Timeslip Tuesday is a recurring feature at Charlotte's Library. Charlotte also does a fabulous round up of middle grade and YA fantasy fiction on Sundays.
Malone, Marianne. The Pirate's Coin (A Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventure)
28 May 2013, Random House Books For Young Readers
After their adventures in The Sixty-Eight Rooms and Stealing Magic, Jack and Ruthie are back. They are still interested in having adventures in the rooms (who wouldn't be?), but have a more serious reason to investigate-- during a genealogy project at school, they find out that their friend Kendra is a descendent of a woman who ran a business in the early twentieth century, something rare for an African-American woman at the time. Even though Kenra's ancestor had gotten her formulae from her ancestor, who was a slave, she had no proof. Ruthie and Jack find a book of recipes, but also a cryptic note that they should talk to Isabelle. They do, and find out that she worked with Mrs. Thorne and knows that a will was drawn up clearing Kendra's relative. The will must be in the rooms somewhere, where it was put for safekeeping, and the children need to find it. Jack also wants to find an ancestor of his own-- Jack Norfleet, a pirate! After meeting him, however, Jack starts to fade away, and Ruthie has to go back and set things right so that Jack doesn't cease to exist. Despite a dangerous spider encounter and troubles with museum security, Jack and Ruthie use their time traveling adventures to help solve mysteries in the present day.
Strengths: One of the best time travel devices EVER-- miniature rooms that actually exist. Certain objects animate the rooms, and while it's a little unlikely that the children would get in to the museum, a convincing back story has been built. I like the children, and their reasons for being in the rooms are solid. I would have adored these books when I was younger.
Weaknesses:The first two in the series don't get checked out very much, so I'm debating purchasing the third. There is a fourth coming out as well, and I don't know that I can justify them. Sigh.
Zadoff, Allen. Boy Nobody.
11 June 2013, Little Brown
ARC from publishers at my request
Ben isn't a regular kid. He works for the Program as a paid assassin. They rule his life, tell him what to do, and he does it, because they killed his parents and he has no where else to go. Fresh from killing his new best friend's father, he is sent to New York City... to kill the mayor. In order to do this, he is sent to the mayor's daughter's private school and has to befriend her. He has five days to complete this latest assignment, but there are wrinkles galore. First off, he rather likes Sam, and he feels a bit sorry for her father after he meets him. This hasn't stopped him in the past, but Ben also feels that he is being followed and that something if wrong with the whole mission. He wants to continue his work with the Program, but he also is longing for his parents and a normal life. Since he also fancies Sam, will it be enough for him to distance himself from his life of crime?
Strengths: I love Zadoff's writing, and it was great fun to read a thriller by him. Ben was as sympathetic a character as a brain washed assassin could be, the romance with Sam was nice, and the details of how Ben contacts his "parents" in the program were well done and intriguing. This is exactly what students are asking for, and I would definitely purchase for a high school. (Also tried to read another thriller right after this; Glen Beck's The Overton Window that a student loaned me. Boy Nobody was so much better that the other book doesn't even seem like a book.)
Weaknesses: Ah, well. This is too YA for my crowd for several reasons. Like The Reluctant Assassin, there's the problem of cold-blooded murder. Without a pivotal one at the end of the book, I might have considered purchasing, but I didn't get the feeling that Ben would ever be able to stop his association with the Program. There was also some middle school inappropriate sexual behavior, and a rather disturbing scene with a secondary character abusing, um, library books in a disturbing fashion. A huge percentage of the books that get checked out in my library are ones that I put in students' hands myself, so I'm just not all that comfortable with having this one. I enjoyed it, though! Can't wait to see what Zadoff will write next.
Shusterman, Neal. UnWholly.
28 August 2012, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Yes, it took until school was out for me to be able to have a copy of this to read. I had to replace a copy of Unwind because it fell in to little pieces. There is supposedly a movie coming out, although details are sketchy. Surly Teen Boy, who follows the Neal Shusterman Facebook page, reports that there will be four books in his series. Very dark, very dystopian, and current news articles are interpolated to good effect to point out how close reality is to this book.
That said, I found it confusing. Too many characters, too many points of view, and at first I thought that I had grabbed the first book by mistake, since there were some similar characters. But my students adore it, and that's what counts! If I bought what I adored, the shelves would be empty except for Anne of Green Gables, some Alcott, and everything Anthony Horowitz has ever written!