Saturday, June 7, 2008

Digital Booktalk - Streams of Babel

666: The Number of the Beast

c. 2007 Scholastic

The story collection is divided into three sections (Evil, Darkness, and Beasts) with six stories in each section, hence the title. Pretty clever!!
In Evil you’ll find stories like:
Channel 99 by Peter Abrahams: When Becky stays home because she’s sick, the only thing to do is watch TV. But when things get weirder and weirder, she pulls the plug, but it won’t shut off…and they’re coming for her.
Saving Face by Christopher Pike: All she wanted was the good life, filled with clothes, guys and a great job. So she gets it by killing her identical sister and taking her place. But she sister comes back…

In Darkness, you’ll find stories like:
Erased by Jane Mason: It was a typical beach party for Isobel. But things are completely different after she comes back from a night swim. Has everybody changed that much…or is she the one that’s changed?
Scapegoat by Robin Wasserman: Parker is perfect – perfect looks, perfect clothes, perfect personality. But there is something just a little different about her. When she starts school, things begin to die. First a cat, then a dog….who will be the next in order for Parker to keep up her appearances?

In Beasts, you’ll find stories like:
Shelter Island by Melissa de la Cruz: Shelter Island becomes dead after tourist season, and Hannah starts to feel the loneliness, until he shows up one night in her bedroom. Hannah begins to fall in love, but it could be fatal…because he’s a vampire

Wolfsbane by Sarah Hines Stephens: Hazel is tired is her sister Lupe and her high maintenance. She gets all the attention and Hazel doesn’t get any except some unusual family rules, such as giving Lupe privacy, especially during that time in the month. Why? Because Lupe is a werewolf…

These stories are tailored for the YA reader who can’t get enough of the vampires, werewolves and ghost books out there. If you love series like De la Cruz’s Bluebloods and Meyer’sTwilight or stand alones by A.M Jenkins’s Beating Heart, you'll devour this book. Standout names such as Stolarz, Atwater-Rhodes and De la Cruz have written stories in here as well. These stories and short and sweet and a perfect companion for YA supernatural books.

The Brother Torres by Coert Vorhees

c. 2008 Hyperion

Frankie is having a typical freshman year in New Mexico...well, almost a typical year. He’s lived in the small town of Borges all of his life where lines are drawn, both social and racial. He and his parents work hard at their family-owned restaurant, Los Torres, in order to compete with the large Tortilla Emporium. He hangs out with Zach, the crazy "guero" with one eye who loves to blow things up and Begay, a "rez," who completes the crowd.
Frankie likes to hang out with his friends, but it’s his older brother, Steve who fascinates him. Steve is the star soccer player that everyone loves, from the ninth graders to seniors. But Frankie begins to notice subtle changes in his brother, from the people he hangs out with to the girls he dates. No longer is Cheo part of Steve’s’s now Flaco, a known cholo and Steve's chola girl, Carmenita. Steve also starts hanging out late at night, and Frankie has no idea what he’s up to.
Life takes a dramatic turn when Dalton, the rich preppy guy, decides to turn his dislike for Steve into a three on one fight with Frankie and Dalton comes at him again, this time during Frankie’s first date with his crush, Rebecca. Now, Frankie sees the power of the cholos and the protection they can give. All thanks to Steve, his big brother.
Tension between Dalton and Frankie never let up and things blow up the night of prom. Steve and Dalton start a deadly fight, but when Frankie sees what could be Steve’s downfall of cholo protection decides it’s time for him to step up. And the results are painful to both brothers.
Coert Vorhees writes with honesty and clarity about the boundaries and relationships of Mexican-American teens’ lives. The characters are rich in personality, the language is authentic, and the situations these boys find themselves in to protect their family and their own honor is real. A must have for any school that has a Latino population.

Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci

c. 2008 Harcourt

This is the nightmare that people have been thinking will happen after 9/11, and it occurs first in a small town….

Cora Holman’s mother is dead of an aneurysm, probably caused by the self-prescribed medication she has been taking for years. Now Cora is alone, and although she wishes her grandmother was still there, she feels she can take care of herself. If only she can shake this virus that has caught up with her.

Down the street, Scott Eberman is trying hard to keep his mother well and his brother, Owen, involved. He’s just come back from taking away Cora’s mother and feels something is wrong…Scott and Owen also have to contend with Rain, their next door neighbor and her chattiness – except she isn’t feeling too well either. It doesn’t help that her father, a suit for a branch of the FBI, is constantly busy and never around.

Shahzad sits in his uncle’s coffee shop hacking away at computers and working hard as a v-spy…tracking down terrorists and reporting back to the USIC on their activities. He lives in Karachi and doesn’t know what’s going on in Trinity Falls New Jersey. He only knows that “Red Vinegar” a viral mutation that kills, is polluting the water and will kill thousands somewhere in the world.

Tyler Ping, whose mother works for the South Korean government, doesn’t know he’s involved right now, but his jealousy of Shahzad’s hacking skills and rise in the FBI will cause secrets and knowledge to become public.

And what started it all was a small puddle of water outside of Cora’s house, on the same street as Rain, Owen and Scott…

Plum-Ucci knows how to write mysteries. What most people think about biological terror, she has put into a gripping YA novel that reveals what could happen. The characters are believable and the situation they find themselves in could be all too real. Adult characters abound in this book, and they take a secondary role to the teens, but they round out the novel as a whole. While most books about terrorism could become dry, this one stays juicy till the very end. Highly recommended.

Patron Saint of Butterflies

c. 2008 Bloomsbury

Agnes and Honey have always been friends since they were babies. They went to school together, ate their dinners together...and today, they faced the Regulation Room together...The girls live at Mount Blessing, a religious commune led by Emmanuel and Veronica. The adult members work at outside jobs to help support the commune while the children are schooled and brought up there. When Agnes, her brother Benny, and Honey were born, they were separated from their parents for seven years and raised by people in Emmanuel's inner circle. All of their life, Agnes and Honey have been told how to live in order to achieve greatness, and to always refer to the Book of Saints, given to children when they turn twelve.Agnes fully believes in everything Emmanuel says and does. Honey can no longer stand the pain, degradation, and hypocrisy she has gone through and seen. Honey seems to be the only one who doesn't believe in Emmanuel's miracles, doesn't understand his version of redemption, and can't stand to sit through his sermons. Something has to give...And it does when Benny, Agnes's four year old brother, gets into a serious accident that nearly severs fingers from his hand. After several hours, Emmanuel "cures" his hand through a miracle, but is it a miracle or a sloppy and dirty stitch job? At this point, Nana Pete, grandmother to Agnes and Benny, decides it's time to leave...and take the children with her in order to save them. What happens afterwards may be the downfall of the commune, but not if Agnes, who is aspiring to become the next saint, can save Emmanuel, her parents, and the rest from the police first. In today's current social controversies, this book rings true and close to those following the ordeal of news stories out of Texas. Galante writes true when showing two completely different girls raised in the same environment and how they treat themselves and others according to how far they've been brain-washed. She writes in two voices, both Agnes and Honey, and readers begin to see the delineation of events seen from different eyes. Readers will cheer for and loathe the adult characters that play a sizable role in this book for and about teens. This book will draw readers to it and they will stay riveted until the ending, including the missing pieces in Honey's life that are finally filled in.

Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes Courter

c. 2008 Atheneum

It's been quite awhile since I've come across anything non-fiction tailored for high school students, and this is a book I would highly recommend. While most students are familiar with Dave Pelzer (A Child Called It), this book could be a companion, but it focuses more about the foster system that parental abuse. The author, Ashley Rhodes-Carter begins the book by recalling her relationship with her mother. Although there is a definite child-mother bond, her 17 year old mother makes some serious destructive choices and she and her brother are put into foster care. By the time Ashley is 9 years old, she has been through 13 homes, with the Moss foster home being the most horrible place she ever encountered. She tells what happens to her and her brother throughout their ordeal, including becoming a ward of the state when parental rights are terminated. And the things she goes through... At the time, she doesn't comprehend how this could be good (what 9 year old would?) but she realizes that she can finally trust her caseworker with her life, and ends up in a loving home. The author, just 22 years old, can tell her story with the simple style that typical teens will find attractive, especially when it comes to non-fiction. While there is good non-fiction out there, it takes a certain author (ie Marc Aronson, Steve Almond) to create a story that fits the high school shelf without becoming to authoritative and in-depth and/or too much of a picture book. While reading this, you will find yourself hoping the next foster family is the one. This book will fly off the shelves.

Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi

c. 2008, Viking

Miles feels ambivalent about the changes in his life. One one hand, he’d love to stay in Chicago with his mother, but doesn’t want to be around her new husband and his four kids. On the other hand, he hasn’t seen his dad in a long time, but New Orleans?? Come on….
He doesn’t make the decision – his mother does – and Miles is sent to New Orleans to stay with his dad, a trumpet player in jazz bands throughout the city. Miles loves football, his dad loves his horn, and there is little love lost between the two. To make it even worse, the weather center has issued an evacuation of the city because of a hurricane, and Miles, his father and his dad’s buddy start out of the city, cramped in a rundown car.
When they can’t get out of the city, they find refuge in the Super Dome, a day before Hurricane Katrina hits. At first, Miles is amazed that he can play on the field – the same field as the Saints!! But that’s only on day one – Sunday, August 28. Three days later, Miles comes out a different person, after witnessing the horrors that have taken place inside the Super Dome, from the thugs, to the filthy living conditions; from the soldiers to people who are victims of crime, both self-imposed and unasked for. New Orleans is gone…but his father still remains. And their bond couldn’t be any closer after this ordeal.
The after-effects of Hurricane Katrina are slowly mending themselves in our world today, but Paul Volponi will take the reader back to the day it happened and allow us to witness what went on inside the Super Dome as well as what New Orleans, to both the people and the city. It’ll make the reader seriously think differently about the survivors not only of the hurricane but of the evacuation as well. Small book, great for reluctant readers, but packs a powerful punch. I couldn’t stop thinking about if it were me…..what would I do?

Box Out by John Coy

Coy, John (2008). Box Out. New York: Scholastic Press (out June 2008)

Liam is a natural athlete, and his passion is basketball. He looks forward to the day that he can join the elite on varsity, but is willing to settle for junior varsity for now with his best friend, Seth. But a senior injury puts Liam on the varsity team, and now the game is completely different – the speed, the agility, the upperclassmen. And Seth is loving it, especially when he gets to play with Darius, the most skilled varsity player.
But after one game, Darius quits for no reason, and Liam sees how this affects Darius’s life. He went from being a star player to being shunned, his friends turning their back on him. Liam doesn’t know what to make of that, or of how Coach Kloss handles the situation. But he’s enjoying the benefits of being on the team, from a job in the mall to the adoration of his girlfriend dating a varsity player.
But there is an undertone of pressure from the coach and players. The Thursday morning athlete breakfast and prayer meetings he needs to participate in. The sweatbands with the HWJC on them…leading prayer before game. Liam begins to notice that some players don’t feel comfortable with this, but go along anyway – and then he thinks about Darius and how suddenly he quits.
Caught between being a team player and standing up for his rights, Liam decides to get help from the Americans United for Separation of Church and State and makes an ultimate decision that will cause his life to take a downward spiral on and off the court.
After the school gets a call to cease and desist, Liam becomes an outcast, just like Darius. But just as he think life can’t get any worse, he begins to find out that there are players, coaches and true friends who will stand behind him, even if it wasn’t what many others would call the right choice.
This book takes a snapshot of small town life and the pressures of being an athlete, but in a completely opposite spectrum than most people think about. Controversial in nature, prayer on the court or field is highly respected in a small community. John Coy once again hits a solid chord about athletes with his new book, tackling the other side of sports than the one he wrote about in Crackback. In a world of black and white, Coy writes about the grey area. Readers will either cheer or jeer at this book, but the subject is very relevant in student life today.
c. 2008, Scholastic Press