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Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

Extraordinary Means

What if your future was just put on hold? You age, but cannot graduate, go to college, or even take your crush out on a date?

Lane Rosen, a high school senior, finds himself at Latham House, a tuberculosis sanitorium for teens, after contracting total drug-resistant TB. After painstakingly achieving second place in his graduating class, Lane finds the static pulse of Latham suffocating. He tries to continue his AP classwork, but the stress is too much for his diseased lungs. His family forgets about him, and he breaks up with his girlfriend after she writes a college admission essay about his suspected death. Reluctantly accepting that his body’s capabilities and his old life aren’t fitting into his reality, he finds a way to rebel by making a new friend group among the ill residents of Latham: Nick, an Indian boy who loves technology; Charlie, a gifted muscian;  Marina, a fashion designer; and Sadie, a girl he crushed on a summer camp when they were younger and finds completely irresistible. His new relationships awaken a coming-of-age and Lane finds an extraordinary life, and love, in the last place he expected.

Note: Total drug-resistant TB supposedly does not exist currently, only multiple drug-resistant TB and extensively drug-resistant TB. Explores themes of sexuality and death and contains strong language, drugs, and alcohol present.

I am so surprised by how much I loved, loved, loved this book. Anyone who adores The Fault in Our Stars will find this a spectacular read-a-like, unique in perspective yet similar in themes and heartfelt love. I have a fascination with abandoned sanatoriums and found this new re-imagining of modern life, combined with the extreme seclusion and imminent possibility of either proceeding with life as normal or unexpectedly dying from tuberculosis (one of the most rampant fatal diseases of the 19th and 20th centuries) was both intriguing and heart-wrenching. In this exploration, no drug currently exists to combat the TDR tuberculosis and affected teens must be kept completely isolated from the public to allow them space to recuperate without spreading the disease.

For a fun change, I’ve added the book trailer below, and take care to listen to the perfect narration, as it quantifies the novel in a way I cannot replicate!

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Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

51R8i55EtAL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgBone Gap

In this stand-alone coming-of-age mystery, the town of Bone Gap, Illinois has mostly small town charm, but a few residents think it is a little unusual. Perhaps it isn’t just the town but the people too? Finn O’Sullivan has never been “quite right,” as the rumor goes. After his father died and his mother left town for a new life and husband, the only family he had left was his older brother, Sean, whose college plans changed to a career as an EMT. Neither Sean nor Finn is prepared when they find a girl, dirty and much abused, hiding in their barn. They offer her a home, however temporary, and it’s like she belongs to them, and they to her, or perhaps they’ve found each other at just the right time.

Roza and Finn are close friends, while Roza and Sean slip slowly into love and Sean is preparing to ask her to marry him. Suddenly, Roza disappears and leaves everyone stunned and mourning, even the townsfolk of Bone Gap. No one believes poor Finn when he swears she was kidnapped by a dangerous man, not even his brother; in fact, the townsfolk might even believe Finn O’Sullivan did something to Roza. While Finn tries to process her disappearance and his brother’s reluctance to go after her, he discovers another surprise in the barn, a mare that seems magical. Through his and the mare’s wanderings, Finn becomes closer to Priscilla, “Petey” Willis, the beekeeper’s unusual spitfire daughter. Petey brings out the best in Finn and as their relationship blooms, Finn finds new courage but learns of secrets that change his self-perception. This new awareness enables him to find out what happened to Roza in a wild attempt to save what is left of his family.

*Winner of the 2016 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature and a National Book Award finalist.

My summary fails to capture the ethereal magic and captivating use of language that characterizes this novel. I loved how the reader really can’t trust the characters and also cannot predict the plot. Author Ruby presents various viewpoints in the novel to juxtapose with the main narrator, Finn, thereby revealing that our perception of Finn is vastly different from the opinion others have of him. This use of characterization is most excellently well done, as each character credibly feels like a real person with a unique voice, strong feelings, and perspective. Then, add in the mysterious setting, the disappeared but strongly present Roza, and underlying themes of love, truth, and acceptance, and this novel won’t stop surprising you. While this book may appeal to more literary or older teens, the overall quality and dearth of details speak to the hard-won praise and mark a story that will stay with any age of reader, teen or adult.

Notes: Themes of violence and sexual abuse are noted only in subtext of story.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in YA Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult/Teen

 

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six-of-Crows.jpgSix of Crows – Revisiting the world of the Grisha without being related to the previous trilogy, Leigh Bardugo crafts an adventurously irresistible tale of six misfits who take an outrageous gamble that could save or annihilate the Grisha and their world.

A new drug called jurda parem has prompted control over Grisha yet causes them to quickly become crazed addicts and die. In the slums of Ketterdam, young Kaz Brekker, de facto leader of the Dregs, a local gang of thieves, has just been propositioned to steal away the drug’s maker from the tightly controlled Fjerdan government. Though the odds are astronomically not in his favor, Kaz believes he can pull it off, but not without the help of a gifted crew: Nina, a former Grisha Heartrender looking to pay off a debt; Matthew, a former Fjerdan soldier intent on killing Grisha; Inej, a talented spy with a big heart and fearsome reputation; Wylan, an escaped noble’s son with a gift for chemistry; and Jesper, a cheeky Sharpshooter with a weakness for gambling. Despite the uncertainty in their true loyalties, together this haphazard merry band of thieves just might manage to pull off the greatest heist in history since the time of the legendary Saints, one that will likely turn their adventure into legend.

A beautifully written epic journey complete with a well-rounded and delightful cast of characters, satisfying world-building, and surprising plot (hard to do with such a lofty heist adventure). My absolute favorite YA book of 2015, and one I was so very astonished to realize is supposed to be a series. Won’t reveal any spoilers, but I can’t fathom how Leigh is going to top this one. It was that good–possibly meriting even a strong comparison with that great queen of YA, J.K. Rowling, whom Leigh evokes with her deft use of the subtle subplot and overarching themes that are deeply felt by the reader.

You can see the beauty of this in the title, Six of Crows, first off because there are six of them, all thieves. Crows often have a bad reputation, but love shiny baubles, mate for life, and also are currently considered the world’s most intelligent animal.

One of the things I loved best were some of the quotes…one in particular shows the variety and charm in characterization.

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Note: Some heavier topics, such as abuse, prostitution, and violence, but nothing graphic.

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Leigh Bardugo YALSA Breakfast, ALA Annual 2016

 

Author’s Note: I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Leigh when I was in San Francisco for ALA Annual, June 2015. (Please forgive  any sort of terribleness of this photo as that blame lies entirely with me and not with Leigh. She did only have 5 minutes to speak with us and was using all of that time to show her enthusiasm for her newest book!) I was dying to read Six of Crows since I finished the Grisha trilogy, but once I met her, I knew I was a fan of both the books and the author. She was fun, sweet, and made you want to be her friend!

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2016 in Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen

 

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The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

23346358.jpgThe Accident Season – a mind-twisting mystery, with magical realism, elements of a ghost story, and echoes of Celtic mythology

Cara and her unconventional family have always experienced what they call “the accident season” in which every October they all have unexplainable accidents, some as worse as death and others very minor. When she was younger, it was something she accepted, but now as she’s gotten older, she’s beginning to notice that it’s odd and that’s not the only weird thing that’s happening. There’s a girl, Elsie, who runs a secrets booth at school, but who’s been missing, and Cara notices her image in every photograph Cara is in. When Cara tries to find Elsie, along with best friend Bea, sister Alice, and ex-stepbrother Sam, no one ever seems to have heard of her. Cara’s search for Elsie, and the reasons behind the accident season, changes her perspective and allows her to discover haunting secrets about her family’s past.

First published in Great Britain, this novel takes place in Ireland and, as goes with the territory, blends ancient mysticism into modern reality. The cast of characters are likeable yet unfathomable and the mystery will have you guessing, akin in tone to other reads such as We Were Liars, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Bone Gap, and many of Maggie Stiefvater’s titles, though not as star quality. Though some of the plot twists are predictable, the ethereal setting and the coming of age experienced by Cara, Sam, Bea, and Alice is genuine and captivating. Themes of romance, friendship, and dealing with abuse and trauma round out the story.

Note: Drugs, alcohol, sexual circumstances, and strong language. Older teen readers may find this more to their taste, as it has a more classic literary (or abstract) feel.

 

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2016 in YA Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult/Teen

 

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P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

20698530 P.S. I Still Love You

Following the events of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Lara Jean has discovered she has real feelings for Peter after their pretended romance, and they get back together. However, their new relationship is overshadowed by an unknown bully, who publicly shames Lara Jean as a slut, first online and then to the entire school. Lara Jean believes it is Genevieve, Peter’s ex-girlfriend, having heard her slandering Lara Jean by saying she (LJ) and Peter had sex in the hot tub on a school ski trip. Now, there is a secret video of the hot tub makeout and it keeps cropping up everywhere. Peter tries to defend her, but he comes off looking romantic and like a typical playboy while Lara Jean’s good reputation is in shambles. Despite this setback, they try to salvage their relationship, but the pressures, both from Peter’s blindness for Genevieve, whom Lara Jean believes is the bully, and the bullying and fallout from the videos, put strain on their brief moments of happiness together. Lara Jean throws herself into baking, helping her dad be ready to date, and volunteering at a nearby retirement home with some older lady friends while Peter plays lacrosse. As Lara Jean talks with one of the older ladies, Stormy, she longs for a day when dating was simpler, and Stormy insistently keeps trying to set her up with her grandson. Out of the blue, Lara Jean receives a letter in the mail, a reply to one she sent John Ambrose McClaren months earlier. In writing back, she gains an old friend and reminisces about their childhood, one that included Peter and Genevieve and John and was a lot simpler. Back then, Peter and John were best friends, and Lara Jean was constantly being paired up with John for future romance. Now, as circumstances begin putting John McClaren back in her orbit, Lara Jean finds herself falling for another guy, but is it possible to like two guys at once?

I love anything by Jenny Han. She tells romance and childhood memories with such subtlety that you can almost remember your own buried thoughts and feelings from past younger selves. You experience the magic and confusion of love and the vast potential for future possibilities with Lara Jean. Everything seems so real and well-drawn. One of the things that is both hard and realistic is Lara Jean’s experience with slut shaming, one can and does easily happen to teens today. Somehow, though the situation is horrible and could easily harm Lara Jean’s spirit, she is vulnerable but strong and positively shows how one can still be good despite being framed to be bad.

Note: Sexual bullying (but not any active sexuality) and strong language.

Congratulations to Jenny Han! It was just announced yesterday that she won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literarure for YA Lit for P.S. I Still Love You. 

 
 

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