Friday, June 13, 2014

Book Report: Plus One

Today's Book Report comes to us from Paige the (former) Page, a member of Wood Library's Teen Advisory Board. Paige is just wrapping up her Junior year, and I'm looking forward to hearing her sing along to Les Misérables later this month.

Without further ado, here's Paige's review of Elizabeth Fama's new novel Plus One.

Plus One By Elizabeth Fama
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

What first enthralled me about this book was the cover. I mean, isn't it absolutely beautiful? When I saw it, I knew I need to know what was inside. I know, I know. Don’t judge a book by its cover, but I had to recognize its beauty before I begin the proper review. Halfway through the book though, to my surprise, I had read a book by Elizabeth Fama, and hadn't particularly enjoyed it. Last year I read Monstrous Beauty hoping to find a good, clean mermaid young adult romance. I wasn't asking for much, right? Sadly, I was left confused and not particularly satisfied. In some ways, Plus One, left me wanting more and a tad confused, but I liked it a whole lot more than Fama's last book!

The book has a very interesting premise. Following the Flu Pandemic of 1918, society is divided into people that live either during the day, Rays, or those who live during the night, Smudges. This story is all set against the back ground of this dystopic Chicago. The Rays are allowed outside only during the day, while the Smudges only during the night. The Rays are exalted, while the Smudges are seen as inferior. This book tackles issues such as discrimination through this division of the Smudges and the Rays. Obvious a relationship between a Smudge and a Ray would be seen as taboo, forbidden even, which makes for a good romance.

I loved the main characters. Sol, a Smudge, was real and impulsive. She had real motives and deep loyalties that blinded her at times. She wasn’t perfect for once. And I liked that. On the other hand, D'Arcy, a Ray, was perfect (in a swoon worthy way!) which I was okay with because Rays are supposed to “better.” They’re polar opposites.... almost like night and day. 

Our main character firsts meet when Sol purposely injures herself so she can get into the hospital to steal her estranged Ray brother’s baby so her dying grandfather, Poppu, can hold her one time. Sol falls under a Ray medical apprentice’s care while she is in the hospital: D'Arcy. Soon he is entangled in her mischief and they are swept up in an adventure as they unearth a conspiracy that will rock their whole world.

This book was overall an enjoyable read, but it is not without its flaws. If you go into this book expecting romance of the bat, you will be disappointed. The romance doesn't start until about three-quarters of the way through, but you won’t be disappointed! It’s sizzling! But there are intercalary/flashback chapters that some times threw off the flow of the book for me. Fama's writing also at times tries to hard to be poetic than switches to frank, plain statements. This book is a little choppy. Also, everyone speaks French? But it’s set in Chicago? That really confused me. In addition, the tech talk and the medical talk was nonsense to me. It wasn’t needed. I also wished the ending gave me more. I loved these characters and felt a tad robbed.

I feel though the good outweighed the bad I have mentioned thus far in Plus One. This book is worth the read and deserves a chance. 

Happy Reading!

Friday, June 6, 2014

The 2014 Middle School Summer Reading List is Alive!

Happy Friday. For the 2nd year in a row, an ambitious (and charming) public librarian and a brilliant (and noble) school librarian have come together to bring you the ultimate Summer Reading list for grades 6-8 (and beyond). Behold:

Here is the lists' logic: organized alphabetically by genre, then by author, all the way from Adventure to Steampunk. We strive to pick new books, published in 2013-2014, so that each year's list is always fraîche

Find these books at your local library. All. Summer. Long.

Kelley Blue, Teen Services Librarian @ Wood Library, Canandaigua
Melanie Dyroff, School Library Media Specialist @ Canandaigua Middle School Library

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Book Report: Grasshopper Jungle

Grasshopper Jungle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like, wow.

"All good books are about everything, abbreviated" (Grasshopper Jungle, p.332).

Austin Szreba has a healthy preoccupation with the intersection of histories. He believes that the roads of coincidence cross back and forth across time, right in front of us. As a self-made historian, he writes these observations down. Grasshopper Jungle is Austin's recording of the end of the world. While the world is ending, our narrator is also authentically struggling to separate hormones from love and friendship, and human stupidity from beauty. It happens like this...

A gang of total oafs beat the crap out of Austin and his best friend, Robby, in the nowhere town of Ealing, Iowa, in an alleyway affectionately referred to as the "Grasshopper Jungle". Later that night, the same gang of total oafs breaks into the office of Austin's boss, an office that Austin and Robby have also just broken into. Inside they have discovered the most messed up treasure trove of Cold War era stuffs ever seen. While Austin and Robby are smart enough to stand in fear and awe of the glowing blue orb of "Contained MI Plague Strain 412E", the total oafs decide it would be fun to take it for a stroll...

It was not a good idea. You know what I mean.

The joy of the rest of this book is in letting Austin tie all the ends together while hell breaks loose in Ealing. In his own meandering, often gross, and truly funny way, Austin discovers what MI Plague Strain 412E is, what it does (bad stuff), and where it came from (totally bizarre). While he's figuring this all out, he has the unfortunate fate of being a teenage boy made horny by nearly everything, which is inconvenient when the world is ending. Incessant male teenage arousal can also be inconvenient when you're trying to figure out your feelings for your girlfriend and possibly your best friend, too. Female characters, like Shann, seem a big thinly drawn, but that may be appropriate considering the narrator, who happens to be preoccupied by unstoppable, giant mantises bent on devouring the entire human race. And other stuff.

This book is anticlimactic (in a good way!), hilarious, and somber all at once. It is certainly the most unique end-of-the-world fiction I have read in maybe ever. -Kelley, (Your) Teen Services Librarian