Sunday, December 9, 2012

Young Adult Novel Holiday Gift Ideas

I just finished composing my 2012 list of suggested titles for holiday gift giving and realized that many of them are novels that I have included in my monthly blogs.  I divided the recommended books into the following categories: Dystopian, Fantasy, Historical, Mystery, Paranormal, and Realistic Romance for ease of access.  As I was determining the categories, I realized most of the books for which publishers provide galley copies are fantasy books, so I broke them down into three different types. I tried to focus on stand alone books or the first books in new series, since I assume most readers who are invested in a series are aware when the newest book is published. Many of the books cross over into several areas, so my categorization is rather arbitrary. Romance in one form or another is included in most of the novels.  

However, one of my favorite books of the year, Colin Fischer by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz, is tough to define and certainly is not going to attract readers with its title.The tagline "Solving crime, one facial expression at a time." gives you a clue as to the whimsical nature of Colin Fischer, the loveable character created by the screenwriters of X-Men: First Class and Thor. My guess is this book will be the first in a series of novels starring this modern day Sherlock Holmes. I hope the following short synopsis will intrigue you.
Diagnosed with Asperger’s autism, Colin Fischer has always been out of sync with his classmates. He carries a notebook to record his findings and more importantly to check his cheat sheet on facial expressions, which gives him clues to people’s emotions.  Obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, Colin uses his powers of deduction to try to understand the world around him. When the school bully is accused of bringing a gun to the school cafeteria, Colin decides it is up to him to find out who the real culprit is.

A bare bones list of holiday gift giving ideas follows.  If you would like a printable list which includes a brief synopsis and age level recommendations, please let me know.
Dystopian - Don't Turn Around (Gagnon), Son, (Lowry), Cinder (Meyer), Under the Never Sky (Rossi)
Historical - The Dark Unwinding (Cameron), Enemy Territory (McKay), Dodger (Patchett), Code Name Verity (Wein)
Fantasy - The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Carson), Bitterblue (Cashore), Tempest (Cross), Grave Mercy (LaFevers), Every Day (Levithan)
Mystery - Summer at Forsaken Lake (Biel), Colin Fischer ( Miller and Stentz) Venom (Paul)
Paranormal - The Diviners (Bray), Carnival of Souls (Marr), Black City (Richards), The Raven Boys (Stiefvater) Lucid (Stoltz and Bass)
Realistic Romance - Guitar Notes (Amato), Skinny (Cooner), Graffiti Moon (Crowley), The Fault in Our Stars (Green), Slammed (Hoover), Wanderlove (Hubbard)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Poetic Reflections: Graffiti Moon, Slammed, Love & Leftovers

Three of my latest favorites in young adult novels involve poetry in one form or another.  Graffiti Moon by Australian author Cath Crowley chronicles an monumental evening in the lives of Shadow, a graffiti artist, and his best friend Poet, who scrawls poetic lines over Shadow's wall paintings.  Slammed by Colleen Hoover follows the lives of two young people, coping with death and family responsibilities, who find an outlet in slam poetry. Love and Leftovers is a novel-in-verse by Sarah Tregay, which lyrically paints the familiar story of a teen dealing with divorce.
Graffiti Moon is told in alternating voices by Lucy, a glass artist with a crush on Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work appears all over the city, and Ed, aka Shadow, a dyslexic high school dropout who exposes his tortured soul through his wall paintings,  It's graduation night and Lucy decides she will celebrate by finding Shadow, assuming a guy who paints like Shadow is someone she could really connect with.  Instead, Lucy and her best friend Jazz find themselves on an all night search around the city with Ed and Leo, who promise to help them find Shadow and Poet. Lucy is initially extremely uncomfortable because  Ed is the guy she's managed to avoid since she broke his nose on the most awkward date of her life. As Ed escorts her from one art installation to another, they reveal more and more about themselves to each other. Meanwhile Jazz and Leo, aka Poet, connect through his poems which are woven into the story.  To the reader's dismay  Lucy and Jazz take a long time to recognize the truth that's right before their eyes. A judge from the 2011 Prime Minister's Literary Awards says, "This is a heart-stopping romantic adventure, singing with a love of art and language. Poet's free verse contributions are rather like the tense pauses in great music -- a place for readers to hold their breath and wait, skin tingling with anticipation, for the change in pace, pitch and rhythm" 

In Slammed, 18-year-old Layken is devastated when her father dies unexpectedly and Mom moves her and her young brother to Michigan.  But then she meets Will, her 21-year-old neighbor, and they are immediately drawn to each other.  His parents died unexpectedly in a car accident, and he now finds himself  parenting his nine-year-old brother. They feel a kinship through the parallel events in their lives. When fate conspires to keep them apart, the only way they can truly communicate is through the poetry slams that they both love.  The author was inspired by the Avett Brothers whose song lyrics introduce each chapter.  The inclusion of  poetry slams in the story and the poetry the author writes on behalf of the characters performing are a delightfully lyrical and satisfying way to add emotional depth and advance the story. The sequel Point of No Retreat is available and both books have recently been optioned for film.

Love and Leftovers introduces Marcie, whose mother drags her from Idaho to New Hampshire for the summer when Dad leaves her for another man.  She's left behind her friends, a group of freaks and geeks called the Leftovers, including Linus, her emo-rocker boyfriend. As summer turns into fall, Marcie realizes they may never return home. Although Marcie misses her group of friends and her boyfriend, she meets JD, a new guy who sweetens her stay.  Feeling guilty about cheating on Linus, but frustrated by her loneliness, Marcie wonders whether love ever lasts. Seven months later, Marcie's mother sends her back to Idaho  to live with her father. Marcy tells Linus about JD, expecting Linus to forgive her, and is shocked when he dumps her. Marcie expresses her pain through her poetry— “there is no three strikes / when it comes to dating. / One heartbreak and that’s it.” Poems, IM conversations, and emo love songs make up this wonderful tale of teenage angst. Ed Goldberg of VOYA says, "Although the words are simple, the themes of Love and Leftovers are not." 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Medical Experimentation: Skinny, Revived and UnWholly

As I was doing book talks at Monarch High School's teen book club today, I realized that medical procedures being performed to enhance or improve teens is a reoccurring theme in many of the new novels I have been reading lately.  In addition to Don't Turn Around which I reviewed in my last blog, three medical experimentation novels, ranging from realistic to science fiction, have impressed me recently. Skinny by Fort Collins author Donna Cooner, involves a teen undergoing bariatric bypass surgery to encourage dramatic weight loss.  Revived by Cat Patrick introduces Daisy, a test subject for a secret government agency. Daisy has died and been revived by a wonder drug five times in fifteen years.  UnWholly by Neal Shusterman is the sequel to Unwind, a novel which introduces the idea of killing troublesome teens and using their body parts for transplants.

At 302 pounds, Ever Davies’ self esteem is non-existent; thanks to the negative self talk provided by Skinny, the vicious voice that lives inside her head. Seeking the attention of Jackson, a childhood friend who once kissed her, and hoping to try out for the school musical, Ever resorts to undergoing bariatric bypass surgery to lose weight.  Supported by her best friend Rat, she begins the perilous journey toward the new and improved Ever, only to find that true beauty is more skin deep. The author has gone through the surgery herself and the details of the surgery and recovery process are pitch perfect.  

In Revive we meet Daisy is who is involved with a secret government program that is testing Revive, an experimental drug which can resurrect otherwise healthy accident victims. Each time Daisy is reanimated she must move to a new town to maintain the secret. After Daisy's latest death from a bee sting, she and  the two agents who pose as her parents move to Omaha, Nebraska. The agents strictly monitor Daisy's health, while operating a supercomputing lab in the basement. In Omaha she meets Matt McKean, whose sister is dying from cancer. As she begins to wonder about the moral implications of the government’s program, she uncovers unsavory facts about the origin of the Revive program.

UnWholly, the long awaited second book in the Unwind trilogy finds Connor, Risa and Lev urban legends after their escape from the Happy Jack Harvest Camp.  The author continues to explore the topic of outlawing birth control and abortion, but allowing society, which has highly advanced transplant procedures, to find much needed body parts by killing troublesome teens and using their organs for transplants. However, the practice is now being reconsidered by the general populace which is questioning its morality. Connor and Risa run the Graveyard, a safe haven for teens who have escaped being unwound; while Lev becomes the poster boy for a movement to rescue tithes, teens who are offered up for unwinding by religious parents. Even though they are underground, they are still being pursued by the powers that be. The author introduces several new characters, including Starkey, a teen who was storked (left on a doorstep as an infant) and now is inciting fellow storked teens to rebel against Connor's authority in the Graveyard. More interesting is Cam, a Frankenstein-like teen built completely from unwound body parts. He is being touted by the Proactive Citizenry organization as the future of humanity. Although Shusterman provides a Q & A section at the beginning of the book to fill in the back story, I would recommend reading Unwind first.  It is a thought provoking read which immerses reader in a  wildly exciting dystopic future world.

Friday, September 28, 2012

New Fall Titles: Every Day, Don't Turn Around, and Origin

Having attended the Mountain and Plains Independent Book Sellers Trade Show last week, I am very excited about new young adult literature for the fall and have already read three new surefire hits. David Levithan's Every Day, a creative new novel about a teen who wakes up each morning in a different person's body, is one of my favorites this year.  Don't Turn Around, by Michelle Gagnon, is being called Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for teens. Origin by Jessica Khoury is a sci/fi thriller set in the Amazon rainforest.

In Every Day “A” wakes up each morning in a different person’s body. Learning to adapt, he decides never to get too attached, to avoid being noticed and to never interfere with the person’s life. Until the day he is in Justin’s body and falls in love with his girlfriend Rhiannon.  The following days are spent trying to spend time with her and find a way to be with her day in and day out.  "A" inhabits a wide variety of bodies, including heterosexual, as well as gay, boys and girls from diverse cultures with a variety of problems from obesity to drug addiction.  Yet A's intellectual, compassionate voice dominates, providing a consistent reflection on the events taking place. The author's musings on love, longing and human nature, opined via A's journey, are a thought-provoking catalyst for discussion about the nature of love.

Don't Turn Around introduces Noa and Peter, teenage hackers who are pitted against a corporation that is experimenting on orphaned teens to find a cure for PEMA, a disease that is plaguing the young adult population. Noa, who has been a ward of Child Protective Services since her parents died, wakes up on an operating table in a warehouse, with sutures in her abdomen. After a hair-raising escape, Noa uses her hacking skills to try to find answers, while being relentlessly pursued by those experimenting on her. Meanwhile, Peter finds files in his father's office about the experimentation project and enlists his hacker group, of which Noa is a member, to delve into the subject of those files and then attack the corporation via the Net. When their paths cross, Noa and Peter find themselves running for their lives. Although it is not billed as a series starter, there could be follow-up books to this heart pounding page turner. 

Jessica Khoury's debut novel Origin is a refreshing change from the overabundance of paranormal novels currently in the YA market. 17-year-old Pia, who lives in a secret compound in the Amazon, is invulnerable and immortal, resulting from years of genetic engineering. Pia, whose destiny is to create more immortals, knows nothing of the outside world, until she one day escapes into the rainforest and meets Eio, a mixed race boy from an indigenous tribe, to whom she is immediately drawn.  When a female cloning scientist arrives at the compound and senses the sinister plans of the other scientists, she encourages Pia's rebellion. The resulting chaos makes for a fast-paced adventure filled with intrigue and romance.

Stay tuned for additional suggestions in the near future.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Guitar Notes

Last week I read a manuscript for a new young adult novel, as a favor for a friend.  As I was reading the manuscript, I kept thinking about how much the book would benefit from a companion website. Coincidentally, the next book I read was Guitar Notes by Mary Amato, which has an extensive companion website that enhances the book immeasurably.

As the story begins, Tripp Broody and Lila Marks share an instrumental practice room at school by using it on alternating lunch-periods.  Lila is an accomplished cellist, and Tripp is a guitar player and burgeoning song writer.  When his mother takes away his guitar until his grades improve, Tripp borrows a school guitar and signs up for the practice room in desperation.  He immediately annoys Lila by leaving trash in the room, and she leaves him a note admonishing him. They begin a correspondence, dubbing each other Mr. Odd and Ms. Even. Although seemingly different, they develop a bond through their shared feelings of  pressure and their love for creating  music. Lila's would like a break from her cello career and a demanding best friend.  Tripp needs to play his guitar to help him forget about his father's death and the absence of his best friend, who moved away.  As they grow closer, Tripp and Lila begin writing songs together and performing surreptitiously, knowing their parents would disapprove.  Their relationship deepens slowly until a dramatic turn of events changes everything. Short,  present-tense third-person vignettes advance the plot and are complimented by text messages, emails and handwritten notes. Amato, a songwriter herself, includes convincing musical detail and provides tablature at the end of the book for all of Tripp and Lila's songs.

The companion website can be found at The author refers to "thrum" in the novel, saying, "When the vibrations of the music make your soul vibrate, you feel the thrum. It’s like you’re perfectly in tune with the song, as if you are the music and the music is you.” The website includes lyrics and chords for the nine songs, as well as recordings and karaoke versions for each.  There are behind the scenes videos about writing a novel and writing songs.  There is also a place for kids to share their own music.
More and more authors are providing companion websites for their novels. Daniel Waters' Generation Dead series and Maggie Steifvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls series both have extensive web support.  Some authors provide blogs from their characters. Others provide "sound tracks" of songs inspired by their novels.  There is no end to the creative extensions for young adult novels in the 21st Century!

Friday, August 10, 2012

SLJ Virtual Trade Show

Yesterday I attended the School Library Journal Virtual Trade Show.  I was amazed at the creative way the organizers attempted to replicate the trade show experience.  I went to the auditorium to listen to an author panel about the latest dystopian fiction and another about classic novel adaptations. I also visited the Exhibit Hall to find out about the latest young adult titles offered by a variety of publishers.  While at each booth, I was greeted by name by the publisher's representative, who offered to answer my questions.  Although I much prefer to attend  trade shows in person, I was able to find out about many new exciting titles, as well as upcoming offerings in popular series.

First on my list of must reads is Froi of the Exiles, the second book in The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta.  The sequel to Finnikin of the Rock introduces Froi, who serves the Queen and Finnikin. According to the book blurb, he is part of the Guard sworn to protect the royal family.  He is sent on a secret mission to the kingdom of Charyn, where he must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad princess.  I loved the first book, which won the Aurealis Award for fantasy, and look forward to another one of Marchetta's well-constructed plots peopled by memorable characters.

Additional series titles which are available in November include Days of Blood and Starlight. In this sequel to Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Karou must come to terms with who and what she is, and how far she'll go to avenge her people.  I was able to download it through NetGalley from the trade show. In Ashen Winter, the sequel to Mike Mullin's Ash Fall, Alex and Darla continue to deal with the fallout from a volcanic eruption in Yellowstone.  Last but not least, Reached, the final book in the Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie, wraps up the story of Alex and Ky, who have found the Rising, but are torn apart once again by circumstances beyond their control. I look forward to reading these books in the near future.

The virtual trade show was a great way to get current on the new offerings in young adult literature and hear the authors' back stories. As I read new titles, which are worthy of your time, I will share them with you.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Code Name Verity - Historical fiction at its finest

Although summer is a great time for escapist reading, it's also an opportunity to catch up on some wonderful historical fiction that complements facts learned in the social studies classroom.  Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein tells the tale of Verity, a secret agent captured in enemy territory during WW II, who trades an intricately woven confession to her Nazi captors in hopes of prolonging her life.  In flashbacks she tells the story of her friendship with Maddie, a pilot who is her best friend, whom she believes died in the wrecked fuselage of their downed plane. Life: An Exploding Diagram by Mal Peet chronicles the story of Clem Ackroyd, a boy from the English working class, who begins an ill fated love affair with Frankie Mortimer, the daughter of a wealthy land owner, just as the Cuban Missile Crisis heats up. In The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow, Max Schmeling, a real life champion boxer and German national hero, offers to give Karl, a Jewish teen in Nazi Germany, boxing lessons. Karl, the victim of bullying, sees it as a chance to learn to defend himself. A skilled cartoonist, Karl relates his newfound skills and relationship with Max in his drawings which illustrate the book.

An experienced pilot, Elizabeth Wein creates a realistic potrayal of the relationship between Maddie Brodatt, a British civilian pilot during WW II and her best friend Queenie, a wireless operator and spy  in Code Name Verity. In part one Queenie, code named Verity, has been captured by the Nazis and is trading a hand written confession including what she knows about the British war effort, in order to postpone her inevitable execution. Assuming that Maddie died in the crash of their plane over France, Queenie primarily writes about the development of their friendship. (Spoiler alert) Part two is Maddie's "accident report." Unbeknownst to Queenie, Maddie survives the crash and spends the last part of the book attempting to rescue Queenie from her captors.

Mal Peet, the Carnegie award winning author of Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion and Betrayal, creates a coming-of-age tale during the Cuban Missle Crisis in his new book Life: An Exploding Diagram. The book, which spans three generations, focuses on a childhood affair between two British teens. Because Clem Ackroyd's father works for Frankie Mortimer's dad, they must meet secretly to explore their mutual attraction.  As these star-crossed lovers try to find ways to see each other, world leaders attempt to avoid WWIII.  A catastrophic event which tears the lovers apart, forever colors their futures.

Robert Sharenow is the award winning author of My Mother the Cheerleader, a story about school integration in New Orleans in 1960. He is also an Emmy Award-winning television producer and serves as executive vice president of programming for Lifetime and the Lifetime Movie Network. In his new book The Berlin Boxing Club, he tackles the topic of Aryan superiority in the WW II story of a young Jewish boy who develops a relationship with his father's friend, the real life boxer Max Schmeling. VOYA's review says, "This beautifully written coming-of-age story puts a human face on both the victims and the tormentors during the holocaust while revealing on a national level the political importance and implications of the historic match between black boxer Joe Louis and German hero Max Schmeling.”

All three books are carefully researched and beautifully written.  If you are like me, and like your history dished up on a fictional plate, you will love the latest historical novels by these award winning authors.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Series: Tempest, His Fair Assassins, Under the Never Sky

There are lots of series sequels available for summer reading: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver (Delirium), Insurgent by Veronica Roth (Divergent) and Out of Sight, Out of Time by Allie Carter (Gallagher Girl series) to name a few.  However, they already have faithful audiences, so I thought I would suggest three new series by promising young authors. Tempest by Julie Cross is the first in a time travel trilogy. Grave Mercy by Robin LeFevers introduces a group of young women who serve as assassins for the God of Death. Finally, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi is a dystopian thriller that is sure to appeal to fans of The Hunger Games.

 Tempest opens with 19-year-old Jackson Meyer stating, "Okay, so it’s true. I can time travel. But it’s not as exciting as it sounds." Jackson  can “jump” back and forth in time and at first it's just harmless fun. But when his girlfriend is murdered, he and his best friend try to figure out how he can go back in time and prevent her death. There he encounters the “Enemies of Time” who will stop at nothing to recruit him for their evil purposes. As Jackson learns to harness his abilities, he travels farther back in time and begins to learn the truth about who he is and who he can trust. Although time travel is a tricky subject and there are many varied opinions about this book in the blogosphere, I think it's a real page-turner that will have many YA fans.

Grave Mercy, the first book in the His Fair Assassins trilogy, introduces seventeen-year-old Ismae who escapes her abusive father and an arranged marriage, finding sanctuary at the Convent of St. Mortain.  There she discovers she has special powers and is to serve as an assassin for the God of Death.  In her first assignment Ismae must protect the Duchess of Brittany and kill the traitor in her court. Set in medieval France with historically accurate details, Grave Mercy combines political intrigue with romance and mystery. That each book in the series focuses on a different assassin allows for a very satisfying ending. Dark Triumph, whose main character Sybella is a minor character in Grave Mercy, is due out in 2013 and Dark Hope in 2014.

In Under the Never Sky the author weaves a world of Dwellers, who live in Reverie, a sheltered environment where all experiences are virtual, and Outsiders, who live in the outer wasteland know as The Death Shop.  When Aria and her Dweller friends escape Reverie for an adventure, they are greeted by cannibals and violent electrified energy storms. Aria is rescued by Perry, a savage hunter for his tribe, and her polar opposite. She, at first, longs to return to Reverie, but he needs her help to rescue his nephew, who has been abducted and taken to Reverie. As she learns the truth about this strange world they inhabit, she begins to wonder where she really belongs.The VOYA review says "The interwoven narratives of both male and female protagonists offer broad appeal. Already selling in more than twenty countries and with film rights optioned by Warner Bros. Entertainment, Rossi’s first novel has the potential to be a blockbuster."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Colorado Teen Literature Conference - Local Authors

This year's Colorado Teen Literature Conference was, as always, informative, as well as fun. In addition to presenting the Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award workshop, I had the opportunity to hear Maggie Stiefvater talk about her childhood, her Wolves of Mercy Falls Series and her upcoming novel The Raven Boys, which is the first book in her new series about a clairvoyant. She also played her bagpipes! However, my favorite part of the conference was hearing local authors Todd Mitchell and Denise Vega talk about their writing careers and their new books.

Todd Mitchell gave us delightful insights into writing his new book The Secret to Lying, which is about fifteen-year-old James who gets a scholarship to an academy for gifted students. James celebrates the chance to start over. No more boring Mr. Nice Guy; he’s going to recreate himself as a punk rebel. All the nerds at his new school are dutifully impressed by his rebellious pranks, except the beautiful “Ice Queen” Ellie Frost, on whom he has a crush.  He starts having dreams about being a demon-hunting warrior, which prompt him to engage in self destructive activities while he is awake. As his pranks begin to backfire and he becomes a danger to himself and others, the only person he can confide in is an IM presence named ghost44. Although Todd denies that the story is autobiographical, he shared a slide show of his antics at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, a school that he says changed his life.  The book fully explores the dangers of trying to be someone that you are not.

Denise Vega's new book Rock On: A story of guitars, gigs, girls and a brother (not necessarily in that order) was inspired by her love of music.  Ori Taylor, who is the lead singer for a garage band that he starts with his friends, is looking forward to the Battle of the Bands contest and to stepping out of his older brother Del’s shadow.  But then Del returns from college in disgrace and just won’t let Ori enjoy the limelight.  In addition to his stage fright, and lack of finesse with girls, Ori now has to contend with sibling rivalry. Whenever things get tough, Ori disppears into his music.  Denise said, "It might seem strange for someone who is (a) not a guy and (b) not musically inclined to write a book about a naturally gifted guitar-playing singer-songwriter dude, except...(a) I grew up listening to my dad and my brother play their guitars, (b) Dad would spin the Beatles, Jose Feliciano, the Kingston Trio, John Denver and Charlie Byrd, among others, on the record player and (c) I spent hours listening to albums and singles."This book is a unique story about brothers which is filled with wonderfully drawn, sympathetic characters. I would highly recommend it.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Awards

Last month Sarah Pauly and I presented a workshop at the CCIRA convention about the Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Awards.  We did book talks on the 2013 nominees and announced this year's winner, which is Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney.  Book talks for the 2013 nominees are now available on the website at Several books that are the first in series were nominated, including The Comet's Curse (Galahad series by Dom Testa), Fallen (Fallen series by Lauren Kate), The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan), Matched (Matched series by Allie Condie, Mission Unstoppable (Genius Files by Dan Gutman), Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life (Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renee Russell) and Witch and Wizard (Witch and Wizard series by James Patterson.) Two sequels, Crescendo (Hush Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick) and The Scorch Trials (The Maze Runner series by James Dashner) were also nominated. I always find those nominations interesting, because so many sequels are dissastisfying bridges to the final novel in the series.

I have recently read Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter, A Million Suns by Beth Revis and Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver, which are all second books in series.  Goddess Interrupted continues the saga of Kate Winters, who married Henry, the god of the underworld in The Goddess Test.  Just as she is about to be crowned Queen, Henry is abducted by the King of the Titans. Kate must enlist the help of Henry's ex-wife Persephone to help save him.  In A Million Suns the crew from Across the Universe continues to hurtle into outer space. Elder is now in control of the ship, but when he takes the inhabitants off Phydus, the mind controlling drug that makes them passive, chaos erupts.  He and Amy have to work together to discover the truth about life on the Godspeed. Both of these sequels basically end on a "to be continued" note.

However, Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver is one of the most satisfying sequels I've read in a long time. Although the story could almost stand alone, I would recommend first reading Delirium, the introductory book in this dystopian romance, which takes place in world where love is a disease and all eighteen-year-olds must undergo a surgery that is considered a cure.  Right before Lena Holloway's procedure, she falls in love with Alex, who is an uncured Invalid living in the Wilds, but passing in the Valid world.  At the end of the book they attempt to escape into the Wilds, to live a vagabond life filled with passion.  As Pandemonium opens Lena is near death and Alex is missing and presumed dead.  She is nursed back to health by a band of rebel Invalids and decides to join their resistance movement.  The story is told through a series of flashbacks to her convalescence and present-day accounts that chronicle her undercover work in the Valid world.  There she is abducted from a rally along with Julian, the uncured son of the DFA (a movement supporting the cure) leader, by a group of Scavengers hoping to get a ransom.  During their incarceration, they fall in love.  Their escape and subsequent adventures are action packed and lead to a rewarding conclusion. The sequel's success can be attributed to perfect blend of action and suspense, paired with Lena's equally compelling evolution from a wounded bird into a courageous resitance fighter. The startling revelation at the end of the story, which sets up Requiem, the final book in the trilogy (due out February 2013), is icing on the cake.  The series has also been optioned by Fox 2000 to become a movie.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

The 2012 edition of What's New in Young Adult Novels? and Ideas for Classroom Use is now available at Click on the book cover at the top right of my blog page and it will take you to this site.  I have added over 130 new titles from 2011 and have reorganized the bibliographic summaries so that one book in a series is referenced and then all the books in the series are listed in a separate series section.  The new books have also been integrated into the units for the classroom.
 I've already read several terrific books for 2012.  My favorite so far is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns) Virtually every review of the book is starred, and it was Amazon's young adult book of the month.  In my opinon, the book is very deserving of all this praise.
Hazel Grace Lancaster is a stage IV cancer survivor who due to a medical breakthrough has been given a reprieve from death. Her parents and doctor insist that she attend a cancer support group where she meets Augustus "Gus" Waters, a basketball player who has lost his leg to osteosarcoma.  The two connect when Hazel introduces Gus to her favorite novel about cancer called An Imperial Affliction. Hazel is obsessing over the book's ambiguous ending, so the enterprising Gus arranges a trip to Amsterdam where they meet the author who is an American expatriate.  Of course, the trip does not turn out as planned. 
The book is set in Indianapolis, where I grew up. In the book Gus goes to North Central, my former high school, and lives in my best friend's neighborhood. Recognizing one landmark after another only added to my delight in the book.  Gus and Hazel's witty repartee and poignant struggles with life and death issues endear them to the reader.  This is John Green's best effort to date, and that's saying something, considering his Printz award winner and honoree.  The tough subject matter and romantic interludes make this a book for more mature readers.