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How to Be Anything: Young Adult Edition

YA

The only thing these books have in common is the age group of their protagonists. Which is just how we like our young adult books; varied and fantastic. Isn’t it wonderful that teenagers can be anything they want to be, even if they’re the character or the reader? You can be in control of your dreams (quite literally if you read one of these books) and you can work hard to achieve your goals. With any of these six books, reviewed in our July/August 2017 issue, explore what it means to be anything you want.

What Goes Up

Book Cover
Katie Kennedy
Bloomsbury
Hardcover $17.99 (336pp)
978-1-61963-912-6
Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

What Goes Up centers on Rosa and Eddie, two teenagers who apply to a NASA program. Only the very top of the top are going to get a coveted spot, and there is some particularly nasty competition on the way.

Rosa and Eddie make it, passing all of the tests with opposite strategies. Whereas Rosa is logical and calculating, Eddie is an outside-the-box thinker with a tendency toward bad knock-knock jokes. They learn early on that their best chance of succeeding is through collaboration. But their program is interrupted by a major event that rocks not just NASA but the whole world.

While remaining in the third person, the points of views are shifted between Rosa and Eddie fluidly, showing both from their own, and also outside, perspectives. They have a natural tendency to joke; one of the best parts of the book is their lighthearted banter.

Since the narrative is centered on a NASA program, science is a star—neither difficult to understand here nor dumbed down. Technical terms are used, and scientific processes are walked through, but the story remains clear. This makes for engaging reading. Plot twists are excellently delivered.

What Goes Up is a witty, heartfelt comedy about an amazing new scientific step for mankind. Polished and lively prose keeps involvement high.

HANNAH HOHMAN (June 29, 2017)

Project You

More than 50 Ways to Calm Down, De-Stress, and Feel Great

Book Cover
Aubre Andrus
Switch Press
Softcover $14.95 (160pp)
978-1-63079-091-2
Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Project You is full of activities and projects designed to help teenagers let go of their stress. From healthy eating and exercise to shopping tips, its many multifaceted activities provide endless ways to release negative energy and relax.

This is an interactive book. It starts off with a quiz designed to gauge stress levels, with a reminder that those who experience anxiety and depression may need more than just this work to help them cope. Questions throughout are designed to engage critical thinking and are interesting to answer and explore. They function as guides to new discoveries about what each person finds enjoyable.

Activities are varied and fun. Project You embraces things that teens today enjoy, like making avocado toast, journaling, and experimenting with new looks. Each project is offered as a valuable and worthy endeavor; not once does the project condescend to its audience.

The book’s aesthetic is eye-catching. A mixture of drawings and photographs are a strong accompaniment to each activity, depicting a range of teens and topics. Drawings are whimsical and lovely, making a claw-foot tub or a mug of tea look particularly inviting. Pictures in pastel shades are calming.

Project You is an inviting, soothing book filled with lively activities and calming advice, perfect for teens who are experiencing stress.

HANNAH HOHMAN (June 29, 2017)

That Crazy Perfect Someday

Book Cover
Michael Mazza
Turtle Point Press
Softcover $17.00 (318pp)
978-1-933527-86-4
Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Mafuri Long is a young woman with ambition. She wants an Olympic gold medal, and as the only woman to have ridden an eighty-foot wave, she knows she is ready. The only thing stopping her is her father’s depression. Mafuri takes responsibility for him, worrying about his drinking and his doctor appointments, and talking him down when he’s upset.

On its own, the goal to attain a gold medal is a difficult one; with new problems popping up, it seems even harder. Mafuri’s fellow competitors are ruthless. But she finds a safe haven in a new friendship with Nixon, the teenage brother of a college friend, from whom she draws new energy.

The story is set in the future, and it’s a time when much has changed. Technology has advanced; so has global warming. Changes are woven in neatly and are easily believable.

Mafuri’s voice is well defined: youthful and full of slang. She is a consistent and powerful character throughout—an open book with her thoughts, particularly through her revealing inner dialogue.

The prose is quick and lyrical, and Mafuri proves to be a descriptive narrator. Scenes are vivid (it doesn’t hurt that much of the view is the dazzling ocean). Sentences are detailed but clipped, moving the story along while satisfying its visual aspects.

That Crazy Perfect Someday is about surfing through challenges, finding joy, and keeping hold of what you love.

HANNAH HOHMAN (June 29, 2017)

Sleeper

Book Cover
MacKenzie Cadenhead
Sourcebooks
Softcover $10.99 (272pp)
978-1-4926-3614-4
Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Sarah has suffered from REM Sleep Behavior Disorder her whole life. The disorder causes her to act out her dreams—a problem that is considerable enough to warrant bedtime restraints and many medical trials. After one frightening incident, a seeming miracle drug offers her possible respite.

At a sleepover, Sarah wakes up with her hands around her friend’s throat. The incident makes her a social pariah, and Sarah finds that she would do almost anything not to have to worry about hurting someone ever again. She accepts a new trial medicine that promises no more movement in her sleep.

At first, the drug seems to work. But then strange things start happening in her dreams. Side effects are fascinating. A boy named Wes is along for the ride, showing up in her sleeping and waking hours.

Sleeper is a roller-coaster read. Wes proves to be a thrill-seeking, near addict of a risk-taker; he makes Sarah feel understood after she’s been tossed from her old group of friends. He, too, knows what it’s like to suffer from sleep disorders, and he offers her empathy that she hasn’t received from anyone else—even her ex-boyfriend, Jamie. Wes’s personality is intriguing and mysterious, even if his moral code is looser than most people’s.

Cadenhead does an amazing job of making Sarah’s decisions completely relatable and understandable. When she wants to use the drug to its full advantage, it’s easy to cheer for her to go full throttle. When she begins to worry about its effects, there’s no hesitation in agreeing she’s right. It can be difficult to get a reader to follow along with a character’s every decision, but Cadenhead pulls it off. The results are thrilling.

Sleeper is entirely enthralling, with twists and layers that race through to the end.

HANNAH HOHMAN (June 29, 2017)

The Monstrous Child

Book Cover
Francesca Simon
Faber & Faber
Softcover $11.95 (304pp)
978-0-571-33027-0
Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Hel, Norse goddess of the Underworld, tells her story, on her terms, in The Monstrous Child.

Born in a cave with a snake and a wolf for brothers, Hel is the daughter of a giantess and of Loki, the god of mischief—it’s no wonder that Hel is unusual too. While her torso is normal, her legs are those of a corpse.

Her mother proves to be hateful, and her brothers are terrifying. Her absentee father appears and disappears for much of her life. She has never known affection; Baldr, a god, surprises her with that. But it cannot last. She is already jaded and cynical by the time that she comes to live among other gods, before she is cast down into the Underworld—a place she later names after herself.

Hel’s voice is definite and strong. She’s a sarcastic and bitter lead, and unapologetic. Why should she be, when she was born half dead and sent to live with only the dead for companions? Hel often seems to be a victim of her circumstances—of her parentage, her rotting and painful form, and a lack of love. But she is also derisive of nearly everyone and sometimes seems suited to her awful fate.

Most of the book takes place in the Underworld, where those who have not died in battle go to spend eternity. Not much happens in the land of the dead; Hel keeps it interesting, and her scenes hold attention.

Hel’s story is unique; her toughness carries the story, and her inner monologue is absorbing.

HANNAH HOHMAN (June 29, 2017)

The Next Together

Book Cover
Lauren James
Skyhorse Publishing
Hardcover $17.99 (368pp)
978-1-5107-1021-4
Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

In The Next Together, Katherine and Matthew are destined to be continually reborn to help circumvent major disasters throughout time—before they tragically lose each other again.

Alternating between scenes from each of their lives, Katherine and Matthew make appearances from separate classes while trying to stop a Scottish invasion; they are a journalist and his assistant reporting from a war front, scientists who try to prevent the spread of a deadly bacteria. During the Siege of Carlisle to the year 2039, they are teenagers who have just met in school.

All these stories are interwoven, and the book moves fluidly between incarnations. Accounts are interspersed with data from an unknowable narrator, who watches how the two interact and determines their chances of succeeding.

Early on, it is sometimes confusing to determine whose stories are being told. Dates at the beginning of each new section are an important and helpful feature. As each story is established, interlacing becomes more fluid; the narrative weaves in and out, connecting pieces as it goes.

The couple have a fun, flirtatious bond throughout. As scientists, their notes are sarcastic and joking, though their love remains clear underneath the teasing words. That relationship is the most comfortable of the book; in other lifetimes, they are more absorbed with getting to know each other.

Though each incarnation is vastly different from those previous, character personalities remain consistent—an argument of nature versus nurture. Though Katherine is a highborn lady in one life and a poor orphan in the next, her tendency to find her own jokes funny remains the same.

The Next Together is a heartbreaking tale of love, loss, greater good, and sacrifice.

HANNAH HOHMAN (June 29, 2017)

Hannah Hohman

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