Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The League of Unexceptional Children

24819554Daneshvari, Gitty. The League of Unexceptional Children
October 20th 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 
E ARC from Netgalley.com

Jonathan and Shelley are so nondescript in the overachieving neighborhood of Evanston, Virginia, that everyone in their school assumes they are the "new kids" every time they see them. When they are brought to the school office by the nurse, they meet a shadowy man, Mr. Hammett, who tells them that they are going to become spies and save the vice president, who has been kidnapped and could give away top secret security codes. The two children don't feel prepared enough to be spies, especially when they are kidnapped. Is The League of Unexceptional Children real? Is it actually working for the good of the country? Apparently yes, and Jonathan and Shelley soldier on trying to avert disaster. They manage to succeed, against the odds, and are brought to the attention of the British prime minister, who most likely will have an assignment for them in another book.

Strengths: This is a short, fast paced read with a nice twist on spy stories. The cover is appealing, and young readers might find this amusing as they imagine themselves on assignment with the main characters.

Weaknesses: There's a lot of description of things that aren't essential to the story (Jonathan's kooky parents) but not enough to establish a believable back story for the children to become spies. This is done more successfully in Rylander's Codename Zero and in Gibbs' Spy School.

Verdict:I found the writing in this to be... odd. Occasionally, there would be a film noir feel to the dialogue, but for the most part, both Jonathan and Shelley were rather quirkily annoying. I will not be purchasing, but I can see this being popular with fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society or Cody's Powerless

The Fate of Ten (I am Number Four #6)Lore, Pittacus. The Fate of Ten (Lorien Legacies #6)
September 1st 2015 by HarperCollins
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

This story unfolds on two fronts, marked by two different typefaces: John Smith and Sam are in New York, trying to hold out against the Mogs with the help of a human with legacy like powers, Danielle. Five has taken Nine hostage, and all appears to be lost in the city. In the Mayan jungle, Adam, Marina and Six have a skimmer that has been sabotaged by Phiri Dun-Ra, a Mog who has also caused some of the chimaeras to be injured, but Adam refuses to stoop to her level and kill her. In the meantime, Ella talks to John telepathically and takes him on a virtual tour of the space ship Anubis, which the evil Setrakus Ra intends to take to the Mayan jungle in order to destroy the Sanctuary, where the Lorien power seems to be seated. After this, John's presence is requested by Agent Walker, so he and Sam and Danielle go to a refugee camp to meet her. Apparently, the secretary of defense who was aiding the Mogs is dead, and the MogPro sympathetic government is gone. Walker wants to help John, but gives him just 48 hours to win the war. The major fighting is moving to Mexico, but John has to deal with Five, who has injured Nine, but who is also badly injured himself and needs John to heal him. After talking with Sam, Adam realizes that Ella must be killed before Setrakus Ra can be, but the group plans to rescue Ella and steal the Anubis. In the midst of their planning, Sarah and Mark arrive on the Loric ship that brought John to earth. Even with some back up, can the group fight Setrakus Ra and survive? Clearly, not all of the characters will.

This is a hugely popular series in my library, and it's easy to see why: there is a lot of fighting, things blow up on a regular basis, and despite the violent nature of many of the injuries, the Loric powers can heal the injured so that they can get up and fight again. Invading space aliens are never a sympathetic foe, and many of them are blasted to ash in New York City, which is an excellent place to be if one needs to hide in the subway from the aliens!

There are some interesting characters, such as Adam, who is a Mog but has gone over to the side of the humans. I don't have a very good memory for the other books in this series, so I am sure I am missing some of the romance and changing alliances, but I enjoyed the fact that the characters interacted on one level until their allegiances were challenged. Personally, I would have done in Phiri, but Adam clearly had some moral objection to hurting her the way she had hurt others.

The telepathic communication that Ella is capable of, as well as Danielle emergent power to deflect enemies and Sam's telekinesis are all interesting. What middle grade reader doesn't want to have some sort of super power, especially if it can be used to fight aliens.

Readers of dystopian fiction like Grant's Gone series, as well as books like Dashner's The Eye of Minds and even spy stories like Horowitz's Stormbreaker, will find The Fate of Ten to be an action packed addition to a popular series.

That said, I didn't appreciate that there was one f-word buried deep in the book, on page 363. It was completely gratuitous and out of place in a novel that has great appeal to middle grade readers. Also, I was very confused as to why one of the chimaera was named Bernie Kosar. I actually went to high school with Bernie, and his sister Beth's locker was right next to mine!

Verdict: I personally hate this series, but the first book was in the Battle of the Books, so I had to buy it. My students adore it. I reviewed this for Young Adult Books Central so I wouldn't have to pay for a copy. 

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