A teen provocateur decides to befriend and help a social outcast.
Matthew is all about entertaining himself. He sees life as a series of games and challenges. A big challenge would be getting the school loner, Michael, some street cred. The book goes through the motions, following the basic outline of a romantic comedy that just happens to feature two guys. They meet cute, they tackle a problem together, they fall out. Though they do not come together again just in time for the book to finish, readers are left with a hint of rapprochement as Matthew pursues a friendship with Michael’s younger half sister. The author doubles down on the clichés by trotting out such reliable standards as an estranged father, seemingly distant stepfather and preoccupied moms. And wouldn’t you know it, all the time spent changing Michael ends up changing Matthew a bit too. The two leads are hard to take, which is unfortunate. Michael is a dull, cowardly introvert with little spark of life, regardless of his sad-sack back story. He’s preferable to narrator Matthew, though, who is intensely unlikable: cocky, vain, inconsiderate, obnoxious. Although the book deserves high marks for consistency of voice, Matthew's character growth is so deliberate and his voice so abrasive that readers may find any redemption too little, too late.
Like the main character, not as smart as it thinks it is. (Fiction. 12-16)
A low-wattage collection of original stories and poems, as unmemorable as it is unappealingly titled.
The collection was inspired by a perceived paucity of short science fiction for teen readers, and its production costs were covered by a Kickstarter campaign. The editors gather a dozen poems and 21 stories from a stable of contributors who, after headliners Jack McDevitt and Nancy Holder, will be largely unknown even to widely read fans of the genre. The tales place their characters aboard spacecraft or space stations, on other worlds or in future dystopias, but only rarely do the writers capture a credibly adolescent voice or sensibility. Standouts in this department are the Heinlein-esque “The Stars Beneath Our Feet,” by Stephen D. Covey & Sandra McDonald, about a first date/joyride in space gone wrong, and Camille Alexa’s portrait of a teen traumatized by a cyberspace assault (“Over It”). Along with a few attempts to craft futuristic slang, only Lavie Tidhar’s fragmentary tale of Tel Aviv invaded by successive waves of aliens, doppelgangers, zombies and carnivorous plants (“The Myriad Dangers”) effectively lightens the overall earnest tone. Aside from fictional aliens and modified humans, occasional references to dark skin (“Out of the Silent Sea,” Dale Lucas) are the only signs of ethnic diversity. Most of the free-verse poetry makes only oblique, at best, references to science-fictional themes.
A change of pace from the teeming swarms of fantasy and paranormal romance but too underpowered to achieve escape velocity.
(Science fiction/short stories. 12-14)
A child of Japanese immigrants looks back on her World War II–era experiences in internment camps and afterward.
Changing names and inventing details to fill in the gaps between memories, Arakawa, in character as Shizuye, begins with her 1932 birth on a Murphy bed in San Francisco, takes her narrative through multiple moves that become forced ones in the wake of Pearl Harbor, then concludes with a temporary postwar settlement in Denver and final journey back to the West Coast. Despite the fictive fill, her account is spotty and episodic, more hindered than helped in its course by such details as painstaking descriptions of the route between one home and the local playground or tedious tallies of the comings and goings of briefly known schoolmates. As much a personal story as testament to a historical outrage, her recollections mingle references to domestic strife, pre-adolescent bed-wetting, and suicidal impulses following the internment with incidents of being jeered as a “Jap” on the way home from school, encounters with neighborhood “racial covenants,” and other manifestations of prejudice—not to mention repeated forcible removals to hastily constructed camps in California and, later, Arkansas. Occasional mentions of “Caucasian” visitors or a friend’s “dark skin” serve as reminders that most of the figures here are Asian or Asian-American.
These are experiences that need to be remembered, though Arakawa’s are not as compellingly related as other novels or personal accounts of the travesty.
(Historical fiction. 12-16)