Mark of Athena After two separate adventures, Percy and Annabeth finally reunite along with Leo, Hazel, Frank, Piper, and Jason. They are thrown on to a deadly journey aboard the Argo II. They sail to Greece to find elements necessary to defeat the earth goddess, Gaea. The demigods work on their relationships with each other, whilst maneuvering cryptic messages, terrifying nightmares, and insane gods and goddesses. The old motivation from Percy and Annabeth to find each other dies, but is replaced with desperation to save mankind. Annabeth embarks on a mini solo journey and learns about the tale of Mithros, while Octavian and Reyna make their way to Camp Half-Blood with their troops. The others tamper with scroll technology, while on their way to get Annabeth. The characters go through some real character building, while Riordan takes some major risks with them. The book ends with a literal cliffhanger, in Tartarus.The Clockwork OrangeAlex, the fifteen year old narrator, has an odd manner of speaking, and the use of "nadsat" (teenage slang) made the book extremely memorable. The language becomes a way for Alex to mark himself out from others, and creates a stark contrast between the different speech and mind-set of adults and Alex and his "droogs" (friends). There are some very violent descriptions of Alex's crimes, but originally I felt oddly detached from the atrocities being committed, as I was concentrating more on deciphering the language. However, as I gradually stopped having to focus on translating the words, the details of "krovvy" (blood) being spilt became more sickening and extreme.The Handmaid's TaleWritten in the first person, Offred narrates her life in “the before” — a time before the religious Gilead theocracy took over — while in “the now,” that being while Gilead is still in control. Gilead has been established for a few short years, and she has settled into her routine of being a handmaid. We never learn her real name, but readers can assume it’s June. The Commander and his wife Serena Joy, a slightly older couple, seem just to be muddling through Gilead’s existence, despite their role in creating its framework. They still long for a baby to keep their privileged place in society intact, and rely heavily on Offred for that. Offred feels passive and has almost entirely given into the oppressive laws of Gilead. Her mood isn’t one of resistance, but one of disgust and routine. Disgust doesn’t always motivate someone toward action. Offred’s resistance is subtle, mostly in the small things she does or thinks, rather than rallying around those who feel the same. Her friend Moira calls out her cowardice in the before, which now seems to be one of the only parts of Offred in the now. It’s a mantra Offred repeats to herself as acceptance of her perpetual state of servitude. Offred quickly falls in line with the flow of Gilead life, participating in the Ceremony, letting the Commander entertain himself thinking he’s entertaining her with Scrabble games and old magazines (both highly treasonous contraband), and even going to a secret underground club Jezebel’s. While Nick, the chauffeur, acts as the Commanders silent messenger as to when Offred will be visiting the Commander’s study (a room that not even the wife is allowed into), he also serves in an entirely different way; it’s a way that alters not only the Waterford’s house but Offred’s future. The rub is that we never fully find out her future. Nor do we find out the extent of Nick’s level of loyalty to either Gilead or the resistance.#MurderTrendingIn a distressingly familiar world where a reality star has been elected president and the penal system has been outsourced to a twisted producer called The Postman, “justice” is now meted out via a Survivor-esque app. Criminals are sent to Alcatraz 2.0, an island near San Francisco, where they are executed in the most entertaining ways possible by professional killers. When Latina teen Dee Guerrera is convicted of her stepsister’s murder after a bogus trial, she refuses to be executed for a crime she didn’t commit just to boost ratings. She soon discovers that she is not the only innocent person on the island, but as the teens begin to build alliances, The Postman’s rules seem to change—and not in their favor. This laudable and campy attempt at YA’s answer to Black Mirror throws a few too many things into the mix. Critiques of capital punishment, privatized prisons, and a populace voluntarily subjugated by social media—it’s so much, so fast that the narrative relies on breakneck pacing and scenes of gruesome and innovative violence to move the plot forward. With inconsistent and incohesive character development, this is one for action and annihilation fans.The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give is inspired by THUG LIFE, Tupac Shakur’s famous acronym that stood for “The Hate U Give Little Infants F***ks Everybody.” (Sorry, but this is a family-friendly blog.) It is both a statement that Black lives matter and the story of a 16-year-old girl, Starr Carter, with her own life and problems who is thrust into the spotlight when she accepts a ride home from a party with childhood friend Khalil, only to watch police stop the car and shoot him before her eyes. Her beloved uncle is a police officer, caught in the middle when she bravely testifies against Officer One-Fifteen, who treated her and her friend abusively before gunning down her friend. Starr, whose mother is a nurse and whose father owns a grocery store in their mostly poor, mostly African-American community, attends a private school in a suburb 45 minutes away and navigates the two very different worlds, serving as a guide to readers through her first person narrative. Hardly an activist before the shooting (though a picture of Emmett Till’s body that she posted on her Tumblr the previous year led to tension with one school friend), Starr learns both the importance of and the costs of speaking out. Often the cognitive dissonance – she writes, “I hope none of them asks about my spring break. They went to Taipei, the Bahamas, Harry Potter World. I stayed in the hood and saw a cop kill my friend.” – seems too much for her to bear. But this isn’t only one teenager’s story. The spotlight on Starr’s community, and differing approaches to confronting its militarized occupation, ignites a gang war that threatens her father even though he left that part of his life behind years earlier. Strong, complex secondary characters enhance this collective story, as readers grow attached not only to Starr but also to her supportive parents, her two brothers, Khalil’s family, and another troubled teen, DeVante, who lost his brother to gang violence and now wants to escape. Throughout the novel Thomas captures this tension between escape and staying to bring about change. It is an important tension, and one that may grow in significance in the coming years.