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Kid Lit Review: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

20 Oct

miraculous journey of edward tulane cover

Edward Tulane is not your average rabbit, nor is he your average child’s toy. Edward Tulane is a china rabbit with real rabbit fur ears and tail. He wears a fancy suit and a pocket watch and he is loved by 10-year-old Abilene. He is very pleased with himself. Abilene’s grandmother is less pleased, as she feels that he should love Abilene as much as she loves him. When Edward is taken on a sea voyage, Abilene becomes involved in a tussle over the rabbit with some boys, which results in Edward Tulane being flung overboard and sinking to the bottom of the sea. Thus begins his journey through life in various settings and with various owners. Throughout his journeys, Edward has no choice but to wait in the hopes that Abilene or some other kind soul will come for him and treat him with care and kindness. In the process, he learns to open his heart and feel genuine love for his caregivers.

Like many stories that have come before, this story centers on the private life of a child’s plaything. Unlike some of these stories, Edward Tulane does not come to life when the children are away. Rather he is always feeling, thinking, seeing, and hearing, though without being able to speak or move on his own. This affects the timeline of his journey, as he waits for days, months, or seasons at a time for someone to discover him and take him with them. The story is punctuated throughout by Edward’s growth as a character as he learns to open his heart to others, and by his deep feeling of loss as he is separated from his various owners without getting to say goodbye. Prepare to be moved, perhaps even to tears.

DiCamillo’s beautiful writing may at times be challenging for young readers, but in a way that is inviting rather than intimidating. The short chapters are accompanied by beautiful, full-color plates and sepia-toned illustrations by artist Bagram Ibatoulline. This along with the many cliffhanger chapter endings and near constant movement from setting to setting will help draw readers in and keep them deeply engaged.

Em’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Bagram Ibatoulline
Publisher: Candlewick (February 2006) (ages 7 and up)

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

19 Sep

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong
Nate and Charlie have been friends and neighbors since they were kids, but they hang with different crowds – Nate is President of the Science Club and Charlie is the captain of the basketball team. Their worlds collide when Charlie’s ex-girlfriend Holly, the head cheerleader, tries to call dibs on funding that the Science Club was planning to use to make it to a robotics competition. Turns out the cheerleaders need new uniforms for their “evil dance squad” and since the funds weren’t properly earmarked for the Science Club it’s up to the student council to decide who gets to spend the precious funds. But Nate’s got a plan. It’s simple really: run for student council so that he can control the revenue stream from the inside out. It shouldn’t be that hard, seeing as everyone else running is even less popular than he is (in his mind at least). That is until Holly starts running a campaign of her own: to get Charlie elected as student council president and make him do their bidding. Hard core cheerleaders, a committed science geek, lots of embarrassing childhood photos, and two friends competing for the same student council seat – what could possibly go wrong? Nothing?

It’s been a Faith Erin Hicks filled year. Not only did I have the pleasure of meeting Hicks at BEA, but I finally got around to reading the fantastic Friends with Boys, loved loved loved The Adventures of Superhero Girl, started reading the new comic series The Last of Us: American Dreams, even read the middle grade Bigfoot Boy: Into The Woods, and then Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, a collaboration with author Prudence Shen, came along and hit all the right notes. She really can’t seem to do any wrong with me. I loved Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong. I can’t give all credit to Faith Erin Hicks of course, though her artwork is hard to beat, because it’s as much the story and character development as it is the visual storytelling that sucked me in. I love the exploration of the friendship between Nate and Charlie, as well as the focus on the Science Team’s robot project.

While Charlie is the character who is most genuinely developed, both Nate and Johanna are solid supporting characters. Nate’s character can be pretty aggravating, but he also has his moments where he shows how much he really cares for Charlie, and these moments give him a little touch of sweetness. Johanna is the only girl on the Science Team and she knows her robots – she’s smart, tough, and hardworking. Her love for The Beast (the robot) is charming too. Even the cheerleaders who mostly come across as stereotypical mean girl cheerleaders, have a few small moments where you can catch a glimpse of their humanity. The only thing that bothered me a little about Charlie’s character development is that he’s apparently this popular kid, but he seems to have no friends except for Nate (at least for most of the story). Perhaps Shen is trying to say something about the image of popularity, that it is an image more than anything, but I’m not sure if that choice was purposeful or accidental. I didn’t mind all too much though, as Charlie’s working through his family issues on his own added some emotional impact, and it was heartwarming to see him find a place with the robotics crew.

Em’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Prudence Shen
Illustrator: Faith Erin Hicks
Publisher: First Second (May 2013)

Bake Sale

9 Sep

Bake Sale
Cupcake has a great life. When he’s not working at his bakery, he is making music with his band, or hanging out with his best friend, Eggplant. When Eggplant invites Cupcake to go to Turkey with him to visit Aunt Aubergine and to meet Turkish Delight, the internationally acclaimed pastry chef, Cupcake drops everything and gets creative working bake sales all over town and saving up for the trip to Turkey. When the trip falls through, things quickly go down hill, but in the end Cupcake learns a lesson about what is really important.

Sara Varon has created a world for Bake Sale that is occupied by walking, talking food products. They are adorable, albeit somewhat confusing (I’ve heard some readers of this book question whether or not Cupcake running a bakery might be just a bit cannibalistic). While the issues dealt with are serious – the value of helping a friend, working towards a goal, trying new things, dealing with disappointment, cannibalism (ok, I’m kidding on that last one) – the humor, sweetness, and cute characters help balance the story. Varon’s whimsical artwork is delightful as always and the soft colors she uses are inviting. Bake Sale is heartwarming – a nice mix of adorable characters and scenarios, and real emotions and struggles. While this book didn’t have quite the emotional punch that won me over to Varon’s earlier work, Robot Dreams, Bake Sale is still a favorite that I highly recommend.

The book also includes a section of recipes at the end that correspond with recipes made by Cupcake throughout the story. Yum.

Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: Sara Varon
Publisher: First Second (August 2011)

The Adventures of Superhero Girl

29 Apr

Faith Erin Hicks’s Superhero Girl comic strips were originally published in black and white in Halifax’s free alternative weekly newspaper, The Coast. Many fans of the comic artist likely first read these comic strips online at superherogirladventures.blogspot.com, where they are still available in the original black and white. For those who prefer reading in book form and who like a little color in their comics, Dark Horse recently released the strips in digest form with vibrant colors by Cris Peter. Covering the full Superhero Girl run of comic strips, The Adventures of Superhero Girl is one fabulous and fun book.

As you might have guessed by the name, The Adventures of Superhero Girl is about the trials and tribulations of a young female superhero. As she explains to a comics fan (who she calls “skeptical boy”), her super powers are like superman, except she can’t fly. She’s very strong, she can leap very high, and she is a mighty fighter. She saves the day many times, whether it is beating up ninjas, stopping bank robbers in their tracks, throwing a monster into space, or saving a kitty from a tree. The trouble is, there’s not much crime in her city and it’s hard being a superhero without any super villains to fight. Sure there are plenty of ninjas, including King Ninja (a ninja who wears a crown), but they aren’t quite arch-nemesis material. The lack of arch-nemesis isn’t her only problem though. She also has everyday life issues to deal with. Superhero work isn’t exactly paying the bills anymore, not since her federal grant dried up. Job searching is made more difficult when you have no prior work experience, except, you know, fighting ninjas and wearing a cape. Her roommate, who is in on her secret, tries to get Superhero Girl to do normal people stuff, like go to parties and date, though with little luck. And then there is her brother, Kevin. Everyone loves beautiful, strong, superhero Kevin. It’s super annoying.

Anyway, you get the point. She has adventures. Some are of the superhero-y variety and some are more of the it could happen to anyone variety. Above all, it’s a fun and funny read. Because it was a weekly strip, each page has it’s own punch line or special feel, but the strips also tie into the larger story. Superhero Girl runs into many obstacles: skeptical boy, ninjas, Canadian winter (all the villains head South, because they’re smart like that), sun exposure while wearing a mask (yikes! mask-lines!), a hipster who wants to shrink-ray her brother, bad hair days, and so on. While she’s skilled in many special ways, these skills are not really helpful in landing her a job, fitting in at parties, or finding a sense of purpose. Her relationship with her brother is sweet. He’s annoyingly perfect and she moans and groans when he’s around, but he’s also someone she can relate to and, well, he’s family (the flashback to when they were kids is adorable). Oh, she also has a cute cat. Bonus points there.

Em’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Faith Erin Hicks
Publisher: Dark Horse (February 2013)
Note: Review copy received from publisher for honest review

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen – Review + Giveaway

2 Apr


Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, the latest comic book memoir from Lucy Knisley, recalls her childhood growing up in New York City and New York’s Hudson Valley, her foreign travels, and her college years in Chicago, surrounded by delicious food. Knisley’s mother was a chef (and farmer’s market champ), her father was a culinary connoisseur, her uncle owned a gourmet food store in New York City, and many family friends were also deeply immersed in the culinary world. Not surprisingly, Knisley has strong taste-memories and in Relish: My Life in the Kitchen she explores various moments from her 28 years of life as framed by her diverse culinary experiences. These memories are interspersed with recipes (about one per chapter) for “The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies”, Huevos Rancheros, Shepard (Fairey) Pie, and more tasty sounding meals and treats (and one alcoholic beverage) that connect with the stories/moments shared in the given chapter. It’s not just taste-memories explored here, though they are plentiful, but also memories of changing relationships, getting used to a new home and new way of living, and how our experiences shape us.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen made me feel nostalgic for all my own taste memories. There were several experiences shared in Relish that resonated particularly strongly with me—being the kid who never got to eat “junk food” at home but managed to get it elsewhere, wanting desperately to recreate a favorite food and failing miserably. I also love that a good portion of the book is set in the Hudson Valley, where I’ve spent 15 years of my life – even my favorite indie book store and theater make appearances! While there isn’t much of a story arc, more of a general age progression, Knisley still managed to pull me in and keep me engaged with her food-centric coming of age stories and her humorous and heartfelt visual storytelling. Her brightly colored illustrations are warm and inviting, and each page offers much to explore both visually and textually.

Graphic novel memoirs and food memoirs seem to have solidified their places in the publishing world. With Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, Knisley ties these two popular areas of storytelling together effectively and rather joyously. This is the second First Second release that I have read that included recipes, but it is the first that made me realize how much I would love a graphic novel cookbook. More please!

Em’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Lucy Knisley
Publisher: First Second (April 2, 2013)
Note: Review copy received from publisher

And now for the giveaway! I just so happen to be going to a stop on Lucy Knisley’s Relish Book Tour later this week, where I’m planning to pick up at least three signed copies (one for me, one for my library, and one for YOU!). Enter to win a copy below!

One winner will be chosen at random on April 9, 2013 to win a copy of Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. One entry per person, US mailing addresses only, 15 years of age or older (I’m going with the publisher’s suggested age range for this one). Winner will be contacted by email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Bird King: An Artist’s Notebook

10 Mar


Shaun Tan is best known for his unique and touching wordless graphic novel, The Arrival, and the three story collection, Lost and Found. Through his surreal illustrations and visual storytelling he explores themes such as immigration, colonization, depression, discovery, and friendship. The Bird King: An Artist’s Notebook is a peek inside his creative process and his artist notebooks. The book features short essays by Tan introducing collections of images grouped by theme including untold stories; book, theater, and film; drawings from life; and notebooks. In one of the introductory essays, Tan writes:

“My stories generally begin with images rather than words, modest sketches drawn in a fairly aimless way. One of the joys of drawing is that meaning can be constantly postponed, and there is no real pressure to ‘say’ anything special when working privately in a sketchbook. Nevertheless, interesting or profound ideas can emerge of their own accord, not so much in the form of a ‘message,’ but rather as a strangely articulated questions. A scene or character seems to look back from the page and ask, ‘what do you make of this?’ A drawing feels successful to me when it is both clear and ambiguous, something I try to underscore by adding an equally ambiguous title. While there is no set meaning in any of these drawings, there is an invitation to seek one (for myself as much as any other audience).”

This is really how I “read” this book – open to ambiguity and constantly asking myself, “what is happening here?” Because the images have limited text attached to them – the ambiguous title he mentioned in the above quote, a footnote perhaps at the end of the book – the reader can explore the image and create their own meanings, their own stories. It is rather thrilling. For those familiar with Tan’s work, images in the “book, theatre, and film” section will likely be familiar, and the footnotes often prove especially interesting here. The book is rather small in shape, especially in contrast to other Shaun Tan books, and so while the content feels well suited for a place at the coffee table, it stands out as something quite different. While the main audience for this book will likely be those already familiar with (and enamored with) his work, I believe that this book will also appeal to those interested in the artistic process or who are looking for some creative inspiration.

Em’s rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Author: Shaun Tan
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (February 2013)
Note: ARC received from publisher for honest review

The Prey

11 Feb

WARNING: there will be SPOILERS for Andrew Fukuda’s The Hunt in this review

In The Hunt, a young man named Gene lives among vampiric creatures, passing as one of their own, and living by a strict set of rules that his father taught him before he disappeared. When he is chosen as one of the lucky few to take part in the annual Heper Hunt, a competitive hunt for humans, he is whisked away to The Institute to prepare for and take part in the games. Keeping his secret safe at The Institute is hard enough, surviving the Heper Hunt, seems nearly impossible. But when his secret gets out, the hunt begins sooner than planned and he becomes one of the prey rather than one of the hunters. On the run with a group of heper youth raised at The Institute, Gene learns that the man that had been helping the hepers, the one known as The Scientist, was none other than his long lost Dad. [cliffhanger y’all!]

The Prey picks up just where The Hunt left off, diving the reader right back into the action. Gene and the heper youth, lead by the tough, dagger wielding Sissy, make their escape on a riverboat, while the creatures try to track them downstream. The Scientist had talked about a place he called “the land of milk and honey, fruit and sunshine”, and the crew dreams that this is where the river leads them. Eventually they find their way to The Mission, a community of humans living high in the mountains, separated from the dangerous world outside. The crew feels an immediate sense of relief and are welcomed, wined, and dined by the community’s elders. The boys feel that this might be the place that The Scientist had spoken so highly of, but Sissy and Gene notice that not everything is as it seems. As they search for the truth about The Mission, they begin to question whether this “safe haven” may be even more dangerous, more evil, than the world they left behind.

I really appreciate what Andrew Fukuda did with this second installment of The Hunt Trilogy. While the 2nd book in a trilogy often suffers from feeling like “just more of the same” or an interlude before the big finale in book 3, here Fukuda really changes things up and keeps the danger, mystery, and action building to yet another thrilling cliffhanger of an ending. It’s in this installment too, that the love triangle hinted at in the first book, comes to life. While Gene is growing closer to Sissy every day, the growing distance between him and Ashley June, the girl he had to leave behind at The Institute, weighs heavy on his mind. I’ll admit, I’ve frequently caught myself rolling my eyes about love triangles in YA, but Fukuda does it well and though it isn’t what I’m most anticipating in book three, I do want to see what happens next for these three. All in all this is a fun and exciting series that is perfect for those who prefer their monsters terrifying rather than sexy. I’m scared (in a good way) to see where Fukuda takes us next.

Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: Andrew Fukuda
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (January 29, 2013)
Note: Copy sent from publisher for honest review

Splintered

24 Jan


Alyssa Gardner is a descendent of Alice Liddell, the young woman who inspired Lewis Carroll to write about a girl following a white rabbit down a hole into Wonderland. Unfortunately, names that start with A aren’t the only things that run in the family. The women in her family have suffered from mental illness for generations, and she is worried that she may be next. When she starts hearing bugs and flower talking, she knows she has to keep it to herself, or else risk ending up in a mental institution like her mother. She doesn’t even tell her best friend or her secret crush, Jeb. But one day on a visit to the institution, she realizes that her mother is hearing the same things she is, and of course if it was only in her head, then how would her mother hear it too? As it turns out, the family has been cursed since the original Alice went down that rabbit hole and messed everything up. After an episode at the mental institution her father decides that they need to move forward with a procedure that Alyssa worries will leave her mother with irreparable brain damage. With the clock ticking, Alyssa must figure out how to get to Wonderland, so that she can right the original Alice’s wrongs, thus breaking the family curse and saving her mother. When she finally figures out how to get there, with a quick thought, she inadvertently summons Jeb to join her on her journey. There the two of them find that the Wonderland in Carroll’s story was not quite a perfect match to the real Wonderland. The real Wonderland is twisted and strange like the original, but is also far darker and mysterious.

When I talked about this book on my radio show, my t(w)een co-hosts gushed about how much they loved Alice in Wonderland (the movies and the books) and how they were dying to read this. Wonderland is fun and inviting in it’s nonsense and chaos. While there have been many adaptations of the Carroll story, some more successful than others, I do salute the author for her bravery in taking one of the most famous fantasy worlds and playing around with it. A. G. Howard does so with respect and creativity, and a penchant for goth. And she isn’t lazy about the world-building. While there are some familiar scenes from the original Wonderland, because the original story doesn’t quite match up with Alyssa’s experience of Wonderland, there’s quite a bit of description of the landscape, characters, and costumes. While the detailed descriptions generally served the story well, at other times they made the action drag a bit, especially towards the end where the story seemed like it might never wrap up.

Alyssa is an interesting character, especially in contract to Lewis Carroll’s Alice. First, the reason for their journeys differ significantly. The original Alice heads to Wonderland purely as a result of her boredom and curiosity, whereas Alyssa is on a mission to save her mother. This adds an urgency to Alyssa’s time in Wonderland. She’s aware that she has things to get done, right some wrongs, and figure out how to get home in order to prevent her mother from undergoing electroconvulsive therapy. Then there is the fact that the original Alice had no way of expecting the nonsense world of Wonderland, whereas Alyssa would have been much more prepared for the madness. And then of course there is the age and class difference. With the original Alice, she’s a child who flaunts her class privilege throughout her journey. With Alyssa, she’s a teen, who is not as well off as her ancestor, due in large part to her mother’s illness, and is much more withdrawn, at least in the beginning. During her journey in wonderland, she gains self-confidence and learns to stick up for herself.

Now there is a love triangle here, and I have mixed feelings about it. In a way it works. There’s the friend from back home who she has feelings for, but who has a girlfriend (who she hates), and she’s not sure how he feels about her, and then there’s the mysterious, fantastical man, who she’s known on some level (i.e. through her dreams) since she was a child. It works in a way, because it’s clear that she’s always committed to Jeb, not only because she cares about him, but also because he’s on this journey with her. Morpheus seems like more of a fantasy attraction for Alyssa. She’s drawn to him and attracted to him on some level, but it didn’t seem that she ever seriously considered him a contender for her heart on more than a friend level. That being said, there was a bit too much attention focused on these relationships for my liking. The romantic and/or sensuous scenes started to feel a bit forced the more they happened. And it didn’t help that both Jeb and Morpheus were so controlling and protective of Alyssa, in a way that felt patronizing at times. I didn’t really care if she ended up with either of these guys, as long as she was able to help her mother.

While I have some critiques, all-in-all this was a fun read, that was surprising, exciting, and imaginative. I enjoyed A. G. Howard’s writing and her world-building both in the fantasy world and in the contemporary setting, and I will definitely keep my eye out for future books from this author. I highly suggest this book to lovers of fairytale retellings, and especially to those who love detail-rich, contemporary fantasies.

Em’s rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Author: A. G. Howard
Publisher: Amulet Books (January 1, 2013)
Note: ARC received from publisher for honest review

Level 2

16 Jan


Felicia died in an accident just shy of her 18th birthday. Ever since, she has been passing her time in Level 2, the space between our world (Level 1) and heaven. There she spends her time in her memory chamber visiting and revisiting memories from her life on earth, as well as the rented memories of other inmates of Level 2. One day, a girl disappears from a neighboring chamber and Felicia seems to be the only one who is concerned that she is gone. In fact, no one else seems to remember that the girl even existed in the first place. As it’s becoming clear that something is wrong in Level 2, a boy shows up, and not just any boy, but a boy from her past – a part of her past she had hoped to leave behind. When he offers to break her out of Level 2 with the promise of helping her find her boyfriend Neil, she leaves the hive, sets off on an adventure, joins a rebellion, and finally visits memories that she has avoided all her afterlife.

What I liked most about Level 2 was the focus on memories and how we are able to learn about Felicia through both her memories of her life on earth and her responses to these memories now in the afterlife. The world of Level 2 is very sci-fi/fantasy, but the memories are pure contemporary, so there is a nice balance between these different genres. As a sci-fi lover, I’m fascinated by the memory pods and the world that is Level 2. As a lover of contemporary fiction, the memory scenes are what in the end are the most vivid and memorable scenes in Level 2, aside from possibly the end scene. While this is the first book in the series, the story ends at a logical and fascinating place. It’s the kind of ending that both allows the book to work as a stand-alone, but that will also lead you wanting more.

I’m guessing that a lot of readers will be drawn to the tension of the Felicia and Julian dynamic, while also loving Neil, our memory boyfriend, because he’s so gosh darn lovable. For me, however, the anger directed at Julian was a bit too much. It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine when a character start to sound like a broken record in expressing their hatred for another. I liked Julian and I liked Felicia. I just didn’t like the way that she talked to him. While it sounds like this book brings us yet another YA love triangle, with the bad boy and the good boy battling for the young lady’s heart, that’s really not the case, at least in this first book in the series. Felicia and Julian have a past, Felicia and Neal have a past, but because these pasts don’t coincide, it isn’t really a triangle. To me, this was extremely refreshing. While I wasn’t especially fond of Neil, because he seems a bit too perfect, I appreciate that all we know of him is through Felicia’s memories that she visits. These of course are likely the best of her memories of Neil rather than memories of their biggest arguments or his worst habits or that time he hurt her feelings. I’m curious to see what more we get of Neil in the 2nd book, and in general what on earth (or wherever) comes next.

Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: Lenore Appelhans
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (January 15, 2013)
Note: Review copy received from publisher for honest review

What We Saw At Night

10 Jan

cover image for What We Saw At Night
Allie Kim and her friends, Rob and Juliet, the tres compadres, live in darkness. They suffer from a rare genetic disorder called xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) which makes exposure to ultraviolet light dangerous. While most people’s bodies can repair the damage caused by UV exposure, this is not the case for those with XP. So these “Children of the Night” go about their day-to-day activities at night, while the rest of the daytimers get their beauty rest. Luckily for the three friends, they live in a town that is home to an XP clinic and so they have each other, as well as an informed support system of doctors and families, to help them lead lives that are as close to normal as possible. When thrill-seeking-you-only-live-once Juliet takes up the stunt-sport of parkour, Allie and Rob follow and soon they are scaling and leaping off tall buildings…in the dark. On one late night parkour mission, Allie finds herself looking in an apartment window and what she sees doesn’t seem right. What she sees looks like the aftermath of a murder, and as bad luck will have it, Allie’s not the only one who sees something that night; the murderer sees her too.

Have you ever reached the end of a book and realized that what you thought was a stand-alone was actually part of a series? Well, I think this was actually a first for me. Soho Teen really committed to their focus on YA mysteries with this surprise (non)ending. So be forewarned: there will be a sequel. If I had known this going into reading, I think the cliffhanger ending would have worked better for me. Unfortunately, because I was gearing up for a finale with some closure, the final moments ended up falling flat for me. Ah well. I’ll recover.

The suspense is well developed without being drawn out, and the mystery is definitely, well, mysterious. I honestly have no idea what is real and what isn’t when it comes to the mystery (in a good way). At times, some of the action seemed a bit too dramatic, but since there is still, presumably, resolution to come in book two, I’ll save my judgment of that for later. The parkour aspect of the novel was both less believable and less exciting for me. The teens seemed to attempt and master, except for a few slips here and there, stunts that would take extremely agile folks months if not years to master, and they were doing it in the dark in what seemed like no time. Perhaps my imagination got the better of me and visualized far more impressive stunts than were intended, but it did seem a bit hard to believe at times.

What was most interesting for me about this story was the focus on young people living with XP. I first learned about XP last summer when an interview aired on our community radio station with the two founders of Camp Sundown, a camp in a nearby town that is designed specifically for young people with XP and their families. What struck me in the interview, aside from my first learning about XP, was that because this genetic disorder is so rare, many of the campers are meeting others with XP for the first time at camp. The situation for those campers during most of the year greatly contrasts the setting of What We Saw At Night where the existence of a clinic brings families together who deal with the same, or at least similar, health concerns. This contrast made Allie’s community seem that much more comfortable and almost “normal” (not counting, of course, the whole potential murderer out to get them bit). Perhaps it is largely because of their supportive community and the companionship between Allie, Juliet, and Rob, that the tres compadres are able to live for the moment, living life to the fullest. This includes their risk-taking via parkour, but also interestingly involves a very open and encouraging discussion about sexual experience between Allie and her mom. The focus on XP was what held my attention all the way through, and if I decide to see where the mystery takes us in the next book, that will likely be what brings me back as well.

Em’s rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Author: Jacquelyn Mitchard
Publisher: Soho Teen (January 8, 2013)
Note: ARC shared by publisher for honest review