SLJ’s teen reviewers took a look at an interesting mix of books this month. Project Cain is the YA companion to S&S Touchstone’s Cain’s Blood, which released simultaneously. Author Melissa Marr picks up the editor’s pen for the short story collection Rags & Bones. Backwards is Todd Mitchell’s latest novel, which is surprisingly told in reverse. For Percy Jackson fans, Bree Despain kicks off her new series in early 2014 with Into the Dark: The Shadow Prince.
GIRARD, Geoffrey. Project Cain. S&S. 2013. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 9781442476967.
Gr 9-12—Jeff Jacobson was just a normal teenage boy until his father told him that he is the clone of the serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, and part of an experiment called PROJECT CAIN. After this revelation, his father abandons him, leaving Jeff to fend for himself. The teen ends up getting abducted by Castillo. Castillo wants Jeff because he claims that he needs him to find the other clones that are part of the experiment. Together they try to find the clones and Jeff’s father.
Overall, I thought this book was fairly okay. The beginning of the book was good; it made me want to read on. I found it interesting that the protagonist Jeff is a clone of a serial killer. When Castillo abducts Jeff, I found it boring how the two keep moving on to different places while nothing much is really happening. I also found that this book was too violent for me. Project Cain is not recommended for readers who don’t like a lot of violence—at some parts it was quite gory. I think this book would be good for readers who like science fiction stories and thrillers, because those are the genres this book would fall under.—Harris D., age 14
MARR, Melissa, ed. Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales. Little, Brown. Oct. 2013. Tr.$18. ISBN 9780316212946.
Gr 9 Up—Rags and Bones, edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Prat, is an exquisite compilation of modern takes of both easily recognized and dust-covered fairy tales. With renowned authors such as Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, and Margaret Stohl, these short stories offer an abundance of awe-inspiring creativity, expressed with the prestigious writing styles that we have already come to know and love. Much of the folklore chosen as the backdrop of these stories are not necessarily the fairytales that this generation has grown up with, and because of that, readers will be again and again exposed to sometimes delightful and sometimes monstrous new worlds that will only leave them wanting more.
I was astounded by how much talent, diversity, and meaning these authors presented in such a short span of pages. Among my favorites in these renditions was Carrie Ryan’s “The Machine Progress Eternally,” detailing the adventures of a young boy who accidentally wanders into the Underground, a buried network of dwellings that almost all of humanity now calls home. Stuck in this mechanical world in which the “Machine” executes any whimsical desire and promotes unthinking obedience to what the Underground has proclaimed to be truth, the boy tries desperately to escape. As I saw this child forget the beauty and freedom of the wilderness above, I discovered the haunting lessons of ignorance, egocentricism, and “progress” that seemed all too similar to the problems of our own society. This lesson still haunts me, along with all the messages beautifully intertwined within all of these works.—Abrania M., age 16
MITCHELL, Todd. Backwards. Candlewick. Oct. 2013. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 9780763662776.
Gr 9 Up—Backwards tells the story of the events leading up to Dan’s suicide. These events are told from the point of view of the Rider, an incorporeal entity who is stuck inside Dan’s body while he is awake. The twist is that these events are told in reverse. Therefore the Rider’s tomorrows are Dan’s yesterdays. The Rider’s purpose is constantly changing which is shown through the ever changing messages found on Dan’s bedroom wall. Every time the Rider thinks he has fixed something, another message takes the place of the previous one.
I liked this book because it constantly makes you wonder. Since it is told in reverse, the reasons behind the character interactions are a mystery. I also like that it has no distinct ending, allowing the reader to determine the fate of the Rider as well as who the Rider is and how he got there.— Alexandra M., age 15
DESPAIN, Bree. Into the Dark: The Shadow Prince. Egmont USA. March 2014. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 9781606842478.
Gr 9 Up—Thrust into a world of bright lights and flashy clothes, hot-headed Haden Lord is in for the ride of his life. In Into the Dark: The Shadow Prince, author Bree Despain weaves a tale of honor, romance, and betrayal into an intriguing new take on Greek mythology. Haden Lord, prince of the underworld, is tasked with traveling to the human world in order to fulfill his destiny. His mission is to bring back Daphne, the boon, and make her the new queen of the underworld. Oblivious to the ways of humans and severely lacking in social skills, Haden must find a way to make Daphne fall in love with him or face the eternal wrath of his father. From prissy rich girls to otherworldly fights, Into the Dark: The Shadow Prince has it all.
Being a reader of the Percy Jackson series, when I first started this book, I felt like the author kind of overused the Greek mythology. As I got further into the book and I started to get a feeling for the author’s style, I found that she did a great of job of molding the mythology to her unique story. I really liked the connections that the mythology drew with real life phenomena and the modernity of the characters. I’m usually not a fan of books told from multiple points of view, but in this case it worked very well. I feel that there is enough of a mix between romance and action to make this book interesting to both genders and although it starts out really slow, the overall pace of the plot is quick. I enjoyed how the author expanded the main protagonist’s ability to analyze other characters through the use of her inner song ability.—Carson C., age 17
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