Title:Secret Coders Author: Gene Luen Yang Illustrator: Mike Holmes Publisher: First Second Publication Date: September 29, 2015 ISBN-13: 978-1626720756
ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley
Secret Coders is exactly the kind of book I love to booktalk, especially when promoting Summer Reading Club. It has a mystery, it has a diverse cast, it has basketball, it has a friendship theme, and it has STEM. And best of all, it's a graphic novel.
Graphic novels are my go-to booktalk because they appeal to kids who say they don't like to read. These kids may have reading difficulties, they may be English learners, or maybe they just haven't found the right book yet. But a graphic novel, especially one like Secret Coders, has the visual appeal to grab their interest and keep them turning pages. Mike Holmes delivers a lively and cartoony style. His artwork during the coding explanations are clear and accessible.
Secret Coders is the first in a series about Hopper, a new kid at school who wants to join the basketball team and who notices weird things going on at Stately Academy. After a bad start at making friends, she joins forces with Eni to figure out what's going at the school.
Tons of fun here and I'd recommend Secret Coders to readers who liked Cece Bell's El Deafo or Raina Telgemeier's Sisters.
Title:Undertow Author: Michael Buckley Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers Publication Date: May 5, 2015 ISBN-13: 978-0544348257
ARC provided by publisher
Undertow by Michael Buckley is a Romeo/Juliet story about a human girl named Lyric and a sea prince named Fathom set in modern day New York.
It's not subtle in its parallels to current immigration fears as the sea folk known as Alphas arrive on Coney Island and are immediately vilified, segregated, and threatened with violence.
Lyric is forced to befriend Fathom at school and, of course, sparks fly. There's lots of conflict, lots of tortured feelings, lots of high stakes as Lyric finds out THE TERRIBLE AND COMPLETELY OBVIOUS TRUTH about her family.
Undertow isn't particularly groundbreaking, but it is a fun, fast read for paranormal romance fans.
Eoin Colfer is most well known for the Artemis Fowl series, a series I tried and never really got into. But since the good people at Sync offered The Reluctant Assassin, I thought I'd give this series a go.
The Reluctant Assassin in question is Riley, a Victorian orphan who's raised by a former magician. Alfred Garrick has turned his sleight-of-hand skills into becoming a master assassin and he expects Riley to complete his apprenticeship by committing his first murder. But what they don't know is that their intended target is a 21st century time traveler and things go from bad to worse when Riley ends up in modern day London.
Riley meets Chevron Savano, a 17 year old FBI agent, an orphan herself who was brought into the FBI for a secret assignment. Riley and Chevron team up to take on Garrick, who was transformed by time travel quantum mechanics and goes back to Victorian times to change history.
Sounds convoluted? It is a little bit, but complicated plotting keeps the action at a non-stop pace. There's a fair amount of deadly violence, which might be too intense for younger readers. But older readers looking for a rollicking adventure will find that here.
A nice dynamic grows between Riley and Chevron since each has their own special skill sets. Maxwell Caulfield does a fine job with Riley and Garrick, but his Chevron doesn't quite work. I don't know if he has trouble with women characters, American characters, or both, but Chevron comes off as stiff and stilted. Chevron is a Native American character, but she grew up in Malibu, so she sound like a normal American teen.