Tuesday, December 18, 2012

YA Reading, Round 8: Action/Adventure


I distinctly remember 4th grade as being my biggest reading year as a child. We had a classroom library, and in addition to the books we read as a class, my teacher really encouraged independent reading for pleasure. I read such a variety of genres that year; I was really into the American Girl series and Gary Paulsen adventures AND Bruce Coville sci-fi comedies. This week’s topic in my class, Action/Adventure, immediately took me back to those days of Gary Paulsen, and I loved it. This was the most fun week yet!

All of these stories are plot-driven and fast-paced. There’s not a lot to think about—you just zoom through the story, hooked and wondering what happens next.

Will Hobbs’ Crossing the Wire is about fifteen-year-old Victor’s quest to cross the US–Mexican border so he can find work in the US to send money home to his mother and siblings. In Victor’s world, there are many ways to cross the border, but all of them are risky. You could pay a smuggler to get you across, but Victor doesn’t have that kind of money. Instead, Victor stows away on trains and trucks, hikes through the dessert, and encounters every potentially fatal extreme—scorching heat, freezing cold, hunger. And that doesn’t even consider the people he meets along the way, never positive if they’re out to hurt or help him. Victor is a character who just keeps pushing. He won’t give up, and the story follows that same mentality—it’s one thing after another, enough to keep the reader engrossed. One important thing to keep in mind is that this is a story to most kids/teens; they couldn’t imagine it as their own struggle, but it’s real life to many people trying to find a new life. Victor’s story can put readers in someone else’s shoes and consider what life is like across the wire. If your readers like this, Will Hobbs has written several more adventure books for YAs.

At the opening of Roland Smith’s Peak, a teenage boy is arrested for climbing a New York City skyscraper. Ok. Think about that for a second. It only goes up (pun intended) from there. Our main character, aptly named Peak, has been climbing his whole life; it’s in his genes. After his run-in with the law in New York, Peak heads overseas to stay with his father while things cool off back in New York. His father, by the way, runs a climbing company and his new mission for Peak is to get him to be the youngest climber to summit Mt. Everest…with his company. And Peak, despite knowing his father’s selfish motives, is totally up for it. To say Everest is dangerous is an understatement. During Peak’s climb, we learn about every slight misstep that is potential for disaster. Not only is the story full of action, it’s also about Peak’s relationship with his parents, making big decisions and sacrifices, and determining what’s really important. There are so many details in this story to further explore—names and dates and places. Not gonna lie…as I was reading this, I was Googling the crap out of Mt. Everest. I’m too much of a chicken to have caught the climbing bug, but something like Everest is just too amazing to completely ignore.

Stormbreaker is the first book in Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series, and I dug it as a quick and thrilling ride. Fourteen-year-old Alex lives with his uncle in London until suddenly, beloved Uncle dies in a car crash. They claim he wasn’t wearing a seat belt, but Alex knows that’s not possible. Something’s up. After his own investigations, Alex discovers his uncle was actually murdered and is, in fact, a spy for Britain’s top intelligence agency. And now that Alex knows all this, he’s essentially blackmailed into finishing his uncle’s work. Suddenly, Alex is training with the toughest men in the country and weaseling his way into the circles that probably killed his uncle. Stormbreaker doesn’t have much beyond action and adventure—only minimal moments of character introspection and growth—but it will attract a reluctant reader and excite those readers that want an on-the-surface thrill ride. And lucky for them, this is just the first in the (so far) 9-book series. (Also, there is apparently a movie.)

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