Rummanah Aasi
  The rest of the week will be mini-reviews from the books I've read last year. Though mini-reviews are brief, I think they boil down my thoughts a bit better than my normal reviews. Today, I have a small batch of children/MG reads that are fairly popular but have taken me this long to actually get them off my shelf and read them.

Description (from inside book panel): Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of "Stargirl, Stargirl." She captures Leo Borlock's heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first.
   Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. In this celebration of nonconformity, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love.

Review: I must be the last person to read this book. Stargirl was a really quick read that I finished in a day. I had a lot of mixed emotions while reading the book. It reminds me of all the fickleness of high school popularity, our strong desire to 'fit in' and the knee-jerk repulsion to something that is different than what we deem as 'normal'. It also highlights our obsession in finding categories for things that refuse to be defined/labeled. Stargirl is a wonderful character who is quirky and for the most part comfortable with the way she is. Leo Borlock is our narrator and reflects on his junior year in a New Mexico high school when he meets and starts with a relationship with Stargirl. The pressure to conform is the main theme of this book as Leo struggles between choosing his connection to his peers and to Stargirl, the essential question boils down to one offered to him by a sage adult friend: "Whose affection do you value more, hers or the others'?" Spinelli poses searching questions about loyalty to one's friends and oneself and leaves readers to form their own answers. Though there is a companion book to Stargirl called Love, Stargirl, I don't plan on reading it because for me it lessens Stargirl's powerful and realistic ending.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: None. Given the book's setting and context, I think it would be more relevant to those in middle school and up. Recommended for Grades 6 and up.

If you like this book try: Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, The Schwa was Here by Neal Shusterman

Description (from Goodreads): In her strongest work to date, Lois Lowry once again creates a mysterious but plausible future world. It is a society ruled by savagery and deceit that shuns and discards the weak. Left orphaned and physically flawed, young Kira faces a frightening, uncertain future. Blessed with an almost magical talent that keeps her alive, she struggles with ever broadening responsibilities in her quest for truth, discovering things that will change her life forever.
  As she did in The Giver, Lowry challenges readers to imagine what our world could become, and what will be considered valuable. Every reader will be taken by Kira's plight and will long ponder her haunting world and the hope for the future.

Review: Though I liked The Giver, I thought its ending was too abrupt and ended way too quickly. I liked Gathering Blue a bit more, but I'm not really fond with how Lowry ends her book in this series? world? Since the book is set in the same brutal and cold world, it is not a direct sequel, but a companion novel. I found it fascinating to read a world without any technology and where many of hte large and important events happen off screen yet their residue linger in the atmosphere. In Kira's community, people's cotts, or homes, are burned after an illness. People with deformities are abandoned at birth. I liked Kira and the other characters in this book, each had their own distinct personality, talent, and heavy responsibilities on their shoulders. While the story is quite grim, there is also lots of drama, suspense, and even snippets of humor to counterbalance the somber tone. I thought the ending wasn't as abrupt and gave the reader a bit for clues as to what will happen next. Readers won't forget these memorable characters or their struggles in an inhospitable world.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Must of the violence mentioned in the book take place off the page and are alluded to in the story. Recommended for Grades 5 and up. 

If you like this book try: The Messenger by Lois Lowry, The Diary of Pelly D. by L.J. Adlington, The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Description: After Gen's bragging lands him in the king's prison, the chances of escape look slim. Then the king's scholar, the magus, needs the thief's skill for a seemingly impossible task - to steal a hidden treasure from another land. To the magus, Gen is just a tool. But Gen is a trickster and a survivor with a plan of his own.

Review: What a really fun book! The Thief is the first book in the The Queen's Thief series. A wonderful mixture of wit, adventure, mythology, and philosophy. Gen is an awesome character and not what he seems. His lack of discipline, his hum-ho view of heroism, and need for sleep and food make him approachable. His wicked sense of humor made him charming. He had me chuckling in quite a few places. Turner does a phenomenal job of creating real people in her story. No one is entirely good or evil but very shades of grey. The magus makes the transition from smug, superior scholar to decent guy in a believable fashion. Turner also does a neat job of puncturing lots of little prejudices that work well with the story and isn't just something added. There are many hidden lessons in this story if you dig deeper into the story. I found myself absorbed into the different myths recounted in the story, but I have to say that the surprise ending was terrific. Though it is foreshadowed throughout, it is not obvious and caught me a little unaware. Definitely a good pick for those readers who love adventure and fantasy. I'll definitely pick up the rest of the series.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some PG language and violence. Recommended for Grades 6 and up.

If you like this book try: The rest of the The Queen's Theif series (The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, The Conspiracy of Kings), The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, or Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
9 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Well you're definitely not the last person to read Stargirl because I haven't read it either:) Love the sound of it though, and I like the fact that it higlights our need to categorize things, it's so true, and I think most of us don't even realize we have that need. Loving all these mini reviews Rummanah, they're so fun to read:)

  2. Fear not. I have yet to read Stargirl or anything by Lois Lowry. I know, I suck! Thanks for these minis. Very informative. I didn't know SB was a companion novel to The Giver.

  3. I read Stargirl way back in middle school so while I don't remember it, I remember that it was a book I liked.

    Yay, I'm glad you enjoyed The Thief! The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia are just as awesome. I still need to read The Conspiracy of Kings though.

  4. Haha, you are not the last person to have read Stargirl - I haven't either, although I've wanted to. I've read The Messenger, but I can't remember it - how bad is that? The Giver is forever, though.

  5. More Minis...??

    You rock the mini's blog friend...:D

    I had to read Stargirl a few years ago because it was a classroom project thing (parent participation thing) I loved it.

  6. *raises hand*

    Yep, I'm another one who hasn't read Stargirl either. Do you have a support group? ;D Lovin' the minis. I am curious about the Thief. Sounds like something I will like!

  7. Small Review Says:

    The Thief has been on my TBR for soooo long. It's almost embarrassing. I'm glad to see you liked it and will continue with the series.

  8. Gathering Blue looks excellent. In fact, they all look fantastic, but Lois Lowry is Lowis Lowry, LOL! I'll have to check it out and see if it is as good as you say. I'm definitely intrigued by the story.

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