Archive for the ‘Teen Fiction Review’ Category

Review of Long Way Down audiobook, by Jason Reynolds

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

Long Way Down

by Jason Reynolds
read by the author

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2017. 2 hours on 2 discs.
Starred Review
2018 Odyssey Honor

I already wrote about how amazing this book was in my review of the print version. I found new levels of amazing by listening to it.

Jason Reynolds reads his own poetry, so he knows exactly how each line was intended. I noticed details I didn’t notice when I read it myself.

This audiobook is about a kid in a situation where what he thinks he needs to do is kill the person he’s sure murdered his brother. And then on each stop of the elevator someone gets on who was a victim of the same rules Will is trying to live by.

There’s whole new power in listening to Jason Reynolds read the words himself.

It’s a short book in either form, but it’s not one you’ll easily forget.

jasonwritesbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/long_way_down_audio.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this audiobook?

Review of Parrotfish, by Ellen Wittlinger

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Parrotfish

by Ellen Wittlinger

Simon & Schuster, 2007. 287 pages.
Starred Review

I have a transgender adult daughter. So it’s high time I read this by now classic teen novel about a transgender teen boy. Though I wish I’d read it before I had a specific reason to do so – this is simply good writing.

Grady has decided to start his junior year of high school as the person he truly is – a boy. But when he tells his family and his former best friend to call him Grady instead of Angela, the reactions are mixed. When he tries to explain to his teachers and get them to use his new name, the responses are also mixed.

But this is ultimately a hopeful and uplifting novel. Grady makes a new friend, a nerdy guy named Sebastian who’s in his TV Production class. Sebastian asks Angela to the school dance, so Grady has to explain. Sebastian tells him that’s just like the stoplight parrotfish, which he’s doing a report on for Environmental Science. In fact, Sebastian tells him that there are many fish and other animals which change gender.

I thought you’d like some real evidence here that you are not alone in the animal world. There are other living creatures that do this all the time. ‘Nature creates many variations.’ I’m using that line in my paper.

The story of the book plays out as Grady’s Dad is preparing the Christmas Extravaganza their family does every year – even though everyone else in the family is tired of it. Grady’s younger, spoiled brother wants a dog, and his younger sister is embarrassed that everyone’s talking about Grady now. Meanwhile, Grady’s former best friend Eve has gotten in with the in-crowd of the school – led by a girl who’s a real bully, and sees Grady as a target.

And meanwhile, Grady’s making new friends, including a girl he has a crush on – but who’s the girlfriend of one of his new friends from TV Production class. Can a freak like him even dare to fall for someone? But maybe these new friends don’t see him as a freak. In fact, he finds himself giving advice to both the girl and the guy in that relationship – and they both appreciate that Grady is good at understanding both sides.

This is an excellent story about navigating relationships with friends and family in high school. And the main character happens to be transgender. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

simonandschuster.com/teen

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Piper, by Jay Asher & Jessica Freeburg, illustrated by Jeff Stokely

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Piper

by Jay Asher & Jessica Freeburg
illustrated by Jeff Stokely

Razorbill (Penguin Random House), 2017. 144 pages.
Starred Review

This gorgeous graphic novel turns the story of the Pied Piper of Hameln into a tragic romance.

It’s also a story of prejudice and greed – but with love rising above that. And we find out that the real story isn’t the one we’ve heard.

This version of the story features a deaf teen girl named Maggie who lives in Hameln with an old woman, something of an outcast. She can read lips and talks with the piper, a handsome teen himself. She learns his story, as no one else does.

Maggie enjoys writing stories with her caretaker, an old woman named Agathe. She writes the stories of the villagers the way they should be told.

Did the villagers deserve what they got from the Piper? What if the revenge the Piper took was different than the story we’ve heard?

This book is a quick read but a haunting and poignant tale. The ending especially will surprise you.

PenguinTeen.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of La Belle Sauvage, The Book of Dust, Volume One, by Philip Pullman

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

La Belle Sauvage

The Book of Dust, Volume One

by Philip Pullman

Alfred A. Knopf, 2017. 451 pages.

It’s no secret that Philip Pullman is a magnificent writer. His rich use of language, his astonishingly detailed, imaginative worlds are all marks of a master craftsman. So, yes, I was impressed by how well-written this book was.

But did I enjoy it? Not so much.

This surprised me. I enjoyed The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife. (Not enough to want to read them again, but I did enjoy them.) In this book, I liked the character of Malcolm tremendously – but not really anyone else.

This book is a prequel to His Dark Materials. Lyra, who is a young girl in those books, is now a baby – and a baby with a prophecy about her, a baby who needs protection. In the majority of the book, Malcolm is trying to rescue baby Lyra from danger in his canoe, named La Belle Sauvage, riding over floodwaters, pursued by one of the most horrific villains imaginable.

You don’t have to read the first trilogy to enjoy this, since it is a prequel. (Knowing Lyra must make it does help make things a little less scary.) Maybe if I had reread the original trilogy I would have been ready for what seemed like out-of-place fantastical elements, including an encounter with faeries and traveling through some sort of mystical kingdom. I know it’s an alternate universe, but I had forgotten that they’re not really going with a scientific explanation of alternate universes, since the one Lyra’s in has lots of magic.

And I know – it’s magic – it’s an alternate universe – but this time the explanation of “Dust” as an “elementary particle” of a “Rusakov field” responsible for consciousness – seemed rather silly. That’s not really how elementary particles work. This Dust is also what makes the alethiometer magically answer questions. And that, too, seems a bit silly reading it afresh. If the author just called it “magic” and didn’t try to make it sound scientific, it would work better. (Ah! That’s the problem! When I read The Golden Compass, I just thought it was dealing with a world where magic existed, and I hadn’t read any pseudo-scientific explanation.)

All that aside, there’s a fair amount of coincidence. How does the monstrous villain keep following Malcolm? Now, to be fair, that particular coincidence simply makes the book all the more intensely frightening. But when the good guy happens upon Malcolm later, that seems a little more remarkable.

I liked that Malcolm wondered how baby Lyra’s daemon could know the shapes of various animals to take on that it hadn’t yet seen. I imagine someone complained about that in the first book, so now it’s something remarkable about Lyra’s daemon rather than an oversight by the author.

And I do love the daemons – an animal expression of a person’s soul that lives outside their body. Children’s daemons can change form at will, but adults’ daemons have a set form. An interesting thing is that no two people in the book have the same form for their daemons.

I never do like it when the Church is villainous, though I knew to expect it from the first trilogy. In this book, there’s an extra sinister effort to get children to turn in their parents to the forces of evil run by the Church.

All that said, La Belle Sauvage is an absorbing read. Philip Pullman’s world-building is full of intricate details and extremely atmospheric. You can see this by how the book begins:

Three miles up the river Thames from the center of Oxford, some distance from where the great colleges of Jordan, Gabriel, Balliol, and two dozen others contended for mastery in the boat races, out where the city was only a collection of towers and spires in the distance over the misty levels of Port Meadow, there stood the Priory of Godstow, where the gentle nuns went about their holy business; and on the opposite bank from the priory there was an inn called the Trout.

The inn was an old stone-built rambling, comfortable sort of place. There was a terrace above the river, where peacocks (one called Norman and the other called Barry) stalked among the drinkers, helping themselves to snacks without the slightest hesitation and occasionally lifting their heads to utter ferocious and meaningless screams. There was a saloon bar where the gentry, if college scholars count as gentry, took their ale and smoked their pipes; there was a public bar where watermen and farm laborers sat by the fire or played darts, or stood at the bar gossiping, or arguing, or simply getting quietly drunk; there was a kitchen where the landlord’s wife cooked a great joint every day, with a complicated arrangement of wheels and chains turning a spit over an open fire, and there was a potboy called Malcolm Polstead.

Malcolm was the landlord’s son, an only child. He was eleven years old, with an inquisitive, kindly disposition, a stocky build, and ginger hair. He went to Ulvercote Elementary School a mile away, and he had friends enough, but he was happiest on his own, playing with his daemon, Asta, in their canoe, on which Malcolm had painted the name LA BELLE SAUVAGE.

Those that have read His Dark Materials will almost certainly want to read this. If you haven’t yet – you might prefer to start with that one since you can read all three books in succession and won’t be stymied by those annoying words that end this book: “To be continued . . .”

philip-pullman.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Gemina, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

Gemina

The Illuminae Files_02

by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
with journal illustrations by Marie Lu

Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 659 pages.

Last year, I was a first-round judge for the Cybils Award category of Young Adult Speculative Fiction. We chose seven finalists, and the second-round judges chose Illuminae as the final winner.

Illuminae was a thriller with a high body count, a tense story of people fleeing through space when their illegal mining company was attacked by a rival corporation. And that corporation was chasing the survivors as they tried to reach the nearest “jump station” to get to a wormhole and then to the Core planets.

What I thought when the first book finished was that they’d get to the safety of the jump station and get to share the news. I thought there’d be some chance to catch their breath. Ummmm, No!

Because the evil corporation BeiTech doesn’t want anyone in the Core planets to hear about what they did. They’ve sent an elite force to take over the jump station and destroy their records – as well as to let through a fleet of drones that will destroy our survivors on the spaceship.

In this book again, the focus is on two teenagers caught in the carnage. Hanna Donnelly is the daughter of the station commander. At the beginning, we see her as a rich princess party girl. But we also learn that for fun, her father puts her through simulated combat scenarios. She’s ready to fight back against this elite force. Well, with a little computer help.

Other key combatants are Nik Malikov, part of a family supplying drugs to folks on the station, and his cousin Ella, a computer genius.

This book was every bit as thrilling and tense as the first one – but I was kind of tired of the drama by the time I read this one. I would have liked a little variation from bad guys trying to hunt our heroes down in an enclosed place. When there was even a zombifying threat – I laughed out loud (probably not the reaction the authors were going for). In Illuminae, there was a virus loose on the ship that turns people into zombies. In Gemina, there’s an alien worm loose that eats people’s brains (grown to produce a popular hallucinogenic drug – but forgotten about when its keepers are slaughtered). Because apparently you have to have a few zombies and monsters for proper space horror.

There’s also a big paradox with the wormhole, and some convenient ways it helped the plot – which stretched credibility.

But the fact is, there was no way I was going to quit once I picked this up. Okay, it’s long and I did manage to stop in the middle – but I did have it finished in a surprisingly short space of time. If you can handle the high body count, mortal terror, and gruesome deaths – I’m afraid this book is still a lot of diverting fun.

Mind you, both books feature couples who might have real problems if they were to try to live together for any extended period of time. But I can easily believe they’d have a strong bond after going through these harrowing adventures together.

And, yes, I want to find out what happens next – and how they all bring the evil corporation to account. Oh, and get back to civilization.

You’re in for a wild ride if you read these books. But once you start, you won’t want to stop, any more than you’d want to get off a roller coaster once you’ve started.

amiekaufman.com
jaykristoff.com
randomhouseteens.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, performed by Bahni Turpin

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas
performed by Bahni Turpin

HarperCollins Publishers, 2017. 11¾ hours on 10 compact discs.
Starred Review

Wow. This debut novel packs a big punch.

Starr Carter lives in two lives. There’s Garden Heights, where she lives and where her dad runs a store, where gangs fight over territory and they hear gunshots at night. And then there’s the world of Williamson, the private school in the suburbs that she attends, where she is one of two white people in the junior class.

Starr goes to a party in her neighborhood and gets a ride home with Khalil, a childhood friend she hasn’t seen in a while. But a policeman pulls him over for a broken tail light and doesn’t like Khalil’s attitude. After the cop pulls him out of the car and tells him to hold still, Khalil opens the car door to ask Starr if she’s okay – and the policeman shoots Khalil three times. He dies before Starr’s eyes.

The book is about Starr’s reaction to that and the many repercussions. Right away, the news starts portraying Khalil as a gang member and a drug dealer and a thug – as if that means he deserves to die. She doesn’t want anyone to know she was the witness – but her friends at Williamson don’t understand why this incident has affected her so much.

The story continues through the grand jury decision about whether the policeman should be prosecuted – and the reaction in Garden Heights.

I was deeply moved by this book – and could begin to imagine what it would be like to have a friend die in front of me – in a way that a news story alone doesn’t bring home, with all its implications.

Listening to this book was a good way to enjoy it. I liked hearing the narrator use a different voice when Starr was talking in Garden Heights as opposed to when she was among her white friends, taking care to speak precisely and properly. This isn’t family listening unless your whole family doesn’t mind hearing a lot of profanity – It’s appropriate and also helps set the scene, but do be aware it’s there.

The book is long, and a bit repetitive in spots, but I’m a lot more patient with that when I’m listening, since I’m in the car anyway. I was glad when I had an extra-long drive toward the end, because I wanted to hear more of this amazing book.

And yes, lives like Khalil’s – and all the actual young men he represents – do matter. If he didn’t live a perfect life, that doesn’t make it okay to shoot him when he was unarmed and no threat. This book brings that message home – with a story and characters who will pull you in and make you care.

angiethomas.com
harperaudio.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Landscape with Invisible Hand, by M. T. Anderson

Friday, December 1st, 2017

Landscape with Invisible Hand

by M. T. Anderson

Candlewick Press, 2017. 149 pages.
Starred Review

M. T. Anderson does it again. He’s written a science fiction story that skewers our current society and culture in hard-hitting ways. Feed was brilliant. Landscape with Invisible Hand is an artistic masterpiece.

Not that it’s cheery. But this was the wrong book to choose for my Silent Book Club, because I wanted to shout with laughter and had to settle for snorts (not as satisfying). M. T. Anderson’s humor is clever and subtle – and hilarious. I won’t be able to explain the humor well in this review (you have to be there), but trust me, this book is a hoot.

The premise is that aliens have come to earth:

We were all surprised when the vuvv landed the first time. They’d been watching us since the 1940s, and we’d seen them occasionally, but we had all imagined them differently. They weren’t slender and delicate, and they weren’t humanoid at all. They looked more like granite coffee tables: squat, wide, and rocky. We were just glad they weren’t invading. We couldn’t believe our luck when they offered us their tech and invited us to be part of their Interspecies Co-Prosperity Alliance. They announced that they could end all work forever and cure all disease, so of course, the leaders of the world all rushed to sign up.

But it’s clear that Adam and his family aren’t doing well. He explains how things went:

Almost no one had work since the vuvv came. They promised us tech that would heal all disease and would do all our work for us, but of course no one thought about the fact that all that tech would be owned by someone and would be behind a paywall. The world’s leaders met with the vuvv, after meeting with national Chambers of Commerce and various lobbyists. The vuvv happily sold their knowledge to captains of industry in exchange for rights to the Earth’s electromagnetic energy fields and some invisible quantum events. Next thing we knew, vuvv tech was replacing workers all over the world. At first, it was just manual labor, factory labor. Show tech a product – a shirt, a swing set, a subdivision – and in minutes tech could make it from trash. No reason for an assembly line for workers. We watched a billion people around the globe lose their jobs in just a year or two. My parents thought they were safe, white-collar.

My mom was a bank teller. Most of her work was already done by ATMs, even before the vuvv came, and what was left required someone who could listen, think, decide, and verify. But within six months of the vuvv landing, she was fired. Almost all bank tellers were fired, and so was everyone else who did paperwork and customer interface in any other business. Vuvv tech did it all now – a computerized voice purring, “Let me help you with that”; “I’m sorry, but your account is already overdrawn”; “Very funny, Mr. Costello. I always appreciate a little sarcasm at day’s end.”

The human economy collapsed. No human currency could stand up against the vuvv’s ch’ch. The lowliest vuvv grunt made more in a week than most humans made in two years. Only the wealthiest of humans could compete, once they had a contract for vuvv tech, once they could invest in vuvv firms.

My father thought that his job was safe. He was a Ford salesman. There was no way, he said, that he could be replaced by a computer, because salesmen need that human touch, that twinkle in the eye. It turned out, however, that no one could afford a new car anyway.

Fortunately, Adam has found a way to support his family. The vuvv were watching earth in the 1950s and they had become enamored with human teen romance – as it was seen in 1950s films. The vuvv don’t reproduce the same way as humans – they bud to produce their spawn. But they loved to watch humans in love. So Adam and Chloe got hooked up to some tech and did all their dates on pay-per-minute with thousands of vuvv viewers.

The only problem: After a while of this, Adam and Chloe hate each other. And Adam has Merrick’s Disease, “a stomach syndrome I caught from our untreated tap water – as part of the vuvv’s austerity measures, municipal water is no longer purified.” Chloe doesn’t find this attractive, nor is it particularly pleasant for Adam. Too bad he can’t afford vuvv medicine.

And did I mention? The rich – the ones who can afford vuvv technology – live in floating cities while the rest of humanity lives in squalor trying to figure out how to buy food. Adam’s mom keeps relentlessly looking for work. “You have to hold onto hope!” His father left them, and renting out part of the house was how Chloe’s family came to live downstairs.

But Adam is an artist. And the vuvv have taken interest in human art. They have a huge contest for teenage human spawn in art and music. If Adam can win, it will change everything. But the vuvv seem to prefer still life depictions, which they believe is traditional human art. Will Adam conform and maybe win, or will he tell the truth with his art?

Believe it or not, this short and bleak-sounding book is full of clever laugh-out-loud moments. I love the traditional vuvv greeting, “You appear fertile, as if you could bud many spawn.”

Here’s the description of one of Adam and Chloe’s episodes, translated into vuvv:

Ocean Memories: Humans Adam and Chloe are going to the beach now! They are in true love. They have playful splashing. The water is too cold for organism Adam and he squeals like a piggy, says loving Chloe! Humans find the oscillating presence of hundreds of billions of gallons of a chemical that could smother them relaxing. This leads to cuddles in mounds of finely ground particulate detritus. “I’ll always be true,” says Adam!

And – M. T. Anderson does pull off this novel with an ending that leaves you satisfied, rather than horribly depressed (as you’re afraid might happen). I just have to say this, though: As our technology improves, let’s not treat any of our fellow humans as if we were vuvv and don’t even care if they live or die. (Wait, should I not spell it out?)

Even if you don’t take any message out of the book, this is a supremely entertaining story, masterfully carried out.

candlewick.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

Long Way Down

by Jason Reynolds

Atheneum, 2017. 306 pages.
Starred Review

Will’s brother Shawn just got shot. And Will is sure he knows who did it.

And there are three rules Shawn taught him:

No crying, no matter what.

No snitching, no matter what.

If someone you love
gets killed,

find the person
who killed

them and
kill them.

So Will takes Shawn’s gun and sets out to kill the person who killed him.

He gets in the elevator on the 8th floor. And on each remaining floor someone new gets on… someone who’s dead.

The first dead person in the elevator is Buck – a brother even older than Shawn. He knew the Rules, too, and taught them to Shawn.

In fact most of the people who show up on this elevator lived by the Rules. The thing is: They’re dead now.

This is a novel in verse (and artistic, well-crafted verse), so it’s quick reading. It does pack a punch.

jasonwritesbooks.com
simonandschuster.com/teen

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Turtles All the Way Down

by John Green

Dutton Books (Penguin Random House), 2017. 286 pages.
Starred Review

At the start of this book, Aza’s best friend Daisy asks her a question that changes her life. “Didn’t you go to school with him?”

Aza asks who Daisy is talking about – and it’s Davis Pickett, the son of a billionaire. Aza and Davis went to “sad camp” together years before after Aza’s father died and Davis’s mother died. They were friends back then, but that was a long time ago.

Well, Davis’s father was about to be arrested for bribery, but the night before the raid, he disappeared. There’s a hundred thousand dollar reward for information leading to his return. Daisy is determined that Aza should revive that acquaintance so they can get the reward.

Aza does remember a motion-sensitive camera the family used to keep in the woods by the river. And Aza still has her canoe. It turns out that Davis was feeling lonely and might even be glad to see her.

That’s the outer story. But the inner story is laced all through with Aza’s obsessive thoughts about her health and about bacteria and about all the things that could kill you.

This is a well-written story of a girl with obsessive-compulsive disorder and what it means for her life and her friendships. And the outer story – the mystery of the missing billionaire and the budding romance with the billionaire’s son – is compelling and fascinating as well.

Now, I have to say that whenever I read a book by John Green, I hear John Green’s voice in my head, reading it. This is because I’ve watched many of his video blogs, so I’m used to hearing him talk. But it’s also because all of his characters talk like he does, using big words with quirky ideas and connections. However, I really enjoy listening to that kind of nerdy talk – so it works for me.

But I haven’t communicated how much this book pulls you in. Who knew that “hearing” obsessive-compulsive thoughts would be so compelling? You feel the frustration, the lack of control, along with Aza. I think what ripped me up most inside was when she gets a glimpse of how her friends see her.

But bottom line, this is a hopeful and uplifting book. Aza will overcome. So surely the reader can, too.

johngreenbooks.com
PenguinTeen.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/turtles_all_the_way_down.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor, read by Steve West

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

Strange the Dreamer

by Laini Taylor
read by Steve West

Hachette Audio, 2017. 18.5 hours on 15 CDs.
Starred Review

Note to self: Any time I start a new book by Laini Taylor, even if it doesn’t say “Book One” on the cover, check the last page for the words “TO BE CONTINUED.” This one has those words – and I would have been less dismayed if I had been prepared.

Laini Taylor’s imagination will never cease to amaze me. Every new world she builds is completely different from anything that’s ever been done before.

In this new world, we start with a boy named Laszlo Strange. He’s an orphan and is being brought up by monks. One of the monks tells him stories about a mythical long-lost city. Later, when he grows up, he becomes a librarian and finds more tales of this city.

And Laszlo knows that magic exists because of this city. For one day, suddenly, he forgets the city’s name, and all he can think of is “Weep.” Any writings about the city have the new name, Weep.

A lot more goes on. As a librarian, Laszlo helps the golden boy of the city, an alchemist, because he thinks there is a clue to the secret of alchemy within the writings about Weep.

Along the way, when talking about alchemy, we learn that everyone in this world has two hearts – one that pumps blood, and one that pumps spirit. (Where does Laini Taylor come up with these ideas?)

We also periodically visit an isolated family of five children with blue skin who live in a citadel and have special powers. A large part of the book is finding out how these two threads come together. The whole thing is stunning, and an incredible work of imagination. And okay, I really hate that these eighteen hours are only the beginning.

And yes, I said eighteen hours. Fortunately, I started this book on the way to South Carolina to see the total solar eclipse – and with traffic, it took me 13 hours to get home. I think it helped me get mesmerized by the story because I got to listen to most of it in one sitting (though I still had a lot left).

The book is long, and she repeats herself in a few places, but it was absolutely perfect for a long car drive. And Steve West may be my new favorite narrator. He distinguished between the voices of the various characters, and the voice he used for Strange the Dreamer was just plain dreamy. So I didn’t mind listening to his voice for a very long time. I hope he narrates however many books are still to come.

StrangetheDreamer.com
lainitaylor.com
HachetteAudio.com

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Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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