The Limit

Author: Kristen Landon
Reading Range: 4.4 (AR Finder)
Interest Range: 4-8 (AR Finder)
Plot: This book is set in the future where everyone has a limit to how much they can spend. Matt’s family has just gone over their limit. A new law was enacted that forces children above a certain age to go into workhouses to work off their families debt. Matt is forced into a workhouse and he ends up on the top floor. The top floor is for children who are the smartest and earn the most money. Matt starts to enjoy his time on the floor making friends and doing his best to work off his debt. He has not heard from his family so he escapes and goes home. There he discovers what his parents are doing to get out of debt is actually making their situation worse. His mother is involved with a pyramid scheme. His sister, Lauren, is forced into the workhouse next. Matt notices that some of the children are getting headaches and becoming sick. He and the other topfloorers discover that they are being experimented on. Also, the money they are earning for their family is being mismanaged so that they cannot leave until they are eighteen. Matt and the others have to figure out a way to expose what is happening at the workhouse.
Review: To many children, it might seem impossible for children to be removed from their families because of debt. In the past, there were debthouses where people had to work to get rid of their debts. This is something that has happened. This book is also talking about the current situation that many people are living in. There are many people who are in thousands of dollar worth of debt because of credit cards. It critiques the mentality of buying stuff now and not thinking about the future. Everyone in Matt’s family spent money without really thinking about it. Both of his parents were reckless with their spending and they encourages that in their children. Right before his family went over their limit, Matt was thinking of asking his parents to buy him several thousand dollars worth of computer stuff. Matt is forced to think about that when he is put in the workhouse. He is forced to look at the way that he and his family lived their lives. I would recommend this book for tweens who like science fiction. I think this book could be used to start a discussion of how credit and debt work.
Additional Info:
Main Characters:
Matt-Matt is forced into a workhouse after his family go over the limit.
Matt’s Mom-At the beginning of the story, Matt’s mom does not work. She is at a stay-at-home mom taking care of her family.
Matt’s Dad-Matt’s dad works but he spends a lot of his time on the golf course with clients.
Lauren-Lauren is Matt’s younger sister. She is forced into the workhouse after him.
Becca-Becca is Matt’s baby sister. He is trying to keep her from having to go into the workhouse.
Sharlene Smoot-Smoot runs the workhouse. Matt calls her “Honey Lady” because of her skin.
Reginald-Reginald is a weird kid on the top floor who never leaves his room.
Madeline-Madeline is a top floor girl. She is interested in fashion.
Paige-Paige is another top floor girl. Her family went into debt because of her sibling’s medical bills.
Neela-Neela is another top floor girl. She starts getting headaches and then she is moved to another floor.
Jefferey-Jefferey is a top floor boy. He does not want to go home to his family.
Henry-Henry is a top floor boy. Matt and him become friends.

Theme: Dangers of ignorance, Facing reality, Greed as downfall, Materialism as downfall

Bibliographic Info:

Landon, K. (2011). The Limit. New York, NY: Scholastic, In.

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The Vindico

Author: Wesley King
Reading Range: 5.1 (AR Finder)
Interest Range: 6 and up (AR Finder)
Plot: In this world, superheroes are real. Five teens are kidnapped by a team of super-villains called the Vindico. The Vindico want to create the next generation of super-villains because they want the teen to take over of them when they retire or are killed. The villains each have a personal vendetta against the League of Heroes (or the League) and wants to destroy them. They picked each teen because they have certain skills they believe are useful or their personality fits a certain type. Each of the five teens is parted with a villains who teaches them what they need to know to be a villain. They start to discover things about their lives that rock them to their core. They also discover that the League of Heroes is not as heroic as they thought it was. In some ways, they are just as bad as the Vindico. Each of the teens start to embrace being a villain until they have their first fight against the League of Heroes. They discover how real and awful the fighting between the two groups can be.
Review: I have a soft spot for superhero stories especially ones that play with the expectations. This book would be good for people who like to read stories about superheroes and super-villains. An issue with the book is keeping track of all of the characters. There are so many characters in this book. There are the Vindico, the teens and their families, and the League of Heroes. Two of the characters have close names in the book: Lana and Leni. Lana is one of the teens and is girl while Leni is one of the villains and is male. This book does not downplay the fact that the Vindico has killed members of the League of Heroes. In fact, one of the trainees kills a character during one of the fights. The trainee does react with horror over what she did. For that reason, I would recommend this book for older tweens.
Additional Info:
Main Characters:
James-James is getting over the fact his girlfriend cheated on him. He admires the League of Heroes wanting to be one of them. He is paired with the Torturer.
Lana-Lana is tough and able to take care of herself. She is paired with Avaria.
Hayden-Hayden does not live with his parents. He has the power to move things with his mind. He is paired with Leni.
Emily-Emily is a hacker and technology genius. She is paired with Rono.
Sam-Sam is the youngest member. He discovers he has the power to read people’s thoughts. He is paired with Sliver.
Baron-The Baron is the leader of the Vindico. He was once a member of the League before he was kicked out for wanting to give others powers.
Torturer-The Torturer was given his powers by using a formula. For that reason, he was barred from joining the League. He joined the Vindico instead.
Sliver-Sliver is able to read and manipulate minds. He is a double agent betraying the Vindico to the League.
Rono-Rono is a technology genius. The League took his technology but refused to allow him to join.
Avaria-Avaria’s husband was a member of the League. He was killed after giving her powers. She sworn revenge against them for his death.
Leni-Leni was a member of the League until he was kicked out.

Theme:  Chaos and order, Facing darkness, Good versus evil, Illusion of power, Loss of innocence

Bibliographic Info:

King, W. (2012). The Vindico. New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Tagline:  Lie. Cheat. Save the World.

The Giver

Author: Lois Lowry
Reading Range: 5.7 (AR Finder)
Interest Range: 4-8 (AR Finder)
Plot: This book is set in a future where everything seems perfect and everyone is the same. The families all have a mother, a father, a son and a daughter. Everyone is given a role in the community and they are given training to fulfill that role. There are rules to living in the community that must be obeyed. If these rules are not obeyed, they can be released. People who are old or not useful are also released. Jonas is the main character in this story. He is turning twelve which means he is an adult in his community. For the children, they have Ceremonies for each age from one to twelve. For example, the Ones are given to their families. For the Twelves, they receive their roles in the community. Jonas received the role of “The Giver.” What this means is he carries memories of times in the past. He discovers how restrict his community really is and what it means to be released. He starts to question everything he has learned in his life. When he discovers a child his family has been caring for is to be released, he has to decided what he will do.
Review: The book questions what it means to live in a perfect society and what one has to give up to live there. In Jonas’ world there is no war, hunger or poverty. Many of the problems we have now are gone. In order to have this world a lot had to be given up. Privacy and choice are not allowed. They are monitored and their transgressions are broadcast to the community. From birth to death, everyone’s life in the Community is mapped out. They know what will happen at each stage of life. Those that are not useful are released or killed. Jonas starts to question this when he begins his training with the Giver. He starts to realized how restrictive his world really is. He sees and experiences things that no longer exist in his world. He starts to feel real emotions during this time. They use medicines to blunt emotions including lust. I would recommend this book but I would recommend it to older tween readers. There is some material and ideas that might be too much for them. It would be a good idea to talk with them after they read the book.
Additional Info:
This book has been challenged and restricted in some libraries and classrooms. There are some scenes that made parents uncomfortable. Jonas and his friend, Fiona, volunteer in their version of a nursing home. They are helping to bathe residents. It is not explicit.
Main Characters:
Jonas –He is the main character of the story. He is about to become a Twelve. At his Ceremony of Twelve, he is given the job of the Giver.
The Giver –He has the most important role of the community. He can experiences true emotions because of his role. He carries memories of many lifetimes and he shares those memories with Jonas. It is hinted that Jonas might be his son.
Lily –She is Jonas’s younger sister in his family. She will become an Eight.
Gabriel (Gabe) –He is a baby that his family is taking care of because he needs extra nurturing. He does not sleep through the night until Jonas takes care of him. It is hinted that Gabe might be Jonas’s biological brother.
Asher –He is Jonas’s best friend. Asher is a happy boy who often is getting into minor trouble.
Jonas’s “father” –He works as a Nurturer taking care of newchildren until they are given to their families. Jonas thinks he is kind and loving. He is not Jonas’s biological father.
Jonas’s “mother” –She works as a judge at the Department of Justice. She is more intelligence then her husband. She is not Jonas’s biological mother.
Fiona –She is another of Jonas’s friends. She is assigned to be a Caretaker of the Old.

Theme: Chaos and order, Disillusionment, Fate and free will, Individual versus society, Totalitarianism

Bibliographic Info:

Lowry, L. (1993) The Giver. New York, NY: Laurel-Leaf Books.

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A Wrinkle in Time-Review

Author:  Madeleine L’Engle
Reading Range: 4.7 (Accelerated Reader)
Interest Range:  Ages 10 and Up (Amazon.com)
Plot:  Meg Murry and Charles Wallace’s father is missing.  He has been missing for a number of years.  He is a scientist, as is their mother, who has been working on a secret government project.  Everyone in their town believes he has run off on them. Only they believe that somethings has happened to him. Charles Wallace has special abilities that lets him read the minds of others. They meet another boy named Calvin O’Keefer who has abilities of their own. They become friends with him.  They also meet Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which who reveals to them they know where Meg and Charles’ father is.  The three of them go on a journey to rescue him and discover that there is a great evil keeping him imprisoned. They have to find a way to save him and to save themselves.
Review:  Meg idolizes her father and believes that him coming home will make everything in her life better.  As the story goes on, Meg discovers that even through her father is smart, he is not as perfect as she thought. Meg starts to come into her own power and realizes that she is capable of more than she thought. This book touches on issues of religion and conformity. Meg does not fit into her town because of who she is. When they go to find her father, they discover a planet where everyone is expected to be the same. They are punished if they are not. There is a scene in the book where a boy is being punished because he is not bouncing a ball the correct way. This is done because it is believed that order is better than chaos. Differences are not something to be embraced but gotten rid of. I would recommend this book for people who like science fiction and fantasy. I wish I read it when I was younger instead of an adult because I think I would have loved it as a child.
Additional Info:
Book One in the Time Quartet.
Main Characters:
Meg Murry-She is the eldest daughter of Alex and Kate Murry. She is worried about her father because he has been missing for the past few years.
Charles Wallace Murry-He is the youngest son of Alex and Kate Murry. He is Meg’s brother. They are very close to one another. He an ability that allows him to know things others do not know.
Calvin O’Keefe-He is their friend. He also has an ability like Charles Wallace.
Dr. Alex Murry-He is the father of Meg and Charles. He works for the government as a scientist. He has been missing for years. The people in town assume that he ran off.
Dr. Kate Murry-She is the mother of Meg and Charles Wallace. She is also a scientist.
Mrs. Whatsit-She has the ability to change her shape. She helps Meg and Charles Wallace look for their father. She is the youngest of the three Mrs. Ws but that means she is only a few billion years old.
Mrs. Who-She helps Meg and Charles Wallace look for their father. She offers them advice.
Mrs. Which-She is the oldest of the Mrs. Ws. She helps them travel by tesseract to find their father.
IT-This is the being that is holding Alex Murry captive. It also controls the planet they visit.
The Man with Red Eyes-He is the mouth piece for IT.

Theme: Chaos and order, Dangers of ignorance, Fate and free will, Good versus evil, Growing up

Bibliographic Info: L’Engle, M. (1962). A wrinkle in time. New York, NY: A Yearling Book.

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Unwind

Author: Neal Shusterman
Reading Range: 5.0 (AR Bookfinder)
Interest Range: 7th grade and up (Amazon.com)
Plot: This is set in the future where abortion is illegal. Instead, what happens is between the ages of 13 to 18 parents are allowed to unwind their children. This means their bodies are harvested of everything that is useful and stored for later use by those who need transplants. This decision was made to stop a war between pro-choice and pro-life groups. The story focuses on three children who were chosen to be unwound. Connor is a troubled sixteen year old who has become too much for his parents to handle. Risa is a ward of the state but because of budget cuts she is chosen to be unwound. Lev is a tithe which means from birth he was raised to be unwound by his religious family. They met when Conor tries to escape from being taken to an unwind camp. Conor and Risa band together but Lev is kidnapped by Conor and Risa. Eventually, Lev betrays them because he believes that it is the will of God they should be unwound. They are able to escape from the police with Conor and Risa discovering a safe haven for the unwind. It is run by the Admiral. Meanwhile, Lev begins to question the beliefs he grew up with when he meets CyFi. Eventually, he come to the camp. At the camp, it is discovered the Admiral has people who are trying to take him down and destroy what he has made. Conor is given the task to found out who they are to protect his new life.
Review: This book does not shy away from discussing heavy issues which include abortion, child suicide bombing, religion, the value of life, and the responsible of parents toward their children. The author does not take sides in the abortion issue instead presenting all sides and allowing the reader to make up their own mind. This book is not preachy instead it does say it is okay to feel ambivalent about important issues. When unwinding was created it was created to make both sides of the war step back and see what they were doing. The Admiral was a member of the neutral army that was trying to bring peace between the two groups. They hoped they would blink and break down. Only they accepted it. To me, it shows how extreme people can get about an issue. The character I felt the strongest about was Conor. He is not a bad kid but he is a difficult kid whose parents cannot control him. I remember reading an article where a state allowed parents to surrender their children without question. They did not put an age limit on it. People from different states were coming to surrender anywhere from babies to teenagers. They put an age cap on it after they had parents surrending all their kids. I feel for him because he reminds of those children who were abandoned in that state. I would recommend this book for older tween readers.
Additional Info:
This book does contain a scene where a character is unwound and the things they experience as it is happening. It is not graphic but it is disturbing reading as the character loses himself.
Main Characters:
Connor Michael LassiterConor is a sixteen year old boy who lives with his parents. His parents sign the unwind order because of his fighting and getting expelled from schools. Conor questions authority and those in power. He discovers that he can trust the Admiral. He learns to control his temper.
 
Risa Megan Ward-Risa is fifteen years old and a ward of the state. She was abandoned, or stroked, at birth by her parents. She is very skilled at playing the piano but is not talented enough to be kept from being unwound. Her orphanage has to cull ten percent of their teenage population due to budget cuts. In the Unwind camp, she becomes a medic.
Levi “Lev” Jedediah CalderLev is the youngest of ten children in his family. He just turned thirteen. He was raised from birth to be a tithe which means he is going to be unwound as a religious sacrifice. His family is very religious. Lev believes that is his fate and does not question until Conor and Risa kidnap him. He starts to question his life especially after his experiences with CyFy.
Cyrus “CyFi” Finch-He is fifteen years old and he meets up with Lev after Lev is separated from Risa and Conor. He teachers Lev how to find food. He is not an unwind and he is a stroked raised by two fathers. It is discovered that part of CyFi’s brain was replaced due to an accident. He has memories and feelings from the boy whose brain he has that are starting to affect him. The boy does not realize he is dead and what has happened to him.
The Admiral-He used to work for the military but now he provides a safe haven for unwinds. In the war, he fought for the side that wanted peace and he was one of those who created the accord. He regrets that action especially since it led to this son getting unwound.
Roland-He is another unwind whose mother signed the order after the beat up his father protecting her. At first, Conor and Risa do not think he is very smart but they discover he is manipulative. He comes to the Unwind camp with them. He starts to turn some of the kids against the Admiral.
 
Theme: Circle of life, Death, Faith versus doubt, Immortality, Will to survive

Bibliographic Info:

Shusterman, N. (2009). Unwind. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Tagline:  

Cardboard

Author: Doug TenNapel
Reading Range: 2.2 (AR Finder)
Interest Range: ages 10 and up (Amazon.com)
Plot: It is Cam’s birthday and his father, Mike, does not have any money to buy him a gift. He is a carpenter looking for work. Mike runs into a man named Gideon who sells him a piece of cardboard. The piece of cardboard comes with two rules: return any scraps and do not ask for more cardboard. Mike and Cam broke both of those rules. Mike and Cam turn that piece of cardboard into a boxer that comes alive. The cardboard boxer is named Bill. The neighborhood bully named Marcus discovers what the cardboard can do and steals it from Cam. He makes his own army of cardboard monsters who turn against him. Cam, Mike, and Billy have to save their neighborhood from the cardboard monsters Marcus created.
Review: In this story, Mike is the main character of the story. The story is told through his eyes and shows how he is trying to raise his son without his wife and not much money. He is trying to give his son the best he can. He is having trouble letting his wife go and moving on with his life. One of the most touching scenes of the book is when he is talking to the cardboard version of his wife. She tells what he needs to hear in order to live his life. I enjoyed the character of Bill as he becomes more of a person. He starts out as a piece of cardboard but in the end he becomes a hero. It was interesting to see how the cardboard is used to reveal the truth about characters. Marcus reveals how sad and alone he really is through his monsters. I liked this book and would recommend it to all-ages.
Additional Info:
Main Characters:
Mike-He is an out-of-work carpenter who is trying to f ind a job to support him and his son. He is also trying to get over the death of his wife.
Cam-He is Mike’s son. He tries to help his father as much as he can.
Bill-He is the cardboard boxer that comes to life. He is loyal to both Mike and Cam.
Tina-She is the next-door neighbor. She has a crush on Mike.
Marcus-He is the neighborhood bully.
Pink Eye-He is Marcus’ henchman. He always has pink eye.
Gideon-He is the one who sells Mike the cardboard.

Theme: Facing darkness, Family, Heroism, Self-awareness

Bibliographic Info:

TenNapel, D. (2012). Cardboard. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Tagline:  Adventure begins when cardboard comes to life!

The Hunger Game-Book 1

Author: Suzanne Collins
Reading Range: 5.3 (AR Book Finder)
Interest Range: Grade 7 and Up (School Library Journal)
Plot: Every year in the country of Panem the Hunger Games are held. A boy and a girl are chosen from the Twelve Districts to take part. They are taken the Capitol and they are forced to fight to the death until one is left alive. This year, Katniss Evergreen’s sister Prim is chosen to fight in the Hunger Games for District 12. Katniss volunteers to go in her place to save her life to fight in the Hunger Games. Peeta Mellark is the other tribute chosen to go for their district. As they prepare for their fight in the Hunger Games, they are guided by Haymitch Abernathy. Haymitch the last person in their district to win the Hunger Games. He provides them with advice on how to survive the Hunger Games but also the most important thing-winning fans in the Capitol. It is not only a fight to the death but it is also entertainment for the bored citizens of the Capitol. Katniss not only has to fight to survive but provide a good, entertaining story while doing so.
Review: Many people would have an issue with the violence that is used in this book. This is a book about children who are killing other children. This is done of the entertainment of the Capitol and to punish the 12 Districts. The thing is that the other characters in the book find the violence just as disgusting. Katniss hates killing as does Peeta. They are forced by the society they live in to do this. If people are disgusted by this book, they should be. The point is to find the Hunger Games disgusting and see that it is a tool used to keep the populations of the 12 Districts in their control. This is also a crit of reality television and all of the machination that go on behind the scenes. The tributes are not only fighting each other but they have to fight for ratings. They have to entertain the Capitol otherwise they will be killed off by the game masters.
Additional Info: This is the first book in the Hunger Game series. There have been a number of challenges and bans to keep this book out of different libraries because it is a story about children killing children for entertainment.
Main Characters:
Katniss Everdeen-She is the female tribute from District 12. She cares for her mother and sister. She hunts and sells illegal meat. She volunteered in place of her sister so she did not have to compete.
Peeta Mellark-He is the male tribute from District 12. He works at the bakery. He has been secretly in love with Katniss for years.
Gale Hawthorne-Katniss’ hunting partner. He helps her family.
Haymitch Abernathy-He is the last victor of District 12. He is a drunk. He helps Katniss and Peeta as best he can to win the Hunger Games and get sponsors.
Primrose Everdeen-She is Katniss’ sister. She and their mother are healers.
Rue-She is the female tribute of District 11. Katniss and her fight together for a time in the Hunger Games. She reminds Katniss of her sister.
Cato-He is a career tribute of District 2. He is one of the strongest tributes and considered the person to beat.
Foxface-She is the tribute of District 5. She is one of the most clever tributes.
Thresh-He is the male tribute of District 11.
Cinna-He is Katness’ stylist. He provides emotional support for Katniss.
Effie Trinket-She is chaperone provided by the Capitol for Katniss and Peeta. She draws the tributes and helps take care of them while they are in the Capitol.

Theme: Man against society, Overcoming hardship, Sacrifice

Bibliographic Info:

Collins, S. (2007). The hunger games. New York: Scholastic.

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