Monday, June 17, 2013

The Night She Disappeared Book Review

Author: April Henry. Release date: 2012. Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.. ISBN: 9780805092622.

Annotation: Gabie blames herself when her coworker, Kayla, disappears one night after trading shifts with her at a local pizza parlor. Sure that she is still alive, Gabie struggles as more and more time passes with no sign of Kayla.

Personal thoughts: I’d never heard of April Henry before picking up The Night She Disappeared, but having blown through it from cover-to-cover in a day I think I can safely say that I will definitely be reading more mysteries from her in the future!  I really enjoyed the novel, and found the pacing to be excellent. The combination of different narrators, evidence and all the other tidbits the author threw in really made it read like an episode of an intriguing true crime TV show. I would highly recommend this story to a reluctant reader because it is so interesting from start to finish. I’m looking forward to reading another one of April Henry’s creations!

Plot summary: High school senior Gabie Klug lives a fairly quiet life in Portland, Oregon. She studies hard, has a few friends at school and is looking forward to finding out who she is at Stanford next year. Like her surgeon parents, Gabie has everything in order, and never thought that her part-time job at Pete’s Pizza would throw her life into disarray. Gabie usually works Wednesday nights, driving her Mini-Cooper to deliver pizzas in the area. One day, however, Gabie’s beautiful, popular coworker Kayla asks to trade shifts with her. On that Wednesday evening, a man calls to order three pizzas and asks if the girl who drives the Mini-Cooper is working. Kayla goes out to deliver the pizzas and never returns. Now the hunt is on: the man who called in the pizza order gave a fake address, and all that has been recovered of Kayla is her car which was found by the bank of the Willamette River. Since the man asked if the girl who drives the Mini-Cooper was working, Gabie knows that she was the original target of the abduction; Kayla was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Wracked with guilt, Gabie struggles as more and more time passes with no sign of Kayla. Certain that she is still alive, Gabie and her coworker, Drew, wonder what they can do to help find Kayla before it’s too late.

Review: Mystery writer April Henry delivers a page-turning thriller with The Night She Disappeared.  Set in the author’s home of Portland, Oregon, the novel reads like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, complete with evidence, police reports, and missing person’s flyers that accompany the narrative. The book is extremely fast-paced and difficult to put down, particularly since the chapters are from the viewpoints of several different characters. The main narrators, Gabie and her coworker Drew, are both likable and relatable. Gabie comes from a well-to-do family but feels stifled by her doctor parents, and Drew is the son of a junky who needs the money he earns from Pete’s Pizza to keep the lights on in the crummy apartment he shares with his mom. The two bond over Kayla’s disappearance, and both evolve as they become more and more embroiled in the hunt to find their missing coworker. There are some unsavory moments in the story, which is to be expected, as details of Kayla’s abduction come to light. The novel is still very much appropriate for a teen audience, however, and would be a particularly good choice for a reluctant reader who wants something that will grab and hold their attention quickly and from beginning to end.  

Genre:  Mystery

Reading level: Grade 7+

Similar titles: Girl, Stolen, The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die and other titles by April Henry, Lark by Tracey Porter, On the Fringe by Courtney King Walker, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff, What Happened to Serenity? by PJ Sarah Collins.

Themes:  Mystery, kidnapping, abduction, danger, guilt, police, crime.

Awards/Reviews:  Positive review from VOYA, School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly.

Series Information: N/A  

Discussion questions:

-         What mistakes do you think Kayla made that lead to her abduction? Is there something she could have done differently to keep herself safe?

-         If you were Gabie, would you feel guilty about Kayla getting abducted and not you? Why or why not?

-          What do you think brought Drew and Gabie together in the aftermath of Kayla’s abduction?

-         Why did Gabie want to experience what Kayla went through when she was abducted? Do you think it helped or made things worse?

-          What was the importance of the psychic in the events of the story? How would things have been different had she not been hired?

-          In the end, would you have done what Gabie and Drew did? Why or why not?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Origin Book Review

Author: Jessica Khoury. Release date: 2012. Publisher: Razorbill. ISBN: 9781595145956.

Annotation: Pia is perfect: the sole member of a race of immortals created deep in the jungles of the Amazon. She has spent her entire life behind the walls of the secret compound of scientists who made her and doesn’t know anything about what lies beyond the cage she calls home. Everything changes, however, when she discovers a hole in the fence and ventures into the jungle where she meets Eio, a boy her age from the outside world.      

Personal thoughts: I really liked the concept of this book and, although I had some trouble reading through some of the parts pertaining to animal testing, overall, I enjoyed it. Pia is a very likable character and it was interesting watching her grow and become more “human” as the story progressed. While I don’t think this novel is for everyone, I would definitely recommend it to science-fiction fans who want something a little different from the norm.   

Plot summary: Pia is perfect. The only member of a race of immortals created deep in the jungles of the Amazon, she has spent her life in the walls of the compound of scientists who have dedicated their lives to engineering more people like her. Pia knows that her destiny lies in one day joining the scientists in discovering how to quickly create more immortals; currently the process takes five generations and Pia is the result of work that began in 1912. Everything changes, however, when Pia discovers a hole in the fence that surrounds her home and ventures out into the jungle. There she meets Eio, a handsome boy who lives in a neighboring village of natives. Pia has never seen someone her age and is fascinated by Eio and the rest of the villagers. Although she knows it’s wrong, she continues to visit Eio and the village, learning more about the outside world than she ever thought possible. The more she discovers, however, the more she begins to realize that not everything inside her compound of scientists is what it seems and that the truth behind her creation might be deadlier than she ever imagined.

Review: From debut author Jessica Khoury comes this Michael Crichton-esque novel for young adults about science, danger and, of course, romance. One of the best things about Origin is that the author does her best not to dumb down the scientific aspects of the plot for the reader. Pia’s creation isn’t paranormal: she was engineered by the very group of scientists that are the only family she has ever known. Some aspects of the operations of Little Cam, the compound Pia calls home, might be difficult for readers to make it through, particularly the elements pertaining to animal testing. Part of the story, however, is showing how Pia’s humanity despite her immortality impacts the events of the novel, and her growing separation from the scientists of Little Cam becomes more evident as she grows and changes. The romance that develops between Pia and Eio, the handsome eighteen-year-old from the neighboring village of natives, is enjoyable and not over-the-top, making the book relatable for teen boys and girls alike. Overall, a well-written and thought-provoking novel from an author with a lot of promise.

Genre:  Science-Fiction

Reading level: Grade 8+

Similar titles: Michael Crichton novels (Jurassic Park, Next, etc.)    

Themes:  Science, genetic engineering, the Amazon, duty, immortality, danger, secrets, romance, betrayal.   

Awards/Reviews:  Positive review from Kirkus and Booklist.

Series Information: N/A  

Discussion questions:

-          Why do you think the scientists of Little Cam kept the outside world a secret from Pia? Do you think it was the right choice?

-          How do you explain the “tests” that was Pia was put through? What was Uncle Paolo hoping to accomplish with the tests?

-         Why do you think Pia was so intrigued by Eio?

-         Why did it take Pia such a long time to warm up to Aunt Harriet?

-         Would you have been able to do what Uncle Paolo asked Pia to do to Sneeze? Why or why not?

-          Do you think Pia made the right choice in the end? Why or why not?