The Colorado Teen Literature Conference at the beginning of the month was a resounding success. A.S.King and David Levithan, the keynote speakers, did not disappoint. Both authors discussed their latest works in their keynote speeches. King's Reality Boy chronicles the life of Gerald Faust who is still dealing with the fallout from his family's appearance on a reality series, when he was a 5-year-old boy with anger management problems. (See my March blog) David Levithan's Two Boys Kissing is the sequel to his first published novel Boy Meets Boy. Based on a true event, two gay boys attempt to set the Guinness World Record for continuous kissing, the tale of which is narrated by a chorus of gay men who have died of AIDS. As always, the conference introduced me to new must reads. Three popular YA authors have new offerings. Lauren Oliver (Delirium series) has a new stand alone Panic, which departs from the dystopian world to chronicle a realistic story of a deadly game played by high school seniors. Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak) once again offers the tale of a damaged teen in The Impossible Knife of Memory; this time Anderson focuses on a girl whose war veteran father's PTSD threatens their safety. Finally, Ann Brashares (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) tries her hand at science fiction with The Here and Now, the first in a series about immigrants from the future.
Panic is a deadly high stakes game played by graduating seniors who live in the backwoods town of Carp, New York. The story is told from the points of view of Heather, a girl who never thought she would get involved, and Dodge, a boy who has been waiting anxiously to compete and get revenge for something that happened to his sister when she competed. The game challenges competitors to face their fears, both emotionally and physically, and of course, the teens are always one step ahead of the law. Not only does the competition bring new friendships and revelations about the past, it also presents the possibility of love when it is least expected. The characters are sympathetic and the plot is filled with suspense. It has already been optioned by Universal Pictures for a film.
The Impossible Knife of Memory focuses on Haley Kincaid, who has been on the road with her truck driver father, a war veteran with PTSD, for five years. When he moves them back to his childhood home, she finds adjusting to the life of a normal high school student a challenge. Her father's method of dealing with his demons is through drugs and alcohol, and Haley must assume a parental role to keep him from going over the edge. She struggles to remain focused, as she reconnects with her former friend Gracie, who introduces her to Finn, a guy whose dreams for the future just might include her. The story is told from Haley's point of view which is understandably sarcastic and suspicious. When Finn finally breaks through the self-protective barriers she sets up, the reader begins to hope he will be able to help her rescue herself from the downward spiral her life has become.
The Here and Now, the first book in a new series, introduces Prenna James, who immigrates from the future where a pandemic has killed millions and left the world in ruins. She and the others who escaped keep to themselves to avoid discovery, as they look for a way to prevent the plague that will one day destroy the Earth. She doesn't count on falling love with Ethan Jarves, who vaguely remembers seeing her magically appear one day in the past when she time travels to his world. Hoping to have a life together, they investigate clues that might lead them to change events that trigger the plague in the future. Although I found the book suspenseful, the ending leaves a lot of loose ends that will presumably be tied up in the next books in the series.