Sunday, May 12, 2013

2013 YALSA Hub Reading Challenge - Update #13

It was an interesting mix of books this week. I'm choosing at random, based on what's available at the library, so this week it was guitars, serial killers, and zombies. Oh, my!

Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron

Sammy Bojar is an aspiring musician who is hanging on to his dysfunctional band, hoping to win a Battle of the Bands competition. He is also coming to terms with his grandfather's advancing dementia and his attraction to his best friend, Jen5. Sammy uses music, both listening to it and writing it, to make sense of his life. His relationships all feel authentic and Sammy is a likable character with believable struggles.

A quick, entertaining read that will appeal to readers of a musical bent.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

I loved, loved, loved this book. It grabbed me by the throat right away. It was oh-so-believably creepy, with well-drawn characters whose motivations were complex and interesting. I can see mature teen readers gobbling this one up.

Jazz is a teenaged boy whose father, Billy Dent, is a famous and prolific serial killer. Even though Billy is in prison, and will be until he dies, he is a pervasive presence in Jazz's life. As hard as he tries, Jazz is unable to silence his dad's voice, constantly repeating the lessons of how to be a successful killer. 

When dead bodies start piling up in Jazz's small town, he is determined to catch the killer. Thanks to his dear old dad's lessons, Jazz can slip right into the mind of the killer, much to his dismay. The cops, especially the one who put Billy Dent behind bars, aren't too keen on Jazz's input. 

Jazz is such a realistic character, with all of the normal teenaged angst, but with the added bonus of trying to stop himself from becoming the man his father has trained him to be. Jazz exhibits many sociopathic tendencies, but he is most human when he's with his wise-cracking best friend, Howie, and his take-no-shit girlfriend, Connie. Howie's hilarious comments provide plenty of comic relief, even in the midst of some pretty gory gruesomeness. Connie keeps Jazz grounded and calls him out when he starts wallowing in self-doubt. There are some well-meaning adults who try to do what's best for Jazz and he respects them, even though he doesn't agree with them. And then there's his crazy grandmother. Whoa. She's hilarious and horrifying all in one racist, wrinkly, gun-waving package. 

I dare you to read this one after dark.

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Sloane Price and five other teens seek a safe haven in their high school after their small town is overrun by zombies. The zombies don't actually appear much in the novel, but their constant presence contributes to the tension. 

Once they've barricaded the doors, all that's left is to hang out and wait for rescue...or death. Sloane dwells on the fact that her older sister abandoned her to the not-so-tender mercies of their abusive father. She has given up on life and can't quite understand why the others are fighting so hard to survive. 

What do you live for when you have no one left?

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