Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dear Blog . . .

I know I've been ignoring you. I hope you don't take it personally, as my husband, my journal, and my housework are all suffering from similar cases of end-of-the-semester neglect. What it comes down to is the fact that my final paper is due on May 22nd and I have yet to firmly nail down a topic, what with doing all of the other assignments for this class . . . I know, excuses don't make it right, but I really am very sorry, and we'll have a whole summer together to catch up before the fall semester starts. I hope you'll understand.

Apologetically yours,

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

I recommend this book for: grade 7 and up

Sometimes teens feel like the world doesn't respect them or treat them like real people, and they have a point. But just wait until they read this . . .

In a future America, abortion has been banned. The population explodes, and to make up for it, unwinding has been introduced. Everyone has the chance to live up to age 13. Between the ages of 13 and 18, legal guardians have the option of having their children unwound - sent to a harvest camp to be essentially recycled for parts. Instead of fixing medical problems, surgeons replace the organs and limbs of adults with healthy young parts from unwinds. An unwinding order is irreversible, and there's an entire force of juvie cops dedicated to finding runaway unwinds and bringing them in to serve their useful purpose.

In alternating chapters, Unwind tells the story of three teens sent to be unwound. Connor ran away from home when he found out that his parents were sending him to harvest camp because of his problematic behavior. Along the way he encounters (and kidnaps) Lev, a 13 year old who has been prepared for unwinding from his childhood - his parents are offering him as a tithe, as prescribed by their religion. Then there's Risa, an orphaned piano player who was deemed by the state not quite good enough to justify the cost of keeping her in one piece. The three band together to face the challenge of staying alive to 18, and the difficult process puts them in the path of the law, terrorists, and outlaws who help unwinds in a modern day Underground Railroad. This is a chilling and fascinating book, with characters who are as complex as the world in which they live. I became deeply attached to the three main characters, and the various story threads are woven together beautifully. I'll be recommending this one to older fans of Shadow Children and scary stories, but not to kids who can't handle a bit of the disturbing. This is a story that will stay with readers.

Really? No reviews on Amazon? There is an excerpt of the first chapter, though!

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass

I recommend this book for: middle and high school

Mia is 13 and sees colors - words, names, sounds, and numbers all have colors for her. She has kept it secret since she figured out that she was the only one, but the truth has finally come out. She has synesthesia, and although it is rare, she's not the only one. Life is suddenly different in a big way - she has an online community of people who understand how she sees things to support her and recommend ways of coping with and celebrating her uniqueness, but on the other hand, her best friend is furious with her for keeping the secret, her parents don't understand, and her failing math grade isn't getting much better. Can she balance these two worlds?

This was an intriguing book that really showed what it might be like to live with synesthesia and provided good information without sacrificing the storyline. Mia's withdrawal from the people who loved her most in favor of those she thought would understand her better was believable, and the trigger that brought her back equally so. The characters were mostly well-drawn and realistic, and the relationships compelling. There was really only one problem I had with the book - I find it difficult to believe that any licensed professional would provide acupuncture to a 13-year old without a parent's permission. Otherwise, though, this was a completely engrossing read.

What the pros said.