November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review Murder Mysteries, a Feminist Cinderella, and a Noah Webster Bio

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.

The reviewers from the Kitsap (WA) Regional Library YA Book Group share their thoughts on upcoming teen literature. From a creepy retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories to an even scarier serial killer mystery, these books are bound to give young adults chills during the summer months. For those needing some girl power reads, check out Princess X and Mechanica, a retelling of Cinderella in which the heroine is a budding engineer. And for that lover of nonfiction or linguistics, the biography on Noah Webster is just the thing.

RuthlessADAMS, Carolyn Lee. Ruthless. S. & S. July 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481422628.
Gr 9 Up–
Redheads. Every single girl he’s killed has been a redhead. Ruth Carver is a phenomenal horse trainer and competitor who is loved by her family and friends. Except for one man, Jerry T. Balls, who sees Ruth as a heartless, ruthless, insensitive poison to everyone around her. In his eyes, she needs to be purified before he murders her in cold blood, just like the six girls before her. The story begins when Ruth regains consciousness in Jerry’s cabin, after he’s beaten and broken her to weakness and breaking point. Against all odds, Ruth escapes to the wilderness, the backyard and playground Jerry’s grown up in. How does a 17-year-old outsmart a man who’s memorized every tree, every particle of dirt, do you ask? Ruth is ruthless. She will win this battle against the man with a gun and a quest to kill her. No matter how many times Ruth is beaten and outnumbered, pushed to the point of desperation, she won’t give up. Not as long as God and the ghosts of Jerry’s redheaded six victims remain ever watchful of her.

Will Ruth make it home to discover the truth of what her family feels about her? Will she keep alive long enough to set things right from her not-so-perfect family and social life? Ruthless is a novel that will keep you enraptured, mesmerized, and beguiled until the very. Riveting. End.

The main conflict was fascinatingly captured to provide a simple visual to readers. Carolyn Lee Adams, I feel like we should be buddies. Your writing is descriptive in the most stimulating way. Your character development is enchantingly stretched throughout the entire novel, as well as mind absorbing, helping the reader (me) establish the character’s mind in their/my own. I almost sprang to my feet in joy when not a single slang word was used against God or Jesus, and I was filled with a frenzy of ecstasy when you mentioned religion in such a positive and respectful way! Thank you!

Also on your perpetual use of flashbacks—I found that absolutely fabulous. The way you established character framework and grounding from a safe distance in a helpfully comprehensive and detailed way, I was starstruck. Pure excellence.

All of you at Simon and Schuster are very lucky to be working with Carolyn. I know I would personally give anything to sit down and talk with her about her captivating writing style and methods for my own books.

Carolyn, I just have to say that the little blurb about you on the back of the book is hilarious. You are hilarious.—Sam G., 14

Cornwell_Mechanica_YA Middle SchoolCORNWELL, Betsy. Mechanica. Clarion. Aug. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780547927718.
Gr 6-10–
Nicolette, deemed “Mechanica” by her not so congruently named evil stepsisters, Piety and Chastity, has always had a way with machines and she learned it all from her mother. But now both of her parents are gone and as the evil steps take control of the house, Nicolette appears condemned to a life of drudgery. But she has a few tricks up her sleeve, and with the ball and technological exposition in the near-future she may be able to escape using her talent, luck and just a little bit of magic.

I liked the cover art a lot, especially the title font. It clearly reflected the contents and gave the book that intriguing air of mystery that draws the eye. I also really liked the illustration of the city towards the bottom of the cover because it introduced the theme of mechanics and possibly a little steampunk to this remake of the classic fairy tale.

The most compelling aspect of the book was Nicolette’s determination and independence. She was anything but a weak damsel in distress and she made sure to show it. Her determination, resourcefulness, and quiet inner strength were what kept me reading, honestly. The plot was okay, not as twisty or turny as I would have liked. But what kept me reading was my NEED to find out what became of the unique character that is Nicolette, aka Mechanica.

There have been many remakes of the story of Cinderella and I think this has been one of the better ones. It did, however, have a lot that was similar to Marissa Meyer’s Cinder (Feiwel & Friends), which I wish hadn’t been the case. The plot also lacked major twists—at some points I could guess pretty well what would come next.—Isabel T., 13

OblivionCREAGH, Kelly. Oblivion: A Nevermore Book. S. & S./Atheneum. July 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781442436275.
Gr 9 Up–
After losing Varen to the dreamworld of his own design and her failed attempt to bring him back, Isobel is determined to try once again before his power grows too strong, strong enough to blur the lines between his realm and reality. But Isobel isn’t the only one desperate to have Varen as her own. The demoness who seeks him as her tether to the real world in order to wreak havoc and destruction, Lilith, will do absolutely anything to keep the two young lovers apart. Loosely based off of the works of Edgar Allen Poe, Creagh expertly weaves a world from his haunted imagination in this final installment.

The cover art was dark and mysterious and gripping, the font its typical calligraphic purple as consistent throughout the trilogy. I found the most compelling aspect to be the lure of demons and the twisted reality of the dreamworld. The whole series focuses on the fact that dark forces can develop and take root in the deep recesses of one’s mind, beings of the imagination that are impossible to escape. Unless you add in romance, the promise of light through the gloom, then maybe, just maybe, it will be enough to conquer one’s inner demons.

It may be my anticipation for this book’s release, or my desire to be satisfied that the trilogy has finally come to an end, but I cannot name a true fault to this book. The story itself is a bit lengthy but delicately crafted, thus making each part essential for the determined ending. Apart from that, there were a few horrific scenes throughout, but nothing to personally haunt my dreams or let them meld into reality.

In comparison to the last two books, I found it to be a fantastically excellent wrap-up to this romantic thriller, satisfying my desire for action, words of double meaning, and the implied notion that love can conquer all—even sooth our darkest parts of ourselves. –Meghan S., 16

ShackledLEVEEN , Tom. Shackled. S. & S. Aug. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481422499.
Gr 9 Up–
I didn’t finish the book. The reason I didn’t finish this book is that its beginning was soo slow-paced I fell asleep and had to push myself to read every page. I have read many books with a super-long build up to the action and they have been well-worth the wait, but, for me, this book was ruined by the unpleasant beginning. I understand why some books need a huge amount of backstory for it to make sense, but his didn’t seem like it did. Personally, I would have jumped right in to the action that is promised in the summary on the back.—Juliette S.,13

PRIEST, Cherie. I Am Princess X. Scholastic. May 2015. Tr. $18.99. ISBN 9780545620857.
Gr 7 Up
–May and Libby were best friends, and together they created the comic book world of Princess X, a girl with a pink dress and a katana, a girl ready to fight anything. Now Libby is dead, and Princess X should be too, but she’s come back in the form of a webcomic and Internet phenomenon. May knows this means only one thing: Libby isn’t dead, and she needs May to find her before time runs out.

I am Princess XI liked the cover of I Am Princess X, although it wasn’t gorgeous. The street art style really fit the contents. What better for the cover of a novel about an underground webcomic than a sticker of the main character on a telephone pole? The way the title was positioned slightly off-center was a little annoying, because it drew attention away from the novel title, instead of showcasing it. Otherwise, the cover was pretty perfect, with a dark, street-smart, gritty feel, just like the contents.

I loved the plot. It’s essentially made out of what Internet-based fandom geeks dream of, made several shades darker and more twisted, and it’s fantastic. The central plot of two friends trying to reunite in the face of almost insurmountable odds is compelling. It’s even more compelling when framed by an Internet-based thriller and two refreshingly non-romantic boy-girl friendships. The setting of Seattle makes the story go round, and this setting is also refreshing, because so many people who set stuff in Seattle get it so, so wrong. I Am Princess X doesn’t. It also gets the randomness of Internet theory-mongering completely and utterly right. It’s a teen thriller for the digital age, and it’s very good at being that.

I’m going to complain about the font. It’s purple. Very purple. It kind of makes my eyes ache. Suffering through 218 pages of words the color of the Orchid colored pencil was enough to give me a very bad headache and get me very distracted.

Now, onto the problems with the plot. For one, the voices of the characters did not ring true at all. The main characters were purportedly 17-19-year-old fandom and Internet geeks, but they didn’t sound like it at all. In my experience, people of that sort tend to be foul-mouthed, dirty-minded, and either very shy in real-life and loud on the Internet, or loud in both. May and co. were neither. They were just kind of boring and bland about everything they did, with unrealistically polite voices. I’m not complaining about characters not swearing in a novel, but I am pointing out that for that demographic, the voices are highly stilted and unrealistic. Also, the author seems to have very little experience with Bainbridge Island, where I live. There is nowhere near the ferry dock where you could inconspicuously moor a Zodiac, and there are absolutely no thick woods nearby either. Perhaps the author was thinking of Fletcher Bay instead of Winslow.

I Am Princess X will appeal to a very specific group of people: fandom geeks who spend a lot of time on the Internet. If you aren’t familiar with webcomics, the social systems of the nerdier sides of the web, or why certain sites are considered gross or terrible, this is NOT a book for you. Despite its flaws, this is a quite good book, and if this is the kind of thing that appeals to you, do read it. Preferably all in one go, with minimal breaks to recover from the hideous purple font. —Ella W., 15

Noah WebsterREEF, Catherine. Noah Webster: Man of Many Words. Clarion. Aug. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544129832.
Gr 5-8–
Noah Webster is most widely known for writing the first dictionary that was for Americans when the United States just became independent. His dictionary and interest in the language of Americans created the language we speak today. Noah Webster was a big supporter for having an Americanized form of English and to change some spelling. These are changes we still use today.

I did not like the cover. Noah Webster was a very factual man, and the cover does not represent this. The image of him on the front and the border around it seem messy. They don’t seem to fit with the background. The title also seems stuck on the background instead of fitting with it.

The borders around the pictures in the book often look messy and unorganized. The pictures also sometimes seemed to be on the wrong page. There would sometimes be a picture of something that would only make sense once you had read one or two pages after it.

The most compelling aspect of this book was learning about the time period Noah Webster lived in. I had never heard about things like the Boston Massacre and the Stamp Act from the point of view of someone who lived it, only in a general way. It was really interesting to learn about his point of view, as well as others. It was also interesting to learn that the language Americans should use was a big controversy and that there were no copyright laws when America first gained independence.—Olivia C., 13

All We Have IS NowSCHROEDER, Lisa. All We Have Is Now. Scholastic. July 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545802536.
Gr 7 Up
All We Have Is Now is a book about embracing what you have and living life to the fullest. This inspiring tale shows how two teens choose to help others in a time of need. In the process, they realize that what they have is really all that they need, even if they don’t have much.

The writing format was really compelling because you slowly got to learn more about the character’s pasts in a way that gave you more insight into their actions. The one thing that I didn’t like was that there wasn’t a very good reason for the characters to be where they were. They couldn’t leave because they didn’t have passports, but I think that if they couldn’t get out legally they at least would have tried to sneak out.—Naomi D.,12

the creeping_SIROWY, Alexandra. The Creeping. S. & S. Aug. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481418867.
Gr 7 Up
–When Stella was young, she and her friend Jeanie were out in the woods. Stella came back, Jeanie didn’t. Years later, Stella has no memory of what happened, only what people have told her—until there’s another murder. Stella’s trying to remember anything… and this girl gives her some déjà vu.

The cover was what caught my attention, because it was actually creepy. I liked the writing style. The author has this way of making it just readable in the day, but at night… I like that kind of stuff, so that was the most compelling aspect. But after a while I got bored, because the same things were happening.—Maddie B.,14

SLJTeen header

This article was featured in our free SLJTeen enewsletter.
Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you twice a month.

Share
A Day-Long Celebration of Fandom-Beloved Stories and Characters
Join Library Journal and School Library Journal for our inaugural LibraryCon Live! We’re excited to offer this day-long virtual festival for book nerds, librarians, and fans of graphic novels, sci-fi, and fantasy. Network online with other fans and explore our virtual exhibit hall where you’ll hear directly from publishers about their newest books and engage in live chats with featured authors. You’ll also learn from librarians and industry insiders on how to plan and host your own Comic Con-style event.