Friday, December 26, 2014

Teen review: Dystopian

The book Uglies was written by Scott Westerfeld and contains 432 pages. It is a dystopian book describing the roller coaster life of a young teen named Tally Youngblood, who is part of a new society in the future. Tally Youngblood is like any other teen in her city waiting till she finally turns 16. Why is turning 16 so important? It’s not because you finally get to drive, since cars no longer exist. It’s because she will finally be a Pretty. On her sixteenth birthday she will be taken to the hospital to be put "under the knife.” She wants to be pretty so badly, especially since her best friend Peris is already a Pretty living the glamorous life in Prettytown, partying all night. During Tally’s time awaiting her birthday she makes an unexpected friend named Shay, who surprisingly shares the same birthday with her. During their time spent together before their birthdays, they do what they enjoy: hoverboarding and playing pranks.

One thing they don’t have in common, however, is becoming a Pretty. While Tally is eager, Shay is completely against it. She doesn’t like the mindset of the society she lives in. Tally doesn’t see Shay’s point of view. Shay tries to convince Tally to come to the Smoke, a rumored town where the whole Ugly/Pretty system does not exist, with her , but Tally declines. Shay leaves anyway and Tally continues on to become a Pretty, her dream. Instead of Tally becoming a Pretty, though, she is taken away to be questioned about Shay’s disappearance. From here Tally Youngblood’s life takes an interesting twist and doesn’t go back, her life changes forever. Read the book to find out why her world tips upside down. Two more books called Pretties and Specials finish off this exhilarating series, but the roller coaster doesn’t stop there: A fourth book called Extras adds, well, a little extra to the series.

I truly enjoyed reading this book and suggest it to middle and high schoolers. I personally read it as a ninth grader. This book accurately portrays the insecurities of teenagers and the message it was trying to get across--“you are perfect the way you are”--which may sound like a cheesy one, but is really extremely important. I loved how the character Tally is very relateable; her internal battles and questioning are ones that everyone experiences even if the situation may be different. Both Tally’s heroics and her imperfections make her human and real. I would say this book has similar ideas to the Divergent series and The Hunger Games, both of which I have read and enjoyed as well.

This book is around a 4, better than most, but not one of those books that I couldn’t go anywhere without. It was still a really enjoyable novel and Scott Westerfeld is an inspiring writer.

Reviewed by Marlena S., grade 9

Editor's note: Did you know there are also now graphic novel spin-offs of this series, starting with Uglies: Shay's Story? Pretty cool...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Teen review: Thriller

Girl Missing, which was previously published as Peggy Sue Got Murdered, is written by Tess Gerritsen. It is a fiction book in the thriller genre. It contains 352 pages and is not part of a series. This book definitely contains some adult themes and I suggest the reading level should be high school and above, since it is more mature.

In this thrilling thriller, Kat Novak, the main character who works as a medical examiner in the morgue, receives a body one day, a Jane Doe with only one phone number in a contact book in her pocket to identify her. When the man whose number was in the phone book comes in, he acts strangely, causing Kat to become suspicious. From there Kat’s curiosity gets the best of her and she has to examine further. When it becomes apparent that this was not a normal death, she takes it upon herself to get to the bottom of it even if it is a dangerous job.

Through this exciting story you read about real life dangers, exploding houses, illegal activities, and much more. Of course, how could you forget the love interest? one that develops through crazy and potentially dangerous exploits and awkward family visits. What will happen to Kat, and what really happened to the girl? Read it to find out!

This book is a pretty quick read and it was one that was hard to put down. It is a well-written thriller about a murder that leads in an unexpected direction. I personally love mysteries, and this one kept my attention--there was never a moment when I was bored. It actually has more layers to it than just the typical murder mystery. Kat’s life isn’t as simple as it seems, and her story is an interesting one. I also really adore anything romantic, and Girl Missing has, woven within the main plot, a sweet, complicated, and touching love story to add to all the drama of a murder case. I would definitely rate this a 5, "hard to imagine a better book," because not only did it keep my attention, but it had a balance between the murder, family problems, and love story. I would personally read it again.

Reviewed by Marlena S., grade 9

Editor's note: BPL owns this as an E-book. Didn't know you could check free e-books out of the library? Yep.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Twelve Holiday Stories

If you're looking for a book to make your holiday brighter, check out My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories, edited by Stephanie Perkins. It has stories from all your favorite YA writers, and there are copies at each branch on the YA New Books shelves. Here's a rundown of the entire content, from a fellow blogger, "So Obsessed With"--she's already done the work for me of discussing what this book has to offer!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Library Schedule

This week, all branches of Burbank Public Library will CLOSE EARLY at 5 p.m. on WEDNESDAY, December 24, for Christmas Eve.

All library branches will be CLOSED on THURSDAY, December 25, for the Christmas holiday.

The libraries will be open regular hours at all branches on Friday and Saturday after Christmas.

Have a lovely holiday!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Teen review: Sci Fi / Action

by DJ MacHale
407 pages
Science Fiction
Book 1 of the Sylo Trilogy
Reading Level: Middle School

Reviewed by J. C., grade 9

Pemberwick Island, Maine is a small yet peaceful place...until one night Arbortown High's star quarterback Marty Wiggins suddenly drops dead with no apparent cause. Within a few days, a United States military group called SYLO drops in and blocks off the entire island from the rest of the world. The group is headed by Captain Granger, who informs the residents of the island that there is a deadly virus on the island responsible for Wiggins’s death, that must be stopped before it spreads. Tucker Pierce, who witnessed Wiggins’s death, notices many other suspicious things going on around town, including an aircraft explosion and a traveling salesman selling substances that can make you superhuman. Tucker soon finds out there is more to SYLO than they’re letting on, and with the help of his friends tries to find the truth of what’s really happening.

If I were to rate SYLO from 1-5, I’d give it a solid 3. DJ MacHale can still craft engaging story lines. However that’s the only thing keeping this book afloat. None of the characters are really memorable and most are two-dimensional stereotypes that are only there to try to get you invested in the story. I felt like I was being told everything through text instead of through action and events in the plot. The pacing was all over the place, and the foreshadowing and character development felt obvious and forced. Every element of this book felt like it was being used to advance the plot, giving me no time to really care about the characters and their barely existent motivations. And the story is amazing. It’s interesting and I want to see where it goes. But the finer details of the story just hold this book back.

I would recommend it to middle schoolers looking for a fun and simple story to pass the time. But anyone looking for complex characters or writing that challenges their view of the world is looking for something else.

Editor's note: I am with J.C. on this. Here is my review, which I wrote a while back but never published until now.

I read the first three of D.J. MacHale's Pendragon series, of which Merchant of Death is the first, and while they were a little too "talky" for my taste, I completely understood why MacHale has so many tween and teen fans. The adventures are imaginative and individual, Bobby is plausible, everything pretty much works. I recommend them constantly to a certain age and type of reader. I didn't love them enough to read the whole series, though, because ultimately I found Bobby's internal monologue and constant self-reflection a little tedious.

When I heard that MacHale was writing a sci fi series, I was excited on behalf of all his young fans. So I am sorry to say that I didn't care as much for this book.

It started strong (I love books about small, enclosed cultures on islands!)...but then ensued an entire novel of running around in circles. Lots of action scenes, very few explanations, and the clues weren't enough to lead me anywhere. I became impatient with the main characters' constant speculation about what was happening, because at a certain point anyone could see where things were probably heading, but no one said so, leading me to believe that they were either in on it, or they were the most oblivious people on the island. I felt like there were a lot of manufactured crises, and after they escaped the fifth or sixth one only to fall prey to the next, I just got tired.

I imagine that some of D.J.'s fans will love this series--judging from other reviews on Goodreads and elsewhere, many people liked it a lot more than I did. And I will refer you to a previous review on this blog by teen reviewer Allen, who did in fact love it. So I will buy the rest of the series for the library…but I doubt I'll be reading it myself.

If anyone has read Storm and/or Strike and can tell us how those turned out, we'd like to hear from you!