Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bang by Barry Lyga

From the Publisher: 

A chunk of old memory, adrift in a pool of blood.

Sebastian Cody did something horrible, something no one--not even Sebastian himself--can forgive. At the age of four, he accidentally shot and killed his infant sister with his father's gun.

Now, ten years later, Sebastian has lived with the guilt and horror for his entire life. With his best friend away for the summer, Sebastian has only a new friend--Aneesa--to distract him from his darkest thoughts. But even this relationship cannot blunt the pain of his past. Because Sebastian knows exactly how to rectify his childhood crime and sanctify his past.

It took a gun to get him into this.

Now he needs a gun to get out.

Unflinching and honest, Bang is as true and as relevant as tomorrow's headlines, the story of one boy and one moment in time that cannot be reclaimed.

My Review: 

I'm truly at a loss for words after finishing Bang. To put things simply, this book is incredible! I knew from the moment I read the description with the list of Little, Brown Faculty Lounge preview books that this book was going to be one of my top picks for this year. Though we're only 1/3 of the way through the year, I can safely say it will remain among the top. 

* * * Takes a break for a few days because I really have no words...* * * 

Okay, I'm back, and I've just listened to the Professional Book Nerds podcast where Barry Lyga talks about Bang, his family, writing, and pizza - some of the recipes are his. Do you share recipes, Mr. Lyga? The pizza descriptions were unexpected and deliciously distracting!

On the topic of giving teen readers access to books dealing with difficult topics, Mr. Lyga says, "Nobody has ever been able to explain to me how taking away a book about violence is going to shield somebody from actual violence in the real world." As a librarian, I couldn't agree more. Yes, some books can be an escape from the real world; however, others show readers they're not alone. These books are especially important for teens going through a difficult time or experience.  They may not feel ready or comfortable talking about it yet, and books provide a safe place to think and consider. 

Bang approaches so many "headline" issues - gun violence, broken families, lack of communication, depression, suicide, Islamophobia, and more - with a gentle yet compelling voice. Readers will root for Sebastian to find some peace in life, and he will stay with them long after the last page. This book is a must read!

Thank you to Little, Brown for including Bang in the LB Faculty Lounge and to Barry Lyga for writing it! BSHS students, don't worry, I pre-ordered the book, so we should have it in circulation next week. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Takedown by Corrie Wang

From the Publisher: 

Kyla Cheng doesn't expect you to like her. For the record, she doesn't need you to. On track to be valedictorian, she's president of her community club, a debate team champ, plus the yummy Mackenzie Rodriguez has firmly attached himself to her hip. She and her three high-powered best friends don't just own their senior year at their exclusive Park Slope, Brooklyn high school, they practically define the hated species Popular. Kyla's even managed to make it through high school completely unscathed.

Until someone takes issue with this arrangement.

A week before college applications are due, a video of Kyla "doing it" with her crush-worthy English teacher is uploaded to her school's website. It instantly goes viral, but here's the thing: it's not Kyla in the video. With time running out, Kyla delves into a world of hackers, haters and creepy stalkers in an attempt to do the impossible-take something off the internet-all while dealing with the fallout from her own karmic footprint. Set in near-future Brooklyn, where privacy is a bygone luxury and every perfect profile masks damning secrets, The Takedown is a stylish, propulsive, and provocative whodunit, asking who would you rely on if your tech turned against you?

My Review: 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Kyla Cheng appears to have everything going for her; she's the girl you want to be (or maybe the girl you want to hate). Among the top of her small Brooklyn prep school's social food chain (and top of her class), Klya has a long way to fall, and boy does she ever. When an explicit video of her and her teacher goes viral, Kyla gains instant, yet unwanted, fame. The catch? Kyla says the video is a fake and wants to know who would do this to her, a high school girl who won't even date because she's so focused and driven. The fallout ensues, as Kyla tries to pick up the pieces of her life and figure out whom she can trust, how she can repair her unjustly damaged reputation, and learn how she can recover from this takedown. Being so connected and relying heavily on technology, everyone's a suspect. 

Part cautionary tale, part high school social commentary, Wang delves into a world where technology rules. The pacing and paranoia of this book grabbed my attention and held on right from the start. As Kyla begins to reevaluate choices she's made, readers will empathize with how challenging teenage social circles can be. Though Kyla's story is a bit extreme, there is little privacy these days with so much handheld technology. Hopefully teen readers will remember this important lesson as images and videos are rarely truly gone. 

When I described the book to my students, they thought it could easily take place today, but the characters seem slightly more connected than the today's teens. Reading The Takedown reminds me of reading Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, only it seems less of a distant future. Like Fahrenheit 451, The Takedown is certainly a possible, scary future. Whatever you're looking for, this book has it all: Mystery, drama, technology, romance, parent/teen relationships, and it packs a satisfying punch!