Category Archives: Little, Brown Young Readers

Review: The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (October 14, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780316220750
  • Source: Publisher

Alix is a high school senior who lives a privileged life.  She has the all the right clothes and attends an prominent private school.  Never once has she questioned the source of her family’s affluence, until an activist group known as 2.0 targets her school.  The school isn’t the target, however.  According to 2.0, Alix’s father, head of a public relations firm, is responsible for countless deaths. The firm, nicknamed the Doubt Factory by 2.0, makes money protecting prominent companies from lawsuits by inspiring a feeling of doubt about the claims against them.  The members of 2.0 not much older than Alix herself, all orphans after their parents died after health warnings about various drugs were covered up by the Doubt Factory. It is the hope of Moses, one of the members of 2.0, that Alix can aid the group in their attempts to bring down her father’s company.

Alix is forced to question everything and everyone around her. Initially, she stands behind her father’s prestige but her resolve is weakened as she begins to do some research. Everything about Alix’s life begins to crumble down around her. Only she can put an end to all the senseless deaths, even if it means bringing down her father with her.

The Doubt Factory is a thought-provoking thriller that forces readers to reevaluate our feelings about big business corporations and the power they wield.  While it’s terrifying to contemplate that a situation like this may reside in our nation, it’s not that far from the realm of possibility.

Bacigalupi has crafted a novel rich with dynamic, well-rounded characters.  Alix’s transformation from snotty, privileged teen to a determined, passionate young woman was quite pronounced. Readers, like Alix, will question everything they know as they embark upon this journey of discovery. Initial opinions about certain characters will shift dramatically, with a multitude of questions not answered until the end. A truly exhilarating read, The Doubt Factory is a novel that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.  Highly, highly recommended.

 

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Joint Review/Discussion: The Young World by Chris Weitz

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (July 29, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780316226295
  • Source: Publisher

A mysterious sickness has struck the population. The only survivors are teens; the only thing preventing their death are the hormone binding proteins that ravage the teen body but level out as they reach adulthood. Children under the age of puberty and adults who have passed this stage in life fall victim to this sickness.  The survivors not only have to deal with surviving in a post-apocalyptic world alone, but the knowledge that they too will face the same demise.

Two years later, in New York City, survivors have formed tribes under  a new social order.  Three teens, part of Manhattan’s Washington Square Tribe, decide that rather than sitting around waiting to die, they must find the cause, and eventually a cure, for the sickness. On a visit to the New York Public Library they uncover a scientific journal describing a scientific study that may explain the origins of the sickness.  The location of this study is just a few hundred miles away and the tribe leaves relative safety of their home in an attempt to save society as they know it.

When I first heard about this title several months ago, I knew it would be a book that my teen son would enjoy. He’s just branching out into reading young adult and is a big fan of survivalist stories.  I handed over my review copy and he devoured it in a matter of days. He couldn’t stop talking about it. He bugged me to read it so we could discuss it. So I did. What follows is our discussion of this book (not edited):

 

Jenn: So, John-John, why did you enjoy this book?

John-John: What’s not to enjoy! I mean, a world in which only teens have survived? No adults or younger siblings? Ok, so the fact that all the parents and younger kids are dead is kind of sad. I mean, I guess it would be fun for a while but once it all set it I would be pretty sad. Also: New York City! Ok, I know I’ve never been but if I had to survive a post-apocalyptic world I think I would want to do it in New York City. Or maybe out in the country where no one else could bother me. One of the two.  Think of it: all these well-known tourist spots, free to visit whenever you wanted with no traffic? Sounds pretty exciting to me!

Jenn: It certainly is a unique premise. I’ve read quite a few books (John-John: Understatement of the year!) in which society has fallen for one reason or another. I really liked this one because it’s obvious the author put a lot of thought and research into this explanation. Also, the survivors are only temporary. They too will eventually fall victim to the same fate.  What happens when they all age out of puberty?

John-John: Yeah, that is a bummer. I mean, you have no idea when you are going to die. It could be tomorrow or in a few weeks, or even a few years. Your body is a ticking time bomb, giving no warning to when it’s going to just…stop.

Jenn: So you like the idea of having free reign over New York City? Even with all the other tribes running around?

John-John: Ok, take the fun out of it, Mom!  Yes, all the tribes running around are kind of scary. Maybe at first it would be fun, but the constant fear of a fight is pretty scary.

Jenn: I thought the new social classes that rose up were interesting. They were called tribes, but reminded me of modern-day gangs.

John-John: Yeah, it was pretty scary and intense.  While I liked the idea of a world without adults, the thought of only teens running the world is kind of terrifying. I mean…teens are moody!

Jenn: (Laughs)Understatement of the year! So, let’s talk about what they discovered when they reached the lab. No spoilers, though, ok?

John-John: Ok, spoiler free: Intense. Scary. I don’t know if I felt more hopeful then or more terrified. I can’t wait for the sequel!

Jenn: Exactly. I felt relieved when they reached the lab but what they discovered wasn’t exactly what they were anticipating!

Ok, time to wrap up our feelings about this book. We need to give readers our reason for reading it. I’ll go first!

I really enjoyed reading this because the premise is so unique. I don’t know of another young adult novel like this one.  I also liked the multiple points of view.  We view this new world through the eyes of two survivors, Jefferson (definitely more level-headed and contemplative) and Donna (certainly more emotional and a little on the flaky side) and so we get two very different viewpoints on what has transpired.

John-John: Yes! I don’t think I’ve read anything like this yet.  I really liked the characters. I don’t think Donna was necessarily flaky. I think you think that because you are an adult. I think she was emotional because this was a pretty emotional time. Not only is she concerned about her own survival, her body is going through all kinds of crazy things. I think her behavior is completely understandable.

Jenn: Good point. Looking at it from a teen reader, I see how you could be more sympathetic to the characters!  Any warnings you would like to give to potential readers?

John-John: Ok, I know if I don’t mention it you will. Foul language. There’s quite a bit of it. But honestly, it’s not like I haven’t heard it before. There were some things I didn’t understand or had questions about, but I just asked you. So, if parents are reading this, be prepared to answer questions.  The language used can be intense, but it’s completely understandable given that, you know, the world is over and only teens have survived.  I wouldn’t expect anything different.

Jenn: Very well put.  Yes, I would recommend parents reading along if they have a young teen (John is fourteen) to help explain some of the terminology/what transpires. There is foul language. Quite a bit of it. If you don’t think/want your child to be exposed to this, perhaps this isn’t the book for them. I’m really glad you asked me to read this with you, John. It was certainly a fun experience!

Any last thoughts, John?

John-John: Read this book! It really made me think about a world without my parents and how terrifying that would be. I wanted you to read it so you can experience it with me. Now I want all my friends to read it, too. It has a lot of action, a lot to keep readers excited about reading this book. Most of all, it’s not a “girl book” or a “boy book.” Its a book I think all readers will enjoy!

Jenn: Well said!  I also highly recommend this book, with the disclaimers mentioned above!

 

Review: School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari

 

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  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 031603326X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316033268
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    Madeleine Masterson is deathly afraid of bugs.  She walks around with a veil over her face to protect her from any bugs that might fall into her face or hair.  She carries a can a bug spray at all times and areas must be fumigated before she will enter. Theodore Bartholomew is afraid of death.  He contacts his family members several times throughout the day to make sure no harm has come to them. Lulu Punchalower is claustrophobic.  She’ll make up any excuse possible to avoid elevators or any other confined space.  And finally, Garrison Feldman.  Garrison is the jock of the group. However, he is afraid of water.  The thought of entering a pool or, God-forbid, the ocean, terrifies him.

    The parents of these four children are desperate for them to be cured of their phobias, so they turn them each over to Mrs. Wellington and her highly elusive School of Fear.  However, when the children arrive, the school isn’t quite what they are expecting.  The exterior looks nothing like pristine campus pictured in the brochures.   And Mrs Wellington, former beauty queen extraordinare, has the most unusual teaching methods.

    School of Fear is an absolutely delightful read. I read it in a little over an hour during our trip to Williamsburg. There is no noticable violence or foul language, so I would easily recommend this to anyone in the 9-12 age range. I think children will enjoy the hilarious phobias definied at the beginning of each chapter (did you know there’s a valid phobia for those afraid of peanut butter!?).   The author very vividly describes each of the main characters and their particular obsessions/fears.   I’ll definitely be passing this on to my ten-year old. I’m sure he’ll get an absolute kick out of it!