Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Final Three SEBA Nominees

This will most likely be my last post for 2012, so it's appropriate to finish discussing this year's Soaring Eagle Book Award nominees.  Once 2013 begins, a lot of attention in the world of Young Adult literature will focus on nominees and winners of other national awards, and this blog will likewise focus on those books.

The last three of this year's 14 SEBA nominees are more difficult to group together; although all three are realistic fiction, they differ widely in writing style, plot motivation, and reader appeal.  The best thing to do is just to talk about them! So, here goes. . . . 

Theodore Boone, Abduction by John Grisham.  This book is the second in Grisham's first young adult series. Grisham, a highly popular author of adult crime novels, has developed a teenage character, Theodore Boone, whose parents are both involved in the law. Theodore himself plans to be a lawyer when he grows up. However, in the first book of the series, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, he finds himself in court much sooner than anticipated: Theodore has witnessed a murder and helps to solve it with his keen observation skills. In Theodore Boone: Abduction, Theo's best friend, April, has disappeared. There are sinister happenings in town, and Theo has a bad feeling about April's disappearance.  Will he be able to use his detective skills to find his friend before it's too late?  

What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones. When the "popular" girl and the "outcast" boy connect and start dating, classmates and parents do not understand. Robin has always considered himself a loser; he can't believe that Sophie, the prettiest girl in school, is actually interested in him.. . and neither can Sophie's clique-y friends. Sophie sticks by Robin through all the hurt; but if she knew the total truth about him, about the secrets he hides from her, would she make the same choice?  This book is also a sequel to "What My Mother Doesn't Know;" both are written in verse rather than prose.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  Hazel, Augustus, and Isaac are three friends bound together by a common enemy -- cancer.  All three have, so far, survived some form of cancer, although at the cost of body parts, freedoms, and any chance of "normal" teenaged lives. This is not a feel-good cancer story; Green writes a gut-wrenching, painfully realistic tale about three teenagers who fight against being defined by their disease.  Isaac loses his girlfriend just before surgery to have his second eye removed, and rages against the unfairness.  Hazel has been in remission since a miracle drug shrunk her thyroid tumor two years ago, but now relies on an oxygen tank and cannula for every breath.  And Gus, the most vibrant and alive of all three, just wants to focus on making Hazel's dream come true.  A beautiful story about friendship, love and life.  

 We had only fourteen nominations for the Soaring Eagle book award this year, rather than fifteen.  If you need to view the full list, you can find it at this URL:   Encourage your teen (or you!) to read at least three so that they can vote for their favorite in March. Happy Holidays, and happy reading!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Boys' Adventures -- Post-Apocalyptic Style

When I began teaching literature classes in the early 1990's, the adventure novels that my junior high boys loved to read focused on the skills they saw their fathers, uncles and brothers using:  western and wilderness survival skills, like hunting and trapping, roping and riding. In fact, I still remember one boy, Brad,  who had just discovered Gary Paulsen; that was only a few years after the original publication of Hatchet, and it seemed that Brad could not read enough Gary Paulsen books!

While boys (and girls) are still reading these more traditional adventure novels, particularly here in our rural state, the adventure novel of today is more likely to have a futuristic setting, and often a post-apocalyptic tone.  That statement is certainly true for these three 2012-2013 Soaring Eagle award nominees:

 Scorch Trials by James Dashner:  This is the second book in Dashner's Maze Runner trilogy; the first book, Maze Runner,  was a nominee on last year's list, and was reviewed in this blog on September 22, 2011. Scorch Trials begins where the last novel ended: Thomas and his friends have escaped the maze and are hoping to return to a normal life, one without constant fear. Instead, they find themselves still under the control of others.  There is another trial in store for them: Sun flares have destroyed most of the earth, and a virus has infected the remaining population. Infected people turn into zombies, called Cranks, that attack and eat one another. Thomas and his friends are told that they, too, have the virus, but that they will be cured if they succeed in surviving their second trial. The second trial? With very few supplies, they must travel across 100 miles of scorched earth to reach a safe house and receive the cure; they will only have two weeks to reach their destination. As expected, the second trial tests the boys' courage and loyalty to one another just as much as the first trial did.  Dashner concludes his trilogy with The Death Cure; he has also written a prequel to the series, The Kill Order. 

Michael Vey: Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans: This is the story of 14-year-old Michael Vey, who is accustomed to being labeled as "different." Michael suffers from Tourette's syndrome, one reason other kids see him as different. However, he is different in another way as well. Michael has massive amounts of electricity coursing through his body, so much that he can knock bullies right off their feet, and even jump-start his mother's car!
Unfortunately, Michael causes an "incident" that forces his family to move to a small town in Idaho. There, Michael works hard at just being normal.  However, he discovers that he is not the only student with unusual abilities in his new school; a girl, Taylor, has the power to read people's minds. Michael and Taylor become friends, and decide to try to discover why they have these special powers. As they come closer to the truth, they also come to the attention of some people who have been looking for kids like them -- and not with good intentions.  The sequel to this story, Michael Vey: Rise of the Elgen, is already out.

Gone by Michael Grant: The first book in Grant's highly-popular five-book series, Gone takes place in a normal small town, with normal people living in it.  The only unusual thing about this town is the nuclear reactor that once had a meltdown. Normal life has resumed by now, and most people try to forget the accident. Until one day -- in a moment, all the people over age 14 disappear. There is no trace of them; they are gone . . . just gone.  Sam, one of the 14-year-olds remaining, always knew he had special powers, one which could be dangerous if he got upset. He also has the ability to know what to do in emergency situations, making him a natural, if reluctant, leader. Now, Sam and some of his friends have to figure out how to provide the basics for all the children left in their town. Suddenly, in this frightening new world, responsibility for food, shelter, and basic needs falls heavily on Sam's shoulders.  Added to his burden is the fact that others besides him have strange powers, and not all of them are working for good. Even worse are the mutated animals who threaten this new society every day.  So far, Grant has published five titles in this series; the sixth and last book, Light,   will be released in April of 2013.

These three adventure books still combine the survival skills and character traits that have always made adventures a good choice for reluctant, and other, readers. Hopefully there is one on this list to interest you. We will finish up with the final three 2012-2013 Soaring Eagle nominations in the next blog post.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Back to Soaring Eagles

It's December! This month is a great time to find a new novel to read, or to find a book that will make a nice gift for someone you care about.  Considering that, let's get back to reviewing some of this year's list of Soaring Eagle book award nominees:

If that person for whom you are selecting a gift happens to be a girl, one of the following three nominees might be appropriate.  All feature female characters in oppressive situations; all the heroines manage to find ways to assert their independence and free will despite the dangers.  If you've been reading my blog, you'll also notice that all three of these novels are dystopias. (See the November 14 entry for more on this genre.)

Matched by Ally Condie: In Cassia's world, society makes all the decisions: who your spouse will be; where and how you will live; what work you will do; and even when you will die. All persons are equal, except when society decides otherwise. All listen to the same 100 songs; recite the same 100 poems; and read the same 100 books. 

When Cassia turns 17, she attends her "match" banquet, to discover who her future spouse will be.  When his picture appears on the large overhead screen, she is surprised and pleased to discover that it is Xander, the boy down the street whom she's known all her life. It is a rare thing to already know your match, let alone to be best friends with that person. Since Cassia knows Xander so well, she almost does not look at the microchip of his personal information that is given to all match candidates at their banquet. When she finally decides to load the microship on her home port and take a look, she is shocked to see another boy's picture and information -- Ky, also a boy she knows. The authorities tell her that there was a mistake in her microchip: after all, Ky is an Aberration, a lesser member of society who will not be allowed to marry. Cassia, however, becomes less sure of her match with Xander, and faces difficult decisions in the following months:  Who will she love? Who will she hurt? And will society even allow her to choose?

Matched is the first in a trilogy by Condie: the sequels, already released, are Crossed and Reached.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano: In this future world, the pursuit of a perfect human race has resulted in one generation of people who live to be over 100. However, their genetic modification has now caused a virus that shortens life spans for all future generations.  Young men only live to be 25, and young women die at age 20.  The fear of the eventual demise of the human race causes people to behave in horrific ways.  Geneticists experiment on human beings in order to find a cure; orphans roam the street as their parents die of the virus; and polygamy abounds. Young women are kidnapped and sold as "wives" to rich men in order to propagate their family line.

Rhine has been living with her brother since their parents died, and despite their desperate conditions and struggle to survive, the two of them are happy to have each other. That is, until Rhine is kidnapped. She is transported to a mansion far away from the squalid apartment she shares with her brother, and is married to a stranger named Luther. Trapped in the mansion, Rhine is desperate for a means to escape from Luther, his sinister father, and her two "sister wives" who she cannot trust. She wants to flee -- but will have to find a way past her captors. 

The sequel to Wither  is Fever, which is already out. DeStefano will finish her Chemical Garden trilogy in February with the last installment, Sever.

Divergent by Veronica Roth: In this world, set in post-apocalyptic Chicago, society has divided itself into five factions: Amity, Candor, Erudite, Dauntless, and Abnegation. Each faction values a different human quality above others. As teenagers come of age, they are subjected to aptitude tests to determine where they best fit. Their results are secret, however, so that on Choosing Day they can select to remain with the faction in which they've been raised, or they can choose a new faction based on their test. If they do leave their faction of origin, they generally do not see their families again; one of this society's most basic rules is "faction before family." For Beatrice, who has been rasied in Abnegation, the prospect of leaving her family for a faction that would perhaps be a better fit for her induces extreme guilt . . .and extreme excitement. Can she leave her family forever? Is she willing to take the risk and pay the price? And which faction will best allow Beatrice to hide her secret?

The second book in the Divergent trilogy is Insurgent, already released.  An as-yet untitled third book, the end of the trilogy, is expected in September of 2013.

Three trilogies, three strong characters.  Visit the library for some great reading choices for December!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blurred Boundaries in YA literature

In my last post, I mentioned that I had the opportunity to attend the YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium in St. Louis earlier this month.  I am still using this blog space to write about some of the insights I gained from that conference.

Another trend discussed widely among both authors and librarians at the symposium was the blurring of genre-boundaries found so often in YA literature. While there are certainly ample titles that can be clearly classified in a particular genre, there are also a rising number of titles that don't fit easily into any one box. Indeed, our Teen Room patrons often wonder why we don't have separate sections for mystery, horror, science fiction, etc., on our shelves. More accurately, they wonder why we don't have a special shelf for the "vampire books."  While a lack of space for such separation is one very practical reason, the increasing overlap of books into more than one genre also makes it difficult to shelve YA literature this way.  For example, those "vampire books" might be horror (Darren Shan's Cirque du Freak series); paranormal (Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series) or romance (Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books).

This blurring of genre boundaries does not only occur with books about vampires, but with all types of YA books.  I attended one session specifically about this YA literature trend, and would like to share some of the presenters' thoughts here.

from YA author Helen Frost -- Frost writes in narrative verse, a genre-blending style that has been most popularized in YA literature by Ellen Hopkins. Frost's novels, including The Braid, Keesha's House, and Crossing Stones, also use poetry to tell a story. Frost spoke of using not only the words of the poems to convey the characters' personalities and motivations, but also the form. For example, she wrote the poems in Crossing Stones in different styles to match her four main characters' personalities:  free verse for a more independent spirit, and more traditional forms for those characters more bound by society's expectations. Frost spoke of reading verse-narrative novels metaphorically, akin to "surfing on water" where prose is the land, poetry is water, and a verse-novel is not quite immersed in either form. For Frost, the popularity of verse-novels, which blur the boundaries of prose and poetry, is reflective of teens' own psychological state -- being not quite immersed in either childhood or adulthood. 

from YA author A. S. King -- King is one of only a few American YA authors to write in a style called "magical realism." Her novels include Printz award honoree Please Ignore Viera Dietz; Everybody Sees the Ants;  and the recent Ask the Passengers. Just as it sounds, magical realism incorporates elements of both fantasy and realistic fiction, resulting in a story that is grounded in contemporary settings and situations, but will suddenly shift to an event or perception that is not quite real. Reading magical realism requires a certain suspension of disbelief: a reader bent on making sense of all the events will often end up frustrated.  Hispanic authors have long written in this genre, and King admits she's read Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred years of Solitude dozens of times. For King, however, a genre definition is not important.  "I just write what comes out of my head." she says, admitting that she herself does not always know what her characters will do until events happen. That attitude of just "going with it" appeals to King's YA audience; speaking like a teen, King questioned "what if it (life) is all just a fantasy?"

from YA author Scott Westerfeld -- Veteran author Westerfeld is experienced at genre-blurring: his Uglies series blended science fiction and dystopia long before the Hunger Games came out, and more recently, Westerfeld authored the Leviathan trilogy, which rewrites World War I history as a blend of historical fiction, fantasy, and steampunk.  (For a good explanation of steampunk, visit The Leviathan books not only blend genres, but also feature illustrations that enhance the story.  Westerfeld explained how the writing of the books was a true collaboration with his illustrator: while he generally authored the story, there were times when an element of an illustration inspired Westerfeld to create a new scene in the novel. Westerfeld observed that one reason teens enjoy novels that blur the boundaries of more traditional genres is that they are still haphazard readers, sampling stories from a variety of genres according to their moods; they have not yet identified themselves as "mystery readers" or "science fiction readers" as many adults do.

Although the prevalence of genre-blurring novels can frustrate those of us who would like to easily categorize them, the truth is that these novels serve an important need for teens to sample a variety of styles, genres, and even storytelling methods. The more teens read different kinds of literature, the more fluent readers they become . . . and the more likely they are to discover a type of novel that genuinely appeals to them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Young Adult Dystopian Literature -- A Big Thing

In this blog post, I am taking a break from writing about this year's Soaring Eagle nominees; I will get back to that list of titles very soon. Instead, I would like to use the next few posts to reflect on a professional learning opportunity I had in early November. I was fortunate to be able to  attend a national conference sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association, focusing specifically on Young Adult literature. The theme for this year's conference was "Hit Me with the Next Big Thing."  It was a great opportunity to meet teen librarians from all parts of the nation, learn about ways teen services differ (and stay the same) throughout the world, and hear some amazing YA authors.

The most valuable part of any conference are those opportunities to network with colleagues and authors.  In that light, let me use this space to share some of the insights I took away from the people presenting in the front of the room, and the people sitting across from me at the dinner table.  I have too many observations for one blog post, so I will limit this one to the three authors who presented at my preconference session, "Shining the Light on Dystopian Literature."  (For clarification, the term "dystopian" refers to a utopia --ideal society -- gone tragically wrong.  In recent YA literature, however, the term has also been used to refer to post-apocalyptic stories, in which a future world has been affected by some sort of disaster.) Some thoughts from these three authors:

from YA author Pamela Service:   It is interesting that the rise in YA dystopian literature has made science fiction more popular among teens; veteran author Service established her career writing science fiction for all age levels. Service, having just arrived in St. Louis from upstate New York in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, commented that she sees immense potential for publishing YA novels about environmental disasters. Technically, these novels would be post-apocalyptic rather than dystopian, but their relevance to world events would certainly increase their importance, and therefore their popularity.  Many YA authors are already writing these types of novels: one award-winning example is Paolo Bacigalupi's duology, Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities.   Another example, closer to home for us living in Wyoming, is Mike Mullin's chilling trilogy about survival after the explosion of the Yellowstone caldera; two of the books, Ashfall and Ashen Winter, have been released so far.

from debut author C. J. Redwine:  Often parents and teachers have concerns over the popularity of YA dystopian novels such as the Hunger Games trilogy; let's face it, these books are dark.  Redwine, a former English teacher whose first book, Defiance, has just been released, wisely pointed out that dark themes have been part of the young adult literature canon for several decades. The idea of young adults having to survive in a world without parental guidance, and making tragic mistakes, while currently popular in Michael Grant's Gone series and James Dashner's Maze Runner trilogy, can be easily traced back to William Golding's classic The Lord of the Flies. And while we cringe at teens fighting to the death in Hunger Games, the all-seeing, all-oppressive government that devalues human life has been a force in our literature since George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm, and Lois Lowry's The Giver.

 from YA author Ilsa Bick:  Bick, whose YA novels include Draw the Dark and Ashes, had so much to say about why teens are drawn to dystopian literature that I could dedicate this entire post to her comments.  To be brief, however, she pointed out that a large part of the attraction is rooted in developmental psychology:  teens are wanting to explore a reality that is more scary than the one they live in; they bond with heroes and heroines who can overcome immense odds; and they learn from those characters' experiences what they themselves would do in similar situations. Bick observed, as have many other YA authors, that the reality of teens' lives today is a dystopia (a potentially ideal world gone tragically wrong); with the rise of  bullying and violence in schools, frequent natural disasters, and increasing rates of teen suicide, pregnancy, alcoholism and drug abuse, it is hard to argue with her observation. 

However, all three authors agreed that YA dystopias differ from those written for adults in that they are more hopeful and offer teens a way to improve the world they live in. In YA dystopias, there is a focus on survival and compassion. Like all good literature, these stories ultimately showcase the values of self-sacrifice, persistence, creativity and resourcefulness. While YA dystopian literature cannot be called the "Next Big Thing," it certainly is "A Big Thing" now, and deserves our attention and understanding.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mystery and Magic

Halloween is one week away, as evidenced by the spooky decorations that have taken up residence in the Teen Room. We've been decorated since early October because of our Teen Read Week celebration last week; the teens enjoyed dressing up in creepy costumes and eating some rather un-appetizing snacks.  Our book display featured books about nasty creatures -- zombies, wendigos, and demons -- all linked to the week's theme, "It Came from the Library."

However, Halloween is as much about mystery and magic as it is about undead creatures and gory images.  Keeping that in mind, there are three books on this year's list of Soaring Eagle nominations that seem appropriate for the week before Halloween. 

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand. Clare Gardner has visions; some of them are frightening, and all of them are, she thinks, significant. After all, Clare is no ordinary human being. She is a Quartarius, a quarter-angel, and has just begun to come into her powers. Her mother supports her and helps her piece together the meaning behind her visions. Therefore, when Clare begins to repeatedly see a boy, a fire, and a county-22 Wyoming license plate, her mother moves the family from California to Jackson Hole.  In Jackson, Clare meets the boy from her vision, a new friend, and another angel -- who may not be as good as Clare thinks. Both Clare and her mother believe her purpose in being on earth has something to do with the vision; but will Clare be able to focus on discovering that purpose and not get distracted by high school, cliques, and a cute cowboy who has attracted her attention?  Unearthly is another paranormal romance, a good choice for fans of the Twilight and Hush, Hush series. It's sequel, Hallowed, was released last winter; the projected end to the trilogy, Boundless, will be out in 2013.

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman. Eona has been trained in magic and sword-work, so that she can be presented as one of twelve candidates to be her country's next Dragoneye, a keeper of culture and magical power.  Unfortunately, women are never allowed to be Dragoneyes, or even to approach the sacred circle; the penalty is immediate death. Eona and her master have undertaken a great risk in her training, and so have gone to elaborate lengths to conceal her gender, and her true nature. When the day of the choosing comes, the unexpected happens: not only is Eona selected to be ascendant Dragoneye, but she is also chosen by a mysterious thirteenth dragon -- a dragon who has not appeared in 500 years. Now, Eona and her master must continue their elaborate deception, while they find a way to learn of the dragon's power, even though there is no living being who can teach them.  Danger, intrigue, and magic combine in this tale of ancient Asian culture; the sequel to Eon: Dragoneye Reborn is Eona: The Last Dragoneye. Fans of both the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan and the Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams-Chima have been enjoying this duology.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.  Andi is a wreck. She's brilliant, a borderline genius with incredible musical talent. But she cannot recover from a family tragedy, or the unraveling of her family life. She's failing at her exclusive private school; her mother is not coping with everyday life; and her father is too busy with his international career to notice. That is, until Andi's potential expulsion is brought to his attention. He acts decisively, whisking her away to Paris while he his on assignment there, so that she can complete her senior thesis on an obscure French composer. Andi hates her father, and hates being in Paris . . . until she finds a mysterious diary that belonged to another girl, much like Andi. This girl, Alexandrine, writes of the French Revolution as it is happening, and presents a first-hand account of one of the mysteries of the Revolution that still confounds historians. Andi becomes immersed in the drama and horror of Alexandrine's world, and her perception of reality becomes dangerously skewed. Does she, or does she not, see the ghosts of the Revolution?  (For more on this title, see the March 3, 2012, entry of this blog.) This stand-alone novel is an excellent choice for fans of historical fiction, but be aware that the content is more mature than some of the other nominees.

So, if you, like me, prefer your blood and gore in small doses, why not enjoy one of these less-gory, but still suspenseful, novels this Halloween . . .and leave the icky images to the haunted houses?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

2012 Soaring Eagle book award nominees

It's already been a very busy fall in the Teen Room, with school visits, outreach programs, and regular clubs and activities.  Now that we are nearing mid-October, we are preparing to  celebrate Teen Read Week -- a national campaign sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association to encourage teens to "read for the fun of it." Unfortunately, teens are often required to read books they don't really enjoy -- a pattern that leads to a dislike for reading that lasts well beyond high school. Librarians -- and probably, many teachers and parents -- would like to shift the focus so that, by encouraging teens to read materials they enjoy, they will naturally build the amount of reading they do, leading to higher comprehension and fluency.

One great way Wyoming libraries do this is through the Soaring Eagle book award program, sponsored by the Wyoming Library Association and the Wyoming Reading Council. As I've stated before in this blog, this book award program takes its nominations and it voting results directly from Wyoming students in grades 7 through 12.  Students submit titles for nominations in the spring; once those titles are reviewed by a committee, a final list is presented to teens the next fall.  Those teens who read at least three titles on the list are then encouraged to vote for their favorite the following March.

Because the nominations come directly from teens, these titles are more likely to grab their attention and help them enjoy what they are reading -- in other words, to "read for the fun of it."

This year, there are 14 titles on the list of nominations. While not all of them are funny, they are engaging, suspenseful, and thought-provoking -- all qualities of good literature.  Teens, if you are looking for something new to read, give one of these titles a try:  they are all nominated by kids your age, so what better recommendation can there be?  Parents and teachers, why not try a title or two yourself?  Depending on the title you choose, you may be surprised at the quality and insight of the writing.

This week, I'll focus on only two of this year's nominees, and I'll start with the two that are the most "fun." There will be plenty of time to get to the more serious nominees later!

Lost Hero by Rick Riordan:  Fans of Percy Jackson and the Olympians will be pleased to know that the adventures continue in this spin-off of Riordan's best-selling series. The five-book Percy Jackson series brought the gods and monsters of Greek mythology into a modern, real-world setting.  In Lost Hero, Percy Jackson has disappeared, and a mysterious boy named Jason Grace enters the scene. The problem is, Jason has amnesia, so cannot remember who he is, or why is in on a Wilderness Bus headed to the Grand Canyon. The truth is revealed, however, and Jason and his two friends soon discover their demigod status, as well as their quest to save the gods from disaster. Riordan's writing style is fast-paced and suspenseful, with just enough humor to keep both teens and adults entertained.  Already there are two sequels to Lost Hero: The Son of Neptune and Mark of Athena. Try the entire Heroes of Olympus series if you are a fan of Riordan's other work; this is also a great choice for fans of the 39 Clues series who are ready for something a bit older.

Middle School, the Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson:  Patterson, famous for his novels for adult and older teen audiences, turns his attention to a younger teen audience with this new series.  The main character, Rafe Khatchadorian, struggles with his home life, but middle school is no better. Together with his only friend, "Leo the Silent," Rafe hatches a plan to make his sixth-grade year the best ever, by breaking every school rule listed in the code of conduct.  Adding both humor and perspective to Rafe's narration are the in-text illustrations by artist Christopher Tebbetts.  Borrowing from the example of Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which was written for an older audience, Patterson teams with Tebbetts to create an illustrated novel that tackles difficult subjects by interjecting healthy doses of levity.  Give this novel, and its sequel, Middle School: Let Me Out of Here!, a try if you are a fan of Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

Hopefully, these first two entries in our list of 2012 Soaring Eagle nominees will entice reluctant teens to read a novel just "for the fun of it."


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Own the Night: Final Summer Reading Party

Yesterday, the Young Adult department hosted our final "Own the Night: Teen Summer Reading 2012" activity -- a Teen Iron Chef contest and drawing for our three grand prize baskets.  You can read a little more about the Teen Iron Chef contest in the August 2 edition of the Gillette News Record. 

We are now winding down from all the summer reading activity, looking back at the last two months, and reflecting about what worked. We think that allowing teens to choose between tracking pages or tracking hours encouraged more participation. According to what has been reported to us as of today, our teen patrons have read over 152,000 pages and 800+ hours: that's a lot of reading!

We were also gratified to see an upswing in the circulation of our Young Adult nonfiction collection this summer. We moved that collection to a room in the basement of the library, next door to the Teen Room, last winter.  Teens are now learning that there are books about "real stuff" available to them in that room, and are excited to browse there.

For those teens who participated in the Teen Iron Chef, here are a few of our newest cookbooks, which you will find in our nonfiction collection:

The Ultimate Student Cookbook: From Chicken to Chili, by Tiffany Goodall.  Written for teens with little or no cooking experience, this guide presents step-by-step instructions to many basic dishes, all illustrated with ample photographs.  There are two recipes for alcoholic drinks in this cookbook; otherwise, it is a good guide for teens who are cooking for their family, or who are on their own at school. 

How to Cook: Delicious Dishes Perfect for Teen Cooks, by Maggie Mayhew.  With 100 recipes for all types of food, this cookbook offers both variety and instruction. Some of the recipes are a little more difficult, making it a better choice for a teen with some cooking experience. Several recipes have international backgrounds, and there is enough room for experimentation to ensure that teens are not bored. Both full-color photos and simple line drawing accompany the recipes throughout the book. 

Cooking Healthy Series. The library owns four titles in this series: Cooking with Meat and Fish; Cooking with Fruits and Vegetables; Cooking with Eggs and Dairy; and Cooking with Cereals and Grains. As expected, each title focuses on a particular food group, including both recipes and advise for including that food group in a healthy diet. A feature that I appreciate is the information about where certain types of food comes from:  animal diagrams for cuts of meat and crop information for grains, fruits and vegetables. Each title presents recipes for both foods that are staples of our American diet, and foods that are not as common. 

And finally, a new cookbook that is just fun for us fans of YA literature to browse:

The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook: from lamb stew to "groosling" -- more than 150 recipes inspired by the Hunger Games trilogy, by Emily Ansara Baines.  I first thought this cookbook would be filled with fantasy foods, similar to some of the Harry Potter cookbooks that were published when that series was immensely popular.  This cookbook, however, echoes one of the major themes of the actual trilogy -- the immense gap between the rich and the poor in Panem's society.  Here you will find very humble recipes such as "Gale's Bone-Pickin' Big Game Soup" and "Rue's Roasted Parsnips" next to extravegant delicacies like "Capitol Grade Dark Chocolate Cake." Each recipe is for real food, although some of us might have difficulty procuring the ingredients!  Teens will enjoy looking through the recipes for foods the characters did eat in the books, and may come away with even more of an understanding of the power of food to impact society.



Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Own the Night: Mystery Craft Week

It's hard to believe, but we are in our final week of drop-in programming for Teen Summer Reading: Own the Night!  We will wrap up our summer reading program next Wednesday, August 1, with a Teen Iron Chef competition, and the drawing for our grand prize baskets.  Teens, be sure to turn in your reading logs by August 1 to get your raffle tickets entered for the prize drawing.

This week, we are bringing out some "Mystery Crafts" for the teens -- which is a creative way of saying that we are recycling some of our leftover craft supplies from earlier in the summer, as well as from other teen programs.  Teens who drop in between 1 and 4 p.m. through Friday can make fleece pillows, duct tape crafts, bead magnets, string dolls and more.

For those crafty teens (and parents) who would like more projects to fill up the last few weeks before school, we have a variety of nonfiction offerings that feature handicraft projects. Here is a selection of our more recent purchases:

Beading in No Time:  50 Step-by-Step Designs for Beautiful Bead Jewelry, by Linda PetersonUnique beaded jewelry continues to be popular, but can also be expensive to buy.  This illustrated guide by Peterson features bracelets, necklaces, brooches and more. The projects are arranged by ease and length of time to complete, making this a good resource for both beginners and more advanced beaders.

World of Geekcraft: Step-by-Step Instructions for 25 Super-Cool Craft Projects, by Susan Beal.  This book is simply fun to browse through, even if you don't actually do any of the projects.  A variety of crafting techniques show up in these projects, from beading and quilting to applique and needle felting.  The projects are, again, arranged by ease of completion, from those for crafts who are "Not a Jedi Yet" to those who work at "Warp Speed." Crafters will enjoy creating Star Trek pillows, D&D dice earrings, a Morse code quilt, and more.  

Just Duct Tape It!, by Patti Wallenfang. Our local teens always enjoy duct tape projects; over several years of teen programming, we've created pens, wallets, beach bags, cell phone covers, bracelets, purses, and more.  This book is one of the newer offerings in the world of duct tape craft, but there are several others.  Wallenfang goes beyond simple duct tape creations to add embellishments and detail, creating interesting bracelets, wallets, purses, and even locker decor.

Contemporary Dyecraft: Over 50 Tie-Dye Projects for Scarves, Dresses, T-Shirts and More, by Melanie Brummer.   Tie-dye may be messy, but it seems to be the quintessential summer craft project.  Brummer provides a lengthy introduction to the craft, giving necessary information on dyes, fabrics, and equipment. The projects she explains are simply beautiful, a far cry from the blotchy T-shirts that come back from summer camp sessions. Her designs include zebra and tiger stripes, geometric patterns, coils, and spirals. 

Why not try a new handicraft, or pick up a book that re-introduces an old favorite? Teens who are interested in any of the above books, or in other craft guides, can visit the Young Adult nonfiction collection at CCPL. 




Thursday, July 19, 2012

Own the Night: Crime & Mystery Week

We are well into our second-to-last week of afternoon summer reading activities in the CCPL Teen Room: next week we will feature a variety of "Mystery Crafts" to wrap up that part of our the program.  The following week, on August 1, we will hold our fourth Teen Iron Chef contest to celebrate the end of summer reading, and to draw for our three grand prize baskets.  Gillette teens, be sure to turn in your pages/hours so you can enter the grand prize drawing!

For Crime & Mystery week, our teens have had to test their detective skills by solving short mysteries; taking an observation quiz; finding books; and identifying fingerprints.  We've discovered that some of our patrons have a knack for unraveling mysteries. Perhaps they would enjoy some of the following fiction selections:

What I Saw and How I Lied, by Judy Blundell.  Some of my favorite YA novels are historic mysteries - stories that transport the reader to a different time and place, and offer enough suspense to keep a reader engaged. Blundell has crafted that type of story in this novel.  We first meet Evie as her stepfather is returning from his tour of duty in WWII. Evie and her mother, Bev, feel fortunate to have Joe in their lives, and turn blind eyes to his faults. When he announces suddenly that they are leaving New York City to go on a vacation in Palm Beach during the off-season, even as Evie is preparing to go to high school, the rest of the small family simply accepts his decision. They end up spending several weeks in the deserted Palm Beach, where an old Army friend of Joe's turns up and becomes Evie's first romantic interest.  But is there more to Peter than Evie thinks? Evie doesn't want to admit to herself that her suspicions about Joe, Peter and her mother are well-founded. But as a series of strange events leads up to a fateful boating excursion, Evie finds she can no longer deny the truth. Blundell continues her mystery-noir style with Strings Attached.

The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson.  Another mystery that takes part of its inspiration from history, this novel re-casts the story of Jack the Ripper.  Louisiana teenager Rory has been accepted to an exclusive London boarding school while her parents are conducting research in Oxford. Her arrival, however, coincides with a brutal murder near the school. As all of London watches, a series of grisly killings -- killings that exactly mimic Jack the Ripper's 1888 crimes -- sweep through the city.  Wexford, the school Rory is attending, stands exactly in the center of the Ripper's old territory. No one has any leads -- except Rory. One night, walking back to her dorm, she encounters a strange man who fits the description offered by police; however, nobody else sees the man, not even the roommate walking alongside Rory at the time. Rory must now use all her wits and abilities to discover the killer's identity -- before she becomes his next target. (Johnson will continue her Shades of London series with another title, The Madness Underneath, in 2013.)

The Death Cloud, by Andrew Lane.  A young teenager is dropped off at his uncle's estate for the summer, just as a mysterious cloud passes over the village and seems to cause several deaths. Could it be a recurrence of the plague? The young man, along with his tutor and tutor's sister, are determined to find out the truth. Using the decduction skills that will later make him famous, the teen -- who turns out to be young Sherlock Holmes --  delves into the mystery with the calm dedication and intelligence that made Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original character famous.  Death Cloud is the first in Lane's Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins series, followed by Rebel Fire. 

The Case of the Deadly Desperados, by Caroline Lawrence. 12-year-old P. K. Pinkerton has just been orphaned for the second time, when his foster parents are killed by villainous Wittlin Walt.  Now, P. K., in possession of his mother's deed to a silver mine in Nevada, strikes out for Virginia City to make his fortune. He soon discovers the dishonorable side of the Wild West, where everyone he encounters seems to be after his land! P. K. relies on disguise, and his own wits, to avoid the fate of his parents. The outlaws are closing in, however, and unless P. K. figures out who he can trust, he is done for. 

The Riddles of Epsilon, by Christine Morton-Shaw. Jess is furious with her parents when they decide to move to family property on the island of Lume, just off the British coast; how will she keep in touch with her friends, with society, with her life?  In the midst of her anger, she stumbles upon some very old letters, written by a boy, Sebastian, over 100 years ago.  Sebastian lost his mother to the sea, and seems to be sending a warning to Jess. As if that weren't enough, she also encounters a ghost, Epsilon, who speaks to her only in riddles and ancient rhymes from Lume's history. Gradually, Sebastian and Epsilon help Jess to understand that she must unravel the mystery -- before her own mother succumbs to the same fate as Sebastian's. Morton-Shaw follows her debut mystery with another creepy story, The Hunt for the Seventh.

 Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey. 14-year-old Charlie lives a quiet life with his books in the small Australian town that is the setting for this debut novel.  One night, however, his quiet life changes forever when the town outcast, Jasper Jones, taps on Charlie's window and asks for his help.  He leads Charlie into the bush, where a clearing opens to reveal a dead body.  The boys both know that, for various reasons, Jasper will be blamed for the death. To prevent that, Charlie helps Jasper hide the body. What follows is a cycle of secrets, fear and suspicion in their small town.  Will Charlie ever be able to reveal what he knows? Will Jasper ever be safe from suspicion?  This novel was a Michael Printz Honor Book in 2012.

Again -- some great reading for those hot summer nights when you can't sleep!  Grab your flashlight, a good mystery, and some snacks, and "Own the Night" this summer.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Own the Night: Night of the Living Dead

It's already the middle of July! Here in the Teen Room, we continue to support literacy by offering our teen summer reading program and drop-in activities.  Last week, our theme was "Night of the Living Dead."  Teens were able to participate in shrunken apple-head carving, select items for a zombie-apocalypse survival kit, and test their knowledge about zombies, vampires, and other "living dead" creatures.

Of course, young adult fiction continues to be full of stories of the undead.  Although this niche of YA fiction is not as popular as it was, say, four years ago, it continues to have a large following among both teens and their parents. 

Since we've covered several zombie fiction selections in the June 21 blog entry, I'll focus only on vampires this week. After all, they are the original "living dead." Of course, vampire fiction took a huge leap in popularity among YA readers with Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. There are, however, many other choices for those readers who have had enough of Bella and Edward. If you are a fan of gruesome stories with varying degrees of gore, be sure you check out some of these selections:

Dracula, by Bram Stoker.  The original vampire story, Stoker's 1897 classic has been adapted to both film and graphic novel versions, partly to ease readers' comprehension. However, for an advanced reader who can handle the rather archaic language and syntax, the original story is still the best. More modern vampire stories tend to include much blood and gore; Stoker's classic, the story of the gradual seduction of Lucy and Mina, and the growing awareness of the threat of Count Dracula, is creepier for what it hints at, rather than describes. 

 Cirque du Freak, by Darren Shan.  An older, but still popular, series, Cirque du Freak (also known as The Saga of Darren Shan), originally appeared on the YA market in 2002. What followed was an instant sensation, particularly among younger teen boys looking for blood and guts. The story follows teenage Darren Shan and his friend, Stevie, as they venture into a local freak show. There, Darren realizes that, while most of the half-human creatures are disturbing, none is as threatening as the frightening Mr. Crepsley, whom Darren recognizes as a true vampire. Steve wants to stay after the show to confront Crepsley, but his motives are dishonest. Darren overhears a terrifying promise, and is fated to be drawn to Mr. Crepsley. Thus begins the saga of Darren's descent into the dark, gory world of vampires.  Shan published twelve volumes in this series, ending in 2006; he's since begun a spin-off series, The Saga of Larten Crepsley.

Vampirates,  by Justin Somper.  What could be better than a series about vampires? A series about vampires AND pirates - vampirates - of course. Somper published his original novel, Demons of the Ocean, in 2006.  It tells the story of teenage twins who live in a post-apocalyptic world where much of the earth's surface has been flooded. The twins' father disappears, leaving them to fend for themselves in this harsh environment. A strong sea storm separates them: the boy, Connor, is rescued by pirates, while the girl, Grace, is saved by a more sinister ship, the home of the vampirates. There are six books in the series, each full of adventure, mystery, and terror.  

Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, and Chronicles of the Slayer, by Heather Brewer.  The first book in Brewer's original series, Eighth Grade Bites, was reviewed in the September 22, 2011 entry of this blog.  It told the story of Vladmir Tod, a vampire who thinks he is alone in the world, until his neighbors and teachers begin to be threatened by something so sinister it could only be another vampire. From this first book, Brewer follows Vlad's story through his high school career.  Her second series, Chronicles of the Slayer, began with First Kill in 2011.  This series backtracks to tell the Vladimir Tod story from a different perspective: that of a teenage boy, Vlad's former friend, who is training to be a vampire slayer. 

Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead.  In the isolated mountains of northwestern Montana, St. Vladimir's Academy offers education for both the elite members of the ruling vampire class, and the half-vampire creatures who serve and protect them. Lissa, a member of the ruling Moroi class, has been on the run with her friend and bodyguard, dhampir Rose, for two years. At the beginning of the novel, they are captured and returned to St. Vlad's against their will. For a while, Rose learns to ignore her uneasiness: after all, Lissa seems to be assimilating to the culture of St. Vlad's rather well. Rose, whose sole purpose is to protect her friend, does not want to alienate herself from Lissa. However, when danger threatens to destroy Lissa and the entire Moroi class, Rose must trust her instincts and find out whether the threat is coming from outside St. Vlad's - or from the inside. Mead follows her initial installment with five more novels, creating a six-volume series for more mature readers.

Drake Chronicles, by Alxyandra Harvey.  In this newer series, whose first title is Hearts At Stake, Harvey introduces Solange, the only daughter to be born in a blue-blood vampire clan in over 800 years; she herself will wake up undead on her 16th birthday. According to an ancient prophecy, she is destined to be a vampire queen, and so is pursued by young vampire suitors. She is also being pursued by vampire-slayer Kieran; it is only the protection of her parents and her seven older brothers that keeps her safe. Rather than all this attention and drama, Solange just wants to live a normal life. On her side is her best friend, Lucy, a mortal teen with enough bravado to stand up to an entire vampire family in defense of Solange's right to be a teenager. Written in a smart, witty style, Harvey breathes fresh air into the vampire fiction genre; Hearts At Stake is the first in a five-book series. 

Hopefully, that is enough of a sample of Young Adult vampire fiction; if not, come by the Teen Room, as we have even more to show you here! 

This week, the Teen Room drop-in activities will focus on a Crime and Mystery theme.  Gillette teens, stop by any afternoon this week from 1 to 4 p.m. to participate!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Own the Night: Night Sky & Astronomy

We are into our third week of drop-in summer reading activities for teens at the Campbell County Public Library:  this week our theme is "Night Sky & Astronomy." We have two crafts to offer the teens, as well as three quizzes about constellations and zodiac signs.  

Our Young Adult nonfiction collection holds several titles to interest teens who enjoy reading about the sciences. We recently moved our nonfiction collection to the basement where the Teen Room is located, in order to increase its visibility to our teen audience. Since that move, the circulation of those books has increased markedly.

In our fiction collections, we have seen a significant increase in Young Adult titles that center on mythology in recent years. Since many of the names of constellations are based in Greek and Roman mythology, there is a definite connection between the two subject areas. If you (or your teen) are one of those who enjoy reading fiction based on mythology, try some of these recent titles:

Abandon, Meg Cabot. The first two selections this week share a common bond: both are loosely based on ancient Greek myths. In the case of Meg Cabot's Abandon, we meet a heroine, Pierce, who comes back to life after being romanced by a death diety.  Students of Greek mythology will recognize shades of the story of Persephone and Hades in this novel.  This is a bit dark for Meg Cabot, who gave us The Princess Diaries, among other Young Adult titles. However, fans of paranormal romances, such as Twilight (Stephenie Meyer) and Fallen (Lauren Kate) will not mind. Abandon is the first title in a proposed trilogy, followed by Underworld. The final title, Awaken, will be published in 2013. 

Sweet Venom, Tera Lynn Childs. This novel centers on three teenage girls who are descendants of the Greek Gorgon Medusa, and are charged with protecting humankind from the mythological monsters who threaten them.  As they tell their stories in alternating chapters, we get a sense of the diverse personalities of each of them. The girls - all 16 -- soon realize that they are triplets, separated at birth for their own safety. Despite their differences, they must come together as a fighting force, because the monster attacks are on the rise, and their success depends on being able to work together. No word on whether there will be a sequel, but the story is set up for one.

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, Allison Goodman.  In a refreshing change from Greek mythology, this novel introduces us to a force of magical dragons based on the symbols of the Chinese zodiac. We also meet our main character, Eon, whose dream is to be selected as a Dragoneye --  an apprentice to one of these magical dragons. Eon and his master have been training in sword work and magic, all in the hopes of being selected. They have a secret, however: Eon is actually Eona, a 16-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a boy.  Girls are not permitted to practice magical powers; Eon is taking a huge risk. If Eon's secret is discovered, it means certain death for her and her master. 

Guardian of the Dead, Karen Healey. 17-year-old Ellie has trouble fitting in at the New Zealand boarding school she attends, until she uses her martial arts skills to help choreograph fight scenes for a school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. As the story develops, the school population begins to worry about a string of murders that has happened not far from there. As the action of the novel increases, Healey introduces not only the Greek myths on which Shakespeare's play are based, but many elements of teh ancient Maori mythologoy  of New Zealand.

Have a Hot Time, Hades!, Kate McMullan. The first installment in McMullan's Myth-o-Mania series, this story is a tongue-in-cheek retelling of Greek god Hades' "fall" to glory as the god of the underworld.  McMullan draws on the original myths in her parodies, so some familiarity with them will increase the reader's enjoyment. Other titles in this series include Phone Home, Persephone! and Say Cheese, Medusa!  This would be a fun supplement to other mythology-based fiction, or to a nonfiction retelling of the ancient myths. Best for a younger teen.

Lost Hero, Rick Riordan. One cannot compile a list of mythology-based teen literature without including Rick Riordan, of course.  He is much responsible for reviving teen interest in this sub-genre of fantasy/sci fi:  his Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief series has been immensely popular since its initial publication in 2005.  In this spin-off series, Riordan draws on some of the lesser characters of the initial series, and introduces several new ones. Jason, Piper, and Leo are three students at a wilderness school in the Grand Canyon; after a strange encounter with storm spirits who steal their coach, they are rescued by Annabeth (from the first series) and taken to Camp Half-Blood. There, they discover that they are also demigods: the only difference is that they were sired by the Greek gods in their Roman personae.  Like Percy, the three are charged by the gods with a seemingly impossible task, and of course, failure will mean doom for humanity. The Lost Hero is followed by The Son of Neptune; book three in the Heroes of Olympus series will be released in 2013.

Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan.  A reminder that mythology fans will also want to try Riordan's Kane Chronicles series, beginning with Red Pyramid. Riordan focuses on Egyptian mythology is this trilogy: the second and third books are The Throne of Fire and Serpent's Shadow. This series was reviewed in the May 2 entry of this blog; look there for more information.

Enjoy some stargazing this week! Even better, grab a sleeping bag, a great book, and a flashlight, and combine your stargazing with some interesting reading.  The weather tells us that it's truly summer around here: be sure to "Own the Night" while it lasts!

(Due to the Fourth of July holiday, the CCPL Teen Room will take a break from our drop-in activities next week; join us again the week of July 9, when we will explore "The Night of the Living Dead.")

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Own the Night: Dreams & Nightmares

We've had another busy week in the CCPL Teen Room with our drop-in afternoon activities.  This week, centering on the theme of "Dreams & Nightmares," we provided craft kits to make dreamcatchers and pillows and quizzed our teens on dream symbolism and the connections between food and sleep.  Finally, we provided a snack of milk and cookies -- a perfect bedtime snack, according to science.  

Just in case the milk and cookies don't do the trick, check out some of these great YA reads.  They probably won't make you nod off, but if you can't sleep, you might as well be reading a good book!

First, a few dreams . . . .

Dreams of Significant Girls, Cristina Garcia.  Set in the early 1970's, this novel tells the story of a worldwide cultural, political, and sexual revolution through the eyes of three very different young women who come together to spend summers at a Swiss boarding school. Canadian Ingrid is rebellious and sexually adventurous; Jewish Cuban-American Vivian dreams of becoming a chef; and Iranian noblewoman Shirin struggles to find a way to express her mathematical genius. Over the course of three summers, the young women experience awakenings, deal with family conflicts, and form a deep friendship. As the Book List review states, the three characters learn that friendship is not about ethnicity, but about empathy.  The historical context and subject matter make this a choice for more mature readers. 

Finnikin of the Rock, Melina Marchetta. In her first attempt at fantasy, gifted writer Marchetta weaves a tale of exile, espionage, and homecoming.  Finnikin is a young man whose father was captain of the King's Guard in their beloved homeland of Lumatere.  Following a coup by a neighboring lord, Lumatere is placed under a curse that isolates the country from the outside world. Finnikin, his father, and several others have been living in exile for a decade, waiting for a chance to save their country.  Hope comes in the form of a strange girl, Evanjalin, who claims that Finnikin's friend and heir to the throne, Balthazar, is still alive. Evanjalin has a strange power: she can "walk the sleep" of others - in other words, share in their dreams.  She uses the information she discovers, as well as her own boldness, to push events to a climax so that Lumatere can finally be freed. In doing so, Evanjalin has to hide her own secrets, however -- secrets that will affect Finnikin and the entire country if discovered. A rich fantasy world, combined with a story of exile and occupation grounded in reality, makes for a compelling read for older teens. Finnikin is the first of the Lumatere Chronicles; Froi of the Exiles  was recently released.

Dream Girl and Dream Life, Lauren Mechling.  This two-part series combines both light humor and light mystery. We meet the main character, Clare Voyant, on the eve of her 15th birthday, as she receives a strange onyx cameo from her grandmother. Clare has always had dreams and visions, but nothing like the ones that start happening when she begins to wear the necklace. However, she is almost too busy to notice the dreams or the strange happenings around her: she is focused on fitting in at her new elite Manhatten high school, forming new friendships, and secretly dating her best friend's brother. The two books work well as companion novels, but either of them can be read independently. A good choice for teen girls who want something light and fun.

The Running Dream, Wendelin Van Draanen.   We meet 16-year-old Jessica, a high school track star, in the wake of a horrible tragedy: the team van is struck, killing one runner and costing Jessica her leg. Jessica no longer cares about her life: who cares about learning to walk again when you live to run? She struggles with crutches and later, a  clumsy prosthetic; through it all, she notices that people who are uncomfortable with her disability simply act like she's not there. Jessica could handle their rudeness if she wasn't confronted with the fact that she used to do the same thing to Rosa, a classmate with cerebal palsy who is now assigned to help Jessica catch up on math. When her community raises money for Jessica to be fitted with a new prosthetic that will allow her to run again, she realizes that it won't be enough unless she can make Rosa's life better, also.  An inspiring read for all teens. 

And now, a few nightmares . . . .

Draw the Dark, Ilsa Bick. Christian Cage's parents disappeared long ago, leaving him to live in the small town of Winter, WI, with his uncle, the sheriff. Christian is a loner -- something that tends to happen when you are artistic, withdrawn, and supposedly responsible for the near-suicide of one of your teachers. Christian doesn't just draw his own memories and dreams; he has a strange ability to draw the nightmares of people around him, as well.  When he begins to enter the mind of an eight-year-old boy who lived in Winter decades ago, Christian uncovers an atrocious crime, and possible clues into his own parents' disappearance. A good choice for readers who like historical mysteries, particularly those with darker elements.

Nevermore, Kelly Creagh.  Cheerleader Isobel is upset to be partnered with her strange Goth classmate Varen Nethers for an assignment on Edgar Allen Poe. However, things heat up between the two as they do research for their assignment, and Isobel secretly peeks into Varen's private journal. There, she discovers a nightmarish world based on Poe's chilling stories. As Isobel and Varen become more deeply involved, they risk losing themselves to the dark world of Varen's dreams. Fans of Edgar Allen Poe will enjoy this twist on the author's works, and his life. 

Faery Tales & Nightmares, Melissa Marr.  In this collection of eleven stories - some short vignettes and some longer novellas - Marr takes us back into the world of supernatural romance.  Many of the stories feature characters from her popular Wicked Lovely series: fans of the series will enjoy more tales of Aislinn, Seth, and the urban fey who inhabit the original novels. Other stories feature paranormal creatures such as vampires, selkies, and shapeshifters.  All are searching for love on their own terms; all are touched, or want to be touched, by the magic of finding a true mate. Some stories are quite violent; others more gentle.  Fans of Marr's fantasy writing will enjoy this collection of her lesser-known stories; those unfamiliar with Marr will be drawn into her dark, sumptuous world. 

So, have you found your bedtime story yet?  Next week, we'll shift to mythological creatures and the myth-based fiction that is currently popular with teen readers. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Own the Night Teen Summer Reading: Zombies & Monsters Week

It's been an incredibly busy week in the Teen Room: we launched our afternoon drop-in summer reading activities this week, and participation has been good. Teens have enjoyed activities such as creating zombie clothespin dolls and string dolls; zombifying themselves with face paint; and testing their knowledge of classic movie and literary monsters with our trivia quizzes.

For those teens who can't get enough of monsters and zombies, Young Adult literature will not disappoint!  The shelves are brimming with stories of all kinds of creatures: from classic monster novels such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; to comic book illustrations of Marvel Zombies; to graphic novel re-tellings of Dracula and Beowulf (with the man-eating Grendel).  
 We also have many recent, original novels based on the zombie and monster themes. The following four selections are all well-reviewed, recent, and extremely popular among teen readers.  Even if zombies and monsters are not your favorite subject, these novels are well-written enough engage readers and introduce this branch of teen horror fiction; and what better way to "own the night" than with a creepy story that keeps you awake?

In the Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan
In a world governed by the religious Sisterhood, life follows preordained rules: to follow the Sisterhood’s guidelines, and to respect the fence that separates the village from the fearsome Forest of Hands and Teeth.  In the forest, the Unconsecrated – the undead – prey upon the flesh of those unfortunates who wander away from the village. Mary’s own mother is one of the Unconsecrated; Mary’s future includes betrothal to a man she doesn’t love, and a life under the Sisterhood’s restrictions. But when the fence is breached, Mary and her band of friends set off into the unknown of the forest, to look for a place where they can find safety, freedom, and a future. This is the first book in a creepy – yet also romantic – trilogy; the next two titles are The Dead-Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places.

Rot and Ruin, Jonathan Maberry
Another coming-of-age story set in a zombie-infested world, Maberry’s series follows the story of Benny, a 15-year-old orphaned on First Night when both his parents became zombified. Since then, he’s lived with his half-brother Tom, whom he dislikes and disrespects. However, in Benny’s community, a safe haven in the midst of Rot and Ruin, 15-year-olds must find a job, or have their food rations cut in half. Benny is basically lazy, and eventually the only job open to him is to apprentice to Tom, a zombie hunter. Benny follows Tom into the Rot and Ruin, and finds that his previous perceptions – of Tom, the zombies, and the iconic zombie-hunter Charlie – have all been dead wrong. Maberry continues his story in Dust and Decay, and Flesh and Bone (coming in September, 2012).

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness; illustrated by Jim Kay
Ness crafted this story from a set of notes left behind by acclaimed author Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer in 2007 prevented her from writing the story herself. In this illustrated novel, we meet 13-year-old Conor, whose own mother is fighting cancer, unsuccessfully.  Conor is visited each night by a recurring nightmare – until one night, he wakes up and an actual monster is standing over him. The monster, in the form of an ancient yew tree, tells Conor three ambiguous stories, and then demands that Conor tell him a fourth – the truth.  For Conor, this is the hardest story to tell, for he has to face the fact that his mother is really dying. In the telling of this ultimately scary truth, Conor begins to let go, and to let the wise monster help him heal.

This Dark Endeavor, Kenneth Oppel
In a gothic tale full of allusions to Mary Shelley’s original work, Oppel has nonetheless managed to tell an original twist on the tale of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. Twins Victor and Konrad Frankenstein fill their lives with imaginary adventures, until one day they stumble upon an old library filled with volumes of alchemy and ancient cures. It remains just a curiosity until Konrad falls gravely ill; determined to save his brother, Victor embarks on a search for the Elixir of Life, a remedy that will either cure Konrad, or be the final push to his death. As Victor, Konrad, and their friends search for the ingredients to make the treacherous potion, they pull themselves into ever-deepening danger. Victor, like the original Dr. Frankenstein, is not a likeable character, but the plot of the novel keeps readers wondering what will happen to him. This is the first of a planned series (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein) by a talented storyteller. 

 Enjoy one of these selections; and if you are a teen in Campbell County, don't forget to pick up your reading log for CCPL Teen Summer Reading!