Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson

Gabriela receives the red letter. The one sent by Death to tell you when you will be taken. You see, Gabriela's world in not exactly like ours. Most people just die, but a few are escorted by Death into the afterlife. Anyone who receives the letter, responds with a wrap-up list of all the things they hope to achieve in their remaining time. It's not always possible to accomplish everything, but Death can help make things happen.

Gabriela is only 16 when she receives her letter. She is devastated. She has three good friends, Sarena, Raahi and Iris. They are a close group with much to look forward to (even with the impending war). Now, Gabriela has a week left, and she hasn't even kissed a boy.

All hope is not lost because sometimes (rarely) Death will pardon you if you can guess his secret weakness. Gabriela's Death is named Hercule, and his clues about his weakness are not much help. Iris is fascinated by these departures and has studied all the different Deaths. Maybe she can help Gabriela find the weakness.

Gabriela's life is filled with school, football games, friends, church, her parents who seem to bicker a lot and stories of her hero grandfather Gonzalo who died in World War II. Even with the coming war that causes a reinstatement of the draft, her life is full of hope. Can she get everything on her wrap-up list and stop death from taking her?

One thing that struck me about this story is how Gabriela spends her final week just being normal. She does work with Iris trying to find Hercule's weakness. She does speak to her priest. But generally, she spends time with her family and friends. At first, I thought if I was in this position I would want to go places and cram as much of my wish list into those remaining days, but I've changed my mind. Normal would be a good way to leave things.

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


Monday, July 21, 2014

How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love by Ken Baker

Here's another fun venture into reality television. I must also warn you - toxic parents ahead. How else can you explain people who would put their overweight daughter through a humiliating ordeal where she must lose 50 pounds in 50 days on national television. Oh, and she gets weighed live on the air every week.

Emery knows she's 'fat.' She is not like her cheerleading, perfect bodied sister, Angel, or her former NBA player father or her nutrition obsessed over-botoxed mother. Yes, Emery likes to eat, but her body shape does not define who she is. She is smart. She has a kind boyfriend who loves and accepts her for who she is.

Enter the chance of a lifetime for her family - Fifty Pounds to Freedom, a reality show that promises a million dollars to Emery's family if she can lose 50 pounds. Her father is all for it (turns out money is a little tight); her mom is for it (she wants Emery to not be fat anymore); and her sister is for it, too (she wants to be famous and sees this is her opportunity). Yes, it's really all about Emery and her health.

Being a reality show, there is much exploitation going on. Scenes are manipulated. Cameras are everywhere to capture every moment (including Emery's therapy sessions). 'Freedom' products are sold (all advertised through Emery's new Twitter account that she has no control over). It's all (supposedly) in the name of helping Emery and others like her.

Emery is better that all of it and finds some truths a midst all the 'reality.'

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cold Calls by Charles Benoit

I know your secret, and I am going to tell everyone unless you do exactly what I say. How far would you be willing to go to keep your secret - the one you want no one to ever find out?

Eric receives a call from a strange voice telling him that his secret will be revealed unless he follows the instructions. What does the voice want? Eric must bully Connor, a kid he doesn't even know. All the directions are specific including the day that Eric is supposed to dump mac & cheese on Connor's head in the school cafeteria during lunch. Eric is not a bully, but how can he risk the humiliation of having his secret revealed to the world.

Shelly gets the call, too. She must bully a girl in her school the same way. She goes to a different school than Eric and doesn't even know him until they meet in a anti-bullying class they are required to take after they follow the voice's instructions. Their loud discussion is overheard by a third person who also received the call.

Together, they decide (although with some reluctance) to find out the identity of the caller and stop him/her before it is too late. Suspense builds as the mac & cheese deadline approaches. We, as readers, are asking the same questions as the three: who is the caller; why are they being targeted; why were their victims chosen? We also want to know what the secrets are? How bad can they be?

It's a suspenseful, quick read.

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