Category Archives: YASLA 2012 challenge

Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

Four friends take a bottle to the river to secretly share. While enjoying this respite from school, a dare ends in the death of a friend and a subsequent cover-up of the events to save the survivors from expulsion. When Miss Dovecott, an English teacher who sees Alex as a fledgling writer, starts asking questions about the accident, Alex confesses his confusion and guilt in a journal he hides in the library as he tries to deal with his accountability and feelings of guilt. As he reviews the events leading to the tragedy Alex starts to question if the death was really an accident.

Jenny Hubbard has taken a tragedy and, by using the convention of a journal, has created a tightly coiled, emotionally charged tale that looks at the greys that can exist between truth, fear and self-preservation. The result is painful, beautiful, and in the true sense of the word, terrible. The use of poetry and references to other literacy works adds an additional depth to her tale.

This one is worth reading, gentlemen.

Brain Jack by Brian Falkner

So, can we be brain jacked?

Brain Jack is an excellent addition to the very strong list of technology-driven books written for teens lately. The plot is focused, the characters are well-developed, and the setting is tomorrow. Falkner has taken the real concepts of gaming addiction, brain-computer interfaces, and computer security and weaved them a great tale.

Sam is a techno-nerd whose idea of fun is hacking into impenetrable computer systems. When his latest hack lands him in Reckton Hall Juvenile Detention Center, he doesn’t realize that he has just become part of a bigger game. If he can hack his way out of Reckton, the rules of the game will change and he will be one of the players.

Red Glove by Holly Black

 My main complaint with Red Glove is the cover. It is always hard to convince young men to read books when the cover appeals more to the ladies. Gentlemen, this book is about a guy – Cassel Sharpe – and a family of curse workers. Don’t let the cover fool you – it is worth picking up.

If you like realistic fantasy that has humour, action, and interesting twists, this series is one you should try, but read the first one, White Cat, before picking this one up. The characters are quirky, the plot is quick and entertaining.

Don’t want to say more than that in case you haven’t read the first one.

Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

 Well, it isn’t often that I am so completely split about a book. I must say Leverage was well written with characters that are well-formed and realistic. The story is a compelling look at steroids, bullying, and football – all that should make it a perfect fit for my school.

BUT

I just think Cohen went too far and that is a pity because it won’t get the word of mouth press it should. By taking the plot over the edge he has limited his audience. I understand the violence, although I think it may be excessive. I am more adverse to the way that the major characters deal with it. So, I won’t be suggesting this to my teens. I don’t think it should be recommended without a cautionary note.

Chime

 I downloaded Chime from my public library a few weeks ago. Now, I have to say that I am not usually an audiobook user because I get impatient with how long it takes to get through a book I have to listen to. I also get frustrated with the limited number of options some books provide in devices that can be used to listen. In this case, I had to download it to my computer, which is difficult to carry on a run. Enough of that rant.

I loved the flow of narrative in this interpretation of the book. The narrator, Susan Duerden, is perfect and the story is compelling. Briony’s first person narrative allows the reader to feel her confusion and pain while building suspense. A great addition to a great list. Strong characterization and a setting that becomes an integral part of the story, it’s well worth reading. Will not be a hit with my teen guys, unfortunately.

A Monster Calls

  I purchased this book for our library shortly after it was published on the strength of the Chaos Wallking trilogy. I didn’t have a chance to read it, however, as life got very complicated with my father and father-in-law struggling with some health issues. They died recently within a month of each other.

I finally read it last night. Perhaps it would be better to say I sobbed through it last night. All I can say is that reading A Monster Calls was an exquisitely painful and, ultimately, cathartic experience. I will be adding to my own collection of must reads.

I hope it gets all the attention it richly deserves.

A Monster Calls book trailer

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

 by Laini Taylor

What an interesting and compelling fantasy. Angels and demons are definitely on the rise in young adult literature these days but this author has taken the time to develop a compelling back story that becomes the plot for this tale and the ones to come.

The story of Karou’s search for who she is takes the reader into the fantastical world of chimaera, wishes, and what ifs left me wishing I didn’t have to wait so long for the sequel. This is one I will twist a few young men’s arms to read.

Scorpio Races

 I loved the way Stiefvater took the legend of the water horse and breathed new life into it. A student was complaining today that authors “cop out” when they simply retell a myth or legend. He wouldn’t be able to complain about this tale. Stiefvater has built on the past but brought her tale firmly into the present with a strong female protagonist trying to save her family and a young man trying to save himself.

The speed of the story and characters may appeal to the guys. It may, however, be difficult to get them to give it a try.