FAYE DASEN: Young Adult Novels Deal With Today's Issues
These two books, billed as young adult novels, both grabbed my attention from the get-go. Both deal with situations that are current today -- environmental issues and terrorism.
The Dead and the Gone
By Susan Beth Pfeffer
Harcourt, 2008, $17
This is a companion book to Pfeffer's "Life As We Knew It," which was also a good read. It's not necessary to have read that book in order to enjoy this novel, though.
The book takes place in New York City. After an asteroid strikes the moon, pushing it closer in orbit to the Earth, changes in the climate set off a chain reaction of events.
The book follows the struggles of Alex Morales and his younger sisters who have been left alone to survive. Their father was out of the country, and their mother, a nurse, was likely killed on the way to the hospital.
Alex tries to give his siblings some sense of normalcy, insisting that they all still go to school. They continue to live in the apartment building in which their dad was the manager.
The electricity works off and on, but fuel for heating becomes hard to find. With the winter comes the bitter cold and lack of food.
Alex and his sisters have been raised as Catholics, and he really has trouble rationalizing some of the not-so-nice things he must do in order to provide for his sisters.
This story of survival and faith is a real winner.
Streams of Babel
By Carol Plum-Ucci
Harcourt, 2008, $17
The human element is the real danger in this intriguing novel.
When two New Jersey women, living in the same community, die of brain aneuryms within 24 hours, a red flag goes up.
Paramedic Scott Eberman's mother is dead and now his brother, Owen, is sick.
Cora, daughter of the other dead woman, is trying to find information in her mother's things about the father she never knew.
The government suspects that a biochemical agent in the water put there by terrorists may be to blame.
At the same time, over in Pakistan, a computer-savvy 16-year-old named Shahzad Hamdani is working as a "virtual spy" for the U.S., using computers at his family's Internet cafe.
When he spots chatter about something called "Red Vinegar" that is supposed to cause a large number of deaths in Colony One, which he figures is the U.S., he must try to get the powers-that-be to believe him.
The story is told from the viewpoints of several people, but readers will find that they aren't confused.
The teenage characters seem true-to-life, facing the same issues as real teens might -- with the addition of a terror threat.
I think that's one of the most fascinating things about this novel -- this situation could happen anywhere in the world.
This gripping novel is great reading for ages 14 and up.
The author is a Printz Honor Award-winner and two-time Edgar Allan Poe Award finalist.
Contact Faye Dasen at email@example.com or 693-2475.
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