Charlotte shares this review:
I’ve literally grown up—grown older, anyway—with E.L. Konigsburg. We share a love of artists and beautiful things. Mine might have started, in fact, with From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the Newbery award winner that made me, and a generation of readers, want to run away and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Every once in a while, I rediscover how much I love Konigsburg’s deceptively simple prose, the sharply-observed details, the way her nonconformist characters manage to rebel and resist without ever being rude.
The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place is about art and rules and civil disobedience, whether you’re up against a homeowners’ association or a clique of bossy 12-year-old girls at summer camp. Margaret Rose Kane, rescued by her uncles from a miserable camp experience, arrives at their home just in time to witness the end of an era. For 45 years, while their neighborhood has grown and changed, Margaret’s Old World Hungarian uncles have been adding on to their backyard Towers—pipe scaffolding, painted in sherbet colors and hung with pendants of colored glass. Depending on how you look at them, the Towers are a work of art, a labor of love, a neighborhood landmark… or an eyesore, a hazard, a threat to property values. (Margaret looks at them from the inside: If you stand in the center and spin, it’s like being inside a kaleidoscope.)
By the time Margaret arrives, her uncles have already fought City Hall and lost. Zoning ordinances dictate that the structures have to come down. But Margaret, having just retreated from one battlefield, isn’t willing to give ground a second time. She starts her own campaign to save the Towers. (Being a Konigsburg child, she arms herself by conducting research, marching to City Hall herself, and requesting a copy of the relevant city council records.)
Konigsburg characters, as a rule, are grammar obsessed and word-curious. Among other things, Outcasts contains one of my all-time favorite puns, when Margaret and her uncle decide that she has not been precisely “disobedient” at camp, but rather “anobedient:”
“…which would mean without obedience—which is not the same thing as disobedience. I would say that anobedience is related to words like anesthetic, which means without feeling.”
“Or anonymous, which means without a name.”
“Or anorexia, without an appetite or anemia, without blood.”
“Or Anne Boleyn, without a head.”
Check the WRL catalog for The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place.
Or try the audiobook.
Jennifer D. shares this review:
This is the story of Cass and Max-Earnest, but those are not their real names. The story of what happened to them is a secret, but the author of The Name of this Book is Secret was never very good at keeping secrets. He advises you, therefore, to forget what you have read as soon as you finish reading the book. Following Mr. Bosch’s lead of trying very hard not to give too much away, I will attempt to summarize the tale in such a way as to keep you safely in the dark regarding certain dangerous matters.
Cass and Max-Earnest live in (insert the name of your hometown here) and attend (insert the name of your school here). They crossed paths with a pair of rather unsavory characters, Dr. L and Ms. Mauvais, when a local magician passed away. While at an antique store, Cass discovers a box labeled “The Symphony of Smells” among the magician’s donated belongings. A message in scent leads Cass, with the assistance of Max-Earnest, to investigate the magician’s home. There they encounter the two villains and uncover the magician’s hidden notebook. What happens afterward is not my secret to tell, but Mr. Bosch’s. He will try to discourage you from reading the book, and may not share quite the entire story, but The Name of this Book is Secret is a fun and quirky read. Fans of Lemony Snicket in particular will find it enjoyable, with similarities in the use of the author as a narrator. In my opinion, however, it is far better than the Series of Unfortunate Events series, and this book is actually the start of its own series.
Check the WRL catalog for the availability of The Name of this Book is Secret.
Jessica shares this review:
Here’s the plot hook: at the age of thirteen, Paul Moreaux discovers that he can turn invisible.
Here’s what would have happened in the hands of lesser writers: the invisible Paul would have stolen lots of stuff and watched girls undress and pulled harmless pranks.
Here’s what happened in the hands of Robert Cormier: the invisible Paul discovers the tragedy of human existence and commences to lead a life marked by violence, madness, and despair, with relief coming only when health complications from the invisibility cause him to die, lonely and young and unmourned.
Paul, a sensitive and thoughtful boy from a working-class family, doesn’t even realize when he first gets The Fade. On a dare, he spies on a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan. (This is the 1930s, and anti-Catholic/anti-immigrant sentiments are running high against Paul and the other citizens of Frenchtown.) When the meeting is ambushed, a crazed Klansman discovers Paul and tries to kill him– but inexplicably, he somehow loses sight of his intended victim.
What Paul doesn’t realize is that he, like one male in every generation in his family, has inherited the ability to turn invisible. Sometimes it’s useful, as when escaping from Klansmen and bullies; more often it’s horrible, as when spying upon people reveals secrets Paul never wanted to know.
At least Paul has guidance from an uncle, also a Fader. A generation later, Paul’s own nephew Ozzie has no such counseling, because Paul doesn’t know he exists; the child had been secretly given up for adoption. Unfortunately Ozzie was raised by a physically abusive father, and when Ozzie discovers his Fading powers, after years of beatings and neglect, the results are terrible, with “terrible” meaning “like Stephen King’s Carrie on prom night.”
As always, Cormier’s prose is superb. From page one the atmosphere is tense, and before long things ratchet up to spooky, with occasional interludes of horrifying for good measure. Some sexual (though not graphic) content and scenes of violence make this inappropriate for younger readers, and Cormier’s fundamentally pessimistic worldview makes it inappropriate for most everyone else. But if you like dark books with tragic endings (any Thomas Hardy fans out there?) you can get your misery fix here.
Check the WRL catalog for Fade
Jennifer D. shares this review:
“Listen closely. Do not draw attention to yourself. Once you have found a secure location, stay where you are and help will come soon. This is not a test. Listen closely. This is not a test.”
The zombie apocalypse is here. Sloane and five other teens have barricaded themselves in the high school and are awaiting rescue. Only Sloane isn’t sure she wants to be saved. Her life before the zombies wasn’t great, and you can’t exactly say things could get better. They could hardly get worse. It is the end of the world, after all. As she watches her fellow survivors struggle to stay alive, Sloane wonders if it’s all worth it. She’s having an existential crisis, and it couldn’t be more poorly timed.
This book is a fascinating character study. You’d expect a novel about zombies to be about, well, zombies. The zombies in This is Not a Test are certainly a threat, and they do keep things scary and suspenseful, but they aren’t the point. Sloane is the story here, and her struggle would be poignant without the imminent risk of being eaten alive. Will she find the strength to keep fighting? Will she go out in a blaze of glory? Or will she simply be dinner for a flesh-eating zombie?
Check the WRL catalog for This is Not a Test.
Modern day teen Amy Gumm is having a tough time at home and at school. Her day gets worse when a tornado barrels through her Kansas trailer park home and deposits her in the land of Oz. Amy quickly finds out this isn’t the Oz of the storybooks. What was beautiful and magical is dull and dead.
Like Dorothy, Amy wanders the countryside looking for a way home. Along the way she makes a few friends. But instead of watching out for wicked witches, Amy and her companions are on the lookout for the Tin Woodman and his soldiers.
Dorothy came back from Kansas many years ago and something has gone very, very wrong.
The Tin Woodman is now the Grand Inquisitor of Oz. You can get arrested (or worse) for sass, for not smiling, for lack of loyalty… As Amy comes quickly to realize, all of Oz is subject to Dorothy’s bizarre and selfish whims.
The Scarecrow and Lion aren’t much better. Scarecrow used his brains for horrible experiments which make the machine-human hybrids of the Woodman’s army. The Lion attacks villages and kills innocent people. He is fearless – and completely lacking compassion. And Glinda the Good is actually an evil slave-driver who makes the Munchkins mine for magic!
All is not without hope. There is an underground movement to remove Dorothy from power. The formerly wicked witches want Amy’s help. They spring her from prison and begin training her in magic and combat techniques so she can play her part in freeing Oz from the tyranny.
This debut novel certainly gives a unique and dark twist to the Wizard of Oz story. The tale itself follows a familiar story arc of a strong, female teen relying on herself to overcome obstacles (think Hunger Games, Divergent, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) – but the similarities and differences with the familiar children’s story makes this new YA book a very interesting read.
Dorothy Must Die ends with plenty of questions still needing to be answered. A sequel is expected in March. I’m looking forward to my next trip to Oz.
Check the WRL catalog for Dorothy Must Die
Jennifer D. shares this review:
The author, Jody Feldman, attributes her inspiration for this story to an encounter with a student looking for a read-alike for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. While The Gollywhopper Games has a bit of the flavor of that classic book, Feldman has certainly crafted a story that stands on its own.
Gil Goodson is determined to participate in this year’s Gollywhopper Games, an annual event sponsored by the Golly Toy and Game Company. He has done his research and is ready to play. If only he wasn’t running late to stand in line to get an entry ticket. Being late is not the only thing Gil is up against in his effort to win the grand Gollywhopper prize. His father, a former Golly employee, was accused of stealing millions from them a year ago and although he was acquitted he is still the town pariah. Gil wants the family to move from their home in Orchard Heights to make life easier, and that’s just what his father has agreed will happen, if Gil wins the Games.
Gil must match wits with thousands of other contestants in feats of knowledge that combine facts about the Golly Company with general trivia and physical challenges. He makes friends and encounters old foes as the story plays out, and you will find yourself cheering for the good guys and hoping the cheaters get their comeuppance. The toy company’s headquarters, where part of the game is held, is almost another character in the story, since it is just as fantastical as Wonka’s chocolate factory. See if you can figure out the puzzles before Gil and his competitors. Would you have won the Gollywhopper Games?
Check the WRL catalog for The Gollywhopper Games.
This very satisfying debut fiction from a seasoned food writer was delightful to listen to on audiobook CD. Julia Whelan got most of the parts spot on, and even though deepening her voice for the male characters is a bit comical, the lively reading of Ruth Reichl’s intriguing tale and multifarious characters kept my daughter and me engaged thoroughly. She and I enjoy sharing many of the same books, especially adult titles that also hold appeal for teens. In fact, I would not be surprised to see Delicious! turning up among YALSA’s 2015 Alex Award nominees for books published in 2014—I hope, I hope!
Billie Breslin, also known as Wilhelmina to the Fontanari family, where Sal calls her Willie, feels fortunate to have landed a competitive position at Delicious magazine (obviously inspired by Gourmet, which discontinued in 2009 and was last headed by Ruth Reichl as editor). It doesn’t take long for Billie’s extraordinary palate to be recognized; she has the uncanny talent for detecting even the most obscure ingredients and flavors and has a knack for suggesting the precise tweak needed to perfect a recipe. Yet, she adamantly claims that she is definitely no cook! Her new friends in New York soon suspect she’s harboring some darkly saddening secret, however. Meanwhile, she’s determined to work her way into food writing, which she quickly and very cleverly accomplishes.
Delicious magazine closes down, but Billie is retained to handle customer service matters, working solo in the Timbers mansion, where she stumbles upon a secret room. Mysteriously secreted letters slowly reveal the details of a World War II correspondence between a 12-year-old girl interested in cooking and Chef James Beard when he was on staff at the magazine. We’re also provided with letters written in the present, diary-like words Billie addresses to her older sister. This partially epistolary read brings the reader deeper into the thoughts of our leading lady. The plot revolves around Billie’s collaboration with Sammy and Mitch to preserve the historic letters and library before it’s too late.
Some of the most remarkable characters in Reichl’s very clever and page-turning tale are those who are not actually in this story but mentioned in the letters and by the characters, the librarians who organized the forbidden library and the legendary James Beard. Along the way, readers will learn fascinating details about war-time prejudices and the history of culinary challenges during rationing. Readers will even be taken on an architectural history tour of New York and learn historical tidbits about the Underground Railroad. Delicious! is delightful, and it is so pleasing to see one of America’s food-writing favorites succeed as a novelist too.
Check the WRL catalog for Delicious!
Or check out the audiobook, read by Julia Whelan.
Jennifer D. shares this review:
Two stories are being told as the novel begins, one about Peter and one about Thea, and as the book progresses the stories converge in an unexpected way.
Thea lives underneath Greenland in a community called Gracehope. The inhabitants have lived under the ice for centuries aided by technology that far surpasses that on the surface—what they call the “wider world.” Gracehope is beginning to grow beyond its means, and Thea believes that it is time for her people to rejoin the rest of the world. Her mother died in pursuit of a way to expand Gracehope, and the desire for exploration has certainly been passed along to her daughter. Thea meets with great resistance, however, because Gracehope’s inhabitants remember how savagely they were once hunted in the world above. Gracehope is their refuge.
Peter is the son of a scientist who studies glaciers, and for the first time he will be accompanying his parents on a research trip to Greenland. His mother is strangely nervous about his coming along, and not just the “he’ll miss so much school” type of nervous. She has been known to have episodes where she seems to detach from life, which his father explains away by saying she has a headache. Peter knows something else is wrong. He’s had a headache before, and it didn’t make him act like that. When his mother starts questioning Peter about how his head feels, he decides not to tell her his secret. One of his headaches came with a vision, a glimpse into the future.
Aside from its imagining a community beneath Greenland, First Light is a subtle fantasy story. Certain characters have abilities outside the norm, but this is not an explosively supernatural novel. It’s an excellent story filled with questions that I’m pleased to say are all answered well enough for me by the end. It’s a nice change from the cliff-hanging series titles that are so popular right now. I can’t wait to see what Ms. Stead has in store for us next.
Check the WRL catalog for First Light.
Charlotte shares this review:
You get to Alcatraz by being the worst of the worst. Unless you’re me. I came here because my mother said I had to.
The original setting is the first great thing about this book: it’s 1935, and Moose Flanagan’s family has just moved to Alcatraz. His father works as an electrician and part-time guard on the famous prison island. Between his father’s long work hours and the family’s ongoing troubles trying to raise his special-needs sister Natalie, no one seems to have much time for Moose. So maybe no one will notice this scheme cooked up by the warden’s daughter, a 12-year-old femme fatale named Piper, to market Alcatraz laundry service—the only laundry service run by convicted felons!—to kids at school.
In 1935, no one used the word “autistic” yet, which makes it even harder for Moose to explain why his 16-year-old sister needs babysitting, or throws tantrums, or has such a phenomenal gift for numbers. Mrs. Flanagan has tried everything she can imagine to break through Natalie’s isolation. Her last hopes are fixed on a progressive, experimental boarding school, the Esther P. Marinoff. But if the school won’t let Natalie enroll…
I expected this book to be funny, but I did not expect it to bring tears to my eyes, which may have happened. Sure, the gangster legends and the rules of life on a prison island are interesting. Did you know Al Capone started the first soup kitchen in Chicago?
But this is not a one-gimmick book; it’s a compassionate story about an ordinary, likable family under a lot of stress. There are tensions in every relationship, especially between Moose, a kid shouldering the responsibilities of an adult, and his mother, who can’t enjoy her son’s accomplishments without resenting the things her daughter will never have. The character of Natalie was inspired by the author’s sister, Gina, who had a severe form of autism; maybe that’s why both the strengths and the weaknesses in this family seem so true.
And it’s funny. If you’ve already enjoyed this book, head straight for the sequel, Al Capone Shines My Shoes, in which Piper continues to be a real piece of work, Moose finds it difficult to be best friends with everybody, and J. Edgar Hoover gets his pocket picked during dinner. Now with more gangster action!
Check the WRL catalog for Al Capone Does My Shirts.
Or try the audiobook.
Jennifer D. shares this review:
Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror is a volume of short stories told within the framework of a great uncle sharing scary tales with his young nephew. These are not terribly terrifying tales, but they are just eerie enough to capture a wide audience. They are also good for those of us who like a good scary shiver, but do not want to be kept awake all night with fright.
Among my favorites of Uncle Montague’s tales are “The Un-Door”, about two con-artists performing a séance which goes very wrong, “The Gilt Frame”, in which a girl is offered three wishes and is not very careful with them, and “A Ghost Story”, which tells the story of a girl attending a wedding to which she was invited, but at which she is not really welcome. “The Demon Bench End”, and “Offerings” are fine stories, as well. The impetus for telling these tales comes from items decorating Uncle Montague’s study – artifacts from the lives of those whose stories he now tells. We come to learn that Uncle Montague has a story of his own to tell.
For those looking for more just-spooky-enough stories, this book is followed by Priestley’s Tales of Terror from the Black Ship.
Check the WRL catalog for Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror.
Barry shares this review:
Neil Gaiman is probably best known for his writing for adults, the superb graphic novel Sandman or carefully crafted fiction such Anansi Boys or his collaboration with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens. I think though that Gaiman deserves to be equally well known for his writing for children and young adults. Coraline is a sublimely creepy tale that is a perfect read on a rainy autumn evening.
As in so many tales of the supernatural, our heroine, Coraline, finds herself at loose ends. She and her parents live in an old ramshackle house that has been turned into flats. She has explored the grounds, and had encounters with the other inhabitants of the place (a pair of aging actresses and an old man who says he is training a mouse circus). On a rainy day, while exploring indoors, Coraline discovers an locked door, whose entrance, when opened, has been bricked over. The door holds a strange fascination for her though, and one day she unlocks the door to find that the bricks are gone.
Of course she goes on through, and there finds a strange version of her own world. Coraline meets her “other” parents and her strange neighbors are apparently there too, as well as a disturbing community of talking rats, who seem to have dreams of domination. Coraline quickly discovers that there are other children trapped in this seemingly pleasant, though skewed version of her home, and she takes it on herself to save them and to restore the balance of her world. She faces some horrifying creatures in her quest, and finds help where she least expected. Through his use of language and his power of description Gaiman creates a world that is both believable and chilling.
Check the WRL catalog for Coraline
Charlotte shares this review:
Wisecracking brothers with swords and guns, on the run from the demons that killed their father. This could have been a run-of-the-mill teenage urban fantasy with demon hunting and chase scenes, but first-time author Brennan also gives us an intriguing, sardonic narrator who hooked me into a story I didn’t expect.
Sixteen-year-old Nick Ryves is a man of few words and many weapons. His priorities are simple: to protect his brother, Alan, at any cost, and to protect their mother, but only because Alan has some weird, sappy attachment to her. In general, other people and other people’s emotions are a waste of Nick’s time.
The Ryves brothers have stayed one step ahead of the demons for years, but this time, they’re slowed down by two kids from school: Jamie, who’s unwittingly gotten himself marked for demon possession, and his devoted sister Mae, who’s willing to do anything to get him un-marked. They’re messing up the uneasy balance of Nick’s family triangle. They’re throwing off his priorities. Alan’s taking stupid risks just to help Jamie, or maybe to impress Mae, and for the first time in their lives, he’s hiding secrets from his brother. This cannot end well.
I loved Nick’s point of view. I loved watching him try to interpret the world through his brother’s reactions and facial expressions. (And then he would cross the line from grumpy and laconic to really, truly, take-the-knives-away-from-this-boy scary, and I’d wonder what I’d gotten myself into.) Brennan springs surprises throughout the fast-paced plot. Even while I was congratulating myself on predicting some plot twist, a character would sneak around my mental blind side and do something completely unexpected.
While the focus is on brothers Nick and Alan, there’s a solid ensemble cast in which each of the characters gets a moment and some Buffyesque one-liners. The Demon’s Lexicon wraps up without a cliffhanger, but it’s also the setup for what should be a fun and unconventional series.
Check the WRL catalog for The Demon’s Lexicon.
Andrew shares this review:
So, what would you give for the chance to see a dead loved one again? How about seeing them at the significant times in their lives, times you couldn’t possibly have known about? What about the chance to talk with them in their afterworld? Sixteen-year-old Zoe discovers that the price may be far more than she believed possible.
Zoe’s father died unexpectedly. Not only has she lost her beloved dad, his life insurance company has declared that he never existed (at least in their files). She and her mom are forced to move from their familiar home to a cramped urban apartment while Zoe’s mom searches for work. Zoe has a history of cutting and drug use, so her mom is always on her back.
Her sole consolation is a young man she regularly sees in her dreams. Valentine is like a brother to her, and the tree fort they hang out in is a refuge from the bizarre world beneath their feet. He listens to her, offers good advice, and is genuinely present and concerned for her. But she doesn’t have any idea if he’s real or a manifestation of something else.
While skipping school and mindlessly wandering through San Francisco, she winds up in front of an old record store specializing in punk music on vinyl. But the weird store owner has another room, one only certain people can see. Inside the room are discs that have captured the lives and souls of the dead. Zoe gets a taste of her father’s life, but she’ll have to pay with something more precious and talismanic if she wants more. When she decides she won’t pay and is cut off, she must summon her wits and her courage to find a path to the underworld.
But that underworld is a hellish landscape, a purgatory without hope of either redemption or judgment. Zoe has to negotiate her way through a bizarre parody of a city, evading vengeful spirits whipped up by hatred of the living, and searching for an exit known only to ones who would kill her, or worse.
Kadrey has created a resourceful, determined young woman who is surprised by her own strength, and set her in an eerie world filled with disturbing imagery. It reminded me of the classic Greek stories of Orpheus and Odysseus’ journeys, and indeed the book has many subtle allusions to Greek myth. This is definitely a dark book with some heavy themes, but a good read.
Check the WRL catalogue for Dead Set
Charlotte shares this review:
I do try to be a cool aunt, but Aunt Peg, Ginny Blackstone’s bohemian artist aunt, takes the cake. Who wouldn’t enjoy an expenses paid tour of Europe? The only problem is that Aunt Peg isn’t there to share the adventure any longer. Ginny’s “runaway aunt,” never the most reliable person, took off two years ago without a forwarding address, and the next thing her family heard, she had died overseas. As the next best thing to being there, she’s left her 17-year-old niece money for a solo plane ticket to London and 13 envelopes, each to be opened only in a certain time and place.
London, Edinburgh, Paris, Rome: in each city, Ginny has instructions. Find a particular café, fund a starving artist. When in Rome, ask an Italian boy out for cake! Obviously Aunt Peg’s posthumous mission is not only to retrace her European travels, but to push quiet Ginny out of her comfort zone. Feeling more and more ordinary without the company of her extraordinary aunt, Ginny fumbles her way through the assigned tasks. She meets the Harrod’s manager who packs Sting’s holiday baskets, is temporarily tattooed by a famous artist, and is briefly adopted by the world’s most frighteningly organized tourist family. It’s an emotional scavenger hunt: with each letter, Ginny learns a little more about her aunt’s missing two years, and that she isn’t finished grieving for her aunt… or quite through being angry that she vanished in the first place.
Teens will enjoy Ginny’s not-exactly-a-relationship with her adopted starving artist and the whirlwind tour of Europe with nothing but an oversized backpack and a bank card, but I finished this book thinking about things from the aunt’s perspective. If you wanted to lead someone through the greatest hits of your life—the places where you were the happiest, or learned the most important lessons—where would you send them?
Check the WRL catalog for 13 Little Blue Envelopes.
There’s a sequel, too: The Last Little Blue Envelope.
Chris shares this review:
The light by D.J. MacHale is the first young adult book that I have read where I became so immersed in the storyline that I could not put it down.
The story follows a 16-year-old boy named Marshall who is being haunted. Marshall is sure of only one thing, and that is whatever is happening has something to do with his best friend Cooper who has been missing for over a week.
Marshall, along with the help of Cooper’s sister, search for clues and unravel something bigger than either one of them could have imagined.
Check the WRL catalog for The light
Rachael shares this review:
Seconds is written by the author/artist of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series, and seems to be a foray into the New Adult genre. Seconds seems to speak to the 20-something population, offering the misadventures of Katie Clay, a young chef and restauranteur who finds herself and restaurant haunted by a “house spirit” who helps Katie by giving her a crop of magic mushrooms which allow her to erase bad actions and start the following day anew, with a second chance to make a better decision. As Katie starts to rely too heavily on this magic trick as a failsafe for curing her business & relationship problems, her past, present, and future become increasingly tangled, and by avoiding the consequences of her actions, creates even worse circumstances.
I continue to be a fan of stories that are able to lovingly laugh at and make sense of the mess that can be adulthood in your 20s. (I loved that show “Scrubs”!) It is a time of first-time adult choices, missteps, and self-discovery that anyone from teens on up can appreciate. This is a fun, hipster fable that was visually a lot of fun, especially in the characterization of Katie. The range of emotions and action depicted by O’Malley really stands out in his many iterations of the central character. I recommend this book for older teens and 20-somethings with a sense of humor who appreciate graphic novels.
Check the WRL catalog for Seconds
Mandy shares this review:
Marissa Meyer reinvents the story of Cinderella as dystopian science fiction in Cinder, the first novel in her series The Lunar Chronicles.
Cinder is a teenage mechanic living and working in New Beijing. An orphan, she lives with her legal guardian, Adri, and Adri’s daughters, Pearl and Peony. She doesn’t remember anything about her past or the operation that turned her into a cyborg. Every day, Cinder works in the local market fixing androids and other electronic devices with her trusted android Iko by her side, returning at night to a difficult home life with Adri and Pearl. Her lone ally in the house is the sweet and gentle Peony. One day, the handsome Prince Kai comes to Cinder’s booth asking if she can fix an android he calls Nainsi. An immediate attraction develops between Cinder and Prince Kai, but Cinder refuses to acknowledge her feelings because she’s afraid the prince will reject her once he finds out she’s a cyborg.
Prince Kai is also struggling with a few problems of his own. His father, the Emperor Rikan, has been stricken with a seemingly incurable plague called letumosis, also referred to as the Blue Fever. If Rikan dies, Prince Kai will become the Emperor and even more attractive to the Lunar Queen Levana. Before he fell ill, Emperor Rikan and Queen Levana had been negotiating an alliance. The prince, however, is suspicious of the motives of the queen, a crafty and vain woman who was implicated in the deaths of her sister, Queen Channary, and her niece, Princess Selene, the rightful heir to the queen’s throne. Prince Kai believes Princess Selene may actually be alive, and he’s desperately searching for any information to confirm his suspicions.
When Emperor Rikan dies of letumosis, Queen Levana travels to New Beijing to discuss the alliance with Prince Kai. Levana’s idea of an alliance includes marriage to Prince Kai, and she uses the threat of war to secure an engagement. Meanwhile, Cinder discovers information that could be useful to Prince Kai while working on Nainsi. Will Cinder reach Prince Kai before the coronation ball, where he will announce his engagement to Queen Levana?
Cinder is an inventive twist on the classic tale of Cinderella with great characters and fast-paced action. Cinder is an appealing heroine who uses her intelligence and creativity to solve problems. Prince Kai is a noble hero who tries to stay one step ahead of Queen Levana’s schemes. The attraction between Cinder and Prince Kai is obvious from their initial meeting, but I liked how Meyer kept the subplot fresh by adding a few unpredictable complications. Queen Levana is an intriguing villain who uses the power of illusion to manipulate people. The science fiction elements of the story work really well with the allusions to the fairy tale Cinderella, especially the way Meyer handles Cinder’s preparations for the pivotal coronation ball. Cinder is full of more characters and storylines than I could comfortably fit into the synopsis, but Meyer adeptly uses these elements to establish the basis for the next book in the series.
The Lunar Chronicles continue with Scarlet and Cress.
Melissa shares this review:
If you enjoy television shows like Criminal Minds or CSI or Cold Case, or any of the many TV dramas that involve solving criminal cases in an hour, you should pick up the YA novel The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.
Cassie is a 17-year-old with a gift for reading people. At the beginning of the book she’s working in a diner using her gift of picking up subtle details to figure out what kind of eggs a customer might order, or if they are likely to skip on the check. She catches the attention of an FBI agent named Briggs who has developed an experimental program that uses gifted teens to help solve cold cases.
He asks Cassie to join his group of “naturals” so she can develop her skills. Cassie doesn’t have anything to lose. Her dad is serving overseas in the military and her mother, who taught her much of what she knows about reading people, was murdered years ago. With little to keep her in Denver with her grandmother and the hope that maybe she can learn something about her mother’s unsolved murder, she agrees to join the eclectic group and work for the FBI.
The “naturals” live together in a house in Quantico, Virginia, near FBI headquarters. She meets Michael, the handsome rebel who reads emotions, but doesn’t like to be read himself; Dean, the other profiler, who is the son of a convicted murderer; Lia, who specializes in deception and sarcasm; and Sloane, the computer nerd whose gift is numbers and probability. The characters are easy to distinguish and likeable–if also somewhat stereotypical.
The plot moved along quickly and kept me entertained. Interspersed with the training exercises and the teens getting to know one another (in part through a risky game of “Truth or Dare”) are chilling chapters from a serial killer–a killer who seems to be escalating in the number and brutality of murders… a killer who targets Cassie as the next victim.
The Naturals is listed as the first in a series. Stay on the lookout for the sequel.
Check the WRL catalog for The Naturals