Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dance of Mediocre Shadows

Dance of Shadows (Dance of Shadows - Trilogy)
Dancing, like music, can be a spiritual thing, but when the people surrounding get too caught up in it, it can get dangerous. In Yelena Black's Dance of Shadows, Vanessa already knows how dangerous the New York Ballet Academy can be, but she doesn't care. She cares about finding her missing sister.

Vanessa has been accepted to the prestigious New York Ballet Academy, but her parents are obviously nervous about her actually attending since her sister disappeared from the same Academy years ago. Still, they let her go, and she is determined to attend. For Vanessa, ballet is addictive, almost a drug, but there is something even more important at the Academy than dance: answers about her sister's disappearance. 

When she gets there, she realizes there are many dark secrets to the Academy. The lead choreographer, Josef, is ruthless in his control of all the dancers, and it turns out Vanessa's sister isn't the only lead ballerina to disappear. In fact, every girl who was made lead in the Firebird has disappeared, along with some others. But it seems anyone who digs too deep goes missing as well. And when Vanessa is made lead in Firebird as a freshman, she starts to get close to the truth. When a friend of hers goes missing suddenly, the shadows around the studio become all too apparent. Vanessa will not give up on her sister and the other girls, but she may be playing with fire...

Sadly for me, I didn't think this was a stellar story. I was very interested in the ballet angle, the missing girls, etc., but where this story went was particularly odd. But that wasn't the only thing I struggled with. First, the characters weren't well-developed, including Vanessa. They were all very flat for me, and even the love triangle with Zeppelin and Justin was so dry I just didn't particularly care who she ended up with. 

**SPOILERS AHEAD** And even worse for me was the supernatural element. I think the mystery of the missing girls was a great angle, but wouldn't a school be shut down if it lost 13 girls in 20 years, especially with so few kids accepted into the school?? How does that go unnoticed? But even so, the supernatural element was odd. It wasn't particularly interesting for me, and I love supernatural books. Also, the "mystery" was relatively predictable and seriously?? A necrodancer? Oh, boy. That was a stretch. Worse yet is that this is supposed to be a trilogy. As if one demon of the dance wasn't bad enough, now we plan to track down all the evil ballet demon summoners? *END SPOILER*

So, sadly I will most likely not be reading the next book in the trilogy. If I do, it will most likely be a moment of weakness to see where the story leads. I wasn't particularly thrilled with this book and I wish the story was as flawless as the beautiful cover. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

An Unsuccessful Serpent's Kiss

Serpent's Kiss: A Witches of East End Novel
Freya, Ingrid, and Joanna are more than just mother and daughters. In fact, they are more than just witches. In the lands that Melissa de la Cruz creates, nothing is ever as it seems. And as the lives of the Witches of East End continues in Serpent's Kiss, it is clear there is more going on than meets the eye.

Joanna is struggling to keep her home together while trying to deal with a budding relationship. Unfortunately, there is something mysterious going on in her house; everything is moved around and things start to go missing. When she finally realizes this may be the act of ghosts seeking her help with cheating death, she knows she must get to the bottom of the message the spirit has let her. The best resource, however, is her ex-husband, who is still pining for her.

Freya has found herself in the middle of her long-lost and recently returned brother and the man she loves and hopes she knows. When her brother Freddie escaped from limbo, he insisted he had been framed for ruining the sacred bridge. He also insisted Killian, Freya's boyfriend, was responsible for his being framed, but that information Freya isn't as anxious to believe. But Freddie insists on revenge, and as gods and goddesses, revenge becomes a much larger issue.

And poor Ingrid, the eternal innocent, has finally found a man she thinks she could open herself up to and love, but nothing seems to go right for her. First a group of pixies kidnap her and insist upon her help. Then she learns her new cop boyfriend doesn't believe in magic. And finally, when everything comes to a head, it looks to be like Ingrid is doomed to repeat the same old cycle she has lived for an eternity.

Together these three women are witches, they are Norse Goddesses, but most importantly, they are a mother and her daughters. Can they come together to solve their problems, or will their problems continue to drive them apart?

I am a little sad to say that I did not like this story as much as I liked the first one. I really liked the story of three witches in a sleepy Long Island beach town, but when the Norse Mythology was injected, it felt like de la Cruz was trying to stuff too much into the story so she didn't really have to focus on doing well with the original premise: the witches. I was sad to see these strange and convoluted story lines taking over this story and crowding out the most interesting part of the series- the three women. And frankly, the whole Freddie thing and this girl he was obsessed with that he met online was just plain silly and distracting. I am sad this series has taken such a wrong turn because I really liked the Blue Bloods series. Still, I will most likely read the last book to see how it ends... and hopefully that road is much more successful than this one was!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Magic of a Dystopia

Skylark (The Skylark Trilogy)
Magic is a fickle thing. A world open and full of magic can see it corrupted and misused. A world with no open magic can find it persecuted and hunted. But what about a world that needs magic and has lost it? In Skylark by Meagan Spooner, magic is something everyone needs, but only a few can create it.

Lark has never been harvested, and at her age, that is incredibly uncommon. When the city decides to harvest your magic to power the protective wall and their various machines (including pixies- little bug-like machines used to catch citizens if they break the rules), it is an honor to give up your magic and help the city. When Lark is finally up for harvesting, something is very different about her experience. They keep her and harvest her magic more than once- no one has ever needed more than one harvesting because no one is Renewable. When Lark, almost drained of everything that makes her Lark, stumbles upon a woman trapped and being drained of her magic, she realizes this will be her fate- a renewable to be held and hooked to wires, sucked dry. When one of the guards gives her the key to escape, she doesn't hesitate, but it lands her outside the wall. And she has heard the stories all her life about what lies outside the wall.

Without the wall to keep the magic in, people have lost their minds. Their magic dissipates, driving them crazy. Lark has heard the stories, but she isn't sure what to trust. When she finds a place to hide, she is discovered by a pixie, she manages to remove its tracking device. Nix, the pixie, cannot report back to the city, but it can help her find the Iron Wood, the place said to be a haven for refugees like herself. But she needs more than Nix to survive. When a ragged boy arrives and helps her, she can't believe people could survive out in the wild. Orin agrees to take her to the Iron Wood, but he is scared of such a place and won't be finishing the journey with her. But there is a lot of land between the city and Iron Wood, and that land is full of cannibalistic madmen who look more like monsters than the shells of the people they used to be. An with a whole city after her, crazy cannibals trying to eat her, and her own companions a surly boy and a traitorous machine, how can Lark possibly find a place where she feels like home?

I have to say, this book was certainly a new take on the dystopia and the magic angle! I really enjoyed the way Spooner wove all these elements together. It seems like they shouldn't go together, but Spooner creates this brilliant web that brings them into one complete story. It was really a great story, and the element of magic made it all the more mysterious. The story was broken into three distinct parts: the city, the journey, and the Iron Wood. This separation made the story a little broken up, but I actually liked it! The only thing I struggled with a little bit were the characters. I liked Lark, but she wasn't the most memorable of characters. You don't get enough of Orin to really want her to stay with him despite the dangers. And that all made me love the story, but not become totally devoted to them. Although, I will tell you that ending is exciting and will have you on the edge of your seat waiting for the sequel!

This is a good book for a variety of readers. It is completely clean, although there is a smidge of violence with the monsters in the wild. The idea of harvesting your citizens to power the very thing that protects them is an ethical conundrum. It would provide a number if interesting research, writing, and discussion topics for you and the student reading the book. Spooner does a great job at building such a complex world, and there is still much to be learned and understood, so you will be anxious to read the rest of the trilogy! 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Crash Into Me

Crash (Visions)
In a family feud, no one really knows who is right and who is wrong. In fact, the younger generations may not even really know what started the feud. In Lisa McMann's new novel Crash, a family feud becomes much more serious when one party can see into the future... and it isn't something she wants to see happen.

Jules and her brother and sister don't live an easy life, but they have learned to live day to day. Their parents run an Italian restaurant and pizzeria, but the whole family works there. Day after day, the kids report to work just to keep things going. They don't complain, but mostly because they don't want to see their father lose it again. Jules' dad is unpredictable, except when it comes to the family that owns the rival restaurant. And with them, Jules' dad is always on edge, predictably so. But even worse is their dad's hoarding. Their whole house is so piled with junk, and their mother is so overworked just trying to keep up on the days when their father doesn't leave his bed, that they never bring anyone home. 

When Jules sees an accident at the rival pizzeria, she is most disturbed by the fact that she sees Sawyer, her star-crossed crush, in a body bag. She tries to warn him, but their families can't even see one another without bitter hatred spilling out like waves in the ocean. She and Sawyer certainly don't hate one another, in fact, their childhood friendship still lingers over them, but they know their families would forbid their ever set eyes upon one another. This vision complicates things for Jules. She tries to fly under her father's radar, but she simply cannot let this boy die. Her vision is hard to decipher, but as the pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, she will stop at nothing to stop the accident form happening. Even if it means breaking all the rules.

I like Lisa McMann. She writes interesting, yet simple stories that always keep me coming back for more. They are short and easy to read, and you can't get enough of them. The start of the Visions series is no different. I really liked Jules and there is so much more to her dysfunctional family that unraveling the mystery is half the interest. The whole description of her father and the tension of the family was so real and written so well, I almost felt like I knew them. 

This is a great story for those readers who might struggle or be behind their peers, but crave mature books. McMann gives you realistic scenarios, especially in terms of interpersonal relationships, but she does so with simple language that is best for students who may not be the strongest readers. It is great for anyone with a variety of reading levels in their classroom. And since this is another McMann series, there will be more to come! I am really looking forward to seeing where this series goes, especially after such a heart-stopping ending!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Little Brother Doesn't Answer to Big Brother!

Little Brother
How can one survive in a world full of terrorism without sacrificing their privacy? Are the two mutually exclusive? Does destroying privacy actually make us safer? These are questions our generation and the generation coming up will be dealing with as technology increases and the world becomes more and more hostile. In Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, we see just how quickly things can get out of hand in the name of safety, and you will be impressed by who chooses to stand up for their freedoms!

Marcus has always enjoyed the land of computer games, tech systems, and even Live Action Role Playing games. In particular, he loves finding ways around his high school's borderline illegal security systems that track where the kids are every minute of the day. But when a terrorist attack blows up the Bay Area bridge on the very day Marcus and his friends skipped school for a game, they find themselves on the wrong end of the Department of Homeland Security. They are all swept out of the city and held off-shore for days. Held without lawyers or even a phone call to their parents, the kids realize their rights have become optional in a world of terror.

When Marcus is released, he is told to keep his detainment secret from everyone, including his parents. DHS warns him that they will be watching his every move. Although he is scared, Marcus knows a thing or two about hiding in the digital world. At first he starts using gaming systems and techniques to hide his conversations for safe internet, but as DHS takes more and more control over the city, he realizes how important it is for them to fight back. The adults have been lulled into a complacency by DHS under the assumption that their whittled away freedoms are keeping them safe from more terrorist attacks. But Marcus and the other kids can see what is really happening- without rules, rights, and safeguards, DHS is free to take, hold, and interrogate anyone they want in any way they want. At first they start fighting back in small, mischievous ways, like swapping identities on subway and bus cards, but then they realize this isn't enough. To fight an out of control, lawless government is hard enough, but when the adults all believe in that government, the task becomes that much more difficult and dangerous. But these kids, while they can be scared, refuse to be broken! Big Brother might be watching, but Little Brother fights dirty!

OK, I can admit I am not the most technologically savvy individual. In fact, our IT guy is a good friend and he is frequently frustrated by my lack of tech knowledge, so this book seemed like it would be out of my realm. It is all about systems and understanding how to manipulate them, and my "system" ability is turning on my airport and hoping for the best! But this friend of mine has been talking about this book for weeks, and he doesn't read YA... ever! So I felt compelled to check it out and see what all the fuss was about. And I have to say, I was really impressed! I must admit I didn't understand a blessed bit of the explanations about bypassing systems and creating private systems within a public systems and all the other jargon, but it was explained well enough for me to get it well enough to understand the story. And according to my friend, it is really accurate too! What doesn't actually exist already really could exist (and he has been tinkering around since reading the book to check it out!). So while this book would really appeal to a kid or adult who is interested in the technological aspect of our world today, I think it could appeal to even more people as well.

The most important part of this book, though, is the discussion about privacy. We live in a world where true privacy is hard to achieve and becoming more and more challenging each and every day. The fine line of what people can ferret out about you and what is off limits is perpetually blurry and changing. Our kids don't understand that employers and college admissions offices can see the photos they choose to post on social media sites. They don't realize that a little personal information can open the door to all of their information. And the easiest way to get you to give up your right to privacy? To scare you. After 9/11 we were ready to sign anything if it meant we wouldn't have to experience terror like that again. But does the lack of privacy keep you safe? Or does it allow corruption to thrive and create a whole new level of "unsafe"? These are questions we should be encouraging our students to think about now, because very soon, they will be the generation who makes the decisions about what has the right to be private and what doesn't. As the next generation to take the helm, they need to start thinking about these problems they will face.

And this book gives them clear and present problems with which to think about them through. It is not only current and politically relevant for the world we live in today, it was fun to read and exciting! Marcus was the kind of hero who was thrust into his role, but who takes it seriously. He worries about other kids taking too many risks, but when given the chance to abandon it all, he can't bring himself to do it. I was really impressed by marcus and this book as a whole! I look forward to reading the second book, and I hope to not be so intimidated about the technology I use in the future! (Doubtful, but a girl can dream, right?!)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

How Mad is the Madman?

The Madman's Daughter (Madman's Daughter - Trilogy)
The Island of Dr. Moreau is synonymous with mad scientist, but has anyone truly delved into the depths of that madman? In Megan Shephard's book, The Madman's Daughter, we see a side of Dr. Moreau we have never seen before- the side that has a daughter.

Juliet not only bears the stigma of her poverty and being an orphan, but she is double damned by carrying the same name as her father, Dr. Henri Moreau. After being charged with the crime of conducting horrific experiments, Moreau disappeared and was presumed dead. Years later, Juliet comes across one of his vivisection diagrams and realizes her father might still be alive. When she tracks down the Inn where a strange doctor is staying, she expects to find her father but instead finds his most loyal servant, Montgomery. Juliet and Montgomery were children together when her father was still in London, but seeing him there, a grown man, Juliet can't help but be drawn to him, especially when he can help her find her father.

When Juliet insists on leaving with Montgomery to travel to her father's island, she didn't expect to see the kind of cargo he would be taking with them. Multiple types of animals from a jaguar to simple rabbits accompany Juliet, Montgomery, and the strange Balthazar, a native from the island. Along the route to the island, the ship finds a man stranded in boat drifting at sea. They rescue him and bring him to the island of Dr. Moreau, but Juliet has no idea what she has brought them both to. She never could have imagined what was taking place on her father's island. But Juliet can't ignore the signs, the strange natives, and certainly not her father's laboratory. She is terrified to learn the charges against her father in London were true, and that his experiments have gotten more horrific, and more dangerous. But can anyone really get away from the island?

I have always been morbidly fascinated by The Island of Dr. Moreau, so this story was a must-read for me. And I have to say, having read the original, I am happy to report this was an excellent rendition of H.G. Wells' story with a few tweaks and changes to keep you engaged. First and foremost is the addition of Moreau's daughter, and this creates an amazing dynamic. We know a man can detach himself from society's morals and ethics, but can a father really detach himself from the opinions of his own daughter? I won't answer that for you, but you can see how it adds a new layer of depth to this story.

And Juliet herself was a character with so many layers you never truly found yourself to the heart of who she was. While she was horrified by her father's experiments, she also couldn't deny the draw to her knowledge of the experiments and the scientific brain of hers, even though she was a woman and women at that time were meant to focus on needlework, not science. Her struggle with her morals and her scientific curiosity was addictive, and quite frankly, it kept me plowing through the chapters of this book. The book does have some incredibly graphic surgery and vivisection scenes, so I think it would be a good book for an older student. I think the story is close enough to Wells' original story that a student can really understand the original story from this book, but it might be interesting to have them read both and compare the two. And having discovered that Shephard has two more books for this series, I can tell you I can't wait to see where the story goes! This was a phenomenal start, and it can only get more interesting!

Friday, February 15, 2013

The World Ends Times Three!

'Til The World Ends: Dawn of Eden\Thistle & Thorne\Sun Storm (Luna Books)
The end of the world can come in so many ways you will make yourself crazy trying to think about all of them! So when you get three different stories who share nothing in common but the end of the world, it might you into a paranoia tailspin where you end up digging a bunker in your backyard! But with 'Til the World Ends by Julie Kagawa, Ann Aguirre, and Karen Duvall, you will welcome the end of the world... in the pages of the book anyway! 

Dawn of Eden by Julie Kagawa
Red Lung has decimated the population. Kylie survived an earlier form of the virus, so she has taken that as a sign she was meant to help people. Even as young as she is, she is one of the last still working in a slipshod clinic trying to make people comfortable in their final days. But when a mysterious stranger arrives with a torn-up friend, she can't figure out what happened to them. Ben Archer won't tell her how his friend got hurt, but she knows there is more to the story than just an animal attack. What she doesn't expect is the new virus that turns humans into animals... or where the virus came from.

Thistle and Thorne by Ann Aguirre
The world is a chemical wasteland, but money still separates the haves and the have nots. Mari is trying to take care of her younger brother and sister, but gang overlords don't make that easy. When she is forced into a job for a gang leader, she quickly realizes the job wasn't as easy as she made it out to be. She almost doesn't make it out of the walled city, created to protect the uber-wealthy from having to deal with the starving peasants outside, but Thorne, a former member of the gang, saves her. When she learns the true nature of her mission, she and Thorne, the most unlikely of duos, combine to fight back.

Sun Storm by Karen Duvall
The sun's instability has created solar flares and sun sparks that can kill a person. The earth is scorched and dry, and water and food are a luxury. But something else has happened. For some people, the sun has changed them, made them into Kinetics. There are many different kinds of Kinetics, but they can all do something supernatural. Sarah has the ability to predict the deadly sun storms, and she takes the responsibility of such a gift very seriously. When she happens upon Ian, a Kinetic who can control the weather, she realizes their combined powers have the ability to amplify. But, as if the world weren't dangerous enough, a crazy former government agent is now rounding up Kinetics like a slave trader, and he is hunting Ian. But together, Sarah and Ian are more powerful than anyone could have predicted... or did they?

This was a fun trio of novellas that I really enjoyed. Kagawa's story is a prequel to The Immortal Rules, which was brilliant, by the way, and this prequel gave so much insight into the fall of humanity before that series started. I also really liked Duvall's novella, and I hope she runs with this and continues the story of the Kinetics. It was so fascinating, and the story can easily continue into a series! The one story that wasn't my favorite was Ann Aguirre's. This was surprising, because I have been following her Enclave series since it was first released. I am not fully sure why this was my least favorite story, but it might have been the characters. Mari and Thorne just didn't seem to have a connection, so it made it hard for me to imagine the huge sacrifices they were making. Still, it wasn't a bad story, just not my favorite out of this trio.

The last two stories are clean and good for a wide range of students, but the Kagawa story has a decently graphic sex scene in it. Honestly, I don't think it was anything too graphic, but some might object to giving it to a student who isn't old enough. Basically, if they have read Immortal Rules they shouldn't have a problem with the short story. Otherwise, this collection is a fun group of novellas that might be good for a kid who has trouble with full-length novels, but would like shorter stories to go with their attention span. I know they were perfect for me during a busy work week! 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Perfectly Addictive

Perfect Scoundrels
Katarina Bishop has never had a normal life, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been a happy life. She is loved by her con artist family, she knows they will always be there when she needs them, and now she has a boyfriend, Hale. But Hale has never known the concept of family the way Kat has, and when his beloved grandmother dies, that fact becomes all too real.

The boyfriend thing is new for Kat, but when Hale abandons them in the middle of a con, she knows something horrible has happened. When she finds out his grandmother has died, she gets to see the true origins of W. W. Hale V, and it isn't pretty. When she goes to the funeral, she truly begins to understand that Hale is from a different class of people than Kat is, and she knows she could never fit in with this life of his. When the will is read, Hale's world is thrown into turmoil again as he learns his grandmother has left him the billion dollar company. Until Hale is of age to take over the company, the family lawyer will serve as executor, but something is wrong.

When Marcus, Hale's faithful servant, pulls Kat aside to talk to her, he explains his concerns that the will is a forgery. Hale's grandmother never trusted the lawyer, and she always said she would leave something to Marianne, Marcus's sister and Hale's grandmother's best friend. Knowing Kat's particular set of skills, Marcus asks Kat to investigate and find the real will. Now Kat, always a moral con artist (really! I swear!), feels like she must take this job, but how can she take the job that might prove her boyfriend doesn't deserve the inheritance he received? 

You know, I have seen a lot of comparisons of this series to "Ocean's Eleven", but while there is the heist connection between the two, and I love them both, I think this series is in a class all of its own! It really is fun and exciting and gives the reader so much to think about. There was a time I wanted Ally Carter to start writing more YA novels and less MG novels, but I realize that has already happened. Just because her books are clean and can be appropriate to younger readers doesn't mean they aren't also complex enough for older readers. In fact, I find Carter to be very similar to Rick Riordan in that respect. Both of their books are written for younger readers within the genre but are so well written they can easily appeal to everyone, including adults. And in that sense, they are pure genius! There aren't many books that can appeal to both adults and 5th graders and make both demographics happy, but Carter has found the magic formula with this series!

And this was a much different book from the first two because the heists were much more personal to the group. Knowing the possible outcome for Hale, they didn't know how to include him, and he resented their involvement until he found out just how evil the lawyer was. I am keeping my fingers crossed that there will be more of these books in the series, because they are just so great to read. And it isn't often you find a good clean book you can give to tons of readers. If I had one complaint it would be that I wished the covers were more gender neutral because I know boys would love to read these stories, but the covers would scare many of them away. So I might just "heist" the book jacket and trick them into reading it! After they finished it, they would thank me for my trickery!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I Have Scarlet Fever!

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles)

I had the same thoughts you did... Cyborg Cinderella? Really? But Cinder by Marissa Meyer was phenomenal, so Scarlet, the sequel, had a lot to live up to! The complex but riveting Lunar Chronicles continue, but you won't be able to predict what happens next!

Cinder learned more about her origins than she can fully process, even though she should have plenty of time to think in prison. Instead, she has to find a way to escape. Using her new-found Lunar abilities to tap into people's minds combined with her cyborg technical abilities, Cinder finds a way out, but she has to take an unwitting felon with her. Together, Cinder and Thorne make it to Thorne's ship, but with little power on the ship, they must find a way to get back to Earth undetected. More importantly, they must find answers about who brought Cinder, also known as the long-lost Princess Selene, to Earth and how she is supposed to stop Lunar Queen Levana from marrying the Emperor and taking over Earth. 

Scarlet is content with her simple life gardening and taking care of her grandmother, but when her grandmother goes missing, she refuses to believe the case is closed like the police tell her it is. She is going to find her grandmother even if it means trusting Wolf, a strange newcomer who fights for a living and doesn't seem fully human. But when Scarlet finds out Wolf's former pack might be the very ones who kidnapped her grandmother, she isn't sure who to trust.

The world is in danger, and while Scarlet and Cinder haven't met, their lives are about to become entwined. Both have different missions, but the people behind their lives may be too similar to be any kind of coincidence. But will they find each other? And who can they trust at this point?

This seems like such an oxymoron, but this is a simple yet complex series. With the fairy tale connections, you feel a sense of connection to the characters you think you know. But then Meyer takes them, refashions them, and all of a sudden you have a character whose name is familiar and situation is vaguely familiar, but who is so different from anything you have seen before that you can't put the book down! I admit I was skeptical of a cyborg Cinderella, but after reading Cinder, I knew this series was pure genius and I couldn't wait for Scarlet to come out. Now, having read the sequel, I am desperate for the next two books!

The beauty of this series is the combination of the familiar and the novel in one fell swoop. I think that is comforting and intriguing to students. They like the familiar connection, but they want something new and interesting, and this series is all of those with a dystopian/science fiction background! It is brilliant and great for a variety of students, including those who don't often read science fiction. And if you haven't read them yet, even if you usually don't read YA, pick this series up- it is phenomenal!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Darkest Side of Humanity

The Darkest Minds
Fear is an ugly thing, but when it causes humanity to turn its back on its own children, ugly is no longer the word. In The Darkest Mind by Alexandra Bracken, the world has long surpassed ugly. It is broken, and there may be no way to come back from where it has gone.

Ruby has spent most of her life at Thurmond, what was supposed to be a "rehabilitation camp" for kids but turned into a prison, a detention camp. When she first arrived all those years ago, something was happening to her that she couldn't explain. Unfortunately, it only took a short time in the camps to understand how the adult world now felt about kids like Ruby. When a plague swept the US, many kids died, but it was the ones who survived the virus that scared the adults. They were the ones who developed powers. Classified in levels where Blues and Greens were the least powerful, and Yellows, Oranges, and Reds were the most dangerous, the kids are sorted in the camp and separated according to their power. While Ruby is an Orange, even at 10 years old she could see it was dangerous to be labeled as one of the more powerful kids. She uses her power of mind control to get classified a Green, and when they start emptying the camps of Yellows, Oranges, and Reds, she knows she made the right decision.

Ruby lives life knowing how to keep her head down, but she has no control of her power. And while it saved her life once, getting into minds has severe consequences, like erasing all memory of herself from the minds of the people she loves. When the camp uses a special frequency to weed out any higher level students hiding amongst the Blues and Greens, Ruby is found out. But luckily, there were people ready to help her- squirreled out of the camp with another hidden Orange, Ruby is rescued by Children's League- an organization that aims to fight the government's treatment of the children. The Children's League sounds like it is too good to be true, and it is. Because the only way to fight fire is with fire. Already on edge, Ruby is skeptical of the Children's League and when the opportunity to escape presents itself, she runs. And she runs right into three kids who are also on the run: Chubs, Liam, and a little girl named Suzume. Since erasing her parents' memories of herself, Ruby has never truly let herself care for anyone, until now. And there is nothing more dangerous in this scary new world than caring about people who could so easily get hurt. The kids are in search of a fabled place where kids can live in peace, but can such a place exist in a world so full of darkness?

Darkest Minds was a really good book! It was action-packed, and the back story is so twisted and dark, you felt like you had to know more. The idea of rounding kids up and eliminating the ones that are too powerful to control is terrifying. But is it wrong? Incorrect? I sadly believe people's fear can drive them to do things that are so heinous and unforgivable, it is hard to imagine how they go to that place. Fear is a funny thing that will bring us places we never thought we would go to. And this novel really gets to the heart of this fact. And it is scary! By the end of the book, you have a completely different idea as to who the "Darkest Minds" were. 

Another interesting aspect of the story is how the Oranges really can be unstable and violent. When Ruby first came to the camp, she watched one kill a guard without remorse, or even a second thought. When you start the story, you want to think of the adults as the bad guys and the kids as the ones who need saving, but the instability of the Oranges (and you never really see any Reds) brings a whole new level to the story. It is an interesting twist that will keep you enthralled form cover to cover.

The story is a great, action-packed story with multiple layers to be peeled back like an onion. It is great for any kid (or adult) who likes dystopias, supernatural stories, action, etc. Some situations, especially the camp, are violent and difficult to internalize at times. This is a great gender neutral novel that can keep anyone addicted!