Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

11516221The Scorpion Rules
by Erin Bow
Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: September 22, 2015
E-ARC made available via NetGalley

The Sum: A future unlike any I’ve seen in a long while. 400 hundred years in the future war is contained, and peace preserved, by the holding of hostages. Young hostages. Children of royal families, or ruling dynasties, must submit a child to be held until the age of 18. If at anytime during that tenure a nation goes to war, that hostage, that child, is put to death. It is meant to be a deterrent, and sometimes it is, but there are times when it is not. Her Royal Highness Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy has been a Child of Peace since she was five years old, always living with the knowledge that her world could end any time, if her country, her family, goes to war. These Children of Peace are held by a tyrannical artificial intelligence known as Talis, and it is he that keeps the world’s wars to a minimum; that was the mission given to him 400 years previously when humankind was on the brink of complete annihilation from nuclear war and environmental degradation.  Greta and her agemates have spent years together, building bonds that are all threatened when a new Child of Peace arrives in the form of Elian, a teenager not schooled in the ways of Children of Peace, reluctant participant and general rabble rouser, upsetting the status quo and forcing others to think about their own membership in this dubious club.

The Ins: The characters run deep here, there is much to explore in terms of motivation, intent and relationships. It is a complex and rich world that Bow has created, allowing the details to come naturally through the storytelling, giving just enough to tantalize and maintain interest, without dumping too much information. It was one of those books that I had so many questions as I read, that eventually got answered or explained. It’s a different kind of dystopia that I’ll be sharing with my older readers for sure.

The Outs: Not much, actually. I’m still in the phase of loving it so much, that I have a hard time pinpointing things that may not have worked, or that left me wondering. Even a few weeks after finishing, I’m still thinking about it, and talking about it to my reader friends.

The Overall: Great read. Thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining. Though my library only goes up to 8th grade, and this is probably for the YA audience I’ll still be getting it despite some of the language and sexual references, which are oblique enough to not offend.

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Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

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Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: August 2015

E-galley provided by the publisher via NetGalley

The Sum: 5th grader Tamaya is struggling to navigate the confusing world of middle school politics. 7th grader Marshall is her reluctant chaperone on the walks to and from school everyday, and he is dealing with his own school-related problems. Looking to avoid a promised beating from a classmate, Marshall leads Tamaya on a different route home, through the woods adjacent to the school and completely forbidden. The confrontation happens anyway and in defending herself Tamaya tosses some mud on their attacker. Unbeknownst to any of them, its no ordinary mud. Deemed “fuzzy mud” by Tamaya the stuff ends up having a rather toxic and frightening affect on anyone it touches, spreads rapidly and poses a severe danger that goes far beyond the confines of the woods.

That’s one side of this tale. Alternating chapters reveal the origins of the fuzzy mud through Congressional hearings, emails, confidential documents, etc… The fuzzy mud is a giant science project gone horribly wrong. In an attempt to create a renewable man-made energy source in the form of microorganisms, scientists fail to account for mutations that thrive outside their intended environment and wreak havoc.

The Ins: This is Louis Sachar we’re talking about here. The writing is fairly crisp, the story is short, with humor laced throughout, though I wouldn’t identify this as a funny story. The storyline is intriguing, and certainly timely, as the world searches for more and more energy sources, and struggles to preserve the environment. The message here is pretty clear: Don’t mess with Mother Nature. There’s enough suspense and gross-out descriptions to keep many readers engaged.

The Outs: It is less than 200 pages, while often this is a plus in my book, its hard to fit so much content without sacrificing something, and I’d say here the character development is what’s lacking. Tamaya and Marshall’s lives and situations are told, not shown, and thus, in the end, it all felt a bit flat.

The All-Around: Flawed, but not fatally. I can think of a chunk of readers in my library that might respond to the story, the tone, and the quick pacing. I’ll buy it and share it, mostly with 4th and 5th graders, and a few older students who struggle to finish books.