“The Last Book in the Universe” by Rodman Philbrick

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Rodman Philbrick’s dystopian novel, The Last Book in the Universe, is a narrative framed in a dystopian future, in which escaping reality has become the primary form of entertainment. Due to divisive class separations leaving the less fortunate to struggle for survival in the “Urb” while the upper class live prosperously in the city of “Eden”, the less fortunate are desperate for even a short reprieve from their daily difficulties. This escape is achieved in the form of “mind probes”, drugs that are taken by many as they allow their users to experience realistic hallucinations of more peaceful, enjoyable lives.

The story follows the main character, a teenager called “Spaz” due to his epileptic seizures. Throughout his travels, Spaz makes many new friends, the most notable of them being Ryter, an elderly man with an intense passion for pieces of literature. This is a strange and intriguing hobby to Spaz as, in this largely apocalyptic world, reading has essentially been abandoned. The story follows Spaz as he embarks on a high-stakes, danger-filled journey with his newfound friends in his attempt to forever change the dismal world they are stuck in.

Another theme integrated throughout The Last Book in the Universe that I felt made the book captivating was the idea of genetic engineering. The privileged in this strange society are not just separated by money, but are also separated from the people of the “Urb” on a genetic level. The “proovs” who inhabit Eden are genetically altered to be superior both mentally and physically to the average person. I felt as though this was an interesting topic as many recent biological advancements suggest that the bioengineering of human beings could soon be a real possibility. Though largely grounded in fiction, I found the idea of genetically modified people playing a significant role in shaping society intriguing when considering the futuristic ramifications this type of science may one day actually impose on our society.

I would recommend this book to young adults who thoroughly enjoy novels that belong to the sci-fi genre. The Last Book in the Universe is a short read, but filled with plot turns and near-death encounters that make for a gripping story that many young readers are sure to enjoy.

Check this book out or put it on hold

-Lisa F.

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“Tunnels” by Roderick Gordon & Brian Williams

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The novel Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams finds 14 year old Will Burrows not quite fitting into suburban society. With stark white skin, platinum hair, and an intense interest in archaeology, Will certainly deviates from the stereotypical teenage norms. When Will and his best friend Chester are on one of their impromptu archaeology expedition, they discover what appears to be, quite literally, an “underground” civilization. When it turns out that the so called “Colony” is much more sinister than it first seemed, Will finds himself attempting to navigate his way through a secret society driven by unknown motives.

I initially read this novel since I was looking for an entertaining book that was also very long to keep me entertained longer. Despite the length of the novel, the story was quick-paced and entertaining with its unique and intricate premise. The book had much darker undertones than the typical young adult novel; however, the fleshed out, three-dimensional characters whom the story is focused around provided the readers with an emotional investment that helped balance the darker subject matter. The book Tunnels was able to easily keep hold of my attention due to its incredibly original plot. I have never read a book with a similar premise to this one making it very refreshing and thought provoking.

I would recommend this book to a wide variety of potential readers. Though the slighter younger audience may want to avoid this book due to its lengthiness and more sinister plot lines, young adult readers looking for an exciting narrative that is atypical from so many other works of fiction will thoroughly enjoy this particular novel.

Check this book out or put it on hold

-Lisa F.

“Runaway” by Wendy Van Draanen

 

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The book Runaway by Wendy Van Draanen tells the story of a girl who, after spending the past several years in the foster care system, attempts to run away from her foster home and live independently. However, Holly’s journey is far more perilous than she originally expected. After leaving the familiarity of her former foster home, she must learn how to survive in a world of unknowns where money can only be obtained by begging, shelter is rarely found, and the time of her next meal is never certain. By her keeping a journal throughout her many trials and tribulations, Holly discovers much about, not only the ways of the world, but the development of her own personal character.

I chose to read this book initially since I found it fascinating that it attempted to tell a narrative through personal diaries with a first person point of view. I found that the book was made much more captivating when the focus was concentrated on Holly’s emotions and reactions to the different experiences she had rather than providing a broader range of perspectives since it allowed the readers to relate more intimately to the main character.

I would recommend this book to people who want to read a story that is more grounded in realism, yet still with likeable characters and optimistic premises despite the poor situations. Overall, the novel told a bittersweet story that acted as a largely accurate representation of the way that, in life, our hardships often eventually turn into happiness.

Check this book out or put it on hold

-Lisa F.

“Code Orange” by Caroline B. Cooney

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In the book, Code Orange, by Caroline Cooney, a teenaged boy from New York named Mitchell Blake attempts to write a biology report for a school assignment on infectious diseases. He accidentally encounters a book containing sample scabs from an early 1900s smallpox study. Unsure of whether or not he has been affected by the scabs, Mitty encounters moral and logical dilemmas involving those close to him as well as a possible bio terrorist threat after discussing the circumstances of his unique situation online.

I initially chose to read this book when I found it in my school library and thought that the concept was rather interesting and original. The idea that a previously prevented epidemic may resurface and cause new biological concerns is a complex concept not often written about in young adult books.

I would recommend this book to middle and high school aged kids who are interested in the medical field but who are not typically enthralled by nonfiction reading. The plot of the book discussed not only interesting idiosyncrasies of the medical world, but also successfully created a narrative about an adolescent faced with both everyday issues as well as more global, serious conflicts and the attempt to make advantageous choices in the face of adversity, providing substance for both fiction and nonfiction enthusiasts. Code Orange takes interesting ethical and scientific situations and examines them through an easy to relate to, compelling story making it an enriching novel to read.

Check this book out or put it on hold

-Lisa F.

“The Red Kayak” by Priscilla Cummings

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Red Kayak, by Priscilla Cummings, tells the story of three teenage boys dealing with life changes when a nearby property they previously considered their own is sold. This forces the main character and narrator, Brady Parks, and his two friends to be faced with learning to let go of nostalgic attachments and move on. However, when a kayaking accident occurs with a young boy, Ben, (whose family just moved into the teenagers’ old turf) that results in Ben’s death, new questions are raised. The three year old Ben, who nearly drowns when out on his family’s red kayak with his mother and shortly thereafter passes away, raises suspicions of foul play, especially when Brady takes notice of the strange timing of this event.

I initially chose to read this story after learning the premise of the book; that it was a bit of a coming of age story about how relationship change over time, but also with more serious, somber undertones. Once reading this book, I found myself very emerged in the story as Cummings did a magnificent job of creating compelling, three dimensional characters. Even when acting completely immorally, you as a reader find yourself relating to the humanity of the characters, a testament to the writing abilities of the author.

I would recommend this story to young teenagers and older preteens who will be able to understand the complexity of the decisions the characters make and analyze what drives them to follow through with their poor decision. The novel The Red Kayak had many themes and morals that it attempted to convey to the young people reading it, making it a very enriching book.

Check this book out or put it on hold

-Lisa F.

“La Lìnea” by Ann Jaramillo

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 The novel La Lìnea by Ann Jaramillo, tells the story of two young children who attempt to cross borders in order to improve their circumstances and join their parents in the United States. Elena and Miguel are two teenaged children who live with their grandmother in Mexico after their parents moved to the United States in order to better benefit their family’s financial and societal conditions. When Miguel receives word from his parents that he is now able to come and join them in the United States, he is delighted and anxious to come, not knowing that his younger sister Elena is planning on unexpectedly joining him on his journey. Together the two face many perilous obstacles during their travels as they try to give themselves the opportunity to improve upon their lives.

I chose to read this book since it depicts a very commonplace situation of less fortunate people fleeing to foreign countries as a means of improving their current economic and social situations, yet in a more adolescent-appropriate manner. Especially in the present political climate, being able to understand and empathize with the plight of refugees forced to leave their homes in search of solace is of vital importance. The serious and dangerous conditions the two young protagonists of the book are faced with clearly depict the suffering and risk that innocent people must endure with the hope of eventually reaching comfort and normality. I found reading this book to be very rewarding and insightful, and I would recommend it be read by people whom wish to know more intimate details of crossing the Mexico-United States border that is still an age appropriate story.

Check this book out or put it on hold

-Lisa F.

“The Death Cure” by James Dashner

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The final installment of the Maze Runner series, The Death Cure, was comprised of gripping characters, nail-biting suspense, and constant page-turning plot lines. The story continued to detail the fateful encounters and occurrences of the main characters, focusing primarily on their fallout’s and friendships with Thomas. Thomas works relentlessly to uncover the true intentions behind the actions of the company WICKED, and to gain a better understanding of why the maze was built in the first place. The book keeps the readers asking questions about what WICKED is actually trying to accomplish, making all the more of an impact when Thomas finally discovers the truth and WICKED’s master plan is revealed.

The hard-to-put-down final book of the series told the heart-wrenching and heart-warming fates of the characters that the readers had grown so attached to. Between the shocking plot twists, chilling descriptions of the main group’s encounters with the mind-addled cranks, and revelations about the motivations driving the initial experimentation, the book was both very enjoyable and exciting.

I would recommend that people who want a fast-paced, action-packed story read this book. The ending was rather harrowing, but the story leading up to it involved the readers experiencing a wide range of emotions and always being on the edge of their seat not knowing what to expect next. For those who want to invest themselves in an exhilarating story, The Death Cure is a must read.

Check this book out or put it on hold

-Lisa F.