Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Hit by Melvin Burgess

This pill will kill you. You live the ultimate high for seven days and then you die. Why would anyone take such a drug? It enhances your physical and mental strength. If your life is already a mess, you could have one last grab at glory, mark off as many items on your bucket list as possible and go out on top. Of course, you could also do something illegal, get arrested, be denied bail and die alone in a jail cell.

The setting is what I will call an economic dystopia. Conditions in England are so bad that society is on the verge of a revolution. Manchester is the epicenter of the movement to overthrow the current government and the location where the pill Death is manufactured.

Adam and (his hopefully girlfriend) Lizzie are right in the middle of it all as the first big riot by the Zealots happens. They are there when city hall is taken. It is exciting to have so much hope and change on the horizon.

Adam's life is good until...he pushes Lizzie too fast in their relationship and his brother Jess is declared dead. Suddenly, taking the pill doesn't seem like such a stupid idea. He could make lots of money to help his parents, make up with Lizzie, do something for the revolution, maybe even kill somebody who deserves it (and have sex, of course). It's amazing what someone can accomplish with an extra boost and the ultimate deadline.

This story went places I was not anticipating when I first chose this book. There is the drug kingpin and his psycho son who causes much trouble for all the main characters (theft, violence, kidnapping - you know typical gangster stuff). The oncoming revolution is always happening (mostly in the background). It is a dark and nasty world, but worth a brief visit.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

Suicide by car - that's how Liz Emerson chose to kill herself. That way it would look like an accident. Why make it more difficult for the people left behind?

This was not a spur of the moment decision. Liz had thought about it. She knew where she would drive her car off the road. She gave herself a week for some sign that would stop her -some reason that would show her why she shouldn't do it. But nothing happened - life at school and home went on as usual.

Why would a popular girl like Liz Emerson want to kill herself? That is what this story is all about. Liz's life is revealed to us through multiple flashbacks - weeks before the 'accident' and the minutes leading up to it. We also live in the present as Liz's friends find out about it and wait at the hospital with other students.

Among the waiting are Liz's friends: Kennie, who was recently pregnant, and Julia, a good student who is more than just a casual drug user. There is also Liam, who is not really friends with Liz, but has crossed her path more than once.

We learn of Liz's rise to popularity and cultivation of close friends. We see her dating history with a popular football player who she doesn't even like anymore (though they are still together). We also learn of the people Liz hurt along the way (including those close friends). Liz begins to realize that she has been so cruel that she doesn't even know who she is anymore.

It is a enlightening journey for us and Liz as we see how vulnerable she truly is on the inside and how little she thinks of herself. Does she live? Does she die? Somethings are best discovered on your own.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's twitter feed.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King

I have no idea how A.S. King comes up with her ideas. Her characters are so different from anything I could ever think up and they live in such unique circumstances (that are often somber). And the things they think and do are so intriguing. For all these reasons and more, she is one of my favorite authors.

So much to say about Glory's life. Let's start with her mother who committed suicide by sticking her head in the oven when Glory was only 4. Her mom was talented photographer with a deep interest in the process of developing pictures. Glory takes picture, too, and aspires to be like her mother.

Glory lives with her father in the same house where the suicide occurred (the stove is gone and never replaced). He was an artist who now spends his time sitting on the couch doing tech support from his laptop. He does not talk about Darla (Glory's mom) and has left Glory with a lot of unanswered questions.

Across from their house, there is a commune where Glory's best friend, Ellie lives. Ellie's mom, Jasmine, runs the commune. Ellie stopped going to school a long time ago and will not be graduating with Glory in a few days. Glory wonders if their friendship should continue. Pretty normal stuff so far...

I will not elaborate how, but Glory and Ellie do something that allows them to see a person's past and future when looking at their face. Not just the person, but generations in the past and future.Glory sees what is going to happen to people and society in the not too distant future, and it isn't pretty (if its even real).

Glory's life is in transition as she is graduating. She wonders about her mother, discovering more about her through things left behind in her dark room. She questions her relationship with Ellie. She writes down her visions of the future. She wonders where she fits in the world. It's confusing enough for any teen without having to see the future of mankind.

Another good one from this author who bends reality just enough to make things interesting.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.