Archive for Teen
Author Joy Preble joins me to today to share a day in the life of the main character of her newest book, The Sweet Dead Life. Although The Sweet Dead Life is Preble’s Soho Teen debut, she’s not new to the genre. Her Dreaming Anastasia series combines Russian Folklore with the ever-enthralling mystery of that epically missing princess, Anastasia. Read on to find out more!
So begins the diary of 14-year-old Jenna Samuels, who is having a very bad eighth-grade year. Her single mother spends all day in bed. Dad vanished when she was eight. Her 16-year-old brother, Casey, tries to hold together what’s left of the family by working two after-school jobs— difficult, as he’s stoned all the time. To make matters worse, Jenna is sick. When she collapses one day, Casey tries to race her to the hospital in their beat-up Prius and crashes instead.
Jenna wakes up in the ER to find Casey beside her. Beatified. Literally. The flab and zits? Gone. Before long, Jenna figures out that Casey didn’t survive the accident at all. He’s an “A-word.” (She can’t bring herself to utter the truth.) Soon they discover that Jenna isn’t just dying: she’s being poisoned. And Casey has been sent back to help solve the mystery that not only holds the key to her survival, but also to their mother’s mysterious depression and father’s disappearance.
The Sweet Dead Life is available now!
And now, for a day in the life of The Sweet Dead Life‘s Jenna:
(Note from Joy: I think it’s best to let Jenna tell this in her own words, journal entry style:)
What Happened Today:
- Mom was still in bed when we left for school – no surprise there.
- Casey kept tapping his fingers on the steering wheel of the Merc as we drove. My brother has a secret and he’s not telling me. This makes me pissy.
- Maggie and I worked on our English project. Mags believes that the universe plans on giving us an A. I think Mags is batshit crazy.
- EMT/bartender stalker chick Amber called Casey five times. What is up with that? She was even there this morning when we stopped for donuts—sitting there, fresh a daisy eating a sausage and cheese kolache like she had all the time in the world.
- Mr. Collins tried to explain Algebra by using Aggie football plays.
- My brother kept rubbing this spot on his back. He is seriously a mental case, especially since our accident. And double especially about that damn Lanie Phelps who suddenly likes him again for no reason that makes sense.
- I’m still feeling a mite pukey. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but it’s not getting any better.
Joy Preble is the author of the popular and highly acclaimed Dreaming Anastasia series. A former English teacher, Joy grew up in Chicago and is a graduate of Northwestern University. She is now a full time writer and lives with her family in Texas, where she has learned to say “y’all” without any hint of irony. A tireless advocate for literacy and great books, she is at the center of the all-important Texas YA scene.
- The giveaway is open to US entrants only.
- Contest begins May 17 and ends at midnight on May 24.
- There are optional extra entries.
- Winners will be notified via email, and will have 24 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen.
The Body Finder
The Last Echo
Genre: Teen Paranormal
Other Info: For some very bizarre reason, (that probably made sense to me at the time), I’ve only reviewed Desires of the Dead on this blog. I would like you to know that, despite that fact, I am current with this series.
Description and link from Goodreads):
Violet thought she’d made peace with her unique ability to sense the echoes of the dead and the imprints that cling to their killers…that is until she acquired an imprint of her own. Forced to carry a reminder of the horrible events of her kidnapping, Violet is more determined than ever to lead a normal life. However, the people who run the special investigative team Violet works for have no intention of letting her go.
When someone close to Violet becomes a suspect in a horrific murder, she finds herself pulled into a deadly hunt for a madman with an army of devoted followers. Violet has survived dangerous situations before, but she quickly discovers that protecting those closest to her is far more difficult than protecting herself.
Now I’m an “adult,” I sometimes reconnect with old, childhood friends. I’m always delighted to see them and I always enjoy the time we spend catching up. After we part ways, I have pleasant memories and, while I’ll likely say to myself, “It would be nice to see him/her again,” I won’t be counting down the days until we are reunited. I think about those friends occasionally and tell myself I should call them, but mostly, it’s out of sight, out of mind. Until the next time, when I’m just as thrilled to see them as I was before life swept me up in its busy tide.
I have much the same relationship with The Body Finder books. I know that Kimberly Derting will always show me a good time, and I know I’ll want to read her books as they are published, but my liking for her lacks the urgency I feel for, say, Kelley Armstrong’s YA novels. Which is a shame, really. I always think I should appreciate The Body Finder books more than I do but, hey, if I don’t feel it, I don’t feel it–right?
Dead Silence follows the same formula as the previous books–Violet senses an echo and is unable to resist following it. So far, despite her ability to sense and hear echoes, Violet has kept her school life at school and her crime-fighting life…not. This time the murders bring Violet’s two worlds to a collision point. And it doesn’t help that Rafe and Gemma have enrolled in her high school.
The collision of Violet’s two worlds is further emphasized by her relationships with the two males in her life. Jay, her best friend and boy friend is a constant–always has been, always will be. But then there’s Rafe. Dead Silence flirts on the edge of the idea of a love triangle and goes not a step further. There’s obviously some connection between Violet and Rafe but what it is and what it means for her relationship with Jay is murky at best. I’m getting mixed signals from Derting. One minute Violet’s world is complete with Jay. The next, Rafe has dug up a dead body to help Violet. Can Violet have both boys? I’m starting to wish it was possible. And if I had to pick the main characters in these books, they’d be Violet and Rafe, not Violet and Jay.
While Dead Silence is another solid entry in this solid series, I’d label it as its weakest. The story didn’t really go anywhere and even the emotional arc felt muddled. I found myself wondering if Derting herself knew where her series was headed. Furthermore, I had a really hard time remembering the details of Violet’s school life and friends, which made it difficult for me to care about the storyline with her best friend, Chelsea. At this point, even Jay is starting to blend into the background. Too many characters and flitting in and out of the story and I fail to become emotionally invested.
What I think (or maybe just what I’d like to see) is an end to Violet’s story (or maybe a firm direction for it). Then I’d like Rafe to have a story of his own. Rafe is clearly the male lead and the male lead needs to get his girl. If it’s not going to be Violet (and I sure hope it’s not Chelsea) then he needs a story of his own. I’d totally read that.
Questions to nibble on:
- Do you agree that Rafe is the male lead?
- What would you like to see happen next in this series?
- Why do think we saw so little of Jay in Dead Silence?
- If you haven’t read the book yet: How do you feel about a love interest that isn’t the male lead?
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Format: Audiobook on CD
Source: Received from the publisher for review
Status: Second in the Lunar Chronicles, following Cinder.
Genre: Teen, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Fairy Tale Retelling
Other Info: I read an ARC of Cinder last year, but I did not review it.
Description and link from Goodreads):
The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth…
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.
Narrator Review: Rebecca Soler did a magnificent job of narrating Scarlet, to the point that I’m thinking of “rereading” Cinder, just to see what she did with the first book in the Lunar Chronicles. Her Cinder is brash, sarcastic and vulnerable all at once, and clearly a separate voice from Scarlet’s. Maybe it’s the slightest suggestion of a French accent in the parts of Scarlet narrated by the titular characters, but Soler nails it. She’s similarly adept at portraying Wolf, without resorting to the gruff manliness that female storytellers often use. Soler’s Prince Kai is, perhaps, the weakest of the three main portrayals, but through no fault of the narrator. I already checked to see what other books Rebecca Soler has narrated, and added some of them to my Audible wishlist.
Book Review: I crazy-loved this book. I listen to audiobooks in my car (Audible purchases being the only exception), and I frequently took the long route while I was listening to Scarlet. Or sat in my driveway, unable to turn off the radio. Or offered to be the one to go on the lunch run. Anything to get back in the car. The narrator was great, yes, but Meyer is also a talented writer. She keeps you interested in the story despite the frequent changes in perspective.
I like Marissa Meyer’s work for the same reason that I like fairy-tale retellings. I know what I’m going to get. I know the basic plot (and most likely the outcome). But knowing what’s going to happen doesn’t make the journey any less pleasurable. What I love about fairy tale retellings is the fresh exploration of a familiar tale. This is especially true in the case of the Lunar Chronicles, where we derive a great deal of joy in seeing how Meyer reinterprets fairy tale standards. How does Meyer evoke Little Red Riding Hood, and tell an old story in a new way? Delightfully, with a whole host of small details, that’s how.
On the characters, I have to say that Wolf was, hands down, my favorite. I’m sure no one is surprised by this. It’s more than just his name, though! He’s kick-butt, tortured, and smexy. Sigh. Lucky Scarlet. Speaking of whom: I liked Scarlet a lot, too. There were certainly times when I wanted to hit her upside the head in hopes of knocking some sense into her, but I liked her slightly hysterical, panicking, illogical personality given the situation. Heroines who always keep their heads and never, ever let their emotions do their thinking…well, they’re just too cool for me and I don’t want to hang out with them because they always make me feel bad about myself.
As long as the next books in the Lunar Chronicles feature Scarlet and Wolf, I’m set. Cinder got on my nerves with her constant refusal to use her Lunar powers (we get it already), but I still liked her. Prince Kai bored me. He’s completely powerless in an extremely realistic way. Principled world leaders don’t have it as easy as you’d think, which I totally buy and which is totally uninteresting from the perspective of plot. I’m definitely waiting on Cress and I’ll absolutely be holding out for the audio version!
Publication Date: April 16, 2013
Source: Received from the publisher for review.
Status: First in the Taken series.
Genre: Teen, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Other Info: Taken is Erin Bowman’s debut.
Description and link from Goodreads):
There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.
They call it the Heist.
Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.
Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?
Okay, confession: When I first found Taken on Goodreads I thought it was the sophomore novel by the author of Plain Kate. My bad! It’s actually the debut of a talented new author, one with surprising vision and delightful skill as a writer. While Taken won’t make my list of top books this April, it was plenty enjoyable and a quick read with lots of positive elements.
Chief among Taken‘s attributes are the characters. Gray, the main character, is smart, brave, vulnerable and annoying all at once. His two love interests (yes, two) are both equally three-dimensional. Unfortunately, even though two interesting romantic leads should be a good thing, I’d made my choice about who I wanted Gray to be with before I even met the alternative. And even though the love triangle doesn’t really come into fruition until the last part of the book, it became the worst kind of love triangle when it did, meaning that I ended the book on a sour note.
While the love triangle didn’t really work for me, there were other elements to appreciate. The world-building is interesting, though it was reminiscent of another other book I couldn’t place. Or maybe I just experienced book-long deja vu. Bowman doesn’t believe in letting the grass grow underneath her plot or characters. Secrets are shared and problems are solved with a straight-forwardness that speeds you through the book.
I enjoyed Taken even though I had issues with it, the love triangle being the primary one. If the love triangle lasts long into the series, I’ll probably stop reading. I find it difficult to respect an MC who fools around with one love interest when he knows he still has feelings for another girl. Taking both the flaws and attributes into account, Taken lacked whatever it is that makes a book special for me.
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Source: Received from the publisher for review via NetGalley.
Genre: Teen, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Other Info: I read and enjoyed Wiggins’ debut novel, Shifting.
Description and link from Goodreads):
There is no cure for being stung.
Fiona doesn’t remember going to sleep. But when she opens her eyes, she discovers her entire world has been altered—her house is abandoned and broken, and the entire neighborhood is barren and dead. Even stranger is the tattoo on her right hand—a black oval with five marks on either side—that she doesn’t remember getting but somehow knows she must cover at any cost. She’s right.
Those bearing the tattoo have turned into mindless, violent beasts that roam the streets and sewers, preying upon the unbranded while a select few live protected inside a fortress-like wall, their lives devoted to rebuilding society and killing all who bear the mark.
Now Fiona has awakened branded, alone—and on the wrong side of the wall.
One of the things I enjoy about Dystopians is the myriad of ways in which they come about. Global warming? Civil War? Genetically engineered bees? Check, check and check. I more than just enjoy, though. I believe that back story is key to any good Dystopian. If the author doesn’t have a solid, believable reason for his/her oligarchic, misogynist love/water/air/land-less world, I’m going to be dissatisfied. End of story.
Sadly, an easily comprehensible back story wasn’t enough to make Stung a success. In a word, it felt rushed. There wasn’t enough time for anything. For Fiona to make up for her lost years (the ones between 13 and 16 are not to be missed), for the romance to develop, for the corruption to be revealed, for the Dystopia to become…not. I can’t believe I’m saying this–since stand-alones are so rare that I’m usually rooting in the opposite direction–but Stung should have had at least two more volumes.
However, even if more books had allowed Bethany Wiggins to slow the pace of her story, I’m not sure it would have worked for me. I was very much struck by the fact that the last age Fiona remembered being was 13. Even if she was physically 16, she’d missed three years of psychological development. Because of this, I was the slightest bit skeeved by the romance, and I have serious doubts about Fiona’s state of mind. That kind of thing has got to mess with you. Hence the need for more volumes–time for Fiona to process and adjust a little. Or, even better, Wiggins could have left that twist out entirely. I wouldn’t have minded.
The neatly packaged ending didn’t work for me, either. Everything is resolved and wrapped up nicely in a tidy bow. Don’t get me wrong–I’m all for resolution and happy endings! I just don’t like it when they’re too easy. For one thing, it makes things unrealistic. For another, they feel perfunctory. I want my MCs to earn their happy endings. In Stung, I simply made a face and turned off my Kindle.
Don’t miss my interview with Bethany Wiggins–or the giveaway!