Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Ultimate Ending series, by Danny McAleese

One of my most popular posts on this blog was about the classic “Choose Your Own Adventure” series, which have been a favorite choice for millions of boys over the past thirty years.  I think it’s clear that today’s generation has another new favorite on its hands with the “Ultimate Ending” series of books by up-and-coming author Danny McAleese.

The first book in the series, “Treasures of the Forgotten City”, will have you searching for the ruins of the lost city of Atraharsis, using only your wits and a cryptic journal left behind by your grand-uncle.  Danger awaits at every turn, and it’s up to you to find the fabled star gems by uncovering the clues within each riddle.  The second book in the series, “The House on Hollow Hill”, is set in an allegedly haunted house scheduled for demolition.  Will you and your friends survive the former occupants’ ghastly tricks, or will the house’s secrets remain lost forever?

Both of these books are very fast-paced, and boys young and old will appreciate the adventurous settings.  As I write this post there are already six books in the “Ultimate Ending” series, and I’m sure Mr. McAleese is hard at work on a number of sequels.  I actually read “Treasures of the Forgotten City” as an e-book, and one neat feature was the fact that I could quickly tab backwards if I made a mistake.  (I’m not giving away any spoilers but yes, there are a number of fatal traps and other ends in these books!)

If you’re looking to turn a reluctant reader on to the next big thing, then I’d definitely recommend the “Ultimate Ending” series.  With their short, action-packed chapters, one of these books will be like a condensed Dan Brown novel for kids!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Challenger Deep, by Neal Schusterman

Caden Bosch is a young man suffering from mental illness.  In one world, he’s a brilliant high school student and a natural athlete who’s starting to display some unusual behavior.  In his mind, he’s actually an artist-in-residence on an exploration ship heading towards the deepest point on Earth.  As Caden quickly descends into his illusions, his mind becomes split between worlds, unable to tell which is real.

As I read this book I noticed that a lot of the “Challenger Deep” narratives didn’t seem to make sense to me, which was probably the author’s intention.  For people suffering from mental illness, their hallucinations or visions would probably only seem reasonable to themselves.  Even though it was a struggle to follow everything that went on in this alternate reality, I greatly appreciated having the chance to peek inside Caden’s mind.  By the end of the book I was actually rooting for him, hoping he could overcome the struggle of his split worlds.

One of my favorite parts, though, was the way that Mr. Shusterman seemed to humanize those with mental illness.  By having Caden stay in a home with others in the same condition, he changed from a mentally ill kid to just one of many mentally ill kids.  I think it’s important to remember that even though we might not personally know someone in this condition, there’s a small but significant slice of the population who battle with mental illness.  This book is sensitive yet powerful, and it will cause you to take another look at the world around you.