Young Adult Book Review – What I Call Life

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Title: What I Call Life

Author: Jill Wolfson

About: Cal Lavender is perfectly happy living her anonymous life, even if she does have to play mother to her own mother a whole lot more than an eleven-year-old should. But when Cal’s mother has one of her “unfortunate episodes” in the middle of the public library, she is whisked off by the authorities, and Cal is escorted to a seat in the back of a police car. On, as she puts it, “just a short, temporary detour from what I call life,” Cal finds herself in a group home with four other girls, watched over by a strange old woman everyone refers to as the Knitting Lady. At first Cal can think of nothing but how to get out of this nuthouse. She knows she doesn’t belong there. But as it turns out that all the girls, and even the Knitting Lady, may have a lot more in common than they could have imagined.

Review: What I Call Life is a bit different from what I typically choose to read, but I really enjoyed it. The setting is very real and completely possible, which was nice for a change from what I normally spend time reading. This book is on the mild side, with more thought processes and life than fantasy books usually give. It makes you think and gives you a different side of life than many of you may live.

Cal is an interesting character for sure. She doesn’t seem to like believing what she doesn’t want to, and she’s very curious. Despite these qualities, Cal is surprisingly mature for her age and understands much of what a normal eleven-year-old girl would not. Whitney is funny, but plays with your emotions with her tough exterior despite what she’s been through. Amber seems like a very nice girl, if she was just willing to speak up more. I have to admit, though, the Knitting Lady is probably my favorite character.

There’s a really good twist at the end of the book that I did NOT see coming. Although I won’t spoil it, I’m guessing that most readers, if not all, will not guess it before they read it. It left a pretty good feeling in me and also made me want to do something to help all of the kids going through similar situations. The story that the Knitting Lady tells is quite fascinating, and I enjoyed reading the chapters about Lillian, the main character in the tale. It nearly broke my heart when Whitney was searching for her sister, bringing them all along on a late night trip through the town to try and locate her. One thing I wish they had included is what mental illness Betty, Cal’s mother, suffered from. It was really hard to tell, as even though they gave clues, there are many different disorders that are possible to fit under the categories.

Unfortunately, there were a few swear words, though for the most part they kept the language clean. There isn’t much else I can think of to say badly about this book.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good, calm read about life. The age limit I think is good for this book is probably 11 or 12+. Overall, the good parts of this book seriously outweighs the bad. I suggest going to read this novel when you get the chance.

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Young Adult Book Review – Origin

Origin Review

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Title: Origin

Author: Jessica Khoury

About: Pia has always known her destiny. She is meant to start a new race, a line of descendants who will bring an end to death. She has been bred for no other purpose, genetically engineered by a team of scientists in a secret compound hidden deep in the Amazon rainforest. Now those scientists have begun to challenge her, with the goal of training her to carry on their dangerous work. For as long as she can remember, Pia’s greatest desire has been to fulfill their expectations. But on the night she turns seventeen, she finds a hole in the seemingly impenetrable fence that surrounds her sterile home. Free in the jungle for the first time in her life, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Unable to resist, she continues sneaking out to see him. As they fall in love, they begin to piece together the truth about Pia’s origin – a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.

Origin certainly had an interesting plot. Pia believes that the lab she lives in is essentially the world. Although she knows a ton about all sorts of things, her knowledge of the world out there was virtually nonexistent. However, I have some mixed feelings about a bit of the content. The story itself is very intriguing and enough to keep me turning the pages, but it included some violence that got a bit graphic.

Pia is a pretty unusual character. She is extremely intelligent in almost everything… except what the rest of the world is. To her, the world is essentially the labratory she lives in. She has some cool abilities, such as her immortality, super-speed, perfect memory, and more. I really liked that she seemed a bit haughty in the beginning, because it made her more human and added a fault to her. There was a good reason for it, of course; all her life she had been told she was perfect. The arrogance starts to wear off a bit throughout the story. Eio seems very nice and caring, and fits right in with the role he was given. He has some pretty surprising secrets, such as the identity of his father. Harriet Fields is a very in-depth and fun character, even having a sister with cerebral palsy. That was the reason she came to the lab. Most of the other scientists seemed very similar to me, with their constantly detatched personalities. Ami, one of the children from Eio’s village, is simply adorable, and probably one of my favorite characters.

The plot was great. The characters were definitely not flat and were very unique, each one different from the others. There were quite a few twists that never failed to surprise me, and the constant action kept me from closing the book and walking away. Part of the ending was enjoyably satisfying.

There are a few swear words, mostly from the same character, if I remember correctly. Some of the scenes could get quite disturbing and graphic. A couple of examples are the flesh-eating ants who attack a finger, which is then described. There is also the fact that the initiation for a lab job is to kill something that is held dear to the person, such as a horse for one and a baby ocelot for another. The book left me with a bit of a disturbed and not entirely happy feeling, though the ending was all right.

This book is definitely for older young adult readers, probably 14 – 15+, depending on the maturity level of the person. It is well-written but quite violent. For me, this book is probably a one-time read and not something I would love to read repeatedly.

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Young Adult Book Review – Dark Life

Dark Life review

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Title: Dark Life

Author: Kat Falls

About: Fifteen-year-old Ty has lived on the ocean floor his entire life in this future-set novel. The oceans have risen, leaving most packed into stack cities. A few have chosen to live at the bottom of the sea, commonly referred to as the Dark Life. When outlaws attack his colony, Benthic Territory, he must fight to rescue the only home he’s ever known. He meets a Topsider named Gemma who has come subsea to hunt for her brother. They uncover some dark secrets that threaten to ruin everything…

Review: Dark Life is one of my personal favorite books. I just love the plot and the Dark Gifts that are a big part of the story. The setting is quite unusual; underwater colonies are not what I commonly see. It all seems so possible as well, frighteningly so. All the details were so well thought out that it seemed to really be real at points.

I love Gemma’s headstrong personality and the way she never gives up. She’s a strong character, and it can be really fun to read about some of the things she says and does. Rash is one word to describe her. Ty is my favorite characters, though. I simply adore him and how believable he is. His fear of doctors just makes him even more human, despite his non-human qualities such as his shimmering skin. Zoe, his nine-year-old sister, looks so sweet and acts so devilish, which serves for some good humor.

One great thing is the fact that there is little to no swearing, something that can be hard to find these days. As the book is overall intended for a younger audience, the graphicness of some parts have definitely been toned down to accommodate that. There are quite a few unexpected twists throughout the plot, which serves to keep you from closing the book out of boredom.

All right. Now onto the not-so-great things. Every book has them. In this novel, there are a few scenes that can get quite violent, such as one part where the blood on the walls of a submarine is described. There are also one or two areas that may be a bit mature for younger readers, though it is subtle and far from what it could be. Overall, though, there really isn’t much to say here.

Although Dark Life is geared toward a younger age level, I highly recommend it even for older readers, especially if you enjoy a lower reading difficulty. If you like learning about the ocean, this book is for you. I’m sure if you go read this novel, you will really relish it.

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