Zoe J

Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Zoe from Teen Advisory Corps loved Wilder Girls by Rory Power - check out what she thought!

Despite its summer release, Wilder Girls is a very dark novel. Rory Power’s story transports readers to shadowy forests where sickness runs rampant. On an isolated island, the surviving students of a girl’s boarding school struggle to survive as disease transforms their bodies. Suspicion runs high as the girls have to decide whether to trust each other, the two remaining adults, and even the government that promises an eventual cure. Here we find Hetty, who gets by with the help of her friends Byatt and Reese. 

If that premise doesn’t make it obvious enough, Wilder Girls is a very addicting read. It’s the type of book designed to be read past bedtimes, although that may not be the best idea considering its eery content. Power really transports readers to the dilapidated Raxter School for Girls, and there’s enough twists and turns that it’s difficult to leave. 

Still, what really draws the story together is the relationships between the girls. The friendship between the three main characters pushes the plot along, and each relationship has a unique and interesting dynamic. They’re not always the most likable people, but that doesn’t make them any less intriguing. 

Though I did enjoy reading about these characters, there were times when I had trouble understanding their decisions. Especially toward the end, I felt that Hetty’s actions and thought processes could have been better handled and explained. Plus, a few reveals felt a little too out of the blue. Even when the chaos was a bit over-the-top, however, it was very difficult to stop reading. 

Overall, I would definitely recommend Wilder Girls. Just be prepared for a lot of daydreaming about different ways to escape from a diseased island alongside your closest friends. Or maybe that was just me.

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$18.99
ISBN: 9780525645580
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Published: Delacorte Press - July 9th, 2019

Review: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Zoe from our Teen Advisory Corps had this to say about Pet by Akwaeke Emezi:

Sometimes seeing the world through the lens of fiction is the only way to understand reality. Stories have the power of distorting facts in a way that makes them only truer, by exaggerating ideas and concepts in order for readers to understand. Despicable human beings are turned into actual monsters. and those who fight against them become angels. And so it is in Akwaeke Emezi’s novel Pet, set in a world that has seemingly eradicated those monsters that are all too human

Or so it seems. The main idea Emezi explores in Pet is the dangers of believing whole-heartedly in a utopian society, of being blind to unsettling truths even as they grow increasingly obvious. Our protagonist, Jam, is forced to confront this dilemma when a creature named Pet calls upon her to help hunt a monster. And though Jam desperately wants to protect others from this monster, whoever it may be, that means letting go of what she’d always held to be true. 

Along with its important theme, Pet is also significant for its diversity. In this world Jam is free to be herself, a transgender girl who prefers communicating through sign language. The discussion of these attributes helps readers better understand others in the real world and could give readers someone to relate to when characters like Jam are infrequently depicted in media. 

Pet isn’t your typical YA novel. It somehow manages to be one of the most relevant and realistic books I’ve ever read in the genre while still including enough fantasy to bring creatures out of paintings. Some may find the themes to be too obvious or even political, but I believe its lessons are extremely important and universal. Pet is a short novel, but its pages just might contain the power to change the world.

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$17.99
ISBN: 9780525647072
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: Make Me a World - September 10th, 2019

Stolen Time by Danielle Rollins

Teen Advisory Corps member Zoe had this to say about Stolen Time by Danielle Rollins. 

Stolen Time isn’t so much about time travel as it is about why you really do not want to be living in Seattle in the future. Seriously, Danielle Rollins’ depiction of the year 2077 showcases a city devastated by an earthquake and tsunami that permanently flooded the area. And then, of course, there’s the rumored cannibal who leads a gang to terrorize Seattle at night. This apocalyptic state awaits our heroine Dorothy, who stows away on board what turns out to be a time machine in 1913. In the future, the pilot must accept Dorothy into his gang of teenage time travelers as they search for their missing leader.

The novel’s concept is tantalizing, but don’t expect a major focus on travel to different time periods. Instead, the dystopian themes take prominence, and a major portion of the book is actually more of a heist story involving breaking into a 1980s military base. Of course, that has an appeal of its own, but the reading experience would have been more enjoyable had I not gone into it expecting a wide variety of time travel. Readers do get introduced to historical elements as the teens discuss when and where they lived before being picked for the team, though these characters do not play major roles.

Ironically, my main complaint about Stolen Time is the pacing. The story takes place in what felt like about one day, which is not nearly enough time to develop the relationships central to the story. Plus, Dorothy seemed to adjust to 2077 life just a bit too fast for someone abruptly ripped from Victorian life. However, the more scientific aspects of Rollins’ work were very interesting, and the last section of the book made for a very exciting read. Overall, the future (sequels) is ripe with possibility.

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$17.99
ISBN: 9780062679949
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Published: HarperTeen - February 5th, 2019

The Lovely War by Julie Berry

Teen Advisory Corps member Zoe had this to say about The Lovely War by Julie Berry. 

Sometimes young adult books seem to fall prey to repetitive formats and cliches. And sometimes a book like Lovely War by Julie Berry comes along and suddenly Greek gods are sitting around a World War II-era hotel room and narrating a story that takes place during the previous world war. Despite all the fantasy, somehow, Berry also manages to construct an honest tale and weave together readers’ emotions like the Fates themselves. Through four main characters, Hazel, James, Colette, and Aubrey, we gain insight into a wide variety of perspectives of war and see the struggles facing those two sets of lovers in a way that represents those of so many more.

Lovely War is a study of the relationship between the titular ideas: love and war. And that’s the amazing part of the story, how it’s not just entertaining but meaningful as well. Through James’s perspective, we see the psychological destruction of war, and how that damage affects those like Hazel who love suffering soldiers. Colette represents the true tragedy of war as she has lost so much, and Aubrey helps bring the oft-overshadowed story of black WWI soldiers to life. Their lives intersect like music, fitting as Hazel and Aubrey play piano and Colette sings.

Love, readers learn, is the vital ingredient for surviving war. This Aphrodite explains between glimpses into the lives of humans. And here the book is optimistic, offering hope even for those thrust into the atrocities of war. Plus, Lovely War makes for a very educational historical fiction, as we’re introduced not only to real-life battles but to changing musical trends and civil rights progress as well. Thus, Berry’s writing produces a unique rhythm as it follows a complex melody, suggesting haunting beauty along the way.

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$18.99
ISBN: 9780451469939
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Viking Books for Young Readers - March 5th, 2019

Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence by Michael Marshall Smith

Don’t let the title fool you; this tale is anything but ordinary. In fact, the titular character in Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence winds up on an adventure that’s wild even by fiction standards. It all starts reasonably enough, with the eleven-year-old going to stay with her grandfather following her parents’ separation. But Hannah soon finds out her grandfather has been involved in a plot with the actual Devil for more than 100 years. All three, plus a talking mushroom, set out on an adventure taking them anywhere from Siberia to an amusement park in Santa Cruz.

Michael Marshall Smith weaves a story that is impossible to predict. I had no idea where it was going, and enjoyed the surprise that awaited me each time I cracked open the pages. Smith’s writing exudes creativity as he jumps from perspective to perspective throughout the tale. Some may find this format too confusing and unorganized, but I personally enjoyed the variety of stories and seeing how they all wove together. Humor is another outstanding characteristic of Smith’s novel. Nearly every page, it seemed, had a funny line or two. In a story that involves some rather hellish scenes, these gags may be necessary.

Despite the comedy, the novel has some serious messages to express. For example, Smith doesn’t try to portray his characters as perfect but instead has them discover the importance of continuing with their lives even if they’re stuck in a rut. And of course the Devil is a character of questionable moral-standing, but Smith uses him to show a necessary balance of good and evil that rests in the hands of humanity.

Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence is a novel for those searching for creativity, fantasy, and humor, along with sentient mushrooms and squirrels.  

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ISBN: 9780008300159
Availability: Not Currently Available to Order
Published: Voyager - November 6th, 2018

Strange Days by Constantine Singer

If one thing can be said about Constantine Singer’s Strange Days, it is definitely sci-fi. From time travel to aliens and mind control, this novel has it all. Plus, Singer throws in a healthy dose of music. In fact, that’s how we first find our protagonist, Alex. From the beginning, he’s hearing the sound of guitars coming from within his own head, and from there everything just gets more, well, strange. After receiving several messages from his future self, Alex ends up as part of a group of teenagers trying to save the world.

The most remarkable part of Strange Days, I think, is the way Singer weaves music into the story. He artfully depicts abstract concepts, like the embodiment of a person’s lifespan, in a way that incorporates music and makes visualization easy. And like a rapid song, the novel progresses at a brisk pace. Although I found it to drag a bit near the middle, Strange Days is generally filled with twists that keep the story exciting.

Even while Strange Days makes use of such out-of-this-world aspects, the setting seems plausible. The technology, such as self-driving cars and phones that attach to the ear, is easy to imagine becoming a reality in coming decades. Readers are also introduced to a diverse and interesting cast of characters representing different races, sexualities, and occasionally periods of time.

Really, Strange Days is a very original sci-fi story despite its incorporation of so many tropes of the genre. It keeps readers guessing as to the direction of the plot as they learn more about the characters they meet. And to balance out all the science, Singer creates brilliant musical imagery. So you’ll enjoy Stray Days if you have a soft spot for aliens, time travel, or mind control. And also electric guitars.

Books: 
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$17.99
ISBN: 9781524740245
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers - December 4th, 2018

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