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. 

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