Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Romantic YA Novels: Heartbeat, These Broken Stars, and The Beginning of Everything

Many young adult novels, regardless of the genre, include a romance. Whether the book is realistic fiction, sci-fi/fantasy or mystery, it frequently includes male and female protagonists, who are interested in each other romantically.  This month I'd like to recommend three novels that include a teen romance that compliments an intriguing plotline.   In Elizabeth Scott's new novel, Heartbeat, Emma meets Caleb, while she is visiting her mother in the hospital.  Mom is brain dead, but is being kept alive until the fetus she is carrying is viable.  The first novel in Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner's new science fiction series, These Broken Stars, introduces Lilac LaRoux, a spoiled heiress, and Tarver Merendson, a poor war hero, who are the only survivors when their intergalactic space-liner, malfunctions and plummets out of hyperspace, crashing on a nearby planet. Finally, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider explores the struggles tennis star Ezra Faulkner has when he is injured by a distracted driver. Returning to school, he joins the debate team where Cassidy, a transfer student, helps him redefine himself. Three vastly different stories are sweetened by the romantic relationship that develops between the two protagonists.

In Heartbeat Emma’s pregnant mother is brain dead and being kept alive until the baby boy she is carrying becomes viable. Caleb’s little sister died in an accident while he was in charge of her.  Emma is furious with her stepfather for keeping her mother on life support. Caleb is struggling with overwhelming feelings of guilt and is acting out. When they meet at the hospital where Emma is visiting her mother and Caleb is doing community service, they find the strength in each other to work through their issues with grief.

These Broken Stars chronicles the developing relationship between Lilac LaRoux, daughter of a wealthy tycoon, and Tarver Merendson, a soldier, who are the only survivors when the Icarus, an intergalactic space-liner, crashes on a seemingly deserted planet. Using her knowledge of her father's ship’s design, Lilac is able to free the escape pod they make it to when Tarver rescues her from the sea of crazed passengers. They safely land on the planet which has been “terraformed,” the theoretical process of modifying its atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology to be similar to the biosphere of Earth to make it habitable for humans. Although Lilac is attracted to Tarver, she maintains her distance and Tarver finds her arrogance insulting. However, they must work together to make it across the planet's unforgiving terrain to the ship’s carcass where they hope to send a message for help. The dual points of view give the reader an insider's look at the process by which their disdain for each other turns to love.

The Beginning of Everything puts a new twist on the injured athlete story.  Ezra Faulkner has a theory that everyone has a watershed moment that changes his life.  His best friend Toby's changed when a severed head lands in his lap after a decapitation on a roller coaster. Kids shun Toby and Ezra drifts away into the world of jocks.  When Ezra's leg is shattered in a car accident, he avoids his former friends and reconnects with Toby in the debate club where he also meets Cassidy, a transfer student. Although Ezra's athletic friends try to maintain a relationship with him, he shuns them in favor of falling head over heels for Cassidy, a rebellious genius with a mysterious past.  Readers will not want to put the book down until they find out what is haunting her.  Throughout the book Ezra finds parallels in his life to those of the Great Gatsby, which literary teens will love. Fans of John Green's books and Perks of Being a Wallflower will also enjoy the debate club's quirky members whose witty repartee and sarcastic views on high school life are a breath of fresh air in YA literature.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award 2014

The winner of the Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award for 2014 is Divergent by Veronica Roth.  This book is the first in the Divergent series and is followed by Insurgent and Allegiant. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, it takes place in a futuristic dystopian Chicago, where all people are born into one of five factions which have a different strength and focus:  Abnegation (service), Amity (friendship) Candor (truth) Dauntless (bravery) and Erudite (intellect). On their 16th birthday teens take an aptitude test, and can choose to remain with the faction they were born into or change allegiances.  The main character, Tris, chooses to leave her abnegation family and join dauntless, where she meets and ultimately falls in love with her demanding instructor, Tobias (aka Four). Much of Tris's success in training is because she is actually a divergent with strengths in multiple factions. This makes her a target of the merciless autocratic leaders who kill divergents because they are hard to control.  As in all dystopian literature, Tris and her friends fight the status quo in hopes of creating a "brave new world" where all inhabitants live in harmony. The struggle continues in Insurgent, leading up to the final book in the series, Allegiant, which is told from both Tris and Tobias's points of view. The shocking, yet satisfying, ending leaves no doubt that this is truly the end of the series. Divergent comes out as a movie starring Shailene Woodley on March 21st.
Most of the nominees for 2015 are books from series as well. They include Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Blood Red Road by Moira Young, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, The Eye of Minds by James Dashner, The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Legend by Marie Lu, Matched by Ally Condie, The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost, Proxy by Alex London, The Selection by Kiera Cass, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Smoke by Ellen Hopkins, Truancy City by Isamu Fukai, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, and Unwholly by Neil Shusterman. I guess a surefire way to win over teen readers is to give them a dystopian or fantasy series to which they can become loyal.
The other two nominees are The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin and Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.  For more information about the Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult  book award, including book talks for each of the nominees, as well as contest rules and promotional materials, go to http://www.coloradobluespruceaward.org.