Review Hacklet: Boy 21 by Matthew Quick ~ The Little Prince in Basketball Shoes

boy21_cover

The cover is weird before you read it but becomes perfect after you’re done

 

Summary: The book is narrated by Finley, a white Irish kid in a rough, mostly black town close to Philly. He lives for basketball, even though as point guard, he’s a role player and doesn’t get the big scores. He’s a quiet, reserved kid, just trying to keep his head down so he doesn’t get mixed up with either the Irish or black drug dealers or gangs. At the start of his Senior year, his coach puts him in charge of a new kid, Russ, who’s moved to town to live with his grandparents after his parents were murdered. Russ was a highly recruited basketball star out in California, but after his parents’ murder he’s become withdrawn and eccentric, calling himself Boy21 and claiming to be from outer space. Boy21 ominously believes he will soon return to space and rejoin his parents.

Finley accepts Boy21’s eccentricities and heeds his coach’s command to help him and convince him to play basketball again, even though it might mean that Finley would lose his spot on the team to the much more talented Russ. The book is really all about Finley trying to walk many thin lines without making a dangerous error: helping Boy21 without fearing the possible competition; being friends with a black guy while living in the Irish part of town; balancing dating his longterm girlfriend Erin with dedicating himself fully to basketball; staying on the good side of the gangsters and mobsters without being pulled into that life. These razor-edged tightrope walks and the shortness if the book makes this a gripping, tense read.

1 heart  I loved this book from the beginning, but then got mad at it and then got un-mad at it and then I loved it again. I was mad because I was feeling clever about 40% of the way in, when I made the connection between the character Boy21 and the Little Prince, but then about 60% of the way through the book, one of the characters referenced The Little Prince and I felt less clever, and just a bit anxious about Boy21’s detached claims that he would soon be leaving planet Earth for the cosmos. I was also worried the book would end up being a blatant adaptation of Saint-Expury’s work. I started waiting for the metaphorical snake. But it soon became clear that the author was only giving the slightest homage to The Little Prince, and the story went in its own odd direction. So in the end, I got to feel clever again for noticing the connection and gratified by the story’s surprise ending.

I loved the eccentricities of Boy21 and how Finley easily takes them in stride, and loved seeing their friendship develop. There was a lot at stake, both in the present of the narrative and because of the brutal back stories of the characters that you find out later. I loved the unpredictable nature of the story, and the quirks of all the characters. Some people seemed turned off by the “weird” hard-to-classify nature of this book, but that’s exactly what made me love it.

1 scissorsThe only thing I couldn’t quite buy was that Finley and Erin had been dating for years, and were Seniors, but seemed to not have proceeded past making out and holding hands. It’s not that I think this was bad, it just seemed a little unrealistic that two fit, athletic teens who love each other wouldn’t be having a more intimate relationship. In some ways, I think it was a fine choice to not have that be a distracting element to the story, but it was just a little difficult to believe and made me wonder why Quick made this choice. We know that Finley is repressing a lot of emotions, but is this supposed to part of it? Or was Quick trying to make a point about how Erin and Finley were best friends first, and that their friendship was the most important element of their relationship? I actually did feel taken out of the story a little by what I perceived as something so unrealistic.

 

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Review: The Loop by Shandy Lawson ~ YA “Groundhog Day”

TheLoop

Good story - Let's hack it and make it great

Good story – Let’s hack it and make it great

 Verdict: A fun, suspenseful thriller that is most fun if you suspend your critical thinking about its many plot holes. It’s a quick read and definitely gives you back the right amount of entertainment for the time it takes to read.

Perfect for: People who like stories and movies that mess with time (such as the wonderful Before I Fall, “Groundhog Day”, “Looper”).  People who like fast-paced quick reads.

Summary: Ben and Maggie are destined to repeat the same two days in an endless loop – a loop that starts with them running into each other as strangers in a mall and ends with them getting killed by a relentless adversary. Can they alter enough small parts of their endlessly repeating experiences to break free of this deadly loop?

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Review: Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson ~ My Fave of 2013 (so far)

alif_cover

The perfection of this cover isn’t evident until you read the book. Perfection!

No Hacking Needed <3

No Hacking Needed ❤

Verdict: An exhilarating mix of action, fantasy, technology, philosophy, love, politics, religion, metaphysics, and semiotics. Oh and also: genies.

Perfect for: On the back cover there are blurbs describing this book as “a multicultural Harry Potter for the digital age” and “A Golden Compass for the Arab Spring”. I feel like these comparisons are not particularly accurate, other than the fact that I think they are trying to get across that Alif is the kind of fantasy book that is rooted in the world we live in now and that wants to explore some serious issues all while providing the reader a riotous adventure. I also think these comparisons speak to the fact that both adults and teens can enjoy this book on many different levels.

Summary: [Disclaimer: I started reading this book without knowing anything about it, and it was really cool figuring out what was going on.

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Review: Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins ~ A PG Look at Child Soldiers in Burma

I wish the publisher had been brave enough to show Burmese children on the cover instead of "whitewashing" them into shadows

I wish the publisher had been brave enough to show Burmese children on the cover instead of “white-washing” them into shadows

Only one element needs hacking

Only one element needs hacking

Verdict: This look into the life of child soldiers in Burma (aka Myanmar) without all the gritty, traumatizing realities of war makes this book appropriate for younger readers (age 10 and up). As it is fiction, the book is more an allegory about keeping one’s humanity in an inhumane situation than it is an accurate portrayal of child soldiers. It’s a simple yet rewarding story. Recommended.

Perfect for: Younger YA readers or readers curious about the life of child soldiers, or about other cultures.

Summary: The first section of the book is narrated by Chiko, a bookish fifteen-year-old boy who lives in a major city.  His father, a doctor and scholar, has been in prison for some time for being a suspected enemy of the state for owning English books. Lured downtown by an advertisement that claims the government is recruiting people for teacher-training, Chiko is captured by the army and brought to the jungle to be trained as a soldier. Continue reading

Review: Every Day by David Levithan ~ Day 13118: I wasted my day on this book GAH

My love of this cover is in proportion to my dislike of what's inside

My love of this cover is in proportion to my dislike of what’s inside

Unhackable

Unhackable

Verdict: It’s a LitHacker first, y’all, a book that cannot be hacked. Nothing can save this book from itself, except for it being completely rewritten. I was intrigued by the description of the book’s unique premise, but ultimately I thought it was actually quite an offensive book. I am going to have to restrain myself with explaining why because I took far too many copious, angry notes as I was reading. Good news for The Help: it is now officially off the hook for being my least favorite book ever read!

Perfect for: Look, I know I’m in the minority here – look at other reviews and you’ll see most people really liked this book. People who like other David Levithan books, people who like romantic comedies, or people who appreciate books having an interesting premise might like Every Day.

Summary: Each day the sixteen-year-old narrator, A, wakes up in a different sixteen-year old’s body. Continue reading