Did I say I was going to have more time to read books and write reviews when I was on maternity leave? I'm a really funny person, aren't I?
I did get a few books read - only so much you can do when you are sitting there nursing Mr. Piggie, and trying to convince his older siblings that just because they are out of arm's reach that does not mean they don't have to do what they are told (such a PERFECT time for someone to enter her testing-my-independence stage). Typing with one hand got old fast, though, and was mostly reserved for important things like Facebook posts.
Maternity leave is over (wah!) and I have a stack of books I need to return before I owe my whole $6 paycheck (long story involving messed-up disability payments), so here are some quick descriptions and reviews.
"I refuse to speak further of the Ten-legged One...but the more I think about it, the more I like it. Why mess around with Catholicism when you can have your own customized religion? All you need is a disciple or two...and a god."
Fed up with his parents' boring old religion, agnostic-going-on-atheist Jason Bock invents a new god — the town's water tower. He recruits an unlikely group of worshippers: his snail-farming best friend, Shin, cute-as-a-button (whatever that means) Magda Price, and the violent and unpredictable Henry Stagg. As their religion grows, it takes on a life of its own. While Jason struggles to keep the faith pure, Shin obsesses over writing their bible, and the explosive Henry schemes to make the new faith even more exciting — and dangerous.
When the Chutengodians hold their first ceremony high atop the dome of the water tower, things quickly go from merely dangerous to terrifying and deadly. Jason soon realizes that inventing a religion is a lot easier than controlling it, but control it he must, before his creation destroys both his friends and himself.
One of our reference librarians pointed this book out to me, and I was immediately intrigued by the presence. The initial description I read implied that the religion spread much further than this small group, however, so I was disappointed by something that was in no way the author's fault. It was an enjoyable book, and brought up some interesting points to discuss, but I was also disappointed in how shallowly some were explored. Jason's relationship with his father, for example, and how religion is treated in his family (basically, blind faith - not in a cult-like way, just in a complacent, don't-think-too-hard way). While his father's final decision jives with the story and his character, oe of his final comments doesn't.
I did like the fact that things aren't neatly tied up in the end (as we know, I hate unrealistic endings), and that (spoiler alert) Hautman did not feel the need to let the 'good guy' get the girl. Jason's character is well-drawn, the others not as much so, but still distinct enough to go beyond initial stereotypes. Will appeal to midle or high school students who fancy themselves a bit of a rebel. Will probably cause hysterical outcry if used as classroom reading (discussion questions available on bn.com).
"Grace Pizzelli is the average one, nothing like her brilliant older sister, Emily, who works for Rasmussem, creators of the world’s best virtual reality games. The games aren’t real, though—or at least they weren’t. Now Emily has hidden herself inside a pink and sparkly game meant for little girls. No one knows why, or how to convince her to come back out, and the technology can’t keep her safe for much longer. Grace may consider herself average, but she’s the only one who can save Emily. So Grace enters the game, hoping to talk her sister out of virtual suicide before time runs out. Otherwise Emily will die—for real."
I have been a longtime fan of Vivian Vande Velde. The basic premise of being stuck inside a video game is explored in her earlier title, Heir Apparent - note similar cover:
The difference here is that Emily is purposely stuck inside, and Grace discovers very quickly that the game itself is not behaving as it should be. Offers a somewhat plausible explanation for how game characters could, through their own programming, begin acting independently. Parts of the adventure wear a bit thin in places, and the reveal of Emily's big secret was more of a "Really? That's it? Huh." moment. Unlike Godless, this one does wrap up a little too neatly in the end. I currently have it in the YA collection, but I think I will move it to Juvenile Sci-Fi. Should appeal to girls around 10 years old, an interest in computer games not required.
"16-year-old Alex decides to get even. His parents are separated, his father is dating his former third-grade teacher, and being 16 isn't easy, especially when it comes to girls. Instead of revenge though, Alex ends up in trouble with the law and is ordered to do community service at a senior center where he is assigned to Solomon Lewis, a "difficult" senior with a lot of gusto, advice for Alex, and a puzzling (yet colorful) Yiddish vocabulary. Eventually, the pair learn to deal with their past and each other in ways that are humorous, entertaining, and life-changing."
Contented sigh. Does Sonnenblick write anything that is NOT brilliant? Here he takes an old theme - young kid screws up, old fart teaches him the meaning of life - and makes it seem completely fresh and new, as if no one had ever come up with such a concept before. Sonnenblick is a master at using humor - the kind of humor that has you continually reading passages aloud, until your husband finally tells you to shut up so he can read it himself - around the darkest subjects, while still bringing you to tears. (Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie - funniest book about childhood cancer I have ever read.)
The main characters are very real, and if the plot 'twist' was obvious miles before it happened, I didn't care. Okay, so I'm smarter than a 16-year-old boy - that was obvious from the first chapter. I'm not as funny, though, and nowhere near as charming as Sol - but then, I always did have a thing for little old men. Definitely the best one of the bunch, and an easy crossover for adults who aren't put off by the YA label!