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Book reviews: 2 YA Whitney Award finalists explore futuristic technology and surviving the deaths of 3 friends

These two young adult novels are finalists for the 2017 Whitney Awards in their respective categories. The Whitney Awards recognize fiction by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and were awarded during the gala on May 5.

ONES AND ZEROES: A Mirador Novel,” by Dan Wells, Balzer and Bray, $17.99, 408 pages (nf) (ages 13 and up)

Teenage Marisa Carneseca’s virtual reality Overworld amateur team has been invited to compete in the exclusive Forward Motion tournament in “Ones and Zeroes.” Winning it could mean helping her family, who lives in a struggling neighborhood in 2050 Los Angeles. Even though technology is abundant and available to just about all, there is a growing gap between the rich and those struggling to get by as corporations set prices for necessities, such as clean water, higher and higher.

As Marisa hunts for a hacker named Grendel and her Overworld team, called the Cherry Dogs, gets ready for the tournament, she meets Alian Bensoussan, an underground freedom fighter who shows her a darker side of the tournament and of the corporations that control some of the necessities of life.

During the tournament, the Cherry Dogs and their friends fight their way in the virtual world, but also tackle the corruption surrounding it in the real world as they work to stay alive.

It becomes a question of who to believe and what’s real and what is a digital veneer in this interesting and entertaining novel.

Utah author Dan Wells has created a futuristic, yet believable, world where people have a computer port called a djinni installed in their head and can answer messages in the blink of an eye.

“Ones and Zeroes,” referring to binary programing, also has a wide array of characters, from teenager Marisa, who is trying to help her family the best way she knows how and manages to find more trouble than she’s bargained for; the members of her Overworld team, including friends Sahara and Anja; her friend Bao, who doesn’t have a djinni; to their opponents in the VR tournament and others.

“Ones and Zeroes” won the 2017 Whitney Award in the young adult speculative fiction category and is deserving of the award.

“Ones and Zeros,” the sequel to “Bluescreen,” doesn’t have any swearing or describe sexual content beyond teen crushes. There is descriptive video game violence and other occasional described fisticuffs.

GOODBYE DAYS,” by Jeff Zentner, Crown , $17.99, 404 pages (f) (ages 14 and up)

"Goodbye Days” is an emotional and heartbreakingly honest novel about living in the aftermath of a personal tragedy and becoming stronger.

Carver Biggs, an aspiring writer, sent a text message to one of his best friends, asking where they were. That message was found on his friend’s phone in the aftermath of the auto collision that claimed the lives of Eli, Mars and Blake.

As teenage Carver blames himself for the accident and struggles to heal in his Nashville neighborhood, he faces the funerals of his friends and a possible criminal investigation by the judge, who is Mars’ father.

Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to spend a “goodbye day” with her to share their memories and say farewell to the boy she raised. As the other families ask for their own “goodbye day,” each is vastly different and Carver wonders at their motives. Told in first person from Carver’s perspective, readers are living with Carver as he works to get through one day at a time.

Carver sees Dr. Mendez, a therapist, and fights off unpredictable panic attacks, while getting to know Eli’s girlfriend, Jesmyn, and attempting to navigate his senior year of high school.

Author Jeff Zentner alternates the present with Carver’s memories of his friends (collectively known as Sauce Crew), how they met each other and what advice they would give Carver in his current predicament.

“Goodbye Days” has been nominated for several awards and was a 2017 Whitney Awards finalist in the young adult general category.

There is more than one character who swears in “Goodbye Days” and it also includes some careful worded sexual references.