Monday, April 14, 2014

Panic by Lauren Oliver

"Everything passed; That was partly why it was so beautiful. Things would get difficult again. But that was okay too.
The bravery was in moving forward, no matter what..."

In the rural New York town of Carp, everyone knows about Panic. Each year, the game is played by the graduating seniors. It's a game of escalating dares. Kids get hurt, even killed, all for the prize. The winner gets the pot, thousands of dollars collected from each senior throughout high school. That kind of money can change your life.

Heather was only planning to cheer on her best friend, Nat, but she ends up joining the game. She wants the money to move as far away from Carp as possible. Heather's life isn't great. Her mother takes drugs and drinks, and Heather struggles to protect her younger sister, Lily. One horrible night, their mother goes too far. Heather and Lily leave. They end up sleeping in their car in an alley. Heather needs the money more than ever. 

Dodge joined Panic for a much different reason: revenge. His sister was paralyzed while competing, and Dodge blames the boy who raced against her. Now, that boy's brother will be playing. Dodge wants him to suffer for hurting his sister, by killing his brother.

I found Panic to be a little unbelievable. Everyone knows about it, but the police or other adults can't do anything about it? I am skeptical. Granted, Panic is run under the utmost secrecy. The contests are presided over by secret judges. Anyone who breaks the rules faces swift retribution. I just feel that after so many years of Panic, someone who actually played the game must be in a position where they could make it stop.

Panic was full of sad stories. Sometimes the characters aren't easy to like, but you can sympathize with their situations. The writing was good, and the parts that depicted Panic were sufficiently tense. Still, I must admit that I am happy this ended up being a stand alone book, as I am not sure I would have wanted to read a second book.

I received my copy of Panic from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperCollins. It's available for purchase now.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

"I noticed a similar thing with my dad, and it made me wonder if people, when they reach a certain age, forget how to be happy. Like maybe they grow up to become what they were once rebelling against, and it makes them sad without even knowing it..."
This is the story of a little-known band called the Scar Boys. It is narrated by Harbinger "Harry" Jones, written as an essay for a college application. He describes the most defining moments of his life. The first happened when he was 8 years old. Some bullies tied him to a tree, then left him outside as it started to rain, then storm. The tree was hit by lightning and caught fire. Harry was badly burnt and left with severe scars on his face and body.

Harry's scars made him subject to stares and fear from other children and even adults. He is understandably surprised the day that Johnny befriends him. Johnny is athletic, popular, and handsome. Him wanting to hang out with Harry is practically mind-boggling. The two boys start running together. Johnny gets Harry to go Trick or Treating, even gets him a date. He sounds too good to be true, and he was. Though Johnny was nice to Harry, actually his only friend, he also ended up using Harry to make himself seem better. He needed to show that he was able to have what Harry never could.

After Harry is rejected by the girl Johnny set him up with, Johnny suggests that they form a band. They got guitars, found a drummer and a bass player, and the Scar Boys was born. They practice, get better and better, and grow a following at their high school. They play parties, and even manage to get a gig at CBGB. Unfortunately, their bass player quits right before that huge gig. They are upset about missing the opportunity, but even more upset to have to audition a replacement.

They decide upon a cute girl named Cheyenne. To maintain the stability of the band, the boys vow that they won't hook up with her. One guess for who ends up breaking that vow.

Meanwhile, Harry comes up with the idea that the Scar Boys should go on a cross-country tour. Most of the members will be graduating. Johnny already has a scholarship and a place at college waiting next fall. The summer will most likely be the final chapter for the Scar Boys. The band is met with indifference at first, but they win over even the smallest audience. They had sent out singles to college radio stations, so their shows attract more and more people. They were on top of the world, and there was nowhere left to go but down (This feels very VH1 Behind the Music).

The Scar Boys was difficult to read sometimes, but it was really funny. It reminded me a lot of King Dork by Frank Portman. Every chapter features a song, and the song title relates to what happens. I made a playlist from the chapters, though I'm not sure if the songs relate past the title. This was one of those stories that made me want to start a band, though I am not especially musical. There is this really unexpected event towards the end, and it leads to a sweet ending. I'm always a sucker for a happy ending.

I received my copy of The Scar Boys from Edelweiss, courtesy of Egmont USA. It's available for purchase now.