Steven Lee is a lucky student; he gets go on a school trip to China. Normally, he feels like a misfit, but he wonders if this is his chance to fit in. Unfortunately, many people on the trip expect him to be able to read all the Chinese around them, since that is his heritage. He begins to feel like the trip is a mistake.That feeling gets worse when he realizes their guide at a museum really doesn’t seem to know much the museum. And why are so many exhibits empty? Then the guide slips away from the tour, and out of curiosity, Steven follows her into a creepy basement, and his life is changed forever. He is a exposed to a beam of green light in the midst of a supernatural power transference. Suddenly, Steven acquires the power of the Tiger, one of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. Steven soon learns of the evil Maxwell's plot to use twelve teens like him to overtake the world. Will Steven find the other eleven before Maxwell?
This title is an illustrated novel, combining Stan Lee's storytelling power with the Andrew Tong's illustrations, and making it a good choice for readers who prefer a more graphic format. Lee plans to continue the series, The Zodiac Legacy, with a second title this year.
A World Without HeroesBrandon Mull
Jason was a junior high student who loved baseball and worked at a zoo for a part time job. One day, while he was cleaning the hippo cage, he fell into the pool, and is transported to another world. Jason soon learns that he is in Lyrian, a strange place populated by weird characters and ruled by an evil emperor -- a world without heroes.
At first, Jason just wants to go back to his world, the Beyond. Then he accidentally finds a forbidden book, one that reveals the first syllable of a word that will defeat the emperor and restore freedom Lyrian. Now, his life is in real danger as the emperor knows Jason saw the book and is aware of the word that will destroy him. As he runs for his life, Jason meets Rachel, another teenager from his world, and the two set out to find their way back home. The two make many friends along the way, and must battle giant crabs, volcanic lakes and man-eating frogs. Maldor, the emperor, is a dangerous enemy who always seems to know the next move Rachel and Jason will make.
Finally, when it looks like the two are making real progress and might actually defeat Maldor, Jason is thrown his biggest challenge yet, an opportunity to have everything he’s ever wanted. Will Jason be able to say no?
This is the first title in Mull's Beyonder trilogy; the sequels are Seeds of Rebellion and Chasing the Prophecy.
The BoundlessKenneth Oppel
Will is a young boy waiting for his father to return from a railroad workcamp in the Canadian wilderness; suddenly, both are swept into life of luxury when Will’s father becomes the head of the railroad company overseeing the construction of a train in the likeness of The Titanic. This amazing train, called The Boundless, features a steam engine several kilometers long. Will and his father set out on The Boundless' maiden voyage. However, when Will witnesses a vicious crime, he must run for his life.
To escape, Will chooses to join the circus, enlisting the help of a master magician, a young female escape artist, and, of course, the animals. Not only is Will fighting for his life, but also is being used by those around him for their own hidden agendas. Will’s journey is full of twist and turns, clowns and stilt walkers, and even avalanches and sasquatches. Can Will overcome each of these obstacles and pass as a talented circus performer in order to save his life and -- even more importantly -- the lives of all those aboard The Boundless?
Oppel has proven his talent for writing adventure in earlier series, particularly the Silverwing trilogy. His combination of historical events, mystery, danger, and elements of fantasy make this a hard-to-put-down, engaging story.
Remember, any teen reader who finishes three of the fifteen nominees on this year's list is eligible to vote for their favorite. Voting will happen at school and public libraries throughout Wyoming beginning in mid-February. Our last group of nominees -- some non-traditional titles -- will be up in next week's post.