Wooding, Chris. Silver
March 25th 2014
by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Paul arrives at Mortingham Boarding Academy, reeling from the deaths of his parents but not wanting anyone to know about this fact. There's a complicated cast of characters at the school, including Adam, who is a bully, and Erika (whom Paul likes) and Caitlyn (who likes Paul). None of that really matters, however, when silver beetles are discovered on the school grounds. These beetles turn out to be the precursors of bigger, nastier nanobot/cyborg/zombie creatures, so the students bitten by the beetles start turning into creatures like them and attacking everyone else, turning them into violent zombie cyborgs, too. Paul, some students, and a teacher hole up in the school, but it's just never going to end well. The school is too remote, and the "infection" too terrible. Not only do more and more people fall victim and become evil machines, but the machines evolve to be stronger and more gruesome.
Strengths: It's hard to review this without giving a lot away, so be patient. The cover is a good indication of what this book is like. Bloody and violent. It reminded me of Alexander Gordon Smith's Escape from Furnace series, or perhaps Higson's The Enemy, but with cyborg monsters. The vast majority of the violence is monster related, which makes it seem a little better to me. Very British, even though there is no time for tea drinking.
Weaknesses: Lots of characters die. Never my favorite thing. This seemed short on character development and explanation to me. Of course, when students want horror books, those are probably the last two criteria on their mind. Will probably buy this one and worry about the children to whom I hand it.
Hale, Shannon. Dangerous
4 March 2014, Bloomsbury US
ARC from Baker and Taylor
Maisie is thrilled when she wins a place in Dr. Howell's space camp, since she has been enthralled with the idea of being an astronaut ever since her father told her that she could wear velcro fastening on her clothes to be like them. Even though she needed the velcro because she is missing a hand since birth, she's glad to escape her close and loving parents and get to know other kids. When she arrives, she gets assigned to a "fireteam" that includes Jacques, Ruth, and Mi-Sun, and gets sent on a trip to space with her team as well as Wilder, the son of a famous scientist, on whom she has a rather big crush. Things go well on the trip until the children touch alien artifacts and are infected by nanites that endow them with a variety of dangerous skills. The worst off is Ruth, who is suddenly ravenously hungry and prone to violent outbursts. When she kills a man, she runs away. Maisie tries to help, but all she can do is to try to bring Ruth back when she is dying. Instead, the nanites from Ruth go into Maisie. Afraid of what will happen to her if she stays with the program, she goes home, but can't hide for long. Wilder finds her, and while she still likes him, she is afraid of what his father will do. Eventually, Maisie ends up with all of the alien tokens and abilities, which Dr. Howell tells her are to be used to fight the aliens. Can Maisie save the world... and herself?
Strengths: This had a lot of interesting technology, and the ensemble cast was well described enough that I could keep them all straight, no small task. The touch of dangerous romance is nice, especially contrasted with how Maisie feels about her best friend, Luther. I also appreciated that this seems to be a science fiction/dystopian book that is NOT in a series. Need a lot more of those.
Weaknesses: This got to be rather complicated and bogged down in the middle. Also, there was enough human on human violence, as well as a scene (nicely played, granted) in which Wilder tries to get Maisie to sleep with him, that I will have to consider this long and hard before purchasing for a middle school. Not horrible, but right on that line.