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Karen's Young Adult Book Reviews
| Home | The Earth, My Butt, and Other.../Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal .../Chocolate War | Annie on My Mind/The Curious Incident of the Dog.... | Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes/Growing Season | Nightmare | The Amber Spyglass/Blood and Chocolate/Others See Us | A Thousand Ships/Pink and Say | Best of Enemies/Fever 1793 | Blizzard /Hole in My Life | Seeing the Blue Between/Keesha's House /Bronx Masquerade

The Amber Spyglass/Blood and Chocolate/Others See Us

The Amber Spyglass


So many different characters are displayed in this book. Will intent on finding Lyra and rescues her presents one story. Mary finding and befriending the mulefas presents another. Lord Asriel and his world presents another. There are daemons, Angels, Humans and Gallivespians, armored bears and witch-clans, technicians and scientists, aircraft and weapons. Battles are going on everywhere.

Will finds a knife that can cut windows into different worlds and uses it to search different worlds. Lyra is in danger of being killed. Will finds her drugged in a cave with her mother. He befriends a girl who has asked for a potion to wake her up. Will and the girl rescue Lyra, and their adventurers begin. She tells Will she is responsible for Roger’s death and must tell him she is sorry. She wants him to take her to the land of the dead. Will wants to see his father who has also died. Two Gallivespians sent by Lyra’s father, Lord Asriel journey with them.

With Will’s help, Lyra finds Roger. Will also finds his father. Lyra wanting to release Roger from his death, gets Will to agree to cut a hole in the underworld to release all the ghosts. They cannot come back to life, but they disappear as a vapor once they are outside the dark underworld.

The Authority wants Lyra dead because she is a threat to him. Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter save Lyra from him by falling into the abyss created by a bomb released from Saint-Jean-les-Eaux. Lyra, having had to abandon her daemon in the underworld, must go in search of him again. Will discovers he also has a daemon. Together they search for their daemons and meet up with Mary. Father Gomez has been sent to kill Lyra and Balthamos, an angel who journeyed with Will while he searched for Lyra, killed him.

Eventually, Lyra and Will find their daemons, fall in love and are made to realize that since they are from two different worlds, they cannot stay together. In order for them to remain alive, they must return to their own worlds.

Philip Pullman’s adventurous book is wonderfully written. The imaginative descriptions of the various characters make them come alive for the reader and definitely make the reader connect to them. The creative worlds captivate the reader’s attention. All the various worlds, the different characters, and the idea that people could visit the dead is almost overwhelming. Pullman has created a very exciting and suspenseful trilogy that will keep the reader reading to the end. The mulefa using seedpods as wheels to maneuver across the land was humorous. Daemons and animals talking to humans and characters unheard of were things that made the book almost magical. The ending is a tear jerker when the main characters know they have to leave one another.

One teen reader states, “It was a shocking ending to the brilliant Dark MaterialsTrilogy, in which all unexplained plots from the first two came to an end. It gripped from the start, a long awaited start due to the very suspenseful ending of The Subtle Knife. I also enjoyed the emerging love between the two main characters, Lyra and Will. That was very touching. The whole book was touching, and its ending left you wanting more” (


Another teen comments, “'His Dark Materials' is definitely ranking in my list of top books. Philip Pullman is such a phenomenally creative and distinctive writer - it really blows me away. The scope of his imagination really brings the stories to life, but for me, the real treasure is in his characterization. From one or two sentences, you can immediately connect with and relate to every one of his characters...Lyra, Will, Asriel, Mrs Coulter, the Metatron, Mary...every one of them is almost a real person, one that you could expect to see walking round the corner. The ending of this trilogy had me crying. The emotion that Mr. Pullman conveys with mere words is electrifying. The trilogy is a true joy to read, and it will open your eyes to so many dimensions that have just been lurking out of sight” (

An adult book reviewer writes, “In the final installment of his trilogy, Philip Pullman has set himself the highest hurdles. He must match its predecessors in terms of sheer action and originality and resolve the enigmas he already created. The good news is that there is no critical bad news--not that The Amber Spyglass doesn't contain standoffs and close calls galore. (Who would have it otherwise?) But Pullman brings his audacious revision of Paradise Lost to a conclusion that is both serene and devastating. In prose that is transparent yet lyrical and 3-D, the author weaves in and out of his principals' thoughts. Throughout his galvanizing epic, Pullman sustains scenes of fierce beauty and tenderness. He also allows us a moment or two of comic respite” (

A Publisher’s Weekly book reviewer comments, “Pullman's exuberant work stays rigorously true to its own internal structure. Stirring and highly provocative” (

Pullman, Philip. 2000. The Amber Spyglass. New York: Dell Laurel-Leaf.

Sources Book Reviews. Accessed 3 July, 2005.

We Read: Education for Life.

( Accessed 3 July, 2005.




Blood and Chocolate


Vivian is a teenager, an artist, and very much a werewolf. The group she calls a pack has moved from place to place because the taste for blood over powers them at times. They must on in order for humans to not discover and destroy them. Vivian has a drawing that is published beside a poem written by Aiden. She decides to check him out and finds him attractive. Although she is closely watched by the pack teenage males who desire her, she desires Aiden’s company.


Her father, who had been pack leader, died in a fire previous to their moving. Her mother brings other males from the pack home for companionship. One such male, Gabriel, takes a fancy to Vivian and she shuns him.


The pack change into wolf form and run at night mostly in the shadows on the river bank or the woods. The five young males of the pack have one who tries to lead them astray. Rafe wants Vivian, but she shuns him. He cannot stand the fact that she is seeing a meat-boy. Victims are killed while the pack is in changed form. Vivian wonders who it can be.


Deciding that they need a new leader quickly, the pack chooses to find one according to their law. There will be a fight. One of the wicked females of the pack wants to join the fight to prove females are just as tough. Gabriel is coaxed into letting her, but quickly puts her in her place. Once they find a leader, the females are given a chance to fight for mating with the leader. Vivian’s mother, being the previous leader’s mate, is quickly attacked from behind by Astrid. Vivian, intending only to rescue her mother, wins the fight and realizes what she has done. She must run from Gabriel, the new leader, in order to not become his mate. She makes it home and he tells her that she will become his.


Wanting to be truthful to Aiden, she decides to show him that she can change. As she changes, he becomes frightened and she jumps through his window to escape. When she wakes up, she thinks she has killed a human. She decides to find out what happened and in town finds that there was a victim behind the town bar. Frightened she keeps it to herself. Then she wakes up with a hand in her bed. Believing she kills and doesn’t remember, she decides to kill herself. One of the teenage males finds her before she does. He tells her what he knows. Astrid and Rafe, who have become romantically involved, plan on killing Aiden.


Aiden who wants to meet with Vivian is in danger himself. Vivian discovers that Astrid and Rafe plan on killing Aiden. They had previously killed his best friend and found a note written to Vivian from Aiden that he wanted to meet with her. In a rushed attempt to keep Astrid from harming Aiden, Vivian tries to change to a wolf to fight off Astrid. Aiden is there with a gun and a silver bullet to kill Vivian whom he thinks has committed all the killings in town. She attempts to tell Aiden how much she cares for him. She tells him he must shoot Rafe and she will handle Astrid. Gabriel shows up and kills Astrid. Aiden, stricken with fear, shoots at Gabriel and Vivian steps in between them and is shot.

The pack healer is there and tries to save Vivian’s life. She remained half-changed and becomes stuck that way until Gabriel makes her realize she could never be happy with a human even though he realizes she loved Aiden. Then, she is capable of changing back to her human-like form.


Annette Klauses’s book is a terrific fantasy book. The description of the change between human-like form and wolf-like form is enlightening. The reader can almost see the change themselves. The plot created by Klause in this book is magnificent. The reader is captivated page after page. Vivian’s longing to be different makes the reader have great compassion for her, but in the end realize she must stick with her own kind to be truly happy and safe. The ending creates a longing for a sequel to find out more about Vivian and her pack. Although the description of the werewolf being like a wolf is not what the reader expects after seeing werewolf’s on television, the descriptions are more believable. The animosity between some of the pack makes the book definitely interesting. It reminds the reader of reality


One reader comments that the book “…has fierce suspense, a gripping romance and lots of genuine scares,” and “he final result is a book which I think adults and mature teens would enjoy; but one which is entirely inappropriate for impressionable youngsters. In the wrong hands it's a virtual primer for
Goth gangs and a book whose content parents need to be aware of, lest it fall into those hands
” (


One teen reader states, “. On a scale of 1- 10, I would rate Blood and Chocolate a seven. I give it a seven because there were several cuss words which were not needed and some profanity. If you look past the profanity the book was pretty good. Things that could be improved would be to leave out the profanity and cussing. One last thing that would improve the book is to have less talking about the setting” (


Klause, Annette Curtis. 1997. Blood and Chocolate. New York: Bantam Doubleday.




Building Rainbows. . Accessed 3 July, 2005. Book Reviews. Accessed 3 July, 2005.



Others See Us


Jared’s family visits his grandmother’s estate every year in July. He rides his bicycle to keep in shape. This year, he rides before gathering with the family and the brakes fail on his bicycle. He falls into the grimy swamp where the local factory has dumped sludge into the water. When he returns home, his mother makes him scrub himself clean until no trace of the smell exists. He and his family meet with the family and he begins to feel funny. He can hear voices in his head and begins to realize that these voices are the thoughts of those in the room. He can’t wait to meet up with his cousin Annelise whom he secretly admires. They have something in common; they both keep journals.


Jared returns home that evening to find his journal missing. Supposedly, no one knows about the journal but Annelise. He finds a way to talk to Annelise and she tells him to return her journal. He admits he did not take it, but someone took his also. He had had his hidden beneath a board in his room. They both become concerned about others reading their journal. Jared, capable of reading minds, gets a glimpse into Annelise’s journal because of what she is thinking. He quickly finds out how ruthless she is and what she really thinks of him.


Then he finds out that his grandmother has fallen into the swamp herself. He realizes that she must be the one who took the journals. He and Annelise decide to pay grandmother a visit. While Annelise talks to grandma, Jared tries to read her mind. She takes him on an unexpected trip and he thinks he has tricked her until she admits she has the journals. She blackmails the two into going to the swamp to retrieve some more water from it. Apparently, she needs it to keep up her dealings since she can now read minds. Since the swamp has now been fenced, she needs the two to retrieve the water for her. Jared agrees to go, but does not want Annelise near it. She insists on going.


They struggle while at the swamp and Annelise falls in herself. Jared realizes the damage Annelise can do when she realizes that she can read minds. She attempt to pretend she wasn’t the one supposed to be watching a younger cousin. The cousin almost drowns and she accuses another cousin of avoiding responsibility. Grandmother intervenes and tells the others that it was Annelise’s fault that she had seen the younger girl and watched her walk into the water and then gave her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for the attention as a heroine.


Things become complicated for the family as the grandmother retrieves with Annelise and later invites Jared and another cousin, Lindie to have drinks. Annelise would like to destroy Lindie who she feel is little miss perfect. The grandmother offers the grandchildren beer and Jared takes it. Lindie takes a drink and decides she likes the taste and takes one herself. Jared amazed that they weren’t becoming drunk realizes she is giving them part of the swamp water. Annelise is taken away to a place for criminally disturbed teenagers because she had taken part in planning an accident in which someone was killed.


William Sleator’s book is immediately interesting. The setting and the characters are mysterious. The science fiction realm keeps the reader’s attention. The mind reading that Jared encounters is humorous and the reader can relate to him as someone who holds a secret and intended on keeping it to himself. The plot has a fantastic twist in the end. The reader thinks one person will win, but a different one takes over. The grandmother had a unique place in the story. Jared finds out his grandmother is ruthless, but she is in control when he fears Annelise has become more powerful. Sleator’s ability to hold the reader is until the very end is a great attribute. This is a science-fiction book that would be enjoyed by boys and girls alike.


A School Library Journal book reviewer writes, “Jared is likable, and his grandmother is absolutely fascinating. The anxiety reflected in the dreams of the boy's codependent mother is a deft touch. Although Annelise's villainy seems a bit heavy, and the denouement takes place rather summarily, the plot is enticing and the pace fast. This is an author who knows exactly what adolescents care about, and he effortlessly hooks them with a few paragraphs of first-person narration. His genius is in taking vague science-fiction whimsy and using imagery to word paint it into a stunning virtual reality. Nobody does it better!” (


A teen reader comments, “This book really boosts your imagination; you'll think differently about a lot of things. Once you get into it, you can't keep your nose out of it; then at the end, you want to know more and you're sorry you read it so fast - but it's worth it” ( Another reader states, ” William Sleator's books are some of the best sci-fi I have ever read” (



Sleator, William. 1993. Others See Us. New York: Puffin Books.


Sources Book Reviews. Accessed 3 July,



We Read: Education for Life. Accessed 3 July, 2005.

Created by K. Braswell for LS5623 at Texas Woman's University.