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Posts Tagged ‘Leslye Walton’

exchangeIn Max Barry’s inventive futuristic thriller Lexicon, which I raved about last summer, words are weapons. In Alena Graedon’s futuristic first novel The Word Exchange (Knopf Doubleday, digital galley), words prove dangerous, too, even life-threatening. Make that civilization-as-we-know-it threatening. Print is pretty much dead in Graedon’s not-so-distant digital age. Libraries, bookstores, newspapers and magazines are obsolete because everyone communicates with “Memes,”  intuitive personal devices that make smart phones look prehistoric. Imagine Siri as a psychic Big Brother and wish-granting genie, and you have an idea of  Synchronic’s best-selling product. Can’t remember a word? Your Meme will supply it, or find you another one on the popular Word Exchange.

But not everyone is enchanted by this brave new technology. Lexicographer Doug Johnson is famously anti-Meme at he works to finish the last edition ever of the North American Dictionary of the English Language. His daughter Anana has been working with him, but when he disappears — leaving the one-word clue “Alice” — she follows him down the rabbit hole and discovers a dangerous realm of conspiracies and secret societies. And then the virulent “word flu” begins infecting people, causing a deadly aphasia.  “The end of words would mean the end of memory and thoughts,” warns a resistance group. “In other words, our past and future.”

Graedon alternates chapters between Ana’s narrative and her colleague Bart’s journal entries. The structure works mostly, but sometimes Graedon’s ambitious, clever world-building falters, and she resorts to digressive info dumps. Still, The Word Exchange is trippy, provocative — and what’s the word I’m looking for?  Oh, yes, “cautionary.”

lavenderLeslye Walton’s first YA novel The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender (Candlewick, digital galley) is a strange and beautiful fantasy, a family saga that reads like a fable, a coming-of-age tale melded with magical realism. Narrator Ava Lavender looks back from the present to her teenage years in the 1950s  in a lyrical prologue, but then views family history through the eyes of her grandmother Emilienne and mother Viviane.

Born in 1904 France, Emilienne travels to New York with her peculiar family, whose romantic travails lead her to marry baker Conner Lavender because he can take her far, far away. They eventually settle in an isolated house in Seattle, where their daughter Viviane suffers her own heartbreak. Enter Ava, born in 1944, with “a slight physical abnormality” — wings.

Ava grows up considering her speckled wings a useless bother and agrees with her mother’s decision to keep her and her twin Henry close to home. “It was safer for us there. Dangers lurk around every corner for the strange. And with my feathered appendages, Henry’s mute tongue, and my mother’s broken heart, what else were we but strange?” But as Ava grows older, she likes pretending to be normal, and with her friend Cardigan, ventures into the outside world. There will be consequences — for Ava, her family and household, the ghosts that live with them, and the assorted neighbors who have failed to understand that strange is also special.

snickerNatalie Lloyd’s first novel for middle-graders A Snicker of Magic (Scholastic, digital galley) reads like a favorite folktale, what with its colorful characters, mountain setting, dueling magicians, a long-ago curse, a plucky heroine and homespun tone. Because her mama has a wandering heart, 12-year-old Felicity Juniper Pickle, her little sister Frannie Jo and their  dog Biscuit have landed in Midnight Gulch, Tenn. Once upon a time, it was a magical place, and Felicity, who can see words spelled out in the air, still detects a shimmer of magic. Make that a snicker.

After making friends with schoolmate Jonah, meeting an eccentric ice cream tycoon, and learning the town’s history, Felicity just hopes that they can live with Aunt Cleo for a long, long time and make Midnight Gulch home for good. Even though she suffers from stage fright, she has entered the school’s talent show, the Duel, where words will be her weapon. But first she and Jonah want to see if they can reverse the town curse, bringing magic back to Midnight Gulch and all its residents, including her sad mama.

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