Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Adolescent Lit Course Reading List (F '10)

I'm finally done! The reading list for my adolescent lit course is complete. It was a fun but really tough journey picking from the loooong list of wonderful recently released adolescent lit novels out there to trim it down to the "little" (heehee) reading list you see below. If you're a former student-o-mine...I KNOW, I had FUN revamping the course. If you're one of my students this coming term, prepare to get your minds blown with some awesome stories! Happy reading, all!

Novel #1 = Three very different YA novels based in Hawai'i (Sign up for a group)
Group A: Written in the Sky -- Matthew Kaopio
Group B: The Twins of Kashal: Book One of Ki -- Dakan Allison, Hezar Blue, & Jana Joy
Group C: Healing Water: A Hawaiian Story -- Joyce Moyer Hostetter

Novel #2 = The wonderful world of dystopias (Sign up for a group)
Group A: Hunger Games -- Suzanne Collins
Group B: Gone -- Michael Grant
Group C: Epitah Road -- David Patneaude
Group D: Incarceron -- Catherine Fisher
Group E: The Maze Runner -- James Dashner

Novel #3 = Book Share (Choose one novel from list -- everyone must read a diff. novel)
Dirty Little Secrets -- Cynthia Omololu
Eyes Like Stars: Theatre Illuminata -- Lisa Mantchev
Ophelia -- Lisa M. Klein
The Night Tourist -- Katherine Marsh
Bamboo People -- Mitali Perkins
We Were Here -- Matt de la Pena
The Duff -- Kody Keplinger
Almost Home -- Jessica Blank
If I Stay -- Gayle Foreman
Before I Fall -- Lauren Oliver
Saving Juliet -- Suzanne Selfors
Oh. My Gods -- Tera Lynn Childs
The Everafter -- Amy Huntley
Split -- Swati Avasthi (this author will be a guest interviewee in the course!)
The Sky is Everywhere -- Jandy Nelson
Red Hood's Revenge -- Jim C. Hines
In the Name of God -- Paula Jolin
Halo -- Alexandra Ardonetto
Personal Demons -- Lisa Desrochers
Prophecy of Days: The Daykeeper's Grimoire -- Christy Raedeke
Return the Heart -- T.K. Richardson
*OR you can suggest your own novel published after 2008 -- e.g. Lisa Shroeder and Ellen Hopkins both have great new verse novels (incredibly moving multi-voice stories).

Novel #4 & #5 = Teaching apples with oranges (sign up for one group--read both books)
Group A: When You Reach Me -- Rebecca Stead & Mudville -- Kurtis Scaletta
Group B: Jellicoe Road -- Melina Marchetta & Every Soul a Star -- Wendy Mass
Group C: One Crazy Summer -- Rita Williams Garcia & Will Grayson, Will Grayson -- John Green and David Levithan

*Rubbing hands eagerly*

Can't wait for the students to start the reading extravaganza!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Interview with author Jodi Meadows on "Science-Fantasy"

What is Science-Fantasy?
Interview with YA author Jodi Meadows

Lately, I've heard the term "Science-Fantasy" a lot in connection with YA literature. Why is the idea of blending science fiction and fantasy within a novel so fascinating? Because science-fantasy uniquely mixes two very different genres of literature, and in so doing, gives birth to amazing stories that draw a new landscape for literature. To find out more about science-fantasy, I interviewed the lovely and uber talented Jodi Meadows, literary aficionado and YA author of the science-fantasy NEWSOUL trilogy...

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your literary road to becoming the author you are today?

Jodi: Certainly! Of course I was a child prodigy with more talent than you could fit in an oil tanker. I graduated university with highest honors when I was only six years old! By seven, I'd finished my first 500,000-word manuscript and had it considered by several well-known publishing houses, but none of them believed I'd written it. Sadly, I would have to wait twenty more years before anyone believed I was capable of writing fiction. Okay, that's all a lie. I didn't even like books until I was in third grade. I stayed home sick one day, but still had to finish the book we were reading for class. I wish I could remember the title -- I'd love to find it again -- but the only thing I can remember about it was there were children trapped in a "haunted" cave. The ghostly wailing turned out to be wind keening over a hidden opening. I was so disappointed when I realized it wasn't a real haunting. But the seed had been planted. I found a few other books I liked...then more and more until I -- gasp! -- enjoyed reading. In seventh grade, my teacher shared WAIT TILL HELEN COMES by Mary Downing Hahn. It was so creepy and, best of all, the ghosts were real. That book, and a few others I discovered as I grew up, made me abandon the idea of becoming an astronaut (I hear you have to be good at math for that, anyway), and decide I really wanted to be a writer.

Q: You queried your debut novel as a science-fantasy. That's a term I'm hearing more and more of lately. How would you describe/characterize science-fantasy? How is it different from the individual genres of science fiction and fantasy?

Jodi: To be honest, this isn't a subgenre I'd considered until a couple of years ago when I wrote a manuscript with dragons, aliens, prophecy, and robotic faeries. That was the first time anyone said "science-fantasy" to me, and I'm still working out what it means. I suppose it would be too easy to say it's a blend of science fiction and fantasy elements. Or science fiction stories where the fantasy is also real. Besides, a lot of science fiction and fantasy elements are the same thing; the difference is in how you explain it. Teleportation can be magic, or it can be alien technology that disassembles you at the molecular level, then puts you back together on the other side. Shapeshifting can be magic, or it can be nanotechnology that rearranges all your bits. (As for what happens to the extra mass when you go from human to rabbit? Still a raging debate!) There are exceptions to every subgenre definition, and plenty of people to get huffy when they think someone is defining something incorrectly. I prefer not to get into arguments about it, so I let them believe what they want to believe. My personal definition would be science fiction + fantasy = true literary love. I like to have a wide definition, rather than try getting into specifics. As long as there are elements of both, if someone wants to call it science-fantasy, that's just fine with me.

Q: In your opinion, what are some great examples of science-fantasy novels out in the bookstores now (regardless if they are shelved as sci-fi or fantasy)? What shining characteristics in those specific novels really made them science-fantasy in your eyes?

Jodi: Oh goodness. I'm not going to be good at this one. I actually had to recruit outside help for this question. Embarrassingly, I haven't read most of these, so I can't comment on specifics, but these are the novels mentioned when I asked a well-read team of writers. ALL THE WINDWRACKED STARS, by Elizabeth Bear The Pern series, by Anne McCaffrey WHO FEARS DEATH, by Nnedi Okorafor THE IRON DRAGON'S DAUGHTER and DRAGONS OF BABEL, by Michael Swanwick The Darkover series, by Marion Zimmer Bradley LORD VALENTINE'S CASTLE, by Robert Silverberg THE GUNSLINGER, by Stephen King Obviously, these are all going on my to-read shelf immediately. And while it's not a novel -- though there are novel tie-ins -- I think STAR WARS is pretty science-fantasy. Spaceships, aliens...and the Force. If the Force isn't magic, I don't know what is.

Q: Where would you like to see the literary parameters of science-fantasy go from here?

Jodi: I just want to see more of it, period. It's fun. There's so much you can do with it, and I'd love to see where other authors' imaginations take them when they realize it's okay to have pegasi surfing the internet.

Q: I know what book I'm going to be standing in line for. Yours! Congratulations on your recent publishing deal for THE NEWSOUL TRILOGY! That is so exciting! Can you tell us more about the books?

Jodi: Thanks! I'm beyond thrilled, and I still can't get over how many people are looking forward to reading it! The pitch we used for Publishers Marketplace is this: About the only girl who is new in a world where everyone is perpetually reincarnated, and her quest to discover why she was born, and what happened to the person she replaced. While that's certainly accurate, we were trying to fit a ton of worldbuilding into just a few words. We didn't have room to mention the science-fantasy: mysteriously glowing temples, altered memories, computerized sylph traps, and gasses that cause the two aspects of centaurs to come apart. Erin is born into this society of extremely old people. Everyone else has been reincarnated dozens of times. Since they remember all their past lives, they have the advantage of learning from mistakes, even the ones that kill them. (What is that BUFFY quote? "Those who fail History [class] are doomed to repeat it in summer school.") For THE NEWSOUL TRILOGY, I imagined people who could take multiple lifetimes to study the genetics of roses, and a world where capital punishment was pointless. Most of all, I imagined what it would like to be new in this society.

Q: From the author's perspective, how is writing YA science-fantasy different from writing other YA books (i.e. urban fantasy, high fantasy)? Any unique and/or difficult/challenging aspects?

Jodi: I didn't set out to write a science-fantasy. As with all my projects, stories, worlds, and characters come fully formed. In ON WRITING, Stephen King compared writing to archaeology. Paraphrasing badly, the story is all one piece, and you must unearth it without destroying it in the process. You learn more about it as you go, but just because you can't see it yet doesn't mean it's not there. This really resonated with me. So ERIN INCARNATE just was a science-fantasy. Writing it was like writing any other story for me, except that characters discussed how they invented laser pistols to deal with dragons. While I tried to let the worldbuilding be background to characters, I did run into problems early on. People reading the first chapter immediately assumed it was a standard secondworld fantasy. They saw centaurs and sylph. When Erin pulled out a flashlight -- chaos! In that respect, it was quite a challenge to ease people into the idea that both centaurs and flashlights could exist in the same world, let alone the same paragraph.

Q: Any non-top-secret writing-in-projects (WIPs) in science-fantasy you want to share with us? (Of course you're more than welcome to share your top-secret ones too!).

Jodi: *grin* You're shameless! But yes, as I mentioned in an earlier answer, I do have another science-fantasy called THE LOYAL SWORD, which I wrote a few years ago and I'm now considering turning it in to a YA. There are dragons and giants, spooky magic forests, and aliens whose secret base is guarded by robotic faeries. It's part of a longer series where the science fiction aspects get bigger and more apparent. I'd love to finish writing it one day.

Q: Randomly, random...the random tidbits interviewees share always goes far beyond anything I could dream up as an interviewer. So, what utterly random thoughts do you want to share to finish up this interview?

Jodi: Things on my desk: a knitting pattern book, half a knit tank top, a scarf in progress, socks in progress, bottle of water, two jars of spindles, box of graham crackers, three kinds of ferret treats, paper towels, fake flowers (the other kind just die), a spindle project in progress, CATCHING FIRE (Suzanne Collins), a small stuffed bear with a top hat and cape and mask, my Red Sox hat, and a coffee mug that says "Reincarnate", which a friend gave to me in honor of ERIN INCARNATE.

Thank you so much, Jodi! To gain more mana'o from Jodi, you can visit her blog, in which, she graces readers and authors with query writing help, her thoughts on books (even ones not yet published...something she likes to remind me of in Goodreads *grin*), and lots of other fun stuff.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW...and don't know

"Write what you know."

We hear that common adage a lot and while I think it is such great advice for students and authors alike, I find myself wondering: but what if what you know is not the story you want to write? What if your life is actually the stuff other people's imagined stories are made of and all you used to dream of when your life hit those heart-wrenching parts of the "arc" was...the anti-life?

Been there. Writing that.

Those of you who have stood beside me through some of the hardest times in my life know. But only some of it. Honestly, telling people was as hard as writing about it. I couldn't bear (and bare) telling any one person all of the stories of my life. But, I couldn't not tell it either. My advice to friends going through tough times used to include the occasional eyebrow quirking comment that sounded a little too-knowledgeable, my journals used to have a hidden back story that hinted at baggage, and my short stories had an "underlying message" that used to peg it as mine in my fiction writing classes. All of it a little angry.

And I had the right to be angry. Parts of my life were awful. So what did I do? I started writing stories that made me feel better.

Escapist stories--they aren't just for the reader.

But even as I put pen to paper now, many years after those life stories I used to "escape" from through writing, I still find that I can't not tell those stories of my life. They're in there. I haven't escaped them. While the novel I write might not be the tear-jerking novels out there that sound remarkably like my actual life, it doesn't mean I'm not in there or that I'm not writing what I know. Trust me, when I was going through those tough times in my life, the anti-life was what I knew...where I would go...why I'm still here.

So when I hear, "You should write a novel about all the stuff you endured in your life," my reply is that I can write one filled with all the things I didn't have and still be telling my story. My escapist stories still have my life in it, just with a twist, and always with the telltale things that peg it as an anti-life original.
  • Strong heroines that kick-ass because I couldn't fight back? --> Check!
  • Bullies and abusers getting their just rewards? --> Double-check!
  • Different kinds of "brilliant" characters, even the streetsmart-got-crappy-grades-until-I-4.0'd-all-through-college-to-get-the-PhD-that-shocked-everyone sort? --> Check! (With a hell-yeah)
  • Happier endings to different chapters than I had myself? --> Resounding Check!
And the list goes on.

Yes, I could write the super angsty stories that I teach in my adolescent literature courses or the beautiful novels I cry through in one sitting without coming up for air, but honestly, the writer in me still remembers the writer I used to be--the girl who dreamed up the wondrous stories unlike what was going on in her life.

That was what I knew as a writer then. That is what I write as an aspiring author now.

And believe me, escapist stories can get mighty good when the author really had some escaping to do.

Now, there are those that say: "But you went through so much, don't you want others to learn from your story? Don't you want to talk about how you got through? What about all those who helped you?"

Three questions with three very different answers.

1) Sure I do, and they can still learn even if my stories are happier than my life had been. Truly. Just as my life is always there in my writing, as a reader, your lives and perceptions will be too. You will take away from a story exactly what is in you to take away from it. This is why one of my best friends found himself inexplicably choked up through Jersey Girl (Kevin Smith's one).

2) No. Maybe. Waaait, I think I do. Hmmm...I'll get back to you on that after you read my stuff. If you really don't see the triumph of "getting through," I'll sit with you and tell you my life story.

3) Ahhh, now that last one gets my tears going. It would be an outright lie to say my novels didn't pay homage to every one of those people who extended their hand to help me up when I was curled on the ground, who were my wall to lean on when I couldn't stand on my own. Maybe they don't have a character and a name like in a memoir but know that each of them are as a part of my story--both in life and on paper--as I am. Where do you think I learned to have that hope you see in my novels and in life? (Believe me, being an aspiring writer is all about hope. *grin*)

Upon more reflection, that third question now has me thinking about the one thing that perhaps may be missing from my stories of anti-life. At least in the "real life" sense it deserves to be.

Well, the internet doesn't have blogs for nothing so here goes:

While you won't ever have your names in a memoir of surviving tough times...while you won't ever read one of my characters and see the exact part you played in my life...and while your actions may not be placed on that literary pedestal that they have every right to be on...
  • Those of you who were the first to break the cruelly issued "don't talk to that girl" rule, ending the six weeks of utterly friendless, wrist-slicing silence I went through at the start of my seventh grade year;
  • Those who were my silent rock through the abuse you knew about and even more so the abuse you knew to be there even though I'd never uttered the words;
  • Those of you who were there to pick up the pieces after I was raped;
  • Those who actually saw me truly scared when I first found out about my brain condition;
  • And finally, to that one person who, knowing more than all of these people combined, still chose me, giving me my first real happy ending to a chapter and the start of many others since...
Know that I do truly thank you.

You all are "what I know" also.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

YA books coming in 2011

Sorry for the wait! Here is the list I promised: Books that are scheduled to come out in 2011. I LOVE to get y'all excited about the wide variety of book topics/story arcs that's coming down the pipeline. The list is focused mostly on debut authors (isn't it crazy how many awesome things are coming out next year by first-time pubbed authors?!) but I did also include a few from non-debut authors--titles that are different from what they have out now. Lastly, I'm going to start putting in the names of authors who you definitely need to keep an eye out for. They're cool tweeple who've recently gotten their amazing novels accepted by publishers. Enjoy! *All book summaries are from*


XVI by Julia Karr (January 2011)
In the year 2150, being a girl isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially when your sixteenth (read sex-teenth) birthday is fast approaching. That in itself would be enough to make anyone more than a little nuts, what with the tattoo and all – but Nina Oberon’s life has taken a definite turn for the worse. Her mother is brutally stabbed and left for dead. Before dying, she entrusts a secret book to Nina, telling her to deliver it to Nina's father. But, first Nina has to find him; since for fifteen years he's been officially dead. Complications arise when she rescues Sal, a mysterious, and ultra hot guy. He seems to like Nina, but also seems to know more about her father than he’s letting on. Then there’s that murderous ex-government agent who’s stalking her, and just happens to be her little sister’s dad."

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand (January 2011)
In this first book of a thrilling trilogy about angels, one girl must choose between fulfilling her Purpose and following her heart. Clara has known she was part–angel ever since she turned fourteen two years ago. But now she is finally getting visions of what her Purpose—a rite of passage for every part–angel—is to be, and it happens to involve a gorgeous guy. Of course, there is the raging forest fire surrounding them, too. When Clara’s Purpose leads her family to Wyoming, Clara finds the boy of her visions, Christian, but complicating her mission are her growing feelings for another guy, Tucker. As the day in her visions draws closer, Clara discovers that her Purpose may play into a larger struggle between angels and Black Wings—fallen angels who spread sadness and misery wherever they go. But when the fire erupts and both Christian and Tucker are in danger, who will she choose to save? From debut novelist Cynthia Hand comes a riveting tale full of supernatural powers, forbidden romance, and the choice between fulfilling your destiny or following your heart.

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton (February 2011)
This debut, the first novel in a trilogy, is achingly romantic, terrifying, and filled with blistering action. When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers - monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell - she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul. A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie's powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her - an assassin who has already killed her once. While balancing her dwindling social life and reaper-hunting duties, she and Will discover Bastian is searching for a dormant creature believed to be a true soul reaper. Bastian plans to use this weapon to ignite the End of Days and to destroy Ellie's soul, ending her rebirth cycle forever. Now, she must face an army of Bastian's most frightening reapers, prevent the soul reaper from consuming her soul, and uncover the secrets of her past lives - including truths that may be too frightening to remember.

A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford (February 2011)
Eden didn’t expect Az. Not his saunter down the beach toward her. Not his unbelievable pick up line. Not the instant, undeniable connection. And not his wings. Yeah. So long happily-ever-after. Now trapped between life and death, cursed to spread chaos with her every touch, Eden could be the key in the eternal struggle between heaven and hell. All because she gave her heart to one of the Fallen, an angel cast out of heaven. She may lose everything she ever had. She may be betrayed by those she loves most. But Eden will not be a pawn in anyone else’s game. Her heart is her own. And that’s only the beginning of the end.

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Mouton (February 2011)
When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers - monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell - she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul. A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie's powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her - an assassin who has already killed her once. While balancing her dwindling social life and reaper-hunting duties, she and Will discover Bastian is searching for a dormant creature believed to be a true soul reaper. Bastian plans to use this weapon to ignite the End of Days and to destroy Ellie's soul, ending her rebirth cycle forever. Now, she must face an army of Bastian's most frightening reapers, prevent the soul reaper from consuming her soul, and uncover the secrets of her past lives - including truths that may be too frightening to remember.

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard (March 2011)
It's hard to find beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming. Fourteen-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it's not her mother's pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances and pickup trucks adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild girl Mandarin Ramey: seventeen, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin. When the two misfits are united for a project, they embark on an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town's animal-head trophies, and constantly searching for someplace magic. Grace even plays along when Mandarin suggests they make a pact to run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds that plague their badlands town. But all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin's unique beauty hides a girl who's troubled, broken and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, even the best friendships can't withstand betrayal.

Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris (2011)
Someone’s been a very bad zombie. Super-smartie Kate Grable gets to play doctor, helping out her high school football team. Not only will the experience look good on her college apps, she gets to be thisclose to her quarterback crush, Aaron. Then something disturbing happens. Kate finds out that the coach has given the team steroids. Except . . . the vials she finds don’t exactly contain steroids. Whatever’s in them is turning hot gridiron hunks into mindless, flesh-eating . . . zombies. Unless she finds an antidote, no one is safe. Not Aaron, not Kate’s brother, not her best friend . . . not even Kate . . . It’s scary. It’s twisted. It’s sick. It’s high school.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (March 2011)
In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother, and brother are pulled from their Lithuanian home by Soviet guards and sent to Siberia, where her father is sentenced to death in a prison camp while she fights for her life, vowing to honor her family and the thousands like hers by burying her story in a jar on Lithuanian soil. Based on the author’s family, includes a historical note.

Across The Universe by Beth Revis (March 2011)
In the novel, set in the near future, a teenager is cryogenically frozen only to thaw too soon, before arriving at the new planet that's her destination. Set to wake 300 years in the future, She rouses 50 years too early, still on a spaceship in transit, with a murderer on board.

Memento Nora by Angie Smibert (July 2011)
Nora, the popular girl and happy consumer, witnesses a horrific bombing on a shopping trip with her mother. In Nora’s near-future world, terrorism is so commonplace that she can pop one little white pill to forget and go on like nothing ever happened. However, when Nora makes her first trip to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic, she learns what her mother, a frequent forgetter, has been frequently forgetting. Nora secretly spits out the pill and holds on to her memories. The memory of the bombing as well as her mother’s secret and her budding awareness of the world outside her little clique make it increasingly difficult for Nora to cope. She turns to two new friends, each with their own reasons to remember, and together they share their experiences with their classmates through an underground comic. They soon learn, though, they can’t get away with remembering.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab (August 2011)
There’s an old ghost story in the town of Near. It tells of a Witch that lived on the edge of the village, and gobbled up all the darkness, and sang the hills to sleep, and loved the children almost as much as the garden she kept beside her house. Sixteen-year-old Lexi Harris has heard the stories her entire life, first from her father, and then from old Magda and Dreska Thorne, the two Witches who live on the edge of Near. Everyone loves to tell the story, but everyone knows a different ending. Some say that the Near Witch blew away on a gust of wind. Others tell of darker things. To Lexi, they’ve always been stories, nothing more. But when a strange and silent boy walks into the village of Near, and then the wind begins to lure children from their beds at night, she starts to wonder if there’s any truth in the tales. Why are the children vanishing? Who is the newcomer? And could the Near Witch be more than a ghost story?

Jessica Rothenberg's The Catastrophic History of You and Me (2011)
A 15-year-old girl who literally dies of a broken heart must pass through five stages of grief before she can move on to the afterlife...and restore her faith in love. Pitched as The Lovely Bones meets Forever.

Skin and Bones by Dawn Metcalf (Spring 2011)
When sixteen-year old Consuela Bones discovers she can remove her skin, revealing a lustrous mother-of-pearl skeleton, she slips into a parallel world known as the Flow; a place inhabited by archetypical teens with extraordinary abilities. Crafting skins out of anything – air, water, feathers, fire – she is compelled to save ordinary people from dying before their time. Yet now someone is murdering them, one by one, and Consuela finds herself the focus of an intricate plot to end the Flow forever when all she really wants is to get back home, alive.

The Shadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knutsson (2011)
Two hundred years from now, the great cities of the west coast of the United Americas are under water. Blood has become the most valuable commodity on the planet – especially the blood of aboriginal peoples, for it contains antigens that protect them from the plagues that ravage the rest of the world. Sixteen year old Cassandra Mecredi might be aboriginal by blood, but without a totem animal, she cannot make sense of her visions or walk the paths of the spirit world. When her family is forced to leave their reservation, they flee east to the Island: a mysterious and idyllic territory free from the depredations of industry and sickness and under the control of the Band, a group of guerrilla warriors. There, Cassandra will become the apprentice to a wise woman, fall in love, and find her destiny when the creatures of spirit claim her as their own. For the spirit world is angry... and they have chosen Cassandra to be their voice and instrument.

The Revenant by Sonia Gensler (2011)
Seventeen-year-old Willemina Hammond thinks it'll be simple to assume a new identity far away in Indian Territory. Anything would be better than laboring on her mother's failing farm in Tennessee. "Borrowing" the credentials of a local schoolteacher, she secures a position at the Cherokee Female Seminary and eagerly sets out toward an easier life in the summer of 1896. But the Seminary is not what Willie expected. It's more like a castle than a school, and it houses refined young ladies who couldn't be less like the rustic natives she imagined. Divided by prejudice, the school community still reels from the recent murder of a mixed-blood student by a spurned full-blood suitor. Spooky noises, cold spots, and violent accidents have convinced the students that the dead girl haunts them. All this makes for an uphill battle as Willie struggles to establish control over her high-strung pupils. To make matters worse, the ghost seems to be reaching out to her, and its communications are growing more frequent and intense. Willie determines to learn more about the girl's death, thinking it the only way to quiet the angry spirit. But the more she learns, the more difficult it is to maintain her secret identity. And the closer she gets to unraveling the secrets behind the murder, the closer she is to becoming a victim herself.

Dearly Departed by Lia Habel (2011)
As far as romantic pairings go in the year 2195, you don't get much more unlikely than an upper-class schoolgirl and a poor miner from enemy tribes. Filter in the fact that he's a zombie, and you're definitely talking about star-crossed love. Dearly, Departed is a cyber-Victorian/steampunk romance that takes place in the shadow of a new ice age. Nora Dearly, a mouthy teenage girl and apparent orphan, leaves school for Christmas - only to be dragged into the night by the living dead. Luckily for her, though, the good ones got to her first. From her reanimated rescuers she learns not only that zombies are roaming the countryside, but that her father is one - and that he's in terrible trouble. She also meets Captain Bram Griswold, a noble, strong, and rather sweet undead boy for whom she starts to fall. Meanwhile, her best friend, Pamela Roe, is just trying to carry on with life as best she can in the wake of Nora's disappearance - when she ends up killing an evil zombie in self-defense. Pam is galvanized into action, and ends up leading a group of survivors as the city of New London is thronged by the ravenous dead. Upon hearing of Pamela's plight, Nora and Bram set out to rescue her friends, find her missing father, and maybe just save what's left of the world.

The Bestest Ramadan Ever by Medeia Shariff (2011)
Almira Abdul, a Middle Eastern mutt of Syrian and Iranian origins, is fifteen going on sixteen and she’s fasting for Ramadan for the first time ever. Coinciding with the holy month is her first major crush with a boy named Peter, whom her best friend Lisa also is in love with. She also has a new enemy at school, catty Shakira Malik, a fellow Muslim who trades barbs with everyone. Her dentist father also proclaims that she needs braces. Along with the hectic month her grandfather, who knocks down mailboxes and garbage cans when parking, is teaching her how to drive in his tank-like car. The conflicts of having a continuously growling stomach, getting her driver’s license, repelling Shakira, and trying to win Peter prove how challenging the month of Ramadan is for Almira. BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. is an honest and humorous look at Almira’s life, her quest to fit in, and how her parents and old-fashioned grandfather clash in their generational differences.

Control Issues by Elana Johnson (2011)
In a world where Thinkers control the population and Rules aren't meant to be broken, fifteen-year-old Violet Schoenfeld does a hell of a job shattering them to pieces. When secrets about her "dead" sister and not-so-missing father hit the fan, Vi must make a choice: control or be controlled.

The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet (2011)
All Maya really wants is for her mother to be well again. But when her baby brother James goes missing, 13-year-old Maya has to take on the magical underworld of Paris, in which houses have bronze salamanders for door handles, the most beautiful people are all hooked on the sweet-smelling “anbar,” and a shimmering glass Cabinet of Earths has chosen Maya to be its next keeper. With the Cabinet’s help, Maya may be able to do for her mother what doctors cannot: save her from death, once and for all. But now that the clock is ticking for James, the price the Cabinet demands may be too high.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (2011)
"My name is not Mara Dyer, but my lawyer told me I had to choose something. A pseudonym. A nom de plume, for all of us studying for the SATs. I know that having a fake name is strange but trust me, it's the most normal thing about my life right now. Even telling you this much isn't good for my case. But without my big mouth, no one would know that a seventeen-year-old who likes Death Cab for Cutie was responsible for the murders. No one would know that somewhere out there is a B student with a body count. And it's important that you know, so you're not next."


The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher (January 2011)
Welcome to a future where water is more precious than gold or oil-and worth killing for Vera and her brother Will live in the shadow of the Great Panic, in a country that has collapsed from environmental catastrophe. Water is hoarded by governments, rivers are dammed, and clouds are sucked from the sky. But then Vera befriends Kai, who seems to have limitless access to fresh water. When Kai suddenly disappears, Vera and Will set off on a dangerous journey in search of him-pursued by pirates, a paramilitary group, and greedy corporations. Timely and eerily familiar, acclaimed author Cameron Stracher makes a stunning YA debut that's impossible to forget.

The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge (February 2011)
A series set in a Lovecraftian industrial city in an alternate 1950s that centers on a mechanically gifted young girl approaching her 16th birthday, the age at which everyone in her family goes insane, leaving it up to her to unravel the mystery of their madness--and save the world. It is 1955...but not the 1955 you know. The Witchcraft Scare polarizes America. Magic is outlawed and practitioners are burned. And one girls has discovered that magic is neither fiction nor fairy tale, but very much alive... Aoife Grayson is a month shy of sixteen, the age when everyone in her family goes mad. An orphan in the steam-powered city of Lovecraft, Massachusetts, Aoife escapes the confines of her repressive boarding school and along with her best friend Sam and outlaw guide Dean, sets out to discover the secret of her family's madness. What she discovers is a world of forbidden magic and faerie curses, and a dark secret that has shadowed the Grayson family for generations. Aoife must choose between keeping the secret or keeping her sanity, and unravel the dark machinations of the Winter Court of the Fae before it's too late to save her city...or herself.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (February 2011)
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that one love -the deliria- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy. But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

I am J by Cris Beam (March 2011)
"Hola, Jeni." J spun. His stomach clenched hard, as though he'd been hit. It was just the neighbor lady, Mercedes. J couldn't muster a hello back, not now; he didn't care that she'd tell his mom he'd been rude. She should know better. Nobody calls me Jeni anymore. J always felt different. He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was: a boy mistakenly born as a girl. Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually J stopped praying to wake up a "real boy" and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible - from his family, from his friends...from the world. But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he's done hiding - it's time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost. An inspiring story of self-discovery, of choosing to stand up for yourself, and of finding your own path - readers will recognize a part of themselves in J's struggle to love his true self.

Medusa Girls by Tera Lynn Childs (2011)
New series, in which triplet descendants of Medusa learn they are destined to guard the door between the world of monsters and the world of men – pitched as a mythological Charmed.

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (2011)
A dystopian middle-grade fantasy novel about kids who are exiled from their homeland when they display signs of creativity to a hidden world where they are trained to use their abilities and hone their magical skills.

Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore (2011)
For as long as Esmerine can remember, she has longed to join her sister as a siren, the highest calling a mermaid can have. But when her sister runs away to the mainland, reportedly to elope with a human, Esmerine is sent to retrieve her. Using magic to transform her tail into legs, she makes her way unsteadily through the streets of New Sweeling. There, she will come upon a friend she hasn't seen since childhood - Alandare, a boy, now a man, who belongs to a winged race of people. Together, Esmerine and Alandare put aside their differences to find her sister, and in the process discover a love that cannot be bound by land, sea, or air.

Something Like Hope by Shawn Goodman (2011)
Shavonne is a fierce and desperate seventeen year-old who finds herself in a large juvenile lockup hundreds of miles from home. She wants to turn her life around before she turns eighteen, but her problems seem too big, and time is running out. Amidst corrupt guards, out-of-control girls, and shadows from her past, Shanvonne must find the courage to fight for a redemption she’s not sure she deserves.

Jodi Meadows
Kathleen Peacock
Michelle Hodkin -- just got bk summary -->moved her up there ^
Veronica Roth
Gretchen McNeil
Beth Revis
Rae Carson

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New & Noteworthy YA / MG Novels

Aloha all! It has been crazy busy. But, never too busy for reading, of course. (=

As promised, here are some
new and noteworthy middle grade (MG) and young adult (YA) novels. I've gathered them from teens, teachers, agents, and authors. Wildly varied to incorporate different student interests, the resulting list turned out to be wonderfully random. Enjoy! *All book summaries are from or*

In order of release date. (
The oldest is a year old and the newest will be released in a few months.)

When You Reach Me (July 2009) by Rebecca Stead
Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever. By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner. But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper: I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own. I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.

Heavenly (August 2009) by Jennifer Laurens
I met someone who changed everything. Matthias. My autistic sister's guardian angel. Honest. Inspiring. Funny. Hot. And immortal. That was the problem. What could I do? I did what any other girl would do-I fell in love with him. Zoe's sister darts in front of cars. Her brother's a pothead. Her parents are so overwhelmed; they don't see Zoe lost in her broken life. Zoe escapes the only way she knows how: partying. Matthias, a guardian sent from Heaven, watches over Zoe's autistic sister. After Zoe is convinced he's legit, angel and lost girl come together in a love that changes destiny. But Heaven on Earth can't last forever.

The Everafter (September 2009) by Amy Huntley
Madison Stanton doesn't know where she is or how she got there. But she does know this--she is dead. And alone, in a vast, dark space. The only company she has in this place are luminescent objects that turn out to be all the things Maddy lost while she was alive. And soon she discovers that with these artifacts, she can re-experience--and sometimes even change--moments from her life. Her first kiss. A trip to Disney World. Her sister's wedding. A disastrous sleepover. In reliving these moments, Maddy learns illuminating and sometimes frightening truths about her life--and death.

We Were Here (October 2009) by Matt De La Pena
Miguel was sent to Juvi. The judge gave him a year in a group home - said he had to write a journal so some counselor could try to figure out how he thinks. The judge had no idea that he actually did Miguel a favor. Ever since it happened, his mom can't even look him in the face. Any home besides his would be a better place to live. But Miguel didn't bet on meeting Dondell or Mong or any of what happened after they broke out. He only thought about Mexico and and getting to the border where he could start over. Forget his mom. Forget his brother. Forget himself. Life usually doesn't work out how you think it will, though. And most of the time, running away is the quickest path right back to what you're running from. From the streets of Stockton to the beaches of Venice, all the way down to the Mexican border, We Were Here follows a journey of self-discovery by a boy who is trying to forgive himself in an unforgiving world.

The Maze Runner (October 2009) by James Dashner
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls. Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift. Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

Flash Burnout (October 2009) by L.K. Madigan
Fifteen-year-old Blake has a girlfriend and a friend who’s a girl. One of them loves him; the other one needs him. When he snapped a picture of a street person for his photography homework, Blake never dreamed that the woman in the photo was his friend Marissa’s long-lost meth addicted mom. Blake’s participation in the ensuing drama opens up a world of trouble, both for him and for Marissa. He spends the next few months trying to reconcile the conflicting roles of Boyfriend and Friend. His experiences range from the comic (surviving his dad’s birth control talk) to the tragic (a harrowing after-hours visit to the morgue). In a tangle of life and death, love and loyalty, Blake will emerge with a more sharply defined snapshot of himself.

Cosmic (January 2010) by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Liam has always felt a bit like he’s stuck between two worlds. This is primarily because he’s a twelve-year-old kid who looks like he’s about thirty. Sometimes it’s not so bad, like when his new principal mistakes him for a teacher on the first day of school or when he convinces a car dealer to let him take a Porsche out on a test drive. But mostly it’s just frustrating, being a kid trapped in an adult world. And so he decides to flip things around. Liam cons his way onto the first spaceship to take civilians into space, a special flight for a group of kids and an adult chaperone, and he is going as the adult chaperone. It’s not long before Liam, along with his friends, is stuck between two worlds again—only this time he’s 239,000 miles from home.

The Fire Stone (January 2010) by Riley Carney
Sixteen-year-old novelist Riley Carney works magic in this high fantasy adventure story brought to life by memorable, vibrant characters. The Fire Stone, the first book in the captivating Reign of the Elements series, is rooted in genuine adolescent thought and emotion throughout a journey of danger, friendship, and courage, as a group of teenagers, led by fifteen-year-old Matt, attempt to save their world. Matt knows how to shovel hay, dig trenches, and dodge his father’s whip, but when three terrifying creatures attack Matt, and he is rescued by a wizard, he kidnaps a baby alorath, and is befriended by elves, Matt’s life transforms overnight from dreary to astonishing. When he unwittingly joins a quest to find the Fire Stone, one of the elusive Stones of the Elements which have the power to destroy the world, Matt is thrust into a string of perilous adventures. He soon discovers that magic does exist and that he has extraordinary powers that can change his destiny and determine the fate of Mundaria.

One Crazy Summer (January 2010) by Rita Williams-garcia
Eleven-year-old Delphine has only a few fragmented memories of her mother, Cecile, a poet who wrote verses on walls and cereal boxes, played smoky jazz records, and abandoned the family in Brooklyn after giving birth to her third daughter. In the summer of 1968, Delphine’s father decides that seeing Cecile is “something whose time had come,” and Delphine boards a plane with her sisters to Cecile’s home in Oakland. What they find there is far from their California dreams of Disneyland and movie stars. “No one told y’all to come out here,” Cecile says. “No one wants you out here making a mess, stopping my work.” Like the rest of her life, Cecile’s work is a mystery conducted behind the doors of the kitchen that she forbids her daughters to enter. For meals, Cecile sends the girls to a Chinese restaurant or to the local, Black Panther–run community center, where Cecile is known as Sister Inzilla and where the girls begin to attend youth programs.

Chains (January 2010) by Laurie Halse Anderson
Set in New York City at the beginning of the American Revolution, Chains addresses the price of freedom both for a nation and for individuals. Isabel tells the story of her life as a slave. She was sold with her five-year-old sister to a cruel Loyalist family even though the girls were to be free upon the death of their former owner. She has hopes of finding a way to freedom and becomes a spy for the rebels, but soon realizes that it is difficult to trust anyone. She chooses to find someone to help her no matter which side he or she is on. With short chapters, each beginning with a historical quote, this fast-paced novel reveals the heartache and struggles of a country and slave fighting for freedom. The characters are well developed, and the situations are realistic. An author's note gives insight into issues surrounding the Revolutionary War and the fight for the nation's freedom even though 20 percent of its people were in chains.

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet (January 2010) by Erin Dionne
Hamlet Kennedy just wants to be your average, happy, vanilla eighth grader. But with Shakespearean scholar parents who dress in Elizabethan regalia and generally go about in public as if it were the sixteenth century, that’s not terribly easy. It gets worse when they decide that Hamlet’s genius sevenyear- old sister will attend middle school with her— and even worse when the Shakespeare project is announced and her sister is named the new math tutor. By the time an in-class recitation reveals that our heroine is an extraordinary Shakespearean actress, Hamlet can no longer hide from the fact that she—like her family—is anything but average.

Finnikin of the Rock (February 2010) by Melina Marchetta
Finnikin, son of the head of the King's Guard, has been in exile for a decade, after the violent takeover of his birthplace, Lumatere, by a usurper, followed by a curse by a priestess that has effectively shut the kingdom off from the outside world. He meets a mysterious young woman, Evanjalin, who claims that Finnikin's friend Balthazar, heir to the throne, is alive, and sets in motion a complex and stirring series of events that lead Finnikin to confront his destiny. Evanjalin uses her ability to "walk the sleep" of others, or share in their dreams, as well as her own boldness and sense of purpose, to push events to a climax so that Lumatere can be freed. This is fantasy grounded in a kind of realism seldom seen in the genre. A large cast of unforgettable characters inhabits it, from Finnikin and Evanjalin with their absorbing and intensely emotional relationship, to Froi, a young thief, to the small girl who is Evanjalin's companion as she "walks the sleep."

Dirty Little Secrets (February 2010) by C.J. Omolulu
Everyone has a secret. But Lucy’s is bigger and dirtier than most. It’s one she’s been hiding for years—that her mom’s out-of-control hoarding has turned their lives into a world of garbage and shame. She’s managed to keep her home life hidden from her best friend and her crush, knowing they’d be disgusted by the truth. So, when her mom dies suddenly in their home, Lucy hesitates to call 911 because revealing their way of life would make her future unbearable—and she begins her two-day plan to set her life right. With details that are as fascinating as they are disturbing, C. J. Omololu weaves an hour-by-hour account of Lucy’s desperate attempt at normalcy. Her fear and isolation are palpable as readers are pulled down a path from which there is no return, and the impact of hoarding on one teen’s life will have readers completely hooked.

Before I Fall (March 2010) by Lauren Oliver
What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life? Samantha Kingston has it all: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last. Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Split (March 2010) by Swati Avasthi
16-year-old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father's fist), $3.84, and a secret. It is about what happens after. After you've said enough, after you've run, after you've made the split - how do you begin to live again?

Birthmarked (March 2010) by Caragh M. O'Brien
It’s been 300 years since Lake Michigan became Unlake Michigan; the “cool age” is only hazily known to residents of Wharfton, a small village that sits alongside the walled city of the Enclave. Gaia is 16 and works in Western Sector Three with her mother delivering babies, “advancing” the first three per month to live a better life inside the city. It’s a wrenching routine Gaia doesn’t question until her parents are mysteriously arrested by Enclave authorities. Gaia’s rescue attempt is fraught with peril—the burn scar on her face marks her as a “freak” who would never be allowed into the Enclave’s exclusive gene pool—and soon she herself is tossed into a cell with other female physicians.

If I Stay (April 2010) by Gayle Forman
“Just listen,” Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel. I open my eyes wide now. I sit up as much as I can. And I listen. “Stay,” he says. Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones. Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her friends and family behind? Then, one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it’s the only that matters. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the one decision she has left—the most important decision she’ll ever make.

Secret Speakers and the Search for Selador's Gate (April 2010) by K.S.R. Kingsworth
Fair O’Nelli is a normal girl, except for one small fact: She has spent the last nine years of her life living in a cellar with her loyal dog, studying the Scrolls of Truth by mysterious finger light, educated by her mother in the dark of night to avoid being discovered. She knows that her father and brother are missing or possibly dead. Fair is set free on the day she comes of age, when it’s safe for her to be seen. While on the grassy path to find Selador’s Gate in the company of three guardians, little does Fair know she’s about to end up in the middle of a dark secret the parents of Cloven Grave know nothing about, where the key to survival is learning to see things as they are.

Ten Things I Hate About Me (May 2010) by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Lebanese-Australian Jamilah has two lives. At school she is blond-haired, blue-eyed (thanks to contact lenses) Jamie. At home she is Jamilah, a rebellious, but dutiful, daughter of a strict, widowed father. She keeps both her Muslim and Lebanese identities a secret at her high school because the most popular students make fun of anyone who is even vaguely "ethnic." The warm, nurturing nature of her home life (even with its limitations) is often contrasted to the cold environment in the homes of some of her friends. Not surprisingly, over the course of the book, her perspective changes. By the end, Jamilah decides to be herself in a very public and satisfying way.

Red Hood's Revenge (July 2010) by Jim C Hines
The third of Hines's reimagined princess tales (after The Stepsister Scheme and The Mermaid's Madness) transcends its predecessors with exciting combat scenes and emotionally complex characters. Warrior princess Talia (Sleeping Beauty) killed the prince who raped her while she slept, and then fled the desert land of Arathea. When the prince's mother sends infamous shape-shifting assassin Roudette (Red Riding Hood) after her, Roudette, Talia, and fellow princess-adventurers Danielle (Cinderella) and Snow (Snow White) make an uncomfortable alliance against the real enemies: the capricious fairy powers who have kept Arathea under their control for over a hundred years. Far more than a modernized retelling, Hines's work is a real synthesis of cultural tropes into a unique world that is worth visiting again and again.

Bamboo People (July 2010) by Mitali Perkins
Well-educated American boys from privileged families have abundant options for college and career. For Chiko, their Burmese counterpart, there are no good choices. There is never enough to eat, and his family lives in constant fear of the military regime that has imprisoned Chiko s physician father. Soon Chiko is commandeered by the army, trained to hunt down members of the Karenni ethnic minority. Tai, another "recruit," uses his streetwise survival skills to help them both survive. Meanwhile, Tu Reh, a Karenni youth whose village was torched by the Burmese Army, has been chosen for his first military mission in his people s resistance movement. How the boys meet and what comes of it is the crux of this multi-voiced novel. While Perkins doesn t sugarcoat her subject coming of age in a brutal, fascistic society this is a gentle story with a lot of heart, suitable for younger readers than the subject matter might suggest. It answers the question, "What is it like to be a child soldier?" clearly, but with hope.

I Am Number Four (August 2010) by: Pittacus Lore
Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books—but we are real. Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. we have lived among you without you knowing. But they know. They caught Number One in Malaysia. Number Two in England. And Number Three in Kenya. They killed them all. I am Number Four. I am next.

Halo (August 2010) by Alexandra Adornetto
Nothing much happens in the sleepy town of Venus Cove. But everything changes when three angels are sent from heaven to protect the town against the gathering forces of darkness: Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, a teenage girl who is the least experienced of the trio. They work hard to conceal their true identity and, most of all, their wings. But the mission is threatened when the youngest angel, Bethany, is sent to high school and falls in love with the handsome school captain, Xavier Woods. Will she defy the laws of Heaven by loving him? Things come to a head when the angels realize they are not the only supernatural power in Venus Cove. There′s a new kid in town and he′s charming, seductive and deadly. Worst of all, he′s after Beth.

DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend (September 2010) by Kody Keplinger
Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face. But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley. Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Plain Kate (September 2010) by Erin Bow
In a market town by a looping river there lived an orphan girl called Plain Kate … Kate’s is a colorful world of brokenhearted magicians, wandering gypsy clans, carved charms and stolen shadows. It’s a dark world of ghosts, fog and questions. It’s a dangerous world of witch burnings, persecution and plague. Her story is a coming-of-age story, a story about family and belonging, trust and betrayal, bravery and sacrifice, death and what lies beyond. Also, there’s a talking cat in it.

The Replacement (September 2010) by Brenna Yovanoff
Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world. Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs. Edward Scissorhands meets The Catcher in the Rye in this wildly imaginative and frighteningly beautiful horror novel about an unusual boy and his search for a place to belong.

I know these are a little older but they're still pretty fab...

Jellicoe Road (September 2008) by Melina Marchetta
For years, three factions—Townies, Cadets (city kids doing a six-week outdoor education program), and Jellicoe School students—have engaged in teen war games in the Australian countryside, defending territorial borders, negotiating for assets, and even taking hostages. Taylor Markham, a 17-year-old who was abandoned years ago by her mother, takes on leadership of the boarding school's six Houses. Plagued with doubts about being boss, she's not sure she can handle her Cadet counterpart, Jonah Griggs, whom she met several years before while running away to find her mother. When Hannah, a sort of house mother who has taken Taylor under her wing, disappears, Taylor puzzles over the book manuscript the woman left behind. Hannah's tale involves a tragic car accident on the Jellicoe Road more than 20 years earlier. Only three children survived, and Taylor discovers that this trio, plus a Cadet and a Townie, developed an epic friendship that was the foundation of the many mysteries in her life and identity, as well as of the war games.

The Magic Thief (April 2009) by Sarah Prineas
Young Conn opens the first volume of this new trilogy, noting “A thief is a lot like a wizard.” Conn is a thief but, through desire and inevitability, becomes a wizard by book’s end. This evolution begins when Conn picks the pocket of the wizard Nevery, who is startled that the nicked magical stone didn’t kill the boy. Nevery takes on Conn as a servant, but the boy’s inquisitiveness and talents move him to apprentice status. Nevery has recently returned to Willmet to save the city-state, which is faltering as its magic seeps away. As Conn becomes more enmeshed in his new life, he navigates through the intricate dealings of both the wizarding world and the political machinations of the Underlord.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Archetypes in YA Lit

Archetypes. Ooh, one of my favorite things to teach as a teacher and read as a reader. First, what's an archetype? The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines it as: "the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies." It's the prototype of humanity, if you will...certainly the foundational molds in which our favorite characters and stories in literature arise. In the world of psychology, an archetype is thought of to be the patterns of a person's behavior or personality. In this Wikipedia entry, noted psychiatrist, Carl Jung, defines archetypes as the "innate universal dispositions that form the substrate from which the basic themes of human life emerge ... which seek fulfillment in action. These may include being parented, initiation, courtship, [etc.] ... common to all humanity, upon the foundation of which each individual builds his own experience of life."

See why I think they're so important?

One of the most interesting people I know taught me a lot about archetypes. He is the husband of one of my valued mentors, half of the renowned Nilsen and Nilsen genius couple who has been a long time teacher to so many of us in the field of adolescent literature, language studies, and humor studies. In his graduate class, he showed us the paths to go from a story's character to the archetype behind it, a story's major plot element to the archetype behind it. I truly believe that stories are meaningful because they contain archetypes and archetypes are meaningful because they are a part of a story.

I would go so far as to say, look at a story, any story. Betcha I can find a ton of archetypes!

Does this mean that all stories are just cookie cut outs of past stories? No. Plus, there are a whole bunch of new archetypes coming into our world and our literature every day (i.e. the hacker, the goth, the muggle, etc.).

So let's look at a few archetypes:

Situation: Birth/Death/Rebirth, The Journey/Quest, The Rite of Passage Initiation

Characters: The Outcast, The Trickster, The Hero, Star-crossed lovers, The Prophet

Symbols: Colors (i.e. black/white), Nature (i.e. trees), Animals (i.e. snake), The Elements (i.e. fire, water, wind), etc.

This document link has pages of more great examples of archetypes.
This powerpoint is also awesome.

All that said, where are these archetypes in our favorite YA novels, you ask? Well, lucky for you, I ask my students that very same question every year. And here are their answers:

Laurie Halse Anderson, Twisted

Character Archetypes
  • Hero (Tyler)
  • Platonic Ideal (Bethany)
  • Outcast (Tyler)
  • Temptress (Bethany)
Situational Archetypes
  • Death and Rebirth (The ascent to the roof and almost dying)
  • Journey (the road to acknowledging what you want in life and standing up against opposition)
  • Transcendence (Tyler becoming an adult)
  • Father/Son Conflict (Tyler's relationship with abusive dad)
  • Tree (strength and stamina to plant tree)
  • Water (drowning in awful situations)
  • Gun (Tyler trying to kill himself)
  • Trinity (Tyler, Hannah, and yoda)
  • Fall (Tyler returning to school transformed)

Sarah Dessen, Keeping the Moon

Character Archetypes
  • The outcast/former fat girl (Colie)
  • The innocent/young person from the small town (Colie)
  • The earth mother (Aunt Mira)
Situational Archetypes
  • Rite of passage (blossoming through adolescence)
  • Quest (finding oneself)
  • Transcendence (Colie realzing she's no better than her harrassers)
  • Rebirth (Colie shedding her old skin)
  • Journey (Colie's trip to Aunt Mira's)
  • Moon (capturing inner strength and beauty)
  • Lunar Eclipse (completion of cycle, Colie's transformation)
  • Flight (believing in one's strength and beauty)
  • Last Chance (name of restaurant where Colie works)
  • Piercing (pain/crucifying)

Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Character Archetypes
  • Outcast (Greg and Rowley)
  • Loyal friend (Rowley)
  • Trickster (Rodrick)
  • Underdog (Rowley)
  • Anti-hero (Greg)
Situational Archetypes
  • The Task (Rowley doing the 'impressive thing' of eating the year-old cheese on the court)
  • Quest (Greg finding some way to restore friendship with Rowley after betrayal)
  • Journey (Greg's time in middle school)
  • Initiation (surviving gym, school play, girls, bullies)
  • Summer (growth and ripening that Greg has achieved)
  • Apple (Greg plays apple in play representing temptations-throwing apple at lead girl)
  • Spring (new friendship and new popularity for Rowley)
  • Fall (forced maturity, dealing with change)

Donna Freitas, The Possibilities of Sainthood

Character Archetypes
  • Parent/Child (Antonia/Mother Labella)
  • Wise sage (Grandmother Labella)
  • True friend (Maria)
  • Benevolent guide (Gram)
  • Temptress (Veronic)
Situational Archetypes
  • Initiation (finding balance between faith and self action)
  • Sacred union (rejoining of Michael and Antonia)
  • Quest (Antonia seeking her first kiss and sainthood to make the world a better place)
  • Transcedence (Antonia realizing she doesn't need sainthood to live happily)
  • Ritual (Saint Lucia celebration – Christian girl bringing light to the darkness)
  • Supernatural intervention (Getting healed by Antonia's kiss)
  • Pasta (significance of culture, tradition, family)
  • Saints (representing faith, fate)
  • Black (Antonia's mom always in black to mourn husband's death and show unavailability)
  • Figs (fertility, Antonia must care for and bury them each winter)
  • White (virginity and innocence – the dress in the celebration)

David Klass, You Don't Know Me

Character Archetypes
  • Parent/Child (John with mother/mother's boyfriend)
  • Friendly beast (Sprocket)
  • The popular guy (Toby)
  • The outcast (John)
  • Evil/Villain (John's soon-to-be stepdad)
  • Good vs. Evil (John vs. several characters)
  • Task (Standing up to the "man who is not his father")
  • Unhealable wounds (John being abandoned by his father and his own perception of self)
  • Ritual (dance, math class, asking a girl out, eating w/ stepdad)
  • Quest (John asking Gloria on a date)
  • Rite of Passage (John kissing Violet and then fighting back against his abuser after)
  • Dog (loyalty)
  • Cat (malevolence)
  • Tuba (awkwardness, loud, hard to control)
  • Lashasa Palulu (the imaginary tribe representing opposing or new perspective, escapism)
  • Animals (trust, loyalty, companionship)
  • Seasons (fall-winter—John only has one jacket which he loses in the most difficult part of story)

A.M. Jenkins, Night Road

Character Archetypes
  • Benevolent Guide (Sandor)
  • Outcast (Almost everyone in this book)
  • Main Outcast (Cole)
  • Companion (Sandor)
  • Anti-hero (Cole)
  • Initiation (Gordon learning the skills and knowledge to survive his new existence)
  • Journey (roadtrip through the US)
  • Death/rebirth (the hemes are created when an omni is killed, speculated immortality of hemes)
  • Red (Life, sustenance, loss of control, thirst)
  • Pictures/paintings (because Cole will never die, these ground him and make him feel)
  • Sunlight (Danger as well as normalcy)
  • Water (what calms Cole down, tranquility, cleansing, birth—when Cole feeds in the rain)
  • Dog (companion, unconditional love, loyalty)

Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

Character Archetypes
  • Hero (Percy)
  • Creatures (The monsters Percy fights)
  • Troublemaker/trickster (Percy)
  • Stepfather (Gabe Ugliano)
  • Nemesis (Ares)
Situational Archetypes
  • Quest (Percy finding and bringing back the master lightning bolt)
  • Heaven/Hell (conflict of good and evil)
  • Mother's love (mother protecting son from stepdad's wrath)
  • Heroism (unable to leave his friends to be tortured)
  • Black (evil, death)
  • Green (New life, Percy and his mom at the end)
  • Thunder clap and clouds (foreshadowing of bad thing to come)
  • Sword (Signaling an evil would be undone)
  • Snipping the yarn (someone dying)
  • Lightning bolt (power)

Scott Westerfeld, Uglies

Character Archetypes
  • Hero (Tally)
  • Rebel (Shay)
  • Villain (Dr. Cable)
Situational Archetypes
  • Journey (Tally finding the Smoke city)
  • Good/Evil (the people in the Smoke City and the people in the Special Circumstances)
  • Rite of Passage (16th birthday when they get their operations)
  • Task (spy missions, visit boyfriend, find underworld, rescue friends from prison)
  • Quest (Tally going after Shay to save her own chance to be pretty)
  • Lesson (Hero is unable to betray friends/community)
  • Water (separation between the Pretties and the Uglies)
  • Scar (on Tally's hand, intermingled BFF blood)
  • Plum (the Smoke people want to have their own lives)
  • Butterfly (changes after Tally and Shay have operations and live in the pretty city)
  • Necklace (symbolizes civilization and control)
  • The norm (the pretty operation represents control and not challenging rules as we age)