Category Archives: Young Adult Books

The Fantasy World of Funke’s Reckless

Cornelia Funke is a genius. She just is. I listened to her newest book (although not that new anymore – first published in September 2010), Reckless. It captivated me from start to finish. The beginning of the story drops on the reader like a parachute out of nowhere. You are immediately immersed and confused with your surroundings. As you make your way from beneath the parachute another layer drops and another. I love this type of storytelling when it is done well. William Faulkner does this incredibly well. As a reader, you are forced to take a leap of faith that all will become clear or at least somewhat clear.  Funke can join the ranks of Faulkner-esque storytelling.

Reckless re-imagines fairy tales. Actually, it creates its own fairy tale but within a world of familiar fairy tales — however, these familiar fairy tales have become darkly twisted. The witch and the gingerbread house are real, a tailor with scissors for hands hunts people for their skin, and fairies are selfish creatures. Jacob Reckless has been living in both the real and this fairy tale world. He has been traveling through a mirror and finds solace in escaping to this hidden world where he steals enchanted artifacts for money. Everything changes when Jacobs younger brother, Will, follows him into his strange world. Will becomes infected with a curse that slowly changes his skin to stone (becoming a Goyl)–jade to be exact. Once Will’s skin becomes completely jade he will be lost forever. Jacob, Fox–a beautiful shape-shifting vixen/fox–, and Clara–Will’s girlfriend from back home–must race time to find something or someone to save Will.

Age Group: 14 and up
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy
Themes: Magic, Fantasy, Fairy Tales,
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, imprint of Hachette Book Group

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The Human Experience: Stick Review & Giveaway Winners

Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits.

I’m drawn to stories about family-life. Stories so lush with genuine character that I start to use the framework of the story to emphasize, or explain, or dramatize aspects of my life, my story. I live within the story, however fabricated. As readers, we love this. We live for it.

At the end of the day, we yearn for the relatable, the real, the story that will speak directly to us. Whether that’s within the world of fantasy or science fiction or romance or contemporary fiction, it doesn’t matter. They all—the lot of them—in one way or another, and on varying levels, hold some invariable truth that is uniquely relatable and salient to us as humans—readers, bibliophiles, book junkies.

Andrew Smith’s books take this concept to an entirely new level. Not only do they provide the reader with characters to love and to relate to, they also inspire us to think differently about the world.

In Stick, Smith’s most recent novel, the world he creates is very much our own. It’s recognizable. And the characters themselves, they are people we know, or apt representations of people we know of.

Stick, the main protagonist of the story, is disfigured. His ear is a mess of mangled cartilage and dulled hearing. And he lives with it. It’s part of who he is. Bosten, Stick’s older brother, is the more raucous of the two. And he loves his brother, and would do anything for him. Emily is Stick’s best friend, the two of them sharing an important bond. The rest of the story is replete with both the highs and the lows: characters that support and provide care for the protagonists and characters that hinder and harm.

It’s these latter kind that inspires Bosten to leave home. And it’s his absence that inspires Stick to find him. Over the course of the story, the brothers take part in their own unique journey—to escape the pain caused by parents that either relish in or pay no mind to said pain, and experience something that will build character out of the goodness and joy and revelation.

We know this world. It’s here, it’s there. It’s us and it’s those people there. It’s a world in which people exist as unique individuals, journeying to find out what it means to overcome, what it means to glean, what it means to live.

Readers, Stick is the type of book we live for. It is the human experience. In these words and these characters, we learn and we relate and we love.

Bosten and Stick know this. They lived it.

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And the winners of the Andrew Smith Giveaway are:

Doppelganger – Stick

AnnieMooreBooks.com – Ghost Medicine

Charles DeMoss, Charlesthereader.blogspot.com – In The Path of Falling Objects

Winners were chosen randomly using Rafflecopter. Please email your mailing addresses to ReadSchmead at Yahoo dot com. If I do not hear from you by December 15th then a new winner will be chosen. Thank you so very much for all of the love and support.

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Measuring Up to Other Dystopian Worlds: Divergent Review

Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits.

In reading Veronica Roth’s Divergent, two other book series came to mind. One, Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series. And the other, the massively popular Hunger Games trilogy from Suzanne Collins. While I don’t think Divergent packs the same amount of punch like that of Uglies or Hunger Games, I do believe it has just enough exciting elements for an enjoyable read.

Akin to the different houses at Rowling’s “Hogwarts,” Roth’s world is separated into factions. Five factions, in this case. Each of which dedicate their lives to a particular culture and ideal. Candor values honesty. Abnegation values selflessness. Dauntless values bravery. Amity values peacefulness. Erudite values intelligence.

And like all the other kids turning 16, Beatrice (or “Tris,” as she calls herself) has to decide which faction is for her. She does, but the result is something she wasn’t at all prepared for.  What follows is an enjoyable and often exciting dystopian tale that has the right idea about how we live. Ms. Roth, it seems, understands that things are not always so black and white; that the narrow-minded can, in fact, be quite dangerous; that it’s important to recognize individuality as it pertains to the cultures or “factions” we live within; and that each culture holds inherent value we as individuals need to recognize—for ourselves and our factions.

Unfortunately, even with the above mentioned, I was mildly disappointed in the story’s originality. It just seemed, as I was reading, that I had read it before—in Uglies and Hunger Games, for instance. I wanted something more. Something that I didn’t see coming. Something that was going to surprise me.

All in all, it was fairly enjoyable. And, being the dystopian junkie that I am, I will continue reading the series. But with some trepidation.

Age Group: 12 and up
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Themes: Science Fiction, dystopian, identity, discrimination
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books, imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books

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You Want Character? Read Andrew Smith. A Review of Ghost Medicine

Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits.

I read recently that Andrew Smith simply doesn’t “write the same thing twice.” After reading The Marbury Lens, and following that up with Ghost Medicine, he couldn’t be more spot-on. The Marbury Lens is a different book than Ghost Medicine in regards to its tone, pace and plot. And that’s a good thing.

But like all Andrew Smith books (or, rather, the Andrew Smith books that I’ve read, which are the two aforementioned), character drives the story. Rich, relevant character development that inspires, nay, compels the reader to recognize and consequently discover ways in which they relate to the character(s). This is, for me, Smith’s greatest strength as a writer. He not only knows how to write/develop the characters in meaningful, profound and unique ways, but he also creates characters that one can glean from, be impassioned by, and find tidbits of themselves in.

In Ghost Medicine, Troy, Tom and Gabe find out what it means to come-of-age in simultaneously the most subtle and harshest of ways. Troy, the lead protagonist, is seventeen. He works alongside Tom as a ranch hand, both employed by Gabe’s father. Throughout the story, the three of them, both individually and as a whole, are faced with obstacles of varying degrees and contexts. In their struggle to fight through it all, they develop as individuals and as friends, in regards to their philosophy, emotional cognizance and mental fortitude. Specifically, as a reader, it is the way in which they react to the obstacle and how they fare on the other end, positively or negatively. This is one of the great values I glean from Smith’s books.

Overall, I really quite enjoyed the book. It is a methodically-paced, coming-of-age, morality tale. The tone is perfect. The use of the landscape within the narrative is quite lovely, and reminded me, at times, of The Return of the Native, one of Thomas Hardy’s bests. Alternatively, the way Smith jumps back in time by use of snippets in Troy’s memory, reminded me of the powerful, yet devastating, Trick is to Keep Breathing, by Janice Galloway.

Thank you, Andrew Smith, for another wonderful read. You kicked my ass, once again. For that, I want to express my gratitude. I look forward to reading both In The Path of Falling Objects and Stick.

Check out Nōn’s review of The Marbury Lens!

Also, if you are interested in purchasing any of the books mentioned in this post then click on their names.  The link will take you to Indiebound.org where you can pick an awesome independent bookstore to shop from that is in your area!  Support brick and mortar bookstores!!

Age Group: 13 and up (Contains some violence)
Genre: Young Adult / Contemporary Fiction
Themes: Family, Friendship, Loss
Publisher: Square Fish (imprint of Macmillan)

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Patrick Ness’ New Book: A Monster Calls

Check out this review from Shelf Awareness about Patrick Ness’ new book, A Monster Calls.  Also, (if you haven’t already) read Non Wels’ review of the The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first book in the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness.  A Monster Calls features a new story line and characters but sounds just as intense and great as his Chaos Walking Trilogy!  I can’t wait to read it.

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The Knife of Never Letting Go

Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits.

It’s not often I find myself so enamored, so transfixed by two books back to back. First, The Marbury Lens, which utterly floored me (read the review).  Second, after reading The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, I came to realize just how much I adore dystopian fiction. I like the idea of looking into a future that came about as a result of certain social, economical, religious, political and/or governmental action.

With that said, I couldn’t have prepared myself for the first sentence: “The first thing you find out when your dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.”

In Prentisstown, everyone can hear what you’re thinking. The thoughts are aptly called “noise.” There are also no women in the town, which, in addition to the noise, is a result of some unknown virus. When the story opens, the protagonist, the twelve-year-old Todd Hewitt, discovers a place where the noise doesn’t exist – a sort of patch in the air in which all is silent, and the noise is nonexistent. Unfortunately for Todd, the peace doesn’t last.

With the oppressive elders from Prentisstown, including the maniacal religious leader Aaron, at their heels, Todd, along with Viola, the young girl (yes, girl; and the first female he’s ever met) and his dog Manchee, flee for safety and survival. Over the next few hundred pages, Patrick Ness sets up a story that is both fast-paced and cognizant and indicative of its dystopian intentions: themes of privacy, gender politics and religious fundamentalism run throughout.

In addition to its fascinating story, the author writes in such a language that speaks to a post-apocalyptic, post-brick and mortar education colloquialism that is both rough and endearing.

I truly enjoyed this story, and I would recommend it to just about anyone. I am looking forward to reading the second book in the series.

**The Ask and The Answer: Book Two and Monsters of Men: Book Three are already available at your local independent bookstore!!

Age Group: 14 and up (Contains some bad language and sex is mentioned – 14 is really just a guess so you be the judge)
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Themes: Science Fiction, dystopian,
Publisher: Candlewick

CommonSenseMedia.org – This tells you in detail what is in the book that “might” be questionable.  Kind of interesting tool.  But if you are really worried about stuff then just read the book!

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Do You Have The Marbury Lens?

Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits.

Andrew Smith’s The Marbury Lens is an intense, terrifying, poetic and redemptive ride. And it’s certainly a ride worth taking. Again, and again, and again.

The story opens with the teenage Jack and his best friend Conner attending a party one would typically find kids of their age. A few hours into it, after some level of drunkenness and boredom settles in, Jack finds himself wandering home, wherein he encounters a stranger. Curious, slightly cautious, but mostly too inebriated to find the clarity, Jack accepts a ride from the strange man.

Hours later, Jake wakes. Distraught, frightened for his life, traumatized.

Wishing to escape the traumatic experience, Jack takes off on a previously planned trip he and Conner had been planning. A trip to England. A trip, in Jack’s mind, that couldn’t have come at a better time. So he says goodbye to Conner (he would arrive one week later) and his uncle and aunt, and sets off across the pond.

It is at this point in the story when the intensity increases ten-fold. After meeting a curious man named Henry Hewitt, Jack finds himself with an equally curious pair of glasses.

Without saying much more about the plot, I will say that The Marbury Lens is every bit as eloquent and dynamic in its storytelling as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. It is well-crafted, both structurally and in regards to its character development. It is a perfect mélange of grungy science fiction, of inter-relational study, of serious examination of trauma and the way in which one reacts to, and heals from said trauma.

Overall, I was blown away by this story. It is affecting and impactful. And you should read it too.

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Note from Jessica: I have not seen Non speed through a book like he did this one (well, not since the first Hunger Games). In fact he hardly put it down. Check out the author’s blog, Ghost Medicine— I particularly like his blog post about categorizing children into age groups for books. I am doing this for my blog, but it can be somewhat problematic– Scary Smart Kids

Age Group: 16 and up (Contains bad language and teenage/adult content)
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Themes: Science Fiction, trauma, social issues, mental health
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (imprint of Macmillan)

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