Title: Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon
Published On: August 28, 2012
Page Count: 320 pages
Rating: 4/5 Crystal Balls
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Noa has been a victim of the system ever since her parents died. Now living off the grid and trusting no one, she uses her computer-hacking skills to stay safely anonymous and alone. But when she wakes up on a table in an empty warehouse with an IV in her arm and no memory of how she got there, Noa starts to wish she had someone on her side. Enter Peter Gregory. A rich kid and the leader of a hacker alliance, Peter needs people with Noa's talents on his team. Especially after a shady corporation called AMRF threatens his life in no uncertain terms. But what Noa and Peter don't realize is that Noa holds the key to a terrible secret, and there are those who'd stop at nothing to silence her for good.
Don't Turn Around continues in the grand tradition of the action genre alongside television favorites Alias and Nikita as well as Francine Pascal's Fearless series (one of those classic young adult book series and a personal favorite of mine!). It is a face-paced adrenaline rush that features shadowy government types, family dysfunction, supervision, human experimentation, murder, and super cool technology as well as posing certain ethical questions to the reader. There is very little romance in the story, but there are some heated moments between certain characters and a possible set-up for a quadrangle in future books. All in all, it is a solid four star book with the major strengths being the mystery and action.
Title: This is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell
Published On: October 25, 2012
Page Count: 224 pages
Rating: 4/5 Crystal Balls
Summary: When high school seniors Emery and Jake are taken hostage in the classroom where they tutor, they must work together to calm both the terrified children and the gunman threatening them--a task made even more difficult by their recent break-up. Brian Stutts, a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq, uses deadly force when he's denied access to his son because of a custody battle. The children's fate is in the hands of the two teens, each recovering from great loss, who now must reestablish trust in a relationship damaged by betrayal. Told through Emery and Jake's alternating viewpoints, this gripping novel features characters teens will identify with and explores the often-hidden damages of war.
This is Not a Drill is a gripping page-turner that takes place in the span of one day during a school hostage situation. It is an important book to read because it is well-researched and approaches the topics of school violence and PTSD with respect and diligence. The main relationship of the story is Jake and Emery. I like their friendship, but I personally wouldn't have forgiven Jake for what happened in the past (which is the reason why I gave the book 4 stars instead of 5). I just thought the book tried to hard at a "happy" ending for them, when it should have been way more open ended. I get what the writer was trying to say about how the past shouldn't define or control us and we need to move on beyond its grasp, but sometimes "moving on" doesn't always mean moving back...rather simply "letting go". Still, an incredibly compelling and fast read. I read it in less than 12 hours. Definitely make a place for this book on your to-read list.
Title: Breathe by Sarah Crossan
Published On: October 2, 2012
Page Count: 373 pages
Rating: 4/5 Crystal Balls
Summary: The world is dead. The survivors live under the protection of Breathe, the corporation that found a way to manufacture oxygen-rich air. Alina has been stealing for a long time. She's a little jittery, but not terrified. All she knows is that she's never been caught before. If she's careful, it'll be easy. If she's careful. Quinn should be worried about Alina and a bit afraid for himself, too, but even though this is dangerous, it's also the most interesting thing to happen to him in ages. It isn't every day that the girl of your dreams asks you to rescue her. Bea wants to tell him that none of this is fair; they'd planned a trip together, the two of them, and she'd hoped he'd discover her out here, not another girl. And as they walk into the Outlands with two days' worth of oxygen in their tanks, everything they believe will be shattered. Will they be able to make it back? Will they want to?
"Are you an efficient breather?" This is a serious question one characters poses to another. The idea that human beings must gauge their oxygen intake like we check the gas tanks on our cars is incredible. This book effectively tackles an ambitious concept that could have easily been bogged down by typical teen dynamics. At first, I was off-put by the supposed love triangle that was initially presented, however the story takes a non-traditional route and subverts certain young adult stereotypes. The world-building was well constructed, but a bit generic. However, readers will fall in love with the strong group dynamic and colorful cast of characters that will have them waiting with bated breath for the next book.
Title: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
Published On: April 24, 2012
Page Count: 485 pages
Rating: 5/5 Crystal Balls
Summary: In a future world, vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity."Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of "them." The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked--and given the ultimate choice. Die...or become one of the monsters. Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad. Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend--a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike. But it isn't easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what--and who--is worth dying for.
Just when you think you're sick of vampires and their issues, along comes Julie Kagawa to breath new life into the vampire genre. In a story that would make Joss Whedon proud, Kagawa effortlessly constructs a world populated by serious dangers (in post-apocalyptic Chicago!), compelling characters, a fascinating mythology, and the most realistic portrayal of a vampire/human relationship. One of the things I loved so much about Allison and Zeke's relationship was that it did not compromise who they are as individuals. I also loved Kanin, Aly's sire and mentor. It was nice to have a relationship without sexual tension and no unnecessary love triangle between Kanin-Aly-Zeke (of course this could change with future books, but I hope not). Easily one of the best books I read this year. A MUST READ!!