Cress

by Marissa Meyer
First sentence: “Her satellite made one full orbit around planet Earth every sixteen hours.”
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Content: Some violence, none of it gruesome. It’s shelved in the YA section (grades 6-8th), but I’d have no problems giving it to a capable younger reader.
Review copy given me by our MPS rep, who likes to enable my addictions.
Others in the series: Cinder, Scarlet

Obviously: If you haven’t read the other two, there will be spoilers.

So, our fearless (of sorts), rag-tag crew of a cyborg, a scruffy-looking nerfherder of a pilot, a disembodied android, a human girl, and a Lunar wolf-man operative are on the run from the Commonweath government. What are the most-wanted on Earth supposed to do? Especially when there’s an insanely evil queen who’s trying to take over the world by marrying the super-hot emperor? (“Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped”) Well, hang out in space, of course. And then go rescue Rapunzel in her tower. Or Cress in her satellite, that is.

Except the rescue operation goes wrong, and our group of rag-tag outlaws are split up. Scarlet ends up on Lunar (and doesn’t figure much in the story), Cress and Captain Thorne end up in the satellite, crashing in the Sahara desert. And Cinder, Wolf, and the New Guy end up looking for the crazy Dr. Erland. As the plot thickens….

C’s biggest complaint with this one was that there were too many plot lines. Which is true, to an extent. Meyer is juggling a LOT of balls here. And there are at least 5 (if not more) story threads running through the book. BUT. I thought she managed all her threads well. With the exception of Scarlet, who really wasn’t interesting until nearly the end of the book (oh, but then her story line is tantalizingly interesting, setting up the last book in the series, Winter, well), I thought what all the characters were doing were fascinating. My favorites — probably goes without saying — are the two MAIN main characters in this one, Cress and Thorne. I adored Cress as a character: she’s a bit insecure around people, having been trapped in a satellite for 7 years. And she’s a total fangirl. But she’s also a smart hacker, and a resourceful and determined (if a bit naive) girl. And Thorne, well, let’s just say Thorne is that perfect mix between all the roguish bad good guys in all the books and movies I’ve ever loved. (It’s hard NOT to have a crush on him.)

And even though Cinder’s finally coming into her own, and there are some brilliant moments, it’s still a middle book in a series. It doesn’t stand as well on its own as Scarlet did, but I wasn’t disappointed with where the story is going. Meyer has created a terrifically interesting world, and is doing some fun things mixing the fairy tales in with the cyborg/futuristic elements. I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World

by Henry Clark
First Sentence: “The sofa wasn’t there on Monday but it was there on Tuesday.”
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Content: There was a bunch of bookish and cultural references that I don’t think a younger reader would “get”, but there isn’t anything content-wise (well, an angry dictator turning into a werewolf, maybe) that would be unsuitable for a younger reader. It’s in the middle grade (3-5th grade) section of the bookstore.

Friends River (he’s a guy; I wondered at first, too), Freak (not his real name), and Fiona all live at the edge of a huge underground fire that the town has nicknamed Hellsboro. If that’s not odd enough, one day when they’re waiting for the school bus, they discover a couch waitng for them. With a zucchini-colored crayon in between the cushions. Thus begins their adventure which includes an eccentric neighbor, a planet on the inside of a basketball (sort of), a computer/entity called Guernica, and a plot to enslave the human race.

And it seems that River, Freak, and Fiona are the only ones who can stop this from happening.

The best way to describe this book is an acid trip for kids. I know that sounds odd, but honestly, it’s the best description. This was jam-packed with odd TV and culture references (which, being an adult, I got), but it was more than that. I think it was meant to be funny — and it was, sometimes (the toilet hot-air balloon got a guffaw out of me) — but what started out as an awesome premise (a tessering couch that eats dust bunnies for fuel is pretty awesome) just kind of petered out. I ┬ákept reading it because it was SO unbelievable: what weird, trippy, insane thing was going to happen to the friends next. So, I guess on one level it succeeded: it kept me reading.

But in the end, it left me unsatisfied and shaking my head. It was quite the trip, though.

(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I’ve been asked to make sure y’all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel.)