Thursday, September 22, 2011

More Soaring Eagles

Our Soaring Eagle display is looking a bit slim this week -- which is, of course, a good thing.  It means that our patrons are reading, and hopefully enjoying, this year's list of nominees.

The three titles I reviewed last week featured mostly female main characters; let's look at three that are more boy-centered:

Eighth Grade Bites, by Heather Brewer.  Life for a junior high student isn't easy: homework, friends, girlfriends . . . it's all so much to manage. But for Vladimir Tod, life is even more complicated.  Because he is an orphan, Vlad has nobody to teach him how to keep his fangs from extending when he's angry, or how to disguise the blood he brings for his lunch every day.  See, Vlad is a vampire, but he's the only one he knows.  He thinks he is the last of his kind . . .until something sinister begins preying on people Vlad knows. Vlad has to figure it out -- because whatever it is seems to be coming for him.  (This is the first in the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series, which is five books long; Brewer is releasing a new series, Chronicles of the Slayer, this fall.)

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner. Thomas wakes up in a cylindrical elevator, moving upwards. He has no idea where is he, who put him there, or where he came from. When he emerges, he is in a lush, green area surrounded by only boys his age: no children, no adults, no girls.  He finds out that he is in the Glade; all of the boys there have no idea who created the Glade or who put them there, and no memory of their lives before arriving. The boys have set up a rudimentary society, dividing themselves into groups responsible for the farming, the building, the cleaning, the cooking.  Some of the boys are called Maze Runners.  The glade is surrounded by tall stone walls, with four gates; outside the wall is a labyrinth of tall hedges and trees.  Again, the boys have no idea who created the Maze -- but they believe that if they could only solve it, they could return to their past lives. The Maze Runners -- including Thomas -- leave each morning to run and run through the Maze, returning before the gates close in the evening to map the part of the Maze they ran through. They must return before the gates close: inside the Maze are monstrous creatures called Grievers -- huge, slug-like beings with sharp appendages and appetites for boys. If any of the Gladers are out in the Maze at night, they will not return in the morning.   (This is the first book in a trilogy, followed by The Scorch Trials  and The Death Cure.)

Halt's Peril by John Flanagan.  I've reviewed Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series before (see my November 2010 post), so I won't spend a lot of time setting up this novel. By this stage in the series, Halt and Will have evolved from teacher/student to friends and partners. They are on a mission to track down a religious cult that has been terrorizing the countryside, stealing food, burning buildings, and tricking people out of their money.  They plan to bring down the leader of the cult, knowing that the entire organization will collapse if there is no leader. Unfortunately, the cult leader knows they are following him, and sends two hired assassins to do away with Will and Halt.  One of the assassins' arrows meets its mark; can Will save his friend and mentor before it is too late?

Enjoy these high-action titles!  Next time, more realistic fiction.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Soaring Eagle nominees - 2011

One of my favorite parts of my library job is the opportunity to visit our local schools to "booktalk" the year's Soaring Eagle book award nominees.  A booktalk is just what it sounds like -- a short talk about a book, intended not to reveal the whole content, but to entice listeners to read that title. I've just returned to the library from two days at one of our junior high schools, booktalking to eight groups of seventh graders.

The Soaring Eagle book award is a program run tandemly by the Wyoming LIbrary Association and the Wyoming Reading Council.  It is a youth book award program:  all nominations come from youth in the state, and the youth do all the voting.  Each year, a committee of teachers and librarians works to tally the votes and nominations, determine the current year's winners, and narrow down the list of nominees for the following year's award.

This year there are fifteen Young Adult fiction titles nominated for the Soaring Eagle book award.  Students who read three of the fifteen will be able to vote for their favorite in March. The list is heavy on the paranormal, and on dystopian literature; these seem to be perennially popular genres for young adults.

Let's start through the list by taking a look at three nominees that focus on the paranormal, or supernatural, that is so fascinating to teens:

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White.  Evie thinks of herself as a fairly normal teenager: she has a favorite TV series, hates doing homework, and loves to shop.  She does, however, have a very unusual job. She works for the International Paranormal Detection Agency, because Evie has the power to see through "glamours" to the paranormal creature disguised beneath.  In her work, she identifies and helps to tag various paranormals -- vampires, werewolves, hags, and the like -- so they can be tracked, preventing them from preying on unsuspecting humans. Things change for Evie when she starts finding paranormals who have been brutally murdered. Something is hunting the paras -- and it seems to also be targeting Evie.  Perhaps Evie is not as "normal" as she thinks she is.  (The sequel to Paranormalcy has just been released; the second book is titled Supernaturally.)

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa. Meghan Chase's life has never been ordinary, not since her father disappeared right in front of her when she was six.  It's nearly ten years later, and Meghan's mom has remarried.  Meghan has a hard time fitting in at high school:  she doesn't have the latest technology; she lives quite a distance from town; and she mostly wears second-hand clothing.  She's used to not having a normal life.  Still, the day before her sixteenth birthday, even stranger things begin to happen. In the computer lab at school, words begin scrolling across her screen: "Meghan Chase, we know where you are. We're coming for you." Then her half-brother, a sweet little boy whom she adores, acts terrified of a monster in his closet. When her sweet stepbrother causes her mother to fall and hit her head, and then attacks Meghan and bites her leg, she knows things are definitely not right. Her good friend, Robin Goodfellow, confesses the truth: Meghan's brother has been stolen by the fey and replaced by a changeling. If Meghan wants her brother back, she must enter the dangerous world of the Unseelie court, and find him.  (This is the first book in the Iron Fey series; sequels are The Iron Daughter and The Iron Queen.)

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. This paranormal romance is told in alternating points of view by the two main characters.  16-year-old Grace was attacked by a pack of wolves in the forest near her northern Minnesota home when she was 11.  She didn't die, and has since watched the pack, not with fear, but with fascination. She particularly feels a kinship with a peculiar yellow-eyed wolf: her wolf.

Sam has been a wolf since he was 8.  He has watched Grace for years from the woods, protecting her from his pack. He wants Grace to know the real Sam -- not the wolf Sam. But he knows that, with the cold of winter, his chances of showing Grace his real self grow fewer and fewer; with each shiver, he comes closer to losing himself for good.  (This is the Wolves of Mercy Falls series; Shiver's sequels are Linger and Forever.)

There are three to start through the list; more next time!