Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tournament Trouble

Chang, Slyv. Tournament Trouble
March 13th 2018 by Annick Press
ARC provided by the publisher

Jaden is really good at playing the video game Change Up. He and older brother Josh own a copy, but they have to hide it from their over protective mother, who fortunately works fairly long hours at a diner. When Jaden has another high score as his JStar identity and beats Kn1ght_Rage, he gets an invitation to enter the Top Tiers Tournament. Unfortunately, participants need a parent to sign for them if they are under 13, and Jaden knows that neither of his parents will agree. He tries to sneak in with his brother's i.d., which doesn't work, but his friend 's parents are more understanding, so he manages to get signed up with his friend's father's signature. Other things are going on his his life-- his good friend and next door neighbor Cali, who also plays video games, is having a hard time taking care of her mother, whose MS is worsening, and may have to go live with her father. To complicate matters, Jaden and his friends Dev and Hugh are being bullied at school by boys who cheat off their papers-- and their teacher, Mr. Efram, tries to help the situation by having Jaden and his friends tutor the other boys. This is somewhat convenient, since Jaden can use the tutoring to cover for sneaking away to the tournament, but doesn't work in the end. When the tournament ends up coinciding with Cali's father coming to town to retrieve her, help arrives from an unlikely source for Jaden to be able to play in it.
Strengths: This was fast-paced, engaging, and a lot of fun to read! The inclusion of a well-developed video game, as well as the tournament, will appeal to many tween readers who are fond of gaming. The fact that Cali also likes to play is a welcome addition, since (from what I understand) girls are often not treated well in gaming circles. There is a backstory about Jaden's uncle growing up in China that adds credence to the fact that his mother doesn't like violence, and I thought that the fact that she never talked about this uncle was very realistic. Cali's predicament is handled well, and Jaden and his family (and ultimately, her father and his girlfriend) are supportive of her. There is a great twist at the end of the book concerning the identity of Kn1ght_Rage that I especially appreciated. Great length, fun illustrations-- good stuff!
Weaknesses: I was afraid that this would be hard to find in the US, but there is a hardcover edition available through Follett! Thanks for sharing, Canada! (And yes, Scholastic Canada, I'm still bitter about you bogarting Carroll's Ultra.)
What I really think: Definitely looking forward to sharing this with my reluctant readers who love video games. Schrieber's Game Over, Pete Watson and Anderson's Insert Coin to Continue did not have enough companions to continue the trend I thought I saw two years ago.

33783632Delaney, Joseph. The Dark Assassin (Starblade Chronicles #3)
Published September 26th 2017 by Greenwillow Books
Purchased copy

After A New Darkness and The Dark Army, we meet up again we Tom and Jenny, but also Grimalkin, who has been killed but is inhabiting a weird in between plain, and hoping to help fight against the Kobalos. Bill Arkwright makes a brief appearance, but when his remaining dog turns against him, but Jenny and Tom know that something is wrong, and it turns out that this is indeed the case. Could the Kobalos mages really be that powerful, and do they really want the Starblade that badly? Of course they do, and Lukastra and his thralls fight horribly against Tom and the forces of good he is able to muster. As the battle comes to its inevitable conclusion, who will be able to save the day? Who will belong to the light, and who to the dark? And most of all, will Alice and Tom be able to reconcile their prospective sides and be together?
Strengths: Delaney's writing is brilliantly engaging, even when it is rather gross. This is no doubt why I have so may students who love this series. It's my first choice when a reader is done with The Ranger's Apprentice or Stroud's Lockwood and Co. This is a worthy ending, and the very end is fairly happy.
Weaknesses: This was very grim. I'm not a big fan of Grimalkin (she gets alternating chapters) and the ookiness of the monsters and the blood, but a lot of my readers love that about these books. Just not my thing.
What I really think: I'm very curious to see what Delaney will write next. I really, really thought that The Last Apprentice would be the new Hunger Games, so have about four of the first book in the series. The movie and books never caught on like I hoped, but it was still money well spent to have the extra copies, since they have all been glued back together at least once!

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