Saturday, June 21, 2014

Wickedpedia/Uncaged (YA Titles)

PROCEED WITH CAUTION before purchasing the following titles for anything but high school libraries. While the students would no doubt love them, they were far too disturbing for me to hand to a student.

Van Etten, Chris. Wickedpedia
24 June 2014, Scholastic
E ARC from

Cole is upset over his breakup with Winnie, especially since she dumped him for dumb, soccer playing Josh AND is now doing better in GPA than he is. Cole's best friend, Gavin, commiserates with him, and the two pull a prank on Josh, editing a Wikipedia page on serial killers so that Josh gets incorrect information and fails his project, thereby disqualifying himself for soccer.  Cole and Gavin get the bright idea to make Wikipedia pages for their classmates and teachers, having them meet vague deaths, but when a soccer player is actually killed in a very gruesome way that matches the Wikipedia entry (which says he dies of a swelled head; he is murdered by someone inserting an air pump into his neck, which causes him to die of a stroke. Very graphic.), and then a teacher is killed with red pens, Cole starts to panic. Another classmate is blinded by tampered with prescription eye drops, and the killings continue. When Cole finds his own Wikipedia page, he must figure out who is doing the killing before he comes to his own horrible end.
Strengths: Van Etten is a very clever writer. The first few chapters of the book had me snortling at the witty turns of phrase (From page 9 of the E ARC "Often Gavin displayed proof that the so-called fun had been had. Examples included: a neck brace, shaved eyebrows, or the dental impression of an alpaca on his butt."). He also writes very graphically gruesome deaths.
Weaknesses: Too gruesome for me. I can't stomach human-on-human violence. I was hoping this would take some fantastic turn and become R.L. Stine-like (Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes, say), but it didn't. The ending was a bit odd, and the book description includes things that did not appear in the ARC that I had.

I just don't see how death is amusing. Just don't.

Sandford, John and Cook, Michele. Uncaged (The Singular Menace #1)
July 22nd 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC from

This one wasn't as bad; decent mystery/action novel about animals abused in medical experimentation, but there was something about the style in which this was written, or the details, that just made this seem too... skeezy for middle school. It read more like an adult mystery. I felt like I needed to take a shower after reading it. (And yep, Sandford writes rather disturbing adult novels. He should converse with Harlan Coben and get some teen feedback, perhaps.)

Or it could just be me. For example, I get a little worried when I find out my 6th graders are reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, even if it is with their mothers. Just read this one before purchasing if you have tender readers.

"Shay Remby arrives in Hollywood with $58 and a handmade knife, searching for her brother, Odin.

Odin’s a brilliant hacker but a bit of a loose cannon. He and a group of radical animal-rights activists hit a Singular Corp. research lab in Eugene, Oregon. The raid was a disaster, but Odin escaped with a set of highly encrypted flash drives and a post-surgical dog.

When Shay gets a frantic 3 a.m. phone call from Odin—talking about evidence of unspeakable experiments, and a ruthless corporation, and how he must hide—she’s concerned. When she gets a menacing visit from Singular’s security team, she knows: her brother’s a dead man walking.

What Singular doesn’t know—yet—is that 16-year-old Shay is every bit as ruthless as their security force, and she will burn Singular to the ground, if that’s what it takes to save her brother."

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