Do you feel too safe and secure in your own home? Are you sleeping too much at night? Do you want to remedy your inner peace? Well, boy oh boy, do we have an author that can help. All three of these books also play with reality in some ways, and to different effects. Welcome to the world of Neal Shusterman, who will haunt you with his all-too-accurate portrayals of the indignities of teenage life.
Full Tilt is an exploration of teenage sibling relationships and what happens when a theme park decides to come to life and absorb its visitors like a horrific mechanical sponge. Both of these topics are a wonderful basis for a young adult novel.
Older brother Blake and younger brother Quinn are exact opposites. Blake is the quintessential older sibling, responsible and down-to-Earth. Most of his time is spent keeping Quinn under control and holding their family together. Taking care of Quinn is a hard task, however, because oftentimes his daredevil personality takes him too close to the metaphorical ledge. However, Quinn goes way over the line when he drags the two of them to a dangerous phantom carnival that ensnares its customers for eternity.
In order to escape the carnival, Quinn and Blake must survive seven deadly rides by sunrise. Each of the rides represents a deep, personal fear. From a stampeding carousel to a hall of mirrors that physically deforms onlookers, there is no end to the horrific creativity of this theme park. If the carnival doesn’t claim their souls first, Blake will eventually have to own up to his biggest secret to save himself and his brother.
This book is captivating. While it made me side-eye Six Flags for a few years, it’s definitely worth the terror. Blake and Quinn’s brotherly love is incredibly sweet, and the pacing of the novel makes it hard to set down. With cliffhangers at the end of every chapter, Full Tilt will keep you on its wild ride!
If you’re tired of how much older generations complain about teenagers, this book is for you. If you have any interest in all in the pro-life versus pro-choice abortion conflict, this book is for you. If you can read English, which I know you can if you’re reading my review, this book is for you.
After the Second American Civil War, the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice armies create a truce over a document called the Bill of Life. The Bill of Life protects all human life from the moment a wayward sperm wriggles into an egg until the child conceived reaches the age of thirteen. Between thirteen and adulthood, however, parents can choose to retroactively rid themselves of their teenage pests through a disturbing process called “unwinding.” Unwinding means that that a child’s life doesn’t “technically” end, but their organs are all transplanted to various recipients. A daily practice in the book’s society, juvenile delinquents or unwanted teens are able to be easily unwound, no longer a burden on the state or their relatives.
The book itself follows three teenagers who all become runaway Unwinding candidates. The first is Connor, who runs away after his parents order his unwinding. The second is Risa, a ward of the state who is to be unwound in order to cut costs. Lev is his parents’ tenth child whose unwinding has been set since his birth as a part of religious tithing. As they meet and their lives are near ending, Shusterman explores complex moral issues head on in a way that keeps readers turning pages until the book is done.
If Unwind alone isn’t enough for you, fret not, because you have two more books to go in the series. In my opinion, each book gets successively better, so I’d suggest investing in the box set. This series is a perennial New York Times Bestseller for a reason.
Bruiser is a chilling, unforgettable novel about the sacrifice and power of unconditional friendship and the complexities of familial bonds. The main question the novel addresses is just how much pain one person should have to take for the people they love.
Brewster “Bruiser” Rawlins was voted as “Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty.” When Bronte Sternberger starts dating him, her twin brother, Tennyson, is understandably concerned. Tennyson, trying to keep his sister safe, decides to spy on Brewster. He finds out that Brewster and his little brother Cody are abused at home by their Uncle Hoyt. It turns out that Brewster’s bruises aren’t from fighting. When invited inside, Tennyson realizes that despite rumors about Brew, he lives in a normal house. They talk for a bit, and Tennyson decides that Brew may not be that bad after all.
The next day, Tennyson notices something strange: some of his injuries have been healed and are somehow mirrored on Brew’s skin. This kind of thing keeps happening, until the twins realize that Brewster literally soaks up the pain of those around him. Uncle Hoyt begins to get angry about how much time Brewster spends outside of the house and beats Cody for retribution, knowing Brewster can feel the pain. When Tennyson, Bronte, and their family step in to help him, they open themselves up to a whole world of hurt.
This novel is written from four points of view, so it can be confusing at times. However, the story and its message are beautiful. Turning over stereotypes used against Brewster with love is great, as well as the moral complexity of when to stop caring. I read this book in one day, and hopefully you will too.