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Dork Diaries 8: Tales from a Not-So-Happily Ever After by Rachel Renee Russell; Aladdin Nikki Maxwell’s favorite fairy tales get dork-tastic twists in this entry in the #1 “New York Times”-bestselling series. After a bump on the head in gym class on April Fool’s Day, Nikki dreams that she, her BFFs Chloe and Zoey, her crush Brandon, and mean girl Mackenzie are all familiar classic fairy tale characters.
Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata; Atheneum MG The new novel from a Newbery Medalist and National Book Award winner. Eleven-year-old Jaden, an emotionally damaged adopted boy, feels a connection to a small, weak toddler with special needs in Kazakhstan, where Jaden’s family is trying to adopt a “normal” baby.
The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond; Scholastic In a stunning reimagining of history, debut author Richmond weaves an incredible story of secrets and honor in a world where Hitler won World War II. In this action-packed, heart-stopping novel of a terrifying reality that could have been, a teenage girl must decide just how far she’ll go for freedom.
On A Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers; Crown Books for Young Readers It is 2035. Teens, armed only with their ideals, must wage war on the power elite. Dahlia is a Low Gater: a sheep in a storm, struggling to survive completely on her own. The Gaters live in closed safe communities, protected from the Sturmers, mercenary thugs. And the C-8, a consortium of giant companies, control global access to finance, media, food, water, and energy resources—and they are only getting bigger and even more cutthroat. Dahlia, a computer whiz, joins forces with an ex-rocker, an ex-con, a chess prodigy, an ex-athlete, and a soldier wannabe. Their goal: to sabotage the C-8. But how will Sayeed, warlord and terrorist, fit into the equation?
The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney; Scholastic Press“Amira, look at me,” Muma insists.She collects both my hands in hers.“The Janjaweed attack without warning.Ifever they come– run.”
Finally, Amira is twelve. Old enough to wear a toob, old enough for new responsibilities. And maybe old enough to go to school in Nyala– Amira’s one true dream.
But life in her peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when the Janjaweed arrive. The terrifying attackers ravage the town and unleash unspeakable horrors. After she loses nearly everything, Amira needs to dig deep within herself to find the strength to make the long journey– on foot– to safety at a refugee camp. Her days are tough at the camp, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind– and all kinds of possibilities. New York Times bestselling and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney’s powerful verse and Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist Shane W. Evans’s breathtaking illustrations combine to tell an inspiring tale of one girl’s triumph against all odds.
The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis; Scholastic A bestselling Newbery Medalist delivers a powerful companion to “Elijah of Buxton.” Benji and Red aren’t friends, but their fates are entwined. The boys discover that they have more in common than meets the eye. Both of them have encountered a strange presence in the forest. Could the Madman of Piney Woods be real?
The Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon G. Flake It’s 1953, and 10-year-old Octobia May lives in her aunt’s boarding house in a southern African-American community. When Octobia starts to question the folks in her world, an adventure and a mystery unfold that beg some troubling questions: Who is black and who is “passing” for white? What happens when their vibrant community must face its own racism?
Billy Buckhorn Abnormal by Gary Robinson Book one of the Billy Buckhorn series introduces a Cherokee teen who uses his supernatural abilities to solve mysteries. In this first installment, “Abnormal,” Billy is struck by lightning while fishing with his friend Chigger. He survives the lightning strike but begins to experience an enhanced level of esp. Billy is labeled “abnormal” by one of his teachers after he uncovers an unsavory secret from the teacher’s past. What no one suspects is that the teacher is a shape-shifter who becomes an evil raven that gains strength from his victims’ fear. When Billy confronts the teacher, he must channel his own fear into anger in order to defeat the evil birdman.
Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang; Greenwillow One cold fall day, high school junior Liz Emerson steers her car into a tree. This haunting and heartbreaking story is told by a surprising and unexpected narrator and unfolds in nonlinear flashbacks even as Liz’s friends, foes, and family gather at the hospital and Liz clings to life. This riveting debut will appeal to fans of Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver, and 13 Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
“On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.” Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? The nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force–Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.
Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson; Arthur A. Levine The privileged daughter of research scientists, Emily Bird attends a party for Washington D.C.’s elite. Days later, she wakes up in a hospital with no memory of that night. Meanwhile, a deadly flu virus has caused a worldwide crisis. Homeland security agent Roosevelt David is certain that Bird knows something about the virus, something she shouldn’t.
The Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love in Afghanistan by Atia Abawi; Philomel Fatima is a Hazara girl, raised to be obedient and dutiful. Samiullah is a Pashtun boy raised to defend the traditions of his tribe. They were not meant to fall in love. But they do. And the story that follows shows both the beauty and the violence in current-day Afghanistan as Fatima and Samiullah fight their families, their cultures and the Taliban to stay together. Based on the people Atia Abawi met and the events she covered during her nearly five years in Afghanistan, this stunning novel is a must-read for anyone who has lived during America’s War in Afghanistan.
No Name by Tim Tingle; 7th Generation nspired by the traditional Choctaw story “No Name,” this modern adaptation features a present-day Choctaw teenager surviving tough family times–his mother left home and he is living with a mean-spirited, abusive father. The one place the teen can find peace is on the neighborhood basketball court. But after a violent confrontation with his father, the teen runs away, only to return home to find an unexpected hiding spot in his own backyard. His hiding spot becomes his home for weeks until the help and encouragement from a basketball coach, a Cherokee buddy and a quiet new next-door girlfriend help him face his father.
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces byIsabel Quintero; Cinco Puntos Press Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out, the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity. IsabelQuintero is a library technician in the Inland Empire. She is also the events coordinator for Orange Monkey and helps edit the poetry journal Tin Cannon. Gabi is her debut novel.
Estas manos: Manitas de mi familia / These Hands: My Family’s Hands
by Samuel Caraballo
Illustrated by Shawn Costello
Publication Date: 10/31/14
In this heart-warming ode to family, the young narrator compares the hands of family members to plants in the natural world. “Your hands, the most tender hands! / When I’m scared, / They soothe me,” she says to her mother. The girl compares her mother’s hands to rose petals, which represent tenderness in Latin America.
Her father’s hands are strong like the mahogany tree; her siblings’ friendly like the blooming oak tree. Grandma Inés’ are the happiest hands, like tulips that tickle and hug tightly. And Grandpa Juan’s are the wisest, like the ceiba tree, considered by many indigenous peoples of Latin America to be the tree of life and wisdom and the center of the universe. His are the hands that teach his granddaughter how to plant and care for the earth and how to play the conga drum.
She promises to give back all the love they have always given her, “Dad, when your feet get tired, / My hands will not let you fall.” Samuel Caraballo’s poetic text is combined with Shawn Costello’s striking illustrations depicting loving relationships between family members. An author’s note about Latin American symbols will introduce children both to the natural world and the idea that one thing can represent another.
Cecilia and Miguel Are Best Friends / Cecilia y Miguel son mejores amigos
by Diane Gonzales Bertrand
Illustrated by Thelma Muraida
Publication Date: 10/31/14
Cecilia and Miguel are best friends, and have been since the third grade when he gave her bunny ears in the class picture. Their life-long friendship is recorded in warm recollections of bike races and soccer games, beach time and fishing from the pier.
Their closeness endures separation, “even when he drove north to college and she drove west.” The relationship evolves and grows, but remains strong even when … he dropped the ring and she found it inside her flan … he set up one crib and she told him they need two … the twins climb into their bed and beg for another story. In this celebration of friendship, best friends forgive mistakes, share adventures and—sometimes—even become family!
Popular children’s book author Diane Gonzales Bertrand teams up with illustrator Thelma Muraida to create an album of memories that reflect their shared Mexican-American childhood in San Antonio, Texas: swinging at birthday party piñatas, breaking cascarones over friends’ heads and dancing at quinceañeras. Young children are sure to giggle at the adventures of Cecilia and Miguel, and they’ll be prompted to ask about their parents’ relationship as well as explore their own.
Although somewhat late, I am so glad to deliver this list of MG and YA releases by authors of color for the month of August. It’s been quite a long while since we’ve seen so many releases in one month. If you prefer a more visual presentation, visit the Pinterest Board. And, the 2014 cumulative list can be found here.
I tried cleaning up my cumulative list, I’m not sure what’s going on with WordPress. I copied the entire list to a Word doc to clean up the spacing and the font. The results were even worse! What I’m left with is a page that looks much better, but no hyperlinks. If you need the links, you can access them on a Word doc from the page with the list. All new postings should have hyperlinks but I’m not going back to add them. I just want to get out of WordPress for now. Sorry for any inconvenience.
Descriptions are from IndieBound except where noted.
Bombay Blues by Tanuja Desai Hidier; Push The long-awaited sequel to Hidier’s groundbreaking “Born Confused”Nan ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Dimple Lala needs a change. She and her boyfriend think they’re heading to Bombay for a family wedding, but really they are plunging into the unexpected, the unmapped, and the uncontrollable.
Knockout Games by Greg Neri; Carolrhoda Books. A disturbing rash of seemingly random attacks occur in St. Louis by a group of teens called the TKO club. Erica is one of a few girls who is down with TKO in part due to her natural skill with a video camera and her ability to make art out of the attacks.
I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached; Graphic Universe Zeina Abirached, author of the award-winning graphic novel A Game for Swallows, returns with a powerful collection of wartime memories.
Abirached was born in Lebanon in 1981. She grew up in Beirut as fighting between Christians and Muslims divided the city streets. Follow her past cars riddled with bullet holes, into taxi cabs that travel where buses refuse to go, and n outings to collect shrapnel from the sidewalk.
With striking black-and-white artwork, Abirached recalls the details of ordinary life inside a war zone. (Amazon)
Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth; Scholastic MG Jarrett is used to his mom taking in foster babies, but this time a baby girl has an older brother. Kevon is Jarrett’s age, and Jarrett doesn’t like sharing his room, his friends, and his life with a stranger. The more Jarrett tries to get rid of Kevon, the more he learns about Kevon’s life and his historyNwhich leads to an unexpected understanding.
The Turtles of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye MG This accessible, exquisite novel shines with gentle humor and explores themes of moving, family, nature, and immigration. It tells the story of Aref Al-Amri, who must say good-bye to everything and everyone he loves in his hometown of Muscat, Oman, as his family prepares to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is acclaimed poet and National Book Award Finalist Naomi Shihab Nye’s first novel set in the Middle East since her acclaimed Habibi.
Aref Al-Amri does not want to leave Oman. He does not want to leave his elementary school, his friends, or his beloved grandfather, Siddi. He does not want to live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his parents will go to graduate school. His mother is desperate for him to pack his suitcase, but he refuses. Finally, she calls Siddi for help. But rather than pack, Aref and Siddi go on a series of adventures. They visit the camp of a thousand stars deep in the desert, they sleep on Siddi’s roof, they fish in the Gulf of Oman and dream about going to India, and they travel to the nature reserve to watch the sea turtles. At each stop, Siddi finds a small stone that he later slips into Aref’s suitcase–mementos of home.
Naomi Shihab Nye’s warmth, attention to detail, and belief in the power of empathy and connection shines from every page. Features black-and-white spot art and decorations by Betsy Peterschmidt.
A Blind Spot for Boys by Justina Chen Shana has always had a blind spot for boys. Can she trust the one who’s right in front of her?
Sixteen-year-old Shana Wilde is officially on a Boy Moratorium. After a devastating breakup, she decides it’s time to end the plague of Mr. Wrong, Wrong, and More Wrong.
Enter Quattro, the undeniably cute lacrosse player who slams into Shana one morning in Seattle. Sparks don’t just fly; they ignite. And so does Shana’s interest. Right as she’s about to rethink her ban on boys, she receives crushing news: Her dad is going blind. Quattro is quickly forgotten, and Shana and her parents vow to make the most of the time her father has left to see. So they travel to Machu Picchu, and as they begin their trek, they run into none other than Quattro himself. But even as the trip unites them, Quattro pulls away mysteriously… Love and loss, humor and heartbreak collide in this new novel from acclaimed author Justina Chen.
A New Beginning: My Journey with Addy by Denise Lewis Patrick, American Girl MG Readers can enter Addy Walker’s world during the Civil War in this interactive adventure where they can outrun a slave catcher, raise money for soldiers, and search for Addy’s family. Illustrations.
The Problem with being Slightly Heroic by Uma Krishnaswami; Atheneum Books MG Complications ensue when Bollywood star Dolly Singh premieres her new movie at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC and super fan Dinni and her best friend Maddie present a dance at the grand opening. (OCLC)
The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrick Henry Bass and Jerry Craft; Scholastic Fourth-grader Bakari Katari Johnson is having a really bad day. Class bullies Tariq and Keisha are mad at him, his best friend Wardell has nominated him for hall monitor, and a pack of ice zombies from a frozen world are demanding he return the magic ring that Keisha has! Illustrations.
The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco; Sourcebook Fire The Ring” meets “The Exorcist” in this haunting story set in Japan about an American boy whose last hope for protection lies with a vengeful ghost.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson; Nancy Paulsen Books Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.
Alvin, an Asian American second grader who’s afraid of everything, is taking his fears to a whole new level—or should we say, continent. On a trip to introduce brand-new baby Ho to relatives in China, Alvin’s anxiety is at fever pitch. First there’s the harrowing 16-hour plane ride; then there’s a whole slew of cultural differences to contend with: eating lunch food for breakfast, kung fu lessons, and acupuncture treatment (yikes!). Not to mention the crowds that make it easy for a small boy to get lost.
If you’re not in a questioning frame of mind and would like an adventure with atmosphere, some chills, and a bit of romance, give it a try! If you’re feeling like something with stronger character development, give it a miss for now, and pick up Jenny Davidson’s excellent The Explosionist instead: While it’s different in tone—it’s a much quieter book—like Dark Metropolis, it’s about a European girl who stumbles upon a sinister, world-altering plot, but it’s meatier in every department.
I really WANTED to like this book. I mean, based on the premise, it looks practically tailor-made for me. But, alas. The main, overarching reason it doesn’t work is this: It reads like two or three different drafts of the book were smooshed together into a non-cohesive, often incoherent mess.
If you still* haven’t read Kendare Blake’s AnnaDressedinBlood, you may want to do that before reading what I have to say about the sequel, GirlofNightmares. Because, you know. Spoilers. If you’re a fan of Supernatural or Buffy, though, you really must give the duology a try. Like both shows, it’s a fabulous combination of gore, humor, wit and intense creepiness that recognizes genre conventions while still being emotionally truthful about friendship, love, loss and sacrifice. To top it off, both books are printed in rust-colored ink: the color of blood
In her parents’ San Francisco flat, Olwen Nia Evans, Wyn for short, has been having unsettling dreams about her family’s past in Wales. But her dreams don’t match up with what she’s been told by her dying grandmother, Rhiannon. On the other side of the world, in London, a boy named Gareth Lewis is having disturbing dreams about a frightening encounter with a ghost. A ghost named Olwen Nia Evans.
When he looks for Olwen’s name online, Gareth connects with Wyn in San Francisco as she is preparing to move with her family to fulfill Rhiannon’s last wish to die in Wales. Once Wyn arrives in Wales, she and Gareth join forces to discover the truth of the lost soul that’s haunting them both.
Back to the Future meets Fast Times at Ridgemont High when Haley’s summer vacation takes a turn for the retro in this totally rad romantic fantasy.
Summer officially sucks. Thanks to a stupid seizure she had a few months earlier, Haley’s stuck going on vacation with her dad and his new family to Disney’s Fort Wilderness instead of enjoying the last session of summer camp back home with her friends. Fort Wilderness holds lots of childhood memories for her father, but surely nothing for Haley. But then a new seizure triggers something she’s never before experienced—time travel—and she ends up in River Country, the campground’s long-abandoned water park, during its heyday. The year? 1982.
And there—with its amusing fashion, “oldies” music, and primitive technology—she runs into familiar faces: teenage Dad and Mom before they’d even met. Somehow, Haley must find her way back to the twenty-first century before her present-day parents anguish over her disappearance, a difficult feat now that she’s met Jason, one of the park’s summer residents and employees, who takes the strangely dressed stowaway under his wing. Seizures aside, Haley’s used to controlling her life, and she has no idea how to deal with this dilemma. How can she be falling for a boy whose future she can’t share?
This is the fourth colourful and action-packed Victorian detective novel about the exploits of agent Mary Quinn. Mary Quinn and James Easton have set up as private detectives and are also unofficially engaged to be married. But when the Agency asks Mary to take on a special final case, she can’t resist, and agrees. Convicted fraudster Henry Thorold (from book one, A Spy in the House) is dying in prison. His daughter, Angelica, is coming to see him one last time. Mary’s brief is to monitor these visits in case Mrs Thorold, last heard of as a fugitive in France, decides to pay him one last visit. But Mrs Thorold’s return would place James in grave personal danger. Thanks to the complications of love and family loyalties, the stakes for everyone involved are higher than ever. This is the final book in the Mary Quinn Mystery series. It is perfect for fans of Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart series and Victorian culture. It is a vivid, well-researched and lively historical / detective fiction with a strong female protagonist and a smart romance.
Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn; St. Martin’s Griffin
Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.
But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.
Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell.
Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of the gripping psychological thriller.
Everyone’s been rooting for Nikki Maxwell and her crush, Brandon—and fans will finally learn if they had their first kiss in this seventh book of the New York Times bestselling Dork Diaries series!
Nikki’s juggling a lot this month. A reality TV crew is following Nikki and her friends as they record their hit song together, plus there are voice lessons, dance practice, and little sister Brianna’s latest wacky hijinks. Nikki’s sure she can handle everything, but will all the excitement cause new problems for Nikki and Brandon, now that cameras are everywhere Nikki goes?
Despite all of the emotionally charged issues (adoption! cancer! dead dog! grief! first love! coming of age! unreliable parents! the meaning of life!) and interest-piquing details (mysterious psychic! stolen ice cream truck! vintage cookbook that includes intriguing personal notes! cameo by Jude Law!) and plotting that is moved along by many serendipitous events, The Secret Ingredient is just kind of...dull. Although her meditations on cooking and food have a nice placid sort of energy, the rest of Olivia’s narration plods, and despite the likable nature of most of the characters, the dialogue feels superscripted—heavy conversation after heavy conversation after heavy conversation, and none of the characters ever seem to have any trouble whatsoever articulating anything—and thus, unbelievable.
Here's a tip for all the fictional characters out there: If your book begins with a quote from Pride and Prejudice, don't go out with a guy named Wickham. You should know better than that. Go for the grouchy brooding guy. He'll be rad. I promise.
Readers who stick with it will learn that McNeal knows exactly what he's doing: Jacob is on just as much of a journey as our young protagonist is, and as he changes and grows, his deepening connection to and affection for Jeremy & Co. makes that emotional distance shrink and disappear. As the story goes on, his voice grows steadily warmer and warmer...and then, when the darkness comes—AND HOO BOY, IT COMES—steadily more frustrated, worried, urgent and, as he has the benefit of hindsight: guilty.
Fans of Gratton's work—if you haven't discovered her yet, you're in fora treat—have probably already read this one. It's another roadtrip story, this one about a berserker and a prophetess searching for Baldur, who's gone missing. While the relationship dynamics and the family secrets are totally compelling, and while Gratton does a great job of integrating familiar myths but keeping the plotting unpredictable, for me, this one was all about the worldbuilding, which was FANTASTIC.
One night, while Dalia slept safely wrapped in her mother’s cool silken sheets, her hair grew and grew. By the time the rooster crowed, her hair had “grown straight up to the sky, tall and thick as a Cuban royal palm tree.” Her mother was amazed, and wondered what her daughter would do with her wondrous hair.
As Dalia looked at the flowers blooming in the garden, an idea sprouted inside her. She decorated her hair with leaves from the forest and mud from the marsh. Her mother was puzzled and could not imagine what she was. “Are you a leaf-crusted mud-tree?” she guessed incorrectly. That night, while Dalia slept safely cocooned in her mama’s sheets, something stirred and unfolded. When the rooster crowed, the girl ran outside and everyone watched in awe as she carefully unwrapped her towering hair. Could it be? Is Dalia a . . . blossoming butterfly tree?!?
In this whimsical bilingual picture book, Dalia’s hair becomes a magical force of nature, a life-giving cocoon. Author and illustrator Laura Lacámara once again delights children ages 4-9 with her vibrant illustrations and an imaginative story about a girl’s fanciful encounters with nature.
Bonus features include a guide for how to create your own butterfly garden at home, as well as a bilingual glossary of select plant and animal species native to the island of Cuba.
Dale, dale, Dale: Una fiesta de números/ Hit It, Hit It, Hit It: A Fiesta of Numbers
“Today is my birthday, and I am so excited. / One piñata filled with candy. / Two hours until the party. / Three tables set for all of the guests.” Mateo counts to twelve as he anticipates the fun he’ll have at his party!
There will be family, friends and lots of goodies for the children: tops, marbles and even toy cars! But before the children can hit the piñata, they will sing the birthday boy a song and enjoy eating a delicious cake. And then Mateo will be “the happiest boy in the whole wide world,” because he gets to swing at the piñata first with everyone cheering him on: ¡Dale! ¡Dale! ¡Dale!
Acclaimed kids’ book author René Saldaña, Jr. creates another winner with his first picture book, illustrated in vibrant colors by Carolyn Dee Flores, for children ages 4-8. In this birthday-themed counting book, children will relish practicing their counting skills while dreaming about hitting a piñata at their very own fun-filled fiesta.
I loved it for Greg, who—unlike many a boy in books about cancer—is not wise, thoughtful, mature, sweet, generous, or even all that nice, but is real, relatable, slappable**, and hilarious. I loved it for Earl, who is just plain wonderful—and who, even though Greg is so self-absorbed that he hardly even knows him, comes off as a real, believable person. A real, believable, hilarious person.
Zenn Scarlett has a great sense of place, both physical and political; wonderfully described alien species that aren’t at all anthropomorphized; a likable heroine, tight pacing with lots of chapters ending on exciting old-timey serial cliffhangers, and a good amount of humor. I enjoyed it hugely...with a few minor caveats. (You totally knew that was coming, didn’t you?)
Celaena is a swaggering, smart-mouthed heroine—with a secret past, naturally—who hides her pain and fear behind a smirking exterior. She’s comfortable in her own skin and with her own sexuality, and her vanity is strangely charming. She holds grudges and is quick to lash out, but those who are lucky enough to call her “friend” know her loyalty and warmth.
But while the writing itself is actually really decent, Razorbill’s packaging of The Innocents is the most exciting thing about the book. The drama isn’t particularly dramatic—more angst than action—and the shocking behavior of the characters looks almost wholesome compared to what went on in Beverly Hills, 90210 over 20 years ago.
Katherine Longshore’s depiction of Catherine Howard is quite well-rounded. She’s manipulative, tempestuous (behind closed doors), power-hungry, selfish and short-sighted, but it’s always worth remembering that she’s also 16 years old. She’s married to an ailing, sad old man, and she longs for romance. That she would chafe at her lack of freedom is easily understandable, that her power would occasionally go to her head is easily believable, and the rare glimpses we get of her sadness and her fear are affecting. It’s a darker, more nuanced portrait than the Sexy Nose Hair cover art implies.
Trust me? Add this to your list. Don’t trust me? Add it to your list anyway. Fan of historical fiction? Espionage? World War II stories? Add it, add it, add it. Even if your tastes don’t usually tend in that direction, you need to pick it up anyway. It will make you dissolve into a puddle, and then, once you’ve recovered, you’ll immediately read it all over again. That’s what I did.
Before the story even starts, there’s a map and a list of intriguingly named soldier types like “Tidemakers,” “Alkemi” and “Heartrenders.” Among those factors and the cover, I was predisposed to like this book before I even started reading it. And, overall, I did... with a few reservations.
The parts about the Hollywood high school are priceless, Aunt Max is awesome, and like What My Mother Doesn't Know, it's predictable, but not in a bad way. Oh, and she's a big reader, so there are a couple of poems that are basically reading lists of awesome YA books. Rad.
August offers quite an eclectic select of books! From Milati Perkins comedic collections by authors of color to Margarita Engle’s story of a mountain rescue dog, this month has a lot to off middle grade and young adult readers!
Open life: Riffs on life between cultures edited by Mitali Perkins; Candlewick; August Listen in as ten YA authors — some familiar, some new — use their own brand of humor to share their stories about growing up between cultures. Henry Choi Lee discovers that pretending to be a tai chi master or a sought-after wiz at math wins him friends for a while — until it comically backfires. A biracial girl is amused when her dad clears seats for his family on a crowded subway in under a minute, simply by sitting quietly between two uptight women. Edited by acclaimed author and speaker Mitali Perkins, this collection of fiction and nonfiction uses a mix of styles as diverse as their authors, from laugh-out-loud funny to wry, ironic, or poignant, in prose, poetry, and comic form.
Sunday you learn how to box: a novelby Bil Wright; Scribner; August “Sunday You Learn How to Box”: presents an unforgettable portrait of fourteen-year-old Louis Bowman in a boxing ring- a housing project circa 1968- fighting “just to get to the end of the round.” Sharing the ring is his mother, Jeanette Stamps, a ferociously stubborn woman battling for her own dreams to be realized; his stepfather, Ben Stamps, the would-be savior, who becomes the sparring partner to them both; and the enigmatic Ray Anthony Robinson, the neighborhood “hoodlum” in purple polyester pants, who sets young Louis’s heart spinning with the first stirrings of sexual longing. Blending quirky humor and clear-eyed unsentimentality, Bil Wright deftly evokes an unrelenting world with lyricism and passion.
Chasing shadows by Swati Avasthi. Alfred A. Knopf; August Chasing Shadows is a searing look at the impact of one random act of violence. Before: Corey, Holly, and Savitri are one unit—fast, strong, inseparable. Together they turn Chicago concrete and asphalt into a freerunner’s jungle gym, ricocheting off walls, scaling buildings, leaping from rooftop to rooftop. But acting like a superhero doesn’t make you bulletproof. After: Holly and Savitri are coming unglued. Holly says she’s chasing Corey’s killer, chasing revenge. Savitri fears Holly’s just running wild—and leaving her behind. Friends should stand by each other in times of crissi. But can you hold on too tight? Too long? (Amazon)
If you could be mine by Sara Farizan; Algonquin, August In Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death, seventeen-year-olds Sahar and Nasrin love each other in secret until Nasrin’s parents announce their daughter’s arranged marriage and Sahar proposes a drastic solution.
Mountain dogby Margarita Engle; O. Ivanov; A. Ivanov; Henry Holt and Co., AugustWhen his mother is sent to jail in Los Angeles, eleven-year-old Tony goes to live with his forest ranger great-uncle in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where Tony experiences unconditional love for the first time through his friendship with a rescue dog.
If I ever get out of here by Eric Gansworth; Arthur A. Levine; August Seventh-grader Lewis “Shoe” Blake from the Tuscarora Reservation has a new friend, George Haddonfield from the local Air Force base, but in 1975 upstate New York there is a lot of tension and hatred between Native Americans and Whites–and Lewis is not sure that he can rely on friendship.
Danny Blackgoat: Navajo prisoner by Tim Tinge; 7th Generation; August Danny Blackgoat, a sixteen-year-old Navajo, is labeled a troublemaker during the Long Walk of 1864 and sent to a prisoner outpost in Texas, where fellow captive Jim Davis saves him from a bully and starts him on the road to literacy–and freedom.
Kizzy Ann Stampsby Jeri Hanel Watts; Candlewick; August n 1963, as Kizzy Ann prepares for her first year at an integrated school, she worries about the color of her skin, the scar running from the corner of her right eye to the tip of her smile, and whether anyone at the white school will like her. She writes letters to her new teacher in a clear, insistent voice, stating her troubles and asking questions with startling honesty. The new teacher is supportive, but not everyone feels the same, so there is a lot to write about. Her brother, James, is having a far less positive school experience than she is, and the annoying white neighbor boy won’t leave her alone. But Shag, her border collie, is her refuge. Even so, opportunity clashes with obstacle. Kizzy Ann knows she and Shag could compete well in the dog trials, but will she be able to enter?”
Burn for burn by Jenny Han and Sioban Vivian; Simon and Schuster; August Three teenaged girls living on Jar Island band together to enact revenge on the people that have hurt them
Little brother of war by Gary Robinson; 7th Generation; August Sixteen-year-old Mississippi Choctaw Randy Cheska lives under the shadow of his brother who was a football hero, later killed in Iraq, until proves himself to his parents and others through the ancient game of stickball.
Oh, snap! by Walter Dean Myers; Scholastic, August: When their journalistic counterparts at a school in England begin to add incriminating photographs to their articles, the Cruisers and students at Harlem’s DaVinci Academy realize that words and pictures do not always tell the whole story.
Speaking of P.E., in order to help Izzy pass as a normal teenager, her mother buys a whole ton of television boxed sets of CW-esque shows. Understandably, Izzy finds them all totally addicting, but also understandably, not remotely helpful in understanding the life of the average American teenager: ...in all the TV shows Mom had gotten me, people usually just spent P.E. talking under the bleachers, or meeting up with their secret boyfriends.
Page Morgan’s The Beautiful and the Cursed marks the first time I've seen a gargoyle as a romantic lead, and the fact that the heroine is almost more drawn to Luc Rousseau’s gargoyle side than to his human side gives it a nicely gothic flavor. There are some steamy scenes that are quite effective, the sense of time is interesting—a scene that focuses on one character is often followed up with one about another character during the same period of time—and...wow. I’ve run out of nice things to say.
I love the love story, which is the antidote to instalove. Without getting too spoiler-y about it—there IS a love triangle, but as we’re dealing with an arranged marriage, the triangle works because it allows us to see Verity really, truly, make her choice—it’s a love that grows slowly and steadily, and Salerni highlights the joy of falling in love with an extended family as well as with a future mate.
There are aspects of Rain’s character that are bound to trouble some readers, and she very definitely makes some choices that those same readers will find equally troubling. Other readers—myself included—will root for her throughout, and find her especially appealing since, unlike the stereotypical Fiery Redhead, she’s capable of playing the long game: First and foremost, she’s a survivor, and as we all learned from Katniss Everdeen, survivors are not always all that easy to like.
The author never comes close to condescending to her audience. As I've already mentioned, she doesn't pull punches in regards to sexual content—Charles II's court was full of scandalous scandals, and he, himself fathered at least a dozen children (all illegitimate) with seven (or eight?) different mistresses—but it should also be noted that she never resorts to infodumps, either (readers will either get the joke about Caligula or they won't). And, despite the assumptions that some peoplemake about the YA, the vocabulary is joyous.
Yes, it sounds suspiciously like The Breakfast Club. Yes, they do do some bonding. Assumptions are made based on appearances, and those assumptions are proved wrong. (It's rather fitting that they spend so much time by the pool. You can see to the bottom, so you think you know everything about it, but that's never really true, is it?*) But the tone is very different, and while in The Breakfast Club, the characters Get It All Out There and by the end, There Are No Mysteries, this book does not answer all questions raised.
A quartet of girls go to a co-ed summer camp together for five years, they love each other, support each other, swear undying loyalty and unending friendship...but then grow apart once they hit high school. Three years later, the four now-17-year-olds return to Camp Nedoba for a reunion, and amidst much drama, airing of old grievances and healing of heartache, they reconnect. It stars a cast of likable characters, and it’ll be a good pick for fans of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and the like, but while it’s an enjoyable read, it’s also a somewhat forgettable one.
Zero Fade by Chris Terry. Curbside Splendor, 10 SeptZero Fade chronicles eight days in the life of inner-city Richmond, Virginia, teen Kevin Phifer as he deals with wack haircuts, bullies, last year’s fly gear, his uncle Paul coming out as gay, and being grounded.
Mira in the present tense by Sita Brahmachari; Whitman Press, 1 Sept Twelve-year-old Mira comes from a chaotic, artistic, and outspoken family in which it’s not always easy to be heard. As her beloved Nana Josie’s health declines, Mira begins to discover the secrets of those around her and also starts to keep some of her own. She is drawn to mysterious Jide, a boy who is clearly hiding a troubled past. As Mira is experiencing grief for the first time, she is also discovering the wondrous and often mystical world around her. An incredibly insightful, honest novel exploring the delicate balance–and often injustice–of life and death. But at its heart, it’s a celebration of friendship, culture–and life.
Chasing shadows by Swati Avasthi. Alfred A. Knopf, 24 Sept Chasing Shadows is a searing look at the impact of one random act of violence.
Before: Corey, Holly, and Savitri are one unit—fast, strong, inseparable. Together they turn Chicago concrete and asphalt into a freerunner’s jungle gym, ricocheting off walls, scaling buildings, leaping from rooftop to rooftop.But acting like a superhero doesn’t make you bulletproof…
After: Holly and Savitri are coming unglued. Holly says she’s chasing Corey’s killer, chasing revenge. Savitri fears Holly’s just running wild—and leaving her behind. Friends should stand by each other in times of crissi. But can you hold on too tight? Too long?
Inheritance by Malinda Lo. LIttle, Brown and Co. When teens Reese and David are kidnapped after revealing that they were adapted with alien DNA, Reese is forced to reconcile her new love for David, a human, with feelings for Amber, an Imrian, and make a world-changing choice.
Once we were: the hybrid chronicles by Kat Zang. Harper Collins, 17 Sept In this riveting sequel to What’s Left of Me, Eva and Addie struggle to share their body as they clash over romance and join the fight for hybrid freedom. With a powerful voice, an intense sibling relationship, and a sweet romance against the odds, this second novel in the Hybrid Chronicles is perfect for fans of Ally Condie, Lauren Oliver, and Scott Westerfeld.
Addie and Eva escaped imprisonment at a horrific psychiatric hospital. Now they should be safe, living among an underground hybrid movement. But safety is starting to feel constricting. Faced with the possibility of being in hiding forever, the girls are eager to help bring about change—now. The answer seems to lie within a splinter group willing to go to extremes for hybrid freedom, but as Addie and Eva fall ever deeper into their plans, what they thought was the solution to their problems just might be the thing that destroys everything—including their bond to each other.
It is 1739. Young Jem has been rescued from slavery and finds himself at Fort Mose, a settlement in Florida run by the Spanish. He is in the custody of an ornery and damaged woman named Phaedra, who dictates his every move. When Jem sets out to break free of her will, an adventure begins in which Jem saves a baby owl, a pair of runaway slaves, and, eventually, maybe all the residents of Fort Mose.
While Jem and the other characters are fictitious, the story is based on historical record. Fort Mose was the first legally sanctioned free African settlement in what is now the United States. In 1994 the site was designated a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2009, the National Park Service named Fort Mose a precursor site on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Invasion by Walter Dean Myers; Scholastic October
Josiah Wedgewood and Marcus Perry are on their way to an uncertain future. Their whole lives are ahead of them, yet at the same time, death’s whisper is everywhere. One white, one black, these young men have nothing in common and everything in common as they approach an experience that will change them forever. It’s May 1944. World War II is ramping up, and so are these young recruits, ready and eager. In small towns and big cities all over the globe, people are filled with fear. When Josiah and Marcus come together in what will be the greatest test of their lives, they learn hard lessons about race, friendship, and what it really means to fight. Set on the front lines of the Normandy invasion, this novel, rendered with heart-in-the-throat precision, is a cinematic masterpiece. Here we see the bold terror of war, and also the nuanced havoc that affects a young person’s psyche while living in a barrack, not knowing if today he will end up dead or alive. My basmati bat mitzvah by Paula Freeman; Amulet Books, October
During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for “star”) Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend Ben-O–who might also be her boyfriend–and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with the snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined. Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her faith. With the cross-cultural charm of Bend It Like Beckham, this delightful debut novel is a classic coming-of-age story and young romance with universal appeal. Champion by Marie Lu; Putnam; October
The explosive finale to Marie Lu’s New York Times bestselling LEGEND trilogy—perfect for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT! Ehrich Weisz chronicle: Devil Island by Marty Chan; Fitzhenry & Whiteside, October
When young Ehrich Weisz – the future illusionist, Harry Houdini – follows his brother, Dash, through a strange portal, he is thrust into an alternate New York where the immigrants aren’t just different ethnicities but different species. He finds work in this strange steampunk world as a Demon Hunter, tracking down dangerous otherworldly visitors that threaten the city’s safety, while hiding his own foreign origins. A curious medallion, his only clue to finding his brother, leads Ehrich to a mysterious woman caught up in interdimensional intrigue, and he must learn who to trust as he unravels the truth if he ever wants to find his way home. Killer of enemies by Joseph Bruchac; October, Lee and Low
October Years ago, seventeen year old Apache hunter Lozen and her family lives in a world of haves and have-nots. There were the Ones (people so augmented with technology and genetic enhancements that they were barely human) and there was everyone else who served the Ones. Then the Cloud came, and everything changed. Tech stopped working. The world plunged back into a new steam age. The Ones’ pets — genetically engineered monsters — turned on them and are now loose on the world. Lozen was not one of the lucky ones pre-C, but fate has given her a unique set of survival skills and magical abilities. She hunts monsters for the Ones who survived the apocalyptic events of the Cloud, which ensures the safety of her kidnapped family. But with every monster she takes down, Lozen’s powers grow, and she connects those powers to an ancient legend of her people. It soon becomes clear to Lozen that she is not just a hired gun… Lozen is meant to be a hero. Tiger girl by Mary-Lee Chai; GemmaMedia,
Nea Chhim, the spirited heroine of Dragon Chica, struggles with college. Nightmares of war flood the waking memories of this 19-year-old survivor of the Cambodian Killing Fields. Nea decides she must confront the past to overcome her fear and begin her own life in America. Without telling Ma, she hops on a cross-country bus in Nebraska to see her biological father in Southern California. There Nea comes face to face with a man wounded by survivor’s guilt who refuses to acknowledge the family’s secrets. Nea determines to revive his struggling donut shop and help him recover. Her tireless efforts attract a mysterious young man’s attention—is he casing the place for a gang? It is up to Nea to find out the truth: about her family, the war that nearly destroyed them, and herself. Tiger Girl weaves together Cambodian folklore and its painful past with contemporary American life to create an unforgettable novel about love, war, and acceptance.
Henry Bushkin, attorney and former right-hand man to Johnny Carson, has written a book about what life was really like with his famous friend. It’s a deeply personal account filled with scandalous details, including the real story on why his relationship with Carson ended.
Yet despite the book’s obvious potential, Bushkin actually had a hard time getting it published. In Mediabistro’s latest installment of So What Do You Do?, Bushkin talks about the media’s reaction to his writing, his thoughts on the proposed NBC miniseries and the process of publishing:
In the book’s acknowledgments, you explain how the impetus for the book came in 2008 from fellow (and subsequent) Carson attorney Ed Hookstratten. Can you explain a bit how you got from there to here?
Some time ago, I was about to self-publish the book. The book that has come out this week is essentially the same book. Frankly, when I was going to do it on my own with a small staff, it became apparent that Carson wasn’t relevant in the eyes of New York publishers vis-a-vis New York editors. They thought he was just irrelevant.
When I had the manuscript in polished form, I sent it to a friend of mine in New York. She then immediately sent it to a friend of hers at Vanity Fair, and then she asked if she could send it to a friend of hers, an agent in New York. I said yes. And all of a sudden, there were five publishers bidding for it. So it had quite an evolution that took quite some time, with the book going through several gestation periods.
Oh, I’ve thought about blogging. I had a great post prepared last Friday and it disappeared when I clicked ‘publish’. Twice it did. I hope this one saves!!
It’s crunch time with BFYA and that is my #1 priority over the next few months. Well, that and the Indiana Council of Social Students and ALAN/NCTE presentations I’m doing this month. And laundry, grocery shopping and keeping up with General Hospital.
I’ve got a few great posts in mind. I won’t be completely gone, but I will be posting even less than I have been. I’ve got a few good interviews that I’m working on. I’m enjoying doing interviews, giving a little more exposure to authors and their works. I’m always looking for new authors to interview. I’m also working on a post about how librarians contribute to diversity as it applies to literature for young adult readers. I was reading a very interesting piece which Jason Low published interviewing literary agents on the issue of the ethnic diversity gap in children’s books and it caused me to look inward. I have to ask what librarians can and should be doing.
In the meantime, it’s November and I have new books to post!
A Translated from Arabic by the Lebanese author, the rapid present-tense narrative is a powerful take on the Cinderella story. Never simplistic, the story’s twists and turns are surprising.
Ash escaped THE SAVAGE FORTRESS . . . but can he survive THE CITY OF DEATH?
As I was leaving my apartment this morning, I picked up a package that contained The Servant by Fatima Sharafeddine (Groundwood/House of Anansi). Sharafeddine was born in Lebanon and raised in Sierra Leona. In the past 10 years, she’s written over 95 books. The Servant was released in April, 2013.
I also managed to miss Sarwat Chadda’s City of Death (Arthur A. Levine) which was released in October. This is book #2 in Chadda’s Ash Mistry series and it is on the current BFYA list.
And what about November, you ask? Here they are. All FIVE of them.
Angel de la luna and the 5th glorious mystery by M. Evelina Galang; Coffee House Press, Nov. As a baby in her mother’s womb, as a schoolgirl in Manilla, and as a reluctant immigrant to Chicago at age sixteen, Angel burns with a desire to be an activist, but learning truths about her mother and grandmother help her find peace. True Story by NiNi Simone; KTeen/Dafina, 26 Nov. That’s the plight of eighteen-year-old Seven McKnight. Her freshman year at Stiles University turned out to be a tug of war for her heart and her sophomore year promised more of the same. Just when she’d sworn off her ex-boyfriend, Josiah Whitaker, and thought she’d never love him again, he boldly stepped back into her life, with no regard that she’d moved on with Zaire St. James, her new boyfriend. Championby Marie Lu; Putnam Juvenile, 5 Nov. June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps Elect while Day has been assigned a high level military position. But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them once again. Just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything he has. With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion. The Trap by Andrew Fukuda; St. Martin’s Griffin; 5 Nov. After barely escaping the Mission alive, Gene and Sissy face an impossible task: staying alive long enough to stop an entire world bent on their destruction. Bound on a train heading into the unknown with the surviving Mission girls, Gene, Sissy, David, and Epap must stick together and use everything they have to protect each other and their only hope: the cure that will turn the blood-thirsty creatures around them into humans again. Now that they know how to reverse the virus, Gene and Sissy have one final chance to save those they love and create a better life for themselves. But as they struggle to get there, Gene’s mission sets him on a crash course with Ashley June, his first love . . . and his deadliest enemy. He Said, She Saidby Kwame Alexander; Amistad, 19 Nov.
Sparks will fly in this hip-hop-hot teen novel that mixes social protest and star-crossed romance! He Said, She Said is perfect for fans of Walter Dean Myers and Rachel Vail alike.
He says: Omar “T-Diddy” Smalls has got it made—a full football ride to UMiami, hero-worship status at school, and pick of any girl at West Charleston High.
She says: Football, shmootball. Here’s what Claudia Clarke cares about: Harvard, the poor, the disenfranchised, the hungry, the staggering teen pregnancy rate, investigative journalism . . . the list goes on. She does not have a minute to waste on Mr. T-Diddy Smalls and his harem of bimbos.
He Said, She Said is a fun and fresh novel from Kwame Alexander that throws these two high school seniors together when they unexpectedly end up leading the biggest social protest this side of the Mississippi—with a lot of help from Facebook and Twitter.
In 2012, I listed 102 YA books written by authors of color. This year, 81. I’m certain I’ve missed some.
For example, in September I missed Antigoddess by Kendare Blake.
Old Gods never die…
Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health. Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.
These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning. Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out. Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.
The Goddess War is about to begin.
But still, Why are the numbers of books written by authors of color continuing to decrease? Why is it still difficult for parents, librarians and teens to find YA books that feature teens of color?
Cy in Chains by David Dudley; Clarion Books, 17 Dec Cy Williams, thirteen, has always known that he and the other black folks on Strong’s plantation have to obey white men, no question. Sure, he’s free, as black people have been since his grandfather’s day, but in rural Georgia, that means they’re free to be whipped, abused, even killed. Almost four years later, Cy yearns for that freedom, such as it was. Now he’s a chain gang laborer, forced to do backbreaking work, penned in and shackled like an animal, brutalized, beaten, and humiliated by the boss of the camp and his hired overseers. For Cy and the boys he’s chained to, there’s no way out, no way back.
And then hope begins to grow in him, along with strength and courage he didn’t know he had. Cy is sure that a chance at freedom is worth any risk, any sacrifice. This powerful, moving story opens a window on a painful chapter in the history of race relations. (Amazon)
Control by Lydia King; Dial Books; 26 Dec Set in 2150 — in a world of automatic cars, nightclubs with auditory ecstasy drugs, and guys with four arms — this is about the human genetic “mistakes” that society wants to forget, and the way that outcasts can turn out to be heroes.
When their overprotective father is killed in a terrible accident, Zel and her younger sister, Dylia, are lost in grief. But it’s not until strangers appear, using bizarre sensory weapons, that the life they had is truly eviscerated. Zel ends up in a safe house for teens that aren’t like any she’s ever seen — teens who, by law, shouldn’t even exist. One of them — an angry tattooed boy haunted by tragedy — can help Zel reunite with her sister. (Amazon)
Aria Morse is an Oracle, blessed—or cursed—with the gift of prophecy. Ask her anything, and the truth spills out immediately. But Aria’s answers sound like nonsense, even to herself… just as they did at Delphi 2500 years ago. To cope, Aria has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight—until Jade Price, the closest person she has to a friend, disappears. All of a sudden, everyone around her has questions. The “nonsense” Aria spouts becomes a matter of life and death. She may be the only one who can find out what happened to Jade. But the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she comes to being the next target of someone else who hides in plain sight. Someone with a very dark plan. (Amazon)
She doesn’t want to hear the questions so that she won’t blurt our the answers. She avoids the questions by putting in her earbuds and cranking up her playlst.
Aria’s First Day of School Playlist
Music is so important to Aria, the main character in ASK ME. It’s what she uses to shield herself from the world. Each of the chapter titles in the book is a song that she would have been listening to during the chapter in question. But, what would she have listened to on her first day of school? This is what I think it would have been:
The flashbacks are an economical way to dole out the back story—while there aren’t a whole lot of strengths here, it can’t be said that it isn’t tight—and they’re integrated seamlessly into the main narrative. What doesn’t work is anything having to do with an emotional arc: which, unfortunately, is most of the rest.
Just like Ruined (or, you know, what I remember of it), Unbroken reads like part-paranormal-mystery-romance, part travelogue. In addition to loads of details about New Orleans (past and present) and lots of information about the various communities and cultures and subcultures that populate the city, there's some discussion about gentrification and a bit of conversation about preserving history versus quality of life. While much of it definitely reads like the author had some travel guides open at all times as she wrote, for the most part, the information is integrated smoothly and in a non-infodumpy manner.
Celia is smart, creative, curious, sensitive, loves reading, and loves words, but she doesn't talk like someone reading a Diablo Cody script. When she mouths off to one of the jerks at school, she keeps it simple ("You're stupid and mean, and you suck at basketball"; "Keep marching, hate parade"), and in so doing, the moment isn't about the words she chooses, but about the fact that she chooses to to speak up. When she speaks up in defense of others, it comes off as realistic and as real-world possible, rather than as something you'd see in a movie: and that makes it all the more inspiring.
It’s a thrill ride, with explosions and escapes and danger, chases and betrayals and unlikely alliances; and London’s descriptions of the vision-based technology made me think of bothMinority Report and Feed. It isn’t just about the action or the neat technology, though: It’s also a story about trust and redemption, responsibility and forgiveness; about how far people are willing to go to get what they want, and how far they will bend their own moral code in order to justify it.
I enjoyed it so much -- Amal has a great voice, whip-smart and ornery and passionate and laugh-out-loud funny* and sensitive. While the book occasionally does veer into Preachy Land, I think that Amal's character makes it work. I mean, really -- find me a teenager who doesn't get a little self-righteous now and then**. I actually found the subplot about Simone's weight issues more heavy-handed and irritating than any of Amal's railings against Muslim stereotypes.
A gothic storyline AND spiritualism!? How could it get any better? Well, I'll tell ya: three-dimensional characters written with subtlety and compassion and a FANTASTIC villain. Good one, Laura Amy Schlitz. I will very definitely be watching for your next book.
You know what got me about The Fault in Our Stars more than anything else? What made me, on more the one occasion, laugh out loud even while I was bawling**? It wasn't the witty banter or the poetry or the philosophizing or the mullings-over of mortality. It was Hazel's empathy.
But she revels in fighting the fae, full stop. She can be covered in blood, half of it her own, and rather than bemoaning her fate, she’ll grin in delight. In fighting, she has power, and in fighting, she wrests control from beings that are bigger and stronger than she is…which is exactly what seems so impossible when she’s wearing her public face.
If you haven't read any Ibbotson, you're missing out -- while I'm sure that's something you've heard before about a plethora of authors, it really is true in this case. She writes the sort of old-fashioned children's stories that make you smile all the way through and then make you happily cry at the end.
Pretenders, by Lisi Harrison: For some reason, when I picked this one up I thought it was a new Sara Shepard book. (Despite Lisi Harrison's name on the cover, yes. I'm going to go ahead and blame all of this past year's brainmelt on my new job. Though, as you may have noticed, I've gotten back into the swing of posting regularly, so it looks like the brainmelt is receding, which, YAY. Anyway.)
So, The Pretenders. If I'm remembering correctly, there are five narrators, and they're all up for some sort of award, and there is cheating and dramz and romance and so on. Stronger than Harrison's Clique books, and a bit more mature, and while it clearly wasn't all that memorable, I do remember it being a fun, popcorn-y read.
Page Morgan’sThe Beautiful and the Cursed marks the first time I've seen a gargoyle as a romantic lead, and the fact that the heroine is almost more drawn to Luc Rousseau’s gargoyle side than to his human side gives it a nicely gothic flavor. There are some steamy scenes that are quite effective, the sense of time is interesting—a scene that focuses on one character is often followed up with one about another character during the same period of time—and...wow. I’ve run out of nice things to say.
Despite the book’s disappointing spiral into inanity in the third act, the introduction of a totally extraneous love triangle (and when I say "extraneous," I’m referring to BOTH romances), AND the fact that it ends on a deflating TUNE IN NEXT TIME TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS note, I enjoyed my time with the heroine so much that I’ll very probably pick up Book Two.
It's a story that could have gone in any number of unimpressive directions—trite, preachy, insipid, black/white—but doesn't. Kokie doesn't shy away from Matt's less-than-politically-correct and sometimes less-than-empathetic feelings—and even when he's exhibiting them, he's still a sympathetic character because of all of the pain and confusion and anger he's feeling—and she always, always stays true to her character.
Fans of Buffy will love that Izzy’s relationship with her mother is complex and believable, that she almost immediately aligns herself with the school outcasts (who are all awesome), and that Hawkins turns the usual P.E. dodge-ball scene on its head when Izzy gets ticked off and accidentally dislocates a bully’s shoulder.
I give Chapman huge points for writing a dystopian set in a brutal kill-or-be-killed world...and just letting it be. Unlike every other YA dystopian I’ve read, Dualed never turns into a story about Standing Up To The Man or Fighting For Freedom. It’s purely a survival story, and it was a nice change to read about a protagonist who wasn’t a special snowflake* or a focal point for a rebellion.
It's got a fantastic sense of place and Farish conveys long periods of time spent waiting without ever slowing the pace of the story, both of which are quite impressive considering how few words she uses. The contrast between cultures is striking, and it's especially nice that the book portrays Viola attempting to understand and fit into American (and even more specifically, Maine**) culture, but never uses the somewhat-tired "I renounce my former culture/this new culture is so horrible and wrong; oh wait, now I'm proud to be a part of both cultures" storyline. She's drawn towards both worlds, but she just... keeps on keeping on, and eventually finds her place in both.
It's about music; about art; about beauty; about snobbery and elitism; about grief; about trust and manipulation and spite; about how a clash between two stubborn people can ultimately result in both sides losing; about economic class and using people to further your own ends and living THROUGH other people and about CHOOSING YOURSELF. All of the relationships are so complex—Lucy and her mother, her father, her grandfather, her brother, her best friend, her teacher, and, of course, Will—that I really don't think it would be possible for me to praise it highly enough.
There’s plenty of humor—the official Kirkus review called it “hilarious,” though I found it more subdued than that—but I had a lump in my throat for almost the entire 400 pages. It’s written with such emotional honesty that it’s impossible not to empathize with Hartzler’s young self: regardless of whether he’s writing about his Big Questions about God and religion or getting caught in a lie about buying the Pretty Woman soundtrack.
As happens every month, new diversity releases for the month are list here, at Diversity in YA and at Rich in Color. And each month, we all manage to have different lists. I only list books written by authors of color. Rich In Color “is dedicated to reading, reviewing, talking about, and otherwise promoting young adult fiction starring people of color or written by people of color” and Diversity in YA celebrates “young adult books about all kinds of diversity, from race to sexual orientation to gender identity and disability.”I hope to provide a similar post each month.
Subtle differences which gives us lists that feature marginalized American teens. For all of May’s listings please use the following links. Do you know of other YA blogs we should include? Do tell!
Ariane’s narration is funny and thoughtful, and her paladin tendencies make her immediately likable. In order to disappear into the background, she observes human behavior (and high school culture) very closely, and her habit of constantly second-guessing each action with an “Okay, what would a regular human do?” keeps her perspective fresh while also evoking all of Dexter Morgan's most entertaining moments.
Aspects of it work. Fans of Emily Dickinson—well, those who don’t find the basic premise vaguely sacrilegious*—will definitely appreciate the requisite bee, gingerbread and coconut cake cameos, but more especially the poetry that MacColl uses in the chapter headings and directly in the narrative. Newbies, meanwhile—although Emily is 15, I’d peg this book as an upper middle-grade/lower-YA crossover—will hopefully discover how easily accessible and enjoyable Dickinson’s poetry can be.
Teen readers will not only be enthralled by the storyline and the romance, but also relate to feeling controlled and out of control, to Sloane’s struggle to hide her pain and to the desire to please one’s parents while also wanting to break free of them.
Cool premise, action-packed, nice post-apocalyptic western vibe (Jackal is rarely seen without his ankle-length duster), but with slim characterization and weak dialogue. It’s very definitely got an audience, and fans will be happy with it, but I’ll be sticking to Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines as my vampire series of choice.
When I wrote about Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossedearlier this week, I listed “Lack of Love Triangle” as being one of the many things in its favor. Because, really. Who among us is not suffering from Love Triangle Fatigue?
You know where this is going, right? Right: I should have kept my big trap shut.
The Girl in the Clockwork Collar suffers from the same problem as TheGirlintheSteel Corset—it’s insanely repetitive. This time, instead of being treated to various iterations of the phrase “ropey red hair,” all the characters stand around quirking their eyebrows at one another.
Pushing the Limits is a she-said/he-said romance about a couple of high school seniors who discover two things: opposites attract, and sometimes those who appear to be completely different on the outside are actually very similar on the inside. (So, really, opposites aren't really opposites? Or something. Maybe I'm overthinking this. ANYWAY.)
Is bullying an important issue, relevant to the target audience? Of course. Are child abuse/neglect, rape, depression, poverty and teen suicide also important? Duh, yes. Are the messages that Keep Holding On promotes—hope and survival—things that teens need to hear? Of course. So although the storyline was a surprise, I could have easily gotten past that if the book had been, well, better.
Crackling, believable dialogue, and a storyline that features moments of such tension that my skin is crawling just thinking about them. Despite the brevity of Daniel's voice, the complexity of the familial relationships is top-notch.