by Seán Cullen
Brendan is your typical awkward teen. He gets pimples and has to wear braces… and he hears animals speaking to each other. That last detail is the newest one to cloud his life, and he believes it is a sign that he is going crazy. Until he learns that he is of course a faerie prince with immense power. The spell that has been protecting him all his life is starting to fade, and some evil faeries are trying to hunt him down so that they can recruit him to the dark side.
The book flows well enough and is a pretty good supernatural adventure. Some funny stuff about faeries vs fairies, plus a lot of Toronto-ness (if you’re into that sort of thing). I read it because the cover is cool, and I won’t be reading the second one because the cover isn’t cool and the story isn’t as addictive as other supernatural orphan stories.
Despite my faint praise, this book would still be a really good read for those who liked Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. It’s missing something I can’t put my finger on, but it’s still a good adventure fantasy. The Canadian setting might make it more interesting for Canadian kids as well.
by Carrie Mac
Phoenix lives in a world where science has advanced enough to be able to give people a second chance at life. Actually, a lot of people get four. Depending on what class you are, you can be brought back to life up to three times, provided your death was an accident. Phoenix has had two accidents already. She is jealous of her superstar athlete brother, Gryphon, who has never died.
Until one night he does. The circumstances of his death are mysterious enough that the governing body has ruled his death a suicide, and are refusing to bring him back. But what really happened? Phoenix is determined to figure out what really happened to her brother.
I had high expectations for this book, because I think Carrie Mac usually skillfully weaves her social conscience into her books, and her stories are usually very creative. I liked the idea of the society Mac painted in this book, but I did not particularly enjoy any of the characters. The writing was even less likable than the extremely shallow characters. Everything was revealed so awkwardly in the beginning, with characters basically saying “I know you’ve told me this already, but let’s hear it one more time for the readers’ sake.” When the mystery starts to unfold, the only action keeping the story going Gryphon’s friends telling Phoenix that she will have to wait for them to tell her. Mac also tries to bring “issues” into the book, but it’s done more didactically than an after-school special from the 80’s. A mulligan in Mac’s career, but hopefully she’ll be up to Droughtlanders-level quality with her next one.
Set in British Columbia, so BC teens may enjoy it for the setting. Fans of dystopian books may enjoy the premise.
by Eric Walters
It’s January of 2010. Joshua is 15, and has just had a falling out with God. His relationship with his dad isn’t great either, mostly because his dad moved him and his younger sister across Toronto to a new neighbourhood, school, and church right after their mom died. Worse still, his dad is a preacher, and there seems to be no end to the prayers and the Christian truisms he spouts, even though God clearly isn’t listening—if he was, Josh’s mom would still be alive. Now, on top of all that, Josh has to go with his dad and his sister on a mission to Haiti to help build an orphanage. He doesn’t want to make friends on this trip, but he has no choice but to band together with Philippe, a Haitian orphan, and a fellow missionary named Naomi after the earthquake hits and they have to journey to Port au Prince to find insulin for Naomi, who is diabetic. His father and sister were supposed to return with the insulin earlier, but a quarter of a million people perished in the quake, and they may be among them.
Walters tends to write in a genre I like to call “disaster capitalism”, exploiting the world’s tragedies for a story teachers will assign to high school students. Most irritatingly, the heroes and everyone they love always survive, and they learn an important first world lesson, which I think misrepresents how horrible it actually is for people in the real world who are affected by these things.
However, this book is a decent read. It has a pretty wide appeal, since it deals with a lot of Josh’s personal baggage—his relationship with his dad and his God—while focusing on disaster and heroic feats. It’s topical, but it isn’t so topical that it won’t be a good read years from now. It’s also Canadian, with references to Timmy’s, mediocre French education, and other little details.
A recommended resource for teachers who want to address current events, although the religious aspect may make it inappropriate in public schools.