Well, okay. This is not the cheeriest Christmas Eve post choice, and the Weird Al song mentioned above doesn't have too much to do with The Darkest Path, but I've been a bit behind in my reading, and this is the only fantasy I have to post for this Tuesday! So instead of reading this review, go have a cup of eggnog and put some reindeer antlers on the dog!
Hirsch, Jeff. The Darkest Path.
September 24th 2013, Scholastic Press
Cal and his younger brother James were taken by the Glorious Path six years ago and have struggled to survive and not run afoul of the religiously oriented but militant military leaders. Cal doesn't believe in the teachings of Hill, who used bad economics in the US to form his group and take over a large portion of the country with his brutal tactics. After Cal is responsible for the death of most of a military base, he finds a dog. When the officer in charge of animals threatens to kill Bear, and possibly Cal, Cal kills the officer. Knowing he has to flee, he finds his brother and the two take off. James believes in the Path, and decides to return to camp, but Cal and Bear take off on an odyssey around the country, trying to get back to New York state. He meets Nat, who is fighting against the Path because they killed her mother, and thinks he might be safe in her Wyoming community, but the Path destroys that, sending Cal and Nat first to an enclave of spoiled Hollywood teenagers, and then right to the very front of the conflict between the government forces and the Path. Can he and Nat help turn the tide against the Path?
Strengths: For readers who like action, adventure, and militaristic books, this is a grab-you-by-the-throat and never let go kind of novel. The idea of a religiously oriented military outfit going around the country giving citizens "the Choice" is a great way to set up a futuristic dystopia, and Cal and James' different reactions to being taken by this group are realistically protrayed, as is Cal's longing for life the way it used to be, which adds a poignancy to the story without bogging it down. Nat is a good, strong (if misguided) girl character.
Weaknesses: So sad. So violent. So many deaths. I know I'm more sensitive to this kind of thing right now, but it was really hard for me to read this. Definitely more of a young adult book; I wouldn't have it in an elementary library.
Reedy, Trent. Divided We Fall
January 28th 2014, Arthur A. Levine Books
E ARC from Netgalley.com
I mention this one because I absolutely adored this author's Words in the Dust and Stealing Air, and they were definitely solidly middle grade. This new title, however, is definitely for high schoolers. The language was coarse but not too bad; what killed this for me was when JoBall texted Danny that she wasn't wearing panties to a party, only her bikini. That's a line crossed right there. However, it's a lot like The Darkest Path, and I know many middle schools will think this would be good. I would read it first to see what you think. From Goodreads.com:
"From the author of the acclaimed WORDS IN THE DUST: an action-packed YA novel set in a frighteningly plausible near future, about what happens when the States are no longer United.
Danny Wright never thought he'd be the man to bring down the United States of America. In fact, he enlisted in the National Guard because he wanted to serve his country the way his father did. When the Guard is called up on the Idaho governor's orders to police a protest in Boise, it seems like a routine crowd-control mission ... but then Danny's gun misfires, spooking the other soldiers and the already fractious crowd, and by the time the smoke clears, twelve people are dead.
The president wants the soldiers arrested. The governor swears to protect them. And as tensions build on both sides, the conflict slowly escalates toward the unthinkable: a second American civil war."
Off to put the sofa pillows in gift bags for my younger daughter. Long story, but we have evil, rogue elves named Jeek and Glendle who deliver presents to our house and are a bit... odd.