Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely
About: Meet Pity Jones. Actually, her name is Serendipity but everyone calls her Pity. She lives in an America that has been torn apart by a Second Civil War and ravaged by some type of biological weapons. But life is slowly becoming more civilized. And the commune where Pity lives has a definite Wild West flair to it. Before she died, Pity’s mother taught her how to shoot her custom made revolvers – and Pity is a natural. But her tyrannical, abusive father refuses to let Pity do much of anything besides cook and clean. That’s why Pity is plotting to run away with her best friend, Finn, as soon as she turns 17.
When her father announces that he’s selling her to be a breeder to a mining commune, Finn and Pity flee their homes and head east to the big city. But things don’t go as planned, and Pity instead finds herself traveling west to Cessation – a city known for its decadence and lawlessness. Pity is hired to perform as a sharp shooter in the Theatre Vespertine which is similar to Cirque de Soleil only much more sinister. It’s one of the main attractions at Casimir, an oasis of many pleasures where no one is quite what they seem to be. Pity struggles to make sense of everything in her new life while trying to figure who she can trust and who might be out to kill her.
Roben says: The pace may seem a bit slow at first but it picks up speed once Pity arrives in Cessation and begins her sharp-shooter career to pay off her debt to Miss Selene. There’s a bit of everything in this book – a sizzling romance between Pity and the elusive Max; the mystery of who can be trusted and who can’t; and Pity’s struggle with getting beyond her guilt and her fear that her father is going to track her down. Casimir is a bit of a futuristic Las Vegas – there’s gambling, drugs, alcohol, and prostitution. And, being the Wild West, there’s no end to shootouts and ambushes. Nothing’s super explicit – except the violence. You want to make sure you don’t cross the wrong people – it’s just hard to figure out who those people are! The book ends with the possibility of a sequel so we may see more of Pity (and Max?) in the future!
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
About: A ghostly story of suspense told in two voices–one still living and one dead. Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and innocence, and what happens when one is mistaken for the other.
Ofilia’s Thoughts: This is a ghost story, but it isn’t like any ghost story you have ever read. It is detailed and complex and involves two worlds filled with characters you don’t typically see connected: ballerinas and juvenile delinquents. It’s fascinating to read and see how much these two seemingly unrelated worlds have in common. The story is told from 2 different points of view and at the heart of the story are two different crimes. One a terrible tragedy, the other horrific revenge murders. Slowly you get details about the crimes, the causes and the suspects. Weaved throughout are the tales of life in the detention center and the stories of the girls within. Suma keeps you guessing all the way to the end. Creepy and atmospheric, this one will stick with you.
Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi
About: If you have read Shipbreaker or Drowned Cities, then you have already met Tool and been introduced to his world – a world where the seas have risen and completely changed life as we know it. Los Angeles, DC, and New Orleans are all mostly submerged cities where giant storms wreak havoc. Large corporations run the world rather than governments. Small factions of soldiers fight in never-ending battles for territory. In this book, Tool is the leader of the faction winning to take control of DC. Tool is an augment – a bioengineered half-man/half-beast super-soldier. He was created and then conditioned to be a loyal fighting machine who would obey his master’s every command. But Tool manages to overcome his conditioning long enough to flee his master and the corporation that owns him. Now his master has decided he wants him destroyed and he is willing to sacrifice anything in order to make that happen.
Roben says: This is the third book in my favorite dystopian series. The first two books – Shipbreaker and Drowned Cities – are companion books. You can read either of them first. They are tied together by Bacigalupi’s amazing world building and the character of Tool. But you do need to read both of them before you pick up Tool of War. This third (and probably final?) book ties the characters introduced in the first two books together. And, of course, introduces a few new ones. The author addresses issues of slavery, the cost of war, the results of climate change, and the concept of our behavior being pre-determined by our genetic makeup in a thought-provoking way. A bit of a trigger warning – the books are quiet violent. Bullets fly, bodies are blown apart, and lots of people die. But you’ll have to read the book to figure out who survives and who doesn’t.
Thornhill by Pam Smy
About: Parallel, interwoven stories set in different times–one told through intimate diary entries and the other through bold, striking art–converge as a girl unravels the mystery of the abandoned building next door. Pam Smy’s Thornhill is a haunting exploration of human connection, breathtakingly illustrated and masterfully told.
Ofilia’s Thoughts: This story is told in two different formats, which at first seems like it may be a gimmick. The first is through illustrations and the second is through a diary. Each story starts in a different place in time and eventually meets in the middle. Mary is an orphan living in a girl’s home called Thornhill. Ella’s mourning her mother and lonely because her dad is never home. Both girls are desperate in their own way. Mary’s situation seems much more urgent as the girl’s home is closing down and she is constantly tortured by a mean girl. But as the story progresses, you begin to wonder, what’s scarier: a bully that hates you or a ghost that wants you for a friend? Fast paced and creepy, this is an excellent ghost story that you think about way after you are finished with the boo!
Mapping the Bones by Jane Yolen
What’s it about: It’s 1942 in Poland, and the world is coming to pieces. At least that’s how it seems to Chaim and Gittel, twins whose lives feel like a fairy tale torn apart, with evil witches, forbidden forests, and dangerous ovens looming on the horizon. But in all darkness there is light, and the twins find it through Chaim’s poetry and the love they have for each other. Like the bright flame of a Yahrzeit candle, his words become a beacon of memory so that the children and grandchildren of survivors will never forget the atrocities that happened during the Holocaust.
Andrea’s thoughts: I read and loved Jane Yolen’s book Briar Rose, a Sleeping Beauty retelling set during the Holocaust. When I saw this book, a Hansel and Gretel retelling also set during the Holocaust, I knew that I had to read it. Suspenseful, hopeful, and tragic are just some of the words that I would use to describe this book. Chaim and Gittel’s journey from a Polish Ghetto through the forest with Polish resistance fighters to finally be caught and sent to a Nazi labor camp was, at times, hard to read. The book switches back and forth between Chaim’s perspective at the time of the event and Gittel’s recollection as a grown woman. Chaim’s poetry is also dispersed throughout the book as he takes on the responsibility of bearing witness to the struggles and atrocities he and others face. The parallels between this story and Hansel and Gretel is very subtle at first but become more obvious as the story settles at the Nazi labor camp. This was a beautifully written book that, although fiction, could be based on the real stories of millions of people. I would recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
Nemesis by Brandon Reichs
About: Brendan Reichs, co-author of the popular Virals series delivers a new dystopian sci-fi series for fans to sink their teeth into. Every other year Min, a street smart teenager living in a trailer park is brutally murdered by a man in a black suit, and then promptly returned back to life. Her mother and therapist shrug it off as imaginary. There is also Noah, a popular rich kid who has been having the same experiences, and shares the same therapist as Min. Simultaneously, asteroids threatening all existence are bound for Earth! Coincidence?
Audrey’s thoughts: Nemesis will appeal to teens that enjoy fast paced novels that culminate action, references to current events, dystopian, and science fiction. A formula that strikes a chord with some, but can leave other readers wanting more. Min and Noah’s voices narrate in alternating chapters. There isn’t much depth to the character’s development making their voices fall flat, and occasionally hard to differentiate. There is also a strategically placed love triangle. Tack is Min’s best friend, sidekick, and has been crushing hard since elementary school. Their relationship will most likely be playing a major role in the upcoming installments. Though aspects of this book and promising new series seemed contrived, I still enjoyed it and will definitely be reading the rest of the series.