Tag Archive | Young Adult Fiction

Into the Land of Snows

by Ellis Nelson

I read young adult novels.

At almost 52.

There, I’ve said it.

A book worth reading must make the reader feel a connection to the characters. When reading a legal or medical thriller, or contemporary women’s fiction, I relate to those characters in a way reflective of my current life.  I can commiserate with the struggling mom, worry for the cancer patient, feel anger for the victim in a lawsuit.  And that is good.  Empathy and understanding are traits which are necessary in our world.

What I enjoy most about YA fiction is returning to my younger self.  Not identifying with the middle aged mom but, instead, seeing the world through the eyes of the angst ridden teen; reflecting on my own childhood and feeling the pain and rooting for this younger soul at the start of their journey.  blog

“Into the Land of Snows” by Ellis Nelson is not your typical YA book.  One clear distinction is the lack of young adults in the novel.  Sixteen year old Blake, a child of divorce, runs into some trouble with drugs and is sent to spend time with Dad, a doctor with a climbing expedition at Mount Everest.  Blake talks about a friend from home, and one of the Sherpas seems to be young, but otherwise the novel is filled with (don’t be offended) old people, or at least older people than you’d expect in a YA book.

This is actually crucial to the growth Blake experiences during his travel.  The use of marijuana is the least of the issues with which he struggles. He is angry. His entire world collapsed when his parents divorced. And the icing on the cake was Mom moving him from his hometown to her childhood hometown.  She immersed herself in her own depression. Dad escaped to the Himalayas. Blake was left alone with his own sadness and no way to process his grief.

The trip to Everest was supposed to be an opportunity for father and son to reconnect, but after an unexpected climbing tragedy, and potential further danger, Blake is instead sent on a hike with Sherpa Ang, across the mountains to safety.  Opportunity for introspection, long discussions with wise Ang, encounters with Buddhist Monks, a truth which had been kept from him, all provide Blake with the tools he needs to move forward.

Nelson created a world which also allowed the reader to grow.  As a Christian, I admit to ignorance of Buddhism, and probably also an inability to accept a lot of their beliefs, but I did appreciate the opportunity to hear of their religion and culture and to think.  What struck me most about Blake’s travel in a world so completely different from the United States, was the civility he encountered.  Spend some time on social media reading the vitriol spewed right now about our presidential election and see that rich, first world, is not kind to one another.  I enjoyed the kindness shown by those who welcomed a stranger.  It was a respite of peace.

“Into the Land of Snows” is a journey worth taking.


Book #36 – The Compound

by S.A. Bodeen book

I loved this post apocalyptic fiction book very, very much.  Imagine Bill Gates x10 with money and the knowledge that the world is about to end.  He creates an underground compound for he and his family and we get to see how they live and survive in the apocalypse.  But, unlike all those doom and gloom apocalypse predictions, these people live waaayyyy better than most of us live now.


I am all about NOT spoiling a book by telling you too much.  I really dislike those book reviews that read like grade school book reports spelling out exactly what happens and why.  So, sadly, to avoid being a big mouth, I now have to stop writing.

But you should go get this book if you are a PA fan and also enjoy YA books.  And if you don’t know what those letters mean, you can always just watch television.

5/5 Stars

Book #35 – Monument 14

by Emmy Laybourne   book

Thanks to loss of our fios last weekend and no phones, television and internet (gasp), I spent several days reading.  So glad to have had good material and have found another series to continue in “Monument 14”.  This is a young adult post-apocalyptic fiction set in modern times.  And, best of all – no zombies.  Can anyone explain why our culture automatically goes to zombies in the event of an apocalypse??

The premise behind “Monument 14” is interesting, but it was really the setting of the story which made it compelling.  While on route to school, two buses with elementary through high school students encounter a monster hailstorm which crushes one of the buses.  A quick thinking bus driver manages to rescue the surviving students and crash her bus into the opening of what is apparently the worlds largest Walmart-type store imaginable.  As the world outside is experiencing Armageddon, the 14 students end up alone and locked in behind iron gates which they cannot open.

Similar to a “Lord of the Flies” theme, the students must figure out a way to conduct themselves and survive.  My favorite part of any post apocalyptic fiction is the organization: stockpiling, planning, scavenging and anticipating what may come next.  Setting this novel in the confines of a store where you could buy baby food through car parts, and has a mega grocery section, makes much of this novel less about surviving the elements as it is about organizing the stockpile laid before them before chaos ensues within.

My biggest complaint for this book is despite an action packed opening, it took awhile to become part of the story.  In its defense, this is a young adult novel and apparently all young adult novels are not created equally.  This one, at first, realllllllyyyyy felt like it was intended for younger readers.  Contrast that to “The Hunger Games”, or “Divergent” which reverberates from young through adult readers, and you might quit on this one before giving it a chance.  Since I had no access to Facebook for days, I kept reading and am glad I did.

4/5 Stars


Book #32 – Ashfall

by Mike Mullin  book

The worst part of Mullin’s young adult novel “Ashfall” is I stayed up through the night to keep reading and reading.  To an author, I bet that criticism is praise to his ears.

Set in modern times, this post apocalyptic tale takes place following the eruption of a super-volcano under Yellowstone National Park.  All the book seemed believable, but the introduction was especially engrossing and set the tone for an exciting, realistic vision of a young teen who must survive in a world full of falling ash, endless days of gloom, little food and mankind which easily turns on one another in the face of crisis.

You know how in every horror movie a character will knock out a villain, turn their back and the villain gets up and finishes his attack?  How many times have you screamed – hit him again dummy???  Mullin has created characters who are not silly.  They encounter a bad guy and are in danger – they finish off the bad guy.  This felt so much more realistic and made the now dangerous world come to life for the reader.

As with most non-zombie apocalyptic books, my favorite parts involve the lengths one must go to ensure survival:  finding food, securing weapons, procuring supplies to be used now that the chain of distribution has collapsed.  Perhaps it is my years of being a Pepco electric customer ( http://www.wjla.com/articles/2012/07/pepco-most-hated-company-in-america-comes-under-fire-for-outages-77648.html ) who routinely loses power for multiple days, but I love the orderliness of making a plan and working it.  Despite living within miles of the United States President, when we get strong gusts of wind, our neighborhood power ceases and may be out as long as a week.  When I hear of an impending storm, I begin my own preparations: wash and put away all laundry, run dishwasher, clean house so we don’t trip in the dark over all the junk, fresh batteries, flashlights, freeze the food in hopes it will last longer, and on and on.  I was built to live in the apocalypse.

So glad this is book 1 of a trilogy!

5/5 Stars

Book #22 – Rage

by Jackie Morse Kessler Rage

Have you ever loved an author’s first book and rejoiced to learn it was one of a series?  An entire new world already written and waiting for you to enjoy?  Kessler’s first book, “Hunger” is reviewed earlier in this blog and I really thought it was interesting.  I immediately got the second in the Riders of the Apocalypse series, “Rage”.  Sadly, the only thing to rage about was how much I didn’t like this one.

The premise of the series is that there are, indeed, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who exist to oversee the universe.  Each has a job, War, Famine, Death and Pestilence.  Kessler recast the horsemen as everyday teens whose lives match the role.  In book one, Hunger is a young teen with bulimia.  This second try, Rage is another young teen girl who is a cutter.

I think the reason the first book in the series was so good is that it took halfway through the read to really understand what was going on, and the new role the teen would assume.  In a second book, however, that wonder is gone.  The reader already knows the premise, so now interesting characters must propel the story forward.

That is where Kessler failed in my opinion.  I just didn’t like Melissa Miller.  I couldn’t engage in her self destructive behavior of cutting, and didn’t care for the secondary characters in her life.  Also, as an adult, and parent, I think this second book stepped on my last nerve.  Melissa lived in a world with simple minded parents who didn’t have a clue and were uninterested in seeing the reality in their house.  I acknowledge this is a Young Adult work of fiction, but does every parental relationship in these books have to portray parents as disinterested third parties?

I am now done with the series.  Grateful for a public library system which saves me money.

1/5 Stars

Book #18 – The Host

by Stephenie Myer TheHostBookCover

That awkward moment when you have to blog about a book HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to you by friends and …….. you hated it.  I am so hoping they are not actual followers of this book blog, because I don’t want to knock a book clearly loved by friends.  But, I cannot lie.  I just don’t get the fascination with this one.

Bottom line, Earth is invaded by a highly evolved civilization which can invade and assume other life forms.  Okay, I’ll accept premises for the sake of fantasy.  The problem is I can’t accept boring for the sake of the author making some money.  I didn’t like the main characters, either host or alien, so I had a hard time rooting for either to be victorious in assuming “ownership” of the body.  I didn’t like the group of humans who friended the alien, didn’t enjoy the romance of dual personalities loving the same man, yada yada yada.

I really tried to enjoy this just because of the personal recommendation, but it failed for me.

Now, one possible reason for my dislike of this book could be the narration.  This was one I listed to from audible.com.  I have enjoyed the narrator in other books, but her voice didn’t fit the character of a young-ish human with love angst.  I found a clip from internet in case you are a fan of “The Host” and want to listen to a snippet.  If you have read and loved the book, but agree this narrator doesn’t fit and may have influenced my opinion, please feel free to comment.

Clip from “The Host” audiobook


Book #17 – Hunger

by Jackie Morse Kessler  Hunger

What an interesting concept – use of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as the theme for a young adult novel (and, happily, new series).  I found this book while wondering among the library stacks and to be completely honest, liked the cover.  I read only one line of the description and decided to take a chance.  Very glad that I did.

Kessler incorporates modern day youth, a real understanding of high school and dialogue, and brought in the “ancient” idea of the horsemen and their role in society.  What is even more impressive to me, is that I was a third of the way through the novel before I “got” it.  This wasn’t just a book about a young girl becoming Famine and riding around doing famine-like apocalyptic stuff.  This was also a book about the modern day problems faced by too many young girls – anorexia and bulimia.

I don’t like to be preached to when reading a book, and at this point of my life, I am also not really looking for moral lessons.  My time spent between the pages is to escape.  Surprisingly, Kessler presented an important and sensitive subject without being preachy.  She used famine as a way to introduce to the main character the blessings of life, and the importance of embracing what we have versus judging ourselves on impossible and ridiculous criteria.

I really enjoyed this book, and highly recommend.  Very excited to get book two which apparently deals with another teen issue – cutting.

4/5 Stars