Books Inc. Kids Blog

Panic by Lauren Oliver

I know it’s only March, but I can already tell that Panic is going to be one of the best books I’ll read all year. Upon starting it, I didn’t stop, not once, and I read through all the way to the end in just one day. I’ve been a long time fan of Lauren Oliver and when I found out about Panic I had to keep myself from screaming inappropriately in the faces of everyone around me. Panic is intense, mysterious, and psychologically thrilling. On more than one occasion I found my hands pressed up against my face and my jaw dropped in shock. This is a book that will keep you guessing and sweating until the very last page. Panic may be her newest, but it’s also Oliver’s best book so far. 

The game of Panic is simple: compete in every challenge, do the best, and win the prize. The prize is always money and this year it’s over $60,000. It seems easy enough, but not every one has the courage to play. The challenges are difficult, sometimes even deadly. How far would you go to win? You’ll never believe what these kids will do for money.

Recently dumped Heather is insecure and emotionally damaged due to her troubled home life and Dodge is the unpopular kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Told in duel points of view between these two teens, Panic tells the story of not just the kids competing, but the small town as a whole. Oliver’s writing style makes it easy to discern Heather’s voice from Dodge’s and the authenticity of their emotions and motives creates a realistic experience for the reader. I found myself immersed in this small town, rooting for Heather and Dodge, but unsure about who I truly wanted to win the game.

Panic is a book that you’ll remember long after you’ve finished. It’s brilliant, terrifying, and heartbreaking. Not since The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin have I read a book so psychologically mind-bending, and I truly think Lauren Oliver has found her new calling. This is a book you don’t want to miss! -- Anna at Books Inc. Palo Alto 

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielson

Four orphan boys are chosen by nobleman Bevin Conner to compete for the chance to impersonate Prince Jaron, missing and presumed dead for four years. It quickly becomes clear that whichever boy is chosen, the other three will not survive to give away the secret of the false prince. Sage, an unusually clever orphan boy with quite a talent for thievery, takes issue with this plan and decides that he will not allow Conner to get away with murdering three boys. He soon learns that Conner is responsible for far worse deeds than his plot to install the false prince on the throne of Carthya. Luckily, Sage has plenty of secrets of his own, and it will take all his ingenuity and the help of his competitors to thwart Conner's plan and expose his treachery.--Reviewed by Adrien, Compass Books

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

Harbinger "Harry" Robert Francis Jones was tied up to a tree, which was then hit by lightning. And he bears the scars of that horrific event into his teen years, which forces him into solitude. But when he gets older, he meets Johnny, his becomes best friend. Soon, they start a punk rock band called The Scar Boys and craziness ensues. This book revolves around their dysfunctional, and at times toxic, relationship. Johnny is a persuasive, self-important, narcissistic jerk but Harry literally doesn't have any better options. He just goes along with whatever Johnny wants, even after Johnny pursues a relationship with the girl Harry falls in love with. Full of great rock music and complicated characters, this book is a quick read for anyone who loves music and it's power.

--Reviewed by Ren, Compass Books in SFO

Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden

I was drawn to this book the day it arrived because I am a huge fan of Renata Liwska’s (Quiet Book, Loud book) illustrations. The text of this book weaves in nicely with the familiar characters and charming details of the illustrations. This is definitely a picture book that I recommend to adults as well as their children. It’s also one that works well with older kids despite the simplicity of the words themselves, the concepts mentioned in the text, of memory and transformation, can lead to wonderful conversations. As with all of Liwska’s illustrations, you will notice new and poignant details every time you read the book. A great book to linger over.

--Reviewed by Chantal, Books Inc. Mountain View

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