Black, Holly. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. Little, Brown Bks. for Young Readers. ISBN 9780316213103. $18.99.
Tana awakens in a bathtub after a night of revelry and discovers that she is the only wholly human survivor of a vampire massacre. Her ex-boyfriend has been infected and is tied to a bed in another room with a hot-looking vampire chained to the wall. The only escape for these three is Coldtown, where vampires and infected humans co-mingle and the party never stops. Tana is determined to beat the odds and make it out of Coldtown alive with her humanity intact, despite the squalid conditions and old-school vampire politics. In Black’s skillful hands, vampirism becomes a metaphor for the evils of our day—addiction, reality television, urban decay—as the narrative lays bare the grisly truth behind the glamorous mythos. A (rare) stand-alone that will leave even the most jaded gothic readers begging for another chapter.
King, A.S. Reality Boy. Little Brown Bks. for Young Readers. ISBN 9780316222709. $17.99.
As an angry five-year-old, Gerald became a reality TV sensation when he punched the Network Nanny and pooped in his mother’s shoes. Now he is 17 and not much has improved on the family front—Mom and Dad continue to let his psychotic oldest sister rule their household. Still known as “the Crapper” to his classmates, Gerald is just getting by until he meets Hannah, a fellow survivor on the family front, who helps him finally to voice his needs. A.S. King indicts both an industry that exploits children’s pain for entertainment value and parents who allow their children to be so used. Few writers balance humor and pathos as well as this Printz Honor (Please Ignore Vera Dietz, 2010) and Los Angeles Times Prize winner (Ask the Passengers, 2012).
Levithan, David. Two Boys Kissing. Knopf. ISBN 9780307931900. $16.99.
Ex-boyfriends Craig and Henry are inspired to break the Guinness World Record for longest kiss. While the world watches their 32-hour vigil, Ryan and Avery meet cute at a gay prom, longtime boyfriends Neil and Peter chafe at the ties that bind, and depressed Cooper runs away when his parents discover pornography addiction. These entwined stories of what it means to be young and gay today are lent gravitas by a chorus of AIDS victims, marveling at how much—and how little—the world has changed in 30 years and urging readers to “make more than dust.” Ten years after wowing the reading world with Boy Meets Boy (2003), Levithan again celebrates a world where a boy-and-a-boy can kiss in public, only this time it is as close as the headlines.
Lewis, Catherine. Thrice Told Tales: Three Mice Full of Writing Advice. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN 9781416957843. $16.99.
Three blind mice. See how they run—and how they take your writer’s chops to a new level. This clever overview of literary terms will delight both students and experts looking for a concise way to understand exposition and point-of-view or distinguish an epic from a bildungsroman. Enchanting illustrations and a comic tone help the lessons go down easy.
Madison, Bennett. September Girls. HarperTeen. ISBN 9780061255632. $17.99.
Sam is at sea after his mother’s recent abandonment of the family, a feeling his father evidently shares when he decides to take Sam and his hunky older brother to the Outer Banks for the summer. In the rundown ocean-side town where they take residence in a small rental, Sam becomes an unlikely focus of attention. The lithe, blonde, strangely similar female residents who wait the tables, clean the motels, and serve bar in town all turn their heads when he walks by. As Margo Lanagan did in last year’s The Brides of Rollrock Island (35 Going on 13: Best of 2012), Madison exposes the sexual power politics behind a watery legend. Bound in their bikini tops and uncomfortable shoes, these cursed daughters of the waves have much to teach Sam, and us, about the objectification of women in our hyper-sexed culture.
McNeal, Tom. Far Far Away. Knopf. ISBN 9780375849725. $17.99.
Young Jeremy Johnson Johnson is guided by the ghostly companionship of that great collector of stories, Jacob Grimm. He will need more than Grimm’s encyclopedic knowledge of fairy tales when he and his friend, the magnetic Ginger Boultinghouse, come face to face with the evil that lurks in their small village of Never Better. The exacting Grimm finds himself inextricably drawn to these teens and their budding romance, making his narration more compelling than that of a less-flawed observer. Marrying quiz-show television and magic cakes, missing children and real-life monsters, McNeal’s modern fable has a timeless quality. A beautiful tribute to the redemptive power of story.
Rowell, Rainbow. Eleanor & Park. St. Martin’s Griffin. ISBN 9781250012579. $18.99.
For those of us of a certain age, there is no purer love than Eighties love. Awkward, bulky Eleanor meets comic-loving, Korean American Park on the school bus. She has just been allowed back into her abusive home after nearly a year of living with friends of her mother’s. Reading over Park’s shoulder, she learns to appreciate the X-men and that revolutionary new comic, Watchmen. Sensing a kindred soul, Park makes her mixtapes. When Eleanor’s domestic situation forces them into an impossible decision, the refrain of Joy Division’s signature “Love Will Tear Us Apart Again” will never feel the same. Rowell pairs two of the most appealing characters of the year in a love story that is both timeless and emblematic of its time.
Rowell, Rainbow. Fangirl. St. Martin’s Griffin. ISBN 9781250030955. $18.99.
Here is the second offering this year from a writer who, like her wholly appealing (anti) heroine, is poised for greatness. Cath is a popular fan fiction author, more at home in the magical world of Simon Snow than in the day-to-day of her freshman year at the University of Nebraska. Her twin sister, Wren, has become a drunken party girl; her surly roommate, Reagan, seems barely to tolerate her; and the always-around Levi is more attentive than she would like. Introverts and bibliophiles alike will understand Cath’s plight—why risk the real world, and possibly painful relationships, when fiction presents such a seductive alternative? More than just an able defense of the readers and writers of fan fiction.
Sedgwick, Marcus. Midwinterblood. Roaring Brook. ISBN 9781596438002. $17.99.
It is 2073, and a researcher has arrived on the isle of Blessed, whose residents are rumored to have discovered the secret to longevity. Connected stories of a dragon-flower cult, an archaeological dig, a painter, a vampire, and a ghost point further and further back to the bloody beginnings of the remote northern island, ultimately landing on a Norse legend depicted in Sweden’s most controversial painting. Hanging in Stockholm’s Nationalmuseum, Carl Larsson’s Midvinterblot (1915) depicts the story of a king sacrificed by his people in order to end a famine. Here, connected themes of love and loss play out in each story, tied together by the island, similar-sounding names, and a foreboding sense of horror.
Stone, Tanya Lee. Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickels—America’s First Black Paratroopers. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763651176. $24.99.
This loving tribute to the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion details the racial prejudice experienced by a group of soldiers who never saw overseas combat yet became an indelible part of U. S. military history. When the Japanese sent some 9000 incendiary balloons to ignite forest fires, the “Triple Nickels” proved themselves in the rugged West. Lovingly researched, their story is told in the context of the larger societal forces of military integration and the Civil Rights movement. A gorgeous tribute to a largely unsung band of heroes.
Yancey, Rick. The 5th Wave. Putnam/Penguin Young Readers. ISBN 9780399162411. $18.99.
The first wave was an electromagnetic pulse; the second, disasters that destroy the world’s coasts; the third, an ebola-like plague; and the fourth, “Silencers” picking off those unlucky enough to remain. Now Cassie and Ben must survive the fifth assault by an alien species intent on eliminating the human race. Propelled by a $750,000 ad campaign, this high-octane thriller by a Printz Honor winner (The Monstrumologist in 2009) famous for his ability to scare delivers end-of-the-world thrills that will have you clamoring for the next installment (The Infinite Sea, due May 2014).
Yang, Gene Luen. Boxers & Saints. First Second. Boxers. ISBN 9781596433595. $18.99. Saints. ISBN 9781596436893. $15.99. Boxed set: ISBN 9781596439245. $34.99.
China’s Boxer Rebellion is the unlikely backdrop for this graphic treatment of two young villagers on the opposite sides of history. Bao wants to drive out the white devils that poison his country with opium and Christianity. Four-Girl is an unwanted daughter who finds purpose in the missionary life. Yang demonstrates his signature magical realism as both Bao and Four-Girl receive guidance from spiritual ancestors. Their stories collide in a transpiring moment of grace that could only be penned by the Printz Award–winning author of American Born Chinese (2006).