Monday, March 10, 2014

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

When I saw that Ann Brashares had a new book coming out, I jumped right on it.  The Here and Now is a science fiction thriller where teenagers try to save the world.  Maybe that sounds a little improbable, but it's fiction and it's fun.  And it turns out it's even more than that.  I loved this book.  Prenna is a young girl who, along with a community of others, travels from the 2090s to 2010 to try to put right all the harm that has come to the environment and caused so much death and suffering.  Prenna and her community must follow strict rules to avoid causing large rifts in the future and she is content to follow these rules until she meets Ethan.  Ethan is a friend from school who seems to know that there is something different about her.  Prenna is haunted by memories of her old life and the loved ones she has lost.  She is also frightened by the feelings she is beginning to have for Ethan and the consequences of breaking the rules.  

This book appealed to me on several levels.  First, I like the idea of time travel and what one could do with such an ability.  I also like exploring what effects changing one little thing could have on the rest of time.  Secondly, I have a strong belief that one person really can make a difference in the world and so any story that follows that theme has my attention.  Mostly, however, I was strongly pulled in by the idea that the environment really could be destroyed by those of us currently living upon the earth.  The characters discuss that scientists know now what we are doing to damage the planet and they know how to reverse it, but the problem is convincing the rest of the population that it matters.  The book puts it this way:

"People here have strange ideas about what to do to help.  There is Earth Day and all kinds of green products that make people feel good- as though organic cotton sheets and hemp socks are going to do the trick.  But nobody does the hard things.  Not if it costs them anything.  Nobody calls for any real sacrifices."

One character in the book claims that his version of the future was ruined because someone felt the environment was more important than jobs and profits, but what can possibly happen to those jobs and those profits if the environment in which we live collapses?  I love when fiction takes the opportunity to make readers think about real life and his or her place in it.  That is, I believe, the true purpose of literature.

Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski

What super power would you choose if you had the opportunity?  Flying?  Invisibility?  Telepathy?  That last one is exactly the "gift" bestowed upon a classroom full of teenagers in Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski.  In their sophomore home class, twenty- four students sign up to get their flu shots.  One student is out sick and another refuses based on fears of unknown side effects from the shot.  She may have had a point.  It this particular batch of the vaccine, there is a mutation.  It gives each of the inoculants the ability to hear the thoughts of the people around them.  At first, each person believes he or she is hearing voices and perhaps losing their grip on reality.  As the first few figure out what is going on, they help ease their fellow classmates into the transition.  While it might be fun to hear other people's thoughts, the group soon realizes it is unnerving having their own secrets discovered.

Told in the first person plural, the characters form a group narrative.  Their opinions and thoughts merge into one that they can't help but share.  Every teen stereotype is present, but not in the annoying way one might expect.  The cover of the book is a bit cheesy, but don't let it scare you away from this very fun book.  The writing is good, it is a quick read and I would recommend it for teenagers or anyone else who enjoys YA fiction.  I can't wait to read Mlynowski's Gimme a Call.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Have No Shame by Melissa Foster

I really like reading books on my Kindle.  I still buy books and borrow them from the library, but I really like that my Kindle carries so many books, it is small and lightweight and it is very easy to read in bed.  One of the things I don't like about Kindle books is that it is hard to tell the length of a book.  Yes, it has the percentage bar at the bottom of the screen to tell me how far I am into a book, but as I found today, that can occasionally be deceiving.  Have No Shame by Melissa Foster is a wonderful book and I was really enjoying it.  According to the percentage bar, I was nearly halfway through it today and I was expecting to spend a few hours enjoying it and possibly finishing it.  Suddenly, with the bar at 50%, I came to the end.  Wait, what?  I was very confused.  

Have No Shame is written in two formats, one with Southern dialect and one without.  I didn't realize this because my Kindle always begins with the first chapter.  I missed the whole "ATTENTION READERS" section that would have explained the two formats.  I thought I had a lot more book to read and I was sadly disappointed.  I was loving this book and while it was still very good, I wanted more.  

Have No Shame is about Alison, a young woman in 1967 Forrest Town, Arkansas.  The civil rights movement has yet to reach this small town or the farm on which Alison was raised.  She is soon to be married to her high school sweetheart, but her whole world is shaken when she discovers the dead body of a black man floating in the river.  Her perspective begins to shift as she awakens to the inequalities and cruelties that surround her:  "As a young southern woman, I knew that the expectation was for me to get married, have children, and perpetuate the hate that had been bred in our lives.  My children, they'd be born into the same hateful society.  That realization brought me to my knees."  

As Alison becomes aware that it is her soon-to-be husband that is responsible for many of the beatings and even the deaths of innocent people, she resists the idea of marrying him, but her desire to stay in her father's good graces prevents her from changing her mind.  Added to the confusion about her future is that she has begun having feelings about Jackson, a black man.  At this time and in this place it was certainly not acceptable, but Alison feels a pulled in too many directions.  

This book is a compelling look at the civil rights movement in a small town.  Some of us may take for granted the rights that simply didn't exist fifty years ago while it is also true that there is still work to be done.  Alison is only eighteen-years-old and exceedingly naive.  The world is not what she once believed and she is not a strong female character, but she is changing and that is what makes her so endearing.  I hope you'll read this book and enjoy it as I did. As a bonus, Amazon is currently offering the Kindle version for only $.99!  You really can't beat that!  Just be sure to notice the two formats offered.