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Books in brief


Reading the Wind by Brenda Cooper (Tor; $25.95)

The sequel to "The Silver Ship and the Sea," "Reading the Wind" is one of the better young-adult books with adult appeal to sail this way in a while. The young adults (teenagers, actually) Chelo and her brother, Joseph, are castaways on Fremont, a colony planet that resents genetically altered humans such as Chelo and Joseph. When Joseph escapes to their homeworld, Cooper sets up a tense race for time when mercenaries are sent to wipe out Fremont's not-on-our-planet population. Chelo is still there.



The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman, Razorbill, $16.99, 280 pages) Ages 12 and up.

In her first work of science fiction, acclaimed novelist Allegra Goodman offers a thrilling futuristic fantasy set after global warming has melted the polar ice caps and the remaining humans live on mountain peak "islands" in a global sea. Goodman tells her story from the perspective of 10-year-old Honor Greenspoon, who has just arrived on Tropical Island 365 with her free-spirited parents, who break the rules by having a second child and ignoring curfews. It's an enclosed world run by a corporation, where the color of the sky is regulated, where medicated citizens have no memory, and where conformity and obedience are valued, and independent thought is punished. (Censors go through books snipping references to bad weather; the cyclone is removed from "The Wizard of Oz.") Goodman brilliantly conceives this perfect world, slowly revealing the shocking underpinnings of this new order. It's a sobering look at the rights of the individual weighed against social order in a time of scarcity and fear. It's also fascinating as a coming-of-age novel: Honor at first rejects her parents as she tries to fit in, then finds herself on her own and forced to think for herself. The explosive finale and Honor's role come as a shock after the deliberate pace of the rest of the novel but the Young Adult target audience will find it gripping. Goodman was a National Book Award nominee for "Intuition."

-- Jean Westmoore



Not Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson; Avon Books (2008), $7.99 (paperback)

For every woman who has had her heart broken by her first love, this one is for you.

For all the times you dreamed of the guy bumping into you years later, being dazzled by your beauty, charm and success and regretting more than anything in his life that he let you go.

"Not Another Bad Date" is for you.

Adele is the last in her small group of writer friends to find her soul mate. (And we've read about all the others in previous books.)

Or perhaps she did find her soul mate while she was in college, and lost him.

Zach was a college football star, and Adele was on the outer fringes of popularity. Still, after he broke up with his head-cheerleader girlfriend (a snob who had made Adele's life miserable in high school) he was drawn to Adele and they embarked on a brief, yet passionate, affair.

Until the ex-girlfriend told Zach she was pregnant.

So being a good Southern gentleman, Zach married his ex. And broke Adele's heart.



Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls (Scholastic, $16.99, pages) Ages 8 to 12.

Eleven-year-old Sam has a long list of things he wants to do before he dies of leukemia (kiss a girl, go up the down escalator, see Earth from space) in this heartwarming, often humorous and inspiring novel which celebrates the preciousness of life and the love of family and friends as it tackles the difficult subject of a child coming to terms with death. Written as journal entries with lists, pictures and questions, the book creates a memorable character in Sam as he deals with pain, fear, anger and honestly asks: Why? The chapter in which Sam fulfills his wish to see Earth from space has a lyric beauty. This won the Waterstone Children's Book Prize and accomplishes for middle-grade readers what Jenny Downham did for teens (and adults) in "Before I Die."

-- Jean Westmoore

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