Sunday, October 15, 2017

October Recommendations


GENUINE FRAUD, by E. Lockhart (author of We Were Liars), is a tale told in reverse, a thrill ride which keeps readers guessing the whole way. Eighteen year old Jule West Williams begins the story on her own in a Cabo San Lucas resort, but she’s not using her own name and she’s the run. Events step back to England, where we meet Immie, whose name Jule gave as hers in Mexico. Money, love, sticky fingers, and superheroes. Confusing? Yes, and readers will be swept away until the very end. (YA)

In LANDSCAPE WITH INVISIBLE HAND, when the alien vuvv arrive, they offer to "end all work forever and cure all disease." Except this causes most people to lose their jobs, and only the richest humans can afford the new “tech." High school senior Adam Costello and his girlfriend Chloe, whose family members are all out of work, go on 1950s-style dates that the vuvv pay to view. It doesn’t go well. This is a biting satire about the world's haves and have-nots, set in an increasingly stratified near-future where the human race has, for the most part, become expendable. M. T. Anderson has created a strange and wonderful fantasy about seeking love amid the filth, and keeping hope alive, despite unquestionable odds against it. (YA)

In THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END, by Adam Silvera, Mateo and Rufus have both been called by Death-Cast, meaning today is their End Day. They meet through The Last Friend app, and they’ve got hours, or even minutes, left to tool around the city, living life to the fullest, doing everything they’ve ever wanted to do before it’s too late. To find the meaning of life before they die. (YA)

Picture books:

CREEPY PAIR OF UNDERWEAR, a companion to CREEPY CARROTS with words by Aaron Reynolds and pictures by Peter Brown, is a pitch perfect, just-scary-enough saga about boys’ briefs. The art is laid out to look like old-time movie frames and the soundtrack in my head played “The Cat Came Back” as I read. Funny text, clear illustrations, and they nail the comedic timing—this one’s a winner.

NOW, by Antoinette Portis, is a lyrical celebration of living in the moment, as defined by a young girl who shares her favorite things with readers. The engaging art is boldly designed and deceptively simple.

Board book:

CHEER UP, BEN FRANKLIN, by Misti Kenison, is a concise adaptation of the state of affairs during the revolution. Apparently, Ben Franklin is sad because no one is around to fly kites with him. Betsy Ross is busy sewing the flag, Paul Revere is busy riding his horse, etc. Luckily, (spoiler) Ben makes it to Independence Hall, where his friends are, and he joins the other delegates in signing the Declaration of Independence. I really love this book because of the precise way it’s boiled down history, though I’m not sure who the target audience is—an older sibling who’s already been to school reading to a drooly baby maybe???


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Shelf Awareness--Otherworld

YA Review: Otherworld

Otherworld by Kirsten Miller and Jason Segel (Delacorte Press, $18.99 hardcover, 368p., ages 12-up, 9781101939321, October 31, 2017)

Eighteen-year-old Simon Eaton is one of only "two thousand lucky gamers" chosen to test an early version of Otherworld 2.0, a reboot of what is "known in geek lore as the greatest game of all time." It's a virtual reality app that requires exorbitantly expensive equipment, including headset, haptic gloves and "dainty booties." When Simon (illegally) uses his mother's credit card to buy his own gear, he also buys a set for Kat Foley. Since his parents have "very important golf balls to hit, frittatas to eat, and luxury leather goods to acquire," Kat was both his best friend and all the family he has needed for 10 years--until she began avoiding him. Six months after Simon was sent to boarding school, Kat started blocking his calls and "slowly began to vanish."

Simon is sure Kat's in trouble, so he figures "a few grand and a near death experience with [his] father" are worth it if Kat will talk to him in Otherworld. Unfortunately, their avatars die too quickly and they're booted out of the game. But then Kat kisses him in real life and warns him to stay away until "this is over." Simon's suspicions are confirmed: Kat is "knee-deep in some kind of sh*t." He follows her to a party in an abandoned factory where the floor collapses, injuring Kat. She's rushed to the hospital, where she's diagnosed with "locked-in syndrome," a rare condition that leaves her unable to move despite her normal brain function. Her stepfather enrolls her in an experiment designed by tech billionaire Milo Yolkin and the creators of Otherworld, in which a disc attached to her scalp allows her to move freely in "a world as real as this one." Simon, frantic to be with Kat in any world, follows her but finds the stakes are rising: regular players with headsets "get sent back to setup" when they die in the game, but those with discs can die "for real." Simon must navigate the hazards of this increasingly dangerous game-gone-wrong to help Kat get out alive.

Authors Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller (Kiki Strike) keep the action nonstop while they convincingly ratchet up the tension. Simon, with the giant "schnoz" he inherited from his "two-bit gangster" grandfather ("the Kishka"), is the bane of his mother's existence, and he's pretty good at annoying most other folks, too. But his love for Kat rings true, and he brings plenty of humanity to the high-stakes gaming and intrigue of this first installment in a series. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI. 

Shelf Talker: Otherworld, a CGI virtual reality game so real you can taste, smell and feel it, becomes increasingly dangerous as Simon races to find his best friend Kat before the game literally kills her.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

October's Book of the Month--The One Memory of Flora Banks

October’s Book of the Month is The One Memory of Flora Banks, by Emily Barr.

Flora is 17, but she only knows this because it's written on her hand. She can't remember anything that's happened since she was 10, when a brain tumor left her unable to make new memories. Flora writes lots of things on her hand, like "Don't drink alcohol" at the party for her best friend Paige's boyfriend, Drake, who is leaving for Svalbard, Norway. But Flora does have a cup of wine, and she winds up on the beach kissing Drake. And, incredibly, Flora remembers!

Unfortunately, Paige finds out. When Flora's parents leave for Paris to be with Flora's dying brother, Jacob, they think Paige will "babysit" Flora. Except Paige doesn't want anything to do with Flora anymore. Flora knows that if she can just find Drake, her brain will work again, so before long she has written enough notes on her hand, in her notebook and on her phone to enable her to buy a plane ticket from Cornwall, England, to Svalbard, where she intends to kiss Drake and "remember it to infinity.”

Flora's resourcefulness in overcoming her disability, along with her determination to gain some measure of autonomy from overprotective parents, makes her a strong and appealing character. In her YA debut, the author does a terrific job portraying how disorienting life must be for someone who can't remember what she does for more than two or three hours at a time. Life is always a mystery, yet Flora persists. Certainly, the most important advice she can give herself is etched right onto her hand: "Flora, be brave."