Savvy by Ingrid Law

Posted by amanda on Jun 16th, 2008
Jun 16

The Beaumont family has always been different. At 13 each Beaumont child develops a “savvy” or unique magical talent. The mother of the clan has a knack for doing things perfectly the first time from pie crust to playing the piano. Grandma can catch radio waves from the air and trap them. The two older brothers of the family have more violent savvies – one calls up storms when he is upset and the other channels electrical current. These more violent savvies have led the family to settle in rural Kansas where electrical oddities and storms are less likely to be noticed. Mibs (aka Mississippi Beaumont) is just shy of her 13th birthday when she will receive her savvy. On the eve of her birthday, her father is in a car accident and left in a coma. Her mother leaves Mibs and goes to the hospital. Mibs feels certain her new savvy will be the key to waking her father. She and her brothers stow-away on a bible salesman’s bus that they believe is headed to Salina where her father is in the hospital.

This book was filled with characters you had to root for -Lester the salesman who needs the confidence to ignore his over-bearing ex-wife’s putdowns, Rocket the older brother unable to control his electrical outbursts, Bill Jr. the preacher’s son with a big secret and an even bigger crush on Mibs, Samson the younger brother with a knack for disappearing. There was a lot of warmth in this book and I really can’t imagine liking it more – unless perhaps I’d read it when I was young. I’d highly recommend it for people who like warm fantasy like Kate DiCamillo’s books or Polly Horvath’s. This was the story of a family crisis told with magical charm and unforgettable characters. 2008, 342p.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Posted by amanda on Jun 8th, 2008
Jun 8

Markus is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He and his friends are hunting down a clue for their ARG (Alternative Reality Game – part real world scavenger hunt/part online roleplay), when terrorists blow up the Bay Bridge in San Fran. Markus who is tech savvy and into using his tech to get around school security is a suspect because of his encrypted cell phone and location during the attack. He and his friends are taken to a Dept. of Homeland Security(DHS) detention center where his unwillingness to cooperate (read knowledge of his legal rights coupled with some surly teenage angst) make him subject to torture and interrogation. Once released, Markus begins looking for secure ways to communicate via the Internet and becomes the leader of a movement to confuse the DHS who are cracking down and have everyone under surveillance.
2008, 382p.

This reminded me a bit of The Gospel According to Larry. Both being stories of a strongly principled teen guy who finds himself leading an Internet movement. Now, Little Brother was less funny than Larry and much more frightening. But both shared in the idea that online young people can be collective forces for change. Doctorow’s knowledge about computer security issues, the Internet’s history, and the hacker community all shine through to make this sci-fi feel very grounded and realistic. This would be grand on the high school reading list of an adventurous teacher – and a great read for the rest of us. I enjoyed the line from the teen hero that was something like – “If you don’t believe me, you can wikipedia it!”