Hit the Ground Running by Mark Burley

Hit the Ground RunningBlue Moon Publishers, 2017.

Eric hasn’t talked much with his family since his parents suddenly moved from San Francisco to British Columbia—he was just too mad about the changes they forced him to make. He hasn’t bothered to get to know the other students at his boarding school, either. That would seem too much like acquiescing, so he spends his free time outdoors avoiding the other students and practicing the parkour he loves. But when Eric gets a video message from his brother, he learns that their parents have been taken and his brother’s on the run, so Eric’s forced to come out of his isolation to find them.

Before long, Eric has cobbled-together an action team and they’re off to solve the kidnappings of Eric’s family, but before he’s even had a chance to become the hunter, Eric finds that he’s actually the hunted. He’ll need his extensive knowledge and contacts from traveling the world with his anthropologist parents, his skill at parkour, and a handful of talented friends to survive this little adventure.

I chose this book because I was intrigued by the idea of a YA parkour thriller, and it didn’t disappoint. Eric is a sympathetic and engaging character. As the title suggests, Hit the Ground Running is fast-paced, but unlike some thrillers, the plot is easy to follow. The characters may be moving constantly, but the story allows readers to get to know them, their flaws, and their motivations. There’s parkour, science, cool tech, and even a paranormal element. Two more books are in the works to complete the series, and I’m looking forward to reading them.

Happy Book Birthday to Hit the Ground Running!

Perfect by Cecelia Ahern

perfectFeiwel & Friends, 2017.

Seventeen-year-old Celestine’s life turned on its head when she was branded flawed by the morality court. Now everyone can see that she is not perfect, that she does not meet the standard to which everyone in society is held. But Celestine still doesn’t think that what she did was wrong. As she told Judge Crevan, the impulse that sent her to morality court was simply based on compassion and logic, and she refuses to apologize for that. However, when the judge loses his temper and does something unthinkable and Celestine’s words to the court are taken up by his political rival, Celestine is suddenly caught up in a heated war between two political rivals and two very different parts of society. Celestine will have to use strength she didn’t know she had and the help of friends, both new and old, to use the evidence she has for good.

Frequent readers of this blog will know that I intensely dislike stories with a moral, anything blatant and I’m likely to throw the book across the room. On the other hand, I’m a firm believer in learning from stories. A good story pulls you in and teaches you something about life: how you want to live yours, what (or whom) you want to avoid, how it might be to live in another time or place or body. On the surface Perfect is a dystopian novel that is very similar to others found on the library shelves, and yet there are lessons here—lessons that seem different from other dystopian novels I’ve read in the last few years—lessons of compassion and decency. They struck a real chord with me perhaps because they are timeless lessons, but lessons that may seem particularly important today in the United States.

This young adult novel includes politics, ethics, romance, and a fast-paced, high-stakes plot.

I received an electronic review copy of Perfect courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Game of Fear by Gledé Browne Kabongo

game-of-fear2016

Abbie has a secret, a secret that’s buried so deep that she’s just about forgotten it. She also has a plan. She’s an excellent student at a prestigious private school. According to her plan, next year she’ll be at Princeton, and then she’ll move on to Harvard or Stanford for medical school. She’s working really hard senior year to set her plans in motion. But Abbie didn’t plan on the new and exciting romance that’s sweeping her off her feet. She also didn’t expect to be stalked and blackmailed because of her nearly-forgotten mistake. If she doesn’t find and stop the stalker fast, her new romance, her plan, and everything she’s worked so hard to achieve, will be gone.

This is a suspenseful thriller wrapped up into a boarding school story. Gledé Browne Kabongo has a good sense of teen’s motivations, friendships, and hormone-controlled thrill rides. The plot twists and turns and the stakes are high. Readers who love auspicious wealth, designer name dropping, and high stakes plots will enjoy this story.

I must say that as a feminist, I found this story hard to stomach at times. Abbie Cooper is definitely a strong female character, but the trope of the (mostly) good girl choosing the bad boy because of his astonishingly good looks and his charisma, despite the terrible way he’s treated girls in the past bothers me. Other similar details large and small abound in the story. For example, when the friends come to Thanksgiving dinner, the boys end up in the family room playing video games while the girls help Mom in the kitchen. Many, many clichés also made it into the book, and at times they made me long for fresher word choices.

On the whole, this is a fun, fast paced book with a twisty plot.

I received a copy of Game of Fear courtesy of the author and Kate Tilton’s Book Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage

beautiful-broken-girlsFarrar, Straus, and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2017

When sisters Mira and Francesca are found drowned in the bottom of the town’s old quarry, the citizens of the Boston suburb where they lived are horrified—especially since the accidental death of their cousin only a few weeks earlier. The town is reeling. The newspapers suggest a teen suicide trend. In fact Ben’s parents are watching him like hawks, afraid that somehow his one-time girlfriend’s suicide will spur Ben to take his own life. But Ben doesn’t want to die, he just wants answers: Why did Mira become so distant? What was going on in her head during the month before she took her own life? Did their father’s overprotective ways push the girls to do something drastic?

Ben’s first thought when he sees the letter in Mira’s handwriting is that she’s alive, but he knows better. Instead, before Mira died, she left Ben a series of messages hidden in the places that they touched. Each message explains a little bit more about what happened and why. But the messages are cryptic, and don’t always contain the information Ben is longing for. In order to find the answers his heart needs, Ben will have to navigate an ever more complicated labyrinth of locations past friends and adults who have their own agendas, suspicions, and fears.

Beautiful Broken Girls is a page-turner of a book and an eerie, New England tale. I zipped through it quickly, eager to discover what exactly had happened to Mira and Francesca. Ben is a sympathetic character, and I felt his frustration as he tried to piece together the clues to the mystery. Through flashbacks from Mira’s point of view, the reader also gets to know the girls in their last days.

I felt that many of the characters in this story did not have clear motivations. I would have liked to come away with a better understanding of the motivations of the adults in the story. Perhaps since the story was told entirely from the point of view of teens, this makes sense, but I would have liked a little more insight into their decisions and motivations.

A quick and engaging read, Beautiful Broken Girls comes out on February 21.

I received an advanced reader copy of Beautiful Broken Girls from Netgalley and the publisher, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.