Middle Grade Reads #2 | Omega City: The Forbidden Fortress by Diana Peterfreund and Smile by Raina Telgemeier

February 24, 2017 / 0 Comments / Middle Grade Reads, Mini-Reviews, Review


Middle Grade Reads #2 | Omega City: The Forbidden Fortress by Diana Peterfreund and Smile by Raina TelgemeierOmega City: The Forbidden Fortress

Author: Diana Peterfreund
Also by this author: For Darkness Shows the Stars, Secret Society Girl, Under the Rose, Rites of Spring (Break), Tap & Gown, Rampant, Ascendant, Across a Star-Swept Sea, Omega City
Publisher: Balzer + Bray, Harper Collins
Publication date: February 14th 2017
Source: Edelweiss
Format: eARC from publisher (thank you!)
My rating:
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.com | The Book Depository | iBooks | Google Books | Audible

Perfect for fans of The Goonies and Rick Riordan, The Forbidden Fortress is the thrilling sequel to Omega City, from acclaimed author Diana Peterfreund.
Gillian Seagret is not having a great summer. Her mother’s come back with plans to move Gillian and her brother across the country, and her father is away promoting his new book on Omega City—without her! Though Gillian and her friends were the ones to find the lost doomsday bunker, no one seems to care about their thoughts on the whereabouts of its creator, Dr. Underberg, or learning the truth about the Shepherds, a mysterious group that will stop at nothing to keep Underberg—and Omega City—a secret.
All that changes when Gillian and her friends are invited to speak at a lecture series at Guidant Technology. Finally they’re being recognized for their adventures! The Guidant campus is full of wonders, from self-driving cars to robot waiters, and the future-focused employees seem like worth heirs to Dr. Underberg.
But there are secrets here, too—a radio station that plays nothing but coded numbers, and an island that doesn’t appear on any map. And when Gillian and her friends uncover evidence that the Shepherd conspiracy goes deeper than anyone suspected, it’s up to them to infiltrate the Shepherds’ secret base and expose them . . . before it’s too late.

A fast-paced, cerebral book, OMEGA CITY: The Forbidden Fortress continues the journey of Gillian Seagret, her brother Eric, and their friends Savannah, Howard, and Nate.

Ten months after finding Omega City, an mythical underground town that proves to be real, and escaping the clutches of the Shepherds, a group of conspiracy theorists bent on taking the technology from Omega City for nefarious purposes, Gillian and Eric are now living at home with their mother while their father tours and promotes his book based on their adventures.

Gillian’s mom is planning to move them to Idaho, and Gillian’s not happy about it. But before they go, they get an invitation to visit the Guidant campus – a place where Omega City’s technology is valued, and the kids’ stories are revered. Gillian and her family head there, but quickly realize that not everything is hunky-dory there, and there’s more fall-out from their Omega City adventures than they could ever imagine.

If the first Omega City book was like a cross between The City of Ember and X-Files, this one crosses much further into the X-Files territory – that is, it’s full of intrigue, mystery, and weird science.

Not only is this book ridden with code and clues and subtext, but it’s also chock-full of cutting-edge science about bee pollination, cloning, and the colonization of Mars. Because of that, I liked this book more than the first. Omega City #1 built a vibrant world and characters, but I absolutely adored the deeper motivations and development of the kids.

Moreover, the additional themes of individuals vs. greater good, animal and land preservation, and the insidious conspiracies made this a more sophisticated read for me. It’s still an adventure story, but it’s one where the stakes get much bigger and the world has expanded.

If I have qualms, they are that I didn’t see as much development as I’d hoped for in Gillian’s character. I wanted her to really come to terms with a few things emotionally, and I feel like that was sacrificed for plot. But I trust that these issues will be resolved in book 3.

The Final Word:

I’ve said before that Diana Peterfreund never dumbs down her writing for kids, and this is truer than ever with OMEGA CITY: The Forbidden Fortress. I don’t want to give much away, but if you or a kid you know loves flying cars, code-breaking, and crazy science, this one should be bought and read immediately.


Middle Grade Reads #2 | Omega City: The Forbidden Fortress by Diana Peterfreund and Smile by Raina TelgemeierSmile

Author: Raina Telgemeier
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Publication date: February 1st 2010
Format: Hardcover
My rating:
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.com | The Book Depository | iBooks | Google Books | Audible

Raina Telgemeier's #1 New York Times bestselling, Eisner Award-winning graphic memoir based on her childhood! Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there's still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly.

Raina Telgemeier has been on the lips of middle grade teachers and librarians I know for a long time. I first became aware of her graphic novel work when she was commissioned to adapt the Baby-Sitters Club series for Scholastic’s Graphix imprint in 2006. As a fan of BSC, I eagerly awaited her work, and immediately fell in love with Raina’s adaptations of the first couple novels. I loved her spin on the series, and the thoughtful voice she brought to the characters.

Smile first came out in 2010 and I met Raina when she came to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival to promote it. At the time, it was a quiet middle grade book – her first full-length novel, based on her serialized webcomic (which I hadn’t read). I knew nothing about it, but I loved her work. So perhaps it’s a little surprising that it took me seven years to finally get to it. I even read Telgemeier’s Drama before I picked up this one.

Let me tell you, though. I don’t know what I was waiting for.

This is far and away the best middle grade novel I’ve read in a long time. It’s possibly my favorite middle grade piece I’ve read. The combination of Telgemeier’s honest, raw voice in capturing young Raina’s thoughts, the adorable line drawings, the vibrancy of Stephanie Yue’s colour… I know now why this, of all Raina’s work, is so beloved by middle grade teachers, librarians, and readers. It’s the perfect blend of stranger-than-fiction story, first-contact-with-friend-drama, uncertainty-about-boys, and awkward but honest moments.

It felt SO real to me. I had Raina’s exact thoughts about my first kiss, about makeovers, about not feeling cool enough. And although I never had quite her dental drama, having had my share of orthodontics, I recognized and sympathized with the awfulness of the situation, and the struggles of living through it.

Here are a few pages from the book, just so you can see how vivid and awesome the work is:

smile-raina-telgemeier-page-image-1 smile-raina-telgemeier-page-image-2

The Final Word:

SMILE is a middle-grade graphic novel written for middle graders, but I promise you that anyone will enjoy, laugh, and cringe at Raina’s story. If you’re looking for a middle grade that gets everything right, this is it. Go read it now – it will take you only a few hours, but it will bring you so much joy.

Have you read OMEGA CITY: The Forbidden Fortress or SMILE? Are you as in love with them as I am? What middle grade books have you read and loved lately? Hit the comments and let me know!

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