Orson Scott Card’s YA Science Fiction thriller hits theaters on November 1, 2013.
Orson Scott Card’s YA Science Fiction thriller hits theaters on November 1, 2013.
SOURCE: ARC loan from friend who won it from author
PUBLISHER: Feiwel & Friends
LENGTH: 464 pages
SUMMARY: Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison–even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.
REVIEW: While continuing Cinder and Kai’s story, the book also delves into Cinder’s creation as a Cyborg as well as giving more insight into the tension between the Lunar colony and Earth. The conflict created between Cinder and Kai in the first book rings true in the second with both characters realistically missing the other but steadfastly committed to their current course. Queen Levana and her minions seek to destroy earth and at no other time has Earth posed such a threat as now that Cinder is part of the equation. Readers will still hate Queen Levana and root for Cinder and Kai to figure out a way to defeat her, even if they must do it separately. It is good to have Iko back and the conflict between Cinder and her adoptive family intensifies as we find out more about how Cinder came to live with them.
The introduction of Scarlet and Wolf is what really makes reading it a multi-layered experience instead of just a linear continuation of the first book. As readers discover Scarlet’s connection to Cinder and why her and her grandmother’s stories are important to the book, they will come to appreciate the complex conflict Meyer has created. Scarlet will undoubtedly play a key role in the resolution of the conflict and Wolf’s competing loyalties will keep readers guessing. Wolf and Scarlet are drawn into Cinder and Kai’s personal and political struggle. Scarlet must trust Wolf despite his earlier duplicity if she is to survive and they must all trust their instincts if they are to succeed in uniting Earth and bringing out Levana’s defeat.
READERS: The Lunar Chronicles books will appeal to fans of science fiction and post apocalyptic fiction. There is a healthy serving of action with a sprinkling of relationship drama to keep all readers happy. Fans of classics will appreciate the links to traditional fairy tales with a decidely technological twist. Sophisticated middle grade readers will enjoy the story but it may be too complex for readers who struggle with length or plot complexity.
OTHER TITLES: Readers who enjoy this book might also enjoy Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, The Looking Glass Wars book by Frank Beddor, or The Jenna Fox books by Mary E. Pearson.
TITLE: The Aviary
AUTHOR: Kathleen O’Dell
LENGTH: 352 pages
SUMMARY: (via amazon.com) Twelve-year-old Clara Dooley has spent her whole life in the crumbling Glendoveer mansion, home to a magician’s widow, a cage full of exotic birds, and a decades-old mystery. Clara loves old Mrs. Glendoveer, but the birds in the aviary frighten her—they always seem to screech and squall whenever she’s near. And then one day, the mynah bird speaks, and a mystery starts to unravel.
Clara discovers dark secrets about the family, and about her own past. Somehow the birds in the aviary seem to be at the center of it all, and Clara can’t shake the feeling that they are trying to tell her something. . . .
BRIDGE: The Aviary is reminiscent of Victorian mysteries. While there are a few times where the language slips back to more 20th/21st century slang – enough to make the reader pause – overall, it fits the time period nicely. Clara fits the pre-teen/coming-of-age protagonist nicely. There is a clear struggle between Clara’s desire to please her mother and follow the guidelines her mother has set in place for her while also wanting to prove her independence and autonomy. Ruby fills the role of comic-relief “help” nicely while balancing Harriet’s overprotective tendencies toward Clara. The introduction of Daphne brings a bit of a side-kick feel to the story. It’s a little reminiscent of Holmes and Watson…if they had been pre-teen girls in early 20th century America. But you get it.
All of these characters can be taught as archetypes and the mystery itself follows a fairly traditional plot arc. One could bridge Clara’s character to Alice from Through the Looking Glass or Wendy from Peter Pan. It might even be possible to investigate early 20th century architecture since the house is discussed in such detail. And science teachers could do a little work with the appearance of the different birds that live in the Glendoveer’s aviary.
READERS: Fans of period literature will enjoy The Aviary for the connections to the early 20th century. The fantasitcal mystery in the story will delight literary sleuths even if it is a tad predictable. Fans of resolved endings will appreciate the ultimate resolution to the story and Clara’s growth as a character will feel comfortable to middle grade readers.
OTHER TITLES: If readers enjoy this title, they might also like Liesel & Po by Lauren Oliver, A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, or The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee.
AUTHOR: Lauren Oliver
SUMMARY: This exciting finale to Lauren Oliver’s New York Times bestselling Delirium trilogy is a riveting blend of nonstop action and forbidden romance in a dystopian United States.
Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has transformed. The nascent rebellion that was underway in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.
After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven. Pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels.
As Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain of the Wilds, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor. Requiem is told from both Lena and Hana’s points of view. They live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.
With lyrical writing, Lauren Oliver seamlessly interweaves the peril that Lena faces with the inner tumult she experiences after the reappearance of her first love, Alex, the boy she thought was dead.
REVIEW: **SPOILER ALERT** Readers may remember that I was less than impressed with Pandemonium even though I enjoyed Delirium. I just felt that the book was a little too much of a bridge between what happened to Lena and Alex and what would happen in Portland between the DFA and the rebels. With this third and final installment, I feel like the tension is just prolonged. The only resolution that is really provided is between Lena, Alex, and Julien while continuing the struggle between the Invalids and Valids. There seems to be a lot of action in this book but ultimately, it’s similar to spinning wheels. Much dust is kicked up in an effort to get somewhere when ultimately only a few feet of progress is gained. Lena’s character does not really develop any more than she did in Pandemonium. She struggles with the guilt of leaving Julien behind but it seems a foregone conclusion that Lena will choose Alex when he made such a dramatic, surprise appearance in the second book.
The inclusion of Hana’s perspective seems more a sideshow trick than a plot element. While weaving the two plot threads together seems a technical feat, it’s all too convenient. Lena and Hana ending up as the major players in the outcome of the struggle for Portland, while prosaic, is contrived. It takes entirely too long for the conflict to come to a head and while Oliver does kill off some well-known characters, too many of the favorites survive in such a violent, combative environment for it to ring true. Those who do die are characters readers have only recently met or who played secondary parts in the plot.
The saving grace of this series is the writing itself. Oliver manages to create beautifully crafted passages that linger long after the plot has moved on. Oliver manages to make all of the violence and plotting seem as background noise to Lena’s lyrical musings on her physical and emotional condition. If Oliver’s storyline was as complex, courageous, and graceful as the prose itself, the story would have more staying power. The end to this series is a tad too convenient for this reader’s taste. It is an entertaining, interesting read but nothing that one should rush to finish.
AUTHOR: Stephenie Meyer
PUBLISHER: Little Brown, Books for Young Readers
LENGTH: 544 pages
SUMMARY: Isabella Swan’s move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Isabella’s life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Isabella, the person Edward holds most dear. The lovers find themselves balanced precariously on the point of a knife-between desire and danger.Deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful, Twilight captures the struggle between defying our instincts and satisfying our desires. This is a love story with bite.
BRIDGE: This is the ultimate in Bridge books. While the literary merits of the series are few, this is a great way to get kids reading. The Twilight Saga is what I call a Gateway Book Series. These are the books that have popular appeal for whatever reason and have kids clamouring to read them. It helps tremendously that these books were made into movies because that gets even MORE kids wanting to read them. My point: this gets kids hooked into reading. No, these books aren’t going to win any awards for literary merit AND there are plot holes big enough to drive a truck through, but students will stay up all night reading them. Then, when they’re finished with the book and recovered from their sleep deprivation, they are going to come to you and ask for something else to read.
Because they’ve caught the bug. They’ve got the itch. They WANT to read.
That’s when you hit them with the good stuff. Turn them toward Kristin Cashore’s Graceling books. Suggest they try some Holly Black or James Dashner. Now that they have discovered the joy of reading, you can steer them toward complex text.
There are a few other things one can do with The Twilight Saga books. Edward is the quintessential Byronic hero and there are myriad lessons one could pull from the text and match up with more traditional Byronic heroes like Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights or Edmond Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo. It is also interesting to take a generic plot diagram and have students create missing pieces for the elements of plot that are missing. Have students study how Meyer characterizes Bella & Edward’s characters and relationship. Then, have them debate whether or not Bella is a dependent member of an abusive relationship (as many argue). Students can write better endings to each individual book or for the series as a whole.
Ultimately, we want our students reading and as much as The Twilight Series has been villified and criticized in literary circles, it has birthed a new generation of readers in this ever-growing technological society. And all good reading instructors know that even adults don’t always read “good literature”. Sometimes the brain needs a break. So here’s to authors who help create new readers and here’s hoping you’re reading something good.