Young Adult

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Banned Books 2019 – MAY READ – Crazy Lady by Jane Leslie Conly

Published May 29, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Increasingly alienated from his widowed father, Vernon joins his friends in ridiculing the neighborhood outcasts’Maxine, an alcoholic prone to outrageous behavior, and Ronald, her retarded son. But when a social service agency tries to put Ronald into a special home, Vernon fights against the move.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the fifth banned book in our series for 2019! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

JUNE: Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture– Michael A. Bellesiles

JULY: In The Night Kitchen- Maurice Sendak

AUGUST: Whale Talk– Chris Crutcher

SEPTEMBER: The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain

NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

But back to this month….

Crazy Lady by Jane Leslie Conly

First published: 1993

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2005 (source)

Reasons: offensive language.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I don’t know why I put myself through this each month – as soon as I see the reasons for books being challenged/banned, I get cross! Haha. This book was originally published in 1993 which feels occasionally like a million light years ago but strangely enough, at the same time, it feels not long ago at all for me, it’s a year I remember quite well. Attitudes have changed quite dramatically from the nineties, especially regarding children with special needs (thank goodness!) but as for the reason this book was challenged? I just don’t get it. It states offensive language and well, there are many moments in this book where the characters “cuss,” but no mention is ever made of the particular words they use. All that is said is the word “cuss,” which isn’t offensive by itself – not to me, anyway. So I’m left feeling slightly confused as to where the offensive language was?!

CHRISSI: We never agree with the reasons for things being challenged and I really don’t see the problem with any language in this book. As I’ve said before, children and young adults hear and see much worse in their family home. Even in the 90s! I don’t think offensive language is reason enough to challenge a book. I really don’t!

How about now?

BETH: Nowadays I would hope that the mere mention of the word “cuss” or “swear,” wouldn’t send people running for the hills but sadly, that still appears to be the case. Well, when it was challenged in 2005 that is! Fair enough, not everybody appreciates bad language, I personally don’t use it in my reviews because I don’t want to offend anyone but I understand and enjoy the fact that everyone is different. However, I don’t understand why when the “bad words,” aren’t even mentioned that some people still have an issue with this book? Perhaps I’m being incredibly naive.

CHRISSI: I can’t believe that this book was challenged in 2005, especially when TV and the media have much worse language occurring. I mean, seriously?! If the language was more explicit, then I could probably get why it was challenged, but it’s really not that bad at all. I’ve read worse and I’m sure teenagers/young adults have heard worse too. I think we can censor our children/young people too much and it makes them curious to seek out what is being challenged.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Crazy Lady was a quick and easy read for me but nothing I really want to shout from the rooftops about. It was interesting to see the depiction of a special needs child written in the nineties (but set in the eighties) and how far we’ve come as a society since then in our attitudes and treatment. I thought the alcoholic character of Maxine was an interesting addition but I have to admit, she frustrated me slightly especially as it seemed like she wasn’t making any effort to really help herself or her son Ronald.

CHRISSI: It has an interesting story-line and one I’m pleased is represented in children’s literature. It wasn’t a book that I’d rave about. I found the ending to be a bit of a let down. Mainly, like Beth, it made me appreciate how our treatment with people with special needs has progressed. We still have a way to go, but we’re definitely taking steps in the right direction. I liked how it didn’t try and talk down or be condescending.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP IN JUNE ON BANNED BOOKS: Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture by Michael A. Bellesiles

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Banned Books 2019 – APRIL READ – We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier

Published April 29, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

They entered the house at 9:02 P.M. and trashed their way through the Cape Cod cottage. At 9:46 P.M. Karen Jerome made the mistake of arriving home early. Thrown down the basement stairs, Karen slips into a coma. The trashers slip away.
But The Avenger has seen it all.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the fourth banned book in our series for 2019! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

MAY: Crazy Lady– Jane Leslie Conley

JUNE: Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture– Michael A. Bellesiles

JULY: In The Night Kitchen- Maurice Sendak

AUGUST: Whale Talk– Chris Crutcher

SEPTEMBER: The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain

NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

But back to this month….

We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier

First published: 1991

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2003 (source)

Reasons: offensive language, sexual content.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I never usually understand any reason for a book being challenged/banned, no matter what year it was raised in. I can think of occasional books where access should perhaps be restricted in a school library setting for very young children but generally, I think people should be free to read whatever they like, particularly if there’s not a solid reason for the challenging or banning. This book was published in the early nineties and although it’s slightly dated, I feel that it could still be read right now without any difficulty. As always, I get a bit dumbfounded about the issues that were raised. I think this is meant to be a work of young adult fiction, so for the age group it’s aimed at, I do think there shouldn’t be too many problems. I don’t think there’s too many incidences of offensive language – certainly nothing I found offensive anyway but I do appreciate that people are different and may be more sensitive to those aspects.

CHRISSI: I didn’t think the language in this book was overly offensive. When it’s aimed at young adults, we really need to stop thinking that they can’t handle offensive language. I’m pretty sure most young adults use offensive language. It’s everywhere! Film, TV, books, family members and peers… why should we challenge a book due to offensive language? I do think there are some moments in the book that is quite heavy going, so I think if this book was in a school library, it should have an age range on it. It’s really down to individual discretion, I think and guidance from teachers/librarians if it’s in a school.

How about now?

BETH: The fact that this book was still on the list for 2003 blows my mind a little bit. There is a bit of sexual content (although it isn’t graphic) but could still upset readers so they should perhaps be aware of that. I find it very strange though that I always try and guess the reasons for challenging a book and more often than not, I’m usually wrong. I anticipated that people would have problems with the level of violence that is used in this novel and that isn’t mentioned at all. However, I do stand by what I said in my previous answer – it’s meant to be young adult fiction and I think it is probably okay to be read by that particular age group.

CHRISSI: I have definitely read more explicit books in the YA genre than this. Like Beth, I thought the violence would be a bit of an issue, but it’s not mentioned in the reasons for challenging this book. I don’t see why it was challenged in 2003. There’s definitely more to be worried about than a book like this. As I mentioned in my previous answer, it should be restricted access to the YA age range.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This book left me a bit surprised, to be honest. It’s only 200 pages so didn’t take me that long to read and I fairly flew through it as it was quite action-packed. I was intrigued by the story-line, the devastation that a family go through after their property is violated, leaving one of their daughters in hospital. I was also curious about the part of the plot that involved The Avenger and how that ended up being resolved, which was very much “heart in the mouth,” kind of stuff. I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did!

CHRISSI: I flew through this book. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. It does seem a little bit dated having being published in the 90s, but it was still highly enjoyable and so easy to read. There was a great amount of intrigue that kept me turning the pages!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP IN MAY ON BANNED BOOKS: Crazy Lady by Jane Leslie Conley.

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – MARCH READ – The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson And The Olympians #3) – Rick Riordan

Published March 31, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It’s not everyday you find yourself in combat with a half-lion, half-human.

But when you’re the son of a Greek god, it happens. And now my friend Annabeth is missing, a goddess is in chains and only five half-blood heroes can join the quest to defeat the doomsday monster.

Oh, and guess what? The Oracle has predicted that not all of us will survive…

What did I think?:

Prior to beginning this series on our Kid-Lit journey a few years back now, Chrissi and I had never read anything by Rick Riordan. We were very aware of his popularity and the connection with Greek mythology so I had always been keen to pick something up but it wasn’t until we started his Percy Jackson series with The Lightning Thief and The Sea Of Monsters that we finally realised why he’s such a beloved author. For myself, I have an unwavering connection with Greek mythology after studying it at school for a short period of time and have never forgotten the stories I was told that completely captured my imagination from the moment I came across them. So for our Kid-Lit challenge this year, it was a pleasure to return to Percy Jackson And The Olympians with the third book in the series.

Rick Riordan, author of The Titan’s Curse, third in the Percy Jackson And The Olympians series.

Without ruining anything for the previous books, Rick Riordan’s stories follow a teenage boy, Percy Jackson who is a half-blood i.e. one of his parents was an Olympian God. During this series, the gods on Mount Olympus have become embroiled in a battle with some darker forces and there is a mysterious prophecy that may affect Percy and all his friends as they continue to grow up and fight the forces of evil. So what can you expect from The Titan’s Curse? If you’ve read anything by Riordan I’m guessing more of the same really – a fantastic adventure story, brave deeds perpetuated by incredibly plucky youngsters and a host of mythical gods, goddesses and monsters birthed directed from the pages of Greek mythology. The difference with this set of books is that all these occurrences happen in a contemporary world so I’m sure you can imagine the havoc it would wreak – particularly on a busy commute or populated area with “normal,” human residents trying to get through their daily life!

Mount Olympus, home to the Greek Gods.

Apart from the mythological aspects, I’m really starting to feel a strong connection with the characters that the author is creating in this series. I love how he develops the female leads with strong personalities, independence of mind and great feats of strength and intelligence. He doesn’t let them fade into the background or under the shadow of his great teenage hero, Percy Jackson which I really appreciated and in general, they all have an air of mystery to them that makes me want to get to know them a little bit better. Percy himself is of course a marvellous protagonist. At fourteen years old in The Titan’s Curse, he still has a lot to learn about life but in retrospect, this only makes him more realistic as a teenage boy and a slightly reluctant hero. Additionally, one of my favourite parts of the series has to be the author’s humour interjected at perfect moments through the narrative. It certainly brings something extra to the story and at times, provides a welcome relief from the more action-packed, hair-raising sequences and situations that our characters find themselves in.

Finally, Riordan always seems to end each book in this series with a resolution of sorts but at the same time, a jaw dropping cliffhanger in order to make sure the reader is immediately excited to read the next book. We know about this dreaded prophecy, we understand bad things are happening under the surface and that Percy and his friends are in a lot of danger however we are left feeling absolutely clueless about what on earth could happen next. I’m very much looking forward to the next book in the series and joining Percy on yet another gripping quest.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP IN APRIL ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Demon Dentist by David Walliams.

Banned Books 2019 – FEBRUARY READ – Northern Lights/The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) – Philip Pullman

Published February 25, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

“Without this child, we shall all die.”

Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world…

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the second banned book in our series for 2019! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

MARCH: Uncle Bobby’s Wedding– Sarah S. Brannen

APRIL: We All Fall Down- Robert Cormier

MAY: Crazy Lady– Jane Leslie Conley

JUNE: Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture– Michael A. Bellesiles

JULY: In The Night Kitchen- Maurice Sendak

AUGUST: Whale Talk– Chris Crutcher

SEPTEMBER: The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain

NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

But back to this month….

Northern Lights/The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) – Philip Pullman

First published: 1995

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)

Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, violence.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH:  Of course not. I’m one of those people who never experienced reading the His Dark Materials series as a child so I only came to it with an adult mentality. Either way, I think I would have had the same opinion. There is no reason on earth why this book should be challenged or banned, ESPECIALLY for the reasons mentioned. As always, I tried to guess the reasons why this book, the first in the series, might have been difficult for some people to stomach and once again, I was completely wrong. I assumed that the fantasy/magical aspect might have offended a few people (even though children clearly love a good, imaginative narrative that doesn’t necessary have to be believable!).

CHRISSI:  I have to say no. It’s a load of poppycock. I have no idea why this book was challenged. Like Beth, I thought it might be about the fantasy elements, I know some of the parents of children at my school don’t like fantasy because of religious reasons and I wondered whether that could be it. No. Political viewpoint? Religious viewpoint? This confuses me.

How about now?

BETH: Northern Lights was challenged over ten years after it was published and to be honest, I’m struggling to see why if there were challenges from concerned readers, they didn’t appear prior to 2008? If anyone has any ideas, please do enlighten me! Additionally, it really does irritate me when the reasons for challenging a book point towards a political or religious viewpoint. Now, I’m not a particularly political or religious individual BUT I do like to learn about different attitudes/cultures and viewpoints and I very much enjoy it when there’s a difference of opinion to my own in a novel, unless I feel like I’m being preached to. Saying that however, I really didn’t think there was a strong viewpoint either political or religious in Northern Lights and I’m a bit confused as to where this reasoning has come from?

CHRISSI: I am utterly confused by the reasons for challenging this book. I didn’t think it had a particularly strong political or religious viewpoint. Even if it did, why does it matter? Why should it be banned? Shouldn’t we be allowed to make our own minds up? Shouldn’t we open our minds a little to other’s views?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I really love His Dark Materials as a series but particularly this first novel, Northern Lights. Lyra is a wonderfully rich character who never fails to make me laugh, the world-building is imaginative and thought-provoking and I adored the adventure aspect of the entire novel. Plus, I absolutely love the idea of having a daemon companion as a unique part of your personality. I’d love to know what yours would be in the comment below if you’ve read this book? Mine would be a ring-tailed lemur!

CHRISSI: Ooh. This is a toughie. Whilst I appreciate that Philip Pullman is a talented writer and that this story is fabulously creative… there’s something about it that I don’t connect with. I have a disconnect with it and I can’t tell why. I usually like fantasy/magical reads but this one leaves me quite cold. I know I am in the minority with that. I certainly wouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading it! Oh and my daemon would definitely be a lop-eared rabbit.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN MARCH ON BANNED BOOKS: Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen.

 

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 JANUARY READ – Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Published January 31, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things that are pink. She’s just moved from New York City to Farbook, New Jersey, and is anxious to fit in with her new friends—Nancy, Gretchen, and Janie. When they form a secret club to talk about private subjects like boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret is happy to belong.

But none of them can believe Margaret doesn’t have religion, and that she isn’t going to the Y or the Jewish Community Center. What they don’t know is Margaret has her own very special relationship with God. She can talk to God about everything—family, friends, even Moose Freed, her secret crush.

Margaret is funny and real, and her thoughts and feelings are oh-so-relatable—you’ll feel like she’s talking right to you, sharing her secrets with a friend.

What did I think?:

Where on earth do I start with this book? First of all, if you’re new here at bibliobeth hello, welcome and thank you so much for reading! Just to let you know I have two main gods author wise in my reading life. Well, to be fair I do have quite a few but if we’re comparing them to Zeus and Hera of Mount Olympus (the top dogs, for all you non-Greek mythology fans), Stephen King would be my Zeus and Judy Blume would be my Hera.

Chrissi and I read her middle grade book, Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing last year for our Kid-Lit 2018 challenge and I had such a delicious nostalgia trip that when the time came to pick our list for this year, I gently persuaded her we should pick another Blume. She didn’t need too much persuasion as she is my beloved sister after all, but I swear I could hear her roll her eyes via text message!

Now, it’s always a worry when you pick a childhood favourite and read it as an adult that it won’t live up to expectations and with Judy Blume, she has her OWN gigantic shoes to fill so I have to admit, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t love it as much. However, I had nothing to fear, it was such a wonderful trip down memory lane and made me remember everything I originally loved about it as a young adolescent.

Judy Blume, author of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Of course, reading this book as an adult was quite a different reading experience in general. When I first read this as an innocent young girl, I identified so strongly with Margaret. During the tumultuous time of puberty when your hormones are going haywire and you perhaps don’t have access to the best or most accurate sex education, Blume and her character Margaret were absolute godsends to me. I learned brand new information that I hadn’t been taught either at school or at home yet and for the most part, I got the desperately needed answers to feed my curiosity about boys, bras and periods.

One of the things that I admire most about Blume as an author though is the way she taps perfectly into the minds of pre-adolescent/adolescent girls, gives them an important voice and reassures them that all the things they are thinking and experiencing are positively normal and nothing to be afraid of. Her honesty and sensitivity in forming a narrative that has spoken to millions of young people across the globe is refreshing and for this reason, she will always remain such a crucial part of my childhood.

Hera, Queen Of The Gods aka Judy Blume??

Re-entering the world of Margaret as an adult was such a strangely rewarding experience, coming back to it with all the adult knowledge and life experience that I now have. At some points it was lovely, other times odd and frankly, a few times embarrassing to remember my teenage self and how I felt about things whilst growing up and becoming a woman. I remember vividly taking on board a certain “exercise” that Margaret and her friends used to do (complete with the infamous rhyme) in desperation that it would take effect and make me grow up that little bit faster! Cringe. Additionally, I also appreciated how Blume explores other avenues in the narrative, like female friendships, the importance of a strong, supportive family and one of the major elements of the story – a crisis of faith. She isn’t afraid as an author to explore those subjects that others might shy away from to give teenagers the answers they crave or indeed, to let them know that it’s okay to be unsure and indecisive about other things.

The fiction of Judy Blume will always have a special place in my heart and I’m sure will prove relevant to generations further down the line than myself who are struggling with difficult issues and want to know they are not unusual or alone. I’m already considering which Blume I can coax Chrissi to put on our list next year? I don’t want to ever get off this nostalgia train!

For Chrissi’s fantastic review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN FEBRUARY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The BFG by Roald Dahl.

Mini Pin-It Reviews #28 – Four YA Novels

Published January 23, 2019 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four YA novels for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) More Happy Than Not – Adam Silvera

What’s it all about?:

Part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, part Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Adam Silvera’s extraordinary debut confronts race, class, and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.

Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after a family tragedy leaves him reeling. He’s slowly remembering what happiness might feel like this summer with the support of his girlfriend Genevieve, but it’s his new best friend, Thomas, who really gets Aaron to open up about his past and confront his future.

As Thomas and Aaron get closer, Aaron discovers things about himself that threaten to shatter his newfound contentment. A revolutionary memory-alteration procedure, courtesy of the Leteo Institute, might be the way to straighten himself out. But what if it means forgetting who he truly is?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) Made You Up – Francesca Zappia

What’s it all about?:

Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

 

 

 

3.) The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist #1) – Brandon Sanderson

What’s it all about?:

The Rithmatist, Brandon Sanderson’s New York Times bestselling epic teen adventure is now available in paperback.

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2013.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

4.) The Savages (The Savages #1) – Matt Whyman

What’s it all about?:

They’d love to have you for dinner . . .

Sasha Savage is in love with Jack – a handsome, charming … vegetarian. Which wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that Sasha’s family are very much ‘carnivorous’. Behind the family facade all is not as it seems. Sasha’s father rules his clan with an iron fist and her mother’s culinary skills are getting more adventurous by the day. When a too-curious private detective starts to dig for truths, the tight-knit family starts to unravel – as does their sinister taste in human beings . . .

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Graphic Novels.

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman (buddy read with Stuart from Always Trust In Books)

Published January 16, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When the California drought escalates to catastrophic proportions, one teen is forced to make life and death decisions for her family in this harrowing story of survival from New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman.

The drought—or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it—has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t fill up your pool, don’t take long showers.

Until the taps run dry.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life—and the life of her brother—is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive.

And now for something a bit different…

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special review on my blog. A little while ago, I participated in my first ever buddy read with Stuart who blogs over at Always Trust in Books (and is an awesome blogger so you should all go follow him if you don’t already!). So far we’ve read the first two books in the brilliant Arc Of A Scythe series by Neal ShustermanScythe and Thunderhead and we’ve read a little non-fiction too – Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt and our latest read in December was The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.

Stuart and I ummed and aaahed for a little bit about how we wanted to review our books – individually or more of a collaboration and he had the brilliant idea of capturing our Twitter chat and then including it as part of our review. So please find here before our thoughts and feelings about Dry at the moment of reading it. If you’re worried about spoilers, never fear! Stuart and I deliberately kept the juicier parts of the narrative very vague so if you haven’t read this yet, no big secrets are given away.

What did WE think?:

Stuart: All set for tomorrow if you are 😃

Beth: Sure am! How would you like to divide it up? 😁🤗

Stuart: Bit random but if we go 102, 193, 309 and finish that should work out.

Beth: Great! See you soon! 🤗

———————-

Stuart: It’s so intense already 😂 I’m only on page 22!

Beth: Haha I know I’m on the edge of my seat! p50 here. 😆

Stuart: There are going to awkward and cruel situations in this book isn’t there… 😟

Stuart: I’m ready 😁 What a place to stop!

Beth: On a late shift today but should be at the checkpoint later on this evening? That scene in the supermarket?! 😱

Stuart: Just the beginnings ☹

Beth: Wow you’re right that was such an intense place to stop, especially that last line!! Want to talk about it tomorrow as it’s quite late now?

Stuart: We are off to a good start already I think. Some solid characters, Alyssa is smart and confident, Kelton is a bit weird but hopefully he will transform over the story. I really like the little snapshot pieces, classic Shusterman Snr. How are you finding thw story?

Beth: I’m enjoying it so far! Finding it slightly more difficult to get to grips with all the different characters in the snapshots but do really love how this is done – I think it just brings an extra edge to proceedings when we pan out and focus on other people that aren’t our immediate protagonists. I’m enjoying Alyssa more as a character but Kelton is certainly intriguing, especially how him and his family have prepared!! 🤔

Stuart: Yeah I think Kelton could go either way right now. That imagery at that very last

moment was amazing, it was a serious turn of events. Yeah the snapshots definitely build up the tension and paint a more vivid picture of the situation. How are you feeling about the plausibility of the whole situation?

Beth: I think the scariest part of it is that it could potentially happen, especially with the threat of climate change the way it is at the moment! I thought the dedication at the beginning was interesting- “to all those struggling to undo the disastrous effects of climate change.” 😐

Stuart: I keep going over it in my my head wondering if it coukd actually get that bad but it really could. People, myself included, are complacent about such matters, thinking there is an endless supply of water out there. I am interested to see what the ‘impossible decisions’ are that the characters are going to have to make. Please don’t let the dog die 😔

Beth: I know! The Shusterman’s will have a lot to answer to if they let that happen! 😓🐶 I think with what we’ve seen so far it’s only going to get darker and more desperate as people go to extraordinary lengths to get something to drink, right?

Stuart: Have you read Nod by Adrian Barnes yet?

Beth: Not yet but should I? I’ve just read the synopsis on Goodreads and I think I need to read it ASAP!

Stuart: Definitely. If this turns out to be similar to that then we are in for a rough time. I will never forget Nod, I highly recommend it to everyone. I am intrigued by how much each Shusterman contributed to the overall writing. What do you think?

Beth: It’s really hard to tell isn’t it? I’d love to know their writing process. It can’t be that Shusterman Jnr provided the YA aspect as we know Neal can already do that as he’s proved with Scythe and Thunderhead! 🤔

Stuart: Well I’m sure we will be able differentiate between the two in the later acts. I like the gravity of this book. It is meaningful and relevant which makes it all the more worth reading. Any thoughts on the parents?

Beth: I feel like we’ll have a lot more to come from them? Particularly Kelton’s – I think there might be hidden depths there that we may find out. I could be reading far too much into it though! 😆

Stuart: That means they aren’t predictable at least. Classic Shusterman. Shall we continue?

Beth: What a good idea. See you at p193! 😁

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Stuart: The beach and the phones, that caught me off guard. Amazing!

Stuart: Well that got very dark very quickly 😬

Stuart: I’m ready when you are!

Beth: I’m ready! Thanks for the info, that was a great article. I’d love to know more about their writing process. 🤔 I can’t believe how much things have developed since we last spoke. 😱 Everything is completely falling apart isn’t it? What do you think of the addition of Jacqui?

Stuart: Jacqui was an interesting development and she is definitely going to be a spanner in the works. Always putting herself first. What about the situation with the front door! That was just cruel! Turning their defence into complete tragedy.

Beth: I know! That was a twist I certainly didn’t see coming. I do love how they mention “water zombies,” did you? 😆 Do you think it’s a realistic depiction of the way people act when they get desperate?

Stuart: I didn’t initially like the reference but your right it does describe those people very well! I could imagine those not so civilised meetings like the one Alyssa dropped the water off at. The imagery at the beach stopped me in my tracks. The ringing of the phones, that poor boy, any predictions on the parents yet?

Beth: I know that was so sad…and the way the phone was buried 😣 The question of the parents is interesting. For some reason I don’t think we’ve seen the last of them but for where they are now? Difficult to say. I feel that there’s something maybe a bit more malevolent at work here as they’re not the kind of characters to just disappear. How are you finding the character development so far?

Stuart: Kelton is by far the most developed. He has changed non-stop throughout the story so far and I am intrigued where the Shustermans might be going with that. I don’t think Alyssa and Garrett have developed as much as I would expect but with the wildcard of Jacqui in the mix, challenging everyone, anything could happen. I can’t decide if she is as badass as she thinks she is or if it is all show?

Beth: I’m hoping we get to learn a lot more about her as the story continues, from what we’ve heard already she’s had quite an interesting past and I think the badass part is a total front to hide the more vulnerable side of herself and just to survive?

Stuart: She has been surviving long before the tap-out. She has intelligence, lets just hope she has a heart too. The gang are off to a new setting, should we continue on?

Beth: For sure. See you soon 😁

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Stuart: Ready again. Had plenty of time to read today!

Beth: I’m ready too! Well – one thing I should always expect from Shusterman (at least, the older Shusterman) is the unexpected. He always manages to surprise me. Now we have ANOTHER loose cannon in the mix! What do you make of the very intriguing Henry? 🤔

Stuart: I like him. He is even more mysterious than Jacqui. Shusterman is great at keeping fluid narrative whilst attaching completely new characters which is something I loved about Scythe. Henry stirring the pot like that at the end, he is trouble! I was glad to see Herb again in that Snapshot 😅. Can we trust this new group?

Beth: I know!! I knew he was going to do that as soon as he got that information 😳 he is DEFINITELY looking out for himself and using the info he picks up to his advantage but I do think he has hidden depths and a big heart too. But Jacqui is becoming a lot more interesting isn’t she? How about the things that were left at Daphne’s bedside?

Stuart: I know, she has a bit of a Robin Hood ethos I think. That scene at the evac centre. I like how Henry sees it as a threat and Kelton acts like it is completely normal. Chilling in reality. I feel like a fight is brewing within the group, do you?

Beth: For sure, there are a lot of tensions and there’s three characters that are kind of trying to take the reins of leadership for themselves. So many things simmering below the surface, I have a feeling things are going to kick off royally!!

Stuart: Any issues with the book so far?

Beth: Not so far…I’m enjoying it but preferred the Scythe series. That however is my only complaint. How about you?

Stuart: I’m the same 😂 I’m glad you said that. My issue is expectation. I have gotten used to soaring epicness that is the Arc Of The Scythe series that Dry just doesn’t meet that momentum. It is a great read but the moments here don’t have that same punch. In my opinion… 😂

Beth: Tell me about it dude 😅😴 there are moments of brilliance but it hasn’t had the same impact like you said when compared to the Scythe series. Shall we see how it finishes? I’m struggling to see how everything can be wrapped up in 100 pages!! 😆

Stuart: Let’s do it!

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Stuart: I’m ready when you are! That heated up very quickly! Excuse the pun…

Beth: Haha it sure did! 😅 wow that ending was action on top of action wasn’t it?!

Stuart: That was an ingenious moment right at the last second I have to say. Really summed up the novel really well. Poor Jacqui though. Well Dry was a pretty decent read for me, how about you?

Beth: Yes and even though it was kind of wrapped up with a little bow at the end I was quite pleased about the ending – it certainly could have ended a lot differently! Don’t you think the reappearance and explanation of the parents was just a bit too sudden though? If I had to sum it up I’d say Dry was a really engaging, thrilling read with some fantastic characterisation and a thought provoking message about climate change. What would you say?

Stuart: I tried not to dwell on the explanation of the parents too much as it brought up to many questions like why a municipal building like a police station had running water yet didn’t seem to utilise it, that brings up too many ifs and buts. Dry for me was an interesting localised disaster novel with some intriguing characters and eye-opening themes. To think that this could be one of the many issues we face in the near future, it definitely packed a punch.

Stuart: It was easy to believe that other states would just look on in indifference to others needs until it was too late and the damage was done. We have become rather complacent in these sorts of matters, I just hope we are actually more prepared than they were in the novel!

Beth: I know it was quite frightening wasn’t it? I’m a bit pessimistic in that way, look at how the country reacts to a little bit of snow, we’re not prepared at all! 😆 Henry became quite an interesting character in the end didn’t he?

Stuart: That moment was hilarious, typical wannabe hero 😂. You’re probably right about our preparation… Each character went through an evolution of sorts which was good. I thought Garrett’s arc was the most surprising, unsettling and moving too. Who surprised you?

Beth: I think they all went on a kind of journey especially as you say Garrett but I think for me Kelton had the most surprising moments as Jacqui and Henry were always kind of loose cannons. I would have liked to learn more about Jacqui though – her character really intrigued me!

Stuart: I’m glad she had a little mention at the end. What did you think of the writing overall? Well balanced?

Beth: I did! It doesn’t seem like it was written by two different people, it reads smoothly and isn’t disjointed in any way. What did you think?

Stuart: Yeah I agree. Solid writing, I liked how everything connected well. It was satisfying to see the snapshots get intergrated into the narrative such as the water angel. Snr and Jnr make a good team. Stand out moment?

Beth: Yes I really enjoyed the snapshots too. Hmm. Stand out moment for me would be when they reached the bug out. That’s when I really started to believe the hopelessness of the situation – how about you?

Stuart: The beach scene really stuck with me. Also the point after everything after the brothers in the forest was really intense and I was really on edge! Will you be recommending the novel to everyone?

Stuart: My phone is being weird. That was meant to say ‘the point after everything with the brothers in the forest’.

Beth: I will! Maybe we should tweet Trump? 😆 I’d certainly like to see them team up on something else. It was such a smooth, seamless piece of writing.

Stuart: They are currently working together on making Dry into a movie. Maybe thats why The Toll is taking so long… 😒

Beth: Ugh. But we need it NOW. 😬

Here endeth the Twitter chat.

Final thoughts

Buddy reading the first two books in the Arc Of A Scythe series with Stuart gave us a real hunger to read something else as we (not so patiently!) wait for the last book to be released and when we heard that Neal Shusterman was teaming up with his son to write something with a dystopian/apocalyptic edge, we were quite determined to check it out. I think the most frightening thing about this novel is that it isn’t really far-fetched or fantastical in the slightest. Unlike the Scythe series, which would be an extreme kind of future, Dry suggests an event i.e. the rationing/disappearance of water due to severe drought that could actually happen, particularly with all the worries that our world now faces regarding climate change.

Neal and Jarrod Shusterman, father and son duo and authors of Dry.

This is why I love reading so much. Sometimes it’s pure escapism into an environment authors create that is so other-worldly you can lose yourself easily, enjoy the make-believe and forget your own issues for a little while. Then there’s the stories that are developed that are so realistic that you almost feel the cold, hard smack of reality. Dry was one of those latter novels that made me uncomfortable in the fact that I could completely believe everything that happened. It’s also thought-provoking in the way that it makes you consider how you might behave if given the same dire circumstances. We all like to think we’d be noble and kind and help our fellow neighbour but luckily, many of us have not been in that situation where we’ve been so desperate that we would do anything just to survive.

As I’ve already referred to in the transcript of our chat and if I had to compare Dry to the Scythe series, I have to be honest and shout from the rooftops about Scythe. There is just something so innately special and fascinating about that world and its characters that has really got under my skin and excited me in a way that I haven’t felt about a young adult series in quite some time. If I hadn’t read Scythe though, I’d still be recommending this book as a great read. I loved the variety of characters it encompasses, the interludes between chapters where we get to see the state of the rest of the world and how action-packed it becomes, particularly at that nail-biting, tense finale.

Personally, I would have loved to see some of the characters developed a bit further. For example, I thought there were many more hidden depths to both Alyssa and Garrett that could have been explored further, yet perhaps that’s the sacrifice you make when you have a stand-alone novel, an agreed page limit and such a large cast of characters? I did think Kelton, Jacqui and Henry were fantastic additions to the narrative and their tendencies to be “loose cannons,” really kept the plot intriguing and compelling. It’s obvious that both Neal and Jarrod work terrifically as a writing duo and I’d be fascinated to see if they team up again and write something else – I’d certainly be interested to read it.

Thank you to Stuart from Always Trust In Books for another amazing buddy read – check out his review on his blog at some point today!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0