Tag Archives: science fiction

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies (Uglies, #1)

Bibliographic information: Uglies. Scott Westerfeld. Simon Pulse, 2005. $9.99. 425p. ISBN-13:  9781-416936381.
Summary:  Fifteen year old Tally lives on the Uglies side, but once she turns sixteen she will be able to get plastic surgery like all other sixteen year olds and then she can live on the Pretty side. Her best friend has already been made pretty and is living on the Pretty side, so she is feeling kind of lonely. Then she meets a new friend, Shay, who says she doesn’t want to be made pretty and is planning on running away to the Smoke, an abandoned town on the outside. Tally is struggling to choose between her new best friend and becoming pretty. When Shay talks Tally into coming with her to the Smoke, Tally learns a whole new side to becoming pretty. When they do the cosmetic surgery to make you pretty, they also do a lobotomy on you so that you are no longer the same person you were before, and nobody remembers it. Now that Tally knows she wants to run away, but the Special Forces are on to her and things get heated.
Reading level and interest level: RL: age 12 and up IL: grade 6 and up
Review: This is a futuristic dystopian science fiction novel. There are two kinds of people in Westerfeld’s Uglies novel and that is ugly people and pretty people. And they don’t even generally live together. Once you turn sixteen you get to go under a cosmetic operation and be pretty afterward, however the down side to this is they also do a lobotomy on you to dumb you down so you are not the same person you were before. Becoming ‘pretty’ is what everybody wants, except for Shay, Tally’s new best friend. Tally can either follow Shay into the Smoke and stay ‘ugly’ or turn Shay in to the authorities and become ‘pretty’ like everyone else. However, circumstance change after Tally meets David, an ugly outsider, who fills her in and changes her mind about becoming pretty. Westerfeld does a great job on highlighting government conspiracies and the evils of Big Brother as well as urging people to be individuals and not conforming to a standard uniformity. Just because other people may do it doesn’t mean you should do it, personal free will is a gift that should be used. Also, you shouldn’t judge people by how they look.
Readers’ annotation: At age 16 you get to become drop dead gorgeous and go live with the Pretties. Instead of becoming pretty Tally decides to run away.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book does a wonderful job of showing young adults that they should not worry about looks and should instead look inside a person before they judge them. Almost every teen worries about how they look and after reading this book they will better understand that looks are not always the most important thing about a person.
Issues present: The heavy positive emphasis on plastic surgery and judgment on people’s’ looks could easily be objected to in this novel. The plastic surgery issue could go either way, people could be offended that Westerfeld made it look so good, or that he made it seem so terrible in the end. Such things could influence young minds, however, teens know what they want and can make their own choices without a book. Besides Westerfeld does not overtly say that plastic surgery is good or bad. It just is.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Tally’s character.
Ugly and pretty, those are the only types of people around.
Could becoming pretty really be that bad? Tally didn’t think so, until she met Shay.
Genre or subject: Science fiction: dystopian
Readalikes: Bumped, Crossed, Possession, Divergent
Author’s website: http://scottwesterfeld.com/
Awards: South Carolina Book Award Nominee for Young Adult Book Award (2008), Georgia Peach Honor Book Award (2008), Abraham Lincoln Award (2007)
Reviews:  Booklist: http://www.booklistonline.com/Uglies-Scott-Westerfeld/pid=235325; School Library Journal: http://bookverdict.com/details.xqy?uri=Product-62134443832648.xml; Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-689-86538-1; Kirkus Review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/scott-westerfeld/uglies/
Why I chose it: The concept of this book sounded interesting and I thought it would add a great book to my collection.

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Clockwork, or, All Wound Up by Philip Pullman

Clockwork

Bibliographic information: Clockwork, or, All Wound Up. Philip Pullman. Scholastic, 1996. $5.99. 144p. ISBN-13:  9780439856232.
Summary:  In the old day in Germany an apprentice clockmaker named Karl, an innkeeper’s daughter named Gretl, and a writer named Fritz start the gears turning on the story of Clockwork. The townspeople gather the night before the unveiling of the new figure for the town clock, although, Karl has failed to make the figure. Fritz reads his latest story about a local aristocrat, Prince Otto and his son, Prince Florian. When Prince Otto dies on a hunting trip his heart is replaced by clockwork that helps him find his way home. Fritz is at a loss for an ending. However, his story starts to come true when the evil Dr. Kalmenius comes to the tavern, leaving Fritz to run in fright. The Dr. offers Karl a clockwork figure named Sir Ironsoul and Karl accepts.
Reading level and interest level: RL: age 10 and up IL: age 12 and up
Review: This is a haunting tale of a writers made up story that ends up becoming a true nightmare. Fritz never expected to see one of the characters from his story in flesh and blood, but when Dr. Kalmenius walks through the door of the tavern, he can’t believe it and runs in terror. Accepting Ironsoul for his apprentice’s clockwork piece was a bad move for Karl. Gretl, in an act of unselfishness saves Ironsoul from death. All of the stories of the characters start to come together to form one story and when they meet in the end it is not what you were expecting at all. This fast-paced nightmare of a tale represents the sacrifices that humanity has taken with becoming mechanical, quite well. You could read it several times over.
Readers’ annotation: What started out as a bedtime story, turns into a real life nightmare.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: We have all had to sacrifice one thing or another in our lives, whether it be small or large, and it is not an easy thing to do. This book lends readers insight into the sacrifices, the good and the bad ones. It lets them know that they are not the only ones who have had to sacrifice something in their lives.
Issues present: This book is quite scary and it has violence. Some people might be against these topics. However, children use such topics in books to help them cope this these things in their daily lives.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce individual characters.
What if the story you thought was fiction became real?
Genre or subject: Science fiction: steampunk
Readalikes: Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Graveyard Book, Leviathan, The Girl in the Steel Corset, Soulless
Author’s website: http://www.philip-pullman.com/
Awards: Whitbread Award Nominee for Children’s Book (1996), School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (1998), New York Public Library Best Book of the Year (1998)
Reviews:  Booklist: http://www.booklistonline.com/Clockwork-Philip-Pullman/pid=379878; School Library Journal: http://bookverdict.com/details.xqy?uri=Product-8999500.xml; Kirkus Review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/philip-pullman-2/clockwork-2/
Why I chose it: This book looked incredibly interesting and I discovered that it was very eery and then wanted to add it to my collection.

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A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time (Time, #1)

Bibliographic information: A Wrinkle in Time. Madeline L’Engle. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1962. $6.99. 211p. ISBN-13:  9780312367541.
Summary:  Meg Murry is seen as a troublesome kid by her classmates and her teachers, but her parents she her as a little girl capable of great things. Her mother and father are scientist, her twin ten-year old bothers are athletes, and her five-year old brother, Charles Wallace, is a genius, however, her father is missing in action. One dark and stormy night, the Murry’s are visited by a Mrs. Whatsit, who comes in to dry her feet. Mrs. Whatsit tells Mrs. Murry that the “tesseract” is real, causing her to almost faint with disbelief. The next day Meg discovers the tesseract is a scientific concept that her father was working with before he went missing. Meg, Charles Wallace, and a friend, Calvin, venture out to hopefully find Meg’s father.
Reading level and interest level: RL: age 10 and up IL: age 9 and up
Review: This beautifully written novel is the winner of the Newbery Medal of 1963, among other awards and nominees. Meg Murry, Charles Wallace Murry, and Calvin O’Keefe are wonderful characters that grow and evolve throughout the book. They are brave, intelligent, and sincere characters that can either stand alone or work as a group. The worlds L’Engle has created are artfully crafted from elements of fantasy and science fiction the mingle into a whole new experience that will keep your mind reeling from beginning to end. Children will love the adventure and creative creatures who inhabit the various planets Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin visit. The adventure doesn’t end here, look for the sequels.
Readers’ annotation: Her father has gone missing and now Meg must travel through time and space to find him. What kinds of creatures will she meet on her travels?
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book sends the message that if you put your mind to it, you can overcome any obstacle. Meg leads us on a quest of finding out who she is and how she can help others in the world. She started out not able to focus with her studies, but turned out to be able to focus her skills she did have and use them productively. Teens who have trouble focusing in school will see this character and be able to understand that they are not alone, others have the same problem, but there are ways to get passed it.
Issues present: This book has been challenges countless times since it was published in 1962. People thought that it was not appropriate for the age group. There is some violence and even some manipulation. Also, people either felt that it was overtly religious or anti-religious depending on how you looked at it. And the supernatural creatures were seen as satanic. Children are very resilient and a book like this opens the imagination and helps them cope with parts of their lives that they have a hard time explaining.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Meg, Calvin and Charles Wallace’s characters.
Talk about travel through time and space.
A land of many creatures…
Genre or subject: Science fiction and fantasy: supernatural monsters, religion
Readalikes: The Golden Compass, The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland
Author’s website: http://www.madeleinelengle.com/
Awards: Newbery Medal (1963), Sequoyah Book Award (1965)
Reviews:  Kirkus Reviews: http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/madeline-lengle/wrinkle-time-lengle/
Why I chose it: This book is a classic and has been challenged many times over the years. It is a great addition to anybody’s collection.

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The Line by Teri Hall

The Line (The Line, #1)

Bibliographic information: The Line. Terri Hall. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2010. $16.99. 224p. ISBN-13:  9780803734661.
Summary:  Rachel lives with her mother on The Property owned by Ms. Moore, who grows and sells orchids for a living. The Property skirts the Line, put in place by the government after an atomic attack on the Unified States. The Line acts as the border between Away, a place where nobody is allowed to come or go, and the Unified States. The Line is patrolled by guards at all times, except out at The Property because nobody really visits there. Rachel thought she was safe living at Ms. Moore’s estate, but she couldn’t be more wrong. After going into town with her mother and witnessing an Identification she discovers the truth about her mother and father’s past. She then finds a recorded message next to the Line asking for help. Now she is left with an incredibly hard decision to make and she must make it fast to survive herself and help others.
Reading level and interest level: RL: grade 7 and up IL: age 12 and up
Review: This is a wonderfully captivating book that will keep you wanting more. After discovering some horrible information from her parents’ past, Rachel is faced with the decision of her life. She must decide if she should cross the Line, an invisible border between Away and the Unified States. Nobody enters Away and nobody comes back from it, there are a lot of horror stories circulating about Away. Rachel is both frightened and interested in what she will find in Away. Hall had me hooked from the beginning. She adequately captures a normal teenager who is then faced with a troubling decision. Her straightforward language of a teenager will help young readers get interested in the science fiction genre. And when they reach the cliff-hanger at the end they won’t be able to wait for the next book.
Readers’ annotation: Nobody is allowed to cross the Line. Nobody knows what is on the other side of the Line. Some say dangerous creatures lurk out there. Rachel is about to find out what nobody else knows.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book has the fear of the unknown. A lot of children fear what is unknown and this book is a great way for them to gain a little experience and perspective on the subject so that they may be less afraid after reading it.
Issues present: This book portrays the government as bad and corrupt and there is a fair amount of violence. Also, there is mention of people who have special powers and they are considered evil and dangerous. People may see these as things that children should avoid. People do not want their children reading about corrupt governments and violence, and some religious people would feel strongly about people having powers. However, they need to understand that children already understand about corruption and that violence is a real part of the world. Also, they understand that this book is fiction and people really do not have any special powers.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Rachel’s character.
Talk about the fear of the unknown.
Genre or subject: Science fiction: dystopian
Readalikes:  The Giver, Possession, Crossed, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Ship Breaker
Author’s website: http://www.terihall.com/
Awards: Children’s Choice Book Award (2011), YALSA Best Fiction Nominee for Young Adults (2011), YALSA Quick Pick Nominee for Reluctant Readers
Reviews:  School Library Journal: http://bookverdict.com/details.xqy?uri=Product-3067006.xml; Booklist: http://www.booklistonline.com/The-Line-Teri-Hall/pid=3787425; Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-8037-3466-1; Kirkus Review: http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/teri-hall/the-line/
Why I chose it: This book looked incredibly interesting and it seemed like a nice twist on the dystopian genre.

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The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)

Bibliographic information: The Maze Runner. James Dashner. Delacorte Press, 2009. $16.99. 375p. ISBN-13:  978-0385737944.
Summary:  Thomas woke up in a black box with no memory as to who he was except for his first name. When the black box finally opens he is surrounded by a bunch of other boys about around the same age, not a girl in site. The other boys eventually explain to him that they have no memories either and woke up in this strange place they call the Glade. Upon inspection, Thomas discovers that the Glade is in the middle of a ginormous maze will walls that tower over the Glade. The Glade has everything they need to live, but they have Runners who go out into the maze every day and draw maps so that they can hopefully solve it and leave. Turns out the walls move every day, so it is really hard to solve and at night grievers come out, deadly creatures that are half mechanical half animal. The day after Thomas arrives the black box brings another person. This has never happened before, things run like clockwork in the Glade. When the doors open and there is a girl inside things start to go downhill from there. The end is near.
Reading level and interest level: RL: 12 and up IL: 11 and up
Review: Harrowing yet hopeful, this dystopian novel is packed with thrilling and suspenseful moments that will captivate the minds of young readers. After being thrown into a deathly dangerous maze and made to take part in these trials, Thomas must take action and think quick to survive. This is a fast paced thriller with tons of unexpected twists, from things such as the grievers, part mechanical and part animal, to a girl showing up in the Glade spouting that it’s the end. Each character is has their unique task they are appointed throughout the trials, but they don’t necessarily stick and seem to jump around from character to character at will. It is written in a narrative with a focus on Thomas, the main protagonist and hero of this story. Don’t be too quick to fall in love with any character because you never know what might happen to them in this hazardous adventure. This book discusses the age-old question of whether it is okay to sacrifice the few for the many and Thomas’s belief on this subject seems to change as the story continues. With a lot of action, intrigue, unanswered questions, and possibly a little love, this story is begging for a sequel.
Readers’ annotation: The Gladers live inside a giant maze with moving walls, until Thomas shows up and then everything falls apart. Who is Thomas and how does he fit into it all?
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: Everybody fears death and most people fear zombies. This book has both of these things and reading it will be a great way for children to fight these fears safely. They will be able to understand the zombies are not real and everybody faces death eventually in their life and there is nothing to fear by these things. The violence in books can be used as a coping tool for children to help them deal with the violence in their own lives.
Issues present: Children are being killed left and right by random horrific events. There is lots of violence and anger. And there are zombie-like creatures. But children have to understand that deaths do occur and not just to adults. Everybody feels angry at times and may have violent tendencies, generally they can hold them back. As for the zombie-like creatures they are great examples of monsters that children fear and will act as agents to help children fight their fears of monsters safely.
Booktalk ideas: Describe the maze and the boys trapped inside.
Introduce Thomas’ character – can’t remember anything except his first name, P 1: all the way down to “That…that was the only thing he could remember about his life.”
P 125: “With a click and a clack…” to the end of page – Matt coming face-to-face with a griever for the first time. Attention grabber.
Genre or subject: Science Fiction: dystopian, post-apocalyptic
Readalikes:  The Hunger Games, Ship Breaker, The House of the Scorpion, Incarceron, Divergent, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Giver
Author’s website: http://www.jamesdashner.com/
Awards: Georgia Peach Book Award (2012), Romantic Times (RT) Reviewers’ Choice Award Nominee for Best Young Adult Paranormal/Fantasy Novel (2009), Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee (2011), YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (2011), Kentucky Bluegrass Award for grades 9-12 (2011)
Reviews:  School Library Journal: http://bookverdict.com/details.xqy?uri=Product-1968266.xml
Why I chose it: I chose this book for my blog because I think that it is one of the best dystopian novels since The Giver. I am highly obsessed with dystopian novels.

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The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Bibliographic information: The House of the Scorpion. Nancy Farmer. Athenium Books for Young Readers, 2002. $19.45. 380p. ISBN-13:  978-0689852220.
Summary:  In the future where clones are harvested for their organs, Matteo (Matt) Alacran is such a clone of the drug-lord Matteo Alacran, known as El Patron. He was raised in an isolated cabin far out in the opium fields by a chef, Celia, from the Alacran estate. One day when Matt, six years old now, is home alone he hears children outside, he has never seen other children before. Matt knows he is not supposed to show himself, but curiosity gets the better of him and he goes to the window. Unfortunately the kids see him and try to talk to him. This leads to them coming back the next day and doing the same. Matt ends up breaking the window and jumping out so that he can join them, but he ends up cutting his legs, hands, and feet quite badly on the glass. The kids rush him to the estate to get him a doctor, but when the adults discover who he is they throw him outside and later locked in a cell and treated like an animal for three months after that. When El Patron discovers the condition of his clone and is furious. Afterword, Matt is living like royalty, but still seen as an animal by others. The good life does not last long for Matt and soon his dreams are destroyed and his life is threatened.
Reading level and interest level: RL: 12 and up IL: 12 and up
Review: This is a captivating novel that is sure to grab the attention of teen readers. Matt is a complex character with a personality that will you will have a hard time not liking. He starts out a bit naive, but compassionate, and turns into a strong-willed, intelligent boy. All of the other characters lend in creating a colorful cast for this novel. Farmer does a magnificent job of laying out the setting and creating a desolate feel to the story that you can only hope will get better. This book brings up a great topic of discussion on cloning and cloning rights. Matt is treated like an animal by everybody because he is a clone. Clones are only grown so that who ever they are the clone for can use them to harvest their organs or other body parts. Is it really okay to bring a being into the world for the full use of harvesting them? Do clones deserve the same rights as non-clones, or since they are a science specimen do they not get those rights? This is a tough one, and I think Farmer does a great job of voicing her own opinion on the matter. She also brings up the topic of harvesting opium that could generate a great discussion as well. A great read that comes highly recommended.
Readers’ annotation: Matt doesn’t know it yet, but he was cloned solely to have his organs harvested to help his donor live for another 50 years
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: There is a lot of abuse and violence happening to Matt in this story and children will be able to read this book and use it as a coping mechanism for fighting their own terrors in life.
Issues present: This book has cloning, opium harvesting, and what might be seen as child abuse. However, it does a standup job of describing human ethics and human nature that children will be able to understand and take note of what not to do with similar situations. Also, it could create a great discussion on the ethical values of cloning.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Matt’s character. –
P 43: “The days passed with agonizing slowness, followed by nights of misery.” to the end of the page. – Matt’s life in prison.
P 230: Matt’s struggle to escape his death.
Genre or subject: Science fiction: dystopian, clones
Readalikes:  The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, The Giver
Author’s website: http://www.nancyfarmerwebsite.com/
Awards: National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (2002), Newbery Honor (2003), Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Children’s Literature (2003), Buxtehuder Bulle (2003), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee (2005) Printz Honor (2003), South Carolina Book Award for Junior Book Award (2006), Grand Canyon Reader Award for Teen Book (2005), Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award for Senior (2005), Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award Nominee (2003), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2003), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2008)
Reviews:  Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-689-85222-0
Why I chose it: Somebody highly recommended it to me and after reading it thought it would be a great addition to my collection.

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Filed under Anger/Violence, Death, Dystopias, Toxic parents and teachers

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty Queens

Bibliographic information: Beauty Queens. Libba Bray. Scholastic Press, 2011. $18.99. 396p. ISBN-13:  978-0439895972.
Summary: The beauty queens this year are flying to their destination for the pageant. Expect, what do you know, the plane crashes on a deserted island out in the middle of the ocean and they have no way of contacting anyone. Everybody had died in the crash expect for a handful of beauty queens and one of them has a dinner trey sticking out of her head. Instead of giving up in despair, Miss Texas takes charge as leader and puts the girls to work in staying in shape for the contest, that is surely still going to take place once they are rescued. What the beauty queens don’t know is that on the other side of the island is a secret U. S. Government conclave hiding out in the volcano housing a stash of illegal weapons ready for trade. While the girls practice their dance moves, the government agents are planning to murder them, but the beauty queens are sadly underestimated.
Reading level and interest level: RL: 12 and up IL: grade 8 and up
Review: This laugh-filled novel is an adventure into the world of beauty queens, after they crash on an island. This is a novel that mocks and makes fun of the world of beauty queens and everything that is feminine. The format of this novel only adds to the humor and fun of the story. There are commercial breaks, contestant fact sheets, footnotes, and radio broadcasts. Bray creatively added reality TV shows and celebrity statuses that the beauty queens discuss from time to time and refer to for comparisons often, such as the hot shirtless, pirates who are also in a band. Instead of falling apart when they crash on the island, the beauty queens use their “can do” attitude to survive, curling irons and heels make great weapons and apparently Lady Stash Off can be made into a bomb. Bray boldly makes cracks at our single-minded, consumer-driven, appearance zealous, media drenched society that will leave you laughing for hours. Conformity is an issue Americans fall victim to every day, especially the young.
Readers’ annotation: Beauty queens stranded on a deserted island and running low on beauty products. How will they survive?
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book does a great job on showing teens that they do not need to conform to society and they should not get pulled into consumerism. They should have a mind of their own, not be one of the sheep in a row. It also does a great job on expressing sexuality and letting young adults know that it is okay to do so and they do not need to hold themselves back.
Issues present: There is plenty dismissed death, some expressions of sexuality, homosexuality, and crude language. However, none of these things are new to children. They are all a part of life and it should be okay to express your sexuality or be homosexual. Crude language is used often by teens. There is also some violence that might be objected, but censoring children from it prevents them feeling fear and fear is a good survival technique. Censoring children from things that are natural hinders their development and holds them back from living up to their full potential.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce the beauty queens who survived.
A plane full of beauty queens just crashed on a deserted island! And it was all a hoax.
Read one of the many commercial adds.
Genre or subject: Science Fiction: dystopian, death, sexuality, beauty pageant
Readalikes:  Lord of the Flies, Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Ship Breaker
Author’s website: http://libbabray.com/
Awards: Audie Award for Narration by the Author or Authors; Audie Award Nominee for Teens (2012), Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Young Adult Literature (2011), Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Books of the Year (2011)
Reviews:  Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-439-89597-2; Booklist: http://www.booklistonline.com/Beauty-Queens-Libba-Bray/pid=4766141; Kirkus Reviews: http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/libba-bray/beauty-queens/
Why I chose it: This is an absolutely hilarious novel that I highly recommend to all young adults. The ads are one of the best parts. I couldn’t pass up using this novel for my collection.

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Filed under Anger/Violence, Death, Dystopias