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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cryers Cross - a review

The ghosts of the poor children virtually abandoned and many beaten to death in the confines of one of Montana’s worst reform schools over a hundred years ago, are crying out from the grave to be saved. The teenagers from Cryer’s Cross, a small, one-room school town, are disappearing, two are gone, Tiffany and now Nico, leaving no trace or clue. They simply just vanished.
Kendall, Nico’s lifelong friend is distraught after his disappearance. Her whole life is interrupted, the school’s soccer team is disbanded, Juilliard turned her down and two new teenagers have moved into town, as if to take over the place of the missing teens. At least it keeps order in her OCD-riddled mind.
Unable to rest with her friend gone, Kendall finds herself drawn to the new boy, eighteen year old Jacian, when they are thrown together as the town imposes a curfew and travel restrictions on the teens in town until the mystery can be solved.
As school continues, Kendall keeps noticing the desk Nico sat in keeps getting out of place each morning. She would notice since she has to align them all in correct order every morning. She realizes this is the same desk Tiffany—the other missing teen—sat in last year and graffiti is scratched in the desk top that she doesn’t recall seeing before. It reads Please Save Me. Sitting at the desk she too is put under a spell as the voices of the past call for her help. Will Jacian be able to figure out the town’s secret in time to save Kendall from being the next to vanish forever?
McMann is again at her top-draw best as she weaves another young adult novel into a story that crosses all ages and simply becomes a great yarn that anyone will want to read.

Room - a review

This novel takes us into an eleven foot by eleven foot storage shed that Jack and his mother call home. Jack was born in this room and it is his reality. Mother has known the outside world however, and until his fifth birthday Jack never knew that once, a long seven years ago, Mother was lifted from the streets and kidnapped to be held hostage by their nightly visitor, Old Nick.

Told entirely from the point of view of this intelligent little boy, “Room” shows us the great love that Mother has for Jack. They have a few books, the TV, a wardrobe—where Jack sleeps so Old Nick will never see him—and whatever they can beg for as a Sundaytreat. In return for Old Nick never seeing her son, she has given up all attempts to escape and allows her body to be sexually violated whenever he needs her. Jack, awake in the closet at night, counts the number of times Old Nick makes the bed squeak.

After explaining to Jack how she actually got in the shed, the two make an audacious attempt at escape, and miraculously pull it off. I don’t want to spoil the surprise except to say it was the fastest I have ever read, skipping paragraphs and pages to get to the finale which brought me to tears. The book, if written as a novella, could have ended at their freedom. However, Donoghue has gone on to feed us a second well-crafted story, still from Jack’s point of view to show the adjustments that the child had to go through to adapt to what we all think of as our reality.
This is a bright uplifting story that takes us from the near depths of a hellacious existence to a new life. I loved the imaginative, original work Donoghue placed in my hands. It is one for the ages, a plausible, but dark story with the light of hope shining as a beacon for all who dare read it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Unwanteds - a review

On the island of Quinn your future is decided at the age of thirteen. Once a year all the youths and their families gather for final judgment. By this point most know what role they will be assigned to. If you have been reported to the council as one who has expressed undesirable qualities, artistically inclined, then you are one of the Unwanteds. Alex had known for three years, his parents kept him informed that he was an Unwanteds. So, as he and his twin brother Aaron sat waiting for their names to be called out, he was reconciled to being sent on the Purge.
Aaron was a “Wanted,”he had a bright future at the university and probably in the future government. Many of Alex’s friends joined the ranks of the Wanteds and the Necessaries, the rest of them where loaded on to the bus for the drive to The Death Farm.Once the Eliminator got their hands on these Unwanteds they would join a succession of generations of poor souls cast into the Great Lake of Boiling Oil. Shaking in their shoes and ready for the worst, they were surprised as their shackles magically fell to the floor and a white-haired, old man strode toward them and delivered the news, that he was Marcus Today the ruler of Artime, and they were all now part of the biggest ruse of all time.
By the time they met all the other residents however, it did not take long to assimilate into their new life. Now circumstances happen—as they always do with twins—that brings to the attention of the residents of Quinn that something is just not right behind the gate to The Death Farm.
“The Unwanteds”is the first in a series of a delightful world of young adult stories that feature a young male wizard. For my money this story is actually better than the other wizardry tales that came before and is an absolute gem that should not be missed by adults or teens.

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