I will catch up with my reviews. I will catch up with my reviews. I will catch up with my reviews.
I've got two YA titles left from August, and I'm thinking I can get away with writing more informal mini-reviews of the two of them. Of course, I suck at writing short reviews, so maybe this isn't the best plan, but here it goes anyway.
The first is Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman. Reading Full Tilt reminded me of staying up all night reading some juicy young adult horror novel by someone like R.L. Stine, except with more of a message. One night when Blake and his brother Quinn are at an amusement park, a mysterious worker in a ball-toss game slips him an invitation to ride, and an address. After a terrifying ride on the Kamikaze roller coaster, Blake's had about enough of thrill rides for one night and has no interest in going. When Blake wakes up and something is wrong with his brother, Blake knows he's got no choice but to check out the amusement park.
What he finds is a sinister game where riders have to ride five terrifying, life threatening rides before dawn to escape the black magical amusement park. Failure means being stuck in the park forever. Success is facing all your very worst fears embedded in what, from the outside, look like ordinary amusement park rides. Despite a niggling sense that the facing your fears angle is all a bit too after-school special, Full Tilt is an addicting book. The ride ideas and the way Blake's fears are woven into them are pretty ingenious, so ingenious that it takes a while even for Blake and, by extension, readers to figure out how exactly they relate, but once it's revealed, it makes sense. It's the first book I've read in a while that has demanded that I stay up late to finish because I just had to know what the next ride would be and if Blake would succeed in saving himself and his brother. If you're looking for a fun pageturner of a book with a serious twist, Full Tilt is definitely one to try.
The last unreviewed book of my long ago August of reading is Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready. I didn't dislike Shade, but I had really hoped to like it more than I did, and I really can't peg why I didn't, other than perhaps my summer love affair with paranormal YA was already starting to wear thin as August started to wind down.
Aura lives in a world where ghosts live right alongside the living, and anyone under sixteen can see them. Aura is one of the first, or perhaps the very first person born after the Shift, and anyone born after the Shift can see and talk to ghosts, while everyone born before it can't. The ghosts are mostly harmless, just searching for the absolution they need to cross over. They are limited in their power, can only visit places they've been in life, and are defeated by BlackBox technology that keeps them out of places they aren't wanted, like, the bathroom, for one. Some ghosts are so angry, though, that their anger gives them unusual dark power, turning them to Shades and making them a dangerous menace.
Aura's life is fairly ordinary, for a post-Shifter, that is. She helps her aunt as an interpreter for ghosts in court cases that will help them get justice and cross over. Her boyfriend Logan is in an Irish rock band. She goes to his shows. She knows she loves him, but she worries about whether she's ready to go all the way with him. Then, on his birthday and the day his band gets signed, the day that should be the best of his young life, tragedy strikes, and Logan turns into an angry purple-hued ghost.
I'll stop there for fear of spoilers, but Shade has all the makings of great paranormal YA. It's got a very detailed and well-thought out world, a love triangle (with budding rockstar boyfriend who's a ghost and a guy with a sexy Scottish accent!), mystery, thrills, and a sympathetic narrator to boot. There's no reason people who love paranormal YA won't love this book. All the elements were there, but somehow, when I read it, it just didn't click for me, which makes me think it was just me and my bad timing for reading it, which wouldn't be the first time such a fate has befallen a book and me. I will say, though, that I absolutely love that Smith-Ready compiled a soundtrack for the book on her website. Music is a huge part of the book, and she saved me the trouble of looking up all the songs she mentions (and I totally would have).
In lieu of my ringing endorsement, I give you...other peoples' ringing endorsements (of which, it seems, these are but a small portion)!
S. Krishna's Books
The Story Siren
(If you're listening, FTC, Full Tilt is from my own collection, and I got Shade at an excellent YA Authors Crossing Over panel at Book Expo America.)