September 25, 2012

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Title: Where Things Come Back
Author: John Corey Whaley
Ships launched: 909
Pages: 228
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (part of Simon & Schuster)
Year published: 2011
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Mystery
Synopsis: Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . . 
In the summer before Cullen's senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone's eating "Lazarus burgers." But as absurd as the town's carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.

I must say, John Corey Whaley crafted an absolutely amazing debut YA novel here, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Where Things Come Back has already won the William C. Morris Debut Award and the Michael L. Printz Award. (Pretty impressive, right?)

Bad things: The plot was a little slow; it wasn't exactly a page-turner.

That's it. That's my list of bad things.

The originality in this novel is a breath of fresh air with all of the copycat YA books out there. The synopsis doesn't seem like much, but it is. Trust me.  
If you had to summarize the entire book in one sentence, it would be this: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley tells the story of a young boy's disappearance from a small town in Arkansas.
Now, if you've read the book, you would know that that does not even begin to describe it. This story is about so many other things, like sadness and life and the world. So much ground is covered in this tiny, 200 page book. 

When I first started it, some things seemed kind of random. What? Why are we talking about a missionary in Africa when we were just talking about this dude's brother? It seems like there are two completely different story lines, but Whaley weaves them together so intricately, but so simply at the same time. There is that one a-ha! moment where everything clicks into place, and then you just read and read and turn the pages as fast as you can; you have to find out what happens. 

Cullen Witter was the main character of Where Things Come Back. He is full of thoughts and curiosity. I don't really know how to describe him. He is not perfect. Of course not. But he is kind and sad and naive and foolish. He likes to make up book titles. He is immature and mature at the same time. He is Cullen Witter.

I wish Gabriel was real. I want to meet him. He is so innocent and he seems so wise and kind; his music and his t-shirts and everything about him is, like his brother, full of thoughts. 

All of the characters were fleshed out and real (except maybe the Quit Man). You could see who they really were and how they got to be that way. 

As I mentioned before, Whaley's writing was a little slow, but it worked really well with the plot and the characters. The story intrigued me.

I would highly, highly recommend Where Things Come Back. Trust me, you'll like it. 

+18 - Isn't the cover just gorgeous?

+16 - Cullen's book titles. I loved every single one of them. Can I see his whole list, John Corey Whaley? Pretty please?

+13 - All of the interesting stare/look phrases. Ex: "He had that waiting-for-me-to-give-in-to-his-odd-request-and-just-go-with-the-flow sort of look on his face." (173) Whaley put quite a lot of those into this book, no matter whose point of view he was writing from. I've never seen so many used so often in a book before, and they kind of defined Whaley's writing style.

September 18, 2012

Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

Title: Evil Genius
Author: Catherine Jinks
Ships launched: 714
Pages: 552
Publisher: Harcourt books
Year published: 2005
Genre: YA fiction, adventure, mystery
Synopsis: Cadel Piggott has a genius IQ and a fascination with systems of all kinds. At seven, he was illegally hacking into computers. Now he’s fourteen and studying for his World Domination degree, taking classes like embezzlement, misinformation, forgery, and infiltration at the institute founded by criminal mastermind Dr. Phineas Darkkon. Although Cadel may be advanced beyond his years, at heart he’s a lonely kid. When he falls for the mysterious and brilliant Kay-Lee, he begins to question the moral implications of his studies for the first time. But is it too late to stop Dr. Darkkon from carrying out his evil plot?
  Cadel is in training to be an evil mastermind. He enjoys wrecking havoc on people by using his extraordinary genius type skills and has no heart. All begins to change however, when he starts to develop feelings...for a girl! As Cadel struggles to find his true self, he undergoes a wild adventure that makes him question everything he knows.
   The book described things with amazing detail. Places like the Axis Institute were unique and quite comical. Cadel is an odd lonely boy that readers will root for (even when he is being "evil"). Though the story has a serious undertone, the variety of characters create a humorous effect.

 "Bad guys" like Dr. Drakkon and Thaddeus Roth are funny and likeable.The plot also shocked me with it's surprising turn.  Sometimes the book dragged along but the story was worth the time.

+10- Funny characters.
-3- dragged on sometimes.
+7-Surprising end in plot.



September 11, 2012

Paper Towns by John Green

Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Ships launched: 791
Pages: 305
Publisher: Dutton Books
Year published: 2008
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Synopsis: Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life - dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge - he follows. After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues - and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer Q gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

Wow. John Green. Wow.
I'm sitting here, staring at his author picture on the back of this book, and thinking. What goes on in that man's head? How does he imagine these fantastical and wondrous stories and characters and...
Excuse my rambling. How about this: John Green rules. End of story.
The first story I ever tried to read of his was An Abundance of Katherines. Notice how I said "tried"? When I picked it up, I was tired. I was moody. I was upset. And I was not used to the awesomeness that is John Green. So I read about a chapter before setting it down and picking up a dependable, soothing, cliché chick lit book.
But I severely misjudged our dear friend Mr. Green. I did not realize that until recently, when I picked up The Fault in Our Stars and took it with me to the beach. It was amazing, to say the least.
Coincidentally, I read Paper Towns at the beach, earlier today. 
I have to say my favorite part was the gas station stop. I am not usually a giggle-out-louder, so I received some strange looks from my sister as I was reading that section.
I love how Quentin develops as a character. He seemed kind of young and ignorant at the beginning of the story, and he really grew into a more understanding human being. He understood, at the end, that Margo was just a person with thoughts and feelings, not some amazingly perfect thing that could never do anything wrong. Plus, he was a sweetheart. 
I loved how thoughtful Quentin was. He wasn't the kind of thoughtful where you remember someone's favorite candy and buy them some, or anything. He was the kind of thoughtful where he processes everything around him and tries to see the world differently. He thought all the time, about little things and big things. I loved his comparison of the minivan to a house, where he described all the little "rooms" inside it. I loved how much he understood about everything: the way he sat in the minimall and thought, the way he read Walt Whitman so thoroughly and thought. He was the true meaning of thoughtful: full of thoughts. 
I'm still not sure how I feel about Margo. I respect her, but I'm not sure if I actually like her. Her little games and plans and things just seem a little, well, mean. I don't know. It also seems like running away is her go to thing when times get hard.
Ben and Radar are awesome. I mean, they are pretty disgusting quite often. They're guys. But they are quite awesome. 
At first, I didn't like Lacey at all, but she grew to become one of my favorite characters. She was sweet and honest and caring and just plain cool. 
When I look back on the novel as a whole, it doesn't seem that special. But when you examine it closely, you see all the beautiful little things about it that make it special. 
I didn't much like the ending, but I can't really see how it could have possibly ended any other way and still have been a good story. 
Overrall, though, it was awesome. I kind of want a minivan now. ;) (GASP! I did not just type that... Haha)

This quote from the book really made me stop and think:
"'I'm not saying that everything is survivable. Just that everything except the last thing is.'" (pg. 301)

+20 - the hilarious bits
+ 9 - margo's Awesomely random Capitalization, because It Isn't fair to The words in the Middle, is It?

September 4, 2012

The Stalker Chronicles by Carley Moore

Title: The Stalker Chronicles
Author: Carley Moore
Ships launched: 615
Pages: 240
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Year Published: 2012
Genre: YA Fiction
   Sophomore Cammie Bliss has long been labeled a stalker by her peers, but when a cute new boy named Toby arrives at her small town high school, Cammie has a chance to be "normal." Trouble is, she can't really help herself and she's up to her old tricks of "intense observation and following" pretty quick. Making things worse, her younger brother is dating one of the most popular girls in the school, her parents have separated, and her dad has begun to watch their house most nights. Cammie has simply got to figure out why she behaves the way she does, and end it once and for all.

  Cammie is a typical teenage girl with a big problem. She can't seem to stop stalking people. Everyone stalks from time to time, whether it's casual facebook stalking or just searching for people's information online. Cammie, however, sometimes goes above and beyond in the realm of stalking. 
    Cammie is an unusual character. In the beginning of the novel, she comes off as a little crazy but readers will soon realize that she has good intentions and is only curious. Luckily, Cammie has understanding friends to warn her when she oversteps her bounds. One thing that influences Cammie is her highly dysfunctional family. When her parents separate, she notices her dad spying on the family which motivates her to stop stalking. Her brother is embarrassed by her, and she is targeted by the popular girls but she doesn't let them get her down. Her crush, Toby, also struggles with his own problems which makes him perfect for Cammie.

   One thing I like about the book is how Cammie crosses the line, but notices she has a problem and attempts to stop.The plot is bizarre yet strangely captivating . I couldn't put the book down even when things got really weird. 
-5- Sometimes Cammie's stalking tactics creeped me out.
+20- Overall, Cammie is an enjoyable main character that experience's many awkward situations.