Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins ***

I'm always game for an after-the-apocalypse book about the future.  Two of my favorites for adults are by Margaret Atwood (Oryx & Crake and The Handmaid's Tale), & then there seems to be a plethora of books for kids about the ominous future (The Missing series & The Shadow Children, both by Margaret Peterson Haddix for example).  So I was pretty excited about reading The Hunger Games anyway, but add to that a friend at work loaning me her copy & the movie coming out soon & I was ready to jump in!
My first impressions of the book were good.  The background of the main character, Katniss Everdeen, is very full & helps the reader feel like they've really gotten to know her.  And the whole concept of taking children as tribute reminds me a great deal of Greek mythology, the legend of Theseus to be exact.  It was going in a great direction, as far as I was concerned!
But then the games began.  And man, I gotta say it's very frightening & gory!  Yes, I've read scary books before, but I've never read one this graphic that was meant for kids between the ages of 12-17.  The terror that the characters are in is horrible, plus the fact that these kids are killing each other!  These characters are between the ages of 12-18 & they're in some cases slaughtering each other with abandon!  Wow!  It was enough to give me the heebie-jeebies when I went for a run today at the park--there was no one else there & the wind was blowing & I kept expecting some starving deranged teen to come running out of the woods with a spear or just a big rock & do me in!
I think Suzanne Collins did an excellent job of invoking the terror, horror, & overall desperation that a kid would feel in those circumstances.  Obviously it worked on me!  But I just knew that everything would be wrapped up in the end & there would be some kind of answer to all this...
But there wasn't.  It just left me hanging.  And I know this is a series of books & she wants to leave me hanging so I'll read the next one, but I was annoyed.  Because this was more like a first part of a novel rather than book one of a trilogy to me.
Between the graphic violence & the sudden ending, I gave this book just 3 stars. 
But that's not gonna stop me from reading the next one.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Runaway Twin by Peg Kehret ****

I think it has to be hard for authors writing books for kids in the 4-6th grade, especially if they want to make them realistic.  Let's face it, it's hard to be real without being scary.  All you have to do is turn on the news in the evening, or better yet watch one of the at least 25 crime dramas on tv to see how frightening the world can be. 
I think Peg Kehret has done a good job in this book of being real without going overboard.  I haven't read any of her other books, but she seems to be a specialist in this.  Scary stuff that won't keep kids from being able to sleep at night.
Sunny Skyland is an orphan who's been bumped around from foster family to foster family ever since she was 3 & her mom & grandma died in a car wreck.  It's 10 years later & when she finds a bag of money in the woods near her current foster home in Nebraska she decides to do what she's dreamed of all her life--find her twin sister, Starr.  With just her brains, the money, & a stray dog she finds on the way, Sunny makes her way to Washington state, to the town she lived in before her life changed forever.  Will she find Starr?  And what happens if she does?
This book is well written & it also has a realistic ending.  Some of the adventures she encounters are a little far fetched, but the way Peg Kehret describes them makes you more than willing to believe.  Coming face-to-face with a tornado in the middle of nowhere with no shelter doesn't sound like a good recipe for survival, but the descriptions are wonderful & the matter-of-fact way the author uses them makes you really think this is what a 13 year old girl like Sunny would say.
The media is full of so many stories of separated twins who found each other when they were older & happened to have lived similar lives.  But when two paths diverge you never know where they'll end up.  I don't want to give anything away, but I found the need for acceptance of life the way that it is at the end of the book refreshing.  It has a happy ending, the kind that will stick with you.