Sleator, William. 1996. The night the heads came. New York, NY: Puffin Books. ISBN: 0-525-45463-2.
Leo takes Tim to catch a train to New York where he will hopefully sign a contract on his art, an interest that Tim's father doesn't take seriously. While trying to get Tim to the train, the car suddenly loses all power and we are taken into a UFO to meet the Heads. After experiments are done, Leo is released but Tim is kept by the heads. Tim's father accuses Leo of harming his son in some way. Leo is taken for psychological help and ends up discovering an invasion of the Heads. The characters are believable and follow the lines of UFO sightings as well as some of the statements of people who have said they have encountered aliens. While there are a few twists in the story and it is written from Leo's angle, the tabloids and newspapers have relayed such stories from a variety of real people throughout the world, complete with sketches of the aliens which have a great similarity to E. T. The idea of the use of a support group in the text was new for me and made it all the more believable. This story is fast paced, realistic in its characters and family traits. The growth of Leo in the story and his ability to uncover the conspiracy so quickly despite his fear and shyness makes this delightful and captivating. William Sleator has a grasp on the interest of his readers in this genre.
According to Publisher's Weekly, "savvy readers will recognize elements from The Outer Limits TV series, The Stepford Wives and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, as well as environmentalist tracts." All in all, this book is fast moving, entertaining and will keep the reader turning the pages to reach the inevitable conclusion and resolution with just a touch of suspense in that this could happen again somewhere else. While not deep, this book would be enjoyable for all but might be just the thing to turn a reluctant reader in to an avid science fiction fan.
Klause, Annette Curtis. 1997. Blood and chocolate. New York, NY: Laurel Leaf Books. ISBN: 0-440-22668-6.
Vivian, a junior in high school, is new to Maryland and finds it difficult to find friends away from the group that she moved from West Virginia with and has been with all her life. A flashback reveals the death of her father in a fire. While Vivian has the usual confrontations with her mother, Esme', she does have one beautiful secret - she is a werewolf or loup-garoux. Finally she finds a group, the Amoeba, and a boyfriend, Aiden, thanks to a picture she drew and a poem he wrote, both about werewolves. As the story climaxes, people in the suburb of Riverside are killed by beasts. The pack and Vivian go through many struggles to determine the killer. In the story, the author combines a poignant love story with murder, intrigue and deceit. The story is fast moving and kept at a high pitch due to looking at the lives of humans and werewolves living side by side and the conflicts this causes for the vivid characters in the story. The writing makes it all believable as well as heart breaking as it reaches into the hearts and minds of each of the personalities and their reactions to the events as they unfold. This book is well suited for readers from reluctant to adult.
Booklist describes the book as "a violent, sexy novel (that) is a seamless, totally convincing blend of fantasy and reality that can be read as feminist fiction, as smoldering romance, as a rites of passage novel, or as a piercing reflection on human nature." Thus I have some other source as proof of the many crossovers possible in this genre. No wonder everyone in the class can have their own opinion and be accurate with so many of the books for young adults. This one is also recommended for mature teens, due I'm sure to the vivid scenes, language and thoughts that are expressed throughout this book.
Pullman, Philip. 1995. The Golden Compass. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN: 0-679-87924-2.
Love at first read is the best way to describe this book. It artfully combines adventure and fantasy into a world of magic, quests, a spunky female heroine and, once entered, a world of unbelievable beauty and detail. Lyra, raised by men at Oxford, is tied telepathically to the point of physical and mental joining with her daemon. When they learn of the missing children, they are plummeted into a quest to save the children and her best friend, Roger. In this quest, Lyra comes to discover her true parents, her own inner strengths, and her stubbornness in overcoming almost insurmountable odds. She has an innate ability to understand magical concepts such as the altheiometer without the use of a book to interpret. Here we have deceit, mental telepathy, enough parallels between real geographical and scientific things as to make the story believable and exciting. Each character is done both by physical and mental description so the reader accepts and envisions both the person and the hidden motives. The constant activity keeps the book moving as we encounter each new challenge. It would be difficult to read this book and not want to continue in to the next in the series.
Parent's Choice responds that this story "is transformed into spellbinding theater for the imagination, thanks to a flawless British cast and Pullman's own narration." As a result the book received the 1999 Parents' Choice Gold Award Winner. While this review was written for an out of print edition, it still holds true in that readers who enjoy this will be satisfied only after reading the entire trilogy. I am again one of those readers who enjoyed the richness of the characters and the adventures that were done so well as to create this world in my mind through the text and Pullman's ability to express the picture in his mind.
McCaffrey. Anne. 1976. Dragonsong. New York, NY: Atheneum. ISBN:0-689-305070-9.
Menolly has learned the skills of the Harper in her city of Sea Hold. The only problem is that she is a girl and thus unable to be a Harper according to tradition. The civilization itself is beset with frequent attacks by Threadfall which can only be stopped by flying dragons and their dragonriders. Menolly leaves the safety of Sea Hold after Yanus and his wife deprive her of singing. She goes on to live with the Fire Lizards and discover much about herself as well as them and their abilities to communicate with humans. Menolly is a reluctant heroine in this story which makes it all the more interesting. She is not trained in her skills but discovers and expands on the abilities of the fire lizards through her own self-expression. The inclusion of a map adds to the feeling of reality for this fantasy saga. Menolly's self-discovery as she extends her help and love to the fire lizards is believable and captivating. It is disarming and enchanting to have a protagonist that is not strong and all-capable but rather normal other than her size. Even her rebelliousness concerning her singing leads to the quest/adventure. The feelings of a teenager combine with the fantasy to bring a captivating, intriguing story as the result of Mennolly running away from the punishment by Yanus, the leader of Sea Hold who is a very strict traditionalist. One could almost feel the battle of the sexes as Menolly has to break free from a female subservient role in order to become a person in her own right. The reader will be easily lead into wanting more of this magical world of dragons and fire lizards as well as the adventures of Menolly.
The Book Nook rates this fantasy for 9 out of 10 possible points. In the summation, the reviewer concludes with "the characters are very well written and the story is excellent. Right awat, you get hooked into the tale and find that you cannot put the book (down). Although the story is not that long, it is well worth reading for a fantasy lover. And this is top-notch fantasy." It makes me wonder what was missing that caused this book to only get nine as I was deeply enthralled with the mental imagery and the intense characterizations here as well as the interaction between the characters and their traditions or beliefs that set Menolly into action, thus the adventure as she developed toward a goal of acceptance, a sense of family and belonging, and a future that let her enjoy her first love - music.