The Testing, by Joelle Charboneau

Malencia Vale, or Cia, anxiously awaits her graduation day at the opening of this novel.  On that day, she’ll find out if she or any of her classmates from the small colony of Five Lakes have been chosen for The Testing–the process by which students are selected to continue their educations at the United Commonwealth’s university.  It has been ten years since a Five Lakes student has been selected, so although Cia knows her chances are slim, she holds out hope.

When she and three other Five Lakes students are selected, her father, a University graduate, gives her what little information he remembers from his experience at The Testing.  Although his memories were wiped following the tests, he experiences vivid dreams and flashbacks that make him suspect there is more on this test than answering questions.  When Malencia arrives, she soon discovers her father’s dreams were reality.

What will be demanded of her during The Testing?  Can she resume a normal life once it is over?  Which of her former classmates will make the cut, and whom can she trust?  These are all questions Cia must answer in this book.

I liked The Testing.  It’s no Hunger Games, but it’s not a bad read.  I wouldn’t move it to the top of your “must read” list, but if you find yourself with a free afternoon and a copy of the book, by all means, read it.  You’ll probably want to finish the series once you start.  We have the 2nd book, Independent Study, on our shelves, and the third, Graduation Day, will be out in June.

 

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This is Not a Test, by Courtney Summers

ImageSloane Price has had a really rough six months.  Her abusive father is on a rampage, that most recently resulted in her having to miss weeks of school for her bruises to heal.  Her sister, the only person she trusts, reached a breaking point and left home, so she has no one.  And then, things get worse.

How?  Zombies.

Yes, that’s right, this book is about the zombie apocalypse.  And yes, typing that kind of makes me laugh, but when you’re reading the book, it’s not very funny.  Sloane and a handful of other teens manage to make it to their high school, where they barricade themselves into the auditorium and wait to be rescued.  The constant repetition of the emergency broadcast on the radio (“This is not a test.”) makes them wonder if help will ever come.  As they learn more about each other and what is happening outside, their trust in each other starts to crumble.

Basically, this is The Walking Dead at a high school.

This book isn’t winning any literary awards, but I actually really enjoyed it (I read it in a day).  Sloane’s experience as an abused child and how she handles that stress makes her uniquely prepared for the survival situation in the book and her detached relationships with her compatriots.  The other characters make you think you know them, but are actually full of surprises.  If there is a sequel, I’d read it–assuming anyone is left alive!  If you are going through Walking Dead withdrawals, This is Not a Test can help you get your zombie “fix” between seasons.

 

Belle Epoque, by Elizabeth Ross

Maude Pichon escapes the cage of provincial life to find herself in Paris during the Belle Epoque. The crowning jewel in her disillusionment is accepting a job as a “repoussoir”, one who acts as a foil to upper-crust ladies. Through her eyes, the reader sees the dual worlds of rich and poor Parisians, watches as she makes good and poor judgments and waits to find out how she is enriched and affected by life-changing events.

I recommend this book for the ladies. It’s a “girl power” book.

Submitted by Mrs. Ashworth

The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

“Aliens are stupid.  I’m not talking about real aliens.  The Others aren’t stupid.  The Others are so far ahead of us, it’s like comparing the dumbest human to the smartest dog.  No contest.  No, I’m talking about the aliens inside our own heads.  The ones we made up, the ones we’ve been making up since we realized those glittering lights in the sky were suns like ours and probably had planets like ours spinning around them.  .  .  [T]hey march across the countryside in huge machines that look like mechanical spiders, ray guns blasting away, and, as always, humanity sets aside its differences and bands together to defeat the alien horde. . .

What crap.

It’s like a cockroach working up a plan to defeat the shoe on its way down.”

The 5th Wave is unlike any “alien” book I’ve ever read.  In fact, it’s seems so NOT sci-fi that it’s hard to think of the book as sci-fi.  But I suppose that, technically, it is.  Really, though, it’s the story of Cassie (for Cassiopeia) and her struggle for survival after an alien mothership takes up residence above the Earth.  The aliens, who remain unseen, take on humans in “waves.”  First wave, the power goes out.  Second wave, massive earthquakes cause tidal waves.  Third wave, a mysterious illness infects much of the population.  Fourth wave,”silencers” appear to take out those who remain.   We meet Cassie when she’s waiting, trying to figure out what horrors the 5th wave will bring.

This book is so different it’s difficult to write much more without giving it away.  Just read it.  I think you’ll like it!

 

Full Body Burden, by Kristen Iversen

New books arrived at the library and this and one about Chernobyl caught my eye. I was twelve years old living in the Netherlands during the Chernobyl crisis of 1986. I knew that the radiation from the fallout moved all across Europe, and we were all susceptible. It was a crazy time. It’s so much crazier to get a glimpse into the US nuclear business through the eyes of Kristen Iversen, who grew up near Rocky Flats, Colorado. I read the book right through, and was at first a bit put off by the repetition of facts and statistics related to the Rocky Flats nightmare. I now feel like the repetition serves as an alarm signaling imminent, disastrous consequences of the arms race for our planet.

I definitely recommend this book for high school students. You need to know why nuclear energy can NEVER EVER be clean energy.

4/5  stars

Submitted by Mrs. Ashworth

Now is the Time for Running, by Michael Williams

 

Deo and his brother, Innocent, have their lives turned upside-down when their small village in Zimbabwe is visited by soldiers.  Fleeing to South Africa in search of their father, they find themselves in a strange land, unwelcome and unwanted, with few options.  The one constant in Deo’s life is his love of soccer and his need to protect Innocent, who was born different.

Now is the Time for Running is an interesting story that teaches the reader a lot about politics in South Africa and the treatment of refugees.  It’s also a story of resilience and unity; while events in the novel are tragic, the book as a whole is uplifting.  If you play soccer, you’ll enjoy the sections where games and maneuvers are described.  However, I found the ending completely unsatisfying–which was probably the point.   The author leaves it up to the reader to decide how the story ends.

If you enjoy reading about the underdog or people who bounce back from hardships, you will enjoy this book.  The author, Michael Williams, was inspired by actual events in May 2008, when residents in Alexandria, South Africa attacked and burned refugee camps, killing more than sixty people.  This book is his response, and his hope that his country can set aside intolerance and learn to value the diversity that makes them stronger.

Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

In this satirical comedy, Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding ‘fathers’ of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to the world. For he is the inventor of ‘ice-nine’, a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. The search for its whereabouts leads to Hoenikker’s three ecentric children, to a crazed dictator in the Caribbean, to the death of mankind.

I would recommend this book to people who are like reading social satire because this book provides a lot of intelligent social commentary. I would also recommend this book to people who like analyzing literature because it’s so profound that you could literally analyze every single sentence and find a wealth of information etc.

Submitted by Jennifer H.