April 26, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review “Dreamland Burning,” New Fantasy, and More

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.

The Kitsap YA reviewers take on new thrillers and fantasy titles and Jennifer Latham’s Dreamland Burning, among other recent releases.

edge-of-everythingGILES, Jeff. The Edge of Everything. Bloomsbury. Jan. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781619637535.

Gr 9 Up–This book has everything—romance, violence, family, danger. This was a great read that was full of action and unpredictability.

I liked the simplicity of the cover. It was just black-and-white with some flames, but it had meaning and interest to it.

I loved the plot the best. I was never really sure how the book was going to end, until it did, and even that really surprised me. There were so many elements that just melded together, and the book didn’t end how you thought it would, but it was satisfying and unpredictable.–Kaitlyn H., 14

LATHAM, Jennifer. Dreamland Burning. Little, Brown. Jan. 2017. Tr. $18.99. ISBN 9780316384933.

Gr 8 Up–During what should have been a routine remodel, workers at Rowan’s house discover a skeleton on her property. Based on objects found on the body, it appears to be eerily connected to the Tulsa race riots of 1921.

dreamlandThe cover of Dreamland Burning is unexpectedly nice for YA historical fiction. Sure, it’s the stereotypical YA historical fiction cover, complete with sepia toning, diagonal title positioning, and two half-faces. But it fits, rather nicely, actually.

The most compelling aspect of this book is the pacing. It’s impeccable, taut, and thrilling, and it allowed me to read the entire book in one sitting, impatiently perched on the edge of my chair. The intertwining of past and present was done really quite well, in a shocking change from most YA novels that use this device. Additionally, Rowan was a super believable main character, and I really appreciated that. Those are few and far between. Finally, the book was never preachy, which, considering the subject matter and the demographic it’s for, is to be commended immensely as a great achievement.

I was, though, pretty disappointed with the predictability of the plot, because, oh, was it predictable. I also think it took the tame way out in a lot of the cases. Maybe that’s because I’m used to good adult historical fiction not holding back when it comes to twists and brutal treatment of characters, but I almost think the story would have been more interesting if Will had actually been the corpse in the cellar. The plot would have stayed mostly the same, but even so, it would have added yet another element of suspense and inevitability to the plot, another little twist of fate that none of the characters could see coming.–Ella W., 17

wonderfulLINDSTROM, Eric. A Tragic Kind of Wonderful. Little, Brown. Jan. 2017. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 9780316260060.

Gr 9 Up–Mel Hannigan struggles to keep her bipolar disorder unnoticed and continue with real life, but her friendships get complicated and her world begins to fall down.

I thought the cover was pretty and subtly reflected the content. The words of the title start orderly and blocked and become messy. This relates to the main character a lot because she has bipolar disorder, and her moods change very often.

The author incorporated many different things into the book, which made it more interesting, but I didn’t really like the writing style; I just don’t think it was my kind of book. It had a good plot, but I was kind of bored and uninterested while reading it.–Veronica C., 13

RAUGHLEY, Sarah. Fate of Flames. Simon Pulse. Dec. 2016. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 9781481466776.

Gr 8 Up–When hideous creatures known as phantoms roam the earth in search of breaches in the technology designed to ward them away, it is up to four girls who possess the power of the four elements, called Effigies, to protect the human race. In the last week, Maia has woken up with the ability to control fire, watched her city be invaded by phantoms, been recruited by the international agency of the Sect, and met a psychopath, which challenges everything she thought she knew about the world and makes her question what really happened to the last Effigy.

flamesThe cover was almost identical to that of Divergent by Veronica Roth, right down to the color palate, complete with an abstract symbol smack dab in the middle of the cover. For a passionate fan of that series, this assembly spoke of the same adventure and strenuous trials in a uniquely dystopian world. Instead, I found myself grasping at an alternative version of reality through the eyes of a young girl whose insecurities had pushed her to her limits before the story even began. Needless to say, that was a bit disappointing. Still, the concept of the story was what I found to be fascinating, but that required my reading the summary on the back, something that was not reflected on the front at first glance. I believe that such a story deserves an equally distinctive cover.

I am always one for plot, and this book promised an enthralling one: a world plagued with beasts known as phantoms that ravage anything in their path and where humanity’s only true line of defense falls on the powers possessed by four girls. That is how it has always been. When one girl dies, another is selected to take her place. Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets The Last Airbender when Maia becomes the next fire Effigy and discovers that there may be a fifth one out there.

The main character’s attitude throughout the story bothered me. I understand that she was facing a whole new world of possibilities and responsibilities, but it felt like she was too pliant and hesitant to be of much use. Maybe if she had become more grounded sooner rather than later, the story would have moved along more smoothly and accomplished more. There were also major imbalances when it came to descriptions. The author would devote a whole paragraph to what facial expression a character wore and what they inferred from it yet neglect the layout of the room they were in. They also left out details of the environment the characters found themselves in. I kept waiting for something, like the strength of the wind blowing through or the lights reflected in the polished floor, but such visualizations never occurred.–Meghan S., 17

ever-the-huntedSUMMERILL, Erin. Ever the Hunted: A Clash of Kingdoms Novel. HMH. Dec. 2016. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 9780544664456

Gr 8 Up–I loved it. It was similar to The Hunger Games. I liked how it gave so much detail. It is a way better version of “The Hunger Games” books, with witches and magic.–Max A., 15





SLJTeen header

This article was featured in our free SLJTeen enewsletter.
Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you twice a month.