Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What We're Reading: Teen Smorgasbord

In an attempt to keep up with reading for the teen book clubs, I took home three very different stories this weekend. One is new and two are older; but all of them were of interest for various reasons.


The first was Epic, by Conor Kostick, which falls in the sci fi/dystopic arena so popular lately. New Earth's society is vehemently against physical violence of any kind. Government and conflict resolution all take place inside a complex fantasy computer game called Epic. Each person on the planet has an avatar or character in the game; as these characters amass wealth or vanquish foes, they likewise qualify for benefits in the real world (attendance at university, supplies for their communities, etc.). But what started out as a rather democratic equalizer (everyone has a chance to do well in the game) has devolved into an autocracy in which the game is used by "Central Allocations" to make the wealthy (themselves) more powerful, and keep the rest of the citizenry downtrodden and desperate. A few unlikely teen contenders decide to take some bold risks inside Epic that bring them notoriety and give them the chance to wake up the citizenry to rebel against being further exploited. An interesting premise that will appeal in particular to game players. The sequel is Saga.

A more reality-based tale is See What I See, a new book by Gloria Whelan, a National Book Award-winning author. Kate is an aspiring young artist headed from her tiny home town to art school in Detroit. She has the will to succeed and the scholarship to pay for it, but nowhere to live. She has had no contact with her father, famous artist Dalton Quinn, for more than 10 years, but after discovering he has moved from New York City back to Detroit, Kate decides she will live with him while going to school. She shows up on his doorstep and discovers a challenge she hadn't anticipated. Dealing with it is the meat of this book, which was intriguing for its perspectives on art but a bit pat as to plot and resolution.



The third book I read is The She, by Carol Plum-Ucci. I am a fan of this author's other works (see previous reviews on this blog), but had never read this one. It's an interesting mix (along the lines of The Body of Christopher Creed) of mystery, reality and the supernatural. Evan Barrett's parents were lost at sea when he was nine years old; he cringed in fear as they broadcast their frantic Mayday calls on the ship-to-shore radio, completely immobilized by a shrieking sound he heard in the background. Now age 17, Evan is determined to solve the mystery of the legend of The She, a creature who supposedly devours ships (and their crews) in the water canyon off the New Jersey coast. But Evan's brother, Emmett, has been holding out on him with information from the DEA about their parents' disappearance, and is determined to convince Evan there's nothing supernatural about it. I liked how the story engaged the reader directly in the back-and-forth between Emmett's insistent level-headed pursuit of the facts and Evan's reliance on intuition and personal experience.

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