YA Reviews for April 2014

THE HERE AND NOW
By Ann Brashares
Random House Children’s  (Apr 8, 2014)
Genre:  YA    Reviewer:  Donna Keihle

Blurb:  This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve not from a different country but from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness have mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

This is from Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and it is a complex, thrilling mystery of two teenagers compelled to find out thetruth in a world where the adults aredetermined to keep it a secret.

This is an excellent read with deep layers, several surprises and a bitter sweet ending.  I hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of Prenna and Ethan.

 

NO MORE GODDESSES
by Kim Baccellia
ZUMAYA THRESHOLDS,
May 2013  3.5 Stars   Reviewer:  Shannon Kennedy

Blurb:

Jordan Lake discovers an ancient bracelet in her grandmother’s house and uncovers a family mystery that links her favorite actress, Audrey Hepburn, a romantic movie, and an aunt she never knew. Jordan hopes the bracelet will bring her love. Instead, it brings one nightmare after another, unleashing Hathor, the Egyptian love goddess, who decides it is fun to mess with the McKnight High School social scene. Jordan holds the key to vanquish Hathor, but will she figure out what it is in time to save her school, one of her best friends, and get a date to the Valentine’s Day dance?

 Review:

Fifteen-year-old Jordan Lake longs for romance with the guy of her dreams, McKnight High School basketball star, Ethan Taylor. She desperately wants him to invite her to the Valentine Dance. However, she has a problem. How does she catch his attention when he barely knows she’s alive? Her best friend tries pushing Jordan into Ethan’s path, but that doesn’t work either. Will finding a magic bracelet at her grandmother’s do the trick?

Maybe, but Jordan soon learns that magic comes with a price. She may be able to see the future and which guy and girl should get together, but this isn’t her power. It’s borrowed from Egyptian love goddess, Hathor who enjoys playing pranks. These escalate with each passing day and Jordan needs to find a way to defeat her new nemesis.

This is a sweet, cozy fantasy aimed for more of a middle-grade than young adult audience. Fast paced, it needs more description so the reader will feel more of a connection to the ensemble cast. The characters are nice kids, but somewhat one-dimensional. Jordan is cute and has a bratty younger brother who loves animals and cookies. He can be bought with Oreos – better keep a package handy. Ethan, the object of Jordan’s love actually was a nice kid who wasn’t particularly interested in any of the girls who wanted him. It would have been wonderful to learn who he did like, but this was a gap in the story. Best friend, Selena was fairly well drawn and the reader learns a few facts about her Mexican-American culture. Andrew, the guy with the locker next door, was a sweetheart – a bit too sweet for his own good. Even the antagonist, the clichéd mean girl and her hangers-on needed more depth.

The link to actress Audrey Hepburn and Egyptology should fascinate readers. It adds to the setting, but doesn’t overpower it. Yet, the gaps in the family history should have caught Jordan’s attention before. It wasn’t just the mysterious great-aunt, but other unanswered questions came to mind as well. We never learn what happened to Jordan’s grandfather. Who is he and what happened to him? Does her dad have any stories about his father? What does Andrew look like?

Other than these gaps, this was a nice introduction to a heroine who deals with the unexpected and one can hope that Jordan returns in another fantasy adventure.

WATCHER OF THE WORLDS

by Brinda Berry 

Renegade YA ~ December 2013 – 5 Stars   Reviewer:  Shannon Kennedy

Blurb:

Senior year should bring fun, friends, and happiness. Not portals, treachery, and murder.

Seventeen-year-old Mia Taylor, gatekeeper to an inter-dimensional portal, wants nothing more than to heal from her romance gone wrong. Illegally falling for her co-worker Regulus had been a huge mistake. But when Regulus goes rogue to hunt down a murderer, Mia must forget her broken heart and use her unique abilities to save him. Traveling across dimensions, she enters a strange and hostile world where a rebel faction holds the key to their escape. Her gift of synesthesia is in high demand, and a secret organization of the otherworldly kind has her in their sights. But sabotage and murder may be the least of her worries. Her ex-boyfriend wants a relationship. Her dad wants her to act normal. Her friends want her to stop moping. Who knew faking happy would be the easiest part of senior year?

Review:

Christmas should be a happy time of year, but not for seventeen-year-old Mia Taylor, a girl with strong synesthesia. She can sense portals to other dimensions and see the truth that others try to hide. In this third book of the Whispering Woods series, Mia struggles to deal with the hand that life dealt her. She knew that falling in love with Regulus, an Enforcer from another dimension, wasn’t allowed, but couldn’t help it. After a “memory cleanse”, he barely remembers their romance and she has to deal with the heartache of losing her first love. Worst of all, he’s still active in her world and only sees her as a friend. As if that isn’t a big enough issue, she’s being tormented by a stalker. If she won’t give him her undivided attention, he’ll kill what she loves and that includes her family, friends and ex-boyfriend.

Of course, Mia links up with her friends to track down this disgusting piece of humanity – whoops, he isn’t “human” by our lights since he’s a visitor from a different realm. When he crosses dimensions, she connects with friends and her ex to track down the killer. However, simply by entering a new world, she discovers that she has broken more than one law. Now, her new allies will turn out to be lawbreakers and Regulus works for the very government they fight. What can she do? What will she do to survive?

This book probably should be read as the third in a series, not as the introduction to Whispering Woods. However, that being said, it was impossible to stop reading this smoothly paced, well-plotted story. Mia is multi-faceted. Yes, she grieves over her former relationship, but she is determined to stand on her own. When the stalker attacks, she stands up to him and doesn’t wait for Regulus to rescue her. However, it must be said that this antagonist crosses certain boundaries that won’t be acceptable to younger readers. The book is definitely for older teens because it has more of a New Adult slant than a Y/A tone. The same goes for the dialogue which always advances the action – no unnecessary verbiage here. Everything that’s said is important. What’s understated is equally as crucial.

The supporting cast of characters seemed realistic, especially Mia’s older brother. Like her friends, he had his struggles and flaws, but it was possible to relate to him. Mia’s single-parent father was especially sympathetic. He loves both his kids and readers should be able to see the way he tries to “give them roots and give them wings.” The world-building in any fantasy novel needs to support the plot and Ms. Berry makes sure that the earthly and other dimensions mesh, but are totally different. This is an author’s job, but a skilled one like Ms. Berry allows her protagonist to reveal the nuances of each realm. We see what Mia does when she visits this new dimension and face the dangers with her.

Again, this is the third book in the series and while it can stand alone, it would be even better if it was read after the first two, The Waiting Booth and Whisper of Memory. After visiting Whispering Woods in those novels, it will be even more enjoyable to return to Watcher of Worlds. Knowing the backstory will make this book even more appealing.

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