Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Revived by Cat Patrick

I normally start my reviews with why I picked this book and how I heard about it and save my review until the end. But this review is going to be backwards- because I have to start off saying how much I LOVED this book. I loved it so much that when I was almost finished it, I whipped up to Chapters to see if I could buy any of her other books. I am not even sure how I found this book- I think it was just on one of my wandering trips around the YA section- but boy am I glad I found it. Revived is the story of Daisy who is now 15. But when Daisy was 5, she entered a program that tested a new drug called revive. Basically revive brings people back from the dead. When people start to get suspicious of her, it means that she has to pack up and move her life, with a new city and a new name. When we meet Daisy, she has just moved to a new town and has decided she is going to make every effort to make friends. She quickly becomes friends with Audrey and her brother Matt. Daisy slips into a very comfortable life and she loves her new friends. But then Daisy starts questioning things about Revive, she wonders if it the people running it are making the right decisions. Daisy's questioning puts everyone she knows at risk. But this book is more than an adventure story. Daisy's friendship with Audrey has some very challenging moments and she learns a great deal about life through her friendship with Audrey. Her friendship with Matt blossoms into more than just friends, and this leads to some challenges for both her and Matt. This book is so well written on so many levels. I can't wait to recommend this book to my students. I can already think of some kids who will love it as much as I do. On the plus side- my trip to Chapters yielded another book by Patrick and Suzanne Young who wrote The Program...oh my!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Ann Brashares is the author of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants- I loved those books and I loved the movie, so when I saw this one, I knew I needed to pick it up. The Here and Now is unlike any of the other books Brashares has written. I'm labelling it Dystopian- but I am not sure it really fits in that category. It's set in the present, but the main character comes from the future, so she knows a great deal about what is going to happen. Preena is a 17 year old who has come to New York from far in the future, a future that includes many people dying of the plague. Preena and the people who came with her are hoping to discover what causes the plague and to save the future. But in order to do that, Preena must live by some very serious rules put in place by the leaders of their community. These leaders use anything they can to keep control of the immigrants. Surveillance, drugs, intimidation and even murder. But when Preena meets a native- Ethan- a boy who is from New York and this time period- she starts questioning everything she has ever been told. Preena needs to decide if what she is starting to think is true, and if it is worth risking everything to save the future. This book was exciting- as with any time travel books, it is sometimes hard to keep track of how things in the past affect the future and exactly what the results are when you change things. I really liked the two main characters. Preena had to overcome a great deal in her past, but she is fighting to have a future and Ethan does what is right and is a great friend to Preena. I am looking forward to sharing this book with kids in the fall and hear what they think about it.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Narc by Crissa-Jean Chappell

There is nothing better than the summer! I love being able to go to my 'to be read' pile and picking the first book I see and heading out to the pool and reading it in one sitting. Narc is the book I picked up this morning. I purchased this one at Chapter a few weeks ago when I went on a small (!) book buying binge. It's not my typical book, but I did enjoy it. Aaron is a high school senior who is just trying to make it through his last year of high school. He doesn't have any friends, and really struggles to know how to talk to people. But when his sister is busted for having a bag of weed, he takes the blame and the punishment. His only chance of avoiding jail is to turn into a narc- someone who will infiltrate the drug scene at his high school in order to find the person who is supplying all the drugs to the students. For Aaron, this task seems overwhelming since he has never run with that crowd. But as he starts getting to know the more popular kids and learning about their lives, he is very reluctant to turn them over to the police. He must choose between what he knows is right and what he wants to do. This was a pretty good story, I didn't love it, but I really felt for Aaron. He is a guy just trying to do his best to get through. I found the story a bit hard to follow, lots of characters and not a lot of depth to them. It was hard keeping track of their motivations. But I did enjoy the story and was eager to discover how Aaron would make out. Even though this book was written about a senior in high school and deals with drugs, there isn't anything that would stop me from putting it in my grade 7 classroom. I'm just not sure how many kids will pick it up.

Power Play by Eric Walters

I have always loved anything written by Eric Walters. The man can truly tell a story that kids enjoy. As a matter of fact, my first read aloud this year will be by Eric. Because I haven't been reading as many YA books, I haven't read anything by him in a while, but when I saw this book this other day, I knew I needed to read it. Power Play is about a young man who loves hockey. For him, hockey is an escape from his father and his life at home. Cody and his mother are very close, but his dad is an angry man who uses alcohol to forget about all of the disappointments his life has brought. Cody sees hockey as his way to escape, it is the only thing he is good at. So when a scout comes around looking for someone to play on his Junior A team, Cody is thrilled- he knows this is his stepping stone to one day playing in the NHL. Coach Conners gives Cody everything- he believes in him, seems to know everyone connected to hockey and has access to all the best equipment. But Coach requires a pretty steep payback for everything. Cody is sucked into a terrible situation when Coach Conners starts to abuse the power he has over Cody. Cody is forced to decide if he is willing to risk his future to end the suffering. This book has an afterward written by Sheldon Kennedy who acknowledges the abuse he faced at the hands of his coach. I think many boys will be drawn to this book because of the hockey, but the lesson learned from this book is very important. This will be a tough book to have in my classroom, but I want it there. I am just not sure what I will do when someone wants to read it. I feel that the situation was handled very sensitively, you know what was going on, without knowing the details. However, I am not sure how parents would react to this story. I feel that it would be important to have a conversation with a student after reading this book. I would love to hear how other's feel about kids reading this book from school.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Erased by Jennifer Rush

Erased is the sequel to Altered that I finished yesterday. If you haven't read Altered yet, you should do that first, otherwise you will be confused by this book. Erased continues where the story leaves off in Altered. Anna and the boys are on the run from the Branch. They aren't sure what memories are real and from what life. It is very challenging to learn to cope with these flashback, because they are very confusing. Anna really struggles to cope with these flashbacks and knowing who to trust. If she trusts the wrong person, it could end everything for her, Sam, Nick and Cas. Anna must try to uncover what her role is in the Branch and how she can go back to living a normal life. I was so excited when I finished reading Altered- it was a very action packed book. I couldn't wait for Erased to arrive, so I bought it for my kindle- and I never buy YA books for my kindle. It seemed like a much quicker read, but still full of action. I found it a bit of a challenge to keep everyone straight- who was telling the truth and who was feeding Anna lies- much like I imagine Anna felt as well. I liked this series because it wrapped up in two books- and both were great reads! I will be recommending both of these books in the fall.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Altered by Jennifer Rush

I picked this one up at Chapters a few weeks ago- I had never read anything about it, but boy did I like it. I am not sure what to classify it as- it is sort of dystopian, but not really, it is sort of fantasy, but not really. Either way it is a great book. The main character is Anna, who lives her life on the outskirts of town with her dad, and the four boys he has kept in the lab below their farmhouse. Her dad works for a company called the Branch- and these four boys are in his care for monitoring and treatments, although Anna isn't sure for what. These four boys are part of Anna's family- she looks after them and goes out of her way to make their lives happier. She is closest with Sam, he is the one who holds her heart. One day, the boys escape and suddenly, Anna is being pushed to run away with them by her father. Now Anna and the boys are on the run from the Branch, who will stop at anything to get them back and under control. Anna and Sam learn a great deal about themselves when they are on the run with the other boys, but there are still many questions that are not answered. This book was full of action and interesting events. Anna is a great character. At first, she seems very meek and just wanting to make the boys (Sam) happy. But as the story progresses and Anna learns more about her life, she develops into this great character-both strong and determined. Anna is one of those characters that both boys and girls can relate to. The action in this story will make it appealing for both the boys and the girls. I can't wait to share this one with my class in September!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tease by Amanda Maciel

I know this book has been sitting in my "To be read" photo on this blog, and it isn't that I didn't want to read it- it is just that other books kept cropping up first! I do need to say right off that bat, that I think this book is too mature for Intermediate students. But my high school friends (Becky and Karen) - you guys need this book in your library! In many ways, Tease is like Thirteen Reasons Why. A young girl (Emma) has committed suicide and the book is dealing with how it happened. This book is told through the eyes of Sara- she is a classmate of Emma's and is being held accountable for her role in the suicide. Sara and her best friend admit they teased Emma, but they always felt she had it coming. Emma's actions demanded that Sara and her friends call her on it. As the story goes on, Sara really struggles to understand why she is being charged with bullying- she spends a great deal of time blaming Emma and keeping the blame off of herself. This is a great read! Really shows the power of words, and how hurtful they can be. It also shows how easily kids can push something off just by saying 'it's just a joke'. But most importantly, this story deals with how people can fall into behaviours, even when they know they are wrong and how these can have a strong impact on other people. I really would love to have this book in my classroom, but there are too many sexual references in it for my comfort. I think it would make for a great read, and a great literature circle book. This is one that demands to be talked about!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

I am not exactly sure how to label this book. It has tinges of fantasy, but also could be classified as dystopian. Whatever tag you want to put on this, Dorothy Must Die is a great read. We all know the story of The Wizard of Oz and how Dorothy went back to Kansas, but when another Kansas girl- Amy Gunn finds herself in Oz, she realizes that that was just the beginning of the story. The Oz Amy finds isn't anything like the Oz she grew up watching. In this Oz, wicked is good, good is evil, and Dorothy has all the power. Amy finds herself trying to understand what is happening in this world, and knowing who she can trust. It isn't easy when everything she knows has been turned upside down. It turns out that Amy can only depend on herself. I had resisted buying this book for a while because I thought it was more appropriate for older students, but it isn't. I will put it in my grade 7 classroom this fall. I enjoyed the references to the classic tale of The Wizard of Oz, but did get a bit lost in understanding all the different characters. That might have just been because of the timing of my week and how busy I was. I liked Amy- she is a tough character who isn't afraid to do what is necessary to help her friends. I am looking forward to the sequel to this one. There is a bit of swearing in this book, not much, and it is very appropriate to the plot. It won't stop me from suggesting it to my students in the fall.