Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott

Tella and her family have moved to the middle of nowhere because of her sick brother.  Tella is bored, and sometimes resentful, but then she remembers why they are there and she manages to keep it in perspective.  One day, a blue box arrives with very obscure instructions.  She sees her father try to destroy it but it appears indestructible. There is a secret in that box . . .

Tella has been invited to participate in a race known as The Brimstone Bleed.  One winner will win a cure to any disease.  So of course Tella signs up, she loves her brother and who could resist an opportunity to save someone you love?  The race takes place over 4 terrains, with the first two being covered in Fire and Flood.  Their is thrilling action, character growth, a little bit of romance, deception and backstabbing, peril and death, and so much more.  It’s a little bit of Hunger Games with some His Dark Materials thrown in as each contestant is paired with a genetic enhanced Pandora that has special powers that may help them during the course of the race.

Tella is an interesting main character.  She is girly (she sometimes really laments the inability to get a nice manicure in the midst of the race) and yet strong and formidable when she needs to be, well mostly.  In fact, Tella is a very realistic depiction of an ordinary girl plucked from her every day life and thrown into a life or death race:  sometimes she whines, sometimes she is overwhelmed, but ultimately she keeps pressing on and rises to the occasion because what choice does she have. This, for me, was one of the best parts of the entire thing: Tella.  In her complexity and contradictions she is real, relatable, and you can’t help but root for her.

F&F is also really cool because although there is a guy – whose name is conveniently Guy – and they do have an attraction to one another, even Tella periodically questions whether or not the attraction is because of the dire circumstances they find themselves in or if they would still be attracted in their real life.  And this is not the driving force of the narrative, but an additional element.  In fact, Tella forms an alliance with several members of the race who are pretty fully fleshed out and they all have meaningful interactions and back story.  Plus, there are the Pandoras, which are pretty cool.

One of the elements that initially bothered me about F&F was the fact that Guy seemed too good at the race, which was very convenient and sometimes took me out of the story, but eventually there is a good discussion about that which reveals important things and everything is golden.

The bad guys are epically bad, there is an interesting reveal about the race itself, and the action is intense and engaging.  There are some uniquely new approaches to some familiar themes in current ya, the main character is uniquely realistic and relatable, and the action is nonstop – readers will be very engaged and satisfied, chomping at the bit for the next book. Highly recommended, I seriously enjoyed this book.

Coming February 25th from Scholastic.  ISBN: 9780545537469
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

10 Titles to Look for in 2014 – Karen’s Most Coveted

Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott

Victoria Scott is awesomesauce.  The real deal.  She totally floored me with her turn around in The Collector, which I thought I was going to hate because at first it seems shallow and superficial and bad female messaging, but then she pulled a 180 with her sexy, snarky demon and proved that she had mad skillz.  Fire and Flood is an epic race for a cure to save a beloved brother: “A modern day thrill ride, where a teen girl and her animal companion must participate in a breathtaking race to save her brother’s life—and her own.”


Plus One by Elizabeth Fama

I feel like all I really need to say is PLAGUE and those of you who know me will understand why this is on my list.  I don’t know what is wrong with me, I really don’t but I love a good epidemic book.  Also, this is set during the 1918 flu pandemic so it allows me a chance to read about an epidemic AND try to fulfill my personal quest to read more historical fiction. Boom. Okay, technically it is alternate history with a dystopian sounding twist, but I’m going to go with it.  It should make an interesting companion study to read A Death Struck Year, also about the flu epidemic of 1918, and compare.


Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Delaria

Laurel writes letters to the dead, like Kurt Cobain and Janis Joplin, as she explores what happened to her and her sister May in a journal of speaking the truth and trying to heal.  Intriguing cover and title. Check.  Epistolary novel. Check. Looks like something teens will be drawn to. Check.  It goes on my TBR pile.


The Murder Complex by Lindsey Cummings

I feel like all I need to share is this brief description: “An action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.”  I’m not a huge fan of this cover which seems a little “muddy” to me, but the concept is killer (see what I just did there) and I have been waiting for this one for a while.


Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Technically, I have already read this book.  BUT IT WAS SO GOOD. So very, very good. It was such a rich emotional portrait of a fish out of water.  Travis Coates was dying, so he had his head removed and preserved until now, where it has been attached to a new body.  It’s been 5 years since he was frozen, waiting for science to catch up, and the world went on without him.  Which is kind of a problem because to him, it’s like he just went to bed for the night and woke up the next day.  So he’s still a teenager while his girlfriend (wait, is she still his girlfriend?) and his best friend are now adults.  Such a great tone and writing style, an interesting way to explore traditional ya lit themes like finding yourself, and just really amazing.  Highly recommended.

Panic by Lauren Oliver

Um, so, yeah – I already read this one too.  It was actually probably one of my favorite books I read in 2013.  In small towns, you get creative trying to figure out how to pass the time.  So years ago the game of Panic was started.  Only seniors can compete for the cash prize, and they do so by participating in a variety of daring challenges.  This is a compulsively readable thrill ride, but it also poignantly depicts the stark desperation that teens feel to escape both small town life and poverty.  There is intrigue, backstabbing and some nail biting involved here.

Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson

Look, I was so struck by this cover that I thought, “I really am interested in this.”  And then, there it was on Edelweiss, so I downloaded it.  And then I started reading it, even though it doesn’t come out until August of 2014.  And then I couldn’t stop.  So, that is the story of how I read this book super early instead of doing things I was supposed to do.  Here’s a basic rundown: a hurricane roars through Georgia, one best friend, Dovey, survives and one dies.  A year later, everything changes when Dovey thinks she sees Carly.  Then it is like she falls down the rabbit hole as she learns the truth about what happened to Carly, what teems beneath the surface of her town, and the next big storm coming.  This is a unique, twisted look at demons.  It is obviously at times disturbing, but very interesting. 

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Here’s what I know about this book: A girl is diagnosed with cancer so she makes a list of everyone she wants to get revenge on.  Then, when she checks the last person off of her bucket list of vengeance, she goes into remission.  Oops.  Now she has to deal with the blowback.  This just sounds so compelling.  Plus, I have met Julie Murphy and she has awesome style and voice and I think it will translate well to the page and resonate with teen readers.  Also, Printz Winner John Corey Whaley says this book is good and who can argue with him.

White Space by Ilsa J. Bick

Because this: “Ilsa Bick’s WHITE SPACE, pitched as The Matrix meets Inkheart, about a seventeen-year-old girl who jumps between the lines of books and into the white space where realities are created and destroyed – but who may herself be nothing more than a character written into being from an alternative universe, to Greg Ferguson at Egmont, in a two-book deal, by Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency”  Bolding mine.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Dorthy. Must. Die.  Great title. Great cover.  And here’s a small snippet from the blurb:  
“My name is Amy Gumm—and I’m the other girl from Kansas.
I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I’ve been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman’s heart.
Steal the Scarecrow’s brain.
Take the Lion’s courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!”

Yep, sign me up.