Sunday, August 25, 2013

Winger Book Review

Title: Winger
Author: Andrew Smith
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1442444928

448 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

This book should come with a disclaimer. Something like WARNING: May cause spontaneous laughter. May also cause uncontrollable weeping.

Winger by Andrew Smith starts off as a boarding school romp about a 14-year-old genius who plays rugby and dreams about dating his best friend, Annie, who seems out of his league because she's two years older.

Ryan Dean (that's his first name) narrates the story of his junior year at a fancypants private school in the Pacific Northwest. His rugby nickname is Winger and though he call himself a skinny-ass bitch, he never backs down from a fight. He is hilarious in his accounts of life at school and they're often punctuated by the comics he draws.

What could have been a delightfully fun story about Ryan Dean and his pursuit of Annie and surviving rugby turns into something much darker in the last few chapters. No spoilers here, but the gut-punching plot twist is organic and completely believable.

My one quibble with those last chapters is that I wanted more. Ryan Dean's words and pictures are so effusive in the rest of the novel that I understand why there's this shift at the end, but I still wanted more. It's to Andrew Smith's credit that after 448 pages, I wasn't ready to leave these characters.

I would recommend Winger to readers who enjoyed Butter by Erin Jade Lange or Feed by M.T. Anderson.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Theory of Everything Book Review

Title: The Theory of Everything
Author: Kari Luna
Publisher: Philomel
Publication Date: July 11, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0399256264

320 pp.

ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley

With a cover like this, you hope that the book will be as fun as it promises. Thankfully, The Theory of Everything by Kari Luna delivers on that promise.

Sophie Sophia is a fourteen year old girl who moves into a new town with her mom. Again. Ever since Sophie's genius physicist dad disappeared, Sophie has been having hallucinations, or "episodes", where hearts roll off of sleeves or the school cafeteria becomes a Ramones rock video.

Then Sophie meets Walt, her shaman panda, who is supposed to help guide her. Guide her to what, Sophie isn't sure, but she hopes it's her dad. Along the way, Sophie befriends Finny, who becomes her gay BFF, and cute boy Drew, who holds out a hope of normalcy for Sophie.

The Theory of Everything is cute, quirky, and a mixed tape of BIG IDEAS about string theory, alternate universes, and love. It's like A Wrinkle in Time's fun-loving, hipster cousin.

I'd recommend The Theory of Everything to readers who enjoyed Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin or Don't Expect Magic by Kathy McCullough.

The Theory of Everything Book Trailer:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Lord of Opium Book Review

Title: The Lord of Opium
Author: Nancy Farmer
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 3, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1442482548

432 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

I'm back from my summer hiatus and so happy to be able to review this book for you!

I'm a huge fan of The House of Scorpion, which I listened to on audio, and am thrilled that Nancy Farmer is continuing Matt's story.

I don't think it's much of a secret now that Matt is actually the clone of an evil drug lord known as El Patron and Matt was raised to be his organ donor. El Patron dies at the end of The House of Scorpion and Matt becomes the new Lord of Opium.
The Lord of Opium literally starts the next day after The House of Scorpion ends. If you haven't read The House of Scorpion, you can follow along well enough, but I highly suggest reading The House of Scorpion first. It's a different type of storytelling because it starts when Matt is very young and the reader sees how he grows up and how he learns to assert himself as a real person.

I don't want to give spoilers, but I think fans will appreciate Matt's new obstacles as the Baby Patron, as some call him. Readers get to experience new areas of the land of Opium that Nancy Farmer has created, and there are new secrets to be revealed.

Overall, I do think that The Lord of Opium is an entertaining read, but I also think that it's less of a character study and more plot-driven than The House of Scorpion. There are still moral quandaries and quagmires, but Matt doesn't seem to grow as a character as much as he tries to remain true to himself.

I recommend The Lord of Opium to readers who enjoy thought-provoking science fiction.


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