Showing posts with label rebellion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rebellion. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Masque of the Red Death Book Review


Author: Bethany Griffin. Release date: 2012. Publisher: Greenwillow Books. ISBN: 9780062107794.

Annotation: The world is in ruins after a deadly plague has killed most of the population. Araby and other wealthy members of society who can afford masks to protect them from the contagion spend most of their time in darkened clubs, trying to pretend like the outside world isn’t full of death. Araby’s world changes, however, when she meets Elliott, her best friend April’s older brother, who has a plan to free the city from the ruthless Prince Prospero.

Personal thoughts: I hadn’t heard much about this book prior to picking it up, but I am a big fan of reinvented pieces of classic literature so I was excited to learn about the influence of Edgar Allan Poe on the novel. Although I did, in general, enjoy the book, unfortunately, I can’t say it was one of my favorites. I thought the author did a great job establishing a really tense, uncomfortable atmosphere, which fit the events of the story perfectly, but, for me, that was the best part of the book. I didn’t really get Araby having a romance with either Will or Elliott. I found Araby’s parents, her friend April and even Prince Prospero to be interesting characters, but the novel focused more on Will and Elliott so that didn’t really help much. I would probably recommend this novel to teens who are interested in post-apocalyptic and dystopian reads, but there are others I would likely suggest first.  

Plot summary: After a deadly plague has killed most of the Earth’s population, society is left in ruin. Araby Worth and the rest of the city don’t know if they’re the only ones left alive, but, thanks to Araby’s scientist father, the wealthy are protected from the contagion by specially designed masks. While the poor continue to die, Araby and her best friend April live in the penthouse of one of the city’s nicest buildings, spending most of their time at the Debauchery Club, a darkened den full of drugs, alcohol and sex. Despite her life of relative luxury, Araby is haunted by the memory of her brother, Finn, who caught the sickness before her father invented the masks and died years earlier. Everything changes, however, when Araby meets Elliott, April’s older brother. April and Elliott are niece and nephew of the ruthless Prince Prospero, the city’s ruler who lives in an isolated castle and kills anyone who questions his authority. Elliott is determined to stage a revolution against his uncle, providing masks to everyone in the city along with food, clean water and proper shelter. Elliott needs Araby’s help to bring his plan to light, but Araby is conflicted when she becomes close with Will, the handsome and mysterious manager of the Debauchery Club.

Review: Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story of the same name, Masque of the Red Death is a tense start to a dystopian series for young adults. Set in the not-so-distant future, the post-apocalyptic world of Araby Worth is gritty, bloody, and cold. High-school English teacher turned author Bethany Griffin does a good job of creating a very uncomfortable atmosphere for the story to take place in. Puss oozes from the open sores of the sick, dead bodies are unceremoniously tossed into the carts of corpse collectors, and even the luxurious lives of Araby and her best friend April are bleak. The author is also successful at developing the character of Araby herself. Araby’s life is completely dominated by thoughts of her brother Finn whose death she feels responsible for. Araby prefers to spend her time in a drug-induced stupor where she can escape her painful memories, but she begins to grow and change after she gets to know Will and his younger siblings and when she becomes involved in Elliott’s plot to overthrow Prince Prospero. Where the novel is somewhat lacking, unfortunately, is in developing the other characters in the story and their relationships with Araby. Will and Elliott are somewhat explored, but their romances with Araby are fuzzy. Does she really like either of them? Why? Araby’s parents are two characters who hold a lot of potential to be interesting, but aren’t given enough page time to really be flushed out. Araby’s best friend, April, is arguably the most successfully developed support character, but really doesn’t have much of a role in the story. Overall, Masque of the Red Death proves to be a bit of a mixed bag, with a strong setting and central character but a weaker plot and supporting cast. The sequel, Dance of the Red Death, is set to be released in June 2013.   

Genre:  Science Fiction/Dystopian

Reading level: Grade 7+

Similar titles: Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch, The Pledge by Kimberly Derting, Legend by Marie Lu, Starters by Lissa Price, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.

Themes:  Dystopian, post-apocalyptic, plague, death, grief, rebellion, romance.  

Awards/Reviews:  Positive review from Kirkus.   

Series Information: First installment in Red Death Saga. Second installment, Dance of the Red Death, set to be released June 11, 2013.

Discussion questions:

-         Read Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, Masque of the Red Death. How is this novel influenced by Poe?

-          Explain the vow Araby made after Finn’s death. How does it impact the events of the story?

-         Why do you think Araby blames herself for the death of her brother?

-        Compared to much of the city, Araby’s life is luxurious and safe. Explain why this doesn’t make Araby happy. Do you think that money can buy happiness?

-        Who do you think Araby feels a stronger connection with: Will or Elliott? Why?

-        Describe the relationship between Araby’s mother and Prince Prospero.

-         Were you surprised to learn the identity of Malcontent? Why or why not?

-         What would you like to see happen in the sequel, Dance of the Red Death?





Monday, February 4, 2013

Shades of Earth Book Review


 Author: Beth Revis. Release date: 2012. Publisher: Razorbill. ISBN: 9781595143990.

Annotation: Amy and Elder land on Centauri Earth, along with the members of the Godspeed who chose to abandon their ship and start a new life. After thawing the frozen leadership of the original Godspeed mission, including Amy’s parents, Amy, Elder and the rest of the colonists realize that Centauri Earth is far more dangerous than they ever anticipated.

Personal thoughts: Wow, this is one of the best series I have ever read. I loved the first novel, enjoyed the sequel even more, but can safely say that the third book was the best…not many trilogies can accomplish that! From start to finish, this is an amazing book and I was completely satisfied with the ending. I am only sad that the series is over, but I am really looking forward to reading what Beth Revis comes up with next. This trilogy is a must-read for anyone who simply likes a well-written, exciting and entertaining story. Excellent, excellent, excellent.

Plot summary: Amy, Elder and the inhabitants of the Godspeed who chose to start a new life on the planet have landed on Centauri Earth. The frozen members of the original Godspeed mission, including Amy’s parents, have been released from their icy chambers and work must now begin to colonize their new home. But everything is not going as smoothly as Amy and Elder had hoped. The shipborn colonists do not trust their new military leaders, and the Earth natives, including Amy’s father who is now the leader of the mission, are even more wary of Elder and his people. More troubling, however, is the planet which they must now call home. Inhabited by fierce dinosaur-like creatures, deadly vegetation and unpredictable weather, Amy and Elder aren’t sure if Centauri Earth is as habitable as they were lead to believe. The colonists also begin to discover ruins: proof that someone has been to the planet before but seems to be gone without a trace. Will Amy, Elder and the rest of the members of the Godspeed mission be able to survive long enough to learn the truth about Centauri Earth?  

Review: This third and final installment in Beth Revis’ best-selling Across the Universe trilogy provides the series with an incredibly exciting and satisfying end. Revis is a master at creating twists and turns that are difficult to anticipate, and the reader will find themselves along for a very bumpy ride as Amy and Elder learn the truth about the mission that has brought them to their new home. Free from the confines of the Godspeed, the author creates an entire world for her characters to navigate, providing opportunities to develop Amy and Elder even further as they learn more about themselves and each other. The novel is action-packed and paced perfectly as well, building suspense throughout the plot that comes to an exciting climax. In her Across the Universe trilogy, Beth Revis has created a story and set of characters that is certain to stand the test of time as one of the best science-fiction series ever written for the young adult audience.  

Genre:  Science-Fiction

Reading level: Grade 8+

Similar titles: Across the Universe and A Million Suns by Beth Revis, Glow and Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan.   

Themes:  Space travel, spaceships, dystopian future, control, mystery, conflict, rebellion. 

Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Booklist, Horn Book and Kirkus.

Series Information: Final installment in Across the Universe trilogy. First installment, Across the Universe, published in 2011. Second installment, A Million Suns, published in 2012.  

Discussion questions:

-         Why do you think Amy was in such a hurry to unfreeze her parents and the rest of the frozens? Do you think it was a good idea?
-         Why do you think the frozens were so distrustful of the shipborns and vice versa? Do you think Elder made the situation better or worse? How?
-         What role does Phydus play in the series?
-         Do you think Colonel Martin was like Eldest and Orion? Why or why not?
-          What do you think the future holds for Amy and Elder after the events of this final installment? If you were to write a continuation story for the trilogy, what would you include?
-        Which novel in the Across the Universe trilogy is your favorite? Why?



Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Beautiful Dark Book Review

Author: Jocelyn Davies. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  HarperTeen. ISBN: 9780061990656.

Annotation: On her seventeenth-birthday, Skye Parker meets Asher and Devin. Cousins with a strange, turbulent relationship, Skye isn’t sure what to make of the pair or their presence in her small Colorado town. When she learns the truth of who they are and their role in her past, Skye’s once simple life is changed forever.
Personal thoughts: One of the most telling things for me about this novel was how the author describes herself as a lover of all things angsty on the book jacket. That is exactly the word I would choose to describe the overall tone of the novel: angsty. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, however. I think the right level of angst can make for a good story, and Jocelyn Davies does a good job of keeping the angst, for the most part, at a manageable and enjoyable level. I think the whole concept of the dark, bad boy vs. the clean-cut, good guy is a classic, and I liked how it was used in this novel. I thought the mix of romance and paranormal was well done, and I especially enjoyed the support characters and the attention the author put into developing them sufficiently. I would definitely recommend this book to Twilight fans and could see many 13 to 16-year-olds relishing Skye’s “dilemma” in having to choose between two chiseled hotties. I plan to read the sequel.  

Plot summary: On the night of her seventeenth-birthday, Skye Parker meets cousins Asher and Devin. New to her small Colorado town of River Springs, the two are complete opposites. Dark and wild, Asher is the more flirtatious of the pair, instantly charming all the girls at Skye’s high school. Fair and quiet, Devin is far more reserved, showing more than a little contempt for Asher’s boisterous personality. What’s far more strange, however, is how the two seem to be inexplicably interested in Skye. Since her parents were killed in a car accident on her sixth-birthday, Skye has lived a quiet life with her Aunt Jo, spending her free time with best friends Cassie and Dan, and competing on the ski team. She has never been one to draw the attention of a lot of guys, especially two handsome, mysterious ones like Asher and Devin. As Skye gets to know the cousins, however, she learns that their presence in River Springs, and their interest in her, is no accident. Who they are and the role they play in Skye’s past, and future, will change her life forever.
Review: Book editor turned author, Jocelyn Davies, delivers a healthy dose of romance, angst and adventure in A Beautiful Dark, the first novel in a new paranormal romance series for teens. Fans of Twilight are sure to relish this book, and the story seems to be tailor made to appeal to that target audience. As an editor for teen books, it is clear that the author knows what “works” in this genre, and the novel seems to have all the necessary elements: a beautiful but na├»ve heroine, a love triangle involving two sexy guys, the paranormal twist, and a sizable cliffhanger to keep readers longing for the sequel. There is very little new material in the novel, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. Readers are sure to enjoy the dynamics between Asher and Devin, and how Skye finds herself falling for them both for different reasons. The Colorado setting is also interesting, giving the novel an icy, wintery tone. Skye’s friends, particularly Cassie, are also likable support characters, as is her loving adoptive mother, Jo. Overall, A Beautiful Dark doesn’t break through any walls, but does make for an entertaining read that many tweens and teens are certain to swoon over. The second installment in the series, A Fractured Light, is set to be released on September 25, 2012.
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, The Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon, Tiger’s Curse series by Colleen Houck, Forbidden by Syrie James & Ryan M. James.
Themes:  Angels, destiny, rebellion, orphans, love triangle, romance.
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Kirkus and VOYA.
Series Information: First novel in Beautiful Dark series. Second installment, A Fractured Light, set to be released September 25, 2012.   
Discussion questions:
-       Why do you think birthdays are so difficult for Skye?

-      Who do you like better: Asher or Devin? Why?

-      Why do you think Skye is so important to both the Order and the Rebellion?

-    Do you think Skye is a good friend to Cassie? Ian? Dan? Why or why not?

-       Explain what you think happened in the final chapters of the novel. How do you think those events will play out in the sequel?


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Partials Book Review

 Author: Dan Wells. Release date: 2012. Publisher:  Balzer + Bray. ISBN: 9780062071040.

Annotation: In the year 2076, the world has been decimated after the Partials, genetically engineered super soldiers, rebelled against their human creators with a deadly virus known as RM. Now the human race is on the verge of extinction as every newborn in the survivor settlement of East Meadow on Long Island succumbs to the virus. Sixteen-year-old medic Kira Walker is determined to find a cure for the virus, even if it means capturing and studying a Partial to do it.
Personal thoughts: I was a bit worried that this novel would be irritatingly similar to other dystopian books I’ve read recently when I heard what it was about, but was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case. Although I definitely recognized some concepts from other popular books, TV shows or movies, the overlap didn’t bother me. In fact, I found the author’s take to be fresh and interesting. One of my favorite parts of the novel was the presence of strong, intelligent female protagonist, Kira. Not only is she described as beautiful, she is also very smart, explaining the science of her research to the reader and giving teen girl’s a positive role model who is proud of her knowledge and uses it for a purpose she believes in. I’m looking forward to seeing how Kira develops in the following installments, and can’t wait to read Fragments when it’s released in 2013.

Plot summary: The year is 2076, and the world has been decimated after the Partials, genetically engineered super soldiers, rebelled against their human creators. Having replaced the world’s armies, humans were unable to defend themselves when the Partials launched their attacks. It was a biological weapon, a deadly virus known as RM, that managed to wipe out 99.9% of the world’s human population. The Partials retreated after the RM plague and haven’t been seen for eleven years, but now the human race is on the verge of extinction as every newborn in the survivor settlement of East Meadow on Long Island succumbs to the virus. The survivors themselves are inexplicably immune to RM, but the inability to produce new generations threatens to put the final nail in the coffin that was humanity. In response to this overwhelming problem, the government of East Meadow created the Hope Act: a law that requires all women age 18 and over to be pregnant at all times. Sixteen-year-old Kira Walker was only five when RM was released, but she still remembers a time before every infant died within hours of birth. Kira works as a medic in East Meadow hospital’s maternity unit. Everyday she helps her fellow scientists try to discover a cure for RM by studying the newborns before they quickly die. When her best friend Madison becomes pregnant, however, Kira is determined that her baby will live. Convinced that the answer to curing RM lies in the physiology of the Partials, all of whom are immune to the virus, Kira sets out for the deserted island of Manhattan with one mission: to bring a live Partial back to East Meadow and find a cure.
Review: Continuing the dystopian craze that seems to have taken over young adult literature is Dan Wells’ Partials, the exciting and well-written first installment in a new post-apocalyptic series for teens. A cross between Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, Battlestar Galactica and Terminator, some common ideas (i.e. the revolting robot/machine, world-ending plague, totalitarian government, etc.) get a fresh and interesting take in this novel. From the beginning, it is clear that the Partials, the human race’s enemy number one, are going to have a role in curing the deadly RM virus. Unraveling exactly what that role will be is one of the most intriguing parts of the story. The author does an excellent job of creating an action packed plot, making Partials an ideal recommendation for male readers who want something exciting. Teen girls will also find a lot to identify with in Kira, the smart and dedicated scientist who is determined to save the life of her best friend’s unborn baby. Unlike other dystopian novels, and young adult novels in general, the romantic part of the novel takes a bit of a backseat to the rest of the story. Readers might pick up on a potential future love triangle, but the book isn’t particularly lovey-dovey, adding to its male appeal. Overall, Partials is an enjoyable and interesting beginning to a series with lots of potential. The sequel, Fragments, is set to be released in 2013.

Genre: Science-fiction
Reading level: Grade 7+

Similar titles: Eve by Anna Carey, The Pledge by Kimberly Derting, The Chemical Garden trilogy by Lauren DeStefano, The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch, Legend by Marie Lu, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Divergent by Veronica Roth.    
Themes:  Dystopian, post-apocalyptic, plague, genetic engineering, survival, pregnancy, oppression, rebellion.

Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, VOYA, The Wall Street Journal, and The Los Angeles Times.
Series Information: First installment in Partials series. Second novel, Fragments, set to be released in 2013.  

Discussion questions:
-      Why do you think the Partials rebelled against their human creators? Do you think they were justified?

-      Do you think the Hope Act was right or wrong? Why?

-       Do you think the way Samm was treated was humane? Why or why not?

-     Why do you think the Senate chose Kira to study Samm?

-       What do you think the last line of the novel means?



Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Pledge Book Review

 Author: Kimberly Derting. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry Books. ISBN: 1442422017
Annotation: In the country of Ludania, citizens are divided into classes separated by language, each forbidden to speak to each other in anything but the common language, Englaise. Seveteen-year-old Charlaina “Charlie” Hart has always been able to understand all the languages, something she has had to keep hidden. After she unwittingly becomes involved in the rebellion against Queen Sabara, however, her secret might be the key to ending the cruel oppression of the people of Ludania.
Personal thoughts: I had heard many good things about The Pledge, and, after reading it in the span of a few hours, I now understand the hype! I was surprised by how engrossing the novel was, especially because it wasn’t particularly lengthy. I think the author really knows what she’s doing, and managed to create something thoroughly interesting but also succinct enough to be entertaining for even the most reluctant teen readers. I also think that the concepts in the novel make for a great jumping off point for a classroom discussion about class warfare or oppression in our current society. Overall, a very thought-provoking read that is difficult to put down. I’m really looking forward to continuing this series when the next installment in published!
Plot summary: In the distant future, the world is divided into countries that tenuously coexist. Each is ruled by a queen who oversees their country with an iron fist. The country of Ludania is home to seventeen-year-old Charlaina “Charlie” Hart and is governed by the fearsome Queen Sabara. For centuries, Ludania’s citizens have been divided into four classes: the Counsel class, the Vendor class, the Serving class, and the outcasts. Classes are differentiated by the language they speak, each class having its own language that the other classes are unable to understand. Englaise, the universal language, is the only way for members of different classes to communicate lawfully: if someone from a higher class is speaking in their native tongue, members of the lower classes are forbidden to even make eye contact until they are spoken to in Englaise. For Charlie, life as a member of the Vendor class is fairly mundane: she attends school every day with her best friends Brooklynn and Aron, works in her parents’ restaurant, and helps take care of her little sister, Angelina. But Charlie has a dangerous secret that she’s been keeping since she was a child: she has the ability to understand every language spoken in Ludania. If her ability was discovered by the authorities, she would be executed and her whole family would be put in danger. One night, at one of the underground clubs that Charlie and Brooklynn like to frequent, Charlie meets Max: a handsome and mysterious soldier who speaks a language Charlie has never heard before, but seems to understand. Charlie’s confusion is furthered when Max seems to know her and understand her ability. In the meantime, the threat of revolution in Ludania grows, and Charlie begins to realize that she might hold the key to the future of her country.
Review:  From the author of The Body Finder, comes this first installment in a new series for young adults that takes the always popular dystopian concept and mixes it with magic for a story that is certain to intrigue and entertain readers. The Pledge is set in the very distant future, and civilization as we know it has been replaced by a Bradbury-esque collection of countries ruled with an iron-fist by ruthless queens. The author does an excellent job of creating the world of Ludania, taking care to make sure that the history of the kingdom is clear as are the rules of language that govern its citizens. In Charlie’s school, typical situations like being made fun of by the wealthy and popular girls can turn deadly since the lower classes are not only forbidden to communicate with their higher-ups, but are not supposed to even comprehend the language they speak. Derting creates many tense situations where Charlie’s ability to understand all the languages in her kingdom puts her in mortal danger. This makes for a very suspenseful novel, and greatly adds to the reader’s enjoyment of the story. The secondary characters, such as Charlie’s friends Brooklynn and Aron, Max’s lackeys, Claude and Zafir, and the mysterious Xander, are as well developed as the plot, making for an overall engrossing book that is difficult to put down. The pacing of the story is excellent, particularly once the action really picks up in the second half of the novel. The second installment in The Pledge series, which has yet to be titled, is expected to be published in 2013.
Genre: Science-Fiction
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Wither by Lauren DeStefano, Divergent by Veronica Roth.    
Themes:  Dystopian, class warfare, language, royalty, war, oppression, rebellion.  
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from VOYA, Kirkus, Booklist and Publishers Weekly.
Series Information: First installment in The Pledge series. Second novel (not yet titled) to be published in 2013.
Discussion questions: 
-    Why do you think language was such an effective way to separate the classes in Ludania?
-    Do you think that language separates different groups from each other in our society? Why or why not? 
-     If you were Charlie, would you have helped Sydney? Why or why not?
-     Who was your favorite character in the book? Why?
-    What would you like to see happen in the second novel in this series?
-     Do you think that The Pledge would make a good movie? Why or why not?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Million Suns Book Review

 Author: Beth Revis. Release date: 2012. Publisher:  Razorbill. ISBN: 9781595143983.
Annotation: Elder is now first-in-command on the Godspeed, and is intent upon giving the people more autonomy while attempting to discover a way to increase the speed of the ship’s engines. Amy is struggling more than ever to survive amongst the ship’s population who grow increasingly more suspicious of her and her relationship with their leader.    
Personal thoughts: I considered myself a fan of Across the Universe but, after reading A Million Suns in a matter of hours, now find that I’ve morphed into an uber-fan. I am so impressed with Beth Revis and what she has created with this series! Across the Universe was a very entertaining and satisfying novel, but, for me, A Million Suns took the trilogy to a whole other level. I absolutely did not anticipate all of the twists and turns in the story, and found my mind completely blown several times as I devoured this book. The most disappointing thing about this novel was the page at the very end that showed that the third book will not be released for an entire year. I will personally be chomping at the bit until January 2013 when I can find out what happens. If you haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy this stellar series yet, I suggest you start ASAP!
Plot summary: Following Eldest’s death and Orion’s capture in Across the Universe, Elder and Amy are now left with a ship full of people no longer under the sedating influence of Phydus. Although Elder has enlisted the help of the Godspeed’s population in solving the problem of the perpetually slowing engines, the people who before were content with working all day to sustain life onboard are now becoming more and more suspicious of the Eldest system, and Elder himself. Central to the problems Elder faces is Amy. Almost everyone on the Godspeed is convinced that she is to blame for the way things have begun to fall into disarray, leaving Amy unsure of who to trust and increasingly longing for the comfort of her still-frozen parents. Everything changes, however, when Amy begins to receive mysterious messages from Orion urging her to learn the truth about the ship. What is the secret that has been so carefully guarded for generations and how will the people of the Godspeed survive one it is revealed?   
Review:  This much-anticipated sequel to Beth Revis’ best-selling Across the Universe, accomplishes the rare task of surpassing its predecessor in almost every way possible. From character development to plot twists to suspense, A Million Suns is everything fans of the first novel were hoping for and so much more. It is difficult to describe exactly how the book manages to be so thoroughly entertaining without revealing too much of the story. What can be said is that there are many unexpected turn of events in the novel, events that test the characters in ways they weren’t in Across the Universe. Some characters that were only minor figures in the first novel take far greater roles in this story, making for many interesting opportunities to learn even more about the Godspeed. As central to A Million Suns as it was to Across the Universe is the ship itself.  Much more is revealed about the Godspeed, leaving the reader to wonder exactly where the author plans to take the story in the third novel, Shades of Earth, set to be released in January 2013. Overall, an excellent book in an excellent series that science-fiction fans young and old can easily enjoy.
Genre: Science-Fiction
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Across the Universe by Beth Revis, Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan.   
Themes:  Space travel, spaceships, dystopian future, control, rebellion, revolution.
Awards/Reviews:  Sequel to best-selling novel.
Series Information: Second installment in Across the Universe trilogy. First novel, Across the Universe, published in 2011. Third novel, Shades of Earth, set to be released in January 2013.
Discussion questions: 
-  Do you think Elder did the right thing in taking the ship’s people off Phydus? Why or why not?
-   Why do you think the population of the Godspeed was so distrustful of Amy? 
-    What, in your opinion, was the biggest surprise in A Million Suns? Why?
-   What would you like to see happen in the third novel?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Awaken Book Review

Author: Katie Kacvinsky. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin. ISBN: 9780547371481.
Annotation:  Seventeen-year-old Madeline Freeman lives in a world that is kept in a state of perpetual safety and peace. Everything is wired: school is digital, relationships, activities, everything is done by computer from home. But when she starts to see that this life is missing something, she must choose between being safe and really living.  
Personal thoughts:  I really enjoyed this book and read through it very quickly! It definitely makes a statement about how wired we are in today’s society and the slippery slope that lies ahead. As an former-Oregonian, I did find Kacvinsky’s use of Corvallis as a bustling metropolis of the future kind of funny. Other than that, the story was very interesting and well written. According to her website, she plans to write a sequel, Middle Ground, coming soon. I look forward to it!
Plot summary: The year is 2060, and seventeen-year-old Madeline “Maddie” Freeman lives a very sheltered digital life. In Madeline’s society, everything is done online from home. Children are educated through Digital School, a program created by Maddie’s father, and very little face-to-face interaction occurs anymore. Maddie has come to terms with her digital life, but this hasn’t always been the case. When she was fifteen, Maddie hacked into her father’s computer, releasing important information to those opposed to Digital School. This serious crime could have landed Maddie in a detention center for life, but her father’s influence saved her, and now she lives in a state of house arrest: her actions are monitored, websites she can visit controlled, and she is not allowed to socialize with anyone in person. Everything changes, however, when Maddie meets an online friend in person for the first time. His name is Justin, and Maddie quickly learns that he is one of the rebels opposed to Digital School that she helped in the past. Justin tries to convince Maddie that her digital life isn’t reality and that he and the rest of the rebels need her help. But can Maddie really turn on her family, even if she is opposed to her father’s creation?
Review:  This debut novel from author Katie Kacvinsky is a thrilling combination of technology, adventure and romance in an interesting futuristic setting. The society in Maddie’s 2060 is very conceivable given the current trends of our reliance on computers. Far more social interaction is done online in 2011 than ever before, and the complete shutting out of face-to-face relationships in favor of the safety of the computer screen doesn’t seem so improbable. Perhaps one of the best parts of Awaken is that it will likely shed light on these issues for teen readers who might be overly caught up in their Facebook, text messaging or online games. Apart from this hard look in the mirror, Kacvinsky has crafted an intriguing plot and set of characters that will surely make for a good series. Maddie is a very likable protagonist and her strained romance with Justin will likely remain at the forefront of the story in the next installments. The futuristic technology Kacvinsky creates, cars that can go underwater as submarines, lipstick-sized stun guns, add to the fun. A good start to a promising series.
Genre: Fiction/Adventure
Reading level: Grade 7+

Similar titles: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Divergent by Veronica Roth and The Giver by Lois Lowry.
Themes:  Technology, relationships, in-person vs. online interactions, romance, rebellion.   
Awards/Reviews:  N/A  
Series Information: Sequel Middle Ground coming soon.

Discussion Questions:

- Do you think that Digital School could actually become a reality? Why or why not?

- Why do you think that Maddie is against digital school? Would you feel the same way she does? Why or why not?

- Do you think that Maddie and Justin should try to have a romantic relationship? Why or why not?

- Why do you think Maddie's father wants to protect Digital School so much?