Tag Archives: YA fiction

Rot and Ruin – Jonathan Maberry

Published 2010 

Zombies, zombies, zombies. The literary world may be overrun, but personally this is the first young-adult book I’ve read featuring the bitey undead. I must say, I liked this take on the trope. Benny Imura was barely a toddler when the world ended. His first memory is of his now-zombie father going after his mother, while his half-brother just runs, carrying Benny away forever. He hates them both: the zombie monsters, and the coward brother. When Benny turns 15, his rations will be cut in half if he doesn’t find a job. Finally, exhausting all other options, Benny has no choice but to apprentice in the family business: zombie hunting. He loves the idea of killing zombies, but isn’t keen on doing it with his brother – both attitudes which are soon put to the test when he has to face the realities of life outside the protective walls of the town.

Maberry’s zombie-mythology is absolutely brilliant, and though the zombies never lose their inherent danger or scariness he allows the reader to pity the creatures for the humans they had once been. This is a crucial part of Benny’s growth as a character as well, and though the novel is action packed, it really is about his emotional journey and the choices he makes about the kind of person he wants to be.  To get back to the action though, there were some really dynamic scenes, with my favourite being the horse charge – from my experience you don’t often get them in zombie stories and it was just one of those small things which add to the uniqueness of the novel.

Were there some aspects of the novel I thought could have been executed better? Definitely. For instance, a clear idea of Tom’s age earlier in novel would have eased confusion over why Benny was so convinced he was a coward for not saving their mother. What flaws the novel does have are easily overlooked though, and I enjoyed the read very much. I’d certainly recommend it for anyone looking for a mixed-genre adventure.

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A Young Adult Recommendation List

This post is a lot sooner than I usually update, but I wanted to get it out before I started back at uni and got bogged down in work. Lucky you!

I’ve been volunteering recently at a library where a friend of mine is the acquisitions librarian, and knowing I had a strong interest in YA fiction she asked me casually if I had any recommendations to build up their collection. At the time, I didn’t give a proper answer, but never let it be said that I welch on book recommendations.

Some of my favourite YA books/series are missing from this list, but that is due to the fact that the library already has them. I’ve also come to the conclusion that my knowledge of non sci-fi/fantasy novels is woefully lacking, but is not a situation I would feel the need to specifically address unless it became necessary due to job requirements (ie. collection management).

Here is the list:

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Katya’s World – Jonathan L. Howard

I loved this book. Really. And if you give me a few minutes I’ll tell you why.

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The Assassin’s Curse – Cassandra Rose Clarke

Before anything else, I have to say: ‘where is the next book already!’

I picked up an ARC of this book a while ago, and was only recently able to read it being swamped with uni work. In fact, this is yet another review which had to be delayed for a few weeks (months) after finishing the book as I had two assignments due in.

Annana is a pirate, born and raised, and all she wants is a ship of her own to captain  into the wild blue seas. Unfortunately, women aren’t allowed to captain ships, so the only options left open to a young pirate girl are to stay on her family’s ship, or to marry into another pirate family. The story opens here, as Annana is introduced to her would-be husband,  the heir of a wealthy but not well respected pirate family. Already distrustful of her too-handsome betrothed, it doesn’t take much to prompt Annana to do a runner. Unfortunately, her would-be husband had not been joking when he said his family would send assassins after her. On the run, battling homesickness, and landlocked Annana somehow manages to activate a binding curse during a confrontation with the assassin Naji. Tied together, the two embark on an epic journey to attempt to find a cure. That sounds trite, but I’ll end up explaining the whole book if I’m not careful. Just trust me: stuff happens and it is cool.

In Assassin’s Curse Clarke neatly walks the line between conventional pirate norms such as the existence of an organised federation and more outlandish notions of floating islands and inter-dimensional assassins. Though I was never a hundred percent sure whether Naji was part of this other world, or just trained there – didn’t really matter.

I think my favourite part of this book, the part that kept me reading for much longer than I should have given my commitments, was Annana’s voice. It is refreshing, strong, and consistent. Not only did I believe in this brash, smart-mouthed, utterly practical and yet somehow tenderhearted pirate, but I could almost hear her island accented voice in my ears. I really liked how the romance was handled as well, but I’m not sure I can say much without major spoilers. All I can say is I like how understated it was. The audience knew what was going on, but it wasn’t overtly mentioned (obsessed about, in many books) – which is a feat in first-person perspective.

One criticism was that I felt the ending of the story was a bit abrupt, however I cannot be sure if this is because my e-reader died close to the end and I had to wait until I could recharge to finish reading. I think I remember this story being slated for completion in a second book so it’s just speculation on my part, but I might guess that it was originally one manuscript with two acts. Don’t get me wrong, the book doesn’t end badly, and I don’t think continuing straight on from the ending would have necessarily flowed very well, I just had a bit of an ‘oh, that’s the end?’ feeling. Maybe this just means I was really into the story 🙂

Aaand, just about everything else I want to say I enjoyed carries spoiler warnings attached. I will say that I would definitely recommend this book to read; it’s a fun adventure-romp with aspects of an epic quest which will appeal to many readers (and possibly gamers, now I’ve read that back).

On a personal note, I apologise for how scattered and inconsistent my reviews are. Generally I just speak from the heart but I’m thinking a structure might be something to investigate in the future.

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Poltergeeks – Sean Cummings

October 2012 release.

Poltergeeks is part of the impressive opening gambit of new YA publisher, Strange Chemistry (an imprint of Angry Robot). They were gracious enough to give me an ARC to review, which I was super excited about having seen the cover and blurb beforehand.

The main character, Julie Richardson, is a regular teen girl. She goes to school, fights with her single mother… and rescues old ladies from Poltergeists. The aforementioned  rescue is merely the first in a string of increasingly sinister paranormal activities which Julie feels compelled to investigate against her mother’s wishes – wanting to prove her independence. Unfortunately Julie’s investigations soon land her in trouble and her mother is seriously injured in the process. In the aftermath, Julie finds herself racing the clock in a desperate attempt to find the perpetrator – find a cure for her mother – all while navigating strange paranormal alliances, family secrets, and hardest of all: a budding romance.

Poltergeeks is a lively novel, and the action is fairly constant throughout, helping to set a quick and easy reading pace. There are a few stand out action sequences and I was impressed with the variety of settings used for the fight scenes: a living-room, school bathrooms, a graveyard, a baseball arena. The magic used was also fairly easy to follow,  a lot of it based on willpower. Though the twists were not that surprising, I didn’t find that it mattered, especially when taking into account the age of the intended audience.

The teen characters in the novel are written from a very real place, and their motivations and actions are honest to their age – particularly in regards to relationships. Not to give too much away, but some of the family scenes, and certain reactions to romance are immediately bought to mind. And though the budding romance could be a bit clumsy at times, I did find it a refreshing change from the instant, soul-deep love that is being portrayed in a lot of YA (in fact, in a lot of paranormal fiction in general) at the moment.

Unfortunately, despite the ease with which I read Poltergeeks, the narrative voice didn’t really resonate with me. This is one of the huge gambles with fiction – especially first-person perspective – and there’s nothing technical I can pull out of the writing to give a reason for it. Maybe it was a bunch of small things which added up, or maybe I just didn’t connect – sometimes it happens.

However, while I won’t be running out to buy a hard copy of this book for my own shelves, I would definitely consider purchasing it for a YA library collection as I genuinely think some readers will adore it. This book just wasn’t written for me.

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Trying War – The Hero Trilogy, #2 – S.D. Gentill

Warning: Contains minor spoilers.

I found the first book of the Hero Trilogy entirely by accident when wandering in the city library, and was incredibly glad I had. When I realised the second book, Trying War, had been released I went to the length of sending a request to the library about purchasing it to add to their collection. What can I say; I’m a student, and am trying to save my money.

The library bought the book and put it on hold for me, and I read it in a day and a half even though it was the last week of uni and I had others things I had to do. Now, a month later, let’s see what I can remember… Continue reading

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