Book Reviews

Looking for Jack Kerouac by Barbara Shoup

 Shoup, B. (2014). Looking for Jack Kerouac: A novel. Indianapolis, IN: Lacewing Books.

In this coming of age novel, Paul discovers Kerouac’s On the Road in Greenwich Village on a school trip to New York. Paul reads and rereads the novel. He is taken with Kerouac’s words. Paul and his friend, Duke, set off to find the author in his home in Florida having their own road adventures on the way.

Awards/Honors

Barbara Shoup is the winner of the 2012 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Regional Indiana Author Award.

Review

Paul is a young man from the Chicago area that found a book that changed his life on a class trip to New York. That book was On the Road. Shortly after Paul’s discovery of the banned and life changing book, Paul’s mother is diagnosed with a brain tumor. She dies during the spring of his senior year of high school. Paul feels trapped by greif, a clingy girlfriend, and a 3rd shift mill job. Paul and his new friend from work ,Duke, head out to find Jack Kerouac where he now lives in Florida with his mother. The boys  hitch hike from Illinois to Florida in Kerouac style. 

I was drawn to this book by the title. As a young adult, I fell in love with the Beats. I still have a deep fondness for Kerouac, Kesey, and Ginsburg like one is still is deeply fond of the music that was popular  from the days of high school or a first love. It is as if the title said, “Shoup wrote this for you so you can reminisce.” 

I was not drawn into the tale at the beginning as I had hoped. I actually remember even feeling anger for a bit when the author seemed to confuse Beats and Beatniks. That is not cool. Kerouac would not approve. I felt the first ½ of the novel was a rewrite of On the Road. I almost abandoned the book all together. However, I was wrong very wrong. As the novel progressed, I began to see that all the misconceptions about the Beats and the confusion between the Beat generation and the Beatniks was a clever literary rouse, so  was the ridiculous attempt at recreated the adventures of On the Road. What I found once I put away my false first impression was a well written and cleverly devised tale of coming of age and finding yourself. 

Paul found Jack Kerouac. The real Jack Kerouac. This novel is set in 1963. By this time, the author, famous for his drifter lifestyle and spontaneous prose, was well into his alcohol and drug induced decline that ended his life in 1969 at the age of 47. Paul realizes that he does not want to be stuck in the mill, married right out of high school, with a suburban house, but he doesn’t want to follow in Jack’s footsteps either. 

Though I loved this novel and was drawn to it by the title, I fear that I am in the minority rather than majority. I think that the title will not speak to YA readers. Very few teens will even have heard of the Beats and Kerouac. I recommend this novel for 10th grade and up. Like the novel that inspired it, it is full of foul language, sex, and partying. There is a reason On the Road was controversial.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

 Ruby, L. (2015). Bone gap. Sydney, NSW: HarperCollins.

An award winning fantasy novel about two teens that live in a small town in Illinois. Finn is an awkward 17 year old named Finn who is being raised by his older brother after his father died and his mom ran off with a man. Roza is a Polish exchange student that ends up living in an apartment on the brother’s farm after escaping the man that was trying to kidnap her. When the novel begins, Roza has been kidnapped again, and Finn is the only one that is looking for her.

Awards/Honors

2016 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature

2016 National Book Award Finalist

Review

This award winning Fantasy novel is full of an in depth look into the lives and minds of the two protagonists. The split perspective novel has seamless transitions of narrative. All too often split perspective novels are choppy and confusing to readers. Laura Rudy overcame this obstacle and was able to give readers look into not only the two protagonist but several minor characters as well. The novel is full of mystery, supernatural, young love, friendship, and overcoming the obstacles of life as a teen. I recommend this novel for 9th grade and up. It has sexual content and foul language. 

 

One Death Nine Stories by Chris Barton ,Nora Raleigh Baskin, Marina Budhos,Ellen Hopkins, A.S. King,Torrey Maldonado,Charles R. Smith Jr.,Will Weaver, and Rita Williams-Garcia

Edited by Marc Aronson

Aronson, M., & Smith, C. R. (2014). One death, nine stories. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

A novel told in a series of short stories. The short stories are all tied together by the death of a 19 year boy. Each story addresses how Kevin’s death impacts the lives of nine teenagers.

Review

This uniquely styled novel that is a collection of short stories tied together by one central theme is a interesting look at suicide and how it affects those close to the person that took their own life. Like 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, it takes a look at teen suicide and the why. However, this book tells the stories from other character’s’ perspective. Kevin was a popular football player with dark secrets. With each short story, a little more was revealed. I recommend it for ages 15 and up. There is foul language a plenty. There is also bullying, initiation, drinking, and self mutilation. 

Cynthia and Dan: Cyber War

By: Dorothy May Mercer

https://amzn.to/32SR30B


This book gets a 2 out of 4 stars. Dorothy May Mercer’s novel is a fairly enjoyable read. This is one of the McBride Romantic Suspense novels.  A story of romance , spies, and jealous lovers that is a quick and fast-paced read. The novel is very nice beach type read.

 I enjoyed the story on the surface level; however, the characters were not well developed. There were gaps in the plot. The novel uses a switched perspective style; each chapter focuses on a different set of characters or a different character. This method executed well can be effective. In places in this novel, it worked telling three intertwined stories. However in several places, the transition was choppy and hard to follow. 

Cynthia Patterson is an independent  and strong single woman. She is head of security for Sen. Mike McBride. Her professional life is running smoothly. Cynthia also works with her brother , Glenn. Glenn owns a private security firm. Together, the siblings want to take on ISIS in a cyber war. To accomplish this, they enlist two lovable nerds. 

Cynthia may have a lot going on professionally, but that is nothing compared to her private life. When the novel begins, she is stuck in a boring but comfortable relationship with Dan. The spark is gone. Enter Sky, the tall, dark , handsome , and mysterious stranger. 

 

 Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

https://amzn.to/2JvEr83

 Sepetys, R. (2011). Between shades of gray. New York, NY: Speak.

A historical novel about a 15 year old girl, Lina Vilkas, that was sent by the Soviet Union into a work camp in SIberia after her home country of Lithuania was invaded by the USSR.

Awards/ Honors

2012 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist

YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults 2012

ALA Notable Children’s Book 2012

SLJ Best Books of 2011

Review 

A year after the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania, Lina Vilkas and her family are taken from their homes and sent to a Soviet Work Camp in Siberia.  This was a detailed and brutal story about the suffering that many endured under the rule of Joseph Stalin during WWII. Much has been written about Hitler and Germany’s cruelty and the suffering of the Jewish people during this time, but  there is little written about the suffering of the endured by the people sent to Soviet Labor Camps. This novel was well written and heart wrenching. The novel is written from the perspective of a 15 year old girl who is taken from her home with her mother and brother at night and sent to a labor camp. Lina is an artist and writes down the details and draws pictures of her experience. I recommend this novel for 12 and up. This Historical/ Realistic fiction story details the harsh and violent details of the life at a labor camp including forced prostitution, death, and detailed accounts of physical and mental abuse. 

 

Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

Kincaid, S. J. (2012). Insignia. New York: Katherine Tegen Books.

A Science Fiction novel about a teenage boy that has joined the military to fight in WWIII. This is a war fought by teenagers in a virtual reality for space resources.

Awards/Honors

Winner of the 2015 Young Adult Alabama Author Award from the Alabama Library Association

Selection for the 2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults List

Selection for the 2016-2017 Florida Sunshine State Young Reader’s Award Grades 6-8

The Summer 2012 Indie Next List- #6

A Junior Library Guild Selection

Review

A dystopian society Science Fiction novel that takes about a 14 year old boy, Tom, that is found by the military and recruited for his superior gaming skills. The United States and India are now allies in the war for space resources. War is no longer the violent and death filled thing that we know it as. War is now fought through virtual reality gaming. The soldiers are teenagers that have had computer processors installed in their brains. This was an enjoyable read. The writing seemed a bit raw at times. Kincaid was a less experienced author at the time the book was written and it shows a bit. The text has a charming simplicity that would appeal to struggling readers. 

It seems that almost all the Sci Fi YA books over the last few years have been dystopian novels. Though I tire of this subject, I found that I was delightfully surprised by Kincaid’s take on it.  It was a more suitable read for slightly younger readers than other popular dystopian novels. It lacks the intense violence and sexual undertones of series like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Matched. I found that refreshing. I think this novel would be appropriate for 5th grade and up. 

 

 

 

Red Queen

Red Queen  by Victoria Aveyard

Aveyard, V. (2016). Red queen. New York: Scholastic.

A Fantasy/ Science Fiction novel about a society divided by blood color. The protagonist, Mare Barrow, is a red with the power of a silver. She accidentally finds her power and ends up in the dangerous court of the silver king.

Review

This Fantasy/ Science Fiction novel is about a society divided by blood. The silver bloods are the controlling group and the red bloods are the peasants. The protagonist, Mare Barrow, is a red with the power of a silver. She finds herself in dangerous silver court as a future princess. Mare and a group rebel group, The Scarlet Guard, seek to change this hierarchy and liberate the reds. 

This novel was different from what I expected. It is more Fantasy with Science Fiction elements. The novel has a strong female protagonist. The book’s themes of courage, selflessness, and overcoming birth status make a great read. It is like Cinderella turns rebel. Though the dystopian society concept of the novel is nothing new, Aveyard puts a unique twist on it. Most novels of this type are more Science Fiction than Fantasy. This novel is full of magic and courageous acts that are elements of some of the greatest modern Fantasies with a realistic grittiness of what poverty looks like. 

The Crystilleries of Echoland

by Dew Pellucid

4 out 4 Stars 

This novel is a great modern Young Adult fantasy. I was drawn in almost instantly. This author could rival the greats like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and J.K. Rowling. Kids and Adults of all ages will love this book. It is a thrilling, magical fast-paced tale that contains all the wonders of a great fantasy story. The book combines thrilling fantasy fiction with a murder mystery. What is not to love?

As the book opens in bleak Alaska, the reader learns that thousands of people have disappeared including the twin sister of the protagonist, William Cleary. The young boy’s parents are endlessly searching and hopelessly distracted leaving Will to cope with only his pets as comfort. 

Will decides to set out in search of his sister on his own with his pets and a book -thus the adventure begins. In the world of echoes, Will faces great perils and is helped along by complex and unforgettable characters. 

The brave Will and his many intriguing friends and acquaintances will take you on an unforgettable journey to Echoland. There is also a fun easter egg the author has hidden in the text. 

I highly recommend this book. 

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