Archives for posts with tag: Young Adult

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

The Wee Free Men

Tiffany Aching is a 9-year-old farm girl who is good with cheese and sees the world through steady eyes. She doesn’t like her younger brother that much, as he gets in her way and is constantly sticky, but when he is abducted by the Queen of the Fairies, she is determined to get him back. With the help of a group of rowdy pictsies named the Nac Mac Feegle, the “wee men” of the title who got kicked out of the Queen’s kingdom for being drunk and disorderly, Tiffany travels to the world of the fairies. Can Tiffany defeat the Queen, with only her wits, a frying pan, and the help of the Nac Mac Feegle? Can she save her brother and Roland, a useless boy from the village who also wandered into fairyland? Does she have what it takes to be a true witch, in a land where all your dreams come true, even the terrible ones? Find out by reading The Wee Free Men.

This is a young adult fantasy novel that lives in Pratchett’s Discworld universe. Tiffany is a great character, with many flaws but lots of heart. There are themes that will make this book relatable for many kids and teens, like having annoying siblings, death and grief, and finding out what who you are and what you want to do. The book is very funny, and it has the perfect amount of naughtiness in this book – there’s enough faux swearing by the Nac Mac Feegle to delight kids, but not too much. The Wee Free Men is delightful to read out loud to the family, especially if you ham it up with the Nac Mac Feegle dialogue. This is the first book in the Tiffany Aching series, which is a great introduction for young readers to fantasy fiction in general and Discworld in particular. Adult fans of Discworld will like Pratchett’s familiar fantasy-with-a-twist-humor and the cameo by Granny Weatherwax.

 Recommended for ages 10-14, grades 4-8.

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Divergent by Veronica Roth


Divergent takes place in a dystopian Chicago, where people are divided into five factions that practice one virtue: the Dauntless are brave,  the Candor are honest, Amity members are peaceful, Abnegation are selfless, and the Erudite are intelligent. At sixteen children are put into a simulation that tests their aptitude for all the factions, and then they get to decide which faction to join for the rest of their lives. Beatrice Prior grew up in Abnegation, but she always felt out of place because she was too selfish. When her simulation test gives her confusing results, she has to choose between staying with her family or being true to herself. Her answer at the choosing ceremony surprises everyone, including herself, and she has to live with the consequences. Will she be able to survive the initiation into her chosen faction? Should she trust her fellow initiates, even as they’re competing for a limited number of slots? Who are her real friends? She is told that she must keep her test results secret or risk death, but can she fool everyone, even her cute instructor? You’ll have to read Divergent to find out.

This is a dystopian novel starring a teenage girl, and has a similar feel  to The Hunger Games. There is a lot of teen romance going on in Divergent, but there is no love triangle as there was in The Hunger Games. (I personally felt the love triangle was a bit annoying!) The structure of the society in the series provides for a lot of discussion of human nature and nature versus nurture debates, which gives readers a nice introduction to philosophical arguments.

There are three official volumes in the Divergent series. The second book is Insurgent, and the third is Allegiant. There are also companion stories in ebook format told from the perspective of Beatrice’s main love interest, named Four. They are Four: The Transfer (#0.1), Four: The Initiate (#0.2), Four: The Son (#0.3), Four: The Traitor (#0.4), and Free Four: Tobias Tells the Divergent Knife-Throwing Scene (#1.5). There is a companion book that goes into the history of the factions, The World of Divergent: The Path to Allegiant (#2.5). The film version of Divergent came out earlier this year, and look for Insurgent to hit theaters in Spring 2015.


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The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

rithmatistAll Joel ever wanted was to study Rithmatics, the art and science of fighting with chalk drawings. Rithmatists draw defensive circles and offensive chalk drawings to duel other Rithmatists and to fight the dangerous wild chalkings. But Joel was not chosen to become a Rithmatist, so he attends normal classes at Armedius Academy, not trying at the classes he doesn’t like and watching the Rithmatic students jealously. Then the Rithmatic students start to go missing, and Joel and a fellow student, Melody, are assigned to help the professor in charge of the investigation into the crimes. Joel and Melody make some surprising discoveries on their hunt to find the perpetrator, a mysterious figure named The Scribbler.

This is a fast-paced and inventive fantasy novel by Brandon Sanderson, more known for his adult Mistborn series. There are some diagrams of the defensive circles by Ben McSweeney, which are very helpful for understanding the concepts of Rithmatics.  The Rithmatist reads like a combination of the Harry Potter school for magic idea, the Pokemon or Fullmetal Alchemist idea of battling, with a little bit of steampunk and chalkdust thrown in. This is the first book in a planned series, and I am excited to see the next.

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A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

A-Confusion-of-PrincesKhemri is a young man that was taken from his parents as a baby and has grown up in a Matrix-like environment to work for the mysterious Imperial Mind as a prince of the empire. In his training, Khemri learns the legends of the great princes, who do the Mind’s bidding and can come back to life if the Mind deems them worthy. The millions of princes in the galactic empire compete to get good positions and to become the one prince chosen to become the next Emperor. Khemri nearly gets assassinated twice on his first day out of training ala Hunger Games, and then he’s maneuvered to join the Imperial Navy even though he’d rather be out cruising in a fast starship and getting girls. The Imperial Mind has directions for Khemri that no one else seems to know about, and he gets put on a secret mission after his training at the Naval Academy is complete. While carrying out this mission, he falls in love, and questions if his goal of becoming Emperor is what he really wants out of life.

This Young Adult science fiction story is told from Khemri’s point of view, and the best part about the book is seeing his character change from an arrogant prince bent on becoming Emperor to a more humble adult who questions authority. I found the ending a little predictable, but teens reading the book might find it more comforting. The world building in this novel is also very good, with a fresh take on the politics and power structures of a vast galactic empire.

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cover of The Reason I JumpThe Reason I Jump – The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism. By Naoki Higashida, translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell.

The Reason I Jump is a rare look inside the mind of someone with severe autism. The book takes the form of a Q&A, with the author, Naoki Higashida, answering common questions about autism. The questions range from “why do autistic people talk so loudly and weirdly?” to “what’s the reason you jump”. Some answers go more into depth than others, as the author struggles to understand some of his behavior and cannot compare it to a “normal” person because he doesn’t know how they think, but all the answers are informative. Interspersed among the questions and answers are short fiction stories by the author, which tell his experience from a different perspective.

I found the book very helpful for understanding how someone with autism might experience the world. From sensory overload to problems with language and impulse control, the author explains to the best of his abilities how he sees the world. It is also a pretty quick read – at 176 pages, with many illustrations interspersed, I got through the whole book in 90 minutes. I felt the time was well spent for this illuminating book.

One problem that I had with the book is that Higashida often answers questions with “we” and “us” instead of “I” – he is answering for everyone with autism, not just for himself. As autism is a spectrum disorder, with many different traits, I do not feel that he can speak for every autistic person. This also might be problematic if a reader is not very familiar with autism, as they might take his word as gospel and treat other autistic people as Higashida wants to be treated, which might not be the same for all people with autism.

Overall, The Reason I Jump is a quick and illuminating look at an autistic person’s mind.

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