Reviews: Fifteen and Change by Max Howard and Second in Command by Sandi Van

fifteenandchangeFifteen and Change by Max Howard

My Rating: 2/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 1st, 2018

Publisher: West 44 Books

Pages: 200 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Zeke would love to be invisible. His mother is struggling to make ends meet and stuck with a no-good boyfriend. Zeke knows he and his mom will be stuck forever if he doesn’t find some money fast. When Zeke starts working at a local pizza place, he meets labor activists who want to give him a voice–and the living wage he deserves for his work. Zeke has to decide between living the quiet life he’s carved for himself and raising his voice for justice.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This is what is considered “hi-lo” fiction—short books that are designed to encourage young, reluctant readers to read more. This one seems like it is aimed for a late middle school to early high school audience, so basically late middle grade and early young adult. In this novel, we follow a teenage boy named Zeke who is struggling quite badly in life. He lives with his mother, who is trapped in an abusive relationship, and they are all barely making ends meet.

So Zeke wants to make some money so he and his mother can escape this situation and he finds a job at a local pizza place. While there, he meets a group of labor activists who are fighting their unfair pay and offer Zeke a chance to stand up and have a voice. Because of this, he is left with the decision of whether to remain in his quiet life, focusing on work and an escape or to stand up for an important cause.

Of all the hi-lo fiction I have read recently, this was not one of my favorites. The idea for the plot is great and definitely deals with some extremely important and timely topics. I think it is something that would teach readers quite a lot about the unfairness in the workforce and how it is good to raise one’s voice for a just cause. However, I have to say I didn’t really get into this story. The writing made it feel jumbled and all over the place. It felt sort of disjointed and I never felt a sense of completion at the end. The characters also fell a bit flat. There is not enough time in a story this short to build these characters and fully develop the storyline given the deep topics it deals with. Overall, it wasn’t my thing, but I do think some reluctant readers may really enjoy it.

2.0 TARDISes

secondincommandSecond in Command by Sandi Van

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: February 1st, 2019

Publisher: West 44 Books

Pages: 200 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Leo dreams of becoming an Eagle Scout and, someday, a police officer. He makes sure to always do the right thing and be responsible. With his mom deployed and his dad constantly working, Leo is often left in charge of his two younger siblings. Then Leo’s brother, Jack, gets caught up in a dangerous plot that rocks the community. Can Leo keep his promise to stand by his brother no matter what, or will he stand on the side of justice?

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This is what is considered “hi-lo” fiction—short books that are designed to encourage young, reluctant readers to read more. This one seems like it is aimed for an early middle school to early high school audience, so basically mid-middle grade and early young adult. This novel focuses on how a family is affected when one member is deployed for the army—in this case, it is the main character’s mother. After his mother has left, Leo has to take charge of many household duties, including taking care of his two younger siblings. On top of this, Leo discovers that his brother, Jack, has become tangled up in a dangerous situation while running with the wrong crowd. Leo needs to find a way to hold his family together in the absence of their mother.

I quite enjoyed this story and found it really easy to get into. Van did a very good job building her characters and creating the atmosphere and tone of the narrative in such a short amount of time. I know I sound silly saying this about books in the hi-lo format, but I wish there was more to this story. I want to hear more about these characters’ lives—about how these major changes affect them—and learn more about what it is like to have a parent in the army. Van manages to pack a ton of emotion and heart into this book, which I was impressed by. I really do think this is a book that would entice reluctant readers as well as introduce them to a topic they might not be fully aware of.

3.0 TARDISes

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