Meet Gabe Johnson, more commonly known by his classmates as Chunk. He is an overweight trombone player in the marching band, a member of a dysfunctional household, a donut shop employee, a rebel and a criminal. He is also the hero of a wonderful new book titled Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach. What begins with a study for health class, cataloging the use of the school soda machine, escalates into what becomes known as the Spunk River War. In a completely covert money grab, the proceeds from the machine originally used to fund the marching band are directed toward the creation of a new dance squad. The band finds out on the last day of school that there will be no summer band camp. With the help of social media, Chunk rallies the geeks to protest this injustice. The jocks become involved and stand up for their girlfriends, the burners join the geeks. The stage is set for an epic clash which is planned to take place during the town’s premier summer tourist event.
Though rife with group classifications and sweeping generalizations, this story is about so much more than the geeks challenging the popular crowd. It is about self-perception, personal pride and seeing beyond stereotypes. Gabe grows to become more than what people expect of him and is an inspirational character as a result.
This entertaining novel is told in the unique manner of a one-sided conversation. After Gabe is arrested for robbing the soda machine, he meets with his lawyer at the police station, and the novel is a transcript of this encounter. It’s a clever device which asks the reader to fill in the question as our protagonist provides the answer. Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders is an endearing coming of age novel. The value of friendship and the importance of self-worth combine to make this teen novel a real winner.
Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse is an intricately told story that introduces a new and fascinating world. In this world, one group of people, the Valorians, conquered another, the Herrani, took their land and turned them into slaves. For years, the power dynamics between the two groups have stayed the same. But now, as the novel begins and Kestral, a Valorian general’s daughter, buys Arin, a Herrani slave, at an auction, the relationship between the Valorians and Herrani begins to change.
Kestral can’t pinpoint why she impulsively purchased Arin at the auction, and she initially ignores his existence when they return to her home. After time, she begins to use Arin as her escort when visiting friends, and the two come to know one another better, even playing Bite and Sting, a Valorian game, together in secret. As they become friends, and it seems that romance may be developing between them, their friends and family begin to question their relationship. Their relationship is further complicated by the pressure Kestral feels from her father to choose between marrying and joining the military, a woman’s only options in the empire. All the while, a secret rebellion brews as a group of Herrani join together to overthrow the Valorians. As the two storylines come together, the book becomes a fast-paced read filled with action.
The Winner’s Curse, the first in a planned trilogy, will have readers eagerly awaiting more information about Kestrel and Arin. Rutkoski transports readers to her new world and takes them along for a high stakes journey.
Countless manga series that have been translated from the original Japanese have appeared in the U.S. over the past decade. After a few years of the market becoming flooded with sometimes mediocre products, publishers have become more selective. They are now focusing on the cream of the crop. Two strong, well-reviewed manga for teens that have been recent hits in Japan are arriving here in the U.S.
Nisekoi: False Love, by Naoshi Komi, tells the story of Raku, the high school-aged son of a Yakuza gangster. Raku’s father has arranged a “false love” match between the young man and a rival gang leader’s daughter, Chitoge. They get off to an inauspicious start when Chitoge accidentally knees Raku in the face, which in turn causes Raku to lose an important locket. This was the only connection he maintained to a childhood sweetheart, and the search for the lost item causes instant strife between the two newly matched teens. Despite the outrageous plot, this works as a sort of wacky romantic comedy, with gangster elements adding intrigue and surprise. Two volumes are currently available, with the third coming in May.
Meanwhile, Arina Tanemura’s Phantom Thief Jeanne is a reincarnation in more ways than one. Originally licensed to another publisher that later went bankrupt, this series has returned with new covers and crisp line drawings reminiscent of Sailor Moon. The other reincarnation is Jeanne herself – a “phantom-thief magical girl” who is the second coming of Joan of Arc. As is the case in many manga, the plot is almost too outrageous and convoluted to summarize, but it involves a battle between angels and devils, chess pieces that unlock the mysteries within the hearts of humans and demons hidden in priceless works of art. All of this is compounded by another story of false love! The second volume of the series will soon be available. Both of these series are good avenues into the outlandish, fantastical world of manga, as well as peeks into Japanese culture.
In Emma Pass' debut novel, ACID, the year is 2113 and the U.K. has been taken over by the Agency for Crime Investigation and Defense, or ACID. The agency has imposed strict laws that prohibit alcohol and smoking while enforcing a curfew and arranging life partners for people when they turn 17. The population is divided by job status and salary, and ACID has created a tangible barrier between the classes.
Jenna Strong lived a privileged life until, at 15, an accident took her parents and forever changed her life. She was found responsible for the death of her parents and sentenced to life in a co-ed prison for adults where she had to learn to take care of herself. With the help of the prison doctor, Alex Fisher, she learned martial arts and began to take control of her fate.
Alex conspired with an organization to break Jenna out of jail, but he was killed in the process, leaving Jenna with a sense of guilt and a debt to be paid. After being rescued, Jenna’s appearance is transformed, and she learns that her memories had been altered by ACID. With her freedom restored, Jenna decides to take her life back and pay off old debts along the way.
This young adult, dystopian novel is Emma Pass’ first book and has only recently become available in the U.S. Pass has already earned her accolades in the U.K. with her intricately created and fast-paced thriller.
Melissa Kantor’s Maybe One Day is a heartbreaking story that shows the importance of friendship, especially in the light of tragedy. Olivia and Zoe have been friends since they were young children and have trained at the elite New York Ballet Company since they were 9. When they are told that they can no longer train there during their sophomore year of high school, Zoe thinks that it’s the worst thing that could possibly happen to them. A year later, when she finds out Olivia is sick, she realizes how wrong she was.
When Olivia’s doctors discover that she has leukemia, the girls’ lives change forever. Olivia begins missing school, and Zoe must learn to make other friends and exist without her best friend constantly by her side. After Olivia’s diagnosis, Zoe agrees to start teaching her dance class at the local community center, despite having given up ballet after she left the New York Ballet Company. All the while she becomes closer with Calvin, the boy Olivia has always liked. Zoe must deal with the guilt she feels living her life, while Olivia is sick and unable to live hers.
Ultimately a book about best friends and the importance of friendship, Maybe One Day is a touching novel that fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars will enjoy. Olivia and Zoe are relatable characters, their problems and dramas going beyond the cancer that comes to affect their friendship.
Maisie’s middle name is Danger because her parents thought it would be funny, but she embraces her middle name when she goes on the adventure of her life. Dangerous, a new novel by award-winning author Shannon Hale, is fraught with adventure and gripping storylines, a combination that makes it hard to put down.
Maisie has always dreamed of becoming an astronaut, and even though she’s never heard of a one-armed astronaut, she’s not going to let that stop her from trying. It’s no surprise that when she spots a contest for astronaut camp on a box of cereal she enters immediately, but winning the contest changes her life more drastically than she could have ever anticipated.
After arriving at astronaut camp, Maisie is assigned a fire team to work with. Her team excels, and because it finishes in the top spot, it is given an opportunity to visit a launch site owned by the sponsors. Upon arriving, each member of her team is unexpectedly given a token beyond anything from this world, and it’s a gift they can’t give back.
With these tokens comes a new sense of purpose and responsibility. The group must learn how to use its gifts and work together to accomplish a common goal. The goal is at first ambiguous, causing the fire team to slowly weaken as a group and its members to go their own way. However, the team leader must learn how to reunite the group in an effort to have a positive global impact.
Veronica Roth’s bestselling dystopian novel, Divergent, is coming to the big screen in one of the most buzzed about movies of this spring. Divergent, starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Kate Winslet, will be in theaters on March 21.
In Beatrice “Tris” Prior’s world, everyone is separated into factions based on their dominant personality traits. The factions are Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity and Erudite. Each person is given an aptitude test as a teenager. That is followed by the Choosing Ceremony, in which each person publicly declares which faction he or she will join. Tris grew up in Abnegation, but she has a secret. Her test reveals that she is Divergent, which means that she exhibits the traits of multiple factions. That secret could get her killed. Tris has a choice to make. No matter which faction she chooses, her decision will change her life irrevocably.
Divergent is the first novel in Roth’s blockbuster trilogy for teens. The series is fast-paced and compulsively readable. Although Allegiant, the final novel in the trilogy, was published last year, fans have one more book to look forward to reading. Four: A Divergent Story Collection will be published this summer as a companion to the Divergent trilogy. Four is a collection of short stories told from the perspective of Four, the popular character portrayed by Theo James in the movie.
Roth and the cast of the movie talk about the factions in this behind-the-scenes video. What faction are you? Take this quiz to find out where you fit.
Are some people just born evil? In Sophie Jordan’s Uninvited, the answer is yes. In the not too distant future, advancements in genetic research will enable scientists to preemptively identify violent offenders with a simple blood test for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome. People identified with what gets nicknamed “the kill gene” are then segregated from the rest of the population for everyone’s safety. The public is warned to treat these carriers with extreme caution due to their vicious, unpredictable nature.
Davy Hamilton is the girl everyone envies. She is pretty, popular, has an amazing boyfriend and her gift of music has secured a place for her at Juilliard once she completes her senior year at her exclusive prep school. However, her life and dreams are shattered when she tests positive for HTS. Labeled with the genetic predisposition to kill, Davy watches as all vestiges of her near-perfect life disintegrate. Davy is uninvited to attend her current high school, abandoned by her friends and feared even by her own family. Uninvited chronicles the tragic transformation the HTS label inflicts upon her life and Davy’s fight to survive her new reality.
Treated as the cruel killer society knows she will become, Davy is assigned a new school that has a special class just for HTS carriers. Secured in a room in the basement of the school, with a floor-to-ceiling chain-link fence separating the teacher from the students, she first encounters her new peers. Whereas Davy could never imagine inflicting pain on another, this is not the case for her new classmates. An intimidating and fierce boy advises her of the need to make allies for protection in her new violent world. Conversely, she is shocked when another carrier, a boy branded with an H for violent behavior, intervenes on her behalf when she is cornered by a lecherous teacher.
The question of how the killer gene label alters the environment for the carriers is thought-provoking and profound. While some characters are clearly sociopathic, how society treats the apparently nonaggressive carriers pushes them in the violent direction just to survive. This is an exceptionally well-written story, and accompanying Davy on this journey of self-discovery is as fascinating as it is frightening.
Emma has always been a good girl—her overprotective father has controlled her every waking moment since her mother overdosed when she was young. After her mother’s death, Emma and her dad moved all over Canada and the United States, never staying very long in one place. Upon arriving in Los Angeles at the start of Ann Redisch Stampler’s new teen novel, Afterparty, Emma quickly finds a new friend in Siobhan. As the two become closer, Emma the Good takes a back seat and Totally Bad Emma takes over.
When Emma starts at the snobby Latimer school she is immediately made fun of by her rich classmates for wearing vintage clothes and not being rich enough to have her own horse. Siobhan rescues her and the two become best friends, and suddenly the opinions of her classmates matter less to Emma, with the exception of Dylan, her new crush. Emma and Siobhan spend hours together drinking, shopping and partying. Siobhan even makes a list of wild things Emma must do in order to stop being Emma the Good. Meanwhile, Emma has to lie to her father at every turn, sneaking out of her window to go out with Siobhan at night. As she becomes less recognizable as Emma the Good, she realizes her friendship with Siobhan might not be as healthy as she once thought.
Afterparty is a book full of scandal, backstabbing and partying, perfect for older teens who are fans of Cecily von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl series or Lauren Conrad’s L.A. Candy novels. Stampler has written a book full of drama that will keep readers interested until the very last page, determined to find out how bad Emma becomes.
The Impossible Knife of Memory, Laurie Halse Anderson’s latest teen novel, tells the story of Hayley Kincain and her father. Hayley’s mother died when she was a baby, and ever since it’s just been Hayley and her dad. When Hayley’s father returns from war with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, her life gets turned upside down. In order to deal with the memories that haunt him, he becomes a truck driver, driving all over the country trying to outrun his memories. After years of homeschooling Hayley on the road, he decides they should move back to his hometown. Since they set out on the road years before, Hayley has had to be the responsible one, taking care of herself and her father. She hopes that moving home will mean that their life will settle down. Her father isn’t getting better at home either. He continues to self-medicate his PTSD with drugs and alcohol, forcing Hayley to run the house and keep her teachers and friends from noticing.
At school, Hayley struggles to deal with her zombie-like classmates and teachers who don’t accept her unorthodox education. Her only friend is Gracie, a friend from elementary school who barely remembers her. Finn, another classmate, has made it his mission to get Hayley to write for the school newspaper in order to become closer to her. As she begins to fall for Finn, her father takes a turn for the worse and her life falls to pieces.
Much like Anderson’s earlier novel Speak, The Impossible Knife of Memory deals with many heavy themes. Hayley’s distinct voice and vibrant personality make her a character readers will identify with and remember long after they finish the book.