Across The Universe Lives Up To First Chapter Hype!

When the publishers made the first chapter of Across the Universe available as a teaser, I was drawn in.  When they said it was the best first chapter you’ll ever read, they were not kidding!  I waited impatiently for the book to come out.  I actually grabbed it off the shelf and shrieked, “Mine!” before I could stop myself.  The rest of the chapters have not disappointed!

Amy’s parents are important people who will be frozen for a 300 year journey to a new planet.  Amy wants to be with them, but is having second thoughts.  She has a boyfriend and a life and is not sure she wants to give that up.  She watches her parents go through the freezing process before she steps into the box herself.  The writing of the freezing process is terrifying and intense.  It reminded me about Neal Shusterman’s Unwind, where he writes the horrifying chapter where he explains the unwinding process.  Amy is awakened, prematurely by an unknown person who wants some of the frozen passengers dead.  Her red hair and pale skin stand out against the olive skinned, dark haired passengers who after generations of inbreeding look alike.  She navigates this strange space, dystopia with the help of Elder, the ship’s future leader.  There is something very wrong with the passengers of the ship, Godspeed.  It is almost like they are drugged.  Amy and Elder must try and learn the ship’s secrets before more people, like her parents, are unplugged and killed.

Beth Revis kept the mystery going throughout the story.  I wanted to know the ship’s secrets.  The ending made it seem like a sequel was coming, but it could stand on its own.  I thought the pacing was good.  It was bleak and creepy.  Dystopian fans will enjoy it!

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Would you choose to stay on Earth or join your parents?

Would you be willing to be frozen?

What are you initial thoughts of Elder and Eldest?

Why would they keep the frozen passengers a secret from the rest of the people on the ship.

Discuss the three causes of discord.

Are lies necessary to save people from themselves?

What do you think will happen next as the passengers become more aware?

Was Orion right to do what he did?

Talk about Harley and his art.



2011 Michael L. Printz Winners

2011 Printz Award Winner – Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi 

Four Printz Honor Books

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Nothing  by Janne Teller

Dragon Shape Shifter In Steamy New Supernatural Romance

Jacinda may look human, but her skin hides a secret.  She is really a dragon or decedents of what used to be dragons.  She and members of her pride are called draki.  Their human form keeps them hidden from vicious hunters who use their blood and hides to make money.  The story begins when Jacinda goes on a forbidden flight, attracting the attention of the hunters.  She is hit and when she hides in a cave a handsome young hunter is mesmerized by her and lets her go.  Jacinda is equally mesmerized by this hunter and cannot get him out of her mind.  When the pride plans a punishment for Jacinda, her mother and twin sister run, taking Jacinda far away from the mountains where they live.  They move to a desert where Jacinda’s mother hopes her inner draki will die in the dry heat, causing her to lose her ability to manifest into dragon form.  Her mother can no longer change to her dragon form and her sister never had the gift.  Jacinda is not your average draki.  She is a fire breather, and the pride will not let her slip away.  She is promised to the prince of the tribe and they want her to breed more fire breathers. When the twins start their new school, Jacinda is shocked to see the same young hunter in the school’s halls.  His presence awakens her inner draki and causes her to start to manifest in his presence.  They are drawn to each other and can’t stay away, even though they know their love is not such a great idea.  Jacinda is drawn back to the pride and the mountains.  She can’t forget what she is, and no matter what her mother wants, she doesn’t want to let her draki go.  There is plenty of steamy love that will get the reader’s heart pumping.  I particularly love the part where Jacinda is jumped in the girl’s bathroom and she singes the mean girl with her fiery breath.  Teens and adult who love the Twilight series will really love this different kind of supernatural romance.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Talk about the relationship between Tamra and Jacinda after Jacinda is able to manifest.

Should Jacinda give up what she is to keep her mother and sister happy?  Would you give up something for your family?

Would you rather be the twin who can turn into a dragon or the normal one?

Talk about the moment in the cave… the connection between Will and Jacinda.

How do Will and Jacinda compare to other supernatural romance couples?

Talk about Jacinda’s rare gift as a fire breather.

Did you think Will recognized Jacinda when they first met at school?

Talk about the mean girls and how they impact a school and other girls.

Is it fair for the mother to want Jacinda’s draki to die?

Talk about the differences between Will and Cassian.  Which one do you prefer?

Did Will’s family have the right to kill a dragon and use the blood to save Will?  What would you do for a family member that is dying?

Discuss the moment when Jacinda finds the hunter trophy room in Will’s house.

What do you think will happen when Jacinda returns to the pride?

What If You Couldn’t Choose Who To Love?

I couldn’t put this book down.  It embodied all the things I loved about Lois Lowry’s The Giver, The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale.  Which are more important, safety or freedom and where to the two meet to create a productive society?  Ally Condie created a world free from cancer by controlling how humans breed.  Each teen is matched with a perfect genetic counterpart to create healthy children for the Society.  You meals are prepared for your custom dietary needs.  No one cooks in their own home, your meals arrive prepared for you and you have no choice of what it is.  Your job is chosen for you, perfectly matched to your skills.  Cassia does little to question her life.  It is the night of her Matching Banquet.  When her turn comes, a familiar face flashes on the screen.  Her perfect match is her best childhood friend, Xander.  She is delighted with the choice.  But when she looks at the match card on her home computer, another face flashes on the screen.  She knows Ky.  Could he really be her match?  The Society does not make mistakes.  So why did he flash on her screen?  This glitch in Cassia’s otherwise perfect world makes her start to ask questions.  On her grandfather’s death day, he gives Cassia two forbidden poems, Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Crossing The Bar and Dylan Thomas’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.  They are forbidden because the Society only allows people to listen to the Hundred Songs, read the Hundred Poems or look at one of the Hundred Paintings.  The Society has chosen these because people were too inundated with too many different choices and were overwhelmed.  No new art is to be created.  It was really shocking to me when I learned the members of the Society cannot even write.  They just tap on screens.  Condie did a great job of world building.  I could see the stark world of the Society very clearly in my mind.  I am really looking forward to the sequel, Crossed that will be released in November of 2011.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Take turns and read the forbidden Thomas and Tennyson poems out loud and discuss.

If you could give up freedoms to cure cancer, would it be worth it?

Are there any aspects of the society you did like?  What was the worst in your opinion?

Who would you choose, Xander or Ky?

Talk about arrainged marriages in the modern world.

Talk about Cassia’s grandfather’s final act of rebellion.  How he died on his own terms by not choosing to leave a sample.

Compare this dystopian society with others they have read.

Talk about the act of handwriting.  Could the need to do this eventually go away?  What would that mean?  How often do they use cursive writing?

Do you think she loved Ky because he was forbidden or the Society do a perfect job of finding her match?