The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

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Title: The City of Ember (Book of Ember, #1)

Author: Jeanne DuPrau

Published By: Yearling (2004)

Synopsis: Many hundreds of years ago, the city of Ember was created by the Builders to contain everything needed for human survival. It worked…but now the storerooms are almost out of food, crops are blighted, corruption is spreading through the city and worst of all—the lights are failing. Soon Ember could be engulfed by darkness…

But when two children, Lina and Doon, discover fragments of an ancient parchment, they begin to wonder if there could be a way out of Ember. Can they decipher the words from long ago and find a new future for everyone? Will the people of Ember listen to them? (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

While the reading level was probably for a bit younger age, I found it not to be a hindrance at all to my enjoyment of this thrilling tale. The characters were well developed, and the writing extremely compelling. I read it in nearly one sitting, I couldn’t wait to see what came next!

On the downside, I found the plot very predictable and everything happened just right for the characters to get where they needed to go, do what they needed to do, etc. Every single time I wondered, “How’re they gonna do that?” something “magically” showed up to help them—though, to be fair, if it hadn’t, I would have felt disappointed, for of course I’m rooting for the characters to succeed! I just thought there might have been a better way to give the characters what they needed than having it just appear right at the right time.

Otherwise, the story was, like I’ve said, extremely compelling and full of mystery.  Some people have been comparing this to The Giver—one of my favorites of all time—and saying it copied some of the elements, and I can agree with that, but on a different level. While a lot of the concepts also were in the Giver—a society away from other life to be “safe”; assignments given at age 12; and their escape to the true world—the plotline varied so differently from the Giver that it was hard, at least for me, to notice.

Negative Content:

None.

Overall:

The City of Ember was done beautifully. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a quality dystopian story.

Rating: 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 8 and up

 

In Between by Jenny B. Jones

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Title: In Between (Katie Parker Productions, #1)

 Author: Jenny B. Jones

Published By: Think (2007)

Synopsis: 

Can we overcome our past? Katie Parker is about to get a new life—whether she wants one or not. With her mom in prison, and her father AWOL, Katie is sent to live with a squeaky-clean family who could have their own sitcom. She launches a full-scale plan to get sent back to the girls’ home when she finds herself in over her head…and heart. When Katie and her new “wrong crowd” get into significant trouble at school, she finds her punishment is restoring a historic theater with a crazy grandma who goes by the name of Mad Maxine. In the midst of her punishment, Katie uncovers family secrets that run deep, and realizes she’s not the only one with a pain-filled past. Katie must decide if she’ll continue her own family’s messed up legacy or embrace a new beginning in this place called In Between. (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

Is there anything about In Between that I disliked?
No. No, there is not.

I loved everything about this book. The characters, the set, the plotline—everything! There was just enough twists, turns, and mystery to keep me wondering, but that put aside the characters were enough to make me want to finish it. It was a true story of a girl adapting to a new home.

Katie is a hysterical main charater. I LOVE KATIE. She is easily the best fictional character I have ever read. Ever. And I don’t say that about every character. She’s real. She’s always got another sassy comment or thought, another idea, another opinion of the world. I laughed out loud several times thanks to Katie’s witty remarks. I laughed my way through this book, in fact. Jenny B. Jones has got to be the funniest, sassiest person alive.

While her backdrop paints a picture of more criminal activity, Katie knows right from wrong and after an incident at the theatre, she is more than determined to be a good kid. For example, at first she’s totally opposed to “perfect girl” Frances Vega, but soon, that changes when she realizes her crazy friends are no-good and out for trouble. Full of questions and out for adventure, I loved Katie. All together, Katie’s life is nothing but ordinary.

“Mad” Maxine, Katie’s “evil” foster grandma, was another character altogether. She had me laughing at times and grimacing at others. She’s another one of those best-fictional-characters-ever. Katie, very, very wary of the woman, was certain she was pure evil, but to me, she mostly seemed plain out crazy. Which she was.

James and Millie Scott, Katie’s foster parents, are wonderful. They play the role of the encouraging parents while still worrying for Katie and her safety. James, a pastor at the church, aids Katie in her search for faith and for God. Pretty early on we learn of Amy, the Scotts’ daughter, who, for some reason, doesn’t live with them anymore—or anywhere around. Whenever she is brought up, there is tension and silence in the house, providing another occasion for Katie to wonder on.

I really can’t elaborate too much I love this book and series. Jenny B. Jones has got to be the wittiest, sassiest, funniest person alive to have come up with all these shenangains and characters who, like I’ve already said multiple times, are alive and real and literally the best characters I’ve ever read about.

Negative Content/Notes:

No negative content. However, Katie has a criminal background and sometimes has less-than-honorable thoughts: everything stays clean, yes, so it’s mostly just immature thoughts, but they aren’t always squeaky clean and perfect like some people expect Christian books to be.  However, I didn’t have a problem with it. It was who Katie was, and it wasn’t like she had bad intentions. She was just absolutely transparent to the reader, if that makes sense.

Overall: Read it. Read it. Read it.

Rating: 5.0

Recommended to: Teenage girls 13+.

 

Matched by Ally Condie

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Title: Matched (Matched, #1)

Author: Ally Condie

Published By: Dutton Juvenile (2010)

Synopsis: 

In the Society, officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die. Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one…until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow—between perfection and passion. (Taken from Goodreads)

Review: 

When I first read Matched, I somewhat enjoyed it. Cassia, a 17-year-old, goes to the Matching Banquet/Ceremony and finds out she’s Matched—designated to be married—to her best friend Xander. But then she sees another boy’s face before the screen fades. They tell her it’s a glitch, but she’s not so sure. Suddenly now Cassia is on a desperate, life-risking, lovestruck, amazing, and touching journey to figure out who she should be with and who she loves. (By the way, I was being sarcastic in the last sentence. That’s how the book is portrayed, not how I felt about it.)

The aspect of the Society that controls everything is a fantastic idea and results in a great storyline. At least, I thought it was so until I read The Giver, which released more than 10 years before Matched. I discovered that the whole set for the book had pretty much been lifted right from The Giver itself.  The ceremony? From Giver (the December Ceremony). The Society? From Giver (the Committee). Even the Matching part. The phrase “matching of the spouses,” appeared in The Giver first. (Needless to say, I loved the Giver—one of my favorite books of all time—so once I found out all the copying this book did, I decided I no longer liked Matched.)

Forgetting the whole copycat element: The storyline and the reading level were easy enough that a fourth or fifth grader could easily read and comprehend. For me, there was waaaaaaaaay too much romance and kissing for my taste. Yes, I get that this is what the book is about, but it was way too much. Not to mention that even though our main character and narrator, Cassia, is 17, her voice sounds no different than a twelve-year-old. The romantic scenes didn’t get inappropriate minus the constant kissing; the story itself sounds like a cute little love story, nothing more.

Negative Content/Notes:

Lots of kissing, but nothing inappropriate or weird. It was actually surprisingly clean for being popular YA. I don’t know if I can say that about the next 2 books though—I never read them.

Overall:

To sum it up:Putting the whole concept with copying The Giver aside, because I totally get that that it could be a crazy coincidence, it was really just a cute little immature love story —though clean—and really nothing more.

Rating: 2.5

Recommended to: I really wouldn’t recommend it. If you love YA romances, you may like it. Probably ages 12+.

 

Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker

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Title: Chasing Jupiter

Author: Rachel Coker

Published by: Zondervan (2012)

Synopsis:

Scarlett Blaine, the main character of this novel, has some hard issues in life. Her brother, Cliff, has problems and is just…stranger than most boys his age. Her grandpa, who lives with her, is pretty much going insane, and her big sister Juli is never around, always off with another boyfriend. Her parents can’t seem to stop fighting about money. And she hasn’t had a real friend in forever. She also can’t get a grip on exactly what God is, or if He exists. But when everything suddenly goes wrong in her already-haywire life, she has to face truth and reality and has to choose if she wants God apart of it.


Review:

Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker was one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read in my life. I just can not even begin to describe the beauty of this novel.

This book is an amazing work of art. The characters were alive. They lived and breathed right next to me as I read, speaking to me as they told me their story, relayed to me the events and the scenes. The story was incredible beyond words; the scenes were beautiful as the characters traipse through this plot.

The plot between her and the pastor’s wife, Mrs. Greene, is a fun addition and is the way she learns of Christ. I felt a strong Christian aspect in this storyline, and it was written in wonderfully, not cheesy at all to me, reminding me a bit of Nicole O’Dell’s style.

Going back to the characters and once again I am speechless. I love, love, loved Cliff and the development between him and Scarlett. The author did such a fantastic job of writing his character, in a way that beyond his faults, his problems, his issues, we all love him for his little-kid sweetness (side note—he totally reminded me of Matty in The Giver quartet). Scarlett was such a great character, written realistically, that she seems easily relate to. She’s smart, so (most of the time) we’re not yelling at her for doing something dumb and generally just cheering her on for her good heart and great ideas to help others. And the romance between Frank and Scarlett was just so sweet and easy to encourage. 🙂

And…the ending…the ending…the ending. Breathtakingly sad, truly heartbreaking. But really really good at the same time. Astonishing. The author did just an incredible job—and that’s all I can say about it.

Negative Content/Notes: None.

Overall: A touching read astonishingly put together. You will not regret the time you spend reading this!

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

Recommended to:  12+