Mobile Library

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of surprises. That’s not the case when I read. I kind of love it when an author takes what I think I know about a story, flips it around, and gives me something unexpected. That’s just what happened in Mobile Library by David Whitehouse. (The title should tell you why I wanted to read this book. Thank you, NetGalley, for the opportunity!) This book won’t be released to the masses until January, but I recommend putting it on your to-read list now.

Mobile Library begins with a glimpse at the ending, and I thought I had things figured out. Let’s face it. Many, many books are rather predictable. I thought this one would be no different. This is one instance when I’m glad I was wrong.

Bobby Nusku is a kid with a rather sad life. His mother left a long time ago. He walks on eggshells around his father and Cindy, his dad’s horrible girlfriend. He has only one friend at school. He’s a target of bullies. Bobby’s big plan to get back at those who would hurt him is to turn his best friend, Sunny, into a cyborg. As one can imagine, that plan doesn’t exactly turn out the way Bobby would have liked. Sunny is taken away, and Bobby is left all alone in the world.

Things change, however, when Bobby encounters Rosa, a girl whose disability makes her vulnerable to bullies, and her mother Val. These two kind people offer Bobby a refuge from his life. Val cleans the town’s mobile library (known to many as a Bookmobile), and she introduces Bobby to the escape offered in the pages of books.

Val provides Bobby the love he’s been starving for, and Bobby quickly becomes part of Val’s family. But not everyone understands their relationship. They think something sordid is going on, and that results in ostracism, vandalism, and Val losing the job she needs to care for herself and her daughter.

Even though he’s been warned away from Val, she’s his only solace after his father beats him one night. He runs to her house, and Val knows she has to do something to get Bobby away from his dad. So what does she do? She takes Rosa, Bobby, her dog Bert, and she steals the mobile library–the one no longer used by the town, the one she still has the keys for–and escapes into the night.

Val realizes that she and her small family are always one step from being found, and she’s always looking over her shoulder, but she and the kids soon find help in an unexpected place. While hiding out in the woods, Bobby runs across Joe, a homeless man with reasons of his own for staying under the radar. Joe joins forces with Val, Bobby, and Rosa, and this ragtag team journeys across England and into Scotland in the hopes of finding safety, peace, and a home of their own. Once again, though, things don’t go exactly according to plan.

The authorities are closing in on Bobby, Val, and company, and they’re running out of places to hide. Is anyone willing to help them? Can they get out of this mess and still remain together? What will become of Bobby, Val, Rosa, and Joe, and will anyone ever understand how these people came together to form their own family within the walls of a mobile library? Is there any hope for a happy ending? Find out for yourself when you read Mobile Library, an novel by David Whitehouse!

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I love all of the misdirection in this book. I had several “What the crap!” moments while reading, and that’s always fun. I admit that I jumped to some conclusions at the beginning of the book (which was also the ending) that mirrored the town’s concerns regarding the relationship between Bobby and Val. That was just one thing that was turned on its ear. There were quite a few surprises in this book, and their eventual revelations made for a page-turner of a book.

The librarian in me enjoyed the literary allusions in Mobile Library…not to mention the bulk of the story actually occurring in a library on wheels. Bobby’s reading list will connect with those who’ve read the same books…and it may just encourage others to pick up the books he’s enjoyed so much.

Even though a few of the characters in this book are children, I think Mobile Library is definitely an adult book. Some teen readers may be fine with it, but this is a book with a lot of subtext, a bit of profanity, and some mature situations. I would recommend this book for public library collections. Not so much for school libraries.

Mobile Library won’t be released in the U.S. until January 20th, 2015. (The U.K. release is set for January 8th.) So, unless you’re a member of NetGalley or have some other source for advance copies, you’ve got about a three-month wait for this book. It’s worth the wait.

If you’re interested in learning more about Mobile Library and author David Whitehouse, check out the author’s websiteGoodreads, and Twitter.

Wonderstruck

After reading the wonder that is The Invention of Hugo Cabret, I knew I had to read the latest work of art by Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck.  I finally got around to it this week (at the urging of some of my students), and I was immediately captivated by this amazing story.  Although the book is over 600 pages long, it took me less than two days to read it.  (Of course, it helps that over half of the pages were pictures.)  Wonderstruck brings together two seemingly independent stories–one told in words and the other in illustrations–that take readers on an emotional journey that will leave them…well…wonderstruck!

Ben, a boy living in Minnesota in the 1970s, and Rose, a girl living in New Jersey in the 1920s, are searching for the same thing–a place to belong. Both of them long for the parents that seem (and often really are) out of their reach. As both young people go on a quest to find their places in the world, their stories intertwine, and both of them end up in a museum at the heart of New York City. What connection does this museum have to Ben and Rose? And can it help them to find the sense of belonging that they’ve always wanted? Read Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick and join Ben and Rose as they discover the truth about their pasts and the connections that will lead them into the future.

Wonderstruck is an absolutely beautiful story that will resonate with readers from ages 10 to 100.  The symmetry with which Brian Selznick wove the two seemingly independent tales of Ben and Rose is truly remarkable, and the similarities between the characters will appeal to many, as will the connections that bridges the gap between the fifty years that separate them.  

The pencil drawings in Wonderstruck, like all of the illustrations I’ve seen by Brian Selznick, are gorgeous.  It’s amazing to me–an admitted non-artist–how someone can convey a character’s emotions simply by drawing their eyes.  No words were needed.  I knew exactly what the character was feeling, and I experienced those emotions as well.  Brian Selznick proves that his pictures truly are worth a thousand words.

If you’re looking for your next great read, I highly recommend Wonderstruck.  You won’t be disappointed.

For more information on Wonderstruck and author Brian Selznick, visit http://www.wonderstruckthebook.com/.

Num8ers

My latest read, Num8ers (or Numbers) by Rachel Ward, was an intriguing book.  The concept is an interesting one–Jem can see a person’s date of death when she looks into his/her eyes.  When I discovered that this was the book’s premise, of course I had to read it.  Things started off a bit slow, and there was quite a bit of English slang to wade through–the story is set in England–but the payoff was well worth the time spent with this book.  I cried like a baby at the end.  I know I’ve said that about books before, but it truly does take a powerful set of circumstances to illicit that kind of emotional response, and Num8ers definitely delivered.

Jem has not had an easy life.  She witnessed her mother’s death at an early age, and she’s been shuffled through the foster care system ever since.  She hates school, has no friends, and doesn’t see a lot of hope for her future.  On top of all of this, when she looks into people’s eyes, she sees the date they’re going to die.  She’s had this “gift” forever, but she didn’t know what it meant until the day her mother died, and the number she always saw when she looked at her mother was written on the death certificate.

Jem does her best to avoid people, especially looking them in the eyes.  She doesn’t want to be burdened with the knowledge that this person has just a few weeks to live or that person will die well into his nineties.  It’s a lot for a fifteen-year-old to handle.  Well, there’s one person who won’t let her avoid him–Spider.  He’s got just as many problems as Jem, and he senses a kind of kindred spirit in her.  Both of them are outsiders, and it seems that they may have a shot at just a little happiness together.  But there’s one big problem holding Jem back from reaching out to Spider.  Each time she looks at him, she’s hit with the knowledge that his time is limited.

Despite everything, Jem and Spider form an unlikely friendship.  After a series of events finds our duo suspended from school, the two take a day trip to London.  It is here that Jem notices something strange.  When she looks at the people gathered around a popular London attraction, she notices that all of them have the same death date…and it’s today.  Jem can’t tell Spider why they have to leave in a hurry, but she lets him know that they have to get out of the area immediately.  Shortly after they make a run for it, chaos reigns when the tourist attraction is the target of a bomb.  Suddenly, Jem and Spider are on the run for a different reason.  They were seen running from the scene shortly before the bomb blew.  They’re suspects!

What can Jem and Spider do?  Where can they run?  They have nothing, and they must depend only on each other for their very lives.  Can they clear their names before their numbers are finally up?  Read Rachel Ward’s Num8ers to find out!

Num8ers is an awesome book!  It does have some bad language and adult scenes, but those things are true to the setting, characters, and tone of the book.  I can’t wait to read the second book in the series, and I just found out that a third book is on the way!  For more information about Rachel Ward and the Num8ers series, visit http://www.rachelwardbooks.com/.