Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Healing by Jonathan O'Dell

Women's empowerment is a theme that I love in literature, and The Healing is a beautiful mix of strong women characters, historical themes, and lyrical writing style that I'll cherish and remember.

The book is about a slave girl named Grenada, although that is not her given name. That name remains a mystery to her because she is taken from her mother and claimed by the plantation mistress after the master and mistress lose their own daughter to disease. Grenada is then brought up as a "house" slave, enjoying her status and wearing the dead girl's fancy clothes for the mistress. But when the entire plantation's slave population begins dying of the "black tongue," the master seeks help in the form of a "healer" slave named Polly Shine. When Polly sees Grenada for the first time, she knows the girl has the gift of healing also, and tells the master that Grenada must train with her. Grenada hates leaving her comfortable life in the house, but as the days go on, and Polly heals the sick, Grenada starts to believe in her own power and the power of the love that Polly gives her.

Told from Grenada's point of view both as a girl and as an old woman, the reader is drawn into this story of love, loss, and the spiritual power of healing, through birth, life, and death. While the message in the book of taking the power over our lives instead of waiting for it to be given to us is told through the historical context of slavery, it is a message that is relevant in many of our lives today. The idea that power can be obtained simply by doing for others is also a wonderful thing to hold with us as we move ahead in our own lives. So, give The Healing a try this summer. You'll be glad you did.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

So, to keep on my young adult kick, I thought I'd try this one on the recommendation of one of my wonderful teen volunteers at the library. I was very glad I listened to her, because The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is a treat you won't want to miss.

Mara finds herself in the hospital with no clue how she got there. When she learns that she is the only survivor of a terrible accident and that three of her friends were killed, a load of grief and a pile of questions fill her mind. As she struggles to recover from the trauma to her body and mind, she starts seeing her dead friends as though they were real. Her mother worries so much about her recovery, that her parents decide it would be best to move and have a new start, with a new school, and new friends. Mara doesn't fight this, but she does fight the idea that she's just gone crazy. She knows something else is up.

When she begins to have visions of gruesome scenes that eventually happen, she enlists the help of an unlikely boy named Noah. Noah is the handsome, popular, ladies' man at Mara's new school, but he is mysteriously drawn to Mara and truly seems to want to help her with her unusual problem. The uncertainty of her feelings, her special brand of "crazy", and her guilt about the accident drive her to solve the mysteries surrounding her friends' deaths.

This gripping tale of teen love, tragedy, and again, something just a bit supernatural kept me entranced from start to finish. I can't wait of the next Mara Dyer installment coming soon!

Fracture by Megan Miranda

The world of Young Adult fiction is so thrilling right now, and Megan Miranda's Fracture is a wonderful addition. With a fresh, psychological premise, real, relatable teen characters and just enough of the "supernatural" to keep the fantasy crowd reading, this debut novel is one I would recommend as a great summer read for anyone.

In Fracture, Delaney Maxwell must recover from a drowning accident in which she is submerged for 11 minutes. In those minutes until her best friend Decker pulls her out of the water, her heart stops beating and her life changes forever. Because when she wakes up, she eventually realizes that she is being drawn to people who are dying; she can tell that death is near. Her dilemma then becomes whether this is a good thing or a bad one. Is it a gift because she could possibly save someone from tragedy, or is it a curse because interference in the natural order of things can create more havoc in life? Delany thinks she finds an ally in a boy named Troy Varga, who has had the same ability to sense death. But who will deal with this gift/curse in the better way? Who will be saved or put in jeopardy?

You'll have to read this page-turner yourself to find out. And what about poor Decker? Hmmm. Another mystery to solve.

The Expats by Chris Pavone

Okay, women out there: you think you're trying to have it all with a job, kids, and a husband. Try adding being an international spy on top of that. That's just what Kate Moore in The Expats did for many years, until she decided she wanted out. The questions of "Can we have it all?" and "Who can I really trust" are taken to new and exciting heights in this thrilling debut novel by Chris Pavone.

Kate is just trying to settle into her new "non-spy" life after leaving the CIA, trying to take care of her children, do the laundry, and arrange play dates, when suddenly her loving husband comes home and wants them to move to Luxembourg where there is an exciting and lucrative job prospect for him in his computer security business. Kate, while somewhat suspicious, can't seem to find a reason to say no. So now she has suddenly become one of the "expat" moms who spends their time learning a new language, muddling through grocery shopping, and making new friends. It is one such couple of "friends" that put out warning signs to Kate's "spy radar" and test her loyalty to everything she holds dear.

The Expats is a wonderful breath of fresh air in the spy/thriller genre. The characters are very real, the plot nice and twisty, and the setting foreign and exciting. Don't miss this new debut. I hope we hear a lot more from Pavone in the future.