Bethany's Readers' Advisory

The place to go for readers' advisory on books for children, teens, and adults

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares May 1, 2014

Here and NowThe author of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series is back with a YA book in a completely different genre: science fiction with elements of dystopian future. Seventeen-year-old Prenna immigrated to New York four years ago. She did not come from another country; she came from another time. Prenna and her community were living in the 2090s, a time plagued with a lethal blood disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Everyone lived in fear of being bitten until things were so bad that they knew they had to get out. Those who were strong enough traveled to the year 2010 and settled down around New York. The community had to stick together and follow very strict rules about what they needed to do to fit in and what they couldn’t do to risk harming the “time natives” they were living amongst. Prenna pushes the limits with Ethan, a boy from school who seems to know her better than anyone, even though she’s tried to do her best to keep her distance. When she is given information by someone she thought was a crazy homeless man, his story shocks her and causes her to question everything she’s been told for the past four years. Could this man be telling the truth? And how does Ethan fit into the equation?

This was a very interesting story. It is certainly different from other books by this author. Like many time travel imaginings, this story addressed how seemingly innocent actions by those who have traveled back in time can have dire consequences in the future. It also touches on the implications of our current use of fossil fuels and their effect on the the environment in the future. I would recommend this book to older teens or adults who would appreciate the story and the message behind it.

5 out of 5 stars

 

The Giver by Lois Lowry September 13, 2012

The story begins as Jonas and his friends become Twelves.  Jonas can guess which careers will be assigned to many of his classmates, but he has no idea what will be chosen for him.  The whole community is taken by surprise when he is presented as the next Receiver of Memories.  In a town where there is no sickness, no conflict, no crime, and no hunger, there is only one person who holds the memories of these things from the past.  As Jonas takes on the memories, he realizes there’s more to life than the safety and monotony of their utopian community and must make his own choices for his future.

This was a classic I had never read and decided it was time after reading the Hunger Games and Matched series.  The Giver is thought-provoking and unsettling.  I can see why it has been challenged a number of times; it contains some controversial ideas, sure to spur discussion.   Let’s all read it and discuss.

5 out of 5 stars

Newbery Medal winner

 

 

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins September 9, 2012

Spoiler alert: This doesn’t give away the ending, but you might not want to read this review if you haven’t read any of the other books in the series.

Katniss has escaped the arena alive once again, only to learn her home, District 12, has been destroyed and District 13 exists after all.  She learns she is the face of the rebellion, a role she is hesitant to fill.  With many lives in her hands, Katniss must choose a side and accept that every choice she makes will have dire consequences.  Is she willing to be the “Mockingjay” no matter the cost?

Well, I finished the series.  Mockingjay was quite suspenseful and just when you thought no one else could be killed, ten more people die.  I continued to be frustrated by Katniss and decided I prefer the more fallible Cassia from the Matched series.  I’m glad I read the series and would recommend it to teens and adults who aren’t averse to books with a heavy dose of violence.

4 out of 5 stars

 

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

The second book of the Hunger Games series begins with a victorious Katniss, still alive after the Hunger Games.  But many things in District 12 have changed since she left.  Her relationship with Gale is strained, there are harsher punishments for breaking the rules, and rumors of a rebellion are floating around the districts.  Katniss realizes that her actions to keep her and Peeta alive during the Hunger Games have set more in motion than she intended.  Now as she and Peeta tour the districts as the winning tributes, she must convince everyone that they are in love… or their lives and the lives of those they love may be in jeopardy.

Like the first book, Catching Fire was full of suspenseful moments and relies on Katniss’ bravery and strong personality.  At times I tired of how Katniss feels like she needs to protect absolutely everyone from everything and wished she had more vulnerable moments.

3.5 out of 5 stars

 

 

Crossed by Ally Condie

This sequel to Matched tells Cassia’s and Ky’s stories in alternating chapters.  Both are doing hard labor, far away from the quiet suburb where they met.  As Cassia struggles to get back to the boy she loves, Ky struggles to survive.  With a brief cameo from Xander, Cassia’s Match, we learn only that he is still willing to fight for her and that he has a secret.

As often happens with the second book in a series, Crossed was a little slow compared to Matched.  It was more about the journey than any real action until the ending, which sets the scene for the third book.  Even though I didn’t enjoy the second book as much as the first, I was still invested in the characters and rushed to the library to get the third book in the series… that doesn’t come out until November.

4 out of 5 stars

 

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce August 15, 2012

Shortly before her 16th birthday, Tara Martin fights with her boyfriend, Richie.  She wants to be alone, so she takes a walk in the woods.  She was never seen again.  Twenty years later, on Christmas Day, Tara’s parents hear a knock at the door.  It is Tara.  She is dirty and disheveled but appears not to have aged at all.  When she tries to explain to her brother, Peter, the truth about where she has been, he doesn’t believe her.  No one does.  Will things ever be the same between Tara and the people she left behind?

This book was fantasy mixed with realistic fiction, fairy tale .  You will find yourself imagining yourself in each character’s place.  Would you believe the unbelievable?

5 out of 5 stars

 

East by Edith Pattou October 9, 2011

Rose grows up believing she is an east born child, just like her mother had planned.  Unlike an east, Rose is always outside exploring.  It is during one of her adventures that she first sees the white bear.  Years later, the family is hungry and poor.  They are days from being evicted from their home and Rose’s sister is gravely ill.  The white bear comes to their door with a proposition that Rose cannot refuse.  The family’s livelihood and Rose’s future are dependent on a strange, talking bear.

Rose’s new life is mysterious.  She is made very comfortable, yet she yearns to know more about the white bear and its past.  But what if Rose’s ignorance is the only thing keeping the white bear- and herself- safe?

I’ll admit I was hesitant about this book.  Fantasy and outdoor survival are generally not my favorite genres.  However, I persevered with East and was rewarded.  After a slow start, it was an exciting and intriguing story with a strong female lead.  Recommended for middle school and high school girls who like fantasy and adventure stories.

 

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins November 11, 2010

Filed under: adventure,sci fi/fantasy — Bethany @ 1:46 am
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Guest Post by the esteemed David Koesters

This series was brought to my attention after visiting one of my lawyer friends and hearing her and her law clerk gush about how great it was.  But I respect her opinion and promptly checked the first book, The Hunger Games, out from the library to read what all the hubbub-bubbery was about.

My first thought was what kind of Twilight-esque formulaic female teen fiction thing had I gotten myself into? Well I wasn’t disappointed. For those who enjoy campy love-triangle goo tailor-made for young female teens with identity issues, this series is rife. I say that up front to dispel the idea that this is a new and innovative work of fiction. Now, having said that, I will go on to say that I guiltily enjoyed all three books despite the goo. My reasons for enjoying them may, however, be reversely proportional to why the female teens may not enjoy the series.

I’m talking about Orwellian, post-apocalyptic, alternate reality stuff where the world, as they know it, has since been split into 12 producing districts all meant to serve the main capitol Panem ruled by the dictator President Snow. The capitol is inhabited by vain decadent rich folk who have no idea about the hardship faced by the 12 districts whose inhabitants toil to keep them satisfied. On top of that, every year each district must submit two of their own (a male and female) between the ages of 14 and 18 to be sent off to the Hunger Games where the contestants are forced to fight to the death. The games have been running for nearly 75 years and are meant to demonstrate the power the capitol has over them should they want to ever rise up against them again. (Oh yeah, the districts tried to rise up against the capitol 75 years ago. As a result district 13 was destroyed.)

So with all that backdrop, enter protagonist Katniss Everdeen who, you guessed it, comes from a broken family, is fit and attractive though unaware of her sexuality, has to care for her little sister, may be in love with her hunting friend Gale, but is then torn between her feelings of Gale and her soon to be Hunger Game partner Peeta. And, yes, this wouldn’t be much of a story if Katniss were to escape the lottery and not go to the Hunger Games. So the story goes and she is forced to kill or die in the arena of 23 other teenagers. I don’t think I away too much by saying Katniss doesn’t die (there are two more books after all).

The first book deals with her fight for survival in the games. The second ends up being more similar than I expected in that Katniss goes to the games again the following year (it makes sense when you read it). And finally, the last book deals with her role in overthrowing the capitol as the districts’ symbolic leader. Such a story would not be very satisfying if the good and downtrodden didn’t take out the evil and excessive. Of course that is easier said than done and I would bereft of reviewer tact if I were to reveal the details of what actually happens.  Let’s just say lots of people die. Lots of kids get blowed up.

I didn’t want to like this series, but I couldn’t help myself. The books are well written and the storyline really draws you in. The premise may not be the typical young lit other books have to offer, but that works to make this series stand above the others. So whether girl or boy, teen or thirty, lawyer or lay, this series is a fun read, nothing heavy, and definitely worth checking out. Though, with the upcoming movie, I’m sure I’ll have to hate it soon enough.

David Koesters

 

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo November 9, 2010

Filed under: sci fi/fantasy — Bethany @ 8:45 pm
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Despereaux is not your average mouse.  He was born with his eyes open, he likes to read books instead of nibbling on them, and he stops to investigate instead of zig-zagging quickly across the floor back to his home.  Trouble starts when Despereaux discovers the beautiful Princess Pea.  Miggery Sow is not your average servant.  She dreams of becoming a princess instead of doing her chores.  All of their fates collide when they are introduced to a devious rat named Roscuro in the dark, unforgiving dungeon below the castle.

 

Spy Goddess by Michael P. Spradlin

Filed under: futuristic tech fiction,sci fi/fantasy — Bethany @ 8:36 pm
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Rachel Buchanan was never really a delinquent, she was just misunderstood.  The judge didn’t see it that way, though.  That’s how Rachel ended up at Blackthorn academy.  Blackthorn wasn’t like a regular high school; it had classes like code theory and microelectronics, and the headmaster, Mr. Kim, knew Rachel’s life story from the minute she walked through the door.  Then the FBI showed up and Mr. Kim disappeared.  Rachel begins to realize that doing time might not be her only reason for being at Blackthorn.

 

 
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