The Boy At the End of the World

After the world finally destroyed itself, a lone boy woke up from a survival pod to find the remnants. With the company of a broken-down robot he names Click and a genetically modified mammoth he names Protein, Fisher begins his journey to find another human being and start the world over in Greg van Eekhout’s young adult science fiction story – The Boy at the End of World.

Similar to Elizabeth Speare’s coming of age tale of a Native American boy in Sign of the Beaver, van Eekhout has his hero, Fisher, facing the wilderness, living off the land, and overcoming adversity. In this futuristic setting, however, some of the animals have morphed into mechanical monsters and the land is renewing itself from the devastation of wars, abuse, and possibly nuclear after effects.

Unlike Cormac McCarthy’s depressing The Road, van Eekhoot offers hope for the future and the tools to survive. Fisher, programmed with instincts for survival and the knowledge of an experienced fisherman, with the help of his companions, overcomes obstacles and fights off potential threats of marauding computerized insects and machines. In the end, the world has a chance for a new start with its hopeful, talented, and moral new Adam.

Both boys and girls will enjoy the adventures, and adults will recognize the warnings of what the world could become if they don’t change their ways. The Boy at the End of the Word is well a written and thoughtful yet thrilling story.

Die for Me – Parisian Zombie Trilogy by Amy Plum

Inspired by a love of Paris and possibly the teen vampire Twilight series, Amy Plum has written a trilogy of romantic zombie stories. My friendly librarian introduced me to the world of the revenants, zombies who act like guardian angels and look like matinée idols.

The first book in the series – Die for Me – introduces Vincent Delacroix, the handsome 19-year-old who is really 84 and has been among the walking dead since World War II, saving lives and fighting (with a sword) for justice. His teen love interest is seventeen year old Katie Mercier, recently orphaned and now living in Paris with her sister and grandparents. The story is predictably romantic and adventurous, with that hypnotizing draw that fans of Twilight will recognize. The same chasteness prevails – only kisses.

As a bonus, the stories are all in Paris – with descriptions of museums, famous streets, and sites that any francophile will appreciate – hot chocolate at Les Deux Maggots; the tour boats on the Seine; the shops on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Plum also offers a few suggestions in her appendix to help tourists blend in (no white sneakers; hands on the table). She also carefully lists the classics that Kate reads to pass the time in a French cafe – nice reference for teens.

The first book ends with Vincent’s promise to quell his desire to repeatedly die to save the world.  His good intentions backfire in the next book in the series – Until I Die.  The romance continues along with battles of good vs evil, and ends with a terrifying cliffhanger tease for the third and last book, scheduled for Spring – If I Should Die.

A fun fast diversion for anyone who just can’t get enough of zombies – or Paris.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Grandpa Portman’s stories of war monsters and his childhood escape from Poland to a safe haven at a Welsh orphanage were magical to young Jake.  But as he grew older, Jake thought of them as concocted tales with fantastic doctored pictures that his grandfather used to entertain – until his grandfather’s brutal death, and the cryptic message in his dieing words.  In Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs creates a world of fantasy mixed with history of World War II and a cast of strange characters.

In an effort to cure his nightmares and to uncover his grandfather’s secrets, teenager Jake and his father travel to the Welsh island to revisit the bombed orphanage.  Jake discovers a trunk full of old photographs, some copies of those his grandfather used in telling his stories.  Was there really a boy whose body was full of bees that escaped when he opened his mouth, a girl who could levitate, another girl with a mouth in the back of her head?
As Jake continues to pursue the mystery of his  Grandpa Portman’s past, Gothic elements seep into the narrative: a 2700 year old body of a sixteen year old preserved in the bog, hearts pickled in jars, a peregrine falcon who appears at Jake’s bedside.  Riggs also borrows from several familiar characters – Edward Scissorhands, Harry Potter and friends, Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck family; he even throws in time travel.  Be prepared to suspend belief and enjoy yourself.

Jake accidentally solves his grandfather’s directive and finds the “peculiar children,” each with particular powers – think X men in training. Every adventure must have villains, and when they appear, the action gets scary with the battle of good vs evil.

But the adventure is just beginning for Jake, and the next book in the series is due out in the Spring of 2013.

Riggs conveniently includes real old black and white photographs reprinted throughout the story – one of the best parts of the book. The eerie pictures from vintage collections or garage sales – all credited at the end of the book – bring life to the action: a little boy in a bunny suit, planes in the air, a lighted tunnel, and all those “peculiar” children.

The Thief and The Conspiracy of Kings

“I can steal anything.”

In Megan Whalen Turner’s Newbery winning book, The Thief, Gen slyly steals the king’s seal, but then brags about it – the downfall of all good thieves.  After some time in the bowels of the prison, the king’s magus – a Merlin-like advisor with wisdom and intellect – makes him an offer he cannot refuse.  His mission: to steal a hidden stone from a foreign land to secure the king’s access to more land, more riches, and the beautiful foreign queen.

Using an imaginative setting resembling some of ancient Greece, with medieval trappings, and anachronisms that include guns, pocket watches, and glass panes, Turner tells the story in Gen’s voice, weaving together stories of ancient gods, a good-hearted but bumbling prince in training, a faithful guardian, and a feisty and humorous rogue who has his own plan for the booty.

Despite clues throughout (that you will notice later), the ending is a wonderful surprise.

Turner has four books in the Queen’s thief young adult series.  I started with her newest – A Conspiracy of Kings – and stopped midbook to find her starter book – The Thief – and glad I did.  Although it’s possible to read the books in any order – just as you could with the Harry Potter series – it’s much more fun to watch the characters mature and progress in each.  If you decide to dive in, read The Thief first.

In this last book, the young prince has grown up – as has everyone else in the repertoire, including the Queen’s thief – and some romance has seeped in.  But, the swashbuckling fights for honor and country are still ever-present.  What fun!  I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.