35 Going on 13: Festival Edition

This week, LJ‘s Reviews newsletter will prepare us for BookExpoAmerica, the largest publishing event in theUnited States. Publishers, book sellers, authors, readers, and librarians will all be descending on New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on June 5‚ 7 for three days of book splendor.

A few weeks back, those of us on the West Coast had another opportunity to get our biblio-fix. The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books attracted over 100,000 readers to the University of Southern California campus on April 21‚ 22. Anchored by the 32nd annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, the event featured over 400 authors of books for children, teens, and adults. By contrast, Book Expo has about 500 authors and draws an attendance of around 25,000.

I had the pleasure of moderating a panel at the festival on the art of writing for young adults. Authors Pete Hautman (winner of this year’s Los Angeles Times Young Adult Book Prize for The Big Crunch) and Libba Bray (a finalist for Beauty Queens‚ both books reviewed in 35 Going on 13: What I Did for Love) entertained the audience with their insights. In his acceptance speech, Hautman affirmed the collaborative nature of teen fiction authors, saying The hive mind is in ascendance.

Bray should prove to be one of the most sought-after authors for teens at Book Expo, where she will be promoting her September release, The Diviners. It is the much-anticipated first book in a new series that Bray has described as The X-Files with flappers.

Chris Colfer (of Glee fame) will be the Master of Ceremonies at the Book Expo Children’s Book and Author breakfast, featuring YA authors John Green (for The Fault in Our Stars, reviewed in 35 Going on 13: Chilling Winter Reads of First Love, Survival & Suspense) and Lois Lowry (for Son, the latest of her Giver books, to be released in October). Colfer will be at the show to promote his own book for middle readers, The Land of Stories.

While I am eager for these fall titles, this year’s spring publishing season has contained many delights so far. Here are a few.

Hautman, Pete. The Klaatu Diskos: Bk. 1: The Obsidian Blade. Candlewick. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780763654030. $16.99.
Fresh off his Los Angeles Times Book Prize win, Hautman embarks on an sf time travel series. Meet Tucker Feye, only son of a small-townMinnesota minister and his organ-playing wife. One day, Tucker’s father disappears from the family’s rooftop and returns hours later with an odd orphan girl in tow, saying only that he no longer believes in God. Then Tucker’s mother descends into Sudoku-inspired madness and disappears with Tucker’s father, who leaves a cryptic note, and Tucker is left to live with an uncle he has never met. Strange things happen on his Uncle Kosh’s roof as well: a far-future race of beings has created portals through which to view scenes of historic pathos‚Ķand they have their eye on Tucker. Exploring questions of time, history, and faith and offering a glimpse of some of the most compelling moments in history, this page-turner is grounded by an appealing narrator and tranquil Midwestern setting.

Oliver, Lauren. Pandemonium. HarperCollins. 2012. 375p. ISBN 9780061978067. $17.99.
Here is the sequel to the love hurts dystopia, Delirium, a strong series start that appeared last spring. In Lena’s world, love is both a disease and a crime, eradicated by means of an inoculating surgery that fosters a society of emotionless zombies. After the loss of her true love, Alex, Lena makes her way into the Wilds and joins the organized resistance. From there, she is sent on a mission to New York to attract the attention of the establishment’s favorite son, Julian Fineman. The sheltered poster-child for DFA‚ Deliria Free America‚ Julian has no experience with emotion until a forced confinement with Lena brings out his human nature and thaws her grieving heart. The cliffhanger ending ramps up the stakes in a story that continues to deliver. Oliver will be at BEA with her new middle-grade book, The Spindlers, to be published in October. Readers will have to wait until 2013 for Requiem, in whichLena’s and Julian’s fates will be revealed.

Revis, Beth. A Million Suns: An Across the Universe Novel. Razorbill. 2012. 385p. ISBN 978-1-59514-398-3. $17.99.
In 2011’s Across the Universe, Amy awakes from a cryogenic sleep aboard the spaceship Godspeed and uncovers a murder plot that may prevent the ship’s colony from reaching its destination. As the second book opens, Amy is questioning her romantic interest in the flawed but likable ship’s leader, Elder. Would she feel the same if he were not the only available choice? For his part, Elder must rein in a shipload of fractious plebeians, even as he receives game-changing news from his engineers. Tensions mount as food and resources become scarcer and it seems less and less likely that the Godspeed’s nearly 2300 inhabitants will ever make it planetside. Next year’s Shades of Earth will complete the trilogy, which has been distinguished by its high-level philosophic discourse, complex characters, and unexpected plot twists.

Rosoff, Meg. There Is No Dog. Putnam Juvenile. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9780399257643. $17.99.
At the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, I had the pleasure of conversing with Carnegie medalist Mal Peet about this newest title from his friend and fellow prizewinner Rosoff, which posits the question: what if God were actually a willful teenager? Bob might be the Creator of the Universe, but he would much prefer to laze about, eat junk food, and chase girls, much to the dismay of Mr. B, whose job it is to clean up His messes. When Bob becomes infatuated with the guileless and beautiful Lucy, his stormy moods start flood waters rising across the globe. In an amusing subplot, Bob’s pet Eck is gambled away by his irresponsible, irrepressible mother, who is another force in the universe. The author’s satiric view of godly nature will feel familiar to fans of the exploits of Zeus (see the review of George O’Connor’s Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory in 35 Going on 13: August Eclecticism), and while she seems to have little love for the baser leanings of teen boys, the book ends well for most of its characters. Rosoff explores a bold premise with consummate skill.

Stork, Francisco X. Irises. Arthur A. Levine Bks: Scholastic. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780545151351. $17.99.
In his latest, the author of Marcelo in the Real World tackles end-of-life decisions. For the past four years, Kate and Mary have lived in a stasis brought on by an accident that left their mother in a persistent vegetative state. When their emotionally distant minister father dies suddenly, they are left with few resources. Their church has chosen a charismatic young minister to lead the flock, who respectfully requests that they vacate the parsonage in a few short months. Too soon, the girls must make some difficult choices: should Kate marry her longtime boyfriend or follow her dreams of attending Stanford? And who will care for Mary and their mother if she leaves? Kate and Mary must refocus their lost faith and reenergize their lives past the forced selflessness that has held them hostage. A loving tribute to the bonds of sisterhood.

Wasserman, Robin. The Book of Blood and Shadow. Knopf. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9780375868764. $17.99.
I should probably start with the blood. Nora’s best friend, Chris, has been murdered, and suspect number one is Nora’s boyfriend Max, now missing. The night’s events have left her friend Adriane in a catatonic state. The four were research assistants to a professor, translating texts connected to the Lumen Dei, a device that promises ultimate knowledge and communication with the divine. The quest to clear Max’s name takes Nora toPrague, accompanied by Chris’s cousin Eli, where she encounters a deadly cult bent on finding the device. This thriller serves up a healthy dose of Latin scholarship, drawing the reader letter by letter into a centuries-old mystery, and Nora’s increasingly complicated relationships with her friends ground the story in emotional reality. Teens and adults alike will race to the book’s shocking conclusion.

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