YA Sci-Fi – Burning Midnight; On the Edge…; We Are the Ants

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McIntosh, Will. Burning Midnight. New York: Delacorte Press, 2016. 978-0553534108. $17.99. 320 pp. Gr. 7 and up.

People all over the world are captivated by mysterious spheres that have suddenly appeared  on Earth. The colorful orbs are rated by their rarity and effects.  Those that are very rare with the most valuable effects are worth thousands, if not millions of dollars. If a person has two of the same kind, the spheres can be “burned”,  which will allow the owner to acquire the spheres’  special properties. In the years since they first appeared, people have been on a mad dash to find or purchase and burn the spheres in order  to enhance their personal abilities. Now the possibility of finding new ones is diminishing.  Sully, who  struggles to help his single mom pay the bills, and Hunter, an orphan trying to make it on her own, team up to search for any valuable spheres still at large. Before long they discover the rarest one yet. Next thing they know, billionaire businessman Alex Holliday and his ruthless team of professional collectors are on their trail and will stop at nothing to get their treasure. The story brings in some interesting themes: the division between rich and poor; the possibility that a rare find could completely change a person’s life, and the unknown long-term effects of the miracle spheres.  THOUGHTS:  Overall, Burning Midnight is a page turner, a sci-fi adventure that would have special appeal for gamers, reluctant readers, and Pokémon Go aficionados.

Science Fiction    Nancy Summers, Abington Senior HS

 

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Duyvis, Corinne. On the Edge of Gone. New York: Amulet Books, 2016. 978-1-41971-903-3. $17.95. 456pp. Gr. 9 and up.

In 2043, a comet is hurtling towards Earth, and it’s impact is expected to be devastating. Hours before it hits, sixteen year old Denise is anxiously trying to get her drug-addled mother out of their apartment and into an underground shelter. Although her family has been assigned a shelter on the outskirts of their hometown, Amsterdam, Denise’s’ sister Iris is missing. A random encounter outside their apartment leads Denise and her mother to a generation ship; one of a few left on Earth, grounded due to mechanical issues. The ship will leave in search of new planets to settle on after the comet hits. While Denise worries her mother will not stay clean or follow the rules to keep them on board while the comet hits; she is also determined to become useful enough to convince the crew to allow her and her mother a lifetime spot on the ship. While the crew works to repair the ship, Denise works on and off board to prove her worth, all while searching for her missing sister. Since Denise is autistic, she must break out of her comfort zone in order for her family to survive. THOUGHTS: A good story with a lot going on, readers may be overwhelmed at first by the many overlapping themes, but those who stick with it will find a satisfyingly heartfelt story in the so often bleak and depressing universe of dystopian/sci-fi.

Science Fiction          Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

 

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Hutchinson, Shaun David. We Are the Ants. New York: Simon Pulse, 2016. 978-1481-449632. 451 pp. $17.99 Gr. 9 and up.

Henry is a lonely teen struggling to deal with the recent suicide of his boyfriend. Henry is bullied at school and bullied at home by his older brother, a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend.  His mom is a harried single mom and his grandmother is slowly fading away from Alzheimer’s.  He’s fallen out with his best friend and his secret school boyfriend is toxic. He has a lot on his plate, without counting the periodic alien abductions he has endured since he was thirteen. The aliens have now given him the choice to save the world with the push a button, and Henry is trying to figure out if it is worth it. When a new student with a troubled past joins his class, Henry finds a supportive friend and potential romance which helps him to see his life in a more positive light. We Are the Ants is a strong portrayal of a character going through the grief process and working his way through his difficult family and school situations. Virtually all of the characters are well drawn and genuine; each flawed, and there are a couple who not that likeable. But, even the negative characters, Henry’s brother and Marcus, the sometime bully, sometime friend and romantic partner are shown to have more depth than many story villains.  Henry’s wry, introspective and frequently hilarious voice are central to this tale. The alien abductions and Henry’s ruminations provide some much needed levity to the serious subject matter.  THOUGHTS: A strange story that blends together the sci-fi fantasy with a very raw and real coming of age tale. Rough language, explicit scenes and mature themes make this a choice for older teen readers.

Science Fiction   Nancy Summers, Abington Senior HS

New YA Fantasy and Sci-Fi…Silver in the Blood; Armada

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George, Jessica Day. Silver in the Blood. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. 978-1-61963-431-2. 358 p. $17.99. Gr. 7-12.

Dacia and Lou are cousins, best friends, and debutantes in New York around the turn of the century. They know little about their Romanian ancestors, the Florescus, just that their mothers left Romania in their late teens and never returned. As they turn 17, Dacia and Lou travel to Romania to meet their mysterious grandmother, Lady Iona, as well as the rest of the Florescus clan. The family matriarch is demanding and harsh but lets the girls in on a family secret; they are descended from a long line of shape shifters who can turn into the Claw (wolf), the Wing (bat), and the Smoke (mist). Lady Iona demands that the girls use their powers to aid Prince Mihai, a descendent of the Dracula clan, to overthrow the current throne. While Lou is empowered and embraces her gift, Dacia struggles to find comfort with her new powers. Unnerved by their grandmother’s demands, the girls find Prince Mihai to be cunning, manipulative, and deadly. Teaming up with two gentleman with secrets of their own, Lou and Dacia find courage in themselves and within one another to go against their family. THOUGHTS: This historical fantasy set in 1897 is a worthy addition to any teen section looking for strong, empowered female characters.  

Fantasy (Paranormal)        Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

 

 

armada

Cline, Ernest. Armada. New York: Crown Publishers, 2015. 978-0-8041-3725-6. 349p. $26.00. Gr 9-12.

Self described “full-time geek” Ernest Cline takes on aliens in his sophomore title. Zack Lightman’s life revolves around sci-fi videogames, books, and movies. His late father left him a journal listing all of his favorites, and Zack explores them all to feel connected to his dad. Zack day-dreams of his favorite video game, Armada, so when he sees the same spaceship from the game outside of his school, he knows it must be his imagination… right? Wrong. Soon Zack is swept up into an impending war with an alien species, and must use his video game skills to fight the enemy. The truth about his father’s past, the world’s long standing fight with aliens, and why we really play video games are all revealed through the course of the story. Pop-culture references seem a bit forced at times, but younger science fiction fans won’t be fazed. THOUGHTS: Critics and readers will inevitably compare this to Cline’s immensely successful debut, Ready Player One, but it’s best to read Armada as it’s own title to fully enjoy the story.

Science Fiction Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Where the Rock Splits the Sky

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Webb, Philip. Where the Rock Splits the Sky. New York: Chicken House, 2014. Print. 978-0545557016. 272 p. $17.99. Gr. 9+.

Philip Webb has created a vibrant post-apocalyptic world and crafted a story that will keep readers engaged until the very end. The novel begins 20 years after the Earth has been invaded by The Visitors, an alien race that split the moon and uses humans as hosts.  Much of the western half of the United States is now part of the Zone, a shadowy world that constantly shifts and changes. Life has reverted back to the time of the Wild West, with horses being the main mode of transportation. The protagonist, Megan, lives in a border town near the Zone.  Her father has disappeared, and Megan is suddenly the target of the Jethro Gang, a group that terrorizes the Zone.  After receiving a map supposedly created by her missing father, she sets off on a quest into The Zone with her friend Luis to find her father and hopefully solve the mystery of his disappearance and the mysteries of the zone. Along the way they pick up Kelly, an Abductee, or one who was taken by the Aliens when they arrived and recently released. Kelly remembers nothing of her abduction, and must quickly adapt to the new world. The trio encounters floating cities, rivers of sand, and numerous foes along the route. The plot is fast-paced and will keep even the most reluctant reader interested. Each chapter ends with a cliffhanger, leaving the reader wanting more.  While the main focus is the adventure through the zone, there is a small sub-plot about Megan’s budding relationship with Luis that could have been fleshed out a bit more. Nevertheless, this is a great title to give to readers who enjoy action, adventure, and alien invasions.

Dystopian    Lindsey Myers, Peters Township High School

I was not expecting to enjoy this book or for it to keep me engaged as much as it did, but I was pleasantly surprised. The premise is a bit odd, and reminded me of the Daniel Craig film Cowboys and Aliens (which, while campy, was a lot of fun). With regards to dystopian fiction, it is not nearly as nuanced as The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker or as addicting as The Hunger Games series. But, it will keep reluctant readers engaged, which is always appreciated by librarians who are constantly barraged with “I don’t read” by students looking for a book for an independent reading project.  I look forward to being able to share this title with readers during my summer reading book talks.