“Every other day” Jennifer Lynn Barnes

2012. Egmont. 329 pp.

EveryOtherDayKali has a very strange life. For 24 hours she is a normal high school girl, without any friends, with a father who barely acknowledges her existence, and with tiny memories of a mother who disappeared when she was 3 years old. That life disappears in the next 24 hours when she becomes an invincible hunter, killing zombies, hellhounds and other creatures of the night and instantly healing from any wound or broken body part.

This strange half life has been hers to bear alone since the age of twelve and, having never dared let anyone in on her secret double life, Kali has no idea why she is cursed with this kind of existence.

One day Kali meets Skylar, the school outcast, who draws her out of her morbid thoughts and makes her laugh. Kali thinks she could finally have a semblance of a normal life, but everything changes when she finds an ouroboros symbol on Bethany, the head cheerleader’s, back. Everyone knows an ouroboros symbol means a blood sucking chupacabra has resided in that person and they will soon die.

Kali is trained to protect humans from predators, so she does the first thing she can think of – she entices the chupacabra into her own body. Once it does it is only a matter of time before Kali, Skylar and Bethany find themselves in the midst of a  frantic race against the clock to rid Kali of the chupacabra before her 24 hours lapse and she becomes a helpless, and dead, human.

It was very, very difficult for me to suspend my disbelief to make it through “Every other day.” Barnes went overboard to include all types of paranormal, nightmarish and mythological creatures in it, and worked overtime to make her 12-16 year old readers believe these creatures are all normal and acceptable parts of Kali’s society. In addition to finding it too fantastical, I also didn’t like the way it ended. Even though it’s not supposed to be part of a series, I have a feeling Barnes is angling for it to become one.

Thus, I will leave it up to you to decide whether you want to Read It or Not.

“Half Lives” Sara Grant

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published July 9, 2013. Little, Brown and Company. 392 pp. Includes “Author’s Note.”

HalfLives17-year-old Icie’s parents worked for the government, and had advance knowledge of a terrorist threat to unleash a deadly virus on the world. They make plans to send Icie to a nuclear waste bunker in Vegas so she can survive. Unfortunately her parents are arrested, so Icie is left on her own. On the plane she meets Marissa, a perky cheerleader, who becomes her sole companion. As they trudge through the desert they find Tate, a young boy who wants to be a rock star but was abandoned and left for dead. Finally, they meet Chaske a very handsome Native American teen who has deep secrets he won’t divulge. They seal themselves inside the bunker to avoid contamination…

Generations pass. A small group of survivors from Before have survived in the village of Forreal. Terrified that Terrorists will find their hiding place, the group of Cheerleaders and Rock Stars are determined to protect their mountain and way of life. As they and their leader Beckett look out at Vega, they are reminded that their god, the Great I AM, will protect them from the dangers that lie Out There. Greta, a Survivor, finds her way to the mountain from Vega. Could she be a sign from the Great I AM? Is she a Terrorist? Only time will tell…

In alternate chapters, Grant tells Beckett’s and Icie’s stories. I understood the author’s mindset of using words from popular culture to make her point of showing how people in a cult blindly follow what they don’t understand, but I did mind that she’d used “I Am,” an actual Biblical name, for the cult’s god. Surely she had to know it’s the real name used for God in the Christian Bible. Every time I read it I was reminded that this is America and everyone has free speech, but I know if she had used a certain Muslim god’s name for the book’s god instead of a Christian god’s name then all h**l would have broken loose. Ah America!

Students aged 14 and older will have some deep thinking to do as they read, especially in the area of learning about nuclear waste and its longterm repercussions on the world.

“Beautiful Decay” Sylvia Lewis

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). To be published April 2, 2013, Running Press Teens. 303 pp.

Beautiful DecayHere I am in chilly and rainy Seattle for the ALA’s (American Library Association’s) 2013 Midwinter Meeting. Yesterday was my first chance to go to the Exhibit Hall and get a bunch of ARC’s. So far, I’ve mailed 3 boxes of them home to myself.

“Beautiful Decay” was the first ARC in the bunch that I kept to read, and it was a-ma-zing! Ellie has an unusual gift. Everything she touches turns to mold, a beautiful, colorful type complete with mushrooms. Because of this, she spends her life hiding from people and wearing gloves, fearful of causing sickness and death. Her own mother is terrified of her, constantly washing the house with bleach and avoiding her, while her father is never home. Having a normal high school life is impossible, especially with being called nicknames like “Typhoid Mary,” and having her classmates and teachers avoid her at all costs. Her only friend is Mackenzie, a person she met online.

When Nate, a new student, comes to school he seems to immediately have a connection with Ellie. He’s not afraid of being hurt by her mold-producing touch, and seems to actually like her. Ellie is confused, but her confusion knows no bounds when Nate admits to being a Necromancer. He can raise the dead, and even has a zombie mother as proof. Ellie is curious about her power, especially when she finds out there are more people like her out in the world. Unfortunately, a group of Necromancers aren’t happy Nate won’t use his powers for their pleasure and have been hunting him down. A battle between good and evil is brewing. Nate, Ellie and Mackenzie some find themselves smack in the middle of the action.

I had just started reading “Beautiful Decay” last night, but found it so compelling I couldn’t put it down. Readers, ages 14 and up will be just as spellbound. Its ending was a bit open ended, so I won’t be surprised if Lewis has a sequel planned.

“The Infects” Sean Beaudoin

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). To be published September 25, 2012. Candlewick Press. 353 pp.

Nick and several other juvenile delinquents were sentenced to march up a mountain as part of their punishment. Sometime during the night, they were attacked by zombies and forced to flee. While on their mad rush through the woods seeking relief from the hordes of zombies who had miraculously appeared to eat them, several of their number died bloody, horrific deaths at the hands of the zombies. The survivors finally reach an abandoned lodge at the top of the mountain and seek shelter but, the zombies have no plan to let them escape. They are surrounded.

While presumably a novel about zombies, referred to as “Infects,” Beaudoin has us believe they all got infected from eating bad chicken nuggets which causes their zombie-like behavior. With a theory like that, along with much rambling on the part of the narrator, and too many flashbacks to count, the book went straight downhill in my estimation.

Despite a cool looking cover, I have never read a weirder book than “The Infects,” and don’t recommend anyone else waste their time with it. However, I leave the decision up to you as to whether you really want to Read It or Not. I’d suggest Not.

“Outpost” Ann Aguirre

ARC (Advanced Reading Copy).Razorland series, book 2.” On sale September 4, 2012. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan). 320 pp. (includes Author’s Note).

At the end of “Enclave,” Deuce, Fade, Tegan and Stalker had survived their time in the ruins, and battles with Freaks (zombie-like characters). Rescued by a passing villager on a trade run, they were taken to a small outpost called Salvation. Eager to forget her past, Tegan blended in well, while Deuce, Fade and Stalker found everyday village life constricting and dull after their time in the wilderness.

Deuce, especially, dislikes having to go to school for the first time in her life and being forced to wear long dresses like a proper young lady. She is uncomfortable with the rules under which she must live, and unfamiliar with the ways of how to behave. As a result, she is shunned and ridiculed by her peers. In addition, she is distracted by Fade and Stalker’s amorous attentions and dislike for one another. Her love for Fade is obvious, yet Stalker is sure they are meant to be together and has no plans to give her up to Fade.

Life becomes difficult once more as the Freaks (also called Mutants) find new and improved ways to attack the small outpost and its citizens. Deuce, Fade and Stalker volunteer to join a group of guards who leave the outpost to protect the villager’s crops, which the Mutants have found a way to destroy. As the Freaks become bolder and more creative in their attacks, the villagers’ ire against Deuce becomes louder as their superstitious natures blame her for the attacks due to her “unladylike” behavior. Soon, Salvation is surrounded by Freaks, and the villagers are days away from annihilation. It will take the combined bravery of Deuce, Fade, Stalker and Tegan to save those who have always seen them as different.

Both Middle and High Schoolers, especially boys, will love the excitement and battles in “Outpost,” and will excitedly read through to its cliff hanger ending. Despite the typical “Two Boys and only One Girl” love triangle, the action is irresistible, and readers will join thousands of other fans eagerly awaiting its sequel, “Horde,” scheduled for release in 2013.

“Unforsaken” Sophie Littlefield

“Banished” Book 2. Delacorte Press. 2011. Hardcover. 277 pp.

In this sequel to “Banished,” Hailey, Prairie and little Chub managed to escape Bryce and his gang and began new lives for themselves in Chicago with new identities. Hailey tried to fit in with the boy crazy girls in her area, but felt like part of herself was missing because of Kaz, the handsome son of Anna, Prairie’s friend. He had been left behind in their escape, but Hailey clung to the memory of their final moments together. Unable to resist their attraction for each other, they kept up their relationship with secret phone calls. Unfortunately, Prentiss, Bryce’s boss, found a way to trace their calls and, within a few short moments, Hailey’s life crumbled.

Both Prairie and Chub were kidnapped and taken to Trashtown, and Hailey barely managed to escape the trap. With no one to turn to, she and Kaz decided to figure out their next moves. They found an unlikely ally in Rattler, her crazy “will do anything for a pure bloodline of Banished” father. In love with Prairie for years, he had planned to have her raise a crop of pure bred Banished to carry on the work of Healers and Seers. Infuriated, Rattler planned to make sure no one messed with what belongs to him.

Kidnappings, murders, betrayals, zombie attacks, as well as thrilling action and adventures are stuffed into 277 pages. Littlefield leaves no stone unturned, even adding a few “aha!” moments to keep her readers guessing as to what would happen next to Hailey, Kaz, Chub, Prairie and Rattler.

Fans of “Banished,” and new fans in grades 9-12, will enjoy reading “Unforsaken.”

“Banished” Sophie Littlefield

“Banished” Book 1. Delacorte Press, 2010. Hardcover. 293 pp.

I had read this book a couple of years ago but, like many books for which I hadn’t written a summary, I forgot what it was about. With the recent release of its sequel, I headed to the rereading chair to pay the price of my forgetfulness.

Hailey is an outcast at school and home. She’d never known her parents and was raised by her uncaring, sickly, drug dealing, drunken, 4-pack-a-day smoker grandmother. Her only source of love comes from their 4 year old autistic foster child her grandmother took in and abandoned. At school, she is shunned and ranks as low as one could possibly get on the high school social ladder. She is puzzled by the ostracism at school, but accepts it as her due for living in Trashtown, the bad part of town.

Her life changes on the day a student gets injured in gym class. Unable to stop herself, Hailey finds herself healing the young girl by just touching her injury. Fearful of her power, and ignorant of its causes, Hailey is enlightened when her long lost Aunt Prairie comes to town. Prairie is also a Healer, and explains their inherited gift. For years, she’d worked in a lab to learn more about her gift and has just learned she and Hailey are in danger from the Head Scientist, Bryce, who intends to imprison them to raise up an army of zombies he plans to sell to the highest bidder.

As killers invade Hailey’s home to fulfill Bryce’s wishes, the girls almost lose out on their bid for freedom but manage to escape. While on the run, readers are kept on the edge of their seats as Hailey and Prairie claw their way out of tight spot after tight spot in their bids to save themselves from ruthless murderers. The cliffhanger ending made me very glad that the sequel was sitting just a few feet away from me. Students in grades 9-12 will want to join me in enjoying “Banished.”