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How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Rosoff, Meg.  How I Live Now. Wendy Lamb Books.  2004. ISBN 0553376055

Reader’s Annotation: Fifteen year old Daisy is sent by her father from New York to her aunt in England. She finds herself caught up in a war and fighting for the survival of herself and her cousins.

Plot Summary: When Daisy’s father is expecting a new child with her evil step mother Daisy finds herself being shipped off to England to visit some unknown aunt and cousins.  Her aunt has to go away for business soon after her arrival and then the bombs go off and England finds itself occupied by a foreign enemy.  Daisy and her cousins must fight for survival as food becomes scarce, you don’t know who you can trust and they soon find themselves separated from each other.

Critical Evaluation

I’ve been hearing so much about this book as a wonderful dystopian book but I don’t feel like it actually qualifies as a dystopian.  It doesn’t feel set in the far future and there is no elaborate government that people are rebelling against.  Instead it’s about a group of teens striving to survive the upheaval in their lives in the absence of adult guidance.

Once you move past the odd fact that Daisy’s aunt would run off and leave a house full of teenagers on their own this story is utterly fascinating.  Rosoff does an amazing job painting a realistic picture of what an occupation would be like for a group of teens who must find a way survive a war without any parent to tell them what to do.  Daisy was such a strong character as she has to fight not just for her own survival but also that of her 9 year old cousin.

There are some odd things thrown in like the apparently telepathic abilities of the cousins and Daisy’s connection with her cousin Edmund who she has fallen in love with.  Also I mentioned above about how their aunt apparently sees no problem with leaving the country while her four children, the oldest being just 16, are left on their own.

Still my favorite part of the book was the “where are they now” aspect of the story.  So often in a story you wonder what happens to the characters after they are rescued and in this book we actually find out.

About the author

Meg Rosoff was born in the United States but resides in London.  How I Live Now won the Guardian Award, Michael L. Printz Award and the Branford Boase Award.  She began writing after her youngest sister died of breast cancer and How I Live Now was published the same year Rosoff herself was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Her latest book, There Is No Dog, was published earlier this year and How I Live Now is currently being filmed and is due to be released in the UK in 2013.

Genre

Fiction

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

How ready are your survival skills for a disaster and had to survive on your own?

Reading level

Ages 14 and up.

Challenge Issues

Incest.

I would have the library’s collection management policy on hand and explain that the library is not here to filter what patrons read.  If questioned about this policy I would direct the patron to the ALA Bill of Rights.  I would also have links of hand of the reviews by well known outlets such as ALA and refer to awards won.

Why did I include this book?

Like I mentioned above it was greatly touted as a great dystopian book.  While I don’t feel it falls into the dystopian category it still is fascinating to watch how these young teens deal with this catastrophe.

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Filed under Fiction, Post-war/apocalylptic/disaster

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

The Book of Shadow and Bone by Robin Wasserman

Wasserman, Robin. The Book of Blood and Shadow. Random House Children’s Books 2012. ISBN 0375968768

Reader’s Annotation: One of Nora’s best friends has been murdered, the other catatonic and the police believe her boyfriend is responsible. Can she clear his name and solve a hundreds of years old mystery?

Plot Summary: In one night Nora’s life falls apart as she finds her best friend, Chris, murdered, her other best friend, Adriane, catatonic and sitting in Chris’s blood, and her boyfriend, Max, has disappeared and is the prime suspect.  Nora’s determined to prove his innocence and to do so she has to solve a centuries old mystery buried in an old manuscript that some would kill to possess while others will kill to keep it a secret.

Critical Evaluation

This book brought to mind a The Da Vinci Code wannabe story.  There is a centuries old manuscript that no one has ever been able to decipher until Nora makes a discovery that unlocks the cipher and sets off a horrific chain of events.  Her journey to Prague to follow the clues, the secret societies that want the device that could let them talk directly to God and the society that is determined to prevent this were all fascinating.

Each of the characters were well fleshed out and Nora especially is easy to relate to as she is naive and spunky at the same time.  Though the murderer is pretty obvious from the start it is understandable why Nora and her friends do not find out the truth until it is too late.

My main issue with the story was the fact that things were just a little too convenient at times in order to move the story along.  Instead of these events flowing naturally it almost felt like the story was about to stall so something had to be thrown in to help out.  One example is that through the entire book Nora talks about how her parents have pretty much checked out of life since her older brother died.  Her mother rarely comes home from work and her father has barricaded himself in his office.  Yet, when Nora is stuck on a certain riddle all of a sudden her father decides to come out of his lair, just happen to recognize the code she’s working on within a few minutes and then we really don’t see him at all again for the rest of the book.  If he was really trying to reach out to her and move beyond the tragedy of her brother’s death you would think Nora’s father would be seen reaching out at least once more or Nora making a bigger deal out of the fact that he did come to speak with her that one time.

Overall, the book is an enjoyable read especially for those who like mysteries with a historical tie and involves codes or ciphers.

About the author

Before becoming an author Robin was a children’s book editor.  She is the author of the Cold Awakening trilogy, the Seven Deadly Sins series and several others including this one.

Though she did live in LA for awhile she currently makes her home in New York.

Genre

Fiction/Mystery

Curriculum Ties

History, English

Book talking idea

Talk about the religious beliefs of those who want to speak directly to God and those who believe people should go through the church.

Discuss ciphers and codes used often in texts, messages, etc.

Reading level

Grades 9 and up.

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book?

This is a little embarrassing to admit but I initially picked it up because I mixed it up with Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo which I have seen many on Twitter and on the YALSA mailing lists talk about.  However, upon reading the synopsis it peaked my interest as it sounded like something those with an interest in mysteries, history and ciphers would enjoy.

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Filed under Fiction, Mystery

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Baggott, Julianna. Pure. Grand Central Publishing 2012. ISBN 1455503061

Reader’s Annotation: Pressia, a survivor of the Detonations who carries the constant reminder of the devastation in the form of a doll that is permanently fused to her arm in place of a hand. Patridge, a Pure who made it to the safety of the Dome before the Detonations took place.  Together they have to discover what really happened and who is responsible.

Plot Summary: Pressia barely remembers life before the Detonations but she carries the scars and mutilation that resulted from the Detonations. Upon her sixteenth birthday she finds herself being hunted by the militia and secret forces from the Dome but she does not know why.  Partridge, a Pure who was protected in the Dome during the Detonations, escapes the Dome in hopes that his mother is still alive outside of it.  The two meet and realize their past and futures are intertwined and they must work together to find out who was behind the Detonations and why.

Critical Evaluation

Perhaps due to the success of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and a number of other young adult dystopian novels I have seen this one marketed towards young adults though it’s listed on the publisher’s website as general fiction instead of young adult fiction.  The main characters within the book are teenagers but the world building is much more complex and in depth than in any of the other recent young adult dystopians that are being published.  The world Baggott weaves is amazing and horrifying at the same time.  She does not pull any punches when describing the horrors the survivors of the Detonations endure such as mother’s who are permanently fused to their children who stopped growing the day they became fused to their mothers.

That said the story moves at a glacial pace and was painful to read for the first 300 pages and would take a very dedicated reader to continue up to this point.  While the descriptions of life during the post-Detonation era are disturbing and sad I did not find myself very invested in whether or not Pressia is captured, if Bradwell helps her or if Partridge finds his mother.  All three fell flat and lacked the depth to make me really feel like I knew them.  When the story finally starts moving along and we find out some of the back history and plot twists I felt we get to know the characters a little better and in the end I was curious what would happen.  However, it might have been too little too late as many may not make it to this point or feel there was never enough to really want to read the following book.

About the author

Baggott is a bestselling author who has written 18 books and also teaches at Florida State University.  She also writes under the pen names Bridget Asher and N.E. Bode and film rights for Pure have already been acquired by Fox 2000.

She is also a co-founder of the nonprofit organization, Kids in Need – Books in Deed, which focuses of literacy and getting books into the hands of underprivileged children.

Genre

Fiction-Dystopia

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

Prejudices on the sides of both the Pures and the wretches who live outside the dome about each other.

Reading level

Grade 9 and up

Challenge Issues

Violence, graphic descriptions of injuries, deaths, etc..

I would have the library’s collection management policy on hand and explain that the library is not here to filter what patrons read.  If questioned about this policy I would direct the patron to the ALA Bill of Rights.  I would also have links of hand of the reviews by well known outlets such as Kirkus Reviews and the New York Times and a list of some alternative dystopian books.

Why did I include this book?

I am a huge fan of dystopia books which I believe is common across many teenagers as well.  While many label it as adult fiction there are also those who consider it young adult and therefore I believed it counts as a crossover title.  I wanted to see what all the hype about this book was.

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Filed under Adult/YA Crossover, Fiction

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Pon, Cindy. Silver Phoenix. Greenwillow Books. 2009. ISBN 0061730211

Reader’s Annotation: When Ai Ling’s father fails to return from a journey to the Emperor’s palace she sets out on a journey to rescue him.  Along the way she meets Chen Yong who is on a quest of his own.  Together with his support and her own growing powers can she battle demons and other creatures she thought only existed in legends?

Plot Summary: Ai Ling has been rejected as a bride by several suitors and is despairing over bringing disgrace to her parents and yet she cannot help but be happy she will not yet be to a husband’s whims and needs.  She is satisfied to live in her childhood home with her parents until one day Ai Ling’s father does not return from a journey to the Emperor’s palace.  She sets out to rescue her father and along the way meets Chen Yong, a half-Xian who is on a journey of his own to find his birth parents.  Both finds out that evil creatures and demons that they thought only existed in legends really do exist and are targeting Ai Ling and those she calls friends.  Can she vanquish the evil that has targeted her and rescue her father?

Critical Evaluation

This book brings fantasy and mythological creatures to life as readers follow Ai Ling along her quest to rescue her father.  Ai Ling combines great spunk, bravery and a dose of naiveness thrown in to make her that much more relatable.  Chen Yong and his brother Li Rong were both wonderful characters.  Chen Yong’s steadiness and strength in face of the difficulties his mixed heritage brings him endears him to the reader and one can’t help but love Li Rong’s never ending cheerfulness and quips.

While the story moves along quickly and the myriad of creatures Ai Ling faces are fascinating it was almost as if there was too much thrown together without enough explanation.  It seems strange that this man who is obsessed with one day reuniting with Ai Ling seems unaware of her presence while his consort is busy throwing one evil creature after another to kill her.  Who is this consort and why does she have so much control over these creatures?  Another question is besides being “protective” what powers does Ai Ling’s jade necklace really possess?  It seems like it can toss people around on a whim, beat people up and yet when she most needs it she decides the necklace would no longer be able to help her.  Why? And then there is the question of Ai Ling’s own powers that even the Immortals claim to have no knowledge of.  Where did these powers come from?

This is a fun book to read especially those looking for a fantasy book that is not Westernized.  It gives an interesting look inside the culture of ancient China and will peak the reader’s curiosity to learn more about the culture.

About the author

Silver Phoenix was Cindy Pon’s debut novel and was followed up with the sequel, Fury of the Phoenix in 2011.  According to her website Cindy makes her home in San Diego, California and is a student of Chinese brush painting and is currently working on a children’s book.

There was some controversy when Silver Phoenix was re-released with a new cover that many considered as “whitewashed”.  Cindy shared her feelings in a blog post stating that while she was disappointed she understood why it was done. The original cover was very different from anything else on the shelves of bookstores and it could potentially put off readers who labeled the book as too much of an Asian fantasy.  She did appreciate that her publisher was trying to reach a wider audience by repackaging the book.

Genre

Fantasy

Curriculum Ties

Diversity of cultures

Book talking idea

Talk about the cultural restrictions of females in this society.

Discuss what it would be like growing up in an adopted family and being of mixed heritage in a culture where this is looked down upon.

Reading level

Grade 9 and up

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book?

I included this book because I wanted to read a book written about a culture and history that is not US or American centric.  This book also caught my attention due to some controversy over the “white-washing” of the book cover to try and make it more visually appealing to consumers.

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction