Thursday, August 7, 2014

Author Spotlight: Marcus Sedgwick

Feel like you've exhausted your options and need a new author to read? Are you a fan of Neil Gaiman or Clive Barker? Do you like spooky, genre-spanning, mind-bending reads? If you answered yes to any to the above, try Marcus Sedgwick!

I love reading Marcus Sedgwick's work because his books are not just strange in comparison to other authors' work, but even in comparison to his own. With elements of suspense, horror, mystery, realistic fiction, and romance, often in the same exact book, you're never sure what you're going to get. I prefer to read his books knowing as little as possible about the plot. However, if you're the kind of reader who would rather know what you're getting into, try one of my suggestions.

Sedgwick’s latest YA novel is She is Not Invisible, which follows Laureth, a blind sixteen-year-old living in London, as she and her brother embark on a secret trip to the United States to find their father, whom Laureth believes has gone missing. Their father is a writer, and they have only his notebook, filled with increasingly cryptic and obsessive entries about coincidence, to guide them. Sedgwick's excellent pacing and mastery of tension pull you along. You'll be turning the pages at breakneck pace to find out if everything turns out okay.

White Crow demonstrates one of Sedgwick’s most impressive skills: His ability to weave together completely unrelated storylines into a book that you can’t stop reading. It ties together the formation of an unlikely friendship between two girls and a series of grisly experiments from their town’s past. The fact that you don’t know what’s going on until well into the novel might be frustrating for some readers. However, if you stick with it you will be rewarded with a supremely uneasy read ending in a great twist.


 In My Swordhand is Singing, Sedgwick adds his spin to the vampire theme.
He takes the trope back to its origins. His vampires aren't misunderstood, romantic heroesHe sets a coming-of-age story against a backdrop of an isolated village in the midst of dense Transylvanian forest, and adds tragedy and family secrets for good measure. The story continues in The Kiss of Death.

By far my favorite of Sedgwick’s novels, and one of my all-time favorite books in general, is Midwinterblood. This Printz Award winner is possibly the strangest and most beautiful book I’ve ever read. Set on a Scandinavian island famous for an orchid that might or might not hold the secret of immortality, it switches narration between seven different people (among them a reporter from the future, a vampire, a ghost, and a Viking--how's that for variety?) and spans centuries. If you want a book that makes you think "There's no way this can work," and then somehow pulls off a remarkable feat in the most awesome way possible, then you want to read Midwinterblood.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dreary and Naughty: Dark and amusing poetry


If poetry seems a bit stuffy and boring and not really your thing, you may want to give the Dreary & Naughty books by John LaFleur and Shawn Dubin a try.  These short little books center around a skeleton (Dreary) and devil (Naughty) and the things they have to deal with, such as high school.  Each story is told entirely in rhyme and every page of verse is accompanied by a wonderful illustration.  I really liked how the text on Dreary's shirt changed in each picture to fit whatever was going on at the time and I thought he had a very expressive face for someone with only a skull to work with.  The stories can get a bit dark at times, but what do you expect from books about the son of Death and the daughter of the Devil?

The Misadventures of Dreary and Naughty - This book introduces us to our odd pair and we learn that they are forced to attend a human high school.  Dreary is a choice target for the jocks because he's so different (and possibly for the attention he gets from Naughty).  As for Naughty, half of the school (the boys) can't stop staring at her, while the other half (the girls) don't like her.  The students try to remove the "freaks" from their school, but they wind up paying the price when Dreary and Naughty's parents get involved.


 

 The ABC's of Being Dead - Dreary and Naughty don't want to follow in their fathers' footsteps.  Naughty would much rather spend her time making stuffed animals, not torturing souls for all eternity.  And Dreary wants to make art, not end people's lives.  But how do you explain that to a father who won't listen?  This book introduces a few more characters from the Dark Side of Town and gives a very final version of the ABC's.  Also, gotta love Dreary's oversized Grim Reaper robe on the cover.



Friday the 13th of February - It's almost Valentine's Day and Dreary and Naughty have the perfect gifts for each other.  Too bad Naughty spent most of the day reading all the cards she got at school and hasn't finished making Dreary's present yet.  Midnight is fast approaching and she doesn't want to be late.

Although more illustrated poems than graphic novels, I would still recommend these to graphic novel readers.  Also to any Tim Burton fans or Hot Topic shoppers.  Those two groups would eat these up.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

TFIOS is checked out. Now what?

John Green is a pretty inescapable force right now. He's one half of vlogbrothers, an intensely popular YouTube channel. He's doing World Cup stuff. He's doing Mental Floss stuff. Oh, and the movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars just came out, too. Maybe you've heard of it?

I totally get it. TFIOS is awesome. John's other books are awesome. You should totally read his books! But, because the world is so hyped on John Green right now, there's a good chance that you're not going to find his books on library shelves any time soon. Your best option might be adding your name to the hold list and waiting it out.

Don't lose faith! Your phone call or email will come, announcing that it's your turn with that coveted book. But in the meantime, try one of these other amazing contemporary YA authors. Waiting is hard, but you might just discover a new favorite.

Rainbow Rowell
Without a doubt, Rainbow Rowell is my favorite YA author ever, of all time, forever and ever, amen. Her books are clever, heartbreaking, and somehow totally satisfying while making you desperately wish that she'd write a sequel. (Rainbow, if you're reading: Eleanor and Park go to college. It's all I want.)  I've already extolled the virtues of Eleanor & Park. I also love Fangirl. It's a sometimes painfully relatable novel about Cath, a superstar fanfiction writer and (somewhat less superstar) college freshman who has to deal with anxiety, finding her place, her twin sister's drastic personality changes, her father's mental illness, and boys. As you can imagine, this is a pretty overwhelming combination of factors. You'll love rooting for Cath and occasionally cringing sympathetically for her.

Maureen Johnson
Maureen Johnson writes funny YA that sneaks in all unexpected and tugs at your heartstrings. I'm a big fan of her Shades of London series. It's got a lot going for it: English boarding school setting, a bit of romance, a bit of action, and ghosts! But if you're not a paranormal fiction fan, try one of her other novels first. If you're waiting for An Abundance of Katherines, try Maureen's 13 Little Blue Envelopes, a travel novel in which a girl follows instructions (enclosed in the titular envelopes) that take her to England and change her life. If you want friendship changes and other interpersonal drama, try The Bermudez Triangle. (More things to recommend Maureen she has a cool blog and is friends with John.)

E. Lockhart
E. Lockhart writes great YA books that have braininess to spare. Her most recent and most buzzed-about novel is We Were Liars. The pre-publication press was heavy on the mystery, imploring reviewers not to reveal anything about the plot. There is a huge twist, so all I'll say is that it deals with a group of privileged teenagers whose intertwined families vacation on a private island each summer. It's got more in common with Looking for Alaska than Gossip Girl, though. Speaking of Looking for Alaska, how about a great book with a school setting? The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks follows its brilliant titular character as she secretly infiltrates an all-male secret society, combating sexism and causing mayhem left and right.

Sarah Dessen
If you want contemporary YA, you have to read Sarah Dessen. She is a certified OG of the genre. Looking for romance, complicated situations, and characters you desperately want to succeed? Yeah, she's got you covered. Plus, she's prolific, so if you read one of her books and like it, you have 26 more just waiting for you! I suggest starting with Someone Like You. It's about Halley and her friend Scarlett, a teenage girl who finds out that not only has her boyfriend died in a motorcycle accident, but she's pregnant with his baby. It might sound like soap opera material, but trust me, it's good. I'm also a big fan of the movie How to Deal, which was adapted from Someone Like You and another of Sarah's novels called That Summer.


Lauren Oliver
Though perhaps better well-known for her dystopian Delirium trilogy, Lauren Oliver also writes great realistic novels. Before I Fall is probably better called realistic-ish. It follows a popular girl as she dies and is caught living the last day of her life over and over, trying to figure out what she can--and what she should--change. If that's too much suspension of disbelief for you, try Panic instead. Small-town teens competing in a high-stakes game of dares and dangerous activities, all for a shot at winning a big cash prize? Yeah, this multiple-perspective novel is awesome.

Stephanie Perkins
This recommendation comes endorsed from John Green himself! However, I would still recommend Stephanie's books regardless of nerdfighteria affiliation. Her books aren't a series, exactly, but they feature reoccurring characters, with secondaries in one book taking center stage as protagonists in the next. (Which is pretty fun to read.) Her first, Anna and the French Kiss, follows Anna as she reluctantly goes to boarding school in Paris. The second, Lola and the Boy Next Door, chronicles the return of the very troublesome Cricket Bell into the seemingly perfect life of Lola, a theatrical teenage girl living with her two dads. The final book in the trilogy, Isla and the Happily Ever After, is slated for release later this year.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

YA Reads for LGBT Pride Month

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month! LGBT Pride Month was established to recognize the identity, impact, and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* people. Here at Read This Next for Teens, we're taking the opportunity to celebrate LGBT characters in YA fiction. These novels make for compelling reading, regardless of your orientation or identity. And they are all available through your local LPLS branch!

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
The close-knit friendship between Mel, Avery, and Nina--the titular Triangle--is threatened when Nina spends the summer away at a pre-college leadership camp. When she returns, she discovers that Avery and Mel's friendship has become something more. And none of them knows quite how to deal with the changes.

A violent hate crime rocks a small Southern town and sends sixteen-year-old Cat on a mission to identify the perpetrators. Despite the premise, this gritty book is much more than a simple mystery.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
When Cameron's parents die in a car crash and she's sent to live with her aunt, she's almost relieved. Now, they will never have to deal with the truth: that Cameron is a lesbian. This relief is short-lived, and when Aunt Ruth discovers her secret, she sends Cameron to a camp to be "fixed."

Two boys' attempt to break the world record for longest kiss--a whopping 32 hours--brings other young men's struggles with their sexuality and identity, and the would-be record breakers' feelings for one another, to the forefront.

Coincidence and a mutual friend bring together two very different young men, both named Will Grayson, who become friends amid heartbreak and the staging of an over-the-top high school musical.


Ari, an angry loner, and Dante, an outgoing know-it-all, meet at the swimming pool and form a deep, life-changing friendship.
Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Books by Francesca Lia Block 
This lyrical magic realism series takes place in a darkly beautiful version of Los Angeles and features characters of all sorts. These include the couple Dirk and Duck, whose relationship is tested by personal fears and the threat of HIV.

The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George

Jessie is a self-described "weirdo" with clunky boots and a homemade haircut. Emily is the perfect  overachiever, complete with boyfriend and position as Student Council President. The only thing they have in common is their secret relationship.

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsburg

Rafe is tired of his sexuality being the first thing that everyone notices about him, so when he transfers to an all-boys school, he decides to keep it to himself. But school assignments, a suffering fellow classmate, and a new love interest make keeping secrets difficult.
Friendship with Sage has helped Logan to trust again following the devastating news of his girlfriend's infidelity. But when Logan acts on his new feelings for Sage, he discovers a startling secret: Sage was born a boy.

Ash by Malinda Lo

Orphaned and left with her cruel stepmother, Ash spends her days working and her nights reading fairy tales, dreaming of the day when the fairies will take her away.  When she meets Sidhean, she believes that her wish has been granted, and that it's only a matter of time before she leaves her old life behind. But her burgeoning friendship with Kaisa, the King's Huntress, brings about a change of heart... and complications, since Sidhean has claimed Ash as his own.

Freakboy by Kristin Clark

Brendan is a typical teenage boy. He's on the wrestling team, plays video games, and is a good boyfriend. But he can't help fantasizing about what it would be like to be different. To be a girl. 
Unable to confide in anyone else, Astrid spends her time lying on the picnic table in her back yard, addressing her most pressing questions to the passengers in the airplanes that fly overhead. Questions like what it means that she has fallen in love with another girl.

Holland is set on her path to an Ivy League school and is content with her high school life, including her boyfriend. All of that changes when she meets Cece and the two acknowledge their feelings for one another.
 
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
Living in Iran, Sahar and Nasrin must keep their relationship secret. Everything they hold dear is threatened when Nasrin's parents announce that they have arranged a marriage for her. Sahar comes up with a way for them to continue their relationship openly: She will have to become a man.

Did we miss your favorite LGBT read? What do we need to add to our collection? Share your picks in the comments!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

RCS Summer Reading Survival Guide


Good news!  We have the Rutherford County Schools reading list.  And we also have the books!  The bad news?  Everyone in your grade needs them, too.  We've put together a few pro-tips to help you get your hands on them, and ace your assignment.
Get on the waiting list early.  The length and speed of the waiting list correlates directly to how far into the summer season it is.

Have a plan B. A plan C can't hurt, either. If your first choice book is checked out, look for others on your list. You might want to get on the waiting list for multiple books. After all, you never know which one will come in first.

Don't rely on renewals.  If someone else is on the waiting list behind you, you won't be able to renew it.

Use the movie as a supplement, not a replacement.  There are at least ten different film versions of Frankenstein.  They're all different from each other and different from the book itself.  Your teacher will know.  Trust us.

Make sure you actually have the book you're looking for. It's easy to accidentally check out a book of critical essays about the book you need, rather than the book itself. Always check your title and author. (Hint: If the author is Harold Bloom, then it's not the book you want. Ditto for any title like Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.)  If you're not sure, ask a staff member.  We're here to help!

Explore your resources.  If you've read the book and want to read more about it or you need help understanding it, those critical essays can really help.  You can also check out the Literature Resource Center on the Tennessee Electronic Library website.  Your TEL results are much more reputable than just Googling!

Read something fun for pleasure.  Even if it's something small.  It's easy to burn out from too much assigned reading all at once.  Just make sure you leave yourself enough time to finish all the assigned reading before school starts!

Sign up for summer reading! Books you read for school count toward the summer reading program at your library! You're reading anyway. Why not enter to win prizes while you're at it? Ask a staff member for more details.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Review: The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell

Each year, the American Library Association gives the Alex Award to ten books "written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18." The Alex Award spotlights books that are perfect for teens who are ready to explore adult literature but find it difficult to locate books that hold their interest and to which they can relate.
One of 2014's Alex Award recipients is The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell. Marnie (age 15) and her sister Nelly (age 12)  have never known a calm life or the love of their parents, so when both their mother and father die, they react with relief rather than sadness. They bury the bodies in the backyard, determined to keep the deaths secret from their neighbors, the authorities, and anyone who might try to separate them from one another.


When the girls' neighbor Lennie notices that they are alone, he assumes that they have been abandoned--it wouldn't be the first time their parents left--and begins to take care of them. Although this rare display of kindness in the girls' lives is much needed, it also increases the chance that their secret will be discovered. This discovery is an event that the reader both wishes would happen sooner and dreads along with the girls. At times, the cringe-worthy tension is almost unbearable.

O'Donnel alternates chapters from the perspectives of the three major characters, giving the reader an intimate view of their secrets and struggles. The reader is privy to facts that they conceal from each other: Lenny's deep pain at the loss of his partner and his shame about an inappropriate encounter with a minor; Nelly's undiagnosed autism and her anxiety about her developing body; Marnie's conflicts with her friends, her drug use, and her encounters with men. The resulting narrative is as wonderfully complex as it is troubling.


Though some readers may find The Death of Bees at times difficult to read, it is nonetheless a page-turner that you can't stop thinking about even after you finish. When so many characters in YA literature are upper class and their most pressing issues are related to social climbing, it's refreshing and important to have protagonists like Nelly and Marnie. Their situation, though extreme, reflects realities that are uncomfortable to confront, but which are important to recognize and examine. The discomfort and disapproval readers might feel toward the characters can be a powerful catalyst for thought and discussion.


While this is not a breezy read and won't be the book for everyone, it is well worth reading. I would recommend it for more mature teens who feel ready for the subject matter.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Watch this Next: Perks of Being a Wallflower


Many of you might have heard about a little book called The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.  Well, for those of you who are fans of this novel about an endearing wallflower named Charlie, they've made it into a movie.  

This might worry some of you, because the book is written in letters from Charlie to an anonymous schoolmate, describing the ups and downs of freshman year, but honestly, the movie does a brilliant job of adapting this book into a movie.

The story follows Charlie (Logan Lerman) through his freshman year of high school in a Pittsburgh suburb. Naïve but intelligent beyond his years, he is an unconventional thinker. As the story begins, it is revealed that Charlie is also shy and unpopular.   During his first year of high school, this outsider has to cope with first love (Emma Watson), the suicide of his best friend, a haunting secret, and his own mental illness while struggling to find a group of people with whom he belongs - which might just be with two seniors, Sam and Patrick, who welcome him to the real world.

Chbosky directs the adaptation of his book, and uses beautiful visuals to his advantage in order to provide the alternating lonely and awe-invoking atmosphere that reflects Charlie's emotions. Chbosky's heartfelt dialogue also helps to capture seemingly forgettable, yet extraordinary, moments.  He provides his characters with individual voices draw the audience into their lives and connects you to them.  And it helps that Chbosky does not balk from the realities of life: that life is complex, with no easy answers, and the development of wisdom can often be painful.

Equally important are the casting choices for the three main characters - Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson &
the Olympians), Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk about Kevin), and Emma Watson (the Harry Potter films).  Lerman's Charlie is a complex portrayal, perceptive and intelligent but naïve, a loner desperate for companionship.  He can become fierce when his friends are threatened but is as fragile as glass when his buried secrets threaten to overwhelm him. Miller's Patrick is incredibly charmingly, a character who uses his flamboyance to mask his frustrations and sometimes despair at the unfairness of life, while revealing hints of his desperation for love beyond this protective front. And Emma Watson's Sam is confident and adventurous, and yet, can not seem to bring herself to believe that she deserves a future, or a better boyfriend.  These three actors bring to life some very complex and contradictory characters, looking for acceptance, in a relatable and subtly realistic manner.

If you haven't seen this movie (or read the book), give this beautiful and moving adaptation a chance.  If you have seen it, let us know in the comments below what you thought of it.