“Still life with tornado” A.S. King

Rated 1 star * ARC. Published October 11, 2016. Dutton Books. 295 p.

stilllifewithtornadoI really didn’t like this book. I thought it was very disjointed, and the storyline dragged. Weird and strange, sort of like a modern “Man of La Mancha,” I was left confused rather than enlightened. The tornado on the cover described me before, during and after reading it – because I felt nothing was truly resolved but, instead, shoved aside and (supposedly) forgotten. At the end everything was suddenly tied up in a neat bow, and life was now good. Huh?! Really?!

I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not. I wish I had been a “not.”

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“Scowler” Daniel Kraus

Rated 3 stars *** 2013. Delacorte Press (Random House). 288 pp.

ScowlerIt is 1981 and, through flashbacks, nineteen-year old Ry Burke tells the story of his twisted home life. His father Walter was a mean and abusive man, not allowing Ry to play with toys and beating him if the farm wasn’t run the way he liked. He regularly beat his wife, and the horror he inflicted on her when Ry was ten years old was something he’d never forgotten. That was the day his mom gathered her courage and tried to escape with Ry and his little sister Sarah, but Walter came home early.

Ry tried to hit Walter with a bat, but his father smashed it into Ry’s forehead then chased him through the wintry woods for hours – intent on killing him. Ry survived the hours in the forest, along with the pain in his forehead and broken leg, by depending on three toys he’d managed to hide in his pockets. Mr. Furrington, a turquoise teddy bear; Jesus Christ, an eight-inch bendy toy from Sunday School; and Scowler, an ugly four inch toy made up of a cone-shaped head, sharp teeth and a metal skeleton. Each of these toys imparts wisdom to help Ry survive, but Scowler gave Ry the strength to attack his father. Ry didn’t want to finish the job, leaving Scowler very angry.

Ten years have passed since that awful night, and the family has survived despite the farm falling into disrepair. Sarah knows a meteorite is going to fall that day, but what she doesn’t know is one has already fallen allowing Walter to escape from prison. When he arrives wanting revenge a meteorite falls on the farm and, what follows, is an uncanny look into the past and present when a fresh evil is released into the world. As Ry’s tortured mind melds into the various personalities that helped him survive the cold winter of 1971, this time, Scowler will not be denied.

Through flashbacks “Scowler” tells the long-term affects of emotional and physical abuse, taking readers on a white knuckled ride and leaving them hoping that the good guy will finally be able to overcome the bad guy.

Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.

Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

“Pretty Girl-13” Liz Coley

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins). 350 pp. (Includes “Afterword” and “Author’s Note.”)

PrettyGirl-13Angie Chapman came home from her girl scout camping trip and was shocked to find out she’d been gone for 3 years. She can’t understand why she doesn’t remember this timeframe, and won’t believe her parents when they insist she is 16 years old. Gradually Angie finds out she has Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, and has blocked out her life for the past 3 years.

With the help of a therapist Angie struggles to piece together what happened over these lost years, but facing reality becomes more and more difficult. All she wants to do is to forget what happened in that little cabin out in the woods, but her inner selves won’t allow it. As memories from her personalities begin to be revealed, Angie’s fears and secrets threaten to overwhelm her. It will take great strength, determination and courage to keep her head above water, as well as love and acceptance from friends and family. As Angie discovers why these people came to live inside her head, she gradually realizes they each had a role to play in shaping her life and that without them, she wouldn’t be alive.

“Pretty Girl -13” takes an unflinching, dark, raw, honest, eye-opening look at the effects of DID on the person who is experiencing these multiple personalities as well as its effects on their loved ones. Coley has painstakingly done her research into this disorder, and “Pretty Girl -13” is the magnificent result.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)