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Nefertiti: A Novel
by Michelle Moran
Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.


Prince Amunhotep has murdered his older brother and is obsessed with overhauling the Egyptian system of gods and priests. Can strong-willed Nefertiti reign him in, or will her love for him and her lust for power render her impotent?

This is Ms. Moran's debut novel. The history and culture is well-researched, and the point of view character, Mutny (Nefertiti's sister) is engaging. At times the writing is clunky and self-conscious, but overall it does the trick. It takes me away and helps me visualize the political climate and the diverse social classes, especially the simple life chosen by Mutny juxtaposed with the surreal wealth of her sister.

When writing about history, it's difficult to pace the story outside the box of known events; however, the author is credited with starting the story in the right place, and fleshing out Mutny, a character we can relate to, who is usually an outsider, observing her sister de-construct. It's a story of tragedy as well as hope.

The story is clean for teens.





by Lauren Oliver
Harper Collins

Lena can't wait for her procedure--scheduled on her upcoming 18th birthday--so she will no longer fear contracting the dreaded deliria nervosa disease, known by its common name, Love. In a dystopian future, the disease has been outlawed because it's the source of too many deadly emotions. Lena is desperate for the procedure because she believes the disease is responsible for the deaths of her father, mother and cousin. The high concept is fresh and well done.

The writer has a gift for sensory detail, and the setting is engaging and three dimensional. The level of detail at times made me skim ahead to get to the action, but it was still a pleasant read, even at its slowest. Most of the time, I felt I was in the hands of an experienced story-teller.

The pace, though slow, is saved by a 'clicking time bomb' authorial device: the MC is counting the days until her procedure, and this builds a sense of anticipation which gradually changes to dread as she realizes she has contracted deliria nervosa from Alex, a boy who has not had the procedure.

Alex is a likeable fellow, but not enough info is woven into the story to flesh out his personality and history, which renders him more of a prop than a living person. Hana, the MC's best friend, is well done, and her struggle against authority is balanced and believable.

SPOILER: Predictably, Alex informs Lena that her mother is not dead, but being held in the Crypts with other political prisoners who don't want to give up love. A daring rescue attempt brings Alex and Lena into a dangerous confrontation with the authorities, ending with a dramatic chase scene that leaves the story threads pleasantly hanging for a sequel.

some kissing
no sex
no profanity
mild atheism (religion has been eradicated, along with war, as an adjunct of love)
Themes: caring for friends; family loyalty; question authority