Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Dark Energy/ The Dark Knight

25816859Wells, Robison. Dark Energy. 
March 29th 2016 by HarperTeen
ARC from Young Adult Books Central

Alice's father is an important NASA researcher, so when an enormous space ship crash lands in the Midwest, killing a large number of people, he is sent to investigate. Because he will be working long hours, and Alice's mother (who was an enrolled member of the Navajo) is deceased, he enrolls her in exclusive Minnetonka School for the Gifted and Talented so that she can be near him and not too far from her grandmother. She settles in fairly well, enjoys her two science loving roommates, as well as the amusing Kurt, but watches with horror as the drama with the spaceship unfolds. Originally, the ship was thought to hold 130,000 aliens, but only a few Guides come out, including Mai, who seems to be the leader. His children are Coya and Suski, who look very much like pale humans, and they are also enrolled at Minnetonka. Armed with translators, they quickly learn the ways of humans, and Alice comes to think of them as friends. At one point, Alice and her friends are allowed to explore the ship, and find some very disturbing scenes. This, along with the fact that genetically Coya and Suski seem to be descended from the Anasazi/Ancestral Puebloan people and their language is connected to Keresan, makes Alice wonder about the origins of the Guides. When a huge secret is revealed, there are bigger problems, and Alice and her friends go on the run to try to save themselves as well as Coya and Suski. 

I knew right away that this book would run into problems. Debbie Reese does not recommend it.

That said, I loved the huge plot twist-- I probably should have seen it coming, but completely did not! It ties in beautifully with Alice's heritage, and the fact that she and her friends go to her grandmother's home in New Mexico brings in more details about Navajo life. It is rare to see First Nations people in fantasy or science fiction books, and the author has a note at that back about the lengths to which he went to make sure the details met with the approval of tribal members he knows. 

The atmosphere of being in an exclusive, remote private school and having a cataclysmic event happen is very appealing, and even readers who don't necessarily want to read about aliens will be intrigued by the book because of it. Alice's father is from a wealthy east coast family, so she drives a very expensive car, and while she has lived mainly in Florida and gone to public school, she does well at making friends immediately. 

The aliens in the book are well done, and even the fact that they look human is addressed with humor. The technology to help them learn language is believable, and the things they enjoy and do not enjoy about US teen life are amusing. 

Readers of Jeff Hirsch's and Veronica Roth's dystopian books will enjoy this, as will readers who have watched too many books about alien invasions! Anyone who has read Falkner's The Assault will know that you have to be careful when aliens come to our planet-- not only can't you give them just a tiny bit of Australia, you have to be cautious if they want to set up tent cities in Minnesota! This is a fantastic choice for any reader who has an interest in life forms other than our own.

25779116Marsham, Liz. Movie Flip Book (Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice)
February 16th 2016 by Scholastic Inc.  
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

To go along with the Batman Vs. Superman movie, here is a companion volume that delineates both the origins of Batman and Superman. Using stills from the movie and simple text, the back stories of the two superheroes are covered separately. Each has plenty of attention given not only to his origin story, but to the genesis and extent of his powers. Metropolis and its problems are discussed in Superman's section, and the troubles facing Gotham City are addressed in the section about Batman. The fact that Metropolis was the center of a Kryptonian invasion, which was thwarted by Superman, is covered as well, and some doubt is thrown on Superman's ability to fight on the side of good. The center of the book has a poster of the two superheroes facing off. 

There have been many retellings of both of these stories, so it's not surprising that a new one is in order to coincide with the new movie. I liked the fact that nothing was left out of the backstories-- Superman's included information about the Kents finding him and raising him in a small town, and Batman's included the story of his parents being shot and Alfred raising him at the Wayne mansion. This is a very good overview of both stories, and young readers who might want to see the movie because "all of their friends are going" will benefit from having the information. 

The formatting of the pages is very clean and clear-- stills from the movie are offset with a brief description, often highlighted by a white background that makes the text stand out from the pictures. There are headings for each section, and the right amount of information to make each topic understandable. I have many struggling readers who adore superheroes, and this seems to be written with them in mind. 

The movie looks a little violent for my taste, so this book might also be a good way to get younger readers up to speed on the story without having them actually see the movie!

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