March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

YA Xpress Reviews | August 2016

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Baksh, Imam. Children of the Spider. 208p. Blouse & Skirt. Jul. 2016. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9789768267016.

Gr 7 Up –Desperate to find her father in an unknown land, Mayali flees the only home she has ever known to search for him. When she arrives in Zolpash, a land that is consumed by harsh weather and suffocating sulphur, Mayali meets Joseph, a mute boy. Upon meeting him, Mayali discovers that although he cannot speak, he communicates with her in other ways—through his mind. This comes as a surprise to both of the children, as they had not had this silent ability previously. Soon, strange things begin to emerge. Mayali is confronted by creatures that seem unreal and threaten to destroy her world. This leads Mayali and Joseph to embark on a cross-country adventure to save Earth from the invading Spider gods and their armies. The settings are described in visualized detail as the author merges colonial times with the harsh, contemporary world. This adventure fantasy won an award in 2015 for Caribbean Literature. The dialect might be difficult for some readers, but strong fantasy readers will want to pull through. VERDICT For collections that are lacking literature from Caribbean myth and mythology.–Amy Caldera, Dripping Springs Middle School, Dripping Springs, TX

Lou, Rachel. The Bridge. 224p. ebook available. Harmony Ink. Jun. 2016. ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9781634768832.

Gr 8 Up –Seventeen-year-old Everett Hallman learns that he is a special kind of witch: a Bridge Master. When ghosts are ready to leave our world, they find a Bridge Master to help them cross over from our world into the afterlife. Everett’s unique powers put him in danger from witches who might hope to exploit his ability to transcend the bridge. One night, Everett follows a supernatural trail that leads him to the local Korean dojang, where strange paranormal activity hints at a darker presence. To investigate further, Everett signs up for private tae kwon do lessons from Bryce, a cute boy who Everett suspects is far more than he seems. This short novel has two main plot points: Everett’s budding romance with Bryce and the paranormal mystery at the dojang. The romance is sweet and unfolds slowly, as it likely would between two boys unsure if their romantic feelings are reciprocated. Adult characters’ discomfort with Everett and Bryce’s romantic relationship has more to do with disrupting the paranormal world than with the fact that the boys are gay. Though the mystery has potential, interesting plot threads, such as the haunted forest and the witch lore stories, remained unexplored. Motivations of the “bad” characters are fuzzy, and the lackluster world-building will leave readers with more questions than answers. VERDICT Recommended for readers who value romance and character development over solid world-building.–Leigh Collazo, Dulwich College, Suzhou, China

Parker, Amy Christine. Smash & Grab. 384p. ebook available. Random. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553533828.

Gr 8 Up –When rich girl Lexi jumps off the roof of a skyscraper, her latest in a series of thrilling risks, she lands on the hood of a stolen car driven by bad boy Christian. He is being coerced into robbing banks by the Mexican mafia; he wants to take advantage of his full scholarship to UCLA, but the mob doesn’t want to let him, and his bank-robbing skills, go. Lexi’s father is arrested for extortion and fraud, and Lexi is convinced that her father’s business partner is behind it. She goes undercover at her father’s job to find evidence against Harrison, the partner, and unexpectedly runs into Christian again—as he’s robbing a bank. Both teens realize that they need—and can use—the other as they begin working together to scope out the bank for the mafia’s robbery and to gather evidence against Harrison. Complicating things is the undeniable attraction Lexi and Christian feel for each other: Can they trust each other? Fans of Julia Durango’s The Leveller and Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s The Fixer will flock to this novel for its cool Ocean’s 11 references and strong, layered main characters. VERDICT Purchase where spy thrillers fly off the shelves.–Amanda C. Buschmann, Atascocita Middle School, Humble, TX

Robertson, Sadie with Cindy Coloma. Life Just Got Real. 288p. (Live Original Fiction). ebook available. Howard Bks. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781501126468.

Gr 7-10 –This title tells the stories of two teen girls in alternating points of view. One is rich; the other is not. One is new in town; the other is the established queen of the school. The one thing AJ and Kate have in common is that neither one is quite sure that she wants to be the costar of a new reality show they are being pressured to participate in. Throw in some classes, prom, and, of course, a little romance, and you get what amounts to a very typical YA book, albeit with a strong dose of Christianity. Nearly every trope is included—a goth who gets a makeover, a rich girl who learns a lesson. The thin plot is predictable, the characters are flat, and the writing is unsophisticated. The 18-year-old author, Robertson, is famous from reality television, and her fans will want to pick this up. VERDICT Only purchase if Duck Dynasty has a large following and where her previous title is popular. Otherwise, this is one to skip.–Sarah Jones, Clinton-Macomb Public Library, MI

This article was published in School Library Journal's August 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.