Posted in Science Fiction, Tween Reads

Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Children of Exile series heats up with Children of Refuge

Children of Refuge (Children of Exile #2), by Margaret Peterson Haddix, (Sept. 2017, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1442450066

Recommended for readers 10-14

The second book in Margaret Peterson Haddix’s new series, Children of Exile, is told from Edwy’s point of view. He’s Rosi’s friend and a fellow Fredtown refugee; brought home with the rest of the children and smuggled by his crime lord father into Refuge City to stay with his brother and sister while the violence in his hometown, the Cursed Town, settles down. His brother, Enu, and sister, Kiandra, have no interest in him: have no interest in anything other than the money their father keeps sending, so they can live as they please. Edwy tries to acclimate to life in Refuge City, but can’t get Rosi out of his mind. And when he discovers that Rosi – still stuck in Cursed Town – is in serious danger, he knows he has to act, and that he needs help from his siblings to save Rosi.

I loved Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Shadow Children series; Children of Exile is every bit as compelling. I was drawn to the series by one of my library kids, who asked for Children of Exile shortly after it arrived at my library, and proceeded to tell me how amazing he heard it was from a friend. Haddix does middle grade dystopia well. She makes her societies uncomfortably believable, taking a hard look at current events and applying them to a darker future. Here, she explores race and war; a society so war-torn that an alien society intervenes, and the consequences.

If you haven’t read Children of Exile, I highly recommend it, but you can step into the world with Children of Refuge; it’s a different character’s story, and there is enough exposition to fill you in. With the Shadow Children series still showing up on reading lists, this is a good time to booktalk a new series by the same author. Make a great dystopian middle grade display with The City of Ember series, Lois Lowry’s The Giver books, and Marcus Sedgwick’s Floodland.

 

 

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Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

How many words will stay on The List?

The List, by Patricia Forde, (Aug. 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $16.99, ISBN: 9781492647966

Recommended for readers 10-13

A post-cataclysmic society called Ark is led by a fanatic who believes words are at the heart of the problem. After all, words can stretch the truth, can bend, can lie, just like the politicians did before The Great Melting. Letta is apprenticed to Ark’s wordsmith, Benjamin; the community is allowed only 500 words, which Benjamin and Letta curate. Benjamin saves words for a time when man will be able to handle more – or so Letta believes. When Benjamin disappears on a word-finding mission, and Letta meets a boy from a neighboring community of free-thinkers and artists, she discovers that their leader, the leader she put her trust in, is working on a way to rob the people of Ark of language forever.

The List is similar on many levels to The Giver: an enclosed, guarded society, quiet removals of dissidents, and hidden truths waiting to be revealed. As an apprentice wordsmith, Letta sees more than the average Ark citizen; saving the life of a Desecrator – a member of a neighboring group of artists and musicians – opens her eyes to even more goings-on within Ark and its surroundings. It’s up to her to act on the information she receives, and she struggles with the burden of responsibility. There are strong themes for discussion here: the power of words, free thought and speech, and art as resistance. This is a great book to give readers who are ready for something beyond The Giver, but not yet ready for Fahrenheit 451. This novel can easily stand on its own, but readers may want to see what lies in Ark’s future.

Posted in Adventure, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Gifted versus Ashkind: Helena Coggan’s The Catalyst

catalystThe Catalyst, by Helena Coggan, (Oct. 2016, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763689728

Recommended for ages 12+

A dimensional cataclysm on our world turned the human race against one another: some are green-eyed Gifted, who wield magical powers; others are dark-eyed, non-magical Ashkind. A fragile peace is in place after a great war between Gifted and Ashkind, but there seems to be signs that something’s brewing again. Rose is a 15 year-old girl whose father, David, is in charge of the Department, a brutal law enforcement agency. David and Rose are gifted, and something… more. Something they must keep others from finding out. A mysterious murder suspect knows their secrets, though, and he’s blackmailing Rose into helping him – putting her loyalty to her father, and the Department, to test.

Helena Coggan was 15 years old when she wrote The Catalyst, and that alone makes it pretty darned impressive. She’s got some solid world-building in this first book (the second, The Reaction, has already been released in the UK), and I liked a lot of her character development. The action is well-paced, and the dystopian elements of the individual leading a group against the shadowy government is tweaked to include magic elements, a nice update to the genre. There was quite a bit to keep sorted for me at first, especially with the introduction of other groups like the Host; it took me a few re-reads of some pages to set them within the frame of the book. All in all, a good addition to dystopian/sci fi collections for those with strong readerships.

Helena Coggan’s got a WordPress site that has a nice photo and description of The Reaction, for anyone who wants to know more about the Angel Wars series.

Posted in Post-apocalyptic/Dystopian, Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

YA sci-fi must-read: The Almost Girl (The Riven Chronicles #1)

AlmostGirl_coverThe Almost Girl (The Riven Chronicles #1), by Amalie Howard (May 2016, Sky Pony Press), $9.99 ISBN: 978-1510701717

Recommended for ages 13+

Seventeen-year-old Riven isn’t your run of the mill high school student. She’s not even from our world; she’s a soldier from Neospes, a world in a parallel universe, devastated by war and catastrophe. It’s a world where children learn to kill as soon as they can walk, and Riven is one of the best. She’s a Legion General, sent to Earth by her best friend, the Prince Cale, to find his long-lost brother and bring him back to Neospes. After a long time searching, Riven’s found Cale and is getting ready to move him out when Vectors – the undead soldiers created by her father – attack, forcing Riven into an uneasy alliance with her sister Shea, who she’s been at odds with. Riven will discover family secrets and lies that have been hidden from her for most of her life as she and Shea work together to bring Cale back to Neospes – and Riven begins to doubt everything she thought she stood for.

The Almost Girl is a fast-paced, well-developed sci-fi adventure for teens. It’s got a bit of a Terminator 2 vibe, but it’s entirely its own story. Riven is a complex, thoughtful character at odds with what she’s been raised to believe versus what’s truth. She’s the cold-hearted soldier who runs far deeper than an ice-cold killer, and her journey through the book keeps the pages turning. Cale finds himself in the damsel in distress characterization, but he’s not completely helpless, so it makes for a solid, interesting story. There’s solid sci-fi elements: gadgetry, android-human hybrids, space travel using technology rather than vehicles; there’s also space-opera factors that bring the drama and thus, the story: betrayal, family secrets, several missions intertwined.

Give this to your teens that like a good sci-fi adventure with a touch of romance. The sequel, The Fallen Prince, is newly released, so keep an eye on this blog – I’ll be getting to it shortly!

Amalie Howard has a fantastic author webpage with updates, contests, and an event calendar with appearances.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Post-apocalyptic/Dystopian, Science Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Meritropolis: Question the System.

meritropolisMeritropolis, by Joel Ohman, (2014), $9.99, ISBN: 9781500189600

Recommended for 14+

In a post-apocalyptic society, the community known as Meritropolis thrives, thanks to the System. Citizens, from infants to the elderly, are evaluated, their numbers marked on their forearms. Anyone below a 50 is sent out of the city gates to fend for themselves.

Time is measured post-event (AE3 for 3 years after The Event), which is never named, merely known as “The Event”; we can assume it had something to do with nuclear war or nature collapse. Animal hybrids, created in pre-Event labs, hunt outside the gates. No one is heard from after being put outside the city’s walls.

Charley, a high-score 17 year-old, hates The System. It took his beloved older brother away from him, and he wants revenge on the System and the man responsible for it. Charley questions the System, the existence of a God who support this way of life, and free will. As he moves within Meritropolis society and gets closer to the people responsible for the System, he plots his revenge, joining forces with other residents. Together, they discover that what they know about the city and the System is only the surface of a very deep well of secrets.

This is an independently published book that makes me wonder why a major house hasn’t snapped it up yet. It’s a fast-paced read with a male protagonist who questions everything and has tremendous anger issues, but at the same time, works to contain his outbursts with common sense and planning. He’s got a plan, and he’s not allowing himself to be swept along, as many dystopian protagonists tend to in YA lit. Charley’s motivation is brutal and heartbreaking, but things he discovers as he works to undo the system from the inside are downright terrifying.

Outside the city walls, we find more craziness. The animal hybrids, and what they’re capable of, are the stuff of nightmares. There are illustrations at the beginning of each chapter – feast on the bion, imaginations! – that help you comprehend exactly what the citizen of Meritropolis are surrounded by, and being left to, once they’re outside city gates.

The book should appeal to both teen boys and girls. In Charley, boys have their Katniss – a male role model they can look up to and relate to, who understands anger, aggression, and most importantly, self-control. Girls will appreciate Charley’s back story and they’ll love Sandy, Charley’s counterpart. There are additional male and female characters, all relatable, that will give kids a reason to keep turning pages.

I’m interested in reading more about the world Joel Ohman has created here. Maybe we’ll get another story about a different post-Event society if enough people read this book. So what are you waiting for? It’s available as an ebook or a paperback, so you have no reason for not checking it out.