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NEW BOOKS

Grade 7 Up In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart, Peeta, the son of the town baker who seems to have all the fighting skills of a lump of bread dough, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives. Collin’s characters are completely realistic and sympathetic as they form alliances and friendships in the face of overwhelming odds; the plot is tense, dramatic, and engrossing. This book will definitely resonate with the generation raised on reality shows like Survivor and American Gladiator. Book one of a planned trilogy.Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK


Starred Review. Grade 7–10—In this first novel for young people set outside of Discworld, Pratchett again shows his humor and humanity. Worlds are destroyed and cultures collide when a tsunami hits islands in a vast ocean much like the Pacific. Mau, a boy on his way back home from his initiation period and ready for the ritual that will make him a man, is the only one of his people, the Nation, to survive. Ermintrude, a girl from somewhere like Britain in a time like the 19th century, is on her way to meet her father, the governor of the Mothering Sunday islands. She is the sole survivor of her ship (or so she thinks), which is wrecked on Mau’s island. She reinvents herself as Daphne, and uses her wits and practical sense to help the straggling refugees from nearby islands who start arriving. When raiders land on the island, they are led by a mutineer from the wrecked ship, and Mau must use all of his ingenuity to outsmart him. Then, just as readers are settling in to thinking that all will be well in the new world that Daphne and Mau are helping to build, Pratchett turns the story on its head. The main characters are engaging and interesting, and are the perfect medium for the author’s sly humor. Daphne is a close literary cousin of Tiffany Aching in her common sense and keen intelligence wedded to courage. A rich and thought-provoking read.—Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City

Grade 6–10—Set in New York City at the beginning of the American Revolution, Chains addresses the price of freedom both for a nation and for individuals. Isabel tells the story of her life as a slave. She was sold with her five-year-old sister to a cruel Loyalist family even though the girls were to be free upon the death of their former owner. She has hopes of finding a way to freedom and becomes a spy for the rebels, but soon realizes that it is difficult to trust anyone. She chooses to find someone to help her no matter which side he or she is on. With short chapters, each beginning with a historical quote, this fast-paced novel reveals the heartache and struggles of a country and slave fighting for freedom. The characters are well developed, and the situations are realistic. An author’s note gives insight into issues surrounding the Revolutionary War and the fight for the nation’s freedom even though 20 percent of its people were in chains. Well researched and affecting in its presentation, the story offers readers a fresh look at the conflict and struggle of a developing nation.—Denise Moore, O’Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD

Starred Review. Grade 9 Up—In 1947, 15-year-old Evie, her mother, Bev, and her stepfather, Joe, leave Brooklyn for a vacation in Palm Beach, FL, during the off season. There they meet Arlene and Tom Grayson, who lavish attention on the family and convince Joe to go into the hotel business with them. When Peter, an army acquaintance of Joe’s, appears, Evie is smitten by his charm and attention. Her budding interest in romance, while protectively discouraged by her parents, is actually encouraged by Arlene, who helps Evie develop a sense of style. Evie enjoys her outings with Peter and interprets her mother’s insinuating presence as protective, when in reality Bev is having an affair with the younger man. Joe’s jealous distrust of his wife, established while he was at war in Europe, does not obviate the intimacy between Bev and Peter. Evie’s closeness to her mother will not permit her to acknowledge the affair even when it becomes impossible to deny. Meanwhile pervading anti-Semitism sours the hotel deal, and the Graysons are forced out of Palm Beach. When Joe insists on one last boat trip, Peter dies during a storm and Joe is accused of murder. It is during the ensuing hearing that Evie learns that adults, even those closest to her, are not always what they seem. Blundell navigates this multidimensional plotline with unique, well-developed characters and insightful dialogue. Yet it is Evie and her rapidly maturing perception of herself and those around her that carry the story. In many ways she becomes the adult in the group, motivated by truth and justice rather than greed or superficial appearances.—Sue Lloyd, Franklin High School Library, Livonia, MI

Starred Review. Grade 9 Up–That white boy can ball….He don’t play like no regular white boy. Sticky, 17, has spent his life being abused by pimps living with his prostitute mother, bouncing from one foster home to another, and living on the street between failed placements. But he’s developed incredible hoop skills that have given him considerable social standing among his mostly black peers. And he gets a girlfriend named Anh-thu, who loves him and wants to help him reach his dreams. Sticky sees basketball as his way out of his dead-end life and is determined to make the right moves in the game to attain his goal. But he doesn’t quite know how to make the right moves in his life, until a bad decision leads him to confront dark secrets. Jumping back and forth in time, this first novel has a unique narrative voice that mixes street lingo, basketball jargon, and trash talk to tell Sticky’s sorry saga from a variety of viewpoints. Although readers who are not familiar with basketball may have trouble following some of the detailed game action, even they will be involved in the teen’s at once depressing and inspiring story. Sticky is a true original, and de la Peña has skillfully brought him to life.–Jack Forman, Mesa College Library, San Diego

November 24, 2009 Posted by | NEW BOOKS | Leave a comment