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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Recent YA Reads

Undertow is the first book in a new series by K.R. Conway. Definitely YA, but more than the typical teen romance and more than a paranormal fantasy.  I think what lifted it above the "typical" has to do with the setting and the way Conway managed a connection between the main characters.  It was fun to watch a group of disparate personalities coalesce and work together.

We're not talking great literature, but light entertainment with a bit of the supernatural and a great setting.  Not on par with Megan Whalen Turner or Maggie Stiefvater, but  still fun -- with a little suspense and with characters that I enjoyed.  

Funny thing, when I "opened" the ebook, it started with a blurb that almost put me off the book.  One of those blurbs that use the term  drool-worthy, setting my teeth on edge.  Worse, the way it was presented made me think I was starting the first chapter of the book, not just reading a blurb.  I'm glad I "paged" on and found the Prologue (a scene from 1851) because that reignited my interest.

Eila Walker, a high school senior, inherits a house on Cape Cod.  Not just any house, but a beautiful one built by one of her ancestors before 1850.  Gifts like that are never free of complications and there are plenty of those.  The book is definitely a teenage romance, but it does have more to offer.


YA/Supernatural.  2013.  Print length:  400 pages.

Fight Dirty by C.J. Lyons is the second series I've read recently featuring the child of a serial killer, in this case, a fifteen-year-old girl.  

Morgan is certainly not the typical teenager, but despite the fact that the horrifying life she led with her father has left her with a manipulative nature and, uh, unnatural skills, Morgan is determined to find a way to exist in the society of "normals" and stay out of prison.  She is quite happy to have her father locked up, however.

As in Barry Lyga's I Hunt Killers and Game, I still find it difficult to see how any child could be an accomplice to such horrific crimes and not be committed to some kind of psychiatric care, but I was able to suspend my disbelief a little better in Morgan's case.    Interesting that Morgan never questions her own psyche, she accepts it and plans to avoid succumbing to it.  Jazz (I Hunt Killers) kept wondering if he was or if he wasn't a psychopath capable of murder.  Morgan knows she is capable of murder, but also believes she can control her urge to kill the people who annoy her.

There are some strong adult figures in Andre and Nick that attempt to be supportive, even if they don't fully trust Morgan.  (Note that I'm not including Jenna, who may have more problems than Morgan.  Not an admirable role model, Jenna.)  

It is quickly apparent that Morgan is willing to do to whatever is necessary to become a member of the society that her father preyed upon-- in order to avoid prison.  She is aware that if she does what she has been trained to do (and has few qualms about), she will be locked up eventually.  It isn't always easy, but Morgan is an extremely intelligent and mature fifteen-year-old and is able to anticipate what behavior might get her what she wants from different people. 

This is a fast-paced novel that left me wanting more Morgan.  The novel has a definite conclusion the plot, but also leaves the reader a clue about what will be involved in the sequel.  

Morgan was a secondary character in a previous novel by Lyons.  I haven't read any of the Lucy Guardino FBI Thrillers series, but evidently Jenna Galloway was a character in at least one of the books.  

About C.J. Lyons   "During her seventeen years as a pediatrician, CJ assisted police and prosecutors with cases involving child abuse, rape, homicide, and Munchausen by Proxy. She has worked in numerous trauma centers, on the Navajo reservation, and as a crisis counselor, victim advocate, and flight physician for Life Flight and Stat Medevac."

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Crime/Mystery.  Oct. 7, 2014.  Print Length:  326 pages.

The 100 by Kass Morgan    A YA science fiction novel, The 100 has what is left of the earth's population orbiting the atmosphere for three hundred years.  An important factor for the survival of the community is population control.  Of course, there are several logical means of keeping the population in balance, but there are more brutal ways as well.

The plot focuses on the use of the death penalty for many infractions.  If juveniles break the law (even in very minor ways), they are imprisoned until their 18th birthdays and then re-tried.  For Clarke, whose 18th birthday is approaching, her retrial will result in her execution.  

At the last minute, however, a new plan is revealed:  one hundred juvenile offenders will be sent to earth.  If they survive any toxic after-effects the atmosphere suffers from the nuclear war, then the planet can be recolonized.  If not, then at least the  juveniles will not have to be retried and executed.  Win/Win for the government--get rid of 100 juvenile offenders and, possibly, find it safe to return to earth. 

There are some interesting concepts to consider:  How does a community survive in space for three hundred years with limited space and resources.   How do those individuals sent down as test subjects make a life for themselves on earth, especially with no experience and/or skills?  If these concepts had been better developed, the book would have held some promise as not one, but two survival stories.  As it turned out the plot is not really much concerned about either one.  Both the space station and the earth community are sort of like facades or stage sets.

The book doesn't  satisfy, and I think it could have with a little effort and research.  Minimal character development, a lack of explanation about how in heck the space station has survived the many problems that centuries in space would entail, and a plot that seems pretty unfocused and painfully coincidental.

The premise has been made into a television series.

NetGalley/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

YA/Science Fiction/Dystopian.  2013.  Print Length:  327 pages.

The 100:  Day 21  

Well, I wasn't all that impressed with the first book, but I hoped the second would be an improvement.  

Not really.  And a cliffhanger.  

NetGalley/Little, Brown

YA/SciFi/Dystopian.  Feb., 2015.  Print length:  352 pages.


  1. Undertow sounds like a fun read. (I don't like the term "drool-worthy" either.)

    Fight Dirty sounds interesting. I'm glad it worked better than I Hunt Killers and Game.

    It's too bad about The 100 wasn't better. It's an interesting premise, even if not quite orginal.

  2. Despite the beginning blurb, I think I'd like to check out Undertow too. Sounds like a fun read. Hadn't heard of any of these but would also like to check out Fight Dirty!

  3. Haven't heard of these books but I'm intrigued with Fight Dirty. Maybe I'll check that out.

  4. Wendy, Iliana, Melody- None of them are great, but Undertow and Fight Dirty kept my interest!