Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Sixteen-year-old Katniss is a survivor. Katniss struggles to provide for her mother and young sister by hunting and gathering after her father dies. In a future where the US has fallen, the result of brutal wars has left 12 districts governed by cruel dictators. Each year the government chooses a boy and girl from each district to participate in the Hunger Games – a fight to the death, televised for all to see. The Hunger Games are a punishment on the districts for a long-ago uprising against the Capitol. This year, Katniss is shocked when her young sister’s name is chosen to participate from the lottery. So Katniss volunteers to take her place, along with Peeta – the son of the district’s baker. The two have little fighting skills compared to other districts’ participants who have been training their whole lives for this event.
Katniss is a completely engaging character. I usually can’t stand present tense narrative, but Collins’ writing pulled me in nonetheless. I was pulled in from the start, and couldn’t let go. It’s a story of love, friendship, surviving, violence, and death. The reader experiences everything that Katniss does, and experiences a full range of emotions. Collins’ characters are truly stunning.
This is an immensely popular trilogy, and I now know why. With an abundance of drama and suspense, this futuristic science fiction novel for young adults will appeal to readers young and old. It’s breathtaking and a fantastic adventure from beginning to end.
Girl in the Arena, by Lise Haines
Teenage Lyn has had 7 fathers who have all been gladiators in the Gladiator Sports Association. And when her latest father dies in the ring, Lyn’s worst nightmare comes to life when an outdated rule states that Lyn must marry Uber, her father’s killer. Though a pacifist herself, Lyn would rather fight Uber in the ring rather than be forced to marry and give up her freedom. But things get even more complicated when Lyn begins having feelings for Uber.
Lyn is a believable and sympathetic character. She is forced to make tough decisions that not only impact her life, but her family’s as well. In a bizarre alternate and slightly futuristic society, professional gladiator sports are commonplace and socially accepted. Fights to the death with humans and animals take place like back in ancient Roman times. What began as an outlet to take the place of war, has now become a warped and twisted sport where it’s all about financial gain. Haines has created a fascinating, if grim world, where violence is accepted and forced at a young age.
Wrought with suspense and emotional roller coasters, this surprising story kept me engaged from beginning to end. This debut for young adults is powerful and mesmerizing. It wasn’t what I expected, and that alone made it worth reading.
TimeRiders, by Alex Scarrow
Maddy, Liam, and Sal should have died. But a strange man came to rescue them and give them a new life. Each teen is from a separate time. Maddy was rescued from a plane crash in 2010. Liam was rescued from the sinking Titanic. And Sal was rescued from an event in 2026. Each has special gifts that make them ideal candidates for their new job – working to correct time displacements. These TimeRiders watch from a bunker in 2001, to catch any discrepancies and right the errors in time that anyone from the future might make to the past. Their first task is to discover what happened back in World War II that led to Germany winning, as their present has altered to a Nazi-occupied America.
Scarrow’s characters are vivid and interesting. The teenage team works well together, as well as apart. The historic elements are presented in a fascinating way. And the technology aspect of time travel is touched on, but not bogged down in details.
Time travel is one of my favorite subgenres of science fiction, so I had high expectations for this one. And I was more than impressed. This has been one of my favorite reads of the summer, if not the year. The writing is fast-paced and extremely engaging. Full of danger and suspense (in more than one period of time) this high-octane adventure will appeal to readers of all ages. Culminating to a thrilling conclusion, I found it impossible to put down. Don’t miss this exciting series debut.
TimeRiders releases today from Walker Books for Young Readers.
Terminator Salvation: Trial by Fire, by Timothy Zahn
Immediately following the events in Terminator Salvation, Barnes and Blair Williams discover a strange cable in the ground while searching through the debris of the destroyed Skynet lab. The two follow the cable to a secluded village whose inhabitants hold a dark secret. Meanwhile, Kyle Reese and his team uncover a hidden tunnel where Terminators are still hard at work on a plan to destroy the resistance.
Fans of the movie Terminator Salvation or those that have read the adaptation will enjoy this follow-up story. Written by a favorite science fiction author, I had high expectations for the characters and adventure in this story. And I wasn’t disappointed. With plenty of surprises and shocking revelations, this was an exciting continuation of the series. The story revolves around several returning characters as well as the discovered village. The character development was great for such a short novel with so much action and suspense. This fast-paced thriller left me hoping for another story to follow in the series soon. As a Terminator fan, this post-apocalyptic series continuation is a must-read.
I Am Number Four, by “Pittacus Lore”
Fifteen-year-old John Smith is in hiding for his life, never staying in one place for more than a few months. He is one of nine children who left their war-torn planet Lorien, along with their guardians, until the children develop their powers. Their powers (or Legacies) are the only thing that can help them stop the evil Mogadarians who have come to Earth to kill off the survivors one by one.
John is a teen alien that goes through everything normal teenagers go through: being bullied, falling in love, having a hard time dealing with authority figures. But John also has to deal with the fact that he has growing super powers, and that a race of aliens want to kill him. John has the weight of the world on his shoulders, knowing that if the Mogadarians defeat them, that all of Earth will be next.
Though the premise sounds a bit like the former television show Roswell, that’s where the similarities end. This new series will appeal to a slightly younger audience. Though, I was disappointed in some of the strong language. The characters are well-developed, with great interactions. And though there is the overlying feel of suspense and danger always lurking, the mood is surprisingly light-hearted and fun until the final climactic battle. Science fiction fans of all ages will enjoy this fantastic, series debut. With a movie adaptation in production, I really hope this series takes off.
Z, by Michael Thomas Ford
Josh is a teenager who loves a virtual reality game where he hunts zombies with a flamethrower. Thankfully, there are no more zombies following an outbreak when his parents were young. So when Josh is offered to play a secret game IRL (In Real Life), he jumps at the chance. But Josh soon discovers that these aren’t the mindless cyber zombies he’s been told about.
Josh is a seemingly average kid with an average family, and falls for peer pressure easily. When confronted with deadly situations, he jumps in without much thought, and continues to play. The thrill of zombie hunting seems to be a drug for Josh and his peers. And, unfortunately, Josh also succumbs to peer pressure when it comes to actual drug use as well – as a warning for younger readers. Josh rarely makes wise choices.
If older teens are looking for high-octane, zombie-hunting mayhem, look no further. From beginning to end, the thrills and chills never stop. Often violent and gory, this is still fairly tame compared to other zombie fiction. If it weren’t for the flippant use of drugs, I would easily recommend this more to young teens. Yet zombie enthusiasts won’t want to miss this one. I was pleasantly surprised with the pacing and found it nearly impossible to put down. Despite the downfalls of the main character, Z is highly enjoyable.
Z will release from HarperTeen on September 7, 2010.
The Osiris Ritual, by George Mann
Sir Maurice Newbury is an investigator for the Queen. While attending the unveiling of a newly discovered mummy, Newbury is baffled by its condition and strange markings. And while he (with the help of Miss Veronica Hobbes) investigates a stage magician whose female volunteers often go missing, Newbury turns most of his attention to news of his predecessor’s return. Knox is a mentally unhinged former agent with an obsession for immortality.
The Osiris Ritual is a sequel to The Affinity Bridge, which I haven’t read. But I didn’t feel lost or behind in the slightest. Though, I certainly want to go back and read the first in the series now. In a fantastic blend of mystery and steampunk, the story had my engaged from the start. I felt completely absorbed in Mann’s Victorian world that happens to have mastered advanced mechanics. Newbury and Hobbes have a refreshing chemistry. The multiple mysteries and complex storylines were intriguing. And the suspense was thrilling, making it impossible to put down. This is one steampunk I highly recommend.
The Osiris Ritual releases from Tor Books on August 3, 2010.
Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles, by Merrie Destefano
Chaz Domingue is a Babysitter, watching over the newly resurrected. In a futuristic society, humans can now live up to nine lifetimes in cloned bodies. But the newly resurrected have a slow start, with spotty memories. So Babysitters are hired to protect and reintegrate them into society. Angelique is Chaz’ latest Newbie, but someone with powerful connections is after her. As a conspiracy begins to unravel that involves almost everyone around Chaz, the key to their future lies in Angelique’s memories.
Chaz is a likeable and relatable character. Despite the popularity and his own family’s involvement in the Resurrection process, Chaz is content with his one, natural life. He wants his life to eventually end, so he can someday reach Heaven. The spiritual aspect and repercussions in this novel are fascinating. With the popularity of cloning, even most churches begin to support the controversial science of prolonging life past its natural course. Though Chaz’ beliefs remain steadfast.
The plot is complex and inspired. The mood is dark and suspenseful. It’s rare when I’m so impressed by a debut. And this science fiction novel definitely took me by surprise. The narrative is fast-paced, jumping around among several key characters’ point of view. So readers see what’s coming a bit before Chaz, building suspense and excitement. The mystery builds to a climactic ending, offering several surprises. And I finished the book with a smile, loving every bit of Destefano’s thought-provoking tale.
How many lives would I want to live? I’m still not exactly sure…
Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles releases from Eos Books on September 28, 2010.