unRequired Reading Blog

09/27/2010 - 1:51pm

An anonymous blogger  named Str-S-d announces that she hates Lucy Cunningham and wishes her dead.  A few days later Lucy disappears. Madison Archer drove Lucy home the night she went missing.  Madsion receives messages that warn she could be next.  The mysterious blogger posts another name and that student goes missing...and then a third.  Madison decides that she needs to find her missing friends before it is too late. In addition to the strange blog postings, Madsion receives hastily scribbled notes from a "friend."  These notes provide clues as to the circumstances surrounding the disappearances of Madison's friends.

Madison is so freaked out by all of this that she hardly notices the attentions of Tyler.  He is the new boy in town and kind of mysterious.  No one knows much about him.  He and Madison work together to find their missing classmates.  As Madison and Tyler become closer, there are some details that are revealed about him.  He is not who he says he is and has a motive for being in that town that goes beyond going to the high school.

Another great book from teen favorite author Todd Strasser.  This one will keep you on the edge of your seat, and you won't believe the ending!!

09/22/2010 - 10:11am

Fans of the Artemis Fowl series will immediately notice something is different with Artemis in this seventh installment in the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, The Atlantis Complex. First off, he obsesses about his lucky number five, even going so far as to count words in his sentences to make sure they conform. He is deathly afraid of the number 4, generally out of touch with reality, and paranoid to the extreme, even doubting Butler’s unceasing loyalty.

It turns out that Artemis is suffering from the Atlantis complex, a degenerative mental disease brought on by guilt caused by his criminal activities and dabbling in fairy magic. The disease even spurs his gallant alter-ego named Orion, determined to woo Holly Short, tough-as-nails LEPrecon officer, with flowery accolades. Artemis, as always, has a plan that sets the plot in motion – but his plan this time is not to make money, but to save the world from global warming. However, there are nefarious forces working against him and things immediately go wrong when a deep-space probe piloted by enemy forces crashes Artemis’s meeting of the minds with Holly Short, Foaly, and Commander Vinyaya.

09/21/2010 - 11:34am

What, another dystopian YA novel? Yes, but Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi is so fresh and involving that even the most jaded reader is sure to enjoy it. 

Teenaged Nailer is a ship breaker, one of the poorest of the poor who eke out a living dismantling rusting oil tankers along the Gulf. He’s still small enough to crawl through the ducts in search of copper wire, which he retrieves and turns over to his crew boss. His drug-addicted father is an unpredictable force, and Nailer considers his friend Pima and her mother the closest thing he has to a real family. 
 
After a hurricane sweeps over the coast, Nailer and Pima discover the wreck of a high-tech clipper ship hidden in an inlet. As they scavenge for food, money and anything else that can turn their luck, they discover the body of a beautiful and clearly rich young woman. Just as Nailer contemplates cutting off her finger to steal her rings, her eyes open.
09/16/2010 - 10:41am

 As The Strange Case of Origami Yoda begins, Tommy has two questions and two questions only. Those questions?  Is Origami Yoda for real? Not real as in he exists, but for real as in can this seemingly wise finger puppet predict the future? And secondly, is the advice Yoda has given Tommy (despite Origami Yoda being voiced by Dwight, the strangest kid in school) good advice or will it result in school wide humiliation? With these two questions in mind, Tommy begins a case study of the Origami Yoda - how he got his start, the kid behind it, and all the situations in which Yoda has been used for aid at McQuarrie Middle School. 

The book has cool illustrations and little details throughout – think Diary of a Wimpy Kid format – and they really capture the personalities of the characters in the book. There are more than a few funny Star Wars references that fans will delight in as well.   The writing and story really drew me in because the reader is able to ponder each situation and draw his or her own conclusion on the wisdom being dispatched by Origami Yoda. The author, Tom Angleberger, has captured the unique personalities and challenges faced by the middle-school crowd in a realistic and humorous way.

09/13/2010 - 8:58am

What would happen if you met someone who had the exact same name as you? Would you examine them, looking for any similarities and differences desperately trying to figure the other one out? Two high school students from suburban Chicago are about to find out, and both of them are Will Grayson in Will Grayson, Will Grayson  by John Green and David Levithan.

One lives by two rules: 1. Don’t care too much. 2. Shut Up. By following them, Will has made it through life without too many bruises. Unfortunately, his best friend Tiny Cooper is royally wrecking everything for him. Royal is appropriate for Tiny, a gigantic queen who just happens to be the school’s best football player and the writer/director/star of his own biographic musical, Tiny Dancer. This, along with Tiny’s constant attempts to get Will to go out with their mutual friend Jane, is exactly the kind of attention that Will does not want.

09/08/2010 - 7:59am

Ever since he was a small boy, Will, hero of The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (Book 1 of The Ranger's Apprentice series), has dreamed of Choosing Day and the moment he can start training as a knight. Will, along with Horace, Alyss, Jenny, and the other castle wards raised by Baron Arald’s generosity, is now 15 years old, and about to leave the familiar confines of the castle to start his career apprenticeship. The other wards have obvious talents that will translate easily into their apprenticeships: Horace, a muscular boy and natural athlete is destined for battleschool; willowy and sophisticated Alyss for the Diplomatic Service; and friendly, food-loving Jenny to Master Chubb’s kitchens. Will’s destination is harder to predict, for where will this tree-climbing, wall-scaling teen fit in?

It turns out that Will is not selected for battleschool, but rather to become the apprentice of Halt the Ranger, part of an enigmatic group of men who use camouflage, superior bow skills, and secrecy to achieve their missions on behalf of the King. Over the next few months, Will’s disappointment over battleschool changes to grudging respect for Halt and the grueling training that the Rangers undergo to become proficient in their craft. He also starts to see in the quietly competent Halt the father figure that he has been without for his childhood.

08/30/2010 - 7:24am

The plot of Charlie Higson's The Enemy reads like an inverted fairy tale: one day, everyone over the age of 16 starts getting sick. Some of them die early on, and others leave their families voluntarily to try to protect them. The unlucky ones become something else: boil-covered, dim-witted zombies whose only goal is to consume flesh.

The kids who are left behind face incredible odds against their survival. The older ones are responsible for eluding the zombies, taking care of the young ones, and finding food in a precarious world where there is little left of anything, including hope. The Enemy follows groups of kids in London-- particularly, the "Waitrose kids," so named for the supermarket that they have secured and defended for the last year. They are lead by Arran, a natural leader who is both sensitive and fearless; defended by the gifted fighter Achilleus; and kept peaceful by Maxine, the second in command. But their resources are running low, and "the grown-ups" (their name for the zombies) are becoming more daring, picking them off one at a time.

One day a strange boy in a multicolored coat appears at their gate, bringing them tales of a peaceful life that another group of kids has made for themselves at Buckingham Palace. Allegedly, the kids live in security, where they are well-fed by the fruits of their own garden. He invites the Waitrose kids to join them, and they decide to embark on the dangerous journey from Waitrose to Buckingham Palace.

08/23/2010 - 7:24am

This is Week 12 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. To see all of the reviews, click here.

In Kathryn Erskine's "Mockingbird," Caitlin’s world is black and white, and she likes it that way, whether it’s her view of life or her meticulous monotone drawings. Since The Day Our Life Fell Apart when her brother Devon was killed in a school shooting, she and her widowed father keep to simple routines. This is important to kids like Caitlin, a fifth grader with Asperger’s Syndrome. Clear boundaries make it easier to cope, especially when she’s trying hard to follow her counselor’s advice to Look At The Person and Mind Your Manners. 

As I followed Caitlin through her days at school – meeting with the school counselor when she has a TRM (Tantrum Rage Meltdown), trying dutifully to make friends even though she prefers to be a “team of one” – I began to see the world as Caitlin does. She may be socially inept and literal-minded, but she also has a startling gift for humor and truth-telling. 
 
08/16/2010 - 8:14am

This is Week 11 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review.

Imagine that your mom is a world-famous supermodel or actress, like Angelina Jolie - constantly surrounded (and hounded) by the paparazzi. What would your life be like? How would your parent’s fame shape your own childhood, teenage years, and adult hood? This is the premise of The Daughters by Joanna Philbin, a new young adult novel that explores growing up in the shadow of fame, and it how alters (and in many respects doesn’t change) the trials and tribulations of the teenage years.
 
The Daughters follows the life of Lizzie Summers, daughter of a famous supermodel, and Lizzie’s two best friends, Carina and Hudon, daughters of a billionaire media mogul and pop star, respectively. In many respects they are just like many 14 year-olds, trying to navigate through high school academics, crushes on boys, and changing relationships with their parents. But in other ways, their parent’s fame is almost like another character to explore in the book, drawing constantly unwanted attention. 
08/12/2010 - 9:57am

The late Philip K. Dick's works were one of the strongest influences on science fiction writers in the first decade of the 21st century, including the fields of alternate history and paranoid thrillers.

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