February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review Zana Fraillon’s “The Bone Sparrow,” New Fantasy, and More

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The members of the Kitsap (WA) Regional Library YA Book Group weigh in on Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow, new fantasy titles, and Molly Booth’s Saving Hamlet, among other recent releases.

hamletBOOTH, Molly. Saving Hamlet. Disney/Hyperion. Nov. 2016. Tr $ 17.99 ISBN 9781484752746.

Gr 7 Up–Emma expected her sophomore year in high school and the fall’s production of Hamlet to be perfect, but besides her new pixie cut, everything is going very, very wrong. She has to fill in as stage manager, and the director, whom she has a huge crush on, is ruining the whole show. Her best friend won’t talk to her, and to top it off, her designer cuts a trap door hole in the stage without permission. Everything seems to be crashing down, until she looks through the trapdoor and finds something she never expected.

The cover was perfect—I loved it.

The characters were so brilliantly written. I loved how relatable and understandable they were. I thought this book was just going to be about stupid teen drama, but the whole time travel thing really caught me off guard. I loved it.–Rachel F., 15

COY, John. Gap Life. Feiwel & Friends. Dec. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250088956.

gap-lifeGr 8 Up–Cray just graduated from high school, and all his friends are going to college except for him. His family expects him to go to medical school and uphold the family tradition. However, he wants to choose his own life, with help from Rayne, a girl who is the most different person he has ever met. The main character makes a journey toward becoming independent.

I liked the cover. I can see how it reflects the contents of the book. Cray decided to take a gap year, which was frightening for him at first and could have felt like he was stepping off of a cliff.

The most compelling aspect of the book was the thought process of the main character—the way he reacted and saw life while becoming independent.

I thought the relationships of the characters were a little lackluster, though. In a way, the relationships could have been unnecessary because of how important it felt to the story.

I believe other teens would enjoy this book; I can see this book as being relatable for many. Also this would be a great book for teens to get an idea of how to step into independence.–Sara C., 18

FRAILLON, Zana. The Bone Sparrow. Disney/Hyperion. Nov. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484781517.

Gr 5 Up–Subhi lives in a detention center. He has never known anything else and waits for the sea that washes up to him at night that he alone can see. When he meets a young girl from outside the center, his life begins to change.

bone-sparrowThe most compelling aspect of this book is the imagery in the writing style, which is beautiful. It is also very confident and daring writing. Sometimes books with such a unique style give the impression that they are a little afraid and unsure of themselves. This book did not give me that impression at all. The writing led to an ironic comparison to the inhumane conditions in the detention center. The main character, Subhi, is a very innocent and happy character, who is starkly different from his surroundings. Subhi talks about the indigestible food and how he doesn’t even have trees to climb, but he acts happy about it because he has never known anything else. This is not a very common viewpoint for a main character to have. Usually the protagonist wants change and is the driving force. Having the main character be content in a bad situation that others aren’t satisfied in was a risky choice, but it was done beautifully.

But it would have been nice to have a few sentences at the beginning that clarified time and place so that the reader didn’t have to make assumptions or guess. Time and place should be established clearly, especially in a story like this. The way it is written now, I was focusing on trying to have a better sense of the setting, which drew my attention away from the important content.

The ending was also a little confusing. Subhi’s friend Eli is killed right in front of him, and he didn’t even try and save him. This appeared to be the climax to the story, but Eli died while Subhi watched. For this to be the ending, there has to be a clear revelation and a reason why Subhi did not try and save Eli. People don’t just watch their friends die. It is human instinct to try and save them. This needed to be present in this story as well.–Olivia C., 15

spindleJOHNSTON, E.K. Spindle. Disney/Hyperion. Dec. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 1481466771.

Gr 6 Up–I like how the cover’s colors and design are artistically interesting and also similar to the first book, but different. I like how the words give you a small glimpse into the world.

I really like the characters the best. They all had distinct personalities and really changed over the course of the book. They hooked me in and kept me reading.

I thought there were some slow sections where not much was happening, and I thought the end was slightly forced and confusing.–Kaitlyn H., 14

five-daysNOËL, Alyson. Five Days of Famous. Delacorte. Dec. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553537963.

Gr 5 Up–Nick Dashaway is an invisible nerd who has no hope of being anything close to popular, but all that’s about to change when Nick’s favorite celebrity, Josh Frost, is judging the school’s talent show. He’s got the perfect act, and after all, it’s Josh Frost; he can’t lose.

I really liked the cover; it really caught my eye and did a good job of representing the overall feel of the book.

I also liked how real a character Nick was. He pretty much had the thought process of a normal 13-year-old, which I think is really cool. I also really loved how all the names were Christmas themed. It took me a while to catch on, but I loved it.–Rachel F., 15

Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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