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Original Essays | August 18, 2014

Ian Leslie: IMG Empathic Curiosity

Today, we wonder anxiously if digital media is changing our brains. But if there's any time in history when our mental operations changed... Continue »
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Customer Comments

Beverly B has commented on (195) products.

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
The Great Greene Heist

Beverly B, August 26, 2014

I know I am showing my age by sharing this, but the whole time I was reading The Great Greene Heist, I was thinking about that terrific Robert Redford/Paul Newman movie The Sting. I knew I was being set up for surprise twist at the very end, but no matter how much I tried, I could not figure out all of the angles of the con. I did figure out the key parts, but very few middle grade readers will. They will be delighted and shocked as Jackson Greene's complicated plan to unfix a fixed student body election unfolds. His "Gang Greene" includes tech geeks, cheer leaders, academic all-stars, athletes and office assistants. Not even the members of the gang know all of details of the con, but knowing some Klingon and some Ferengi helps. The Great Greene Heist is clever and entertaining. It will keep middle grade readers engaged and guessing.
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Article 5 (Article 5) by Kristen Simmons
Article 5 (Article 5)

Beverly B, August 8, 2014

Article 5 is entertaining and action packed, has the obligatory romance, and some interesting characters, but is not particularly memorable. A novel has to be outstanding to stand out in a market saturated with YA dystopian novels. Article 5 is not that novel. The government and Constitution are gone and have been replaced with a tyrannical fundamentalist Christian oligarchy. There are hints to a culture war, but no details or back story are provided. (Left out for a prequel?) So, lots of questions go unanswered: What happened to the government and military? How were all of the major cities destroyed? How was a new government set up so quickly? Ember, a normal teen trying to have a normal life, becomes one of the victims of the persecution of the new regime when she, and her mother, are arrested for violating the law that requires all families to be made up of a man, a woman, and children. Ember has no father and her mother no husband. Ember is determined to escape from prison and rescue her mother. Of course, the story ends with our protagonist, who started out very apolitical and unaware, joining the resistance. YA dystopian fans will probably want to read the sequels, if they remember to look for them when they come out.
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Bigger Than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder
Bigger Than a Bread Box

Beverly B, August 8, 2014

Bigger Than A Bread Box is another in the new wave of novels that blur the lines between genres. In this case, it is a combination folk tale and realistic fiction, and it succeeds in both genres. Rebecca is furious that her mother has left her father and dragged her hundreds of miles away from her home and friends. She is determined to be miserable, and make everyone around her miserable, until her mother lets her go home. When she is exploring in her grandmother's attic and finds a box that grants wishes, she thinks it is an opportunity to fix her life and her family. Slowly, she learns that wishes have consequences. She has to find a way to undue the damage her wishes have caused or live with the guilt for the rest of her life. Rebecca is a typical unhappy teen. She is sullen, anti-social and critical. She is unable to see beyond her own pain and judges her mother harshly. But she is also kind and generous and wants to do the right thing even when it is hard. All of the questions Rebecca and the reader have around the magical box go unanswered: Where did it come from? What does her grandmother know about it? Where does magic come from? By the end, Rebecca has no interest in the answers, but the readers will. Will there possibly be a sequel where the box mysteriously shows up somewhere else to complicate someone else's life?
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Plain Kate by Erin Bow
Plain Kate

Beverly B, August 8, 2014

First time author Erin Bow has written a novel that is powerful, entertaining and memorable. Plain Kate has a deceptively simple and straight forward tone and style, but it soon becomes evident that this is a beautiful, complex and haunting ghost story. Kate is being raised by her master wood carver father in a struggling world where pain and death have made people superstitious and suspicious. Kate has inherited her father's talent and learned even his most difficult skills. Having a traditionally male talent and superior gift makes her a target for paranoid gossip. After her father dies, she fears the town has decided she is a witch, and out of desperation, she makes a deal with a real witch to get her safely out of town. She joins a clan of wanderers who are equally superstitious and paranoid, but they are willing to give Kate a chance to prove she worthy of their protection. It does not go well. Kate also suspects that the misery that is falling on the towns, people and land are somehow connected to the deal she made. She is determined to stop the deaths and somehow get out of the deal. Like most authentic folk tales, Plain Kate does not have a happily ever after ending. The ending is sad and dark, but also satisfying and hopeful. Can't wait to read Bow's next book.
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The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman
The Big Crunch

Beverly B, August 8, 2014

Before John Green and Rainbow Rowell, there was Pete Hautman. His first YA novel was published almost 20 years ago, and The Big Crunch is one of his best. It is the story of first love between two unremarkable teens. Neither is looking for a romance, and both are unsure about starting a relationship, but teen feelings are intense and will not respond to reason. Jen and Wes are likable, usually responsible, and have never been in trouble, but love can make people, especially teens, do things they would not normally do. Teen readers will be caught up in Jen's and Wes's struggles and will cheer for a happy ending. Pete Hautman writes realistic endings, which when it comes to first love are rarely happy. Like all of the best writers of YA lit, he writes novels that show a deep understanding and respect for teens, their feelings and their sometimes strange perspective on the world.
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