Price, Lissa. Starters.
Callie is trying to survive as an unclaimed minor with her young brother, Tyler, in a world where everyone but the very young and very old have died of a virus. Callie is squatting in an apartment building, so when she finds out she can make a lot of money at Prime Destinations, "renting" her body to "Enders" (older adults) who want to be able to live in a young body for a while, she leaves Tyler in the care of Michael and turns herself over to Prime. They give her a laser makeover so is is gorgeous, and rent her out for a day. Eventually, she is rented to Helena, but things start to go wrong-- she wakes up while posing as Helena and can hear her voice in her head. It turns out that Prime is not just taking unclaimed minors-- Helena's granddaughter joined Prime in order to get the makeover, and died. Helena is bound and determined to kill the owner of the business, so Callie tries to uncover what is going on. When Prime announces a new program for Enders to buy bodies instead of just simply renting them, Callie realizes that something must be done. Can she manage to take down prime but survive to take care of her brother?
Strengths: VERY nice twist in a dystopian novel. The science in the body switching seems plausible, and the construction of a post apocalyptic society is good. Callie grows as a character, the plot advances logically, and the conclusion is final enough for a single volume but leaves room for a sequel. Appropriate for middle school. My daughter loved the cover.
Weaknesses: I got a little confused in the middle, and also didn't understand completely why some of the people were 150 years old. Might have missed that explanation.
Hawkins, Rachel. Spell Bound.
This much anticipated third book in the Hex Hall series started off by making me laugh, as usual. "Sure, it's awesome when you're using (magic) to change your hair color, or fly, or turn day into night. But for the most part, magic tends to end in explosions, or tears, or with you flat on your back in the middle of nowhere, feeling like a tiny dwarf is mining for diamonds inside your head. Okay, so maybe that last bit was just me." (page 3). Sophie is back, having lost her magical powers, but she is accompanied by the ghost of her friend Elodie. When she is attacked by members of the Brannicks, she ends up in their compound, where she finds her mother who is... a Brannick. This is a problem, since they hunt evil and consider Sophie's demon heritage a negative even though without her powers she is just human. This, too, is a problem because the Brannicks had hoped that Sophie would fight with they against the Prodigium and help them win. Sophie has some other problems as well-- how can she choose between her fiance, Cal, and her boyfriend, Archer? Hate to say too much and spoil this, but suffice it to say that there are a lot of good spells, political machinations, a fair amount of fighting, and a very sad romantic twist. I'll be very interested to see what Ms. Hawkins writes next!
Strengths: The snarky humor makes this stand out in the vast sea of paranormalish books, and I liked that Sophie was key to the epic battle. I'm very glad that they didn't decide to change the cover-- the series looks awesome together.
Weaknesses: I find that I forget a lot of the details between books, so it would have been good to have a little more recap. Now that the entire series is out, readers can finish them all together, and this will be less of a problem.
Smith, Jennifer E. The Storm Makers.
Release 3 April 2012
Twins Ruby and Simon are living on a farm because their parents are trying to make it as an artist and an inventor, when a mysterious man, Otis, appears in their barn. Strange things start happening with Simon-- he seems to have an electrical effect on appliances, and the weather starts behaving strangely. Otis tells them this is because Simon has a rare talent-- he is a storm maker, and can control the weather. They find an ally in another storm maker, Daisy, who runs the local body shop. She is especially helpful when Simon is approached by Rupert London of MOSS (Makers of Storms Society) who wants to create dangerous weather events for his own evil purposes. Simon must decide-- does he want to join Rupert or fight against him?
Strengths: There's been more students wanting magical realism, and this has all the standards elements of a young boy saving the world from evil.
Weaknesses: The ARC is 372 pages long. If the book were about half this size, the plot would be tighter, the action would accelerate more quickly, and I could sell it to kids. Ms. Smith's background is in young adult literature, and this shows in the pacing.
Schreiber, Ellen. Magic of the Moonlight. (Full Moon #2)
Eventually, the Vampire Kisses series will end. (The ninth, and last, book, Immortal Hearts, comes out May 15 and my girls are so upset because I won't have it before school is out!) Luckily for my readers, they can start this series about werewolves. I liked it a little better than Vampire Kisses, which got to me with the whole whining Goth, "I can only wear Hot Topic fishnets" thing, but still don't have much tolerance for the doomed romance with paranormal being subject. That said, these are a must have for middle school.
From the Publisher: "As seventeen-year-old Celeste seeks a cure for her werewolf-boyfriend, Brandon, Legend's Run's highly-anticipated Moonlight Ball is approaching, and Celeste must decide if she is willing to risk attending with Brandon and possibly revealing his secret to the entire school when the moon appears."