Monday, December 28, 2015

Tom Gates: Everything's Amazing (Sort of) by L. Pichon, 2015

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on Goodreads 
Back to school, but it's not all bad. We're entering Rooster in a dog show, the School Disco and my birthday are coming up so this term's going to be amazing! Mostly because Delia's not invited to any of these. There's only one small problem with my birthday, Granny Mavis says she's going to cook ...uh oh!
(404 pages)

First things first, this book is so British! It's like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books (or at least like what I'd heard they're like), but written by a British author so full of words and phrases that make me feel like I'm a little English kid. As someone who dearly loves all things U.K., that definitely brings this book up in my esteem - for an American kid reading this with no real understanding of the linguistic differences between our two cultures, it could be very off-putting. On the plus side: Pichon includes a glossary for things that, as Tom puts it, "might sound a bit ODD." On the negative: it's literally the last page of the entire book, so confused readers won't discover it until they've already muddled through the entire book.

But what of the book itself? Well, I have to say that this sucker is not winning any literary awards. It's like cotton candy, all fluff and no substance - but you know what? It's good cotton candy. It's realistic and silly and funny and witty, and Tom is such a genuine character that I could totally imagine running into him on some random street corner in the UK. He's also a genuinely nice kid, which I really liked - the problem with the popular series like Diary of a Wimpy Kid is that all of the characters are such jerks I can't stand reading about them. Tom, on the other hand, isn't obnoxious or horrible or unreasonably disrespectful. He argues with his sister, sure, and complains about his grandmother's cooking and makes fun of his father's terrible old-fashioned dance moves, but he does it in a way that's just honest, not over-the-top. I fight with my siblings, too. I pick at food I don't like (but, just like Tom, when someone I love cooks it I only complain about it when they're not there to be hurt). I laugh at my parents when they seem particularly out of touch with modern culture. That doesn't make me a mean person, it just makes me human, and the same goes for Tom.

So if you get a chance to read a Tom Gates books, by all means do so! I'm not going to go around advertising it from the street corners as God's gift to literature, but it might just be exactly the fun, light, silly read you're looking for.

Disclaimer: I received a complementary ARC of this novel at KidLitCon.

Friday, December 25, 2015

NIV Understand the Faith Bible from Zondervan, 2015

Merry Christmas! It's a complete coincidence that I'm posting a review of a Bible on Christmas - or is it? Who knows, maybe this is God's hand at work. Whatever the case, I hope you have a blessed holiday full of friends, family, presents, and fun. Tell me below what your favorite holiday tradition is!

The NIV Understand the Faith Study Bible provides a deep grounding in Scripture. You will appreciate the way this Bible keeps the joyful, astounding nature of the gospel always in view when addressing doctrine and the pressing questions about faith. Its content will help you understand what you believe and why while inspiring you to live for God.(1504 pages)

Yes, this is a Bible.

Like a real, honest-to-goodness Bible. The Holy book. What am I doing reviewing it? That is an excellent question, and one I'm honestly still asking myself. All I can say is that the BookLook Bloggers program, which I joined for its regular novels, also offers Bibles. And I was stressed out, because I'd just moved, and I had two credits to request whatever I wanted, and the next thing I knew a brand-new Bible was showing up on my doorstep.

It's a hardback, and it kind of look like the sort of Bible you'd find in a church pew or at youth group or something. When you take the red dust jacket off, underneath it's solid black, very traditional (and slightly boring compared to my last two Bibles, which were both pink). When I was flipping through it I found an article I wanted to save, but I couldn't because there was no ribbon. So on the whole I'm really not a huge fan of the physical aspects of the Bible - it's much too ugly and not quite functional enough for my tastes. I'm sure there are people who would like this hard binding and the black cover, though - it's just a matter of taste.

As for the internal stuff, the font is a good size, nice and big so it's very comfortable to read. I have a pocket Bible that my grandparents gave me when I got baptized that I love to pieces, but I practically need a magnifying glass to read a passage. No sight enhancements needed for this Bible! That does mean it's pretty chunky, though - about 1500 pages. Definitely not for the faint of heart, or the weak of wrists - I've had to be very careful not to accidentally pick it up with my bad hand.

The supplementary material, the "study" part of the "study Bible," is actually really awesome. In my previous Bibles I've struggled with the supplementary material because it was so distracting that it tore my attention away from reading the Bible itself (and because sometimes the neatly-packaged answers they offered to some questions were a little too convenient and touchy-feely for my tastes). With this Bible, though, the focus is mainly just on the text itself and then scattered every bunch of pages is a block of text, which falls into one of these categories: Doctrine 101, Everyday Faith, Culture Connections, Living Parables, and Up For Debate. I love that they delineate between truly essential beliefs (such as the fact that Jesus is our Redeemer), and ones that are openly debated between different denominations (such as evolution and predestination), putting issues from the latter category into boxes marked "Up For Debate."

On the whole, this is not a very attractive or portable Bible, so I'm not sure I'll really be taking it with me places. It is, however, very good as what it was made to be: a study Bible. I'm excited to start using it in my personal Bible reading, and to continue exploring the wealth of materials scattered throughout the text!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this Bible through the BookLook Bloggers program.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo, 2002

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on Goodreads 
A magical fantasy that is fast-paced and easy-to-read. Charlie Bone has a special gift- he can hear people in photographs talking!
The fabulous powers of the Red King were passed down through his descendants, after turning up quite unexpectedly, in someone who had no idea where they came from. This is what happened to Charlie Bone, and to some of the children he met behind the grim, gray walls of Bloor's Academy.
His scheming aunts decide to send him to Bloor Academy, a school for geniuses where he uses his gifts to discover the truth despite all the dangers that lie ahead.

(416 pages)

I picked this up at a book swap because, um, it was free so there wasn't exactly a lot of risk tied up in getting it. I kind of figured it would be a little too creepy for me (I mean, come on - that cover is strange!), but I figured I'd just give it a try anyway.

And I'm glad I did. I really loved Midnight for Charlie Bone, which was full of adventure and mystery and magical cats and, actually, not too much creepiness. Now was it cheesy in parts? Why, yes - Let's hear it for crazy, evil aunts! And evil headmasters! And mean bullies with terrible powers! But it's a good kind of cheesy, the kind that makes you not really mind the cliches and even manages to disguise them so well you don't realize you've seen them before.

I actually really loved this book, from Charlie's newfound talent for hearing pictures (just think about how cool that would be!) to his uncle's penchant for exploding light bulbs, to the dead-father-who's-probably-not-really-dead storyline (to be continued, of course), to Charlie's lonely best friend Benjamin and his dog Runner Bean, to the main storyline which I can't really discuss for fear of spoilers. There are a lot of little threads tied together to form the central narrative, and I really like each story individually as well as the unified story they come together to tell.

I already got the first sequel from the library, Charlie Bone and the Time Twister, which I liked okay but not as much as this one. It seemed a little bit less focused, like there wasn't really a point to it at all - and like if you pulled it out of the series, the narrative wouldn't really be changed that much. I'll probably get the third and fourth books from the library, and if they're better again I'll continue the series but otherwise I'll just drop it. I really enjoyed Midnight for Charlie Bone, but that doesn't mean I'll necessarily read all seven of its sequels. If you're interested to hear what I think of the entire series, comment below and I'll let you know once I've tried a few more books; otherwise, I probably won't wind up posting any more full-length reviews of the Charlie Bone books.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Game of Flames by Robin Wasserman, 2015

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on Goodreads 
Earth is in danger! The only thing that can save our planet are six essential elements scattered throughout the galaxy. It is up to the Voyagers—a team of four kids (plus one stowaway) —to gather them all and return to Earth.
Failure is not an option. The Alpha team knows that the second element is hidden on Meta Prime, a planet filled with metal mazes, catapults of fire, and warring alien robots. But what they don’t know is that another spaceship is following hot on their trail. . . .
Do you have what it takes to be a Voyager? Find out at VoyagersHQ.com.

(208 pages)

This is the second of the two books I got through a giveaway from the publisher. I read it within a few hours of finishing the first book (Project Alpha, which I reviewed here), and it definitely solidified both the focus and the themes of the series.

In Game of Flames the characters take on a little more nuance, fleshing out the bare minimums provided in Project Alpha. Some of the mysteries left behind from the first book (including Chris's background, and the mastermind behind the team competing with Team Alpha) are explained in Game of Flames, and the plot - though slightly contrived - is a very engaging ride from start to finish. I'm growing to really love the main characters, especially as I begin to get to really know what makes each of them tick, and I'm looking forward to continuing the journey together through the next four books. Three out of the four of those books are written by authors whose writing I already know and love (Patrick Carman, Jeanne DuPrau, and Wendy Mass), so I'm excited to see how some of my favorite authors approach such a fun series.

I've said all I can about the book itself without spoiling anything too major, but I think a word or two (and maybe even three) should also be said about the website, VoyagersHQ.com. I sat down a few days after getting the books, made an account and worked on unlocking my exclusive content. It was . . . a little bit more of a challenge than I was up for. You have a bunch of random codes written at the bottom of different pages in the books, and you have to take each and every symbol in the seven-digit code, compare it to a key in the front of the book to find its color combination, and then click the letter on the website that corresponds with that same combination of colors. Each seven-digit code unlocks a different piece of content, such as an interview with the candidates or some inside dirt on the characters. It's very interesting, and I bet kids will really love the spy-esque mode of unlocking material (in fact, I probably would have loved it a few years ago), but it's just a little too time-consuming and low-yield for me to enjoy it now. I unlocked the first few codes and left the rest of them unsolved - my younger brother is going to read the series, though, and I told him he could share my account if he wants to unlock the rest of the codes and get the bonus material. I have a hunch he'll have a lot more fun with the website than I have.

I honestly enjoy the books very much even without the online component, so I don't really mind skipping the "multimedia" aspect and just reading the books themselves. So far the books have been more than enough to satisfy me, and - barring some disastrous drop in quality - will continue to be perfectly fine without the website, but a part of me wishes the website was a little more interactive.

It's a great book, though, and I can't wait to continue the series!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Scarlett: A Star on the Run by John Buller and Susan Schade, 2015

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on Goodreads 
Scarlett is a small, harlequin-colored cat and a huge movie star. And what's more—she talks! However, abused by her producer, she dreams of but one thing: escaping! So, when the occasion presents itself, she runs for her life. In the company of Trotter, a dog who's escaped the same torment, she is taken in by Mr. Bougnon. But with the noose getting tighter, will they manage to elude their terrible pursuers?
(176 pages)



This is definitely an interesting book. Its format reminds me a lot of Brian Selznick’s books, except where his books are told in alternating prose and drawings Scarlett is told via prose and comic strips. I don’t read a ton of comic books so I can’t say much about the quality of the artwork or anything like that, but I can vouch that they definitely create an interesting effect and seem well-done to an amateur like myself. The comics were really good for showing things (like, for example, the beginning where Scarlett escapes from the lab), and then the prose passages worked well for the scenes that involved more thinking and less action. The story might have worked okay if told purely in prose (though it might have been a little dry), but I don’t think it would have been possible to tell the story entirely in comic strips - it’s too complicated. You don’t get that strong flavor of Scarlett’s personality and opinions the way you do when you’re reading prose in first-person narrative by her.

I enjoyed the story, which reminded me a lot of the movie Bolt in some parts (escaped animals from a movie set, anyone?), but wound up taking a very different course toward the end. It's a rather disturbing book if you actually sit back and really, truly think about the revelations made toward the end, but Scarlett herself decides not to think about the implications, and hopefully most younger readers won't either. Set aside the sci-fi at the surface (oh come on, you know there has to be some explanation for the talking animals), and this is actually a very heartwarming book about a talking cat and dog, their search for a place in this world.

I'm not absolutely in love with Scarlett - it's a little different from my usual reads, and I think I'm just a little older than the usual audience with this one - but I did enjoy it, and I'm sure kids will even more. The unique format is a definite plus, the talking cat an instant draw, and the exciting, humorous story a great source of entertainment for any kid looking for a book at their level that contains more than just the usual cliche characters and rote plots. So go ahead, check Scarlett out: I can't promise you'll fall in love with it, but I can promise it will be a little bit different from anything else you've ever read.

Disclaimer: I received a complementary copy of this book at KidLitCon, which in no way affected my review.

Friday, December 11, 2015

AP English Ramblings (Ted Kooser's "Selecting a Reader")

Hello! This really has nothing to do with books, or my blog, or - well, anything, really, but I was really stuck getting started on an English project. When I get completely stymied on any sort of writing assignment, my last resort is to open up a new blog post and spew out my thoughts as though I were talking to you, my readers. I've found it only really works, though, if I know I'm really going to post my thoughts - so feel free to ignore this, because I'm just posting it purely for my own psyche. If I don't, then it won't work next time I get stuck. If you're interested, the poem I'm explicating is Ted Kooser's "Selecting a Reader," which you can check out here. And of course if you have any insight into the poem or my analysis, I would be happy to hear it!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gosh, I'm starting to hate this poem.

I'm sorry, you don't even know what I'm talking about, do you? Well, for AP English I have to write a paper about a living poet, describing his life and outlook and all that jazz and then explicating one of his poems. I chose Ted Kooser, and his poem "Selecting a Reader." He's a great poet, and it's a wonderful poem, but I can't for the life of me figure out how to put two words together about it without sounding like an idiot. I've been rolling this assignment around for about a week now, and I really need to get some serious pen to paper because it's due in a week and a half.

I figured it would be pretty easy to explicate - but oh, well, what do I know? The whole poem is one big laugh from Kooser as far as I can tell. He begins with this really poetic image - you know what I mean, poetic as in pretty and sort of ethereal - of a woman who seems to have walked right out of some romantic-period poem. She doesn't just go to read the poems, she "walks carefully up on" them, venturing out at the "loneliest moment of an afternoon." Traditional poetry from the romantic period often involved scenes from the loneliest time of day, when time seemed to truly stand still and nature itself plays companion to the poet. So with these lines Kooser seems to harken to those images of beauty and tranquility. The next line tells us that the girl's hair is "damp at the neck," which slightly revises the original image of the girl into a slightly more substantial one; this is no elf in the forest sitting down to read Kooser's poems, but instead a girl whose hair can become wet. It calls to mind images of alluring, mysterious models with wet hair, the kind that men always find so attractive.

This alluring image is damped by the next line, which informs us that her hair is wet for the very ordinary reason that she had washed it. It is from here on out that Kooser truly lets loose, however, as he completely demolishes the more traditionally "poetic" images that have been playing in the reader's head and shows just what sort of person is really reading his poetry. She's wearing an old, dirty raincoat, she needs glasses to read his poems - glasses always mean a diminishing of beauty in popular culture, but they also carry connotations of being old and stodgy, because so many elderly people need bifocals to read - and, of course, she actually decides to get her raincoat cleaned rather than buy Kooser's poems!

One very interesting thing about the character in "Selecting a Reader" is that she must be truly destitute. It costs very little get a raincoat cleaned - certainly under ten dollars - and yet the woman is so poor that she hasn't done it and indeed can only do it by giving up Kooser's poems. What's even more interesting than her poverty is the fact that, despite it, she is still drawn to the poems in the first place. What can an impoverished individual gain at a book store? Nothing - no physical nourishment, certainly. And yet she still comes, still picks Kooser's poems off the shelf. She flips through and enjoys a few up the poems, and then she puts them back and makes a logical decision: she decides to get her raincoat cleaned rather than buy the book of poems. This sort of hard-headed practicality about poetry doesn't seem like the behavior that would appeal to most writers in Kooser's place, but it does to him. This is because Kooser writes his poems for people like the woman in "Selecting a Reader," people who have their heads in the real world rather than up in the clouds. Anyone can marvel at a lovely view when they're looking around at the sky above the clouds; it takes a poet like Kooser to help people find the beauty in the everyday world around them. That's who his poems are for, and that's why - when thinking about the sort of reader he would select - he opts for the sort of person who is wide-eyed enough to not be taken in by descriptions of a world of exquisite beauty they have never actually beheld.

Project Alpha by D.J. MacHale, 2015

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on Goodreads 
Earth is about to go dark. Without a new power source, life as we know it will be toast. A global competition is under way to determine which four kids will join the secret mission that might just save us all. Project Alpha is a contest of physical challenges, mental puzzles, and strategic alliances. The battle is fierce. Who will lead the team? Who will pilot the most complicated space ship ever built? Who will be a friend? An enemy? And how will they survive over a year stuck on a space ship together?
Once chosen, the Voyagers will journey to the far reaches of space, collecting unique elements and facing unbelievable dangers. The future of our planet is in their hands. Sure, they’ll be the best in the world . . . but can they save the world?
The action is on the page, on your device, and out of this world! And you don't have long to wait, 6 books are coming all in one year!

Do you have what it takes to be a Voyager? Find out at VoyagersHQ.com.
(224 pages)

I've had my eye on this series for a while, ever since Patrick Carman (creator of the series) announced it on his website. How could I not be intrigued by a series that resembled the 39 Clues franchise in format, featured books written by some of my favorite authors (Patrick Carman, Wendy Mass, Jeanne DuPrau), and had a cool sci-fi premise to boot? So when I saw on Bloglovin that Ms. Yingling Reads was reviewing the second Voyagers book, I clicked over to see what she thought of it - and then, when the review included a giveaway by the publisher for the first two books in the series, I eagerly entered and crossed my fingers to win.

I think you can guess what happened: that's right, I won the giveaway! I am now the proud owner of Project Alpha, Game of Flames, a Voyagers phone case, and a little button to put on my iPhone's home button. I know, I'm so awesomely lucky. Don't begrudge it to me too much, though, I really needed these books. I found out I won the giveaway a few days before we closed on the new house in Indiana, and the package with my prize showed up a few days after we'd moved in. I was so worn out from unpacking and scrabbling to catch up with my missed schoolwork (not to mention emotionally exhausted from leaving my home of four years) that nothing was ever so wonderful to me as curling up in bed with the nice, shiny new books I'd been wanting to read for months.

Escapist pleasure aside, did I enjoy Project Alpha as much as I'd hoped I would? Why, yes indeed. While full of lots of tropes (the humanesque robot, crazy-realistic training simulations, and imminent threat of total power loss all ring particularly familiar), it handles them in a fun, compelling manner that drug me along every step of the way. Some of the characters also seemed slightly familiar (the overachieving bully and the genius, yet emotionally-suppressed girl both stuck out as old friends), but I didn't really mind very much - this is just that sort of book, you know? And I feel like the characters will develop away from their initial stereotypical roles as the series progresses. They will likely develop in still-predictable ways (who's betting the overachieving loner winds up realizing she needs the others' help?), but again - something about the way they're presented makes that okay, like I'm surrounded by old friends I've know in some form or other my entire life.

Honestly, my only real complaint with Project Alpha is that it was paced rather strangely. The first good chunk of the book is devoted to the almost Hunger Games-like competition between the eight contenders for the four spots on the ship, and then the last little bit (and I meant little - maybe the last fourth?) follows the team as they begin their travels, go to a planet, have an adventure, etc. It felt to me like the book should have ended with the announcement of the teams, and then the second book should have followed them as they began their journey and had their first adventure in space. The tone of the book shifted so completely from "intense interpersonal competition" to "Ah, attacking creature from a foreign planet!" that it kind of threw me off and made me wonder why the people behind the scenes decided this was the best way to tell the story.

Anyway, I've only read the first two books so far (keep an eye out for my review of Game of Flames!), so I don't know how the series will hold up by the sixth book, but so far it's been really great. It's the perfect mix of compelling characters, familiar tropes, and suspenseful plot, and I am just lapping it up.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Teaser Tuesdays: Project Alpha by D.J. MacHale (Dec 8)

Okay, so for those of you who are new to this meme, here's how it works:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My current read is Voyagers #1: Project Alpha by D.J. MacHale.
Earth is about to go dark. Without a new power source, life as we know it will be toast. A global competition is under way to determine which four kids will join the secret mission that might just save us all. Project Alpha is a contest of physical challenges, mental puzzles, and strategic alliances. The battle is fierce. Who will lead the team? Who will pilot the most complicated space ship ever built? Who will be a friend? An enemy? And how will they survive over a year stuck on a space ship together?
Once chosen, the Voyagers will journey to the far reaches of space, collecting unique elements and facing unbelievable dangers. The future of our planet is in their hands. Sure, they’ll be the best in the world . . . but can they save the world?
The action is on the page, on your device, and out of this world! And you don't have long to wait, 6 books are coming all in one year!
Do you have what it takes to be a Voyager? Find out at VoyagersHQ.com.
(224 pages)

Here's this week's teaser, from page 9:
Dash stared out of his bedroom window at the dark, empty streets of downtown Orlando, Florida . . . Hundreds of thousands of kids from all over the world had entered for a chance to become part of the project. He was one of eight finalists. Eventually there would be only four winners. Dash never expected to get that far. He thought he stood a better chance of finding a golden ticket in a Wonka Bar than making the final four.
Yet there he was with a fifty-fifty chance. 
Let me know what you think of the book, and check back on Friday for my review!

Monday, December 7, 2015

How to Fight a Dragon's Fury by Cressida Cowell, 2015

Warning: lots of spoilers ahead! This is a review of the twelfth book in a series, so please don't read it unless you're ready to ruin the first eleven books for yourself.

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on Goodreads 
Book 12 is the epic finale to the New York Times bestselling How to Train Your Dragon series! The Doomsday of Yule has arrived, and the future of dragonkind lies in the hands of one boy with nothing to show, but everything to fight for. Hiccup's quest is clear... But can he end the rebellion? Can he prove himself to be king? Can he save the dragons? The stakes have never been higher, as the very fate of the Viking world hangs in the balance!
(416 pages)

Oh, man. How can this series be over? When I started it, just a year or two ago, there seemed to be a million of these books. And even though they were geared at kids almost half my age, I still gobbled them up by the handful - they were fun and silly at first, full of naughty dragons and crazy escapades. Then somewhere along the line I realized that I actually did care about Hiccup and Toothless and Fishlegs and all the rest - not just because they provided an escape from my world, but because they were legitimately compelling characters. The next thing I knew things were escalating, falling into place and then back out as Hiccup discovered the random adventures he'd been on had all led him to the items he would need to claim a throne he'd never even realized he was the heir to. And then the villain snatched the items away, and a giant dragon with a bitter, burning desire for revenge against the humans enslaved everyone Hiccup knew, and Hiccup was left on the run. And now here he is one last time, starting in dead last one final time as he fights to gain the throne and negotiate a peace that would mean the survival of both the humans and the dragons, despite the terrible war raging between the two species. A seemingly impossible goal, true, but then Hiccup has been in many impossible places before.

I truly loved every minute of watching him navigate his way through this one. Through all twelve books, Cressida Cowell's writing has never once dropped in quality, and I believe (though I haven't read it in a while) that the first How to Train Your Dragon book was no huge leap greater than this twelfth installment. How does she do it? I have no idea - but I wish all authors could be as consistent as she is!

There isn't really anything for me to say, besides that the quality is as high as ever and it's a fulfilling (if rather tear-wrenching) ending to a wonderful series. If you have read the first eleven How to Train Your Dragon books, then you're really not going to wait for my encouragement to read the twelfth. And if you haven't read any of these books, then what on earth are you doing reading this review?! Leave this page right now and go check out the first book in the series, How to Train Your Dragon. I know you won't be disappointed.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Boy Who Knew Everything by Victoria Forester, 2015

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on Goodreads 
Here is the long-awaited companion to The Girl Who Could Fly.
There is a prophecy.
It speaks of a girl who can fly and a boy who knows everything. The prophecy says that they have the power to bring about great change...
The boy is Conrad Harrington III. The girl is Piper McCloud. They need their talents now, more than ever, if they are to save the world—and themselves.

(416 pages)

I really, really, really loved The Boy Who Knew Everything's prequel, The Girl Who Could Fly (my review here). I spent years desperately waiting for a sequel, and when I discovered a few months ago that it was finally happening, I literally started jumping around squealing. I was so excited.

Coming out of The Boy Who Knew Everything, I'm a lot less elated.

I mean, what I loved so much about The Girl Who Could Fly was that it had so many amazing messages mixed in with the really cool sci-fi scenario and the touching inter-personal interactions. It was a story about friendship and bravery and loyalty and staying true to yourself, and it was amazing. The Boy Who Knew Everything, on the other hand, is trying so hard to be some sort of breathtaking, mind-bending story that it forgets its own roots. It's sci-fi storylines stray almost into fantasy, and there's this weird prophecy thing that really doesn't mesh well with the tone of the first book. And then there's the whole plot with Conrad's father, which some will probably like but which I thought was a) weird and b) a dreadful reopening of a wound that I thought beautifully closed at the end of the first book. Piper also didn't seem to have as much spirit in her as she did in the first book. I mean, there was definitely a semblance of trying to represent her as having that spirit, sure, but she just felt pretty forced. And I'm forced to admit that The Girl Who Could Fly should probably have remained a standalone forever, despite how desperate I was all those years for it to have a sequel.

Actually, I think The Boy Who Knew Everything would have done better as a standalone almost as much as its prequel would. Placed next to The Girl Who Could Fly, it simply has lost too much for me to consider it any good; all of my favorite storylines seem to have been polluted and twisted, and new ones introduced that throw off the entire balance of the stories. I can't say that I know for sure that I would adore The Boy Who Knew Everything if it were a standalone - I'm too prejudiced by its prequel to be able to judge - but I do know that a lot of the things I hated about it (the storyline with Conrad's father, for example) I would have actually enjoyed in other circumstances, with different characters. It's just when they are changing the tone and ending of one of my all-time favorite books that I get mad.

Let's be honest, I'm pretty much going to pretend that The Boy Who Knew Everything didn't happen. I mean, I might think of it from time to time as a book completely on its own, but when I think about The Girl Who Could Fly I will not draw any connection between the two books. My Piper and Conrad and Violet and Kimberly and Jasper and all the rest did not travel down the path laid out in The Boy Who Knew Everything; they are still safely where my nine-year-old self left them, their futures completely disconnected to anything that happened to the kids in Forester's second book.