Tag Archives: science fiction

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson. February 6, 2018. Simon Pulse, 448 p. ISBN: 9781481498548.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Sixteen-year-old Elena Mendoza is the product of a virgin birth.

This can be scientifically explained (it’s called parthenogenesis), but what can’t be explained is how Elena is able to heal Freddie, the girl she’s had a crush on for years, from a gunshot wound in a Starbucks parking lot. Or why the boy who shot Freddie, David Combs, disappeared from the same parking lot minutes later after getting sucked up into the clouds. What also can’t be explained are the talking girl on the front of a tampon box, or the reasons that David Combs shot Freddie in the first place.

As more unbelievable things occur, and Elena continues to perform miracles, the only remaining explanation is the least logical of all—that the world is actually coming to an end, and Elena is possibly the only one who can do something about it.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes.



Video Review


Booklist starred (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. Elena was the product of a virgin birth, but it wasn’t a miracle; just garden-variety, statistically improbable, yet no less possible, parthenogenesis. What is a miracle, however, is her ability to heal people, which she discovers when her crush gets shot right in front of her. Healing powers are pretty cool, but whenever Elena heals someone, several other people disappear in a beam of golden light. Compounding the problem, a chorus of bossy voices, which appear in a variety of objects, tell Elena that she should heal as many people as possible, because the ones who disappear are being saved from a terrible future. With crackling banter and vivid characters, Hutchinson offers readers an enjoyably weird, poignantly philosophical exploration of friendship, duty, and free will. There’s lots to like here: Elena’s relationship with her best friend, Fadil (a devout Muslim boy), is refreshingly, unquestioningly platonic, and Hutchinson touches on such important topics as sexuality, mental illness, and grief in a lighthearted yet sincere and sensitive way. And, especially for a book addressing such tough topics, it’s often just plain funny. While the overarching premise sounds a bit like an ethics-class thought experiment (in a good way!), Hutchinson always keeps the story firmly grounded in Elena’s relationships and, more important, her believable growth, particularly when it comes to her own faults. Surreal, brainy, and totally captivating.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
A coffee chain is the unlikely setting of a miracle healing that sets in motion events that herald a coming apocalypse. Sixteen-year-old Elena Mendoza was the product of a virgin birth. While unkind classmates taunt her with the nickname “Mary,” there is a scientific explanation for her existence: parthenogenesis. Essentially a clone of her half-Cuban, half-white mother, she also hears voices emanating from inanimate objects. When Elena saves the life of her longtime crush, Freddie, after she is shot at a Starbucks, she discovers the trade-off: with each healing, random people disappear from Earth, beginning with the shooter himself. Freddie, whose race is not described, struggles with depression and has mixed feelings about her role as the involuntary recipient of a miracle cure even as the two embark on a rocky flirtation. Elena must decide whether to listen to her best friend, Fadil, a devout Muslim boy who believes her powers are God-given; the clamoring voices speaking through a My Little Pony, Lego Gandalf, and other objects that tell her she is destined for greatness; or her own doubt-ridden conscience. Fantasy fans who desire intricate technical explanations may be disappointed at what is left unexplained, but the story is about faith, after all, and readers who appreciate relationship-driven novels will have much to savor. Elena’s bisexuality is refreshingly unproblematic—simply another aspect of her nature that is accepted by those around her—an echo of the deft treatment of differences among the diverse cast of characters. A creative and original tale shot through with quirky humor that entertains while encouraging readers to ponder questions of free will and social responsibility. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

About the Author

Shaun is a major geek and all about nerdy shenanigans. He is the author of We Are the Ants, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, The Deathday Letter, fml, and the editor of the anthology Violent Ends.

He currently lives in South Florida with his dog and watches way too much Doctor Who.

His website is www.shaundavidhutchinson.com.

Teacher Resources

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza Reading Group Guide

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Watchdog by Will McIntosh

Watchdog by Will McIntosh. October 10, 2017. Delacorte Press, 185 p. ISBN: 9781524713843.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Lexile: 740.

Thirteen-year-old twins Vick and Tara have built an incredible machine–a loyal robotic watchdog named Daisy. But, when local crime boss Ms. Alba schemes to add Daisy to her robot army, Vick and Tara must go to great lengths to protect their prized pet. Because Daisy is more than just any robot–she’s their constant protector, and together the three make a great team.

Vick and Tara are determined to stop the mob from tearing their little family apart. And they might just succeed! Sure, the evil Ms. Alba has more robot watchdogs, but none are as smart–or as faithful–as their Daisy. Plus, if things get too dangerous, Tara could always upgrade their pet. With her mechanical skills, she could make Daisy bigger, stronger, and a lot more intimidating!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Child labor, Theft, Violence



Booklist (October 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 4-7. Twins Vick and Tara have been left to fend for themselves in this near-future tale, surviving by salvaging parts from a local dump. Their way of life, however, is threatened when the mysterious Ms. Alba, who clearly has ulterior motives, seizes control of the dump. When the twins get in a kerfuffle with her goons, and their tiny robotic dog, Daisy, nearly destroys one of Alba’s high-tech Watchdogs in the process, Alba takes notice, since Daisy is clearly something special: Tara upgraded Daisy with a salvaged piece of technology, so she is more sentient than the other run-of-the-mill, hunt-and-destroy Watchdogs. With the help of some other street urchins, Vick and Tara show the members of their community that they can—and should—stand up and fight back. Tara is an engrossing character who has a knack for technology, but she also suffers from stress-induced panic attacks as a side effect of her autism. This fast-paced sci-fi adventure with an unsettling dystopian atmosphere should find easy appeal among a wide range of readers.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2017)
In a nasty, hyperstratified future, white twins Vick and Tara are on their own in the scary streets of Chicago, where economic disaster has laid waste to the poorer sections of the city.Although Tara is autistic—communicative but faced with worsening symptoms—she has a remarkable talent for designing the robot watchdogs that everyone uses for a variety of purposes. The pair scrounge for saleable electronics all day long in the blocks-long dump that’s developed in their part of the city, and at night Tara tinkers. But after she finds an amazing chip among the debris, she crafts a seemingly sentient little critter, Daisy. Daisy’s astonishing capabilities immediately attract the attention of the cruel overlord of the Chicago robotics world, Ms. Alba, an Asian woman who uses a group of imprisoned, mostly child workers to turn out watchdog robots. Her minions kidnap the siblings, but with Daisy’s help they break out. It’s only after they begin to accept help from other street kids that the believably portrayed Vick and Tara start to make a bit of progress. The grim setting is vividly depicted, and the clever-kid–against–mean-adult trope is both plausible and very satisfying. The fast-paced narrative readily conveys the looming sense of ever present danger. Engaging, suspenseful, and with nearly all the vivid fighting confined to robots, this gritty tale is perfect for a younger audience than most post-apocalyptic stories. (Post-apocalyptic adventure. 10-14)

About the Author

Will McIntosh is the author of several adult novels; many short stories; one young adult novel, Burning Midnight; and one middle-grade novel. He won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story and was a finalist for the Locus Award, and his novel Love Minus Eighty was an ALA-RUSA Reading List Selection for Science Fiction. Watchdog is his first novel for middle-grade readers.

Will lives with his wife and twin children in Williamsburg, Virginia.  His website is www.willmcintosh.net.

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Watchdog on Amazon

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Watchdog Publisher Page

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada. November 7, 2017. Simon Pulse, 425 p. ISBN: 9781481496339.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.

That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.

When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.

Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself?

Part of Series: This Mortal Coil (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, War, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol, Smoking, Gore


Book Trailer


Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. Postapocalyptic thrillers are everywhere, and mostly derivative. Suvada’s debut, however, adds an intriguing element: a genius girl hacker. Catarina Agatta has been surviving on her own since her geneticist father, Lachlan, was kidnapped two years ago by Cartaxus, an organization with questionable motives and actions. Now a Cartaxus soldier named Cole shows up, telling her Lachlan is dead and Catarina is the only one who can crack an encrypted code. This will release the vaccine for the terrible Hydra plague that has been decimating what’s left of the world population. Initially reluctant to cooperate with Cartaxus, Catarina must quickly find out what’s really going on, and in the process of digging through Cole’s past and identity to determine his trustworthiness, she discovers shocking truths about her own identity. Tech geeks will relish the myriad details of AI, romance readers will enjoy the predictable progression of Cole and Catarina’s relationship, and action and gore fans will delight in the blood and guts throughout.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2017)
In Suvada’s high-tech debut, a virus has ravaged the world and one teen holds the key to the cure.In a world where everyone is embedded with technology at birth that allows them to manipulate their DNA, Catarina Agatta’s dad, Lachlan, is the best gentech coder in the world. Naturally, she has inherited his skills to become a master hacker. At the outbreak of a horrifying virus that causes its victims to combust and those nearby to cannibalize them before they do, Cartaxus, a corrupt organization, forcibly whisks Lachlan away to develop a cure. For two years, Catarina survives on her own, carefully avoiding Cartaxus’ grasp. One day, a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, shows up on her doorstep with the news that her father has died but that he managed to develop a vaccine. The only catch? Cole and Catarina must work together to find, decrypt, and release it to the masses. On their dangerous adventure to save the world, Cat is forced to question everything she thought she knew about her father, Cartaxus, the virus, and even herself. Featuring a strong, tech-savvy protagonist who will stop at nothing to get the job done, the novel explores exciting yet terrifying possibilities. (Race identity in this DNA–fluid future goes mostly undefined, but her surname implies Greek heritage.) While the twists and turns keep readers on their toes, one particular curveball comes so far out of left field it threatens to derail the story. An original concept but with an ending that requires a suspension of disbelief. (Science fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Emily Suvada was born and raised in Australia, where she went on to study mathematics and astrophysics. She previously worked as a data scientist, and still spends hours writing algorithms to perform tasks which would only take minutes to complete on her own. When not writing, she can be found hiking, cycling, and conducting chemistry experiments in her kitchen.

She currently lives in Portland, OR, with her husband. Her website is www.emilysuvada.com

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Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi

Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi. October 10, 2017. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 336 p. ISBN: 9780316220835.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

This third book in a major series by a bestselling science fiction author, Printz Award winner, and National Book Award finalist is the gripping story of the most provocative character from his acclaimed novels Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities.

Tool, a half-man/half-beast designed for combat, is capable of so much more than his creators had ever dreamed. He has gone rogue from his pack of bioengineered “augments” and emerged a victorious leader of a pack of human soldier boys. But he is hunted relentlessly by someone determined to destroy him, who knows an alarming secret: Tool has found the way to resist his genetically ingrained impulses of submission and loyalty toward his masters… The time is coming when Tool will embark on an all-out war against those who have enslaved him. From one of science fiction’s undisputed masters comes a riveting page-turner that pulls no punches.

Sequel to: The Drowned Cities

Part of Series: Ship Breaker (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Violence, Underage drinking



Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. Five years after The Drowned Cities (2012), Bacigalupi returns to his award-winning Ship Breaker series. This opens with a rare moment of peace in the Drowned Cities. Moments later, Havoc missiles rain down death on Tool and his young army, turning humans and city into ash. The Mercier Corporation and General Carora have finally located the DNA-enhanced Tool and are desperate to annihilate their renegade augment. The action is nonstop as Tool is marched through a series of brutal battles, meeting main characters from the earlier books along the way. The number of plot conveniences and narrow escapes is almost as high as the body count as Tool seeks revenge on his corporate makers. The central issue of Tool’s humanity is burdened by plot contradictions that overwhelm character development, and the searing passion of the earlier books seems missing. Still, Bacigalupi’s action scenes are brilliantly cinematic, powering the pacing with breathtaking superhero stunts. Tool, as ever, is a character impossible to forget, and all loose ends are tied up in an epilogue.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2017)
Bacigalupi returns to probe his brutal, post-apocalyptic American landscape and darkly provocative characters in this third installment of the series begun in Ship Breaker (2010) and continued in The Drowned Cities (2012). Following the pattern of existential fracture found in its predecessors’ narratives, this latest novel further explores the consequences of war and corruption with a focus on the DNA–spliced “augment” called Tool. Tool (also called Blood, Blade, and Karta-Kul the Slaughter-Bringer) is a finely honed weapon, bred for massacre, survival, and loyalty. But after breaking free of his conditioned servitude, Tool represents a serious threat to his former masters, who attack with everything available in their considerable arsenal to destroy him lest they be forced to face the terrifying question of what happens when a weapon turns on its creators. For Tool was uniquely designed for more than just the tactical strategy and lethal bloodlust of most augments—he has a power that, now unleashed, could spell the end for a violently factionalized, inhumanly cruel humanity. Told in third person, the novel alternates among the perspectives of several new as well as familiar characters, none of whom shy away from the constant gore and near-paralyzing moral complexities of their war-torn existence. After playing fascinating, catalyzing roles the first two books, Tool is at center stage at last as readers move through Bacigalupi’s exploration of the intricate relationships connecting hunter and prey, master and enslaved, human and monster. Masterful. (Dystopian. 14-adult)

About the Author

Paolo Bacigalupi is the author of the highly acclaimed The Drowned Cities and Ship Breaker, a New York Times bestseller, Michael L. Printz Award winner, and National Book Award finalist. He is also the author of the Edgar Awards nominee The Doubt Factory; a novel for younger readers, Zombie Baseball Beatdown; and two bestselling adult novels for adults, The Water Knife and The Windup Girl. His first work of collected short fiction was Pump Six and Other Stories. The winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Compton Crook, John W. Campbell Memorial, and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards, he lives in western Colorado with his wife and son.  His website is windupstories.com

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Tool of War on Amazon

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Satellite by Nick Lake

Satellite by Nick Lake. October 3, 2017. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 464 p. ISBN: 9781524713546.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 700.

A teenage boy born in space makes his first trip to Earth in this engrossing sci-fi adventure for fans of The Martian from award-winning author Nick Lake.

He’s going to a place he’s never been before: home.

Moon 2 is a space station that orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth. It travels 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. It’s also the only home that fifteen-year-old Leo and two other teens have ever known.

Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They’ve been “parented” by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight.

But has anything really prepared them for life on terra firma? Because while the planet may be home to billions of people, living there is more treacherous than Leo and his friends could ever have imagined, and their very survival will mean defying impossible odds.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Violence



Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 8-11. Lake (Whisper to Me, 2016) has penned a heavily researched and meticulously detailed—but no less exciting—science fiction story perfect for young fans of Andy Weir’s The Martian (2011). Leo and his best friends, twins Libra and Orion, were born on Moon 2, a space station orbiting Earth. Now, at 15, Leo wants nothing more than to set foot on the planet he’s always been circling but was never able to see up close. When mechanisms on the space station fail, Leo and the crew of Moon 2 must return to Earth sooner than planned. What he finds when he lands turns out to be much more difficult and complicated than he always dreamed it would be. Lake’s decision to write the entire novel in textspeak, enhanced by precise, realistic science, throws his futuristic society into sharp relief. By the end, Leo’s strength comes across not only through his ambition to fight for what makes him happy, but also through the compassionate, delicate way he explores his sexuality and relationships.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2017)
Leo and his friends, twins Libra and Orion, were born and raised on Moon 2, a space station that orbits Earth. Now that Leo is almost sixteen, he and the twins are being flown “home” to Earth, where they look forward to new, “normal” experiences–hearing a live concert; planting a garden; going to high school. But as Leo settles into life on his grandfather’s California ranch, he realizes he hasn’t been told all that he should know about his role in space research. Nor has he been told that his body, formed in zero gravity, might not survive Earth’s gravity long-term. Gradual revelations of plot and the suspense of astronautical near-misses make for steady momentum, and the future setting is cleverly reinforced in the prose style–the book uses text message–like abbreviations and lowercase letters at the beginnings of sentences (“on a screen in front of her i c Moon 2 come into view”). Throughout, the tone of Leo’s account is reflective, the poetic musings of a boy who has absorbed a (perhaps improbable) abundance of contextual understanding during his education in space. Gay romance, racial identity (all three teens have brown skin), politics of space exploration, and notions of colonization and home all combine with Lake’s overarching poetic theme of a teenager experiencing Earth and, indeed, life for the first time. deirdre f. baker

About the Author

Nick Lake is the Michael L. Printz Award winner for In Darkness and has written several other novels for teens. Nick works in publishing in the UK and lives near Oxford with his wife and family in a 16th century house with almost 19th century amenities. Sometimes the heating even works.

His website is thus-spake-nick-lake.tumblr.com/

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Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh

Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh. September 14, 2017. Tu Books, 389 p. ISBN: 9781620142998.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

After a great war, the East Pacific is in ruins. In brutal Neo Seoul, where status comes from success in combat, ex-gang member Lee Jaewon is a talented pilot rising in the ranks of the academy. Abandoned as a kid in the slums of Old Seoul by his rebel father, Jaewon desires only to escape his past and prove himself a loyal soldier of the Neo State.

When Jaewon is recruited into the most lucrative weapons development division in Neo Seoul, he is eager to claim his best shot at military glory. But the mission becomes more complicated when he meets Tera, a test subject in the government’s supersoldier project. Tera was trained for one purpose: to pilot one of the lethal God Machines, massive robots for a never-ending war.

With secret orders to report on Tera, Jaewon becomes Tera’s partner, earning her reluctant respect. But as respect turns to love, Jaewon begins to question his loyalty to an oppressive regime that creates weapons out of humans. As the project prepares to go public amidst rumors of a rebellion, Jaewon must decide where he stands—as a soldier of the Neo State, or a rebel of the people.

Pacific Rim meets Korean action dramas in this mind-blowing, New Visions Award-winning science fiction debut.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, War, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities


Author Video


Booklist starred (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 8-11. In her brilliantly crafted debut, Oh brings us to the year 2199. The planet’s East and West have been consumed by war for the past 50 years, and the newly formed Neo Alliance (Korea, Japan, and China) are ruthless in their ambition to control the world. Enter Lee Jaewon, fresh off his military placement exam from one of Neo Seoul’s elite military academies and assigned to the Tower—home of the government’s most top-secret project. Here Jaewon meets Tera, a teenage girl who has undergone years of military testing to turn her into a supersoldier with the ability to pilot one of Korea’s advanced God Machines, a weapon capable of leveling a city block in one blow. Abandoned by those who were meant to love him the most, Jaewon is committed to doing his part to contribute to the war effort. But as he and Tera grow closer, and the mystery of his father’s death comes to light, Jaewon begins to question his loyalties. Will love for another open his eyes to the true nature of war? Equal parts K-drama (Korean drama) and sci-fi blockbuster, Oh blends futuristic tech, authentic Korean culture, and romance in this complex, utterly engrossing, and wholly fresh story that is sure to entice a wide array of readers.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2017)
In a militaristic future Korea, a boy and girl meet.It is 2199, and Korea, China, and Japan no longer exist as separate countries but as members of the Neo Council (conveyed to readers in infodumps). Five decades of war have yielded many innovations, such as the God Machines (riffing on the tradition of Japanese mecha movies and Pacific Rim). Preparing to take his military placement exam before graduation from an elite academy, Jaewon is isolated: his father is dead, his mother abandoned him, and his former best friend has turned his back on Jaewon to gain power in one of the Old Seoul gangs. Jaewon’s military posting is to the Tower, the kilometer-tall building in Neo Seoul that serves as headquarters, where he is assigned to supervise Tera, a girl whose strength has been enhanced with drugs in order to pilot a new kind of God Machine. With war still raging and rebel nationalists seeking to make Korea an independent nation again, will two young people be able to find love in this plot-heavy story? While Jaewon is an effective character, much of the supporting cast is relatively flat and the dialogue occasionally stilted, which jars against the mostly colloquial flow. The setting is well-captured, but it’s slow going in this sci-fi adventure. (glossary) (Science fiction. 14-16)

About the Author

Axie Oh is a first-generation Korean American, born in New York City and raised in New Jersey. She studied Korean history and creative writing as an undergrad at the University of California San Diego and holds an MFA in Writing for Young People from Lesley University. Her passions include K-pop, anime, stationery supplies, and milk tea, and she currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her puppy, Toro (named after Totoro).  Her website is axieoh.com.

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Rebel Seoul on Goodreads

Rebel Seoul on JLG

Rebel Seoul Publisher Page

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. September 5, 2017. HarperTeen, 368 p. ISBN: 9780062457790.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 870.

Adam Silvera reminds us that there’s no life without death and no love without loss in this devastating yet uplifting story about two people whose lives change over the course of one unforgettable day.

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Gun violence


Author Interview


Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 9-12. Imagine a world in which everyone who is about to die receives the shocking news in advance by phone, and you have the premise of the wildly imaginative new novel by Silvera. Eighteen-year-old Mateo receives such a phone call at 12:22 a.m., while 17-year-old Rufus receives his at 1:05. Both boys, who are initially strangers to each other, now have one thing in common: they will be dead in 24 hours or less. Alone and desperately lonely, the two find each other by using an app called Last Friend. At first dubious, they begin a cautious friendship, which they describe in their respective first-person voices in alternating chapters. The ingenious plot of this character-driven novel charts the evolution of their relationship as it deepens into something more than simple friendship. Silvera does a remarkable job of inviting empathy for his irresistible coprotagonists. As the clock continues to tick the minutes away, their story becomes invested with urgency and escalating suspense. Will they really die? Perhaps, but, ultimately, it is not death but life that is the focus of this extraordinary and unforgettable novel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
What would you do with one day left to live?In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived. Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

About the Author

Adam Silvera was born and raised in the Bronx. He has worked in the publishing industry as a children’s bookseller, marketing assistant at a literary development company, and book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. His debut novel, More Happy Than Not, received multiple starred reviews and is a New York Times bestseller, and Adam was selected as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start. He writes full-time in New York City and is tall for no reason.

His website is www.adamsilvera.com.

Around the Web

They Both Die at the End on Amazon

They Both Die at the End on Goodreads

They Both Die at the End on JLG

They Both Die at the End Publisher Page

Castle in the Stars by Alex Alice

Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 (Book 1) by Alex Alice. September 12, 2017. First Second, 64 p. ISBN: 9781626724938.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.5.

In search of the mysterious element known as aether, Claire Dulac flew her hot air balloon toward the edge of our stratosphere―and never returned. Her husband, genius engineer Archibald Dulac, is certain that she is forever lost. Her son, Seraphin, still holds out hope.

One year after her disappearance, Seraphin and his father are delivered a tantalizing clue: a letter from an unknown sender who claims to have Claire’s lost logbook. The letter summons them to a Bavarian castle, where an ambitious young king dreams of flying the skies in a ship powered by aether. But within the castle walls, danger lurks―there are those who would stop at nothing to conquer the stars.

In Castle in the Stars, this lavishly illustrated graphic novel, Alex Alice delivers a historical fantasy adventure set in a world where man journeyed into space in 1869, not 1969.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Violence, Alcohol, Smoking, Criminal culture



Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 5-8. What do you get when you mix steampunk, historic scientific theories, Jules Verne-style adventure, and King Ludwig II of Bavaria? A rollicking good time, that’s what. In 1869, a year after Seraphin’s mother disappeared in her hot air balloon while in search of the mysterious energy source called Aether, an unsigned letter arrives in which the writer claims to have found her logbook. On their way to Bavaria to claim it, Seraphin and his father become entangled with Prussian spies who are also on the hunt for the logbook, hoping that the secret of Aether will help them overthrow King Ludwig II and take over the world. The romantic setting of the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle is the perfect backdrop for this steampunk adventure story, and the author and artists use both interior and exterior views to good advantage. Done in soft watercolors, the illustrations are gorgeously detailed and alive with color and motion, giving the whole book a cinematic feel. This series starter ends on an extreme cliffhanger, so readers will be eager for the sequel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
Some people will love this fanciful tale of a 19th-century space race so much they never finish it. This graphic novel is filled with distractions. Every scene has a new detail to focus on, usually off in the corner of a panel: a watercraft decorated with golden cherubs or an airship shaped like a swan. When one character holds up a book of blueprints (for a craft that travels “through aether”), readers may be tempted to crane their necks to get a better view of the tiny drawings. The artwork, which combines loose pencil outlines with elaborate watercolors, is that spectacular. Many panels could be framed as paintings, and it would be easy to ignore the text and just stare at the pictures of cloud banks. But that would be a mistake, as it’s a terrific adventure story with disguises and air chases and a plot against Bavarian royalty in the late 1800s. The story is full of digressions, though, and the digressions are the best part, as when the main character (a schoolboy named Seraphin) explains why there must be dinosaurs on Venus. In another, the royal architect shows off the orchestra pit on an airship. This is bad science and bad history (and surely not everyone in Bavaria was white), which makes it fantastic steampunk. Like the best steampunk, this story is one excellent distraction after another, with enough blueprints to hold people’s attention while they’re waiting for Book 2. (Graphic steampunk. 10-16)

About the Author

Alex Alice is a French graphic novelist, working in France and sometimes the U.S. His works have been translated into more than fifteen languages.

Born in 1974, he grew up in the south of France and had the chance to travel around Europe, where he developed a lifelong passion for the ruins and castles of the medieval and romantic ages. This experience influenced his art, from the grim setting of his esoteric thriller The Third Testament (co-written with Xavier Dorison and published by Titan Comics) to the primeval, mythic world found in Siegfried, an operatic re-telling of the northern saga of the great dragon slayer (published by Boom Entertainment). In Castle in the Stars, he draws on Jules Verne and nineteenth-century romanticism to create a watercolor world of adventure and wonder to enchant adults and younger readers alike.

His website is www.alexalice.com

Around the Web

Castle in the Stars on Amazon

Castle in the Stars on Goodreads

Castle in the Stars on JLG

Castle in the Stars Publisher Page

Battlesong by Lian Tanner

Battlesong by Lian Tanner. August 15, 2017. Fiewel & Friends, 393 p. ISBN: 9781250052186.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 720.

The thrilling conclusion to the Icebreaker trilogy, an acclaimed middle-grade fantasy-adventure from Lian Tanner.

Gwin is a Fetcher. With her papa and twin brother, Nat, she travels West Norn, bringing joy to its downtrodden people through song and story. But ever since Mama died, it’s been hard to keep the joy alive.

Proud and defiant, Fetchers have always been hunted by the Devouts for preserving the old ways. So when devious Brother Poosk captures Papa, Gwin must rescue him―whatever the cost.

Meanwhile, the Oyster’s crew and the Sunkers lay siege to the Citadel. But without their Sleeping Captain, can they ever win against the ruthless Devouts? Can Petrel, Fin, Sharkey, and Rain ever bring light back to such a dark world?

Sequel to: Sunker’s Deep

Part of series: Icebreaker (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence



School Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
Gr 5-8-Tanner’s trilogy concludes with a meticulously plotted, rapidly paced adventure that both stands alone and richly satisfies fans of the first two novels. The narrative picks up where Sunker’s Deep left off, with the crews of both the Oyster and the Claw on dry land searching for the captain and the legendary Singer. Enter young Gwin and her family, traveling entertainers called “Fetchers,” whose performances bring moments of pleasure to the downtrodden population while preserving traditional lore and keeping ancient secrets from the Anti-Machinists. Tanner’s unparalleled world-building seamlessly weaves Gwin’s tale into a complex narrative told from multiple perspectives. The author provides just enough backstory to keep new readers engaged and the action moving toward a thrilling ending that unites characters from all three installments. Attentive readers will be intrigued by early plot details that later on return to add significance at pivotal moments. Masterly writing brings the stark landscape to life and reveals characters’ deepest emotions. -VERDICT A first purchase for collections that already have the other volumes in the series; expect interest in them if ordering this third entry on its own.-Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

About the Author

Lian Tanner has been dynamited while scuba diving and arrested while busking. She once spent a week in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, hunting for a Japanese soldier left over from the Second World War. She likes secrets, old bones, and animals that are not what they seem. Nowadays she lives by the beach in southern Tasmania with her cat, Harry-le-beau, who has his own blog at vampiremice.wordpress.com.

Her website is www.liantanner.com.au.

Around the Web

Battlesong on Amazon

Battlesong on Goodreads

Battlesong on JLG

Battlesong Publisher Page

Children of Refuge by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Children of Refuge by Margaret Peterson Haddix. September 12, 2017. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781442450066.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

After Edwy is smuggled off to Refuge City to stay with his brother and sister, Rosi, Bobo, and Cana are stuck alone—and in danger—in Cursed Town in the thrilling follow-up to Children of Exile from New York Times bestselling author, Margaret Peterson Haddix.

It’s been barely a day since Edwy left Fredtown to be with his parents and, already, he is being sent away. He’s smuggled off to boarding school in Refuge City, where he will be with his brother and sister, who don’t even like him very much. The boarding school is nothing like the school that he knew, there’s no one around looking up to him now, and he’s still not allowed to ask questions!

Alone and confused, Edwy seeks out other children brought back from Fredtown and soon discovers that Rosi and the others—still stuck in the Cursed Town—might be in danger. Can Edwy find his way back to his friends before it’s too late?

Part of Series: Children of Exile

Sequel to: Children of Exile

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, War, Violence, Drugs, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Harsh realities of war



Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 4-8. Fans of Children of Exile (2016) won’t be disappointed in this sequel: it’s just as thoughtful, swift-paced, and cleverly plotted. Haddix further develops characters by changing the narrator to outspoken Edwy, a contrary rascal who has always teased Rosi for her prim and proper ways. The end of the first title had Rosi and two younger children trying to escape from a violent outbreak in Cursed Town; here we begin with Edwy being smuggled into Refuge City, where he lives with an older brother and sister he didn’t know existed. The plot twists are multiple, exciting, and completely logical, and seeing Rosi through Edwy’s eyes brings to light additional facets. Edwy finds he’s constantly worried about and desperately missing Rosi, so he uses his often negative character traits (lying, stubbornness, aggression) to find and win allies that will help him save Rosi and the children. An excellent dystopian adventure for tweens that avoids graphic violence while bringing up issues of social justice and prejudice. The cliff-hanger ending guarantees another title in the series.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2017)
Teen Edwy is sent away by his newly found birth parents and smuggled into a futuristic city. This sequel picks up where Children of Exile (2016) left off in the devastated city of Cursed Town, to which the children of bucolic Fredtown were returned. Now, however, the narrative jounces tautly along through the voice of rebellious Edwy instead of naïve Rosi. Having been home for about 24 hours he’s not thrilled to be manhandled away to live with siblings he didn’t know existed in the thronged Refuge City. It takes Edwy some time to learn what Rosi did in the first book: that the Fred-parents are actually well-meaning aliens who took all the children of Earth away from the warring humans. The more Edwy understands about the deal brokered with the aliens, the more worried he becomes about Rosi back in Cursed Town. His sister, Kiandra, brilliant at hacking, shows Edwy footage of Rosi’s beating in the market and reports that she has escaped from jail. He becomes desperate to get to her before the aliens called Enforcers do. Racial lines are blurred in this future, though skin and eye color are oft mentioned, exploring both tribalism in its many forms and the no lesser crime of turning a blind eye. This is a topical thriller that brings heart and thought to the sci-fi genre. (Science fiction. 11-16)

About the Author

Margaret Peterson Haddix grew up on a farm near Washington Court House, Ohio. She graduated from Miami University (of Ohio) with degrees in English/journalism, English/creative writing and history. Before her first book was published, she worked as a newspaper copy editor in Fort Wayne, Indiana; a newspaper reporter in Indianapolis; and a community college instructor and freelance writer in Danville, Illinois.

Haddix and her husband, Doug, now live in Columbus, Ohio, with their two children. Her website is www.haddixbooks.com

Around the Web

Children of Refuge on Amazon

Children of Refuge on Goodreads

Children of Refuge on JLG

Children of Refuge Publisher Page