Book Spotlight: Son by Lois Lowry

giver     Everyone remembers The Giver, that dystopian book by Lois Lowry that we all had to read in school? Children receive their lifetime assignments at the ceremony of 12 years.  When Jonas becomes the community's Receiver of memories, he discovers a terrible truth about the community he lives in.  20 years later, Lois Lowry has answered questions about what happened to Jonas and the baby he was protecting in a sequel called Son.

son   In Son by Lois Lowry, Claire has been assigned the job of Birthmother in her small community but unlike the other birthmothers, she becomes attached to her baby and feels a terrible loss when he is taken away.  When things don't go as planned for the child, Claire goes to extreme measures to find and rescue her son.  You can't go wrong with Lois Lowry and this book is well-written, unpredictable, and exciting!  Claire's life has such a roller-coaster of feelings, it is impossible to put the book down.  Read or re-read The Giver first if you can – to better understand Claire's community.

This book was nominated for the YALSA Top Ten books of 2013!

To learn more about YALSA's Top Ten books, click here

To see the list of nominated books, click here

Teen Book Review: Unraveling

Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

Review by Anna S., Sonoma Valley Branch

Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris is an exciting, high-suspense novel about the end of the world. Janelle Tenner has many problems in her life, whether it is her buried-in-work father, her mood-swing-prone mother, or the fact that she has to save the world from a mysterious count down. Janelle finds an unlikely ally in Ben Michaels and his two friends. Despite the huge puzzle that could result in the end of all life, Janelle still has trouble not falling for Ben.

I don’t usually like sci-fi novels, or end-of-the-world themes, but I did really like this book. I didn’t know what was going to happen next, and became pretty involved in the book. Janelle was a pretty likable character, and was always trying to help her family. I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone except for people that need an extremely happy ending. It did not have the fairy tale ending I was hoping for.

Teen Book Review: The Selection

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Review by Anna, Sonoma Valley Branch

It is about 300 years in the future, and America has collapsed, and a nation called Illéa has taken its place. Among many changes from America, Illéa has a lottery. Thirty-five girls, only thirty-five, will be chosen at random from the entire country, and sent to the kingdom to live in. One of these girls will be chosen to marry Illéa’s prince, Maxon. Seventeen-year-old America Singer is one of these girls, but she wants nothing to do with the prince or the crown. But, the longer she stays away from home, the more confused she becomes about which future she wants.

 I loved this book. It is by far my favorite book that I’ve reviewed. This book combines The Bachelor TV show and fairytales, a combination that I love but others might not. The Selection is also a little bit like the Matched series, but I enjoyed this book much more. I would recommend the book to anyone that likes modernized fairytales, or anything I compared it to above. This book is an easy read, though, so don’t choose this book if you want something challenging.


Book Spotlight: Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Reviewed by: Phil, librarian, Cloverdale Branch

Synopsis: In the not-so-distant future the world flat-out sucks; life is hard for most, including teen Wade Watts, who spends most of his time plugged into the virtual reality multi-verse OASIS. Though most use OASIS to escape the harsh reality of 2044, Wade is an ardent Gunter – a term given to those trying to solve a seemingly unsolvable multi-part puzzle devised by one the creators of OASIS. Whoever solves the puzzle will inherit the entirety of OASIS and become one of the richest people in the world. Some Gunters are strict soloists, while others have banded together to form guilds. These competing factions have toiled for years to solve the puzzle to no avail – that is until Wade happens to solve the first part. Suddenly the quest to solve the puzzle reaches a fever pitch, and the game becomes deadly serious. When Gunters start dying in real life it becomes apparent that a sinister force is willing to go to extremes to reach the prize. Wade knows that he is in serious jeopardy. The question is: Will he solve the puzzle before they get to him?         

Why I picked it up: Alex Award (best adult book for teens) winner, and very highly recommended.

Why I finished it: Without a doubt the most fun book that I have read in the past year. It was absolutely impossible to put down.

I'd recommend it to: Gamers, science fiction and adventure tale enthusiasts, as well as 1980’s pop culture fanatics. Even if you don’t generally read in those genres, this book is just plain fun!

Book Spotlight: Ashfall

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

Review by Phil, Librarian, Cloverdale Branch

When Alex’s family travels out of town for the weekend he plans on ditching his trigonometry homework and playing World of Warcraft – that is until something crashes through the roof of his house. Then the explosions start and communications go down. Soon ash has blanketed the world in an oppressive grey, and with the ash comes marauding bands and chaos. Adrift and alone Alex decides to hightail it out of town to try and find his family. On the road he encounters escaped convicts and people full of distrust. He also finds companionship and hope, but the question is will he find his family? And what will the post ashfall world be like?

Why I picked it up:

Seemed like an engaging premise, and was recommended to me as a read-a-like to Hunger Games.

Why I finished it:

I had to see what happened. I enjoyed the characters and the pacing, and it was chock full of suspense.

I'd recommend it to:

People who enjoyed Hunger Games, or any other apocalyptic or dystopian fiction.


Teen Book Review: Bumped

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Review by Kudra, Sonoma Valley Branch

Bumped is a novel about an alternate worlds where a Virus makes everyone over eighteen infertile, adults pay teens to "bump" with each other and have children for them, placing a high price on the teenage girls.  Sixteen-year-old twins Harmony and Melody, separated at birth, and either one knowing about the other, until now.  Harmony, a church devoted girl journeys to Melody's home, and chaos strikes.  Amongst all this, Melody must also fight the attraction to her best friend Zen, for her conception contract which she worked so hard to get fights against it.  When Melody's representative pairs her with Jondoe, the most genetically flawless male bumper, and Harmony is confused for Melody, both lives are changed forever.

This book had me engrossed, and I ended up reading it in two days.  It is a fairly easy read, but I wouldn't recommend it if you avoid religious stuff.  I would recommend this book to people interested in alternate futures, and thrilling books with many plot twists.

This is Kudra's first teen review!  Welcome Kudra to the team of teen book reviewers!

Book Spotlight: Life As We Knew It

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Review by Phil, Librarian, Cloverdale Branch

Miranda leads the life of a fairly typical Midwestern teenager, or at least she did until a giant asteroid slammed into the moon.  After the collision the moon appears oddly in the sky – somewhat titled, and closer to Earth.  The nights are also a little brighter.  Though these changes are unnerving there don't seem to be any major consequences- other than not having to go to school or do homework.  Then the tsunamis hit, and the communications go down.  Grocery stores run out of food, and volcanoes cloud the sky with ash.  Winter sets in and blankets the world in unrelenting snow.  In other words, life as Miranda and her family knew it will never be the same again.

Why I picked it up:  I was intrigued by the concept, and it was highly recommended.  I've been on an apocalyptic fiction kick, so this one was right up my alley.

Why I finished it:  I enjoyed the subtleties, and I wanted to know what would happen to Miranda and her family.  Pfeffer does well to tell this story with a level of realism that many similar stories disregard in favor of sensationalism.

I'd recommend it to:  Anyone looking for an apocalyptic novel without the violence.

Teen Book Review: Partials

Partials by Dan Wells
Review by Anna, Sonoma Valley Branch

Partials by Dan Wells is a futuristic novel set in 2076, and more than 99% of the human population has been wiped out from a highly infectious virus.  The virus was created by the Partials, an evil super human army of fighting machines that act, look, and talk like a human.  The people that did survive, however, have a big problem:  none of their babies survive, because of the virus.  Kira and a small group of her friends decide to travel to Manhattan, where the Partials are hidden.  If anyone knows how to rid the world of that virus, it'll be the Partials.

I really liked this book, which is surprising because I usually don't like books set in the future.  I thought it was well written, and had a few interesting turns in the plot that I didn't see coming.  I would recommend this book to anyone, but especially people who like futuristic novels or sci-fi.

Book Spotlight: The House of the Scorpion

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Review by Phil, Cloverdale Branch, Librarian

In the future a country called Opium has been established between Mexico and the United States.  Responsible for the majority of the drug manufacturing in the world, Opium exudes power and commands respect.  At the head of this small albeit powerful nation is one man – El Patron – who is so greedy that he seeks even to steal from death.  El Patron surrounds himself with his privileged family, including his clone, young Matt.  Though Matt is pampered by El Patron, he is reviled by the rest of the family, and thought of merely as an animal.  As he ages Matt must contend not only with how others perceive him, but how he perceives himself.  Is Matt plagued by the same dark desires as El Patron?  And to what extent will either go to fulfill those desires?

Why I picked it up:  Award winning title by a multiple award winning author.  Interesting premise with many thought provoking issues.

Why I finished it:  Richly layered and textured, Farmer has managed to craft a haunting tale about human nature that is hard to put down.  I needed to know what would happen to Matt!

I'd recommend it to:  This is not a dense read, but the plot is fairly complex and demands some commitment through slower scenes.  Overall, a very rewarding read.  It will appeal to fans of science fiction, as well as those interested in the human condition.

Book Spotlight: Ashfall

Ashfall by Mike Mullins

Review by Rebecca, Windsor Branch

Following the destructive explosion of a super volcano, 15 year old Alex decides to brave a desolate, lawless journey to find his family, on vacation in another state.

Why I picked it up:  This book was recommended to me by a friend.

Why I finished it:  I could hardly put this book down!  The writing was great, and very engaging, with well-drawn characters.  It was action-packed, and never slowed down; I kept turning the page to find out what would happen next.

I'd recommend it to:  Just about anyone; the theme is survival, and there are a lot of interesting elements to consider were such a catastrophe to occur.  I enjoyed the pace of the book, and the romance that develops is quite sweet and true to life.