Category Archives: Young Adult Books

Book Review: NIGHTMARE CITY by ANDREW KLAVAN

nightmarecityRating: 4.5/5

Recommended Audience: 6th grade and up

Genre: Fantasy/Mystery

“That was the trouble with searching for the truth. It wasn’t always pleasant. It wasn’t always something you wanted to find.”

Andrew Klavan has become one of my favorite young adult authors. I have read three of the four books in The Homelanders series and now this book. I have enjoyed every one of them. Of all of his YA books so far, I think this one is the most creative. It is darn close to his best (for me, it’s hard to top The Last Thing I Remember).

This is a difficult book to review in the sense that I can’t give you a lot of details about the plot without ruining much of the story. The basic premise is this. Tom, the main character is laying in a hospital bed in a coma due to a gun shot wound. Tom has no clue how he was shot or why. The story from the beginning of the book is his experience inside of the “nightmare city” which is actually happening in his head as he lays in the hospital. As the plot develops, the mystery of what happens to him begins to unravel.

This book is Klavan at his best. One of the things he is great at is playing with the pacing of his stories. He can really move a story along with suspense that makes you try sneak a peak ahead of what you are currently reading. I caught myself several times peaking at the next page try to catch snippets of sentences to find out what was going to happen. This is great writing for teen boys, and the type of writing that gets reluctant readers to stick with a book.

Tom reminded me a lot of Charlie in The Last Thing I Remember. He’s a great role model for any teen reader who might pick up this book. We need more characters like him in young adult literature.

Christian conservatives will appreciate the subtle presence of faith throughout the story. Klavan does a great job of weaving this in, and it never appears to be preachy, forceful, or out of place.

“It’s like the Bible says, he remembered Lisa telling him. Find the truth-and the truth will set you free.

Well, he answered in his mind, the truth is what I’m here for.

And as the darkness fell around him, he stepped forward boldly.”

If you have a teen reader in the house, buy this book for their collection. And if you have kids in public school, make sure that their library has Klavan’s books available for checkout.

 

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EARTHS IN SPACE: WHERE ARE THE LITTLE GREEN MEN?

EIS-v1-front-cover resizedSpoiler alert: They name their spaceship after Patrick Henry – yes, Mr. “Give me liberty, or give me death.”

Amena wants to find something amazing. And then something else amazing. And something else…Okay, she wants to find everything that’s amazing, and she’s sure to find lots of exotic wonderfulness traveling through outer space…right?

Well, it turns out there are no aliens. No talking squids. No sentient kittens. No little green men.

But there are people — countless people comprising a multitude of unique civilizations on myriad Earths scattered throughout the universe.

Earths in Space: Where Are the Little Green Men? contains the first two novellas in this exciting science fiction series. In the first episode, “Liberty or Death,” the team faces a group of hi-tech tyrants who pose as gods. Then, in “The End of an Earth,” they travel to an ancient world that has less time than they think.

Amena and her fellow explorers aren’t part of any government task force, nor are they associated with a major corporation. They’re just a group of individuals who want to learn more about their universe, and they want to help out the people they meet. If that means they need to use their amazing skills to take down tyrants, then they’ll take down those tyrants.

Ultimately, the series celebrates freedom – personal liberty, as well as the liberating exhilaration of learning new things. Hence, The Patrick Henry.

The main team features an even mix of strong women and men, and the situations and language are perfectly appropriate for any teenage reader.

The first book is available in paperback and e-book. The second volume, We Must Evolve¸ will be out later this year and will include four connected novellas for twice the fun.

For more information, visit sherrierbooks.com or visit Daniel Sherrier’s Amazon page.

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Book Review: UNDERLAKE by KIA HEAVEY

ISBN: 9780615956046 318 pages

ISBN: 9780615956046 318 pages

Rating=5/5 Stars

Suggested audience: 7th-12th grade female readers (there will be some boys that will like this)

Genre: Fantasy, light Christian fiction

I received a copy of this book for review from the author.

I challenge my students to read various genres every year even if they don’t normally like that genre. Generally speaking, I’m not a fantasy fan (which is odd considering that my son is named after a character from a fantasy book). I often struggle with the stories in fantasy. They just often come off as too unbelievable.

When I took this novel for review I was worried about a couple of things. First, how do I get through this thing if it ends up where most fantasy books do for me? In addition, I’m a guy, and this book screams teenage girl fantasy.

Well…all ended well. I really enjoyed this book.

Heavey’s writing is impressive. It’s rare that I pick up a young adult book that has such excellent word choice. I was seeing words that were new to me up until the end of the story. Usually, mass market YA has the same old boring word choice in the writing.

Underlake  has a very creative plot. Katie Welch is raised in the upper class of New York. She’s pampered, and usually her vacation plans involve some unique travel all around the world. She’s raised by a single mother who works for a fashion magazine. Katie floats among the self-appointed elite (just think anti-Christian, liberal/progressive snobs). But this summer’s vacation will take her and her mother to a remote farm town in rural New York. Katie is dreading the summer as she sees little value in the people and locale.

While in Underlake, Katie meets the mysterious but refreshingly old-fashioned and wise John Howe. Howe is directly tied into the fantasy element of the story. Without spoiling it too much, he’s been in and around Underlake for a long time. Teenage attraction ensues as Katie falls in love with this mysterious boy. I’m going to stop here with the story and hope that leaves you curious enough to go buy the book because I believe it is worth the investment.

I want to highlight a few things in the story. First, there is some discussion of sex in the book. Unlike much teen fiction which seems to be about teenagers “exploring” themselves (in some of the most unhealthy ways possible), Heavey deals with the topic in the way that I think many parents would be pleased with. Many of Katie’s friends, including herself, are encouraged by their parents to engage in high risk behaviors. They have a mentality that seems to permeate American society and pop-culture: pleasure over reason, fun over rational thinking. Katie sees the risks involved in these behaviors and is sick and tired of her mother just being her friend.

Second, Heavey weaves Christianity and the Catholic church into the story well. The book is not preachy at all, and I think would appeal to open-minded, respectful readers of faith and non-faith. Toward the end of the book Katie has some interaction with a long-time friend of hers from the city. I liked how Heavey showed how Christians are often improperly perceived and judged by many in our culture.

Katie laughed again, a sound so full of affection that it didn’t offend Michaela. “You don’t have to,” she said. “That works for me but it doesn’t have to work for you. The whole point is that we’re individuals. We shouldn’t feel so pressured to conform to what everyone else thinks we should be doing. We’re loved just the way we are. And I have plenty of fun, by the way.” she added.

Third, Heavey adds some interesting commentary on art through the story. Katie is an aspiring artist, but much of her artistry is missing something. Through Katie’s interactions with John Howe she begins to grow as an artist.

“But maybe, what you’re missing is that they’re really made of light [people and animals], and that the world around them adds the shadows. Maybe the light actually comes from them and the world takes it away, if that makes sense.” -John Howe, p.117

Underlake is a great contribution to YA literature. It’s a book that will get teens to think about things that matter. This book should be in your teenager’s library!

[GARD]

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