The World of the “Possible”: The Fourteenth Goldfish (2014) by Jennifer L. Holm

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm (2014)

Suggested age range: 10 and up (Random House Books for Kids, 208 pages)

Rating: 4/5 stars

Source: e-ARC from Net Galley

Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction

I received an e-ARC of this book from Net Galley & Random House Kids in exchange for an honest review.

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The Book: Ellie is eleven and in middle school. Transition is difficult in itself but throw in the sudden arrival of her grandfather at her home, and things are even more complicated. That’s because he’s thirteen years old! As a famous scientist, Melvin has successfully reversed the aging process through his discovery of a jellyfish compound, dubbed T. melvinus. So Ellie is essentially going to school with a teenager who has a 76 year old brain. Ellie and her friend Raj decide to help Melvin break into his lab in order to safeguard the compound, and if they accomplish this, perhaps the world will finally have its “fountain of youth.” What ensues is a humorous adventure in which Ellie discovers more about herself,  the changing nature of friendships, and the value of love from family and friends in the midst of growing up.

Spirituality in The Fourteenth Goldfish: The book’s ability to make the reader consider the realm of the “possibles” in the world of science is one of its highlights. I, for one, think that the relationship between spirituality and science is a relevant one. Especially when you get into quantum physics. I’ll save that for another post though. What I want to say is that some points and themes in the story leave gaps for spiritual ideas to poke through. For example, the cycle of life is important and the way that cycle runs is significant—if we have the power, should we be able to alter that? Should we play God? Such questions raise what could be heavy issues with readers.

Who Should Read This Book: Fans of When You Reach Me or A Tangle of Knots would get this title as a reading option from me (were you in my 6th grade classroom). The journey of a girl navigating the beginnings of middle school and also harboring a great secret (her grandfather who has discovered how to reverse aging is a teenager living in her home) is one that I think many readers of fantasy or science fiction would enjoy. I also think there are some cool events that could coincide with this text—jellyfish research and fountain of youth creations and even lunch at a Chinese restaurant where segments of dialogue could be read from the book in a reader’s theatre presentation. Don’t ignore the ‘possibles’ with this one!

The Final Word: Jennifer L. Holm is a three time Newbery honor winner, and this novel’s unique premise is reason alone to delve into the world of middle grade science fiction, if that’s not your normal cup of tea. If you found a fountain of youth, would you take advantage of it? If you could have your grandparent live with you, but as a teenager, would you say yes? You might never have to answer either of these questions in reality, but they’re amusing to think about. This story is charming, but it also gives science nerds something meatier to read as well. Readers that aren’t as interested in science might get a little bogged down at times, and there were a few points where I wanted more to happen faster, but all in all, I enjoyed the story and was satisfied with its conclusion. I’m especially drawn to middle grade novels that highlight enduring themes like this one: “Never ignore a possible.” Challenge accepted.

What did you think of The Fourteenth Goldfish? Are there other middle grade science fiction titles this reminds you of?

The Infinite Sea [The 5th Wave #2] (2014) by Rick Yancey

The Infinite Sea [Book #2 in The 5th Wave Series] by Rick Yancey (2014)

Suggested age range: 14 and up (Putnam, 480 pages)

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Source: Kindle

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

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The Book: The sequel to The 5th Wave, this second book in Rick Yancey’s gripping series continues the story of Cassie as she attempts to survive on the earth in the midst of an alien enemy. But who and where is the enemy? The first book raised this question, and it’s asked again in the second. The stories of Ringer, Razor, and Teacup also continue, giving readers chapters in different perspectives. Ringer and Cassie are both given large chunks of the narrative to tell their story, and even if readers are jarred by the shifting perspectives, they should be familiar with the novel’s twists and turns. Who will triumph: aliens or humans? There are strong odds stacked up against the humans, but the aliens didn’t count on Evan Walker, whom we meet in Book 1.

Spirituality in The Infinite Sea: Hope, Despair, Love, Hate—these emotions are threaded throughout the experiences of the characters in the novel, and the story grapples with that age old tension between giving up and persevering/hoping that something good will come out of what seems to be a very bleak situation.

Can a world overrun with aliens get better? Can it be saved?

There are points in the story where you might think it can’t (as there are times in our own lives where we think, how can I get through this or how can anything good come out of this situation?!) but I think Yancey successfully shows how hope is powerful and the tiniest bit of light makes a difference. There isn’t any doubt that love is going to win—at least that’s my take, but we’ll have to see what happens in Book 3.

Who Should Read This Book: If you read Book 1 of The 5th Wave, you’re going to want to read the sequel. If you haven’t read Book 1, and you like post-apocalyptic reads with aliens and a strong female lead, I would recommend Book 1 for sure. Obviously you’re then going to want to pick up Book 2. Book 2 draws the readers inside the mind of another strong female, and I think Yancey gives really interesting portrayals of these two girls caught up in a very cruel and dangerous world. If you like unpredictable turns in a book, this is one for you. I did not see that coming at the end of Book 2 (no spoilers here).

Warning: There is some strong language in the book! (remember this is the end of the world with aliens–but if strong language is an issue for young readers you might be giving this book to, etc., take a look at the story first)

The Final Word: I didn’t like Book 2 as much as Book 1, and one reason for that was the shifting perspectives. I can understand why Yancey chose to give us Cassie’s perspective as well as Ringer’s. He even gives us a glimpse into the minds of several minor characters, which I actually liked. I think I’m just more interested in Cassie’s story, and that may be why I didn’t like it when the narrative switched to Ringer. Though, at the end of the book, I think I understood more why a good chunk of the narrative belonged to Ringer. At the same time, I also felt like a lot of questions and issues were raised, but weren’t really answered. I didn’t expect Yancey to wrap things up neatly, but I felt more satisfied at the end of Book 1 than I did at the end of Book 2. I’m looking forward to Book 3, to see how it all goes down. Now, how long will we have to wait?

Did you read the sequel to The 5th Wave? What did you think?

A Cyborg Cinderella: Cupcake Review–Cinder (2012) by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (2012)

Suggested age range: 12 and up (Puffin, 387 pages)

Rating: 5/5 stars

Source: Personal Copy

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fairy Tales

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The Book: Think Cinderella, cyborgs, androids, Prince, Evil Queen, Horrible stepmother, deadly plague, action, adventure, secrets, and danger. Need I say more? Cinder is the first book in what is going to be an epic series, filled with memorable characters that we already know. Sort of. Why? Fairy Tales! Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel. These are some of the names that will grace the pages of Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles.

The Cinderella of Meyer’s world, however, isn’t the one we know. Not exactly. Cinder is cyborg—she’s not totally human. The cover features a beautiful blood red high heel that reveals the metal foot of Linh Cinder, a mechanic. Will she ever break away from her terrible stepmother? Is this a fairy tale with a happy ending? How will Prince Kai react when he discovers Cinder is a cyborg? What happened in Cinder’s past that is so important to her present and to her future? Cinder answers all these questions and more.

The Final Word: I couldn’t read Cinder fast enough, and am about to start Scarlet. I knew I was going to love this series, but was unprepared for how good the first book was. I love fairy tales! The way Meyer has taken the fairy tale of Cinderella and adapted it for a world of cyborgs, androids, and deadly plagues is genius. I like the character of Cinder; she is someone I would want to be friends with, and as a reader, I care about what happens to her. When an author accomplishes that, I take note. Here is a series that I know will stick with me for a long time. I look forward to reading and reviewing Scarlet and Cress in the very near future.

If you read this book: You’ll laugh and cry, you will be intrigued and probably enraged, but most of all, you will want to continue to explore the wonderful world of Cinder through Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles!.

 

Alien Wave: Review-The 5th Wave (2013) by Rick Yancey

The Book: You may not have expected them. The aliens are here. We were not ready for them. Few of earth’s survivors are left. They have already attacked in four waves. The 5th Wave is approaching. One of earth’s remaining humans, sixteen year old Cassie, is fighting to survive, and must find her brother, Sammy. She made a promise, and refuses to break it. Armed with Sammy’s teddy bear and very few possessions, she moves carefully through the woods, until sh5th wavee is shot by one of THEM on an open stretch of highway. When she is rescued by the mysterious Evan Walker, things may be looking up. But who really is Evan Walker, and is Cassie’s brother still alive? What is the 5th wave and will it completely wipe out the rest of the human population? The first in a series, you may finish this book wishing you had Rick Yancey’s phone number so you could call and ask him for an advanced reader’s copy of the second book.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (2013)

Suggested age range: 13 and up (Putnam Juvenile, 457 pages)

Rating: 5/5 stars

Source: Personal Copy

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Apocalypse, Survival

Spirituality in The 5th Wave: Is the power of love stronger than fear? Can hope survive in the midst of the darkest and loneliest moments? These questions surface as Cassie attempts to survive on the earth after 80% of the population has been wiped out by aliens. Her promise to her younger brother spurs her on. The promises we make to those closest to us are powerful, and this book illustrates that idea.

Who Should Read This Book: Young adults and adults should read this gripping post-apocalyptic novel. As many people as possible should consider how we would respond should a large spaceship appear in the sky. What would you do if earth was attacked by aliens? Do you have what it takes to survive in the wild?

The Final Word: The others were right. Once you start this book, you may not put it down until you find out what this 5th Wave is. You may not stop reading until you discover if Cassie is going to survive. Be careful about reading this book late at night—your dreams may be laced with running from aliens and stocking up on food. Then again, some of you may want to have these dreams. In that case, do read Yancey’s fantasy at night.

If you like The 5th Wave, You might like:

The Passage: A Novel (Book One of The Passage Trilogy) by Justin Cronin

In the After by Demetria Lunetta

Gone by Michael Grant

Let’s Change Yesterday Tomorrow

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All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill (2013)

Suggested age range: 13 and up

(Disney Hyperion, 368 pages)

Rating: 4/5 stars

Time travel has been invented in a future world. However, the creation of this time machine has ushered in an era of evil and corruption, and the person responsible for the creation of this machine must die. Before he creates the machine. And what if you were the person who had to travel back in time to accomplish this? Suppose this person was…your best friend?

This is what the central character of All Our Yesterdays is faced with in the early chapters of this newly published fantasy. The book opens with the protagonist imprisoned in a cell in a military facility and immediately the reader realizes these are not five star accommodations. Rather, Em has something the government wants, and they are torturing her in order to attempt to extricate this from her. Her friend is imprisoned in the cell next to her. A page-turner from the very beginning, Terrill’s novel picks up even more speed when the two friends escape and travel four years back in time in an attempt to right a wrong. Their success will ensure that the world avoids the corruption their present selves have been witnessing. But can they do it?

Many people might assume that the invention of a time machine would help sort the world out. However, in this book, the creation of a time machine brings about terrible events that Marina and her friend are prepared to die to prevent.

Twists and turns abound in the story, and though the reader may think Marina is shallow, selfish, and insecure based on her performance in the beginning, as the novel progresses, we receive a more expansive picture of who she is and why she acts the way she does. At the same time, I did find myself wanting more in the way of character development among the major players in the book. Portraits of the characters that were more dimensional and complex would definitely add to the book. Perhaps, a prequel or sequel that offers more colorful portraits of the characters and deeper insight into their motivations would be welcome.

For parents who might be concerned, there is some violence in the book, as well as language, but for a new teen thriller, this book was one I could not put down, and strongly recommend. In addition to recommending it for its page turning and plot driven attributes, I recommend it for the kinds of philosophical questions it raises that relate to the topic of time travel and changing the past.

In terms of spirituality and young adult literature, time travel fantasy has something significant to offer because of the themes and topics these stories illuminate. If one aspect of spirituality is our relationship with others in the context of our relationship to God, or a divine source, how does changing the past or seeing the future before it happens affect these relationships? In terms of thinking about past events and whether someone should go back and change them or not, we are also beginning a conversation about what we think of a divine source who is or is not orchestrating the events of the world.

Terrill’s book is definitely one not to be missed, especially if you enjoy time travel.