Review: Blood Red Road

Blood Red Road
Moira Young
2011
Doubleday Canada
978-0-385-67183-5

Saba lives in Silverlake, a desert wasteland, with her father, her twin brother, Lugh, her sister, Emmi, and her pet crow, Nero. Saba and Lugh are close, but Saba resents Emmi because their mother died giving birth to her. Although the lake they depend on for food and water is drying up, Saba’s father refuses to leave the place where his wife died. When four horsemen arrive amidst a sandstorm, killing Saba’s father and capturing Lugh, Saba sets out to rescue her brother. She soon discovers the outside world is full of danger, but she also finds out just how strong and capable she is.

The first time I tried to read Blood Red Road, I put it down because I found the characters’ way of speaking irritating to read and just couldn’t get into the story. I’m glad I gave it another chance, though, because it turned out to be a compelling story. Saba is a lot stronger than she realizes and endures a lot of physical hardships in her quest to find Lugh. Although Saba’s unalterable love for her brother is admirable, it’s her relationship with Emmi that is the most compelling. Over the course of the novel, Emmi proves that she is smart and just as much of a fighter as Saba, who eventually begins to respect her little sister rather than treat her as an annoyance. There’s also a touch of romance in the story between Saba and Jack, a boy who proves pivotal in helping her locate and rescue Lugh. The inside cover indicates this is “Dustlands Book One,” so I expect Saba’s adventures will continue. However, the book can stand on its own very nicely. Blood Red Road is an exciting adventure/survival story reminiscent of The Hunger Games and The Knife of Never Letting Go. The book is nominated for the 2012 White Pine award.

 

Review: Money Boy by Paul Yee

Money Boy
Paul Yee
2011
Groundwood Books
978-1-55498-094-9
*Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy*

When Ray Liu’s father finds out he is gay, he is kicked out of the house. Ray’s dad, an army veteran and Chinese immigrant, can’t accept a son who doesn’t share his traditional values. Ray tries to make a life for himself in downtown Toronto, but is soon robbed. Left without money or his cell phone, Ray struggles to survive. Will he have to sell himself for sex in order to survive?

This gritty novel tells the tale of a young man who struggles to fit in. Ray’s friends, while immigrants like himself, have a much easier time learning English and adapting to Western culture. Ray’s family can’t accept his homosexuality, leaving Ray with nowhere to turn. Yee’s novel touches on two groups whose stories are often untold in mainstream YA: immigrants and GLBTQ teens. Ray’s descent into prostitution is heartbreaking to read. Fortunately, there is hope at the end of the novel. The subject matter makes this book more suitable for older teens.

 

Review: Tilt by Alan Cumyn

Tilt
Alan Cumyn
2011
Groundwood Books
978-1-55498-119-9
*Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy*

Stanley Dart’s world is full of chaos. His mother is constantly suffering from anxiety, his little sister lives in her own little world, and his father hasn’t been heard from in years. Stan is determined to make the varsity basketball team, but when Janine Igwash begins paying him attention, he becomes distracted. When Stan’s father shows up with Stan’s half brother in tow, all hell seems about to break loose.

I found it refreshing to read a YA book told from a male perspective. So many of the books I have read have female protagonists, so I would like to see more books aimed at boys. Stan’s troubles felt very real, from his chaotic home life to his raging hormones. Cumyn does a great job of taking the reader inside the mind of a teenage boy. Some of the content is a bit graphic, so this book would be more appropriate for older teens.

 

Review: I’ve Got Your Number

I’ve Got Your Number
Sophie Kinsella
2012
The Dial Press
978-0-385-34206-3

Poppy Wyatt is engaged to the perfect man, and life couldn’t be better. That is, until she loses her family-heirloom engagement ring and her cell phone is stolen. As luck would have it, she finds an abandoned cell phone in a trash bin, giving her a contact number in case the ring turns up. Sam Roxton, whose company owns the phone, reluctantly agrees to let Poppy keep it for a few days. But Sam gets more than he bargained for when Poppy starts reading his text messages and e-mails and interfering with his life. But when a crisis hits at the office, Poppy may be the key to averting disaster.

If you like Sophie Kinsella’s other books, you are bound to enjoy this one, since it follows the same formula she uses for all of her novels: flighty heroine finds herself in a ridiculous situation that places her in the path of a successful businessman, commits a series of cringe-worthy gaffes, but somehow manages to save the day and get the guy. This book was pretty predictable but it does deliver some laughs. Recommended for anyone looking for a light romance.

 

Review: Crossed

Crossed
Ally Condie
2011
Dutton Books
978-0-525-42365-2

Book two of Condie’s Matched trilogy finds Cassia and Ky in separate work camps in the Outer Provinces, trying to escape and find their way back to one another. Cassia hopes to join the Rising, a group of rebels determined to take down the Society. Ky is haunted by memories of growing up in the Outer Provinces. His father wanted to rebel, too, but when both Ky’s parents and the rest of their community were killed by a Society attack, the Rising did not help. Now, Ky doesn’t trust the rebels, and his only wish is to reunite with Cassia. But Ky has secrets, and when Cassia learns the truth, will she still love him?

I really enjoyed Matched but found that this book felt very much like the second the book of a trilogy in that there was a lot of filler. The book alternates between Cassia’s and Ky’s perspectives, and a lot of time is spent describing their separate journeys into the Carving, a group of canyons at the edge of the Society. I think part of my problem is that I don’t like Ky as much as I know I’m supposed to. He always seems to be withholding information from Cassia, which just feels sneaky to me. Plus, I feel sorry for Xander, Cassia’s Match and childhood best friend, who does love Cassia but is nonetheless put aside. Once Cassia and Ky are reunited, the pacing picks up a fair bit as we begin to learn some secrets Ky has been keeping as well as more details of how sinister the Society is. While I struggled to get through the first half of the book, the latter half provided enough suspense that I am still anxious to see how Cassia’s story plays out when the third book, Reached, hits the shelves in November.

 

Review: Cinder

Cinder
Marissa Meyer
2012
Feiwel and Friends
978-0-312-64189-4

This reworking of Cinderella is set in a futuristic society in which our Cinderella is a sixteen-year-old cyborg named Cinder. Cinder lives with her adoptive mother, who resents Cinder’s existence, having inherited her when her husband died, and two sisters. Cinder is known for her skills as a mechanic, and one day she is called upon to repair and android for Prince Kai before the annual ball. Cinder senses the android holds vital information Kai is anxious to keep from Queen Levana, ruler of the Lunar society, who is threatening war. When Cinder’s sister, Peony, catches the deadly plagues that is spreading through the Commonwealth, her stepmother sends Cinder off as a volunteer for plague research in the hopes of finding a cure. But what the scientists discover will surprise her. There’s something special about Cinder, and it’s something others would kill for.

Cinder is the first in a planned series. I thought the idea of a cyborg Cinderlla was interesting. I wasn’t sure if I could get into the idea of a futuristic Cinderella, but the author did a good job of making me care about the character. There are three more books planned for the series, and I am not sure how the author will fill all four. I don’t know how long the conflict with the Lunars can be stretched out. I will probably stick around for book two to see what happens after Cinder discovers her secret identity.

 

Review: I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend

I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend
Cora Harrison
2010
Macmillan
978-0-330-50953-4

Told in diary format, this is story of Jane Austen’s cousin, Jenny Cooper. The novel begins with the two girls away at boarding school. Jane is deathly ill, so Jenny sneaks out in the middle of the night, something considered quite scandalous at the time, to send word to her aunt. Wandering the streets of Southampton alone and terrified, she meets Captain Thomas Williams, who is kind enough to escort her to the post office. Upon hearing of Jane’s illness, Mrs. Austen arrives and brings both girls home to Steventon. There, Jenny meets Jane’s family and attends her first ball. Everything is going well until Captain Williams shows up. Will he reveal her secret and thus ruin her reputation?

I am a huge Jane Austen fan, so I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I didn’t know anything about Jenny Cooper or many of Jane’s brothers, so this novel, based on facts learned from the author’s research, including family letters, was quite intriguing. Jane comes across as quite witty and full of life, and it is easy to imagine this Jane as the author of such novels as Pride and Prejudice and Emma. I think telling the story from Jenny’s perspective gives us an interesting perspective since, like Jenny, the reader is an outsider getting to know the Austen family. A light tale recommended to Austen fans who want more Jane without having to stoop to reading “sequels” written by impostors. Side note: The BBC has done some excellent adaptations of Austen’s novels in recent years as part of their Masterpiece Theatre series. I particularly enjoy Emma. Harriet Smith’s ringlets alone make this worth a watch.