Slated

by Teri Terry
First sentence: “I run.”
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Content: It’s a pretty intense book, and I think the plot would be a bit difficult for younger readers to understand. But there’s nothing “objectionable” it. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Kyla has no memory beyond the past six months she’s been in the hospital in London. See, she’s been Slated by the government: a process done to criminals and terrorists to remove their memories. It’s most effective the younger you are — Kyla is only 16 — and after the process, they tie your consciousness to a device called a Levo, which monitors your endorphin levels. If you get too low, you black out. And die. Obviously, it’s supposed to reform the people who have it done, make them happy, productive members of society.

Except it didn’t quite work on Kyla.

While she doesn’t have any memories of her former life, she has nightmares. And she’s not as compliant as she should be. And so, back with her “Mom” and “Dad” in their small village outside of London, she starts noticing things. Noticing things which leads to questions. And we all know that in books like this, questions are never good.

This is a much less futuristic dystopian fantasy than most, and that’s one of the things, I think, that make it stand out. (The other being that it’s set in London. It’s nice to know that Big Brother is happening over there, too!) Sure, it’s set in the future — roughly 30 or 40 years — but there’s a lot that ties it to contemporary culture. The anti-terrorism movement, which leads to a really broad definition of “terrorist”. A government that seeks to control their population. The other thing that made this one unique for me is that Kyla wasn’t (for this book, at least; it might change) a lynchpin on which the Revolution of the Evil Government resides. She’s a girl who’s lost her memory but retained her consciousness. And it’s not until her friends start disappearing that she feels she needs to take action.

That lack of action is also a downside. I’m hoping that this is mostly just a world-building book, and that there’s more going on in the next one. While I did find the situations Terry put her character in fascinating, by the end of the book, there was more unanswered questions then there were answered ones. Additionally, I think the love interest was a bit forced; there was no need for her friendship to end up as a romance, and because of that, there was no underlying chemistry between the two of them.

That said, it was unique enough to hold my attention, I am curious to see where the next book goes.

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Rose Under Fire

by Elizabeth Wein
First sentence: “I just got back from Celia Forester’s funeral.”
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Content: there were a lot of f-bombs (I didn’t count them) that came up once at the concentration camp (understandable) and other mild swearing throughout. Also a number of disturbing images and content (Nazi concentration camps don’t make for Light Reading). It is most definitely one I wouldn’t hand to a kid under the age of 13 or 14 (depending on their maturity handling Difficult Situation), whether or not they were on the reading level, so it’s shelved in my Teen section (grades 9-12) at the bookstore.

I don’t quite know where to start with this one. Once I discovered it was a Holocaust novel (as opposed to just a WWII novel), I put off reading it. I don’t like Holocaust novels, mostly because I don’t like being confronted with the evil things the Nazis did. But, because it was Elizabeth Wein, and because it’s a companion to Code Name Verity, I bravely gave it a shot.

And I found myself sucked into the world of women pilots, of strong, resilient women who know how to survive. It’s odd to say this about a Holocaust book, but I loved it.

Rose Justice is an American who has pulled strings to get enlisted as a transport pilot for the RAF. She’s doing her duty, blissfully unaware of the evils of the Nazis. Sure, they’re the Enemy, but the can’t be as horrible as they all say, right? Then, on a mission, she chases after a flying bomb (German pilotless planes loaded with bombs), gets lost over enemy territory, and ends up in Ravensbrück.

Even I, who actively avoids anything Holocaust, know about the horrors of Ravensbrück.

And yet, even though Wein captures the horrors, and the crimes, and the terribleness (I can’t seem to find a word strong enough) of Ravensbrück, it isn’t a hopeless, dark book. Even though Rose is changed permanently by her six months (only six measly months! How did people survive years there?), she retains her will to survive. And Wein has created a cohort of strong, amazing, wonderful (again, there is no word strong enough) women who do just that: survive. It’s amazing — and inspiring — to read.

I’m so glad I did.

Code Name Verity

by Elizabeth Wein
ages: 14+
First sentence: “I am a coward.”
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Things this book is:
A World War II book.
A book about friendship, between two young women, specficially.  Funny.
A book about torture.
A book about the Resistance.
A book about women pilots.
A book about things a person will do to save their skin.
An amazing example of voice. Seriously, the characters leap off the page.
Unputdownable. (Yeah, I know. Still, it fits.)
Freaking awesome.

Things this book is not:
Trite.
Another Holocaust book.
Boring.

In other words: if you haven’t yet read this story about Maddie and Verity, and been captivated by their story, you are missing out.

And yes, it really is just as good as “they” all say.