A couple of books have come by my desk recently that really caught my eye because of their unique format. The two books below caught my attention because there are stories told entirely through emails, chat log, video transcripts, diary entries, and much more. While I will always love reading “traditional” format books, stories told in a unique way spark my interest and I think it will do the same for middle and high school students looking for a new read. Both of the books below held my interest the entire way through, not only to find out what would happen to the characters in each book, but I wanted to continue to find out the next type of format the author would use to continue telling the story.
The Kerenza colony was a hidden colony at the edge of the universe, but has just been attacked by a rival corporation. Kady Grant and Ezra Mason thought the hardest thing to deal with that day was their broken relationship, however when their planet is attacked they rescued by the United Terran Authority, along with a few thousand survivors. In the resulting spaceship battle the artificial intelligence aboard the Alexander (the largest ship of three that rescued the survivors), AIDAN, has been damaged and is making questionable decisions in regard to the human life aboard the ships as a deadly virus is slowly infecting the ship’s populations. Ezra is recruited into the military to replace the dead crew on the Alexander and Kady Grant is questioning the announcements given by the ship’s command and begins to hack into their databases to find the real truth of their dire situation.
This book is told through interviews, emails, chat logs, and maps, and when I began it I was skeptical about how much this story format could really tell the entire story of a colony and two teenagers in love. Boy, was I wrong, this is one of my top reads this year and I couldn’t recommend it more. Readers will truly come to care about Kady, Ezra, and perhaps a certain AI. The format does add to the tension of the situation, not only to find out what will happen to the characters but to find out how the story will continue to be told. The page count can look a little daunting before flipping through the pages, but I think this book would appeal to reluctant readers and those students looking for high interest titles because it is a very quick read. There aren’t typical chapters, so readers can just decide to read a couple of the chat logs before they finish for the day. I have included a few pages below that gives a glimpse at how this story is told.
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. 9780553499117. October 20th, 2015. Gr 7-12.
In 2005 there was a fire at Elmbridge High that killed five teenagers and left one (or is it two?) missing. Recently a diary has been found in the attic of Elmbridge High and the investigation has been reopened into what happened to the students killed. The missing student has been listed as, Carly Johnson, but the diary discovered is written by Kaitlyn Johnson, who says she is the sister of Carly. Carly had spent time at Claydon Mental Hospital after a terrible accident which killed her parents, in which she “developed” Dissociate Identity Disorder and her alter, Kaitlyn appeared. However, those who have known Carly before the accident know that Kaitlyn has always been around; Carly during the day and Kaitlyn at night. So, what really happened to Carly and how is Kaitlyn connected to the fire at Elmbridge? Readers will just have to read the diary to find out.
The Dead House is another book that is told through emails, video footage, interviews, psychiatric examinations, and the diary found in the attic. Kurtagich does an excellent job of depicting the anxiety Kaitlyn feels being told that she is just a symptom of some disorder that Carly has and once something drastic happens the creepiness of trying to explore the “Dead House”. This is another book that would appeal to those students looking for high interest titles because they can stop reading at the end of any email or interview. This book will appeal to a different reader than Illuminae because of the horror and thriller aspect. There is violence within the book, as well, that readers should be aware of.
The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich. 9780316298681. September 15th, 2015. Gr 9-12.