Tuesday, April 29, 2014

NO PLACE by Todd Strasser

No PlaceIt's Dan's senior year.  He has a hot girl friend and his pitching talents have earned him a scholarship to Rice University.  Everything seems to be headed in the right direction for him except for that both his parents are out of work.   With the downturn of the economy, his mother lost her job as a stockbroker, and his father's job organizing activities for inner city youth was eliminated.  Now they are losing their home.

Dan is forced to pack up his belongs and join his parents as they move into his uncle's house.  Instead of having his own room, he is sleeping in the rec room surrounded by a pool table and his cousins' toys.  Things at the house are tense.  Uncle Ron makes it clear that he doesn't think his brother-in-law, Dan's dad, is trying his hardest to find a job.  The already uncomfortable situation reaches a boiling point when Dan's dad borrows Uncle Ron's golf clubs without asking. 

It is time to move on, but the only option left is a tent city called Dignityville that has been erected in one of the city's park areas.  Dan can't believe he will be spending the rest of his senior year living in a tent and sharing meals in a communal dining tent.  Relationship problems with his girl friend, his father's suspicious activities, and pressure to stay in shape and pitch well at an upcoming fall tournament may prove to be more than Dan can handle.  To complicate matters, it appears that some opponents of Dignityville are willing to use violence to make their feelings known.

Author Todd Strasser has done it again.  He takes on the challenge of making teen readers aware of homelessness and the lack of class equality in our country.  NO PLACE educates readers about a growing social issue and also entertains with a bit of mystery and intrigue.   

Sunday, April 27, 2014

NOGGIN by John Corey Whaley

NogginAfter being diagnosed with leukemia, undergoing multiple rounds of chemo therapy, and surviving an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant, Travis Coates is ready to be done with it all.  When presented with an unusual opportunity, Travis and his parents agree to an unprecedented procedure.  Travis will have his head removed and preserved until it can be reattached to a donor body.  Travis doesn't have much hope for the procedure, but he does know he is tired of fighting to survive.

NOGGIN begins five years after Travis's procedure.  Science has advanced faster than anyone predicted, and doctors have successfully reattached Travis's head to the body of another sixteen year old who died of a brain tumor.  Now Travis must return to a life he left five years ago, although it feels like he has only been gone for mere days.

Some of the changes Travis must adjust to are returning to high school as a sophomore with classmates who were still in grade school when he left.  His best friend Kyle is now in college, and his girl friend Cate is engaged to someone else.  Determined not to let the changes stop him, Travis tries to resume living where he left off, but can he convince all those he left behind that they should have waited for his return.

Author John Corey Whaley takes on medical technology that doesn't really seem all that impossible.  Readers will feel Travis's frustrations and at the same time sympathize with those who struggled to carry on during his absence.  NOGGIN addresses the human issues that surround potentially cutting- edge future technology.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

DISPLACEMENT by Thalia Haltas

DisplacementVera needs to escape the chaos at home.  Her younger sister disappeared and is presumed drowned.  Her mother spends more time in foreign countries than with her children, and her older sister is focused on her own life without enough left over for anyone else.  Vera's love of geology leads her to the desert where she hopes to occupy her time with rocks and not the memories that haunt every moment.

When she arrives in the tiny town of Garrett, she is welcomed by a conglomeration of interesting people.  There is Tilly whose lisp makes every conversation a challenge.  Lon is half Indian, breathtakingly handsome, and he runs a questionable business shipping Indian artifacts.  Vera quickly connects with Milo, an artist whose pottery making skills are incredible.  Life in Garrett is slow-paced, and Vera falls into life there easily.

As the summer passes, Vera works for Lon keeping records and eventually earning his confidence to help pack artifacts for shipping.  When memories and imagined glimpses of her dead sister threaten to overwhelm her, she heads into the desert to calm her nerves.  No one questions her reasons for being there, but sometimes Vera wishes someone would.

When Vera discovers someone has been inside the house she is temporarily calling home, she sets about trying to solve the mystery.  When she finds the answers, she is shaken and begins doubting whether this is the place she belongs.  Will time help heal the painful past?  When will she be ready to go back to her previous life and pick up the pieces?

Author Thalia Chaltas explores the world of love and loss and what it takes to pull a life back together.  DISPLACEMENT is written in verse and beautifully tells Vera's story as she attempts to rebuild her life.  Chaltas is also the author of another novel in verse, BECAUSE I AM FURNITURE.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

THE RAFT by S. A. Bodeen

The RaftLiving in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on Midway Atoll among a bunch of researchers doesn't offer much excitement so Robie is thrilled that she has been able to visit her aunt in Honolulu.  Unfortunately, her aunt is called away on business and that leaves Robie with two choices - head back to the lonely Midway islands early or stay in her aunt's apartment being watched over by an annoying, nosy neighbor.  Robie decides in favor of the apartment despite the irritation of having to be looked after by a chatty, old woman.

Much to Robie's delight, her aunt's neighbor doesn't seem to be around which leaves Robie free to occupy herself any way she chooses.  However, when mysterious noises disturb her on her first night alone, Robie decides home doesn't sound so bad after all.  From past experience she knows she can hop aboard a freight plane headed to Midway without any ticket or advanced notice so she hastily packs her bags and catches a ride to the airport. 

Being a passenger on a transport plane is definitely not first class.  As the only passenger, Robie is instructed to strap herself into a seat located behind the cockpit among the boxes and supplies all packed for delivery to the plane's final destination.  She is barely able to get a glimpse inside the cockpit to watch the pilot and copilot as they fly the plane.

Not long into the flight they run into the path of a storm and the turbulence is incredible.  It is worse than any rough flight Robie has ever experienced.  As the roughness of the ride increases, Robie begins to worry about the seriousness of the situation, and when the copilot comes back to tell her they have lost an engine and the pilot has decided to ditch the plane in the ocean, she is terrified.

The next thing Robie knows, the copilot is shoving her and the plane's life raft out the emergency exit and into a raging sea.  What follows are days of blazing sun, no water, no food except for a handful of Skittles candy, and a desperate attempt to survive long enough to be rescued.  When Robie realizes that her parents have no idea she even left Hawaii on this fateful trip, she becomes convinced that her final days will be spent bobbing around in a sinking life raft as sharks prowl the waters around her.

Author S. A. Bodeen's THE RAFT is sure to have readers on the edge of their seats as they root for Robie to survive the ordeal.  With gritty detail and frightening clarity, Bodeen made me feel like I was in that life raft clinging to life right along with her characters.

Monday, April 14, 2014

THE LIVING by Matt De La Pena

The LivingA summer job on a cruise ship seems perfect.  Shy knows he will miss his family especially since the recent death of his grandmother, but the money he will be earning will go a long way to take care of everyone back home.  Passing out water, handing out recreational supplies, and straightening deck chairs for all the rich passengers keeps Shy busy.

One fateful night Shy is on deck providing beverages for passengers outside one of the onboard dance clubs when a middle aged guy with a pathetic comb-over decides to jump overboard.  Just before the man jumps, he mumbles some nonsense to Shy.  Shy reacts quickly enough to grab the man's jacket, but as the material tears, the passenger slips from Shy's grasp and plunges into the rough sea.

Shy's second cruise starts out smoother until he realizes someone is watching him.  When he and his cabin mate return to find their cabin ransacked, he knows something is definitely going on.  At the same time Shy is trying to figure out what the mysterious stranger wants, he gets a message from home.  His little nephew has contracted the same fatal disease that killed his grandmother months before.  He receives some comfort from a beautiful girl named Carmen who also works on the ship.  Her father also died from the highly contagious Romero Disease.

Before Shy can figure out what his stalker wants and how to deal with the problems at home, the ship's captain announces a dangerous storm is headed their way.  Shy soon finds himself saving passengers and then leaping into one of the remaining life rafts as he watches the huge cruise ship sink.

Author Matt De La Pena has crafted an amazing adventure that combines a mysterious disease, a tsunami, and an isolated island medical research facility.  Readers will be on the edge of their seats for an incredibly rough ride as Shy and his fellow shipmates try to survive.  THE HUNTED, a second book in the series, is due for release in the fall of 2014 and promises even more adventure.