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Coming of Age, with a Graphic Twist

The Year of the BeastsIn the format-bending new teen novel The Year of the Beasts, we meet fifteen-year-old Tessa and her younger sister Lulu. The two have always been close, until one summer when Lulu starts dating town heartthrob Charlie – who just so happens to be Tessa’s biggest crush. Tessa wants to be happy for Lulu, but for the first time in her life she begins to feel bitter pangs of jealousy toward her sister. Fortunately, Tessa develops an unexpected romance of her own with the mysterious but sweet outcast Jasper and learns to appreciate the unconditional bond she shares with Lulu. 

 

Meanwhile, every other chapter picks up Tessa’s story several weeks later in graphic novel form, where we gradually learn that a tragedy has changed the characters’ lives forever. In a striking counterpoint to author Cecil Castellucci’s realistic prose, Eisner Award-winning illustrator Nate Powell re-imagines Tessa and her friends as mythological creatures such as medusas, centaurs, minotaurs, and mermaids. At first it isn’t exactly clear how the graphic and prose chapters relate, but everything merges so brilliantly in the end that readers will want to explore the book a second time to discover the cleverly placed foreshadowing and symbolism. Rather than being two separate narratives, these alternating chapters build off of each other to form one emotionally powerful story.

 

The Year of the Beasts is a poignant novel about sibling conflict, grief, and young love. The alternating prose-and-visual storytelling makes this book utterly unique and an excellent choice for reluctant readers or those looking for their first foray into graphic novels.

Alex

 
 

Kagawa's Creations

Kagawa's Creations

posted by:
June 19, 2012 - 8:41am

The Iron KingThe Immortal RulesReaders who enjoy stories filled with magic and supernatural beings, action and adventure, will be thrilled to discover the novels created by Julie Kagawa. Her initial teen series, The Iron Fey, has a loyal and enthusiastic following. The novels chronicle the adventures of Meghan, who is half fairy and half human. She finds herself thrust into the ongoing clash between the Winter and Summer fairy realms. The factions are forced to unite in order to battle the threat of a mutual foe: the Iron fey. These are a malicious new breed of fairy born of the dreams of the information age and man’s quest for technological superiority. In addition to the constant action of the story, there is a tragic love triangle that will have people rooting for their favorite character. This riveting plot earned Kagawa’s story The Iron King the RITA Award in 2011 for Young Adult Romance.

 

After completing the final book in the Iron Fey series, Kagawa took on the challenge of another mythical creature, the vampire. Teen vampires are a topic authors have visited many times, but in the hands of Kagawa, she has crafted an original novel that is as captivating as it is exciting. The Immortal Rules is the first novel in The Blood of Eden series. This is not a fantasy world of flowers and bunnies, but rather of perilous journeys and vicious monsters. A virus threatens both vampires and humans alike, with those infected transforming into mutant-like creatures. The main character is a recently transformed vampire who struggles with self-loathing, but values her life too much to end it. Keeping her vampirism a secret, she joins a ragtag group of humans hunting for a cure to the virus.

 

According to Publisher’s Weekly: “Kagawa wraps excellent writing and skillful plotting around a well-developed concept and engaging characters, resulting in a fresh and imaginative thrill-ride that deserves a wide audience.”

Jeanne

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The Illéan Bachelor

The Illéan Bachelor

posted by:
June 12, 2012 - 9:00am

The SelectionIn The Selection by Kiera Cass, North, Central, and South America have merged into one country called Illéa. The country has a rigid caste system, and the various castes are referred to by number.  When it is time for an Illéan prince to marry, a process called The Selection occurs. One girl is selected from each of the 35 provinces to come to the castle and compete to marry the prince. The girl he chooses and her family will all become Ones, which is a dream come true for those in lower castes who are struggling to survive. 

 

America Singer, a Five, is one of the girls competing to marry Prince Maxon of Illéa. America isn’t sure exactly how she ended up in The Selection, but she is willing to stay because the compensation she receives for participating will help her family. She loves Aspen, a boy from home who is a Six, but Aspen thinks that they can never be together. After a disastrous first meeting, America and Prince Maxon develop a friendship. She offers to advise him about the girls in the competition if he keeps her there longer. Over time, America’s feelings for Maxon become less clear, and she finds that she may really be competing for his heart.

 

The Selection is a frothy, fun retelling of a fairy tale. The political unrest and disparity among the castes serve as background to the competition taking place in the castle, so this may not be a story for readers who love true dystopian novels. Cass hints that those elements will be more fully developed in the second book in the trilogy.

 

The book is being compared to a cross of The Hunger Games and ABC’s The Bachelor. In a recent Entertainment Weekly interview, Cass said that she was really inspired by Cinderella and the Biblical story of Esther. The Selection is currently being adapted into a series for the CW network, and Cass is hard at work on the next two books in the trilogy.

Beth

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Boy Soldier

Boy Soldier

posted by:
June 5, 2012 - 6:11am

Never Fall DownThe smell is what gets him.  He can survive the endless marching, total exhaustion and constant hunger. But the smell from the dirt piles, the piles of dead bodies, penetrates his wall of stone-faced nothingness. Sickly-sweet yet slightly bitter, the smell makes him wince, cringe, and lose what little he has been able to put into his stomach. He could survive another day if not for the smell.

 

Arn Chorn-Pond was 11 years old when the Khmer Rouge came into his Cambodian village and forced everyone to march to the work camps. Never Fall Down is a fictional account of Chorn-Pond’s capture, torture, and exploitation by these “freedom fighters.” Divided from his family, he struggles to survive each day by not drawing attention to himself. Arn is a smart boy, and eventually he uses his quick mind to learn to play the khim, a traditional musical instrument. The Khmer Rouge use music as propaganda to turn the minds of the captives and make them loyal to the cause, and as a musician Arn gains some small status among the soldiers. Does he dare risk standing up for himself and the other children against his captors? Now that he has some small measure of freedom, should he just run away?

 

Patricia McCormick is the author of numerous young adult novels, including Cut and Sold, for which she was nominated for the National Book Award. McCormick is an author who is not afraid to examine difficult topics such as self-injury and sex trafficking. She decided to write Never Fall Down in the first person so that Arn’s own voice (including his broken English) could be heard. This book is a good choice for reluctant teen readers needing to read historical fiction, or for anyone who enjoyed Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone or Emmanuel Jal’s War Child.

Sam

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No Sparkly Vampires Here

No Sparkly Vampires Here

posted by:
May 29, 2012 - 8:44am

The HuntRemember when vampires were the bad guys…not the dazzling creatures you fell in love with? In The Hunt, vampires live openly, while the last few remaining humans must either literally hide -- or hide their true nature -- in order to survive. Gene is one of these humans, the only one at his high school. He has perfected the art of blending in with the undead.  He makes no sudden movements.  He does not touch anyone or laugh out loud. He shaves all of his body hair every day. Though he is athletic, the only sport he participates in is swimming (real vampires don’t sweat). He sits close to the front so he can see in the dim nighttime light. He never has a girlfriend. All of these tricks have helped him survive so far.

 

One night, The Ruler announces that there will be a hunt, sponsored by the government, for the last remaining humans and a few “lucky” citizens will be chosen to participate.  Gene’s number is pulled, and he is forced to leave the safety of his home and prepare for this great honor along with six other vampires.  As he struggles to survive the training, he discovers that he is not the only one keeping secrets, and being human is not at all what he thought. 

  

Andrew Fukuda’s writing captures the isolation and even terror of being an outsider in an otherwise homogenous community.  His first novel, The Crossing, was an ALA Booklist Editor’s Choice. The Hunt is the first in a new series and was dubbed “unputdownable” by Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush, Hush).  Fans of “old school” vampire fiction will celebrate this fast-paced yet character-driven story.

Sam

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No One is to Blame

No One is to Blame

posted by:
May 22, 2012 - 8:07am

The Fault in Our StarsAdult readers are catching on to what many librarians have known for years—some of the most vibrant, intriguing books in the library are in the teen section. Word of mouth and media buzz have been building for teen lit star John Green’s latest title, The Fault in Our Stars, and for good reason. This smart, funny and altogether engrossing novel follows the evolution of a romance that begins in the most unlikely of places, a cancer support group for teens.

 

Neither Hazel Grace Lancaster nor Augustus Waters show up at the meeting with romance on their minds.  Hazel Grace, a 16 year-old with terminal thyroid cancer, is clinically depressed. Her mother is forcing her to attend. Augustus, a former high school basketball star, is dealing with bone cancer and the loss of his leg. And he can’t help but notice how much Hazel Grace resembles his late girlfriend.

 

Homeschooled since her diagnosis at age thirteen, her best friends are her parents. She spends much of her time reading and watching America’s Next Top Model. Her favorite book above all is An Imperial Affliction, about a teen with leukemia who is dying. Hazel Grace identifies with the protagonist, and finds it maddening that the novel ends mid-sentence without wrapping up important plot strands. She’s written the author, Peter Van Houten, numerous times without getting a response.

 

She and Augustus bond immediately, as “Citizens of Cancervania” who each have an insider’s understanding of what the other is going through. And the chemistry between them is almost palpable. Augustus spends a good amount of time gaming and watching movies; his book of choice The Price of Dawn, is based on his favorite video game. He understands how much An Imperial Affliction means to Hazel Grace, so much so that he uses his “wish” from The Genie Foundation to take her and her mother to Amsterdam to meet Van Houten and demand some answers.

 

Green has a knack for bringing his characters to life through believable, snappy dialogue. He is a true, honest observer and reporter of the human condition, making his books memorable. Hazel Grace and Augustus will stay with you long after the last page is turned. Readers will need to keep a tissue box close at hand, as The Fault in Our Stars is a tearjerker throughout. Teen readers as well as adult fans of character-driven novels and love stories against all odds will find much to like here.

Paula G.

 
 

It’s Not Easy Being...Different

The PeculiarsBeing different from everyone is never easy.  Lena Mattagascar has struggled with this situation her entire life. She was born with extremely long and narrow hands and feet.  Her digits each have an extra section giving her hands a long spider-like appearance.  Lena attempts to hide this abnormality by wearing gloves and keeping her feet hidden by long skirts. At an early age the family physician diagnosed her condition as “goblinism” and ever since then she has been anxious that she may, in fact, be a Peculiar. 

 

The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry is a fun combination of fantasy and steampunk, self-discovery and adventure. On her 18th birthday, Lena decides to leave her home in the City to travel to Scree, a remote and sparsely populated wilderness region to the far north. It is rumored that Peculiars, the outcasts of society, reside there. Her quest is to find her father who abandoned the family when she was only 5. He was rumored to have been a Peculiar, and if this proves to be true it will confirm her worst fears. Lena has been told that Peculiars have no soul, have wild thoughts, and a temper. She worries her goblin genes will overtake her in her sleep and watches closely for changes in her behavior.

 

Is she or isn’t she, the question keeps presenting itself throughout the novel. Are her physical characteristics just an anomaly or signs of the dreaded genetic disease? Is being a goblin a physical condition or just a term for evil behavior? This unique story, with likable characters and stunning descriptions, is an adventure that will have you re-evaluating your own definition of acceptance and what it means to belong.

Jeanne

 
 

Look, Up in the Sky…

Look, Up in the Sky…

posted by:
May 8, 2012 - 1:11am

The Obsidian BladeTucker Feye is not the type of boy to see things that aren’t there.  His mother is not the type of person to see ghosts or act crazy.  His father is definitely not the type of person to lie.  Yet all of these things are happening and Tucker has no idea why.  Perhaps it has something to do with the shimmering, round, glassy thing that keeps appearing in the sky…right near Tucker Feye.

 

In The Obsidian Blade, it seems that Pete Hautman is departing from his usual tale of precocious teens challenging authority and finding their own solutions to the problems of life.  On the surface, this is a straight science fiction/dystopian story, complete with time-travel and futuristic technology.  Tucker is trying to solve the mystery of the shimmering disks, the sudden disappearance of his parents, and a girl and her cat who seem to have appeared from the future.   Once the reader gets past these things, The Obsidian Blade is a story about people: Tucker, his parents, his long-lost uncle, and a girl named Lahlia.  It is a story about religion and belief.  It is a story about truth and lies.  Mostly, it is a story about the decisions we make and the effect those decisions have on both the people and the world around us.

 

Pete Hautman is the author of the National Book Award winner Godless as well as many other books for teens.  The Obsidian Blade is the first book in the Klaatu Diskos trilogy.

Sam

 
 

Evil Lurks in the Darkness

Evil Lurks in the Darkness

posted by:
May 1, 2012 - 8:22am

The Night She Disappeared"It should have been me."  Gabie is shocked when her coworker Kayla vanishes one night while performing a routine pizza delivery.  However, her fear intensifies when Gabie discovers that the man who ordered the pizzas asked if she was on delivery duty that night.  So begins The Night She Disappeared by April Henry.

 

Kayla’s abandoned car is found along an isolated road.  Nearby, a bloody rock is discovered beside the river.  Many people in the community, including the police, believe Kayla is dead. Her family even brings in a psychic who agrees with this conclusion. Only Gabie seems to believe Kayla is still alive and she becomes obsessed with proving this is true.  She finds assistance with this task, and some much needed companionship, from another Pete’s Pizza employee named Drew. Drew took the pizza order that led to Kayla’s disappearance, and being unable to help the police with any details about the caller’s identity, struggles with feelings of guilt and helplessness.

 

The story is told from multiple different perspectives: Kayla, Gabie, Drew, and "John Robertson", the alias used by the abductor. The reader experiences each day of the kidnapping from these character’s viewpoints, and with each passing day, the terror builds.  Gabie’s anxiety grows as she becomes more convinced that she is targeted to be the mysterious kidnapper’s next victim. Kayla is certain her time is running out. John Robertson is preparing to make his next move. 

 

Will Gabie be grabbed next? What will happen to Kayla? Can John Robertson be stopped before he completes his evil plans?  Read this exciting novel, and find out!

Jeanne

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Children Are Our Future

Children Are Our Future

posted by:
April 23, 2012 - 4:36pm

PartialsHope has always been rooted in the future.  Each generation hopes that the ones who come after them will safeguard humanity and make things even better.  So what happens to hope when there is no next generation?

 

In Partials, Dan Wells shows us a future in which hope is dying.  In the aftermath of war, there is a virus that infects every newborn at birth, and none survive more than a few days.  What remains of the government is a group called the Senate, and they have created The Hope Act, which requires all females age 18 or above to become pregnant in order to try and save the human race.  But more babies are not the answer…finding a cure is. 16 year-old Kira is a trained medic who works on the maternity floor of the hospital.  She sees babies die every day and watches young mothers grieve loss after loss.  When her best friend becomes pregnant, Kira decides to try something radical—to capture and study one of the “partials.”  Partials are genetically engineered beings that were created to protect and serve humans but later rebelled, launched a war, and attacked with the virus.  Partials are the enemy, and the Senate officials will not condone such a mission; therefore Kira and a select group decide to strike out in secret. What Kira finds outside of the boundaries of East Meadow is not what she expected, and she learns that truth depends entirely upon who you ask.  

 

Wells is the author of the thrilling John Cleaver series (I am not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster.) He has been nominated for both the Hugo and the Campbell Award.  Great writing seems to run in the family, as his younger brother Robison Wells is the author of the teen chiller Variant. Dan Wells’ first teen novel, Partials, is a smart post-apocalyptic thriller with great teen/adult crossover potential that will appeal to fans of medical thrillers, and dystopian and science fiction.

Sam

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