Looking for JJ
Anne Cassidy
ISBN 978-0-15-206190-6
Harcourt, 2004
Grade 8 and up
Realistic Fiction/Crime

JJ hasn’t existed since Alice was released from prison, but when someone starts looking for her in town, will her secrets be exposed?

Summary:

As a child JJ committed a terrible crime, she murdered one of her friends in a fit of rage. Now, she’s served her time and has taken a new name and identity. Alice lives with a foster mother, is a senior in high school, has a boyfriend, and works in a cafe. She’s pretty normal. But there is the ever looming threat that her true identity will be discovered. The press is always there and her mother is out there somewhere, too. When it happens, Alice’s cover gets blown, it still comes as a shock. Once again she has to confront her past and create a new identity, in the process losing all of the comfort, love, and safety of being Alice.

Critique:

A well-written and though provoking read. I only wish there were more explanation of why JJ committed such an atrocious act, I understand her anger but what else was going on?

Curriculum Ties:

Looking for JJ could be used when discussing journalism, particularly ethics in journalism.

Controversy:

Murder, violence, child abuse.

Refer challenger to reviews and ask them to read the entire book. Indicate the social relevancy of the issues presented in this book.

Selection Rationale:

This book brings up too many issues to ignore.

“The ethical issues and solid, suspenseful storytelling provide many discussion possibilities.” – Booklist

“Crisply plotted and smoothly written, this gripping hook is sure to bold teens’ attention.” – School Library Journal

ALA Best Book for Young Adults, 2008

Booktalking:

Share the murder scene.

About the Author:

Anne Cassidy’s most recent book, The Dead House, is available now. She is the author of over twenty-five young adult novels.

The Compound
S.A. Bodeen
ISBN 0-312-37015-6
Feiwel and Friends, 2008
Grade 7 and up
Adventure/Survival/Science Fiction/Post-Apocalyptic

Eli has lived the past six years of his life underground after a nuclear attack on Washington State. The Compound was supposed to be a safe place for fifteen years after such an attack, but supplies are dwindling and Eli is starting to ask questions.

Summary:

When the United States is under nuclear attack the Takanaki family thinks they are lucky to have the Compound. Eli, Lexie, and Terese, along with their parents all make it into the underground shelter. Eddy, Eli’s twin, and their grandmother aren’t so lucky. It is six years later; Eli is now fifteen and still misses his twin. Things in the Compound have started to go wrong. The livestock has all died, the hydroponic lights are flickering, and supplies are dwindling all around. But Eli’s father thought of everything, he has a stockpile of Supplements to feed his family with, should the food run out. Bits of the truth of their situation begin to seep in when Eli discovers his twin’s never-used laptop and a mystifying internet connection near his father’s office. Eli successfully gets online and into Instant Messenger. His brother is there. After verifying that they are both who they say they are, Eddy lets Eli know that there was no nuclear attack, it was all a ruse. Eddy and their grandmother are safe and sound, all this time they thought the rest of the family was dead. The conversation is cut off when Eli’s father emerges from his office and discovers the laptop. At this point, the book undergoes a transformation from science fiction to a horrific psychological survival story. Eli and his family must go up against their father and wits to escape the underground prison—the father is the only one with the password to open the hatch, a secret is not willing to part with easily. Between Eli and his siblings the code is discovered and Eli opens the door. A final battle remains as Eli rescues his family from underground. The children and their mother do escape and begin a quiet life in Hawaii, but the threat of their missing father looms over them all.

Critique:

Excellent. A thrilling, unique, page-turner. Bodeen created a roller-coaster ride of a plot, as soon as I thought I had it all figured out, another twist appeared. Fabulous introduction of many ethical dilemmas. Boys and girls alike will love it. I think this would be a perfect pick for even the most reluctant reader.

Curriculum Ties:

Biomedical ethics or science classes. Could be integrated into discussion about the Cold War and nuclear arms testing.

Controversy:

Cannibalism, cloning.

Have challengers read the entire book and decide if the way in which these issues are presented are still objectionable. Present positive reviews.

Selection Rationale:

As reviewers note this would be a great novel to use as a class read, it is filled with topics for discussion. Although The Compound turns out to be about something other than a nuclear apocalypse, it is still a great representation of some of the best features of the genre: an ethical question, growing up fast, and survival. As an action-packed but introspective read, this book will appeal to a great variety of readers.

“Bodeen’s straightforward, action-packed writing

conveys through apt detail the Compound environment—physical and emotional—and its subtly debilitative effects. As the plot builds from unease to intrigue to outright peril, Eli believably and satisfyingly grows from a spoiled, disturbed bully to the persuasive and empathetic (if still disturbed) man of the family. Taking full advantage of a unique premise, this tense portrait of a family in crisis probes the psychological and moral costs of survival.” – The Horn Book Magazine

“The novel becomes full of tension and suspense and turns into a true edge-of-the-seat thriller. There are numerous social issues addressed that could lead to great classroom discussions.” – School Library Journal

Booktalking:

Why doesn’t Eli want to be touched?

About the Author:

This is S.A. Bodeen’s first book.

The Devouring
Simon Holt
ISBN 0-316-03573-6
Little Brown and Company, 2008
Grade 7 and up
Horror

The Vours steal your soul but leave your body, says the mysterious book Reggie finds. A teen who loves to be scared, Reggie decides to tempt the Vours with her fear, with disastrous and chilling results.

Summary:

Reggie is an avid fan of horror, so much so that she has taken to reading her little brother, Henry, the scary stuff at night. She works at a bookstore specializing in the genre. When a mysterious, handwritten book comes in with a shipment, she sneaks it home without telling her boss. In the leather bound volumes pages, Reggie discovers the story of the Vours and Sorry Night. According to the book, on the eve of the Winter Solstice children become vulnerable to the Vours, who feed on your fear, consuming your soul. Only a shell inhabited by a Vour is left behind. Reggie and her friend Aaron decide to try to summon the Vours one night. Nothing happens to them, but something does happen to Henry. Henry is taken by the Vours and it is up to Reggie and Aaron to rescue him. As the two learn more about the Vours and their weaknesses, Reggie gets closer to rescuing Henry. Reggie follows the Vours into Henry’s fearscape, where she finds Henry. She discovers that the wounds you get in Henry’s head don’t go away when you wake up, adding another threat to the battle. Reggie and Henry fight the Vours with all their power. Although Henry is released by the Vour inside him, Reggie and Aaron know they will be back. But Reggie will be ready.

Critical Evaluation:

A very scary book. This was an excellent read, I only wish I was more frightened by the carnival from hell theme in the horror genre. Otherwise, a wonderfully constructed horror story, creepy and suspenseful.

Curriculum Ties:

Integrate into a psychology class when discussing fear, phobias, etc. Or, compare with classic horror novels that are mention in The Devouring.

Challenge Issues:

Violence and gore.

Have challengers read the entire book, explain some of the standard elements of horror. Provide positive reviews.

Selection Rationale:

This is sure to be popular with a varied audience. The sequels will keep patrons interested.

The Devouring will keep readers on the edge of their seats… The book has some graphic content, blood, and gore, which only add to the chills. A must-have for horror fans.” – School Library Journal

Booktalking Ideas:

Share the opening scene.

About the Author:

This is Simon Holt’s first book. He collects comic books.

Additional Information:

A sequel, Soulstice, is slated for a September 2009 release.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Carrie Ryan
ISBN 978-0-385-73681-7
Delacorte, 2009
Grade 7 and up
Science Fiction/Dystopia/Post-Apocalyptic/Zombie

Mary must venture beyond the Forest of Hands and Teeth, battle the Unconsecrated, and reconcile the knowledge that is a part of her with the truth in order to survive.

Summary:

Mary knows and expects certain things, although she may not like them. The Sisterhood holds the knowledge and knows best; due to the Guardians and the fence, her community is safe from the Unconsecrated (the undead); she will marry Harry although she loves his brother, Travis. After her father, an Unconsecrated, attacks her mother, Mary’s whole life is turned upside down. Mary is not chosen for marriage by Harry and must live with the Sisterhood as a result. There, Mary begins to discover that everything she thought she knew was wrong. The Sisterhood and Guardians have been keeping Mary’s community in the dark, they think they are the last humans left on the planet. This belief is proven wrong when a stranger comes to town and is quickly hidden away. The young girl is quickly thrown to the Unconsecrated. Shortly after the Unconsecrated breach the fence and an attack on the village ensues. Mary, along with her brother and his wife, Harry, Travis, and Travis’ betrothed must make a choice, stay and defend the village or venture into the unknown. The group opts for the unknown and discovers further truths along the way. They encounter dead villages and super-fast zombies, photos of the mysterious ocean, books, and clothing from bygone eras. A history that they never knew of comes to light. As Mary struggles to get to the ocean romances and relationships emerge and change. Mary sacrifices everything to get to her destination, when she gets there it is not the haven she expected, but it is something.

Critique:

When I finished this book the first thing I thought was “I hope there is a sequel”. Although the world that Ryan has created in The Forest of Hands and Teeth is nothing truly new, she executes a very solid rendition with characters that I loved. The relationships rang true for me and the zombie variations were interesting. Ryan developed an attention-grabbing collective memory/mythology for Mary’s community. I can’t wait to read more.

Curriculum Ties:

Tie in with lessons on oral history and the formation of collective memory.

Controversy:

Teen sexuality, questioning of authority.

These elements are very mild. Ask challengers to refer to reviews and read the whole book.

Selection Rationale:

This is not a frivolous zombie book, the writing is gorgeous and Mary, a strong teenage girl, struggles through both physical and mental obstacles. She is introspective and a fighter. The suspense is immense. This is a great new book in the post-apocalyptic/dystopian tradition. I also just love this genre so I wanted to read this new addition.

“In this sci-fi/horror novel, the suspense that Ryan has created from the very first page on entices and tempts readers so that putting the book down is not an option. The author skillfully conceals and reveals just enough information to pique curiosity while also maintaining an atmosphere of creepiness that is expected in a zombie story. Some of theof death and mutilation of both the Unconsecrated and the living are graphic. The story is riveting, even though it leaves a lot of questions to be explained in the sequel.” – School Library Journal

“For once, the hype surrounding a novel is not exaggerated. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is unputdownable.” – The Guardian

Booktalking:

Tell a little about the “history” and structure of Mary’s town.

About the author:

This is Carrie Ryan’s first novel. Previously, Ryan was involved in the dot com business and law. She aspired to write chick lit until her boyfriend told her to write what she loves; the result is The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Additional Information:

The Forest of Hands and Teeth has been picked up by Seven Star Pictures.

The second book in this trilogy, The Dead-Tossed Waves, will be released in Spring 2010.