The Trials of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell continues soon after the first novel left off, as Damien tries to become a full hero. Obstacles include his snarky personality, a girlfriend at Vilmore, and an emerging villainous superpower. Having the same themes as the first book, the sequel emphasizes family relationships and the letterism of Golden City society. The narration also retains Damien’s witty voice and many elements from the first. Towards the end some plot points were a bit too familiar, but overall the story was clever, fun, and heartwarming. Fans of The Rise of Renegade X would definitely enjoy the sequel. – Monica K. ‘14
The surprise sequel of The House of the Scorpion, The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer follows Matt’s dismantling of his predecessor’s drug empire. In particular, it explores the plight of the microchipped eejits, ethics of cloning and microchipping, and the polluted, future world. While the novel had potential (and is still well-written and recommended to fans of the first book), it could have been truly great with a serious round of editing. My main problems with it were that the pacing was off and main characters shifted personalities from the first novel or acted out of character to move the plot along. I also missed the world building and suspense of the first book. In the end the Lord of Opium is pretty good but not a must-read – however, I really, really recommend The House of the Scorpion. – Monica K. ‘14
Despite the two star rating, don’t be fooled – Earth Girl features some strong writing, promising world building, and a powerful, independent female lead. The setting has a genuine science fiction feel and is set centuries in the future, long after the first portal and colonization of another planet. In this futuristic society, our protagonist, Jarra, is the one in a thousand born with an immune system unable to handle other planetary atmospheres. As part of an ostracized minority, Jarra decides to get back at society by spending her first year of her history degree in an archaeology course filled with “exos” from offworld planets.
The first half goes from pretty good to stellar (see what I did there?), as Jarra leaves her class in the dust with her history expertise. Unfortunately, the second half stagnates. Descriptions become tediously long, a cringe-worthy decision on the author’s part leaves the last third irritating to read, and in the end the plot fails to move much. However, while I did not like this novel, I still believe that Janet Adams is a promising writer and would recommend Earth Girl to fans of Ender’s Game and the like. – Monica K. ‘14
I would just like to say: The Rise of Renegade X is a seriously cool read, whether you’re a hardcore comic book fanatic, a lover of The Avengers/Thor/the next major superhero movie, or none of the above. Set in Metroville, the city with the highest concentration of superheroes and villains in the US, the novel introduces a world where every young hero and villain gains their power, their acceptance in respective training academies, and a H or V on their left thumb on their sixteenth birthday. Damien Locke is just one of the many villain hopefuls waiting for his sixteenth birthday. However, he is in for a nasty surprise when an X instead of a V materializes on his thumb. The novel follows his crazy adventures as he finds love, the true identify of his father, and his own true self as well. Even with its refreshing, hilarious take on superhero mythology, the element of the novel that really carries the story is Damien’s warped, obnoxious, highly entertaining personality. Highly recommended to fans of the superhero genre and those in the mood for a fast-paced, engaging read. – Monica K. ‘14
If books were meals, Just Listen by Sarah Dessen would be the chicken noodle soup of the YA Lit world. The youngest of three sisters, Annabel Greene withdraws into herself following her sister’s eating disorder, her former best friend’s malicious bullying, her growing lack of interest in her modeling career, and the constant isolation at school and home. However, before she can completely fade away, she meets the music-obsessed, completely honest Owen, who helps her gain the self-confidence to speak of what really happened the night her remaining friendships were ruined. Dessen skillfully combines family story and romance with dashes of humor, making a very accessible, engaging read. Fans of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.Just and other novels by Sarah Dessen will enjoy Just Listen. – Monica K. ‘14
In thirty six years, everyone on Earth will die.
Entrusted with this knowledge since birth, Junior Thibodeau must navigate the messy thirty odd years with his alcoholic mother, silent, stoic father, and cocaine-addict-turned-pro-baseball-player brother, all while dealing with breakup from the love of his life and the mysterious voice in his head insisting a comet will smash into the Earth in T minus x amount of years. Sounds weird/awesome/crazy/exhausting? Well, I agree!
While the seamless interplay of first, second, and third person narrative, love, and family drama shows off Currie’s talent as a writer, Everything Matters! by Ron Currie Jr. has a detached and cerebral approach to it, unlike the more visceral, emotional first or third person perspective of most teen books. Rather than empathizing with the characters, I related more with the situations and messages woven into the novel. Fans of Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman, The Magicians by Lev Grossman (who, by the way, are twins! I swear I had no idea.), and Kurt Vonnegut may like this book.
David Sedaris manages to pull off a combination screwball comedy and thoughtful introspection within each of his essays. Featuring tales of dentist appointments and swim meets, a few morbid short stories, and, yes, a stuffed owl, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is a collection of short essays based on Sedaris’ personal experiences. While the topics may sound mundane, Sedaris has a knack for transforming the remotest details into complex narratives about relationships and life. My favorites include Atta boy and Loggerheads. Less tasteful and more over the top are the fictitious short stories interspersed between essays. Overall, I guarantee that there will be at least one story that will make you laugh. – Monica K. ‘14
Lev Grossman’s The Magicians is almost impossible to enjoy. The darker, more mature cross between The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter, The Magicians follows the school years of Quentin Coldwater, a miserable, isolated genius who is admitted into a secret university of magic. It unflinchingly (and increasingly depressingly) depicts his constant quest for happiness as he navigates his way through classic adult rites of passage. Despite its admirably ambitious thematic goals, the book fails to maintain a strong, engaging plot and ultimately loses the reader. – Monica K. ‘14
Born after the Great Change, fourteen year old Ejii has had to deal with complex family issues, her erratic shadow speaker powers, and the mistrust of other West African villagers all her life. Now, in order to control her emerging powers she must travel into the desert, where she will encounter strange and mystical creatures in her journey of self-discovery. In The Shadow Speaker, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu creates a wonderfully rich world while balancing Ejii’s personal growth and overarching social commentary. This book features a strong, likable female lead as well as interesting cultural elements Highly recommended to anyone in the mood for a refreshing yet layered read. – Monica K. ‘14