Wednesday, August 27, 2014

School Year Panic: You Mean I Need a Book?

Mid- to late-August can be a relatively quiet time here in the public library:  most summer reading programs have ended, and most of the patrons who have been "hanging out" all summer have started band and sports practices, or have left town for late-summer vacations.  The week of school orientation, however, brings its own flurry of activity:  because the secondary schools in our district mandate a 20-minute reading period at the beginning of every class, students new to the routine rush into the library, eyes wide, a little shocked at the news that "library book" has now been added to the list of first-day school supplies.  Students who are accustomed to the reading period routine still wait until the last minute to make their selections; the result is that the most popular titles are simply not available. 

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:

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