Category: Sci-fi/Fantasy


Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
978-1-4169-3450-9
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, New York, 2006
Format: PDF file
448 p.

GENRE: Science Fiction

TEASER: All Tally ever wanted was to be one of the privileged pretties. But is the cost of being perfect too high?

SUMMARY: Tally Youngblood is an ugly. As an ugly she is forced to live in a with all of the other uglies in Uglyville. But soon she will turn sixteen and become a pretty, the privileged upper-class that live in leisure. Before she becomes a pretty, she meets Shay who is scheduled to become a pretty on the same day as Tally. Only Shay doesn’t want to be a pretty. Shay is in league with rebels who are against the conformity of the pretty society. Shay invites Tally to come with her and join them. She refuses but promises not to reveal the location of the rebels. But something happens on the day that Tally is scheduled to become a pretty. Special Circumstances, the secret law enforcers, tell her she cannot become a pretty unless she gives away Shay and the other rebels location. Now they are forcing her to lead the way to the rebel’s hideout. Suddenly Tally’s not so sure she wants to be a pretty anymore. She soon learns the horrible cost of becoming a pretty. But can she stop the Special Circumstances for discovering their hideout, or is it too late?

CRITIQUE: This book was written in third person perspective, which seems to be not as common in young adult fiction as it is in adult fiction. Westerfeld did an excellent job at building the world for this story. I was reminded of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The pretties are the alphas and everything is supposedly perfect for them. However, this over-engeneered society will be its own demise. We can’t prevent war and conflict by taking away everyone’s free will. It will never work. A rebellion is brewing and the pretties society may come falling down on them.

There are many important issues that Westerfeld addresses in this book, such as: body image, conformity, individuality, social class, and social class. I felt like Westerfeld is making a lot of statements about how our society judges people by appearance and how cosmetic surgery is becoming a norm. When people like Tally are raised to think that this is the right way to be, how can we expect her to feel any differently than she did when Shay asks her to join Smoke?

The book was well written and most certainly thought-provoking. The author gives you relatable characters, unique plot twists, and makes you think about our own society and the importance on body image at the same time. This is a definite page-tuner. I couldn’t put this book down. I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Scott Westerfeld is a science fiction author and ghost writer. He compares ghost writing to being able to “driving someone else’s car really, really fast for lots of money.” He was born in Texas and splits his time between New York City and Sydney, Australia. He is married to Australian author Justine Larbalestier. He is also the author of the Leviathan, Midnighters series, Polymorph, and So Yesterday.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://scottwesterfeld.com/

READING LEVEL 12+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: N/A

DEFENSE: N/A

CURRICULUM TIES: N/A

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Even though this book is written in a futuristic dystopian world, what do you think this book says about how we perceive beauty? Do you think we are headed in this direction?

WHY INCLUDED: I have wanted to read this book for a long time. I find the idea of a futuristic world where people are segregated by appearance fascinating.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
ISBN: 1400052920
Harmony Books, New York, 1980
215 p.

GENRE: Science Fiction

TEASER: This is a journey through space that you will never forget.

SUMMARY: The story begins with Arthur Dent lying in front of a bulldozer that is going to rip down his house in order to build a new bypass. His friend Ford perfect comes along and convinces him to leave foe a bit. He also tricks the foreman into lying in front of Arthur’s house for him while he’s gone. Ford then tries to explain to Arthur that he is really an alien from the an area called Betelgeuse. He tells Arthur that they need to find a way off Earth because it will ironically soon be demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass. They steal away on a Vogon ship but are later caught. They are then tortured with reading of Vogon poetry, the third worst in the entire Universe. After they are ejected into space, they are picked up by the Heart of Gold. The ship’s other passengers are Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford’s semi-cousin, Malvin, a chronically depressed robot, and Trillian, a mathematician and astrophysicist. They are in search of the legendary planet of Magrathea. But once they get there, they encounter more problems. Now Arthur is separated from the rest and must escape from mice that want to cut open his head. how will Arthur get out of this one?

CRITIQUE: The story is told in third person perspective, switching between Arthur and Ford’s characters. It’s easy to see why Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is considered a classic in its genre. In a time when many author’s were writing space operas, Douglas chose to do a parody of sci-fi adventure stories. His characters are unique and well though out. He is famous for his witty prose. many agree that this book exemplified his writing prowess. The world is intelligently written and though provoking. You are sure to get a laugh out of Douglas Adam’s classic tale of adventure and insanity.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Douglas Adams was an English author and dramatist. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is most well-known work. Some of his other titles were Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, The Private Life of Genghis Khan, and many other novels and short stories. He was an advocate of environmental conservation. Douglas died of a heart attack at the age of 49 on May 2001. After his death, author Richard Dawkins said, “science has lost a friend, literature has lost a luminary, the mountain gorilla and the black rhino have lost a gallant defender.”

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: N/A

READING LEVEL General Adult

CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some people may abject to the sexual situations in this novel and heavy drinking.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: N/A

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: There are many highly improbable scenes in this book. Which one was the hardest for you to accept?

WHY INCLUDED: I have always wanted to read this book and I kept coming across the title while looking for books for teen boys.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordanby Rick Riordan
ISBN-13: 978-0786838653
Hyperion Books, New York, 2010
400 p.

GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Mythology

TEASER: Percy Jackson’s biggest concern used to be trying to not get kicked out of school. Now he had ten days to safe his mother and stop war between the gods that would devastate the earth.

SUMMARY: Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson can’t seem to stay out of trouble. To make matters worse, he keeps getting attacked by mythical creatures. WHile on the run from various Greek monsters, Percy’s mother is captured by a Minotaur and taken to become a prisoner of Hades. Soon Percy is revealed to be the son of Poseidon. But someone is accusing Percy of stealing Zeus’ lightning bolt. Percy and his friends only have ten days to find and return Zeus’ lightning bolt and save Percy’s mother from being a permanent resident of the Underworld.

CRITIQUE: The story is told in first-person perspective through the eyes of Percy Jackson. The characters are very lovable, even Ares bully daughter, Clarisse. The characters are very relatable and thoughtful. Percy deals with a lot of emotions in this first book, from the loss of his mother, the only parent he’s ever known, to the realization that his father is the infamous Greek sea-god. He goes through the expected feelings of anger and resentment towards his father and the other gods. This is something that a lot of the demigods go through. This resentment is part of the overall conflict of the series.

Riordan adds a modern twist to the drama of the Greek pantheon. He brings mythic creature like the satyr to life in characters like Percy’s best friend Grover. Grover is a young satyr with bad skin, and affinity for eating coke cans, and is determined to get permission to go in search of the great Pan. These books are fun to read for adults and kids alike. They are filled with humor and fun bits of Greek mythology.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: He is also author of the adult Tres Navarre series. He has also written The Heroes of Olympus, another series in the percy Jackson Universe, series and the Kane Chronicles. The Kane Chronicles focuses on Egyptian mythology. He also has helped develop many books in The 39 Clue series. His book The Lightning Thief was made into a motion picture in 2007. He lives with his wife and two sons in San Antonio, Texas.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.rickriordan.com/home.aspx

READING LEVEL 12+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: N/A

DEFENSE: N/A

CURRICULUM TIES: This would be a fun series to read while learning about Greek mythology.

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Discuss the use of Greek mythology in this book. How do you feel Riordan did at modernizing the Greek pantheon?

WHY INCLUDED: Even though the reading level for this book is rather young, I would recommend this series to older teens and adults. The Percy Jackson series is fun and unique. I think anyone who is a fan of Greek mythology would appreciate this book.

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
ISBN-10: 0061450545
HarperCollins, New York, 2008
416 p.

GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Werewolves, Witches, Necromancy

TEASER: Chloe’s seeing dead people, so her family has her sent to Lyle House, a group home for troubled teens. But something sinister is going on at Lyle House.

SUMMARY: Chloe Saunders is a pretty typical high school student. That is until she states seeing ghosts. Her family sends her away to Lyle House, a group home for troubled teenagers. Here she meets and interesting group of teenagers who are all there for different reasons. When Chloe’s roommate mysteriously disappears the staff tell her that she went home. But Chloe know this is a lie because she sees ghosts, and her roommate is now one of them.

CRITIQUE: The story is written through the eyes of Chloe Saunders in first-person perspective. This is book one in the Darkest Powers Trilogy. It does end on a cliff-hanger. I actually ran out and bout the next book the minute I finished this one. I would have bought the third installment had it been available at the time. It is a highly addictive series that will keep you reading well into the night. It is a fast-paced story with lots of plot twists.

The characters are nicely developed. Armstrong gives dimention to all of her characters, even the bully Tori. Chloe’s character is slowly gaining confidence and courage throughout the series. She is very shy and stammers when she’s nervous. She is very uncomfortable with her gift and would give anything to have her life back. At the end of this book she is slowly starting to understand her powers and trying to not be afraid of them. She is also betrayed by someone she trusts and is left very confused at the end of this book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kelley Armstrong is a New York Times bestselling Canadian author. She says she grew up in a typical middle-class family in Ontario and is the oldest of four siblings. She is the author of the popular adult Otherworld Series. She has been writing horror and fantasy stories since she was a child. Although she primarily writes fantasy books, she has written two crime novels.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.kelleyarmstrong.com/

READING LEVEL: 13+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: People main want to challenge this book because it contains witchcraft, wizardry, and necromancy.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: N/A

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Discuss how Kelley Armstrong’s world is different from other books in the genre.

WHY INCLUDED: This is one of my favorite young adult fantasy series. I originally picked up the first novel because I was intrigued by the fact that the main character is a necromancer. I haven’t seen many characters of this sort in the young adult genre.

Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
ISBN-13: 978-054722399-5
Clarion Books, New York, 2009
312 p.

GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Witches, Time Travel

TEASER: Every member of Tamsin’s family is a powerful witch…except her.

SUMMARY: Tamsin comes from a long line of witches. When she was born, there was a prophecy that she would be the most powerful among her family. But her powers never appear. She grows up feeling like an outcast. She tries to distance herself from her talented family members as much as possible by attending boarding school in Manhattan. When she’s home she must work in the family bookstore/magic shop. One day when working in the shop she accepts a job from a handsome stranger, pretending to be her talented sister. But Tamsin’s in way over her head. With the help of Gabriel, a childhood friend, Tamsin must go on a quest through time that will unlock secrets of her family and even herself.

CRITIQUE: The story is told in first person point of view through the protagonist, Tamsin. The characters are well written. Tamsin feel like an outcast from her family. She distance herself physically and emotionally from her talented sister and parents. Tamsin assumes that her family is ashamed of her but she realizes throughout the novel that her own self hatred blinded her to how much her family cares for her. Much of Tamsin’s bitterness is tied to her older sister Rowena who is an extremely gifted witch. She is also smart, beautiful, and is about to marry a kind, handsome young man. Rowena’s character is also given depth. We see later in the novel that she isn’t so perfect, nor does she want to be.

The plot was unique and will keep you on your toes. The dialogue is witty. This books has a lot of elements to it, a little bit of mystery, magic, romance, and time travel. Warning, this books is the first in a series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carolyn MacCullough was born and raised in Connecticut. She has traveled to Iceland, Scotland, and taught English in Sicily. She teaches creative writing to adults and teenagers at Gotham Writers Inc. and the New School. Her other novels are <emAlways a Witch, Falling Through Darkness, Drawing the Ocean, and Stealing Henry.

McCullough says she always wanted to be a writer, except for those times she wanted to be a ballerina, veterinarian, pilot, or princess. She currently resides in New York City. She claims that she spends just as much time writing as she does procrastinating.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.carolynmaccullough.com

READING LEVEL: 12+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some may challenge the fact that this book contains witchcraft and underage drinking and smoking.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: N/A

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: How do you feel time travel was dealt with in this book? Do you see this as a new trend within the genre?

WHY INCLUDED: This title caught my attention because the main character was the one without magical powers. I included it for it’s originality and complex characters.

The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal
ISBN-13: 978-1606840795
Egmont USA, New York, 2011
336 p.

GENRE: Fantasy, Fairy Tales

TEASER: When the princess of Thorvaldor was cursed at her christening, the King an Queen got another child to replace her until she reached her sixteenth birthday. Her birthday has passed. The princess is safe, but what about the false princess?

SUMMARY: As the heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia has strived to be the elegant princess that her parents want. Just after her sixteenth birthday all of this changes. She is called to the throne room where her parents tell her she is a false princess put in the place of the real Nalia in order to protect her from an evil witch’s curse. She must leave her best friend, Kiernan behind as though she never existed. She is cast out of the only home she has known with practically nothing but her new name, Sinda. She is sent to live with her only relative, a bad-tempered aunt who is a dyer in a small distant village. No matter how hard she tries she cannot adapt to the life of a village dyer. But soon she begins to show signs of dangerous and powerful magic inside of herself. She must go back to the city that used to be her home and find someone to teach her how to use her new powers. She is reunited with her friend who refused to forget her and becomes entangled in a web of deceit and intrigue that will put the entire kingdom in grave danger.

CRITIQUE: The story is told in first person voice through the protagonist Sinda. I loved the plot twists in this book. I also thought Sinda was well written. We see Sinda go through an identity crisis after she arrives at her aunt’s. She tries to ajust but she feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere anymore. She is also faced with the realization that she is in control of her life when she comes into her powers. She has always had her life planned out and scheduled for her. Now she can pursue the life that she desires. I also appreciated the thought that went into the other princess’ character.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eilis O’Neal is a managing editor for the literary magazine Nimrod International Journal. She resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The False Princess is her first novel. her middle name is Arwen. She enjoys going to Renaissance festivals and watching shows by Joss Whedon.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.eilisoneal.com/

READING LEVEL: 12+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some might have problems with the use of sorcery.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: N/A

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Sinda seems very accepting of the fact that she is not a peasant. Do you think this is believable since she has been pampered all her life?

WHY INCLUDED: I wanted to included a fairy tale book and this is my current favorite. There are fairy tales where the real princess is switched in order to protect her. I love that we get to take a look at what might have happened to the girl who took her place.

Vampire Crush by A.M. Robinson
ISBN-13: 978-0061989711
HarperTeen, New York, 2010
416 p.

GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Vampires

TEASER: It’s Twilight done right.

SUMMARY: All Sophie McGee wants is to be editor in chief of her school newspaper. Her inner investigative journalist might get her into some serious trouble. But the new kids in school are very strange. Why do the talk and dress like they are from an old movie? And why do they avoid going in and out of school when it’s light out? Most importantly, why is her childhood friend, James suddenly back in town and hanging out with the new kids? Sophie can’t help it, she just has to investigate.

CRITIQUE: This book doesn’t take itself too seriously. With so many books telling stories of epic love filled with impossible angst, it was nice to read something that could take the vampire clique and laugh a little. The language is highly appealing. Sophie’s character is confident, strong-willed, and funny. However, I appreciate that she is also flawed. Her ambitions to be editor in chief alienates her from her friends. She also gets so ambitious that she endangers others. She has to learn how to look at the big picture and not get so focused on herself. I liked reading about a flawed heroine. Most of the time the protagonists flaws are shyness or vulnerability. I liked that she made mistakes and had to deal with them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vampire Crush is Robinson’s first novel. She grew up in Indian but now works in the publishing industry in New York City. She graduated from the Indiana University with a double major in English and Chinese. She obviously didn’t use the latter.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.amrobinsonbooks.com/

READING LEVEL: 12+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: some readers might object to the presence of vampires.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: N/A

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: How do you think this book compares to others in the genre?

WHY INCLUDED: There are so many vampire love stories out there today. One of the reasons I included this book is that the heroine is so appealing. She’s smart, sassy, driven, and independent. One of my many rants against some the vampire novels today is that there aren’t enough strong female characters. They are always so love sick that they almost seize to exist without their vampire lovers. Romance is all well and good but teen girls need to have some love stories with strong willed female characters in them.