Friday, October 22, 2010

Book Reviews

The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick

Post-apocalyptic YUM. I had so much fun reading this book. The use of unknown words invented for the setting reminded me of A Clockwork Orange, but this is a little more readable and appropriate for multiple ages.

Also, this is a book about the importance of books, literacy and words. It also touches on the appreciation of beauty and bonds of emotional connection.

I love post-apocalyptic stories. The Last Book in the Universe is reminiscent of many of the classic post-apocalyptic books I read in my childhood. There's a lot of violence and darkness. All in all: creepy, wonderful fun.

After by Amy Efaw

After explores the dumpster-baby phenomenon through the story of fifteen-year old, overachiever Devon. The reader learns the secret behind Devon's incarceration through a series of flashbacks. After is disturbing, but interesting, asking the question: Why would someone throw their baby away?

I would have liked to see more of the detention center where the Devon lives and explored more of the characters there.

Though not appropriate for all audiences, After is a sensitive and pretty well-written treatment of a horrifying circumstance. I think teens in treatment would relate to it.  And I would recommend it to people who work with at-risk youth.

Thirsty by MT Anderson

At last, a vampire book that's not poorly written, boring, saccharin and stilted. Thirsty was MT Anderson's debut novel in 1997, long before Edward was a gleam in Stephenie Meyer's eye. The new cover is reminiscent of the black, white and red of the Twilight novels, but be assured, this book is nothing like Twilight.

I actually don't want to say anything much about it because I don't want to give anything at all away. Let's just say that this is a superbly written and gritty addition to the urban fantasy genre. October is a good month to read Thirsty, and I'm glad I did. I highly recommend it. Tight effective prose, well-developed MC, original premise. And don't forget, it's MT Anderson, so don't look for a happy ending. w00t.

Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers

Parker Fadley used to be perfect. Everything about her was perfect: grades, social life, looks, boyfriend. Something happened at a party to change everything and now all Parker wants is to be left alone. She does everything she can to push people away, but some just won't give up. What happened to Parker?

Courtney Summers delivers a raw, intense debut novel in Cracked Up To Be. The main character jumps off the page and the mystery behind her sudden change is compelling. What could make a good girl's life go so wrong? Summers' delivery lacks nothing.

Warning: Language and sexual situations.

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

Things are hard for fifteen-year old Sam. Her dad's the minister of a local church and her mom's in rehab. Sam thought she had faith, that she believed in God, but she begins to question everything when a girl from her church youth group goes missing.

Sara Zarr is a favorite writer of mine. She not only crafts absolutely gorgeous prose, she is also a kind and open person. Here are a few sentences from Once Was Lost:

"Out in the yard the ripe tomatoes are almost jumping into our hands."

"I remember the way everything disappeared, a mirage in the heat."

"He turns around, eyes red and watery, a smear of chocolate on his T-shirt, which is stretched tight across his stomach."

"I used to think my faith was mine."

"Gravity is powerful."

It's all very good. The juxtaposition of Sam's personal tragedy with the more public tragedy of the missing girl results in powerful realizations for the main character. Zarr gives us a poignant portrait of grief and loss along with some stirring discoveries. Sam's struggle to understand why these things are happening is totally relatable and completely profound. The characters are fleshed and real. The prose glistens. (Also, the cover is lovely.)

I highly recommend Once Was Lost.

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