Summer is coming to a close (quicker than we’d like). So how’d you do on your summer reading list? Did you check out the Teens’ Top Ten Nominees? Are there a couple more you want to squeeze in before you head back to school? Now’s the time!
Teens’ Top Ten Voting begins TODAY and is open through September 15th. If you have an opinion – VOTE HERE. If you’re not quite ready to choose, don’t worry, you still have four weeks to finish up those Nominees and make your selections.
Not sure which ones(s) to read? We’re highlighting the nominated titles all week. Check out the first five nominees (alphabetical by the author’s last name) below:
Drought by Pam Bachorz
Ruby has a decision to make about whether she wants to choose freedom from her two-hundred years of slavery in the woods of upstate New York or live enslaved to her mother and the religious cult where her blood secretly serves as the catalyst for healing and youth. At times monotonous, as is their situation, Bachorz (Candor, Egmont USA, 2009/VOYA October 2009) details the Congregation’s survival on little food and their faith that Otto will save them as they endure floggings and emotional torment. While not unexpected, Ruby falls in love with an Overseer-Ford-whose presence reminds her of what she cannot have as the daughter of Otto and the Congregation’s spiritual leader, Sula. Yet, in one brief and fantastical trip, Ruby tastes modern life literally and figuratively, then returns, finding herself cocooned by the Congregation’s tough love through a series of tragic events that wrap up the story abruptly and with little suspense. Avid fans of dystopian science fiction will appreciate the juxtaposition of modern versus traditional, and love versus loyalty with unique characters and thought-provoking situations. So, with a bit of ambiguity about the Congregation’s survival and their confinement hidden from contemporary view, readers are left to imagine the possibilities or a possible sequel.-Alicia Abdul. –Voice of Youth Advocates February 01, 2011
I am J by Cris Beam
Seventeen-year-old J is a boy born into a girl’s body. He dresses as a boy, binds his breasts, and attempts to make his mannerisms more masculine. Unable to tell his unsuspecting parents or his best friend, Melissa, J feels no alternative but to run away. Wandering around lowerManhattan, he meets Blue, who treats him as a boy, causing him to believe she is girlfriend potential. Checking into a cheap hotel, J is advised to leave by a wizened guest, who points him to a clinic where testosterone shots are given to transgender boys. J feels this is the answer to his problems but is disconcerted to learn that he must attend counseling and obtain parental approval for the shots, a process that takes several months. Uncertain, he attends counseling and finds people with whom he can relate. He transfers to a GLBT high school to finish his senior year. In I Am J, Beam writes about an underserved population and covers the emotional hodgepodge that transgenders go through. The writing, however, bogs down the story. A more tightly written novel might have more impact. The confusion of the central characters-J, Melissa, J’s parents – is offset nicely by the quiet acceptance of some ancillary characters. Although J is emotionally a man, he does not know how boys act or think. Luna by Julie Anne Peters (Little, Brown, 2005/VOYA June 2004) tells this story from the transgender girl’s perspective and is better written. Beam presents the facts and includes a list of GLBT resources. Purchase I Am J to complement your collection in this area.-Ed Goldberg. This reviewer enjoyed Beam’s writing style. The story of J, a transgender teen living in Los Angeles, is told in the first-person narrative voice. It may at first be difficult to relate to the tale of a boy trapped in a girl’s body, but the book is very well written and readers will be completely immersed in the characters. It is a heartfelt story of the difficulties teenagers face, particularly coupled with the added issue of being a trans teen. I recommend this book for anyone who keeps an open mind to new fiction and is not afraid to read about a subject that can initially cause discomfort but in the end will be satisfying. 3Q,3P.-Nicole Drago, Teen Reviewer. –Voice of Youth Advocates April 01, 2011
You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beaudoin
Seventeen-year-old Dalton Rev’s arrival in the Salt River High parking lot is loudly announced by the growling of his motor scooter’s muffler. When he dismounts and unzips his leather jacket, his white shirt and tie make it clear that he will not be easily categorized into one of the school’s many cliques. That is good, because he has come to solve the murder of a student, hired by the victim’s sister.Dalton moves into a cynical, and sometimes dangerous, teen world where students pay off teachers, administrators, and each other to get what they want. Navigating the complicated social strata, moving ever closer to the real killer, Dalton refers frequently to the sardonic sayings in his Private Dick Handbook, a feature of his own hero, the fictional detective Lex Cole. Poking fun at detective novels, guy lit, and teens themselves all in one novel is a tall order, but the author pulls it off. Just when the reader begins to think that 368 pages is going to be too much wisecracking patter, the author lets Dalton’s mask slip to reveal his feelings and insecurities. With just-right pacing, suspense builds to Dalton’s ultimate success and a bittersweet resolution. Then, in a hilarious coda to the main plot,Dalton’s little brother, Turd Unit, proves to be the best detective of all. A chart of the Salt River High cliques in the front and a tongue-in-cheek glossary of the book’s highly inventive slang at the end add to the satirical fun of this multilevel spoof.-Marla K. Unruh. This book will entice teen readers with action, intrigue, and backstabbing, along with the more subtle undercurrents of dirty money, mafia-like dealings between the school’s many social groups, and the satirical real-world parallels with high school. The book will appeal to many who are overwhelmed with the unseen segregation of high school cliques. The author does not, however, go in-depth with many characters. Most, if not all, teens will enjoy this read.-Colby Smith, Teen Reviewer. Voice of Youth Advocates April 01, 2011
Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
We want to know … Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?
Now that is really the question.
The debate originated back in 2007 on the blogs of YA authors Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier … and then it spread. And pretty soon, key members of the YA world were embroiled in a debate of epic proportions.
Which was better: zombies or unicorns? Which creature made for better fiction?
The debate may finally (or not) be put to rest with the short story anthology Zombies vs. Unicorns, in stores later this month. Each author compiled a group of authors for their teams and set out to show the strengths of zombies and unicorns.
I must say, I love everything about this book. From the design (it’s like a wacky, retro zombie twist on a Lisa Frank binder cover) to the concept to the stories themselves. Everything about this book is a total win.
The stories are all varied and unique — and range from the heartbreaking to the tragic to the outrageously hilarious. There’s no doubt, when you read Zombies vs. Unicorns you will pick out which stories speak to you more than others. But be prepared for some surprises. I, for one, cracked the spine expecting to side with the unicorns. They’re generally sparkly and pretty and shiny. Also, I prefer my undead to be sparkly and pretty and shiny, too. (*Ahem, Edward Cullen, ahem.*) But after reading all of the stories in Zombies vs. Unicorns, I found myself reluctantly & surprisingly siding with Team Zombie.
And really, you must choose a side here. There is no “Team Switzerland” or neutral territory. (I mean, just head to Simon & Schuster’s Zombies vs. Unicorns landing page. There’s a poll right there, asking you to vote!) And if you think you can’t choose, think again. Just sit down and read this book, and by the time you’re done, you’ll be surprised to discover just how easy it is to pick sides.
There’s really something wonderful about all of the stories in Zombies vs. Unicorns, but here are a few (from both Team Zombie & Team Unicorn) that really stood out to me:
“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Alaya Dawn Johnson
There’s something disturbingly sweet and romantic about a young zombie trying to avoid eating brains because he’s totally crushing on this cute guy in his class. And there’s something disturbingly sweet and romantic about that cute guy letting the young zombie eat brains because he kind of likes him, too. This has one of those charmingly awkward gay high school love stories like you might find in Will Grayson, Will Grayson. But with zombies.
“Purity Test” by Naomi Novik
Who doesn’t love a sarcastic unicorn? Harry Potter references oozing with said sarcasm also give this story mega points in my book.
“The Children of the Revolution” by Maureen Johnson
It doesn’t matter that you know from the beginning of this story that things will end badly. It’s still disturbingly hilarious. There’s an odd mix of subtlety and the obvious going on that really works, in a strange way. Also, the pseudo-Madonna/Angelina Jolie celebrity character is a total hoot. Especially when you start putting all the pieces of this bizarre story together.
“The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn” by Diana Peterfreund
I loved this story before I started reading it simply because of the title. It’s sort of epic, in and of itself. But the story is also incredibly complex and deep. It’s also nice to see a decidedly bloody twist on the unicorn story. There’s no glitter or rainbows here, but the story works on many levels — and the characters, especially, are really strong.
“Cold Hands” by Cassandra Clare
If our month-long feature on all of her books in August wasn’t proof enough, we love Cassie Clare here at Novel Novice. And her contribution to Zombies vs. Unicorns is no exception. Her zombie love story is worth noting –for many reasons. One, because it’s told in first person (Cassie’s books are all third person narratives) … and two, because it’s awesome. It’s an imperfect love story, told only as Cassie can tell it.
“Prom Night” by Libba Bray
Prom just isn’t the same when all the adults have turned into zombies, and so have some of the teens. But this story mixes the desperation of a post-zombie apocalyptic world with humor and sass like no other.
Regarding the other stories (also worth noting):
If you want a classic unicorn story with a twist, look no further than “The Highest Justice” by Garth Nix. There’s royalty afoot! And killer unicorns.
“Bougainvillea”by Carrie Ryan is a standalone short story that fits into the mythology of her best-selling books The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves. (I actually liked this story better than The Forest of Hands and Teeth!)
Margo Lanagan’s “A Thousand Flowers” is a bizarre, twisted sort of love story. It also has knights and ladies and a unicorn. Not necessarily in that order.
Scott Westerfeld’s “Inoculata” has a lot of the same qualities found in his Uglies series. But with zombies. Teen heroes FTW!
See Meg Cabot’s “Princess Pretty Pants” for a kick-ass unicorn with an unfortunate name, and the hilarious habit of farting rainbows. No, really.
Get a different kind of unicorn story with Kathleen Duey’s “The Third Virgin” — in which the unicorn has a hard time balancing good and evil. Bonus points from me because it’s mostly set inPortland,Oregon. – Sara Gundell, Novel Novice
For other great Novel Novice info on Zombies vs. Unicorns, check out these past posts:
- Zombies vs. Unicorns: Exclusive interview with Holly Black
- Zombies vs. Unicorns: Holly Black’s Flash Questions
- Zombies vs. Unicorns: Show your “Team” Pride!
- Zombies vs. Unicorns: Choose Your Side!
The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card
Like Ender Wiggin in Ender’s Game (Tor, 1994), Danny North is destined to be the rescuer of his people. Danny discovers he is a gatemage, challenged to restore the ‘gates’ destroyed by the trickster god Loki. Without these gates, the god-like clans are trapped in our drowther world of space-time science, cut off from the magic-filled world of Westil. They still possess soul-like outselves and create clants, golem-like pseudoselves enabling them to work at a distance unless they are weakling drekka, as Danny first appears to be. Alternating with Danny’s scrapes and self-discovery are those of the young Westilian gatemage, Wad. While both have instant escape clauses thanks to their gatemaking abilities, there are plenty of close calls to keep the parallel stories moving toward their final collision. Some readers, though, may wish for more Wad and less Danny, especially in those sections where Danny converses at length with drowther Victoria von Roth about the history and mechanics of gods, gates, and gating. . Readers who appreciated the breakneck pace of the Ender series will be justifiably tempted to skip these parts for the next stop in Westil. This title contains a smattering of sex; thirteen-year-old Danny is sexually accosted by Lana, a young woman whose mother threw her in as a bonus to generous boyfriends, and young Wad surreptitiously fathers the firstborn of Queen Bexoi. Both scenes are appropriately written, but librarians may want to be aware of them as they match the book with the right young readers.-Donna Phillips. Voice of Youth Advocates
June 01, 2011
Stop back tomorrow for info on the next five nominees – and don’t forget to VOTE!
For the comments: Have you read any of today’s highlighted titles? What did you think?