Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu



3.5 Stars smallpurplestarsmallpurplestarsmallpurplestar

Lucy has spent her entire life keeping secrets.  Growing up, she never could have friends over.  If only her mom were normal, and their house wasn’t so disgusting and so out-of-control.  Now that Lucy is becoming more popular at school, and she has a hot guy interested in her for the first time, she knows she won’t be able to keep hiding her lifestyle from her friends much longer.  Her mom was a hoarder.  She kept buying more and more junk, letting everything pile up – while important bills were left unpaid.  Living without her mom might just be Lucy’s solution….right?  When tragedy strikes, Lucy finds herself in the position of covering everything up – including her mother’s sudden death….

Wonder by R.J. Palacio


ImageImageImage   3.5 Stars

Auggie knew he was different.  Born with severe facial deformities, he was used to the stares, the pointing, and the looks of horror and disgust from others.  At least Auggie had the love, support, and protection of his family. 

Now things are changing.  Auggie will be attending a public school for the first time.  For the most part, the students at Beecher Prep treat Auggie like an outcast and a freak.  Can Auggie show his classmates that he is a regular kid just like them?  Or should he just give up on ever having a “normal” life?

Ungifted by Gordon Korman


ImageImageImage  3.5 Stars

Trouble-maker, prankster Donovan Curtis only wanted to pull a cool prank. He never meant to destroy the school’s treasured statue.  Now the Superintendent is determined to find the perpetrator! Donovan knows he needs to disappear quickly.

By freak accident, that is exactly what Donovan manages to do. Due to a computer error, Donovan’s name is included amongst the students who have been tested and are eligible to attend the prestigious Academy of Scholastic Distinction.  Despite Donovan making below average grades, he finds himself attending classes with the brightest students in the state and taking accelerated courses with a difficulty level way above Donovan’s capabilities.  A school for nerds!  How will Donovan – the world’s biggest goof – manage to fool everyone into thinking he is actually gifted?

To Donovan’s surprise, though his reason for being at the Academy was to avoid getting busted by the school district Superintendent, he finds himself actually wanting to be there.  The nerdy kids weren’t too bad.  Robotics class was cool and that Chloe chick was geeky chic and cute.  Being at the Academy wasn’t so bad after all…until the teachers being to question how Donovan EVER qualified to attend their gifted school.  Will Donovan be able to convince everyone this is where he now belongs?

Variant by Robison Wells


4 Stars – 4redstars


Benson thought he had finally hit the jackpot.  Now was his chance to leave his latest foster home and actually stay in one place long enough to make friends.  He would be the popular football quarterback and finally find a great girlfriend.  The world seemed nearly perfect since Benson had learned he was the recipient of a full scholarship to attend the prestigious Maxfield Academy.  The campus was beautiful.  Instead of cafeteria meals, students chose entrees that rivaled five star restaurants.  Physical education included paint ball wars.  The hot redhead Jane already seemed to like him.

What first seemed like the perfect dream to Benson, however, quickly turned into a nightmare.  Where are the teachers?  The adults?

Students must always wear monitoring devices.  Once there, students can never leave. There are no adults to punish the students who break the rules – it’s the other students who dole out the punishments.  Students teach the classes, cook all the meals, clean the facilities, and run the entire school.  Students also make sure everyone follows their rules or else they will pay.

Detention doesn’t mean staying after school.  Detention means death.  Benson knew he must do the impossible – gain the students’ trust, prepare an escape plan, and stay alive.


All Stars Book Blogs

All Star Book Reviews

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Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty


4 stars

Criminal or kid?  Murderer or misunderstood? 


 In this graphic novel based on a true story,  eleven-year-old Roger tells about the life of his classmate Robert, a young boy nicknamed Yummy.  Yummy, like many other kids in the inner city, never had a real childhood.  He was taken away from his abusive drug addict mother at a young age and lived with his elderly grandmother.  His grandmother loved Yummy, but with 19 others living with her, she had little money or time to give him.  Yummy could come and go as he pleased and often  did – leaving his home for days at a time.  Before long Yummy found a place he could belong – where he would be taken care of if he just followed their orders and proved his worth.  Yummy joined the Black Disciples, the same gang the narrator’s brother, Gary, belonged to.  


Yummy begins his venture as a member of one of Chicago’s toughest gangs with a petty crime spree – shoplifting, fighting, breaking and entering, and stealing cars.  Yummy never planned on killing anyone – despite having been given a gun by his gang.  He only meant to scare away a few rival gang members hanging in their ‘hood.  When Yummy fires his gun as a warning to others, the stray bullet hits and kills a sweet, innocent young girl who was only sitting outside her apartment.


Suddenly, Yummy is on the run –  an 11 year old boy now wanted for murder.  Yummy trusted his gang to take care for him, and he couldn’t understand why everyone now hated him and wanted him captured.  He wasn’t a killer.  It was just a mistake.  Yummy would give anything to take it back and give the pretty young girl, Shavon, her life back…


Roger thinks he knows his classmate Yummy, but he suddenly realizes life is not white and black.  Yummy could be ruthless and mean, but he also was still just a lonely little kid who never had a chance for a good life.  When Yummy  is captured and killed – not by the police but by his own gang family-Roger realizes the young girl Shavon is not the only victim in this tragic turn of events.


A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park


4 Stars

A Long Walk to Water tells the true story of a young girl named Nya and a young boy named Salva, one of the lost boys of Sudan. The reader learns about life in war-torn Sudan – the fear, famine and dehydration, the desperation of the Sudanese as they are forced to flee their homes and walk thousands of miles through the hot desert in order to locate one the the refugee camps – where living conditions were also deplorable.

With the belief that his family has been killed, Salva is left alone and must fend for himself.  Though he walks with the others, he is not shown much mercy by the adults.  Silva loses his one friend to a lion who drags the young boy away at night.  Silva knows no matter how difficult things become, he must keep walking or die.  Despite his never-ending thirst, the blistering sand underneath his bare feet, and the gnawing, deep hunger which never goes away, Salva is determined to survive.

Eventually, Salva is chosen by American missionaries to come to America and be sponsored by an American family.  Salva is amazed by the luxuries America can afford him and decides he must return to Sudan in order to share his good fortune and to help his people.  It is during his first trip home where Salva learns his family is still alive, and his life intersects with the young Nya.      

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

5 Stars
In Quill, 13-year-olds were divided into two groups – the Wanted and Unwanted.  The Wanted were chosen to study at the University and if proven to be loyal and valuable to their government, were later selected to serve Justine, the powerful High Priestess of Quill.  The Unwanteds were the children who had been in trouble before, not followed the rules, or had shown at a young age the desire for creative expression.  These 13 year olds were “different” from the Wanted were deemed unworthy to live.  The Unwanteds were taken away from Quill and their families – eliminated and executed.  
Alex was chosen as one of the Unwanteds.  Taken from his family and his Wanted twin brother, Aaron, Alex knew his life was now over.  Once he arrives at the Death Farm, however, Alex learns he has a much better fate awaiting.  The Death Farm is actually a different society which is overseen by a kind man named Marcus Today.  Marcus has created a new world for the Unwanteds – one where magic and creativity abound.  The Unwanteds are allowed to be themselves here and to continue living in a world far from Quill – one which encouraged them to become the person they each wanted to be.  
Alex is relieved to have a second chance at life.  Instead of being truly happy, though, he finds himself constantly thinking of his twin, Aaron.  He knew Aaron would love living there with his brother if only given the chance. Determined to learn magic and find a way to reach out to his brother and “rescue” Aaron from the tyranny and oppression which existed in Quill, Alex finds a way to transport himself back to Quill. Instead of a happy reunion where Alex shares with his twin Aaron the secret wonderful, magical world which exists beyond Quill’s walls, Alex learns his brother is not who he seemed to be.  Aaron only cares for himself and has his own ruthless quest for power.  He will betray his friends and sacrifice his own twin to prove his loyalty to Justine.
Alex has now exposed the Death Farm to Quill.  The secret world and escape for the Unwanteds will be destroyed unless the government of Quill is defeated.  The Unwanteds must prepare for battle in order to protect and defend their world. The young teens know the odds may be against them as they prepare to fight against trained soldiers – and even worse, many will be forced to fight their own former friends and family, the Wanteds who watched them be sent away to die – in order for the Unwanted to continue living.
A great page turner!

Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon

3.5 Stars

     Ella was used to being the outsider.  All the students at her school were white, and some teased her for her discolored facial skin, calling her “Camo.”  Z was the only friend she could count on.  Sure Z was strange.  He usually wouldn’t respond unless you called him Agent Z, and he frequently lived in a fantasy world.  Z was always a little different, but he really began acting strange after his father left his family.  Ella didn’t care, though.  Z was always there for her and accepted Ella just as she was.  Ella didn’t think anything would ever change until the new boy moved into town.
     Bailey was the new goodlooking African-American boy who transferred to Ella’s middle school.  Everyone wanted to be his friend.  Bailey, though, seemed most interested in becoming good friends with Ella.  Suddenly Ella belonged.  She sat at the cool table during lunch and started getting invitations to parties.  Though Ella never turned her back on Z, he suddenly seemed threatened by Ella’s new relationship.  
     Ella feels torn.  She enjoys feeling good about herself again but cannot forget Z’s loyalty and friendship.  Ella knew she would have to make a choice – choosing the friend she could always count on or the life she has always dreamed about…   

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans

Michael Vey knew he was different.  He was always teased and made fun of for his small size and the way he blinked his eyes when he was nervous.  Michael had Tourettes Syndrome.  That wasn’t the only thing that set him apart, though.  Michael also had special powers – a unusual but powerful gift that he had to keep hidden from others.  

Michael tries to keep his power a secret until he finally breaks and just can’t stand the abuse anymore.  After yet another beating by Jake and Wade, the school bullies, Michael unleashes a powerful electric shock at his tormentors.  Leaving them stunned and helpless as they lie on the ground in the front of their high school, Michael’s hands release strong electrical currents throughout their bodies like a tazer.  Michael knew they would never bother him or beat him up again.

Michael wasn’t alone with this happened.  Taylor, the impossibly beautiful and popular high school cheerleader, sees what happens.  Suddenly she wants to be Michael’s friend.  She, too, has a secret.  

Both Taylor and Michael have secret powers which set them apart from the other teens.  Together, they soon discover that they are part of an elite group of 17.  Seventeen teens who have unique abilities which give them the power to both save and destroy.  

Tayor and Michael are being hunted.  Someone knows about their talents.  He won’t stop until he captures them so he can ruthlessly use the electric teens in order to gain control – control of the 17 “Glows” and control of the entire world.

Nonstop action and excitement in this new series!

Somebody Everyone Listens To by Suzanne Supple

4.5 Stars

Retta Lee Jones knew she couldn’t stay in Starling.   She was a small town girl with big dreams.  Just like all the famous country stars who made it big before her, Retta knew she had what it took to be a singing sensation.  Leaving her best friend Brenda and her secret crush Bobby behind would be tough, but Retta was determined to live in Nashville and become a country signing legend.  

After high school graduation, Retta borrows her great-aunt’s car along with the money she had saved working all year, $500, and leaves her family and small town behind.  Music City isn’t kind to, Retta, though.  She gets mugged and beat up soon after arriving and finds herself homeless without any money or real friends there for support.  

Retta’s luck finally takes a turn when she finds a job and begins getting recognition for her singing talent.  When Retta’s Daddy calls her, though, to tell her that her mother has left him, Retta must make a choice.  Should she move back home to help her family and to be with the people she loved and trusted – or keep fighting to fulfill her dreams?

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer

4 Stars
      Foster McFee had big dreams.  She loved to cook, and she just knew one day she was destined to have her own baking show on the Food Network – just like her cooking idol, Sonny Kroll.  Foster had been whipping up her own delicious creations since she was four years old and got an Easy Bake oven of her own.  If only her dad were still alive, life could be pretty perfect for Foster and her mom Rayka.  He’d support Foster’s dreams and also help her mama become a country music singing sensation.

      Life wasn’t perfect, though, and Foster’s dad was never coming home.  Mama’s boyfriend Huck demanded that she call him Elvis. The King wanted everything his way but didn’t treat either Foster or her mother like queens.  When Huck’s angry outburst left Rayka with another black eye, she packed up their car with a few of their belongings and decided it was time for she and Foster to start a new life.
      They drove and drove until the car broke down in the tiny town of Culpepper  – the town which was to be Foster and Rayka’s new home.  Everyone here seemed to be a little different, have their own stories, and unfulfilled dreams of their own.  It wasn’t Hollywood and it wasn’t Nashville, but Rayka and Foster fit right in.  Suddenly the impossible seemed possible, and Foster was as happy as she was when her Daddy was still alive….that is, until Elvis showed up…..  

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herback

3.5 Stars

     Feldon knew he was weird.  His younger brother Andrew was obsessed with playing classical music on the piano.  His hippie mother, Jerri, insisted her children call her by her first name.  Feldon’s father had committed suicide when Feldon was only five years’ old.  Most of the kids at Feldon’s school teased him for being scrawny and for being different.  To make matters worse, Feldon’s best friend Gus was leaving for the summer and Jerri was making him take over his newspaper route.  Life wasn’t looking too great for the fifteen year old.

Most of the kids at Feldon’s school teased him for being scrawny and for being different.  To make matters worse, Feldon’s best friend Gus was now leaving for the summer and Jerri was making him take over his newspaper route.  Life wasn’t looking too great for the fifteen-year-old.

What starts out being a lame summer, however, turns out to be the best and worst summer of Feldon’s life.  Feldon discovers he does have a talent.  He’s fast.  He’s not just quick on his feet and a strong runner – he’s stupid fast.  It doesn’t take long for others to notice.  Coach Johnson wants him to play Varsity Football.  Though Feldon has never played in his life, his speed and agility make him a force to contend with.  No longer scrawny, Feldon has a huge growth spurt and is now over 6 feet tall.  Once he begins lifting weight, he becomes even bigger and much stronger than many of the other players on the team.
Suddenly, Feldon finds himself in a different world.  Several of the town’s popular high school athletes are now his best friends.  The most beautiful girl in the world,   Aleah, has moved into his friend Gus’s house for the summer.  Despite Feldon’s goofiness, she wants to be his girlfriend.

Everything is close to being perfect until Jerri loses it.  She begins drinking, hiding in her room, refusing to take care of herself or her family.  Andrew has even stopped playing the piano and starts dressing in black – acting as loony as their mother.  Felton just has to keep going.  He lies to himself that things will get better. 

Soon Feldon is unable to keep running – he has to face his problems at home even if he may lose the new better life he has created for himself.

The Night She Disappeared by April Henry

 4.5 Stars

“It should have been me….”  

Gabie never knew Kayla very well.  She was just a girl she worked with at Pete’s Pizza – a pretty popular girl who seemed to have everything going for her – until the night she disappeared.  He asked for Gabie to make the pizza delivery.  Gabie, though, had the night off.  Kayla had taken her place.  When Kayla left work to deliver the pizza to the unknown address, she never comes back.  They find her car abandoned, the pizza box inside, and traces of Kayla’s blood.
Kayla’s family was desperate for answers.  They hired a psychic for answers.  The psychic tells the family Kayla was brutally attacked and is no longer alive.  Gabie knew better.
She sees Kayla calling out to her – asking for her help.  Gabie knew she was still alive, and had she worked that night, Gabie would be the one missing – not Kayla.  The tragedy has drawn Gabie closer to her co-worker Drew.  Together, they are determined to find Kayla and to rescue her.   
 The tragedy has drawn Gabie closer to her co-worker Drew. Together, they are determined to find the madman and rescue Kayla – no matter what danger they could face themselves.

Starters by Lissa Price

5 Stars – Loved this book!

Callie knew she had to find a way to make money quickly. The only ones left alive after the Spore Wars were people aged younger than 20 and older than 60 years old.   Callie’s little brother Tyler needed medical care.  She, her brother, and her friend Michael were homeless, poor, and left alone with no family.  Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

Callie decides to become a renter for Prime Destinations.  For three relatively brief “rentals,” a Starter like Callie could provide a youthful, beautiful, healthy body for one of the Elders.  Once the rental period was up, Callie would once again inhabit her own body – left with enough money to secure a new life and a fresh start for Callie’s small family.  It was only temporary, safe, and her body and mind would be left fully restored once the Elder was done renting her.  At least that was the promise made by Prime Destinations.

When the implanted microchip malfunctions, Callie wakes up unexpectedly and assumes the life of her renter.  Callie has a chance to live the good life – living in the Elder’s mansion and wearing the finest jewelry and clothes. She meets Blake, the gorgeous grandson of prominent Senator, and finds herself falling in love for the first time.  

Callie soon discovers that her body has not been rented from an Elder merely wanting to relive her youth. She is shocked to discover that Helena, the Elder renting her body, is planning on a revenge murder, an assassination she would commit using Callie’s body.  Worse yet, Blake’s grandfather is Helena’s target.  Callie knew she had to stop Helena without alerting Prime Destinations and find a way reclaim her own body for good – before time ran out for Callie and her brother, Tyler.

Legend by Marie Lu


 fourstars1    4 Stars



Some would say 15 year old June lived a privileged life.  Though her parents had passed away, she and her brother Metias had done well for themselves.  They were both selected as members of the Republic’s prestigious military faction.  Though June frequently got in trouble for being rebellious at her exclusive, private school, it was often overlooked – she was gifted, a prodigy, and her invaluable gifts destined June for great success and wealth. 

When her brother Metias is suddenly killed, however,  June finds herself alone and frightened for the first time in her life.  Her best friend, the one she could count on, and her only family was suddenly ripped away from her.  There was only one person to blame – the vigilante outcast named Day. Day had ruthlessly murdered her brother.  Before, June had found this dissenter’s antics slightly amusing.  Angry and in shock, June makes it her personal mission to hunt Day, find him, and see that justice was served for Day’s crime.  The Republic agreed.  June has permission to disguise herself and to track Day until she can find and capture him.

Ironically, it is Day that finds June.  June, while hunting Day,  becomes seriously injured in a fight with one of the locals.   Imagine June’s shock when it is Day, her arch enemy, who saves her life.  Suddenly, June finds herself very close to Day, spending time with him while she reuperated from her injuries.  June finds herself learning about Day as a man –  his habits and his thoughts and begins fighting her growing attraction to him. 

Instead of being elated that she has captured the man who took away her brother, June finds herself captured by Day.  Though Metias’s death must be avenged, June begins to wonder if Day was actually capable of murdering another person.  What if the Republic was wrong?  

June finds herself asking questions.  The Republic doesn’t like to be questioned.  If June doesn’t turn over the man she has begun falling in love with soon, she will be the one hunted, captured, and executed.

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

From the publisher:

Winner of the 2012 Schneider Family Book Award

Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She’s not comforted by the news that she’ll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run? As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. People who don’t know what to say, act like she’s not there. Which she could handle better if she weren’t now keenly aware that she’d done the same thing herself to a girl with CP named Rosa. A girl who is going to tutor her through all the math she’s missed. A girl who sees right into the heart of her. With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again. But that’s not enough for her now. She doesn’t just want to cross finish lines herself-she wants to take Rosa with her.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys


Lina knew things were tense….her father was worried about their future in Lithuania.  Who should they fear the most – Stalin or Hitler?  Despite her parents’ fears, Lina continued to live a normal teenage girl’s life….until the Soviet Secret Police bang violently on their door.  From this moment on Lina finds herself fighting to survive, protect her mother and brother, and how to deal with the one who, amongst the fear and the pain, has still captured her heart….a young man she may never even get the chance to love.

Curveball: the Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonneblick


From Titlewave.com:


“After an injury ends former star pitcher Peter Friedman’s athletic dreams, he concentrates on photography which leads him to a girlfriend, new fame as a high school sports photographer, and a deeper relationship with the beloved grandfather who, when he realizes he is becoming senile, gives Pete all of his professional camera gear.”

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg

From School Library Journal:

“Beginning with King Tut and moving chronologically through to Albert Einstein, Bragg explains in a conversational style what maladies brought 19 of the great ones down. Listeners will be clued in to Henry VIII’s gluttony, George Washington’s little mouth of horrors, and James Garfield’s oh-so-slow death by ignorance. Narrator L.J. Ganser uses sarcasm, timing, pauses, and tone to wring out every last ounce of disgusting, gross misery from the deaths of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Christopher Columbus, Napoleon, Mozart, and others.”

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

3.5 Stars
     The Gathering is Book One of the Darkest Power series.  In this novel, the main character Maya loved her life – though it may have seem strange to an outsider – she wouldn’t trade places with anyone else.   She liked living in her tiny secluded village, being outdoors, and even living with the free roaming wild animals.  Others may be afraid of the mountain lions there, but not Maya.  They seemed to communicate with her, and Maya had a magical, healing touch with all of the creatures.  Sure, it may be boring at times where she lived, but Maya and her small group of friends always found ways to have fun.  Maya hoped things stayed this way, forever.
   Everything soon changes, though, when Serena dies.  Maya cannot understand how her best friend, captain of the swim team, could have drowned.  Why couldn’t Maya have saved her?  If that wasn’t enough, some reporter in town kept following Maya and her friends around….asking prying questions about their parents, their lives, and Serena’s death.  Who exactly was the new hot guy Rafe?  Did he really have feelings for her?  Or was he looking for something else?
Suddenly Maya begins to realize there were so many secrets, some dangerous and deadly, that had been and still were hidden from her.   Even the reader begins to wonder who can Maya actually trust??
Great start to a new series – but overall, too many questions left unanswered for my reading tastes!

Trapped by Michael Northrop


3.5 Stars  

      Early dismissal!  You could practically hear the cheers and high fives as the announcement blared over Tattawa Regional High School’s intercom.  The winter storm wasn’t going away, and the snow was falling quickly.  Despite that, sophomores Scotty, Pete, and Jason decide to stick around for a little while and work on the go-kart Jason had been building in the school’s shop. 

Jason’s dad would be there soon to pick them up, and he did have a four-wheel drive truck, after all….

At the time, the 3 friends didn’t realize the winter storm was actually a blizzard – the worse blizzard ever to hit the United States.

The boys, along with four other high school students, found themselves stranded. Luckily one adult, Coach Gossell, did still remain in the building.

The remaining group began to feel hopeful when they saw lights – what appeared to be emergency lights – flashing beyond the school parking lot.  Coach Gossell decided to weather the storm and let the emergency workers know they were still there – stranded inside the high school. 

All of them quickly realized how serious the situation had become.  Coach Gossell began slowly walking, battling the wind and the snow, before suddenly sinking waist deep.  When he fought to move forward, Coach disappeared from their sight altogether – never to return to the school.

Now they only had each other.  The beautiful, popular girl and her best friend, the intimidating school bully, the goth freak, and the jocks.  The conditions will only worsen as they are left without water and heat….and the school roof begins to collapse.  Will anyone ever come for them?  Do they have what it takes to continue the fight for survival?

Trapped keeps the reader in suspense and is brief enough to hold the attention of even the most reluctant readers.  I only wish the author had developed the story more because I wasn’t ready for it to end!

Forgive my Fins by Tera Lynn Childs


4 Stars

What was he thinking?  Did Quince actually think he could trick her into kissing him, and she’d just fall madly in love with him based on his kissing performance?  Seriously?  Sure…he was hot….in an annoying, killer-bod kinda way…. Quince, though, drove Lily mad.  He did everything possible to get under her fins.  Quince knew her true love was Brody.  Now thanks to that one unsuspecting kiss, everything was ruined.  Lily was bonded to Quince for life.

  Now she had to tell him the truth – the truth about being half-human and half-mermaid.  Lily’s only hope was to leave the land and return to her underwater home, Thalassinia.  Lily’s father ruled their underwater paradise, and only he could perform the separation ritual to free Lily and Quince. 

Despite her family and friend’s affection for Quince, Lily is finally able to convince her father that it’s Brody, not Quince, who Lily is destined to be with.    Finally they are separated…and Brody even asks Lily out!  Things could not be more perfect for this fish out of water….why, then, can Lily not stop thinking about Quince?

Very sweet love story about a mermaid teen girl and a human teen boy falling in love.  The charming descriptions of Thalassinia make the underwater palatial city seem real to the reader.  The epilogue promises more excitement and conflict to come in the sequel,  Fins Are Forever.

Enclave by Ann Aguirre

I wanted to like this book…After reading numerous reviews comparing Enclave  to Hunger Games and Divergent, I couldn’t wait to devour another exciting novel.  Unfortunately, though, this book fell flat.  The top reasons I won’t be including Enclave on the Top Tiger Book List:

1.  The characters are not well-developed.  I never really bonded with Deuce –   no specific information concerning her former family, the lack of any real detailed interactions with those she considered her close friends, very few flashbacks in the plot revealing her life growing up as a Brat in the Enclave, etc. made me feel as if I never really knew enough about her to ultimately care much about her fate.  In Hunger Games, Collins was able to take a relatively minor character, Rue, and create someone haunting and memorable despite her relatively brief role in Book One of the Hunger Games trilogy.

2.  The plot in Enclave has its moments of excitement but as a whole, it seems pretty unoriginal.  There’s been a trend to write dystopia fiction where the futuristic setting actually mimics primitive surroundings, humans are reduced to an uncivilized state in order to survive,  there’s a strong heroine who is skillyfully capable of defending herself and others, most of the society is being controlled by a communist-type government which strives to keep their citizens complacent and obedient by using control, fear tactics, etc. and the government typically hiding any signs or relics from the past in order to lie or confuse their citizens about what the world used to be like.

 In order to stand out, there must be something unique within the story.  Divergent implemented intensive battles, fights, and conflicts. The intiation tests of the Dauntless faction differed greatly throughout the novel – increasing the excitement and anticipation of what would be next for the reader. The characters were forced to participate in terrifying scenarios which reflected their deepest, secret fears….The threat was not only physical – but tapped into one’s deepest psychological fears…

In Enclave, Deuce and Fade are frequently attacked by Freaks…smarter Freaks….hungry Freaks….a large number of Freaks…Freaks with the ability to reason…again and again.  There’s no real creativity in the conflict Deuce, Fade, and the Enclave face beyond attacks from this mutant species.  Even the names given to different groups in the novel, such as Breeders, Brats, and Freaks, lack originality.

3.  Love/Betrayal is just one of the enticing elements in the Hunger Games and Divergent series.  The budding romance between Fade and Deuce seems artificial, undeveloped, and pale in comparison to Katniss/Peeta and Tris/Four.  I did appreciate, however, the surprising love traingle which appears to be emerging at the end of the novel between Deuce and Slash…

4.   The glorified violence was a big turn-off for me as a reader.  Many of the young adult novels in this genre do have frequent epsiodes of violence interwoven throughout the plot  – reflecting how society has become dangerous, apathetic to others, etc. 

Enclave, however, goes over and beyond the inclusion of violent acts by including very graphic, explicit detail – bones splitting, guts spilling out, the gouge and subsequent hiss of a stabbed eyeball, the appearance of Freaks engaging in a feeding frenzy when they trap an injured person, kill a human – or even after the death of one of their own.  Though the main character Deuce claims she doesn’t believe in violence except in self-defese, she clearly enjoys inflicting pain and death upon her enemies….enjoying the power, pain, and even the appearance of blood – making her at times appear sadistic and to me, unlikeable as a character, much less a heroine.

Sooooo….despite all the accolades and comparisons of Enclave to two of my favorite books (and previous Top Tiger Book Award contenders) Hunger Games and Divergent,  Enclave does have a little flash here and there, but overall the story lacks any real  substance.