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Young Adult Summer Book Haul

IN THE September 22 ISSUE

FROM THE 2012 Articles,
andFantasy & Fangs,
andSummer Lane,
andTeens
SECTIONS

by Summer Lane

Over the summer I had a chance to read some of the hottest new titles on the literary market. From Cinder, by Marissa Meyer to Battle Royale, by Koushun Takami, I’ve read at least 80 different titles for my “Summer Haul” this year. Here are a few of my absolute favorite books.

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
Ellie has nightmares. Not just slightly scary, run-from-spiders nightmares, but flashbacks. Memories of dying over and over again and fighting heinous creatures known as Reapers. As it turns out, she has been reincarnated over the centuries and she is, in fact, a warrior. Seriously, the girl knows how to handle a sword. Or two. But it’s not that simple. She doesn’t remember everything from her previous lives: not her super hot guardian, Will, or that there is an Apocalypse coming and a big creature called the Enshi is probably going to eat her soul for brunch. Yup. The fate of the world is in Ellie’s hands…and just last week she was worried about passing her lit test.

I loved, loved, loved this book! Sometimes I get so disappointed reading book after book that doesn’t live up to its reputation, but this novel…whoa. I adore heroines who are tough, witty and can take care of themselves. Ellie is a confident girl who can kick major butt before breakfast while dealing with all of the things a normal teenage girl has to deal with. Like saving the universe from an Apocalypse.

Totally normal stuff.

Her guardian, Will, is completely swoon-worthy and lovable with his old-fashioned sense of honor and loyalty. It’s purely awesome. In addition, Ellie’s sense of humor is brilliant. The story moves quickly and I wasn’t bored for a moment. I didn’t skim or skip at all. Every chapter counted and I enjoyed it. Courtney Allison Moulton has taken fantasy, humanized it, and created a spunky heroine with a thrilling story.

Dust and Decay by Jonathan Maberry
Benny Imura and his legendary zombie slaying/samurai older brother Tom are leaving their home behind a fence and heading East. Ever since they saw a jet flying over the abandoned wild country of North America in the previous book, they and their friends Nix, Chong, and Lilah can’t forget about it. A jet means that people might be still be alive somewhere. A jet means that maybe, far away, zombies don’t rule the world.

This is where the story starts off. Right in the first chapter we’re introduced to the plot: Tom, Benny, Nix, Chong and Lilah are going to pack their bags and head East. Easier said than done. There are millions of zombies in the world–or as they call them in the books, ‘zoms’– and what’s worse, it looks like a bunch of local thugs are creating a new Gameland, a place where kidnapped children are forced to fight zombies in big pits. It’s just as awful as it sounds, and it’s up to our brave heroes to survive the living dead, skirt their old enemies from book one, and…oh yeah. Stay alive.

I really liked this book. Call me crazy, but there’s something about the post-apocalyptic survive-or-die genre that really entertains me. I like the absence of cars and cell phones and satellites. It’s just such an interesting premise. Plus, Jonathan Maberry has a way with non-stop action, not to mention he knows how to strike an emotional chord with the reader. Really impressive. The only character I didn’t like was Nix, and that’s because I found her kind of bossy and insensitive. But maybe that’s how she was supposed to come across. I didn’t like the first book much, so I was happily surprised with this second installment. I’m waiting for number 3.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
At this point in 2012, everybody who knows anything about YA has pretty much read this book but me. I bought it when it came out, but I kept saving it because 1) I kind of just liked to look at the pretty cover art propped up on my bookshelf, 2) I was too lazy to get up and pick it up, and 3) I was afraid that it wouldn’t live up to the hype.

Okay, it was mostly 3. MOSTLY.

Anyway, let me first give a synopsis: Cinder is a pretty girl living in New Beijing. She has a wicked stepmother, an evil stepsister, and she is forced to work and provide income for her spoiled family. But wait. Cinder is ALSO a cyborg. She’s got a metal leg and a metal arm, and a bunch of computer information zinging through her noggin all the time. When it becomes apparent that she is more than just an ordinary cyborg, she steps up to help save the floundering empire from an evil queen. How? By going to the ball and losing her slipper, of course!

So how do I feel about this book? My emotional radar was pleasantly surprised, to say the least, that this version of Cinderella was just as endearing (if not as old fashioned) as the original Grimm’s fairytale (Which, I might add, was always a favorite story of mine. I always wanted to read the part where the wicked stepmother took an axe and tried to knock off Cinderella…Yes, I had a strange taste in stories as a child). It was very modern, set in the future, after there’s nothing left in the world but computers and droids and mind-numbing phone applications. (Oh, wait…don’t we all have some of those same apps?)

I admit that I predicted the outcome and the “secret” of the story within the first three chapters, but I did enjoy the twist nevertheless. Once I got past the word ‘cyborg,’ (for some reason that word brings to my mind an image of Silver from Treasure Planet), I was able to settle back and enjoy a story about a strong heroine who, although stumbles across a charming prince, doesn’t need him to be strong and independent.

So, yeah. In the end, it was probably the girl power thing that clinched it for me. Hooah!

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Forty-two junior high school students are chosen every year to fight to the death for a government program. Every junior high school student in Japan lives in fear that their class will be the next one to be thrown into the “game.” This year, Shuya Nanahara’s class is chosen. Of the 42 kids forced to kill each other, only one is allowed to survive and be proclaimed the winner. The result? A massive amount of violence, bloodshed and psychological strain.

In other words, it’s going to be a really bad day.

Battle Royale is like The Hunger Games on steroids. Super steroids. The action is constant, the violence is graphic and the language is edgy. There is more blood dripping from the pages of this book than from a blood bank. No lie. This Japanese novel was originally extremely controversial in Asia because it speaks out against dictatorial reign, communism and the unjustness of a Federal Government controlling everything: including the country’s children. It’s chilling. At times, it’s even horrifying. Many students become so paranoid that their classmates are going to kill them that they become killers themselves. Some lose their minds. Others become sadists. It’s a mix of the Lord of the Flies creepiness with more relatable characters. Character’s heads get blown off, people get beaten to death by baseball bats, young teens start shooting each other with machine guns and hacking one another with ice picks.

I would caution against reading this before dinner.

The ending was brilliant. I was completely surprised by it, the author did a great job. This is definitely not a book for children–but it teaches us all a big lesson: Let the government have too much power, and there is no stopping the things it will do, even that includes forcing children to kill each other. Controversial? Sure. But true. Chillingly, terrifyingly true.

Touching Smoke by Airicka Phoenix
Let’s be honest. Life can be pretty complicated for a 16 year-old girl. Think of all the drama you experienced when you were that age. But wait. For Fallon Braedon, her life is about to be turned inside out and upside down to boot. After she finds herself alone and on the run from crazy people who love chucking fireballs at her head, she winds up with a super-cool, super-sexy guy named Isaiah. Oh, he’s the perfect guy. He has a motorcycle, he breaks countertops with his bare hands and, oh yeah, he can pack a major punch. Together, they unravel the mystery surrounding their existence, their “special” talents, and their origins.

I have been anxiously anticipating reading Touching Smoke for quite a while now. And now that I’m done with the book, I’m salivating, er, excited for more! I read it straight through in one sitting–it was awesome. I loved Isaiah, and Fallon possessed the same killer humor that Airicka Phoenix does: amazing. I would highly recommend that you go check out this awesome book and put it on your GoodReads TBR list. I loved it–and so will you! I promise!

Still hoping for a few more recommendations for your floundering bookshelf? Check out these sweet reads that I approve.

• Dark Inside, by Jeyn Roberts
• The Genius Wars, by Catherine Jinks
• Wings of the Wicked, by Courtney Allison Moulton (#2 Angelfire Series)
• Legend, by Marie Lu
• The Death Cure, by James Dashner
• Born Free, by Joy Adamson
• The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford

Most of these titles are available from Mysterious Galaxy–buy your copy here today and help support KRL!
Mysterious Galaxy Books

Summer Lane is a freelance writer with thousands of published articles on a variety of topics. She’s also a published novelist, publicist, book reviewer and cat lover. Her book, Snappy Social Networking, is available now! You can contact Summer for reviews or writing on her blog.

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