Gone by Michael Grant

June is Catching Up
As a librarian, and general bibliophile, there is a never ending list of books I want to read. The titles from this month are all books that I have been recommending (and wanting) to read for a while. In some cases, I am embarrassed to admit that ... no, I still haven't read "Insert YA Book that everyone loves" *shame*

So I'm catching up ... better late than never :) 

It's been a pretty typical day so far, until about 10 am ... when in mid sentence Sam's teacher disappears. *Poof* Magic show style ... and it's alarming, but not nearly as alarming as what comes next. All of the adults have gone, in fact, everyone aged 15+ seems to have disappeared. After the initial panic, Sam and his best friend Quinn, and braniac Astrid assess the situation, and try to decide what to do. Someone needs to do something. What are all the little kids doing without supervision? Where did everyone go? Is it happening everywhere, or just at the school? Most importantly ... where are the loved ones of everyone left behind?

With too many questions, and not enough answers, the trio set off to take stock (and try to find their parents and siblings). The bad news is it looks like everyone who was 15 or older are gone without a trace. There seems to be an invisible barrier around the town, too. The good news? No school? It's hard to decide what good could come out of a situation like this. Astrid finds her brother (who has autism) safe and sound - sitting next to the nuclear reactor - and as they arrive back in town they come upon a situation. There is a building on fire with someone trapped inside ... not to mention that the building is next door to the daycare. There's no question that someone needs to step up and start making decisions. Everyone looks to Sam to be their leader, so he does. He runs into the burning building, desperately attempting to find the trapped child and put out the fire. Far from wanting the attention that such behavior warrents, Sam wishes everyone would just shut up about it.

When Caine and the other Coates Academy kids show up in their Hummer, most of the kids just accept them as the natural leaders. It seems to Sam that the whole thing has been discussed and rehearsed, there is a definite theatrical element to their arrival. Frankly, Sam's not really ready to be a leader anyway ... he'll follow Caine, and hope for the best. He's assigned to Fire Chief duty, along with a few of his friends. Some kind of leadership needs to be established if they are going to survive, how bad could it be?

Apparently, really bad. The Coates Academy kids seem to have something special, like powers, and they aren't exactly using them for good. Sam thought that the local bully Orc was bad, until he met Caine's muscled sidekick Drake. More and more kids are starting to exhibit signs of coming into their own special powers as well. What is going on? Is this all the result of the nuclear reactor that resides in their town? Welcome to the FAYZ, Fallout Alley Youth Zone, where no one over 15 seems to exist, people are developing magical powers, and something really crazy is going on.
"'No one knows. All of a sudden every single person over the age of fourteen disappears and there's this barrier and people ... animals ...'
Lana slowly absorbed this new information. 'You mean all the adults? They're gone?'
'Poof,' Quinn said. 'They ditched. They blinked out. They vacated. They took the off-ramp. They cut a hole. They emigrated. Adults and teenagers. Nothing left but kids," (Grant pg. 370, 2008).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Hunger by Michael Grant (Gone Series, Book 2)
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Grant, Michael. (2008). Gone. New York, NY: HarperTeen.

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Jessica can't wait to start her senior year. She's thinned down over the summer, tamed her wild curls into a semblance of order, and she's been putting in her time chatting with Jake - the hottie that lives the next farm over, and who spent the whole summer outside baling hay (read: tan + muscles). Everything is going swimmingly, until she sees some creepy guy in a cape on her way to the bus. Maybe she imagined it?

She's almost convinced herself until he shows up in her English class, too! Apparently he's some exchange student from Romania named Lucius Vladescu (what kind of a name is that?), and he announces to the class that he's staying with HER! Something weird is definitely going on ... not to mention Lucius called her Antanasia (her old Romanian name). Did I mention Jessica's a Romanian orphan who was adopted by the people she knows as her parents? It's starting to get weirder, right?

Back at home with Lucius, Jessica has some serious questions. Her parents don't seem nearly as concerned about his presence as they should be. Apparently, her parents have forgotten to mention that she has been betrothed to Lucius since she was an infant. As you can imagine, Jessica is totally freaking out...it's a lot to take in, not to mention she wants nothing to do with this spoiled Romanian VAMPIRE prince as he keeps calling himself. As if things weren't complicated enough, Lucius produces a document, that Jessica's parents signed all those years ago, proving that there is a pact pledging their eventual marriage. What century is this? Did he say vampire? She isn't even sure what to make of that last part ...

He turns on the charm full blast, trying to convince her to honor the pact. There are even times that she almost thinks he's not horrid, like when they go shopping and he finds a dress he wants her to try. Putting it on, she feels transformed into a real Romanian princess! How did he know? Not to mention, things with Jake aren't exactly as she had planned. He's nice, but as Lucius so rudely points out ... "you're so nice" isn't exactly what anyone wants to hear from their girlfriend. Just when she starts to come around, Lucius suddenly loses interest ... and starts dating someone else. Boys! What is Jessica going to do? She's starting to think that maybe Lucius isn't as crazy as she thought ...

"With a deep sigh, Lucius resumed pacing. 'Honestly, I can't stand this going around anymore. The story is quite simple. You, Antanasia, are the last of a long line of powerful vampires. The Dragomirs. Vampire royalty.'

Now that made me laugh, a squeaky, kind of hysterical laugh. 'Vampire royalty. Right.'
'Yes. Royalty. And that is the last part of the story, which your parents still seem reluctant to relate.' Lucius leaned over the table across from me, bracing his arms, staring me down. 'You are a vampire princess—the heir to the Dragomir leadership. I am a vampire prince. The heir to an equally powerful clan, the Vladescus. More powerful, I would say, but that's not the point. We were pledged to each other in an engagement ceremony shortly after our births.'" (Fantasky, 2009).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey (January 2012)
Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCollough
Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel

Fantaskey, Beth. (2009). Jessica's guide to dating on the dark side. New York: Graphia Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Among the Hidden by Margaret Haddix Peterson (Shadow Children series, book 1)

Luke is a third. He cannot leave the house, can't play in the yard, doesn't even get to eat at the table, doesn't have any friends ... all because he was born third. In the world that Luke knows, the government has outlawed all families from having more than two children. He must stay hidden to be safe.

It didn't used to be so bad. Sometimes at night he could go out in the yard, or even in the forest surrounding his house. He and his brothers could play, and feel the breeze on his face. The government put a stop to that when they reclaimed the forest, cut down the trees, and built fancy houses for the Barons to move into ... it's so unfair!

With the neighbors now in such close proximity, Luke's movements become even more restricted than before. His father is increasingly paranoid that one of them will notice if the blinds are down, and call the Population Police. He doesn't know about Luke's hiding spots around the house, he doesn't know that Luke saw another third, at a Baron's house!

Summoning all his courage, Luke plans for a day when he will confront this other third child. In his haste, he forgets to anticipate actually arriving at the house. Now what does he do? He's out in the open. Anyone could see him, and kill him on the spot. Frantically ripping at the screen door, he cuts his hand ... only to discover the face of a girl on the other side of the door. Jen is cool, calm, collected, and seemingly has her finger on the pulse of the next third revolution. She is like no one he has ever met.

She talks to other third children online, planning a rally to show the government that they exist. She gives him books and articles to read about the Population Laws, and how it all went wrong. She talks to him ... and in a lot of ways, that's enough. He looks forward to his visits, and learning about the Baron way of life. She sneaks him junk food (illegal), and talks about the future, a time when all the third children will be free to live their lives in the open. No more hiding. Could it possibly work?
“'Sure, you can be a coward and hope someone else changes the world for you. You can hide up in that attic of yours until someone knocks on the door and says, "Oh, hey, they freed the hidden. Want to come out?" Is that what you want?'
Luke didn't answer.
'You've got to come, Luke, or you'll hate yourself the rest of your life. When you don't have to hide anymore, even years from now, there'll always be some small part of you whispering, "I don't deserve this. I didn't fight for it. I'm not worth it." And you are, Luke, you are. You're smart and funny and nice, and you should be living life, instead of being buried alive in that old house of yours,'” (Peterson, 1998).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Among the Imposters by Margaret Haddix Peterson (Shadow Children, book 2)
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
The Giver by Lois Lowry

Peterson, Margaret Haddix. (1998). Among the Hidden. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson

Mikael Bloomqvist is an investigative journalist. He works for Millenium, a magazine of which he is co-owner and publisher, that focuses on the economic and financial industry. His recent media attention, and subsequent scandal, centers around the Wennerstrom affair. In part, he was a victim of his own excitement ... but a guilty verdict of libel is hardly a vote of confidence for the magazine's followers. Not to mention that he will actually have to spend time in prison for writing a story that intially checked out. For now, he will just have to lick his wounds and distance himself from Millenium.

Immediately following the trial, he received a mysterious offer. Henrik Vanger, former CEO of the Vanger Corporation, is interested in hiring him to write a family history ... and something more. The family mystery he is truly hired to investigate revolves around Harriet Vanger, niece to Henrik, and her unexplained disappearance over 40 years previously.

It happened on a day filled with chaos. Children's Day 1966: she was photographed attending the parade. She came back to the house, asked to talk to Henrik, and was never seen again. Simultaneously, there was a terrible accident on the bridge blocking all traffic. The only way on or off the island was via a fireboat. No one had seen her leave, in fact, no one had seen her since 3 pm that afternoon.

An extensive search of the island over many weeks, stretching into months and years, turned up no trace of her. What they did find was a cryptic list of names and phone numbers, which no one has been able to crack, and a series of events which fail to account for her whereabouts. Vanger is convinced that someone killed her, but every year on his birthday someone delivers a pressed flower in a frame to his home. A reminder that they got away with it? He doesn't know, but he thinks it's a clue. Mikael is intrigued, and begins work on a case that is 44 years cold.

Meanwhile, we learn about Lisbeth Salander, a goth-punk tattooed and pierced 24 year old who first learns of Mikael when she is asked to do a background investigation on him. Her hacking skills are so advanced that she easily gains access to his computer. Over the course of his own digging, he learns of her report on him. It's so thorough and well-researched, he decides to hire her to help him. Will they uncover new evidence pointing to one of the Vanger family member as Harriet's killer? What is the mystery behind the phone numbers? What could the significance behind the pressed flowers be?

Technically, this is not a YA title. It's a good crossover for older teens, and does include some sexual violence (so be warned). This international best seller (originally written in Swedish, and translated) sucks you in and doesn't let go. The mystery is so intricate, and the characters are so interesting, it's easy to see why everyone loves it. Larsson submitted all three manuscripts to his publisher, with the promise of a 10 book series, but sadly passed away before the books were even published.
"Salander felt that her composure was barely skin-deep and that she really wasn't in complete control of her nerves. This totally unlooked-for visit had shaken her in a way that she had never experienced in connection with her work. Her bread and butter was spying on people. In fact she had never thought of what she did for Armansky as a real job; she thought of it more as a complicated pastime, a sort of hobby.
    The truth was that she enjoyed digging into the lives of other people and exposing secrets they were trying to hide. She had been doing it, in one form or another, for as long as she could remember. And she was still doing it today, not only when Armansky gave her an assignment, but sometimes for the sheer fun of it. It gave her a kick. It was like a complicated computer game, except that it dealt with real live people. And now one of her hobbies was sitting right here in her kitchen, feeding her bagels. It was totally absurd," (Larsson pg. 264, 2008).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
Smila's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg
The Angel Experiment by James Patterson (Book 1, Maximum Ride series)

Larsson, S., & Keeland, R. (2008). The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Colin is a prodigy -  a child genius - or he was, until he graduated from high school. Now he's just another brainiac about to enter college in the fall. His obsessive studying and seemingly unquenchable thirst for knowledge doesn't seem to have done much more than win him some cash on a game show (for child prodigies). He's not the next 14-year-old with a doctorate. He hasn't found proof of the existence of aliens. He is desperately afraid of not mattering, of having all this potential and wasting it.

His one claim to fame? He's dated 19 consecutive girls named Katherine (not Kathy, Kat, Katie ... or *shudder* Catherine), and managed to be dumped by every single one. That is pretty impressive for a guy who doesn't really have much of a social life outside of his romantic entanglements with Katherines. His only friend is named Hassan. He's Muslim, overweight, doesn't date (it's forbidden), doesn't drink (it's forbidden), and speaks fluent Arabic. He and Colin get along famously. It's Hassan who convinces Colin they must go on a road trip to help him get over K19 (the 19th Katherine, who has just broken his heart).

They end up in Gutshot, Tennessee. Almost instantly they are offered jobs as oral historians by a woman who lives in a hot pink mansion, and happens to own the factory that employes nearly everyone in town. Her daughter Lindsay has been recruited to be their guide and assistance (somewhat against her will), but the three hit it off pretty well. One day, after sweating in the hot Tennessee summer heat, Colin has a "Eureeka" moment. He has come up with a formula to chart the course of a relationship. It takes into account the Dumpee/Dumper relationship, and soon consumes much of his non-historian time. No matter what he does, however, it doesn't seem to work. He is destined to be a flash in the pan ... until Lindsay offers some advice.

As the summer unfolds, the three teens start to learn more about themselves through interacting with each other. Lindsay teaches Colin how to tell a story. Hassan learns to treat some things as more than just a joke. Lindsay learns to let people see the "real" her. Along the way, there are hilarious moments: a trip to Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand's tomb, pictures of Lindsay going through her "half punk-half emo-half goth-half nerd chick" phase, and the feral hog incident, just to name a few.

Green is a masterful prose writer. This story got a bit sappy at times, but I think most teenagers can relate to that (ahem, and some adults). He explores the idea of trying to get outside of yourself, and see how you fit into the world around you. All three of these characters must give up some of that typical teenage self-centeredness to grow. It's a good way to hear that the world doesn't revolve around you and your problems, even if it feels that way sometimes.
"He was finally - finally - crying. He remembered their arms entangled, their stupid little inside jokes, the way he felt when he would come over to her house after school and see her reading through the window. He missed it all. He thought of being with her in college, having the freedom to sleep over whenever they wanted, both of them at Northwestern together. He missed that, too, and it hadn't even happened. He missed his imagined future.
You can love someone so much, he thought. But you can never love people as much as you can miss them, (Green pg. 105, 2008).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Paper Towns by John Green
Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner
The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver by E. Lockhart

Green, John. (2008). An Abundance of Katherines. New York, NY: Dutton Books.