Jill is just like every other high school senior: she’s stressing over her social life and counting down the days until prom. If only she had more time to woo Tommy and convince him to ask her out. Her friend Ramie tells her that she needs to just act like herself but that is impossible. Because for one week out of each month, Jill is not herself: she’s Jack. Luckily, when she changes back into Jill a week later, she does a quick bit of meditation and completely wipes her “Jack-time” from her memory, so she doesn’t have to remember all those nasty boy thoughts. Jack, on the other hand, remembers everything. All of Jill’s triumphs and failures. And he’s sick of watching from the inside. He wants to get out of the house. He’s a 16 year old boy with needs! That is the basic set-up of Cycler. And while the first half of the book is amusing enough, it starts to get old halfway through when you realize that Jill is not going to learn her lesson. Jack, on the other hand, is a sarcastic bastard, but at least he’s fun to hang out with. I was also bothered by the weird bit about Tommy. Jill spends a large amount of time trying to get his attention, only to discover that he’s bisexual. This big reveal is more confusing than anything, and I think it is when I really stopped caring about Jill’s opinions. I guess the whole idea was to have her worry that Jack’s “manliness” was showing in her female side. The “climax” of the story, if you could call it that, is a real let down with absolutely nothing being resolved. I felt cheated by the end. Good idea, poor execution. Here’s hoping someone rips it off and gives us a more thought provoking story about what it means to be a teenage girl/boy in today’s world.
There are horror stories that are filled with mythical creatures that hunt down victims and shred them into bloody bits. And then there are horror stories that are real. So real that you can’t even think about them, with monsters that could be sitting behind you on a bus with innocent people trapped in their claws. Living Dead Girl is a horror story of the latter kind. “Alice” was abducted by Ray when she was a little girl. Now, she has become a shell of a person, going through the motions that keep Ray satisfied enough with their “relationship”. She has forgotten how to feel, has tried to block out her past, because forgetting when she was happy is the only way to make her life bearable. This book is at once hard to read and fascinating. Alice’s narrative draws you in, and the short chapters make the story move along. It is painful to read but such a mesmerizing tale. I’m not sure who I would recommend this title too. It is a well written book, but far from a fun read. You can preview the first few pages on Good Reads.
Peter Abrahams’ Echo Falls Mystery series surprised me from the start. In Down the Rabbit Whole, he introduced us to Ingrid (“Griddie”), a 6th grade girl. She’s not some adorable little Nancy Drew and she’s not a hard-ass 13-going-on-30 teen. Instead, she is probably one of the most realistic tweenage girl I’ve seen depicted in any youth lit I have read. She’s smart, funny, yet just naive enough to still walk that line between child and teen. Into the Dark is the third book in this series, and Ingrid once again finds herself attempting to solve a local mystery. These books are getting progressively darker but also more gripping. They are the kind of series that a kid could pick up at age 12, then still be satisfied with this entry at 14. Probably the strongest thing about this series is that Abrahams never underestimates his audience. He doesn’t talk down to them or over-simplify. I think this series would be perfect for a family oriented book discussion group because, while it has some edgy content at times, it never goes into the realm of obnoxious. It is all handled very well. Can’t wait to read #4!