Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

4 stars (I really liked it).

Insignificant Events cover (link to Goodreads)

What’s great about this book:

  • Representation of both the MC, who has no arms, and her friend with Tourette’s
  • A cheerful, fun tone throughout–easy for kids and adults alike to love
  • A happy, intact family
  • The main character herself

What didn’t work as well for me:

  • The mystery–I felt the book would have worked as well or better without it

Luckily, the mystery wasn’t a crucial enough piece that I couldn’t enjoy the story without it, so this still rates 4 stars for me. My 11 year old son also read this and liked it.

Review: The Strangers by Margaret Petersen Haddix

2 stars (It was okay).

Chess, Emma, and Finn come home from school one day to find their mother very upset about an article about three missing children from Arizona who share their names. They don’t think much of it until she also disappears. Then they try to solve both mysteries and end up falling into a rather science fiction story.

I couldn’t help but compare this book to my own middle grade story about parallel worlds and kids who get mixed up in them. Except . . . dare I say I think my book is better?

I never really connected with the characters, especially the youngest, Finn. I didn’t think the clues lead logically from one to another, and I felt like the kids took way too long to figure out what was going on.

You can bet I’m using this as a comp title, though.

Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner

5 stars (It was amazing!)

This was book 2 on my read-YA-science-fiction-with-male-protagonists list, and it did not disappoint. It did remind me in feel of the Illuminae Files series, so if you like that, maybe check this out. And if you don’t like that, then maybe this won’t be for you either.

Is this book going to change the world? Absolutely not. Was the romance swoony and believable? Oh yes. I loved watching the two leads gradually increasing in respect for one another, which slowly developed into love. The plot also kept surprising me, and a series of twists blew my mind.

It’s fun science fiction and fun romance. The YA voice is just right. I’m not sure it would be the sort of thing my 13 year old son would love at this moment in his life, but maybe it would be. Who knows?

There is a pretty tame sex scene, so I guess parents should know about that.

Review: The Terrible Two Go Wild by Mac Barnett and Jory John

2 stars (It was okay).

So, the humor’s still here. Our prankster heroes are still magnificent at pranking. Principal Barkin continues to be a delightful character. The illustrations are great. What I was missing for much of this book was plot. I read it out loud to my 8 year old and 5 year old, and we all kept wondering where it was going.

By the end, it had settled into itself, but we did find ourselves kind of bored and confused quite a few times before that.

But it has a 4.2 star rating on Goodreads, so who knows?

Review: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

2 stars (It was okay).

So, about six months ago, I came across a list of great science fiction YA published recently. I think it was bemoaning the lack of marketing publishing companies are putting into their sf lists. I love both science fiction and YA, and so do my two oldest sons (ages 13 and 11), so I checked out the list.

And while I did come away with some things to add to my to-read list, I also noticed something that left me a bit unsettled. ALL of the books on the list had female protagonists.

Okay, so maybe it’s just an attempt to catch up after decades of a heavily male-dominated genre. And boys can read about girls–my boys do all the time!

But.

We talk about representation. And the truth is, my boys seem to enjoy books written in the last 20 years or so more than they enjoy older books. And if none of the books in their preferred genre have boys in the starring role, then . . . ahem . . . I think we may have a representation problem.

It feels weird to say it.

Surely, I thought, there must be some YA science fiction with male leads. So I did some Googling and found a list of 100 of the best science fiction YA published in the last 10 years. Perfect!

I read down the list. And you know what? Out of those 100 books, a grand total of 15 had at least one male protagonist (some had dual boy/girl leads). That means over 85 had girls as main characters, and fewer than 15 had only boys.

I decided then to read those 15 books (no promises I won’t abandon any of them part way through, since I am definitely not one to feel compelled to finish a book I’m not enjoying). Nyxia was the first.

And I have to say that while this was only a 2 out of 5 stars *for me,* it’s a book I’m wholeheartedly recommending to people. Its voice and characters are great. The plot clips along nicely. It’s got mystery and plenty of cool science fiction elements.

I almost feel guilty writing down what my biggest problem with it was: It was just so, so alpha male that I didn’t relate with it much at all. *laughs* Lots of high-stakes competition, fight scenes, problems with authority, anger management issues . . . you name it.

I did like it, but sometimes it got to be too much for me. And that’s okay! I am not this book’s target audience!

If you or someone you love might be the book’s target audience, give this one a try. I bet you’ll love it.