Monday, May 30, 2016

Still a Work in Progress by Jo Knowles

Still a Work in ProgressMy name is Noah, and my life used to be normal. I went to school with my best friends, and we talked about which girls might like us and stupid stuff too. But I have bigger problems. I really love my sister Emma, and I appreciate her advice about kids and school. I mean, she even taught Sam how to slow dance! I can't believe he's the first one in our group to get a date. But, I'm sick of Emma's obsession with vegan food. It's disgusting, and as a matter of fact, she doesn't eat much of it herself. My parents are careful about what they say around her, and I know they're terrified that "thing" will happen again. She says everything is okay, but what if it's not? What am I supposed to do?

This book evokes many deep emotions, and it's not light reading. Noah's middle school issues are pretty common, but his sister's problems take them a notch higher. Eating disorders have been the topics of many novels, but this situation is told from the brother's point of view. The last third of the book really spans Noah's range of feelings. He's concerned, scared, angry, and confused about what's going on. How is he supposed to feel about his sister, and shouldn't everyone else be just as miserable? How can they go on with their lives? Noah's interactions with his two best friends will sound familiar with other middle school boys. They talk about the puzzling world of girls, teachers, school, and family. And is it just me, or does the plot include an unusual number of references to farts and bad smells? I guess the focus of middle school boys can be hard to explain. This book will touch a myriad of emotions for readers, especially boys, and it will make them think. I recommend you give it shot.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sisters of the Sword by Maya Snow

Sisters of the Sword (Sisters of the Sword, #1)My name is Kimi. My father, the Jito, was visciously murdered by his brother. My uncle then killed my brothers, so my sister and I had to find somewhere safe to hide. We've disguised ourselves as boys and are now working as servants at a dojo. We learned samurai skills from our father, but we hope to improve them enough to rise up and get revenge against our uncle. Keeping our identities a secret has become harder, since our cousin is also at the dojo. He's become a bully, and I suspect the path to our uncle will pass through my cousin.

Children vowing to kill an adult is pretty uncommon for middle grade fiction, and using female characters to do it is even rarer. It's unbelievable to think the young girls will become skilled enough to kill an experienced, ruthless samurai, but the plot is still entertaining. The first part of the book started quickly with the father's murder, but the middle portion of the plot slowed down. I was surprised with the conclusion of the book and don't understand how the conflict merits a sequel. There must be big changes in store.