Category Archives: Young Adult Books

I Am Number Four

Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits

Typically, I like to read the book before I see the movie. And I am not entirely certain why that is the case. Perhaps, as I often hear, it’s a matter of preserving the vision you have created after reading the book. This way, the characters, the imagery, they are your own, not to be muddled by the perceptions of the filmmakers. Or, rather, maybe it’s to do with the fact that the book almost always precedes the film, and there is some sort of unnamed hierarchy or chronological importance tied to it.

Frankly, I have no idea. The order, in some respects, is irrelevant. But I’ll let you make that decision.

As I intimated, this wasn’t one of my typical moments. After seeing the movie, I was inspired to pick up a copy of the book I Am Number Four, written by Pittacus Lore.

The story is a fine mix of high school adolescence, coming-of-age and science fiction. John, the protagonist, is an alien from the planet Lorien. One of nine warriors (or “Garde”) in total, John is Number Four (hence the title). This is significant because the Mogadorians, the other non-Earth entities, are out to kill John and all of the rest of the Garde. The caveat, however, is that they need to kill in order, from One through Nine.

After finding out that Number Three had been killed, John and his guardian, or “Cepan,” Henri move, once again (they are always on the move), to the little town of Paradise, Ohio. It is in this town they are both faced with their toughest challenge yet.

With the Mogadorians close on their trail, John and Henri must make a choice. Do they stay in Paradise, alongside John’s new girlfriend Sarah, his friend Sam, the geeky conspiracy theorist, Bernie Kosar, the mysterious yet loveable beagle, and the first place they ever felt at home?

With John’s developing “Legacies,” or powers, do they stay and fight to protect their new home?

You’ll have to pick up a copy to find out for yourself!

Just know that you’re in for an enjoyable ride.

Oh, and a ride that contains telekinesis, shape-shifting creatures, and, you know, things like fighting daggers that consume the energies of living plants and trees for their source of power. Little things like that.

Check out the movie’s official website.

Age Group: 12 and up (Contains bad language and teenage/adult content)
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction / Fantasy
Themes: Science Fiction, Aliens, Teenagers, Superhero
Publisher: HarperCollins

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Postmodernism in Feed?

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Feed, by M.T. Anderson, left me thinking about it for months and I even forced a friend to listen to the audiobook.  I needed to share with someone this inexplicable, yet totally real, world Anderson creates in Feed.  This review is long overdue.  I read this–actually I listened to the audio version of this book quite a while back, perhaps a few months ago.  There is something about this book that intrigued, frightened, and repulsed me–but I loved it.  My friend enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as I.  He just couldn’t find the main character, Titus, in any way likeable.  Titus is not likeable.  He is a quintessential teenager in a future that is dominated by consumerism and instant gratification.  He is not meant to be likeable.  I look back on my teen years and at times I find myself unlikeable.  The choices/decisions I made that were usually driven by a hormonal and insecure ego led to some ridiculous moments.  I look back and shrug my shoulders, chalking it up to my age, but when I am forced to relive teenage years through Titus it is almost unbearable.  He is utterly self-centered!  But again, he is also intriguing.  He develops a relationship with Violet, a socially aware teenage girl who contributes to Titus’ development as a character.  His fascination with her and her fascination with him is what drives this book.  You love her.  She forces Titus to confront issues of consumerism, the deteriorating natural world, and the global impact of technology on society in the most pleasantly benign manner.  She does not preach at Titus, but wholeheartedly shares her concerns as with a lover or an intimate friend.

Anderson never specifies  how far in the future the novel takes place, but it is clearly the Future with a capital “F.”  The first scene features Titus and his pals taking a trip to the moon as if it were the same as going to the mall.  The slightly annoying vocabulary of these futuristic teens captures the age perfectly.  In Anderson’s Future, most humans are implanted with a “feednet” that delivers pop-up like advertisements directly to your brain the minute you step into a store or look at a billboard.  Imagine walking around and you happen to catch a glimpse of an empty Starbucks cup, immediately the Feed will shoot a verbal advertising assault to your mind.  It’s like having radio commercials broadcasting directly into your brain.  Corporations are capable of monitoring what your interests are directly from your brain waves.  It is kind of creepy.  Privacy is non-existent.

M.T. Anderson - The Mastermind

The thing that makes this young adult Sci-Fi novel postmodern is its ability to create a world where language has become stupified by the future and by technology.  Titus is unable to write because all messages are sent through the mind, like a telepathic instant messenger.  The novel focuses on an uneasiness and suspicion towards the future, as well as the past.  The short snippets of the Feed disorient the reader at times, always reminding the reader of the constant pro-consumerism intrusion into the internal self.  Interiority is being exploited.  The result of such a world leaves humans only able to ingest information but never digest, resulting in a shallow humanity and utterly vacuous teenagers.  The question remains–Is there redemption for Titus?

Did I mention I kind of love this book?

Age Group: 16 and up (Contains bad language and teenagers being teenagers)
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Themes: Science Fiction, dystopian, social issues, postmodernism
Publisher: Candlewick Press

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Comic Books for TV: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead on AMC aired on October 30th. It was enjoyable. Compared to the comic book there was a bit more characterization and I thoroughly enjoyed the additions/changes for television. Check out both the TV show and the comic book, by Robert Kirkman.

Also, check out the young adult book Zombies vs Unicorns edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black.  The book is a series of short stories alternating between Unicorns and Zombies.  At the beginning of each story Justine, the advocate for Zombies, or Holly, the lover of all things Unicorns, explain why their particular creature is better than the other.  Personally, I am ready for some zombie unicorns.  (Published by Simon & Schuster)

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Orange County Children’s Book Festival 2010

The Orange County Children’s Book Festival was AWESOME!  I mostly hung around the young adult stage and was given the task of escorting authors from the check-in to the stage.  It was fantastic.  I got to speak with so many great Middle Grade/YA authors like: Gitty Daneshvari, Robin Benway, R.L. LaFevers, Amber Benson, Nancy Holder, Becca Fitzpatrick, Lauren Kate, Heidi Kling, Cecil Castellucci, Joanna Philbin, Jessica Brody and Maria V. Snider !  I was able to get a few pictures here and there.

 

School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari

 

Gitty Daneshvari, author of School of Fear, was hilarious.  She shared some of her childhood fears, like spraying Raid in her hair to keep away spiders!  If there is ever an author to meet in person it is Gitty.  She is just so very funny.

Another compelling author to watch was Amber Benson, Among the Ghosts. She explained that her over-active imagination is what drew her to acting and writing.  Her energy on-stage was infectious and she knew just how to draw the audience in!

 

Among the Ghosts by Amber Benson

 

 

Non, Sina Grace (the illustrator), Amber Benson, & Me

 

The rest of the authors were also great.  Here are some of the pictures I managed to snap:

 

Robin Benway, author of Audrey, Wait! and The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June

 

 

Heidi Kling, author of Sea, and Becca Fitzpatrick, author of Hush, Hush and Crescendo

 

 

R.L. LaFevers, author of the Nathaniel Fludd and Theodosia series

 

 

Signing at the Mysterious Galaxy Booth

 

 

Joanna Philbin, author of Daughters, and Jessica Brody, author of The Karma Club

 

Note:  If you would like to purchase a copy of the book signed by the author then contact Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego.

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Reincarnating Love in The Eternal Ones

Love stories.  I say blech to them in general.  People will recommend certain books that focus around a love story, and while I do love “love” it seems that lately I have been more interested in Sci-Fi stories and those dominated by a post-apocalyptic or a dystopian theme (even a little political).  I had planned on reading The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller, but it was definitely further down on my list.  It was not until I received the book in audio format that I pushed it to the top of my reading/listening schedule (I love audiobooks, especially when they are read by the right person).

Here begins my review on Eternal Ones:

Haven Moore has uncontrollable visions about a previous life.  This is not just any typical, run of the mill previous life either.  Haven’s visions are filled with passion — red, hot passion — making her life in Snopes City, Tennessee very difficult.  Her grandmother strongly believes that Haven is possessed by the devil, ironically making Haven’s life a living hell.  Haven’s main ally and confidant in Snopes is her good friend Beau, but he can only give her moral support.  She needs to figure out what Constance (her previous life) is trying to tell her.  Haven’s visions transport her to the 1920s in New York city and she finds herself madly in love with a boy named Ethan.  In the present day, Haven feels an urgency to travel to New York City, find the reincarnated Ethan (Iain), and figure out what her old self is trying to warn her about.  The only problem is that her visions are so scattered and she doesn’t know who to trust, even Iain.  Will she solve the mystery of her past life?

Listening to the audiobook, I found myself completely sucked into the world Miller creates.  Emma Galvin, the reader, does a fantastic job with character voices and the Tennessee accent.  With each chapter I became more and more enthralled by the life and past life of Haven/Constance and Ethan/Iain.  The only times I felt frustrated with the story were during Miller’s longer passages about love.  There were a couple passages at the end that became a little sappy and a little preachy, but aside from that I couldn’t stop listening.

Note:  There were some steamy moments in the novel that gave just enough to count the book as a romance and not a tease.  Haven is seventeen and makes some very adult decisions, however, she’s also remembering a past life from the 1920s so that kind of makes her close to her nineties!  She is an old soul.

Age Group: 13 and up
Genre: Young Adult
Themes: Romance, Supernatural, Reincarnation
Publisher: Razorbill, imprint of Penguin Group

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Author & Illustrator Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan has some of the most amazing illustrations.  His graphic depiction of immigration in the book The Arrival is stunning and intensely imaginative.  We Heart Books Blog posted some great information about Shaun Tan’s latest animated project, The Lost Thing (based on his illustrated book by the same name).  Here is a preview:

I hope to get this on DVD in the States.  Also, check out this site and video about Tan’s creative process, inframe.tv.

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Loving and Hating Words: The Book Thief

I love this book and with a deep sigh I say this.  Not because I am not certain that I love this book, but because when I think of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief many heart wrenching emotions bubble to the surface.  I listened to The Book Thief on audiobook, read by Allan Corduner, and the last twenty minutes I cried.  I don’t remember the last time I cried so hard from a book.  There are some stories that manipulate me into tears and those stories I do not enjoy very much.  Not The Book Thief.  I cried and snuffled and I meant every tear.  Zusak creates such stunning, multi-dimensional characters I could not help but feel like they were a part of me.  When they cried out in anguish I felt my heart wrench and turn.  I clutched my aching chest and breathed.  Once the book ended and I began to breathe normally again, I wanted nothing more but to read and listen to it again.  I was a blubbering idiot but I knew it was because the characters had become real and wonderful.  Oh so wonderful!

It’s just a small story, really, about, amongst other things:
a girl
some words
an accordionist
some fanatical Germans
a Jewish fist-fighter
and quite a lot of thievery

This is how The Book Thief begins.  Quickly we discover that the narrator is none other than Death, however this Death is not like any other imagined.  In Zusak’s book Death is “haunted by humanity” and he sees the world in color:

“First the colors.  Then the humans.  That’s usually how I see things.  Or at least, how I try.”

The Book Thief, Liesel Meminger, first witnesses the death of her little brother in a train car on the way to her new foster home.  He coughs until he stops and that is when Death first meets her.  Liesel moves permanently in with Mr. and Mrs. Hubermann.  They are not the most conventional of foster parents, but they do love her and you can feel it in the pages.  The Hubermanns also accept a Jewish fist fighter, Max, into their home, hiding him in the basement.  The most important aspect of this novel are the relationships between Liesel and the Hubermanns and Max and the other German children.  Zusak creates a sharp and brutal picture of the atrocities against Jews, while also describing the harsh realities for the lower class German families and the Germans that disagreed with the persecution of the Jews.  What happens when a good man does nothing?  What happens when he does something?  Death says:

“I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race – that rarely do I even simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

Zusak’s narrator Death is occasionally skipping ahead in the story line, telling a plot point before it is set to happen.  This sort of narrative requires readers to focus on the characters, not the plot.  Death describes the narrative, saying:

“Of course, I’m being rude. I’m spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it. I have given you two events in advance, because I don’t have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It’s the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me. There are many things to think of. There is much story.”

This style reminds me of an excellent novel by Muriel Sparks, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, in which the narrative jumps to the end of a characters life all within a few words and sentences.  In both these novels it is not if the character dies or lives, it is the relationships between characters that Zusak and Death want to emphasize in their stories.

In The Book Thief Words are very important.  Leisel and the narrator emphasize Words and their impact on the world around them.  Leisel struggles to read and to find the words to articulate her complicated emotions, but all these words come rushing to her by the end of the novel.  Words seem to be anthropomorphised, taking on human characteristics.  Leisel says:

“The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn’t be any of this. Without words, the Führer was nothing. There would be no limping prisoners, no need for consolation or wordly tricks to make us feel better. What good were the words?”

The Words are important because they are what tell Leisel’s story, but they are also the Fuhrer’s most powerful weapon.  It is Hitler’s propaganda and powerful speeches that, in Leisel’s opinion, has created such an elitist/racist/anti-Semitic German culture.  Liesel struggles with the words and eventually says:

“I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”

And so this is how I see Markus Zusak thinking.  He has created an intensely powerful novel and essentially he hopes he has represented this time in history appropriately.  He does.  The Book Thief is perfect and utterly heartbreaking.

Age Group: 14 and up (Every adult should definitely read this
Genre: Young Adult, Adult Fiction
Themes: Germany, Nazi, World War II, Coming-of-age, Death
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, imprint of Random Hous


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