Codes for Reviews

First Initial (Overall Rating):
E = Exceptional
VG = Very Good
G = Good
F = Fair
NR = Not Recommended

Second Initital (Reading Level):
A = Average Reading Level
E = Easy
M = Mature

“The views expressed are of individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of their respective institutions.”

For more information about YAR, please email Dora Ho at

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

In Darkness

Young Adult Historical Fiction

F/M Lake, Nick. In Darkness. Bloomsbury, 2012. 352p. 978-1-59990-743-7. 17.99.

The story unfolds in alternating chapters about Shorty, a 15-year-old Haitian gangster stuck in the rubble after the devastating 2010 earthquake, and a third person narrative about Toussaint L’Ouverture, the revolutionary leader from the late 18th century that helped end slavery in Haiti. While both halves are interesting and inform the reader about Haiti’s history and current state of affairs, the connection between the two halves is flimsy. Shorty and Toussaint have little in common and even though the author tries to connect them through Haiti’s tradition of voodoo, it falls flat. It probably would have worked better as two separate books. It might still be a good addition to a library collection since it is historical fiction and there are very few books, especially for young adults, about Haiti. Loren Spector, LAPL, Felipe de Neve

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Drowned Cities

Young Adult Fiction

VG/A Bacigalupi, Paolo. The Drowned Cities. Little, Brown, 2012. 439p. 978-0-316-05624-3. 17.99.

Friends, Mahlia and Mouse are war maggots (or orphans), trying to survive in a harsh world full of fighting warlords. When Mouse is captured and forced to join the army, Mahlia teams up with Tool, a genetically engineered half-human, half-dog to try to rescue him. Great story about survival, friendship and loyalty with a ton of action too. It’s the companion book to the 2010 Printz award winner, Ship Breaker, but definitely stands alone. Loren Spector, LAPL, Felipe de Neve

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


General YA Fiction

G/A Wells, Dan. Partials. Balzer + Bray, 2012. 480p. 978-0-06-207104-0. $17.99

The story is set in a near dystopian future where government sanctioned super beings or Partials were created to help defeat the enemy in war. The Partials, however, end up turning on their creators. The humans blame the Partials for release of the RM virus that has all but eliminated the human race. Although the virus didn’t kill off absolutely every human, time is likely to finish the job. The remaining survivors cannot reproduce viable infants, no baby born since the Break has lived beyond a few days. In response, the existing government imposes the Hope Act, which requires by law every woman over the age of 18 to bear as many children as possible during her reproductive years. In a society where children are forced to grow up quickly, 16-year-old medic Kira Walker makes it her mission to find a cure for the RM Virus. Kira believes the cure lies in the biology of the Partials who are not affected by the virus even though they possess some human DNA. In a dangerous attempt to capture a Partial for medical research, Kira along with some like-minded friends decide to break the law and enter the island of Manhattan where the Partials have been silent but encamped for the last decade. The repercussions of her actions and what Kira subsequently discovers about the Partials and her own world goes much deeper than Kira could have ever imagined.

This first installment in a planned series gets off to a slow start and sophisticated readers will not be surprised by plot developments. Interesting premise but one can forsee some readers getting impatient with the pacing and giving up before the end.

Patsy Pinedo Tuck, Eagle Rock Branch, Los Angeles Public Library

Monday, April 2, 2012

Dreamland Social Club

General YA Fiction.

NR/A Altebrando, Tara. Dreamland social club. Dutton, 2011. 389p. 978-0-525-42325-6. $16.99.

Jane and her brother have inherited a house in Coney Island, from the grandfather they never knew. The timing is perfect, as their father is between jobs, enabling the family to move from London to Coney Island for a year. Their mother having passed away when Jane was six, she thinks this will be a chance to find out who her mother really was. At first, all Jane can see is the weirdness of Coney Island, but she soon falls in love with its history, its inhabitants, and its potential future.

This coming of age story is a love letter to Coney Island history, but even the main character is flat, and the plot lines are poorly executed.

Anjelique Granados, CoLAPL-Angelo M. Iacoboni Library

An Elephant in the Garden

Middle school fiction

G/A Morpurgo, Michael. An elephant in the garden. Feiwel and Friends, 2010. 199p. 978-0-312-59369-8. $16.99

Lizzie is a nursing home patient, and she likes to keep to herself, until she meets Karl, the son of one of her nurses. Karl’s cheerful energy reminds Lizzie of her younger brother, Karli, and the two become friends. Soon, Lizzie is reminiscing about her youth in Dresden during WWII, and the time when her family kept an elephant in their garden.

Lizzie and Karl’s mother (Mutti) was a zookeeper, and she most loved taking care of an orphan elephant, named Marlene. As part of the city’s preparation for wartime bombing, the zoo planned to destroy its largest animals, so as to keep the city safe from a possible stampede. But Mutti persuaded the officials that Marlene would be safest with her. When the bombing comes to Dresden, Marlene gets scared and runs away. Karl goes chasing after Marlene, and Lizzie and Mutti chase after Karl. This saves their lives, but now they must flee the city as refugees, trying to avoid soldiers of both sides. Marlene ends up being much more of a help than hindrance.

Despite dire circumstances, this is a warm story of family and survival. Inspired by true events.
Anjelique Granados, CoLAPL-Angelo M. Iacoboni Library

Those That Wake

General YA Fiction.

F/A Karp, Jesse. Those that wake. Harcourt Children’s Books, 2011. 336p. 978-0-547-55311-5. $16.99.

Taking place in the near future, New York City is a shell of its former self. The corporations have taken over the running of the city, because the government broke down in the aftermath of a second terrorist attack, known as the “Big Black.” Technology allows both a constant stream of targeted advertising, and the means of keeping tabs on citizens’ whereabouts. In order to avoid the authorities’ notice, people keep to themselves, eyes firmly fixed on their cellphone screens.

Teenagers Mal and Laura take this isolationist environment for granted. They could not be more different, but they come together in order to learn what has happened to their families.

Karp is clearly inviting readers to think about technology and corporate culture, telling an interesting story in the process. Unfortunately, the writing just doesn’t bring all the storylines together.

Anjelique Granados, CoLAPL-Angelo M. Iacoboni Library