School Library Journal has an easy way to enjoy the best in books for teens this summer. Summer Teen is bringing together six panels of top authors‚ along with keynote speaker Caroline Cooney‚ for a virtual conference: No travel. No hassle. This all-day celebration of young adult books is August 9, from 10:30 ‚ 5:30 (EDT). To whet your appetite, I’m recommending five new books from the featured panelists.
Healey, Karen. When We Wake. Little, Brown, Spring 2013. 296p. ISBN 9780316200769. $17.99.
On the very best day of her life, 16-year-old Tegan is killed by a sniper’s bullet. One hundred years later, she is given another chance at life as the Living Dead Girl, the first person successfully frozen and reanimated in a military experiment with nefarious designs. Not only must she learn to navigate the world of the future‚ where climate change has moved folks largely underground ‚ but she must also face the dual threats of immediate celebrity and political disapproval. On one side, the anti-immigration movement sees her as a drain on the nation’s limited resources; on the other, a religious cult wants her to kill herself to right the spiritual order. With chapter headings taken from the Beatles’ catalog, Healey crafts a plausible future, very different from the present wave of postapocalyptic teen literature. Minus the zombies and the bloodsport, Tegan’s world is believable and more frightening for it.
While you are waiting for the book’s spring release, join the author in the Summer Teen panel, Aftermath Lit for more disturbing visions of the world to come.
King, A.S. Ask the Passengers. Little, Brown. Oct. 2012. 293p. ISBN 9780316194686. $17.99.
Ask the passengers, Astrid Jones’s love is a powerful force. Knowing that she cannot share its full measure with the people in her life, she gives her love to the planes going by, hoping that it will help a random air traveler. Certainly, that is a safer place to deposit it than with her friends, who are living a lie; her sort-of-girlfriend, who wants more from her than she is willing to give; or her family members, who are ashamed of her. When a police raid on the local bar that caters to the gay and lesbian community in her (oppressively) small town outs Astrid and her closeted friends, she must finally learn how to share her love without fear. Here, King (whose breakthrough novel, Please Ignore Vera Dietz (2010), was a Printz Honor Book) gives voice to a protagonist whose confusion about who she wants to be and how she’ll mange it is matched only by the fullness of her heart. An unforgettable story from an author who just keeps getting better.
King will be a part of the Rockin’ Women of YA Summer Teen panel, along with Maggie Stiefvater (below) and Nina LaCour, author of The Disenchantments (plugged in last month’s Game Changing column ) .
Lyga, Barry. I Hunt Killers. Little, Brown. 2012. 359p. ISBN 9780316125840. $17.99.
The latest from crossover favorite Lyga (at the 2007 Day of Dialog, he told the audience, my fans are 15-year-old boys and women in their 30s and 40s) pits a teenage boy against a copycat killer in his home town. Jazz knows more than he should about serial killers; his dad ranks as the world’s most notorious. Now, dad is in prison and Jazz is using his talents to help local law enforcement to find the Impressionist, whether they want him to or not. Jazz’s likable personality contrasts sharply with his grisly upbringing‚ his father was open about his work, hoping Jazz would follow in his footsteps. The supporting characters and side stories ground the narrative: Jazz’s grandma is battling dementia, his girlfriend wants an emotional commitment, and his best friend, Howie, provides comic relief. The book’s blood-spattered exterior (with a first-class use of the book jacket) foreshadows its graphic subject matter. Whether you are cringing at its nastier bits or greedily turning the pages, this thriller will keep you up at night.
Lyga’s Mangaman (Houghton Mifflin, 2011, illustrated by Colleen Doran) plays on the differences between Western and manga-style comics. The former marketing manager for Diamond Comic Book Distributors will be part of the panel on Alternate Formats in teen literature.
Meyer, Marissa. Cinder. Feiwel and Friends. 2012. 387p. ISBN 9780312641894. $17.99.
Debut author Marissa Meyer cannot be faulted for lack of ambition. Her first novel sets the Cinderella story in a plague-stricken future and stars a cyborg mechanic, a handsome prince, and an evil alien queen. Sixteen-year-old Cinder supports her stepmother and her daughters as the best mechanic in the marketplace. When the heir to the throne comes to call and asks her to fix his favorite droid, she is struck by his charm despite herself. Cinder is no ordinary mechanic; her skills are hard-earned, as she keeps her own pieces and parts in working order. Attending the prince’s annual ball is out of the question, especially when her beloved stepsister falls victim to the plague that is wreaking havoc in their kingdom. Things are not all smiles for Kai, the celebrity prince, either. He must broker a marriage deal with a despotic Lunar queen or be responsible for a war on humanity, especially vexing since he cannot seem to get a beautiful mechanic out of his mind. Meyer’s combination of thoroughly engaging characters and complex world-building make it easy to understand why she does not plan to stop at one book: Cinder is the first in an anticipated series, stretching into 2015.
Meyer’s talent for mythical re-imaginings will be on display in the Classic Twists panel, along with graphic novelist Garth Hinds (whose The Odyssey I featured in a What’s Old Is New column) and comic artist Sean Michael Wilson.
Stiefvater, Maggie. The Raven Boys. Scholastic Press, Sept. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780545424929. $17.99.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been told that her fate is to kiss her true love and cause him to die. Her family of psychics takes these warnings seriously, and for this reason, among others, she avoids the arrogant Raven Boys of Aglionby, an exclusive all-male private school in her small Virginia town that sports the dark bird on its crest and tailored uniforms. Then on St. Mark’s Eve (when the shades of those who will die in the next year reveal themselves), Blue sees an apparition in the tell-tale Aglionby uniform who identifies himself only as Gansey. Later she meets the ill-fated Gansey and his crew‚ brooding Ronan, affable Adam, and rumpled Noah‚ and, despite her misgivings, decides to help them on a project of supernatural scope. They wish to wake an ancient power beneath the land. Unbeknownst to our teenaged paranormal explorers, some devious adults are on the same trail and will stop at nothing to harness the power for themselves. Blue’s mixed feelings are easy to understand. It would be hard to resist kissing even one of these endearing fellows, let alone four. Alas, Stiefvater leaves her ultimate fate hanging in the balance. The book is the first in a series starring these Raven Boys.
Fresh from the success of her award-winning The Scorpio Races, Stiefvater again proves that she does, indeed, rock.
August 9 may be just around the corner, but you still have time to sneak in a book or two. I had the pleasure of meeting Paolo Bacigalupi at ALA in Anaheim and suggest his latest.
Bacigalupi, Paolo. The Drowned Cities. Little, Brown. 2012. 434p. ISBN 9780316056243. $17.99.
Set in the same world as Ship Breaker (winner of the 2011 Printz Award), this novel posits a future where the United States is no more. Armed warlords fight for territory in the jungles surrounding our former capital, abandoned by Chinese peacekeepers years before. Mahlia is the daughter of one of these invading soldiers, now cared for by the kindly Dr. Mahfouz, who makes use of her remaining arm nursing the sick among a small community of survivors. When Mahlia and fellow orphan Mouse find a warrior mutant in the swamp, their precarious existence comes undone. As he did in Ship Breaker, Bacigalupi uses the bleak setting as a launch for a classic adventure story, starring likable protagonists, who, despite the odds, still hope for a better future. With its child soldiers and extreme weather events, this world is breathing down the readers’ collective neck; Mahlia and Mouse experience a reality shared by children around the globe today. Like the eyes on its chilling cover, The Drowned Cities is an angry book but one none of us can afford to ignore.