Saturday, November 17, 2012

Young Adult Spree

I went to the library a few weeks ago and my holds looked like this:

Exciting? Absolutely. Overwhelming? Just a tad. Several of the books were YAs, which I often read more quickly (and enjoy more!) than adult novels. So I decided to group them together and write mini-reviews for each.

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier, 5 stars
Summary: Gwen knows her family has some secrets, including a cousin with a time-traveling gene. Her cousin’s entire 16 years have been spent preparing her for time travel, while Gwen’s 16 years have been spent as an ordinary 21st century English girl. When the unprepared Gwen suddenly finds herself back in time, she is, obviously, shocked, as is the rest of her family. Now Gwen is in the middle of a centuries-old mystery and has a lot of catching up to do. Who can she trust?

Reaction: This was definitely a page-turner! I don’t usually like fantasy, but time-travel tends to intrigue me, especially all the details that have to be worked out to make it plausible. Gier did a great job with that. The characters were well-written, so that I felt a whole lot of empathy for Gwen and not much for her cousin. The book started with a prologue of an exciting time travel event, but I sometimes feel that’s a too easy way to grab a reader—throw out a thrilling event by itself then slowly build the background. Regardless, I definitely enjoyed the book and have already requested its sequel: Sapphire Blue.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman, 4.5 stars
Summary: The Heartland War between pro-life and pro-choice contingents ended in an odd compromise with two legal choices for parents to end their ties to unwanted children. Option 1 is “storking” where a newborn can be left at someone’s door. The child legally becomes part of that family. Option 2 is “unwinding.” At age 16 parents may choose to send their teenager to a harvest camp where each of the teen’s body parts are harvested and given to others who need them. In Unwind several adolescents cross paths on their way to a harvest camp. Unexpected alliances form as the teens attempt to alter their fates. Can they survive or will they be unwound?

Reaction: As I started describing this book to The Professor, we were both surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did—it’s totally not my usual kind of book. It took a bit to understand the background of the story and it’s definitely a gruesome concept, but somehow it was written in an exciting, but respectful, way. The idea of the pro-life/pro-choice compromise was intriguing and made me think about the current political climate regarding this debate. Unwind was an action-packed, thought-provoking, fast read. So, although this isn’t my typical book, I’m glad I read it!

The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman, 4 stars
Summary: Can a human actually be invisible? Calvin Schwa seems to be. Teachers don’t notice him in class. He sings loudly and wears an orange sombrero in the bathroom, yet kids leaving the bathroom can only say that something strange was going on. How is this possible? Schwa and his new friend Antsy capitalize on the situation, making money for each of them when Schwa is able to listen in on some cheerleaders’ conversation and cut in front of a bully in the lunch line without being noticed. Then Antsy and Calvin’s shenanigans are halted by Old Man Crawley. Crawley and his granddaughter change everything for the boys, leaving the question, “Can a human be invisible?”

Reaction: I didn’t realize this written by the author of Unwind until I was pretty far into the book, and then only because I noted the name. The writing style and subject are so different, which is unusual and refreshing. There are so many themes about adolescents in The Schwa Was Here: self-worth, place in society, friends, dating, adult relationships… That would make it a great discussion starter, but the book was also just an interesting (sometimes heartbreaking) read. I’d definitely recommend this book, and I’m going to look for other books by Shusterman—just to see what else he can write about!

My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr, 4 stars
Summary: Ellen loves her brother Link. She’s IN love with Link’s friend James. The trio spends a lot of time together, but when Ellen brings up the issue of James and Link as a couple, their delicate balance is thrown off. Each of them must work to find a new place in a redefined relationship.

Reaction: An interesting, fast read. Some parts were a little fuzzy, others hard to believe, but overall a thoughtful story about growing up, figuring out identity and navigating tricky, unwritten social rules.

I’m looking forward to more YA reads…have you read any good ones lately? Which of the books above sound good to you?


  1. Wow! What a set of books with such bizarre plots. I'm intrigued by unwind but not sure that I would be able to get through it. Sending a child off to have their body parts harvested may be too much for me. You've got me curious though, why age 16, what made parents choose this? I guess if I want to know I'll have to read the book!

    1. Bizarre indeed! A more sci-fi/fantasy mix than I usually pick, but very enjoyable!

      Unwind really surprised me--it doesn't sound like something I'd want to handle either, but it was written so well. In fact, it's making me reconsider "The Hunger Games." I haven't read that series because I don't like the premise, but maybe it could be ok??

  2. wow, Unwind sounds totally crazy. I think I may try the time traveling book, sounds fun.


    1. I probably wouldn't have read Unwind if I'd known what it was about, but it really was a great book!