Book Review: Shock Point by April Henry

August 27, 2009

Shock Point

Sixteen-year-old Cassie is being kidnapped by two men in a van parked in her driveway. She fights like mad until her mother shows up with a suitcase, letting Cassie know she’s being sent off to a school for troubled teens. It seems that Cassie’s step-dad, psychiatrist Rick, has found crystal meth in Cassie’s room, so he’s found a place that will help her turn her life around.

But Cassie has never used drugs, and the school she’s being sent to in Mexico is more like a prison and less like the tropical spa Cassie’s mom thinks it is. Cassie soon finds out there’s a slim chance she’ll even make it out before she turns 18. Can she find a way to escape and tell the world the secret she discovered about Rick before he sent her away?

Shock Point by April Henry opens with an adrenaline rush and doesn’t let up until the last page is turned. Henry offers a glimpse into the abuse that’s possible when teens are sent out of the country to be reprogrammed by parents who don’t really know or don’t really care about the means used to accomplish the goal. It’s a cautionary tale as well as an adventure story of how one teen fought back.

Book Review: Torched by April Henry

July 10, 2009


Ellie is used to her parents having groups of friends over to smoke marijuana and get stoned. She often feels more like the parent than the child, cooking dinner  for the people who drop in and cleaning up when they leave. Otherwise she spends her time trying to do well in school. But when the FBI raids her home and arrests her parents for growing marijuana in their basement, she can’t go back to living life as she knew it.

The FBI most wants to find out about the activities of the Mother Earth Defenders, (MED) a radical environmental group that her parents were meeting with. The FBI will let her parents go, but only if she agrees to infiltrate MED and pass along information about any violent actions the group plans to take. Against her wishes, Ellie agrees to help.

But as she gets more involved with the group, and she begins to fall for Coyote, one of its members, she begins to see why they are so passionate about their cause. Torn between wanting to help her parents, her growing love for Coyote and her concern for the environment, Ellie must walk a fine line and lie to everyone she cares about.  How can she see it through without losing everyone she cares about as well?

Torched by April Henry will keep you turning pages as you follow Ellie from fire-bombing a Hummer dealership, to tree sitting and more. Her conflicted Conscience brings up great things to talk about in a mother-daughter book club. Among other things it encourages the reader to ask: How far would you go to support a cause you thought was vitally important? What would you do if you could help someone you loved, even if it was dangerous? While you may expect to have a happily-ever-after ending, Henry keeps you guessing at the outcome right to the last page.

This book is especially interesting for me since it takes place in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. It was fun to read about references to places I know. I even read a story about a group of environmental activitist who were tree sitting to save a plot of old-growth forest in my local newspaper this morning. The story could have come right from the pages of Torched.

I’ve also met Henry a few times and was happy to finally get one of her books on my list to review. Since reading Torched, I headed to the library to pick up a copy of another of her books for young adults, Shock Point. It’s now part of my summer reading stack and I can’t wait to start reading it. The review on Shock Point will be out later this summer.