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STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

SCARS book cover

Kendra must face her past and stop hurting herself--before it's too late.

Awards: #1 in the Top 10 ALA Quick Picks, ALA's Rainbow List, a Governor General Literary Award Finalist, Staff Pick for Teaching Tolerance.

Yes, it's my own arm on the cover of SCARS.

HUNTED book cover

Caitlyn, a telepath in a world where having any paranormal power at all can kill her, must decide between saving herself or saving the world.

Awards: A finalist for the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award.

PARALLEL VISIONS book cover

Kate sees visions of the future--but only when she has an asthma attack. When she "sees" her sister being beaten, and a schoolmate killing herself, Kate must trigger more attacks--but that could kill her.

Awards: 2013 Gold Winner, Wise Bear Digital Awards, YA Paranormal category.

STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

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Teen Books That Have Something to Say


Chain Mail: Addicted to You

Review

Chain Mail: Addicted to You
by Hiroshi Ishizaki
TokyoPop,(January 2007)
ISBN-10: 159816581X

My rating:



Prologue
I stood in front of the mailbox and cried. Snow fell around me, frosting my hair and shoes, slowly blotting out the words of the test results I held in my hands. Out of over twenty-five thousand test-takers, I had placed first in Japanese, mathematics, Science, Basic Studies, and General Studies. I had finally made it.
But it was too late. My mother was gone, and she wasn't coming back. If I had only studied harder, if I had only gotten these results a month earlier, maybe it would have made a difference.
Melting snow slid down my back. I shivered, remembering the sound of flesh striking flesh . . .
--Chain Mail: Addicted to You, Hiroshi Ishizaki, p. 9.

(translation by Richard Kim, English Adaptation by Rachel Manija Brown)

In this compelling suspense novel, four Tokyo teens who have never met join together to write an online stalker story--only to have the events in their lives begin to echo their story.

The prologue is told from an unnamed narrator, while the rest of the story moves between the girls' first-person perspectives and the characters they each create for their online story. Each perspective is clearly labeled by the girl's name, time and date, and setting, and later, the character she writes as well. We never read about the person writing Yukari's part–-we only read Yukari's online entries. This in itself is a clue for readers. All of the girls feel alone or different, in their own settings, and crave belonging to something more--in this case, the online story they create together.

The prologue is immediately engaging, with strong writing, metaphors, and just enough sensory detail to bring the reader into the story. The novel has a lot of finely crafted writing, but there are chunks that are far less engaging. Passages where the author tells the reader what is happening, gives too much backstory, or tells the reader what we already know sometimes stop the story flow. For the first half of the book, the characters in the online story are far more compelling and interesting than the characters in the novel, and the chain emails begin to take on a creepy, thriller-ish feel. In part two, we move directly into the online story, where we lose the characters and their personal lives, and focus only on the story. The online story is, at that point, seamless and riveting. When the characters do come back in, they analyze the online story, which slows the novel down, and some readers may lose interest. Overall, the forward momentum of the novel is strong, increased by great tension and suspense, and the reader caring about what will happen to both the characters of the novel and the characters they write about.

Ishizaki clearly tried to make each online story voice unique, and representative of the characters. Most of the time this works well, however, the detective character reads like a caricature or parody of a bad detective movie, and is distracting.

The various teens comment on and analyze the writing technique of their online story. While this may be interesting to writers, it may be off putting to other readers, and it sometimes interferes with the story. Yet the fact that the characters often inject details from their own lives into their online story adds a layer of interest and gives the reader an insider view.

There are some details that are specific to Tokyo (as there should be) that North American readers may find interesting, such as canned coffee, the intense focus on grades and testing, almost to the elimination of anything else, and the city layout. The included emails and online story also increase believability. The story feels very modern, with strong female characters, believable dialogue, and current technology (such as receiving emails via cell phones).

Throughout the book, there is a nice use of metaphor, many poignant and emotionally-true observations and scenes, a strong forward momentum, and a good sprinkling of detail and description that helps us not only see and feel the setting, but understand the characters better. The background and detail for each character is different, and helps to individualize them, but at times their viewpoints or characters do not seem unique enough.

Visually there are a lot of font changes, to differentiate between the story, and each character in the online story; sometimes these font changes can be distracting.

The greater part of the novel is compelling, pulling the reader forward to find out what happens and why. But as soon as the major reveal occurs, the plot twists seem unbelievable and far-reaching, and detract from the emotional experience and satisfaction of the story. * * Plot Spoiler * * When it is revealed that the main character was not really kidnapped, some of the tension and caring about that event is lost, and the reader may feel tricked or let down. In addition, the main character's deep understanding of abuse and its effects is unrealistically swept away as a fantasy she created to cope with her grief over her mother's death. This can feel like a betrayal to the reader--details that felt so real and emotionally true are suddenly stated as fantasy. While it seems that Ishizaki has a great understanding of abuse, it is misused in this story. Although I immensely enjoyed reading most of the book, this soured my experience of the book and left me intensely disappointed in the ending. Still, the read was fantastic up to that point.

Many of what should have been major dramatic scenes in the end were summarized, which lessened their emotional impact, and several key occurrences seem contrived. There are many places where it feels as if the author is telling the reader what to think and feel about the plot events; this is especially visible in the ending, where the compassion and deep understanding Mai has for another character feels unrealistic.

Although there were a number of things that did not work for me in this novel, the compelling writing, the deep emotional understanding, the finely observed details, and the great use of language made this book an enjoyable, intense read. Recommended.

-Added January 2007


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