Tuesday, November 17, 2015

YA Minis: The Weight of Feathers, Belzhar, and The Scorpion Rules

From Goodreads:
For twenty years, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find. 

Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she's been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees. 
A delightful Romeo and Juliet retelling featuring circus performers and magical realism.  There's really nothing here to dislike - it's light and fun and has just the right amount of magic.  It's not The Night Circus, let's go ahead and get that out of the way.  It's not an amazing piece of blow-your-mind writing, but it's adorable and sweet and romantic and was exactly what I needed after a string of dark realism and crime reads.  It had everything I enjoy most about the occasional dip into the YA romance pond - romance that isn't set in a high school, enough magic to make me forget that the characters are the same age as my younger students, and a plot that moves along quickly.

From Goodreads:
If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.
Oh dear.  This one was not a favorite.  The best thing I had to say about it is that it reads quickly.  I finished it in two sittings in less than a day and I wasn't bored.  I was annoyed though.  It's set at a boarding school for teens who have experienced trauma and yet there is almost no adult supervision.  Also, our main character is only able to overcome her trauma through romance, which is what led to her trauma in the first place.  Not the best portrayal of teens with issues, as finding someone to kiss doesn't generally cure mental illness.  The romance itself is less than satisfying - we're never really given a reason to help us understand why they would like each other, other than possession of the requisite boy/girl parts.  I don't think it's worth reading, but I will say that others in my book club felt differently, so it could just be me.

 From Goodreads:
The world is at peace, said the Utterances. And really, if the odd princess has a hard day, is that too much to ask?

Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.

Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power.

As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules.
Erin Bow.  I love her so much.  I haven't read a YA dystopia in ages, which may have been what allowed me to enjoy this one so much, but I think Bow's skill as a writer played a large role as well.  I think she did some really unique things with her characters, including what could have been a love triangle, but wound up being an honest depiction of how people would actually react in this kind of life and death situation.  I thought there was going to be a "Team Elian" situation for a bit, but the way she handles it is pretty great.  I also loved the villain, which is an area where Bow seems especially great at character development.  It was, for me, a refreshing take on a tired genre and I recommend giving it a try.

Thanks to NetGalley and my work library for providing me with copies of these titles.

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