Monday, December 19, 2011

Final Four Soaring Eagle nominees

If you are looking for a last-minute gift for your teen, or just something for vacation reading, check out these last four of the fifteen 2011-2012 Soaring Eagle book award nominees:

Fire by Kristin Cashore.  Imagine having the power to read people's minds, and even to bend their will to match yours.  Imagine also having incredible beauty, beauty that inspires all sorts of petty and vile human emotions. Imagine having to hide your power, and your beauty, for fear of being labeled a monster.  This is the life of Fire, a seventeen-year-old girl struggling to learn how to use her power.  Cashore writes Fire as a prequel to Graceling, a Soaring Eagle nominee from last year's list.  Enter the world of the Dells when it was still populated with monsters, rather than gracelings, and watch as Fire strives to live down her father's evil legacy, and to use her power for good.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare.  Another prequel, this is the first in Clare's Infernal Devices series, which sets the stage for her popular urban fantasy novels in the Mortal Instruments series. In Clockwork Angel, we meet 18-year-old Tessa Gray as she embarks on a solitary voyage across the Atlantic to locate her brother, Nate.  What she finds as the ship docks in Victorian London is a world of chaos and pandemonium -- but no brother. Instead, two old women pull up in a carriage and offer to take Tessa to Nate.  She believes them, and trusts them -- though she shouldn't have.  Tessa is held captive by the two old women, who are really warlocks that introduce her to London's Downworld -- a place populated by witches, warlocks, vampires, and other dark creatures.  They tell Tessa that she has a secret power that makes her belong to this world -- and Tessa does not know who she can really trust, what is truth, or even who she, Tessa, really is.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.  In this second book of the Hunger Games trilogy, we continue the story of Katniss Everdeen.  She has survived the grueling Hunger Games, but at great cost to her mental and emotional well-being. Now, back home with her family, Katniss is torn among three forces: the desire to protect her mother, sister, and friends; the duty to live under the Capitol's omnipresent eye; and the call to serve as a symbol for those of her country who want to start a second revolution -- and want Katniss to be their symbol.  (For a more complete review of The Hunger Games, see the August 23, 2011 entry in this blog.)

Unwind by Neal Shusterman.  In this futuristic dystopia, the world seems perfect: no body dies of major injuries, catastrophic illness, or genetic defects.  No one dies because there are always spare body parts to replace those lost in accidents, spare genetic material to alter the course of a disease.  Therefore, adults can conceivably live forever.  For children, however, the story is a bit different.  Because of constant conflict over the beginning of life, it has been determined that a human being is not truly alive until age 14.  Therefore, at age 13, a child can be unwound for one of three reasons: because they are an orphan and therefore of no value to society; because they have been tithed by their family; or because their parents are simply tired of raising them.  The children who are unwound have their body parts harvested to maintain others' life, though they don't necessarily die.  When you are sent to be unwound, you can go willingly or not -- but you will go after all.

These last four are definitely other-worldly, whether fantasy or science fiction.  Great imaginative reads -- as well as great material for thinking about reality!  Happy reading.