Review: The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys
Maggie Stiefvater
2012
Scholastic
9780545424929

Blue Sargent has grown up in a household of clairvoyants. Each year, she and her mother go to the churchyard on St. Mark’s Eve to see the progression of those who will die within the coming year. Blue, whose presence makes others’ psychic powers stronger, has never seen the dead herself, until this year when she sees a boy named Gansey, a wealthy student at nearby Aglionby Academy. Blue typically sees such boys as trouble and to be avoided at all costs, but something about him and his friends and their quest to find a long-buried king intrigues her. Blue has always been warned that she may kill her true love with a kiss. She’s never worried about this before, but the more time she spends with the Raven Boys, the less sure she is.

I  really wanted to love The Raven Boys given how much I loved Stiefvater’s other books, but it didn’t quite measure up for me.  I don’t mind a bit of paranormal fiction but I feel all the talk of ley lines and spirit worlds was perhaps a bit much for me. I was much more interested in learning more about the Raven Boys themselves and their backgrounds, such as Adam the scholarship student and hotheaded Ronan. Stiefvater’s ability to create compelling characters is where this book shines. I do want to know if Gansey is indeed Blue’s true love despite her burgeoning romance with Adam. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.


Review: This Is Not A Test

This Is Not a Test

Courtney Summers
2012
St. Martin’s Griffin
978-0-312-65674-4

Sloane Price is ready to give up on life. Ever since her older sister, Lily, left six months ago, things at home have just gotten worse. So when the tiny town of Cortege is overtaken by zombies, Sloane is far from panicked. Instead, as she hides with five other teens inside her high school fighting for survival, she can’t help but wonder if this is her chance to escape from a life she’s no longer sure she wants.

This Is Not a Test is different from Summers’s other books in the sense that it features zombies and therefore can’t really be classed as realistic fiction. I’m not big on zombies myself, but I feel confident fans of her other books will still enjoy this one as I did. Throughout the novel, we see different sides of the teens taking shelter at Cortege High, such as Cary, who tries to be a leader but is really just as scared as everyone else, or Trace, who I found extremely obnoxious but yet manages to show a softer side though his relationship with his sister, Grace. As the story unfolds, we learn more about Sloane and how she got to the point of being ready to take her own life and we hope she finds a way to hold on amidst the chaos surrounding her.

Review: Fever

Fever
Lauren DeStefano
2012
Simon & Schuster
978-1-4424-0907-1

Picking up where Wither left off, Fever finds Rhine and Gabriel on the run after escaping from Rhine’s husband, Linden Ashby, and his evil father, Vaughn. Rhine is determined to make it to New York City to reunite with her twin brother, Rowan, but her plans go awry when she and Gabriel stumble across an eerie carnival whose ringmistress plans to make them part of her twisted show. Meanwhile, Vaughn is determined to track Rhine down and bring her back to the mansion, where he continues his sadistic experiments to try to find a cure for the illness that kills all women at age twenty and men at twenty-five. With only three years left to live, Rhine is beginning to feel as if time is running out. Can she escape Vaughn for good and find her lost twin?

Given that it’s book two in a planned trilogy, I was expecting Fever to feel a lot like filler, as so often happens in YA (and other) trilogies. Fortunately, DeStefano kept me flipping the pages to find out what happens to Rhine on her seemingly doomed quest to find her brother. I am curious to see how DeStefano will deal with the matter of the deadly virus. I suspect somehow a cure will miraculously be found by the end of book three, but I am sure there will be plenty of twists and turns to get there.

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: Once Every Never

Once Every Never
Lesley Livingston
Penguin Canada
2011
978-0143177951

Clarinet Reid’s boring trip to visit her aunt Maggie in London turns out to be anything but when a close encounter with an ancient artifact sends her spiraling back in time. As Clare, her super-smart best friend Al, and hot nerd/genius Milo try to figure out how this happened, Clare becomes increasingly entangled in events of centuries past. Now, she must right a wrong and keep a priceless artifact out of the hands of a thief.

I was looking forward to reading this book after reading the Wondrous Strange trilogy. I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much, but that might be in part because of the subject matter. I prefer Shakespeare to Druids, what can I say? Still, I appreciated the sharp and funny dialogue and I enjoyed learning about the warrior queen Boudicca. The book was fairly fast-paced, with lots of action to keep things moving between Clare’s exciting time travels. Highly recommended for fans of paranormal YA who want something different from the standard vampires and werewolves.

Review: Some Girls Are

 

 

 

Some Girls Are
Courtney Summers
St. Martin’s Griffin
2010
978-0-312-57380-5

Regina Afton used to be one of the popular girls at Hallowell High. But ever since rumours started circulating about her hooking up with her best friend Anna’s boyfriend, Donny, at a party, she’s been frozen out. The rumours aren’t true, but no one believes her. Regina forms an uneasy friendship with Michael, a loner whom she used to bully. But when Regina’s former friends start to target Michael, can Regina and Michael’s relationship survive?

I recently read Summers’s first novel, Cracked Up To Be, and loved it, so I was eager to read Some Girls Are. I was not disappointed. A lot of us endure some kind of bullying in our childhood and teen years, but my personal experiences were nowhere near as awful as Regina’s. The Mean Girls in this book are truly frightening, and it makes me wonder how many teens are dealing with similar situations every day. The fact that Regina is a former bully herself doesn’t prevent the reader from feeling sympathy for her. She’s a flawed character for sure, but she comes to realize her mistakes and regret being influenced so heavily by Anna. I also enjoyed Regina’s reluctance to back down. She stands up to her tormentors as best she can and her feelings for Michael are genuine. My only complaint about this book is that the ending felt a bit sudden. I didn’t find it as satisfying as I was expecting to. Maybe that’s what makes it more realistic, but after all the build-up I wanted a bit more. Overall, though, a compelling read.

Review: Sisters Red

Sisters Red
Jackson Pearce
2010
Little, Brown and Company
978-0-316-06868-0

Sisters Red is a retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood story. As children, two sisters, the aptly named Scarlett and Rosie, were attacked by a Fenris – a man who turns into a wolf – at their grandmother’s cottage. In an effort to protect her sister, Scarlett lost an eye fighting the Fenris and is now covered in scars. Now, seven years later, the two sisters and their woodsman friend Silas are hunters who make it their mission to hunt the Fenris who prey on unsuspecting young women.  Scarlett and Rosie share an intense bond, but will it be broken by Rosie’s growing feelings for Silas?

At first I found this update on a classic tale intriguing. The story alternates chapters between Scarlett’s and Rosie’s point of view, so the reader understands the motivations of each character. Unfortunately, as I continued reading, I began to get bored. A large portion of the novel consists of a series of hunts, some of which are important to the plot but many of which I could have done without. It doesn’t help matters that I guessed the major plot twist early on and so was not surprised to see I was right. I also found the relationship between Rosie, who is 16, and Silas, who is 21, somewhat disturbing. I had to keep reminding myself that Rosie and Scarlett, 18, are teenagers because they seemed much older, but in reality Rosie is still a child. I was also confused as to why Rosie and Scarlett were always wearing cloaks. Yes, it ties in to the Red Riding Hood theme, but who really wears cloaks? Finally, Rosie, Scarlett, and Silas use various knives and hatchets to fight the Fenris, having to stab them repeatedly in order to kill them. Pearce never really explains why they don’t simply use guns. Do guns not work on Fenris?

I do think Pearce does an excellent job of illustrating the tension between the two sisters. Scarlett and Rosie are both compelling characters in their own right and I sympathized with both of them. I didn’t love Sisters Red but I will still check out Pearce’s next book, Sweetly, a retelling of Hansel and Gretel due out in August.

Review: Cracked Up To Be



Cracked Up To Be
Courtney Summers
St. Martin’s Griffin
2009
978-0-312-38369-5 

I’ve been meaning to read more Canadian YA, since most of what I’ve been reading is American. I’ve wanted to read Courtney Summers’s novel Cracked Up To Be, which was nominated for the White Pine Award, for a while, and I am glad I did. The novel’s heroine, Parker Fadley, used to be perfect: she was captain of the cheerleading squad, dated the most popular guy at school, and got good grades. But one fateful night turns Parker’s life upside down. Now, she’s showing up at school drunk, failing her classes, and pushing everyone who cares about her away. All she wants is to be left alone, but new guy Jake won’t back down so easily, forcing her to face what happened that night.

This book is definitely a page-turner. Summers uses flashbacks to slowly reveal the events leading up to Parker’s breakdown, keeping the reader in suspense. Parker isn’t the most likeable character, but she’s not supposed to be. Her prickliness is part of her attempts to push others away because she feels she doesn’t deserve her perfect life anymore. The reader does get glimpses here and there of her wish to be loved, accepted…normal. Summers’s writing is sharp and her characters edgy and realistic. I look forward to reading her other novels.