Thursday, October 24, 2013

Unbreakable: The Legion Series Book 1, by Kami Garcia

The main character in Kami Garcia's new series, Legion, is named Kennedy Waters; she leads a pretty normal life. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her mom and beloved cat, has a best friend named Elle, and does really well in school.

However, all of that changes when Kennedy's mom dies unexpectedly of "heart failure", and Kennedy's whole world is uprooted. She's given two options: go live with her aunt in Boston, or attend boarding school in upstate New York. Knowing that her mother and her aunt did not see eye-to-eye on things, Kennedy selects boarding school. Before she's able to leave, though, something crazy happens. A ghost invades her home, and she learns that her mother's death was not from heart failure, but from a demon invasion.

Kennedy, desperate for answers, finds herself banding together with a group of misfit teens (twin brothers Jared and Lukas, a engineering genius named Priest, and a scary tough-girl named Alara) who claim to be descendants of the "Legion" - a secret society built within the Catholic church to combat the insurgence of the Illuminati.

The other four think that Kennedy is their elusive fifth member, but Kennedy's not so sure. Is she truly one of them? Will they be able to protect the world from demons.

I honestly was not expecting to enjoy this novel because I really didn't like the Beautiful Creatures series. However, I tried it anyway since the plot lines were so different. This book somehow seemed smarter than Garcia's other books that I'd read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the inclusion of secret symbols and seals, and I really enjoyed the quirky cast of characters.

Also Try: Beautiful Creatures series, by Garcia and Margaret Stohl; The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Seeing Red, by Kathryn Erskine

I thoroughly enjoyed Erskine's new book, Seeing Red, but I'm not sure how my students will respond to it. After reading  another one of her books, Mockingbird, I recommended it to several of my students whom I thought would enjoy it. Several of them abandoned it without finishing, and the few that did finish said it was just 'okay'. Hopefully there will be a better reaction to Seeing Red!

Red Porter, the novel's namesake, is a boy growing up in the South during the time following desegregation. Lots of things have recently changed in Red's life when the novel opens - his father had passed away and his best friend, Thomas (an African American), for some reason no longer wants to be friends. On top of that, his mother is trying to sell the home/store that's been in their family for years; she can't support it without her husband's help. Desperate to maintain his home and salvage its sale, Red gets caught up with a no-good group of boys who call themselves the Brotherhood. They're essentially mini-white supremacists and intend to wreak havoc on the town. It doesn't take Red long to realize he doesn't want to be a part of their shenanigans, but can he get out in time?

During his journey, Red encounters lots of other problems as well: an aging family friend, Miss Georgia, a new teacher whose methods are questioned by the principal, and a friend, Rosie, whose life is ravaged by abuse.

I think that one of Erskine's biggest strengths is the way she's able to develop her characters. In Mockingbird, she wrote about a character with Asperger's and made me feel like I was reading something written by someone with the condition. Similarly in this novel, the narration sounded exactly as it would coming from a pre-teen boy in the South during that time period.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Second Impact, by David & Perri Klass

Second Impact was so good! I think it would appeal to both boys and girls, so I wish it had a little more gender-neutral cover. Right now the cover probably appeals  more to males.

Second ImpactSecond Impact is written via blog entries by two Kendall High School students, Carla and Jerry, on the school newspaper's blog. There are also a few chapters that are emails between the two of them. Jerry is the stereotypical high school football quarterback, but he's made one big mistake. In the year before the novel starts, he went to a party and wound up hitting a girl with his car by accident. The school winds up forgiving Jerry and allowing him to continue to play on the team. 

Jerry, soon after starting on the blog, experiences a concussion and that becomes the focus of the novel - Carla blogs about the impacts of concussions on teen athletes, and begs the question of safety in high school football. Not long after Jerry's injury, another teammate, Danny, suffers a more severe concussion. Carla interviews lead brain doctors to get the facts about when students should return to the field.

Kendall HS's principal, Mr. Bamburger, soon decides that he does not want Carla writing about the concussion debacle, as it causes negative PR for the athletic program and the team is on the way to the state championship. Carla does not want her voice silenced, and she begs some good questions - "what about words make people afraid?"

I really enjoyed the novel and reading about Carla's stand against the principal.