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A Tangled Web

A Tangled Web

posted by:
March 12, 2013 - 8:05am

PeanutChanging schools can be a stressful experience, especially when you are in high school. There are so many things to navigate—teachers, classes, building, and students—not to mention the social cliques. New sophomore Sadie Wildhack welcomes the chance to reinvent herself, and maybe this time be a part of the popular crowd in Ayun Halliday’s graphic novel Peanut, illustrated by Paul Hoppe.

 

Somehow Sadie has decided that having a peanut allergy will give her special attention, and increased social status. She orders a medic alert bracelet online, and writes her required introductory essay on the perils of having a life-threatening condition. Sure enough, Sadie’s “peanut allergy” is enough of an icebreaker to earn her some new friends, a spot at a lunchroom table, and even a boyfriend. Christopher Suzuki, “Zoo”, christens her “Peanut”, writing her adorable, origami-folded notes since he avoids communicating through modern technology.

 

But faking a peanut allergy requires much more vigilance than Sadie bargained for, especially since her mom is not in on the ruse. Author Halliday has created a likable, angsty protagonist whom teens can readily identify with, even as they shake their heads at the problems her deception creates. And Zoo is the understanding, thoughtful, cute and attentive boyfriend girls wish they had. Halliday perfectly captures teen banter, as well as the dialogue of the adults that populate this graphic novel.  Paul Hoppe’s line illustrations evoke not only the nuances of the characters, but also the classrooms, cafeteria, and locker-lined hallways of a high school that could be any high school. Hoppe’s art is rendered in grayscale, with the notable exception of Sadie’s shirt (and a single rose provided by Zoo), always a bright red hue. Peanut is highly recommended for teen readers and adults who remember the struggle to both fit in and stand out.

Paula G.

 
 

Finishing School for Spies

Finishing School for Spies

posted by:
March 12, 2013 - 7:35am

Etiquette & EspionageSophronia Temminnick, the heroine of Gail Carriger’s new teen steampunk novel, Etiquette & Espionage, loves to climb trees, take machines apart, spy on her family, and worst of all has never learned a proper curtsy. Her mother believes that a stint in finishing school will transform Sophronia into a lady, so she sends her to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. However as Sophronia soon finds out, Mademoiselle Geraldine’s is not an average finishing school—students are taught how to dress, dance, and curtsy, but much more effort is given to the study of espionage.

 

Sophronia discovers that she was recruited secretly to the school because of her less than lady-like behavior. She quickly proves her merit during the journey to the academy, when she fights off a group of bandits trying to steal a mysterious prototype from the carriage. Upon arriving at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, Sophronia begins lessons in everything from intelligence gathering and fundamental espionage to dance and dress. While she enjoys the espionage classes most, she does come to recognize the importance of the more typical finishing school classes as well. She puts her new knowledge to the test almost immediately, as she and her new group of friends investigate what happened to the mysterious prototype that bandits tried to steal during her journey to school.

 

Gail Carriger’s witty novel is one that teens and adults alike are sure to enjoy. Etiquette & Espionage is a fun addition to Carriger’s other steampunk novels. Readers can look forward to more of Sophronia’s finishing school adventures in the sequel, Curtsies & Conspiracies, which is set to be released in the fall of this year.

Laura

 
 

The Dark Side

The Dark Side

posted by:
March 5, 2013 - 8:55am

Maggot MoonFor Standish Treadwell, being one of the few remaining imperfect people in a society mandating perfection is beyond stressful. Survival means staying under the radar and following all of the Motherland’s rules—which is difficult when you can’t read. Echoes of Nazi Germany clash with the Space Race of the 1960’s in Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner.

 

Part dystopian fiction and part science fiction, the action takes place in an unnamed society. Standish is nearly fifteen, and he is getting tired of the violence that surrounds him every day. People keep disappearing, including his own parents, and no one will talk about it. The enemy, known only as the Greenflies, has pressured the President to send men from the Motherland to the moon as a show of superiority to the rest of the world. Anyone not necessary to achieve this goal is expendable. When his best and only friend goes missing, Standish decides it is time to stop hiding and plans to find him. He knows where he has to look—beyond the wall that towers over the last remaining houses in the city. As he makes his plan, he discovers a truth that could lead to freedom from the oppression. Can one person’s small rebellion be the spark that ignites a revolution?

 

The action in Maggot Moon plays out in extremely short chapters. These are snapshots of Standish’s thoughts, full of the muddled spellings that mirror his dyslexic brain. Author Gardner is dyslexic and is a strong advocate for educational assistance for children with dyslexia. Slightly disturbing pencil sketches on the page edges tell a simpler version of the same story as the text, and they beg to be flipped like an early moving picture book. While the extreme bravery from this 15-year-old boy veers slightly near the edge of believability, Standish is a likeable and honorable character who you want to root for.

Sam

 
 

Secrets and Lies in NOLA

Secrets and Lies in NOLA

posted by:
February 26, 2013 - 8:01am

Out of the EasyFor most people, identity is tied closely to place, often a birthplace or childhood home. How much does where we come from affect who we are? Ruta Sepetys asks this question in her newest novel Out of the Easy, introducing us to that dichotomy of charming beauty and sinister vulgarity that is 1950’s New Orleans.  

 

Harkening to another famous literary Jo, namely Louisa May Alcott’s Jo March, Josie Moraine is an intelligent young woman trapped by time and place. The daughter of a prostitute, she is smart enough to get herself away from her neglectful and often abusive mother. Josie lives and works in a bookstore, saving money in the hopes of attending college far away from New Orleans. Self-sufficient since the age of seven, Josie creates a family out of necessity, including the Madam who becomes a surrogate mother (albeit a harsh and criminal one) and the bookseller and his son. But when her mother’s bad judgment pulls Josie back in to the criminal underbelly of the city, will she be able to rise above it yet again for a chance at her dreams?

 

Sepetys is no stranger to difficult subjects, and Out of the Easy explores the mature themes of violence, prostitution, and crime. As in her first novel for teens, Between Shades of Gray, the sense of place is paramount to the story. Indeed, many characters are named for places (Cincinnati, Charlotte, Forrest) and the city of New Orleans is a character in itself. This expertly-drawn portrait of a girl struggling to rise above her circumstances is highly recommended for mature teen and adult readers alike.  

Sam

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There Was a Hole

There Was a Hole

posted by:
February 12, 2013 - 8:55am

FitzFitzgerald McGrath is a 15-year-old boy who lives with his mom in St. Paul, plays guitar in a band with his best friend, and has a crush on a pretty red head at school. On the surface, he appears to be an average teenage kid. However, readers soon find out that he has a turbulent, pain-riddled side to his personality, which has progressed to the breaking point. Fitz, by Mick Cochrane is a skillfully crafted novel which explores the impact and consequences of a boy who never had a father.

 

From childhood fantasies of a loving Dad who watches him from afar, to seething anger toward a man that has never been in touch, the reader easily identifies with Fitz’s anguish. Not knowing anything about his father, other than his once-a-month monetary contribution to the household, has gotten to be too much for Fitz to handle. Taking matters into his own hands, Fitz purchases a Smith & Wesson .38 Special and kidnaps his father. What follows is a day that will forever change both of their lives.

 

This bittersweet novel establishes characters the reader will completely empathize with, being in turn both hopeful and fearful regarding the story’s outcome. The steady and measured rhythm provides a perfect balance for the intensity of emotion experienced by both father and son. The climax of the story will have people holding their breath. In Fitz’s own words, “It feels like the longest day of his life. It also feels like the shortest” and there isn’t a reader who will want it to end.

Jeanne

 
 

A Clash of Kingdoms

A Clash of Kingdoms

posted by:
February 12, 2013 - 8:01am

Falling KingdomsMorgan Rhodes’s new teen fantasy novel, Falling Kingdoms, is a fast-paced, thrilling read—a mix of betrayal, secrets, and magic. Mytica, the fantasy land where the novel is set is made up of three kingdoms—Auranos, Paelsia, and Limeros. The kingdoms are very different and as a result, they are held together by a tenuous peace at the start of the novel. Following the murder of a boy from Paelsia by an aristocrat from Auranos, that peace ends, and war becomes imminent. Meanwhile, the novel’s four main characters, Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus, become embroiled in the conflict, despite their very different lives.

The novel switches between each teenager’s perspective, telling four different stories that eventually merge into one. Cleo, a princess from Auranos, fights against her royal destiny by fleeing her home in an attempt to find magic. His brother’s death pushes Jonas, a rebel from Paelsia, to fight against those in power. Meanwhile, Lucia, who was adopted as a baby and raised as a princess in Limeros, discovers she is a powerful sorceress and begins to realize the strength of her magic. Finally, Magnus, the heir to the Limeros throne, tries to please his father and king, but at the same time resents him. By the end of the novel, their lives become increasingly intertwined, as their kingdoms fight each other and magic returns in full force to Mytica.

Teen and adult fans of fantasy will enjoy this new series. Falling Kingdoms has elements reminiscent of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire.  Readers looking for something similar will enjoy the vivid world that Rhodes has created, and will look forward to exploring the world more in the novel’s sequel, Rebel Spring, which is set to be released in late 2013.

Laura

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Creation 2.0

Creation 2.0

posted by:
January 29, 2013 - 8:45am

Eve & AdamHusband and wife team Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate, the authors of the popular Animorphs series, team up once again to write Eve & Adam. The novel might seem as though it’s about any other teenage girl, but there’s a lot more to Evening Spiker, better known as Eve, than it first seems. As the book begins, Eve is in a car accident, after which she is sent to Spiker Biopharm, the medical facility run by her controlling (and slightly scary) mother. There, Eve meets the mysterious Solo Plissken, who she eventually befriends and teams up with to investigate Spiker Biopharm.

 

Meanwhile, trying to keep Eve complacent, her mother gives her a genetics project to work on while she’s recovering. The project, nicknamed the Adam Project, sets Eve to work creating the perfect human boy—the Adam to her Eve. As she works on her project, and begins to spend more time with Solo, she forgets about her injury, so much so that she doesn’t realize how suspiciously fast she’s healing until Solo points it out to her. This revelation pushes Eve to help Solo investigate the genetic experiments her mother is running at Spiker Biopharm, and the two learn that the experiments are much closer to them than they ever could have expected.

 

Eve & Adam is a mix of science fiction and teenage romance. Despite some of the far-fetched aspects of the novel, the relationships between the characters are relatable. Though the novel begins slowly, it eventually becomes a page turner that the reader cannot put down. Grant and Applegate have written another novel that teens are sure to enjoy.

Laura

 
 

Sea Swept

Sea Swept

posted by:
January 22, 2013 - 8:01am

The Brides of Rollrock IslandPrimarily found in Scottish and Irish folklore, Selkies are seals who have shed their skin to reveal an enigmatic human form. Australian author Margo Lanagan makes the Selkie myth her own in the transporting novel The Brides of Rollrock Island. The youngest of seven, Misskaella Prout is clearly a different kind of child. Her dying grandmother warns that with her unusual looks, she “harks back” and will be difficult to marry. As she becomes a young woman, Misskaella discovers she has the unique power to draw handsome men and beautiful women from out of the seals that come up on the rocks at the base of the cliff at Crescent Corner.

 

The men of the remote Rollrock Island are eager to pay a high price for one of sea witch Misskaella’s attractive, eligible women. Obedient, devoted, and servile, they make excellent wives and mothers. But these brides suffer a deep melancholy, as they long to return to the sea and take their true form. The author tells her story from the points of view of five different characters over the course of several decades, and each has been affected in their own way by the introduction of the Selkie wives.

 

A two-time recipient of the Printz honor medal for excellence in young adult literature, Lanagan is known for her evocative, poetic language and her ability to bring a foreign setting alive through vivid detail. The Brides of Rollrock Island is a standout novel for teens that should find crossover appeal for adults who enjoy a rich, well-crafted story with familiar folkloric roots.

Paula G.

 
 

A Fairy Tale with a Twist

A Fairy Tale with a Twist

posted by:
January 15, 2013 - 8:45am

Princess of the Silver WoodsThe Princess of the Silver Woods, the final novel in Jessica Day George’s trilogy showcasing Westfalian royalty, is part Little Red Riding Hood, part Twelve Dancing Princesses. In this book, readers follow Petunia, the youngest of the dancing princesses who readers first met back in book one, Princess of the Midnight Ball. After escaping the curse of the King Under Stone in the Midnight Ball, the twelve dancing princesses have gone on to lead fairly normal lives...for princesses, anyway.

 

Petunia is on her way to visit the Grand Duchess and her grandson when she is kidnapped by Oliver, a young man who claims to be an earl, whose property was wrongfully taken away. At the same time, she and her sisters begin to have frequent dreams about the King Under Stone. Knowing something nefarious is surely afoot, the Westfalian princesses, along with their respective princes, must again fight against evil to stop the King Under Stone once and for all.

 

Jessica Day George takes a fairytale that has been told over and over, and turns it on its head, much like she did with Cinderella in the middle book of the trilogy, Princess of Glass. Despite knowing the original story, readers are captivated, unsure what will happen next. Fans of retellings of fairy tales, like Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted, will surely enjoy this novel. Princess of the Silver Woods is a funny, well-written, captivating story, that teen and adult readers alike will enjoy.

Laura

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A New Kind of Sibling Rivalry

A New Kind of Sibling Rivalry

posted by:
January 8, 2013 - 8:55am

What's Left of MeThe world which Kat Zhang creates in her dystopian debut, What’s Left of Me, is in many ways similar to our own. The biggest difference is when a person is born, two souls exist within each body. After years of war, the government decided to put a stop to this, and created programs to force the souls to settle -- in other words, to get rid of the weaker soul. Children are taught that this is normal, and that having two souls is not. Adults reinforce that hybrids, those with two souls in one body, are evil and create problems in the world, and therefore should be turned over to authorities so they can be fixed.

What’s Left of Me is told from the perspective of Eva, a non-dominant soul, who has refused to settle. Her dominant counterpart, Addie, is afraid of being discovered as a hybrid, but Eva wants to maintain her sense of power. Eva and Addie end up meeting others like them, which only leads to more trouble. After being sent away with their new friends to be “fixed” by the government, Eva and Addie learn what the government has really been doing with hybrids and they join the movement against it.

Kat Zhang’s first novel is a smart, well-told story that leaves readers eagerly awaiting the next novel in the Hybrid Chronicles. The sibling relationship between Eva and Addie and the friendships that they form with other hybrids like them make their experience seem not so far-fetched. Fans of dystopias will surely enjoy this unique new novel.

Laura