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Me on Books

Me on Books features reviews of young adult novels, the occasional middle grade or graphic novel, and promotes Canadian young adult authors as much as possible. :)

Currently reading

For Darkness Shows the Stars
Diana Peterfreund
Perfect Ruin
Lauren DeStefano

Beautiful Decay

Beautiful Decay - Sylvia Lewis Ellie has always needed her space. Literally. With a touch that rots whatever she encounters, Ellie must keep people at a distance for their own good. Not that her classmates are itching to be friends with the "freak" of the high school. So when newcomer Nate makes it his mission to get close to Ellie, she has her suspicions. But when he identifies her ability, as well as his own, she finds herself trusting him more and more. Unfortunately for the two, family secrets can kill, and they'll need more than their abilities to keep things under control. After years or pushing people away, Ellie's realization of the full extent of her powers and willingness to let people get close may be the only way to save the people she loves.Beautiful Decay is an intriguing look at a rather intriguing and rather complicated girl. Secrets and truths circle her, circle her encounters with someone new, someone who doesn't see her as something to be feared or hated. Her pain, her suffering, is known by the whole town, and this is a look at how she suffers as well as how she learns to break free of her shell.There is no place for Ellie in her town. She's shunned because of what she can do, shunned because everything she touches dies. There is nowhere for her to fit in unless she hides, unless she fades into the background, but everyone knows she's there. Because of this, she's become a sad girl, an angry girl, an annoyed and bitter girl. Her defence mechanism is harsh biting sarcasm. But she's not avoiding the truth of her ability like her parents, especially her mother who thinks that bleach and going off to college will fix everything.Then Nate shows up, willing to get close to her, willing to touch her, and sends everything and everyone into a panic. Nate has his secrets, like any new kid in a new school would, but Nate knows. He knows what Ellie can do. With him, she isn't as alone as she used to be anymore, but Nate's secrets are bigger and badder than she ever imagined.Her ability makes her feared and avoided, but it's an ability I haven't come across much in other paranormal books. In a way, it's similar to Juliette from Shatter Me, but in a way, it isn't. It's not that Ellie sucks the life out of someone when she touches them, it's more that she causes decay. It's more the description of bacteria, mould, and fungi that sets her apart. It may make the novel slightly more disgusting than expected, but it also has an earthy quality. It's life and death at the point where its connected to nature.Ellie's ability and her classmates avoiding her are a metaphor for Ellie being bullied and verbally abused by those classmates. She's shunned for being different, she's ridiculed, she's called horrible names, she's abandoned. It's only a matter of time before she breaks and strips her gloves off, but it's up to her and how much inner strength she as if she'll crumble or stand tall.As strange as her world is, it's meeting Nate that sends everything Ellie knew up in the air. Her world sort of becomes his once he shares what he knows about her ability, about his, about her not being the freak she always thought she was. But his world is dangerous and the danger is searching for him, stretching out its dark arms towards him, and if it finds her it might suck her in as well. The last third of the book was filled with suspense and intensity, so much tension and excitement. With that ending, I have many hopes for a second book.

Prodigy (Legend Series #2)

Prodigy - Marie Lu June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo has died and his son Anden has taken his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request: June and Day must assassinate the new Elector. It's their chance to change the nation. But June is conflicted, this Elector is nothing like his father, and she's afraid of the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood?Prodigy is as complicated and harsh as Legend, continuing Day and June's uncovering of the Republic's true motives and what they have planned for their citizens. Now that they're together, now that they're fragile after what they just experience in L.A., they'll be split up for a new mission. The entire book is a test for June and Day, individually and together as a pair.First came the explosion that was Day and June, first came the meeting, the realization for June that the Republic wasn't perfect, the realization for Day that he'd been used as a lab rat. Now comes the exploration, the tests of faith in their hopes and dreams of the future and of each other. Now separated, how will each of them act? They're hoping to survive, hoping they make the right choices, hoping they don't fail.Both Day and June are interesting narrators. Both are prodigies in their own way, Day lived on the street for years and was able to protect both him and Tess, June knows tactics and strategy and is very calculating. But it must be said that they're still only fifteen. Remembering that makes them feel so young and vulnerable in a world so dangerous and decaying, but it also makes one wonder how quickly children and teenagers are growing up, if they're being stretched beyond their years.There is a plot point or event that occurs in this book that I'm not a fan of, but I understand its use. Day and June need to be separated for the Patriots' plan to work, but I've never understood why an almost immediate separation in book two is a way to test the relationship first established in book one. There are other ways in which to test their relationship, but I understand why the author went this way. They need to figure out some things apart, they need to learn what's been kept from them, but that doesn't mean I need to like it all that much. My dislike of this plot device lessens as the pair spends less of the book apart.So much happens in this book, so many things change, so many lives are threatened. Whatever comes next, whatever is coming for June and Day, will be the hardest.

Life After Theft

Life After Theft - Aprilynne Pike

Moving to a new high school sucks. Especially a rich kid private school. With uniforms. But nothing is worse than finding out the first girl you meet is dead. And a kleptomaniac. No one can hear or see Kimberlee except for Jeff, so, in the hopes of bringing an end to the snarkiest haunting in history, he agrees to help her complete her "unfinished business." But when the enmity between Kimberlee and Jeff's new crush, Sera, manages to continue posthumously, Jeff wonders if he's made the right choice.Life After Theft is a light, cute, and fun high school ghost story. There are touches of tragedy, but also of humour and of maturity. Sometimes, you have to help someone right the wrongs they caused, even if that person is dead and quite often doesn't share the whole truth.Jeff is quite possibly the averagest of average guys. He's seemingly forgettable, not necessarily good at anything but interested in some things, and suddenly he gets wrapped up in this strange and slightly creepy situation. Since he is a nice guy, he's willing to help her out, but he never expected all the things Kimberlee's ghostly hands dump straight into his lap.Kimberlee certainly has her issues, the least of which is that she's dead. She's also self-centered, a kleptomanic, a liar, and hugely unreliable. When she figures out that Jeff is all she has in terms of help, she complains like mad. But underneath all the polish and sparkle is a scared, sad little girl who died too young and with a lot of regrets. Yes, she's abrasive, controlling, and shrewish, but being dead still sucks.There are times when you make choices and regret them, especially in high school. But what if you die in a freak accident and you're left haunting the halls of where you did most of your harm? Then you're trapped between life and the afterlife, seeing the faces of the people you hurt, the people you stole from, knowing the only way out is to make things right. But no one knows your there because they want to forget all the damage you did. Until someone who's never heard of you shows up.As a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I didn't notice it until I looked up the book itself. In the original, there is someone working in the shadows righting wrongs and saving innocents from harm. Here, I suppose that's true, but as I've not read The Scarlet Pimpernel I can't attest to anything more.Death is a curious thing, and it sucks, dying when you have regrets and you've made mistakes. But knowing you have to make it all better in order to move on is the turning point, and then comes the most difficult decision of them all: whether or not you actually want to suck it up and fix those mistakes.


Icons - Everything changed on The Day. The day the windows shattered and the power stopped. The day Dol's family dropped dead. The day Earth lost a war it didn't know it was fighting. Since then, Dol has lived a simple life in the countryside, safe from the shadow of the Icon and its terrifying power. Hiding from the one truth she can't avoid. She's different, and she survived. Why? When Dol and best friend Ro are captured and taken to the Embassy, they only find more questions. While Ro and fellow hostage Tima rage against their captors, Dol finds herself drawn to Lucas, the Ambassador's privileged son. But the four teens are more alike than they might think, and the timing of their meeting isn't a coincidence. It's a conspiracy. Within the Icon's reach, Dol, Ro, Tima, and Lucas discover that their uncontrollable emotions, which they've always thought to be their greatest weaknesses, may actually be their greatest strengths.Icons is intriguing, dangerous, secretive, and important. Mixed with self-discovery and self-realization is a mission to take back what was stolen. The world is, essentially, held captive, but there are those willing to rebel against these alien leaders, and there are those who possess the skills needed to save the rest of the human population.Dol is afraid. So afraid. Not just of the Icons, or the Lords, but of herself. Of why she survived the Day when her entire family died around her. She's afraid of the reason she survived. She's different and she knows it, she can feel it. But why is she different?And it's not just her. It's also her life-long friend Ro, the ambassador's son Lucas, and the newly-met Tima. They're all different, they're all marked, but they don't know why. Why were they brought together? Who is really pulling the strings? They're wanted for a reason, that much is clear, but what for?When world-building is done well and the world feels believable, it makes the book that much more realistic. There is an aging of the current world, advancements in technology and the like, but there's also a de-evolving of sorts. No electricity in outlying areas, simple encampments and hideouts, lack of schools, new customs and currency and food and stories and songs and groups. There seem to be two sides, the hidden staying out of trouble side and the privileged and technologically-advanced side that serve the Icons and the Lords.If aliens do come to Earth, what's to say that their intentions will be peaceful? These aliens came, and they killed, and they took, and now humanity has crumbled. But what was their true agenda?Love and loss, the two go hand in hand. Dol constantly mourns the loss of her family, but she still has Ro. She has Ro whom she's cared for for years, Ro and his fiery personality and power, but she can't help but be drawn to Lucas and his innate charisma. In the end, it might very well come down to who she trusts the most, her most trusted friend or the son of the woman who does what the Lords command her to do.Dol is pushed to make some extremely difficult decisions. Who to trust, what to believe, where to go. The biggest will be whether or not she chooses to put aside her fear of herself, of the things that make her different from everyone else, and if she'll embrace it to save herself and those she cares about. If she doesn't, they could all end up dead. A very intriguing start to a series with many questions left unanswered and more than a few possibilities opened up for the next book.

Nobody's Secret

Nobody's Secret - Michaela MacColl It's 1845, and for fifteen-year-old Emily Dickinson, every day follows the same patters: chores, chores, and more chores. So when she meets a mysterious, handsome young man, she's intrigued. Surprisingly, he doesn't seem to know who she or her family is. And even more surprisingly, he playfully refuses to divulge his name. Emily enjoys her secret flirtation with "Mr. Nobody" until he ends up dead in her family's pond. Stricken with guilt, Emily sets out to discover who this enigmatic stranger was before he's condemned to be buried in an anonymous grave. Her investigation takes her deep into town secrets, a possible blossoming romance, and deadly danger.Nobody's Secret is a curious book about a curious mystery investigated by an even more curious girl. This book itself is intriguing, a fictional account of a young Emily Dickinson, a mysterious encounter with a stranger, and her investigation into the trouble that befalls him.What highlights this book is Emily Dickinson herself, her intelligence, quick wit, and inquisitive character. Those who have studied her poetry know one side of her, but this introduces readers to a wholly different side, a side that was there during her formative teenage years in Amherst. The author's research and attention to detail is meticulous, her interest and passion towards Dickinson, her life, and her poetry is clear.As a whole, the book is an intriguing undertaking. There's no proof that Emily Dickinson ever helped uncover a crime and solve a mystery when she was young, but what if she did? Where would her mind, filled with questions about the world, about people, about life and death, take her if someone truly did turn up dead in front of her home? Every character she comes across, outside of her family, has a secret connected to the man's death, and her investigation becomes an investigation of character as well.Emily seems to find a kindred soul in Mr. Nobody. Someone who saw the world as something filled with possibilities. When he is found dead, she seems to be the only person who cares, and with her own unconventional passion and determination, she sets out to discover his secrets. I found this to be a clever imagining of a moment in time in a famous poet's life and would suggest it to readers of American history, mystery, and Emily Dickinson.

The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door

The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door - Karen Finneyfrock Celia Door enters her freshman year of high school with giant boots, dark eyeliner, and a thirst for revenge against Sandy Firestone, the girl who did something unspeakable to Celia in eighth grade. But then Celia meets Drake, the cool new kid from New York City who entrusts her with his deepest, darkest secret, who makes her look at things a different way. When Celia's quest for justice threatens her relationship with Drake, she's forced to decide which is sweeter: the revenge she craves or the friendship she never knew she needed.The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door is a clever, honest, and insightful look at one girl's entrance into high school and all it entails, including a reunion with the girls from middle school who made eighth grade painful. Celia is an interesting sort of character, funny and clever but sad and confused, and her experience will resonate with anyone who'd ever felt alone and bullied by their peers.One thing that stands out the most in this book is Celia's voice. She's creative, she's wise, she's knowledgeable after reading book after book from the public library. She has her own way of seeing the world around her, seeing her parents' marriage stagnate and turn into something else, seeing Drake struggle with the secret that only she knows, seeing Sandy Firestone and waiting for the day she'll get her revenge. There's a mention of Celia studying the high school's yearbook so she could prepare for her freshman year, but there is no studying. It's a jump into the deep end for everyone, we just have to hope we can tread water or that there are people nearby willing to help keep us afloat.Celia's poems are a coping mechanism, a way for her to express what she's feeling when she's keeping it all inside. She doesn't tell either of her parents, her forgetful mother or absent father, how she feels, she doesn't tell Drake the truth behind how she feels, and so it's all building up inside her, escaping in little bursts of poems that no one is ever meant to see.At fourteen, Celia is a young narrator for a young adult novel, but the message of this book is no less powerful or important. She's been bullied, she's become Dark, but is getting her revenge on Sandy Firestone worth it? Is revenge ever worth it? With revenge, Celia wants Sandy to feel exactly how she felt, she wants her to feel the pain and the shame that she was put through, but she never considers the end. Those who plan revenge plots rarely consider the aftermath, the whispers, the additional pain that could surface. If Celia goes through with her revenge, she might lose the only friend she has.Those early years of high school, the first year or two, they're the start of you discovering what you want to be, who you're going to be. You don't want those times to be sad, to be painful, to weight you down until you're about to buckle under the pressure. It's not about becoming who other people want you to be, it's about figuring out who you want to be. Be the best you you can be, hang out with who you want to hang out with. Maybe then high school will be pretty sweet.

17 & Gone

17 & Gone - Nova Ren Suma

Seventeen-year-old Lauren is having visions of girls who have gone missing. And all these girls have just one thing in common-they are 17 and gone without a trace. As Lauren struggles to shake these waking nightmares, impossible questions demand urgent and immediate answers. Why are the girls speaking to Lauren? How can she help them? Is she next? As she searches for clues, everything begins to unravel, and when a brush with death lands her in the hospital, a shocking truth emerges, changing everything.17 & Gone is haunting and hugely powerful. Dripping with mystery, intrigue, sadness, and determination, this is one girl's journey to discover the truth behind another's disappearance, behind multiple disappearances of teenage girls. Something happened to these girls, something that led them to be declared missing, and one girl takes it upon herself to reveal the truth.The novel is Lauren's account of her experience right from when it starts, when she first sees Abby, when she first sees the visions, and as she sees girl after girl, story after story, until she's surrounded by them. Her voice feels slightly distant from the story as a whole, but I find that it stems from how this is told. Lauren is recounting what happened to her, what happened to the girls who went missing, and what happened as she traveled unknowingly straight to a surprising and revealing ending.While the novel mainly features Lauren, it's not just about her. It's also about the girls who are 17 and gone, gone and disappeared into the mist, into a car, into an adventure, into a life they hoped was better than the one they left behind. It's a serious subject. What happened to those girls who leave and are never found, girls whose family wants them back while the authorities just wash their hands of them as they declare them to be runaways? It's heartbreaking, it's terrible to think about, but there are those who want to find them. There are people who care about them when no one else does.The different stories, the different girls, they're all the different ways someone can become lost. All the girls are lost, but so is Lauren. She's lost in this mission they give her, swept away into the current they create, pushed into discovering the truth no matter how unexpected it might be.What is the truth behind what Lauren is seeing? She thinks she's seeing spirits, ghost, visions of the past, but is she? Or is it all in her head? Is she making it all up? Are they ghosts searching for someone to help them, or is Lauren suffering from a mental illness? In a way, I think it's up for interpretation on behalf of the reader. They can choose to believe that what Lauren sees or not.No matter if you believe Lauren or not, if you think the girls are real and crying out for help or not, this novel will still stick with you, whispering the names of lost girls, whispering their stories. Crying out for someone to find them.

This Is What Happy Looks Like

This is What Happy Looks Like - Jennifer E. Smith When teenage movie star Graham accidentally sends small-town girl Ellie an e-mail about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun except their names or backgrounds. Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the prefect location for his next film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?This is What Happy Looks Like is a sweet, funny, and complicated few weeks in the lives of two teenagers whose first contact with each other is an e-mail send by mistake. This is an entertaining look at secrets and messages, at celebrity and fame, at hiding the truth as it's being exposed, and at what people's different versions of what makes them happy are.The book starts with an intriguing premise, rather relevant now in the 21st century with so many lives circling around e-mail. If you were accidentally sent and e-mail from someone you didn't know, if the message was an innocuous as an owner's concern over a pet, would you reply back, not knowing where the message was going or who might read it? Would there only be that one exchange, or would it continue? What if that one encounter turned into something more, something bigger than either of you, something amazing and surprising? Would you see it as fate?I was surprised as the tension in such a fun and light-hearted book. There was something building, something that neither Ellie nor Graham wanted exposed by photographers and reporters. Ellie is sweet, but she has her issues and her skeletons that she doesn't want anyone to see. Graham, by contrast, is constantly in the public eye as a teen actor, but he's not that typical of an actor. He has, to be blunt, human qualities, he hasn't been a famous Hollywood actor for that long, but he can't escape being a target and that puts a damper on his attempts to meet up with Ellie.These days, as a celebrity constantly in the public eye, you can't escape the risk of being exposed, of being revealed, of having everything you struggle to hide shown to the world. People have public lives and private lives, but quite often with celebrities having a private life is seen as impossible, or even a joke. There are people out there who feel they deserve to know every aspect of celebrities' lives. I imagine it's a very trying and a very hard life to live.If the e-mail Graham sent by mistake to Ellie was fate, then everything that happened afterwards was meant to be. The ups and downs, the laughter and tears, the scandals and the secrets. If it was fate, then they were meant to come face to face with it all, meant to struggle, and in the end it's up to them to work past it to see if they were meant to discover what happy really looks like to the both of them.

All Our Yesterdays

All Our Yesterdays - Cristin Terrill Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except Finn's voice coming from the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain. Only Em can complete the final instruction. She's tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present, imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside. Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America's most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, his life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina's hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.All Our Yesterdays is thrilling, complex, and compelling, a story of making difficult choices in the name of exposing the truth and survival. Dual point of view introduce readers to to very different girls, two girls who are more connected than is expected. Their lives, their timelines, are about to intersect and reveal a surprising and agonizing truth.Em is imprisoned, trapped. She needs to break free. Em seems to be fully realized as a character, she knows who she is, she knows what has to be done, and she knows it's going to be almost impossible and utterly painful. She has the feel of an end result as a character. Her world is dark, painful, and not what it should be. A number of things are unsaid at the beginning between her and Finn, but what's clear is that they both need to travel back in time to stop something from happening, to stop someone from becoming a monster. To return the world around them to what it once was.By contrast, Marina hasn't become her own person yet, she isn't as solid. What she is is intelligent, caring, and harbouring a puppy-love crush over her neighbour James. When his life crumbles she jumps right in as someone for him to lean on, as someone to keep him safe. But there's a lot Marina doesn't know that could change her mind about recent events, there are people in her life she doesn't know the truth about. And she doesn't know Em is on her way.The time travel aspect is treated well, it's roots are in science and deals with complicated equations regarding different dimensions, but it's not overused or abused in any way. Em and Finn travel back in time, into Marina's timeline, to make the one choice that will keep her world from becoming theirs. But can the past be changed?For most if not all of the book, the focus is on trust and choice. How to we decide who to trust? Is it enough to trust their words, or must we see it for ourselves? What if we make the wrong choice? What if we could go back and not make that choice, knowing what it leads to? Yes, this has time travel, but it's less about the science of it and more about the choosing to go back, more about the moral implications and the repercussions, more about the human side of it. Every time Em went back she was hoping to make the right choice, hoping that everything would work out, hoping that Marina would get the chance to live.I found this to be such an intriguing story. Given the chance, would we go back and right wrongs, keep the world from changing in certain ways, keep those we care about from leaving? Should we go back? What if those changes are dangerous? What if they require action to be taken on the biggest scale? What if they mean murder? What if realizing the most painful truth means making the most painful sacrifice? Just before I started this book, I discovered it's actually the first in a duology. Taking that into account, along with the abrupt but powerful ending, I'm a little confused but also curious about the next book.

Mind Games

Mind Games - Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her, except when her mid is gripped by strange visions of the future. Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in sick, twisted ways, or risking each other's lives by refusing to obey.Mind Games is an intriguing thriller, fast-paced and filled with suspicions. Shifting back and forth between Fia and Annie, back and forth between their present and their past, this is a story about two sisters and how they became trapped by their abilities, trapped by a group that would use them for their own gain, trapped by their own attempts to keep the other safe.The voices of the sisters are very different, showcasing that they are two very different people. Annie is collected but complicated, blind but all-seeing. She worries so much for Fia. Fia, however, is far less contained and practical. Her voice is very stream of consciousness, she's very expressive, very vocal. Her heightened instincts give her the sense that she's on the border between sanity and insanity, she makes snap decisions that to her seem logical and correct but to others appear random. Together, they're a complicated and broken pair of sisters.The connection between them is both tenuous and the strongest bond possible. They need each other to survive, but are held captive in their separate situations because of the other. It's a terrible situation, having a person in your life you need and care for desperately but that same person is wearing you down until you need them to stay away.This book is far darker, far more complicated, and far more dangerous than I ever anticipated. It borders on being completely opposite from the author's previous series, where danger and death are constantly close, where one girl can see the future and another appears completely insane. The non-linear plot took some getting used to, and I imagine there will be some who don't like Fia's character, but I found it interesting enough.

Rush: Book One of The Game

Rush - Eve Silver When Miki Jones is pulled from her life, pulled through time and space into some kind of game, her carefully controlled life spirals into chaos. Inside, she and a team of other teens are sent on missions to eliminate the Drau, terrifying and beautiful alien creatures. There are no practice runs, no training, and no way out. Miki has only the guidance of secretive but maddeningly attractive team leader Jackson Tate, who says the game isn’t really a game, that what Miki and her new teammates do now determines their survival, and the survival of every other person on this planet. She laughs. He doesn’t. And then the game takes a deadly and terrifying turn.Rush is a fast-paced battle for survival with teenagers forced into a battle they never expected, forced to eliminate a threat they never knew existed, all for reasons unknown and unexplained. When Miki gets pulled into the game, nothing is under her control anymore, and she's forced to decide whether or not to join in the fight. If she does, she survives. If she doesn't, it's game over.The vagueness and the lack of explanation at the start leaves the reader as much in the dark as Miki is left in, forcing both to constantly pay attention, forcing both to learn what must be done in order to stay alive. The others in the group know more because they've been in the game longer, but no one knows everything. No one knows the entire truth. Except for one person.Miki needs to be in control, she needs to know what's going on so she can be in complete control of the situation. But things in the game are kept from her, reasons and answers she desperately wants, and so she flounders and pushes back at Jackson in her need to be in control. It's like she has an anxiety disorder: Miki needs to be in control, because once everything is under her control everything will work out and no one will get hurt. If she isn't in control, she can't fix it.One thing that happened near the beginning that put me off was Miki's almost instant thought of, after seeing Jackson for the first time, how attractive he is. I didn't find it important at all. Miki has questions, she has concerns, she has no idea what she's been pulled into or where she is, and one of the first thoughts she has (not her exact first thought) is how good-looking this strange boy that she's never met is. She even acknowledges that her finding him good-looking shouldn't be a priority, yet it is. And she doesn't even like him, he keeps the truth from her and the rest of the group. It makes her look shallow and unfocused, especially when you consider her need for control and order.This is one of those books where 'seemingly ordinary' teens are taken and tossed blindly into a complicated and extremely deadly situation. No prep, no instruction, just instant danger. They're being pushed, pushed to their limits, pushed to see how far they will go. How strong are they, how tough are they, how quickly can they think and move and run. Who or what is in control of the game? How are they manipulating space and time to pull them in from all over? What is the truth?Hidden motives abound in this book, those of the ones in charge of the game, those of the Drau, even those of Jackson. Who is he really? Is there a way out of the game?I expected a different kind of science fiction novel when I started this. I expected more science fiction, I expected a distant future and a sudden shift in Miki from her life to her new life in the game, perhaps something similar to Monica Hughes' classic Invitation to the Game. Instead I found a modern setting with science fiction elements, with video game references and shifts through space and time, with dark pasts on distant planets and danger always on the horizon.I found myself intrigued by the game and the reason for its existence but not necessarily a fan of both the instant attraction and how early in the book it occurred. I'm curious enough in the game and the plot itself to want to know how the series will play out.


Coda - Emma Trevayne Ever since he was a young boy, music has coursed through the veins of eighteen-year-old Anthem. The Corp has certainly seen to that. By encoding music with addictive and mind-altering elements, the Corp holds control over all citizens, particularly conduits like Anthem, whose life energy feeds the main power in the Grid. Anthem finds hope and comfort in the twin siblings he cares for, even as he watches the life drain slowly and painfully from his father. Escape is found in his underground rock band, where music sounds free, clear, and unencoded deep in an abandoned basement. But when a band member dies suspiciously from a tracking overdose, Anthem knows that his time has suddenly become limited. Revolution all but sings in the air, and Anthem cannot help but answer the call with the chords of choice and free will. But will the girl he loves help or hinder him?Coda is an extremely inventive and thrilling story, one young man's journey towards revolution and towards freedom. This book is ripe with danger and suspicion, and it highlights the key points of a dystopian setting. The horrors of an oppressive corporation and their corrupt goals, the dreary and dismal setting, the unflinching desire to keep those you care about most safe from harm, the overwhelming search for identity in a world where everyone is forced to be the same, and the discovery of limits, of how far we will go to stay alive. Of how much we will fight back.Anthem has simple hopes, simple dreams. Keeping his siblings safe is paramount. Keeping them safe from the Corp, from tracking, from addiction. Keeping his father alive. He knows the Corp is dangerous, that it controls everyone, and that there's nothing he can do about it. But whispers are always in the underground, always in dark corners, and Anthem plays music in secret to keep the Corp from gaining complete control over him.In Anthem's world, music is a drug. Tracking keeps you under the Corp's control, keeps you compliant, and alters your mind. Currently, music is a drug to some. There are songs we can't escape that make us sing along, make us dance, but this in mind control on a new level. This is dangerous and twisted, combining sound and rhythm and something else in order to control the population. Music is no longer seen as an enjoyable form of expression, as freedom, as communication, as art. Except for those willing to go underground.Addiction is also dangerous, but that's what the Corp does, it uses music to control and keeps the population coming back for more. Then people are always chasing after that next high, that next track, working for the credits to purchase the next track that will send their mind to a different place. Drug addicts doing it to themselves in frightening enough, but when the government does it, when the people in charge does it to their own subjects, it's especially horrifying. And the sad thing is that, even while they cry out for a stop to it, they can't help but go back for another track.I want more books where sexuality is a non-issue, where characters are who they are and no one questions the gender of their crush or romantic partner. Recent books like The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson and The Culling by Steven dos Santos also have this. Anthem is drawn to Haven, there's something between them, but he has some history with Scope, something that goes beyond friendship. This is part of Anthem, part of who he is as the unlikeliest of heroes and the most caring brother ever. Straight people, gay people, they're still people, it doesn't make them any less human.The Corp is deadly, everything they do is done under the guide of help while it's actually population control. Tracking keeps them happy, keeps them quiet. Technology keeps everyone under watch. This makes Anthem's situation, his mission, that much more important. And also life-threatening. The Corp's power is seemingly absolute.Those pushed down by the Corporation, those under its control, are crying out for revolution, but will Anthem be brave enough to pick up the mic and be its voice?


Absent - Katie Williams Seventeen-year-old Paige is dead, the victim of a freak fall during Physics class. Now she's a ghost, permanently bound to the high school grounds. It isn't all bad, she can discover everyone's secrets, which is amusing. For a while. But then she hears something that isn't funny: a rumour spread by the most popular girl that Paige's fall wasn't an accident, that she jumped on purpose. She's desperate to stop the gossip, but she can she do? Then, she discovers she can possess the living when they're thinking about her, and make them do almost anything. Maybe she can get inside the head of the girl who's responsible for the stories, and maybe she can have a little fun turning the tables.Absent is a witty and intelligent exploration. An exploration of one teenage girl's death and the life she lives after it, an exploration of the truth behind her death, an exploration of those around her. While on the surface this is one ghost girl's mission to discover why she died, there's also a revelation of the hidden sides of the cliques and social groups that populate high schools, and that quite often people are more than the labels we put on them.Paige is dead, which sucks. She doesn't want to be dead, she wants to be alive, to hang out with her friend Usha, to maybe secretly make out with a certain guy, but things don't always work out the way we want. Instead, she's a ghost who can't leave the grounds of the high school. At least she's not alone, she has Evan and Brooke, two misfit teens who also died in the school (plus so many dissected frog ghosts).Along with a ghost story is a study on the differing social classes and social structures of the modern day high school setting. There are different personalities and likes and dislikes and character traits all coming together in one hormone-soaked mass, and they're all expected to get along, but they don't. It's like so much oil and water being forced together. But everyone has their similarities, their moments of teenage immaturity and vulnerability. They all wear masks, partially out of self-perservation but partially because of stereotyping. As unhealthy as it can be, everyone does it. We have to remember that behinds the masks and the labels, behind the pre-conceived notions about popularity and wealth and life choices, they're still people not that different from ourselves.What if there was life after death? Paige's death gives her a chance to learn more about her fellow classmates than she ever would've learned while she was alive, and she'd be foolish if she didn't use that to the best of her abilities. Even if that ability involved a little possession now and then.


Altered - Jennifer Rush Everything about Anna's life is secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to four genetically altered boys in a secret underground lab. There's Nick, Cas, Trev... and Sam, who's stolen Anna's heart. When the Branch decides to take the boys, Sam stages an escape. Anna is torn between following and staying, but her father tells her to go, making Sam promise to keep her from the Branch. They flee, but none of the boys remember anything about their past lives. Now on the run, Anna discovers she might be connected to Sam in more ways than expected, and if they're going to survive, they'll have to piece everything together before the Branch catches up to them.Altered is an exploration into the past while on the run from those who want to control their future and use them as tools, a thriller that circles around a group of teenagers on the run from a secret group who performed experiments on them. What was done to them? What have they forgotten? What is the truth? All they can do is run, run and search for the missing pieces, and hope they're the ones who can run faster.For some reason, before I started reading I thought this was going to be vaguely dystopian and was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't. Instead of a dark and dismal futuristic setting there's a possible present day setting, maybe a little technologically advanced with the semi-military group and their experiments but that was it.A book like this needs tension, it asks for it, but I didn't feel that there was enough tension until about a third of the way through the book. From there to the end, it was fast-paced. No one really knows what they're looking for, only that it's out there and they have to find it before the Branch finds them and locks them away.The author has crafted a very interesting group of boys, each with their own quirks and traits that help them get out of tough situations. Anna as well, she's like a mother hen wanting to take care of her boys, because they are her boys, in a sense. She cares about them more than anyone. She also has a stronger connection with Sam than with Cas, Trev, or Nick.There was a plot twist or two that I expected, but there were more that I didn't expect which made reading it interesting. As the first in a series about characters searching for forgotten memories, it leaves more questions unanswered than answered, but I'm looking forward to Anna and the boys' search to answer those questions and to uncover more secrets in their past.

The Archived

The Archived - Victoria Schwab Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. Every body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures the only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and they reside in a vast realm called the Archive. Mackenzie's grandfather first brought her to the Archive when she was 12 and determined to prove herself. Now, Da is gone, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often violent Histories from getting out. Because of her job, she lies to people, and she knows fear for what it is: a tool used for staying alive. But being a Keeper reminds her of who she's lost. Not only is Da gone, but her brother Ben has died as well, and Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between the living and the dead. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed, yet someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential memories. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.The Archived is haunting and heart-breaking, a complex and expertly crafted tale of truth and lies, the living and the dead. A mysterious magic weaves a path through this book, a magic as elusive as mist, as powerful as love. In the Archive there are secrets, and there are whispers, and there must be courage and strength in order to survive.Narrators like Mackenzie are what make novels such as this always complicated and never easy. As a Keeper, she's tough, she knows certain truths, and she's seen enough to make her appear old beyond her years, but she's sad. She's so sad, and she's so lost, and she struggles to cope and keep up with the lies, to keep the mask on her face. She's very much a hunter, a hunter of Histories, of the truth, of remembering the good times. She has the instincts, but not being able to move away from her grief holds her back.The idea of the Archive drew me in so because it's a question we as human beings ofter ask ourselves: what happens to us after we die? Our bodies are taken away, yes, but does anything else happen? Is there a record of our lives? Is there such a thing as a spirit or soul? And if there is life (such as it could be) after death, where are we kept? Are we kept under control? Who makes the rules?There is a special connection between truth and lies, where the line is blurred and both are the same yet different. The lies we keep to hide the truth, the lies we tell to keep those we love safe, the lies we tell ourselves when we pretend everything is okay. The truths we hide. Mac must face this, face all of it, to survive. She must discover what is causing the Archive to crumble, or she won't make it back through the passage alive.It's quite possible that this book is all about family. Both Mac and her parents are struggling and failing to continue their lives without her brother Ben, and Mac often thinks back to memories of her grandfather when he was alive and appeared invincible. Family provides so much, the unconditional love and support, the connections they make with us, the way they tug at our hearts when they laugh or cry or even just smile. Anything and everything is for family.This book is about a girl searching for the truth when lies fill her life. This book is the unveiling of a mystery, the exposure of a twisted map of truths, secrets, and lies. This book is the unflinching love of family and the unwavering desire to keep them close. This book is rich with complications, rife with danger, but in no way did I ever want to avoid it. If anything, it only made me want to step through that doorway, golden key in the lock, even more.

The Wig in the Window

The Wig in the Window - Best friends and 7th graders Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a game out of spying on their neighbors. On one of their midnight stakeouts, they witness a terrifying, bloody scene at the home of their bizarre middle-school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford (aka Dr. Awkward). At least, they think they do. The truth is that Dr. Agford was only making her famous pickled beets. But when Dr. Agford begins acting even weirder than usual, Sophie and Grace become convinced that she’s hiding something, and they’re determined to find out what it is. Soon the girls are breaking secret codes, being followed by a strange blue car, and tailing strangers with unibrows and Texas accents. But as their investigation heats up, Sophie and Grace start to crack under the pressure. They might solve their case, but will their friendship survive?The Wig in the Window is an entertaining and exciting mystery, complete with two inquisitive girls and some curious secrets newly discovered in their quiet neighbourhood. Both girls are ready to put their spy skills to the test and uncover the truth, but they uncover something far more complicated than they expected and they'll have to work quickly in order to bust everything out into the open.Sophie and Grace are smart girls, curious girls, girls who speculate and hope to discover the hidden truths behind their neighbours' strange actions. Of course, sometimes it's just their imaginations getting the best of them, but this time it isn't. This time it's something big, something with secret codes and a car that wanders around constantly. This time they've hit it big and it's time to get to work. But spying and uncovering mysteries isn't always fun and games, sometimes real life gets in the way.Because of the first person point of view, the reader gets more of Sophie than of Grace. At times, Sophie appears to have more reservations than Grace, she wants to be more cautious, she wants to do things a bit differently than Grace. Grace seems to be Sophie's only friend. Sophie's varied interests, including those in tai chi and fung shui, make me wonder if Sophie is trying to be someone else, if she's trying to appear interesting. It's like she doesn't think she's interesting enough on her own.Friendship is a big part of this book. Sophie and Grace have to stick together, have to work together, or else the big secret they're hoping to expose about Dr. Agford is going to fade away in the night. But they both have their own personalities, their own lives away from each other, their own way of going about life. They're bound to clash and argue, but can they get past it? Will their friendship survive?This book plays on the dream that almost every kid has had, and that's the dream of exposing the weird secrets of his or her neighbours. Behind closed doors, behind drawn curtains, kids just know there's something going on next door or down the street. And then they can investigate to their heart's content. But what if they end up in over their heads? What are they going to do next?This is a mystery filled with twists and turns and a danger that begs to be revealed. I can only hope for more.