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Book Review: Rebel Heart

Sheila Ruth's Blog - Tue, 2014-04-01 16:27

Rebel HeartDust Lands Book 2by Moira Young
Warning: this review may contain spoilers for the first book, Blood Red Road. If you haven't read Blood Red Road, I highly recommend it! It's about an incredibly tough heroine on a quest to save her brother in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. 
In Blood Red Road, Saba had one goal: find and save her twin brother Lugh from the people who took him. Saba knew that once she found Lugh, everything would be all right. But everything is most definitely not all right. Lugh and Saba have both been changed by the traumatic things they experienced, and the bond that connected them their whole lives seems to be broken and unrepairable.

Saba and Lugh, along with younger sister Emmi and another young man, Tommo, are on their way west to start a new life. Jack, whom Saba recently discovered is her heart's desire, separated from them to take a hard journey to deliver bad news, but he promised to meet them in the west. Saba is desperate to go west and find Jack again, but the group is stuck in the Waste, waiting for an injured horse to heal.

Then word comes that the Tonton, so recently defeated by Saba and her friends, have a new leader, who is cleansing the land of everyone except his own followers, killing or driving out the weak and the old, and taking the young and healthy. What's worse, Jack has been seen with the Tonton and may be one of them. Saba can't believe that Jack would be a part of such horrors, and she's determined to go back and find the truth, and help if she can.

Like Blood Red Road, Rebel Heart is a roller coaster of a story that grabs you and won't let go. Saba is one of the best YA heroines I've ever read. She's tough, oh yes, she's tough, but she also has heart and depth and an unshakeable resolve. Saba is a flawed heroine. She makes mistakes, she's not always kind, and she sometimes lets her single mindedness blind her. But Saba is a person who cares deeply, and would do anything for her family and her friends.

As with the first book, Rebel Heart is told in first person in Saba's distinctive voice and dialect, which is a little difficult to read at first, but it doesn't take long to seem natural, and it's such an integral part of the book that it's hard to imagine this book without it. The entire book is also written without quotation marks. All dialog is simply written out as part of the text with nothing to set it off. This also seems odd at first, but you get used to it and don't notice it. The biggest effect, to me, is that with the breakneck pace of the novel, the lack of quotation marks to slow the eye down contributes to a feeling of going downhill without brakes.

Overall, Rebel Heart and its predecessor, Blood Red Road, are excellent books that will have strong appeal to anyone who enjoys dystopian YA literature. Although more post-apocalyptic than dystopian, there are some dystopian elements in the Tonton society ruled by their new charismatic leader, the Pathfinder, and the book has a dystopian feel to it.

Rebel Heart ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and the third book, Raging Star, is due out May 13. I can't wait to read it!

Who would like this book:

Anyone who enjoys young adult dystopian books and who doesn't mind the unusual punctuation and dialect.

Rebel Heart is a 2013 Cybils Awards Nominee. The first book, Blood Red Road, was the 2011 Cybils winner for YA Science Fiction & Fantasy.

Get it from:
Audiobook:
Rebel Heart is available as an audiobook from Audible.com. I haven't yet listened to the audiobook, but I did listen to the audiobook for Blood Red Road and thought it was very well done. Narrator Heather Lind did an excellent job. There appears to also be a version narrated by Moira Young, but Audible tells me it isn't available in my area, so I suspect it's the Canadian version. The links below are to the Heather Lind narrated version.FTC required disclosure: Reviewed from purchased copy. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

Categories: Off Site Blogs

Thoughts on BookExpo America and BookCon

Sheila Ruth's Blog - Fri, 2014-03-28 12:45
So, yesterday I read this article in PW about Reed Exhibitions' plans for the new BookCon on the last day of BookExpo America (BEA). I posted an off-hand comment on Twitter and Facebook that I was thought the new plan was great. Apparently, my comments weren't clear, and some people are confused and upset by the new plan. "Why is excluding the public a good thing?" I was asked, and that wasn't what I meant at all, and I don't think it's what BEA intended. In fact rather the opposite. BEA is working to include the public and craft a positive experience for them. Since it's difficult to clarify my thoughts in 140 characters, I thought I'd write a blog post.

First, some history: BookExpo America is the largest U.S. conference for the book industry. It started in 1901 as the American Booksellers Association convention, and eventually grew to encompass much more. But it has always been a conference exclusively for the book industry. To attend, you had to be a bookseller, librarian, publisher, publishing service provider, or someone else working in the industry. Attending wasn't cheap, either. Badges can run several hundred dollars, depending on your role. That wasn't not intended to be exclusionary. It was always a conference oriented around the business side of books.

However, since books and authors are a big part of the conference, I think increasingly so in recent years, BEA recognizes that it would also be of interest to passionate book lovers, and in turn, those are people whom publishers exhibiting at BEA would like to reach. So for the last year or two, they've been experimenting with opening the conference to the public.

Last year, that took the form of "Power Reader" day, which provided tickets giving power readers access to the show floor on the last day. I think that Power Reader Day both was and wasn't a success. I think the idea was great, and some publishers took advantage of the opportunity to interact with readers and have special events and giveaways just for the public. For the readers, it provided a chance to meet authors and get autographed books, as well as a peek behind the curtain to see books in advance of publication.

However, the problem was that the BEA show floor is very large, and many exhibitors are not of interest to the public, nor are they interested in interacting with the public. So I saw many power readers wandering around booths with remainders dealers, printers, distributors, app developers, book display manufacturers, and publishing service providers of various types. In addition, some publishers publish books not intended for a general audience, and even some of the ones that do publish general interest books didn't seem interested in interacting with the public. Many exhibitors break down early on the last day, and walking the floor and hearing the tape guns, some starting as early as 11-12:00, I couldn't help but think that if I were a Power Reader, I would have been disappointed to see what looked like a conference winding down, on the only day I could be there.

Thankfully, Reed Exhibitions also recognized this problem, and they made some changes to address it. This year, if I understand correctly, a part of the BEA show floor will be sectioned off as the area for BookCon (replacing Power Readers) attendees. Exhibitors are given a choice whether they want to be in the BookCon area or not. The ones that choose not to be in this area are ones that wouldn't be offering anything to the public anyway: the business to business service providers, the specialized publishers, and those general trade publishers who, for whatever reason, aren't interested in taking part.

So if you attended Power Reader day last year and are worried about the changes, you won't be losing anything! (Disclaimer: I'm not associated with BEA in any way, other than as an attendee for the last 10 years, so I'm just going by what I read in the press and on their website). You'll still have access to a feast of books and authors; it's just that it will all be consolidated into one area, so that you don't have to hunt through aisles and aisles of irrelevant (to you) booths to find the things that interest you.

I think that what's confusing people is on the ticket page it says, "BookCon Tickets do not provide access to BookExpo America (BEA). BEA is a trade only event (not open to the public) and BookCon Tickets do not provide entry into BEA." What I think this means - and again, this is just me interpreting - is that you don't have access to the first two days of BEA, which Power Readers didn't have last year, either, and you don't have access to the area of BEA which is primarily for business to business exhibitors (which most of the public wouldn't be interested in anyway).

This BookCon FAQ addresses a lot of the questions and concerns.

If you haven't attended before and you're within an easy drive of New York City, this is a great opportunity to find out about new books, meet authors, and maybe pick up some freebies. Tickets to the one day BookCon event are only $30 for adults (and teens, apparently) and $5 for children. Ticket information is here.




Categories: Off Site Blogs

Book Review: Underneath

Sheila Ruth's Blog - Mon, 2014-03-24 16:20
Underneathby Sarah Jamila Stevenson

Sunny Pryce-Shah is devastated when her cousin Shiri commits suicide. How could Shiri do it? Shiri always seemed so confident, and Sunny looked up to her older cousin. Then Sunny starts to hear thoughts, and from cryptic comments in Shiri's journal, she suspects that Shiri may have had the same problem. Hearing thoughts is more of a curse than a power. It can be painful to know what people really think of you, for example, and Sunny can't control it or stop it from happening. Sunny is already dealing with so much, but she knows that she has to get the ability under some kind of control before it pulls her apart like it did her cousin.

Underneath is a contemporary YA novel with a speculative twist. The underhearing is just one of the conflicts Sunny has to deal with. In addition to grief over her cousin and dealing with her unusual problem, Sunny also has to navigate the treacherous waters of the high school social scene, and her family is dealing with the possible spousal abuse of her aunt. The relationships, including family, friend, and romantic interest, feel authentic, and I like that the book portrays how complex such relationships are. Fights happen, and sometimes no one is right or wrong and you just have to find a way to work things out. But sometimes one person's behavior is wrong, and it's not always easy to tell the difference.

The book also portrays grief in a way that seems authentic. Grief doesn't just go away because a certain amount of time has passed, and one of the difficult things for someone bereaved is when people start to feel that they should be over it. Grief also takes different forms, and different people grieve in different ways at different times.

I also like that romance isn't a major focus of the story. There are romantic interests, and even a couple of love triangles, but in the end it's not important who ends up paired with whom, and the story is really much more about friendship (and family) than romance.

From a diversity perspective, Sunny is half Pakistani. Although she is pretty much a regular American teenager, there are some bits of Pakistani culture that come from her grandparents, for example when they send over Pakistani food, or request an imam at the funeral. It's handled very naturally as a part of the normal American experience and not at all an issue.

In the end, it's character and voice that make this a compelling novel. Sunny is such an interesting character with a distinctive voice, and we feel her pain and her struggles.

The underhearing itself is never explained, and this may bother some readers. However, not understanding it is a part of the story conflict, and in real life there isn't always a neat explanation that ties things up with a bow.  I do love the word "underhearing" - it's a perfect word for what is, in essence, mental overhearing.

Who would like this book:

Teens who enjoy contemporary fiction with a paranormal twist.

Underneath is a 2013 Cybils Awards Nominee

Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Reviewed from library copy. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

Categories: Off Site Blogs

The Infinite Sea Cover Reveal

Sheila Ruth's Blog - Fri, 2014-03-21 10:56

The cover for The Infinite Sea, sequel to Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave, has been revealed. You can see a larger image of it over at USA Today, along with an interesting interview with Rick Yancey. (Note: Although Yancey tries to be careful not to spoil anything, I think it does give some clues about the second book).

The 5th Wave was an excellent book about the aftermath of an alien invasion, although one of the themes of the book is that this alien invasion is not a anything like what you would expect from movies and TV. ("...not-your-grandma's alien invasion," as Yancey says in the interview). You can read my review of The 5th Wave here.

I'm really looking forward to reading The Infinite Sea, which will be published September 16. I'm particularly excited that Yancey mentions in the interview that there are still some plot twists, as one of the things I loved about the first book was the layers of surprising reveals.

Also, Yancey talks about the 5th Wave movie in the interview, and it sounds like that's making progress.
Categories: Off Site Blogs

Light of the White Bear Kickstarter Project

Sheila Ruth's Blog - Tue, 2014-03-18 16:55

David Clement-Davies, author of The Sight, Fell, and Fire Bringer, is running a Kickstarter project to bring his newest book, Light of the White Bear, to the United States. I've read several of his books and really enjoyed them. If you like books about wild animals, with deep social and spiritual themes, you'll enjoy his books.

If you'd like to support an author fighting for autonomy over his books, or if you just like his books (or think you might!) please consider backing this Kickstarter.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1159695087/light-of-the-white-bear
Categories: Off Site Blogs

Petition to Stop Gender-labeling Books

Sheila Ruth's Blog - Sat, 2014-03-08 11:51

The UK based organization Let Toys Be Toys has started a petition on Change.org to ask publishers to stop gender-labeling books. The image above shows how such labeling can send a powerful message to kids about what's important: beauty for girls and intelligence for boys in this case. Granted, this image is an extreme example, probably selected for its provocative nature. But any gender labeling, even less provocative examples, limits children's choices and perpetuates gender stereotypes. Please take a few minutes and sign this petition.

Here's a great article about gender labeling on the Let Toys Be Toys website.

As a child, I always preferred books with robots, aliens, and adventure over cupcakes, flowers, and handbags. Books should expand children's horizons, not limit them.
Categories: Off Site Blogs

Book Review: The Summer Prince

Sheila Ruth's Blog - Mon, 2014-02-17 12:00
The Summer Prince
by Alaya Dawn Johnson

June and her best friend Gil are thrilled to wrangle an invite to the official celebration of the newly elected Summer King, Enki. But they never anticipate that Gil and Enki will fall in love, or how much Enki will affect both of their lives. Although the Summer King has no real power, Enki, who comes from the lowest level of society, is determined to use what influence he has to help his people. June and Enki begin to collaborate on a big art installation, one that they hope will both send a message to the city, and win June the Queen's Award. But none of the three can forget that at the end of the summer, Enki will die. Because the real purpose of the Summer King is sacrifice in service of the city.

The Summer Prince is a brilliant book on so many levels. To start, it's an achingly immersive story set in a future Brazil. Added to that are elements from the Sumerian myth The Epic of Gilgamesh. Going deeper, there are the themes: power and sacrifice, choices and consequences, privilege and class, order and change. Finally, there is the writing: Alaya Dawn Johnson has created a beautiful tapestry so intricately woven that the patterns aren't always obvious on the first read-through. Even on my second read I'm not sure if I saw everything.

Palmares Tres is a gem of a city where past culture and future culture merge. It's a city where people still Samba and eat Vatapá stew, where grafeteiros create masterpieces and street gangs fight with capoeira. And yet it's a city with deep class divisions, where class hierarchy is literally expressed in the city tiers: the higher classes live on the upper levels and the lowest class lives on the bottom tier, where the the stink of the algae vats is ever present. This physical expression of class hierarchy is not a new idea in science fiction, but it's well done here. That stink, known as the Catinga, becomes a powerful symbol in the story, and in fact the higher tiers call the lowest tier "The Catinga."

Palmeres Tres is a city ruled by a matriarchy: a Queen and a council of women called Aunties. Many of them have forgotten the purpose of power, and while they, in their own way, seem to love the city, often their machinations seem designed to protect their own power rather than benefit the city. Most residents of the city live 200 years or more, setting up a situation where anyone under 30 is considered a juvenile, and not to be trusted to make good decisions. So we have class conflict, gender conflict, and age conflict, and with his election as Summer King, Enki becomes the touchstone at the center of all these conflicts.

I've seen this book described as dystopian, but I don't think that it quite falls into that classification. The traditional definition of a dystopia is one that seems utopian on the surface, but is later revealed to be oppressive and deeply flawed. I think that in some ways The Summer Prince turns that around: the flaws are fairly obvious early on, but as you continue to read it becomes clear how much the citizens of Palmeros Tres love their city with a genuine love, even in spite of the flaws. However, The Summer Prince is similar enough to dystopian literature that I think it will appeal to teens who enjoy dystopian books.

It's not necessary to be familiar with The Epic of Gilgamesh or to even recognize those elements are there to enjoy the story, but if you are familiar with the Epic it's a sheer joy to discover the iconic story of Enkidu and Gilgamesh wrestling in the streets transformed into a heart-stopping Samba when Gil and Enki first meet. The Summer Prince is not really a retelling of the myth, but there are some interesting parallels.

June is an imperfect character who struggles throughout the book to make the right choices. Her dream is to be recognized as a great artist, and when that dream comes into conflict with her awakening social awareness, she doesn't always choose the right thing. She blames her mother for her father's death, and because of that she's mean to her mother. All these things make her a believable, realistic character whom the reader can identify with as she grows through her association with Enki.

The Summer Prince does a great job of representing people who are underrepresented in YA lit. All the residents of Palmeros Tres have skin of varying shades of color, and Enki himself is described as being exceptionally charismatic and with very dark skin. Sexual relationships, both same-sex and opposite-sex, are depicted in a natural, unfettered way that's totally a non-issue. In Palmeros Tres it doesn't seem to matter whom you love.

The Brazilian setting is a refreshing change from books set in European-based settings. I personally loved that the book represented a culture and people that you don't often see in American YA Fiction, but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out this review of The Summer Prince by a native Brazilian, Ana of The Book Smugglers. I'd encourage you to read the review, but in short, Ana is concerned that the Brazilian cultural elements are not always used accurately, and don't go any deeper than those elements that outsiders identify with Brazil, such as samba, Carnival, and capoeira. To Ana, it feels like a stereotype.

I've been thinking a lot about Ana's review over the last few days. Does the book stereotype Brazilians? Maybe - it's hard for me to know since I'm not Brazilian. Should a writer be able to write about a culture as an outsider to that culture? This, I think, is the crux of the controversy, and I've seen good arguments on both sides. I personally think writers stretching to write about things outside their personal experience is a good thing, because it helps to bring those ideas and cultures to other people who are not familiar with them, but the outsider has to work harder to get it right. I found an interview with Johnson where she says about her research, "I read a lot of books, particularly about the history of the African diaspora in Brazil. Also got advice from my sister, who studied in Brazil and knew many sources. And sent it to Brazilian writers for help."

I totally understand Ana's frustration and annoyance with the book. It's not quite the same thing, but I studied a martial art for 18 years, and I get really annoyed when I read a fiction book that gets the martial arts details wrong. So I get how frustrating it would be to have your culture portrayed inaccurately. But it does sound like Johnson did try get the details right, and I hope that maybe it will at least it will inspire young people to want to learn more about Brazil and read up on it, as I did after finishing the book. In balance, I think that a book like this that encourages young people to think outside their comfort zone and learn about new ideas and new cultures is a good thing. There are no easy answers, but I think it's important that we keep having these conversations as we try to get it right.

The Summer Prince is the 2013 Cybils Awards winner for the YA Speculative Fiction category.

Who would like this book:

Science fiction and dystopian readers, as well as teens who like reading about other cultures.

Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher for the purpose of Cybils Awards judging. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

Categories: Off Site Blogs

Book Review: The Archived

Sheila Ruth's Blog - Thu, 2014-02-06 19:00
The Archived
by Victoria Schwab

It hasn't even been a year since Ben died, and Mackenzie Bishop is already forgetting what her brother looked like. Her mother copes with the grief by throwing herself with artificial cheerfulness into projects, while her father copes by retreating into himself.

Mac knows something her parents don't: that all the memories of the dead are archived as Histories, which look and act like the living person in every way. Histories usually sleep, but sometimes one awakens and tries to get out; occasionally they're even violent. Mac is a Keeper, tasked with guarding the Narrows that border the Archive and returning any of the Histories who escape. It's a role that she inherited from her grandfather, and one that she must keep absolutely secret, even from her parents. Knowing that Ben's History is in the Archive should be a comfort to Mac, but even a Keeper can't see the Histories, and Mac fears that she is losing her memories of Ben.

When Mac's family moves into the Coronado, an old hotel converted to an apartment building, Mackenzie gets a new territory in the Narrows to patrol. But something is not right — the Histories here are restless, and Mac is busier than ever trying to return them all. What's more, it appears that a murder was committed decades ago at the Coronado, a murder that someone went to a great deal of trouble to cover up. Mac is determined to find out the truth, even if it means putting her life at risk.

The Archived is a moving exploration of life, death, and grief wrapped up in an intriguing, character-driven mystery. Mac is tough — she has to be, to deal with the sometimes violent Histories — and she has the scars to prove it. But even her toughness doesn't make her immune to grief, and like everyone else she'll need to find a way to deal with it and move towards acceptance.

The story has a strong sense of place, and the various locations are lovingly described: the elegant, library-like atmosphere of the Archives, the creepy hallways of the Narrows, and the faded glory of the Coronado, which really becomes a character in its own right. The characters are likewise vividly brought to life. Besides Mac, there is a teen boy, Wes, that she meets in the Coronado. Wes hides a surprising depth and empathy behind a façade of good-natured humor. Mac's relationship with her grandfather is developed through flashbacks. Other minor characters, such as the Librarians in the Archives, are less fully-fleshed-out, but still distinctively characterized.

The setup with the Archives is intriguing and pleasingly unique. The internal logic is pretty consistent and well-developed, with one exception that bothered me. What is the purpose of keeping the Archives in the first place? There doesn't seem to be any reason for it. Loved ones can't visit the Histories, and no one seems to read the Histories except for the occasional Librarian seeking relief from boredom, and even that seems to be discouraged. It seems like an elaborate setup requiring considerable secrecy and no small amount of risk, for no purpose. If you can suspend that disbelief, then The Archived is a pretty enjoyable book.

The Archived is a 2013 Cybils Awards Nominee

Who would like this book:

Although the setup is not strictly supernatural — Histories aren't really ghosts — it should appeal strongly to fans of supernatural fiction. Teens who enjoy mysteries or character-driven fiction may also enjoy this.

Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Reviewed from library copy. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.


Categories: Off Site Blogs

Book Review: Shadows

Sheila Ruth's Blog - Mon, 2014-01-13 15:49


 Shadowsby Robin McKinley

It's not just that Maggie misses her father, or understandably resents her new stepfather, Val. No, it goes beyond that: Val has too many shadows. Whenever Maggie looks at him, she sees him surrounded by wiggly shadow shapes with too many appendages. It can't be magic, because there is no magic in Newworld. Anyone with the potential for magic must have a procedure to snip the gene before they reach puberty, and even though Val is an immigrant, he wouldn't have been allowed in if he had any magic.

Maggie tries not to think about it, and avoids Val as much as possible by throwing herself into her work at the local animal shelter, which isn't hard, since Maggie loves animals anyway. Then a cobey — a "coherence break" in the universe — opens nearby, and with one revelation after another, Maggie begins to discover that the world — and Newworld specifically — is full of surprises, among them that Val is not such a bad guy. When the situation goes from bad to worse, Maggie and her friends set out to set things right, accompanied by five very large dogs, a cantankerous Maine Coone cat, a friendly shadow named Hix, and one stubborn algebra book.

Shadows is a fun book with loads of teen appeal. Maggie's voice as the narrator is authentic and entertaining, if a bit rambly in parts, and there's gentle humor woven throughout the book. The pacing is excellent, perfectly balancing character development, excitement, humor, and reveals. All of the characters are interesting and well-developed, including animals, shadows, and semi-animate objects. Even the dogs each have distinctive personalities. Although Maggie finds she has some unusual abilities, she can't do it alone - it takes the combined efforts and abilities of everyone to succeed. There is romance, but it's not overdone and I like the direction that McKinley went with the it.

There are dystopian elements, such as soldiers in the streets with scanners, roadblocks, and forced genetic manipulation, but I wouldn't call this a dystopian book. The focus is not on fighting against a dystopian government, although there is certainly some of that. Instead, it's more about finding yourself and discovering that the world is a different place than you thought.

Shadows is a 2013 Cybils Awards Finalist in the YA Speculative Fiction category.

Who would like this book:

Readers of both traditional fantasy and dystopian stories will enjoy this, as it has elements of both. Dog lovers, cat lovers, and origami artists will also find a lot to appreciate.

Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Reviewed from library copy. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.


Categories: Off Site Blogs

Cybils 2013 Finalists

Sheila Ruth's Blog - Wed, 2014-01-01 11:15
For the last three months, my life has been consumed by the Cybils Awards, an award for the best children's and young adult books of the year, as selected by the children's book blogging community.  I've been involved with the Cybils since they were founded in 2006, and I wear a number of different hats. But my favorite part of the Cybils is being a judge, reading and discussing the books with a fabulous panel of judges and selecting the best books of the year. This year I was a judge (and category chair) for the Young Adult Speculative Fiction category, (formerly called Fantasy & Science Fiction) as I have been every year except one since the beginning.

I'm so excited to share with you the seven fantastic books that my fellow judges and I selected as the finalists! A hat tip to my smart, fun, and wonderful fellow judges: Leila Roy, Tanita Davis, Patrice Caldwell, Sarah Mulhern Gross, Hallie Tibbets, and Karen Jensen. Also be sure to check out the Cybils finalists in all the other categories! 

Here are the 2013 Finalists for Speculative Fiction: Young Adult!


ConjuredSarah Beth DurstWalker Books for Young ReadersNominated by: Leila RoyConjured is a multiverse fantasy about a magician, a dark carnival of horrors and delights, a group of snarky, teenaged magic users, and a protagonist who is hugely powerful but also hugely vulnerable. It's a cop story about a girl in witness protection. It's a story about friendship and first love, about discovering one's self, about finding a safe haven in a library, and about what it means to be human.
Our narrator is Eve, a girl who doesn't entirely know who she is; who isn't sure who or what, exactly, she's being protected from; whose memory is so fragmented that she sometimes loses entire weeks of her life. By turns, it is frightening, funny, romantic, and heartwarming, and it is, from beginning to end, completely mesmerizing. As Eve unravels the mysteries that surround her, it becomes more and more clear just how layered, complex, beautifully realized, and wholly original her voice--and Durst's vision--is. Upon finishing the book, readers will want to immediately turn back to the beginning to read it again with a completely new perspective.— Leila Roy, Bookshelves of Doom http://bookshelvesofdoom.blogs.com/


Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin Trilogy)Robin LaFeversHoughton Mifflin HarcourtNominated by: Laurie Ann Thompson
In late fifteenth-century Brittany, Sybella is sent from the convent of Saint Mortain to her ancestral home, where her faith will guide her in the assassination of her father, the horrible Count d’Albret. She is ready withcrossbow, garrote, even poison—but she cannot see the marque of death that allows her murder to be sanctioned by her god, and cannot decide whether or how to act. Throughout Dark Triumph, the sequel to Grave Mercy that can be read as a standalone, Sybella struggles with dissonance: mercy and justice, fate and free will, betrayal and loyalty, vengeance and forgiveness, family and freedom, faith and skepticism. And there’s no time to delay, no time to consider, because France could invade at any moment. Dark Triumph is a grim but hopeful fantasy that blends intrigue, danger, and a little romance into a real historical setting.
— Hallie Tibbets, Undusty New Books http://www.undusty.com/


Pantomime (Strange Chemistry)Laura LamStrange ChemistryNominated by: LivianiaWhen sixteen-year-old Micah Grey is caught eavesdropping on the grounds of the R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic, a potentially terrifying incident evolves into an impromptu audition. Micah is hired as an aerialist and begins training to replace a soon-to-retire flyer. But the circus is full of secrets, including Micah's, and nothing is as it seems.
Magical, atmospheric and spellbinding, Pantomime is more than just a story about a circus. With complex worldbuilding, full of culture, mythology, and magic, Lam manages to weave a story full of intrigue and emotion. Lam's characters are fully realized and three-dimensional and the way Lam presents Micah's struggle with gender identity and sexuality is handled deftly and without being didactic. Pantomime is a touching, complex, and fantastic story of a teen struggling to find a place in the world; a timeless theme. — Sarah Mulhern Gross, TheReadingZone http://thereadingzone.wordpress.com/


ShadowsRobin McKinleyNancy Paulsen BooksNominated by: Stephanie BurgisMaggie's mother marrying a backwards, Oldworld geek with a thick accent and a lamentable fashion sense isn't the worst of it. It's abruptly seeing what no one else seems to see - shadows. Newworld belongs to science - bright lights, reason, and technology is what keeps its denizens safe. But with every tremor shaking up her safe, familiar life, Maggie realizes that Newworld - and everything else - isn't what she's been told, and sometimes looking into the shadows lets a person see.
Panelists were nearly unanimous in their love for this fast-paced novel with obedient dogs, less obedient algebra books, quirky humor and loveable characters who are clearly a tribute to the imagination of Diana Wynne Jones. Robin McKinley's Shadows is a classic fantasy novel which reveals a new world to a reluctant heroine, and sends her on a fantastic journey. McKinley touches on themes of civil liberty, freedom, and knowledge in this book and reminds us that we can take what we fear, and use it to arm ourselves to take on the universe.Fantastic.— Tanita Davis,  Finding Wonderland http://writingya.blogspot.com/


The Summer PrinceAlaya Dawn JohnsonArthur A LevineNominated by: thereadingzoneIn the lush city of Palmares Tres, June Costa creates art that's sure to make her legendary. In Enki, the bold new Summer King, she sees more than his amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist. Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die. Set in a world rich with organic diversity, The Summer Prince is sure to take readers on a journey through the beautiful Palmares Tres and the lives of its inhabitants. Teens, especially, will relate with the pain the book’s protagonist, June, feels, wanting to be recognized for her art in a society where being under 30 means you are no one. In addition, the complex relationship between June, her best friend, Gil, and the one they both love, Enki is sure to pull at heartstrings, making readers fall uncontrollably in love. The Summer Prince is a fantasy like no other, and from its very first sentence, it promises to amaze.— Patrice Caldwell, Whimsically Yours http://whimsicallyours.com/


The Waking DarkRobin WassermanAlfred A. Knopf Books for Young ReadersNominated by: Liz BWhen the killing day comes, violence erupts in the town of Oleander. Many are dead at the hands of the people they love, but this is only the beginning. A year passes and the dark is once again slowly waking; a sinister something seems to seep into the heart of Oleander, turning loved one against loved one. And when the dark wakes, can anyone be safe? The Waking Dark is a slow-boil horror tale where a sleepy, small town becomes a character in its own right. A group of teens are left behind to navigate a path to safety only in the midst of the incredible violence that has overtaken their town. They struggle with the very real emotions of self discovery and alienation, the trials of faith and doubt, and the very real question of who you can trust when this sickness seems to turn the hearts of all the towns inhabitants. Wasserman takes the epidemic tale to interesting new depths by placing very real teens in the midst of a Stephen King-esque novel and amping up the volume. Teen life was never quite so terrifying.— Karen Jensen, Teen Librarian's Toolbox http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/


William Shakespeare's Star WarsIan DoescherQuirk BooksNominated by: Pink MeStar Wars and Shakespeare go together like grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. If the Bard were alive today, he would surely have written the epic story of a young man’s search for identity amidst a galactic battle for freedom -- and the larger tragedy of his father's descent into darkness, redemption, and death. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars turned out to be so much more than the gimmicky book we initially assumed it would be. Ian Doescher has imbued every line of this book with his passion for, and understanding of, both the Shakespeare and Star Wars canon. It goes far beyond just mimicking Shakespeare’s language: from Darth Vader’s introspective monologues to R2-D2’s Puckish asides, this is truly Star Wars the way that Shakespeare would have written it.Although this book tells the story of Episode IV: A New Hope, (the original Star Wars movie) it draws on the other films and the larger Star Wars universe for some of the material, and even includes nods to Star Wars fandom. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is rich with literary merit - one judge is already using it in a classroom Shakespeare unit - and oozing gooey teen appeal, especially for Star Wars fans. All of the judges would love to see this performed live, or even participate in the staging of it!— Sheila Ruth, Wands and Worldshttp://blog1.wandsandworlds.com
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