Back on Track

New reviews coming soon! I'll be importing my work from the past two years, but in the meantime,
I'm reclaiming my small place on the web.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Non-Fiction YA Review

I've Got This Friend Who...
Edited by Anna Radev
ISBN-10: 1592854583
Review by Heather Froeschl

Ask a teenager who they would rather have advice from, their friends, or the adults in their lives, and you know they are going to say their friends. It’s what we all did, and I can live with that. But how many friends have the answers to everything a teen could be wondering about? Sometimes it takes a group of friends to find the answers. In “I’ve Got This Friend Who…” edited by Anna Radev, a panel of six teens share their experiences, their knowledge, and their approaches to life and its many challenges.

If there is a question about it, the answers are likely in this book. The hottest topics of drugs, smoking, alcohol, eating disorders, self injurious and high risk behaviors are thoroughly explored and discussed from a teen’s perspective. Why do people smoke? What makes you an alcoholic? How can you control the urges of addiction? Why would someone not eat? How does hurting yourself affect you? What do you do when your friends are headed for serious trouble? The best solutions are always found with knowledge of the who, what, when, where and why. Coming from the words of other teenagers, the advice here is most valuable.

Imagine a group of young adults hanging out and discussing whatever is going on. The questions that come up are asked with curiosity but also with great importance and interest since things might be very personally and hugely influential in their lives. One might have an eating disorder and have first hand experience with why this occurs. One might have a parent who is an alcoholic and is concerned that it is hereditary. Someone’s best friend might be considering having sex, while another friend might be cutting herself with a razor blade. The discussions in the book are broken down into six chapters, focusing on these topics. Each chapter is like a panel chat-fest and includes sidebars of important facts and information while the teens discuss the real life ramifications. What results is an advice source for readers whose friends might not have all the answers.

There are times when the information sharing seems a little forced; like a teen just wouldn’t answer in such a fact based way, but the answers provided are worth that risk. I highly recommend having this book around the house. Most readers won’t sit through the entire book all at once, but will refer back to it when a situation arises in their lives. Full of additional resources like websites and hotlines, it is an interactive tool as well. The people behind the book are well versed in helping teens: KidsPeace is a 125 year old national children’s crisis charity dedicated to giving hope, help, and healing to children facing crisis. This is a must have for teens everywhere.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Children's/YA Fiction Review

Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague
By Brandon Mull
ISBN: 978-1-59038-742-9
Review by Heather Froeschl
Title to be released April 21, 2008

Darkness spreads and shadows grow in the greatest Brandon Mull adventure yet. “Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague” will have readers shining a flashlight into dark corners and under the blankets to stay up reading into the night. The fantasy realm hasn’t been so threatened since a certain ring was cast in another series of books. Can hope remain that the magical sanctuary of Fablehaven will not meet its demise along with centaurs, fairies, dwarfs, dryads, and our heroes, Seth and Kendra?

Books like the Fablehaven series are not commonly found. A series that captivates attention, inspires imagination, encourages reluctant readers, and offers books that stand alone, not demanding that the previous books have been read, but absolutely beguiling readers to do so, is a true gift. “Grip of the Shadow Plague” does continue the story of Seth and Kendra and Fablehaven, the sanctuary for magical creatures that their grandparents are the caretakers of. Nearly 15 year old Kendra and her brother, twelve year old Seth, are still at the refuge, where we left them in “Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star.” Their parents would like them to return home, but Grandma and Grandpa Sorenson fear the children would be in great danger away from the protection that Fablehaven offers. But is it really so safe on the preserve?

Kendra is given a great honor in this book; she is to be inducted as a knight to The Knights of the Dawn, protectors of the five secret magical preserves. Soon after, she is given her first assignment, one which involves a magical item, a dragon, deadly traps, and a visit to another preserve. Suspicion rises that the Captain of the Knights is corrupt, possibly someone whom they have suspected, and so refusing the mission is not in the best interest if Kendra hopes to find out the truth. Back at Fablehaven, Seth uncovers a darkening of magical creatures; dark fairies attempt to attack him, and a plague is revealed. Discovering who unleashed the shadows is possibly the key to ending the disaster before it spreads too far. When friends Coulter and Tanu are turned to shadow creatures, time becomes a precious commodity. Fablehaven could fall, ending an era of magic and light. It will take every ounce of courage, intelligence and cunning to save the preserve. Will the Sorensons be able to survive?

Brandon Mull offers a more intellectually stimulating and exciting adventure in this book. The characters are growing and their capabilities expanding. The language of the book is more mature, leading readers to learn as they enjoy the story. This feat alone is to be commended. The plot is rich, intricate and well rounded, with moments of humor and instances of tender feeling. Above all else it is a captivating tale of magical beings and exceptionally strong souled children. Here are role models for readers and a crack in the wall that hides fantasy and possibility from the real world. Do you dare to take a peek? Do you dare not?