February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review ‘The Burnouts’, ‘Like No Other’, and ‘Illusive’

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Two of the three titles reviewed in this column are written by authors being featured on SLJ’s SummerTeen 2014—Una LaMarche and Lex Thomas—happening live on July 24. But don’t ignore the review of Emily Lloyd-Jones’ Illusive, which gets a rave, and is suggested for fans of Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games.” Winners all the way around.

LaMarche, Una. Like No Other. Penguin/Razorbill. Jul. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781595146748.

Gr 8 Up—Devorah was brought up in a strict, Hasidic community, and is as goody-goody as it gets. Jaxon is a free-spirited, hardworking black boy who has trouble talking to girls despite having four younger sisters. The two are as different as could be, and their paths would never have crossed if a hurricane hadn’t hit Brooklyn, trapping them in a hospital elevator. Like No Other tells the story of all the things two teenagers will risk for a chance at love, and how they come to realize that love isn’t the most important thing out there.

Like No OtherLike No Other is absolutely brilliant. I’ve read Five Summers, also by Una LaMarche, back when it was a galley as well, and it’s amazing to see how polished her writing has become. Both Devorah and Jaxon have excellent, realistic voices, and the obstacles—Devorah’s strict, Hasidic upbringing, and her spiteful, racist brother-in-law—kept me reading until dawn.

One thing I really appreciate about Like No Other is that Devorah realizes that Jaxon isn’t worth severing ties with family members that truly love her. I also appreciate that Jaxon took her ending of the relationship with grace.

Like No Other is an example of YA romance done right. I rarely see YA that understands and accepts that romantic relationships are not worth severing platonic ones, and this title pushed the message in a subtle, but clear way. Teens need to understand this concept, and novels catered to their tastes are the best way to put the information in front of them. Also, the way Devorah’s sisters helped her with her relationship was adorable!

I want to stand outside my library and wave this book around going “Hey, look! Quality YA romance is out there! It exists!” Fans of realistic or romance novels will adore this book, as will people who live in a conservative, uber-religious community and/or people who are struggling with a forbidden relationship of their own.—Aroog K., age 15

Lloyd-Jones, Emily. Illusive. Little, Brown. Jul. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316254564.

Gr 7-10—Ciere was one of the .03 percent of those vaccinated when the MK virus spread through the world who ended up with an immunity. Her status as an illusionist, caused by this vaccination, put her out of the running for having a normal life. Instead, she lives as a thief with several others who are also immune. In a race to save herself from the wrath of a mob, she digs herself into deeper trouble with the government.

IllusiveThis book gave me enough information to where I was never confused, but withheld enough to where I couldn’t stop reading. I was constantly wanting to know what would happen next, and nothing was at all predictable. Illusive captivated me and at no point was at all disappointing.

The constant action and suspense were very compelling in this book. It was not predictable so I was always wondering how Ciere would get out of the situation she was in and how much she would have to lose in the process. I was constantly pleasantly surprised with how situations would play out. Those who enjoyed series such as “Maximum Ride” or “The Hunger Games” might also like this book.—Micaela C., age 16

Thomas, Lex. The Burnouts. (Quarantine: Bk. 3.) Egmont USA. Jul. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781606843383.

Gr 9-12—Eighteen months have passed since high school students were forcibly quarantined inside their school after a deadly virus hits. Since that day, the lives of David, Will and Lucy have been irrevocably changed by the virus and the vicious gang system which formed in the school. Will and David have gotten out but Lucy is left to fend for herself and her baby on the inside, where the students have adopted a far more vicious attitude and are slowly descending into a violent anarchy.

The BurnoutsOverall, fans of this series will love this book as the true conclusion to the trilogy. The dark and powerful writing has continued and results in truly deep characters each with their own persona, moral compass and voice. The authors truly make it seem as if the characters have grown from the first book and this results in richly drawn primary characters with whom the audience will truly bond. The powerful writing also results in a subtle characterization of the stereotypical teenager; immaturity, narcissism, sexuality, insecurity, a need for belonging, and a budding adult attitude. (Take it from a teenager—this is amazingly accurate.) The writing allows for these characteristics to define some of the primary voices without letting it interfere with the story, which is in my opinion, genius. My criticism of this book is not about inadequate writing or the story but a sense that the book felt rushed throughout the last four to five chapters. This will most likely trouble some longstanding fans who wanted to see a thought=out and powerful conclusion, with all the darkness which characterized the previous installations. If you’re like me, the ending seemed a bit out of place in the overall darkness of the series.

*SPOILERS* However, all that aside the most troubling thing about the story was the lack of emphasis on the love story between Lucy and Will. After the second book, fans will question the relationship of Lucy and David and in my personal opinion, there should have been some indication that it was a tough choice for Lucy and perhaps a more fleshed out ending to Lucy and Will’s relationship. Overall, longtime fans of this series like me will undoubtedly fall in love with this strong conclusion while of course harboring some regret about this being the end of this dark and dramatically powerful series.

The story is most definitely the most compelling aspect of the book. It is brought alive by the dark and powerful writing of the authors who may actually be teenagers themselves, judging by the way they understand the teenage psyche. The story was captivating enough that a fan will willingly sacrifice sleep to finish it (as I did) and will praise because this is perhaps the first trilogy I’ve read in a while that doesn’t disappoint with the third installation, concerns about feeling rushed aside.

This is clearly a YA book. Fans of postapocalyptic stories should drop whatever else they are reading and pick this up.—Ehsan J., age 15

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