Books & More from the Teen Scene

Book reviews and other reflections from one of Oregon's young adult librarians

“Zom-B” by Darren Shan November 19, 2012

Zom-B cover

Images courtesy of

The Facts

174 pages; published September 2012

The Basics

B is a street-wise bully being raised by a violent, white supremacist father in London. Amid growing reports of zombie attacks in a small Irish village, B is backed into several situations where it is called into question of how deep B’s personal racist sensibilities run. And then, the zombies attack.


This book was quite a surprise. Written by a master of young adult horror, it’s remarkably light on the spurting blood and the brain eating … until it’s not.

Although the zombies are milling around the edges from the beginning, but meat of the book is spent on B and B’s response (or lack thereof) to a father who spews disgusting racial hatred at every turn and beats on B and B’s mother if they mount the slightest challenge. B wanders between mirroring the father’s nastiness and being sheepish about it and wondering if – perhaps – dear old Dad isn’t pretty reprehensible. B’s thoughts get really stirred up after visiting a Holocaust exhibit and getting a talking-to from a respected teacher.

“I know Dad’s no saint but I’ever never thought of him as a monster. But if Burke’s right, and I take Dad’s side, the way I’ve gone along with him for all these years, won’t that make me a monster too?”

And speaking of monsters, the zombies continue to close in as Dad pooh-poohs the gruesome footage of an attack in Pallaskenry, Ireland until the zombies – as the reader knows they will – finally descend on B’s school and the nightmare-inducing grossology lesson begins.

While not at all likeable, B is an compelling character and “Zom-B” is an exciting set-up for a new series.



“Professor Gargoyle” by Charles Gilman October 22, 2012

Filed under: Fiction,Horror,Mystery,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:00 pm
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Professor Gargoyle changing cover

Image courtesy of Quirk Books

The Facts

168 pages; published September 2012

The Basics

All of Robert Arthur’s friends are still at the old middle school, but he’s been sent off to be one of the first students to attend Lovecraft Middle School. Things seem weird from the very beginning – when rats leap out of the new student lockers on the first day. Then there are strange rooms that appear and disappear. And a science teacher that couldn’t be more strange. Something isn’t at all right at Lovecraft Middle School and Robert means to be the one to find out what.


The slick cover creates the first appeal factor for Professor Gargoyle. It’s a lenticular portrait (yes, I had to look up what that was called) that shifts from the image of a slightly stern older man to a fairly frightening demon as you move from one side to the other. The effect alone should attract readers. (Click on the image to see the changing picture.)

Inside is a harmless, ultimately light-hearted adventure involving a new school with some hidden features inspired by the classic works of H.P. Lovecraft. While elements are creepy, the story is never truly scary, making it a safe choice for younger teen readers.

Wait! There’s More

Prominently featured on the cover is the news that this is the first in an intended series of adventures at Lovecraft Middle School. The second, The Slither Sisters (who I suspect we met in this first story), is due out January 15, 2013.


“Zombies vs. Unicorns” compiled and edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black December 9, 2011

Larbalestier, Justine and Black, Holly (editors). Zombies vs. Unicorns. New York: Margaret K. Elderberry Books, 2010. 415 pages. ISBN: 9781416989530

Zombies vs Unicorns cover

Images courtesy of


Twelve beloved, extraordinary authors face off in alternating stories highlighting the perceived glories of super-cool zombies vs. pathetically perky unicorns. The clash of the mythical creatures is mediated by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black, who duke it out before the stories, each hoping to persuade the reader of the eternal dominance of Team Zombie vs. Team Unicorn.


Really, half this book just isn’t even necessary. All right. All right. Authors like Garth Nix and Diana Peterfruend and Meg Cabot – I’m sure they’re good people. But the joined the wrong team, plain and simple.

The win clearly goes to Team Zombie, with six stories that really tease out the nuances of the (un)life of the zombie as well as life with zombies, demonstrating the wealth and depth of the contemporary zombie.

In “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Alaya Dawn Johnson shares the beauty of blossoming love between an enchanting living boy and a boy zombie. This love brings the zombie to a higher calling, the strength of their bond lending him a new level of restraint when it comes to flesh eating.

“Bougainvillea” by Carrie Ryan – set in a corner of the same world that shelters the stories of her Forest of Hands and Teeth series – shows how a zombie apocalypse survivor can really learn to rise to the occasion when set upon both by zombies and pirates.

“Children of the Revolution” by Maureen Johnson takes a unique view at zombie life from the inside, while “Inoculata” by Scott Westerfeld blends puberty, stirring sexuality, and teen angst with the continuous creeping pull of the zombie horde to devastating effect.

Cassandra Clare explores mixed living and undead marriage in her breakthrough “Cold Hands,” while a pair of high school student government officers-turned-anti-zombie police force patrol and try to keep up appearances in “Prom Night” by Libba Bray.

After all that, who needs Naomi Novik’s sarcastically incompetent unicorn from “Purity Test” or the creepy beastiality of Margo Lanagan’s “A Thousand Flowers” or Meg Cabot’s flower-smell farting, creeper-boy butt-kicking “Princess Prettypants?” They’re just unicorns, after all.

Zombies rule. Unicorns drool.

Awards/Honors (source:

  • School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
  • Texas Tayshas High School Reading List

“Ashes” by Ilsa J. Bick December 8, 2011

Bick, Ilsa J. Ashes.New York: Egmont, 2011. 465 pages. ISBN: 9781606841754

Ashes cover

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In an instant, the world changes, struck by an electromagnetic pulse that tears through the air, leaving some dead, some seemingly unaffected, and many turned to flesh-craving, wicked fast zombies. Alex, on a lonely hike when “The Zap” hits, must choose carefully who to trust among the survivors as she learns all the ways in which this massive upheaval will bring out the best and very, very worst in those left behind.


Alex has already been through quite a lot in her short life. Her parents are dead – killed together in a horrible helicopter accident. Now, her own body has turned on her. An inoperable tumor is weaving itself into her brain, taking her memories, her sense of smell, and slowly, her life.

Denying that she has a specific plan, she has taken her parents ashes and a gun into the wilderness to say goodbye. She has just met up with Grandfather Jack and his surly 8-year-old granddaughter when all three, along with passing deer and the flock of crows overhead, are taken over by a strange, head-splitting sensation.

When it’s over, Jack is dead. The ground is littered with dead crows. The surly granddaughter is hysterical. And Alex is … better than she’s been in ages. She can remember her parents. She feels stronger. She can smell – almost too well.

Nothing makes sense since “The Zap,” least of all the others of her own age, who are now wandering the woods stinking of death, and driven by a maniacal hunger for human flesh. It soon becomes clear that nothing will ever be the same, almost no one can be trusted, and the struggle to survive will take everything Alex has got left.

Wait! There’s More:

Ashes is just book 1 of the Ashes trilogy. Shadows (Book 2) and Monsters (Book 3) are forthcoming.

Teen View (thoughts about zombies):

Planning how to survive in case of a zombie apocalypse is how Travis, 16, normally spends 7th period.

“I’m going to go to the mall and get some weapons because they have weapons at most malls. I’d want anything, really, swords, guns, crossbows. I prefer far-range weapons. Then, I’ll start running around to find a car and put some spikes on it and the take the car and start driving toward the most unpopulated area I can find. I’d take some food, but if I needed more food, I could always drive back and find a store.” Travis doesn’t seriously think the zombies will come. “We’re too well defended. I just like making fun of zombies,” he says. “It’s just interesting to consider how to survive.”


None yet! This is a September 2011 release.


“The Forest of Hands and Teeth” by Carrie Ryan December 7, 2011

Ryan, Carrie. The Forest of Hands and Teeth. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009. 310 pages. ISBN: 9780385736817

The Forest of Hands and Teeth cover

Images courtesy of


Mary lives in a village totally controlled by the Sisterhood, a religious order, and trapped by the thousands of hungry undead who live in the forest surrounding the community. Yet, she longs for the ocean she learned of in stories from her mother during her childhood and can’t give up the notion that there may be something out there for her beyond the Forest of Hands and Teeth.


Even as her world is coming apart, Mary cannot resist the pull of the forbidden.

Her father is already gone, bitten and pulled away into the vast sea of the moaning, hungry, living dead Unconsecrated who surround her village. Her mother, distraught with grief and love, soon follows, leaving Mary with the stories she has told about a mythical ocean and world beyond the village.

Mary’s brother, in anger, abandons her, leaving her with no choice but to join the Sisterhood that controls all life in the village. There, Mary finds herself assigned to help with the care of a childhood friend who has been badly injured. Even as she knows he is promised to another, she falls deeply and desperately in love. Then she too is chosen for marriage – by her beloved’s brother and finds herself cornered by tradition and expectations and other people’s desires.

Just as she is feeling most trapped, the Unconsecrated break through the fences protecting the village and she escapes with her betrothed, her beloved, her best friend, and her brother as everything they have ever known disintegrates behind them.

Driven by her dreams and hopes about the ocean, Mary drives herself and her companions through an ancient protected path to face what is to come from The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Wait! There’s More:

This is only the first book in the Forest of Hands and Teeth series. Also look for The Dead-Tossed Waves (2010) and The Dark and Hollow Places (2011).

Teen View (courtesy of YouTube):

Awards/Honors (source:

  • A New York Times Best Seller
  • A Junior Library Guild selection
  • An ALA Best Books for Young Adults selection
  • Named to the 2010 New York Public Library Stuff for the Teen Age List
  • A Borders Original Voices finalist
  • #4 on the IndieBound Kids’ Indie Next List for Spring 2009
  • A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book
  • Selected for the 2010-2011 Texas Library Association TAYSHAS High School Reading list
  • A Denver Public Library Best Teen Books of 2009 selection
  • Nominated for the North Carolina School Library Media Association Young Adult Book Award
  • Nominated for the 2010-2011 Georgia Peach Book Award


“Rot & Ruin” by Jonathan Maberry November 30, 2011

Maberry, Jonathan. Rot & Ruin. New York:  Simon & Schuster, 2010. 458 pages. ISBN: 9781442402324

Rot & Ruin cover

Images courtesy of


Unsuited for any other kind of work, Benny Imura reluctantly agrees to become apprenticed to his zombie hunter brother. For the first time in his life, Benny leaves the safety of his gated community and heads out into Rot & Ruin, coming face-to-face with the realities of this zombie-ridden, shattered shell of what was America.


Welcome to Mountainside, an exclusive gated community guarded 24/7 for the benefit of the elite population permitted inside. Benny Imura, almost 15, is one of these elite – one of the last humans surviving after a zombie virus swept across the United States, leaving a teeming mass of hungry undead behind.

Now that he’s turning 15, Benny will be expected to take a job and contribute in his small community, working for rations. But where? He’s a disaster as a fence tester, pit thrower, carpet coat salesman, and erosion artist. Finally, he is left with nowhere to turn except the brother he hates. Tom Imura is supposed to be some hotshot zombie hunter – he’s even on one of the Zombie Cards that the kids in the village collect and trade. But Benny knows better. Benny knows his brother is the same coward who ran when their father turned, leaving their mother to a terrible fate.

But because he has no choice, Benny attaches himself to Tom, following him for the first time into the Rot & Ruin beyond the village gates. What he finds there – what he learns about himself, his brother, his zombie hunting idols, and the zombies themselves – will turn his world upside down and test him seemingly beyond his own very human limits.

Wait! There’s more:

The next book in this series, Dust & Decay, was released in summer 2011. Flesh & Bone due out September 2012!

Awards/Honors (source:

  • 2010 Cybils Awards (Fantasy & Science Fiction)
  • 2010 Bram Stoker Award nominee (Superior Achievement in a Novel)

“The Summoning” by Kelley Armstrong November 6, 2011

Filed under: Fiction,Horror,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:03 pm
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Armstrong, Kelley. The Summoning. New York: HarperCollins, 2008. 390 pp. ISBN: 9780061662690

The Summoning cover

Book covers courtesy of


When Chloe Sanders starts seeing ghosts, it surprises her so much that her reaction gets her moved into a home for disturbed children. Facing a diagnosis of schizophrenia and trying hard to get better, she still starts to wonder just what is going on and whether all this paranormal activity might not just be in her head.


Seriously. If you woke up one day and started seeing ghosts everywhere, what would you do? Realize one of those ghosts is a burned-up-looking, melted-faced-having, creepy janitor, chasing you through the halls of your high school yelling, “Come here. I just want to talk to you.”

You’d do what Chloe Sanders did. You’d freak out. And maybe you’d go so far as to punch some teacher, make a complete spectacle of yourself, and get yourself locked up in a home for mentally disturbed children.

Chloe is a huge film geek who sees everything that happens to her in terms of a camera angles and cutaways. Now, she’s landed in some kind of  horror flick where she’s surrounded by crazy kids and – worse – is being told she’s schizophrenic herself. She’s even willing to believe it, for a while. Then she starts to get to know the other kids in the house – handsome Simon, weirdly strong Derek, angry Tori, firebug Rae, and Liz, who is sent away still insisting it was a poltergeist and not her that attacked their teacher.

Chloe starts question everything she thought was true. Is she schizophrenic? Are the other kids really crazy? Or can she actually see ghosts? And, if so, what else does she have in common with the other inmates at the Lyle House?

Wait! There’s More:

This is just book 1 of the Darkest Powers series, which continues in The Awakening (2009) and The Reckoning (2010).

Wordle: The Summoning
(Wordle created by Sonja Somerville at

Awards/Honors (source:

  • Texas Library Association Tayshas High School Reading List