February 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

YA Xpress Reviews | February 2017

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1702-Xpress-YA-CVsCarter, Ally. Take the Key and Lock Her Up. 336p. (Embassy Row: Bk. 3). ebook available. Scholastic. Dec. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545654951.

Gr 8 Up –Gracie’s adventure continues in this third title in the series. Her motivation in this book is clearly to save her brother’s life by sacrificing herself, but that doesn’t seem to satisfy the Society, as it wants to extinguish the bloodline before a potential overthrow of the current system that it has spent 200 years maintaining. Carter provides nonstop action, and series fans will happily suspend disbelief as Gracie pulls off Jason Bourne–type escapes with the aid of multiple passports and thousands of dollars in foreign currency. Those who haven’t read the first two volumes will likely be lost. What happened to Gracie’s brother, and why he is so incapacitated? Who is Amelia? Why is Gracie avoiding returning to Adria to claim her seat on the throne? Gracie has inner conflicts that drive her to react impulsively and without considering potential consequences, such as meeting up with a prime minister whom she knows she can’t trust and who has betrayed her in the past. As in most stories of kingdoms and bloodlines, the central tension comes down to who is willing to go the farthest to keep secrets and gain power. VERDICT Fans of the best-selling series will enjoy this latest installment.–Jessica Lorentz Smith, Bend Senior High School, OR

Gray, Claudia. A Million Worlds with You. 419p. (Firebird: Bk. 3). ebook available. HarperCollins/Harper. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062279026; pap. $12. ISBN 9780062562548.

Gr 9 Up –In the thrilling conclusion to the trilogy, Marguerite Caine is in the middle of a cross-dimensional fight to save multiple universes from extinction. With the Firebird device that her parents created, Marguerite can travel among universes. However, she is becoming aware of the impact that traveling has on each dimension—and on herself. In a culmination of events begun in the previous volumes, Marguerite has discovered the evil plans of the Triad Corporation and is trying to catch those involved before destruction occurs. Paul, Marguerite’s friend and love interest, has changed since his soul split in four, and he struggles with his dark side, pushing Marguerite away while also trying to assist her across the multiverse. With fast-paced action that starts from the first chapter, this title will draw readers into an enthralling chase across time and space. The plot cleverly connects many universes with multiple dimensions of personality, and the characters are intriguing, smart, layered, and independent. Although this offering can be read as a stand-alone, those who haven’t read the first two novels will lack important context. VERDICT Sci-fi fans are the obvious audience for this, but readers of all genres will enjoy the nonstop action and unique story.–Melissa Poole, Clemson University Library, Anderson, SC

Pitt, Darrell. A Toaster on Mars. 240p. ebook available. Text. Jan. 2017. pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781922182869.

Gr 10 Up –In this mash-up of a funny space tale and a detective story, Blake Carter, an agent with the Planetary Bureau of Investigation, has been assigned a new partner: a cyborg. Bartholomew Badde, an evil genius, has taken the world hostage by threatening electrical extinction via explosive device. Carter and his new partner must track down and stop Badde from destroying Earth. This narrative attempts to be as hilarious as Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. With a zany futuristic world that closely mirrors that of The Jetsons, as well as a host of bizarre alien characters, the author tries to blend wit, mystery, and science fiction. Unfortunately, the humor is delivered in such a heavy-handed way that it often falls flat. The characters feel wooden, and although the novel is filled with interplanetary action sequences, the overall pacing is not compelling. Many of the references to classic television, such as Star Trek and Snakes on a Space Station, would not be understood by average teens. VERDICT Give readers The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or one of Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” novels instead.–Jenni Frencham, Columbus Public Library, WI

Sears, Tina. The River’s Edge. 198p. ebook available. Bedazzled Ink. Oct. 2016. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781943837403.

Gr 9 Up –Chris Morgan knows that her father isn’t coming back, even though her mother is sure that he will. To deal with the aftermath of his absence, Chris’s mother sends the teen away to spend the summer along the Ohio River with relatives she hasn’t seen in a long time. The freedom and long days she finds open up seemingly endless possibilities. Even as Chris misses her mother and her home, she makes new friends, becomes entangled in summer love, and quickly discovers the ugliness of the past and some terrible secrets about her own family. Torn between what is right and what will happen if she unveils the truth, Chris feels twisted and bruised inside. Set in 1976, the intriguing story includes some unexpected plot turns that will likely balance out the places where the writing style comes up short. Delving into heavy family issues, this novel is best suited for more mature teens. VERDICT Consider as a secondary purchase for readers who enjoy books by April Henry.–Meghan Oppelt, Whitehall School District, WI

This article was published in School Library Journal's February 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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