Red Rising

Red Rising

“Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand men and women who live in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars, generations of people who spend their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that, one day, people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has left. Until the day Darrow learns that it is all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down at Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought. Until the day Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.

This is book is “gorydamn” good. The best teen-fiction I have ready in a long time! First there was Ender then there was Katniss – now there is Darrow to stand upon their sholders.

5stars

M

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Divergent

Divergent-UK

“For sixteen-year-old Tris, the world changes in a heartbeat when she is forced to make a terrible choice. Turning her back on her family, Tris ventures out, alone, determined to find out where she truly belongs. Shocked by the brutality of her new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her. The hardest choices may yet lie ahead…A debut novel by Veronica Roth that will leave you breathless.”

If you loved The Hunger Games then Divergent is for you! This book explores friendship under pressure, teenage love and the challenge of living in a world of dystopic government control.

4stars

PG

Junk

Junk – Melvin Burgess

“Junk = heroin = bliss = despair = a love story you’ll never forget.
Gemma wants to fly. But no one can fly forever. One day, somehow, finally, you have to come down.”

I agonized over whether I should include this in the blog because it is SUCH a controversial book. I also feel that it is an important book in teen fiction, however, so I’ve decided to review it here. Junk is the horrifying account of a homeless boy and a run-away girl who both become addicted to heroin. It is about the drug scene, addiction, abuse, teenage sex and the too-often terrible outcomes. Burgess is not in any way patronising and he utilizes multiple-narrators to portray this world with the conviction of a non-fiction documentary. It is graphic. It is frightening. It is raw and jarring and ‘in-your-face.’ It is also a very distinct reality for a number of people (young and old) worldwide. As far as exploring and facing head-on the shocking issues of our time, I think Burgess does a superb job.

3stars

MA

The Power of Six

The Power of Six - Pittacus Lore

The Power of Six is the second book in the young adult science fiction series The Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore. It is the sequel to I am Number Four. 

Pittacus Lore doesn’t miss a beat – his protagonists hit the ground running in the sequel to I am Number Four. I really enjoyed the character development in this book, a second narrator has been introduced and  The Power of Six benefits from parallel story lines that weave together into an action packed thrill ride. This is a self contained novel that allows scope for the series to continue. I’m just hoping that like J.K Rowling, Pittacus Lore is able to mature his books to keep pace with his readership.

 

Recommended for any high school reader. 4 stars

Dragonkeeper

Dragonkeeper - Carole Wilkinson

“Ancient China, Han Dynasty. A slave girl saves the life of an aging dragon and escapes her brutal master. Pursued by a ruthless dragon hunter, the girl and the dragon make an epic journey across China carrying a mysterious stone that must be protected. This is the story of a young slave girl who believes she is not worthy of a name, but finds within herself the strength and courage to make this perilous journey – and do what must be done.”

I really enjoyed reading this book. It is for younger readers, but the story was enchanting, the characters engaging. It is a beautiful fantasy story set in the epic and exotic backdrop of ancient China. It is about more than just dragons though, it is about courage, value, self-worth, heroism, resilience and the power of good.

Being fantasy, there is some magic in the story, particularly some dark magic used by the villain.

Recommended for Year 7 readers. 4 stars.

Tomorrow When the War Began

Spoiler Alert: This text is studied in Year 9 English (CCAS & MC)

Tomorrow When the War Began - John Marsden

“Ellie and her friends leave home one quiet morning, wave goodbye to their parents, and head up into the hills to camp out for a while; seven teenagers filling in time during school holidays.
The world is about the change forever.
Their lives will never be the same again.
Would you fight? Would you give up everything? Would you sacrifice even life itself?”

A lot of Australians I know say that this is the first book they ever read and enjoyed, or that this series is what got them onto reading, or that to this day this series marks the only books they’ve ever read all the way through! I think that says a lot. When Marsden wrote these books, he also began to create a heritage of great Australian teen fiction. The setting and characters are so relatable and true to Aussie form, not only that but the questions and issues that he confronts head on were and are real questions and issues for real Australians now. It’s got action, suspense and of course a bit of romance, as the reality of teenage life cannot be extinguished, not even by a war. An exceptional story about courage, loyalty, heroism, friendship, love, war and all that makes us human.

Any high school reader. 4 stars.

The Underdog

The Underdog - Markus Zusak

“Boys are like dogs – ready to bite, bark and beg to be given a chance to show their value… ‘I vowed that if I ever got a girl I would treat her right and never be bad or dirty to her or hurt her, ever.’ Cameron Wolfe is a dirty boy. He knows it. His brother Rube knows it, because he’s one too. THey could change – but what would it take?”

I like some of Zusak’s other books so I thought I’d give this one, aimed for a younger reading age, a try. It is very short, a mere 139 pages and very easy to read. Much like the blurb reveals, it is the musings of a teenage boy faced with the inevitable challenge of growing up. To be truthful, not much happens, but it is an interesting insight into the mind of a 14-year old boy. Cameron’s inner thoughts explore issues of lust, love and dating and contemplate the complexities of families, change and pain. What I really liked about the novel, what that the episodes of real life are intercut with descriptions of dreams that he has. It gives the book a unique voice and a layer of symbol and imagery that provides depth.

Not bad, very much an Australian coming of age book for a teen (13 – 16) audience. 3 stars.

Uglies

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

“Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license – for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.
But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world – and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.”

This is the first book in Scott Westerfeld’s 2005 series (4 books in total: Uglies, Pretties, Species, Extras). Don’t let the 425 pages scare you, it is a quick read – both gripping and easy to understand. It’s probably too cliche or young for upper high school, especially if you’ve read a bit of dystopian fiction in the past, but it is a thrilling introduction to the genre. If you didn’t like The Giver, give this series a try. It’s got danger, action, intrigue and of course, love. Westerfeld’s dystopian society, where everyone is ‘pretty’ provides for discussion on some important and poignant issues; self-image, true beauty, loyalty, friendship, integrity, corruption and oppression, and what it really means to ‘grow up.’

Great fast paced book for younger readers. Recommended for ages 11 – 14.    4 stars.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

 North America has been been through some kind of apocolypse and is now split into 12 districts, all of which depend on and pledge their allegience to The Capitol. Every year, this oppresive regime holds The Hunger Games and requires each district to select a boy and a girl through a lottery to participate and fight to the death. Oh yah, and the whole thing is televised for everyone to see. The trilogy is written from the perspective of Katniss Everdeen, a teenager navigating the violent political landscape of her world, not to mention all the normal teenage angst over boys and finding her true sense of identity.

This was the first teen fiction that I had read in a long time, and I’ll be honest, my expectations were not that high. The synopsis on the back of the book didn’t help much either, something about kids having to fight eachother to the death. Dark.
Or so I thought. I ended up reading the entire trilogy in less than 2 weeks. There were characters that I loved, and those that drove me nuts – a good sign. As a result, the love-triangle, teenage romance was engaging. The lovey-dovey stuff is well balanced, however, with enough action, suspense and violence to keep any guy reading.  It also has a bit of depth, making some pointed social comment through a post-apocalytpic world. 

Recommended for ages 13 and up, both guys and girls.  I loved this series, an absolute page turner, but I’m not holding my breath on the movie. 
As far as teen fiction goes:                                                     4 stars (maybe even 4 1/2).