Posts Tagged ‘Teens’

Jeff Hirsch’s debut novel, The Eleventh Plague, was published on September 1, 2011. He spent his school days writing poems, short stories, and directing plays. After that he went to college to study acting and then, eventually, playwriting. Learn more about the author at http://www.jeff-hirsch.com.

Story overview:
In a world mostly destroyed in a past war (World War III), survival became the new way of life. For fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn, this was all he ever knew.

With his mother dead and his grandfather’s recent passing, Stephen and his father continue their lives as scavengers, but not before a group of slavers trap them at the back of an airplane carcass.

After escaping the slavers, Stephen’s father becomes seriously injured. It isn’t until a small group of men find them that they get the help they need. To Stephen’s surprise, he is led into a secret town (Settler’s Landing) where people live as if the war never happened. But when Stephen’s premonition becomes reality, a new war begins, and his life changes forever.

My thoughts:
I was amazed by this book. A page turner all the way. Kept me wanting to find out what happened next. The characters are believable and the story plot captivating. It has a slight flavor of Stephen King’s The Stand, but for a younger audience, much younger. Would highly recommend this to those who like post-apocalyptic tales.

Things to consider:
There are some usages of foul language, mostly in the beginning, and some romantic scenes, but nothing sexual. Action violence, death, and disturbing injuries, but, in my opinion, all these elements contributed to the realism of the story. Even though the reading level is listed at age 12 and up, my best advice is to keep it on an older teen level, 15 or so. The story is geared somewhat more toward boys, but there’s a spirited girl with attitude that is sure to intrigue a female audience.

Opportunities for discussion:
Having lived only to survive for so long, Stephen didn’t know how to react to kindness, but the longer he stayed in the town, the more he saw the good side of humanity. Even then, some of the people there were filled with blind hatred, which he knew was destined to repeat the same mistakes of the past. Ask your youth if they ever saw friends fighting. Then ask them how they felt about it. Who was right and who was wrong? Or did each person contain a mixture of both? Sometimes trying to see multiple perspectives is difficult, but giving a soft word can help to clear up the argument–and in some cases, avoid a war.

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This is the second book to the Amulet Graphic Novel series. I also plan on reading and reviewing the third book soon, so stay tuned. A fourth book is scheduled for release on September 1, 2011, and I have it on my to-acquire list already. How many total books there will be, I have yet to find out.

Be sure to check out my review of the first book (The Stonekeeper) if you have not done so already.

Story overview:
After having rescued her mother, Emily travels in her great-grandfather’s portable house to a local town. Her aim is to find a doctor that can remove the poison, which put her mother into a coma.

Soon after docking in the waterfall town of Kanalis, the elves track down Emily, Navin, and Miskit. Thankfully, for them, a stranger in the form of a human-like fox comes to their rescue. This fox, Leon Redbeard, safely takes them to the best doctor in town. There they learn that the only antidote for the poison is found in the treacherous Demon’s Head Mountain.

Escaping an elf segue against the hospital, our adventurers come across a secret hidden base for a group of rebels. These rebels were put in place for the day she and her brother arrived. As Emily embarks on a journey to find the cure for her mother, Navin takes on his new position as leader of the rebel army and heads out to recover their house from the elves.

My thoughts:
I enjoyed reading this one just as much as the first. Finished it in two sittings, but would have probably done so in one had it not been for the NyQuil I downed an hour before (head cold). I’m looking forward to reading Book 3 in the next week or two.

Things to consider:
Appropriately aged for preteens and older, this book maintains the same standards as the first: no sexual situations, foul language, or gore–there’s no need to shock the audience with these things when there’s enough mystery and adventure to keep the reader going. I can see both girls and boys enjoying this tale.

Opportunities for discussion:
The amulet seeks to consume Emily and take control of her body. It claims that this is for her own good as doing so will give her great power. Yet Emily fights against this desire and demands that she be the one in control, regardless of the consequences. I liken this to anger and rage. There are times where we feel that, if we let go and let our anger take control, it will make us stronger. The problem with this is that, if we do, we more often than not hurt those we care about. Giving in to our rage may provide a temporary satisfaction, but when the dust settles we must face the consequences of our actions. Consider these verses: 1 Corinthians 13:5-7 (NIV) “. . . [love is] not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” And Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .” Emily understood that she would lose these things if she gave into the amulet. Help your children to understand that they too will compromise their standings if they give into anger.

Past reviews in this series:
1) The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)

Since I greatly enjoyed reading Stroud’s Bartimaeus Trilogy, I was excited to see that Heroes of the Valley was his latest book.

Well, maybe not latest latest, as it seems he’s coming out with a fourth Bartimaeus novel (The Ring of Solomon), but that has yet to be released (release date: November 2, 2010). So in the meantime, let me tell you about Halli Sveinsson.

Story overview:
A world once ruled by heroes is now the peaceful home of fifteen-year-old Halli Sveinsson. The heroes now long dead, their stories still resonate amongst the Twelve Houses, which have control over the valley. Of course, each house places their founder as the top hero in the tales, but one thing remains consistent: they all worked together to rid the valley of the evil Trows.

A short, stumpy boy, Halli finds himself getting into trouble more often than not. His mischief isn’t appreciated by his older brother nor his mother and father, but there is one person who motivates Halli to aim towards the level of the founders. His uncle. One evening when his uncle ends up having too much to drink, he offends one of the other Houses and ultimately is killed in the process.

On a quest to avenge his uncle’s honor, Halli seeks to bring justice to the murders. In his journey he finds that his childhood tales were not all they were made out to be, and in the process he ends up causing trouble to his House, which leads him to search for a way to restore the order.

My thoughts:

Where I don’t rate this as high as Bartimaeus, I did enjoy the tale. A little slower starting than I like, but overall well worth the read. As always the characters are sarcastic and witty, and I like Stroud’s ability to have them interact in a believable manner. I saw a little bit of Kitty in Halli’s female companion.

Things to consider:

It’s a little crude in places, but overall, nothing I’d consider inappropriate. I’d age rate this preteen +. Good for both girls and boys.

Opportunities for discussion:

The word boundaries comes to mind. To keep the Trows out of the valley, the heroes of old put up boundaries to prevent them from getting in. However, the boundaries also kept all the people from getting out. No one but Halli and his friend seem to question this. And when they did, they found that the heroes were not all they were cracked up to be. Children need boundaries to protect them. However, teaching them to mindlessly following boundaries is not a good idea. Ask your children if they know the difference between good boundaries and bad ones. If they say a good one is bad, be sure to explain, in full detail, why they are in place.

Normally I like to start out with the first book in a series, and then move on to another series just to keep things fresh. At a later time, I often revisit the second book, but in this case I made an exception. Why? Simple. I couldn’t wait. I wanted to see what happened next.

In the previous story of Artemis Fowl, we have a boy with a sick mother and a lost (presumed dead) father. The family happens to have a history of thievery, and Artemis takes advantage of his position in the most peculiar way: by going after Irish myths, which just so happen to contain a certain amount of truth. One of which is the existence of elves and “LEPrecon” gold. Things didn’t go the way he had hoped, but in the end, Artemis was victorious.

Story overview:

Artemis is a year older and a little wiser. In fact, for a thirteen-year-old, his IQ has no equal, but he is still a child and the desire to find his father continues to burn. One day, while frustrating the school’s psychologist, Artemis receives a call from Butler, his faithful body guard and closest friend. Artemis learns that his father was captured by the Russian Mafia and is being held for ransom.

Thankfully for Artemis, several leagues underground, the LEPrecon is experiencing troubles of their own when goblins show up with outlawed weapons. Captain Holly Short suspects Artemis as their supplier, but soon discovers his innocence. The situation puts Artemis in a good position to offer aid to the LEPrecon in return for their help with his father.

Things go from bad to worse as the true minds behind the attacks are discovered by Foaly—the intelligent centaur in charge of technology—but a little too late, as Foaly is setup to take the blame for the incident. With help from the dwarf, Mulch Diggums; Artemis; Commander Julius Root; and Butler, put away their differences to try and save the Lower Elements and Artemis’s father.

My thoughts:

I was surprised that I actually liked this book better than the first one. The story took on an entirely different plot scheme from the last novel, and was even more exciting. Both are page turners and worthy of a good mention. I will for sure be putting the third novel on my list of must reads. As of now, a seventh book is scheduled to be released on July 20, 2010, so I have some catching up to do.

Things to consider:

There is very little I would consider questionable in this book. Safely share this with your twelve-year-old, teens, and even your peers. Enjoyable for all ages.

Opportunities for discussion:

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what that means to me.” The old 1967 song by Aretha Franklin touches upon an important theme in this book. Artemis happens to be a genius, and because of this, he finds it difficult to look up to anyone as his equal. Later in the novel, Artemis discovers that he has the utmost respect for Butler, who is able to perform tasks that Artemis can only dream about. This is a great time to ask your children who they respect and why. You may be surprised.

Past reviews in this series:

1) Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, Book 1) by Eoin Colfer

Just about everyone has heard of this series. There are a few movies out and the books are best sellers. Because of this I felt it my responsibility to start reading them myself and report on my findings.

Story overview:

Seventeen-year-old Isabella Swan (Bella) decides to move in with her father. Bella’s mom, Renée, is caught up in the life of her new husband. Rather than getting in her way, Bella decides to leave the warmth of Phoenix and enter the rainy and dreary atmosphere of Washington.

It doesn’t take long for Bella to fit in with the children at her new school. In fact, they all see her as a sort of celebrity. That is, all but one boy named Edward Cullen, who stays as far away from her as possible.

Bella is infatuated with Edward and doesn’t know why he keeps his distance. In time she learns his big secret and the two of them fall in love, but this is just the beginning. Bella soon learns that the world of Edward isn’t all she bargained for.

My thoughts:

I’ve always like the idea of Vampire stories. In fact, one of my favorite animes of all time is Vampire Hunter D, and I loved the novel version too. That said, with the Twilight series, I watched the first movie and thought it was OK. When I read the book I noticed that the movie followed it pretty well, but the biggest difference is that the book is much slower. So much so that I got pretty bored with it at times. Would I recommend this to Vampire fans? Probably not; it isn’t really a Vampire story, it’s a romance novel that uses vampires to attract attention. My advice is to watch the movie and don’t bother with the book, that is, unless you are one of those who really likes romantic centered tales. I for one am not a big fan.

Things to consider:

Overall, this story is pretty clean. No major language or inappropriate sexual scenes, and other than one central fight, there really isn’t much in the way of violence. This would be appropriate for a younger audience in that regard, but the tone of the story is really geared towards teenagers. The main character is seventeen, and I would assume those around fifteen plus would be a good starting point. Targeted more towards girls than boys, I think the average boy would be too bored with the slow story pace, but I see no reason to ban this series from your kids.

Opportunities for discussion:

Obviously romance is a big part of this story. Bella falls instantly in love with Edward based, mainly, on his looks. This is the kind of Hollywood romance that many girls dream of, but is unrealistic and honestly quite shallow. Romantic attraction may be obtainable in an instant, but before one can have a real, true, and lasting love, there are a lot more things that need to be addressed. Such as the test of time. This idea that one should jump into a final stage of deep love based on a few romantic feelings is one of the many lies bombarding our youth today; people often end up feeling discontented later in life from the decisions they made early on. Bella made Edward the center her life after a few short weeks, but in reality no human should become our totality. Everyone is flawed, and unrealistic expectations of our partner are one of the main causes of divorce and separations today. The statistics of broken relationships have never been higher, and Hollywood isn’t helping. True fulfillment can only be obtained when a person restores the gap between them and their creator, not by pushing these impossible expectations onto another flawed person. It isn’t fair to either party. Share this message with your youth; tell them your own experience with love and how it really works in the “really real world.”

From the author of Anne Droyd and Century Lodge comes the next book in the series, The House of Shadows. Will Hadcroft is probably best known for his The Feeling’s Unmutual non-fiction story, which overviews his challenges of growing up with Asperger Syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder, which usually results in difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and clumsiness).

The first Anne Droyd book was written in mind of children that suffer with similar symptoms. However, the story is not limited to this group by any means. It is a tale of a robot designed to have the appearance of a young girl, thus, an android. She comes across three children who end up adopting her in an attempt to help her understand what it is to become human. You see, she possesses some biological properties that make up her brain, and it is the children’s responsibility to awaken them.

Story overview:

Gezz, Luke, Malcolm (Malc), and Anne are on winter break in the coastal town of Whitby. Gezz’s parents—who are the chaperones—are not known for their wealth, and so the group ends up staying at a low-cost Bed and Breakfast. It doesn’t take long for them to realize that this place—and the family running it—are more than a bit odd.

The only semi-normal member of the Stevenson family is a girl named Sophie, who happens to be around the same age as the rest of the children. Malcolm takes an instant liking to the girl, and the others accept her into their group without any quibbles. Only, there is one thing. They promised to keep Anne’s secret safe. What secret? That she’s an Android. Sophie realizes there is something different about Anne and she is determined to find out what the other children are hiding.

But that’s not all. Sophie’s family has a few secrets of their own. Strange comings and goings of people in the night have all the children on a mission to uncover what is going on. It isn’t until they come across the frightful figure of a man, with the characteristics of a best, that they realize this isn’t the kind of vacation they were expecting.

My thoughts:

For some reason—which I can’t put my finger on—Anne leaves a lasting impression on one’s memory. The idea of a robot trying to figure out what it is be become human is not a new idea (can anyone say, Data?), but Hadcroft does this in a unique way. The behaviors of Anne Droyd are believable, as well as the personalities of the children who take care of her. In The House of Shadows, I found myself enjoying the side stories, such as the boating incident and the counterfeit money. But the ongoing plot as a whole also does not disappoint and comes out with a satisfying end. Overall a fitting sequel in the Anne Droyd saga. Here’s looking forward to the completion of Anne Droyd and the Ghosts of Winter Hill.

Things to consider

There is nothing questionable that I could detect in this story. I would age rate this for children ages twelve and older (tweens plus). It is important to note that this is a British written novel, which has not been converted over to an American audience. There were a few phrases, slang, and descriptions that confused me. Such as “Oh, you’d better take your coats. It’s still quite cold in the evenings and you’ll have to queue up on the pavement. There’s always quite a queue.” It took me awhile to realize what “queue up on the pavement” meant. There are also some punctuation differences such as single quotes instead of doubles and the placement of things like periods. Still, this does not affect the overall clarity of the story as a whole.

Opportunities for discussion:

There is a theme of addiction in this story. Not only Malcolm’s alcoholic parents, but Sophie’s family who tried to continue her grandfather’s experiments to prevent illness. Even though the experiments destroyed her grandfather’s immune system and ultimately lead to his death, Sophie’s mom wanted to use the mixture of chemicals to eliminate her negative moods. As you know from reading the story, this had negative consequences. Not only to the mother, but to Sophie. Unfortunately, children are often the victims in cases of addiction. Read the sequence on page 192/193 and ask your child to think about how Sophie is feeling. Warn them of the negative consequences of addiction and how they not only hurt themselves, but the ones they love too.

I came across this book a little while back at a used bookstore. I picked up a copy for my Aunt as a Christmas gift, but had not yet had a chance to read it myself.

Since I was thoroughly disappointed with The Alchemyst (which had practically nothing to do with alchemy), I was a little worried about yet another Irish novel. Thankful, like most biases, these were unfounded, and Artemis Fowl could not be anymore night and day.

This is the first book in a three book series (update: 04/13/10 – there are currently seven known books in the series), and I can say for sure, I will be adding the next to my list.

Story overview:

Artemis Fowl II is a twelve-year-old boy genius, who comes from a family with a long history of being professional thieves. With his father missing for some time and his mother not in her right mind, Artemis is free to roam about—with help from his abnormally strong manservant, Butler—and execute his latest scheme.

His current ambition is directed at the race of elves in an attempt to acquire their gold and restore his family’s fortune. To accomplish this, Artemis locates and tricks an elf into letting him make a copy of their (the race’s) secret book. After translating this book, the young boy genius plots out a way to find and capture another elf to use as a hostage.

We learn that Leprechauns are actually known as LEPrecon, who are a special recon force that live miles underground. Captain Holly Short, the first female member of LEP, had nothing but problems trying to keep her position with Commander Julius Root always breathing down her back. If this was not bad enough, she finds herself as Artemis’s captive. Commander Root makes this his priority case to (1) save Holly, and (2) protect the hidden identity of their race. Artemis may have gotten a little over his head on this one, but somehow manages to stay on target.

My thoughts:

I quite enjoyed this one. Normally I am not a big fan of constant point-of-view switches, but these are done smoothly and sensibly; not disjointing at all. The characters are great fun to follow along, and the story had me wanting to jump right back in to see what happened next.

Things to consider:

This is a pretty harmless tale. Good for boys and girls in their preteens and older. There is a gory scene when Butler fights a Troll, some slight mentions to curses (done with good humor), and crude descriptions of a Dwarf’s gas, but all are done tastefully.

Opportunities for discussion:

The moral question arises of how one should treat their enemy. As did Artemis, who struggled with the human-like appearance of his captured elf, Holly. It was Holly who showed Artemis how one should treat their enemies, as she tried to save Artemis and his crew. This reminded me of the Bible verse, Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This opens a good discussion for you and your children/child.