Review of Specials, by Scott Westerfeld

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Specials
by Scott Westerfeld

Reviewed September 15, 2007.
Simon Pulse, New York, 2006. 372 pages.

Specials is the dramatic conclusion to Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy. As before, I don’t want to say too much about what happens, because that will give away the ending to the earlier book, Pretties.

This third book focuses on the department of Special Circumstances—run by the “Specials.” While “Pretties” are beautiful and empty-headed, Specials have a cruel beauty. They look perfect, but haughty and superior. The effect is frightening when combined with their pointed teeth and nails.

What’s more, the Specials have superhuman abilities—with bones crafted of unbreakable aircraft ceramics, muscles sheathed with self-repairing monofilament, and heightened senses and reflexes. The Specials are after the Smokies who want to reverse the effect of the surgery on the Pretties’ brains. The Smokies want people to think for themselves, and then what will become of the world?

These books are absorbing and exciting. My friend, who also heard Scott Westerfeld speak at the Bologna writer’s conference, was mad at me for snapping it up when it came to the library. Fortunately, I was already planning to read it as soon as it came in, and now I’ll pass it on to her.

This is science fiction with teens that seem real—complete with love-hate relationships, conflicting emotions, and complex feelings. Sometimes they screw up, and when you’re “Special,” that can cause a major disaster.

Find the review on the main site at:

http://sonderbooks.com/Teens/specials.html

 

Review of The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen, by M. T. Anderson

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M. T. Anderson’s Thrilling Tales:
The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen
by M. T. Anderson

Reviewed September 9, 2007.
Harcourt, Orlando, 2006. 243 pages.

This book, another “Thrilling Tale” in the spirit of Whales on Stilts, is a delightful spoof of children’s series books. Both my sons, ages 18 and 12, read this book, and laughed so much and read bits aloud so often, I simply had to read it myself. It may not be great literature or a terribly compelling story, but it is hilariously clever.

Katie Mulligan, her friend Lily, and Jasper Dash, Boy Detective, are ready for a vacation, so they take advantage of a coupon for a free dinner at the Moose Tongue Lodge and Resort. Once there, they learn that the coupons are fake—and many other people, all stars of series books, have received them as well.

Then the Hooper Quints are kidnapped on their way to the hotel. Which of the dashing detectives will be able to solve the mystery? Then a valuable necklace is stolen while people are out searching for the quintuplets. Are the two mysteries tied together?

The story isn’t the point of this book. It’s got lovely unlikely plot twists, just like the series books they are spoofing would have.

Here’s the first section that my 12-year-old felt he HAD to read to me. It’s talking about how Jasper Dash’s books are somewhat out of date.

Often, if you go to a town library and under Keyword Search type “Jasper Dash,” you’ll come up with a list of his books—and beside each one, it says: “Withdrawn. Withdrawn. Withdrawn. Withdrawn.” This means that they are no longer in circulation. Some librarian has taken them off the shelf, wiping away a tear, and has opened the book to the back, where there’s a pouch for a card dating back to the time of the Second World War, and she’ll crumple up the card, and then she and her fellow librarians will take special knives and slice away at the book and will eat the pages in big mouthfuls until the book is all gone, the whole time weeping, because they hate this duty—it is the worst part of their job—for here was a book that was once someone’s favorite, but which now is dead and empty. And the little cheerful face of Jasper Dash, heading off to fight a cattle-rustling ring in his biplane, will still be smiling pluckily as they take their Withdrawal Knives and scratch his book to pieces.

(How did he know?)

A section my 18-year-old was compelled to read to me was actually on the back flap:

M.T. Anderson is seven monkeys, six typewriters, and a Speak & Spell. It took them ten years to write The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen. Their previous books include Adf2yga^vvvv, WpolwOox.S Ppr2dgn shr Elssf, and The Riverside Edition of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Adf2yga^vvvv was a National Book Award finalist. The M. T. Anderson Monkey collective is located outside Boston. Its hobbies include flash cards, hopping, and grooming for lice. It divides its time between the parallel bars and the banana trough.

 

Who wouldn’t want to read a book with such a blurb?

Here is the review on the main site:  http://www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/linoleum_lederhosen.html

Journey Between Worlds, by Sylvia Engdahl

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Journey Between Worlds

by Sylvia Engdahl


Reviewed August 8, 2007.
G. P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Young Readers Group), New York, 2006. Originally published in 1970. 240 pages.
Starred Review.

I would call Journey Between Worlds science fiction for girls. Although I’m sure boys who like science fiction would enjoy it as well, the other-worldly setting isn’t the main point of the story. Instead, Melinda Ashley’s life is complicated by her father’s gift of a trip to Mars, and it provides the background for difficult decisions.

First, Melinda must decide how to react to a gift she didn’t want, but that her father went to great lengths to get for her and is sure she’ll be delighted about. On the way to Mars, she travels with someone else who is not excited about going there—someone to reinforce her complaints. But then she meets a young man born on Mars, and all of her ideas are challenged.

In the end, she has to consider which is more important: her world, her plans, the dreams she grew up with, or the unchanging, real things in people’s hearts.

I love this book, as I love all of Sylvia Engdahl’s books. I like her heroines. They are people I’d like to be friends with. They are faced with difficult decisions and rise to the challenge. I’m delighted at this chance to read another of her books.