April 17, 2014

Death Spiral by Janie Chodosh

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:58 am by suebe2

Death Spiral
by Janie Chodosh
Poisoned Pen Press

When a heroine addict dies on her bathroom floor, the police only take a quick look at the facts.  One addict + Crappy apartment +  Dead = Overdose.

Faith isn’t entirely surprised eventhough the dead addict was her mother.  The crazy thing is that mom insisted she was clean.  No, she hadn’t looked good towards the end but the papery skin, sores, and bruises weren’t the same old symptoms.  Still, dead is dead.

Faith is bundled out of Phildelphia and to her aunts house.  Aunt T doesn’t fuss but she works hard for all she has and wasn’t banking on having to take in her sister’s teenage daughter.  Faith does her best not to impose but even here she knows who she is — the daughter of an addict.

Then she gets a message from her mother’s friend.  They were in the same clinical trial and now she needs help.  The next day, the woman is dead.  Faith believes in science too much to accept this as a coincidence.  And she’s been thinking about science a lot lately.  Could she have the same genes as her mother?  Sure, she has some of her mother’s genes but the ones Faith is worries about are for addiction.

Then she finds out that the trial her mother was involved in had something to do with genetics.  Could this be what made her mother sick?

To solve the mystery, Faith has to learn about not only genetics but gene therapy but she also has to learn an even more difficult lesson – how to trust.

This isn’t an easy book to get into to simply because Faith isn’t particularly lovable.  She holds people at a distance because, not surprisingly, she has trust issues.  And Chodosh does an amazing job portraying this character.  In addition to make her suspicious of others and more than a little bristly, she’s stepped outside of the “troubled family/poor neighborhood” stereotype and given us a girl who is really good at science.  Faith may not understand everything that she finds about genetics but she understands enough to get herself into serious trouble.

Fortunately, she also learns enough to start trusting.  Between her new best friend, clothes-horse Anj, a may-be boyfriend, her Aunt and even her Aunt’s boyfriend, she has the support she needs to face this mystery and everyone who made this treatment, what should be a hope for addicts, into a nightmare.

Personally, what I love most about this is that it is smart fiction.  The main character is brainy and loves science.  She may not understand everything that she reads but she knows enough to realize when the facts don’t add up.



March 27, 2014

Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 1:19 am by suebe2

Wake Up Missing
by Kate Messner
Walker Books for Young Readers

Cat just wants to be the person she was before her head injury.  Besides?  Who falls out of a tree trying to watch birds and gives herself a concussion?  Cat.  That’s who.

Things were bad enough before she fell out of the tree.  Nothing had been said, but she knew she was loosing her best friend who now liked soccer better than camping.  She didn’t need to be told.

But now she has headaches all the time.  Even when she tries to go to school she often has to come home sick.  Not only is Cat falling behind in school, but she’s a total clutz.  Yes, even worse.  She just gets dizzy and tips over.   She can’t focus when she tries to read and clay, which she used to turn into a variety of lifelike birds, is just a cold lump in her hand.

Then her mother hears about a brain injury clinic in Florida.  They help gets just like Cat but they take only a few patients at a time and Cat would have to stay there without her parents.  Still, it would be worth it if she could just be the girl she was before.

At the clinic, she meets sporty Sarah, a hockey player who fell at a game, football playing Quentin whose inability to do math could cost him a scholarship, and Ben, who was thrown from his horse.  As they begin treatments, they are all getting better, no one faster than Ben.  But then, when she’s trying to get a look into an osprey’s nest, Cat overhears a phone call.  One of her fellow patients has a terrible brain tumor from the treatments.  The doctors have decided not to tell anyone because it would jeapordize their program which suddenly sounds altogether sinister.

To find out what is going on, they have to gain access to the computer and make their way through the gator infested Everglades.

As they struggle to help each other, Cat realizes that, with each even she experiences, she is moving farther and farther from the girl she used to be, but that’s okay.  As long as she’s the one making the decisions.

As always, Messner’s book is a combination of cutting edge science and a great story.  This time the science involves both head injuries and gene therapy.  As always, the bad guys are a bunch of misguided adults who start out doing things for all the right reasons but don’t realize who will disappear in the process.

As edgy as this sounds, it is solidly middle grade.  There are some hints at romance but it is of the hand-holding variety and the danger is more often an ominous feeling than true danger.  Not that the bad guys don’t do bad things, but the majority of it occurs off camera.  The one bit of on-screen violence occurs when the bad guy is dealt with in an icky, Everglades kind of way.

An excellent choice for a young reader who wants action, adventure and science but isn’t ready for a young adult or adult novel.


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