Thursday, November 6, 2014

YA Fairy Tale Retellings

There's nothing quite like a fairy tale. Magic, treachery, heroes and heroines with hearts of gold and wits sharp as steel. Fairy tales hit us on a primal level, reminding us of our own childhoods and connecting us with countless childhoods spanning back through time in a string who knows how long. Their images, characters, and lessons are timeless and never cease to fascinate no matter how many times the stories are told.

Fairy tale retellings have their own kind of magic. When someone can take something so familiar and turn it on its head, while making the original elements just recognizable enough that you marvel at how well they work with the changes...Well, there's nothing quite like that, either.

So, with long late-autumn nights upon us, pull on your best cloak (or your favorite hoodie) and wander into the woods with one of these books. All are available through your local LPLS branch.

(You might want to listen to Neil Gaiman's poem "Instructions" first. After all, fairy tales can be dangerous. It's best to go in prepared.)

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst 
Cassie, the daughter of a polar bear researcher, meets a talking polar bear on her eighteenth birthday. This startling encounter brings her grandmother's fairy tales to life and launches her on a journey. This is a retelling of a Norwegian folktale called "East of the Sun and West of the Moon."

A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn
Sleeping Beauty gets her kiss... from a modern American teenager, 300 years after she fell under her curse! Flinn is also the author of Beastly, which retells--you guessed it--"Beauty and the Beast." (A Kiss in Time is a great choice for readers seeking a lighter retelling. If dark and spooky isn't your thing, try this one!)

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann
Heppermann blurs the lines between fairy tales and real life with this collection examining the lives of teen girls. The poems are coupled with black and white photographs, and the result is an ethereal yet piercing book.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Nyx has spent her entire life both betrothed to her kingdom's ruthless ruler, the result of a bargain her father struck. But unlike in the original or Disney versions of "Beauty and the Beast," Nyx has also been trained to assassinate the king. This Belle kicks butt.

Ash by Malinda Lo
This one really feels like a fairy tale: ethereal forests, quaint villages, and an ever-present undercurrent of magic. But sinister faeries and a female huntress love interest add new life to the familiar "Cinderella" story.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
If the phrase "Cinderella with cyborgs" piques your interest, this futuristic sci-fi series opener is for you. The Lunar Chronicles continue with retellings of Little Red Riding Hood (in Scarlet) and Rapunzel (in Cress).

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
The Fenris--vicious werewolves--have killed Rosie and Scarlett's grandmother and left Rosie disfigured. Now, the sisters ruthlessly hunt the Fenris. But as more and more teenage girls fall victim to the wolves, Rosie begins to long for a life outside of the hunt.

The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman
Rowan Rose's tranquil life is upended when dark riders pass through her town en route to hunt an evil in the forest beyond. They never returned. And their quarry followed their path out of the forest, straight to the unsuspecting villagers. Creepy YA with aspects of several different fairy tales.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

YA Books Go Bump in the Night!

It's October! (Finally!) Why not start the Halloween festivities early and keep them rolling all month with these creepy YA titles? Ghosts, witches, aliens, monsters, serial killers, demons (and demon-hunters), vampires, and more reside in these spine-tingling pages. And yeah, if you're counting: there are 31 of them, one for every day of the month if you read fast enough.

Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender - Things are changing in Alexis's house: doors opening by themselves, cold spots, and a little sister whose eyes change color, who speaks like she's from another time, and who might just be changing into someone else.

Long Lankin by Lindsay Barraclough - Sisters Cora and Mimi are sent to live with their great-aunt, who is determined to protect them from a lurking evil. 

The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Belairs - An orphan goes to live with his warlock uncle and almost brings about the end of the world. (Juvenile fiction, but if you're looking for something old-fashioned, fun, and creepy in a trippy way, you could do worse than this classic.)

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black - Vampires are kept quarantined in cities called Coldtowns, and once you enter, you can never leave.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake - A blood-stained, murderous ghost kills every person who dares to enter her home, except the one who has come to "kill" her.

The Diviners by Libba Bray - A girl with a secret and troublesome supernatural power becomes involved in a murder investigation in 1920s New York City. 

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray - Girls at a Victorian boarding school discover their magical abilities, which inevitably get out of hand.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman - An imaginative and disgruntled girl discovers a portal into a perfect version of her life, but all is not as it seems (of course). This one's technically juvenile fiction, but believe me, it's creepy enough for all ages.

Half Bad by Sally Green - An alternate modern-day England where opposing factions of witches wage war against one another, and the illegitimate son of the world's deadliest witch lives in captivity.

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins - A perfect Southern belle distraught to learn that she's a Buffy-esque warrior with an annoying new charge to protect.

ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley - A popularity-obsessed unpopular girl discovers that you can't escape high school, even in death.

Devilish by Maureen Johnson - A cupcake-eating teenage girl who is actually a deal-making, soul-collecting demon in disguise.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson - A copycat Jack the Ripper killer, an English boarding school, and teenage ghost hunters... oh my!

Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen -  Cynthia must save her best friend and their entire school from the hot, young, new librarian, who is also a demon.

Scowler by Daniel Kraus - When Ry's father violently attacked his family years ago, Ry's terrifying imaginary friends helped him survive. Now 19, Ry must face his father's return, a meteor landing, and the re-emergence of those scary little voices in his head.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga - A boy learns the trade of murder from his serial killer father, then must clear his own name when people turn up dead.

Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry - Post-zombie apocalypse, Benny is apprentice to his zombie-killing older brother.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride - Sam goes from flipping burgers to raising the dead when he discovers that he's a necromancer.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - A tale mixing wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff, preternatural abilities, and some seriously creepy photos.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan -  Mary has grown up trusting the Sisterhood, who keep the village safe from the violent Unconsecrated that surround the walls. But what if the Sisterhood has secrets?

Asylum by Madeleine Roux - Seriously, what Halloween reading list would be complete without a terrifying insane asylum?

Zom-B by Darren Shan - B's life is already violent and unpleasant. A zombie outbreak doesn't help.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman - What if your parents could decide to have all your organs transplanted into new donors--meaning that yeah, you die--once you turned 13?

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood - Cate and her sisters--all witches--live in secrecy to avoid the Brotherhood who hunt them.

The Merciless by Danielle Vega - Mean Girls in Mississippi, plus exorcisms.

I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells - John, obsessed with serial killers, follows rigid rules to prevent himself from becoming one.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters - Seances, ghosts, and the return of a dead boyfriend amid the flu epidemic of 1918.

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey -Scattered survivors weather an alien invasion attempting to eradicate human life.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey  - An orphan is apprenticed to a scientist specializing in monsters.

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff - Hannah's best friend transcends death, attempting to haunt Hannah into investigating the string of murders plaguing the girls in their town.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff - Mackie, a teenage changeling, must delve into his town's creepy underworld to recover his crush's missing baby sister.

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.