Three stories told, three countries represented, and three lives profiled.  Despite the years that separate them, the trinity of humanity featured in Alan Gratz’s novel Refugee experience remarkable and horrifying similarities with intersecting conclusions. Imagine feeling unwanted, dirty, and illegal.   Imagine hearing sirens, soldiers, shouting, gunfire, breaking glass, and screams daily.  Imagine thinking that if you want to live, you have to leave your homeland and all that is familiar.  These are the realities of three refugees and their families: Josef Landau, a barely thirteen Jewish boy living in Germany in 1939 under the reign of Adolph Hitler; Isabel Fernandez, a pre-teen Cuban citizen enduringRead More →

Boston, Massachusetts, teen turned Montana transplant, Tella Holloway has taken on the challenge of the Brimstone Bleed to save her brother Cody’s life.  Tella used to be “the girl who catalogued sandwich shops by which had the best oatmeal cookies.  Now [she’s] the girl who catalogs death and the girl who vows revenge” (187).  She’s not the lone Contender in this competition that covers four ecosystems: desert, jungle, ocean, and mountain; each with its own misery, dangers, and threats.  Because it is a sequel, Salt and Stone by Victoria Scott features the last two ecosystems and picks up the plot where Fire and Flood leftRead More →

In Katherine Kirkpatrick‘s Between Two Worlds, travelers on a race to the top of the world interrupted life during the 1900’s in Greenland.  The Greenland Inuits were amazed at the expansive wooden ships that rammed upon their shores bringing white men, women in impractical dresses, and canned food. Billy Bah was not exempt from the amazement. She followed the captain of the ship – Captain Peary – and spent time with his wife, especially after the birth of their daughter in the barren tundra of Greenland.  When the Peary’s sail home to America they ask to take Billy Bah with them – the first “Eskimo” toRead More →

I guess it’s a universal truth: human beings are fascinated by imagining our own destruction.  Who hasn’t seen movie after movie, tv show upon tv show of the end of the world as we know it: life during and after the apocalypse, the alien invasion, the viral plague, or the crushed citizenry living under a ruthless, post-Armageddon regime?  Not to mention the avalanche of distopian fiction, populated by heroic characters whose grit and determination helps them rise up against the horrors that have pulverized the rest of humanity into pitiful shadows of their former selves.  And I’m not saying that the best of all ofRead More →

18 years after a seemingly harmless virus was introduced at a theme park, all that remains of the United States east of the Mississippi River is a desolate, abandoned wasteland know as The Feral Zone.  No one knows what happened to anyone who was unlucky enough to have either been infected by the Ferae virus or left behind in the mass exodus West since a great wall separates The West from the Feral Zone, although rumors do circulate about exiled criminals, hideous man-beasts, and other nightmarish creatures. 17 year old Lane, who has lived her entire life in the West, is mildly curious about what’sRead More →

As its central conflict in The Darkest Path by Jeff Hirsch, the United States is again divided against itself, with some states controlled by the Federal Army and others controlled by the Army of the Glorious Path.  Leader of the Path is President Hill, who has co-opted progressive ideas about economic justice and mixed them with religious fundamentalism.  The Path believe that “there is a light inside all of us that comes from God.  The Choice is simply committing yourself to following the path that it illuminates” (254).  Propaganda occurs through mottoes and prayer, with followers believing “I am the Way and the Path” (240). Read More →

Four teens who inexplicably survive the “end of the world”, brought together seemly by random chance who each have an undiscovered power and a deeply hidden pain, who together can set the teetering, ravaged city of Los Angeles (and perhaps the whole world) back on its axis . . . Icons by Margaret Stohl?  Not even close, actually.  Instead, this tale of destruction, survival, and the power of love comes from Francesca Lia Block and is as different in tone, imagery, and execution as day from night.   In Love in the Time of Global Warming (August 2013), Block again crafts a story wherein herRead More →

I’m not sure what to say about Matt de la Pena’s The Living.  I’ve been wrestling with how to review this book for a couple of weeks now and I still haven’t really found a place to start.  The blurb on the back of the ARC says “genre-bending” and I think that’s the best I can come up with too; that’s not because I wasn’t engaged by the story, didn’t care about the characters, and wasn’t thinking about Shy and his unbelievable 8 days long after I closed the back cover, it’s just that The Living is . . . different. Shy’s taken a jobRead More →

The natural age progression occurs in everyone, in other words, we all get old. Usually, it just happens, it is a part of life, but imagine being forced to grow up, take care of multiple children, and fight a war you never prepared for, all the while you are worried about just surviving until morning. This is exactly what Dean and Alex Grieder experience in Emmy Laybourne’s Monument 14: Sky on Fire. The teenage brothers live in Monument, Colorado, one of many states that have recently been attacked by an air born virus that affects anyone with a blood type. The brothers and 12 othersRead More →