Flashback: March 2010

A flashback to what I was reading in March 2010.

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn. From my review: “Wait Till Helen Comes is a scary as hell ghost story about not one, but two, mean little girls. Is there anything more terrifying than an evil child? How about an evil child that everyone else thinks is young and nice and harmless? . . . That’s not what scared me as an adult. As an adult reader, I was appalled at how the stepfather, Dave, treats his stepchildren, his wife, and his own daughter. No physical abuse; but enough nastiness and neglect that I couldn’t help but wonder at what type of rebellions Molly, Michael and Heather would have in high school. Molly, given the model that to have a man, you put up with his garbage, is Most Likely To Be In Abusive Relationship. Scientist Michael stops escaping to woods and bugs and starts escaping with drugs. And Heather, looking for the love she doesn’t get from Daddy, will be Sixteen and Pregnant. Let me give some examples. Dave, talking to his ten year old stepson, Michael, says “what kind of little monster are you anyway.” And the mother, hearing her child called a monster, does . . . Nothing. Instead, mom tells her children to be nicer.”

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan. From my review: “Gabry has been raised behind the safe walls of Vista. She lives in a lighthouse with her mother, Mary, gazing beyond the boundaries of her town, looking out to sea, but never wanting more than the safety she has. Beyond those safe borders are the Mudo. The border walls are secure against the Mudo and their bites that infect, kill, leaving the bitten to return as one of the Mudo. One night, Gabry and a group of her friends slip over the protective wall to go to the abandoned amusement park. Whether its because the Mudo have always been so far away, or because they have never breached the wall, or because as teens they believe nothing can ever happen to them, they leave Vista for a few hours one night. Do I really have to tell you that it does not end well? And this is only the first few chapters. . . . And do I really have to tell you the Mudo are zombies?”

Boys Are Dogs by Leslie Margolis. From my review:  “Annabelle has moved to a new house. Because her mother has decided to move in with her new boyfriend. So now she has to go to a new school, a public middle school after years at an all girl’s school. Also? Annabelle has a new puppy. New house, new Mom’s boyfriend, new school, new puppy, new friends, new boys. It’s a lot to deal with and Annabelle does so — sometimes gracefully, sometimes not, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes wholeheartedly, but always with humor and a unique, individual outlook on life.”

Watch This Space by Hadley Dyer and Marc Ngui. From my review: “Public space is something that, for many people (not just kids) simply “is.” There is a park; there is a sidewalk; there is a bridge with graffiti. Why do we have parks? How long have people had parks? What are some of the purposes public spaces serve? Art, relaxation, escape, sports, cultural events, health. Even design is addressed, along with an exercise on “how to build it” if you were designing a park.”

This Means War by Ellen Wittlinger. From my review: “This fifth grade battle of the sexes plays out in October 1962, against the backdrop of Cuban Missile Crisis. Wittlinger lets the reader connect their own dots about the motivations and fears of the various kids and parents. For example, Patsy. Patsy adores her father, but he prefers spending quality time with his son, Patsy’s younger brother. Patsy loves her father, is interested in what he is interested he, but he cannot see how a girl would be interested in mechanics and airplanes. Patsy never says that the reason she is driven to best the boys in the challenge is to prove something to herself and her father. Juliet never connects those dots, either. Instead, Wittlinger respects the reader, letting them make this connection.”

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. From my review: “Incarceron — a prison unlike any other. Prisoners, descendants of those who first were condemned to Incarceron, live knowing Incarceron is always watching; it needs no guards. Sometimes the inmates are left to their fights and schemes and battles, other times it interferes to keep some type of order. Imagine dumping criminals into a prison and locking the door? Yes, it turns out about as well as you would imagine. Interestingly enough, Incarceron was created to be a paradise, to contain those the world did not want but not to punish. Whether it’s peoples natures that cannot be changed, or that Incarceron operates outside its initial programming, the fact remains — Incarceron is a hell of survival and brutality.”

Peace, Locomotion by Jaqueline Woodson. From my review: “Lonnie Collins Motion, “Locomotion,” is in sixth grade. He lives with his foster mother, Miss Edna; is adjusting to life with a new teacher who informs him he cannot call himself an poet until he’s published a book; and tries to keep his close relationship with his younger sister, Lili, who lives in a different foster home. . . . Lonnie and his younger sister, Lili, live in two different foster homes. The first reason I fell in love with this story? Both foster families love and care for their foster children. Both children love their foster families — Lili more easily, Lonnie having more difficulty acknowledging to himself that Miss Edna and her sons, Rodney and Jenkins, are now his family and that is OK The second reason? Lonnie and Lili maintaining a close, sibling relationship even though they are in separate homes and families.”

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner. From my review: “Sophos is the unlikely heir to the King of Sounis. He knows he’s not really fit to be heir; he actually hopes his uncle marries and has a child so that Sophos no longer has to worry about disappointing his family, his country, his friends. Unfortunately, other people have plans for Sophos. Wars have made the country and and its governance unstable, so rebels plot to kidnap Sophis and make him a puppet king. Things don’t go quite as planned and Sophos finds himself somewhere he never thought he’d be. Can he ever be more than a pawn in a conspiracy of kings?”

Stitches by David Small. From my review: “David Small’s childhood. As a young boy, he senses the unhappiness and secrets around him. At fourteen, he has an operation to remove a cyst. The aftermath involves scars and loss of voice. And loss of innocence, what is left, when he later discovers that the repeat X-rays given him by his radiologist father to cure various ailments caused the cancer. In an interview with David Small at Smith, Small says “Ours may be the last generation to carry on the traditions of selfish, silent, confused and confusing behavior in our family.” The reader is introduced to the secrets of the Small family as six year old David visits his Grandmother. First we hear of her tough life; we meet her and find out she’s not a sweet Grandma. Why are such secrets kept? Such silent pacts maintained? Fear? Shame? Or is it a twisted selfishness, because it seems easier to keep those secrets?”

Behind the Curtain: An Echo Falls Mystery by Peter Abrahams. From my review: “Ingrid Levin-Hill, the mystery solving middle school student from Down The Rabbit Hole, returns in this sequel. This time around, the intrepid Ingrid finds herself in the middle of a mystery or two when she wonders about her brother’s Ty moodiness and her new business associate that may be putting her father’s job in jeopardy. Ingrid does what she does best – takes action! – and soon finds herself the victim of a kidnapping attempt. If only she knew who was behind itBehind the Curtain is a great mystery; there’s no ghosts and the mysteries are ones that affect Ingrid, her friends and family – possible illegal steroid sales, shady business deals, a suspicious soccer accident. Ingrid remains a real treat; she’s resourceful, gutsy, and hardworking; but she’s also been known to sleep late and goof off in class.”

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. From my review: “Samantha Kingston, 17. A typical Friday: laughing with friends, getting her due as one of the most popular seniors at high school, big plans with her boyfriend. It all ends in screeching brakes and pain — a car accident. Sam is dead. Except she wakes up and it’s Friday again. And again. And again. What happened? Why is she reliving her last day? Can she change anything about her life and her death? . . .  Dear Blog Reader, I hated Sam and her friends from the start. On page 5, Sam explains that “[t]here’s always going to be a person laughing and somebody getting laughed at. It happens everyday, in every town in America. Probably the world, for all I know. The whole point of growing up is learning to stay on the laughing side.” And by page 65, Sam was still justifying her meanness: “[i]t’s like high school holds two different worlds, revolving around each other and never touching: the haves and the have-nots. I guess it’s a good thing. High school is supposed to prepare you for the real world, after all.” Somehow, though, as the second day rolled around, Sam and her girlfriends grew on me. Part of it is that with each repeated day, Sam becomes more self-aware of herself, her world, her actions. Part of it is that often the girls were fun and funny and supportive of each other, to the point that you wanted to sit all four down and say, “you don’t have to be so mean and cruel and thoughtless to others.”

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore. From my review: “Nimira, 17, has been a music hall “trouser girl” for three years, ever since her arrival in Lorinar from Tiansher (called Tassim in Lorinar). Nim gets an offer of a better job and a better life. All she has to do is sing while an automaton plays songs on a piano. Can it be so simple? Of course not. The reason wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry has resorted to hiring a foreign trouser girl is because all the Lorinar singers he hired were convinced the automaton was haunted and ran screaming from the room. One minute, Nim is dirt poor trouser girl; next, she’s living at a fine estate, new clothes, servants, and Parry, young and handsome, is clearly smitten with her. It’s a fairy tale. Until Nim’s first day alone with the automaton: “‘“Mmm.” A grunt came from his throat …. His eyes followed me. He was haunted.””

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey. From my review: “1888. Will Henry, 12, is taken in by his father’s employer, Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, after Will’s parents die in a fire. Dr. Warthrop’s specialty? Monsters. Or, to be scientific, monstrumology, the study of monsters. “There are monsters that lie in wait under our beds.” The object of this particular adventure? Anthropophagi. Deadly man-eaters, with no heads — eyes are on shoulders, shark-like mouths in the middle of the chest — they are fast, killing and tearing apart their human food. . . .  Dr. Warthrop, who has his own Daddy Dearest issues, has been thrust into responsibility for Will. As a man unaccustomed to children, he treats Will as an adult, for good and bad. Will is only twelve, yet his responsibilities are great. Dr. Warthrop does not hide the truth from Will; does not protect him; does not make up stories. . . . Finally, dear reader, just how good was this book? I bought my own personal copy.”

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