Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sever

After committing to a series, you always hope it will end in a satisfying way. Lauren DeStefano's The Chemical Garden Trilogy does just that. I was not a fan of Fever, the second novel, but know that the second novel in a trilogy can be slow because it is building for a grand finale. I was very satisfied by how Sever wraps everything up.

This is the most likable that any of the characters have been: Cicely has matured, Linden shows some spine, and even Vaughn is a more well-rounded character. Plus, there is almost nothing about the bizarre South Carolina carnival that dominated too much of Fever. Rhine is not in a drug haze or ill in Sever, so she can be the strong heroine we want her to be. There are also a lot more plot twists and fun characters in this novel.

One thing didn't work for me: Gabriel. While I have always found him to be a bit of a drag, there is nothing in Sever that would explain Rhine's devotion to him. I didn't really care if Rhine ever ended up with Gabriel, so was not invested in his storyline.

It's sad to end a series when you've enjoyed it, although I am eager to see what Lauren DeStefano comes up with next.

Friday, April 19, 2013

First Look!

I can't wait to read this!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Classroom: The Epic Documentary of a Not-Yet-Epic Kid

While he may seem like your average overly-nervous seventh grader, Trevor Jones has something special going for him: a documentary film crew is following him around as he starts middle school. Unfortunately, most of his misadventures with a confusing school layout, evil eighth graders, and bizarre staff members are not something he would want to preserve.

The Classroom: The Epic Documentary of a Not-Yet-Epic Kid is the latest novel which tries to capitalize on the success of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Rather than going for the diary format of so many imitators, author Stephen Gilpin chose a loosely organized documentary. It wasn't enough. Although Trevor has his quirks, he is a bland character, and so are the other stereotypes that pepper the book. I kept hoping for more, and this went on for awhile, because The Classroom is too long for the audience it is geared towards. The cover of The Classroom will grab plenty of readers; I'm curious to see how many of my students actually finish it.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I Hunt Killers

"It was a beautiful day. It was a beautiful field. Except for the body."

This is a story starter that I would love to share with my middle school students as an example of a true hook. That's about the only thing in Barry Lyga's I Hunt Killers that I could share. Still, for mature teens and YA-loving adults, the novel is engrossing.

Jazz's father is the most notorious serial killer in history, and despite his being jailed for life, he looms large in Jazz's mind and in the memory of his community. When a copycat killer begins striking in Jazz's hometown, he needs to use the 'training' his father gave him to prevent the next murder. With his incredible ability to think like a serial killer, Jazz has to wonder if he didn't inherit more than he wanted from Dear Old Dad.

Lyga doesn't spare the reader any gruesomeness with his grisly descriptions of Billy Dent's crimes. I can see parents objecting, but know that it isn't very different from the "Saw" movies or many other types of media that fascinate teenagers. In fact, I read that I Hunt Killers is going to be made into a television show for ABC Family, with the main character as the daughter of a serial killer. I have no idea how they will be able to translate this novel for that channel, but would be interested in checking it out. Unfortunately, I'm sure the television show will leave out some of the more interesting aspects of the novel, such as Jazz's relationship with his African American girlfriend, Connie. Jazz admits that one of the reasons he was first attracted to Connie was because his father never had any African American victims, so maybe he is being "safe" by having this relationship. Details like these made I Hunt Killers more than a simple slasher or mystery novel.

The sequel, Game, will be released in just a few days. A benefit to being behind in my reading: I only have to wait three days to pick up where the story left off.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Son

It's rare for an author of such a perfect standalone novel to give the readers what they want: more information about the characters. With the debatable ending of The Giver, Lois Lowry could have walked away and left us forever wondering if Jonah froze to death or if he really made it to a new community. It is a true gift that she followed up with Gathering Blue and The Messenger. And now we have Son, the final novel in the series.

I adored Son: making connections between characters, learning more about the original community, and experiencing life from the perspective of Claire, a birthmother from Jonah's original community. The biggest treat of all was that Son is essentially three books, two about Claire and one about Gabe. Interestingly enough, my favorite was the second section, about Claire rebuilding her life.

There are a few references to events in Gathering Blue and The Messenger, but they aren't required reading to be able to enjoy Son. It might actually even be fun to go straight from The Giver to Son, and not have to wait twenty years like the rest of us did!

I wish the cover was jazzier, but then, The Giver doesn't have the most appealing cover either. I suppose it doesn't matter, because anyone who has read The Giver will be dying to check out Son.