Us Against You (BearTown #2) by Fredrik Backman

Book Description:

Published: June 5, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

Review –

Shockwaves from the incidents in Beartown, the first book, shake an economically depressed hockey town in this latest from the author of A Man Called Ove.

“Swedish novelist Backman loves an aphorism and is very good at them; evident in all his novels is an apparent ability to state a truth about humanity with breathtaking elegance. Often, he uses this same elegance to slyly misdirect his readers. Sometimes he overreaches and words that sound pretty together don’t hold up to scrutiny. This novel has a plethora of all three. Grim in tone, it features an overstocked cast of characters, all of whom are struggling for self-definition. Each has previously been shaped by the local hockey club, but that club is now being defunded and resources reallocated to the club of a rival town. Some Beartown athletes follow, some don’t. Lines are drawn in the sand. Several characters get played by a Machiavellian local politician who gets the club reinstated. Nearly all make poor decisions, rolling the town closer and closer to tragedy. Backman wants readers to know that things are complicated. Sure, many of Beartown’s residents are bigots and bullies. But some are generous and selfless. Actually, the bigots and bullies are also generous and selfless, in certain circumstances. And Lord knows they’ve all had a rough time of it. The important thing to remember is that hockey is pure. Except when it inspires violence. This is an interesting tactic for a novel in our cultural moment of sensitivity, and it can feel cumbersome. “When guys are scared of the dark they’re scared of ghosts and monsters,” he writes. “But when girls are scared of the dark they’re scared of guys.” Margaret Atwood said it better and with more authority decades ago.

Backman plays the story for both cynicism and hope, and his skill makes both hard, but not impossible, to resist.” Kirkus Reviews

The author gave us feelings of the highest highs and then dashed us back down to earth with the lowest lows. I was a nervous wreck for the entire book.  You will have to read the book (and why wouldn’t you) to know what I mean when I say that Fredrik Backman is a master storyteller and has a genius brain to keep everything straight when he wrote the accident scene near the very end of the book. I am in awe!

Five stars !!!!!

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Legendary (Caraval #2) by Stephanie Garber

Book Description:

Published: May 29, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister, Scarlett, from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice, but now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever…

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . the games have only just begun.

Review –

The author returns to the world of bestseller Caraval , this time with the focus on younger, more daring sister Donatella.

Valenda, capital of the empire, is host to the second of Legend’s magical games in a single year, and while Scarlett doesn’t want to play again, blonde Tella is eager for a chance to prove herself. She is haunted by the memory of her death in the last game and by the cursed Deck of Destiny she used as a child which foretold her loveless future. Garber has changed many of the rules of her expanding world, which now appears to be infused with magic and evil Fates. Despite a weak plot and ultraviolet prose (“He tasted like exquisite nightmares and stolen dreams, like the wings of fallen angels, and bottles of fresh moonlight.”), this is a tour de force of imagination. Themes of love, betrayal, and the price of magic (and desire) swirl like Caraval’s enchantments, and Dante’s sensuous kisses will thrill readers as much as they do Tella. The convoluted machinations of the Prince of Hearts (one of the Fates), Legend, and even the empress serve as the inspiration for Tella’s story and set up  the future volumes, which promises to go bigger. 

I didn’t care for this installment of the Caraval series because the focus wasn’t really the game, like the first one. There were many players, who weren’t really players and goals that were seemingly impossible. But, it’s only a book and the author can write it any way she chooses. My favorite part was the last few chapters where things really start to happen and we find out the identity of Legend.

Can’t wait for the third and final book which comes out next year.

 

First & Then by Emma Mills

Book Description:

Published: October 13, 2015

Format: Audio

Devon Tennyson wouldn’t change a thing. She’s happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon’s cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn’t want them: first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

Review –

“Senior Devon Tennyson assumes college is next but isn’t so clear on why. Her longtime friend and crush, Cas Kincaid, isn’t interested in her romantically, alas. While she is part of his football crew, Devon has other friends who are as individual, though not as average, as she is.

The wide-ranging cast provides background to Devon’s struggles with her future, exemplified by her boring college essay. Add in the long-delayed and dreaded phys-ed requirement to make her unhappiness complete. It’s mostly freshmen except for Devon and an All-American football player and transfer student, Ezra. Also in the class is Foster, a freshman and a cousin who recently joined her household after his mother asked her parents to take him on full-time. Devon’s clearly not impressed with his irrepressible presence and knowing observations. However, her protective instincts go on high alert when socially inept and scrawny Foster’s great ability to kick a football is discovered by Ezra. When Ezra takes Foster under his wing, Devon isn’t sure if it’s a setup or real, given Ezra’s low popularity quotient. With sporadic references to Jane Austen’s famous characters and wickedly inventive language, Mills closely observes the social milieu of an American high school obsessed with our favorite sport and makes readers care what happens.

A fresh, smart, inventive, and altogether impressive debut. (Romance. 11-16)” Kirkus Review

A totally sweet young adult romance mixed with football.  Love it!

 

 

Gemina (Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Book Description:

Published: October 18, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Review –

This time I had to listen to the audio version but found it NOT to be the distraction that I thought it would be. 

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

There is a small moment in Gemina – involving a lost flower corsage, no less – that is a masterpiece of storytelling that is both a beautiful moment between two people about to fall in love as well as a brilliant foreshadow that eventually turns into an essential piece of a mind-blowing twist. In other words: this novel? It’s fantastic!

The follow-up to last year’s excellent Illuminae, Gemina has a similar formula to its predecessor: a high concept, an epistolary narrative, a book that requires the reader to engage with the pages in different ways, a Moment of Despair, incredible twists. And it all works again because these novels have that thing that will take the formula to the extra level: fantastic characters.

Featuring characters from different sides of the tracks and with super high stakes, it follows new characters to the series (whilst bringing back everybody who survived Illuminae) who are on board the jumpstation Heimdall (where the aforementioned survivors are about to arrive to) as it is invaded by the next stage of the (evil) BeiTech assault AND alien predators that want to eat everybody. If that wasn’t enough, it is well possible that the wormholes at the centre of the station – the very thing that keeps the space-time continuum together – is malfunctioning. HOW FUN. No, seriously, it is so much fun.

Hanna is a socialite, the station captain’s spoiled daughter. Nik is a member of an infamous crime family– which includes his cousin Ella. But no one is who they seem to be to start with: Hanna is a kick-ass, cool-as-f*ck fighter and strategist. Nik is the criminal with the heart-of-gold. Oh, these two are lovely and a great counterpoint to one another. When the station is invaded (and the body count starts to rise), they are thrown together along with Ella to become reluctant heroes, the only ones standing between life and doom. And so it goes – put together by documents, blueprints, chat and video transcripts and more, the story follows the trio, with every subsequent event turning things up by a notch.

Can’t wait to read the last (?) in the series, Obsidio.

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Book Description:

Published: October 20, 2015

Format: Hardback

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Review –

I started the audio version of this book, but quickly gave up because it seemed to drag. I had a hard cover given to me a year ago so I began reading and I read it in one day. Now on to the review –

What do you do when your planet is attacked and everyone you know and love is being killed for your planets illegal refinery? What do you do when the only person you have left in the universe is your ex that is on a whole other ship and the only way to stay in contact is by illegal ship to ship communication? What do you do when the ones who are suppose to keep you safe are the ones who lie to you and cause thousands of deaths? What are you suppose to do when the ship that saves you tries to kill you?

You can A) devise a plan to hack into the system and see what is really going on, B) admit to your ex that you still love them and need them, C) respond to your so called commanders with sassy remarks that could get you court martialed , or D) do you freak stuff up.

The answer to these questions is E) all of the above.

This book is so crazily written that I stepped in not knowing what to expect. But as I jumped upon the ship to a world of endless action, I fell in love with it. I have never read such a book formatted as this one. (see photos below)

The humor utilized by the characters is probably one of my favorite things about this whole fantastic mess. It underlines how different people deal with stressful and intimidating situations. Characters like Ezra Mason use humor as a defense mechanism to deal with such situations.

In the end, we learn that Kady is the Illuminae group and she has prepared these files for the director of BeiTech, who just happens to be Ezra’s psycho mother. She demands to know where Ezra is but Kady keeps that secret. Kady will continue to let the universe know what BeiTech has done.

Usually I’m not a big fan of this type of Sci-fi Book (YA Sci-fi) but I must admit once into this book I thoroughly enjoyed it, so much so, that I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

Book Description:

Published: May 30, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Review –

Detention takes a dark turn when the student behind Bayview High’s infamous app About That dies from a peanut allergy—and every witness has a different reason for wanting him gone.

Although the author’s debut novel initially feels like a rehashing of The Breakfast Club, with five teens from very different social circles brought together through detention, there is no bonding through library dance parties or atypical lipstick application. Instead, Bronwyn, Nate, Cooper, and Addy witness Simon collapse and ultimately die after taking a sip of water. When police discover the drink was laced with peanut oil—and that Simon was going to reveal life-ruining secrets about all four students on his gossip app the next day—they go from unfortunate witnesses to top murder suspects. With each teen (“brain,” “criminal,” “jock,” and “princess,” respectively; “walking teen-movie stereotypes,” as Simon says) narrating alternating chapters, the novel offers insights into common adolescent struggles—from the pressure to succeed to an alcoholic, out-of-work father—as well as an unlikely romance and opportunities for self-reflection as the investigation escalates.

Although the language and plot sometimes border on cliché, this fast-paced blend of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and classic the  John Hughes  film, will leave readers racing to the finish as they try to unravel the mystery on their own.

The ending is surprising and makes for a very good “who-dun-it” read.

 

Caraval (Caraval #1) by Stephanie Garber

Book Description:

Published: January 31, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

Review –

Last year I received this Post-It Note holder in a subscription box(I forget which one) but hadn’t read Caraval yet, so really didn’t appreciate it’s meaning until later.

 

The world of Caraval is one part amusement park, one part Venice, and one part game show, painted in all the colors of a gothic circus. Girls in gowns rustle their way down dark hallways, searching for clues that will win them a wish — but some girls have more need of wishes than others.

Scarlett has led a life made small by abuse. She and her sister Tella dwell in constant fear of their cruel and violent father. Tella beats against the bars of their golden cage, but Scarlett keeps the peace as best she can, desperate to protect them both. She has given up on her childhood dream of attending Caraval, a magical performance that blends theatre with an adventure game, resigning herself to an arranged marriage that will offer her — and Tella — a true escape from their father.

When an invitation arrives from Legend himself, the mastermind creator of Caraval, beckoning the sisters to a mysterious island and offering them a place in the game, Tella forces Scarlett to abandon her plans of calculated safety in favor of an adventure. But it soon becomes clear that Legend has other ideas. He steals Tella away and makes her the prize of Caraval, leaving Scarlett no choice but to win the game.

Scarlett knows that everything she experiences in Caraval is a part of the performance, but the line between fantasy and reality starts to blur, especially when it comes to Julian, a sailor boy who has joined the game. Like everyone she encounters in Caraval, he isn’t what he seems — and she can’t resist his help or his company. As the nights of the game progress, she sinks deeper and deeper into a story that grows ever darker, and gets further and further from the safe future that was almost within her grasp.

Caraval delights the senses: beautiful and scary, described in luscious prose, this is a show readers will wish they could enter. Dresses can be purchased for secrets or days of life; clocks can become doors; bridges move: this is an inventive and original circus, laced with an edge of horror. A double love story, one sensual romance and the other sisterly loyalty, anchors the plot, but the real star here is Caraval and its secrets. For you see, Caraval is the world of the game, which feels like a journey into a dark branch of Disneyland, where the animatronics have feelings and don’t like you very much, and the expensive cupcakes may have poison in them.

Loved this book and am looking forward to reading the next installment in the series, Legendary, which comes out in May of this year, because what appears to be a happy ending isn’t at all what it seems.

 

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Book Description:

Published: March 8, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. The end of high school will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is happy wherever he is thanks to his obsession with the epic book series Bloodfall and the fangirl who may be turning his harsh reality into real-life fantasy. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia—neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending—one that will rock his life to the core.

Debut novelist Jeff Zentner provides an unblinking and at times comic view of the hard realities of growing up in the Bible Belt, and an intimate look at the struggles to find one’s true self in the wreckage of the past.

Review –

I both read and listened to this book and found the dual experience very interesting.

I loved this book for several reasons :

  1. The friends were all outcasts and didn’t really let it affect them, especially Lydia.
  2. The sarcastic humor, mainly from Lydia.
  3. The small town setting in the South .
  4. The affection the friends felt for one another, either shown or not.
  5. The thread of enduring friendship that runs throughout the book.
  6. The tear-jerking sadness of losing a friend.
  7. The courage of Dill to finally take steps to change his life.
  8. Lydia and Dill having a relationship and then going to college miles from each other and having the courage to do so.

Are you seeming the pervading theme of the storyline: Courage!   Even Travis, who dies too soon, and caused me to use numerous Kleenex, had the courage to get outside his comfort zone with Amelia.

Though this book is classified as Young Adult I think it needs to be read by everyone.

Five stars!

 

 

 

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Book Description:

Published: September 27, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

Review –

I truly find it hard to relate everything I feel about this book. The conclusion to this epic duology delivered in EVERY way possible. Crooked Kingdom enthralled and delighted, even while some of the content reduced me to tears. Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, Jesper, and Wylan will forever be marked as one of my most beloved fictional crew.

 Crooked Kingdom is filled with character bonding, as well as interaction and development within the numerous friendships within the main group.

Even while the crew work seamlessly together, they remain distinct and unique individuals, driven forward by their own goals and personal backstory. The amount of character development in this book is phenomenal. By halfway through the book, I was fully invested in every single story – even for characters we previously did not see much of like Wylan.

Besides the characters bonding more as a unit and also as romantics pairs there is an arresting storyline, filled with cunning tricks and plot twists. Leigh Bardugo absolutely shines during her fight scenes, with the action becoming almost cinematic. The constantly turning wheels of Kaz Brekker’s mind is also equally formidable. We all love a story about an underdog, and watching Kaz scheme his way numerous setbacks had me on the edge of my seat, but the payoff is always so immensely satisfying.

Not all couples end up together-there is a death of a major player- I won’t say who but it was worthy of several Kleenex and I still can’t believe he’s gone.

I wish the author had Kaz pronounce his real feelings for Inej, instead he just holds her hand, without gloves. This may not sound like much to those who have not read Six of Crows, but it’s a major deal for Kaz Brekker!

The catch phrase of this series is NO MOUNERS, NO FUNERALS and we learn more about it in this book. This is what the author has to say about the quote:

“No mourners, no funerals. Another way of saying good luck. But it was something more. A dark wink to the fact that there would be no expensive burials for people like them, no marble markers to remember their names, no wreaths of myrtle and rose.”

Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom

Fantastic book, fantastic series!!!

 

 

 

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman

Book Description:

Published: November 22, 2016

Format: Soft Cover

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Review –

In this five-star read  two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long without fear of disease, aging, or accidents.If for some reason they are killed they can be revived in a few days. There is a  governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), and is independent of the Scythedom so scythes rely on ten commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population.

After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty.

The action, violent at times, unfolds slowly, anchored in complex world building and propelled by political happenings behind the scenes . Scythes’ journal entries, which are mandatory, accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual points of view, revealing both personal struggles and problems within the society.  The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and melancholic, brooding but steeped with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. 

Recommended for young adults 14 and up.

Five stars for story and cover!