April 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review Debut ‘Zac & Mia’, ‘Off Pointe’ and Throne of Glass 3

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When I received the galley for Zac & Mia earlier this year, I dug in. The premise was just so tempting, and I ended up loving it. Perhaps not as exponentially as Emma does (below). A contemporary comingofage story with ballet, Off Pointe, and pure fantasy, Heir of Fire, share rave reviews from our teen experts.

BETTS, A. J. Zac and Mia. Houghton Harcourt. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544331648.

Zac & MiaGr 9 Up—While in the hospital fighting cancer, Zac meets (via knocks on a wall and a Lady Gaga song) Mia, a teenaged girl who knows she used to be sexy—and doesn’t remember that she is still beautiful. So begins a long and tumultuous friendship that includes shooting stars, blood tinged baths, corn dogs, and a fox at night.

This book started cute and ended beautiful—the middle was rocky. Not because of the writing, but because of Mia. I am not a fan of that girl really. At all. I loved a lot of things about Zac. I loved Zac’s relationship with his mom. The way they would laugh about gross stuff (and the writing never made it cheesy or immature), about how they would do things together.

I loved Zac’s reaction to Mia’s music. I loved the way he talked to her, the way he reached out to her. I loved the way he loved alpacas and picking olives and backpacking girls. I loved his sister. I loved their love for Mia, the way they let her batter them, and the way they would love her anyway.

The ending was beautiful. (I will not spoil it for you.) I enjoyed small pieces of it.

John Green fans who want another cancer love story might like this book but be warned—it’s rockier than TFIOS!—Emma, age 18

LIEBERMAN, Leanne. Off Pointe. Orca Limelights. Orca Bks. Sept. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781459802803.

Gr 6-10—Ballerina Meg is devastated when her summer ballet program is canceled. Unwilling to leave her home alone for two weeks, Meg’s parents send her to dance camp, where ballet isn’t an option. Will Meg be able to learn how to open her mind to new dance styles, or will her closed-mindedness keep her from advancing towards a career as a ballerina?

Off PointeI read Off Pointe in one hour. I usually read books that are at least 300 pages. I haven’t read a book this short in years. I liked the story very much, and it was written well.

I enjoyed reading about Meg’s dilemma, and the fact that I am a dancer (though I won’t be a professional) helps me to understand her feelings about not making it. I liked the fact that she never does overcome that fear, because I know that becoming a professional dancer, even if you do make it, isn’t permanent. They live in constant fear of injury, or not doing well enough to have their contract renewed, so the book reflected that well.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I plan on reading it again. I hope you make more books about dance because many people (including myself) actively seek out books about dancers (particularly ballet dancers) and find little. I have only read a few other books about ballet dancers, and I’m always happy when I find another.

I think that the length wouldn’t appeal to older readers, but there is some swearing which wouldn’t appeal to younger readers. Fans of Robyn Bavati would also like this book. Or people who liked Billy Elliot, or the American Girl Isabelle.—Rhiannon, age 18

MAAS, Sarah J. Heir of Fire. (Throne of Glass: Bk. 3). Bloomsbury. Sept. 2014. ISBN 978-1619630659.

Gr 7 Up—Celaena Sardothien has survived a year in a slave camp, a gruesome death match to become the champion of the King of Adarlan, and the bloody deaths of two friends. Now, everyone’s favorite assassin is going to bring back magic and save the people of Elirea. Unfortunately, doing this requires the help of her sadistic aunt, Maeve, the queen of the Fae, and a sinister addition to the king’s army is doing nothing to make her job easier.

Heir of FireAbsolutely brilliant. Celaena grows more and more developed as the series goes on, but the third installment of this series really paints Celaena as a real person faced with an endless supply of gruesome tasks. I really admire Maas’s ability to make even secondary characters jump off the page. Even though Manon and Rowan made their first appearance in this book, I felt as if they’d been in the series since the beginning, that’s how developed they were. Maas also has an amazing ability to keep romance on the sidelines, which is very rare in YA nowadays. Don’t get me wrong; I love Chaol and Celaena’s relationship as much as the next fangirl, but Maas understands that the destruction of an entire continent precedes trouble in paradise.

A badass  heroine that has a gruesome past and a secret birthright? That gets me hooked any day, but when you combine all of the above with assassins, debauchery, and brilliant world-building, you’ve got a true winner.

Anyone with a taste for YA fantasy will adore this series. Readers of Cinda Williams Chima’s The Demon King (Disney Hyperion) or Kristin Cashore’s Graceling (Houghton Mifflin) will especially appreciate this book, as it has strong main and secondary characters, a rich mythology and world, and amazing writing. All in all, everyone should read this book. It has elements of action, horror, and romance, and will strike a chord with any reader.—Aroog K., age 15

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