Burn by Patrick Ness

Burn by Patrick Ness

Burn by Patrick Ness (9780062869494)

Sarah and her father are meeting the dragon he hired to help clear fields on their farm. Sarah has been forbidden to talk to the dragon, and even more forcefully reminded not to tell it her name. But Sarah can’t think of the dragon as an it. The dragon is remarkable, even though he is a smaller blue dragon. As the dragon, Kazamir, and Sarah get to know one another, they must face the hatred of a local deputy along with Sarah’s boyfriend Jason. Sarah and Jason are the only people of color in town, something that gets unwelcome attention in 1957. But Sarah doesn’t know what Kazamir does, that she is part of a prophecy. The prophecy is also what is drawing an assassin from a dragon worshiping cult towards her. Malcolm is hunting her, but also being trailed by the FBI. As he approaches, he leaves a trail of bodies but also finds himself unexpectedly in love for the first time. As the moment of the prophesy nears, everything is in place but for what?

Ness as always surprises and amazes in this new novel. His world building is remarkable, combining alternative history of the late 1950’s with fantasy into a world that is entirely believable. The novel is layered and complex, becoming even more so as it continues. The book incorporates marvelous science fiction elements as well as it builds, burning hotter and hotter, making its title all the more appropriate.

Ness’ characters are just as complicated as his plot and world building. He spends time making each of the three protagonists fascinating. There is Sarah, a girl who may or may not be trapped in a prophecy but certainly is caught in poverty and yet will not give up. Malcolm may have grown up in a cult and be there weapon of destruction, but new love is a power thing, something that can change a destiny. Kazamir, the dragon, is someone readers will adore from his first sarcastic comment and quirked eyebrow.

Brilliantly built, layered and populated, this is a new world created by a master. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Quill Tree Books.

Review: Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

level up

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang, illustrations by Thien Pham

As a child, Dennis was forbidden from playing video games.  When his father died, he played them all the time.  He was even good enough to consider playing on the professional circuit.  But that was before THEY showed up.  Four cute little angels with plenty of attitude and a lot of bossiness seemed to know exactly what Dennis should be doing with his life, and it certainly was not video games.  Instead, they pushed and insisted in his father’s name that he start studying hard and then go to medical school.  But will Dennis find happiness there?  Or will he return to his love of gaming?

Yang captures the tension between following your own dreams and following those of your parents.  The four angels serve as universal parental voices, insisting that the future path is set and that one must fulfill one’s destiny.  The writing is infinitely readable, down-to-earth and yet striking.  The book wrestles with important themes, using the graphic format to lighten things but still looking deeply at the choices that shape a life.

Pham’s illustrations are filled with simple lines, washes of color, and often have a play of light and dark backgrounds in different frames on a page.  But if one looks at the illustrations, they are well rendered, interesting and far more than the simple lines may originally seem.

This book has teen and gamer appeal galore.  Before I got to read it myself, my husband and two sons had to read it first.   Both the theme of video games and the graphic format made it impossible for them to pass up.  Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from library copy.

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