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

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

Because You’ll Never Meet Me

Thomas, L. (2015). Because You’ll Never Meet Me. New York: Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Because You’ll Never Meet Me
evolves through a series of letters between two teenage boys, Ollie and Moritz.20649195 Each letter progresses the story and illuminates their quirky, brilliant personalities.

It reminded me a bit of Everything Everything because both stories revolve around embellished medical conditions. Ollie is allergic to electricity; any small amount will cause seizures so he and his mom live a remote life in the woods. Mortiz has a pacemaker and was born without eyes yet has the skill of echolocation, being able to locate objects by reflected sound waves (as bats and dolphins do). Apart from the fact that Moritz lives in Germany and Ollie in the US, their health keeps them apart from one another.

Unpredictable from start to finish, this breathtaking story beautifully portrays friendship and humour.

The Red Abbey Chronicles: Maresi

Turtschanioff, M. (2017). The Red Abbey Chronicles: Maresi. London: Pushkin Press.

This smart fantasy brings us to an island, a safe haven from harm, where women live together.  The book opens with seventeen year old Maresi writing about the events that 28818217happened while she was thirteen. Back then, she was carrying out a content existence as a novice at the Abbey working under Mother. Beginning with a lot of description, the first book in The Red Abbey Chronicles does a good job of world-building, notably incorporating vivid descriptions of seasonal foods. I love books with maps in the front, and this one is especially helpful to gain a sense of their world: the silo-shaped Moon House, the centralized Temple of the Rose, the stone Novice House, etc.

However, the pace of the book picks up and
we are swept into a suspenseful whirlwind after Jai arrives torn and tattered, fleeing from danger. Maresi and Continue reading

The Lie Tree

Hardinge , F. (2015). The Lie Tree. New York: Amulet Books.

Costa Book Award for Children’s Book (2015)
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction (2016)
Andre Norton Award Nominee Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy (2016)
Carnegie Medal Nominee (2016)
Costa Book of the Year (2015)
YA Book Prize Nominee (2016)

Faith Sunderly’s family flees Kent, England for a small and unknown island in order to avoid social gossip surrounding her father’s work, thus providing a dreary backdrop. Historical fiction from the Victorian 26118377Era, The Lie Tree takes the adventure story and flips it on its head with a feminist twist. Gender stereotypes are annoyingly prevalent, yet Faith is a strong, intelligent character (“When every door is closed, one learns to climb through windows.”), reminding me much of the young, budding scientist, Calpurnia in The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jaqueline Kelly. Except The Lie Tree is a fantastical fairy tale. Let me explain.

Faith’s father is a natural scientist and is found murdered on the island shortly after the family moves. Investigations lead Faith to discover Continue reading