Farley, Christopher John. Game World
February 4th 2014
by Black Sheep
Dylan and Emma are orphans being raised by an aunt who is a professor who studies birds, and their life isn't easy. They both excel in school, however, but are the object of frequent bullying. When there is a local tournament for the popular video game Xamaica, Dylan and his wheelchair bound friend Eli qualify and eventually win. They are whisked off by the company owner's celebrity daughter, Ines, and with some clever work, are sucked into the world of the video game. There, they meet an abundance of mythological creatures and find that the magic in Xamaica is being drained away. Emma goes missing, so Dylan, Eli and Ines attempt to get her back while also trying to figure out how to restore the magic. Secrets about all of their intertwined backgrounds are revealed, and much adventure is had in the rainforest.
Strengths: I appreciate that the author incorporated a variety of ethnicities (Dylan and Emma are black, Eli is Hispanic, and Ines is Korean) and personal challenges (Dylan suffers from seizures as well) in children who are academically advanced. Basing this on Jamaican legends is a fun change, and incorporating video games into the book will definitely make this a hit among some children. I also appreciated that the author wants to include both genders equally, and that he is passionate about gender equity.
Weaknesses: This starts with stereotypical bullying which includes the bully farting on his victims. Piers Anthony blurbed this book and stated "there are real children here who...fart-- things almost guaranteed to freak out...librarians". I'm not freaked out; I've just read books that incorporate farts in a much more amusing way. I was disappointed in the quality of the fart inclusion. Plus, really-- the school nurse knows about this, knows that the bully is the superintendent's son, and isn't on the phone immediately to him? While this book had its moments, it also had a lot of loose ends (what happens with the aunt who gets fired?) and tried to pack a lot of information about legends in, so the book got to be somewhat chaotic.
Gavin, Rohan. Knightley and Son.
March 4th 2014
by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Darkus' detective father Alan has been in a coma for around four years; his mother has remarried to Clive, the husband of Alan's deceased assistant and father of Tilly, who sometimes gets along with Darkus and sometimes doesn't. Darkus has been studying his father's old files, so when his father suddenly snaps out of the coma and shows up at the house claiming that "the Combination" is behind some crime spree, he feels able to help. Enter "Uncle Bill", a Scotland Yard detective who is kind of creepy but knows a lot, and a best selling book called The Code that seems to be involved in the crimes. Since Alan comes in and out of consciousness and isn't very reliable, Tilly and Darkus try to figure out what the mystery is behind the elusive author of the book, and how this ties into Alan's problems.
Strengths: Slightly reminiscent of Alex Rider, this is a nice British conspiracy mystery. There's a decent amount of action and adventure, as well as some Sherlock Holmes type investigating. Tilly and Darkus work well together, and Alan and his detective underworld are delightfully... underworld? Seamy? I like how Jen Robinson described it: "it feels looking back like the entire book takes place at night, on dark London streets." The cover is fantastic.
Weaknesses: Drags a bit and is somewhat long, but isn't really a YA book. Still, I think mystery lovers will enjoy this one, so I'll buy a copy.