Omega City – Diana Peterfreund


When Gillian’s dad’s reputation has been discredited after all of his research is lost in a flood, she is determined to help her dad gain not only his reputation, but gain the truth of a scientist from the Cold-War era.

This is a light mystery of a group of kids discovering a diary of a scientist from the Cold War era who invented a battery that never ran out of power.  Only he is missing; his diary is missing; and Gillian’s and Eric’s dad (the author of Dr. Aloysius Underberg’s biography) is a discredited laughingstock in the academic community.

This is a juvenile book, not dystopian, and not my normal read, but it had me hooked fairly soon.  For young readers who want mystery and need to still be in juvenile books, this is great.

The group of friends are nice and different types of kids.  As Gillian and Eric add more people to their team of investigators, we see kids from different backgrounds, kids with different hobbies, and kids from different social circles come together using their own strengths to help solve the riddle.  There is supportive sibling love between the two after their mom couldn’t handle the conspiracy theory loving dad; there are teens who fit stereotypes and those that don’t; but the crew of kids are all working for one goal:  To find the truth about Underberg’s inventions and the secret from his diary.

There’s adventure as the kids are chased into the newly discovered underground city.  Levels beneath the ground, our adventurers learn more of Underberg’s inventions, why he created Omega City, and have to survive explosions and rising water levels.  They are brave as well as intelligent, quick thinking pre-teens and teenagers.  In the end, they uncover some secrets, are safe, and remain friends even after they return to ground level and their daily lives.   (This felt very similar to the plot of the Goonies, only with some cool history about the Cold War and facts about space thrown in.)

There is an untitled sequel in the works.


The Red Queen – By Victoria Aveyard


Mare, no not like a horse, but like an impoverished teen living in a caste society, faces a bleak future with her life already mapped out: to go fight in a war when she turns 18.  In doing so she follows her brothers into a never-ending war.  The Reds are the poor who must do as the Silvers command.

Her world soon turns upside down when her family loses some financial security, her best friend loses his apprenticeship and faces going to war, and she meets a kind stranger who gets her a job in the Palace.  Soon Mare discovers more about a rebellion as well as a power she didn’t know she had.  Secret powers a’la The Young Elites .  The King and Queen are shocked and angered that a Red has powers, which they believed only Silvers were given – being the superior and more prestigious people.  They cannot lock up Mare or kill her as there were too many witnesses who saw “little lightening girl” and Mare ‘s ability to control electricity.  Instead, they create a new backstory for her and engage her to their younger son Mason.

Mare begins living the lie knowing one mistake will be her death.  Living among her enemies, she finds a few friends who do not trust the King and Queen or the decades long war the Silvers force the Reds to fight.  As a rebellion begins, Mare understands more of her power, and friends and foes take on new roles, she must decide how far she is willing to go for the good of her people or her own safety.

This has the personal drama of Game of Thrones (with less of the political storylines, and adult content of course) and is more dark than The Selection, but fans of both would enjoy this for some of the wicked characters.

Sequel: Glass Sword (and she is working on a third)

Frozen (Heart of Dread #1) – Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnston



In the future, the Earth is a frozen wasteland.  New Vegas still runs on casinos and crime, but is covered in ice.  Power is no longer held by politicians and government, but by criminals and underground markets.  Natasha (Nat) hides her power for fear of persecution like all the others who are marked with special abilities.  She must rely on others to flee New Vegas she comes across a team, the Runners, willing to smuggle her out – at a cost.

Wes, the team’s leader, doesn’t know that Nat is stronger and smarter than just a basic blackjack dealer when he agrees to take this job.  He is out of heat credits and running low on food and has his team to think of so once again he takes the job of as a Runner and tries to find the mysterious Blue.  Nat was given a necklace that seems to be the key to the Blue – both an oasis for those with special powers and also an environmental oasis away from the frozen land.  As the crew begins their journey, Nat’s secret is exposed causing division among Wes’ group.  Soon old members are gone and new ones join the ship.  With the addition of a woman with supernatural powers and a homosexual little person couple the crew is a bunch of misfits unlike the trained soldiers Wes is used to dealing with.

Wes’ past continues to haunt him both with internal guilt he can never let go and in everyday life as he runs into military officials and other seamen breaking laws.  Nat’s search for an oasis and Wes’ struggle with survival soon brings them together when Nat realizes their pasts are intertwined. Soon the slavers get a hold of the newly formed crew and though they are separated, our characters remain strong.

As the climax begins we learn Nat is much more powerful than even she knew.  We learn the answer to what the voice is in her head and how she has been able to survive extreme circumstances.  Though she finds answers to why she was used as a weapon in her past, the realization brings more questions about her future.

I think the authors set up a good premise for the second book, but I’m doubtful I will continue with this series.  The action did increase with the battles against the slave ships and the realization of Nat’s powers, but it’s not enough to keep me reading the second installment….. maybe.  Some quotes I find are building up Nat’s strength ….and I always like a Kick-Awesome YA female character.

Heart of Dread on Tumbler

Still, for readers who like fantasy and those especially who like adventures at sea it could be a good series.  Not a lot of romance in this one even though it’s a plot point so it’s (so far) safe for the younger YA readers – though the types of torture are a bit intense and the Flesh Markets are dark. I also give props for sneaking in the homosexual couple to a YA book.

Series continuation with Stolen and Golden. 

Breathe – Sarah Crossan



“Breathing is a right, not a privilege, so I’m stealing it back” –  a great first line.   Oxygen in the atmosphere gone.  Great way to begin!

Our trio of narrators have different experiences living in the Pod where air is available to its citizens- at a cost.  While Alina is a pretty kick-awesome, strong, independent, lead character trying to find a better future out of the Pod, Bea and Quinn are more typical High School students focused on family and friends.  In a world where only Premiums have oxygen on a needed bases, Bea and Alina and their families (Auxiliaries) pay for Oxygen with their taxes, or extra fees when needed.  As you can imagine, life is not easy when the most necessary thing costs money and you are poor and concerned for every breath – such is the life for Bea and her family.  On the other end of this society are the Premiums, the elite, and those who can afford additional oxygen tanks not merely for survival, but for extracurricular activities: jogging, making out, even jubilant laughter – such is the life for Quinn, Bea’s best friend.  Soon Alina, Bea, and Quinn are out of the Pod of society and in the Outlands and the story of how man destroyed trees, the ocean, and led to the lack of oxygen is explained.

Years ago, when the levels of oxygen decreased and the planet nearly died, the population grew desperate as they died off.  As chaos grew, the company Breathe created a lottery for those allowed into Pod to try and survive.  Life is stuck, decades later, still in the Pod under the dome, using Oxygen tanks bought from Breathe and everything – and everyone – outside of it died.  Oxygen is created by those in charge but necessarily bought by everyone.  There are no trees or oceans, or fairness in deciding who gets the tanks.

Of course the struggle for power between Breathe (the company making people dependent on oxygen) and the Resistance (Alina and the rebels who are not only fighting against Breathe, but secretly growing trees in the Outlands) affects our trio quiet personally and they must accept new truths as well as changed relationships. This is another story of a government deciding the restraints and freedoms for its citizens based on a class system [not a big surprise for YA whose readership are mostly teenagers who constantly struggle for more power].  However, an additional power struggle, not focused on in many YA books is mentioned by a fierce, filthy, strong, old woman (a drifter living in the Outlands) who teaches our young female characters a thing or two about courage and love – and equality. Perhaps more YA doesn’t focus on sexism and inequality for fear of being deemed a “girl book”, but Sarah Crossan sneaks in a truth most books, even with the strongest female characters don’t showcase to its underage readers.  (It also doesn’t go unnoticed that two of the narrators are female and there are strong female characters throughout (I’m holding out hope that Quinn’s mom becomes one in the end)).   When Bea comments how nice the freedom must have been back then  – when air was free – Maude Blue takes this moment to school Bea on the reality of life:

 It weren’t that way.  It ain’t never that way.  People is people and greed is greed.  There weren’t never a time of true equality. Women didn’t play in that stadium and get the same crowds as the men…. Freedom and equality is myths, girls.  You should learn that now” (194)

Once the battle between the soldiers and the Resistance is underway, and the aftermath of it, this story – which already has a great pace – really gets exciting.  It reminded me, though not as bold or as heartbreaking, of the action packed chapters of Mockingjay or the final battle in Harry Potter, and since Breathe has a sequel I am sure the future action will only increase…. one can hope it’s as bold in action as it is in taking on climate issues and equality.

Sequel – Resist

The Young Elites – Marie Lu



We begin with the pending execution of 16 year old Adelina.  Sounds promising right – in a dystopian, Shakespearean, Europe a ‘la 1400s and torture….sadly, this story fizzled for me.

After an illness, there’s a small group of Malfettos who have grotesque scars, but amazing powers. The Reaper, Magiano, The Wind Walker, and The Alchemist are The Young Elites.  They are fighting for survival against the Inquisitor.  Of course Adelina is rescued by them and in an X-men sort of way, learns about this group of Elites and learns about her personal powers.  Together – they fight injustice, try to help the innocent….. wait, I’ve been watching too much of the Avengers.  But they form a group surrounded by the Royal Malfetto-inflicted Prince Enzo (see why it’s Shakespearean?)

With guilt of her dead mother and abandoned sister, Adelina doesn’t know whether she should trust the world she finds herself or should run on her own.  She begins training with the Young Elites, but soon after she feels secure in her new surroundings,  something must shake that up.  In this case, it’s the Queen’s evil (self-hating Malfetto) Teren who has kidnapped Adelina’s sister and is holding her hostage.  Only Adelina’s divulging secrets of the Young Elites will save her sister.

This was a mix of Mortal Instruments and Game of Thrones to me, maybe that’s why I couldn’t get totally into it.  I kept visualizing the Queen as Cersei and Adelina as Clary, but neither female is as strong as the woman each reminded me of.   The story line finally picks up when Adelina is no longer able to keep both sides thinking she is true to them and thankfully, action begins.  I’m not surprised it needs to be a series since it began so slowly.  Truth be told, I wasn’t impressed with the Legend series either so maybe Marie Lu and I just aren’t meant to have an author-reader relationship.

Still, the teens will dig it, especially those that liked Mortal Instruments and that like tales of Royalty with a little Shakespearean murder.

The Dead and the Gone (The Last Survivors #2) – Susan Beth Pfeffer



This is a parallel story-line of The Last Survivors.  As the second of the series, it is not a continuation, but an introduction to a new family trying to survive in the world after the meteor hit the moon out of orbit. As tsunamis hit, electricity disappears, and shortages of food are the new life for the Morales family, 17 year old Alex becomes the family patriarch.  Alex is a teenager who finds himself suddenly in charge of his younger sisters Bree (16) and Julie (12).  Their father is missing after traveling to Puerto Rico and their mother is missing after taking the subway to her job.  Neither parent have been heard from.

This story skips all the environmental developments that Life as We Knew It offers and focuses more on the family.  After reading the first in the series, where life was much more difficult than in this one, it seems a completely different life in New York verses middle America.  I kept reading waiting for the same destitute to hit the Morales family, but no…. schools stayed open, lunches given, and the food distribution that arrived at the very end of the first book was introduced in the middle of this second installment.  I didn’t understand how on the coast, life was better, when the tsunamis should have affected them more.  Also – where were the volcanoes and earthquakes [ok, so they were mentioned, but not a lot]?

Finally an explanation comes as to why New York is surviving better than the rest of the country – privilege and even saving the art, books, the United Nations, etc.  Depending on the part of town you lived in people were more well off than other parts of New York City.

This has less environmental-based action than the first in the series, but has a much darker tone when Alex gets the flu and hallucinates Hell and then Heaven (and comments of the dead) and the final chapters with the family trying to survive.  They are a very devout family, the children all go to Catholic school, so if you don’t want an element of religion – skip this one.

Much like the first in the installment, at the end of this one there is an element of hope.

14 and over

Next in the series: The World We Live In

The 5th Wave – Rick Yancy



Taking a break from dystopian and reading my first alien invasion book.  The first in the series, this picks up after the 4th alien invasion.  Humans cannot trust one another since the aliens now look like humans – that is the “5th wave” of alien attacks (shout out to Battlestar Gallactica), and Cassie is on her own, with her M16 quite naturally.

“How do you get rid of the human race? Get rid of their humanity” – that is the world that now exists.  Aliens have attacked mankind in four different waves at the beginning of the book – from everything to a loss of power, climate caused deaths, to the “Red Death” illness that kills you from the inside out in a bloody mess.  The 4th wave knocking out 97% of what was left of the human race.  The full history of the first four waves is spread out in the book so the reader doesn’t experience the end of mankind chronologically.  Instead, we are with Cassie, who is alone and trying to survive.  She tells us in flashback chapters how the world has been attacked, from the first efforts the government made to the Mother Ship hoping for a peaceful encounter.  No such luck.  Throughout the story, “The Others” want humans gone and their method is fast, intelligent, and successful for the most part.

The book alternates between Cassie trying to survive alone, with Alien drones attacking her, and Ben, a classmate of Cassie’s who was infected in the 3rd wave, but survives and is working with the military to try and save mankind…. or is he?  As Cassie, Ben, and others learn the identity of the aliens, life becomes more terrifying and confusing.  There’s a brief little love story as Cassie is rescued by a farm boy…. or is he?

This story is dark from the beginning and fast paced.  Throw in it, a five-year old Sam on his own, scared at “Camp Haven”; children becoming soldiers; and people being shot at close range.  Yancy does a great job of making you wonder who are the aliens and who are the humans as new characters are introduced and old ones return.

Long and very detailed, very action driven, and currently filming – bound to be popular once the movie comes out.

Sequel: The Infinite Sea


After the End – Amy Plum



Matched (Ally Condie), The Program (Suzanne Young), and earthly magic – it’s got a little of everything.  While Matched is for the younger YA reader, After the End is an older version of a similar ‘I’ve left the seclusion of my isolated life only to learn the world is bigger and I was lied to about the outside’.

After the End is literally …. after the end of the world, WWIII and a radiation explosion. Juneau lives in Alaska  decades after WWIII destroyed all cities and all people except her village hidden away in the woods.  One day out hunting she returns to find her village ransacked, people gone, and all the dogs killed.  In her own yurt, written in the dirt with her dad’s neat writing is “Juneau, Run”….and she does. The Sage (protector of her village) has a cabin he goes to, for “me time” apparently and she runs there to find him- of course he isn’t there.  Now she knows she is on her own and after gathering supplies she travels days to the ocean.  Oh yes —  the way she knows to go to the ocean?  She has visions.  Visions she sees when she puts stones into the earth, powder into a fire, etc.

Chapters alternate between post-apocalyptic Juneau and modern times, kicked out of school, smart, but gets into trouble Miles.  Miles has a workaholic father with jobs and projects Miles doesn’t understand, but it is clear from the start that his father is involved in the disappearance of Juneau’s clan.

As Juneau travels to the ocean, as seen in one of her visions, she is surprised to see new cars, happy people, and pretty much everything opposite than the destroyed world she has believed for the last 17 years.  Finally she comes into Anchorage and talks to people.   Not only does she learn there was never a WWIII, but she learns people are looking for her!

I was really into this and thought it had a lot of prospect, but once Juneau realizes the world didn’t end, the plot sort of fizzles.  With oracles, magic, and annoyance turned friendship between Juneau and Miles it just didn’t keep the same excitement throughout the book.  Traveling is the main plot without a lot of action.  It’s clear about halfway through that the delay in plot development means we won’t have a conclusion and probably won’t find her clan in this book.  It’s going to be a series,  which I didn’t know when I started, but could tell midway.  So if you’re willing for another series, here ya go.  Although, it took too long for the conspiracy to get going and I didn’t care for all the earth magic, sci-fy stuff.

Once Miles and Juneau are no longer traveling in the car together, the plot picks up again with Miles’ dad’s goons chasing her and a kind stranger who hides Juneau in her house in the woods.  Still though, it doesn’t finish as strongly as it began.

The Selection – Keira Cass



In a future time, people are once again divided into castes (similarly as factions, districts, etc.) and the number of your caste not only decides your wealth, but also your career choice and the likelihood of marriage partners.  There is a monarchy with each country and the future kings choose their new bride from the local girls, both in an effort to remain loyal to the community and in a way to choose the future queen based on talents, intelligence, and looks.  It’s The Bachelor reality show meets royalty.  Once girls are 16 they receive an invitation to enter “The Selection” with girls from across their country, and all of the castes – but they have the choice whether or not they want to participate.

Our narrator, America, is in love with her friend and none of the parents realize it so they encourage her to enter the competition.  Why?  Because not only does the winner become royalty, but her family will move up into the realms of royalty and for the Singer family, artists and musicians and lower caste number, it means food and financial security.  As America is convinced to enter the Selection, she must say goodbye to her family and Aspen, and hello to her new life – with parties, fancy clothes, and the other girls for The Selection begins.

[This really is like The Bachelor for younger viewers]

As America enters the palace, and the selection process, she finds diversity among the girls, the few who are clearly trained on the formal practices of royalty, and finds a few friends.  A chance encounter with Prince Maxon grants her an early introduction, one in which she thinks the Prince may  not be so bad after all.  While she still isn’t interested in becoming his wife or falling in love with him, a friendship begins.

As the Selection process continues, America and Maxon get closer and she is informed of the groups of Rebels who attack the palace: Northerners and Southerners.  One group more violent than the other, but both attacking the palace for reasons Maxon isn’t sure. Soon the girls begin having feelings for Maxon, America included, at the same time more girls are sent home.  Of course right as America feels confident in her feelings, Aspen returns.

It’s an interesting plot if you like The Bachelor.  I’m curious as to how the plot continues, but I don’t think I’m rushing off to read the next installment.  I’ll read it eventually – but right now I have more enticing novels waiting for me.

Safe for 10 year olds – at least the first in the series.

Series Continued: The Elite, The One, The Heir