Sometimes, it's hard to believe how quickly time passes. This autumn is one of those times: putting up the Halloween decorations, celebrating Teen Read Week, and going out to the schools to talk about the new Soaring Eagle book award nominees . . . all these actions feel oddly routine, as if we just completed them a week ago.
Nonetheless, the calendar says an entire year has passed. And so, it's time to introduce this year's set of Soaring Eagle book award nominees: books that, for reasons of popularity and literary quality, have been nominated by Wyoming students in 7th-12th grades as possible winners of our state youth book award.
I've just been in one of our junior high schools, talking about these books with the students. This year's list has generated a lot of excitement about reading, and that's a very good thing.
As usual, I won't write about all fourteen nominees in one blog post. As we're getting close to Halloween, I'll focus on the "creepy" books first:
Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman:
15-year-old Jacob Fielding should not have survived the car accident that killed his foster father, but he did. Weeks later, he returns to school and meets a new student, Ophelia, or "O" for short. O is smart, pretty, daring; she wears a pink cast on her arm, the result of a skateboarding accident. Jacob and his best friend, Milo, ask to sign O's pink cast. On a whim, Jacob writes "You are indestructible" -- the very words his foster father spoke to him before their car smashed into a giant redwood tree.
That afternoon, Ophelia tries another skateboarding stunt, and wrecks - badly. She should have had more broken bones, or worse, but she walks away without a scratch.
Could Jacob's foster father have given him some magical protection before he died? And could Jacob have passed that protection on to Ophelia?
What would you do if you had the power to control life and death. How would you decide who to protect? How would you decide who lives and who dies?
Zom-B by Darren Shan:
B Smith is a bully and a thug. B's father is worse: racist, sexist, alcoholic, and violent. B's father keeps control in their London home by spouting prejudicial opinions, then berating -- or beating -- anyone who disagrees with him.
At school, B behaves similarly: using insults, racial slurs, and fists when necessary, to stay on top.
When news program footage shows a gruesome zombie attack in Ireland, B's father pronounces that the footage is just a government plot to scare citizens; and besides, he notes, the world could do without a few Irishmen anyway.
But the zombies are real, and they show up at B's high school. In one terrible afternoon, B and his gang zigzag though classrooms and corridors, trying to escape the zombies; around every turn is a new threat. Finally, B faces a moment of truth -- and B's true character, as well as true identity, is revealed.
This is the first book in Shan's Zom-B series; nine books have been published so far.
UnWholly by Neal Shusterman:
The second book in Shusterman's UnWind series, UnWholly continues his disturbing vision of "Happy Jack Harvest Camp," where unwanted teenagers are "unwound" -- their body parts harvested for organ and tissue donation while they are still, barely, alive. In the first book of the series, a group of teens manages to escape, and they continue to live underground, searching for ways to help other teens like them.
Meanwhile, the harvesting continues, as big business and big science have teamed up to exploit these unwanted teens. New to the story is Camus Comprix, a 21st-century Frankenstein who was constructed of donated parts from 99 gifted teens. He is the centerpiece of "Proactive Humanity's" campaign to expand the general harvest to include not only troublesome teens, but also the imprisoned and impoverished. Cam begins to fall in love, however, and this new development leads him to search fro meaning in his life, and to question whether a "rewound" being can actually have a soul.
As Cam begins to question his identity, he has to also question the unwinding process that made him, and his connection to the teens who have escaped.
As stated, this is the second book in what Shusterman calls a "dystology". Other titles include UnSouled (#3) and UnDivided (#4).
There are other titles on this year's list of nominees that are "creepy," for a variety of reasons, but these three definitely have the potential to make you jump at loud noises and peek around corners while you read them. Happy spooky reading!