April 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review Matthew Quick’s Latest, “Peter Pan” Reimagined, and More

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may queenJUDE, Sarah. The May Queen Murders. HMH. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544640412
Gr 9 Up—The hamlet of Rowan’s Glen is marked by tragedy, a tragedy that ended the town’s May Day celebrations and bound the villagers up in a web of secrets and superstitions. Ivy Templeton has always played by the rules, but after a falling-out with her cousin leads to her cousin’s disappearance, old and terrifying secrets come out of the woodwork and change her beloved town for the worse.

With the exception of the title font color, I actually really liked the cover of The May Queen Murders. Everything about it says dusty, faded nostalgia. The image is quiet, chilling, and soft, somehow foreboding yet oddly calming. I love that atmosphere, and this image seems like something that should be on the cover of some sort of haunting indie album, not a mediocre YA horror novel. However, I hated the title font. It’s this nasty ombre hot pink that just looks gross. This is especially disappointing, considering that I am convinced that pink can be effectively used for creepy atmosphere. If the font had just been the middle shade of pink, or even white, the cover would have been perfect.

The most compelling aspect of the book is definitely the atmosphere. It’s creepy and shivery and summery all at once, with that lovely creeping horror feeling, the kind that makes your neck crawl. The additions of bits of the town’s folklore really spice up the story, and it’s all just languid and dark and somewhat unsettling. I enjoy this sort of stickily sweet horror with a rural setting immensely, and the atmosphere of The May Queen Murders did not disappoint in that regard. I also really enjoyed some of the reveals toward the end with regards to character motivations. In all, it was a delightfully creepy read, although it was far from stellar.

The ending of The May Queen Murders thoroughly ruined my enjoyment of the entire novel. In my opinion, good horror is all in the build-up, in the careful construction of a feeling of unease. Whether this means there is horror all along or an ever increasing build-up towards an explosive finale, a good horror novel/movie/game will involve plenty of set-up and carefully placed clues so that everything can draw together in a way that either makes sense or makes you think. The May Queen Murders does none of that. It appears to be going for a creepily satisfying ending based in the setting’s local folklore, but opts out of a well-foreshadowed end at the last minute in favor of a horribly anti-climactic deus ex machina. All I can say is that I’m glad that all the dead characters stayed dead. It’s pretty much all that saved the ending.

I was extremely disappointed with this book, because I love horror. In particular, I love stickily sweet horror that’s all about the atmosphere. Initially, The May Queen Murders seemed like it would satisfy my craving for books like that. Unfortunately, it fell flat with clumsy pacing and a terrible ending. However, I still feel that I can recommend it in a pinch, particularly to fans of the band MS MR and of Brenna Yovanoff’s short stories, which tend to be examples of the aforementioned stickily sweet horror.—Ella W., 16

devil and the bluebirdMASON-BLACK, Jennifer. Devil and the Bluebird. Abrams/Amulet. May 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419720000.
Gr 9 Up—Making a deal with the devil comes with consequences, and Blue Riley finds just that in this story of family and music. I didn’t like a lot about this book, so I can’t really pick out anything that I really liked. I guess the setting was pretty nice, and the plot was good; it just not written in the best way.  The majority of the time while I was reading this book, the story was not very clear. Dramatic parts were confusing, and some important things were left out and then brought back in at awkward times. But really it was just unclear, and a lot of things were never really explained, which was disappointing. For example, the character of Beck was confusing. I mean, I guess I could get the sense that he was Blue’s ex-boyfriend, but still it was never really clear. This was pretty disappointing because the plot was actually pretty great.—Zoe D., 13

gena finnMOSKOWITZ Hannah & Kat Helgeson. Gena/Finn. Chronicle. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452138398.
Gr 9 Up—
Gena/Finn begins as a compelling read about two online fangirls, written entirely in typed correspondence between various characters. However, as the book goes on, it becomes more and more complex, and I found myself hanging on to every word as I waited to see what would happen to each girl, and their relationship with each other. The cover was very cutesy. I didn’t love it, and I don’t think it reflects the contents very well, but it’s definitely visually appealing. I love love love the characters, I thought they were so realistic and that the online community was done really well. The end felt a little lacking. It seemed like the authors were trying to make a deadline and just wrap it up. Other than that, fantastic read.—Lauren W., 16

Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew QuickQUICK, Matthew. Every Exquisite Thing. Little, Brown. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316379595.
Gr 10 Up—Every Exquisite Thing is a book about Nanette O’Hare and how she rebels against everything that is wrong in her life. She defies the common unrealistic teenage pressure to be a “superhero” so that she can stay true to who she actually is.

I loved how the cover was simple, and had enough about the book on it with the turtle on its back, but still didn’t reveal too much about the plot. I loved the design that the words were spelled in, because it’s very modern and creative.

The best books in the entire world are the best books in the entire world because readers can relate to it. In Every Exquisite Thing, Nanette represents every upper middle class teenage girl at some point in their teenage years. Nanette highlights the way the world should be, and ways in which American teenage culture should change. Theses what I loved most about the book; how much I could relate to Nanette. There was nothing in this book that was disappointing, because it was so honest and accurate.—Daisy B., 16     

savage-hrSNIEGOSKI, Thomas.  Savage. S. & S. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481443739.
Gr 9 Up—
Savage is a terrifying story where animals turn vicious, and try to harm any human they can find. I liked how interesting the cover is, with the birds everywhere, and the water. It gives it a crazy whirlwind look, drawing readers in. I liked the plot the best. The characters are thrown into an impossible situation, trying to survive on an island where every animal has turned on humans, making them vicious killers. It seems like there is absolutely no way to survive. But in the end, help comes. This book will keep you holding your breath all the way through.—Kaitlyn H., 14

SPINALE, Wendy.  Everland. Scholastic. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545836944.
everlandGr 8 Up—When Gwen’s little sister Joanna is taken by the Marauders roaming the remains of London, she sets out to save her with the help of Pete and the Lost Kids to confront Captain Hook and find the truth of the disease that decimated her world.

I really liked the cover. The color was beautiful and dark like the book. It was an interesting move to have Bella be on the front instead of Gwen, but it makes sense with the plot because the Lost Boy’s main reason to find the cure is for Bella.

The most compelling aspect of the book was the premise and the plot. The premise hooked me right away. The plot was perfectly paced and carefully woven.

The only parts I was disappointed in were Hook’s backstory and the ending. Hook’s backstory made sense, but the only part of the book where Spinale explains how his mother cut his eye is confusing. The stand-off with Hook, Gwen, Jack and Pete at the end was drawn out and overcomplicated. —Juliette S., 14

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