Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Clockwork Angel and Crescendo

Angels seem to be a hot topic in new young adult literature, especially the Nephilim. The biblical references to Nephilim suggest that fallen angels descended to Earth and mated with humans, producing the Nephilim. Traditionally, the Nephilim are giants, but in YA lit, the Nephilim are usually angels, who have super human powers. Two highly anticipated new novels, Clockwork Angel, the first book in Cassandra Clare's new Infernal Devices series, and Crescendo, the sequel to Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush Hush, find the main characters involved with the Nephilim.
Taking place a hundred years before the Mortal Instruments series, the companion steampunk novel Clockwork Angel introduces Tessa Gray, who has been kidnapped by the Dark Sisters when she travels to London to find her missing brother. She is held captive and trained to use her shape-shifting abilities, of which she was previously unaware. After being rescued by Will, a demon hunting Shadowhunter, she takes refuge at the Shadowhunter’s Institute. There she is introduced to a world of supernatural beings, including demons and half angel Nephilim. She meets Henry, a bumbling inventor, his wife, the head of the Institute, and Jem, a gentle desperately ill Shadowhunter, who are all trying to stop the evil plans of the mysterious Magister in nineteenth century London. In a battle between the Shadowhunters and the Magister, who controls an army of clockwork automatons, both sides are hoping to capitalize on Tessa’s shape-shifting powers. This compulsively readable first book will have readers anxiously awaiting the next installment. According to Cassandra's website, there will be three books in the Infernal Devices series: Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, and Clockwork Princess. She is also adding three more books to her Mortal Instruments series, including City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls, and City of Heavenly Fire. She recommends reading Clockwork Angel before City of the Fallen Angels ( due to be released April 5th), because some of the Clockwork characters appear in it.
Crescendo, the sequel to Hush Hush, finds Nora Grey in love with Patch, who is now her guardian angel; but the archangels have forbidden their becoming romantically involved. In a fit of jealousy, Nora breaks up with him, only to discover she has thrown him into the arms of her archenemy Marcie Millar. As Nora struggles with her lingering feelings for Patch, Scott Parnell, a former classmate and Nephilim vassal, returns and her deceased father's ghost begins appearing to her. Although Nora is still obsessed with Patch, she gets involved with Scott in order to find out more about a secret Nephilim blood society and its Black Hand leader. Meanwhile her friend Vee gets involved with Patch's friend Rixon, who makes Nora question Patch's possible role in her father's death. The deeper her investigation of her father's disappearance goes, the more Nora begins to wonder if her Nephilim bloodline figures into what has been happening to her. As with most second novels, Crescendo leaves the reader with more questions than answers. Tempest, the third book in the series is due out in the Fall of 2011. For those wanting more information, Becca Fitzpatrick's website includes playlists for the books, contests, international fansites, as well as writing tips and a blog.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ship Breaker

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a young adult author event at Barnes and Noble. There were nine terrific YA authors, talking about the writing process and their new books.
The authors and their new books included
Paolo Bacigalupi - Ship Breaker
Terri Clark - Sleepless
Amy Efaw - After
Lindsay Eland - Scones and Sensibility (retelling of Jane Austen's Emma)
Ingrid Law - Scumble (sequel to Saavy)
Malinda Lo - Huntress (companion book to Ash)
Sarah Ockler- Twenty Boy Summer
Julie Anne Peters - Before You Read This, I'll Be Dead ( see my May 7th Blog)
Denise Vega - Access Denied (sequel to Click Here)
I was familiar with all the authors except Paolo Bacigalupi, who was just nominated for the National Book Award. His book flap bio says, " Paolo is a rising star in the science fiction community. He is a Nebula and Hugo Award nominee for his adult books; Ship Breaker is his first young adult novel. Of course, I bought an autographed copy and dove right in.

In this futuristic dystopian thriller, the world has run out of oil and coastal cities have been swallowed by rising seas. Nailer, a ship breaker, is part of a crew who scavenges for metals on abandoned oil tankers. After surviving a near-death experience on a tanker and a class 6 hurricane, Nailer and his friend Pima find a wrecked clipper ship on the shore. Thinking they are about to become rich, they begin pillaging the wreckage and find a lone survivor, Nita, the "swank" daughter of a shipping tycoon. Nailer convinces Pima not to slit the girl's throat and sell her for body parts, a decision which he constantly revisits as he deals with one problem after another. First, his drug addicted abusive father finds them and tries to claim the spoils for himself. Then Nita's enemies, the genetically engineered half-men hired by a corrupt shipping competitor, arrive and complicate the situation. When Nita offers to introduce them to a better life, Nailer and Pima make her swear a blood oath and she becomes part of their "crew." Nailer then decides to head off with her to the submerged cities of Orleans to try to find her family and people who are still loyal to her.
Their harrowing journey is fraught with complications. They are not sure whether to trust Tool, the half man Pima's mother sent with them for protection. Nailer's father is on their trail, as are the shipping company's minions. When they reach Orleans, Nita begins looking for the Dauntless, one of her father's clipper ships whose captain is trustworthy. Nailer convinces her to proceed cautiously, as things may have changed, and indeed they have. Although the ship's captain has changed, Nailer convinces him to help Nita; but before they can board the Dauntless, Nailer's father abducts Nita. Nailer talks the ship's captain into rescuing her, which sends them off on another action packed series of events.
In addition to being a rip roaring post-apocalyptic adventure, this story illustrates the possible results of global warming and oil gluttony. Nita and Nailer are sympathetic characters who find out that the people you call family are those who cover your back. This highly entertaining read will appeal to both sci fi fans and adventure readers. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Girl in Translation

I have just returned from a trip to New York City where I attended the New York Musical Festival. In additon to seeing fourteen musicals, I also saw a Matisse exhibit at MOMA and spent every morning walking in Central Park. Whenever I go to NYC, I am reminded of all the wonderful movies and books which are set there. Recently, I read Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok which takes place in NYC and tells a contemporary immigration story filled with predictable struggles and amazing success.
After her father’s death, Ah Kim, 11, leaves Hong Kong in the 1980s and moves with her mother to the US. Her mother’s older sister, who owns a garment factory in Brooklyn, gives Ma a job bagging skirts and an apartment in the slums. Ma winds up working 12-hour-plus days in the factory. Ah Kim, now known as Kimberly, joins her after school hours in this hot and exhausting sweat shop. They return at night to the unheated apartment which is teeming with roaches. When Kimberley starts public school, she speaks little English, but she is a whiz in math and science. The following year she earns a scholarship to a prestigious private school. She does so well in her classes that she's given an oral exam to see if she is cheating. Eventually, she ends up at Yale and then Harvard Med school.
More intriguing are the relationships she develops at school and at the factory. Clearly an outsider without money for the luxuries her classmates take for granted, she finds an understanding best friend, Annette, who gives her advice on how to fit in. She also has an Anglo boyfriend at school who is not her intellectual equal, but is very sweet. Matt, a Chinese-American boy who works at the factory, is her true soul mate, but he is threatened by her academic success. However, her struggle to rectify her new American life with the old world expectations of her mother, are the heart of the story.
The book is based on the author's own experiences as an immigrant from Hong Kong; however, Jean went to Harvard and Columbia, while Kimberly attends Yale. Kwok effectively conveys the hardships of the immigrant experience, yet shows how a character with determination can overcome the odds and succeed. This book would be a great choice for a unit on cultural diversity or the immigrant experience.