No Such Thing as the Real World: Stories about growing up and geting a life

May 14, 2009

No Such Thing as the Real World: Stories About Growing Up and Getting a Life

I wanted to like this. I really did. I mean M.T. Anderson, An Na, K.L. Going, Beth Kephart, Chris Lynch and Jacqueline Woodson? That is some heavy talent in the teen fiction world. But these stories…most of them just fell completely flat for me.

That said, there were a few bright points. Chris Lynch’s story about a teen who learns some hard truths about his recently dead father when he takes over the family pawnshop made you wonder if it is better to know the truth or live with your perception of someone. Jacqueline Woodson’s story of a gay dancer questioning the meaning of family was interesting. For me, the strongest of the collection was “Survival” by K.L. Going, a story where a girl learns the hard way that you can’t always count on the people closest to you.

Overall, not really the best collection of stories. The coolest thing about the book is the contest that the editors are running. Teens between the ages of 14 and 19 are invited to submit a short story about a single, life changing event. The winner will have their story published in the paperback edition of the book. More info about that contest can be found on the HarperTeen website.


Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

May 13, 2009

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman

So not what I was expecting. I thought this was going to be a memoir about two girls, Susan Jane Gilman and her friend Claire Van Houten and their backpacking trip through China; something where I could read about their adventures and for some of it, reminisce, “Ahhh, it was like that when I went there…” And parts of it were like that. Despite the fact that she went in 1986 and I didn’t travel there until twenty years later, Gilman’s description of visiting the Great Wall, of seeing glimpses of it snaking along the mountain ridges long before you ever arrive at it and the exhilaration of reaching the top sections and seeing the landscape just spread out before you…I remember that feeling. I remember having the same surprised feeling of being stared at all the time, of seeing so many people riding bicycles in one place, and of eating food that I never thought I would eat.

However, that is where our journeys take a drastic turn apart. When Claire becomes moody and difficult, spending large amounts of time alone and giving cryptic answers about what she is doing, Gilman just assumes that Claire is either homesick or that she can’t accept that the cute backpacking guys seem to be more interested her. The truth ends up being far from either of those scenarios, putting both girls into a dangerous, life threatening situation.

Although not what I expected, this turned out to be a really great read, perfect for those needing to either laugh or escape on an exciting whirlwind trip. I laughed when I learned the origin of the book’s title, and I held my breath during a trip to a small village hospital. I always meant to read Gilman’s other book (Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress), and after reading this funny, hard to put down tale, I definitely will have to pick it up soon.

The Comet’s Curse

May 5, 2009

The Comet’s Curse by Dom Testa

Two hundred fifty one souls. None of whom is over sixteen years old. They are mankind’s final hope for survival.

The very existence of all mankind is at stake after the tail of the comet Bhaktul contaminates Earth’s atmosphere, infecting everyone over the age of eighteen. When he and his colleagues are unable to develop a cure, renowned scientist Dr. Zimmer proposes a radical plan: select and 251 of the world’s brightest, strongest and bravest teens and train them to undertake the dangerous mission of traveling through space to Eon, a new earth.

Although his plan is met with much resistance, Dr. Zimmer, along with his associates Dr. Bauer and Dr. Armstead, begin the creation of Galahad, a ship that will support the selected teens for during their five year journey. Everyone aboard will be led by The Council, Captain Triana Martell, and Roc, their detailed and life-like systems computer.

All appears to go according to Dr. Zimmer’s plan, when shortly after takeoff, a crew member must dragged to the Sick House, frantically screaming that he has spotted a stowaway. At first the Council assumes that Peter is space sick and simply imagining things, a sickness that is common after the initial takeoff. However, when crops are vandalized and the words, “This is a death ship” are scrawled across a wall, Triana knows that this wasn’t just a hallucination, and the entire mission may be at stake.

This was a great start to a new science fiction series, one that deals more with the human aspect of the mission rather than the futuristic details of the teen’s world. I look forward to reading more of Testa’s Galahad series.

The Diary of Pelly D

May 1, 2009

The Diary of Pelly D by L.J. Adlington

Toni V knows that he should turn it over, that’s what the Rules and Regulations state. He doesn’t even want to think about the trouble he could get in for taking something from the Demo Site. But his curiosity gets the better of him, and he smuggles it back to his room in the block and hiding it under his pillow where no one else can see it. Reading snippets when no one else is looking.

The Diary of Pelly D

At first, Toni V thinks Pelly D seems a bit shallow and petty (but, he decides, most likely gorgeous). She’s more concerned with her popularity, dating the hot new guy and hanging out at the new Waterworld Park than with anything else going on in City Five.

Soon though, her diary entries begin to allude to a growing unrest between the cities. People are becoming obsessed with which gene pool others belong to, after all, everyone knows the Atsumisi have the all important epigene and Galrezi don’t.

Pelly D’s world takes a drastic turn when the Atsumisi government in City One pass a law declaring everyone must be tested and gene identifying hand stamps become mandatory. As Toni V reads more, he begins to connects events of the past with the current post-war state of City Five.

Adlington has created a post apocalyptic story of a futuristic Holocaust, intentionally reminiscent of events in World War 2. She causes the reader to wonder if mankind ever really changes, or if they are doomed to repeat the same mistakes, regardless of time and place.