Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Plot Summary:
Some people believe in the concept of reincarnation, or rebirth, but for Travis Coates he was literally brought back to life with the help of a scientific procedure that's still in its infancy. Prior to his procedure, Travis was diagnosed with Lukemia and, despite chemotheraphy, Travis' body was losing the battle against the cancer. When it seemed that all was lost, Dr. Saranson, from the Saranson CEnter of Life Preservation, approached Travis with an unusual proposition that could help him overcome his illness and live a long and healthy life. However, there was one small catch: his head would be removed from his ailing body and then cryogenically frozen for an unspecified amount of time. Although this was Travis' only option to live the life he wanted, he and his parents made the decision to go through with this procedure. Granted, Travis had come to terms with his death, he didn't expect to wake up five short years later with a brand new body and instant fame. What was supposed to be the happiest time of his life, Travis learned that he is the second successful body transplant and must face a whirlwind of praise and condemnation. Furthermore, Travis had to face the stark reality that, during his cryogenic slumber, everyone he loves has moved on with their lives, leaving him in same exact place he left five years ago: repeating tenth grade and no one to share it with. Granted, Travis has found a new friend in Hatton finally re-connected with his best friend, Kyle,  he learns that his girlfriend, Cate, has not only moved on with her life, but is engaged to another man. Instead of letting her go, Travis embarks on a journey to not only get his life back, but also get the girl he loves back. The only problem with this scenario: what if he fails and refuses to let go? Readers will laugh and cry as the read about a second chance at life that isn't exactly the second chance we all want.

Critical Evaluation:
I am absolutely astounded with how funny and profound this story is! If readers have read John Corey Whaley's debut Where Things Come Back, this is definitely a different direction, but, nevertheless, a solid story that conveys what an amazing writer Whaley is. Travis Coates is an average teen who has a family that loves him and two best friends he can't imagine living without. Sadly, when he is diagnosed with Lukemia, the fight for his life only strengthened the bond between him and his friends and he refuses to go out without a fight. Travis is an amazing young man who loves fiercely and unconditionally. Although Travis' fight with cancer is only part of the story, readers will see just how difficult his transition is when his whole life came crashing down on him within a few months. Along with Travis' journey, readers will see what the last five years have done to his best friend (Kyle), his girlfriend (Cate), and his parents. I will admit that my heart sunk as the truth unfolded and all I wanted to do was dive into the pages and just hug Travis. In many ways, Travis was the one who agreed to have his head frozen, but, at the same time, he didn't take into consideration what the future may hold. Honestly, I think all of us would react the way Travis did because we just expect our loved ones to wait for us and make sure nothing will change. Well, sadly, for Travis, everything he knew didn't last the test of time and now it's time for him to make a new life. Despite the fact that he had his head removed, crycogenically frozen and transplanted onto a donor body, this is a coming-of-age tale where a young man must face five years of growing pains in a matter of months and, ultimately, learn to overcome his hardships by learning learn to let go and embrace the unknown.

Information about the Author:
According to his website:
JOHN ‘COREY’ WHALEY grew up in the small town of Springhill, Louisiana, where he learned to be sarcastic and to tell stories.  He has a B.A. in English from Louisiana Tech University, as well as an M.A in Secondary English Education. He started writing stories about aliens and underwater civilizations when he was around ten or eleven, but now writes realistic YA fiction (which sometimes includes zombies…). He taught public school for five years and spent much of that time daydreaming about being a full-time writer…and dodging his students’ crafty projectiles. He is terrible at most sports, but is an occasional kayaker and bongo player.  He is obsessed with movies, music, and traveling to new places. He is an incredibly picky eater and has never been punched in the face, though he has come quite close.  One time, when he was a kid, he had a curse put on him by a strange woman in the arcade section of a Wal-Mart.  His favorite word is defenestration.  His favorite color is green.  His favorite smell is books.  He currently lives in Los Angeles. 

Where Things Come Back is his first novel.

NOGGIN, his second novel, is out on April 8, 2014. 
Genre:
Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Humor

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & Up

Books Similar to Noggin:
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • Every Day by David Leviathan
Awards & Recognition:
"Travis Coates has lost his head—literally.... [A] wonderfully original, character-driven second novel. Whaley has written a tour de force of imagination and empathy, creating a boy for whom past, present, and future come together in an implied invitation to readers to wonder about the very nature of being. A sui generis novel of ideas, Noggin demands much of its readers, but it offers them equally rich rewards." (Booklist, November 2013, *STARRED REVIEW)

"The madcap story of a boy who loses his head and finds it again. . . . Readers will recognize the Printz winner’s trademark lovable characterizations. . . . They’ll also recognize the poignantly rendered reflections on life, love, death and everything in between. . . . Whaley’s signature cadence and mad storytelling skillz are worth every page. A satisfyingly oddball Frankenstein-like tale of connectivity." (Kirkus Reviews, February 2014)

* "Travis Coates has his head surgically removed and cryogenically frozen after he dies (of leukemia at age 16)...five years after his death, technological advances allow doctors to attach his head to a donor body that's taller and more muscular than the original.... Travis's comic determination to turn back the hands of time...is poignant and heartbreaking. His status in limbo will resonate with teens who feel the same frustration at being treated like kids and told to act like adults." (Publishers Weekly, January 2014, *STARRED REVIEW)

"Whaley’s sweet and raunchy first-person narrative provides a thought-provoking look at the notions of self-awareness, the nature of identity, and the angst of a very special teen. The lively, conversational style will engage teen readers in search of an unusual, but relatable, character. At times hilarious and heart-wrenching, Noggin, with its eye-catching cover art, belongs in all library collections serving young adults." (VOYA, February 2014)

"Readers will find it easy to become invested in Travis's second coming-of age—brimming with humor, pathos, and angst—and root for him to make peace with his new life." (Horn Book Magazine, March/April 2014)

"Travis Coates, 16, is dying of cancer, so he accepts an offer from a cryogenic group to have his head removed and frozen with the hope that it would be attached to another body in the future and he could be reanimated. Five years later, he "wakes up" with a new body and is still 16. . . . The premise of the story is interesting. . . . The author does a good job of describing the emotions and reactions of all of the characters." (School Library Journal, March 2014)

* "What is it like to be frozen, à la Ted Williams, never believing you'll really come back--and then you do? That's the preposterous premise of John Corey Whaley's novel, conveyed with realistic emotions that keep his narrator, Travis, grounded, and the story credible--and also highly entertaining--for readers. . . . Whaley makes his hero's implausible situation absolutely convincing. The questions lurking behind Travis's sometimes rash actions plague all teenagers. . . . Ultimately this insightful story explores the challenges of intimate relationships and managing expectations. Whaley asks teens to think about the life they want to make for themselves." (Shelf Awareness, April 2014, *STARRED REVIEW*)

"NOGGIN is an incredibly imaginative way to examine the universal feeling of longing to return to the way things use to be…. Far from predictable, NOGGIN contains a few twists to keep readers guessing, but the real heart of the book is the hang up on the past--the feeling that if you could just remind someone you loved how things used to be, old feelings would quickly return. It also focuses on larger issues, like how to deal with the weight of other's expectations, and how to get a friend to be true to themselves. NOGGIN is a novel about trying for a future very different from the one you planned, and learning to be ok with the change. Funny and relatable, fans of Whaley's first novel WHERE THINGS COME BACK won't be disappointed." (Teenreads.com, April 2014)

“The premise of John Corey Whaley’s young adult novel “Noggin” – outlandish as it is – has such wonderful resonance. . . . Whaley has a gift for detail. . . . He can be very funny. . . . And, like [John] Green, he can choke you up.” (New York Times Book Review, May 2014)

"A graceful combination of raw heartbreak and biting wit (including plenty of head puns) guides Travis through [his] existential search for life's meaning and survival. . . . While the novel's premise may be straight out of Hollywood, Travis' voice could not be any truer. Fans of John Green will welcome this smart tearjerker." (BookPage, April/May 2014, Top Pick)

"We weren't sure what to expect from this one, but were pleasantly surprised by honest, funny and incredibly likeable Travis. As a walking miracle, he should be grateful, but he struggles with feeling out of step in his own life. Noggin is filled with loving relationships that remind us that even with the kindest people and the best intentions, life is complicated." (Justine Magazine, June/July 2014) 

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Plot Summary:
Hank Chu lives a fairly normal life; his mother works for a wealthy woman and his father owns a grocery store in Chinatown. What Hank doesn't realize is that his father harbors a secret that can be traced back to the time when China was no longer ruled by the emperor. Although Hank loves his father, he knows that his mother does not, which is why she never smiles. However, when his mother is taken hostage after a bank robbery, the Anchor comes to her rescue and gives her the idea that her son will not be like his father: he will be a superhero! Although Hank has no desire to be superhero, be obliges his mothers hair brained ideas along with many, many cuts and bruises thanks to Uncle Wun. Just when things could get any more difficult, Hank does something that will cost him dearly because he wanted to protect his family. Just when he is about to give up, his luck changes when an ancient guardian called The Tortoise arises, asking Hank to live in his shadow; what Hank didn't know is that the Tortoise saved his father by striking a deal that literally saved his father's life. Now that Hank has made a deal with Tortoise, Hank has decided that he must be a superhero to not only bring down a criminal empire, but bringing the man how hurt his family to justice. The Tortoise is on the case and readers will instantly fall in love with this underrated superhero.   

Critical Evaluation:
I absolutely, positively loved this story. In fact, I had no idea that the Green Turtle existed and I am tickled pink that Asian Americans have been represented in the long time awesomeness of comic books! What I love most about this story is how readers can easily relate to Hank. What I also relate to is Hank's mother because I see the same unconditional love and desire for him to be the best in my own mother. I also adore Hank's father because he really was Hank's rock and superhero despite all the secrecy. When readers learn all about Hank's family history, it is obvious that he Hank had a two very obvious choices to make: hide in the shadows and do what was expected or take his fate into his own hands and stand up for what is right. When I think of the Green Turtle, I am instantly reminded of Captain America because both of these two characters have the purest hearts and strong sense of wrong and right, which make them lovable and incredibly admirable. Another great aspect of this story, like Steve Rogers' super soldier serum, Tortoise makes a deal with Hank to make him bulletproof as long as Tortoise can live in his shadow. Like any superhero, there must be a sidekick and Hank has one in Tortoise. Armed with a guardian, and a strong will to seek out justice, Hank was reborn, which conveys the overall theme in this story: never accept of life of cowardice and taking a stand against injustice. More importantly, never confusing justice and vengeance, which plagues all of us, especially superheroes.
 

Information about the Author:
Gene Luen Yang
I began making comics and graphic novels over fifteen years ago.In 2006, my book American Born Chinese was published by First Second Books.  It became the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award. It also won an Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album – New.In 2013, First Second Books released Boxers & Saints, my two-volume graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion.  Boxers & Saints was nominated for a National Book Award and won the L.A. Times Book Prize.
I’ve done a number of other graphic novels, including the comics continuation of the popular Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender. This has been a thrill because I’m a HUGE fan of the original series.
In addition cartooning, I also teach.  I’ve taught high school computer science for almost two decades.  I also teach creative writing through Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.
Sonny Liew
Sonny Liew is a Eisner-nominated comic artist and illustrator whose work include titles for DC Vertigo, Marvel, First Second Books, SLG and Disney, along with the Xeric-awarded Malinky Robot. He currently resides in Singapore, where he sleeps with the fishes.

Genre:
Teen Graphic Novels

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to The Shadow Hero:
  • Captain America Series
  • Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai

Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com:

*"Yang and Liew reinvent this character in a brilliant homage that finally allows the Green Turtle to get his long overdue face time." - BCCB, STARRED REVIEW
 
*"There's plenty of humor in this lively, entertaining adventure story . . . At its heart, though, this book is a subtle comment on China's changing cultural landscape and growing multiculturism in America. A lovingly tongue-in-cheek homage." - Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
 
"The insight into Chinese mafia and 1940s American superhero comic book culture is wonderful." - VOYA
 
"Award-winning author Yang and artist Liew tackle a lesser-known aspect of history, breathing new life into the Green Turtle, a 1940s comic book hero . . . A creative take on the superhero genre." - School Library Journal
 
"Abundant humor, strong characters and cracking good action." - The Horn Book
 
"A golden-age comic superhero returns with a brand new Asian-American origin story . . . An entertaining and intelligent response to classic superhero stories." - Kirkus Reviews
 
STARRED REVIEW: "Racism, romance, humor, and identity all play important roles in Yang and Liew’s evocation of Hank’s life in pre-WWII San Francisco as they create an origin story that blends classic comics conventions with a distinctly Chinese perspective." - Publishers Weekly
 
Praise for Boxers & Saints:
 
“Read this, and come away shaking.” --Newbery Honor-winning author Gary Schmidt
 
“Masterful.” --Dave Eggers 
 
"Remarkable.” --The New York Times
 
“At once humorous and heartbreaking.” --The LA Times
 
"Epic.” --The Washington Post
Monday, October 6, 2014
Plot Summary:
Life for Quincy and Biddy has not been kind. According to Quincy, she used to be smart until her mother's boyfriend hit the side of her head with a brick and that is why she is a Speddie (Special Ed student). Despite being "slow," Quincy is quick on her feet and keeps her guard up because she won't let anyone hurt her again, nor will she allow anyone keep her from achieving her dreams. As for Biddy, she is "moderately retarded" due to a lack of oxygen to the brain and abandoned by her mother. Although she was raised by her grandmother, Biddy has never known kindness, or been loved, and constantly picked on by other people because she is heavy and "slow." The only thing in common that Biddy and Quincy have is that they are in the same life skills class, but, now that they have graduated, they are part of  new program that will make them roommates because they are no longer in foster care. For Quincy, she sees Biddy as a silly fool and treats her that way. However, as Quincy gets to know Biddy, she learns that Biddy has been through a whole lot worse, including the fact that Biddy had a baby she was forced to give away. With a new home, and new life with Miss Lizzy, Quincy and Biddy are off to a rocky start. However, all of that changes when Quincy finally understands what it's like to be Biddy and decides to let her guard down in order to heal. For Biddy, she finally hones her abilities to love unconditionally that it forces her to overcome her fears in order to protect those she loves. In this emotional roller coaster, readers will learn the horrors of reality where two girls must stick together in order to success and survive.


Critical Evaluation:
Gail Giles is a phenomenal writer and I was truly moved by this story. Although the language and the dialogue she uses can be somewhat confusing for some readers, it will come to them organically as they progress through the story. Both Quincy and Biddy have intellectual disabilities due to two very different situations: Quincy suffered a head injury and Biddy was born with moderate retardation. However, both girls have very distinct personalities where Quincy is always angry and Biddy is always fearful. Although tragedy is what brings these two girls together, they are able to heal and overcome their fears by relying on each other. With that said, I will warn readers now that rape is described and discussed, but it needs to be addressed because thousands of young girls (with or without disabilities) are assaulted every year. What makes this act even more disgusting is that them boys who did this to Biddy and Quincy knew they were incapable of defending themselves and easy to intimidate. This is not acceptable, especially when it comes to people with disabilities. Giles story is an honest depictions about girls who are forced to face the world alone and its heart breaking. Despite the ugliness that surrounds these girls, there quite a few beautiful moment makes them shines hope for Biddy and Quincy. I just love the fact that Quincy can cook Because, of all things, this is one act that don't require using her fists or sharp tongue. For Biddy, her knack for cleaning goes very deep , psychologically, but it helps her cope with her issues, but her maternal instinct is what makes her the perfect companion for Quincy. I was absolutely devastated when I heard Biddy's story, but she as the only who could Quincy in her time of need. Although Quincy doesn't, initially, tell Lizzy about her assault, she gathers all her strength and courage to tell her and they report the assault to the police who, contrary to what Biddy and Quincy think, they actually took this report seriously. this story has such phenomenal character development because Biddy is actually able to walk outside without her coat and Quincy finally lets people help and love her. So much happens in this tiny book and its mind blowing!!! Be sure to have a box of tissues at your side and be prepared to have one hell of a conversation with your friends, mentors, and family members.

Information about the Author:
According to her blog:
Born in Galveston, Texas, raised in LaMarque, Texas, went to school in Nacogdoches, Texas, lived for years in Lake Jackson, Texas, taught high school in Angleton, Texas. Is anyone picking up a pattern here? After three fabulous in Chicago, Illinois, I moved to Fairbanks and then Anchorage, Alaska, and yes, it was COLD! As of August, 2004, I'm back in Texas, Yee Haw!
[I am married to] Jim Giles—husband, best friend, love of my life. Josh Jakubik—son and hero. Hunter and Chase Jakubik—grandsons. Dawn Jakubik—terrific daughter in law.

Genre:
Teens with Disabilities, Teen Issues, Teen Contemporary Fiction

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 10 & up

Books Similar to Girls Like Us:
  • Stuck in Neutral by Terrie Trueman
  • The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry

Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com:

In compelling, engaging, and raw voices, 18-year-olds Biddy and Quincy, newly independent, intellectually disabled high-school graduates, narrate their growing friendship and uneasy transition into a life of jobs, "real world" apartments, and facing cruel prejudice. ... Biddy and Quincy share deep secrets and narrate lives heartrendingly full of anger, abandonment, and abuse... But with the help of patient Elizabeth and the support they gain from each other, they are empowered to move forward with strength and independence. Giles offers a sensitive and affecting story of two young women learning to thrive in spite of their hard circumstances.
—Booklist (starred review)

Giles’s background teaching special education students informs this blunt, honest, and absorbing story about two young women overcoming challenges that have less to do with their abilities to read or write than with how society views and treats them. In short, alternating chapters, the girls narrate in raw and distinct voices that capture their day-to-day hurdles, agony, and triumphs. The "found family" that builds slowly for Quincy, Biddy, and Elizabeth—with no shortage of misunderstandings, mistrust, or tears—is rewarding and powerful.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The story is told with both gentleness and a humor that laughs with, not at, the two girls. ... [T]he warmth, conflict and mutual caring that develop among Quincy, Biddy and elderly Miss Lizzy is authentic and genuinely moving. A respectful and winningly told story about people too often relegated to the role of plot device—bravo.
—Kirkus Reviews

The book gives memorable voice to underrepresented young women.
—The Horn Book

Girls Like Us is a quick, enjoyable read that is hard to put down. The author draws readers in with deep, meaningful characters who play on sympathies. ... The book is well written, with believable scenarios and dialogue most readers will enjoy. Girls Like Us will remain with readers long after they finish this story.
—VOYA 

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Plot Summary:
Auggie (August) really wants to go to school with kids his own age, but that won't happen because he doesn't look like the other kids. Born with facial deformities, Auggie has always dreamed of being normal because normal is average and normal is "nothing special." When Auggie's parents tell him that he has been accepted Beecher Preparatory, Auggie is terrified of the idea that he will go to school with kids he doesn't know; according to Auggie, it was one thing to meet kids when he was much younger since they didn't know any better, but, now, kids will know that he is different, which means he will be open to ridicule. Although Auggie and his father are against it, Auggie's mother believes it will be good for him since she is terrible at fractions and it's time that he gives middle school a chance and make new friends. Reluctantly, Auggie agrees to meet with the principal (Mr. Tushman), but he wasn't counting on a tour and meeting students from his class. Although everyone seemed really nice, Auggie knew they were freaked out about his face except for Jack Will. Charlotte was really helpful, but it was Jack Will who seemed genuine. When the first day of school arrived, Auggie was nervous and he new that people would react to his appearance so he kept to himself until Summer joined him at his empty lunch table. Is it possible that there are kids out there who don't mind his face? Even Jack Will joined them at their table so Auggie, for the first time in his life, had friends. Told from alternating point of views between Auggie, Jack Will, Via, and her friend, Justin, readers will learn how Auggie is not just special because of what he looks like, but how he makes people feel and just how challenging that can be for those who torn between wanting to be his friend, but are worried about what others will think.

Critical Evaluation:
What makes this story amazing is that it's a story for everyone. All of us, at one time or another, have known, or seen, people like Auggie and Julian. I have an older brother who has a learning disability so when Julian, and company, would say awful things about Auggie I wanted to throw the book across the room because I was soooo mad! I also wanted to cry my eyes out because all Auggie has ever wanted is to be normal, but, what also angers me, is that he IS NORMAL! This story conveys how fear of the unknown can have a very negative effect on people, especially when we don't teach our children to accept people for who they are and not what they look like. Honestly, who cares that Auggie's face is different, but, to a child, this is a life changing experience. If readers have the opportunity to check out, or buy, the special edition of Wonder (that has a chapter from Julian's point of view) it makes sense why he behaves that he does. However, his bullying is not at all acceptable and it's obvious where it comes from when his own mother demands the expulsion of Mr. Tushman for not following "protocol" in regards to Auggie's admission into Beecher Prep. Moreover, when Julian's mother said that Beecher Prep was not an inclusion school, I wanted to ring her neck. Another reason why this book is amazing is that Auggie has the most amazing support system, which, sadly, not all kids (like Auggie) have. Even with Via's outburst, she realizes that Auggie needs his family because everyone is so quick to reject him because of his looks. Lastly, I loved the dynamics of Auggie's friends and how most of the kids had evolved after the "incident" and how they got tired of Julian harrasing Jack and Auggie. This is a great story where adults and children can come together to not only talk about real tough issues like bullying, and tolerance, it is also about teaching, and learning, the power of empathy and kindness. This book is timeless and I can't wait to read it to my own children some day.

Information about the Author:
According to the author's website:
I live in NYC with my husband, two sons, and two dogs. For many years, I was an art director and book jacket designer, designing covers for countless well-known and not so well-known writers in every genre of fiction and nonfiction. I always wanted to write, though. I kept waiting for the perfect time in my life to start writing, but after more than twenty years of designing book jackets for other people, I realized that the perfect time would never really present itself. It's never the perfect time to start writing a book. So I  decided to just go for it. Wonder is my first novel. And no, I didn't design the cover, but I sure do love it.

Genre:
Tween Fiction, Tween Issues

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 5 & up
 

Books Similar to Wonder:
  •  The One and Only Ivan by Kathryn Applegate
  •  Freak the Might by Rodman Philbrick

Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com

"Wonder is essentially ... a wonder. It's well-written, engaging, and so much fun to read that the pages almost turn themselves. More than that, Wonder touches the heart in the most life-affirming, unexpected ways, delivering in August Pullman a character whom readers will remember forever. Do yourself a favor and read this book – your life will be better for it." - Nicholas Sparks, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Slate.com, October 10, 2012:
"Wonder is the best kids' book of the year."

Entertainment Weekly, February 17, 2012, The Top 10 Things We Love This Week:
"In a wonder of a debut, Palacio has written a crackling page-turner filled with characters you can't help but root for."

The New York Times, April 8, 2012:
"Rich and memorable...It's Auggie and the rest of the children who are the real heart of 'Wonder,' and Palacio captures the voices of girls and boys, fifth graders and teenagers, with equal skill."

The Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2012:
"What makes R.J. Palacio's debut novel so remarkable, and so lovely, is the uncommon generosity with which she tells Auggie's story…The result is a beautiful, funny and sometimes sob-making story of quiet transformation.”

The Huffington Post,
March 1, 2012:
"It's in the bigger themes that Palacio's writing shines. This book is a glorious exploration of the nature of friendship, tenacity, fear, and most importantly, kindness."
January 2013: "I think every mother and father would be better for having read it. Auggie's parents -- who are never named in the book, and don't even get to narrate a chapter of their own -- are powerful examples not only of how to shelter and strengthen a child with heartbreaking facial anomalies, but also of how to be a loving advocate to any kid."

The London Times, The Top 100 People to Watch in 2012:
"The breakout publishing sensation of 2012 will come courtesy of Palacio [and] is destined to go the way of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and then some." 

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Plot Summary:
Known as the son of the most notorious serial killer, Billy Dent, Jazz has been trying to live a normal life for the past four years--he even has a girlfriend and a best friend. However, when the body of a dead woman shows up Lobos Nod, Jazz can't help but investigate the crime scene because who would know crime scenes more than him? The thing about Jazz is that he didn't learn about his father's crimes from a report...his father actually brought him to the murders and forced him to watch. Although Jazz seems to have a pretty good head on his shoulders, what he fears the most is the very idea that he could end up just like his father. When Jazz approaches G. William (the officer who captured his father and has tried to help Jazz live a normal life) about the victim, he is instantly told to mind his own business because not every dead body conveys a serial killer is on the loose. However, this body isn't just another dead body; the victim was found naked and missing three fingers where the killer "accidentally" drops the middle finger for police to find. There's something not right about the whole thing so Jazz and his best friend, Howie, break into the morgue to look over the corpse and Jazz' theory is starting to make sense when he noticed the bruising on her knuckles and the lack of it on her back. Despite being careful, Jazz and Howie are caught while "investigating" Jane Doe and the killer continues his rampage and, unfortunately, his pattern is awful familiar, which Jazz starts to believe that his father has returned. The only problem with this theory is that Billy Dent is locked away in solitary confinement so this must be copycat killer and, with copycat killers, they bound to make a mistakes. As Jazz continues to struggle with his own identity, and the fact there is a serial killer on the loose, he continues his own investigation because if could actually catch the killer, he will not be able to redeem his name, but prove to himself that he is nothing like his father. However, his nightmares continue to haunt him and Jazz starts to think that he isn't as innocent as everyone thinks.

Critical Evaluation:
WOWZA! I really don't have any other words to use to describe how amazing this book is. Although the subject matter may not appeal to everyone, Lyga is an incredible writer who knows to capture his audience. I will admit that I am a super huge fan of Criminal Minds [ a fictional television show focusing on a unit called the Behavior Analysis Unit (BAU)] where a lot of the terminology and descriptions are very familiar. However, to the unknowing reader, they will learn a lot about criminal investigations and what really defines a serial killer. Along with the murder and mayhem aspect, there is some serious character development going on this story because Jazz is concerned about his future and the prospect that he could become his father (i.e., the feelings and urges he has when approaches people). There has been a long debate about murders being genetically programmed to kill, but, in this case, Jazz was raised by a maniac that forced him to watch kill. I can't imagine what it's like being Jazz because he is constantly haunted by his father's words, actions,  and advice. Jazz really didn't have a chance at a normal life because of his father so I have to hand it to him for being so well adjusted. Than again, according to Jazz, serial killers can blend in perfectly with society, but what sets him apart from people like his father is his empathy. He stood up to Howie's bullies and made a friend for life and he genuinely loves his girlfriend despite the fact her father hates him. Serial killers, from what we learn, are narcissists and utterly selfish so Jazz doesn't "fit the profile" yet he is still paranoid that it's not real or genuine. What's troubling Jazz  is that he has no faith in who he is because he feels responsible for Billy's victims. No matter what Connie, Howie, or G. William say, nothing will ever be good enough until he brings this copycat down. The question is: how much is Jazz willing to risk to prove he isn't a serial killer. This novel packs quite a punch and I can't wait for the sequel!

Information about the Author:
According to the author's website:
After graduating from Yale with a degree in English, Lyga worked in the comic book industry before quitting to pursue his lifelong love of writing. In 2006, his first young adult novel, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, was published to rave reviews, including starred reviews from Booklistand School Library JournalPublishers Weekly named Lyga a “Flying Start” in December 2006 on the strength of the debut.
His second young adult novel, Boy Toy, received starred reviews in SLJPublishers Weekly, and KirkusVOYA gave it its highest critical rating, and the Chicago Tribune called it “…an astounding portrayal of what it is like to be the young male victim.” His third novel, Hero-Type, according to VOYA “proves that there are still fresh ideas and new, interesting story lines to be explored in young adult literature.”
Since then, he has also written Goth Girl Rising (the sequel to his first novel), as well as the Archvillain series for middle-grade readers and the graphic novel Mangaman (with art by Colleen Doran).
His latest series is I Hunt Killers, called by the LA Times “one of the more daring concepts in recent years by a young-adult author” and an “extreme and utterly alluring narrative about nature versus nurture.” The first book landed on both the New York Times and USAToday bestsellers lists, and the series has been optioned for television by Warner Bros./Silver Pictures.
Lyga lives and writes in New York City. His comic book collection is a lot smaller than it used to be, but is still way too big.

Genre:
Teen Mysteries, Teen Suspense, Teen Horror

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 10 & up

Books Similar to I Hunt Killers:
  • The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com

"I Hunt Killers is an out-of-control hearse with one busted headlight, blood on the grille, a madman at the wheel, and laughter pouring out of the open windows... Climb in, buckle up, and go for a ride."—Joe Hill, author of Horns andHeart-Shaped Box

* "A superb mystery/thriller that explores what it's like to have a monster for a father...but it's Jazz's internal conflict about his exposure to his father's evil that adds extra dimension and makes the book shine."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"I adored this book. The mystery pulls you in from the first pages, and Jazz is a more chillingly charming protagonist than Dexter Morgan."—Cassandra Clare, author of the Mortal Instruments series

* "Lyga brilliantly combines the feel of a true crime story with mystery, adventure, and psychoanalysis."—VOYA, starred review --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Plot Summary:
After a near death battle with the Darkling, Alina was spirited away from the Little Palace to the darkness of the underground White Chapel. Although she is weak, Alina is struggling with her confinement and suspects that the Apparat is keeping her locked up for his own advantage. However, after a coup, led by Mal and company, they escape the underground in search of Nikolai despite the fact they have no where he is or if he survived the battle at the Little Palace. Fortunately, Nikolai is a lot stronger, and cleaver, than anyone could have imagined so it should have been no surprise that he would rescue Alina and the others after encountering Second Army deserters. More importantly, while Alina spent months convalescing, Nikolai managed to create ever more extravagant machines, which takes our heroes to the most elaborate hideout ever: the Mountains. As Alina continues to struggle harnessing her powers, she is also battling the conflicting feelings about Mal and the Darkling. However, when Baghra tells Alina her life's history, it only makes sense why the Darkling is the way he is. Moreover, Alina is had to deal with the fact that if she succeeds, as is the Sun Summoner, she must join Nikolai, the heir to the Ravkan throne, to keep her not only keep Ravka safe, but say goodbye to the only man she has ever loved. As the group continues their search for Morozova's last amplifier (the Firebird) they set on a journey that will not only reveal the true origin of the final amplifier, but the sacrifice that Alina will have to make to earn it's power. There is a huge plot twist so get ready for the "HOLY COW" moment.

Critical Evaluation:
As much as I love this series, I was a little disappointed with how this series ended. IN many respects, I thought the story was rushed and could have used more plot development since the author actually revealed the history about Morozova, Baghra, and the Darkling. Although loved the fact that Alina and the Darkling could communicate with one another, especially when he revealed his real name and his feelings, there really is room for a fourth installment where Bardugo could expand upon Darkling's  inner turmoil. Personally, as a reader, I would prefer to have this struggle in the story because it would make his death that more memorable because, beneath the power hungry exterior, is a lost soul who wanted his country united, but went about it the wrong way. Granted, Baghra did explain that she was responsible for his ways, but I really wanted more drama and turmoil! What I did adore about this series is that all of the characters in this story have equally good and dark sides; the Darkling, at least for me, was not only appealing, but his loneliness pulled at my heart strings because, in the end, he really did love Alina and it was only natural that he would die because of her. The back story to Morozova was not only interesting, but actually deserves it's own story where readers can get the full story that not only shows how Mal, Alina, and the Darkling are connected. In my opinion, this love triangle is much more enticing than the Edward, Bella, and Jacob triangle (at least the Darkling didn't try to imprint on Alina's Child). In the end, Mal, Alina, and the Darkling where destined to meet, love, and, ultimately, experience some sort of loss and Bardugo delivered on that promise. Despite wanting more, the story ended the way it should and I was so happy to know that Alina got the happy ending she deserved. 

Information about the Author:
According to the author's website:

Leigh Bardugo is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Grisha Trilogy: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising. She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and most recently, makeup and special effects. These days, she’s lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band. Her new book, The Dregs, arrives fall 2015.

Genre:
Teen Fantasy, Teen Steampunk

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Ruin & Rising:

Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com

"The magic Bardugo invents will surprise and delight readers." - The Horn Book
"Readers won't be able to turn the pages fast enough to the conclusion that will generate much discussion." - Booklist

"Once again, Bardugo is a master at building an action-packed fantasy with extraordinary world-building and complex characters . . . Fans of the first two books will not be disappointed." - School Library Journal

"Triumphant . . If opener Shadow and Bone was a magical coming-of-age story and middle-volume Siege and Storm was a policial thriller, then this third book is an epic quest. . . Every time readers may think she's written herself into a corner, Bardugo pulls off a twist that, while surprising, will keep them turning pages furiously." - Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Plot Summary:
Karou has taken the rebellion from Thiago with the help of Ziri and walks a very thin line with the rest of her comrades. Meanwhile, Eliza's past returns to haunt her and is trying desperately to figure out why the Seraphim and Jael have come to Earth. For Akiva, he has to find a way to convince the remaining Misbegotten that by joining the Chimera they will be able to end Jael's tyranny and reclaim Astrae. For Zuzana and Mik, they remain at Karou's side to help her resurrect Chimera who were slaughtered by Thiago for defiance.  When Akiva returns with the Misbegotten, tensions are high especially when they are told that chimera and serigraphs will be fighting side be side. Although Akva and Karou are holding on to their dream with both hands, things start to fall apart when insurrections arise and allies betray them. With a plan in hand, Akiva and Karou will have to go to Earth to stop Jael from bringing earthly weapons to Eretz, but with one small catch: no more blood will be shed and that proves difficult with Liraz who wants Jael's head on a platter. What should have been a rock solid plan, turns to dust when Akiva is pushed into the Earthen portal with Karou, leaving Ziri and Liraz behind to fight off the Dominion, which leaves him devastated. However, with Karou by his side, they must sneak into the Vatican to convince Jael to leave peacefully, which doesn't exactly goes to plan. Lastly, when Eliza's past is exposed, she spins out of control and the only ones who can save her are Zuzana and Mik. Who exactly is Eliza and why is she linked to all of this. Moreover, after using Sirithat, the Stelian Queen, Scarab, is on a mission to find and destroy Akiva because his powers have the ability to not only bring an end to the Continuum, but release an evil that is laying patiently in the dark. 
 
Critical Evaluation:
HOLY COW! EPIC! Thank you jury duty for keeping me locked in a room with nothing better to do than devour this final installment. I was kinds of worried, at first, that if Taylor introduced any more characters, my head would spin. However, Eliza's story is essential in tying the series together. I will also admit that I am so unbelievably happy that Eliza, whose ancestors originated from a biblical story that's only recognized in Ethiopia, is, indeed, African. Honestly, as much as love YA fiction, it's still hard to find stories where there are important characters that are of multiple ethnicity so BRAVO Laini Taylor for including a part of biblical history that readers may not familiar with. Although the characters in this story relate to Christian mysticism (angels and demons), Taylor doesn't bash readers over the head with the idea of heaven vs. hell. In fact, what she does is pose the simple question of other realms being spliced together, unintentionally, through time and space. When readers find out about the faerers and the cataclysm, everything will make sense. More important, readers will learn the real reason why the Serpahim and Chimera loathe each other and it is a bit unsettling. Although the Stelians are seen as ambivalent and selfish, they actually bear a burden that forces them to not pick a side because they are trying to pick up the mess that the Magi started thousands of years ago. I did find myself hurrying through the book because I just wanted Akiva and Karou to have a happy ending; however, Taylor's decision to include final part of the story with the Stelians I think was a great way to not leave any loose ends. Granted, readers will be left for another installment, Taylor actually leaves enough room to begin a whole new series that could easily pick up where Akiva and Karou left off. Great story and I did tear up when Akiva and Karou finally went home together. Amazing trilogy and I can't wait to see what Laini Taylor has planned next!

Information about the Author:
According to Amazon.com:
Laini Taylor is the author of the National Book Award Finalist Lips Touch: Three Times, as well as the novels Blackbringer and Silksinger. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, and their daughter.

Genre:
Teen Fantasy, Teen Supernatural Romance

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Dreams of Gods & Monsters:
  • Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
  • Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com:

*In the final book of the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, Taylor revives the strong interweaving of reality and fantasy that gave the first story such cross-genre appeal."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"[An] ambitious, gorgeously edgy drama lit up by its coruscating characters and prose."— Kirkus

"New revelations, characters, multiple love stories, and constant plot twists and suspense will not disappoint Taylor's many fans."— Booklist

"For all the well-made trappings of fantasy and horror, the patchwork amalgamation of myth and legend, the machinations of plot, and the colorful menagerie of ensemble characters, this story remains, at heart, a romance-clear-eyed, tender, and satisfying."—The Horn Book

*"Though readers will be loath to leave this world behind, the trilogy ends with a sweet buffet of just deserts; the best balm for the bereft may be to start the series again from the beginning."—The Bulletin (starred review)

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Plot Summary:
After learning about the deaths of her Chimera family, Karou found the portal, with the help of Razgut, to see what remains of her home in Loremendi. Sadly, there is nothing but wasteland and death, which fills Karou with utter rage that Akiva was responsible for all of this. Unwilling to believe that Brimstone was really dead, Karou went searching for them and stumbled upon something even more upsetting: Thiago was alive and that Brimstone was working on resurrecting fallen soldiers to create an army for Thiago to lead a rebellion bent on annihilation. Upon learning that Brimstone is truly dead, Karou has aligned herself with the very creature that executed Madrigal eighteen years ago by taking resuming Brimstone's work in order to take revenge against the angels, including Akiva. Although building an army of Chimera soldiers is dangerous in their realm, Karou's human form has been quite the advantage since she is resurrecting the soldiers in the human world. Meanwhile, Zuzana is desperately trying to reach her friend and is guarding her most prized possessions (her sketchbooks) and keeping the press at bay. When Zuzana learns that a woman has been breaking into museums and taking teeth, she knows that Karou is alive. However, she is angry that Karou hasn't tried to communicate with her until she receives an enigmatic email from her filled with odd familiar phrases. What is Karou trying to tell her? As for Akiva, he returns to Eretz only to find that Hazel and Liraz have not told anyone about his predicament. However, Akiva has decided that he will atone for his sins against Karou by saving Chimera rather than slaughtering them. Granted, his angelic siblings know something is going on with him, he has yet to reveal his intentions to them. In this sequel, readers will follow the main characters through their separate journeys and meet new characters who will make this saga even more epic because the ending of this story is really just the beginning of something beautiful or tragic. 

Critical Evaluation:
Honestly, I never like sequels because they tend to be the weakest. However, Days of Blood & Starlight is literally the Empire Strikes Back of the trilogy. I absolutely appreciate the fact that all of the main characters go on their separate journeys because readers finally have the chance to get to know these characters more. Furthermore, by having each character take these necessary strides, this allows the author to fully develop the character, which is amazing because we see that Karou had to make some serious choices that she, as a human, has never had to make. For Akiva, we see a creature plagued with guilt and is desperately trying to make amends for what he did by trying to save Chimera from Joram. What is so unbelievably endearing about Akiva is the he refuses to give up on the idea of peace and Karou. Honestly, of all the characters who has endured the most suffering, he is the one who continues to cling to the promise he made Madrigal before her death. As for Zuzana, I love this girl!!! I am so happy happy happy that she has her own story because she complements Karou so beautifully it reminds me of me and my best friend. More importantly, I loved the fact that she and Mik were able to interact and communicate with the Chimera because it shows the simple truth that we can all coexist if we take the time to learn from one another. I have a strong feeling that when the chimera find out what Thiago is up to they will be more apt to protect than ravage because humans are really just naked chimera with the same capacity to love. This is probably one of the strongest things in the story, which is so utterly beautiful. Although the war between the chimera and angels is ancient, it's an necessary power struggle between to races where death becomes a never ending result.  Despite the Romeo & Juliet likeness, this is story about living and fighting to prove that in order to bring peace, everyone must embrace change otherwise everyone is doomed. I can't wait to the last one!!

Information about the Author:
According to Amazon.com:
Laini Taylor is the New York Times bestselling author of Days of Blood & Starlight, Daughter of Smoke & Bone, the Dreamdark books Blackbringer and Silksinger, and the National Book Award finalist Lips Touch: Three Times. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, and their daughter, Clementine. Her website is www.lainitaylor.com.
Genre:
Teen Fantasy, Teen Supernatural Romance

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Blood & Starlight:

Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com

A Top Ten Amazon Best Book of the Year for Teens
New York Times Bestseller
A Junior Library Guild Selection of the Year


* "Taylor continues to build an irresistible fantasy world in this grim sequel to her masterful Daughter of Smoke & Bone...Taylor's dazzling writing and skill at creating suspense are strong as ever; fantasy lovers will gobble up this book with satisfaction."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

* "The future of Karou, her ill-fated romance with Akiva, and the survival of both of their races await readers in the concluding volume; it promises to be a doozy."—The Horn Book, starred review

* "Taylor manages to make a five-hundred-page epic read at a breakneck speed that will have readers struggling to finish in one sitting. This sequel to Daughter of Smoke & Bone will paradoxically satisfy readers' desire for more of Karou's story while leaving them begging for the third installment."—VOYA, starred review

* "The impossible choices each character faces compel readers to consider the fission when ethics slam into power, creating a chain reaction of pain and grim, uncertain outcomes that must be worked through even if chances for hope on the other side are slim. Of course, [readers will be left] in breathless anticipation for the next installment, but the intensity of this middle piece is a satisfying feast all on its own."—BCCB, starred review

"Emotionally intense...memorable characters and turns of phrase."—Kirkus

"The next Next Big Thing."—Wired

"It is written masterfully and filled with poetic lyricism that tricks you into believing you are reading a classic. The book is melancholy and the pain of the characters is so etched into the pages that after you put the book down you find yourself hovering in dark corners, muttering to yourself about the cruelty of the world. But don't let that put you off from reading what will become a classic in literature in the decades to come, for sure. I am eagerly awaiting book three. Mrs Taylor! Bring it on!"—Fantasy Book Review

Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Plot Summary:
After three of years of pain and suffering, Scarlet is now well enough to attend public school for the first time in years. The problem with this new adventure is that she is entering high as book, which, by no means, is going to be a cake walk for the girl who almost died, twice. Although Scarlet is forced to carry around an AED monitor (named Phil), one would expect people to be a little sympathetic to her situation. Unfortunately, the moment she stepped into the hall she is accosted by a bully and hundreds of stares. In this high school, if one stands out, not in the "normal" way, you are a loser and a freak. Scarlet trudged through her day the best she can, but knowing that her heart may give out at any time worries her. What Her peers don't know is that she has a rare genetic disease called Long QT Syndrome where her heart spins out of control and she could drop dead at any moment. The reason why Scarlet is attending high school because she has no idea if she will be tomorrow.What should have been a smooth transition, turns out of control when Mitch Kowlasky decides to bully her, especially when he finds out that she is befriend by Celina, Jordan, Nessa, and Tony. As part of her introduction, Scarlet is part of PMS (Peer Mentoring Support) where teens with problems come together to find healthy solution. Unfortunately, this group becomes the prime target for Mitch and his goons, but Scarlet does the unthinkable: she actually humiliates the bully himself. Granted, people started noticing her more (and admire her for it), but the bullying gets worse. When Celina unexpectedly "falls down the stairs," Scarlet and Tony stop by her house to check up on her, which opens a flood gate where Scarlet's overprotective mother threatens to call child services and forbids Scarlet to go back to school. In order to keep the life she has fallen in love with, Scarlet makes a deal that will allow her to better manage her illness, but then she makes a shocking discovery that will turn her entire world upside down. I didn't see this one coming and neither will you!

Critical Evaluation:
I could not believe the twist this story took! I was seriously expecting a dramatic tale of girl wanting nothing more than to live her last moments on Earth by falling in love and being with the people she cares about. I really thought that the countdown was about Scarlet's life expectancy dwindling, but, alas I WAS WRONG! WOW! C.J. Lyon's is one heck of a storyteller because when we thought we get a sad story about teenage love and loss, we get a murder mystery/thriller as well! Along with Scarlet's heart-breaking tale, readers also learn about her friends' life stories which are equally tragic. Lyons does an amazing job exposing readers to a variety of situations that are not only humbling, but very real. For example, Nessa is dealing with her sister's suicide by self-medicating herself; Celine is trying to care for her severely autistic sister while her mother is dying of cancer; Jordan is dealing with a lot of guilt, which forces him become overprotective. Lastly, for Tony, he lost his father long ago and it's always been him and his mom. There is so much readers can learn from these teens because, at the end of the day, they had to force themselves to be brave and deal with the consequences the best they could. Fortunately, for the bully, Mitch, is Scarlet hadn't done what she did, he may not be alive. This story is definitely an eye-opener for those who have no idea what some of their peers are dealing with and I hope they learned a lot of things from this story. Again, I was not anticipating the ending of this story, I am very satisfied that Scarlet was able to take control with her life and have the courage to remain in her home despite everything that has happened. There is a great Q&A section with the author and valuable tips for teens.

Information about the Author:
According to her website:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.
CJ has been called a “master within the genre” (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as “breathtakingly fast-paced” and “riveting” (Publishers Weekly) with “characters with beating hearts and three dimensions” (Newsday).
She has assisted police and prosecutors with cases involving child abuse, rape, homicide and Munchausen by Proxy. She has worked in numerous trauma centers, on the Navajo reservation, as a crisis counselor, victim advocate, as well as a flight physician for Life Flight and Stat Medevac.
A story-teller all her life, CJ has always created stories about people discovering the courage to make a difference. This led her to coin the term: Thrillers with Heart.
CJ has taught numerous live and online workshops as well as given keynote speeches to audiences around the world, including: The London Book Fair, The Frankfurt Book Fair, MWA, RWA, Romantic Times, Oklahoma Writer Federation, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and PennWriters among others. She was also the conference chairperson for the highly successful inaugural ITW ThrillerFest.
Her novels have won the International Thriller Writers prestigious Thriller Award, the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Golden Gateway, Readers’ Choice Award, the RT Seal of Excellence, and Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense.

Genre:
Teen Issues, Teen Fiction, Teen Mysteries, Teen Thrillers

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Broken:

Awards & Recognition:From Amazon.com

"[A] suspenseful thriller laced with medical intrigue and coming-of-age triumph. " - Booklist

"A chilling medical suspense story-Lyons' specialty-expertly entwines with teen-oriented family drama and the eye-rolling social hierarchy that is high school...Not just for teens, Broken effectively addresses many modern issues, including bullying and the pediatric healthcare system. " - RT Book Reviews

""Lyons dives deep into the human soul... Her three dimensional characters resonate with readers long after the final page." --RT BookReviews, on Black Sheep " - RT Book Reviews

"CJ Lyons' new YA novel, Broken, heralds a strong new female protagonist whose history counters the challenges and mysteries ahead. Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak meets Kathy Reichs' Virals. " - Jill Moore, Square Books, Jr., Oxford, MS

"Broken is an intense page-turner. Readers will race to the end to see if Scarlet will uncover the truth about herself and those around her before it's too late." - April Henry, New York Times Bestselling Author

""[A] fast-paced thriller" with a "I-totally-didn't-see-it-coming ending."" - Entertainment Weekly's Shelf Life

""The concept of this book is an interesting and fresh one," and promises that readers "will be happy they kept reading." " - VOYA

""Scarlet is a likable character, smart and savvy, sheltered and innocent. Her friends and enemies are well drawn and the tension feels real . . . Readers who enjoy surprise revelations as in Matt de la Peña's I Will Save You will appreciate the twist here." " - School Library Journal

Broken by C.J. Lyons

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Plot Summary:
Karou has no recollection of her past. She doesn't know who she is and has no idea how she inherited her special abilities. The only thing she does know is that she cannot tell anyone, even her best friend, that she has been raised by the very entities she draws: mythological creatures known as Chimera. Karou is currently an art student at one of the most prestigious academies in the Czech Republic. After breaking up with her two-timing boyfriend, Karou spends most of her time focusing on her art and running errands for her guardian named Brimstone. Although Brimstone is Chimera, he is actually known as a Wishmonger who collects teeth to make wishes. The trouble with the teeth part is that Karou is actually responsible for retrieving those items using portals that take her "Elsewhere." Although she calls them "errands" most of us would call outlandish adventures that could easily cost her her life. Despite all of the excitement, Karou is starting to realize the loneliness that resides in her heart. After Kaz, all Karou wants is to be wanted and love, but with the recent events, the only beings she loves and cares about are in grave danger. Recently, black handprints have been appearing on all of the portals that Karou uses and they are put there by other worldly creatures who are bent on cleansing the Earth of Chimera. When Brimstone summons her, in desperation, Karou notices how worried he is because his supply of teeth has run dry. On her journey to meet an old acquaintance, who was banished from the shop, Karou runs into a beautiful creature with dark eyes filled with hate until he notices the tattoos on her palms. What is it about the pair of eyes on her hands that stopped the beautiful, angelic creature from killing her? Secondly, why are all the portals closed off and what has happened to Brimstone and the rest of her Chimera family? Rather than living the life Brimstone told her to live, Karou wants answers as to who she really is and why an angel would risk his immortal soul for her.

Critical Evaluation:
This story is probably one of the most epic romances I have read in a while and I am just in awe. Not only am I drawn to Karou and Akiva (as mythical beings), but their loneliness and their reunion is what pulls at my heart strings. Once readers start learning about the Angels and the Chimera, it starts to makes sense why this war exists. In other words, the Angels thought they were civilizing a species, but, in reality, they were enslaving and oppressing the Chimera, which ended up in a bloody Civil War. The funny thing is that Angels really believed they were doing good, but, they took for granted the fact that the Chimera never asked for any of it; thus, the mess that brought Madrigal and Akiva together. In relation to Karou, readers are definitely thrown for a loop when we learn that she may be a reincarnation of a Madrigal that saved Akiva from death, which may, or may not, please readers. Karou is a strong, young woman who has her own soul (and personality) so it's a little condescending to read that Akiva is only attracted to her because she happens to be Madrigal in another form. Although Karou/Madrigal are really the same person, she was reborn with the memories, but her way of thinking has changed immensely. Personally, I think Karou and Madrigal are two separate entities, but they both represent the Chimera that shows they are not vicious monsters and that human are more forgiving and compassionate than Angels. For example, Brimstone didn't have to raise Karou as his own, but he did because he does have the capability to love. More importantly, to be human is compassionate and knowing what's true and what's now (why else would she go looking for the family she still loves despite everything). The part that I find ironic is that both both of the main characters are not human, yet the possess the will and the want to be loved, accepted, and forgiven. In essence, the question the author poses is what really makes us human or inhuman? Both Karou and Akiva love being in our world because there is so much beauty and life; for Akiva, this world has hope, which, coincidentally, is the meaning of Karou's name. For Karou, she has her art, her best friend Zuzana, and she has her childhood among the Chimera. Honestly, there is a lot going on this story that is so incredibly deep that readers can't help but to devour the pages in one sitting. Laini Taylor is truly a gifted storyteller and I am looking forward to reading the next installments.

Information about the Author:
According to her blog:
I'm Laini Taylor.
I am a writer-artist-daydreamer-nerd-person,
and simultaneously a mom-wife-sister-daughter-person.
I can do a lot of things at once, like for example: I can sleep and dream and also lie very still,
all while also breathing and ever-so-slowly growing ten distinct toenails.
* * *
I write books for youngish people, 
but they can also be read and enjoyed by oldish people, aka grown-ups.
You know grown-ups? They tend to be a little bigger and hairier than kids.
But not always.
* * *
I live in Portland, Oregon, USA
with my husband Jim Di Bartolo, who is an amazing illustrator and who I'm
always begging to draw me things,
and with our wee droll genius, Clementine Pie.
* * *
Some of my favorite things are books and bookstores
and breakfast food and mangoes and chocolate,
and cake stands and table cloths and old houses,
and going places (like libraries and other countries),
and dreaming up stories,
and making stuff (like cupcakes or peculiar dolls),
and playing with Jim and Clementine,
and taking pictures,
and falling asleep (so cozy)
and waking up (exciting!).

Genre:
Teen Fantasy, Teen Supernatural Romance

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Daughter of Smoke and Bone:

Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com
  •  YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults
  • A New York Times Notable Children's Book of the Year
  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
  • A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
  • A Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book of the Year
  • A Junior Library Guild Selection of the YearA Publishers Weekly, starred review

* "Lush description of a gothic and ghostly Prague beckons readers from the first page and fulfills its promise, leading to a star-crossed romance that spans worlds and transcends death...[Leaves] the reader both satisfied and eagerly anticipating a forthcoming sequel."—The Horn Book, starred review

* "The suspense builds inexorably, and the philosophical as well as physical battles will hold action-oriented readers. The unfolding of character, place, and plot is smoothly intricate, and the conclusion is a beckoning door to the next volume."—School Library Journal, starred review

* "National Book Award finalist Taylor (Lips Touch: Three Times) again weaves a masterful mix of reality and fantasy with cross-genre appeal. Exquisitely written and beautifully paced, the tale is set in ghostly, romantic Prague, where 17-year-old Karou is an art student--except when she is called "home" to do errands for the family of loving, albeit inhuman, creatures who raised her. Mysterious as Karou seems to her friends, her life is equally mysterious to her: How did she come to live with chimaera? Why does paternal Brimstone eternally require teeth--especially human ones? And why is she "plagued by the notion that she wasn't whole....a sensation akin to having forgotten something?" Taylor interlaces cleverly droll depictions of contemporary teenage life with equally believable portrayals of terrifying otherworldly beings. When black handprints begin appearing on doorways throughout the world, Karou is swept into the ancient deadly rivalry between devils and angels and gradually, painfully, acquires her longed-for self-knowledge. The book's final pages seemingly establish the triumph of true love--until a horrifying revelation sets the stage for a second book."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

* "Rarely--perhaps not since the author's own Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer (2007)--does a series kick off so deliciously."—Kirkus, starred review

* "[A]long with writing in such heightened language that even casual banter often comes off as wildly funny, the author crafts a fierce heroine with bright-blue hair, tattoos, martial skills, a growing attachment to a preternaturally hunky but not entirely sane warrior and, in episodes to come, an army of killer angels to confront. Rarely--perhaps not since the author's own Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer (2007)--does a series kick off so deliciously."—Kirkus, starred review

* "Taylor crafts both her world and her romance with meticulous care, building the first on a wealth of thought-provoking details and making the second equal parts tender and antagonistic...Fans of torturously star-crossed lovers a la those in Marr's Wicked Lovely and Black's Tithe will find much to enjoy here, but those who flock to innovative, character-driven fantasy with thematic depth will be equally enthralled."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review

"[A] breath-catching romantic fantasy about destiny, hope and the search for one's true self"—The New York Times Book Review

"An adventurous story of self-identity, "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" is written with high-stakes flair and a touch of humor...[It is] well-told and well-paced, raising intriguing questions about notions of identity, expectation, trust, betrayal and belonging."—The Los Angeles Times

"Author Taylor has created a variety of worlds, time frames, and creatures with such detail and craft that all are believable...Readers will look forward to the suggested sequel to this complex, exciting tale."—Booklist

* "Lush description of a gothic and ghostly Prague beckons readers from the first page and fulfills its promise, leading to a star-crossed romance that spans worlds and transcends death...[Leaves] the reader both satisfied and eagerly anticipating a forthcoming sequel."—The Horn Book (starred review)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Posted by Deborah Takahashi

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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