May 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review Alternative History, Epic Fantasy, and More

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The latest crop from our young adult reviewers includes ringing endorsements of Ash Princess, The Pros of Cons, and Living in Infamy.

CHERRY, Alison, Lindsay Ribar, & Michelle Schusterman. The Pros of Cons. 352p. Scholastic/Point. Mar. 2018. ISBN 9781338151725. $18.99.
Gr 9 Up–The book is mainly about a girl named Callie who lives with her dad because [her parents] divorced, and she’s at a convention at the World Taxidermy Championships, being his assistant. A girl named Phoebe goes with a band to compete at the same convention center (since the convention has 3 “wings”) and almost runs over Callie. She is described as a red haired girl with a dead turkey. Then, the book starts talking about Vanessa, a girl who had been online dating the most popular wonderlandia fanfic author  for 4 months and was finally going to meet her at the WTFcon. And when they finally meet, Vanessa starts comparing herself to Soliel for a little while, and talks about how her parents were chill with her being gay, but she wouldn’t been allowed to come if they found out that she was dating a college student. Later on  in the lobby, the three suddenly become friends.

What I like about the cover is that how the author/illustrator combined all three of the girls’ purpose to be at the convention and put it in one thing combined. For example, in the cover it has a mouse, which is supposed to represent Callie at the Taxidermy Championships. But the mouse is also holding a broom, which is supposed to represent Vanessa, because they cosplay for harry potter. Then the mouse is holding a triangle, drum, and a tambourine, which is supposed to represent Phoebe because she’s going to the convention center for an Indoor Percussion Association  convention. Also, I like the cover because I think it’s really creative because the illustrator combined them to make one thing.

My favorite part about the book was when at the beginning of the book Callie and Jeremy Warren talked with each other because it seemed like they were really comfortable with each other, and it made it interesting because they were sort of like childhood friends. For example, in the text Callie was joking around with Jeremy and sort of mocking her dad, and when she did that it seemed like she was really carefree and relaxed around him, unlike when she was around her dad where she seemed pretty tense and cautious/worried. For example, she was worried or kind of afraid around her dad because she doesn’t care when she gets physically hurt, but is more worried about dead turkeys, because “dad would murder me if  anything happened to the turkey armature inside.” —Tenzin T., 12

RICHMOND, Caroline Tung. Live In Infamy: A Companion to The Only Thing To Fear. 304p. Scholastic. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338111095.
Gr 6 Up–This tells the story of a not-so-ordinary teen, Ren Cabot, who is currently residing in what we would call a “living hell.” Except, this time it is not merely a joke, but the unfortunate reality for people in the future dystopian United States. This book will give readers a spooky “what if” story concerning what would’ve occurred if the Allied powers had not defeated the Axis powers during World War II. It brought along the creepy revelation that the U.S has become the “Western American Territories” and is under Imperial Japan’s rule. The Germans and Japanese have total power and people are subject to hate, strict discipline, murder, and a number of other completely dystopianlike events/actions from their leaders. Ren has witnessed all this cruelty and injustice since a young age, and has even suffered seeing his mom be murdered ruthlessly on the top of a cliff, breaking up his family and leaving him scarred since then. However, Ren is secretly part of something larger than life. Ren is secretly “The Viper,” his alias who writes and sends copies out to his town about freedom, equality, and justice, and to fight in the Resistance to gain back what was formerly America. He becomes part of a resistance group that gives him the opportunity to save lives and “dethrone” the government, and Ren finds himself on a new adventure.

One of the most interesting things about this book’s cover is how it is so easily able to attract any reader’s attention. The bolded title font and different colors all make it stand out very easily, especially the world “infamy,” giving readers a key clue as to what reality the characters in the book are living. The use of the Japanese Imperial Flag was also one of the main reasons why this book pops out, with the bright and bold red with white. It also gives you a shocking image on the bottom with a prison (Alcatraz) with the flag standing tall and prideful against a downpour of rain, foreshadowing all of the tragedy that will ensue, and adding an extra touch of drama that will give any picky readers the push they need to grab this book.

The main character is someone very compelling and relatable. Ren is one of the most interesting characters I have ever read about. The author created this character with such intrinsic care and made sure he had a truly impacting and moving story about how he has had to live most of his life being at the bottom of the territories social system, being a biracial child to an American father and Chinese mother, which is still seen as a strange/bad thing in our modern-day society, even though in both worlds we tend to be hypocrites saying there is “no difference” and “no judgement” without regard to the insane way racism is spreading like a wildfire. It also revealed the fascist views that were and still are present in many countries. It connects to a lot of past and modern-day history/politics, and shows us that we need to and must continue to make process to prevent this type of future for generations to come.

Overall, this book was pretty excellent, and I highly recommend it to anyone because of its characters, message, drama, suspense, historical aspects, and “what if” prompt. This book can reach a wide variety of people, especially dystopian, sci-fi, history, and suspense readers. Something that I wish the author would’ve changed was the development of secondary characters, as they were introduced in the book but never actually got fully developed and got left on the sidelines even though they were important to the plot of rebelling against Imperial Japan. Another thing I would have liked changed is the ending, because it felt as if it were a cliff-hanger or a sequel. Besides this, it was a fun read and I feel that there is something for every to enjoy about this book.—Andrea T., 14

See SLJ’s starred review.

SEBASTIAN, Laura. Ash Princess. 448p. Delacorte. Apr. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781524767068.
Gr 7 Up–The book is about a girl who mother was murdered when she is very young and his now mocked as an ash princess, because her mother was the fire queen. She is forced to humiliate herself at every kingdom event and is tortured for every little thing. She has to keep the girl she was inside, and she assumes the name of Thora, who is a sweet innocent little girl, just grateful for being alive. She has to do horrifying tasks and live under unfair rule, where death is better than this life. Her people are suffering and if she makes one wrong move, there will be punishment (for her). She goes through trials that test her loyalty to the kingdom.

I liked the design of the cover. I liked the color schemes and the how they show the crown that is a major part of this book. The colors show the dark life she lives. My favorite part of the book was when she in her own way, gets her revenge.  I also liked the part when she found her long-lost friend, because finally something was going right in her life.

I really liked the plot of the book and hope they make a second story to give a more fulfilling ending. I would recommend this book to a lot of people (especially my mom!). Also, I wouldn’t change anything about the book. It was great the way it was.–Maya L., 12

SMITH, Amber. The Last To Let Go. 384p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481480734.
Gr 9 Up–The cover shows a ball of yarn unraveling but not quite unraveled yet. However, the yarn ball is abnormal. It is all kinds of different colors whereas a normal ball of yarn is typically all the same color, or within the same color scheme. This one, though, is completely different colors. It stands out due to the light grey background, and it makes you wonder about the sanity of the person in the book. The unraveling of yarn makes it seem like the person’s sanity is unwinding. But, when reading, you don’t get that “going insane SOS” vibe. You get a new sense of empowerment and renewed strength just from reading this book. I would love to talk about my specific favorite part, but, I couldn’t find one. The entire book was my favorite.

I was lucky enough to receive a “review copy” and that was the coolest. Smith is a brilliant author. She showed, with this book alone, that you can defeat the odds that the world throws at you. I fell in love with this book and could not put it down. I found myself disappointed to get in the shower because I knew that I would have to stop reading it. I would recommend this book to literally EVERYONE. I love it so much and wouldn’t change a single thing about it. Actually— the one thing I would change would be to write another book like this one. When reading a book, you can tell when an author truly cares about what they’re writing about. When reading The Last To Let Go, you can really tell [Smith] cares.—Paige R., 14

See the recent chat between Amber Smith and Amber Reed.

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