Cinder

For Cinder, a reluctantly adopted half-cyborg, daily life has always been a constant struggle toward belonging and acceptance. Inside her home, Cinder is nothing more than the orphan she was as a child, though she can never forget the scientist that rescued her. However, his untimely death has left her with little knowledge of her former life. Unable to know the motivations of the person who initially saved her, Cinder now faces the wrath of a stepmother who uses her as a common mechanic and breadwinner for Cinder’s two stepsisters. Outside her home, Cinder faces an entirely different sort of ill-will; as part-cyborg, Cinder faces endless forms of discrimination from her community in the Eastern Commonwealth of New Beijing, a society that is more than willing to give up any of their cyborg citizens for the purposes of scientific experimentation.

New Beijing faces its own onslaught of problems. Once a powerful and prosperous development, the royal state now faces threats of war from the Lunars, a magical dictatorship residing on Earth’s moon.  Crippled under the wrath of a plague known as letumosis, New Beijing fears that its only hope of survival may rest in its Prince Kai’s ability to marry the Lunar Queen Levana—or else find a cure for the disease that currently holds a 100% casualty rate.

Cinder gratefully avoids both issues of the letumosis plague and New Beijing’s political instability, focusing instead on her own efforts to escape her present living conditions. However, when Cinder’s stepsister, Peony, falls to the disease, Cinder is opted up for a cyborg draft that aims to find a letumosis cure, and is thus driven into the conflicts of her nation head-on. In facing experimentation, Cinder finds not only a connection with Prince Kai, but also faces the truth behind her childhood. In encountering her past, Cinder must now ask: does she think she can change the fate of her world? And, if she loves and accepts herself—her own power—will others accept her as well?

Cinder is a sci-fi fantasy that works to retell the classic story of Cinderella from the lens of an imaginative society filled with political intrigue and social commentary pertinent to our community today. In weaving together the personal struggles of Cinder, the strategic plans of Prince Kai, the wrath of the Lunar population, and the welfare of New Beijing as a collective, Meyer presents a story that keeps readers on the very edge of their seats. Though there are subtle nods towards Cinderella throughout the narrative, Cinder is presented as her own, dynamic character with unique conflicts and struggles.

As a longer narrative with more complex diction, Cinder is a story for junior high and high school readers. It is also important to note that, as a narrative that presents explicit descriptions of death and disease, the narrative may not be suitable for younger readers, particularly considering our present struggles with the COVID pandemic. However, for those readers wanting a thrilling, action-packed, and innovative piece of speculative fiction that works to bring real world conflict to an imagined world, this is the perfect book! Cinder will especially capture the attention of any readers looking to dive into sci-fi fantasy for the first time, as the narrative holds an easily digestible, yet intricate, world that serves as a perfect introduction to the genre. In following Cinder’s journey, readers can also truly see the way invented worlds speak to issues of discrimination, classism, ethics, and power within our present world.

By confronting New Beijing’s societal conflicts as the result of a history that speaks to her own past, Cinder also rises to accept where she has come from—as both New Beijing citizen and cyborg mechanic power—to sculpt her own path in the world with newfound agency. When fate arises, and the wellbeing of a community rests in her hand, Cinder truly shows all readers that empowering themselves is the first step towards empowering their surroundings.

Sexual Content

  • When Dr. Erland praises Cinder for the way her technology falls perfectly in line with her central nervous system, Cinder sarcastically replies, “I’m sure I’ll feel much more grateful when I find a guy who thinks complex wiring in a girl is a turn-on.”
  • Fascinated by Queen Levana’s projected beauty, Kai hesitates when meeting her. Instead, he stares “at the pale, translucent skin, wondering if just touching her was all it would take to destroy a man’s mind.”
  • To stop Prince Kai from announcing his marriage to Queen Levana, “Cinder wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him . . . Though Cinder had intended for it to be a short kiss, she found herself lingering. Hot tingles coursed through her body, surprising and scary but not unpleasant, surging like electricity through her wires . . . the desperation melted and, for the briefest of moments, the ulterior motives were gone. She found herself kissing him for no other reason than she wanted to.”
  • After seeing Cinder kiss Prince Kai, Queen Levana says, “You must misunderstand my culture. On Luna, we consider monogamy to be nothing more than archaic sentimentality. What do I care if my husband-to-be is in love with another . . . woman?”

Violence

  • At the beginning of Cinder, Cinder watches as a baker named Chang Sacha realizes that she has caught the plague. As a result of this discovery, Chang Sacha’s son is taken from her, and a screaming Chang Sacha is led to quarantine by officials. Following this, Cinder realizes that officials are “going to burn Chang-ji’s booth.” Authorities burn the booth until “The baker’s booth had been reduced to rubble and the skeleton of a portable oven.” The scene is described over five pages.
  • While introducing Queen Levana, the queen of the Lunar race, it is mentioned that the queen “murdered her older sister, Queen Channary, so she could take the throne from her. [Rumors from the Eastern Commonwealth community] said [Queen Levana] had her own husband killed too so she would be free to make a more advantageous match. They said she had forced her stepdaughter to mutilate her own face because, at the sweet age of thirteen, she had become more beautiful than the jealous queen could stand. They said she’d killed her niece, her only threat to the throne. Princess Selene had only been three years old when a fire caught in her nursery, killing her and her nanny.” This is the extent of the description concerning the violence incited by Queen Levana.
  • Cinder’s youngest stepsister, Peony, catches the disease that is described when Cinder finds, “a splotch of red, rimmed with bruise purple” on Peony’s collarbone. Peony screams, and cries, before an emergency hover and med-droids take her away to quarantine. At this time, a med-droid tests Cinder for the disease by inserting a needle in her right wrist and drawing blood.
  • In light of Peony’s sickness, Cinder’s stepmother Adri donates Cinder to the cyborg draft (a system where a family’s cyborgs can opt themselves up, or have their family guardians donate them, as bodies for plague testing). In an argument with Cinder, Adri slaps Cinder’s cheek with the back of her hand. In order to escape the droids trying to take her, Cinder swings her toolbelt—known as a magbelt—“against the android’s cranium.” Cinder then smashes the lens of the second android. The last android finally catches Cinder before she escapes and electrocutes her until she falls to unconsciousness. This scene lasts five pages.
  • When unconscious, Cinder has a dream described as this: “Flames. Smoke. Blisters burbling across her skin. Her leg and hand were gone, leaving stumps where the surgeons had attached her protheses. Dead wires dangled from them. She tried to crawl but was as useless as an upended turtle . . . she was surrounded. Other crippled victims writhed among the coals, moaning, begging for water. They were all missing limbs. Some were nothing more than a head and a torso and a mouth, pleading.” This image is described over two pages.
  • Against her will, Cinder is tested at the king’s hospital. In this scene, an android pins her head to the side of a stretcher she is strapped to and uses prongs at the back of her neck to scan her system and note the percentage of “machine” Cinder truly is. The android then proceeds to inject Cinder with the plague. This scene lasts six pages. After being given the virus, a description of the android drawing Cinder’s blood lasts two pages.
  • Attempting to escape the testing lab, Cinder tries to attack the leading scientist on the royal letumosis research team, Dr. Erland. Cinder raises a wrench at his temple, but after speaking to the doctor, she decides against this action.
  • To test Cinder’s system, Dr. Erland pinches a vertebra above her shoulders. At this moment, “Fire and pain ruptured her spine, flooding her veins. She cried out and fell off the table, crumpling to the floor.”
  • Cinder visits her sister Peony in the quarantine section. The setting is described with “the stench of excrement and rot.” Flies fill the room with buzzing, while the patients are “sleeping or staring blankly up at the ceiling, their skin covered in a blue-black rash.” Peony is described with “purplish blotches” all over her arms, “just this side of death.”
  • In the hospital, Cinder also sees Chang Sacha again. Sacha has bluish pigment and a pungent odor. She grasps Cinder’s hand with yellowed fingernails. She asks Cinder to look for her son Sunto, before “the life dulled in Sacha’s black eyes.” Sacha’s death is described over two pages.
  • Following Sacha’s death, Cinder watches as a med-droid arrives and pulls out a scalpel. “Cinder watched, mesmerized and disgusted, as the android pressed the blade into Sacha’s wrist. A stream of blood dripped down Sacha’s palm . . . The med-droid traded the scalpel for tweezers, and Cinder heard the subtle click of metal on metal. She grimaced as the android extracted the small chip. Its protective plastic coating glistened scarlet.”
  • Dr. Erland warns Cinder that she must leave the royal research lab as “Queen Levana will stop at nothing to ensure her control, to terminate any resistance. That means killing those who could resist her—people like you. . . If she were to see you, she would kill you.”
  • Dr. Erland speaks on the murder of his daughter at the hands of Queen Levana. None of the details are described, except that she was killed because she was a “shell,” a Lunar without magic.
  • Cinder returns to quarantine to visit Peony. During this visit, Peony’s “face was ashen, her lips peeling. The dark splotches on her neck had begun to fade to lavender beneath the surface of her ghostly skin. Eyes on Cinder, she pulled her arm out from beneath the blanket and spread out her fingers, displaying their blue-black tips and the yellowish tinge of her nails.” When Cinder tries to raise Peony to administer an antidote, her body goes “limp,” and Cinder “stared into Peony’s empty eyes. Eyes looking past her, through her.” The description of Peony’s death lasts four pages.
  • To stop a med-droid from taking Peony’s ID chip, Cinder “wrenched the scalpel from [the med-droid’s] glove and jammed it into the android’s sensor. . .Cinder barreled over the bed and slammed her fist into the android’s head.”
  • Cinder pulls the chip from her sister herself. Cinder “asked for hurried forgiveness while she grasped her sister’s fragile wrist. She spliced the scalpel into the soft tissue. Blood dribbled out of the wound and onto her glove, mixing with years of grime. Peony’s fingers twitched when Cinder hit a tendon, making her jump. When the cut was wide enough, she peeled it open with her thumb, revealing bright red muscle. Blood . . she dug the tip of the blade in as carefully as she could, easing up the square chip.” This description lasts a page.
  • In a tense conversation with Queen Levana, Kai tries to loosen his grip on a chopstick, “lest he accidentally leap across the table and jab a chopstick into the witch’s eye.”
  • After assuming she was disrespected by a server, Queen Levana orders the servant to turn a blade towards herself, aiming it at the corner of her eye. This interaction ends here, as Kai stops the Queen before she can force the servant to hurt herself.
  • Angered by the new income Cinder has gained from the royal research department, Adri violently mangles and dismantles one of Cinder’s droid friends, Iko. She also asks Cinder to take off her new, machine-made, foot as payment for Peony’s funeral. This interaction lasts two pages.
  • Upon seeing Cinder at the ball, Adri raises a hand over her shoulder to strike Cinder, but Kai stops her with a hand firmly wrapped around her wrist.
  • Knowing that Cinder is Lunar, Queen Levana orders her arrest. A “Lunar guard stepped out of the crowd . . .Without warning, he grasped Cinder’s wrists, pinning them behind her.” Queen Levana then forces Cinder to lift the barrel of the gun to her own temple. When Cinder’s finger pulls down on the trigger, she manages to evade the Queen’s brainwashing just enough to force the gun away from her head. The gunshot shatters a chandelier above. Cinder then pulls the gun at the Queen and pulls the trigger, but a red-haired guard steps up to block the blow. This scene lasts about 15 pages.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Cinder’s stepmother Adri maintains full, albeit reluctant, guardianship of Cinder following the death of her husband. As a cyborg, Cinder faces cruel discrimination and punishments under her stepmother’s control. For instance, Adri often threatens to sell Cinder off “as spare parts.”
  • Pearl, Cinder’s stepsister, also throws cruel taunts Cinder’s way. For instance, on mention of the cyborg draft, Pearl says, “I know a cyborg who could volunteer for plague testing . . . They reimburse the volunteers’ families, wire-head.”
  • In a discussion on whether to marry Queen Levana, the prince of New Beijing, says, “My plan is to not marry her. Diplomacy be damned.”
  • Following Peony’s death, Cinder shouts into her body, “Dammit. Dammit. Peony!”
  • Angered by the fact Prince Kai gifted Cinder a pair of white gloves, Pearl says, “Did you think the prince—no– the emperor would find it in his heart to overlook all your. . . ‘shortcomings’?”
  • One of the girls working for Queen Levana’s attendants, upon meeting Cinder, exclaims, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m an evil, worthless, wretched girl.”

Supernatural

  • At the beginning of the novel, another society known as the Lunars are introduced, with the line, “everything about Lunars was eerie and superstitious.” According to Cinder, Lunars were a society that evolved from an Earthen moon colony, but no longer became human. They contain supernatural powers that allow them to be able to “alter a person’s brain—make you see things you shouldn’t see, feel things you shouldn’t feel, do things you didn’t want to do. Their unnatural power had made them a greedy and violent race.”
  • Describing the Lunar people further, Dr. Erland says, “Lunars have the unique ability to not only detect bioelectricity in others, but to also control it. They can manipulate it so that people see what the Lunar wishes them to see, and even feel what the Lunar wishes them to feel. A glamour is what they call the illusion of themselves that they project into the minds of others.”
  • Upon Queen Levana’s arrival to Earth, an angry protest goes to the palace, but as soon as Queen Levana steps upon the balcony, they quiet. “Slowly, as if sleepwalking, the crowd began to depart . . . So, this was the effect of the Lunar glamour, the spell to enchant, to deceive, to turn one’s heart toward you and against your enemies.”
  • During a discussion about Queen Levana building an army, Prince Kai is given a picture taken on the moon, showing rows of creatures with wide hunched shoulders described as “a cross between man and beast. Their noses and jaws protruded awkwardly from their heads, their lips twisted into perpetual grimaces. White spots erupted from their mouths—Kai could not see them clearly, could not tell for sure, but they gave him the distinct impression of fangs.” These creatures are also thought to hold magic.

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Hannah Olsson

The Betrothed

The King of Corona, Jameson, is young and handsome, but he is not the type to settle down. Everyone has watched him flirt his way from girl to girl. So when Hollis catches the King’s eye, she assumes that Jameson will quickly lose interest and move on.

Hollis has grown up at Keresken Castle among other daughters of nobility, most of whom hope to catch the King’s eye. So when King Jameson declares his love for Hollis, she is shocked. Hollis soon realizes that along with the extravagant presents and fawning attention, this new life brings expectations—expectations that make her wonder if she’s really cut out for life as a royal.

With a visit from the King of Isolte on the horizon, Hollis sees a chance to prove to Jameson—and herself—that she has what it takes to be queen. But when she meets an Isolten stranger with the mysterious power to see into her heart, she realizes the future she wants is one she never dared dream of.

Even though the story is told from Hollis’s point of view, it is hard to understand why King Jameson would want her as his queen. Hollis’s behavior is immature and self-serving. She doesn’t want to be a good queen for the sake of the country. Instead, she wants to be a good queen so others will admire her. This is reinforced when several characters, including Hollis’s parents, do not believe Hollis’s behavior is fit for a queen. Hollis’s self-serving nature makes it hard to relate to her struggles.

While The Selection Series by Kiera Cass is an engaging, action-packed series, The Betrothed has a weak plot and underdeveloped characters. For example, masked men kill everyone at a wedding. However, the murders are never investigated and the only death that seemed to matter was the death of Hollis’ husband. In addition, the conclusion is anticlimactic and unbelievable. The Betrothed is appropriate for middle school readers who may find the simple romance entertaining. However, most readers will want to skip The Betrothed for a more compelling romance such as What Light by Jay Asher or Pugs and Kisses by J.J. Howard.

Sexual Content

  • While on a boat ride, Hollis believes the King thinks she is “irresistible.” Since there are other people around, the prince “was forced to settle for placing a warm kiss on my cool forehead. It was enough to send new waves through my stomach, and I wondered if every moment with him would feel like this.”
  • Hollis knows the King has kissed other girls and wonders, “if his not kissing me yet was a good sign or a bad one.”
  • The King kisses Hollis. She “leaned into it. To finally be kissed was a wondrous thing, and to be kissed by a king was even more thrilling. Jameson drew me close, holding my chin and pulling away when he deemed the kiss long enough.”
  • While alone, Hollis and Silas kiss. “Silas cupped my cheeks, holding me with such tenderness that I felt everything inside my body melting. I could feel the calluses on his fingers as they traced the edges of my face, and I couldn’t help but compare the feeling to that of Jameson’s perfectly smooth hands.” They break apart when they hear footsteps coming.
  • Hollis and Silas kiss again. “It was so easy, like falling into the rhythm of a dance or taking a deep breath. Kissing Silas was like something that had always been waiting for me, something I knew how to do without thinking. His hands went up into my hair, holding me tight, and his lips moved feverishly. . .”
  • Hollis and Silas kiss and she thinks “it was the most beautiful thing, to be free and alone with Silas.”

Violence

  • At a wedding, masked men come and kill everyone in the house. One girl survives. She tells her mother, “They came with masks down and swords drawn, stabbing at anyone in their way, even the maids.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Hollis invites some friends to her apartment. Wine is served and Hollis “picked up a glass of ale.”
  • During a festival, wine is served. The king is seen with “the chalice in his hand, amber ale spilling from one side.”
  • At a wedding, the guests have “goblets of ale.”

Language

  • A girl whose parents are divorced, is called a bastard. The girl tells Hollis, “When everyone was muttering that I was a bastard, you ignored them.”
  • When Hollis decides to marry Silas, Hollis’ mother calls him “your pig of a son.”

Supernatural

  • When Hollis leaves the king to marry Silas, some believe she is a witch. “With the way the king was acting, someone said you must have cast a spell on him to drive him to such madness.”

Spiritual Content

  • The King asks Hollis, “Do you ever thank the gods that you have me for a king and not that grouch, King Quinten?”
  • When King Quinten comes to visit, the King says, “The Lady Hollis and I welcome you as my father did, as a fellow sovereign, placed by the gods, and as a dear friend.”
  • During a celebration, someone says, “Let us today renew our devotion to King Jameson and pray for his life to extend for many years, and for his heirs to be plenty!”
  • During the celebration, the King says, “I pray for our kingdom to prosper.”
  • At a wedding, masked men kill everyone present. Later, Hollis says, “I am grateful. I know that living through a situation where I surely ought to have died is a gift but I cannot think of why in the world the gods would spare me.”
  • When Hollis goes to look for Silas’s mother and sister, she “prayed that if I stayed on this course, I’d find them.”

 

Genesis

Noah has died again. Now he is determined to live. After an asteroid destroys the Earth, the planet is left in the hands of Fire Lake’s sophomore class.  After being murdered and uploaded into a simulation, the group of 64 students is left to duke it out and hopefully make it through the Guardian’s game. There are no rules, but repeatedly dying has trained Noah. Now, he plans to lead the strong into the future. At any cost.

Min Wilder knows that survival isn’t enough. In a world where violence is king, Min rebels against allowing others to determine who lives and who dies. She will fight for what is right. She will fight against anyone who stands in her way.

The second book of Project Nemesis follows the same group of kids, alternating perspectives between Min, Tack, and Noah. The kids are told by the Guardian, the one in charge of the computer program, that they must fight each other to make it through the program and eventually return to real life. He claims that the simulation will only allow the strongest and smartest to return to the real world. This spurs the kids to form groups and turn on one another as their existence becomes a fight for survival.

Min, Tack, and Noah all take separate journeys and handle the violence and new reality differently. Min refuses to bow to the moral pits that the violence keeps tugging the students into. Tack completely gives himself over to the violence, willing to do anything to make it out alive. And Noah believes completely in the program’s rules, until Min reminds him of his humanity. All three teenagers’ journeys spotlight different ways of handling grief, trauma, and catastrophe. The students’ struggle with whom to trust and what to believe is both interesting and thought-provoking.

In order to fully understand Genesis, readers need to read Nemesis first. Reichs does an excellent job of incorporating past events from Nemesis into the story; the short reminders help the reader stay engaged. However, what makes the reader keep turning the pages are the intriguing situations the students face—the story has non-stop action and startling surprises.

Genesis is extremely violent and has an outrageous storyline. While it takes some faith from readers, this story does an excellent job navigating this unique plot. Genesis will keep the readers guessing until the very end. Readers who enjoy suspense and adventure will enjoy the plot twists and action sequences. Readers who are fans of Maze Runner will want to pick up the Project Nemesis series.

Sexual Content

  • Tack says Noah is “too busy roasting people like marshmallows, or making out with his hunting knife” to look for him and Min.
  • Toby volunteers to take Min back to the jail in town. Min says, “Screw you, Toby.” He replies, “You offering?” As they start back into town, he “put a hand to the small of my (Min’s) back. He left it there for a few paces, then ran his fingers up and over my bra strap.”
  • Min announces that she’s willing to sacrifice herself so the group can make it to Phase Three. Noah is filled with emotion and insists that she’s their leader. Noah then kisses Min “in front of the others. His touch was electric, and soft, and sad.” Noah insists that he should be the one to sacrifice himself. Min says, “‘Don’t leave me, okay? I forgive you. I . . . I love you.’ I kissed him then, hard on the mouth.”
  • Right before Noah and Min get in their tubes to be regenerated, they share a kiss. “Then Noah’s lips found mine and I wrapped my arms around him, squeezing, losing myself in his warmth. . . I grabbed him again and mashed his face with another kiss.”

Violence

  • A group of kids is ambushed as they are sneaking through the woods. Their rivals who ambushed them start shooting. “Zach dropped like a puppet with its strings cut, a dark stain spreading. . .Morgan’s body jerked . . .Then she slumped onto her butt, blubbering, glossy liquid spilling from her mouth.” Later in the scene, the rest of the group gets away and sets fire to a cabin with the rivals inside. The people inside screamed and were locked inside as the cabin burned down. The people are not described as they are dying.
  • Chris and Mike kill Min by locking her in an elevator and blowing up the cables. “The wall exploded, shards of metal lacerating my arms and legs. Flames licked my skin. . . My legs smashed up into my body. The roof slammed down on top of me.”
  • While on their way to the Silo, Min and Tack run into Neb who is staying at a summer camp with four others. While talking, “Neb spun sideways. . . gasping in confusion as a red bloom spread across his chest.” Two kids are attacking the camp, and one shoots Min and Tack with an assault rifle. It is not depicted in any detail.
  • Min is ambushed. When the three assailants try to capture her, one “caught a fist in his teeth for his trouble.” They put a bag over her head and tie her up.
  • Devin drops some food, and Ethan overreacts. “. . . he raised his gun and shot Devin in the stomach.” Devin doesn’t die immediately, so Ethan shoots him again. This is all done with the understanding that he will revive at one of the reset points.
  • Zach, part of the team trying to ransack a store, gets shot in an ambush. “. . . a line of bullets ripped into his jacket.” Then Noah shoots the sniper who killed Zach. The sniper “toppled forward and fell to the sidewalk with a sickening crunch. . . leaving a wide smear on the icy concrete.”
  • The convenience store is blown up. A couple of kids standing in front of the store were shot and killed. One of them “had been tossed face-first into the gutter and was smoldering with tiny flames. The victim, a girl, lay unnaturally, her neck twisted too far around.”
  • In order to give Min an extra life, Tack tricks her into shooting him and causing him to reset. It is not described in any detail.
  • Noah and another kid use machine guns to shoot a group of kids following them. No details are given.
  • In order to escape the jail and show up at the reset points, Akio and a couple of other kids used a fork to kill themselves. “The most horrifying jailbreak in history—a human murder chain. . . Ran myself into a wall.”
  • Noah and Tack get in a fistfight. Noah’s “left fist flew, striking Tack across the face. . . Punching. Kicking. Clawing. . .” The fight lasts two pages.
  • Tack, Noah, and their team try to ambush Ethan’s group but instead get ambushed themselves. “The barrel hit him chest-high and broke open, covering him in flaming liquid. Richie screamed. . . he collapsed in seconds. . . A tongue of red enveloped Jamie. She made a sickly screaming sound, a red stream leaking from her mouth.” Tack and Noah throw grenades, and “Toby’s left leg was missing. . . Toby put his gun in his mouth and calmly pulled the trigger.”Noah gets ambushed. “The first shot took me in the shin. The second struck my side.”
  • Min must shoot Noah four times to even her life count. Noah “was lying on the ground in a puddle of warm, slick blood. . . I was down again. The drop cloth was soaked through with dark red liquid. . . I closed my eyes as she thrust the gun barrel against my forehead. . . Bang. Bang. Bang.
  • Ethan’s group and Min’s group attack each other. Over twenty kids are involved in the fighting. “Then Kyle stood over his body, unloading on Chris every time he tried to get up. . . Dropping his gun, he unsheathed a KA-BAR knife from his belt and stabbed Leighton in the chest. . . Before he could fire, Ethan tried to tackle him, but Toby sidestepped in a blink and tripped him, then shot Ethan five times in the back.” The fighting lasts six pages.
  • Tack sacrifices himself to get the group to Phase Three of the program. “Tack put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • At the beginning of the simulation, Sarah “destroyed the liquor store the first week. I let Cash and Finn get drunk and smash everything.”

Language

  • “Jesus” and “God” are used as exclamations.
  • Profanity is used extensively. Profanity includes: “jackass, “ass,” “fucking,” “fuck,” “hell,” “damn,” “crap,” “freaking,” “assholes,” “pissed,” “bastards,” “shit,” “bullshit,” “bitch,” “bitchin’,” “goddamn,” “douchebag,” and “prick.”
  • Derrick says, “Sarah’s lost her damn mind.”Casey
  • is upset when Noah acts like only the boys are good at fighting. “‘Since when did sex matter?’ Casey shouted. . . ‘Don’t count up penises and assume you know the score.’”
  • Ferris walked across the valley to get to Noah’s house. He says that the lake was, “colder than Santa’s balls with that wind.”
  • Noah asks Tack to eliminate him. “No way, Noah. . . Fuck you, Noah! You want to play Jesus, do it your goddamn self.”

Supernatural

  • In the program, the kids figure out that as they kill each other, they gain strength and powers from the confirmed kill.

Spiritual Content

  • While traveling across the valley to try and unite the groups of kids against Ethan, Tack jokes, “So we’re not seeking converts along the way? . . . This is the worst mission trip ever.”
  • Min is worried she will be captured or killed by those after her. “Pray to God Noah isn’t sitting there waiting for me. Pray to God? Or the Guardian?
  • Min says a small prayer because she believes that Sarah cannot manipulate the program.
  • Min is nervous when she learns that Sarah actually has the power to manipulate the program on her own. “Sarah was playing God, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.”
  • Sarah discovers how to change the program. Derrick says, “Sarah acting like the voice of God.”
  • To even people’s numbers, Hector needs to shoot someone. He refuses, saying, “My religion forbids it.”

by Hannah Neeley

 

 

Blood Red Road

The Dust Lands are a post-apocalyptic world where written language has been forgotten, civilization has collapsed, and the strong rule through fear. Saba has grown up in a shack in the middle of nowhere with her twin brother, her sister, and her father. She rarely sees other people and has never been to a town.

Then Tonton soldiers come. They kill her father and kidnap her brother. For the first time in her life, Saba can’t follow her brother’s lead. Now she must be the leader because her brother’s life depends on it. Saba leaves the only home she has ever known and sets off in search of her twin.

Adventure after adventure follows. Saba’s path is not a straight one, but she never gives up hope. She knows what she wants and will do anything to get it. Written in a regional dialect, this first-person narration shows Saba’s strong will and determination. Even when sold into slavery, Saba is never the victim. She is never weak and her spirit is never broken.

Blood Red Road is fast-paced and exciting. A large cast of characters adds to this richly developed world of droughts and ruin. What sets this novel apart is that Young effortlessly turns the traditional damsel-rescuer model on its head. Saba is a wonderful role model for teenage girls that proves girls can be strong heroes too. Because of the sexual content and the violence, Blood Red Road is best suited for high school readers.

Sexual Content

  • Jack gives Saba “a quick hard kiss” after she saves his life.
  • When Saba is sold to the Cage Master, he “licks my ear slowly.”
  • Jack comes to a river where Saba and Maev are bathing. “Jack nudges our pile of clothes with his foot. Grins. Well, ain’t this an innerestin sitchation? he says. Two girls naked in the water an me with all their clothes.”
  • After rescuing Saba from a river, Jack kisses her. She pushes him away. Later Saba thinks Jack is dead, so she gives him mouth to mouth. It turns out he was faking.
  • Saba finally gives in and kisses Jack back. “He pushes me aginst the wall. Then his mouth is on mine an he’s kissin me like he’s starvin or dyin of thirst or somethin. He kisses my lips, my face, my neck, then back to my lips agin. He lips is smooth. Warm. The smell of him fills me.”

Violence

  • Saba’s neighbor and father are shot and killed. “The man slides a bolt shooter from his robe . . . He pulls the trigger an shoots Procter. Hob rears in fright. Proctor slides off an lands in a heap on the ground. He don’t move. . . He raises his bolt shooter. He fires. Pa cries out. His arms fly up in the air . . . the bolt’s gone right through his heart.”
  • Saba slaps her nine year old sister. “She gasps an sobs an screams an screams an screams . . . So I slap her. An she stops.”
  • Rooster’s hands are covered with burn scars from a hot poker, given to him by his abusive wife.
  • Saba is sold and forced to become a cage fighter. When a fighter loses three times in a row, they must run the gauntlet. “He sprints up the center path. Hands reach out, hit him, grab at his tunic, trying to pull him down…the crowd surges forwards onto the path, howlin like wolves at a kill, an bodies close over him. Waves pullin down a drownin man. Artashir disappears.”
  • During a break-out of the slaved cage fighters, bombs and weapons are used. “She lights her bottle. We toss ’em down the stairs. Then we run like stink. Two seconds later, there’s a huge bang. The ground shakes unner our feet.”
  • A landboat crashes, killing all aboard. “Blood covers his face. His right leg splays out at a strange angle…I fit a arrow to my bow. Take aim. This is fer Emmi, I says. Then I shoot her (dead body) in the heart.”
  • A mass grave is dislodged during a downpour; Saba ends up in a river surrounded by the dead. “I look down. It’s a human leg bone. I gasp. All around me, the dead are risin. Another leg bone bobs to the muddy surface. Then a skull. An arm bone. They swing lazily. The current grabs ’em an carries ’em away.”
  • When traveling, Saba sees four hanged men on the side of the road. “That’s when we come upon the hanged men. Four of ’em. Danglin by their necks from nooses tied to the branches of a big, lightnin-black tree. They turn gentle in the breeze, their faces an hands gray where they bin covered with wet ash that’s dried.”
  • Saba and her companions fight hellwurms. “The hellwurm’s on top of him. It rears up to its full height. It lashes out, swipes at him. Jack’s thrown into the air, like Emmi’s peg doll.”
  • Epona is captured. In an act of mercy, Saba shoots and kills her. “Suddenly Epona spots me at the edge of the trees…I lift my bow. I take aim. Epona smiles. She nods…That’s when I shoot her.”
  • There’s a battle between Saba’s people and the King’s. “Pinch lunges at me. A arrow whistles through th’ air. Hits him in the chest. He screams . . . There’s blood gushin outta his neck. The bolt’s ripped through it.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • An addictive drug named chaal is very popular. It is chewed and makes the consumer relaxed. The King is basically a drug lord who rules via chaal production.
  • Saba and her sister’s food is drugged. “You put somethin in…the food…My hand drops down. My knees buckle unner me. I fall to the deck.”
  • Saba drinks too much grog and gets a hangover in the morning. “I cain’t move, I says. There’s somebody poundin on my brain with a hammer . . . you drank too much of Ike’s hooch.”
  • Jack offers Saba vodka when she has to have a wound stitched up. She refuses, and he drinks it instead.

Language

  • Profanity is used rarely in the story. However, the following words are used: bloody, holy crap, sonofabitch, bastard, gawdammit, and gawdsblood.
  • Damn, hell and ohmigawd are used many times.

Supernatural

  • Saba’s father is a star reader. He can see the future, and tries to bring rain (without success).
  • Saba has a pet crow, named Nero, who can understand people talk.
  • Saba is given a heartstone. “It stays cold until you get close to your heart’s desire. Then the stone becomes warm. The closer you get to your heart’s desire, the hotter the stone burns.”
  • The crazy king demands an eighteen-year-old boy born at midwinter be sacrificed by being burnt alive every six years. He believes when the “boy dies, that boy’s spirit, his strength moves into . . . the King. An his power’s renewed fer another six years.”

Spiritual Content

  • Saba discusses the afterlife with her brother. She thinks they’ll become stars. He thinks “you jest . . . stop. Yer heart don’t beat no more, you don’t breathe and then yer jest . . . gone.”

by Morgan Lynn

Nemesis

The Anvil, an enormous asteroid, threatens the earth is about to devastate the world. But Min has bigger problems. Min has died – again. Every two years since she was eight, a man in a suit finds her and kills her. Where ever she hides, he finds her. After her death, she always wakes up in the same clearing in the forest outside her small Idaho town. When she returns from her disappearances, no one believes her story and there is no evidence. This year when Min is murdered, she goes on a mission to discover why.

Terrifying dreams of death haunt Noah. Anxiety is his only true friend. Noah tries to hide that he is different by blending in, going along with what others say. When Noah discovers that he has been lied to and his dreams were in fact reality, he vows to be brave and search for the truth.

When the military arrives just out of town, Min and her best friend Tack make an uneasy alliance with Noah. Although they do not fully trust each other, they are determined to find out what has been happening to them. They go on a search to discover the answers to the questions that plague them.

Told from both Min’s and Noah’s perspectives, Nemesis starts with a suspenseful story of Min being murdered and coming back to life. The reader is instantly drawn into Min’s mystery. With detailed descriptions of events, the reader can step into Min’s shoes and understand her feelings. Suspense will grip the reader, who will be surprised by the events in the story.

Nemesis brings the stereotypical high school to life, with the typical cliché groups. The language in the book is a bit over the top, with most of the characters constantly spouting a plethora of cuss words. The ending of the book is similar to Lord of the Flies and just as violent. In the end, a computer simulation talks about saving humanity, but the majority of the characters are so unlikeable the reader wonders if humanity should be saved at all.

Sexual Content

  • While with a boy Min imagines, “leaning forward and kissing him.”
  • Min and Noah kiss several times. They fall asleep on a couch and wake up next to each other. Noah, “buried my face in her neck. Our lips met again, and for a while all other thoughts fled.”

Violence

  • Two boys fight at school. Ethan slugged “Tack full in the face. . . Tack dropped to the ground like a boneless chicken breast.”
  • Min and Tack put an oily rag into a Jeep’s gas tank and then set it on fire.
  • Several natural disasters happen throughout the world during a short time period. The events are described on the news.
  • In order to save a boy’s life, the sheriff kills a soldier. “He was lying face down on the ground, a dark puddle spreading beneath him.” As the kids run, shots ring out and they know the sheriff had been shot.
  • A group of men blows up a bridge. When they attempt to surrender, soldiers shoot them. “A line of bullets tore through the liberty men, cutting them in half. They feel in a bloody mass, each body pierced a dozen times.”
  • Tack kicks a soldier “in the crotch. The man dropped, writhing in pain.” The guards wrestle Tack to the ground. “Tack bucking and snarling like a wild animal until one of them struck him on the head with a rifle butt.”
  • Soldiers are rounding up a group of teenagers. Some of the teens resist and there is a scuffle. One of the parents tries to fight the soldiers and they shoot him. “Wendell dropped to his knees, then toppled forward and lay still.”
  • The military sprays a group of teens with a “thin green mist.” The reaction of the teens as they die is mixed. “Classmates writhed on the ground, tears and mucus coating their faces. The agony was unbearable—a burning, stinging horror that tore at the skin.” One of the commanders watching shots himself in the head.
  • When Tack confronts the leader and won’t follow orders, he is stabbed in the heart. Another boy who confronts the leader is killed. “Toby strode to where Benny knelt. Shaking his head, he put a gun to Benny’s temple and pulled the trigger. . . Benny slumped to the ground, a red mess where is head had been . . . Tucker stared at the fistful of hair still clutched in his fingers, then dropped it as if burned.”
  • In order to break Min out of jail, Noah attacks the guard. “Noah kicked him in the face, snapping his head back. Toby crumpled against the wall and lay still.”
  • Hector kills himself by jumping into a canyon. Hector believed he was already dead and was in purgatory.
  • When Min is eight she is murdered. She wanders off with a man, who she thinks is her mom’s friend, and he pushes her into a ravine.
  • A man murders Min multiple times throughout the book. When she is shot, she “tumbled to the floor, struggling to breathe, blood bubbling on my lips as I stared up at the drab fluorescent lights on the ceiling. Pain tingled everything red. . . Liquid was filling my mouth, hot and wet. The hole in my chest burned like a sliver of the sun.”
  • One time when Min was killed, she is chased through the woods. She falls and is barely hanging on the side of a cliff. “A shiny black boot smashed down on my fingers. I gasp in pain as my left hand loses its grip. I swing wildly, on the verge of plummeting to the white water belong. . . A foot stomps on my right hand. Snapping bones. A rush of air. Then I’m underwater, tumbling and spinning. Liquid fills my nose. My mouth. My ears. Something slams into my side, and ropes of agony shoot down my left arm. . . Pain explodes at my temple. I see and feel nothing more.”
  • Another time Min is killed when a man hits her with a car.
  • As Min tries to flee her killer, he finds her on the side of a cliff. He throws rocks at her until she plummets “to the boulders below. I land on my back and something snaps.” He then smashes her with a large stone.
  • Noah is murdered when a man stabs him. “The A spike on agony . . . blood pumps onto the pavement. Slides down the hill. Cold. Blackness. Nothing.”
  • Noah is murdered when a man cracks his skull.  “My head caved in! But I didn’t’ die right away. I struggled, by my arms wouldn’t move. Then he hit me again!”
  • When Noah is in the bathtub, the man puts a black metal rod into the water and electrocutes him.
  • Noah is on the lake in a skiff when a boat hits him. Noah tries to swim but his left leg is missing and he drowns.
  • Noah shoots Min. “There was a smoking hole in my chest. . . Tack was screaming, his clothes spattered in red.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Drinking is mentioned several times, although none of the teens are seen consuming alcohol. One character said the guys would get “Neanderthal drunk.”  Another time, Min talks about someone who, “spends most nights outside by his fire pit, drunk off his ass.”
  • Several of the adults drink alcohol, which is revealed in the descriptions. “Mom had put away the photo albums and washed her scotch glass . . . She rarely drinks, and never more than one. But she’d refilled her glass several times . . . “ ”
  • A character has to step over two adults who drunk themselves into a stupor and then fell asleep by their fire pit.
  • After getting in a fight, tack takes Advil.
  • Tack’s father is a drunk who hits his son.
  • Noah’s father is absent for the entire story. Noah thinks his father is, “busy getting loaded in another hemisphere.” Later in the story, Noah tells his psychiatrist that his dad drank a lot after he divorced his wife.
  • A psychiatrist gives two of the characters “little blue pills” to take daily. Neither character is sure what the pills are for, but when Noah is anxious he, “wanted a blue pill in the worst way.”
  • One of the characters takes his friend’s ADHD medication.

Language

  • Holy crap, crap, damn, ass, hell, prick, jackass, bastard, goddamn, piss
  • When a min shoots Min, she “carefully extended my middle finger” and told him to “go to hell.”
  • When thinking about the man who keeps killing her, Min thinks, “Wouldn’t let the evil bastard’s shadow every moment of my life.”
  • When describing a boy, Min thinks his face, “was gorgeous until you realized what a prick he was.”
  • Tack calls other people names including, “jackass, asshole, douchebag.” He tells one boy, “everyone here thinks you’re dumber than crap, I’m the only one willing to say it. None of these people like you, Ethan. You’re a loser and a fraud, just a redneck piece of trash like me. Kill yourself.”
  • Noah said his dad was a “drunk a-hole.”
  • One of the characters thinks, “Why am I so worthless? God, I hate myself.”
  • A parent spits at a soldier and tells him, “Piss on you and your threats. I know my rights, sunshine soldier.”
  • Someone accuses Noah of hiding behind a “skank’s skirt.”
  • When Min finds the man who has been murdering her, she calls him a “bastard,” and a “son of a bitch.”

Supernatural

  • When the world was destroyed, everyone died. “Though your bodies died, the program successfully preserved sixty-four electro-chemical blueprints. These were uploaded into the mainframe on Day Minus-Four after final measurements were taken. You now exist as autonomous lines of code within the MegaCom master program . . . You still must eat and drink. You must shelter from weather, and avoid hazards. You can be injured. You can be killed”

Spiritual Content

  • When the news is announced that the Earth will not be smashed by an asteroid, Melinda’s mom said “Praise God. . . God is good. Everything is going to be okay.”
  • When the natural disasters begin, Min’s Mom mumbled about “God’s judgement.”
  • Hector, a minor character, is the leader of the youth group. When the students are gassed and come back to life, he thinks he is in purgatory. He explains that purgatory is, “a holding place. Somewhere you’re judged. And tested.” After he jumps off a canyon wall, dies, and comes back to life, Hector said, “God isn’t down with me. It was stupid for me to think I was in control. I won’t defy him again.”

Raging Star

DeMalo has established his borders. New Haven is expanding and its subjects appear to be thriving. At a quick glance, this land is exactly the paradise DeMalo proclaims it to be.

But at its border, a small token of resistance remains. Saba and her family have pledged themselves to destroy DeMalo and all he has built. But what can so few hope to accomplish against a united nation?

The final installment of Young’s trilogy focuses on the struggle taking place within Saba. Every time she attempts to leave the Angel of Death behind and find a non-violent solution to the rebel’s problems, a crisis gets in the way. Her sister is growing up and discovering new talents, DeMalo wants Saba for his wife, and there is a traitor among her small group of trusted friends. The path Saba takes is filled with surprising twists, and the suspense continues to grow in this gripping tale.

 Sexual Content

  • DeMalo asks Saba if she’s pregnant.
  • Saba starts kissing Jack and undressing him. “I kiss him . . . He ain’t kissin me back. He ain’t touchin me. He jest stands, not movin. His shirt hangs open. Did I do that? I don’t recall. I press closer, ever closer. My fevered hands roam him. Reckless. Hell-bent. Uh-uh. He grabs ’em. Firmly. Stop right there, he says.”
  • Saba makes out with Jack. “Our kisses grow hungry. Our bodies heat . . . I push him off, sit up an start puttin my cloths to rights. He’s made a heroic effort to undress me.”
  • An unnamed character has intercourse with Molly so he can learn, “how to please a woman. Yer teachin me. That’s all this is.”
  • Saba sleeps with Jack. “We’re skin to skin. Breath to breath. There’s now. There’s here. There’s him an”
  • Saba agrees to marry DeMalo if he gives her friends and family safe passage. When Jack finds out, he and Saba fight. “What deal did you make? To marry him, I says. His eyes harden to ice. You bought our freedom in his bed.”
  • Saba has a miscarriage. “You miscarried, lady . . . if often happens with the first one. Sometimes you don’t even know you’re pregnant.” Saba’s not sure who the father was as she slept with both DeMalo and Jack.

Violence

  • Saba and the rebels set out to blow up a bridge. At the last minute, a group of Tonton and slaves cross the bridge and get blown up with it. “Gone. The three Tonton. All gone. The Stewards in their cart. The blameless beasts. Animals an people, now bloody lumps of flesh. Flung like so much bad meat.”
  • Mercy has scars on her back. “I’ll survive, she says. I’ve had worse. Thin white lines, the scars of a whip, criss-cross her sun-tough skin.”
  • Mercy slaps Creed. “Marry me, he says. She slaps him hard. Almost slaps his head off. Everybody turns at the sound. The angry crack of skin on skin.”
  • In New Eden, weak newborn babies are left outside overnight. If they survive, they are given a second chance to live.
  • Someone nails a dead crow to a tree, hoping Saba will think it is her pet Nero and get frightened. “There’s a crow spiked to the trunk. Jest above head height. Wings spread wide. Dead. Nero.”
  • Emmi is shot. “We’re runnin an pullin her along by her hands. Lugh one side, me the other. There’s a crack. I feel the shot hit her. The blast throws her forward. I hold tight to her hand. She goes limp between us.”
  • Lugh is shot. “What’ve you done? I shout at Lugh. He’s on his feet, lookin dazed. A gun thuds. a bolt slams him in the back. No! I scream as his arms fly up as he twists an falls to my arms. Then we tip we topple out of the window down to the river below.”
  • Saba kills DeMalo. “DeMalo’s knife slashes my arm . . . I seize the crystal rock. I raise it high. I smash DeMalo in the head…My fingers wet with his blood. His head’s crushed. A mess of hair, blood an”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Saba is given a sleeping potion. “From a tiny stone bottle she tipped the merest, barest blink of a teardrop . . . Molly weakened it three times in water. Saba drained the cup, then lay down. Short minutes later she was out.”

Language

  • Profanity is used throughout the book. The profanity used includes: Gawd, bullshit, bullshitter, fergawdsake, dammit, ass, sonofabitch, ohmigawd, damn, and hell.
  • Gawdamn and gawdamnmit are said many times throughout the story.
  • Saba has a chance to shoot DeMalo, but “I cain’t. I cain’t do it. Slowly I lower my bow. I says, Gawdamnn you sonofabitch.”

Supernatural

  • Emmi starts to hear earth songs, a sign that she can become a shaman. “They’d wakened her at dawn yesterday. The earth songs…the songs leading her, telling her, teaching her. Not songs with words. No. No words. Dreams.”
  • DeMalo claims to have visions of what the earth looked like before the apocalypse.
  • Saba has a heartstone. It gets hot as a way of leading a person to their heart’s desire.

Spiritual Content

  • Saba wonders if it is ever right to kill. “I killed some people. Not becuz I wanted to, I had to. It was kill or be killed. Is that wrong? . . . That’s a big question, says Mercy. Is it ever right to kill another person?”

by Morgan Lynn

Rebel Heart

Saba killed the King, but she didn’t destroy the empire. DeMalo, the King’s second in command, has taken control. He has plans to create a new empire and prove himself a much tougher opponent than his predecessor.

All Saba wants to do is join up with Jack at the ocean and live the rest of her life in peace. But the world has other plans. Rumors that Jack joined the Tonton sends Saba on a journey to find him. Only Saba believes in Jack’s innocence; those she travels with doubt his intentions and are ready to kill him if need be.

Swept into the heart of DeMalo’s new empire, Saba reluctantly joins rebels who are determined to destroy everything DeMalo has created. This sequel to Blood Red Road is not as fast-paced as the first, but the world DeMalo is trying to build is both interesting and alluring. The author makes Saba’s decision between joining DeMalo and fighting him a difficult one. While his methods may be harsh, the picture he draws of the future is beautiful. It’s the age-old question: does the end justify the means? A gripping story, the Dust Lands series has enough violence and sexual content to exclude younger readers.

Sexual Content

  • Saba sees her brother go off with a prostitute after a party. “His hands circle her ankles, smooth her bare legs with restless intent. She jumps down. She takes him by the hand. She leads him off into the night.”
  • Slim tells Lugh to, “get on with it. Life’s too short. Take her off in the bushes, my friend, an make her yer own. If you don’t, somebody else will. Hell, I might jest make a play fer her myself.”
  • Tommo kisses Saba. She stops him.
  • Saba makes out with DeMalo, then sleeps with him. “I’ve climbed on to his lap an I’m runnin my hands through his hair, over his shoulders an arms, while we kiss . . . he drags his lips along the inside of my arm, wrist to elbow. Trailin shivery fire on my tender skin till I’m quiverin head to foot. A rush in my belly, hot an ancient . . . I lead him to the bed. We lie down together.”
  • Molly sees a hickey on Saba’s neck.
  • Saba kisses Tommo to get him to trust her.
  • Saba kisses Jack when she finally finds him. “He takes my face in his hands an kisses me, over an over an over agin. My lips an my cheeks an my eyes an my lips, oh my lips. An I kiss him back. My whole body’s shaking. On fire. He’s shakin too.”

Violence

  • Subjects of New Haven are branded on the forehead depending on their status.
  • A family is displaced. The parents and son are shot, the daughter shoots herself rather than be taken. One of the soldiers is also shot for disobeying orders.
  • Saba is attacked by wolves. Her friend’s wolfdog saves her by ripping the other wolves’ throats out. Saba is knocked unconscious during this; she only sees the dead wolves afterward. “They lie in pools of their own blood. Both got their throats ripped out . . . The air hums with a hungry buzz. Flies. Hunnerds of ’em. Thousands of ’em. The open wounds, the half-dried lakes of sticky blood.”
  • In a fit of rage, Saba attacks her brother. “I leap at Lugh. I knock him backwards. We roll on the ground. I punch, I kick, I claw . . . my hands is tight around Lugh’s throat. My thumbs pressin on his windpipe.”
  • Saba discovers a temple of skeletons built by cannibals. The skeletons “sit close packed, side by side, on long wooden benches. They gleam whitely, dully, in the dim light.”
  • There is a pot cooking in the temple. “Somethin large bobs to the surface. It turns over…a face looks at me. A human face.” She flees, killing a priest on the way out. The cannibals give chase, and she shoots several of them with her arrows.
  • Saba and her friends hijack a man’s wagon. They force him to drive it by threatening to shoot him. “Gawdamn sonofabitch, I mutter . . . I walk fast, loadin by bow, aimin it straight at his face. He throws his hands up.”
  • Twice while on the road, Saba and her friends are spotted. They kill the people to keep their presence in New Haven quiet. “He shoots her head. An it’s silent. Jest like that.”
  • While on the road Saba sees a dead man who was lashed to a tree trunk. “A fat iron spike’s bin nailed through his throat. He ain’t bin here more’n a few days. He died hard. Hard an long.”
  • Saba jumps off a cliff. DeMalo pulls her out of the water and asks, “Were you trying to kill yourself?…[Saba] says naught.”
  • When attacked by Tonton, all the Tonton are killed. One of Saba’s allies is killed, possibly from friendly fire. “Both Tonton lie dead on the ground. Bram hangs halfways outta the driver’s seat, face down. He’s bin shot in the back.”
  • Maev gives herself up as a diversion so the others can escape. She fights for as long as she can, then blows herself up. When Saba tells Maev goodbye, “I kiss her lips. Don’t let ’em take you, I whisper . . . An as I soar through the darkness, high above the lake, Maev starts to shoot . . . the sound of gunfire goes on fer longer than I’d of thought it would. Or could. Then one big explosion.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Jack drinks wormwood whiskey at his friend’s inn.
  • Saba accuses her brother of taking the drug chaal, but he denies it.
  • Saba’s brother is hit with a blow dart. They cut open the wound and suck the poison out.
  • Saba drugs DeMalo’s wine with a potion that will knock him unconscious for many hours.

Language

  • The words damned, helluva, fergawdsake, damn, and sonofabitch are used once or twice.
  • Hell, variations of gawdamn, and ohmigawd are used often.
  • When Saba starts acting irrationally, her brother yells at her. “Tell me, gawdammit! Why’d you break yer dawdamn bow?”

Supernatural

  • Saba has a heartstone. It gets hot as a way of leading a person to their heart’s desire.
  • Saba starts to see ghosts. “It’s Epona. But not like she was. In life, she gleamed an shone…She’s a child of the air now. Fog an mist. She drifts. She gathers. She fades.”
  • Saba meets the Sky Speaker, a type of shaman who can sing the earths songs and sometimes see what will happen in the future. “The Sky Speaker’s shakin, head to foot. Her eyes roll back an she waves her hands wildly. She starts to babble, a endless stream of sounds.”
  • Saba follows the Wraithway, a road where spirits are said to roam.

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Morgan Lynn

The Stars Never Rise

Soul-consuming demons started a war and almost caused the end of the world. The Church protects the remaining vestiges of humanity, and keeps everyone safe by enforcing strict rules and penance. Nina and her sister chafe under this strict system, and when they discover a horrifying truth, they must decide if the Church is really the hero everyone believes.

The Stars Never Rise has an interesting premise and is well-written, with actions and questions that keep the pages turning. However, the plot follows a lot of Young Adult clichés that hinder the originality of this text. There is a lot of violence that makes this novel inappropriate for young readers. Also, the Church is demonized and religion is shown in an incredibly negative light.

Sexual Content

  • Mel tells her sister, “You’re gonna need some way to work off all that sexual frustration.”
  • Nina thinks, “I didn’t know a single boy who’d ever worn a purity ring. Evidently, their virginity was worth even less than the stolen band of steel around my finger.”
  • Girls are examined by the Church, to determine if they are fit to bear children. “At fifteen years old, I was disqualified for procreation based on a history of allergies, my flat feet, and mild myopia–conditions it wouldn’t be fair to pass along to the next generation . . . Nearly a third of the girls in my class were declared unfit. We were sterilized that afternoon.”
  • Nina’s fifteen-year-old sister gets pregnant with her secret boyfriend. She says, “We tried to stop. We knew it was wrong, but it didn’t feel wrong.” Her mother tells her that, “We’ll fix it. I know someone who can do it safely, but it’s a drive. . .”
  • When Nina is caught shoplifting, the shop owner demands a sexual favor in exchange for keeping quiet. “My teeth ground together as I unbuttoned my blouse. I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see him, but I couldn’t avoid hearing the way his breathing changed. The way his inhalations hitched, his exhalations growing heavier and wetter with each button that slid through its hole . . . A second later, his fingers were there, greedy and eager. They pushed at the remaining material, shoving my bra up, squeezing, pinching.”
  • Finn assures Nina that he won’t rape her. ” ‘ If I were planning to . . . you know . . . ‘ He waved one hand at my entire body. ‘I wouldn’t have given you a slab of wood with nails sticking out of it.’ He pointed to the two-by-four still lying next to me within easy reach. ‘I’m as protective of my parts as the next guy’ “
  • Nina and Finn kiss a few times. “His mouth met mine, and I almost choked on surprise . . . I committed to that kiss like I’d committed to little else in life. My fingers brushed over short stubble at the back of his jaw on their way into his hair. He sucked my lower lip into his mouth and I let him have it.”
  • Nina thinks about her “carnal rebellion following [her] sterilization,” when she had a slew of one-night stands.
  • Dale accuses Nina of prostitution. “I caught her several times, here in the store, and she always tried to buy her way out of trouble, if you know what I mean. You know, with the only kind of payment a girl like that understands.”

Violence

  • Nina and her sister avoid their mother as much as possible because their mother angers easily and can get violent.
  • When a seventeen-year-old refused to kneel for worship, “They forced her to her knees on the dais, closed the steel cuffs about her calves, then burned her alive in front of the entire school.”
  • Mel realizes her mother plans to sell her. Her mother says, “You can’t imagine what a young, healthy body is worth to the right people.”
  • Nina discovers she is an exorcist. “The moment my fingers touched her chest, something exploded between us. . . The monster tried to back away but couldn’t disconnect from the fierce light still shining between us . . . the tingling beneath my skin had become the roar of a blaze that should have devoured my fingers but consumed the demon instead.”
  • Nina exorcizes several demons. “We crashed to the ground and I sat on his stomach, then pressed my glowing left hand against his chest. The demon screamed like a wounded cat, and my hand burned and burned and burned.” “He tried to scramble off me, but the fire in my hand had captured him, and the demon was stuck there, convulsing in the throes of death as his rotting flesh fried.”
  • Adam is burned alive. “Fire consumed Adam . . . could not mute his screams or the crackle of his crisping skin, captured by multiple microphones and broadcast all over the country. He hunched forward . . . I choked on the scent of burning flesh and hair.”
  • A demon kills several people. “He lay dead on the ground, blood still pouring through the gaping hole in his throat.” “Blood and liquefied brains exploded into the lobby from the hallway, and I caught a brief glimpse of the carnage already laid out inside.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Nina suspects her mother is doing drugs. “There was a spot of blood on her pillow, and more of it crusted on her upper lip. Another nosebleed. She was killing herself. Slowly. Painfully, from the looks of it.”
  • Finn emerged from the kitchen with a bottle of water in one hand and a clear, unlabeled bottle of amber liquid in the other.”

Language

  • Hell is said often, both in referring to the place and as profanity.
  • Shit and bullshit are said several times. “Oh shit,” Nina thinks. “Oh shitshitshit.”
  • Damn is said often. Nina’s sister says, “If you’re determined to damn yourself to a life of servitude, communal living and celibacy wouldn’t you rather be slaying demons?”
  • The word bitch is used several times. Mel’s mother calls her a “little bitch!”
  • Ass and badass are said a few times. Devi tells Finn, “I swear I’ll exorcise your ass right out of him.”

Supernatural

  • When a demon inhabits a human body for too long, that body turns into a degenerate. “It was bald, with cheekbones so sharp they should have sliced through skin, and ears pointy on both the tops and the lobes. And most–disturbing of all–it was female. Sagging, grayish breasts swung beneath torn scraps of cloth that were once a dress.”
  • Exorcists are the only ones who can send demons back to hell. “his hand against her bony sternum, both glowing with the last of that strange light . . . An exorcist in a hoodie. Where was his long black cassock, his cross, and his holy water?”
  • There is a shortage of souls because the demons ate so many during the war. Therefore there are many stillbirths. Children who do live are usually given a soul by an elder family member. Those that are lucky get a soul from the public registry when someone dies.
  • Some exorcists have extra abilities, like heightened hearing and enhanced strength.
  • The group Nina is rescued by is a group of people who were denounced by the church because they are supposedly suspected of possession.

Spiritual Content

  • Nina’s sister says, “Everything worth doing is a sin.”
  • Nina breaks many Church rules. “So what if deception was a sin? You can’t get convicted if you don’t get caught.”
  • As punishment for blasphemy, “Sister Camilla dragged Matthew onto the stone dais in the center of the courtyard, then forced him to kneel . . . she flipped a curved piece of metal over each of his legs, just above his calves, then snapped the locks into place, confining the five-year-old to his knees in the freezing rain. The posture of penitence.”
  • Finn is a soul without a body, who is able to inhabit other people’s bodies.

 

Monument 14

One minute, fourteen kids were on the bus heading towards school. Then the gigantic sized hail began. The bus crashed and everything changed in an instant.

Six high school kids, two eighth-graders, and six little kids are trapped in a chain superstore, while chemicals fill the outside air. They must work together in order to survive. However, the longer they are in the store, the more difficulties they must face—they must keep others out, they must take care of the younger children, they must fight the escalating tension between each other—all the while trying to come up with a plan to survive.

Monument 14 is a suspenseful survival story written from the point of view of one of the teenagers. Although the premise behind the book is interesting, some of the events in the story are farfetched. The narrator describes some graphic fights, including one in which an adult is shot and killed. One of the pre-teen girls is sexually assaulted. Another character raids the pharmacy and is high for most of the story.

Sexual Content

  • When exposed to the chemicals in the air, Brayden thinks, “But I still had some weird stuff happening in my body. What I wanted was Astrid. She looked so good to me that I wanted to take her, in a dark and terrible way.”
  • When one of the children is playing with Barbie toys, the narrator describes it as a “Barbie orgy.”
  • When some of the characters fight, a boy says, “I see. I get it . . . You and your brother want in on Niko’s little gay Scout thing. You guys wish you could be up in the woods, huffing on each other’s campfires . . .”
  • Some of the boys were talking about Astrid. Brayden says, “You don’t even love her. You just want her so you can get your rocks off.”
  • Sahalia helps people wash their hair. The narrator and two other boys watch her. “We can see skin under the leg of her shorts. The creamy skin of her inner, inner thigh . . . Now we see her breast outright, through the material of her shirt. We could see the nipples. Everything about them, we could see . . . But it seemed to me she wanted us to see her body. She wanted to be wanted.”
  • Sahalia is wearing a revealing outfit. When the boys look at Sahalia’s body, another character yells at her, “We get it, okay? You’re sexy and you want to have sex with these guys. We get it. But, honey, it’s not going to happen because you are thirteen.” As the two fight, Sahalia yells, “I know more about sex than you do, you stuck-up bitch!”
  • Astrid finds Sahalia “basically naked” and crying. “She sat on the floor, clutching her nightgown to her chest.” Later Sahalia says, “He (an adult, school employee) said that I should be, like his girlfriend. And I guess I thought I could, you know, do what all he wanted me to do. But then I didn’t want to and . . .”
  • Two of the characters kiss. “Nicko held her to him, encircling her dark shoulders and pulling her into his body . . . She looked up at him and he looked at her and they were kissing.”

Violence

  • When the school bus crashes, the driver is killed. “He was pinned behind the wheel and blood was spilling out of his head like milk out of a carton.”
  • When exposed to the air, the narrator begins attacking Niko. “I started beating him with the mask I was still holding. He wouldn’t let go of my leg and was dragging me down the stairs. I swung at him, wanting him to lose his balance . . . I couldn’t think. Just pummel. Pound. tear. Destroy.”
  • One of the characters talks about how his mother’s boyfriend hits her. In a later scene, he talks about how his aunt’s husband would beat her aunt, but the aunt would always lie about how she got hurt.
  • When Chloe was exposed to the chemicals, she attacks the others. “She had Batiste by the throat, up against the wall . . . He was getting strangled to death . . . His face was blue and his eyes were big and his legs were limp.”
  • When Robbie (an adult, school employee) is found sexually abusing Sahalia, Astrid holds a gun to him. Later, Jake is given the gun and Robbie attacks him. Robbie says, “I told you it wasn’t me. She wanted to be my girlfriend.” Then Robbie, “lashed out and struck Niko across the face with the barrel of the pistol.” Another character shoots Robbie dead.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • One of the kids says that he went to a strip club with his uncle. He said that they serve liquor. “They have these little glasses in all kind of flavors like watermelon and peach passion and hot apple. They taste horrible.”
  • Some of the older kids drink rum. The narrator describes the experience. “I was loose. I felt big, like I could say what I really felt. I was drunk.” In another scene, three of the older kids put alcohol into their slushies and get drunk.
  • After getting in a fight, the narrator takes some pain pills and some steroids. “I was already starting to feel better. More warm and relaxed.”
  • Jake offers the narrator a pill and says, “Let’s get high.” The narrator takes, “one of the EZ-melt pain pills from the day before and one triangular orange mystery pill later, I was flying. I felt relaxed but energized. Loose and happy.”
  • Jake said, “I keep taking these pills. But every time, they’re working less. It’s like I squeezed all the good feelings out of my brain and now I’m out. I drained it all out and I’m done.”

Language

  • Profanity is used often. The profanity includes: holy Christ, hell, son of a bitch, a-hole, crap, and ass.
  • When the group of kids make lunch in the store, one of the kids asks, “What do we do if the people from the store come? They’re going to be pissed?”
  • When watching the news, the narrator notices the anchors messed up make up. “I wondered why no one fixed her makeup. It was CNN, for God’s sake.”
  • When Brayden tells Astrid what to do, she yells, “Screw you, Brayden! You’re the last person I want to be stuck here with!”
  • When Chloe sees Brayden’s beat up face she asks, “Oh my God, what happened to you?”
  • Someone tries to get into the store. The man shouted, “BY THE HAIR OF MY F—CHIN, LET ME IN OR I’LL HUFF AND I’LL BLOW YOUR EFFIN’ GREENWAY DOWN.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • When disaster strikes, Batiste keeps saying it is “the end of days” and that “judgement day was upon us.”
  • When talking about the strip club, Batiste says, “Our church is always trying to get those sinners to repent. But I don’t even know what kind of sinning they’re doing.”
  • A character says, “I thank God he brought us to this place.”

Fever

Escaping with Gabriel was supposed to be the hard part, but as Rhine travels the country in search of her brother, she realizes that escaping the mansion was easy compared to what is coming next.

Captured by Madame, a woman of dubious sanity who wants Rhine to become one of her scarlet girls, Rhine starts to wonder if leaving the mansion was the right course of action. It seems there is nowhere she can go to reclaim her freedom. Would it not have been better to die in comfort at the mansion, forced to wed one man, than to spend her last years forced into prostitution in Madame’s decrepit carnival?

Hundreds of miles away, Housemaster Vaughn continues his twisted plans, in which Rhine unknowingly still has an important part to play.

While Fever’s pacing is not as smooth as Wither’s, interesting characters are introduced that will keep the pages turning. DeStefano does an excellent job at creating an atmosphere of urgency and weaving a perpetual feeling of captivity. Rhine struggles with many mature issues, such as how far she is willing to submit herself, sexually, in order to survive.

Sexual Content

  • Rhine is captured by Madame, who runs several scarlet districts. “Filthy girls are peeking out from a slit in the rainbow-striped tent, blinking like bugs. And I know immediately that this must be a scarlet district—a prostitution den.”
  • Rhine spins a lie to placate Madame. She says her husband was malformed, and she had an affair with her attendant. “He might have turned into a beast around me, but it didn’t matter. Nine times out of ten, he couldn’t do anything about it. And like you said, women have needs.”
  • Rhine and Gabriel are forced to have intercourse while being watched by Madame’s paying customers. This act is described briefly. “I didn’t let myself look outside my cage. Rather than the rustles and the murmurs, I focused on the brass music playing in the distance. After a while it all blurred together . . . Gabriel kissed me, and I parted my lips, closed my eyes. It felt like one short, murky dream.”
  • When Rhine stays the night in a stranger’s home, the man sexually assaults her. “He kisses me. It’s a hard, forceful kiss, his tongue prying my mouth open, attacking me with salt and cheap liquor and hot, coppery breaths . . . I feel like his tongue is slithering down my throat, choking me. His other hands moves past the drawstring of my sweatpants . . . gripping the fleshiest part of my thigh.”
  • Silas often brings girls home. In one scene, Rhine finds “Silas pressed against the wall and tangled in the arms of a new girl.” He asks Rhine, “Come to join us?”

Violence

  • When Rhine is captured by Madame, Gabriel is beaten. “The sick sound of bone hitting skin. Gabriel lands a perfect punch . . . but then there are others grabbing his arms and kneeing him from all sides.”
  • Madame beats and almost kills Maddy, a little girl, for ruining a sale. Her mother hides Maddy; she tells Madame her daughter died and her body was incinerated.
  • Madame’s son shoots a Gatherer who tried to steal Rhine instead of paying for her. “Then another shot, this time from Jared’s gun. For the second time in my life, I watch as a Gatherer crumples and falls down dead in front of me.”
  • Madame’s daughter and husband were killed in a bomb before the beginning of the book; this is mentioned in hindsight.
  • When Rhine returns to her home, she finds it has been burned. In the basement are dozens of dead rats.
  • Rhine sees a dead girl lying in a gutter. “It’s too late. I’ve already seen the dead girl lying face up in the shallow water, her eyes full of clouds . . . I do not see this girl’s features, the color of her hair. A bizarre thing happens. I see her bones instead. I see right through her skin, to the blood and tissue that’s blackened and still. I see the torn muscle that used to be her heart. That’s where the Gatherer’s bullet hit.”
  • Rhine attempts to cut Housemaster Vaughn’s tracker out of her thigh with the shard of a broken pitcher. “Hands try to stop me. My name is being shouted . . . it’s Cecily’s brown eyes I’m staring into. Blood on her shirt . . . she’s trying to take the glass from my fist, and then she’s trying to stop the bleeding with her open fingers.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Gabriel’s captors forcibly give him angel’s blood, which is a sedative. One of the prostitutes says, “It’s just a little angel’s blood. The same stuff we take to help us sleep.”
  • Rhine and Gabriel are exposed to aphrodisiacs by Madame to make them put on a show for her customers. “It’s making me greedy, making me tilt my head so that his kisses to my neck reach my lips, and making me take him with me as I lean back into the pillows that clatter with beads . . . the smoke of the incense is alive. It traces the length of us. The heady perfume of it makes my eyes water, and I feel strange.”
  • Rhine is drugged to keep her from fighting. “It feels as though the world is a giant bubble about to pop, spilling forth bees and words.” A girl tells Rhine that she was given “angel’s blood mixed with a depressant to keep you asleep.”
  • Gabriel goes through withdrawal from angel’s blood. “His rattling gasps are made all the more terrifying by the fact that I can’t see him. ‘Gabriel?’ The response is a pitiful groan . . . ‘It’s like someone wrapped twine around all my organs, and pulled.'”
  • Rhine starts dying from withdrawal from a treatment Housemaster Vaughn had been secretly giving her. She faints, feels weak, and vomits.
  • Housemaster Vaughn starts experimenting on Rhine. He pumps her full of drugs that cause her to hallucinate. “I lose the distinction between dreams and reality . . . I see my father, pale and lifeless, standing in the doorway watching me . . . I hear Rose in the ceiling start to scream.”

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Rhine sees a fortune teller, who says, “It’s a good card. . . It means everything will fall into place. Your world will come together.”

Spiritual Content

  • Some people think the human race is doomed, and there should be no more experiments on children to try to save themselves from extinction.

by Morgan Lynn

Landry Park

Madeline has lived a life of comfort and luxury; however, she has been given little control over her life. Life in the United States is ruled by the rich gentry, and the seventeen-year-old is expected to find a rich husband and run the family estate. Only Madeline has no desire to marry. Her one desire is to attend university.

When one of Madeline’s friends is attacked at a party, Madeline is determined to discover the truth behind it. As Madeline leaves the family estate, she discovers that people are not always what they seem, and the life of the servant class, the Rootless, is not what she envisioned.

As Madeline tries to secretly help the Rootless, she accidently discovers that gentry boy David Dana has secrets of his own. Although she is attracted to him, he is promised to another—but that doesn’t stop Madeline’s heart from wanting.

Soon rumors of war and rebellion break out, and Madeline finds herself in a dangerous web of secrets and lies—and David may be the only person who can help.

Landry Park takes the reader into a world where slavery still exists. The gentry want to keep the Rootless under their control, and anyone who tries to help the Rootless have a better life is seen as a threat to the Gentry. Madeline is trapped between her desire for a comfortable life and her desire to help the Rootless. As the reader enters the world of the Rootless, there are some graphic scenes of sickness and death.

Although the story is interesting, Madeline’s desire to have her comfortable life and her unwillingness to take necessary risks make her less likable. The ending has a few surprises that will delight the reader.  However, because of the disturbing themes of death, slavery, and marriage, this book is not suitable for younger audiences.

Sexual Content

  • When Madeline and her mother are discussing marriage, her mother tells her she can’t marry Jamie because he’s too poor. Madeline thinks, “Jamie wasn’t interested in marriage. At least, not with me or any other girl.”
  • Madeline reflects on a childhood friend who, “dared a servant boy to kiss her on the mouth and then watched without emotion when the boy and his family were removed to a distant farm.”
  • Madeline explains that “gentry boys and girls dated—and often did more than just that—before their debuts, but strictly speaking, both parties were expected to arrive at the marriage bed untainted and untouched.”
  • Madeline’s father has a mistress. Madeline’s mother and father fight and the mother yells, “How dare you skulk around with Christine when it was my family’s money that kept your precious estate alive? My money is the reason you didn’t marry that whore and then you went and wasted it all away.”
  • Madeline has a crush on David and when he looks at her she thinks, “I felt the ghost of his kiss on my lips, felt the ghost of all the kisses I had craved and desired, and all the kisses I had yet to dream of, and then his mouth parted slightly and I wondered if he was dreaming of those phantom kisses, too.”
  • At her debut, Madeline kisses her date, Jude. “He took my whole face in his hands, so gently that his fingertips tickled my jaw, and kissed me harder, his mouth firm and warm. It felt nice, in a distant, premeditated sort of way. I wished I was kissing David.” Later as they are dancing, Jude kisses her again.
  • Madeline discovers her friend, “pressed against the wall, kissing someone with ferocious intensity.”
  • A character describes how, “no matter how many women I bedded or how much I drank, I felt as if this life were tenuous.”

Violence

  • In the beginning of the book, a girl was attacked and the girl’s screams are heard. Madeline tries to discover the truth behind the “attack.” Later in the story, Madeline discovers that Cara was attacked by her mother. “She hit me and I fell into the brambles nearby. She hit me again and again.”
  • A character talks about when he realized the servant class, the Rootless, had terrible lives.  He talks about how the penalty for stealing gentry trash is death. “And the bodies strung up on the estates numbered in the hundreds.”
  • There is a battle between the military and the Rootless. David describes his experience. “. . . I’ll tell you what it’s like to watch the man next to you blown to bits and to see your friend’s hand shot off by an armor-piercing round and to have a mouth so full of char and dirt that you can’t taste food for weeks.”
  • In a later scene, David describes the battle with the Rootless. “There was one man, good as dead, holding his innards and trying to crawl to safety. I thought he was an Easterner, so I left him behind. But when we collected the bodies, I recognized him. He was one of ours and I had left him there to dies like a beast in the mud.”
  • When Madeline’s father threatens to make a child swallow “gibbet food,” a radioactive tablet that will kill him, the Rootless attack. Madeline’s father is attacked and, “they [the rootless] pinned him down and forced the gibbet food inside his mouth for several minutes. Not enough to kill him, but enough to burn his mouth. Enough to give him severe radiation poisoning and probably cancer. . . the lower half of his face was unrecognizable—dark brown with blisters covering his lips and tongue. Bloody ulcers were beginning to form at the corners of his mouth. . .”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Throughout the book, the characters are seen smoking opium. In one scene, Madeline talks about how the Gentry boys, “spent most of their days playing golf or tennis while working their way through hundreds of dollars of whisky and opium.”
  • When a girl is attacked, a doctor gives her sedatives.
  • At parties, the characters drink whisky and spiced wine.

Language

  • Cara says she feels “like shit.”
  • Hell is used several times. For example, when Madeline accuses a boy of hurting Cara, he asks, “Why the hell do you think I would do something like that?”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Perfect Ruin

The edge calls.  Life on Internment should be enough, but for some it is not. They seek the edge. They brave the hypnotizing winds.  They hope for a glimpse of the ground.  They want more.

For Morgan, life on Internment has been enough.  Then a young girl is murdered and everything changes.  Danger is in the air.  But it’s not the murder that worries Morgan.  She wonders if she can resist the call of the edge.  She wonders if Internment is what it appears. She wonders.  She daydreams.  She questions.  And her questions can be dangerous.

 Perfect Ruin creates a world that is a utopia for most.  The author creates a world that is interesting in the fact that it is not perfect, but it is not evil.  However, what makes Perfect Ruin a great read is the characters. From the start, the reader can easily fall in love with Morgan as well as her friends and family.  Morgan’s best friend Pen is full of contradictions and surprises.  Basil, Morgan’s betrothed, is a solid character who clearly understands Morgan and loves her anyway.  The interaction between the characters is heart-warming and believable.

The storyline is full of twists and surprises.  And when the readers get to the end, they are going to want to pick up the second book in the series, Burning Kingdoms.

 Sexual Content

  • In Morgan’s narration, she says, “. . . I’ve heard it isn’t uncommon for girls my age to be intimate with their betrothed, but the idea still embarrasses me.”
  • Morgan and her friend are caught sneaking out of the academy. When asked by the headmaster why they left, Morgan’s friend says they were talking about “female matters, sir.  I’m a little more—seasoned—than Morgan and she was asking me for advice regarding a private conundrum with her betrothed.”
  • Morgan and her betrothed kiss. “We move our faces at the same time, and then our lips are touching.  I’ve lost my worries.  Traded them in for the sun and the taste of his tongue and the thought that in sixty years we’ll be ashes—we’ll be tossed into the air and after a moment of weightlessness we’ll be everywhere and nowhere.”
  • Morgan describes when she kisses her betrothed. “It roots me to the place, makes me feel at home.”
  • One of the characters mentions that her brother is “more interested in my betrothed than I am.” At that time Morgan thinks, “I am still thinking about the prince being attracted to his sister’s betrothed…the prince isn’t the first to be attracted to his own gender; although it isn’t talked about, I remember my brother denouncing the serum and the surgery purported to treat this kind of attraction.”
  • When Morgan kisses her betrothed, “he’s touching the side of my face, his hands are soft as air. His eyes have changed, gone hazy the way they do when bodies are close. I like that I’m the only one that does this with him; I’m the only one who gets to see him this way.”

Violence

  • Morgan and several of her classmates are on their way home from the academy when the train backs up because a young girl has been murdered. Morgan finds out that the girl’s throat and wrist were slashed. “Everything indicates that she bled to death.”
  • Morgan thinks back to a murder that happened when her parents were young. Two men were fighting and one pushed the other one into the swallows, an area much like quicksand. The murderer “had been driven mad by a tainted elixir that should have been discarded by the pharmacists.  He was feverish and deranged when they found him, and the king had no choice but to have him dispatched.”
  • A flower shop burns down, which is highly unusual in this world.
  • When a specialist asks about her sister-in-law’s “procedure”, Morgan thinks, “Procedures. Like ‘incident,’ this is another word that covers a broad range of unpleasant things.  There is the termination procedure.  The dispatch procedure.  The dusting procedure that reduces bodies to ash.  The mercy procedure that dispatches the infants who are born unwell.”
  • Morgan narrates a story about two twins. The one twin, Olive, killed her sister and assumed her identity.  All of Olive’s children were born dead, “Convinced that she was being punished by the god in the sky, and driven mad by grief, Olive confessed what she had done.”
  • Morgan and her friend are kidnapped, have their hands tied behind their backs, and are put into a dark room. One of the attackers says, “We’ve decided to let you live . . . for now. If we killed you tonight, it would be an awful lot of blood; we’d be up until dawn with the cleaning. . .”
  • Morgan and her friend plan an escape. At this time, Morgan’s friend hits one of the attackers with a brick, and he falls to the ground bleeding.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Morgan’s mother regularly takes a prescription. When Morgan sees a murdered girl, she doesn’t want her mother to worry.  “She’s been doing so well lately.  It has been a while since she’s gone through an entire prescription.” Later in the story, Morgan’s mom sleeps a lot because of the headache elixir.
  • Morgan’s sister-in-law becomes pregnant “out of turn.” She has to have the pregnancy terminated.   As part of the narration, Morgan also tells a story about another woman: “A woman decided she’d rather smother her child than allow it to belong to someone else.”
  • When Morgan and her betrothed go to her bedroom, Morgan’s mother asks her if she took her “sterility pill.”
  • One of the character’s mothers has a tonic addiction that is referred to several times. The addiction prevented her mother from working for a while.
  • One character is given a pill so she doesn’t “have a fit.”
  • One of the characters says, “I’m going to get drunk now, I think . . . you’re welcome to join me.” However, Morgan talks her friend out of getting drunk when she says, “We promised to sneak tonic bottle only when we’re looking to have fun. This wouldn’t be fun.  It would just be sad.”

Language

  • A character tells Morgan she’s lucky because “You aren’t doomed to marry a complete ass.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • The book revolves around The History of Interment that tells of the first humans who the god of the ground wanted to destroy because they were ungrateful. The god of the sky “thought they were too clever to waste, and he agreed to keep them in the sky with the promise that they would never again interfere with the ground.”  Because of this belief, the god of the sky is referred to often.
  • There is a festival of stars, which is a month-long celebration. At the end of the festival, people ask the god of the sky for gifts and requests.
  • On the train ride home, Morgan sees a pregnant woman. “Her lips are moving.  It takes me a few seconds to realize that she’s talking to the god in the sky, something the people of Internment do only when they are desperate.”
  • In Daphne Leander’s essay, she wrote, “Up until someone I loved approached the edge, I had no reason to question the hand of any god, much less my own god’s hand. But to see that no amount of love or will on my part could make that little girl open her eyes as she lay unconscious in a sterile room—How could I not question this god that watches over us?”
  • Some think that the swallows, an area much like quicksand, were created because the god in the sky was angry.
  • Daphne Leander’s also wrote, “Every moment is a gift, from the frivolous to the dire. The taste of sweetgold, and the rough paper of our favorite books.  I find a god in these things—which god, I cannot say, but I’m grateful to it.”
  • When Morgan meets the person accused of Daphne’s murder, she wonders, “If he asked for Daphne to return to him, his request would certainly be rejected. There are some things that even a god can’t do.”
  • In Daphne Leander’s essay, she wrote, “Each of us has a betrothed so that we won’t have to spend our lives alone. It leads me to wonder to whom the gods are married. The elements, perhaps.  Or do they know something we don’t know about solitude?”
  • When Morgan and a friend sneak out of the academy during lunch, Morgan thinks, “It seems as though something should stop us. The god of the sky himself should send a gust of wind in warning. But nothing happens at all.”
  • Daphne Leander wrote, “Our bodies are burned when we die. All the good in our soul lives on in the tributary, while all the bad in us burns away forever.  This frightens me.  Who decides what is good and what is bad?  Who decides what is saved and what is lost from our souls?”
  • People are dispatched when they are seventy-five. “To live beyond our useful years would be selfish.  That’s how we show our gratitude to the god in the sky . . . We send our ashes up for the sky god to collect.  The ashes become part of a current, a force, instead of just one body.  It’s called the tributary—a perfect harmony of souls.”
  • When Morgan asks her friend if the gods are a myth, her friend replies, “It goes against everything we’ve been taught. We’re living on a big rock floating in the sky.  How many explanations can there be for that? . . . What kind of science could explain how we got here or even why we exist? Of course there are gods.”
  • In Daphne Leander’s essay, she wrote, “We accept gods that don’t speak to us. We accept gods that would place us in a world filled with injustices and do nothing as we struggle.  It’s easier than accepting that there’s nothing out there at all, and that, in our darkest moments, we are truly alone.”
  • In one scene Morgan’s brother prays to the god of the sky and she thinks, “He doesn’t even believe there is a god anymore.”
  • There are several characters who wonder if the gods exist.

Sever

Back with her husband and sister-wife, Rhine can’t help but wonder if she has done the right thing. Jenna is dead, Diedre has been tortured, and she doesn’t know where Gabriel is. When Rhine sees Cecily with her former husband and Cecily’s child, and she feels more alone than ever.

Despite her doubts, Rhine is still determined to find her brother. After taking time to recover from her hospital stay, she sets north with the unexpected companionship of Cecily and Lindin. But once again, she discovers Housemaster Vaughn is one step ahead of her. And this time both Rhine and her brother will play a part in his search for the cure.

Sever’s plot is similar to DeStephano’s first two books, and reading it feels like Déjà vu. Also, the cure discovered for the Virus was not quite believable. Still, DeStephano writes a surprising ending to her trilogy, and the last chapter in Sever ties this world up with a bow and leaves her characters in a satisfying place.

Sexual Content

  • Cecily is now in the middle of her second pregnancy at the age of fourteen.
  • Rhine and Linden kiss. “His lips are familiar. I know the shape of them, know how to make mine fit against them. His taste is familiar too . . . I’m holding his life against my tongue, between my rows of teeth.”
  • Cecily has a violent miscarriage that nearly kills her. “Sliding down her thighs is an abundance of red. It’s pooling at her feet, from the trail of blood that followed her into the room.”
  • Rhine tells her former husband that she and Gabriel did not have intercourse while they were at the mansion.
  • It turns out Rhine and Rowan were created via a vitro fertilization.

Violence

  • Cecily is convinced Vaughn wants to kill her. She says she will murder him before he has the chance.
  • It turns out that Rowan, Rhine’s brother, has bombed a few research facilities. He is called a terrorist. The “explosion comes . . . I can feel the heat of the flames . . . I turn around to watch the burning building that just moments ago was the Lexington Research and Wellness Institute.”
  • Rowan thinks Rhine was killed for science. “She was lured into some primitive makeshift laboratory . . . her heart began to palpitate first. And then her throat swelled shut; her eyes started to bleed. And when she died, several agonizing minutes later? Her body was dissected for even more
  • It is discovered that Vaughn lied to Madame, telling her that her husband and daughter died in a car bombing by pro-naturalists. He then kidnapped the daughter and told her both her parents died in the same bombing, so she would have nowhere to run.
  • Rowan undergoes the same medical treatments as his sister, which includes having a needle inserted into his eyes.
  • Lindin hits his head during a plane landing. “Linden puts his hand to his temple, and it comes back bright with blood that’s trickling down the side of his face . . . and then he’s falling. I swear I can hear the sound of his bones hitting the dirt. Blood is frothing in his mouth, and his eyes are closed and he’s having convulsions.”
  • Cecily shoots Vaughn twice in the chest with a small gun. “A load crack splits the air . . . Vaughn puts his hand to his chest, and that’s when I see the dark stain of blood on his shirt. Another shot comes, and then he drops to the ground, astonished eyes open and unblinking.” Cecily and Rhine then make it look as though someone broke in and murdered him.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Reed smokes.
  • When Cecily asks Reed if he has enough formula to care for the baby, he jokingly says, “Formula? . . . A boy his age is ready for rum.”
  • Vaughn gives Rhine pills. “I’m barely conscious by the time we land . . . I see the oriental rug rushing toward me as I fall, and then someone is holding me by the arms and I’m eased into a wheelchair.”

Language

  • Cecily calls Reed a moron for smoking near her child. “I’m pregnant, you moron . . . and in case you’re blind, there is also a five-month-old baby sitting next to you.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Morgan Lynn

Crossed

Cassia has risked everything.  The Society sent Ky to the outer providence, and Cassia is determined to find him.  When the chance comes, she sneaks onto an air ship to be used as a decoy in a war against an unnamed enemy.  However, Cassia and another girl, Indie, are soon able to escape, and they go on a dangerous trek through the Carving to search for Ky and the Rising.

Ky will fight for life and for his chance to find his way back to Cassia.  When the society takes him back to the land of his childhood, he runs for the Carving.  However, he is not alone. He has his friend Vick, a young boy named Eli, and an enemy chasing him.  Ky knows the Society is his enemy, but are the inhabitants of the Carving enemies as well?

As Ky and Cassia search to find each other, the point of view changes back and forth between the two characters.  Even though the top of each chapter is labeled with the character’s name, the characters’ voices aren’t distinct.  Instead of hearing the characters, the reader only hears the author’s voice.

Unlike the first book, Crossed is not as suspenseful or enjoyable.  The Society is clearly fighting an enemy; however, there is very little action.  The reader only sees the fighting through the dead bodies left behind.  Besides having little action, it is not clear who the enemy is or what they want, which makes it hard to decide if the enemy is someone to feel sympathy for or to hate.

Cassia gave up everything to find Ky—her family, her home, her place in society—yet Ky still doubts her love for him.  Ky has a secret about Xander that he thinks will make Cassia reevaluate her love for both of them.  He worries that she still loves Xander even though she has proven that she will go to any lengths to be with him.  Instead of creating suspense, the love triangle feels forced.

In the end, Ky and Cassia must split up to make it to the Risings Camp.  Even though Ky is only days behind Cassia, when he arrives he finds Cassia has joined the Rising and been sent back into the Society so she can help their cause.  It seems unrealistic that Cassia would leave Ky after having risked everything to be with him. Instead of leaving the story with a satisfying ending, the author sets it up for another sequel.

Sexual Content

  • There are several scenes with kissing.

Violence

  • Air ships come to kill the inhabitants. The deaths of the people are not described in detail.
  • Ky teaches the Aberrations how to use gun powder in their guns. When the air ships come, they fight back. This is when Ky and two others decide to run to the canyons and try to escape.  The fighting is not described in detail, but they hear the others scream.
  • Ky thinks back to the time the air ships came and killed his entire village.
  • Ky remembers how the Officials came to take him from Patrick and Aida. He had to be gagged.  He remembers having, “blood in my mouth and under my skin in bruises waiting to show.  Head down, hands locked behind me.”
  • In the previous book, an Anomaly killed Ky’s cousin. His death is referred to, but the details are not discussed.
  • An air ship sends bombs into a river, damming it. They then inject poison into the water.  During this time, one of Ky’s friends is killed.  “Whatever fell hit with such impact that it looked like it sent Vick flying; his neck was broken.  He must have died instantly…I look at those empty eyes that reflect back the blue of the sky because there is nothing left of Vick himself.”
  • One of the characters talks about how many people in his village have died. “People died that way. They dropped like stars.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • The teen and adult citizens must always carry a “tablet container,” which holds three pills. The green pill makes people feel calm.
  • The society has told people that the blue pill gives nourishment if they need to go without food for some reason; however, it contains something that will, “stop you. If you take one, you’ll slow down and stay where you are until someone finds you or you die waiting.  Two will finish you outright.”
  • The red pill people only take when the government tells them to; the citizens do not know what it does, because it wipes people’s memories.  They do not remember the last 12 hours of their day, which includes the part of them taking the pill.
  • Xander stole blue pills to give to Cassia in the hopes that if she were hungry, she would be able to use the pills to survive.

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • When Ky buries a body he thinks, “part of me wants to believe that the flood of death carries us someplace after all. That there’s someone to see at the end.”
  • Ky and Cassia find a picture that they think shows angels. Ky said, “Some of the farmers still believed in them.  In my father’s time anyway.”
  • One of the characters recites a poem.  “. . . They perished in the Seamless Grass-/No eye could find the place-/But God can summon every face/On his repealless-list.”  He then goes on to say that some of the villagers believed in life after death; however, he does not.

Matched

Every aspect of Cassia’s life is perfectly planned out for her—her profession, her future husband, her dwelling. If she follows the path the Officials have planned she will be happy.  Or so she thought.

During Cassia’s matching ceremony, she is ecstatic to find out that her perfect match is her best friend Xander.  But in a strange twist of events, when she opens a file that is supposed to contain facts about her matched, Xander, another’s face appears. The face of a boy named Ky, her first matched, who was discarded by the Officials as an aberration. It only takes an instant to plant doubt into Cassia’s mind about whom she will choose to love—Xander or Ky?

As Cassia struggles to choose between Xander, who will give her a perfect life, and Ky, who can give her passion, she begins to question the foundation of her society.  Is it as perfect as it appears?  And can she live in a world where every choice and every freedom—including the freedom to choose love—is taken away?

 Matched is an entertaining book that revolves around Cassia’s discovery that her society is not all that appears.  She soon discovers that although she loves Xander, she feels a passion for Ky that cannot be matched.  The book also incorporates Cassia’s relationship with her parents into the story.  It is clear that Cassia’s parents love her and want what is best, even if that means going against the Officials.

Cassia struggles with her conflicted feelings for Ky and Xander, which is a topic that teens will be able to relate to.  Because Cassia generally cares for both boys, her decision is that much harder to make.  However, the plot does not only revolve around Cassia’s love triangle.  Instead, the author includes Cassia’s family’s and friend’s experiences to show that the Society isn’t always what it appears. Unlike many teen books, Match portrays a two-parent family that is not dysfunctional. They genuinely care for each other.   The violence in the book is not described in detail, which makes this book suitable for younger readers.

 Sexual Content

  • There are several scenes with kissing. In one, Cassie can, “feel is arms around me and the smoothness of the green silk as he presses his hand against the small of my back and pulls me closer, closer . . . his lips meet mine, at last.  At last.”

Violence

  • In the past a boy was murdered. Although how it happened is discussed, it is not detailed or graphic.  However, Cassia wonders if they, “let that Anomaly (murderer) out on purpose? To remind us?”
  • There is film that shows a, “sinister black aircraft appear in the sky and the people run screaming away . . . One of the actors falls on the ground dramatically. Garish red bloodstains cover his clothing.”  Some of the viewers laugh, and it isn’t until later that Cassia finds out that the scene was footage of an actual event.
  • When a boy is taken away from his family, his adoptive parents make a scene. The father tells people, “the war with the Enemy isn’t going well.  They need more people to fight.  All the original villagers are dead.  All of them.” Then two officials pin their arms behind their backs, gag them, and take them away.  Afterwards, the officials make the citizens take a pill that erases the entire scene from their memory.
  • One of the characters draws the scene of how his village was wiped out by ammunition falling from the sky. “His parents died. He saw it happen.  Death came from the sky, and that’s what he remembers every time it rains.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • When people turn eighty years old they die. Most people do not realize that the reason they die at that age is because their food is poisoned.
  • The teen and adult citizens must always carry a “tablet container” which holds three pills. One pill makes people feel calm.  One pill gives nourishment if people need to go without food for some reason. The other pill people only take when the government tells them too; the citizens do not know what it does, but later in the story Cassie finds out that it wipes people’s memories.
  • When a character has an anxiety attack she takes her friend’s “green tablet” because she had already used her own. “Almost immediately, her body relaxes.”
  • In a dream, Cassia’s friend takes a green tablet, then a blue tablet. Cassie then gives her friend a red tablet.  Her friend falls down dead.  “Her body makes a heavy sound when it falls, in contrast to the lightness of eyes fluttering shut…”
  • Cassia considers taking the green table to calm herself down, but she decides against it.

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • When Cassie thinks about how the Society doesn’t have the death penalty, but they kill the elderly, she thinks that people survive because of natural selection, “with the help from our gods, of course—the Officials.”
  • When Cassie has a choice to make regarding another person she thinks, “If I get to play God, or angel, then I have to do the best I can for Ky.”

Reached

The Rising was supposed to be the answer.  It was supposed to be the cure for the Society’s ills.  It was supposed to bring Cassia, Xander, and Ky choice.  But so far, all the Rising has brought the Society is a deadly plague that has the power to kill millions.

Cassia still seeks to find her way back to Ky.  However, her main goal is to show others that they have something of worth—the ability to paint, to sing, or to write.  As Cassie tries to find her way back to Ky, she struggles to know who to trust.

Xander is quarantined in a hospital, trying to treat those affected by the plague as well as trying to help find a cure.  However, time is running out. The plague has mutated, and the cure that the Rising was supposed to deliver is no longer working.  People are dying and Xander is determined to help them.

Ky and Indie are piloting a plane, taking the cure to those in need. However, Ky wonders if the Rising can be trusted and if he will ever be reunited with Cassia. The rebellion has started.  But will it change Society for the better or destroy everything?

 Reached jumps from three different character’s points of view: Cassia, Xander, and Ky.  As the point of view changes, the reader is able to see all sides of the rebellion.  Although it is clear that Xander cares for people, he still has very little medical training, which makes it is hard to believe that the Rising comes to rely so heavily on him to find the cure for the plague.

Xander still hopes to win Cassia’s heart.  This part of the plot seems forced, especially since Cassia made the decision to love Ky in book one.  Xander knows this and yet, he still wonders if they will end up together. The conclusion of Reached, leaves the reader with more questions than answers.  However, the book is good for junior high readers because most of the violence is not described and the sexual content contains only brief kissing.

Sexual Content

  • Two teenagers are having an argument when “over his shoulder he says something crude to Indie—what he’d do to her and with her if she weren’t crazy.”
  • Indie kisses Ky. “Her hand slides into my hair, her lips press against mine.  Nothing like Cassia.  I pull back, breathless…”

Violence

  • When a man discusses his job, an Army officer comes in and drags him away. “His mouth is gagged and his words unintelligible, and above the cloth his eyes meet mine.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • One of the characters describes disease-proofing tablets that are given to babies when they are seven days old. The tablets keep the babies safe from illness and infection.
  • The Society has a red pill that is given to its citizens to make them forget the last 12 hours. Cassia and a group of workers are given one to swallow.
  • The Society has been affected by a plague; Xander, as well as others, are giving patients medicine and hoping to find the cure.

Language

  • Ky thinks, “I have to keep running in this damn cure even if it means I can’t get to Cassia as soon as I like.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Ky wonders about what happens when people die. “I don’t know what happens when we die.  It doesn’t seem to me like there can be much past this.  But I suppose I can conceive that what we make and do can last beyond us.”
  • Ky thinks, “long ago people used to say what they wanted out loud and hoped that someone would give it to them. They called it praying.”
  • The Society stores DNA samples of its citizens in the hopes that one day they will have the technology to bring people back to life.

The Selection

Gorgeous dresses, spectacular meals, a handsome prince, and the chance to become a princess. It was everyone’s dream . . . and one girl’s nightmare.

America Singer only signed up for the Selection to appease her family and boyfriend. She didn’t expect or even want to be chosen. But it no longer matters what America wants. She is taken from her family and forced to join thirty-four other girls in the palace, all of whom are hoping the prince will chose to love and marry her.

America is the only girl in the competition who wants to lose, but as she gets to know Prince Maxon and becomes his friend, her desires become unclear, even to herself.

As the competition drags on, America is exposed to the rebel attacks that are a regular part of the royal family’s existence. While everyone else dismisses the attacks as random acts of violence attempted to usurp the throne, America begins to suspect there is something bigger going on.

America’s personality shines throughout the story. She is strong, funny, and unpredictable. Instead of acting like a love-sick teen, she talks to Prince Maxon as if he were the enemy. And while the other contestants faun over the prince, America stays true to herself. Although there are many predictable parts to this story—the mean girl, girl drama, a love triangle—the plot is still enjoyable. The story has the same premise as the television show The Bachelor, but the book is teen-friendly.

Sexual Content

  • America and her boyfriend kiss several times. In one scene they are lying in bed, fully clothed, kissing, and she thinks, “I was nowhere near ready to stop” and “this is why people got married so young.” Then when America thinks about marriage she worries because only the upper class can, “regulate having children.”
  • When America is told the rules of the Selection, she has to sign a form stating that she is a virgin. She is told that she cannot refuse the prince, no matter what he asks, “dinner, outings, kisses—more than kisses—anything. Do not turn him down.”
  • As part of the Selection, the girls talk about which girls the prince has kissed.
  • Another girl who is part of the Selection asks what someone did to become so popular and then states, “A girl has more than one way she can pay for what she wants.”
  • The queen’s sister tells one of the contestants about the queen having multiple miscarriages.
  • Towards the end of the book, America and her ex-boyfriend are kissing in bed, fully clothed. Afterward she feels bad about cheating on the prince, even though the prince is dating other girls.

Violence

  • When America thinks the prince is going to kiss her, she knees him in the groin.
  • Several times rebels invade the palace and the girls must hide from them. Although the story describes the damage that the rebels cause, little actual fighting is described.
  • During one of the rebel attacks, a maid is terrified when a rebel gets ahold of her, licks her face, and starts dragging her off somewhere. As part of the description, it says, “I’m not sure they (rebels) have very many women with them, if you catch my meaning.”
  • There is some brief mention of the contestants fighting. One girl slaps another across the face, and a girl rips another’s dress.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • America is offered sleep aides because she has trouble sleeping.
  • America is described as running like a drunk.
  • At a banquet, the queen’s sister is drinking alcohol, and one of the contestants talks about how the queen’s sister has had too much to drink.

Language

  • America wonders, “How the hell did I get here?”
  • The word “damn” is used several times.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Although religion is not discussed, it is illegal for people to have sex before marriage.

 

Broken Crowns

Interment is falling out of the sky. If the king on the ground can’t be stopped, he will destroy Internment. Morgan and Pen must come up with a plan to save their home, even if they can never return themselves.

Broken Crowns is the third and final installment of the Internment series. For readers who enjoyed the first two books, Broken Crowns will keep them enthralled with Morgan’s story. The relationships between the characters drives the story.

The story has several surprises and ends with a satisfying ending. The story isn’t as fast-paced as the first two, but the character’s voices shine through. DeStefano creates characters that the reader will wish they could invite into their homes for a visit.

Sexual Content

  • Judas and Morgan discuss when they kissed in the previous book.
  • The prince is attracted to other men.
  • There are several references to “attraction camps” where people who are attracted to the same sex are sent. It is implied that the people are tortured. The prince takes Morgan to the camps and sees some of the patients who have had surgeries on their brains.
  • Pen’s father sexually abused her when she was younger. It is not talked about in detail. However, when her mother found out about the abuse, her mother used a tonic to “drown her thoughts.”
  • Basil and Morgan kiss. “Somehow, one of his hands has made it to my thigh, and I feel the fabric of my dress moving up and up and he knots the fabric in his fist . . . He kisses my neck, and I wrap my arms around his neck to draw him nearer still.”
  • The princess knows that her father would have, “made me have a termination procedure if he’d known about this baby in time to stop it.”

Violence

  • The king slashes Pim’s throat. He then attacks Morgan. “. . . The knife is hovering over my face, shaking uncertainly, as though the blade itself isn’t sure which of us to kill . . . I grab the knife from the king’s faltered grip and I plunge it into his throat.”
  • The prince said he was afraid that his sister would be sent to the camps because of her petulance. “I thought that if she resisted, she’d be whisked off to one of those camps and that her brains would be scooped out with a spoon until she was nothing but a blubbering mass of compliance.”
  • Nim’s father and grandfather are killed, but the deaths are not described.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • At a party, guests drink “tonic.”

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Nim burnt his car as an offering to save his sister. When Nim’s sister recovers, Morgan thinks, “It makes me wonder if their god is real. It makes me wonder if any god is real, or if it’s only easier to believe in that than the arbitrary series of events that make up all our lives.”
  • When one of the characters is about to die he wonders, “if his spirit would be taken to the tributary, or if he’d go to whatever afterlife the ground believe in, or if there was nothing at all.”
  • The people from Internment believe in the god of the sky.

Burning Kingdoms

They escaped Internment, but will the ground be a refuge or a prison? When Morgan and her friends left Internment, they never imaged what life would be like on the ground. There are many new wonders, but there are also the horrors of war.

Celeste is determined to return to Internment so she can save her dying mother—and she needs the king’s help to get her home. Morgan has the ability to help Celeste convince the king to help. However, in order to help Celeste, she must betray her best friend, Pen. As Morgan struggles to make the right decision for her friends and for Internment, the war on the ground intensifies.

Soon the characters are caught in a trap of the king’s making, and they aren’t sure what will become of them. Burning Kingdoms, the second book of The Internment Chronicles, has danger, suspense, and a new set of characters.

Burning Kingdoms focuses more on the character’s relationships with each other than on the challenges of being in a new world. The story is interesting, but the world on the ground is not really unique or intriguing. The ending of the story throws in some complications—Pen’s relationship with her father and Morgan kissing Judas—however, the complications distract from the story and leave the reader wondering why they were added.

Sexual Content

  • Celeste talks about her brother. “What would they do with a prince who dreams of falling in love with another prince?” She then talks about how she worries that her brother would be sent to an “attraction camp” to cure him. “There are tonics involved and surgeries that are worse than death . . . If Papa were ever to find out, I truly worry that Az would end himself.”
  • Morgan kisses Judas (to who she is not betrothed to). “He’s closer, and I reach for his shoulder. It’s jagged with bone, and I’ve wanted to touch it since the night he pinned me against that tree in the moonlight . . . My heart is like this world’s rain hitting against the window. I can’t breathe. I had thought all kisses were like the ones I’ve shared with Basil, that they started out timid and uncertain. But this one goes through the skin.”
  • The story implies that Pen’s father abused her. Pen feels ashamed. “A horrible thing happened that day. You wouldn’t have understood. You were only a little girl.”
  • Morgan and Pen talk about Judas’s kiss. “. . . But I realize that she’s right—that something in his eyes when he looked at me, when he kissed me, even when he plucked the leaf from my hair, was wanting.”

Violence

  • Two bombs land in the middle of a busy city, killing many. “The screams have all faded to whimpers and groans; Birdie is one sobbing girl among hundreds . . . The first bomb was just to get everyone to the harbor . . . All the survivors would come here and be caged animals.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Several of the characters go into a club and get drunk. “By the fourth or fifth glass, Birdie has stopped spluttering the stuff back up before she can swallow it.”
  • Several times throughout the story, the characters drink alcohol.
  • Pen spends much of her time drunk. “She prefers gin to sleep.”
  • A group, including Morgan, goes on a yacht and drinks champagne. Pen gets drunk and dives into the water. When Pen doesn’t resurface, Morgan jumps in after her and finds Pen unconscious.
  • While in the hospital, Morgan is given something to help her sleep.

Language

  • The only profanity in the story is when a driver mumbles, “goddamn snow” during a blizzard.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Throughout the story, there are references to Internment’s belief in the god of the sky. They believe that when someone dies, “we burn the bodies of our dead so that all the bad in them can fall away, while all the good becomes a mass of colors in the sky that can’t be seen by the living.”
  • Two of the characters discuss their different beliefs. On the ground, they burn offerings. “If there’s something you really want to ask of our god, you burn something that’s of equal importance.” Once a year on Internment “we burn our highest request and set it up on the wind to be heard.” At the end of the story, one of the characters sacrifices his car, which is his most precious possession, in the hopes that god will make his sister well again.
  • One of the characters tells a story about the god of the sky. “If people were going to be greedy, he could take the source of that greed away. That’s why it’s against the law for any king to pass a bill that would charge for wind or solar energy.”
  • On the ground, people believe that Ehco was the first creature of the sea. “. . . The God told him [Echo] that when he put mankind in the world, mankind would sometimes ask the God for things he wouldn’t be able to do. And mankind would grow angry with him—and would grow sad, and that anger and sorrow needed someplace to go, and so it would be Ehco’s job to consume it and keep it in his body so that it didn’t destroy the world.”
  • Pen and Morgan question their beliefs. “Lately I wonder if the god of the sky even heard us when we were in the sky.”
  • Pen is reading the ground’s religious book, The Text. In the book, “their god creates light, and the earth and things . . . And then this god of theirs creates the first man and woman, and a page or two later their children are throwing stones and murdering each other. It doesn’t bode well for the dawn of humanity, does it?”
  • The Text has a story about the ark. “Their god flooded the world to start over. So when their god doesn’t like someone, he tries to drown them.”
  • When having a funeral, one of the characters is worried about not having a priest. “The priest has to say the burial prayer. If he doesn’t say the prayer, how will Riles be able to get to heaven?”

The Elite

America isn’t sure if she wants to win Prince Maxom’s heart. The other six selections’ girls don’t share that uncertainty. They all want Maxon to choose them to be the next princess of Illea and are ready to fight America for Maxom and the crown.

When America is with Maxom, he sweeps her off her feet, and the choice seems obvious. Then her heart becomes confused whenever she sees her childhood sweetheart, Aspen. With Aspen back in her life, and both Aspen and Maxom competing for her heart, America’s indecision grows.

America is a strong character in The Selection, but she loses much of what makes her likable in the second installment of this series. In book one she is strong and funny, but in this book she degenerates into an indecisive and, quite frankly, whiny brat. The story is dragged on because America can’t decide if she wants to marry the Prince or Aspen.

The book loses the romance and suspense of the first book. Though there are exciting and fun scenes, they are sparse. If you enjoyed The Selection, you may find yourself reading The Elite out of obligation, rather than enjoyment.

Sexual Content

  • America kisses both Malcom and Aspen at different times throughout the book.
  • After one of the contestants gets married, she talks about the first time she and her husband shared a bed. It was, “a little uncomfortable at first. The second time was better.”
  • One of the contestants is seen lavishing affection on Maxom and kissing his neck.

Violence

  • After being found together, a contestant and a guard are caned for treason. During the caning, the guard’s back is described. “His skin was already torn, pieces hanging sickeningly. Blood was trickling down, ruining what used to be his dress pants.”
  • Two of the elite get into a fight. They use their nails and fists causing mild injury to each other.
  • The rebels attack the palace several times. In one scene a guard is hit by a bullet and blood pours from his chest.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • At a banquet hosting the Italian monarchy, wine is served. When a member of the monarchy wants America to talk about Maxom, she offers America wine in order to get her to talk.

Language

  • The words hell and damn are used in the heat of emotion.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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