April 27

Panic

panicWritten by New York times best selling author, Lauren Oliver, this is a contemporary novel set in a poor American country town.  We are introduced to the ritual and potentially deadly challenge which is issued each year to the graduating class to play the game known as Panic.  Weekly, graduating seniors donate $1. to the pot, resulting in an  enormous amount of money which will be collected by the participant who successfully faces and wins all of the challenges.  Participants nominate themselves, and there is no compulsion to be involved.  Everyone knows what’s going on, and they all want to witness the challenges.  Secrecy is of the essence in this game – the local authorities have for years been trying to stamp it out, having had to deal with serious injuries and deaths of players.  The two main characters, Heather and Dodge, are playing for very different reasons: one out of sheer desperation to improve the life of herself and her little sister and escape their trailer park home and neglectful mother, the other to seek revenge for the maiming of his beloved sister.  This is a book that kept me wanting to find out what was going to happen next:  what challenge, who would succeed and what life decisions the characters would make.  There is also a very interesting psychological element to the book.  As the characters face difficulties, rivalries and disappointments in their own lives, their willingness to be involved in death defying challenges grows, as they seek to satisfy their own ambitions and desires.  $67000. is a great incentive for these young people.

April 19

The baby and the Fly Pie

291717Fly, Jane and Sham are street kids.  They live in futuristic London, where they are the poorest of the poor.  Every day, they earn a meager living by sifting through tons of garbage on the city dumps, hoping to find the very best to take back to Mother, who will sell it on.  Mother isn’t their real mother, and in this bleak world, no one is to be trusted.  One day when Fly and Sham travel a little further afield to a new commercial dump, hoping to find valuable things to sell on, they come across something surprising.  Amongst a large number of cardboard boxes, they find a badly wounded man and beside him, a pink and cuddly baby girl.  They soon realise that this man has kidnapped the baby to hold her for ransom, in the hope of extracting a large amount of money from her well to do parents.  When the man dies, Fly, Jane and Sham see a chance for a their own emancipation from a life of crime and drudgery.  But how to go about it?  Fly and Sham are lead by the idealistic Jane in making decisions about how to extract their fortune from the baby’s parents.  But is Jane the best one to follow?    This book by Melvin Burgess is very thought provoking. He has written many controversial novels for young adults.  It’s hard not to put yourself into the shoes of these three young characters, and consider what you might do in a situation such as this.  The ending is best left for comment at this point.  Check out this book trailer for the book

April 8

The double life of Cassiel Roadnight

When a recently homeless boy, known simply as Chap, finds himself in a home for the most lost and hopeless, he is handed an unexpecteThe-Double-Life-of-Cassiel-Rd gift.  One of the wardens in the establishment identifies him through an old photograph of a boy, seemingly identical to him, who has been missing for two years.  Instantaneously, Chap sees the wonderful prospect of gaining a home, a family and some stability in his life, so he seizes the opportunity, becoming Cassiel Roadnight.  He soon finds that leading a double life can be complicated, especially as he is a vegetarian and Cassiel’s favourite food just happens to be meatballs.  He inherits a fragile mother, a switched on sister, and an older rich brother, who is something of an enigma in the family.  It doesn’t take long for Chap to realise that being Cassiel Roadnight is far more complex than he could ever have imagined.  I really enjoyed the story that Jenny Valentine has weaved here.  In being Cassiel Roadnight, Chap learns more about himself than he could ever have imagined, and gains some friends along the way.