Illuminae

Kaufman A. & Kristoff J. (2015). Illuminae. New York: Ember.

Illuminae is a stunning book about an illegal mining colony that gets attacked by a rival mining corporation. The plot is told in an unusual fashion, as the book does not contain 23395680.jpgthe normal word after word story. Instead it is mostly comprised of several chat rooms, emails, maps, interviews, transcripts, etc.  This style of telling the story makes a real impact and you feel like you’re right there experiencing these events with the characters. The story follows two main characters, Kady, onboard a science vessel called The Hypatia and Ezra, onboard an attack vessel called The Alexander. They’re just two of the thousands of refugees that escaped the attack. Now they’re part of a heavily damaged fleet that’s slowly limping towards safety, a wormhole station called Heimdall, with an attack vessel, The Lincoln, slowly closing in to mop up the mess. If they don’t think of something to get to the wormhole in time, The Lincoln will destroy the fleet, killing everyone. It feels like it couldn’t get any worse, except it could. From a faulty and somewhat lethal  Continue reading

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Pax

Pennypacker S. (2016). Pax. New York: Balzer + Bray.

A beautifully crafted tale with incredible illustrations by Jon Klassen, Pax is a wonderful story that pulls you in and keeps you reading until the last page. Pax was an orphaned fox 22098550.jpgcub when his ‘boy,’ Peter, found him by the side of a road. Since then, they’ve been inseparable. Wherever Peter has gone Pax has gone; it feels like they’ve been together forever. Pax was there for Peter when his mom died, and Peter has always been there for Pax.  Everything was perfect. Until one day. With the war coming, Peter’s father has signed up for the army. To Pax’s surprise, on the way to Peter’s grandfathers house they stop by the side of a large forest and get out of the car. Peter is crying and Pax can’t figure out what’s wrong. Then Pax is left behind on purpose in the wild and Peter is delivered to live at his grandfather’s house so his father can go to the war. But immediately, Peter is wracked with guilt over allowing his father to convince him to leave a tame fox in the woods, and he embarks on a long, challenging journey through the wild. This sparks two heart wrenching tales, one of a tame fox’s adventures in the wild and the other a story of a boy trying to find his fox.

We Are Okay

LaCour N. (2017). We Are Okay. New York: Dutton Books for Young Readers.

We Are Okay‘s entrancing cover with a girl standing on her bed looking out into the ocean is perfect for this psychological mystery told through flashbacks. Marin is at 28243032university in upper state New York, having fled from California and the very people who love and want to support her following her Gramps’ death. Truly an orphan now, it’s turns out to be the secrets Marin encountered, slowly revealed to us, that made her abruptly leave home and cut off all ties.

When the story begins Marin is staying on an isolated college campus over winter break. Her roommate, Hannah, just left for Christmas, and now she is expecting a visit from her best friend, Mabel. As you may imagine, the December New York setting is stark, cold, and isolated, ready to match Marin’s depression. We aren’t privy to the background of Marin and Mabel’s relationship, yet like the rest of the story it Continue reading

It’s a Wonderful Death

Schmitt S. (2015). It’s a Wonderful Death. New York: Sky Pony Press.

RJ (Rowena Joy) Jones is a typical teen princess who always gets what she wants and who cares more about being popular than making real friends. To put it plainly, RJ is a mean girl. The only thing20697586
different about her is, well, she just died. And she wasn’t supposed to. The last living memory she has is a crazed fortune teller using her as a human shield to evade the grasp of the Grim Reaper. Of course the Grim Reaper grabs RJ’s soul instead. Insta-death. Always a fighter, RJ insists for her life to be returned. Unfortunately, it’s never been done before, and the Grim Reaper doesn’t exactly have the raw power to do it. To have it done requires a very tricky process, including rewinding time back a decade or so. And if that wan’t bad enough, only a Tribunal of some very old angels has the power to do this, and they are not going to be happy about it. To convince the Tribunal that her soul is worthy of all this effort, RJ has to Continue reading

The Scourge

Nielsen, J. (2016). The Scourge. New York: Scholastic.

In a country named Keldan, a plague wipes out over one-third of the population, effectively shattering the economy and creating a divide between townsfolk and the 28669595river people, where the plague is believed to have originated. Nearly three centuries later, the Scourge strikes again, only this time, deadlier. To prevent a catastrophic collapse, Governor Felling randomly pulls people out of their lives for testing to weed out the sick and prevent further contamination. If the test results end up positive, the victim gets shipped off to a quarantined Colony on an isolated island. Ani Mells, our heroine and main protagonist, is separated from her family when she gets plucked from her life among the river people and carted away for testing along with her best friend Weevil. Ani is certain of the fact that she isn’t sick and is desperate to get back home to her family. But when her test ends up showing positive for the plague she is swept up into a twisting plot Continue reading

The Wild Robot

Brown, P. (2016). The Wild Robot. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Peter Brown’s art has come to middle grade fiction, and combined with his equally bare bones writing style, he has created a meditation on nature versus technology, a 26030734philosopher’s handbook, if you want to go that far.

After falling off a cargo ship and bobbing along in the ocean, Roz reaches the shores of an island where otters manage to open up her shipping box and activate her. Roz opens her eyes, looks around this place – the only place she’s ever known – and even though she is indeed a robot, she considers it home. However, survival quickly becomes her primary focus, when a storm sweeps her down in a mudslide, angry bears chase her, and a mama bird makes sure Roz lands with a clank out of a tall and sticky pine tree. Intriguingly, Roz begins to observe the island’s animals and learn their ways and their language. The line between real and robot is tenuous and appealing in Continue reading

The Hate U Give

Thomas, A. (2017). The Hate U Give. New York: HarperCollins Publisher.

Inspired by the movement #BlackLivesMatter, The Hate U Give is an incredibly relevant and heartbreaking account of a sixteen year old girl who witnesses the killing of her 32075671childhood best friend at the hands of the police. Everyday Starr leaves her own neighbourhood where her family owns the corner store, to attend private school in an affluent neighbourhood. Up until this point, Starr had done fairly good job of keeping her two worlds separate –dating someone at school who is white, while still being very much a part of her own community, until now. Even though Khalid was unarmed and innocent at the time of his murder, the press makes him out to be a thug.

The Hate U Give (or THUG) will inevitably spark discussion on race. It reminded me a lot of All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely because both books deal with witnessing a police killing of an innocent young black man and grappling with the decision to come forward as a witness, or not speaking up out of fear. Continue reading