Reviews

Despair and darkness: Gregor and the Marks of Secret by Suzanne Collins

Collins, Suzanne. Gregor and the Marks of Secret. Scholastic, c2006, p2007. 343 pages. PLB $13.36, ISBN 978-1-42874-501-8 ; TR (mass market) $6.84, ISBN 978-0-439-79146-5

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!

Genre: Fantasy

Part of a series? Yes — the Gregor the Overlander series (The Underland Chronicles).

Plot Summary:

It is summer vacation in the Overland, which means that Gregor now has a great deal of free time to spend with Ripred for echolocation lessons. Gregor is less than thrilled with this development, particularly as his echolocation skills are not particularly strong. Ripred surprises Gregor with the news that he wishes to kill a creature who is dangerous, unstable, and who has the potential to be extremely powerful. The next day, Gregor is attacked by three rats who smash his flashlight and show him just how important echolocation is. Ripred goes missing, but Gregor is unsure of how to (or if he should) inform Vikus of Ripred’s intentions before his disappearance. During a birthday party, a bat scout drops off one of Luxa’s crowns, informing her that a nibbler had given it to him and said that Luxa would know what it meant. Luxa makes light of the delivery in public, but as she and Gregor know, it means that the mice are in grave danger. When Luxa, Gregor, and their bonds go to find the mice, the entire colony is empty, save for one dead mouse, her body hiding a strange carving on the ground. They return to Regalia, pack up for a “picnic” (so that they may escape Regalia and search for the mice without alerting the Council) only to need to take Hazard, Boots, Howard, and Nike along. They are soon trapped by an earthquake, and the peril is real. Traveling through Hades Hall to the Firelands in order to return safely to Regalia takes them through some dangerous lands with even more perilous inhabitants … what Gregor and his friends encounter in Hades Hall is enough to push the Underland past the brink and into a full-scale war. Will Gregor and his friends be able to help the nibblers? Or is all lost in the Underland?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book begins to take Gregor into more intense territory — there are absolutely some scenes (highlight here for spoiler >>>) for instance, a mass grave of mice, as well as a massacre that happens on the page that make me hesitate to hand this to a young reader. That said, the book is gripping, and Gregor grapples with some very real ethical dilemmas. A strong fourth installment to the Underland Chronicles that ends on a serious cliffhanger.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

n/a

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Horn Book Magazine starred 10/01/06

Kirkus Reviews starred 05/15/06

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Reviews

Bad News Ballerinas AGAIN: Shiny Broken Pieces

Charaipotra, Sona, & Clayton, Dhonielle. Shiny Broken Pieces. HarperTeen, 2016. 374 pages. Hardcover $15.44, ISBN 978-0-06-234242-3

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes, for older readers

Genre: YA/Realistic Fiction/Ballet!

Part of a Series? Yes — duology; Tiny Pretty Things is the first novel

Plot Summary:

We’re back at the American Ballet Conservatory, and the company is reeling. The book picks up only a few months after the shocking conclusion of Tiny Pretty Things. (I won’t share too many details — no spoilers!)

Bette and June and still desperate for the top spots. Cassie is BACK, and she’s got a bone to pick with anyone and everyone who will stand in her way.

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Like the first novel, this book moves at warp speed. There are more secrets than ever, and alliances are shifting. Strangely, it feels as though readers are meant to feel sorry for Bette in this book, which is a weird feeling after all of her mean-girl antics in book one.

More drama, more backstabbing, more fights in the hallways. If you liked the tension and the jealousy of Tiny Pretty Things, this will be a good pick for you.

Trigger Warnings:

  • eating disorders
  • violence
  • drug abuse
  • harassment

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

n/a

Grade Level: YA (9-12)

Awards and Starred Reviews: n/a

Reviews

Bad News Ballerinas: Tiny Pretty Things

Charaipotra, Sona, & Clayton, Dhonielle. Tiny Pretty Things. Narrated by Imani Parks, Nora Hunter, Greta Jung. HarperTeen, 2015. 13 hours and 12 minutes. (438 pages). Hardcover $15.44, ISBN978-0-06-234239-3; PLB $15.56, ISBN 978-1-51812-929-2; TR $8.54, ISBN 978-0-06-234240-9;  Audio $26.45

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes, for older readers

Genre: YA/Realistic Fiction/Ballet!

Part of a Series? Yes — duology; Shiny Broken Pieces is the sequel

Plot Summary:

Life at the American Ballet Conservatory is cutthroat. The book opens with new girl Cassie reflecting on her good luck to be a young dancer with a solo part in the show … only to have her suffer a fall that injures her so badly that she must leave the conservatory.

The story picks up the next school year. Gigi is the new girl in school, fresh from California. Also the conservatory’s only black dancer, she immediately feels ill at ease, missing the camaraderie of her California studio. Bette Abney knows that this is her year to take all of the solo roles, and June Kim realizes that her mother’s ultimatum — a solo or she must go to public school — is for real. When Gigi earns the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Bette is left reeling, things get tense. Bette will stop at nothing to be the best … and June is finding herself more and more motivated to do just the same. Who will be the prima?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This is a lightning-fast story. Each narrator has secrets, motivations, and needs that keep the reader going. For readers who enjoy some serious drama (with startling consequences!), this book has a lot to offer.

One note: the audiobook gets tough when actors need to do accents for the Russian teachers.

Trigger Warnings:

  • eating disorders
  • violence
  • drug abuse
  • harassment

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

n/a

Grade Level: YA (9-12)

Awards and Starred Reviews: n/a