Part of my goal in reading YA books this summer has been to broaden my own horizons. I have wanted to try to read books that my students might like, not just books that I like. That is sometimes a challenge. Last time I was at the library, I chose three books that seemed totally different from each other.
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
This book is like Ocean’s Eleven set in a middle school. Jackson Greene has a history of scheming — and getting in trouble. But he decided to reform and has sworn off all his schemes. However, when it seems like the election for student council president is rigged, he knows he has to gather a perfect team to make one last scheme go off without a hitch.
This is a fun book, probably most appealing to 6th or 7th graders. It’s a pretty easy read, with enough complications in the plot to make it really interesting.
Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy
This book was the biggest stretch for me. It’s a military-based book, which is not my favorite subject matter. Since I knew that several of my boys like military stuff, I decided it was worth a read if I could recommend it. The plot involves seventeen-year-old Danny Wright, who enlisted in the Idaho Army National Guard. He plans to spend his senior year of high school pretty normally, except for the one weekend a month he goes to drill. When riots break out in Boise, however, a political quagmire between the governor of Idaho and the President of the United States snowballs and becomes a standoff that pulls Danny’s unit (who has sworn to obey both officials) into a difficult position.
The book involves quite a bit of high school partying, lots of drinking, some sexual activity (though not too detailed) and quite a bit of swearing. There is no resolution at the end, leaving it open for a sequel, but unsatisfying for the reader.
The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason
The first in Gleason’s Stoker & Holmes series, this book is another Steampunk novel (like The Rithmatist, which I reviewed earlier.) However, the Steampunk genre seems a bit of a stretch for Gleason, and the Steampunk characteristics seem forced. Evaline Stoker (younger sister of Dracula author Bram, and a vampire hunter) and Mina Holmes (niece of Sherlock) are called upon to investigate the disappearance and murder of several young high-society girls around London. Gleason weaves in secret societies, Egyptian mythology, romance, and time travel with the mystery plot. Her Midwestern roots seem evident in her writing, though, as the characters do not act or talk like British characters in well-researched novels I’ve read. The twitterpated girls with flushed faces and fluttering hearts each time they see particular young men feels like it has been inserted in order to appeal to a certain teen girl audience, while the author also tries to keep the characters strong and smart in order to appeal to a different audience. This is Gleason’s first YA novel, and I feel it shows. She seems unsure of her audience. The ending, like Divided We Fall, is left open for a sequel, but not in a way that satisfies the reader. I had great hopes for this novel, but The Clockwork Scarab fell short.