Monday, May 22, 2017

SAVING RED, by Sonya Sones

The story: Molly feels bad about a lot of things in her life, yet it seems like things might just be changing when she befriends homeless Red and falls in love with Cristo. But when Cristo dumps her and Red just keeps listening to the voices in her head, Molly realizes that she can't fix anyone else until she fixes herself. She just never knew how hard that was going to be.

June Cleaver's ratings: Langauge PG; Violence PG; Sexual content PG; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG; Magic & the occult G; GLBT content G; adult themes (mental illness, PTSD, parental discord, anxiety disorders) PG-13; overall rating PG-13.

Liz's comments: The reviews for this book were split between 8th-up and 9th-up, but I actually felt this would be all right for 7th-grade readers. Molly's befriending of a young woman with bipolar disorder (and perhaps schizophrenia) helps her learn that people who are different are not inherently bad, and certainly not worthy of automatic disdain. Molly's own pain in dealing with her PTSD-afflicted brother's disappearance and its effect on her family makes her a little more sympathetic to a girl she may never have spoken to otherwise, and through her experiences, YA readers might be able to gain a little empathy of their own.

REFUGEE, by Alan Gratz

The story: Three kids, tied together by their refugee status across cultures and decades, never know each other and yet are tied together in unimaginable ways. Josef and his family are trying to flee to safety ahead of the Nazi blitzkrieg; Isabelle and her family are desperate to leave Cuba and make it to the US; and Mahmoud's story shows that life continues dangerous for people in war-torn countries even into the 21st century. The more some things change, the more they remain the same...

June Cleaver's ratings: Language G; Violence PG-13; Sexual content G; Nudity G: Substance abuse PG; Magic & the occult G; GLBT content G; adult themes (Nazi atrocities; war crimes, violence against refugees, political turmoil) PG; overall rating PG.

Liz's comments:
I've really liked everything I've read by Alan Gratz. This was particularly ambitious, but very well done and neatly tied together at the end. If a bunch of kids (and adults) across the country could read a book like this, it might help us become less complacent in our affluent situations, and more likely to reach out. Recommended. (Too bad the publishers limited its appeal by making the kid on the front cover look eight years old. All the kids in the story are 12-13.)

THE METROPOLITANS, by Carol Goodman

The story: Four very different teens are thrown together on Pearl Harbor Day, and discover that their mission is to pick up where King Arthur and his followers left off in medieval Britain in order to fight the evil that has survived since Arthur's day--now manifesting itself as the Nazis. But in order to realize their own powers, they'll have to learn to trust and work with total strangers--strangers who are NOT like them. Can they move past their differences and save the day before a Nazi plot poisons millions in New York City?

June Cleaver's ratings: Language G; Violence PG; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG; Magic & the occult PG; adult themes (prejudice, war, death of a parent, abandonment, Nazi atrocities) PG; overall rating PG.

Liz's comments: I liked this one a lot, but I think regular readers of fantasy might be put off somewhat by the 1940s setting and slang (not the usual gritty urban fantasy or classic high fantasy set-ups they're used to) and by the unfortunate little-kid look of the front cover (the characters are actually in their early teens, not in grade school). Even so, it's worth hand-selling to any kid who likes a story with magic--or one with kids learning to face their fears. Keep an eye out for a sequel, because the set-up was totally there.

THE LOST PROPERTY OFFICE, by James R. Hannibal

The story: Jack comes from a long line of Trackers--people whose ability enables them to find things in service of king and country--not exactly an ability he was expecting. But then, he never expected to lose his father, almost drown in a steampunk submarine, or see his 12th great-grandfather stop the plague in London by putting out the biggest fire ever. If you like action and adventure, stop by the Lost Property Office!

June Cleaver's ratings: Language G; Violence PG; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG; Magic & the occult PG-13; GLBT content G; adult themes (death of a parent; political scheming) PG; overall rating PG.

Liz's comments:
A little bit steampunk, a little bit fantasy, a whole lot roller-coaster-ride: this one has something for everyone! Only drawback is that some kids won't care about the English history involved and won't buy in, but for the ones who do, there's lots of fun in store!

THE MATCHSTICK CASTLE, by Kier Graff

The story: Brian is stuck at Uncle Gary's for the summer, with his cousin Nora who hates him. It seems like it'll be Death by Boredom when something unexpected happens: the kids get lost in the woods and discover the Matchstick Castle, peopled with a host of famous adventurers, writers, and explorers, who just so happen to be pursued by their very up-to-date nemesis on the city council who wants to tear the whole thing down (people inside or no). Luckily, Brian and Nora are there to add a little common sense to the derring do while the day is being saved. Summer just got a lot more interesting!

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG; Violence G; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG; Magic & the occult G; GLBT content G; adult themes (grown-ups behaving irresponsibly; evil-doing public servants) PG; overall rating G.

Liz's comments:
I thought this book was hilarious and charming, and will have it in my MS library even though it's really better for grades 4-5. A good humorous book is hard to find, and must be embraced when you do!

HORIZON, by Scott Westerfeld


The story: Five teens crash land in what is supposed to the the Arctic--but find themselves stranded in a tropical jungle filled with predatory animals and plants that are out of this world. Literally. Now they have to use their engineering smarts, as well as their fighting skills, to figure out whether they've been transported to another planet...or to another reality...or maybe just to another dimension in some mad scientist's insane scheme...

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG; Violence PG-13; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse G; Magic & the occult G; GLBT content G; adult themes (death by mishap; survivor guilt) PG; overall rating PG.

Liz's comments: I'm generally a fan of Scott Westerfeld, but this one has the feel of other Scholastic series that seemed to be cranked out at regular intervals in as many installments as possible, stretching a reasonable story far further than it was ever meant to go. Call me a cynic, but after literally 39 volumes of 39 Clues, you know what I mean. At least Westerfeld has tamed his potty mouth for this one. Thankfully.

HUNTED, by Meagan Spooner

The story: Yeva's father taught her to hunt, and now that he's lost his fortune, she's relieved to leave the castle and get back to the woods. But deep in the forest, the "fairy" tales her father told her as a child now seem to be coming true, and they're not the nice ones where everyone lives happily ever after. Stalking through them (and through her father's mind before his mysterious death) is something she learns to call The Beast...especially after she becomes his prisoner. Happily ever after has never been so hard to come by.

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG; Violence PG-13; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG; Magic & the occult PG-13; GLBT content G; adult themes (mental illness, curses, black magic) PG; overall rating PG-13 (higher-level prose, rather than objectionable content here).

Liz's comments:
Here's a dark Beauty & the Beast that's a welcome switch from the well-trodden paths of Disney (as much as I like that one!). Spooner gives the tale a Russian twist and COLD seems to be its own character. You'll like Beauty, and be cheering for Beast (and maybe even fall in love with him a little yourself) long before the end of the story, even though you think you know how it's bound to turn out. Cuz hey--it's enough different that maybe the ending could be too...