Tag Archives: YA Literature

Book of the Month
January 20, 2011 posted by Christina

Guest Post by Beth Revis

Beth Revis is the author of Across the Universe, an epic sci fi and our Book of the Month for January!

As the author of one of 2011’s most exciting releases, we’ve been lucky enough to take a bit of her time as she addresses an often taboo subject – sex and love in young adult literature. Beth can be found on her website here or on her Twitter – @bethrevis. Also, check out the official website for Across the Universe which features the book’s trailer and a link to the first chapter.

Sex and Love in YA Literature

I never meant to write about sex. I meant to write about murders and mysteries and space and tough decisions and life choices and government and control…but not about sex. However, as I was writing Across the Universe, it came to a point when sex became an inevitable topic, and in order to be honest to my readers and true to the story, I had to write the most difficult scene in the entire book–a scene that made me cry as I wrote it–when my character Amy, a girl from Earth, sees how sex is treated on the spaceship in the future.

I knew that the scene would be touchy, perhaps even controversial, and while I don’t want to ruin the surprise of it for readers who’ve not read yet, I will say that I felt like I had something important to say about sex by the time I wrote about that scene. Sex is a powerful thing, and an important thing, and a wonderful thing, and I don’t think it should be done lightly or casually. When sex becomes nothing more than a physical activity, it loses the emotion–love–that should be behind it, and that is deeply disturbing to me. And that is why I had to write about it.

And, of course, that led me to writing about love. In a society where sex is treated like mating, I wanted Amy to be able to talk frankly about love, too, and how there is a distinction between lust and love. I believe that no matter how far away our society goes from where it is now, love will always be present. But it will also often be difficult. One thing I very much wanted to do was show that love is often not the instant love-at-first-sight that is often portrayed in books and movies. Although Elder falls in love with Amy rather quickly, Amy questions his motives and whether or not his feeling is more of fascination (or obsession) rather than love. I think her refusal of Elder, especially at first, leads him to question how he really feels about her, and that is something I hope my readers do as well. It’s important to ask yourself if you love someone, or just lust after them. That’s a very different thing, even though the feelings may seem the same initially.

In the end, Across the Universe isn’t about love or sex–or, at least, it’s not *just* about love or sex. Love and sex are present because they are a part of the story and a part of the character’s lives. My biggest goal was simply to present them as honestly as I could, and I hope my readers agree!

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A big thank you to Beth! For our review of Across the Universe click here, or click here to enter our giveaway.

Across the Universe is available in stores and online now.

Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue – Hugh Howey
Book Reviews
February 20, 2010 posted by Katie

Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue – Hugh Howey

When Molly gets kicked out of the Naval Academy, she loses more than just another home, she loses the only two things that truly matter: flying in space and her training partner, Cloe. A dull future seems to await, until a marvellous discovery changes everything.

Her father’s old starship, missing for a decade, turns up halfway across the galaxy. Its retrieval launches Molly and Cole on the adventure of a lifetime, one that will have lasting consequences for themselves and billions of others.

What starts off as a simple quest to reconnect with her past, ends up forging a new future. And the forgotten family she hoped to uncover becomes one she never foresaw: a band of alien misfits and runaways – the crew of the starship Parsona.

Ever looked up into the sky at night and imagined yourself flying around the stars off on some other-worldly adventure? Well, this is Molly’s reality. Or will be. Molly is a navy cadet. And don’t be fooled into thinking the Navy is what we understand the Navy to be. Yes they drive ships, but not the standard H.M.A.S. vessels of today’s waters. Molly and her fellow classmates are learning to pilot starships. Sure they are still in training but running a full visual simulator is darn close to the real thing, right down to the G-force experienced.

But in a standard-procedure simulator test, something seems to go wrong. For Molly and her pilot Cole fail and fail miserably. And as much as they try to convince their superiors otherwise, no-one believes them. For Molly and Cole’s simulator was tampered with. Every procedure runs fine, except the ability to arm and fire weapons. Without weapons, they have almost a no-chance at survival. Cole suspects sabotage. With both of them for examination, it will be Molly that the blame is laid at. Particular since Cole was technically ‘killed’ early into the simulator run and it is so much easier to blame the girl.

For Molly, this means expulsion. No more training, and no more hope of becoming a Naval officer. Resigned to a life at a normal high school, everything suddenly seems less for Molly. If loss of her only home, her connection to her past and her best friend that she can’t stop thinking about wasn’t enough, Molly is an outcast in her new school, merely because she is different. That is, until she gets an opportunity of a lifetime. Her father’s ship has been found. And as the legal owner, Molly is the only one who can go and collect it.

And a seemingly straightforward mission is the start of a whole new adventure that even Molly couldn’t begin to fathom…

Molly Fyde and the Parson Rescue is debut novel from Hugh Howey and the first in the Molly Fyde series. The thing that grabbed me from the first page of this novel was the believability in writing and character. The plot just flowed effortlessly, from describing the complexities of hyperspace, simulation flying and other world social structure to the simple dialogue between two best friends struggling to find what they mean to each other. There aren’t many authors who can get you completely lost in a story, but Howey was one of them. For me, I just wanted to know what would happen next, what the next twist in the story would be. As a credit to the author, I never saw the ending that was coming. It makes you easily want to read the next book in the series as soon as you can.

The characters of Molly and Cole were another highlight to the novel. Reading from Molly’s point of view as she struggled through countless personal and emotional challenges left me caring about what happened to her. The history and connection between Molly and Cole as a pair was believable, and the tension that built up added to the story, instead of taking away from it as so many teen-romances can be known to do. That being said, Molly does have her fair share of moments where I just wanted to knock some sense into her and tell her to get over the small dramatics that really seemed unnecessary.

All in all though, a highly engaging read that I would recommend for anyone who is or was a fan of space adventure.

Pages: 258

Publication Date: 2009

Rating:: ★★★★☆

Teaser quote: By the time they arrived at the Palan system, he must’ve had eighteen hours of uninterrupted rest. No bathroom breaks. No food. No flirting. Molly couldn’t understand how he contained himself. Even from the last.

The Crowded Shadows: A Moorehawke Trilogy novel – Celine Kiernan
Book Reviews
February 12, 2010 posted by Katie

The Crowded Shadows: A Moorehawke Trilogy novel – Celine Kiernan

New friends. Old enemies. Who can you trust?

Alone for the first time in her life, Wynter Moorehawke travels unprotected in bandit-infested mountains, searching for missing Prince Alberon.

But every tyrant and bully who has ever threatened the kingdom is gathering to Alberon’s table, and the forest is alive with spies and wolves. Within these crowded shadows, Wynter remains determined to find the Rebel Prince and heal the rift that has come between King and Heir….

Abandoning her father in the time of his greatest need, Wynter is alone. Completely and utterly alone in an unknown forest, with unknown enemies all around her, Wynter is trying to find her way to Alberon, the rebellious son and heir to the throne. Needing to dodge all manner of bandits and rebel enemy groups, Wynter almost doesn’t make it. Threatened with rape by a bandit who has tracked her, Wynter uses all her skill to get away, only to be tracked by a different group of rebel outcasts. That is, until she is saved but the most random of luck.

For who should she run into but Razi and Christopher who are on the same mission she is?

For they have deceived the King into believing that they were on their way to separate parts of the country – Christopher to return home and Razi to study medicine. Yet neither of them are where they are meant to be, and Razi’s decoy was discovered beaten beyond recognition. With the whole kingdom believing that he is dead, Razi is free to move around freely for the first time in years.

Razi and Christopher would both like to see Wynter return to the castle – especially once they learn that her father has finally succumbed to his illness and has passed onto the next life. But Wynter won’t have a bar of it, and since she is the only one with the knowledge of the exact location of Alberon camp, Razi and Christopher have no choice but to let her accompany them.

As they once again begin the perilous trek to find Alberon, the growing attraction between Christopher and Wynter is clear to all that see them, even if they seem hesitant to admit it to themselves. And a trip wouldn’t be a true adventure without a few more complications. Camped in their way, and their best chance to find Alberon is the bear-tribe of the Merron people – Christopher’s adopted culture.

When one of noble lady’s take a fancy to Razi, it seems that everything is going to be easy than they expect. That is…if they survive the visit to the Merron people. When the customs and language of the People are so different to anything Razi and Wynter have experienced before, there is only so much that can happen before tempers start to fray and lives hang in the balance.

For every step that Razi, Christopher and Wynter take could be leading them closer to a path that doesn’t leave them alive…

The Crowded Shadows is the second novel in Irish author Celine Kiernan’s Moorehawke Trilogy, and delivers a continuation of the characters, story and settings that I fell in love with in the first novel. The characters once again develop at a completely believable rate that as a reader I could identify with – the trials that Christopher and Wynter go through together and separately and the reactions and behavior that Razi displays at different points of the novel enriched the story to a point that I couldn’t put it down.

As we discover more history behind Razi, Christopher and Wynter, the complexities that Kiernan wove into the first novel, built upon and I suspect continue to develop in the final novel, play out in the actions and personalities of each character – we find out why Razi has a temper, how Christopher lost his fingers and Wynter’s true name.

However, this novel does have a slight filler feel to it, with a lot of character development but not much plot advancement, at times hardly seeming to move. As the only drawback to this brilliant work, The Crowded Shadows was an enchanting read that has me wanting the final book in the series now.

Pages: 510

Publication date: Ireland 2009, Australia 2010

Rating:: ★★★★☆

Teaser quote: Snatching her to him suddenly, he held her against his chest, his scarred hand covering her eyes as though he wanted to hide her…

Letters to Leonardo – Dee White
Book Reviews
February 5, 2010 posted by Katie

Letters to Leonardo – Dee White

The truth changes everything.

Dear Leonardo,

Truth is important in art, don’t you think?

Truth is important full stop.

Matt

It’s Matt Hudson’s fifteenth birthday and all he wants is some art lessons. Instead, he gets a card from his dead mother. How can someone who died ten years ago send you a card?

Simple answer – they can’t.

This awful truth changes Matt’s life forever.

On the morning of your fifteenth birthday you think it would be a happy situation and a reason to celebrate. Not for Matt Hudson. For Matt, it’s the 10th reminder that his mother isn’t here to wish him a happy birthday, that it’s just him and his father, Dave, who will probably not even remember and will make up for it with pizza for dinner.

Or that’s how Matt thought it would go.

He wasn’t expecting a card. Especially a card from his mother that is supposed to be dead. Suddenly Matt’s world is turned upside down. Was it just his imagination? Someone’s idea of a practical joke? For Matt can find no record of her anywhere. Relatives refuse to talk about her, no records of any kind linked to the name and a search on Google doesn’t even bring up anything with her name. After all, Zara Templeton isn’t exactly a common name.

Except for a bible found in his Dad’s draw with her name on it, Zara has all but disappeared.

Yet as Matt digs deeper, there are records of Zara. Except she calls herself Zora now. There are mentions of her as an artist. Matt even sees one of her paintings and knows for sure that this has to be his mother. For where else would he have got his talent and interest in art except from his mother?

As Matt discovers more, the anger in him builds. Anger at being lied to for 10 years of his life. Anger at events that took his mother out of his life, but above all, anger at his father for pretending like nothing is wrong, that he hasn’t just created one big lie. For what could make a father lie to his son about his mother?

Dave had his reasons. For Zora would abandon Matt as a child – leave him in shopping centers and home alone for days on end. Zora suffers from bipolar. And she refuses to take medication on the basis that it limits her creative ability.

At first Matt doesn’t believe him. And as events get more and more out of control, risking everything and everyone he loves, Matt comes to realise that maybe his father was right. But will Matt understand before he loses the one person who has stuck by him through thick and thin?

Letters to Leonardo is the moving story of how one family comes to terms with the biggest changes in their life and how it affects both them and those around them. Dee White’s debut novel is oddly compelling and real. The voice of Matt is so strong and true that you feel the confusion and the indecision that Matt feels, and his struggle to understand and deal with the events that has unfolded in his life. White provides an inside into a topic that isn’t often spoken about in ways that can be identified with and understood.

Pages: 246

Publication date: 2009

Rating:: ★★★★☆

Teaser quote: You were little. It was for your own good. I had to protect you…

Brain Jack – Brian Falkner
Book Reviews
January 6, 2010 posted by Katie

Brain Jack – Brian Falkner

It would take a very special person to crack the computer systems of the White House.

An expert. A genius. A devil. All of the above, some would say.

Someone like Sam Wilson, brilliant teenage computer hacker. But Sam’s obsession is about to lead him into a dangerous world. A world of espionage and intrigue; of cybercrime and imminent war.

A world where logging on to your computer could mean the difference between life and death.

Sam Wilson is just your average teenager. At least he looks like your average teenager. What is different about Sam is his ability with computers. Sam can access nearly anything that is on the internet. He has written his own computer programs to allow this and just recently pulled off one of the biggest hacks the world has seen – with a few side effects. Sam hacked into Telecomerica, got himself and his friend a new computer and neuro-headset, but in the process, caused the majority of the United States of America to lose power. For a few days.

Of course, if you ask Sam, none of that was meant to happen but he needed to blow off his trackers somehow. And as Sam successfully gets his new computer without any obvious form of detection, Sam is ready for his next challenge – NetH@ack. The secret convention of the most skilled hackers on the net. With belief in his ability that he can’t be caught, Sam almost succeeds. That is, until the Cyber Defence Division of Homeland Security knocks on his door.

Transport to a containment facility, Sam is destined to be a prisoner for the rest of his life. Seemingly forgotten by all but his mother, it is the worst situation Sam could have ended up in. Constant security, no internet access and limited computer time on a computer so ancient and riddled in security protection, that it seems impossible to get through. Apparently. But if you know what Sam does, then it seems like biding your time is all that you have to do.

Making one of the most daring escape attempts in the history of Recton Hall, against all odds, Sam succeeds only to be picked up, again, by the Cyber Defence Division which seems like it was waiting for this exact move, somehow knowing that Sam would try to escape. Once Sam reaches CDD headquarters, everything that he thought he knew, gets turned completely on its head. Sam is given a lifetime opportunity – if he can survive the probation.

And when the next war begins, it starts in cyberspace, and Sam is part of the front line of defence, and it’s up to Sam to stop the internet taking over the world.

Brian Jack by Brian Falkner is a fast moving action thriller that kept me turning page after page, wondering what is going to happen next. When I started reading, and I found that Brian Jack was based in cyberspace, I was worried that it would become too technical, that I wouldn’t understand the language being used, but quite like his previous novel Falkner provides a way that you don’t need to be a tech-savvy person to understand and enjoy the novel. The feeling of being in over your head only enhances the understanding of the stakes the characters would be going through. The development of Sam from a teenager who believes he can do anything into a person who understands the implications of what one single action will have on the world is believable and engaging from start to finish.

A good read with a fast plot and an action thriller for all ages.

Pages: 438

Publication Date: 2009

Rating:: ★★★★☆

Feed – M. T. Anderson
Book Reviews
December 16, 2009 posted by Katie

Feed – M. T. Anderson

“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”

So says Titus, a teenager whose ability to read, write, and even think for himself has been almost completely obliterated by his “feed,” a transmitter implanted directly into his brain. Feeds are a crucial part of life for Titus and his friends. After all, how else would they know where to party on the moon, how to get bargains at Weatherbee & Crotch, or how to accessorize the mysterious lesions everyone’s been getting? But then Titus meets Violet, a girl who cares about what’s happening to the world and challenges everything Titus and his friends hold dear. A girl who decides to fight the feed.

When I first saw Feed mentioned in Maggie Stiefvater’s ‘Top Twelve Books of 2009’, I knew that I had to read this novel. (For those who don’t know, Maggie is the author of Shiver) What gripped me from the first page of this novel is the sense of grim reality. This isn’t a novel where everything is carefully scripted, it’s honest and raw. Dialogue and thought coming from a place that strikes me as real. Through every thought of Titus I got a sense of being completely in over my head, struggling to find meaning of events taking place. Which, I believe, is exactly the response author M. T. Anderson was looking for.

Feed opens with a group of friends on spring break who have decided to take off to the moon to find entertainment. But the moon isn’t exactly what they expected. They run into Violet, who for all appearances is as average and normal as the rest of them. Except for the fact she was home-schooled and needs to live a little. Yet everything doesn’t run smoothly on the moon. For Titus and his friends become the subjects of a hacker, resulting in their feeds being disconnected, leaving them shut off from the world. Imagine having the internet permanently accessible to you, then suddenly it’s gone. Yet this internet is the basis of everything. Communication, human contact. The world.

All too soon – or not soon enough depending on your point of view – the technicians of FeedTech have fixed the problem and Titus, Violet and their friends can continue on with their normal life as American consumers. However one member of this group doesn’t have it as easy as the rest. Even before the hack, Violet was about defying the feed. About not conforming to society. Testing the boundaries to see how far she can push. And her limit may have just arrived, for her feed hasn’t recovered the same as everyone else’s. Slowly, Violet is losing control of her most basic functions and without the money to fund repairs, Violet and Titus know that she only has a short amount of time to live.

With not enough time to do anything, Violet tries to do everything. Yet underneath it all there is still her belief in fighting the system. Her belief that there is something more out there than the average American. But can she communicate this to Titus in a way he can understand before it’s too late?

I’ve always measure novels in terms of how well I can get lost in the story. Feed is one that had me completely lost in the story. Anderson wove a story that was so compelling and so real. This isn’t a fantasy or alternate universe with different rules. It’s a grim look at a future possible reality. The ‘feeds’ which is the subject matter of a large portion of the novel is a highly advanced internet interface which is installed in your brain – it takes over everything from breathing and moving and completely removes the necessity of reading. It categories and records everything you do, building a profile of you used by American corporations. It is a place that we could very well be heading. A scary and controlling place. And through this, we have Violet who is fighting for a better world, a world where youth don’t live in ignorance of what is happening outside of their suburb, where youth remember the history of the past and what the world used to be like. It is Violet who made this novel all the more real, as she tries to break from society.

This is just one of those novels that needs to be read. At the core, one girls emotional and physical struggle to change the world, seen through the eyes of one that struggles and fails to break free of the constraints of society.

A warning to younger readers, frequent coarse language does occur.

Pages: 300

Publication date: 2004

Rating:: ★★★★★

Brisingr: An Inheritance Cycle novel – Christopher Paolini
Book Reviews
December 14, 2009 posted by Katie

Brisingr: An Inheritance Cycle novel – Christopher Paolini

Oaths sworn…loyalties tested…forces collide.

It’s been only months since Eragon first uttered “brisingr”, an ancient-language term for fire. Since then, he’s not only learned to create magic with words – he’s been challenged to his very core. Following the colossal battle against the Empire’s warriors on the Burning Plains, Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have narrowly escaped with their lives. Still, there is more adventure at hand for the Rider and his dragon, as Eragon finds himself bound by a tangle of promises he may not be able to keep.

When unrest claims the rebels and danger strikes from every corner, Eragon must make choices – choices that will take him across the Empire and beyond, choices that may lead to unimagined sacrifice.

Eragon is the greatest hope to rid the land of tyranny. Can this once simple farm boy unite the rebel forces and defeat the king?

Murtagh is defeated – for now. But not after revealing the information the rocks Eragon to his core and changes everything he knew and thought was right in his life. Struggling with the true identify of his mother and rejecting that of his father, Eragon is trying to find where he truly belongs. After having his entire being affected by the Ageti Blodhren ceremony of the elves, Eragon is starting to feel the binds of the oaths that he has made – oaths to each race and the individual people of Alagaesia.

First, is the oath to his cousin Roran. Roran’s betrothed is being held hostage by the Ra’zac – servants of Galbatorix, they spread fear in their opponents making them a deadly enemy in battle. And for this battle, it is impossible for Eragon and Saphira to be together. For it is in the caves of the Ra’za, caves too small for Saphira to fit through. Eragon and Roran are on their own. And when further complications arise, Eragon is making the first of his decisions that will affect the entire Empire.

Then there is the oath to Elva, the blessed-yet-cursed child that Eragon has promised to help. Yet when it comes to the ancient language, nothing is a simple as it seems. The more Eragon learns, the more he beings to realise how hard it is to remove the cures he placed on Elva. One wrong pronunciation and it could become a lot worse.

Then there is the problem of his un-finished education and the promise to return to Ellesmera to complete this. Yet can Eragon really afford the time to travel across the Empire when the Varden need him now more than ever?

For it is Ellesmera that holds the key to the next stage of the battle against Galbatorix. For Ellesmera holds the only elf with the knowledge on how to forge a Rider’s sword. A sword Eragon is in need of after Za’roc was taken from him by Murtagh on the plains. For only a Rider’s sword can face another of its kind and only a Rider’s sword can withstand the pressure of magic. Yet this seemingly simple process is complicated further by more oaths and promises, some that Eragon himself doesn’t yet know the cost of.

As Eragon, Saphira, Arya and the Varden hurdle closer to the battle that will decide the fate of the world, each side begins to face the costs of what has be promised.

In Brisingr, I feel Paolini has outdone himself. This is by far the best of the series. The characters all come leaps and bounds, with the multiple viewpoints woven simultaneously into a smooth plot that gives you an understanding of each and every race that make up Alagaesia. One of the biggest things I noticed in Brisingr was the development of the characters and the relationship between these characters. You could see just how much each character was standing for and just how much they would lose if they failed.

Personally, I’m a sucker for romance in any for, and the continuing developments between Eragon and Arya had me happy in this novel. There still isn’t a relationship between these two, yet the strength and development of the friendship that Paolini developed between Eragon and Arya was so believable and strong, that it had me smiling at many stages in this novel. Not to mention the ending that had me tear up at one stage, due to the pure and raw emotion in the scene.

Once again, I would recommend Brisingr to any lover of epic adventure fantasy novels, and with one instalment left to go, I will be looking forward to the release date for the last novel in the Inheritance Cycle as much as the next reader.

Pages: 763

Publication Date: 2008

Rating:: ★★★★½