New Fantasy, Dystopian, and Sci-Fi…The Awesome; Prairie Fire; We All Looked Up; 5 to 1


Darrows, Eva. The Awesome. Oxford, UK: Ravenstone, 2015. 978-1-78108-324-6. 246 p. $9.99. Gr. 9-12.

Seventeen-year-old Maggie Cunningham is not your typical teenager, but that’s to be expected considering she is an apprentice monster hunter. Maggie wants one thing: to become federally registered so she can track and hunt vampires, but in order to do so, she has to lose her virginity. She has to lose the “Big V” to kill the “Big V”. Her mother, Janice, tells her it is in order to protect her since most vampires, especially newbies, go wild for virgin blood. However, losing her virginity is easier said than done. Maggie is home schooled, lacks fashion sense, and well, she hunts monsters. It doesn’t help that her mother swears like a sailor and tends to embarrass Maggie. For Maggie, getting The Sex seems almost impossible. She even fails in a hysterical attempt to have sex with a drunk guy at a party which leaves her vulnerable to a virgin blood crazed newbie vampire who tries to kill her, but is unsuccessful because her mother just happens to be a total badass. The killing of the young vampire leads Maggie and her mother to a vampire prince, which is definitely going to make getting deflowered more complicated. THOUGHTS: Filled with inappropriate language, a little bit of sex, violence, and an incredibly likeable heroine, The Awesome is a terrific supernatural comedy that is just plain fun. The Awesome is awesome. Be warned though, it’s definitely only appropriate for upper grades.

Fantasy, Paranormal   Graig Henshaw, Littlestown HS/ Maple Avenue MS



Johnston, E.K. Prairie Fire. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Lab, 2015. 978-1-46773-909-2. 298 p. $18.99. Gr. 7-12

Prairie Fire is the sequel to The Story of Owen and continues the story of Siobhan McQuaid, bard and genius, Owen, and their friends. Prairie Fire is a story of friendship, music, alternative history (Canadian and U.S.), fantasy, fable, ecology, and epic heroism. Every dragon slayer must serve time with the Oil Watch which is basically the military for dragon slayers. Owen, Siobhan, and Sadie join the Oil Watch together. While Siobhan overcomes some setbacks, Owen continues to develop into a dragon slayer capable of any task. Due to their growing popularity, Siobhan and Owen are deployed to one of the coldest, dreariest, and most desolate places, Fort Calgary. It is here that Siobhan, Owen, Sadie, and their friends must band together to face off against one of the rarest and most terrifying dragon species, the Chinook. THOUGHTS: Siobhan McQuaid is responsible for “Uptown Funk” because Owen Thorskard is “too hot, hot damn, make a dragon wanna retire man” and is the hero Bonnie Tyler has been holding out for all these years. Prairie Fire is a story that defines friendship and reminds us why we allow Canada to remain a country. It is superbly written, heart wrenching, and heroic.

Fantasy  Graig Henshaw, Littlestown HS/ Maple Avenue MS



Wallach, Tommy. We All Looked Up. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2015. 978-1-48141-877-5. 370 p. $16.99.  Gr. 9-12.

If we learned anything from The Breakfast Club and about a dozen other eighties movies, it is that high school is supposedly all about labels and cliques. The impending possibility of the end of the world provides an athlete, a slut, a slacker, and an overachiever with the opportunity to make changes. Peter, the athlete, must decide whether it is better to fail at something worthwhile or succeed at something meaningless, and whether or not he should pursue true love even if it isn’t the popular thing to do. Eliza, the artsy and misunderstood slut, must deal with her father’s cancer, chronicling the end of the world (leading to unexpected fame), and her feelings for Peter. Anita, the overachiever, needs to decide if she should follow her parents’ strict rules as always, or if she should pursue her dream of becoming a musician. Lastly, Andy, the slacker, must choose between his new safe friends or his old seedy, dangerous friends. They only have two months until the end of the world. During the next two months, the world becomes far more dangerous as people often give in to their malicious intents. THOUGHTS: Although well-written, Tommy Wallach is pessimistic in his view of mankind since most of humanity turns into complete jerks with drug addicts and criminals ruling the day. Maybe I am naïve, but I like to think that if mankind were to find out that the world were about to end, we would band together rather than give into criminal instincts. In We All Looked Up, society falls apart based on whether an asteroid will hit and wipe out two-thirds of the population. The characters, with the exception of Eliza and Peter, are unlikeable. We All Looked Up had me desperately looking for another book to read and longing to watch The Breakfast Club.

Science Fiction  Graig Henshaw, Littlestown HS/ Maple Avenue MS




Bodger, Holly. 5 to 1. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. 978-0-385-39153-5. 244 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Set in a futuristic Indian society run by women, this Dystopian fantasy focuses on a contest where the women get to select their husbands from a group of able suitors. The title refers to the ratio of boys to girls after years of gender selection. Sudasa is the lucky young lady who gets to choose her husband, but she doesn’t even know if she wants to get married yet. Kiran is the young man who’s family wants him to lose in order to escape India altogether. Her grandmother has thrown her cousin into the mix of suitors, so that Sudasa can save him from what her grandmother sees as certain death. Her cousin knows all the right answers; yet Sudasa is drawn to Kiran. Her father offers Sudasa support and a way out if she needs it. What will she choose? Will she pick the cousin and keep the family intact? Will she choose Kiran though she knows he is throwing all of the challenges in order to be discarded? This story told in alternating voices identified by verse and prose proves to be very different from the norm. THOUGHTS: This is a thought-provoking read because of some real world circumstances (India and China). The premise for the society doesn’t seem that far-fetched. A great addition for HS collections as it offers something very fresh and new.

Dystopian    Kathryn Gilbride, North Pocono Middle School

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Series – Fairest and An Ember in the Ashes


Meyer, Marissa. Fairest. New York: Rampion Books, 2015. 978-1-250-06055-6. 220 p. $17.99. Gr. 6-12.

What makes someone a monster? Queen Levana’s dark, twisted and somber history is finally revealed in the companion book to the wildly popular Cinder series, and she is much more than a typical villain. Years before Cinder is even born, Levana is in an accident that leaves her permanently disfigured. Gifted in “glamour”, Levana changes her physical appearance and finds herself second in line to the Lunar throne after her parents are murdered. Horribly self-conscious and in love with palace guard Evret, Levana glamours him too, and he and his daughter Winter move into the palace. Soon, her older sister, Princess Channary, becomes Queen and produces an heir, Selene, while Levana’s relationship with Evret becomes increasingly strained. After the unexpected death or Channary, Levana finds herself Queen Regent, and after sitting on the throne, realizes she craves the crown, and devises a dark way to become Queen. Readers will finally discover the grim, selfish actions that created the jealous, vain, and cruel Queen Levana, as well as some background into the childhood of Selene and Winter. As a bonus, readers will be delighted to find the first 3 chapters of Winter at the end of the book.

Fantasy, Science Fiction            Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School


Tahir, Sabaa. An Ember in the Ashes. New York: Razorbill, 2015. 978-2-59514-803-2. 446 p. $19.95. Gr. 9-12.

Tahir’s strong debut easily stands out as one of the best young adult novels of 2015. Laia lives with her brother and grandparents in an oppressed, brutal world where swearing loyalty to the Empire is the only way to stay alive. When a masked force invades Laia’s home, kidnapping her brother and murdering her grandparents, Laia decides to risk her life and join the rebellion to save her brother. She enters Blackcliff Academy, the military school where the empire’s assassins are trained, and meets Elias, one of the elite students, whose dedication to the school and it’s ruthless leader, the Commandment, strongly waver. Through dueling narratives, Tahir brings Laia and Elias to life, and creates a glittering line of hope and love in a dark, eerie world. Interweaving political intrigue, incredible world-building, and nods to historical cities like Rome, Tahir creates action and drama that will make readers have trouble putting this one down. The success of this debut has lead to a sequel, which will be publish in Spring 2016. Give this one to fans of The Winner’s Curse or Red Queen series.

Dystopia, Fantasy      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School