Friday, October 28, 2016

Deadline!

The deadline for your stories from an alternate POV is TODAY, October 28, by 5:00 p.m.! So if you haven't finished your story, wrap it up, and email it to burbank.teens@gmail.com! (If you don't have computer access, you can turn in a print-out at the Reference Desk, but we prefer electronic submission if possible.)


Belated questions about the contest? Go here and read all the details. We look forward to reading your stories!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What we're reading: Thriller

A girl is murdered in the woods by Nicolette Holland's house, and now Nicolette is on the run. It's not clear exactly why--did she witness the murder? commit the murder? find the body? but she takes off out the window of her room like a scared cat, manages to hitch a ride out of town, and does everything she can to stay under the radar, because "someone" is chasing her.

Jack Manx is the good egg in a bad family--his father was a hitman, and his brother is in prison for armed assault. Jack, a straight A student, is a few weeks away from graduation when his brother contacts him from the prison to tell him that unless he tracks down Nicolette Holland and gets rid of her, Jack and everyone he loves will be in danger. So Jack reluctantly goes hunting for Nicolette, but each of them discovers that the lies they have been told will mess with their lives in ways they never imagined.

How to Disappear is told from two first-person points of view, by Jack and Nicolette, and is for fairly mature high school readers. I picked up this book because I have heard good things about Ann Redisch Stampler's writing from other people and wanted to try one for myself. The book sounded like an exciting, fast-paced mystery that I would enjoy.

Well...I'm giving this book a rating of 3, with some explanation. It started out as a 2, and by the end it was a 4, but the fact that I had to get through about a third of a 2 book before it crept up to 3 and finally turned into 4...hmmm.

The beginning was disjointed, confusing, and more drawn out than it needed to be. In fact, about a third of the way through, I honestly considered not finishing the book, because I was frustrated and kind of bored. But the minute the two protagonists quit telling their individual stories and came together, things picked up.

I have to confess that, for a chapter or two further, I was still mightily irritated by the book, because their instant chemistry--the "insta-love"--made me mad. He gets sent to kill her and falls for her instead?
Right. But then their relationship sucked me in, and when they finally straighten out what's going on, who's guilty of what, and what needs to happen, suddenly the pace picked up, the story got exciting and engaging, and I read through to the end of a very different book than the one I thought I had started.

People who enjoyed I Am the Weapon, by Allen Zadoff, or The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, might enjoy this book--if they can get past the first third of it without quitting!




Monday, October 24, 2016

Teen review: Sci fi and romance both!

Alienated
by Melissa Landers
344 pages
Science Fiction, part of a series
Middle School reading level and above

Reviewed by The Sacred Basil, grade 9


Cara Sweeny has got everything under control: She's captain of the debate team, valedictorian of her high school, and a star student with her eyes set on a great career in journalism. What could possibly happen? Well, Cara has gotten news that she has been chosen to house a L’eihr, a transfer student from a planet similar to Earth. She was chosen as one of three teenagers worldwide. Not much is known about these L’eihr people since they made made contact with Earth two years before, except that they look almost like humans, they have telepathic abilities, and they have extremely advanced technology that humans have not yet created (like a cure for cancer). Cara is excited about this rare opportunity, because she can start her journalism career by blogging about this alien. Aelyx, the young L’eihr, is, however, nothing like what Cara expected. From the different food choices to the physical contact, how can they get along? Slowly Aelyx and Cara start to care for each other and gradually start to form a friendship until they go outside. They are hit by hostility, xenophobia, and violence from anti-alien groups. Cara and Aelyx try to fight, not only for themselves but for the fate of humanity and L’eihr.

This is the first book in a triology. I thought this book was surprising. When you look at the cover you just think it’s a classic YA novel about two people falling in love, but as you start reading it, it's not. This book has many surprises and turns, and will make your heart start racing. I would totally recommend this for all romance and/or science fiction lovers out there. This book gets a rating from me of 4 out of 5.


Editor's note: I read this book back in June 2015 and apparently never reviewed it here! So I went to Goodreads to recall my impressions. I hope The Sacred Basil doesn't mind my sharing them...here's a picture of some basil, although I don't know if our teen reviewer meant that kind of basil or Basil of Baker Street, or Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler! Anyway...

I'm a sci fi geek, and I never can resist an aliens-come-to-earth-and-initiate-relations story, but this was thinly veiled teen romance with sci fi trappings. Here's my question: Why are the aliens always bipedal and devastatingly attractive in these books? One can only posit a common ancestor, given all the similarities, and Landers (the L'eihr) goes there for an explanation, which is good because we need LOGIC in our sci fi.

But despite all the romance (or maybe you won't feel that way if you LIKE romance), this story is a nice metaphor--showing the lunatic fringe of humankind's reaction (not kind at all) to people not like them. With all the gay-bashing and atheist-hating that goes on in our world, perpetuated by a minority that gets all the publicity, the way the L'eihr are treated in this story is right on target. And Cara's urging of the silent majority to finally stand up and do something, rather than let the mean people get away with sabotaging the alliance and therefore the Earth, is something that needs to be said. Loudly and frequently. So kudos for the concepts, Melissa Landers, and I forgive you for the meet-cute romance.

Burbank Public Library owns the second book in the series, Invaded, but I appear to have forgotten to order the third book, so I will do that now!