Monday, September 17, 2012

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is by E. Lockhart and takes place in a co-ed boarding school on the East Coast. Frankie is about to start her sophomore year, so there's a little bit of background on what she and her freshmen year was like, but it mostly highlights a lot of the changes she has in look and attitude, particularly in trying to get into a secret boys club on campus.

I thought this was an entertaining book. Frankie was pretty analytical about some things, and very much a teenage girl in others. One thing I was disappointed in, though, was how the narrator (and the back of the book) really built Frankie up to be a genius. She was certainly smart and definitely had a lot of ideas that were unusual, but it wasn't brilliant when you consider what kinds of things she was studying.

The hardest part of the book to relate to was the boarding school aspect, just because it's something that not very many people have experience with. I would recommend this book particularly to freshmen and sophomores, but older grades would probably enjoy it, also.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Big Trouble

Big Trouble is by the comic Dave Barry. It states explicitly at the beginning of the book that it is not for children, mostly because of some bad language thrown in here and there, but I think it is just fine for upper high school students. One thing that might be a little confusing is that the perspective changes quite a bit, so the reader gets a glimpse into nearly every single characters head. It's not as complicated as it sounds, because each character is so distinctive, there's no way to mix them up.

First, this book is very, very funny. It's basically a series of mishaps and everyone being unwittingly connected to each other. In the beginning, a teenager named Matt has to squirt a girl named Jenny with a water gun because of a game at school called Killer. When he gets to her house to sneak attack her, a pair of assassins happen to choose the same night to actually kill a member of her household.

All of the chapters are fast-paced and witty, as you'd expect. Each character's observations and opinions of the other characters seem very real, and even though the scenarios are often implausible, unlike some (unnamed) books, this one can carry it off and convince the reader to suspend disbelief in an entirely convincing way.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Arena One

Arena One: Slaverunners is the first book in the Survival Trilogy by Morgan Rice. For those of you who think I only review books I recommend, here's the flip side. I didn't like this book at all. I love post-apocalyptic books, and the book jacket made this book sound like a combination of Hunger Games and Life As We Knew It, both of which I read without putting down.

This picture is false advertising.

This book, however, started off with so many ridiculous errors that I wanted to stop before reaching the end of chapter one (fact: you cannot drill into a maple tree with a small knife in below freezing weather and expect sugar sap to just flow out). I kept going, though, because I thought it would get better. It didn't. Ever. Even once. Okay, maybe a few times something reasonable happened, but a lot of the book was the main character, Brooke, doing things she shouldn't be able to do, such as surviving fights with people bigger then her when she was starving, having skills I don't think she could possibly do so well after years of disuse, surviving car wreck after car wreck with minimal injury...I could go on, but you get my point.

The premise of this book is life in 2120 after a major civil war which tore apart the United States. Brooke's sister is kidnapped by slave runners, who (she thinks) want to put her in an arena to fight to the death. Obviously, Brooke wants to save her. There are also a few romantic interests for her, because of course when the human population is down to practically zero, two cute and eligible boys will show up on your doorstep wanting to save you.

I do not recommend this book unless you don't mind stories with a lot of plot holes and a weak premise.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Life As We Knew It

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer is a great example of the breakdown of society during an apocalyptic event. It is the first in The Last Survivors trilogy. The story is told through a series of journal entries by 16-year-old Miranda, who lives in rural Pennsylvania with her mom and two brothers. I don't normally care for this type of storytelling because it can be very limiting and annoying, but it really worked here. I felt like I had the whole story.

As the book begins, a meteor is about to hit the moon. Once it actually does so, and knocks it just enough out of its regular orbit, things start happening: first major things such as tsunamis, and then less noticeable things, such as a change in seasons. Eventually, everyone is on their own with no resources from the city, state, or government.

I thought this book was really interesting and actually realistic about what might happen to people when they had to fend for themselves. I highly recommend this book and the next two to anyone who likes survival stories. The second book, The Dead and the Gone, is very good, too. It takes place in the same time line as Life As We Knew It (starting from the meteor), and follows Alex, who must protect his sisters in the very urban New York. The third book, This World We Live In, has Alex and Miranda meet.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Cardturner

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar was surprisingly absorbing. The premise of the book is that 17-year-old Alton is recruited to turn playing cards three times a week at a bridge club for his great-uncle, who is blind. Bridge is a card game similar to Hearts, but a lot more complicated. I'm not very interested in bridge, so I wasn't sure how much I was going to like this book. However, from the first few pages, I was hooked. The book is in 1st person, so we can see all the thoughts in Alton's head as he also struggles with the manipulations of his best friend, the difficulty with girls, his father losing his job, and a little sister who isn't totally annoying.

There are a few other elements to the book I won't get into because it would ruin the story, but suffice it to say, I highly recommend this book. I think that it's appropriate for anyone in grades 9-12. It's well-written and funny, and even though I've never had any desire to play bridge, after reading the book, I thought that it might be kind of fun.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment introduces six children and teenagers who have something different then most people to deal with - they're part bird and have been raised for most of their lives in a laboratory. What this basically means is they look perfectly human except for some awesome wings. They've been genetically modified to have lighter bones in order to explain how they can become airborne. Max, the leader, and her crew have escaped the lab and have been hiding out in a cabin in the woods, but almost from the the moment the book starts, they have to defend themselves. This book is action packed as every time you think the kids can take a breath, the enemy finds them and they must fight again.

This is only the first of many books in the Maximum Ride series. Most of them focus on Max as the protagonist, but at least one other character, Fang, has his own book. I was able to read quite a few very quickly before it started to feel repetitive (from an adult perspective), but I've noticed that most teens who read the first one go through most of the series, including those who don't really like reading or don't know what to read. There are a lot of interesting concepts, and that makes up for characters who may feel a little static.

I strongly recommend this book and the series for all readers, although it might appeal more to those in lower high school grades. People who like a lot of action or who get bored easily will like these, also.
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