Thursday, October 19, 2017

WARCROSS, by Marie Lu

The story: When hacker Emika Chen is busted breaking into the world championships of the virtual reality game Warcross, instead of going to jail, she's invited to go to work for the company. She finds herself on one of the teams vying for the championship, but her real mission: figure out who's trying to sabotage the games and assassinate their young creator, Hideo Tanaka. Even though she's really, really good, there's now way she could anticipate all the twists and turns that the game--and life--are about to throw at her.

June Cleaver's ratings: Langauge PG-13; Violence PG-13; Sexual content PG-13; Nudity PG; Substance abuse PG; Magic & the occult G; GLBT content G; adult themes (technology addiction; sci-fi violence) PG; overall rating PG-13.

Liz's comments: Whoa! It was good all along, but the twist at the end really kicked it up another notch. Hand it to anyone who enjoyed Brandon Sanderson's "Reckoners" series, or SJ Kincaid's "Insignia" novels. Sequel, anyone? (Me! Me!)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

THE GAUNTLET, by Karuna Riazi

The story: On her 12th birthday, an intriguing game gives itself to Farah" The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand. Before she knows it, she and her friends Alex and Essie are pulled into the game--literally--in search of her younger brother, Ahmad, who's disappeared. They must overcome the dangerous challenges given by the Architect of the game...or they'll become part of The Gauntlet forever.

June Cleaver's ratings:
Language G; Violence PG; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse G; Magic & the occult PG; GLBT content G; adult themes PG; overall rating PG.

Liz's comments:
I was surprised that, in her comments, the author didn't at least give a nod to "Jumanji", since so many elements of this story are so shamelessly borrowed from that earlier book/movie. However, since she changes things up with Farah's Pakistani background, and since the game itself has a sort of Arabian Nights feel, this will appeal not just to lovers of that "eaten by a game" genre, but to those looking for a different cultural feel for their action and adventure.

Friday, October 13, 2017

THE GOLDFISH BOY, by Lisa Thompson

The story: Matthew's OCD keeps him in the house, as far away from germs as he can get. Who would have thought that a kid who spends most of his time watching out the window would be the one putting together clues to solve the disappearance of a neighbor's grandson? If Matthew can't do it, the kidnappers might just get away with everything.

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG; VIolence PG; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG; Magic & the occult G; GLBT content G; adult themes (OCD, bullying, compulsions) PG-13; overall rating PG.

Liz's comments: I feel it can be valuable for kids to read about others with conditions like OCD, to help them realize that it's not really something the victims choose to do. Readers will find themselves willing Matty to do simple things like simply leave the house, and helping solve the mystery is part of his being able to take a step forward. For those who are interested, also check out "The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B" by Toten, "OCDaniel" by King, and "Finding Audrey" by Kinsella.

THE GIRL IN BETWEEN, by Sarah Carroll

The story: A homeless girl and her mother are squatters in an abandoned mill, stuck there while Ma battles her demons: drugs and booze. The girl must stay invisible, because if she's seen, The Authorities will take her away, put her in foster care, and she'll never see her mother again. But there's no way to stop the wrecking ball that's about to destroy their magic castle, and somehow, the girl has to help her mother move on.

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG; Violence PG; Sexual content (implied) PG; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG-13; Magic & the occult PG; GLBT content G; adult themes (homelessness, begging, substance abuse) PG-13; overall rating PG.

Liz's comments:
I know that everyone else loved this, but I thought all the homelessness, drug use, cold, and hunger were a beating, right up until the last chapter. That's when it turned out that the girl (nameless) really IS invisible. It was enough to make me think about going back and re-reading some of the chapters to see if hints were dropped along the way that I missed, but then I thought...nah. Don't care enough to bother. This book might appeal to kids who are either homeless, or who have a well-developed sense of empathy, but in general I found it to be one of those stories that grown-ups will like better than kids do.

LUCKY BROKEN GIRL, by Ruth Behar

The story: Ruthie has just made it out of the "dumb class" (where she was put until she could speak English) when a terrible accident lands her in a body cast for almost a year. Immobilized, she finds friends in books and other unexpected places, discovers a talent for art, and realizes that she really can do hard things.

June Cleaver's ratings: Language G; Violence G; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG (drunk drivers cause the accident that injures her); Magic & the occult G; GLBT content G; overall rating G.

Liz's comments: Although well written and with a keen eye for the immigrant experiences, this one is best for grades 4-5. Ruthie is ten, and in fifth grade. Skip for MS libraries.

YOU MAY ALREADY BE A WINNER, by Ann Dee Ellis

The story: Her dad is gone, her mother leaves them home alone all the time, and her only hobby is entering every sweepstakes she can find. Only Olivia's imagination--and her love for younger sister Berkeley--keeps the sixth grader going. When she finally, finally finds a friend in Bart, he betrays her in what seems to be the worst possible way. A winner? If she is, Olivia doesn't know it. Not just yet, anyway.

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG; Violence G; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse G; Magic & the occult G; GLBT content G; adult themes (parental abandonment & neglect) PG-13; overall rating PG.

Liz's comments: This book will be kind of a beat-down for those people who want a happy ending. It sort of had one, but the author waited until the very last couple of pages to set it up. In the meantime, Olivia's life was unrelentingly squalid and full of clueless or awful adults who were of no value whatsoever. Hand this to the kids who like the kind of stories that make them think, "Huh. Compared to this, my life isn't that bad after all."

Friday, October 6, 2017

THE GO-BETWEEN, by Veronica Chambers

The story: Cammi's mom is rich and famous, an actress on Mexican TV, and Cammi's always had friends who lived the same lifestyle. But when Mama takes a job in LA, Cammi's new acquaintances assume she's the daughter of a maid, at her expensive school on a scholarship. Pretty soon, she's hip-deep in lies, and although she wants to come clean, she knows everyone is going to be mad. Is there any way Cammi can be the heroine in her personal novela?

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG-13; Violence G; Sexual content PG; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG; Magic & the occult G; GLBT content G; adult themes (prejudice, dishonesty with friends) PG; overall rating PG.

Liz's comments: This story will resonate with any girl who has an immigrant background--and with many who don't. Cammi's motives are kinda lame, and she knows she should be doing better... but once she gets called out, she tries her best to make amends. Which is pretty much the most any of us can do.