Buy Power Play
Regular Price: $14.99
Publisher: Harper Collins Canada
Reviewer: Melissa on April 16, 2013
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
No one’s tougher than Cody: his teammates, his rivals on the ice, and even his alcoholic father all pale in comparison. Cody knows he needs to be tough because he has his eyes set on the prize – to make it to the NHL – and he won’t let anything get in his way. When a Junior A League scout picks Cody to make the draft and becomes his new coach, he can’t believe his luck! Finally someone sees the potential he has to go pro! In bestselling, Canadian YA author, Eric Walters’ Power Play, however, Cody will soon learn that the person who he thought was his champion is planning to take as much (if not more) than he gives, transforming his big break into a nightmarish world of secrets, lies, and the unthinkable abuse of power.
In hockey, a power play occurs when one player has been issued a penalty, and thus, his or her team is forced to play with only five players (including the goalie) against six on the opposing side. With one additional player, it’s easy to see which team has the upper hand, or the power, in this situation. In Power Play, a book that tackles the disturbing relationship that occurs between Cody, a talented young hockey star, and his coach, it’s easy to see why this was the perfect title. With a subject like this one, Power Play has the potential to be a harrowing, uncomfortable novel, and I have to say that it certainly lives up to that description. That said, I highly recommend it for teens 14+ and adult readers of YA because it’s a really important subject, especially in Canada where hockey has become so ingrained in our cultural identity and playing in the NHL is the dream of so many teen boys. Might I even suggest that you read it along with your teen to answer any questions that come up with this topic, too? Sometimes the reason a book makes you uncomfortable is that it’s true, and Walters’ 2013 release certainly qualifies.
This is only the second novel I’ve read by Walters – the first was The Taming, which he co-wrote with Teresa Toten – but just from this brief introduction, I can already say that he knows voice. Cody’s story is told in a psychologically complex and interesting way that I believed completely. As the book blurb suggest, he isn’t a weak guy by any stretch of the imagination, but readers soon learn that part of the reason he’s so angry from the beginning has a lot to do with the poor relationship he has with his father, an alcoholic who has taken to yelling at Cody’s rivals, the refs, and even his own son during a game after he’s had one too many drinks. And of course, Cody is driven to succeed in the game. For a predatory character like Coach Conners, these qualities and Cody’s past issues at school make him a prime candidate for the extreme type of manipulation that Walters depicts on the pages of Power Play.
Saying anything more would give away too much of the story, but suffice it to say that Power Play is compelling look at what happens when the player-coach relationship is abused. Pick it up today, share it with a teen, and spread the word about a book might help teens see through the disturbing power politics represented in the novel if it ever happens to them or their friends because the more we talk about important books like this one, the more likely we’ll see lives saved.
Buy Power Play today!
Special: $7.66 (Regular price: $9.99)
Publisher: Harper Teen
Reviewer: Melissa on April 11, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
For the first time since she left school, Eve is able to sleep soundly. She’s living in Califia, a community for women, and is protected from the harrowing fate that awaits most orphaned girls in New America. Of course, in Anna Carey’s Once, Eve’s safety had to come at the price of abandoning the boy she loves, Caleb, at the city gates. However, when Eve learns that he’s in trouble, she sets off into the wilds once again, only to be caught and forcefully brought to the City of Sand. While trapped inside the city walls, Eve learns some shocking details about her past and some harsh realities about the future she’s expected to lead. But when Caleb turns up alive, Eve must make an impossible choice to either save the ones she loves…or risk losing Caleb forever.
When I first read Eve, I was swept up in the characters, the story, and the dark vision of the world that Carey creates. In fact, I rushed through it in one, swoon-filled sitting on a dark and gloomy afternoon. But then I took a little more time to think about the book, and I was a little torn because as much as I loved it, I was conflicted by the representation of the main character, Eve. Everything that Eve planned for was for the future the teachers painted for her, but when she realizes that these were all lies, she’s not at all equipped to deal with the circumstances she faces. Without Arden and the group of boys, including Caleb, that she meets, she would have been totally helpless. However, my initial love for this book made me want to pick up the second book in the trilogy, Once, and I’m so glad that I did.
If you’d been sucked into the storyline of Eve as much as I had, but had some qualms about her character, then you really have to pick up Once because not only have Eve’s circumstances changed considerably over the few months that pass between book 1 and 2, but also her survival skills have improved. She can protect herself in a fight to some degree, which is a good thing because she still finds herself walking into traps at times. Moreover, readers will find themselves, and Eve, delving deeper into the world of the resistance, learning more about what they’ve been doing as Eve lived her day-to-day existence in Califia, what they need, and how they operate. Yes, some things change, but in this case, each and every one of the changes is an improvement and offers some great opportunities for the series to expand and finally, conclude with the final book, Rise.
Beyond the world building and characters, I also noticed that with Once, Carey demonstrates a solid ability to use of juxtaposition to imbue the novel with a literary feel and highly interconnected and fine-tuned writing choices. For example, there are a few instances where the lyrics of a classic song that most (if not all) readers would recognize are juxtaposed with an important event in the plot for either dramatic or comedic effect. Similarly, there are several elements, such as well-known companies from our contemporary culture that figure into the novel’s setting. These palimpsests of our world act as eerie reminders of how similar the future that Carey has created is to ours, suggesting that we could be on a course toward the nightmarish reality that young girls and men in New America live through every day. While elements like these appear in a lot of dystopian YA fiction, it never was so disturbing to me as reader before it’s representation in Once.
From Anna Carey’s use of literary tropes to Eve’s growth into a stronger and more independent person, there’s a lot to love about Once, so make sure you pick it up today to get ready for the final book in the series, Rise, which is now available as well.
Buy Once today and save 23% off the regular price!
Buy Live Through This
Special: $14.07 (Regular price: $17.99)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Reviewer: Melissa on April 9, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
From the outside, Coley’s Sterling’s life seems pretty normal…if there really is such thing as a “normal” life. Not everything is perfect – her best friend is mad at her and her dance team captains have been giving her a hard time – but Coley’s crush on Reece helps distract her. Plus, her mom and stepdad would stop at nothing to keep her and her siblings happy. But what they don’t know is that Coley has a lot of secrets – secrets that she keeps even from herself. She won’t admit that her nearly perfect life is a carefully-constructed facade to hide the shame and guilt she feels about a relationship that crossed the line. Just when Coley has a chance to start dating her first boyfriend, the lies that she’s been keeping for a decade start to unravel. Mindi Scott’s Live Through This is a powerful novel that both teen and adult readers of young adult fiction won’t soon forget.
I first heard about Live Through This on a Canadian radio show, called The Current (NOTE: Spoilers on the radio show for this novel), which was debating the term, “sick-lit” to define a range of YA fiction with dark themes or illness as one of the major plot points. The interviewee who brought up this novel mentioned that it was one of the only teen books that deals with this topic, and thus, is an important book to have at school and public libraries in case a student is going through something similar. Readers of contemporary “issue” YA novels, like myself, know that these types of books not only help readers become more empathetic to others, but also help teens who aren’t able to talk about what they’ve experienced with anyone yet to feel less alone. In Scott’s second teen novel, Live Through This, she creates a character, who is going through something taboo with an authentic and realistic psychological perspective that could be exactly what another 14+ teen needs. In my opinion, a book like this one proves that young adult fiction can save lives, and thus, the term “sick-lit” is a poor description of this genre of realistic teen fiction.
Many authors need to do a lot of research to get the voice of their main character right. However, Scott lived through something similar to Coley, so any required research was backed up by her own memories of the insidious nature of the abuse that the main character suffers. She understands not only how confusing Coley’s feelings about her nightmarish life are to her as they would be to most, if not all, teens in the same situation, but also how worried she is that by not coming forward about her abuse that she might be putting someone else in her family at risk. Scott also understands how keeping this secret could destroy Coley and any chance she might have to be a happy teen with a regular boyfriend. And finally, she also understands Coley’s fear that if anyone ever found out about what’s happening in her own house, they would blame and think she was disgusting. Each of these psychological elements comes through in startling detail in a book which may be difficult to read, but is ultimately worth reading.
In the interest of not giving too much away about this story, I’m not going to say much else other than that YA readers won’t find a novel that is as brave, haunting, and well-written as Live Through This for quite some time. However, you might want to pick it up on a day when you have a lot of free time because you might end up staying awake well past your bedtime to finish this one. And if you enjoyed this book, you might also want to check out my review of her debut novel, Freefall, as well.
Buy Live Through This today and save 21% off the regular price!