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Monday, June 29, 2015

Adventure Pick: Kalahari

by Jessica Khoury
354 pages
ISBN: 9781595147653

Exciting and action packed, Kalahari is sure to please. This is one adventure teen readers will be glad they took!

Growing up the only child to zoologist parents in remote Africa has prepared Sarah for just about any encounter in the natural world; any encounter except with city teens her own age, that is. When Sarah's parents invite five teens to an experimental program, she is terrified of what to say to them and  how they will react with her. Her best friend is Theo. He has guided her over the years to survive in the Kalahari. He tells Sarah not to worry; that she's a teen just like them. He could not be more wrong. Sarah has nothing in common with the kids who have arrived. They are used to creature comforts like clean beds, fresh water, air conditioning and electricity.

When Theo and her father have to leave their camp to investigate what they think are poachers,  Sarah knows something has gone terribly wrong. She is now responsible for the helpless new kids. Cute arrival Sam offers to help. He says he trusts her and will help her find her father and Theo. They  must find food, water and shelter and get to the nearest town without poachers, wild animals or something much, much worse finding them first. Sarah calls upon all her skills to find the way to a small town. Anything can go wrong. They could die of dehydration or starvation. They could wander around for days without knowing if they are going in the right direction or not. The elements will take a toll on all of them unless they get to civilization fast.

The kids know something is wrong when animals begin to act strangely. Sarah spots a silver lion who threatens her. Knowing that a male lion does not attack unprovoked, Sarah searches for answers. The kids discover a lab that she thinks her mother must also have discovered just moments before her death. Could the silver lion and Sarah's mother have something in common? Where are the lab workers? Why have they fled?

Maybe not knowing the answers to all her questions is the safest bet but Sarah is strong and inquisitive. She has Sam to depend on when the going gets tough and it is getting tougher. Sarah begins to feel lightheaded and she can't blame it all on dehydration. Sam is seriously turning up the heat.

Kalahari will take readers on a wild adventure to a different part of the world than most are familiar with. They will love Sarah and empathize with her tragic discovery about her mother's death. Most of all, readers will want Sarah to survive and save the other teens from death.

Highly recommended grade 7-up. No profanity. No sex. Violence, science gone wrong, genetics gone wrong, evil scientists.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

YA and Technology Trends: A Student from Australia Interviews Me!

Australian student Stella C. asked me my thoughts on a project she is working towards. She is (in her own words): "... a 12 year student in Sydney, Australia, working towards my HSC major work for society and culture." Her area of study is this topic:

 "What will be the impact on YA literature with the increasing reliance on technology and how must authors change to accommodate to new diverse margins of society."

 She asked me questions and I answered her as thoughtfully as I could. With her permission, I am publishing this interview. I think her questions are well thought out and insightful and help us to understand what teens are thinking about YA literature and social media  not only here in the U.S. but in Australia as well. Stella, thank you for asking me these important and timely questions and allowing me to publish them here.


1.    What are your thoughts on young adult fiction as a popular culture?
YA fiction has become a part of pop culture as it moves from books and content on the Internet into movies and mainstream Hollywood. Actors who star in YA movies, think "Twilight" and "Divergent" go on to act in feature films; for example, Jennifer Lawrence gained the teen audience  in "The Hunger Games" yet went on to win an Oscar for her performance in "Silver Linings Playbooks" and was nominated for "American Hustle." She has become one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood.


2.    What do you think young adult fiction targets for their audience?
 If it is a great book the target is to entertain, to say something necessary, to bring to life characters who are amazing in some way yet seriously flawed in others, to set up events that impact the main character, to have the character face obstacles and overcome them in some way, and to have the character somehow changed by his/her journey. The reader should come away from the book feeling satisfied. Even if a main character dies, the reader should still feel good about reading the book. A great book impacts the reader; the reader will think about that book for a great long while, think To Kill a Mockingbird.


3.      Do you think this genre of novels is growing? And if so, why is there a dramatic change?
 It has been taking over the publishing market since Harry Potter. It will continue to grow as fan fiction is growing online. Many twelve year old readers are becoming writers as we speak. The next decade looks promising for publishing and fiction.


4.      Do you think that literature and novels will be a short-lived life?
 Literature will never be short lived. That's like asking if music will be short lived. Notes never go away. Words never go away. A new musician or writer will think of a new way of using them.


5.      Do you think easy access to movies and fan fiction ultimately persuades you to avoid written work?
 Absolutely not! I attend the Texas Teen Book Festival each year in Austin, Texas, which has grown to include over 150 authors per year. Thousands of readers flock to see the books and authors. I am happy to say that readers were buying tons of books in print. This is not to say that Ebooks and digital reading are not accessible. Many readers find that they like the heft and feel of the printed book. It totes well. You don't have to worry about wires or connectivity or getting it wet. You can read in almost any light source.


6.      What are your personal thoughts on eBooks, kindles and other source of technology which enhances the reading experience?
 I'm not sure this technology "enhances" the reading experience. It makes it possible to read in a variety of ways. It may help some people to learn to read. The technology makes it possible for all sorts of learners to be able to enjoy a book.


7.      Why is there such a stigma attached to adults who read young adult fiction?
 Is there a stigma? Really? The Hunger Games, Twilight and even The Diary of a Wimpy Kid did not get to the New York Times bestseller list by teens who read them. Certainly hundreds of thousands if not millions of adults read them. Fans of dystopian fiction read both YA dystopian fiction and adult dystopian fiction. In fact, there is no line in the sand between the two. I think this "stigma" is imagined--I have not seen anyone in the U.S. say that adults should not read YA. In fact, it's just the opposite. You should read what you want.


8.    How does social media and technology help promote young adult fiction?
 You are asking a blogger! The epitome of what I do is promote new and exciting titles in YA fiction. Technology makes that possible.


9.    How does the film industry present young adult adaptation? Why isn’t the film not targeted to a specific age group? How do you think they break the age barrier?

 Hollywood takes a book and brings it to life with film magic. A real reader does that for herself or himself. A reader imagines the "scenes" in the book and sees the action. Films make it possible for those who don't read to enjoy the stories. I think Hollywood does justice to YA novels for the most part.


10. Do you think the film acknowledged the author’s true ambitions of the novels’ themes?
It depends if the author is involved with the screen writing or not. In the case of several YA novels into films, the authors have had a say in screenplay and on the set. If the author has no say, the writers, directors and producers have a free for all if they want.


11. What do you think will be the next step for these authors and young adult fiction for the upcoming generations?

To continue to offer the best stories with the most compelling characters. I have heard several authors comment that writing for the YA crowd is a lot harder than writing for adults. Kids will catch all your mistakes and call you on them. Kids are less forgiving than the adult reader. And kids will call you out on social media.


Is there any other thoughts/opinions on young adult fiction and technology’s impact on this popular culture?
 I think Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media are a great tool for authors to embrace. They have up to the minute details on how their novel/work is perceived. A smart author will be a tech savvy guru.
My closing thoughts: Authors, you are going to have to up your game to keep up with today's YA readers. Good luck! Pamela


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

First Look: Tales From a Not-So-Dorky Drama Queen

                                                  Get Your Own Dork Diaries Wallpaper

Tales From a Not-So-Dorky Drama Queen
(Dork Diaries, book 9)
by Rachel Renee Russell
with Nikki Russell and Erin Russell
331 pages
ISBN: 9781442487697

                                                    Look What Was on My Doorstep!

The latest in the Nikki vs  MacKenzie saga opens with Nikki telling the story  ( in her diary),  but when her locker is accidentally left open, mean girl MacKenzie swoops in to grab it for "safe keeping" and making sure some nefarious person did not steal it and spill all of Nikki's secrets. Readers hear McKenzie for the first time. Poor little rich girl MacKenzie. Her daddy  is too busy making money and her mother is too busy being a socialite to devote any family time to MacKenzie. They rely on giving their little princess the world. MacKenzie claims to be fine with it and that seeing her therapist twice a week is all the friends she needs. Savvy readers will see that MacKenzie is a lonely girl bereft of friends and family. No matter how much money she has, no matter how beautiful she is, she is a timid mouse of a girl dying to be loved and accepted. She is devious to Nikki because she is actually jealous of Nikki's family and friends and her cute boyfriend, Brandon.

There is more drama between the Best Enemies Forever. MacKenzie and Nikki get into publishing. MacKenzie takes over Nikki's newspaper advice column and Nikki and BFFs Chloe and Zoey rush to stop parts of Nikki's diary from being published. Brandon is constantly on Nikki's mind even though they have a brief misunderstanding. Middle school love is so difficult, after all.

Fans of Dork Diaries will not be disappointed with the latest installment. The animal print cover is fierce and feisty. Who can resist an animal print?

Highly, highly recommended grades 5-up and for fans of the series. Squeeee! All I can say is keep them coming,  Rachel Renee Russell!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)