November 29, 2013

Skin and Bones by Sherry Shahan

Jack Plumb and David Kowlesky are an odd couple. They are roommates and opposites, but rather than living in an apartment or dorm together, they share a hospital room. Both boys, sixteen and seventeen respectively,  have serious eating disorders and have been checked into an Eating Disorder Unit. Jack is seriously anorexic, weighing only 103 lbs at 5'11". David is a compulsive over-eater with type one diabetes, and returning to the EDU after spending 3 months and losing 100 lbs the previous summer. David has given himself the nickname of Lard, and the first act of male bonding is helping Jack choose his nickname, Bones. Alice, a budding ballerina whose serious anorexia keeps her from dancing, captivates Bones at their first meeting and holds a spell on him as his first love. As other patients and hospital staff are introduced, we learn about the inner workings of an EDU, and the torment caused by eating disorders.  While there are gaps in the storyline, the book read well for me because I was curious and concerned about the characters. You will laugh, you will cringe, you will feel the pain of first love, but more importantly you will have a better understanding of the tormented lives these kids live with every. single. day.
Note: This book will not be released until March of 2014. The book is appropriate for high school with strong language, drug use, and mild sex. Middle school readers need parental permission.
Reed Reads Score: 4

November 17, 2013

UnSouled by Neal Shusterman

The UnWind story continues with Connor and Lev on the run together after the destruction of the Graveyard. Cam, Starkey, Nelson, and Risa are each on their own personal quests to vanquish or destroy. But, what UnWholly did to extend the UnWind Trilogy, creating an exciting extension of the story arc created 5 years earlier, UnSouled disappointed me. Why? Originally this was to be the final book (look carefully at the cover image, it says "Book 3 of the UnWind Trilogy" - an early cover), but has instead become a bridge to book 4, UnDivided in the Unwind Dystology (as it appears on newer versions of the cover). The book certainly moves the story, and there are introductions to new characters; Grace (who you will love) and her brother Argent (who you will despise). Information is revealed about the creator of the technology that allows unwinding, how ProActive Citizenry turned on him, and how his wife Sonia holds secrets, which creates the motivation for Connor and Lev to find her. What makes this disappointing is that it clearly is the first half of what was to have been the third book. There is plenty of character development, but the plot of the book never reaches the heights of the first two and there are a lot of loose ends which leaves you hanging and upset that you have to wait for UnDivided. I suggest you hold off reading this until UnDivided is released, that way you can read straight through and avoid the disappointment!
Reed Reads Score: 4

November 3, 2013

The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer

Leading off where House of the Scorpion ends, The Lord of Opium finds Matteo (Matt) as the new El Patrón at age fourteen. Matteo is not comfortable with his new position of power, and is left with a skeletal crew to run Opium; most died when they were poisoned at senior el Patrón's funeral. Matt must now position himself as a strong leader to be feared, while at the same time wants to stop growing and distributing opium, and find a way to free the eternal prison of the micro-chipped eejits. He learns that his wealth and power is beyond imagination, and that the secret of Opium is that Opium is a wildlife and plant sanctuary for a dying world. Matteo's internal struggle is dealing with the voice of el Patron, from whom he is cloned, and the conflict that some may have to die to save others.

It has been several years since I read House of the Scorpion, but I had no difficulty falling into the flow of the story. The relationships that Matteo builds with old and new characters, the humanity that Matt brings to a heartless world, and how each character is an integral part of the climactic conclusion is evidence of an author who truly knows how to weave character, plot, and setting into a compelling story. There is much symbolism here and a lot to contemplate and discuss.
Reed Reads Score: 4.5