Author: Scott Westerfield
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult, 15+
Genre: Science Fiction
# Of pages: 448
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Year of Release: 2007
Part of a Series? Yes, 4 of 4
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes but with reservationsRead Reviews of Uglies (Book 1), Pretties (Book 2) and Specials (Book 3)Description: From Amazon: It’s a few years after rebel Tally Youngblood took down the uglies/pretties/specials regime. Without those strict roles and rules, the world is in a complete cultural renaissance. “Tech-heads” flaunt their latest gadgets, “kickers” spread gossip and trends, and “surge monkeys” are hooked on extreme plastic surgery. And it’s all monitored on a bazillion different cameras. The world is like a gigantic game of American Idol. Whoever is getting the most buzz gets the most votes. Popularity rules.
As if being fifteen doesn’t s*ck enough, Aya Fuse’s rank of 451,369 is so low, she’s a total nobody. An extra. But Aya doesn’t care; she just wants to lie low with her drone, Moggle. And maybe kick a good story for herself.
Then Aya meets a clique of girls who pull crazy tricks, yet are deeply secretive of it. Aya wants desperately to kick their story, to show everyone how intensely cool the Sly Girls are. But doing so would propel her out of extra-land and into the world of fame, celebrity…and extreme danger. A world she’s not prepared for.
Review: My preference is always for sequels that continue with the same characters that Ive grown to love. But, even with the new heroine, Aya, the story is still engaging. Westerfield gives you just enough of the same setting to draw you back into the story once again but continues the plot down a different path. Aya is living in the world that Tally left. Tally gave people a choice, yet the choices Aya seems to want to make are shallow at best. Aya has to learn for herself that the benefits of beauty and popularity arent always what they seem.
Rating: 3 for teenage alcohol use
Positive: All Aya seems to care about is fame, otherwise known as face rank in the book, but there are several opposing characters that allow her to see fame isnt everything.
Spiritual Elements: One mention of fate
Violence: The violence is very mild.
Language: No strong language other than the word cr*p used about 10 times.
Sexual Content: Three fairly mild kisses
Other: There are about three mentions of alcohol being present at parties, one in which Aya, who is 15, drinks a glass of champagne.
Aya lies in order to aid herself in becoming famous but reaps the consequences of her actions.
Recommendation: Again, my biggest concern is teenage alcohol use. Compared to books 2 (Pretties) and 3 (Specials), the alcohol use is fairly tame. And if youve allowed your child to read the other books, this one would certainly not be a problem. If underage drinking is a big concern with your teen, this series may not be the best choice. However, Extras is the tamest overall of the four book series.
Im not sure why I didnt mention these in the other reviews, maybe the themes really only hit me while reading this book. It seems as though the main female characters only change for the better once they are in a relationship with a young man. This may be something you would want to discuss with your daughter. Also, as with a lot of sci-fi books and movies, evolution is briefly mentioned in the books and is apart of the setting.
Title: The Ruins of Gorlan (The Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 1)
Author: John Flanagan
Primary Audience/age group: 10+
# Of pages: 272
Year of Release: 2006
Part of a Series? Yes. 1 of 8, though not all released in the U.S.
Rating: 4 View Scale
Description: (From School Library Journal)Will hopes to become a knight; instead, he winds up as a Ranger’s apprentice, joining the secretive corps that uses stealth, woodcraft, and courage to protect the kingdom. His aptitude and bravery gradually earn the respect of his gruff but good-hearted master. When the kingdom is attacked by evil magic forces, Will helps track down and defeat a couple of particularly nasty beasts.
Review: Well done story emphasizing the chance for anyone to be a hero. Written by a father with his son as the first audience you can see the value placed on strong relationships between adults and youths (something lacking in much of YA literature). The story tracks Will’s training closely and the other student in knight-school almost as much. You can tell Flanagan has done his homework, but his reserch (and/orexperience) never is the focus– always the characters. Excellent mix of action and understanding throughout.
Rating: 4. It might be a 5, but that would depend on ones definition of mild violence ;o) So well go with a 4.
Positive: The relationship between Will and his mentor is one of utmost respect. All the adult authority figures are worthy of their posts and guide their young charges well.
(Spoiler:) Rivals become friends and supporters of one another in danger.
Spiritual Elements: None I remember
Violence: A wild boar hunt, and (Spoiler:) the burning of bear-like assassins.
Horace takes non-lethal revenge on the bullies tormenting him.
Language: D*** might be here somewhere. I know I saw them in book 2.
Sexual Content: A single kiss at the end. Rather chaste and out of the blue, in a manner of speaking.
Recommendation: Highly recommended, both because of the emphasis on friendship across type (a knight and a ranger in this case), and the value placed on intergenerational cooperation and respect. These both require more focused writing than cheap shots at cardboard jerks or authority figures more foolish than the children whose lives they are making miserable. This is a series I am very eager to peruse further.
Author: Victory Hanley
Primary Audience/age group: 15 +
# Of pages: 384 (depending on ed.)
Publisher: Laurel Leaf (PB) and Holiday House (HB)
Year of Release: 2002
Part of a Series? No, but the author has several books set in the same world, and overlapping characters between books.
Rating: 3 for violence (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes, highly (It is unlikely that kids used to modern PG-13 movies will be traumatized by the violence or situations in this book)Description: Healers-in-training Dorjan and the disguised Princess Sara possess uncommon gifts within the Healers Keep. In their dreams they visit one another and battle evil with the help of a gifted slave girl theyve never met. When danger and accusation drive Dorjan and Sara from the Keep, they set out to rescue the slave, not knowing she has already taken her freedom and is trying to avoid re-capture.
When the three gifted young-people meet they learn how much each of their gifts are needed, both to hold their physical world together and to keep Saras parents, the king and queen, from dying.
Review: I was very impressed at the authors ability to keep the multitude of characters unique from each other and use each one to advance the plot. There were points of action that were mystical, and others that were based very solidly in the physical world. All throughout I felt confident the author knew what she was doing and never doubted she could make the best come out of a bad situation.
Rating: 3 for the violence and the plain-speaking implication of what beautiful slave-girls could be used for. It is not dwelt on, but it highlights a main characters danger and clarifies her motivations.
This is definitely a 15+ book. The casual (though never condoned) assumption of violence, and intensity of action, along with the emotional manipulation of a female character early in the story skew this solidly to an older audience.
Positive: A good representation of the benefits of mutual interdependence. No one has the arrogance to assume they are sufficient in themselves, gifts complement one another. An emphasis on mercy and the use of non-violent solutions when possible. The good men are honorable in all their interaction with the ladies dear to them, and the slave risks her own freedom to bring along an endangered 8-year-old when she escapes.
Spiritual Elements: There are references to God and prayer, but not in the relational sense we know Him.
A discussion and experimental use of gen takes up most of one class in the Keep. Its description makes it sound at first as though the author is trying to appropriate the idea of chi (life-force energy), but the weirdness wears off when you see its an effort to describe where magic comes from. (A fair effort in a fantasy book, since magic is a core element.)
There is also a near-death experience where a character must choose where she will go, and an afterlife scene where one character gives over the rest of her life to extend someone elses.
Violence: Disturbing, but not gratuitous. Most is to emphasize the savagery of the evil characters (one orders a decapitation) and the location. The slave lives in a barbarous country, illustrated by their various practices, primarily scarring of the face (designating slave or free, married or single, whom a soldier serves) and brandingagain of the face.
Language: I cant remember any strong language, and just now that strikes me as odd, considering the intensity of the evil characters
Sexual Content: The type of scars that designate an (essentially) prostitute slave are mentioned. On the safer side of the world kisses are exchanged and secrets exposed. The foolishness of surrendering them so soon is regretted.
Other: A mind-altering drink plays a significant role.
Recommendation: I highly recommend it for older readers. The themes of loyalty and honor are powerfully portrayed. In this book women can act with power without having to put down or act better than the men around them, so I recommend it as one of few books Ive read that have a healthy approach to male-female relationships. I would urge the parents of <15 to read it themselves to verify its appropriateness because of the intensity.
Author: Andrew Clarke
Primary Audience/age group: 13+
# Of pages: 240
Publisher: VMI Publishing
Year of Release: 2006
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Description: The world of Skagaray is dark and bleak but there is the possibility of beauty and goodness too. The people of Skagaray respect strength, and hardness, and make gods in their own image to please themselves. They reject those they consider weak, or unworthy, and make outcasts of them. But one among them rejects their cruelty, and will not take part in the brutality they call their Proving. This is Australian Andrew Clarkes first novel.
I really liked Tarran and rooted for him the entire story. I had a hard time telling many of the characters apart/keeping them straight – I think because they had such different names. The story was about clear good versus evil and how every person must choose to which side they belong.
Rating: 3, for violent/confrontational situations
Positive: Tarran was a great character – he knew that the life he was living was wrong, and left that life. He helped others leave their way of life and once he knew the Truth, he shared that with everyone he could.
Spiritual Elements: As you can read in my review, the people of Skagaray must choose between good and evil. Do they continue to worship the Kirkril as they have been taught their whole lives – or the One True God who they just learned about?Violence: I found the story to be quite violent. There arent any gory details of blood and guts – but just many references to their ways as being slayers, hunters, killers. It is the will of the Skagaray gods that the strong shall live by killing. Life is a battle and you are to be warriors. The mark of the warrior is blood, the destruction of enemies, prey taken, the defeat of another. The lives you take enlarge you.Language: NoneSexual Content: None
Other: Some of the evil elders drank wine.
Recommendation: I would recommend this book to boys (and girls) who like this genre, ages 13+. I know my son will enjoy it! I feel like it is too violent for children under 13
Title: A Girl Named Disaster
Author: Nancy Farmer
Primary Audience/age group: 14+
Genre: Adventure/Coming of Age story/Multicultural
# Of pages: 293
Publisher: Orchard Books
Year of Release: 1996
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend: Yes, with reservation
Description: (from book jacket) Her grandmother said, The journey will be the hardest thing youll ever do, but it will be worth it. Just think of finding your father. And so Nhamo, fleeing an impending marriage to a cruel man with three wives, sets out for Zimbabwe, alone on the Musengezi River. She is not yet twelve. Soon, strong currents sweep her canoe to the uncharted heart of Lake Cabora Bassa in Mozambique. As she struggles to escape drowning and starvation, she comes close to the luminous world of the African spirits. Loneliness drives her to join a baboon troop on an island, with near-deadly results. But Nhamo is bold and resourceful and discovers in conversations with her dead mother and the Ancestors how to survive the terrors that seem to rise around her from all sides. Yet the greatest terror is still to come after she again reaches civilization. Nhamos journey of spirit as well as body will keep readers enthralled to the very last page.
Review: Well, it didnt keep me enthralled to the very last page, but I have to admit, I felt compelled to continue reading this book until the end. Ive never been a big fan of the girl facing the dangers of nature alone with animal friends genre (as in Julie of the Wolves or Island of the Blue Dolphins, which this book resembles). Several times I found myself feeling somewhat impatient when the narrative came to a stop so Nhamo could tell a story about the African spirits, and sometimes I wanted to shake her and say, Quit letting yourself starve! Have some common sense and get off that island! However, Nhamo is a sympathetic enough character that I wanted to see how her story ended.
Rating: 3 for more intense sequences of violence
Recommend: Yes, with reservation
Positive: Nhamo is resourceful and self-reliant. She works hard and manages to survive a journey one would think would be impossible for a young girl. The book also is a good example of multicultural literature, describing life in a primitive African village and set against the background of the civil wars in the history of southern Africa.
Spiritual Elements: Spiritual elements are at the heart of this book. It is because of a ngozi (angry, revengeful spirit) who is revealed by a muvuki (what we would call a witch doctor) that she has to leave her home. During her journey, Nhamo converses on a regular basis with the spirits of her dead mother and a dead villager whose boat she has taken to escape the village. She also gets advice from the njuzu, the water spirits, and makes sure she makes appropriate sacrifices to thank them and the Ancestors. One of the most disturbing parts of the book is when she encounters the spirit of a witch, who later possesses her and has to be exorcised by the Vapostori (a sect of Christians that was formed in Africa in 1932). The book also gives Nhamos reactions to Christianity, which may disturb some readers, since she interprets it through the lens of her spirit religion.
Violence: Although the violence isnt glorified, there is quite a bit of it inherent in the story. Its taken for granted that people have the right to beat other people who displease them. Nhamo has to kill animals to provide food for herself, and the grossest scene of violence comes with her first experience of hunting. The most disturbing scenes of violence, though, come when Nhamo is possessed by the witch and kills a dog that is chasing her away from white peoples houses, and then again later when she attacks another dog who reminds her of the first one.
Language: It seems that I remember a few offensive words, but a very few. The most offensive thing I remember is the witchs name (Long Teats).
Sexual Content: The sexual content of the book is centered around menstruation as a sign of womanhood. The story describes the rituals that Nhamos family undertakes when her cousin has her first period and becomes a marriageable young woman. Later, when Nhamo is on her journey, she reaches the same milestone. Its not a major theme in the book, but it is mentioned now and then. At the end of the book, Nhamo finds out her mother was already pregnant when she married Nhamos father.
Other: There is a LOT of information about southern Africa in this book, ranging from the native religion, to the types of plants and animals, to the weather patterns, to the interaction between natives and whites. Although I got annoyed that Nhamo would go into storytelling mode and pause the narrative, her stories were interesting. Given that I knew next to nothing about Africa before reading the book, I think it has value as a teaching tool by managing to work all these elements into a book that reads like a story instead of a textbook. There are also sections at the end of the book that provide a glossary of the African words used in the story and an overview of the spirit religion.
Recommendation: I would suggest this book for more mature teens. I think younger kids would be turned off by the frequent use of African words and embarrassed by the frank way the book talks about menstruation. The focus on the spirit world and its differences to Christianity might be something parents and teens could discuss, as well.
Author: Dorothy & Thomas Hoopler
Primary Audience/age group: 12+
Genre: Historical fiction/mystery
# Of pages: 214
Publisher: Puffin Books
Year of Release: 1999
Part of a Series? Yes, the Hooplers have written several books featuring these characters
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend: YesDescription: (from book cover) Fourteen-year-old Seikei dreams of being one of the legendary warriors, a samurai but samurai are born, not made, and Seikei is a tea merchants son. Then a priceless ruby intended for the shogun the military governor of Japan is stolen by a ghost, and Seikei finds himself having to display all the courage of a samurai. He is the only person to have seen the thief, and now the famous samurai magistrate, Judge Ooka, needs Seikeis help to solve the mystery. Soon the two are hot on the trail of the ruby and an unforgettable adventure.
Review: So honorable! So beautifully innocent! This is what the jewel thief says about Seikei, and I think it is an apt description of both Seikei and the book that tells his story. In his efforts to be like the samurai he aspires to be, Seikei tries to be honorable in all he does, even when it wouldnt (I think) be expected of someone so young. In my opinion, that makes Seikei a very likeable character, which is the strength of the book. The mystery itself is not too difficult to unravel, but the reader will enjoy following Seikei along as he figures it out and as he deals with the contradictions between who he is and who he wants to be.
Rating: 3, for violence
Positive: This book does an excellent job in presenting the Edo period of Japanese history, especially the class divisions and cultural achievements. Although there is a lot of history in the book, it is woven into the story in a credible, entertaining way the reader never feels the author is lecturing. On a more personal level, Seikeis sense of honor and his efforts to live up to it are admirable, especially when contrasted with adult characters who are full-fledged samurai and yet are not as honorable as this merchants son.
Spiritual Elements: I was surprised by how much religion played a role in this story. One of the main plotlines centered around a character who is a Christian in the time when it was illegal to be one in Japan. However, that characters behavior seems to be more heavily influenced by the samurai code of honor. There is a lot of interesting cultural information about Japanese religion, including a chapter that deals with an offering to their goddess Amaterasu.
Violence: I was also surprised by the amount of violence in the book, although I suppose I shouldnt have been, since it is about samurai. However, the violence is generally not gory or drawn-out (the climatic scene is a bit more violent than scenes in the rest of the book). I wouldnt have reservations about letting a younger teen read the book. Since Seikei longs to be a samurai, there is quite a bit of glorification of the sword as the samurai weapon. There are a number of characters who either commit ritual suicide or are executed with the sword to uphold a sense of honor.
Language: The book doesnt use any offensive language.
Sexual Content: The book doesnt really have any sexual content. If there is any, it is so subtle I think it would be a stretch to be offended by it.
Other: Some characters drink alcohol. Some readers might possibly be offended by the way Christianity is presented, but I think its important to remember the story is being told from the viewpoint of a Japanese character who wouldnt understand the idea of a suffering servant god.
Rating: 3, for violence
Recommendation: I would definitely recommend this book, especially for boys who, like my son, are fascinated by Japanese culture thanks to some programs in the mainstream media. I would also recommend it to parents who are looking for a cool way to introduce their child to other cultures. It is outstanding historical fiction.
Author: Kathryn Mackel
Primary Audience/age group: 12+
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction, YA Christian Fiction
# Of pages: 320
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Year of Release: 2007
Part of a Series? Yes, 1st in the Birthright Project Series
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
This daring team roams the blighted earth. They are Outriders, young warriors who wield swords and wits to protect the birthrighter camps. When rookie birthrighters arrive from the Ark, however, the battle turns into something no one expected. Not only must they battle the merciless warlord Alrod and his horde of gigantic mutants, but a new and more powerful enemy has revealed itself, a darkness that threatens to destroy the world theyve been charged to save.Review: Outriders (The Birthright Project, Book 1) is set in the future after the Earth has been basically destroyed by war. Surviving Christians were led by God to build an underground Ark from which they eventually send their called believers (aka missionaries) on missions – they protect those that need protecting, send specimens back to the ark, and spread the word about the grace of God. I really enjoyed the characters in this book – they were well developed and relatable. They werent perfect, yet God used them to spread His message and protect His people. I know that after my 13 yr. old son reads it he will anxiously urge me to get him the rest in the series.Rating: 4 for mild violence and intense scenes
Positive: The relationship between the Outriders was very realistic and each character was written in such a manner to illustrate to readers that while we are all different and imperfect – God uses us as we are to change us into who He wants us to be.
Spiritual Elements: The whole book is a fight of good against evil, darkness against light, right against wrong. All the while acknowledging the One True God and His Spirit that dwells within believers.
Violence: There are many battles and intense scenes. Nothing gory or graphic – just intense.
Sexual Content: The evil warlord Alrod keeps his eyes open for pretty virgin girls that can birth a child for him because his wife is unable to have children. No details on attempts to impregnate girls are given.
Other: There are a couple instances where ale is referred to being consumed, one time someone is referred to as being drunk on ale.
There are many statements on social issues that you may or may not take issue with ex: at one point the Outriders wondered if there had been some point during or after the Endless Wars when mankind could have stopped this pillage, this rape of the environment and one another for selfish gain.
Alrod gathers people from surrounding villages and morphs them into odd/disfigured creatures.
Recommendation: It took me a while to get into this book, but about 1/3 of the way in, I was hooked. The beginning is somewhat confusing as you try to figure out what environment they are living in and the details of their existence. However, once through that you are taken on an adventure that will have you cheering out-loud for the Outriders.
Author: Michelle Sutton
Primary Audience/age group: 16+
Genre: YA Christian Fiction
# Of pages: 352
Publisher: Sheaf House
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? Yes, 1st in the Second Chances Series
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend?: Yes, 16 and up!
But one night Annies safe world is shattered. As she fights to put the pieces of her broken life back together, against her will she is caught in a war between two brothers, both of whom claim to have her best interests at heart.
Who will Annie choose? And will she finally come to know the One whose love will never fail, even in her darkest hour? Will she learn the truth about life – that its not about me?
Rating: 3, includes mild talk/intent of sexual situations and a couple instances of intense violence
Positive: Annie is a very likable girl who I believe most teens will identify with in one way or another. Her relationship with her parents is one of respect. Many of the characters in the book express their desire to save sex until marriage.
Spiritual Elements: It was refreshing to read a teen book that explored real teen issues within the context of being a Christian. A challenge to examine your relationship with Christ is clearly presented.
Title: To Be Young in America: Growing up with the Country, 1776-1940
Author: Shelia Cole
Primary Audience/age group: Ages 10+ (See Recommendation)
# Of pages: 135
Publisher: Little Brown & Co.
Year of Release: 2005
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 5 (View Scale)Description: From Inside Cover:
While most American History books discuss presidential elections, the fight over slavery, or the settlement of the West, they are silent about young peoples lives. They do not discuss what it was like to be fifteen years old and fighting the British in 1776, or a young slave growing up on a plantation. Nor do they say much about when children became sick in the era before modern medicine, what it was like to learn in a one-room school house, and how much of a childs daily life involved hard labor-whether at home, on a far, or in a factory. Yet throughout history, children have been working, playing, making friends, flirting, fighting, taking care of themselves, and becoming the next generation of adults.Review: Whether they are working, playing, sick, or in trouble, Cole captures and illustrates the kids and teens of the 18th, 19th, and 20th century. By including dozens of photographs and neat side facts, To Be Young in America teaches history like it should be: fun, interesting, and inspiring enough to pass it on.
Rating: 5, for a positive outlook on life and history
Spiritual Elements: None
Sexual Content: None
Other: Just so youll know, there is an old photo (pg. 89 Chap. 6) of some naked boys (dont worry, only their backsides are shown) jumping into a river.
Recommendation: When I was younger (say about ten or so), I loved reading books about children in the old days. I read many fictional books about children in various eras, but could never find any non-fiction books about them. During a recent trip to the Book Mobile, I finally found what I had been looking for. This book was definitely worth the wait.
Although this book is for any age, children ages 10 or older would be an appropriate age to start. Children and teens should have at least a basic knowledge of the Revolutionary War, Civil War, The Immigration Era, and the Great Depression.
This book would be great for a research paper.
I recommend To Be Young in America: Growing up with the Country, 1776-1940 in so many ways. The author not only provides information for todays young people, but lets them take a peak into the past.
Title: Taking Liberty: The Story of Oney Judge, George Washington’s Runaway Slave
Author: Ann Rinaldi
Primary Audience/Age Group: Young Adult; ages 12-16
Genre: Historical Fiction
# of Pages: 264
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year of Release: 2002
Part of a Series? No.
Rating: 5 View Scale
The only life Oney Judge has ever known is servitude. As part of the staff of George and Martha Washington, she isnt referred to as a slave. She is a servant-and a house servant at that, a position of influence and respect on the plantation of Mount Vernon. When she rises to the position of personal servant to Martha Washington, her status among the household staff-black and white-is second to none. She is Lady Washingtons closest confidante and, for all intents and purposes, a member of the family-or so she thinks. Slowly, Oneys perception of her life with the Washingtons begins to crack as she realizes the truth: No matter how close she becomes with Lady Washington, no matter what secrets they share, she will never be a member of the family. And regardless of what they call it, its still slavery and shes still a slave. Oney must make a choice: Does she stay where she is, comfortable, with this family that has loved her and nourished her and owned her since the day she was born? Or does she take liberty-her life-into her own hands and, like her father, become one of the Gone?
Review: Taking Liberty is the story of Oney Judge, one of George Washingtons real slaves, and how she took the freedom that was rightfully hers. Between luxury and comfort that no other slave had, Oney was satisfied with her life. Yet when her mother urges her to take liberty and never again return to Mount Vernon, Oney starts to think. With the help of a freed woman, Oney makes plans to run-before its too late.
Rating: 5, for a mild, yet, truthful look on slavery.
Spiritual Elements: Though Martha makes them attend church services and pray, anything that has to do with God is kept on a minimal level.
Sexual Content: None.
Recommendation: While the American Revolution is raging and George Washington is elected as the first President, theres another war being fought in secret. The battle between slavery and freedom is told through the eyes of Oney as she recounts her life story to a reporter.
I have read many books about slaves, but Rinaldi is one of the few that exhibits the truth about how our Founding Fathers were pushing things like all men are equal and liberty and justice for all-Rinaldi gives you something to think about.
Rinaldi is a quite a master of detail in this autobiography style book, though some sections were a little confusing at times. The Authors Note contains real facts about Oney Judge and various characters. Rinaldi also cites several biographies on Washington in addition to Washington’s own writings about slavery.