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Category: young adult (Page 1 of 3)

The Water Kingdom – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Deborah Gray

In Deborah Gray’s The Water Kingdom, Nell Cunningham sneaks along on a field trip to White Shell Lagoon, but finds more than she bargained for—including a violet-eyed boy who clearly isn’t human. Meanwhile, Sebastian has been tasked with finding his lost queen and her priceless locket, but there’s danger around every corner for him—and for Nell, too.


Though its plot is certainly intriguing, The Water Kingdom also has some aspects about it that are a bit too cliché and predictable. Many of these obvious hints and tropes give away the plot twists before they happen, which perhaps takes some of the fun out of the story in general. Also, there were many scenes and plot points that were far too rushed, hurtling the reader through a fast-paced plot that may have been better executed if it had been slowed down a tad. Aside from that, The Water Kingdom is an incredibly entertaining young adult novel that shows a lot of promise.


The Water Kingdom’s greatest strength lies in its imaginative and descriptive storyline. Exciting and fascinating from the first page, this story is full of adventure, mystery, and delightful fantasy. Deborah Gray is a talented writer, seamlessly weaving lifelike characters and impeccable detail into a narrative that is consistently riveting. In many ways, The Water Kingdom is so well-written that it seems overwhelmingly believable at times. The Water Kingdom is a brilliant, creative novel that is impossible to put down—and will certainly inspire many equally great sequels in the future.

 

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Avocadonine and Spring Stone – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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Patrick Barnes

In Patrick Barnes’ The Avocadonine and Spring Stone, Rey Naresh visits a psychic and receives a cryptic reading about his future. Then, as he’s entering the ninth grade, Rey learns that some of his classmates are hearing humming noises emitting from their electronics. With the help of his friends, Rey investigates the anomaly, uncovering a secret plot involving mind control, avocados, and a mysterious girl named Spring Stone.


In short, there’s just too much going on in The Avocadonine and Spring Stone. The plot often comes across as convoluted and crowded, with constantly changing points of view and a distracted narrative. There are many scenes that are so busy or vague that it’s difficult to follow along with what’s happening; one can only imagine how confusing it might be for the younger readers that are clearly the target audience here. Also, the heavy prevalence of avocados (of all things) in this story might have been interesting in theory, but in execution, it’s just overly eccentric and almost too strange.


Nevertheless, there is still much to be appreciated in this quirky novel. Patrick Barnes captures the awkward and curious nature of youths perfectly, making the characters of The Avocadonine and Spring Stone all relatable and realistic. The bare plot itself is interesting and unique, with a creative mystery that is engaging and intriguing right up to its resolution. The Avocadonine and the Spring Stone may be a little odd, but it is a charming and amusing coming-of-age story all the same.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Veronica and the Volcano – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Geoffrey Cook

A young adult story best suited for middle school and beyond youths, Geoffrey Cook’s Veronica and the Volcano, is a gripping tale that will keep readers on the edge of their seats and unable to put the book down. Veronica wants to make a special gift for her mother and convinces her father (and her mother) to let her go to Mount Mystery to retrieve special pearls. Veronica’s father, her best friend, Maddy and Maddy’s father go with her. Encountering life-threatening danger again and again throughout their journey, they find more than they ever dreamed of. Cook wraps up the story with an odd twist at the end – one readers won’t see coming.


As thrilling and fascinating as Veronica and the Volcano is, parents must use extreme caution when allowing their children to read it. There are numerous scenes within Cook’s story that are on the edge of fitting into a horror novel, and at the least a highly frightening thriller. These are an odd mix with the colorful, child-focused illustrations in Veronica and the Volcano. There is also an odd jump as though the story has two unique and different parts about two-thirds of the way through the story. Perhaps it would have been better to have ended before the last set of thrilling scenes because they don’t really fit.


With that being said and with conscious awareness and caution used, Geoffrey Cook’s Veronica and the Volcano can be a very exciting read for middle schoolers and potentially high schoolers. There is a good deal of science and information on volcanoes, which can add an educational edge while being written in such a skillful manner so that readers will not be able to put the book down. Veronica and the Volcano is certainly not like any other book. It’s paradoxical nature of being written for younger readers with an older and heavier storyline might just be the perfect fit for more mature young adult readers.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Good Citizen – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Joël Henning Doty

Joël Henning Doty’s The Good Citizen takes place in a futuristic society where all citizens are required by the powerful Govencorp to carry and use firearms called Protectors. Jenny, a life-long citizen, treasures the rigid rules of her society and aspires to be a safety officer when she grows up. Hannah, on the other hand, is a new inductee and has reservations about the use of Protectors and society’s discrimination against her and her fellow immigrants. When these two girls meet, Jenny and Hannah will be forced to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew about what it means to be a good citizen.


The Good Citizen’s only notable drawback is that there isn’t more of it. Additional details about this fascinating, yet terrible society would only be a bonus—one that readers would certainly eat up after reading this book. That’s not to say, though, that what’s already in The Good Citizen isn’t enough, because it certainly is in many ways. The societal structure represented in this book is reminiscent of other popular young adult novels like The Giver or Divergent, but with a unique, modern-day twist that is absolutely captivating.


Perhaps the most intriguing aspect about this young adult novel is how Joël Henning Doty seamlessly blends prevalent issues from today—consumerism, surveillance, immigration, protesting, and guns—into a narrative that is simultaneously innovative and age-appropriate. The characters are well-rounded and well-developed and the plot itself is eerily believable, only serving to draw the reader in even more. The Good Citizen is a thrilling, thoughtful, poignant novel that will leave its readers with lots to ponder and discuss. One can only hope that there will be sequels to The Good Citizen in the future, since this is a book that certainly deserves and inspires them.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Fire and Ice – Entered 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Jessica Victoria Fisette

The first book in Jessica Victoria Fisette’s The Aldurian Chronicles, Fire and Ice follows teenaged Allie as she struggles to cope with her boyfriend’s mysterious disappearance. All that she remembers is a destructive fire, totaling her car over the Asher Creek bridge, and the mysterious stranger who saved her. Then, more strange things begin to happen, causing Allie to have to flee for her life—but there are secrets in store for her that could change everything.


In many ways, Fire and Ice reads more like the second book in the series than an adequate introduction into it all. Although plenty of fascinating events happened before Fire and Ice begins, the reader is only treated to those events through intercutting flashback scenes and spoken memories, which interrupts the plot and can lead to a fair bit of confusion. Perhaps the inclusion of an earlier book in The Aldurian Chronicles—or even just a prologue in Fire and Ice—would have made this book progress a bit more smoothly. Also, the plot development of the story in Fire and Ice seems a bit uneven; some scenes drag on forever while others are over too quickly, and the reader is left with too many questions.


However, Fire and Ice is most certainly a worthwhile read. Jessica Victoria Fisette expertly blends fantasy, science fiction, and young adult fiction into this fascinating novel. Her mysterious, descriptive style of writing only adds to the experience, making Fire and Ice even more memorable and enchanting. With a captivating, unique plot and relatable, multi-faceted characters, Fire and Ice shows a great deal of promise for its future sequels in The Aldurian Chronicles.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Allium – Entered in 2017 Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Lisa Gabory

Allium, by Lisa G. Gabory, is an adventurous tale about a young, free-spirited garlic clove who has to learn to survive in a garden, among the good and evil of Mother Nature. After confronting numerous insects and encountering evil, a coming of age story transpires. In a well thought out plot, humourous insects and plants need to learn to live together in a harmonious garden. 

Lisa G. Gabory along with Lisa M. Gabory did all the interior illustrations in the book. The illustrations are not as accurate as the descriptions. They seem amateurish and not too detailed. The abundance of new characters introduced in every chapter may be confusing for certain younger readers. However, there were many delightful aspects of Allium that more than made up for its few flaws.

Allium portrays the yin and yang of Mother Nature, but at the same time, using the characters as allegory, there is a descriptive element of how life is mimicked in nature. Each insect has a unique voice; one has a French accent, another has a Jamaican acccent, each a quirk that sets them apart from the rest. Gabory portrays the characters in a fun light, yet they each have an important message to convey. The parts of the book that stood out the most were the philosophical ones, as well as the humorous ones. The Queen Lasius Ant was a strong female leader that gave Allium great advice. “All you have to do is try. That is how I got to be where I am today.” The play on words, names, and titles all added a certain originality to the book. The lesson learned is that “bad things happen and life gives us pain.” Mother Nature’s circle of life is part of our humanity.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Wrath of the Revenant – Entered in 2017 Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Terry Marchion

In Terry Marchion’s The Wrath of the Revenant, Christopher’s Uncle Tremain befriends a mysterious and beautiful woman named Alice, but there is something strange about her. Meanwhile, Tremain is summoned to review a satellite image that reveals something deeply unsettling: a vengeful being who despises humans and wants to destroy them all. Tremain and Christopher will only have one chance to save the whole human race from the titular wrath of the revenant.

The Wrath of the Revenant has all the potential to be a great science fiction novel, but it is held back slightly by some issues with its plot development. Much of the first half of the book is incredibly confusing, as the plot is unclear and the characters are unfamiliar to readers who have not read the other books in Marchion’s The Adventures of Tremain and Christopher series. Certain aspects of the plot seem too rushed and undeveloped, making it difficult to follow along until much later in the book. The Wrath of the Revenant could clearly benefit from some revisions and editing to alleviate its many plot issues.

However, The Wrath of the Revenant still stands out as a fantastic literary experience, mostly due to its creative and unique plot. Terry Marchion has written this story in such a way that it introduces the science fiction genre to younger audiences, while still maintaining a great deal of excitement and relatability. Its vivid detail, mysterious plot, and all-too-human characters contribute to this story as well, making it a joy to read from beginning to end. The Wrath of the Revenant could use a bit of polishing in some places, but it is a gem nonetheless, guaranteed to delight its young readers with a captivatingly different sort of story.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Phoenix (Book 1 of The Paradon) – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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Daccari Buchelli

Phoenix is the first installment of Daccari Buchelli’s Peradon series, a fantasy which takes place in the fictional, segregated land of Peradon. After an ominous prophecy leads to a failed, yet brutal assassination attempt, Princess Violetta of the Fire Realm is left devastated and haunted by what could have been. Emperor Ryore of the neighboring Frost Realm falls in love with the fiery princess, but his love is not as pure as he might want her to believe. Meanwhile, there are dangerous forces at work around the two conflicted rulers, threatening to send all of Peradon spiraling into unspeakable tragedy.

Phoenix has a lot of promise as a fantasy novel, yet still misses the mark a bit in some important areas. Perhaps due to the provided map of the fictional land of Peradon seeming entirely unrealistic, the land itself doesn’t seem as fully fleshed out and immersive as it could be. There are too many characters all at once, making some seem wooden and forced and only serving to confuse the reader as to who is who. There were also many scenes in Phoenix that were too drawn out, and others that blatantly contradicted earlier details of the story (a minor instance of this occurred in the beginning, when a character was described as having “golden curls,” then later as having hair that was a “coppery shade”).

Despite these mishaps, Phoenix remains a unique and inspired fantasy novel, largely because of its complexity. Daccari Buchelli has blended fantasy, magic, romance, politics, and conspiracy into Phoenix, making it a definite page-turner. In some ways, Phoenix almost resembles a combination of the A Song of Ice and Fire series and Avatar: The Last Airbender, while still maintaining its own unique style and voice. Phoenix could certainly benefit from some revision, but is a promising beginning to the Peradon series nonetheless.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Forget Me – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Chelsea Vanderbeek

In Forget Me, by Chelsea Vanderbeek, readers will find an intense story about a teenage girl, who is facing deep self-loathing. She doesn’t want to keep living and sadly takes her own life. But, she doesn’t disappear. Instead, she’s forced to stick around and see what happened to those around her. Before long she regrets her decision to end her life, but whether or not she can go back and change things is questionable.

With such heavy content, it is highly advisable to use caution when considering whether or not to read Forget Me. Other than the painful topic at the core of this story -deep depression and suicide- it’s an impactful tale. However, it was a bit confusing early on as to why Sabine felt so compelled to hate herself and her life. There were only mild clues as to why she was so deeply depressed. This could have been explored more, which might help readers relate more and feel a deeper connection to the the protagonist.

Chelsea Vanderbeek’s Forget Me is a deeply Christian young adult fiction, which will be a powerful draw for some readers. It was most certainly a gripping tale that moved through Sabine’s experiences of being a tortured soul while offering beautiful poetic lines early on in the story. Sabine is a poet by nature and writes glorious poetry. Eloquently dealing with the topic of depression and suicide is not an easy task, but Chelsea Vanderbeek did it smoothly and took an honest look at the young girl’s feelings without hiding from the fact that many people do take their own lives. By taking this approach to a fictional story Vanderbeek offers a way to find hope and healing for not only Sabine, but for readers or friends or family of the reader.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The History Makers – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Val Bodurtha

Val Bodurtha’s The History Makers is an imaginative take on what the modern Aztec culture would be like if the Aztec Empire had prevailed to the present day. Myla is a teenager in modern-day Azteca, enjoying the spoils of upper-class life. Then, on her seventeenth birthday, she is “enlightened” and told a devastating truth that will change her life as she knows it. Caught in a web of lies between the Priesthood and the rebels opposing them, Myla must decide what the truth really is before it’s too late.

Perhaps the only downfall to this book is that there isn’t more of it. Although still fascinating and extraordinarily creative, The History Makers could have included far more detailed information about this modern Aztec culture, the Priesthood and rebels, and the future of its protagonist, Myla. What’s in this book feels more like a taste of a great series than a standalone novel with no future sequels. In some respects, this makes The History Makers seem rushed and incomplete, but it also leaves the door open for the story to continue. Hopefully, it does.

The History Makers is an innovative take on young adult fiction; though it has a few of the staples we have come to expect from the genre, it’s more unique and intriguing than the cookie-cutter YA books some may be used to. Val Bodurtha’s inclusion and reimagining of a real society in history is fascinating, as is her depth and tact as a writer. The History Makers is creative, dramatic, highly immersive, and an overall phenomenal read for fans of any genre; let us just hope that Val Bodurtha plans to continue Myla’s story in the future.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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