Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“Strange Sweet Song” by Adi Rule September 21, 2014

Strange Sweet Song cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

336 pages; published March 2014

The Basics

Promising soprano Sing de Navelli follows the footsteps of her famous parents to the remote Dunhammond Conservatory and finds herself nearly undone by the gothic atmosphere and dark mysteries that surround her.

Booktalk

For soprano Sing da Navelli, every corner of Dunhammond Conservatory contains a challenge: the legacy of her famous dead mother; the demands of her famous live father; the fury of her rival; and the mystery of her dark and moody vocal coach. Overshadowing all is the legend of the Felix, a great cat-like beast lurking in the woods beyond the conservatory ready to alternately tear out the throat or grant the deepest wish of any who approach. Doubting her own talent and struggling to find her place in the musical landscape, Sing is pulled ever deeper into timeless secrets.

Random Thoughts

  • This is a quite odd mixture of contemporary fiction blended with gothic, magical, and paranormal elements. The result is unusual, but so enjoyable.
  • It is always unwise to compete with your own dead mother.

I’ll Recommend This to …

  • Fans of fantasy and paranormal stories who want more than just a romance
  • Teen writers who are looking for examples of beautiful prose
  • Readers who are also musicians
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“Etiquette and Espionage” by Gail Carriger May 11, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fantasy,Fiction,Science Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:50 am
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Etiquette and Espionage cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

307 pages; published February 2013

The Basics

Sophronia has a special talent for getting herself into undignified situations and causing trouble. After her latest mishap  Sophoronia’s quite proper mother has had enough. It’s off to finishing school with her wayward daughter. Sophoronia’s horror at the thought of being “finished” into a proper lady is soon replaced with delight as she discovers that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is as likely to teach you how to poison your tablemate as to do a proper curtsy.

The Booktalk

Sophronia is not like other girls. She likes to climb and sneak and invent and take things apart and generally cause trouble. Exciting? Yes, but not a great fit for her proper Victorian household. After she manages to hit a guest with a flying trifle as part of a “modification” to the household dumbwaiter, she is unceremoniously shipped off to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Horror of horrors for Sophronia, who has no interest in being a lady.

But she soon discovers not all is as it seems in the string of dirigibles that make up Mademoiselle Geraldine’s. After she is brought aboard by a werewolf and greeted by a vampire, Sophronia discovers that her lessons in eye fluttering and proper curtsies will be coupled with knife-throwing and the subtle art of poisons. And there’s a ready-made mystery to unravel. Sophronia is going to have an exciting year indeed.

 

“Thirteen Days to Midnight” by Patrick Carman February 6, 2013

Filed under: Fiction,Science Fiction,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:03 am
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Thirteen Days to Midnight cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

304 pages; published April 2010

The Basics

Jacob is grieving for his adoptive father, who died when their car crashed into a tree. But he also has other things on his mind – a beautiful new girl at school, his best friend, the future – and the very odd fact that nothing seems to be able to cause him any physical harm since his father, just before the crash, whispered, “You are indestructible.”

Booktalk

It’s a simple question: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

But there are downsides to every superpower, aren’t there? If you could fly, would you be able to learn to control your ability before smashing yourself into a building? If you could read minds, what would you do when you heard things you didn’t want to know? If you had invisibility, would you have to be naked all the time for it to work?

What if you were indestructible? What if nothing could hurt you and you simply couldn’t die? Is there a downside to that? Jacob Fielding is about to find out. It would seem his adoptive father has given him this power – passed it along just before his own death. But cheating death is a tricky thing and not without consequence. With no one to help him understand how the power works, what will Jacob do and who will it put in harm’s way?

Random Thoughts

This book was exciting and interesting, made more so for me because it was set in the author’s hometown, which made it local for me. It’s not a common setting, so it was a nice touch.

 

 

“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.

Review

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.

 

“Every Day” by David Levithan October 4, 2012

Filed under: Fiction,GLBTQ,Science Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 5:14 pm
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Every Day title

Images courtesy of Goodreads.com

The Facts

336 pages; published August 2012

The Basics

A wakes up every morning in a different body, briefly inhabiting a life. Always has. Never had a body to call home. A doesn’t know why and doesn’t really have to know, because the situation just is. A is now 16 years old and wakes one day in the body of Justin, who is unremarkable except that his girlfriend, Rhiannon inspires in A a love different from any other experience. A feels it is worth risking everything to be with her again – even exposing the strange truth this multiple life.

Review

David Levithan asks us to go on a tremendously challenging journey – to consider a person who is a simply consciousness and a series of experience, leaping every day – just for one day – into the body of another person and living their life for a fleeting moment. It doesn’t give the reader much to latch onto, because A lacks all the things we usually rely on to define one another – gender, body type, race, family, place. Give the odd premise, it’s surprisingly easy to engage in A’s life, to feel the anguish of falling in love for a person with no hope of forming a lasting attachment to anyone. Of all the characters, Rhiannon is one of the most interesting, because she at least tries to get to know A in an interesting variety of temporary bodies. Beautiful writing underpins this intriguing exploration of what it would be like to have no gender, no body, and no family – but a great capacity for love. The overall effect is brilliant and memorable.

From the Horse’s Mouth – David Levithan talking about his book

 

 

“Hikaru No Go” (Volume 1) by Yumi Hotta November 23, 2011

Hotta, Yumi (author). Obata, Takeshi (artist). Hikaru No Go, Volume 1. San Francisco: Shonen Jump, 2006. 187 pages. ISBN: 159116222x.

Hikaru No Go Vol 1 cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

Annotation:

Hikaru is an average kind of 12-year-old boy, more interested in sports than in school and not interested at all in ancient Chinese history. His life changes when he finds a blood-stained Go board and becomes inhabited by the spirit of a long-ago Go master who is still seeking a way to play his beloved game and – someday perhaps – the “Divine Move.”

Booktalk:

Does anyone here care about Go? Do you even know what Go is?

Well, it’s an ancient Chinese game that is like chess – played with black and white pieces on a square grid. If you don’t know anything about it, you’re a lot like Hikaru. He’s a 12-year-old Chinese boy who just found an old, old Go board with blood on it. He doesn’t even know what the board is for. But he’s the only one who can see the blood, so he has some kind of connection with what’s inside.

Can you image what is inside this old block of wood? Only the spirit of Sai, a Go master from the Heian Period (that’s 794-1185 in China). When Hikaru sees the blood, that’s the signal for Sai to come out of the Go board and take over part of Hikaru’s consciousness. Soon, Hikaru find himself spending time in Go parlors and playing against master Go players, with Sai telling him how. He friends start to think he’s crazy. The Go players can’t figure him out.

Hikaru hates Go, but there is something about the intensity of these players that makes him think. Maybe he can understand why Sai would wait even beyond death, hoping for a chance to experience the ultimate moment in Go – the play of the “Divine Move.”

Wait! There’s More:

If you get hooked on this fast and funny story, good news! There are a total of 23 volumes to enjoy.

Teen View:

“I love this series. Even though I didn’t understand it at first because I don’t know anything about Go, I totally realized, ‘This is amazing.’ It really explains what’s important in the game and I love the characters, especially Sai because he gets really involved and yells at Hikaru and he’s so into it. It’s amazing.” – Catrina, age 15, major Manga enthusiast

Awards/Honors (source: http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=1083):

  • Shogakukan Manga Award in 2000
  • Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2003 (series)
 

“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 GoodReads.com

Annotation:

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.

Booktalk:

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 wordle.com)

Awards/Honors (source: http://www.harperteen.com/books/The-Summoning-Kelley-Armstrong/?isbn=9780061450549):

  • Texas Library Association Tayshas High School Reading List