Dry

dryby Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman
First sentence: ”
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Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There are many intense situations, some reference to drinking and drug use (by adults, mostly), and violence. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

I will say this up front: this novel is TERRIFYING. The father-son team takes the plausible — what would happen if there was a severe drought in Southern California and then access to the Colorado River was entirely cut off — and turns it into a gripping, thriller-like survival ride, to answer the question: What would you do for access to water?

The story alternates viewpoints between Alyssa, who with her brother Garret, have to figure out what to do when their parents go missing; their neighbor Kelton, a son of a survivalist who has prepared for Times Like These. When things go from bad to worse — let’s just say their other neighbors aren’t forgiving of the fact that Kelton’s family has prepared — they go on the run, nominally to find a place to ride out the “crisis” and pick up two other kids — Henry and Jacqui — on the way. Interspersed are “snapshots” of how the wider community is reacting and gives the reader a bigger picture of how this is affecting the community as a whole.

Shusterman is an incredible storyteller, and he knows how to keep a plot going from page to page. There are funny bits and touching bits and terrifying bits (lots of those actually), and it all felt incredibly realistic. I could see this playing out — especially with the way society is in denial about climate change — pretty much exactly like this. I’ve heard it said that science fiction isn’t about predicting the future, but rather about what it’s happening in the present. If that’s true, then this should be a wake up call to take better care of the planet. Otherwise, this “prediction” might just become reality.

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Not If I Save You First

by Ally Carter
First sentence: “Dear Maddie, There’s a party at my house tomorrow night.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Release date: March 27, 2018
Content: There’s some tense moments, and a couple people die, but it’s not graphic. It will be in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Ally Carter has a distinct talent for writing girls who are smart, capable, and more than willing to save themselves from whatever situation they find themselves in. Sure, it may be implausible (I mean, a 16-year-old spy or art thief?) but it’s always fun.

This time she gives us Maddie: the daughter of former Secret Service agent who suddenly retired (after thwarting a kidnapping attempt of the First Lady by some Russians) to the middle of nowhere, Alaska. She’s been living there for six years, homeschooling, cutting word, learning how to survive in the Alaskan wilderness. So, when her former best friend (emphasis on former, since he never wrote her back!), the president’s son, shows up on her and her father’s doorstep, she knows she’s going to kill him. That is, until he’s kidnapped by some Russians while her father’s away, and so it’s up to her to, well, save him.

And thus follows a very intense and gripping girl-against-nature book. She’s smart, she knows her terrain, and it’s fascinating (and okay, I admit, quite fun) to watch Maddie outwit the kidnappers, navigate the wilderness, use her know-how and skills to get her and Logan (who isn’t as helpless as he first appears) out of the scrapes they got into. Which makes for a delightfully fun (and that includes the bit of romance thrown in) book to read.

Oh, and for the record: I saw Logan as black, and you won’t convince me otherwise.

Highly recommended.

Fish Girl

fishgirlby David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: March 7, 2017
Content: It’s a simple graphic novel, but it has dark undertones. Probably not for the super sensitive souls. It will be in our middle grade graphic novel section.

I usually don’t write about books this far in advance, but the end of the year is nigh, and I couldn’t wait for this one.

I didn’t know I needed a graphic novel from David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli, but this book is a gift. The story is simple: a mermaid living in an aquarium with the fish and her octopus friend, run by the person she believes to be her only family, Neptune. Then she meets a girl, Livia, who — by the fact of her friendship, by some simple questions  — expands the mermaid’s world.

But it’s more than that.  There’s a dark underbelly, as the mermaid — dubbed Mira by Livia — becomes brave enough to explore her world and as she realizes what Neptune has done. There’s themes of friendship and choice and standing up for oneself running through the book, themes that aren’t heavy-handed, but rather subtly employed throughout for those who are looking for them. Napoli is a master writer, and Weisner speaks volumes with his gorgeous (and often fantastical) watercolor drawings.

I didn’t know that a Weisner/Napoli graphic novel was something I wanted in life. Now, I can only hope they team up for another.

 

 

The Last Star

laststarby Rick Yancey
First sentence: “Many years ago, when he was ten, her father had ridden a big yellow bus to the planetarium.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy sent to me by our publisher rep.
Others in the series: The Fifth Wave, The Infinite Sea
Content: It’s violent and intense; Yancey pulls no punches. There’s also a lot of (understandable) swearing, including f-bombs. It’s in the Teen section (grades 9+) of the bookstore.

If you can, read them all one right after the other; the impact of this one will be that much greater. Like the past two, I’m not going to go that much into plot; it’s really better if you just hit these as blind as possible.

I re-read my review for Infinite Sea, and my thoughts are mostly the same here. It’s intense. bordering on hopeless. Cassie and Zombie and Evan and Ringer and Sam are trying, against the odds, to prevent the end of the world. In many ways, it’s too late: the aliens have pitted us against ourselves:  if there’s no trust, there can be no civilization. But maybe, just maybe, they can prevent the world from completely imploding — Evan’s assured them that the aliens will start bombing the cities any day now — and keep millions more people from dying.

It was the hoping against hope that got me in this one. I read it slower; in small doses over several days this time because I couldn’t take the building hopelessness: will it work? There’s no glorious Independence Day or Men in Black climax here. Sure, it’s a small plucky (though increasingly small and increasingly desperate) team against incredible odds, but Yancey never shies away from the cost of those odds. I found that I appreciated it very much. It’s an incredibly intense series (I’m actually kind of sad the movie didn’t catch on the way Hunger Games did), and an powerfully written one.

I’m sad to see it end.