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The End Games by T. Michael Martin

The End Games

The End Games by T. Michael Martin

I love epigraphs. You know those one-ish sentence quotes at the beginning of a book? Not all books have them, but the ones that do have a special place in my heart. The End Games by T. Michael Martin is one of those books—it has TWO epigraphs! Epigraph 1) I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment, it takes place every day. –Albert Camus. Pretty good right? Even better though: Epigraph 2) Everything not saved will be lost. –Nintendo “Quit Screen” message. This mix of philosopher wisdom and video game pop culture pretty perfectly sums up the zombie infested post-apocalyptic world of The End Games. Yes, my friends, another, but worthwhile, zombie story.

The book tosses you immediately into the action as the main character Michael wakes up around a campfire and his 5 year old brother Patrick is not sleeping beside him and is nowhere to be seen. These brothers are on no camping trip, though, they’ve been on the road for weeks since the arrival of the Bellows and the END OF THE WORLD. “Bellows” is the first clue you are getting into a pretty good zombie story. The author sticks with the unspoken rule not to call zombies “zombies”, using the name Bellows instead, for the terrifying way they echo everything they hear, creating an audio landscape of screams, pleas, and last words. When Michael calls out his brother’s name, that’s what the Bellows begin to echo: “PAAAAAAATTTTRIIIIICKKK!”—in chill-inducing vividness.

Non-spoiler alert: In the first few pages, Michael grabs Patrick and they high tail it out of there, but that close call leads to an unceasing storm of others, as they try and make their way to the safe place described by the Game Master. This is where epigraph #2 (the Nintendo quit screen quote) comes in. Michael keeps talking about a Game Master. Apparently the boys are stuck in some kind of game? Is the whole thing a computer game? Is this virtual reality? Are they in some sort of new and perverse Hunger Games? All zombie narratives have an element of unreality, but not being able to determine whether the Bellows are all a game and will disappear soon (which is every characters wish in a zombie narrative) adds an added element of surreal-ness. Are the boys going to be able to escape from it all? Will it be over soon? CAN it be over soon? Even better than that though, the use of gaming as a motif really highlights the undercurrent of how we live our own lives. Would we approach our lives more strategically if we treated it more like a game? Or are our lives stuck in technology, like they are stuck in “The Game”?

This is where epigraph #1 comes in—“Do not wait for the last judgment, it takes place every day.” Wait, I have to fight off Bellow/zombies every DAY?! Well, no, but seriously, how do you live your life? This is the real question of a zombie story—how do you keep (or live) your humanity? By putting humans in the most extreme circumstances you see who they truly are, and The End Games is no different in posing questions about what is good in a world gone bad.

 

Harper Collins calls The End Games “John Green meets Stephen King”. I don’t know if I’d take it as far as John Green, but that is the style of writing thrown into a desperate world, and John Green himself calls it “A stunningly intelligent, thrilling story about family and love that just happens to include some zombies.” I can agree with that. In the end, I really found The End Games to be a unique end-of-world read. A handful of times I had no idea where the story was going, which was slightly alienating and aimless, but I also love it when I can’t predict what will happen next in a book, and this one definitely fits that bill. If you like not knowing how a story will end, and are looking for a new spin in a genre that seems to be all the same, give The End Games a try. And be sure to ask yourself: what kind of epigraph would YOU give yourself at “the last judgment”?

Reviewed by GiGi, CLP-Brookline

 

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

 

 

rampant

Rampart by Diana Peterfreund

A book about kick-butt girls devoting their lives to hunt giant killer unicorns definitely seems like a great read. But did Rampant by Diana Peterfreund really meet all the standards?

I’ll admit it, I took a gamble reading this book. The reviews were a mixed bag of devoted fans demanding a third book and people complaining that they had wasted their time. What did get me hooked was the promise of a main character who was a strong, independent heroine. Unfortunately, this was not that kind of book. Drop the idea of strong female leads living lives full of danger and replace it with a story about a whiny girl dating a “dreamy” boy she knows nothing about.

Meet Astrid, a girl with some serious romance issues and deep emotional turmoil. Most of the book was just Astrid running around complaining about her ancestor, Alexander the Great, (don’t worry, we’ll get to him) and secretly dating a “bad boy”. Giovanni, the boyfriend, had barely any development or interesting qualities. He just was there to occasionally offer advice or take Astrid out to dinner. Giovanni (and most of the other characters) were more plot devices than anything else. At least 80% of these characters were flat, cliché, and boring.

My biggest problem with this book was the history the author invented. Alexander the Great (long story short) had the goddess Diana show up at his birth. In order to avenge the deaths of her followers who were killed by unicorns, she blessed him with the ability to find and kill the giant killer unicorns. Great gift, right? Every one of his female ancestors would possess the gift as long as she reminded a virgin. Of course, Astrid and all of her friends at unicorn hunting school are somehow descended from this man, who had no heirs. Let’s not forget that Diana is also a Roman goddess in Alexander’s homeland of Macedonia, and ancient Greek kingdom. Whoops. Research, it matter.

Other than the weird historical side plots, the book was generally bland and boring plot. The writer did an OK job piecing this mess together, but I found the pacing made some parts hard to read over. Most of the book was just Astrid sitting with her cousin Philippa complaining about unicorn hunting while she could be spending her days exploring Rome. Did I mention unicorn school is located next to the Coliseum? And that’s she’s basically allowed to do whatever she wants when she’s not training?

Overall, I would not recommend this book. If you are looking for a teen romance novel with the slightest dash of fantasy, be my guest and try it. But if you are like me, and expecting a book about girls that are more interested in adventure than finding their man, I don’t recommend it.

 

Happy reading,

Laurel, CLP-Sheraden teen

 

 

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Every year, teens, librarians and other experts select the best books and other media in various categories. This section will help you locate the best of the best.

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Looking for more great books? Try one of these resources.

  • Novelist
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  • YALSA Selected Booklists
    These booklists, selected annually, recognize great works for teens in a variety of categories, including paperbacks; graphic novels; and best books.

Do you express yourself through writing? These resources will help you improve your writing, get published or even win prizes for your work.

Ralph Munn Creative Writing Workshop and Contest
Don't forget the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's own annual writing contest. Get your entry ready for next April & May!
 
  • AdLit Writing Contests
    Although this is written as if it were for your parents or teachers, don't let that stop you from entering these contests.
  • Alliance for Young Artists & Writers Scholastic Art and Writing Awards
    You can't get any more prestigious than this. Writers like Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath and Joyce Carol Oates had their beginnings in this contest. Acclaim, scholarships and more for students in grades 7 to 12.
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    Publishes poetry, fiction and non-fiction by teens from all over the world.
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    Check out high school newspapers from around the nation and see if yours is among them.
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    Share your writing in this online gallery by the National Council of Teachers of English.
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    Writing tips plus a chance to publish poetry, fiction, literary essays and drama for anyone under 19.
  • Push Novel Writing Contest
    If you're in 7th to 12th grade and have written a novel or are in the process, submit it to PUSH, edited by none other than David Levithan. The novel you submit could be published in PUSH!
  • TeenInk
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    From the Internet Public Library: booklists, zines and other sources to read or to consider for submitting work.
  • TeenVoices
    Like the print magazine version, this site is written by, for and about teen girls and young adult women. Includes articles, creative writing and an activist of the month.
  • Western Pennsylvania Writing Project Summer Young Writers Institute
    The Young Writers Institute is open to students entering grades 4 through 12. Students can develop the craft of writing in a variety of genres while being mentored by University of Pittsburgh writing instructors. Events also include visiting writers, field trips, and publication of polished pieces.

Online or in print, magazines are a great way to learn about new things or entertain yourself.

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