Friday, September 11, 2015

REVIEW: Spinner

By: Michael J. Bowler

Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Paranormal
Publisher: YoungDudes Publishing
Publication date: 8.5.2015
Pages: 445

Recommended by: Sage's Blog Tours, Read 2 Review
Date read: 9.10.2015

I am a huge fan of horror, and have really gotten into young adult books lately, especially ones that have a lot of adventure, interesting characters, and a story that excites me.  This book has all that ... and then some.

Before I discuss the story itself, I want to talk about the characters.  These are definitely characters you don't hear about often.  Alex is fifteen, in a wheelchair, lives in a foster home, and is in Special Ed in high school ... and has special powers.  His friends are all in the same class with him - they are the "rejects" and yet they are the ones that are going to save the world.  I absolutely love the character of Alex, and all of his classmates, especially Roy.  Each one of them have their own personalities, and bring their own things to the story and to the adventure.  He describes them perfectly, too - in such detail that you can picture them in your head, but not done in a way that takes away from the story.  It's so great to see children with special needs and learning disorders used as the heroes of a book, and the author did a great job doing it.  Seeing them try and fail, and keep trying, in spite of the way they were treated in school, was an amazing thing to see, and Bowler wrote so well that I really felt like I was there with them throughout the story, like I knew these boys.

The story is really good.  The things they have to go through, the powers and people they are up against the whole way, the mysteries they work to solve, all with a much bigger picture than they can realize.  It's an epic adventure that I'm sure lots of children (and Young Adult lovers) will enjoy.  The horror aspect of it is done really well - just the right amount of creepy for a young adult novel, as far as I'm concerned.

Definitely check out the introduction to the book before you get started on the story.  The author tells you a little bit about himself and why he chose the characters that he did for this novel.  

Definitely a book that I highly recommend.  This would be a great book to share with older children who are into adventures and scary things.  

About the book:
Fifteen-year-old Alex is a "spinner."  his friends are "dummies."  Two clandestine groups of humans want his power.  And an ancient evil is stalking him.  If people were't being murdered, Alex might laugh at how his life turned into a horror movie overnight.
            In a wheelchair since birth, his freakish ability has gotten him kicked out of ten foster homes since the age of four.  Now saddled with a sadistic housemother who uses his spinning to heal the kids she physically abuses, Alex and his misfit group of learning disabled classmates are the only ones who can solve the mystery of his birth before more people meet a gruesome end.
            They need to find out who murdered their beloved teacher, and why the hot young substitute acts like she's flirting with them.  Then there's the mysterious medallion that seems to have unleashed something malevolent, and an ancient prophecy suggesting Alex has the power to destroy humanity.
            The boys break into homes, dig up graves, elude kidnappers, fight for their lives against feral cats, and ultimately confront an evil as old as humankind.  Friendships are tested, secrets uncovered, love spoken, and destiny revealed.
            The kid who's always been a loner will finally learn the value of friends, family, and loyalty.
            If he survives...

About the author:
Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author of eight novels - A Boy and His Dragon, A Matter of Time (Silver Medalist from Reader's Favorite), and the Knight Cycle, comprised of five books: Children of the Knight (Gold Award Winner in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards), running Through a Dark Place, There Is No Fear, And the Children Shall Lead, Once Upon a Time in America, and Spinner.
            He grew up in San Rafael, California, and majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University.  He went on to earn a master's in film production from Loyola Marymount University, and another master's in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.
            He acted as producer, writer, and/or director on several ultra-low-budget horror films, including "Fatal Images," "Club Dead," and "Things II."
            He taught high school in Hawthorne, California for twenty-five years, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities, in subjects ranging from English and Strength Training to Algebra, Biology, and Yearbook.
            He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to eight different boys with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a thirty-year volunteer within the juvenile system in Los Angeles.
            He has been honored as Probation Volunteer of the Year, YMCA Volunteer of the Year, California Big Brother of the Year, and 2000 National Big Brother of the Year.  The "National" honor allowed him and three of his Little Brothers to visit the White House and meet the president in the Oval Office.
            He is currently working on a sequel to Spinner.  His goal as a YA author is for teens to experience empowerment and hope; to see themselves in his diverse characters; to read about kids who face real-life challenges; and to see how kids like them can remain decent people in an indecent world.
            Spinner won Honorable Mention in Young Adult Books of 2015 from the San Francisco Book Festival.

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Michael Bowler said...

Thank you, Meghan, for your kind words. I'm especially touched by how much you loved the characters. Kids like these are so overlooked by society and I know from many years of experience just how awesome they can be. Appreciate your support of my kids and the story.

Meghan H said...

You are very welcome, Michael!! I completely agree with what you're saying and I love that this book shows children that they, too, can be the superhero. I hope it gives all children a chance to see just how great that they are and helps them to not be down on themselves because they are not like everyone else. You did a great job.

I am especially excited to know that you are working on a sequel to this story. I cannot wait to see these characters again and find out what their next adventure will be. :)

Michael Bowler said...

Hopefully, Spinner will sell well enough to warrant the two continuations that complete the storyline. Sadly, at this point, that doesn't look likely. Time will tell. Thanks again for your support!

Meghan H said...

Of course. I'll help spread the word. And I definitely plan to look at more of the works you have out.

I am not an author, but I am a writer, and my way of thinking about this is - if you can help JUST ONE child see that they are more than what people around them call them, more than the disease or disability or whatever they have, than you have a done damn good job, regardless of how much you make doing it. I know the warm happy feelings don't pay the bills, but I have a couple of kids whose hands I definitely plan to get this book into. Every year I try to pass along something good to read to them, and this year, I think it definitely needs to be Spinner.

Michael Bowler said...

That's my goal, Meghan, in all my books - to help kids who aren't normally the heroes in YA lit see themselves as special and just as important as their peers. I never expect to make any money writing books, but I do seek to touch the lives of kids and give them hope and empower them to be the change they want to see in the world. I have a new book releasing soon that I'm giving away to teachers to use with their classes because I feel the topic is important and I want kids exposed to the story. It's aimed at middle school and even lower, but also for high school age and up. I'm happy to send you an ARC if you want to read it. Would love to get your kids' opinion. Again, thanks for sharing Spinner. I only mentioned sales because the publisher will not put out any sequel unless the first one sells to their satisfaction. Otherwise, I can wait a couple of years and self-publish the sequel. I have plans for Alex and company to return someday. :)

Meghan H said...

Oh I see. Damn publishers.

I love that you are doing this and your reasoning behind it. I would LOVE to receive an ARC of your new book. I'm putting together a reading group here (I just moved to this state a month and a half ago, and I had one back home) - a group of kids that love to hear stories. I can share it with them and see what they think. Adults can give their opinions all day long, but when it comes to kids' books, I love to get their opinions as well. :)

Michael Bowler said...

I have an ARC with temporary banner (cover won't be ready till November) that might still have some typos (book will be formatted later this month), but the storyline won't change so let me know how to get the new book to you, i.e. email, and I will send ASAP. Kids need to read the Author's note and What Has Gone Before - only 2 pages - so they understand this is part of a larger universe. Thanks!