We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were LiarsDelacorte Press, 2014.

Four friends, three of them cousins, one a poor city mouse, meet each summer on a private island. They are called the Liars. They name each summer with their age. Together they explore privilege,  their friendship, forbidden love, and the mythology and reality of being a Sinclair.

Summer 15 something big happened, if only Cady could remember what. I can’t tell you any more without spoiling the book. But I can say, I usually steer away from books about these sorts of privileged kids. They turn me off. This one didn’t.

We Were Liars kept me up late reading. The suspense and clues seemed perfectly balanced. I was engaged in wanting to know what happened. I received enough information to avoid being frustrated but not so much information that I guessed the end far in advance.

I got We Were Liars from the local library because I remembered how much buzz it had generated and how many agents have been using it as an exemplar of what they’re looking for. I’m glad I read it. Read it yourself. I think you will be glad you did.

The Six by Mark Alpert

The SixSourcebooks Fire, July 1, 2015

Adam is dying slowly and painfully from muscular dystrophy. His dad would do anything to save him, but for now all he can manage is to  keep him supplied with virtual reality games that help him feel like he can still move even though he’s confined to a wheelchair and rapidly losing motor function. One day through his game Adam encounters a serious virtual enemy. The problem is, that enemy is virtual, but also very real–so real that  it’s threatening the human race. Soon, the government hatches a plan to use a group of dying teenagers, including Adam, to fight this artificially intelligent enemy. The doctors say they’re all about to lose their lives anyway. But in order to join the fight and save humanity, they’ll have to abandon their ailing bodies for good.

This is a gripping story full of fascinating questions. Could a computer equipped with artificial intelligence take over the world? How would we fight it? If your body fails but your mind remains, do you still exist? Would you make the choice to live in a robotic body if the alternative was dying?

Teen (and adult) readers will love this book. It’s not just a fast-paced, exciting story, but an invitation to explore existential and ethical questions. Readers will consider whether a person can exist within a robotic body. Could the soul live without the body? They’ll consider the ethics of artificial intelligence. Do we have the right to develop programs that are extremely powerful and that evolve? It’s a dream and a whole passel of nightmares rolled into one.

I read The Six as an electronic ARC courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley. Release is scheduled for July 1, 2015.

The Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek by Seth Rudetsky

rise and fall theater geekRandom House Children’s Books, 2015

It’s junior year of high school, and Justin is about to embark on the two week internship of his dreams, helping a famous television actor who’s about to make his debut on Broadway. On the face of it it’s everything Justin has ever dreamed of, but an internship is not as glamorous as he’d imagined, especially with the star’s personal assistant calling the shots. Add to that BFF troubles, boyfriend troubles, and a terminally embarrassing and cranky grandmother and Justin’s got his hands full. Will he be able to use his considerable chutzpah to turn this into the internship of his dreams?

This book is Glee on steroids. Justin is every bit the selfish performer with huge aspirations. He’s a larger than life character, and this is a larger than life tale, but quite a fun one. There are definitely some messages in here, and the ending wraps up everything with a tidy bow.

Kids who love performing and dream of taking to the stage will enjoy this book. It’s about a bunch of sixteen-year-olds, but I expect the readers who will enjoy this most will be middle school students dreaming of high school. The humor and messages are a bit heavy handed to please older readers.

I read The Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek courtesy of Random House Children’s Books and NetGalley. It releases June 23, 2015.

The Astrologer’s Daughter by Rebecca Lim

The Astrologer's DaughterText Publishing, 2015.

Avicenna’s mother is gone and it’s time she reported her missing. It doesn’t make Avi feel any better that her mother foretold this day. Avi faces the police questions bravely; she even gets herself to school. She feeds herself and copes, but in the endless, airless nights she’s driven to panic at her solitude. She lights up the apartment and flings wide the door in hopes of getting air. It’s during those airless nights that her mother’s role as an astrologer begins to haunt her, as her mother’s clients, and even the police, look to Avicenna for answers.

Avicenna is a main character to love. She’s strong, smart, and a bit of a wise ass. Her life has been hard, but she’s always had the benefit of a truly loving mother. It is easy to root for her and to hope that she, too, has her mother’s skills in astrology. There’s plenty of action here, and the stakes are high enough to keep readers turning the pages.

Existential questions are sewn through this plot, adding even more interest. How much do you want to know about your future? Do you really want to know the time and manner of your death? If you know your fate, can you alter it? How will knowing change you? How do we recover from the loss of a loved one? Who will fill the gap?

Set in Melbourne, Australia, The Astrologer’s Daughter is a thought-provoking read. It will be out June 9, 2015.

I read The Astrologer’s Daughter as a digital ARC courtesy of NetGalley and Text Publishing.