Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Nonetheless, the calendar says an entire year has passed. And so, it's time to introduce this year's set of Soaring Eagle book award nominees: books that, for reasons of popularity and literary quality, have been nominated by Wyoming students in 7th-12th grades as possible winners of our state youth book award.
I've just been in one of our junior high schools, talking about these books with the students. This year's list has generated a lot of excitement about reading, and that's a very good thing.
As usual, I won't write about all fourteen nominees in one blog post. As we're getting close to Halloween, I'll focus on the "creepy" books first:
Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman:
15-year-old Jacob Fielding should not have survived the car accident that killed his foster father, but he did. Weeks later, he returns to school and meets a new student, Ophelia, or "O" for short. O is smart, pretty, daring; she wears a pink cast on her arm, the result of a skateboarding accident. Jacob and his best friend, Milo, ask to sign O's pink cast. On a whim, Jacob writes "You are indestructible" -- the very words his foster father spoke to him before their car smashed into a giant redwood tree.
That afternoon, Ophelia tries another skateboarding stunt, and wrecks - badly. She should have had more broken bones, or worse, but she walks away without a scratch.
Could Jacob's foster father have given him some magical protection before he died? And could Jacob have passed that protection on to Ophelia?
What would you do if you had the power to control life and death. How would you decide who to protect? How would you decide who lives and who dies?
Zom-B by Darren Shan:
B Smith is a bully and a thug. B's father is worse: racist, sexist, alcoholic, and violent. B's father keeps control in their London home by spouting prejudicial opinions, then berating -- or beating -- anyone who disagrees with him.
At school, B behaves similarly: using insults, racial slurs, and fists when necessary, to stay on top.
When news program footage shows a gruesome zombie attack in Ireland, B's father pronounces that the footage is just a government plot to scare citizens; and besides, he notes, the world could do without a few Irishmen anyway.
But the zombies are real, and they show up at B's high school. In one terrible afternoon, B and his gang zigzag though classrooms and corridors, trying to escape the zombies; around every turn is a new threat. Finally, B faces a moment of truth -- and B's true character, as well as true identity, is revealed.
This is the first book in Shan's Zom-B series; nine books have been published so far.
UnWholly by Neal Shusterman:
The second book in Shusterman's UnWind series, UnWholly continues his disturbing vision of "Happy Jack Harvest Camp," where unwanted teenagers are "unwound" -- their body parts harvested for organ and tissue donation while they are still, barely, alive. In the first book of the series, a group of teens manages to escape, and they continue to live underground, searching for ways to help other teens like them.
Meanwhile, the harvesting continues, as big business and big science have teamed up to exploit these unwanted teens. New to the story is Camus Comprix, a 21st-century Frankenstein who was constructed of donated parts from 99 gifted teens. He is the centerpiece of "Proactive Humanity's" campaign to expand the general harvest to include not only troublesome teens, but also the imprisoned and impoverished. Cam begins to fall in love, however, and this new development leads him to search fro meaning in his life, and to question whether a "rewound" being can actually have a soul.
As Cam begins to question his identity, he has to also question the unwinding process that made him, and his connection to the teens who have escaped.
As stated, this is the second book in what Shusterman calls a "dystology". Other titles include UnSouled (#3) and UnDivided (#4).
There are other titles on this year's list of nominees that are "creepy," for a variety of reasons, but these three definitely have the potential to make you jump at loud noises and peek around corners while you read them. Happy spooky reading!
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
I thought of titling this post: "What to read when all the copies of Divergent are checked out." Last year, I could have just substituted Hunger Games for the title; seven years ago, Twilight. Particularly in the late summer/early autumn, there are always a few teen books that are wildly popular, making it difficult for us librarians to keep enough copies available.
So, what follows are some suggested substitutions for this year's most popular titles. . . . or, what your teen patron can read, and be engaged with, when all the copies of Divergent are checked out:
For those readers who are looking for Divergent, by Veronica Roth -- This is a currently popular example of dystopia, a genre wildly popular since the buzz created by Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy. (Reviewed in this blog here .) Some newer dystopian titles to read instead of the Divergent trilogy include:
* Legend trilogy, by Marie Lu
* Dustlands trilogy, by Moira Young
* Insignia by S. J. Kincaid
* Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
* Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
For those readers looking for The Giver, by Lois Lowry -- Some patrons are surprised to find that this classic YA novel has been around since 1993, and is one of several predecessors for the dytopia genre. (For a more complete review of Lowry's entire series, click here.) Nonetheless, the current movie has made the old new again; look for these older titles when Lowry's masterpiece is not available:
* Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
* Feed by M. T. Anderson
* Lord of the Flies by William Golding
* 1984 by George Orwell
* Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
For those readers looking for City of Bones, or the Mortal Instruments series, by Cassandra Clare -- Both this series, and its prequel series, The Infernal Devices, employ a compelling blend of paranormal characters, dangerous plot, and romantic setting. The genre of steampunk -- a blend of history and fantasy/sci-fi -- does this combination well. When Clare's books are not on the shelf, try these instead:
* Steampunk Chronicles series, by Kady Cross
* Finishing School series, by Gail Carriger
* Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins series by Andrew Lane
* The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent
* Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve
For those readers looking for The Lost Hero, by Rick Riordan -- Riordan's series hold appeal for lovers of fantasy. The blend of mythological creatures and action-packed adventure particularly entices younger readers, those who are not quite ready for high fantasy. Depending on the age and interest of the reader, the following selections also offer monsters, action, and fantastical settings, in varying degrees:
* The Syrena Legacy by Anna Banks (for more mature readers)
* Loki's Wolves by Kelley Armstrong
* Peter & the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry
* Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor
* Warrior Heir series by Cinda Williams Chima
For those readers looking for The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green -- Some patrons looking for Green's book are simply looking for anything that isn't dystopia or paranormal! Others really are looking for books about strong characters dealing with disease or disability. Try one of the following selections:
* Me & Earl & the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
* Deadline by Chris Crutcher
* Going Bovine by Libba Bray
* The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork
* The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
For readers who are looking for If I Stay by Gayle Forman -- Again, this is a little older novel (2007) enjoying renewed popularity because of the attention of Hollywood: the movie version of Forman's story is out this month. The novel, reviewed in this blog here, tells the story of a girl faced with an impossible choice in the aftermath of a devastating car accident. Similar stories that will appeal to teen readers include:
* Elsewhere, by Gabrielle Zevin
* The Princesses of Iowa, by M. Molly Backes
* Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver
* The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson
* Tears of a Tiger, Sharon Draper
Finally, for readers who are looking for The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak -- Actually, this title's current popularity seems to be due to adult, rather than teen, check-outs. The award-winning novel of Nazi Germany, told from Death's perspective and via the story of a girl who steals books, has some equally compelling historical fiction companions on the shelves right now:
* Daniel, Half-Human by David Chotjewitz
* Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys
* Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
* Yellow Star, by Jennifer Roy
* Run, Boy, Run: a novel, by Uri Orlev
So . . . I've listed 35 possible titles that might help those students who just don't know what to read as the school year begins. Hopefully, one of the above choices will appeal, and will lead to other great selections. If you'd like to do some other research on your own, check out our Novelist database, available on this website, or at this link: www.ccpls.info.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Spark a Reaction: Chemical Reactions -- During this week, teens experimented with chemical reactions that caused soda to freeze instantly, and laundry detergent to from crystals. In YA literature, the science of chemistry forms the backdrop for many compelling stories, particularly in dystopian novels that explore chemical and genetic experiments gone awry. Readers interested in chemical and genetic engineering might enjoy one of these selections:
- Jekel Loves Hyde, by Beth Fantaskey
- Vitro by Jessica Khoury
- Beta by Rachel Cohn
- Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
- Maximum Ride series by James Patterson
- Altered by Jennifer Rush
Spark a Reaction: Glowing Reactions -- The activities this week were more about creative fun than science: teens were able to make glow-in-the-dark slime and glowing lanterns, and to give themselves a "glowing" manicure! However, the idea of glowing makes me think of stars and planets, and recently, YA fiction has seen a resurgence of science fiction about space, alien invasions, and extraterrestrial life. If "Star Wars" appeals to you, you might enjoy:
- Glow series by Amy Kathleen Ryan
- Across the Universe series by Beth Revis
- Galahad series by Dom Testa
- The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer
- Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Spark a Reaction: Survival Reactions -- "Survival skills" can mean anything to today's teens: from surviving junior high school, to wilderness survival, to living through a zombie apocalypse. Our drop-in activities focused on creating survival gear from duct tape, braiding survival bracelets, and cooking s'mores in solar ovens. In recent years, YA fiction has exploded with titles that use survival skills as a plot device; obviously, The Hunger Games is one exceptionally popular example, but there are many more. Teens who enjoy gritty stories of endurance and resourcefulness should try these lesser-known titles:
- Ashfall series by Mike Mullin
- Stung by Bethany Wiggins
- Enclave by Ann Aguirre
- Orleans by Sherri L. Smith
- Life As We Knew It series by Susan Beth Pfeffer
- The Living by Matt de la Peña
Hopefully, the above lists of titles will spark more reading, and more lists of suggested titles! For teens in Gillette, remember that we will draw for our grand prize baskets during our final summer reading event, August 6 from 1 to 4 p.m., so be sure to get your tickets in! Following that final event, we'll still offer our reading incentives until school starts.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Here in the Teen Room, we are nearly one month into a very busy summer of club meetings, a reading program, drop-in afternoon activities, and volunteer opportunities. In this blog post, I'd like to link some of these popular activities with potential reading selections, so that patrons who enjoyed a particular activity can find a book with similar themes and subject matter.
Spark a Reaction: Chain Reactions. All summer, our drop-in afternoon activities are emphasizing creativity and imagination, the idea that one thought or person can spark an entirely new idea or reaction. For the first week of our drop-in activities, teens were able to innovate with our 3D printer pen and LittleBits, create with chalkboard paint, and collaborate with one another in clubs and a book discussion. This was also the week of our Robotics Club launch, very exciting for some of our newer patrons. Teens who particularly enjoy creating with technology -- or exploring the impact technology can/could have on the human race -- may enjoy these fiction selections:
- BZRK series Michael Grant
- Homeland by Cory Doctorow
- Hungry City Chronicles by Philip Reeve
- Mila 2.0 by Debra Drizza
- Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon
- Please Ignore Viera Dietz by A. S. King
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
- Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You by Joyce Carol Oates
Spark a Reaction: Rhythmic Reactions. In our second week of drop-in activities, patrons were encouraged to explore the science involved in music, and to create their own musical instruments and accessories. While listening to music is a huge part of teen culture, not too many YA novels write about teen musicians. Here are four -- one dystopia, one realistic fiction, one historical fiction, and one fantasy -- that all portray the importance of music in teens' lives:
- Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony
- Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
- Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
- Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
- Michael Vey series, by Richard Paul Evans
- Delirium trilogy, by Lauren Oliver
- Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer
- Lorien Legacies, by Pittacus Lore
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
A complete list of this year's nominees (reviewed in the last several months in this blog) follows:
Rise of the Elgen (Michael Vey, #2) by Richard Paul Evans
Outcasts (Brotherband Chronicles, #1) by John Flanagan
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
BZRK by Michael Grant
Tiger's Curse (Tiger's Curse, #1) by Colleen Houck
Framed by Gordon Korman
Legend (Legend Trilogy, #1) by Marie Lu
Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles, #1) by Melina Marchetta
Rot and Ruin (Benny Imura, #1) by Jonathan Maberry
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Everlost (Skinjacker Trilogy, #1) by Neal Shusterman
I, Q.: Kitty Hawk (I,Q., #3) by Roland Smith
Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1) by Maggie Stiefvater
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
These final three titles don't have a lot in common, so it's difficult to group them by genre or intended audience. They are, however, my personal favorites from this year's list of nominees . . . for whatever that's worth!
The other two books in this action-packed trilogy are Prodigy and Champion. Both are already released.
The final title that I'm reviewing is an unusual one, for two reasons. First, this is an illustrated novel -- not quite a graphic novel, as not every page has a picture, but the pen and ink drawings of illustrator Jim Kay add meaning and emotion to the narrative story. The second reason is that the idea for the story was inspired by another YA author, Siobhan Dowd. Dowd was dying of cancer when she conceived the idea for this story, and knew she wouldn't be able to write it. So she shared the idea with author Patrick Ness, who wrote the story in his own way, his own voice, and asked Kay to add the illustrations. There are few examples of this type of collaboration and unselfishness in literature, so this one is worth noting.
Now, on to the book review. . . .
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
If you've been reading much Young Adult fiction at all, you know that dystopian novels continue to be popular. Many of those dystopias take on a sci-fi twist, and this week's four SEBA nominees are no different. These novels will appeal to fans of both dystopian fiction and traditional science fiction.
This is the first book in a trilogy; the second, BRZK Reloaded, is already out.
In book two, Michael and his friends have escaped the Elgen and Hatch, and continue their quest to locate Michael's mother. With 10 electric kids, as well as the 3 non-electrics, they hope that they can avoid the Elgen, but do not realize what they are fighting. After an unsuccessful trip to Idaho and contact with a mysterious and powerful helper, the group heads to Peru to find Michael's mother. There they discover Hatch's evil plan to control the world with billions of electric rats. How can a group of teenagers, no matter their talents, stay alive and rescue Mrs. Vey...... and the world?
Book three in this trilogy, Battle of the Ampere, wraps up this exciting (electrifying?) adventure.
Allie and Nick, along with Leif who's been alone in an Afterlife forest for decades, find a dangerous world of sinking earth and gang children. They also find Mary, who writes books about the Afterlife from her home in the Twin Towers, now home to hundreds of dangerously content children. Allie and Nick do not wish to become like the others, who not only forget their names and history, but even change their appearance to match their vision of themselves.
The two "Greensouls" meet the Haunter who declines to teach them the darker skills of ecto-ripping and skin-jacking; and The McGill, a monstrous pirate of a sunken ship. Ultimately Allie and Nick have to decide which to be: safe but unthinking followers like the Tower children, or endangered but independent thinkers.