June 21, 2018

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Four Futuristic Finds for Teen Readers | SLJ Spotlight

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Looking for the latest in speculative and futuristic fiction for teens? Alternative history expert Ryan Graudin serves up her latest, a Doctor Who–like tale featuring adventure, time travel, and unforgettable characters. Sci-fi fans will zip through Philip Reeve’s follow-up to Railhead and Scott Reintgen’s ­trilogy ­starter. And for those who can’t get enough of dystopian worlds, Gregory Scott Katsoulis’s All Rights ­Reserved would be the perfect fit.

Graudin, Ryan. Invictus. 464p. Little, Brown. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316503075. POP

Gr 9 Up –Farway Gaius McCarthy was born out of time; his mother was a time traveler from the 24th century, his father a gladiator from the year 95 AD. Far was born in The Grid, a place where time doesn’t exist, and because of his special birth, he always considered himself destined for greatness, dancing from time to time, recording history as a member of the Corps of Central Time Travelers. His dreams disappear, however, when he fails his all-or-nothing finals simulation, the victim of a sabotage no one else believes happened. Now Far and his friends must work for the dangerous Lux Julio, gathering precious items from the past for Lux to sell on the black market. It’s on a mission to grab a book from the ill-fated Titanic that Far comes face-to-face with the girl who sabotaged his life and discovers a destiny far greater and more dangerous than he could ever imagine. This part sci-fi and part historical fiction novel has a solid dose of YA romance as well. The intriguing plot would be even more engaging without quite so many romantic side trips, but these digressions offer a good deal of characterization. The characters are all well developed and compelling; Far resembles a teenage Captain Kirk. As with most time-travel stories, things can sometimes be a bit confusing, but teens will appreciate this title and its well-rounded characters and satisfying ending that hits all the right notes. ­VERDICT An appealing sci-fi romp; purchase where the author is popular.–Erik Knapp, Davis Library, Plano, TX

Katsoulis, Gregory Scott. All Rights Reserved. 400p. (Word$: Bk. 1). Harlequin Teen. Aug. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780373212446.

Gr 8 Up –In this inventive dystopian sci-fi debut, when people turn 15, they must begin paying for the words they speak or write and for the gestures they use to communicate. Every word is trademarked, restricted, or copyrighted, and some words cost more than others, leading many to go into debt. Those 15 or older must wear an irremovable Cuff that records everything they say and do and pays the Rights Holders. Speth is about to give her 15th birthday speech as a rite of passage when her boyfriend commits suicide in front of her rather than pay off his family’s huge debt. This compels the teen to rebel against society’s rules by becoming silent, which means no money for the corporation that’s making billions from people’s speech. Her seditious act incites a media frenzy and sparks a movement called the Silents. It threatens to disrupt the system, but the cost for Speth and her siblings Saretha and Sam is very high. Speth is a sympathetic character for whom readers will root, but her experiences are often unrelentingly grim. Since she narrates the book and doesn’t speak aloud to others, readers may feel distanced from the other characters. The ending is a bit anticlimactic given the exciting events that preceded it. VERDICT Between the clever premise and the protagonist’s stand against a repressive society, Katsoulis’s work is timely and will appeal to fans of Dan Wells’s Bluescreen, M.T. Anderson’s Feed, Cecelia Ahern’s Flawed, or Scott Westerfeld’s “Uglies.” Purchase where sci-fi and dystopian tales are popular.–Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton

redstarReeve, Philip. Black Light Express. 352p. Switch Pr. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781630790967.

Gr 7-10 –In this sequel to Railhead, trains are sentient beings with different personalities who communicate with one another through “trainsong” and with their passengers via artificial intelligence. They run on rails and travel through K-gates, portals to different worlds throughout the Network Empire. Zen Starling and Motorik (female android) Nova have escaped the Network Empire aboard the Damask Rose, hurtling through a new K-gate to the previously unknown Web of Worlds. They were pawns in a plot to steal a valuable artifact from the powerful Noon family, unintentionally destroying the Noons’ train and killing their empress. Threnody Noon, the new empress, sets out to find and punish Zen. The hunt is complicated by an attempt to overthrow Threnody, which sends her on the run as well. As the narrative unfurls, the tangle of truth about the origin and control of the rails and K-gates is just as exciting as the hunt itself. The worlds and their inhabitants—track-building worms, delightfully aggressive retired war trains, unapologetic evildoers, and insects and multiple other nonhuman creatures—are distinct and crystal clear. No specific ethnicities are mentioned, but the human characters are described as brown-skinned, black, or white. VERDICT For fans of fantasy adventure, especially those who are new to the genre.–Carla Riemer, Claremont Middle School, Oakland, CA

Reintgen, Scott. Nyxia. 384p. (The Nyxia Triad: Bk. 1). Crown. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399556791.

Gr 9 Up –Emmett Atwater is in need of a great deal of money to help his mother. So when Babel Communications offers him a fortune and a once-in-a-lifetime deep-space experience, he jumps at the opportunity. Now he and 10 other broken and desperate recruits are fighting for the right to mine a planet that humanity does not know exists. But are they just competing against one another, or is there more to Babel’s plans? Can the cost of human lives be measured against the value of Nyxia, a new substance found only on the planet Eden? At what cost do success and failure come? An amazing adventure of intelligence and strength, this sci-fi book presents diverse and complex characters in a tale about greed and internal compromise. The author brings to life more than a dozen characters with depth and individual personalities and agendas. This is a wonderful example of how personal and corporate values are often intertwined despite being at odds with each other. ­VERDICT Fans of the “Hunger Games” and the “Maze Runner” series will enjoy this series opener.–Elizabeth Speer, Weatherford College, TX





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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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