Friday, July 21, 2017

THE REASON YOU'RE ALIVE by Matthew Quick

The Reason You're Alive
David Granger is a Vietnam vet. He saw intense action fighting the Vietcong in the jungle during the war. He has a few fellow vets with whom he shares some of his memories, but he has always protected his family from the horrors he experienced.

Recently, Granger crashed his BMW as the result of a seizure. Doctors determined he had a brain tumor. Granger blames Agent Orange. After surgery to remove the tumor, Granger attempts to return home. He is determined to face his memories of the war and find closure by returning a ceremonial knife to its rightful owner.
Following another seizure while visiting a museum with his son and grand-daughter, Granger's son insists that he stay with family. Since Granger's relationship with his son really revolves around his deep love for his grand-daughter, Ella, this temporary stay proves to be tense at best.
As the days pass, the two men begin to communicate in a way they never have before. Granger's son learns that his father isn't the bigoted, old man he thought him to be. Opening up to each other helps to heal some of the pain from their pasts, and father and son come to respect the choices each have made.
BOY 21, EVERY EXQUISITE THING, and FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK by author Matthew Quick are popular with YA readers in my classroom. THE REASON YOU'RE ALIVE should also be of interest to mature YA readers even though the focus is on an older protagonist. Today's teens are not familiar with the Vietnam War, but Quick's book might spark an interest to learn more.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

BERSERKER by Emmy Laybourne

Berserker
Hanne and her siblings suddenly find themselves embarking on a journey from their native Norway to America. The original plan was for Hanne's older brother Stieg to make the journey, get settled, and then send for the others. That plan quickly dissolves when Hanne flies into a rage and murders three intruders threatening her family's safety.

With their father dead, the four siblings take their inheritance and flee to America. The new plan involves crossing this new country in search of an uncle who will hopefully help them make sense of an ancient Norse curse that haunts their family.

Both Hanne's parents carried the Nytte curse. Odds were their children would be born with the "gift" of the Nytte. Three of the four siblings have already exhibited their gifts. Knut has incredible strength, Stieg has the power to blow powerful cold or warm blasts of wind, and Hanne has the power to kill. Known as a Berserker, Hanne flies into a killing rage whenever she or a family member is threatened. Until now Hanne's gift, in combination with Knut's powerful strength, has allowed them to provide for their family while serving as butchers for neighboring farmers with livestock.

Soon after arriving in America, Hanne and her siblings meet Owen, a cowboy down on his luck. He is willing to escort them to Montana in search of their uncle. For a fee he outfits the group with horses, clothing, and needed supplies, and their journey begins. Unfortunately, news of the tragedy that forced them to leave their home in Norway follows them and they are soon fleeing for their lives.

Author Emmy Laybourne has earned a loyal fan base with her MONUMENT 14 series and her novel  SWEET. With the October release of BERSERKER, she is sure to thrill those fans and many new ones as well. BERSERKER combines the adventure of the American frontier with the mystical intrigue of a legendary curse. Likeable characters and a bit of romance round out this must read thriller.



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

THE YOU I'VE NEVER KNOWN by Ellen Hopkins

The You I've Never Known
Ariel's family is her father. The two of them have been on their own since Ariel's mother ran off. Ariel was only a toddler at the time and has been raised to believe that her mother was a lesbian whore. Life for the father and daughter has been a blur of different cities living in their car or with a string of women Ariel's father has charmed.

Recently, Ariel has found comfort in Sonora, California. She is attending school and has even made a few friends. There's Monica, a girl who frightens Ariel because her look and touch stir something in Ariel that would likely have her father labeling her a lesbian whore just like her mother. There's also kind and supportive Gabe, the nephew of Ariel's father's recent lady friend and drinking partner.

Maya speaks in journal-type chapters writing to her daughter Casey. Maya is trapped in a marriage of her own making. She used her teen pregnancy as a way to escape life with a cult-obsessed mother, but it landed her in a marriage to an enlisted man about ten years her senior. She wishes for more for her daughter as she writes about her struggle to be a good mom and share her love with the only positive thing in her life.

Author Ellen Hopkins works her magic in this combination of verse and prose to weave together two lives whose connections are sure to surprise her readers. Both Ariel and Maya show courage and determination as they explore their individual identities and where they fit in the world. I found THE YOU I'VE HEVER KNOWN as compelling as Hopkins's IDENTICAL.