The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse

After a global economic meltdown, resources were so scarce and people were so scared that violence and crime skyrocketed.  Leaders of Canada, the USA, and Mexico decided that they would be better equipped to rein in the criminals if they worked together, and thus formed the UNA (United Northern Alliance).  Citizens of these countries were angry about the alliance and rebelled, which led to massive riots.  Then Roland Harka came along.  Using both charisma and force, he took over the UNA and appointed himself Prime Minister — for life.  With freedoms and civil liberties taken away, communication restricted, and severe penalties for people who disobeyed, order was restored.  As a result, all 16-year-olds now have to take the GPPT (Government Personality Profile Test).  During the GPPT, teens’ brains are scanned to reveal which teens are predisposed toward a life of violence and crime.  Those who fail, often referred to as Unanchored Souls, are sent to Prison Island Alpha, also known as The Wheel.

Alenna wasn’t really worried about failing the GPPT, so she was completely taken by surprise when she woke up on The Wheel.  She knows she is not crazy, and she has never been prone to violence or crime, so she thinks there must have been a mistake.  But, how does she even begin to contact people back home so she can try to get herself off the island?  Unless she manages to align herself to one of the two “tribes” of teens who already live on the island — and who constantly battle one another — she might not survive long enough to try and escape.  This book, the first of a trilogy, is a worthy addition to our If You Liked the Hunger Games list!

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

As the book opens, Harold Fry, a retired man in a cold, strained marriage with Maureen, receives a letter from Queenie Hennessy, a former work colleague.  She is writing to say goodbye — she is in hospice and dying of cancer.  Harold writes a simple note in reply and sets off by foot to post it.  However, the first postal box doesn’t seem right, nor the second, . . . and Harold finds himself walking six hundred miles from the south of England to Queenie in the north, convinced that somehow his walking will keep her alive.  Harold is completely unprepared for the walk, but he feels that it is something he must do, and so he keeps on.  Along the way he meets a wildly diverse assortment of individuals, and he ponders his life, remembering the good times of so long ago, as well as the tragedies that followed.  Maureen, left at home, also has time to do a lot of thinking.  This is ultimately a very hopeful book with a message that it is never too late to seek healing for life’s hurts or to make ammends.  Recommended.

Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams

London and Zach traveled the world with their missionary parents all throughout their childhood, so it was easy for the siblings to become best friends.  Now that Zach is gone, though, it means that London has a hole in her heart AND her life.  She simply doesn’t know how to exist without her brother and best friend.  [Is it OK to smile or to laugh when your brother has killed himself?]  Even worse is the fact that her mother hasn’t talked to, looked at, or hugged her in the more than six months since Zach died.  London expects that it’s because her mother thinks it’s her fault.  With the help of friends, old and new, London is doing her best to pick up the pieces of her heart and move on with her life.

Plastic-Free by Beth Terry

It was a photograph that started author Beth Terry on her journey towards living a plastic-free life.  The sight of an albatross who had mistakenly eaten pieces of plastic – bottle caps, small toys, even a piece of a toothbrush – made her confront the reality that the consumer habits of humans have gotten out of control, and that this albatross was only one of the many creatures on land and sea who suffer from our habit of using and throwing out more plastic every year.  Terry started to notice how much plastic she was using, from shampoo bottles to candy wrappers, and decided to dramatically change her plastic consumption by seeking non-plastic alternatives and kept track of her progress in a blog.

Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Habit and You Can Too is the result of that blog and Terry’s experiences reducing plastic use.  She acknowledges that it is virtually impossible to be completely plastic-free; there is plastic in our carpets, our electronics, and our cars that we cannot escape.  However, there are other areas of our lives in which we can strive to skip unnecessary plastic waste to decrease the amount of plastic that gets thrown away each year and will never decompose.  This book does not seek to make anyone feel guilty about their consumer habits, but rather provides endless suggestions for ways to lessen plastic consumption and includes resources for non-plastic toys, dishware, to-go containers, vegetable bags, cleaning products, and more.  Plastic-Free is positive and encouraging, and will certainly inspire anyone to try to live life a bit more plastic-free.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Andrew “Ender” Wiggin was a third — a child who should not even exist in a society with a strict two children per family limit.  Why did he exist, then?  Because his parents had promised to hand him over to the government if he tested well and showed promise as a potential commander in the fight against the Buggers [an alien race with whom the people of Earth were at war].  Even though military leaders were excited by Ender’s progress at Battle School and thought he might possess the skill-set needed to save humanity, Ender was kept in the dark.  All he knew for sure was that Battle School offered him refuge from his sadistic older brother, Peter, while taking him away from the affections of the only person he has ever truly loved, his sister Valentine.  But ruining one kid’s life to potentially save the human race is worth it, right?