February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Tom Cruise’s Sci-Fi Thriller and a Round-Up of Out-of-this-World Reads for Teens

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End of TomorrowEdge of Tomorrow (PG-13) is set on a near-future Earth that has been invaded by ruthless and seemingly invincible aliens. Major William Cage (Cruise), a newly minted officer who has never seen combat, is loaded into a metal exosuit, dropped into the middle of an impossible-odds mission, and killed within minutes. Awakening on the previous day, Cage finds himself caught in a time loop that forces him to relive the same ferocious mêlée and fatal outcome over and over again. However, with every battle fought alongside coolly competent Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), Cage’s skills improve. As each cataclysmic cycle brings him one step closer to triumph, there just might be hope for humanity. This adrenaline-charged blockbuster blasts into theaters on June 6. Teens can visit the official website for video trailers, a photo gallery, and online games.

SciFi1The film is based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need Is Kill (2004), a light novel originally published in Japan and recently reissued with the movie title and cover image (2014). The quick-reading action centers around Keiji Kiriya, a fresh-out-of-boot-camp private, and a battle-ax wielding American Valkyrie named Rita Vrataski. Nick Mamatas and Lee All You Need is KillFerguson’s new graphic novel adaptation (2014, all Haikasoru; Gr 10 Up) presents a streamlined version of the story. The dynamic artwork utilizes bright hues to provide a counterpoint to gun-metal gray scenes of a despondent world at war. The characters are expressively portrayed, the aliens ooze both menace and mystery, and the combat scenes are infused with fiery drama. Told from a soldier’s perspective, both prose and graphic novel versions incorporate a gritty narrative voice laced with brash attitude, strong language, and blood-spattered action.

Stellar reads for science fiction fans

Whether dipping into time-touring paradoxes, unwelcome alien intruders, the perilous consequences of science misused, or warp-velocity adventure, these riveting reads will reel in moviegoers as well as genre enthusiasts. Touched with romance, fueled by rocket-fast action, and whirring with reach-for-the-stars possibility, these novels also make superb summer reading recommendations.

Time travel

The Here and NowTo escape an Earth plagued by climate change, starvation, and a deadly mosquito-borne pandemic, a group of refugees immigrate 80 years to the past, taking up secretive lives in present-day New York. The “travelers” adhere to a strict and severely enforced set of rules—never reveal their origins, never intervene in the natural order of events, and never ever develop an “intimate relationship” with someone outside of the community. Prenna James, 17, reluctantly toes the line, but things change when she finds herself falling for classmate and “time native” Ethan Jarves. When a local homeless man reveals secrets impossible to know, the two are thrown into a breathless and danger-fraught adventure that just might help save humankind. Ann Brashares’s The Here and Now (Random, 2014; Gr 9 Up) skillfully balances fast-paced action with an enthralling forbidden romance and a distressingly believable vision of a possible future.

All Our YesterdaysCristin Terrill’s All Our Yesterdays (Hyperion, 2013; Gr 7-10) begins with a bang and sustains excitement with brisk action and powder-keg emotions. Em and Finn escape from a stark state prison and commandeer a time machine to journey four years back, determined to assassinate the man who invented the technology and ultimately transformed the world into a totalitarian state. Meanwhile, in the past, 17-year-old Marina is obsessing over her crush on her best-buddy James, a socially clueless yet charismatic science genius, but things turn serious when his older brother, a politician, is tragically gunned down and her friend is left devastated and alone. As Em and Finn arrive on the scene, the two storylines converge and collide. The result is a cleverly concocted, time-straddling, dual-voice narrative that offers page-turning thrills while touching upon themes of destiny, balancing personal sacrifice against the greater good, and the many types of love. An audio version is available from Tantor Media.

Alien invasions

The Fifth WaveUtilizing four chillingly strategic methods of attack, merciless aliens have brought Earth to its knees, and the few remaining humans scattered across the planet anxiously await whatever horrors The 5th Wave (2013; Gr 9 Up) will bring. Though she is being stalked by a deadly 4th-wave Silencer (alien assassins that inhabit human bodies), 16-year-old Cassie has resolved to stay alive and find her younger brother, holding tight to her faithful M-16 and her number-one rule of survival: trust no one. Told from Cassie’s viewpoint, as well as the perspectives of a teen recruited by the military and a caring and charismatic farm boy who harbors deep secrets, this addictive offering describes harrowing and heartbreaking events, occasionally elevated by amazing moments of hopefulness and compassion that speak to the essence of humanity. A roller-coaster plot, ever-evolving characters, and outstanding world building make Rick Yancey’s novel a treat for action junkies, genre devotees, fans of star-crossed romance, and more. An audio version is available from Dreamscape Media. The Infinite Sea (both Putnam), the next installment in this not-to-miss series, will be released in September.

DangerousWith Dangerous (Bloomsbury, 2014; Gr 7 Up), Shannon Hale switches her narrative gears to a setting somewhere between sci-fi brain-twister and superhero juggernaut. The protagonist, a half-Latina science geek born with only one arm, is stereotype-bashingly refreshing. As spunky as her middle name, Maisie Danger Brown jumps at the opportunity to attend an astronaut boot camp. When she and other top teenage students—including her crush, wealthy bad-boy Wilder—are chosen to ride the world’s only space elevator to Midway Station, the youngsters are exposed to alien “tokens” that flood their bodies with nanites and imbue them with astonishing abilities: Maisie becomes a tech virtuoso, Ruth gets Hulklike strength, Mi-sun can fire objects from her fingers, Jacques generates armor and weapons from his body, and Wilder’s augmented intellect casts him as leader. They barely have time to wonder about their purpose before things start to go wrong. Various groups want to control and exploit them, team members are spiraling out of control, and Maisie fears for her life. Will she survive long enough to fulfill their mission and save humanity from the aliens that have surreptitiously begun to take over the world? Wry humor, go-for-the-gusto attitude, and the delights and dangers of first love sprinkle this action-packed escapade.

ScanFor years, Tate’s scientist father has been training him to hone a sharp intellect, physical prowess, and survival skills. Just why becomes clear when the teen brings one of Dad’s inventions to school and is suddenly set upon by gun-wielding thugs who try to grab the gadget and cold-bloodedly murder his father. Barely managing to escape with his girlfriend, Tate is stunned to discover that he now possesses an apparatus that can Scan (Putnam, 2014; Gr 9 Up) and identify the humanlike aliens who have secretly colonized the Earth (in fact, Christina, who has saved his skin multiple times, may not be what she seems). Both the “pure” humans that remain and leaders of the mysterious H2 want to get their hands on this technology and it’s impossible to know whom to trust. It will take all of Tate’s courage and smarts to stay alive long enough to unravel the secrets of his father’s device. Explosive action and taut suspense keep Walter Jury and S. E. Fine’s novel moving at lightning speed right up to the cliffhanger ending, while themes exploring prejudice, the misuse of technology, and the attributes that make us human gradually roll in like thunder. An audio version is available from Dreamscape Media.

Technology gone wrong

VitroWhen Sophie receives a come-at-once email from her mother, the 17-year-old immediately responds. Traveling to her childhood home of Guam, she unexpectedly meets her long-ago friend Jim, now a roguishly handsome charter pilot, who helps her track down remote Skin Island, home of a top-secret corporate facility where Dr. Crue has been working for years. Events unfold quickly after they land at this sinister locale, and Sophie uncovers the unsettling specifics of her mother’s covert project: appropriating unwanted human test tube embryos, implanting them with a mind-controlling chip, raising them in incubators, and awakening them to be servants programmed to imprint on the first person they set eyes on. Equally disturbing, Sophie’s newfound twin sister Lux is a Vitro (Penguin, 2014; Gr 7 Up). Thought-provoking and engrossing, Jessica Khoury’s tale mixes heart-pounding action and suspense with world-shaking self-realizations, quandaries about the appropriate use of scientific knowledge, and the timeless challenge of doing the right thing despite the personal consequences.

Free to FallIn a familiar-seeming near future, handheld devices are ubiquitous. Everyone consults Lux, a decision-making app manufactured by Gnosis, to manage choices ranging from what to eat to whom to date. Rory Vaughn, a smart 16-year-old, doesn’t need to ask Lux whether or not she should attend the prestigious Theden Academy, knowing full well that her acceptance there will ensure the right kind of future. But once she arrives at the elite boarding school, she becomes caught up in a technology-related mystery that has something to do with her mother, once a student there, and her long-ago death. With the help of North, a local barista/hacker hottie who is emphatically anti-Lux, Rory uncovers an alarming conspiracy involving Gnosis that has far-reaching personal and public significance. Powered by an intelligent plot, secrecy and suspense, and a sizzling romance, Lauren Miller’s Free to Fall (HarperCollins, 2014; Gr 9 Up) makes a satisfying read and excellent discussion starter (for teens willing to put down their own handhelds).

Star-trekking adventures

AvalonBound by events to the will of a cruel interstellar crime lord, Jeth Seagrave, 19, wants only to pull off enough jobs to earn the money needed to buy back his parents’ spaceship, Avalon (HarperCollins, 2014; Gr 9 Up), and provide some kind of a life for his younger sister and crew of teenage mercenaries. Fortunately, efficient space travel depends on tightly controlled metadrive technology (a device that allows ships to jump between star systems), the stealing of which happens to be their specialty. When Jeth is sent into the treacherous Belgrave Quadrant to track down a lost ship and retrieve a secret weapon, he is set on a course that places him in the middle of a clash between his vengeful boss and an equally amoral government agency, reveals truths about his family and their hidden past, and raises questions about how far he will go to achieve his much-dreamed-for freedom. Mindee Arnett’s swashbuckling series-opener is jam-packed with remarkable reversals of fortune, shocking betrayals, surprising romance, and dazzling do-or-die moments.

StarglassStarglass (2013; Gr 10 Up) is set on one of several spaceships that fled a doomed Earth five centuries ago, bound for distant and hopefully habitable planets. Filled with settlers of Jewish origin, the Asherah is only months away from its destination. After inadvertently witnessing the captain’s guard murdering an innocent man, Terra, a headstrong 16-year old, is swept into an underground rebellion against the leaders of her regimented and repressive shipboard society, and begins uncover startling truths. Multifaceted characters and a complex plot provide much for readers to sink their teeth into, as free-spirited Terra navigates her way through danger and despair, subterfuge and conspiracy, friendship and first love. Phoebe North’s splendidly written novel features a surprise ending that will have teens clamoring for the sequel, Starbreak (both S. & S.), available in July.

SciFi12Born and raised on a deep-space merchant vessel, Ava knows nothing but the patriarchal, polygamous society that has evolved through the centuries on the Parastrata and her sister ships. In this oppressive community, women are viewed as property, left uneducated, and relegated to menial tasks and child-bearing. When the the 16-year-old makes an honest yet ruinous mistake, her unforgiving tribe marks her for death, and she makes a desperate escape to Earth. Determined to survive much more than the planet’s body-wrecking gravity, Ava embarks on adventure that takes her from the Gyre, a vast floating city of garbage in the Pacific Ocean, to the sun-baked streets of Mumbai, where she hopes to find her modrie, or blood aunt. Though she begins her journey feeling cast off and worthless, Ava’s experiences gradually result in self-realization and a sense of empowerment that allows her once-fettered spirit to soar. Deftly detailed settings, unique and well-drawn characters, and a vivid first-person telling make Alexander Duncan’s Salvage (HarperCollins, 2014; Gr 9 Up) unforgettable.

Publication Information

Sakurazaka, Hiroshi. Edge of Tomorrow. Media tie-in ed. Haikasoru/VIZ. 2014. pap. $7.99. ISBN 978-14215-6087-8.

_____. All You Need Is Kill. Adapt. by Nick Mamatas. illus. by Lee Ferguson. Haikasoru/VIZ. 2014. pap. $14.99. ISBN 978-14215-6081-6.

Brashares, Ann. The Here and Now. Delacorte. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 978-0-385-73680-0; PLB $21.99. ISBN 978-0-385-90629-6; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-307-97615-4.

Terrill, Cristin. All Our Yesterdays. Disney-Hyperion. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-142317637-4.

_____. All Our Yesterdays. Tantor. 2014. Audio CD $29.99. ISBN 978-1452668963.

Yancey, Rick. The 5th Wave. Putnam. 2013. Tr $18.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16241-1; ebook $9.99. ISBN 9781101598962.

_____.The 5th Wave. Dreamscape Media. 2013. 10 Audio CDs. $59.99. ISBN 9781624068669.

Hale, Shannon. Dangerous. Bloomsbury. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-1-59990-168-8; ebook $12.99. ISBN 9781619631557.

Jury, Walter & S. E. Fine. Scan. Putnam. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16065-3; ebook $10.99. ISBN 9780698158429.

_____. Scan. Dreamscape Media. 2014. 7 Audio CDs. $39.99. ISBN 9781629237169.

Khoury, Jessica. Vitro. Penguin/Razorbill. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-1-59514-605-2; ebook $10.99. ISBN 9781101604533.

Miller, Lauren. Free to Fall. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-219980-5; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-219982-9.

Arnett, Mindee. Avalon.  HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-223559-6. ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-223561-9.

North, Phoebe. Starglass. S. & S. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-5953-3. pap. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-59540-; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-5955-7.

Duncan, Alexandra. Salvage. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-222014-1; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-222016-5.

Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.

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