Reviews presented at the meeting of this volunteer committee in March.
Brain Jack written by Brian Falkner
Set in the future after a major nuclear meltdown. A Sam, a young hacker, breaks into the communication corporation’s impenetrable network and steals two state of the art neurotransmitter headsets. This new technology transmits directions as fast as the mind can think and creates a virtual reality much more all-encompassing and addiction to gamers. This break-in makes national news because of its daring.
Sam is soon invited into an elite group of computer whizzes who monitor national security. When the cyber-defense system is hacked the group runs up against a hacker who is fast enough to out run them. The group must switch to the neuro-headsets which solves the problem. However, the team using the headsets becomes brainwashed. Sam and a few unaffected people flee to the only place where no technology exists, the bombed out ruins of La Vegas. They soon realize they need to survive and to find out how to reverse the brain-washing.
This book is an on-the-edge-off-your-seat thriller with many wonderful ideas about the future of computers.
Downtown Public Library YA Book FALKNER
Delirium written by Lauren Oliver
This story is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in the future time when “falling in love” is considered the source of all wars and discontent and therefore must be destroyed by removing a part of the brain and having the rest of one’s life programed. That means that there are people in charge who are doing the programing and there are enforcers.
Lena is looking forward to being “cured” of the delirium of love but she also fears it. She believes her mother killed herself because after three attempts she couldn’t be cured. Then Lena meets Alex who is an Invalid and who loves her. He eventually encourages her to escape to “the wilds” with him. Then they are discovered.
This is a beautifully and powerfully written story. Descriptions are visceral. Relationships are intense and plot elements are not predictable. I had a hard time stopping to eat and sleep until I finished this book.
Douglas Public Library YA Book OLIVER
Exposed written by Kimberly Marcus
Sixteen year-old Liz is happy with her life. She spends time behind the camera and in the dark room, with her best friend Kate, and her boyfriend Brian. She sees life clearly, so she thinks she knows what’s important to her and who she is. Much of this falls away when Kate accuses Liz’s older brother, Mike, of raping her.
Written in free verse, the story telling is tight and clean and the reader is swept quickly through the pages. Images and metaphor, often subtle but pointed, feel like signposts along the way, pointing Liz, and the reader, to reexamine what they believe is truth—a concept no longer simple or obvious. The tension mounts, a trial looms and Liz loses her friends, her boyfriend, and her parents as they are completely distracted. She even loses faith in her photographic images, realizing nothing is solid, that the images might not say what she thought they did. As Liz digs to expose truth, her pain and confusion are vivid but never descend into over-sentimentality. This is definitely worth a read!
Mendenhall Valley Public Library YA Book MARCUS
The Floating Islands written by Rachel Neumeier
Trei’s mother was an Islander; his father was Tolounnese. When they were both killed by the fire dragon’s eruption he is sent to his mother’s family in the Floating Islands even though these two city states are not friendly. He soon becomes fascinated with the Winged Island Fliers and longs to soar above the world like they do. He attains this goal when his former people declare war on the Islanders.
When his town is decimated by a plague everyone in his family is dead except his young girl cousin. She decides to pose as a boy so that she can become a mage. Soon after this plague the town is attacked by the powerful Tolounnese. They have a new weapon which causes the Floating Islands to no longer float. Because they have never had to defend their homes the Islanders have never prepared for war. Therefore they will either be conquered or destroyed. Using their new skills and connections Trei and his cousin are able to end the war.
The author did an excellent job of creating the whole idea of the floating without slowing the story down. The role of the mages was somewhat less clear.
Mendenhall Valley Public Library YA Book NEUMEIER
The Ivy written by Lauren Kunze with Rina Onur
This book is a disappointing read on many levels. The story follows a group of freshmen at Harvard with the spotlight particularly focused on Callie, a blonde from southern California. All I can say is that if this is a accurate portrayal of typical Harvard students, the best and brightest in the US, then the future of our nation may be in trouble. I am particularly dismayed because the book was written by recent Harvard grads. The kids in this book focus on their social lives; partying, finding romance and finding a way into the elite groups take most of their attention and time. Studying is mentioned as a primary focus but there is never a class that competes with the social interests or a serious goal other than getting jobs on the campus magazine that basically is portrayed as some kind of blogging about how to be cool. The students make consistently bad choices—drinking until they land in the hospital, sleeping with guys their friends are interested in, not noticing in time when a friend needs help. Sometimes there is regret, but behavior doesn’t seem to change as a result.
The story is sprinkled with tweets and emails and blog entries—all concerned with how to make it in the Ivy League. That is depressing enough, but a lousy ending disappointed my long wait for redemption by character growth or realizations. Actually, it is a non-ending. The story drops off a cliff, leaving Callie’s problems with no resolution. The story simply stops as if the last chapter or two were whacked off. All I can deduce is that the authors plan a sequel, which I will not be reading.
Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher written by Wendelin VanDraanen
Sammy is still living illegally with her grandmother in a “seniors only” apartment building since her mother deserted her to pursue a career as a soap opera star in Hollywood. When her mother shows up and begins dating Sammy’s boyfriend’s dad, she is not feeling too charitable. Shocked to be asked to be a bridesmaid at the wedding of Officer Borsch who has gone from being constantly alert to her goings on to become a good friend she realizes she could really use her mother’s advice.
While this is going on, an especially unpleasant teach receives death threats and Sammy is targeted as the culprit. She has to count on some friends who may not be completely trustworthy to get her name cleared. As always Sammy is a friend worth having and a down to earth detective that would give Nancy Drew competition for wily routes to solutions.
Mendenhall Valley Public Library YA Book VAN DRAANEN
Take Me to the River written by Will Hobbs
Fourteen-year-old Dylan Sands from North Carolina joins his cousin – Rio- to paddle down the Rio Grande. I trust Will Hobbs to create authentic details when he writes adventures because I have heard him speak often enough to know he has actually done what he is writing about. However I worried when he front loaded so much potential for trouble in this story.
The uncle is in Alaska so the boys go alone. Extra miles and problems are created when the boys must deliver money to the Mexican side of the river where they discover that gunmen have shot up a resort in the area and have kidnapped someone – and a hurricane is coming!
Will Hobbs successfully deals with all of it while authentically describing the river trip. This is a real page turner. I could picture each rapids, each canyon, and each campsite.
Douglas Public Library YA Book HOBBS