December 31, 2011

The Project by Brian Falkner

In Iowa City, there isn't much to do. Luke and Tommy pull a prank, defacing their school's founder's statue. Luke gets caught, and makes a deal with his school's vice principal and his English teacher. He doesn't want to read Last of the Mohicans, as he feels it is the most boring book ever written. The deal is a summer project; to either prove Mohicans is the most boring book, or through research prove which book is the most boring ever written. In his research Luke finds out that the most boring book published is Leonardo's River, written in the 1800's. There was only one published, has been missing for years, and is worth millions. Floods rise in Iowa, leading Luke and Tommy to help the university library save thousands of rare books, stored in the basement, from the flooding. Luke comes across Leonardo's River, and convinces Tommy that they need to steal it. The adventure that follows is something Luke and Tommy never could have imagined, and comes nothing close to boring.
Falkner spends some good time setting up the plot, trying to make this fantastic adventure somewhat plausible, but there is little character development for Luke or Tommy. Given the audience, it's of little consequence as the reader seeking adventure will be drawn into it.
Reed Reads Score: 3

December 26, 2011

Legend by Marie Lu

If you are a fan of dystopian novels, Legend will grab you from the beginning. While the plot becomes somewhat predictable, Marie Lu sets up a believable future dystopian Los Angeles. The United States has split  into two warring factions; the western portion, The Republic, of which Los Angeles is central, and the eastern portion, The Colonies. The book is told in two voices in alternating chapters. Day is a fifteen year old boy who is a sly criminal, wanted by the Republic. Day is smart, athletic, beyond his years, and steals to help support the poor living in his sector of the city. The second voice, June, is a fifteen year old aristocrat girl, who is a prodigy of intelligence, physical ability, and a quick rising agent for The Republic. Day is motivated by his sick younger brother Eden, who has recently contracted the plague, for whom Day is seeking the cure, usually only available to the very wealthy. June is motivated by the murder of her brother Matias, a soldier killed by a young boy trying to steal medicine to cure the plague from a Republic hospital. You get the picture....
Marie Lu does a good job in the first half developing the setting and her characters. Most of the action takes place in the second half, where there are a few unexpected plot twists. I read through this one rather quickly. It is a perfect set up for sequels, but is satisfying on its own. Of course, a movie is in the works.
Reed Reads Score: 4

December 22, 2011

Underdogs by Markus Zusak

Underdogs is a trilogy of Zusak's first three novels; The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, and Getting the Girl. I read Fighting Ruben Wolfe first, whose review is below. The three books have so successfully been blended in my mind that I can't differentiate them, so this review covers all three. This is a story about seventeen-year-old Cameron Wolfe, an insecure, seemingly lost soul that beautifully emerges and finds himself. He lives in the shadow of his oldest brother Steve and older brother Ruben. Steve is a perfectionist that seems to have it all together; looks, athleticism, and a great job. Ruben is a fighter, both literally and figuratively, with strapping good looks that always gets the girls. Cameron has a deep affection for his brothers as well as for his sister Sarah, and his parents, for whom he also has tremendous respect. Living in a blue collar, working neighborhood, Cameron and Ruben are looked upon as slackers. Their reality is one of fighting for respect, and finding their way. Told in the first person by Cameron, Zusak's writing style emerges. While not as quite developed as his later novels, the poetic, short sentences that bring out the deep emotions and angst of a seventeen year old boy, bring depth to the novels. The book is for more mature readers who will appreciate these character driven stories.
Reed Reads Score: 4