Monday, July 15, 2013

A What if Gift

Have you ever said you wouldn’t wish a certain illness or excruciating pain on your worst enemy? Well, what if you could? 15 year old Nya can. She has the gift of absorbing pain in her own body and if she chooses, shifting it into another person. Warning: this gift can be dangerous.

THE SHIFTER by Janice Hardy, Balzer + Bray, 2009

This is Book I in The Healing Wars. Before I could blog about it, I treated myself to Book II, and both books are reviewed below. Just as I was, readers will be eager to follow the main character far beyond her introduction.    
As The Shifter begins, the Gevegians have lost the war to the Baseeri.  Orphaned by that war, Nya, 15, is fiercely devoted to her only remaining family member, Tali, 12. Through a series of machinations, Nya sees to it that Tali becomes a Healer’s apprentice for the League led by the Luminary, names that strike terror into the hearts of Gevegian’s. Nya sees it as a safe spot in the eye of the storm. For now.

Besides Healers, the reader will meet Takers, enchanters, and trackers. Although Nya tends to take on the task of saving everyone and everything by herself, she is admirably supported by friends Aylin and Danello, whether she wants them to risk their lives in her endeavors or not. In their own way, they are as stubborn as Nya.
Hunger and exhaustion  threaten  Nya, but her greatest enemy is discovery. And that’s what this book is about: discovering gifts and realizing that sometimes a gift must be used as a weapon, no matter how loudly one’s conscience speaks. Protecting the lives of loved ones turns Nya’s gift into a necessary weapon. Sort of like discovering atomic power and how to use it. 

BLUE FIRE by Janice Hardy, Balzer + Bray, 2010
The Healing Wars, Book II.

The page turning action continues, and the characters behave non-stop, remaining brave and resilient. They are willing to risk all. It amazes me how much pain Nya can absorb even though I understand that this is part of who she is and what she does.
In Blue Fire, Nya is still 15 and wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit. Teen readers will relate to the quandary Nya encounters as she struggles to do the right thing but evil nips at her heels on all sides.

Darkfall, the third book in the trilogy is available and I have ordered it. (Note: another book by the same title is written by a bestselling author. This Darkfall is part of The Healing Wars, a Young Adult series. The other Darkfall is not.)

Reading is so addictive! I have to stop and share or I never will. Author Hardy has written more books…


Thursday, July 4, 2013

For Undercover Readers

What parent can resist this bedtime negotiation: "One more chapter? Pleeeze?"

DOUBLE VISION by F.T. Bradley, HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2012.

“Who, me?”  This could be the theme song of 12 year old Lincoln Baker. He’s his teacher’s field trip nightmare.  Sometimes Linc makes trouble on purpose, but usually it’s for a good cause, like helping out a friend.  Other times, it looks as if Trouble has Linc on speed dial. If this is your son or daughter, reader identification will be immediate.

Linc’s family consists of two loving parents who barely keep the family finances above the red mark. Mom is a nurse and Dad runs a car shop which struggles. Grandpa watches crime shows on TV and absorbs useful tips. I hope we see him in future books.

A software program matches Linc’s face on YouTube with the face of a missing secret agent. How did Linc’s face get on YouTube? It’s a fun story for the reader, not for Linc. Enter two agents from Pandora. (Don’t call them spies. They prefer “secret agents.”) They are close to taking down a criminal organization, but the whole mission is at risk now that top kid agent Benjamin Green has disappeared. The agents see Linc’s match to Benjamin as their opportunity to do Linc a major save the family fortune favor (think reason for YouTube notoriety.). All Linc has to do is stand in for the missing agent. It won’t take long. Linc has much to gain and very little, probably nothing at all, to lose. Said the spider to the fly. 

And we’re off. Twists, turns, friends who are villains or secret agents who turn rogue or might be, instead, deep under cover. Linc dashes from crisis to cliffhanger. The reader just keeps on ploughing through the chapters. It’s hard work to write a book that reads this easily and the writer has been careful to learn her craft.

Linc and his friends’ middle school voices are authentic and consistent.  Henry, a brilliant agent boy wonder scientist teams up with Linc. “The key is to be smarter,” says Henry. He will surely be given more room to shine in future books.

All this talk of future books is more than a wish of mine. Double Vision is the first of a planned series. Double Vision: Code Name 711 will be available in October.  Couple this series for 8-12 with Sound Bender by Lin Oliver and parents who say with a sigh, “my kid is a reluctant reader” will soon enjoy deleting “reluctant” from that sentence.

Hillview School Library