three sequels. Recommended for students who enjoy fantasy.
Genre: Futuristic/Survival Fiction
# of Pages: 225
Charley lives in Meritropolis where everyone is judged on their merit and given a score. He has an unnaturally high score of 118. He loathes the system, however, because when he was 8 his only brother was taken away and put outside the gates to die simply because he had Down Syndrome and therefore had a low score. He has been plotting his revenge since. Every time a person is put outside the gates every adult is required to go to the gate ceremony to watch. At Charley’s first one they led a little girl with a disability to the gates and he went crazy and started fighting the guards. He was eventually overtaken, but due to his high number he was not sent outside the gates as punishment. Instead, they put his best friend out there to remind him of who is really in charge. At that point Charley started plotting how he can take down the system.
This book seems very simple at first, but touches on many important issues in any society. For example, the sick and elderly are discussed quite often and how “valuable” they are in society. There are different views on this throughout the book from different characters. There are also hunger issues, which is a terrible problem in all societies. Some people get a lot while others barely get by. Finally, even abortion is touched on. The main character is strong and not afraid to speak up and could be a great literary hero for reluctant boy readers. The plot is full of unanswered questions, some interesting revelations, and lots of action. Recommended for fans of survival fiction.
Genre: Futuristic fiction
# of Pages: 262
2014 Iowa High School Award Winner
In this futuristic novel, Deuce is a huntress who lives underground in an enclave. Humans have moved underground because life above ground is believed to be uninhabitable. Her hunting partner, Fade, is very mysterious and there are rumors that at some point he has been above ground. Together they work in the tunnels surrounding their enclave to find food for their people, but it dangerous work since there are many mutated “Freaks” in the tunnels fighting them for food. When Deuce is officially allowed to finish her training and go into the tunnels she is surprised by how well the Freaks seem to fight. She was taught that they were simple minded and easy to fool, but they appear to strategize and work together to outsmart the other fighters. Meanwhile, a good friend of Deuce’s is accused of a crime she knows he did not commit so she takes the blame and is exiled to live above ground. Surprisingly, Fade stands with her. Can they survive above ground? Will the enclave be safe without them to help defend the colony?
Fans of futuristic novels like Divergent and The Maze Runner will enjoy this novel because it does have a different spin on the genre. Deuce is a very strong female character who will not give in to pressure to change her opinions or beliefs. The story itself moves quickly with a lot of action which will pull in those reluctant readers who do not like slow moving plots.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
# of Pages: 231
Robie lives in the Midway Atoll with her family, but often goes to stay with her aunt in Honolulu. One summer, her aunt is called away unexpectedly and Robie decides to take the shuttle plane home to her parents. The phones are out so she cannot call her parents and tell them she is coming and in the commotion she forgets to get weighed before her and her bags climb aboard the plane. A major storm knocks out one of the engines and the plane goes down. Robie ends up struggling to survive in the middle of the ocean with only a raft and a few supplies. Can she survive out there by herself? Will anyone come to look for her?
This survival story realistically portrays exactly what it would be like to be drifting on a raft for days including symptoms of dehydration, starvation, and environmental dangers. The details of the region including geography, animal life, and weather are all perfectly accurate which helps this story to feel even more realistic. The story itself is very exciting and moves quickly so it is recommended for reluctant readers.