December 5, 2008

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson


Once again, Ms Halse gives us someone to care about: a smart young slave girl caught in the onset of the American Revolutionary War as it began in New York. I wanted to finish it because things happened fast, because New York and the life back then came vividly to life, and because I learned more facts I wasn't aware of during the War. Isabel is a heroine who follows her best instincts where others would not, and has to deal with difficult people and dire circumstances. She achieves great things despite her slave status. Reading this book took me to New York: it's muddy streets, cold winters, smells, foods, and vocations. This book is bound for awards for its rich portrayals, realism, and age-appropriate historical fiction writing. Read it, and I'll race you to the sequel when it comes out.
Reed Reads Score: 5

November 29, 2008

Antsy Does Time by Neal Shusterman


Antsy Does Time, a sequel to The Schwa was Here,  is a strong novel on its own. Antsy, Anthony Bonano is now fourteen.  Antsy and his buddies see a disaster in the making and run to go witness it themselves. Not able to watch a man falling to his death, Antsy turns away, his eye catching a kid from school, Gunnar √úmlaut, who must turn away as well. After this quick connection, they talk on the bus going home. Gunnar reveals that he has a fatal disease and will die in six months. Touched by this, Antsy creates a contract, giving Gunnar one month of his life. When others catch wind of Antsy's generosity, they too want to join in giving Gunnar time -- creating a situation that is soon to spin out of control. Antsy senses something is afoul when he develops a friendship with Gunnar and romance develops with Gunnar's older sister Kjersten. Fun and heartwarming, Antsy Does Time is a story about family, friendship and the strength of giving
Reed Reads Score: 4

November 17, 2008

The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill


I'm partial to fiction books about Alaska because my big brother lives there, and was a bush teacher. Bush teachers know how to teach multi-grade classes in small, remote towns and villages, the only access being small airplanes in the winter, and boats if they are near the water.
In Kirkpatrick Hill's novel,  "The Year of Miss Agnes," Fred and the other kids of the Athabacan village get, yet again, another new teacher. But this one is different. She does not complain about the smell of fish and she tosses out old textbooks! She talks as if all the kids could be scientists and doctors if they wanted.  When you get a great teacher, you never forget, right? Ms Hill has written about just such a teacher, and a time in Alaska when everything was on the verge of change. I zipped through the book, not just because it was about Alaska, but because it was about a year of change and growth and fun.
Reed Reads Score: 4

November 3, 2008

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

I read Twilight this summer, reluctantly,  under pressure from my daughters. Needless to say, I did enjoy the book. Twilight is so wildly popular, and with the movie coming out this month, I didn't feel the need to review it, but then guilt set in and so here it is. Twilight is the story of Bella, a bright and independent girl who moves to gloomy Forks, Washingtion to live with her dad. In school, she meets Edward, whose perfection brings her to her feet. Falling rapturously in love, she soon knows something is different here - Edward is a vampire who lusts for her blood. Edward is  just as enraptured with Bella, and the fact that she is the one girl that he can't look into her mind. Their romance creates the collision of vampire and mortal worlds. 
While Bella's musings over the gorgeous Edward became a bit tedious for me, there were some real moments of excitement here. While this book's appeal has been mostly to a female audience, some of the guys could get hooked into the vampire fantasy and the adventure that ensues. This is the first of a series of four books. Be sure to read Eclipse, New Moon and Breaking Dawn.
Reed Reads Score: 4

Unwind by Neal Shusterman


In this future world, the conflict between pro-life and pro-choice armies has been resolved. From conception, no human life will be touched until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a life can be aborted by the process of "unwinding", the harvesting of all body parts for transplantation. Three teenagers are destined to be unwound; Connor, a 17-year-old troublemaker, unwanted by his parents, Risa, an orphan whose talents are not quite good enough for the orphanage to keep her, and Lev whose religion makes it the highest honor to be unwound at 13. The three meet by chance, but their struggle to survive makes this one of Shusterman's most engrossing, high powered adventures to date.
Reed Reads Score: 5

October 25, 2008

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie


OMG, this is one of the best YA books I've read in a long time!
I have never started a review like that, but this National Book Award winner is that good. Junior (aka Arnold) lives on an Indian reservation near Spokane, Washington. The novel chronicles his freshman year in high school, a period of monster change for most 14-year-old boys with raging hormones, new interest in girls, and being unsure of oneself while trying to understand their place in the world. What Junior faces is amplified when he decides to go to a "white" school outside the reservation. Now he is a traitor at home, and vilified at school. His experiences are heart wrenching and humorous .... how can that be? Read the book!    For mature readers.
Reed Reads Score: 5

April 3, 2008

15 Minutes by Steve Young


Casey, a seventh grader, finds himself continually late. If he could just be on time for things - classes, football practice, even breakfast, all would be well. While searching through his attic, Casey discovers an old watch that belonged to his grandfather. He puts it on, but like most of Grandpop's inventions, it doesn't seem to work right. When Casey discovers that he can't take the watch off, he reads Grandpop's journal and discovers that the watch is actually a time machine that can transport its wearer 15 minutes into the past. At first Casey is delighted, and uses the power of the watch to enhance his "coolness rating." However, he soon realizes that altering the past has serious implications. This humorus story combines science fiction, sports action, and laughs with a strong underlying message about personal responsibility and honesty. 
Reed Reads Score: 4

April 1, 2008

The Poet Slave of Cuba by Margarita Engle


A biography of Juan Francisco Manzano, born in in Cuba in 1797 and told through poetry in the voices of Juan himself, his mother and father, and the family that has enslaved him. A powerful, moving story of a boy who is gifted with the power of verse, but who must face the cruelty, jealousy, and spitefulness of the women that keep him as a slave. Juan perseveres and maintains hope even when each moment of freedom is crushed by severe brutality. Vividly illustrated by Sean Qualls with black and white drawings.
Reed Reads Score: 4.5

February 20, 2008

Elephant Run by Roland Smith


Nick is fourteen and has just been shipped off to his father's timber plantation in Burma because London is under attack. It's World War II and the timber elephants owned by Nick's dad are a valuable commodity to the deadly Japanese soldiers who take over the plantation. Nick becomes a slave on his family's land while Dad is sent to a labor death camp. With the assistance of some heroic Burmese friends, including the beautiful Mya, and a dangerous elephant called Hannibal, Nick will become something he is not, will discover secret tunnels, will experience the atrocities of war, and will live to tell about it. I enjoyed Mr. Smith's descriptions of timber elephants and their handlers: amazing creatures. I eagerly read about how Nick survived his enemies and I loved the old monk who could converse with the elephants. Enjoy.

Reed Reads Score:     5

January 2, 2008

Everlost by Neal Shusterman


When Nick and Allie collide with each other in a fatal car accident, they find that they have been "bumped" into an alter world called Everlost - a limbo for kids somewhere between life and death. At first, Allie decides she needs to get back to her home to see her family. Nick follows, and as they travel the two learn the rules of Everlost. As they approach New York, they see the Twin Towers which has also been caught in Everlost. Here they meet Mary Hightower, who has taken on the role of caretaker to the children of Everlost. Nick is content to stay in Everlost with Mary, while Allie continues to search for a way to see her family. As they battle terrifying creatures and try to keep from sinking to the center of the earth, they learn that there are some fates that are more frightening than death.
Reed Reads Score: 4