Opening Lines to Great Books of 2011

“It isn’t true what they say about my brother – that he ate those children. “ – from  Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett.

“We would have got away with it if it wasn’t for that drunken squirrel,” said Luke. “ – from The Project  by Brian Falkner.

“Pop’s leg was across the room when I came downstairs.  I didn’t ask him how it got there.” – from The Girl is Murder  by Kathryn Miller Haines.

“There is nothing more humiliating than being topless in the backseat of your boyfriend’s car when someone decides to throw an egg at the windshield. “ – from Shut Out  by Kody Keplinger

“Ashline Wilde was a human mood ring. “ –  from Wildfire  by Karsten Knight

“Benny Imura was appalled to learn that the apocalypse came with homework.” -from Dust and Decay  by Jonathan Maberry.

“The sun was faithful again that morning, rising above the farm with a shine so fresh it tasted like gazpacho.” – from  Straw House Wood House Brick House Blow  by Daniel Nayeri.

“I have three simple wishes. They’re really not too much to ask.  The first is to attend the winter formal dressed like Marie Antoinette.” – from  Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins.

It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.” – from  The Scorpio Races  by Maggie Stiefvater.

“We were watching the telly when we decided to rob the dentist.” – from Under Dogs by Markus Zusak



Beyond Review Journals – Finding Cool Books for Your Collection

Review journals are always the first place most of us to go to find books to buy for our collections.  But good as they are (and as a reviewer for Booklist I think I’m contractually obligated to say that), we all know that not every book with teen appeal gets reviewed in one journal or another.

So – where else to go when you want to find some cool books for your collection? Well, your best bet is to go where the teens are going.  Or, read what mags they’re reading. Be open minded about what you see and you’re sure to find some neat titles at a number of venues – print, online, or physical.

1) Urban Outfitters – Okay, so you have to put aside all the drinking game and Kama Sutra titles loaded up on their book table, but I always find something I want in my collection when I browse this retailer which has branded itself cool and edgy.  You can look through their online “book store” (find it referenced under Apartment), but I really prefer to visit the stores.  That way I can actually skim through the books to determine whether it has content I can feel comfortable having in my collection (remember, no journal reviews means no back up if a book gets challenged), and it also gives me a chance to surreptitiously watch what teens in the store are picking up.  A cool title I just found there:  The World of Geekcraft

2) Modcloth – an online retailer.  Again, books come under their Apartment heading.  Since they mainly sell fashion, the majority of books I come across here have something to do with style, i.e. Fifty Dresses That Changed the World and Fifty Shoes That Changed the World are recent gems that will work well in my nonfiction collection.

3) “Rolling Stone,” “Entertainment Weekly,” etc. – Books reviewed in these pages often rank high in teen appeal – especially those that profile bands and entertainers.  And don’t be afraid to buy books about long gone bands or dead entertainers.  Among certain young adults I know, anything about Johnny Cash is hot (yeah!), so Roseanne Cash’s memoir is something to consider.

3) Bookstores – Whether you browse in  indies or chains, never visit a bookstore without a notebook.  I especially find books I want to buy in the humor section.  Examples? Desperate Cupcakes and Every Zombie Eats Somebody Sometime.  Peruse the comics and manga section too when you’re out and about.  I almost always find something I’ve missed.

Starring TAB favorites!

Every winter my TAB teens work themselves into a frenzy finding books to “star” during our annual “star” meeting.  It’s a fun activity that helps them “own” the YA collection, via special stickers, and highlight the books they think are special and wish others would read.

Setting up this meeting is easy.  I have a “star” template for stickers that I make in-house.  On the rectangular form, one side features a star and the other says “Northbrook Teen Recommended 2011.”  Each year I change the sticker’s background color (and of course the year).  Each teen gets ten stickers.  They may pick a book from anywhere in the library, but only YA and Juv books get the sticker on the spine (Adult ref and reader’s advisory prefer the sticker to go on a book’s inside cover.)

Once they’ve collected their books, they bring them back to our meeting room, put the sticker on the book, and then fill out a form listing all ten books.  I use the list later to make up teen lists or bibliographies.

The new twist this year, now that we’ve migrated to a new catalog, was inputting their number 1 favorite books onto a Bibliocommons list under Staff Picks – Teens.  Instant gratification!

As always it’s always fun to see what these 6th-12th graders pick as favorites.  Below are some of these teen faves, with their comments,  for you to peruse!

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

The characters were very realistic and I loved the history.

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

Great sequel to Incarceron.

Wizards First Rule – Terry Goodkind

The start of an amazing series, so there’s plenty more to read if you find it interesting!

Born to Rock by Gordon Korman

The plot is very intriguing.

Green Day by Ben Myers

This was a great book about an amazing band.

Maximum Ride by James Patterson

It is a fast-paced book that is very exciting and lively.

The Last Olympian b Rick Riordan

Entertaining and suspenseful. The best of the whole series.

Harry Potter and the Deathly  Hallows by J.K. Rowling

It was a really intense book because it had a lot of drama, romance, and of course, wizardry!

Id_entity by Hee-Joon Son

It’s a good manga.

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Suspenseful and funny – an unusual combination.

Beautiful examinations of normal life in a surreal manner.

It’s really really good. And it’s a vampire book where they don’t sparkle!

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

A very meaningful and deep book. It made me cry.

New and Noteworthy YA Titles

I’ve been keeping track of the best of the best YA fiction of 2010 – noting stars, nominations from the BFYA and Quick Picks lists, and more.  The following books all garnered at least three stars and/or nominations. Herewith, some quick summaries of my favorites.

A Conspiracy of KingsMegan Whalen Turner

The world of  the thief, now the King of Attolia (from the books of the same names), is vaguely classical and very political.  If you like fantasy rich with intriguing young, intelligent characters who, sometimes blindly, sometimes slyly, try to manipulate the fate of their homelands, you’ll eat the fourth book in this series up.  Oh – and the action is nonstop as Sophos, a character from the first book,  is kidnapped, taken into slavery, makes his escape, and then journeys to confront his royal friend, Gen.  (Stars from Booklist, Hornbook, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal; nomination from BFYA)

As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth – Lynne Rae Perkins

I’m a huge fan of Perkins’ Criss Cross. This novel is just as quirky and endearing. Ry, off to camp, leaves a stalled train to use his cell phone and gets left behind in the middle of the Great Plains.  The point of the book is the coincidences leaving him and his family unable to contact each other, even in our interconnected world.   Kind strangers operate to bring people back together.  How refreshing!  A truly nice book that pulls you into the adventure.  Will Ry reunite with his mom and dad, or will he end up stranded in the middle of the Caribbean? Yup, that’s right. He winds up overboard in the Caribbean. (Stars from Booklist, Hornbook, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly; nominations from BFYA and Children’s Notables)

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors – by Francisco X. Stork

Set in New Mexico, Stork’s latest book features his usual complex characters dealing with complex problems.  DQ, a relentlessly upbeat boy considering he has cancer, lives in an orphanage where he befriends new resident Pancho, and tries to recruit him to join a philosophy group who fight for life.  Pancho is reluctant to get involved.  He has his own agenda, which includes killing the man he believes is responsible for his mentally handicapped sister’s death. A trip to  Albuquerque for DQ’s cancer treatment doesn’t totally pan out as either boy plans.   Stork has a way of surprising his readers as he lets his characters mature.   If you like novels with stunning depth, this one’s for you. (Stars from Booklist, Hornbook, and Publishers Weekly; nomination from BFYA)

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

A book to appeal to the Middle School set.  This follows Caitlin, an autistic girl whose brother was killed in a school shooting incident.  I was skeptical of yet another book featuring an autistic protagonist, but Erskine pulls it off, and makes her heroine unique.  Caitlin (whom her brother called Scout, in reference to the character in To Kill a Mockingbird) is searching for “closure,” an idea she heard a TV news person mention.  Can completing her brother’s Eagle Scout project help her father, and perhaps her home town as well? Caitlin is endearing because of her earnest effort to get past the literalness that often makes her unendearing.  Her persistence truly makes her live up to her fictional namesake.  (Stars from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly; nominations from BFYA and Children’s Notables)

Nothing by Janne Teller

This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I was blown away.  It’s a book ripe for discussions, even arguments.  A class of Jr. High-age kids is disturbed when their classmate Pierre takes the position that nothing is worth anything  – therefore nothing is worth doing, believing, or taking part in.  The teens decide to prove Pierre wrong by gathering a pile of meaning.  But the pile will only be worthy if they put vital things on it – a favorite pair of shoes, a prayer rug, a pet, a flag…a dead baby brother.  The fall out isn’t pretty. You’ll be dying to talk about it with someone. (Stars from The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books, Booklist, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Voya; nominations from BFYA and Quick Picks)

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Longing for an icy mystery during the steamy dog days of summer?  This should cool you off.  As Sig sits alone with his father’s frozen corpse in a Swedish cabin, a menacing stranger shows up at his door demanding treasure. Seems he knew Sig’s family during the Nome, Alaska gold rush.  Trouble is, Sig has no idea what the man is talking about.  There’s a revolver in the pantry though.  One with a long, troubled history.  Can, and should, Sig use it? The back story reveals itself as the novel flips back and forth between Sweden and Nome.  The tension stretches further when Sig’s sister, back from town to report their father’s death, interrupts the stand-off, and causes disturbing memories to rise to the surface. (Stars from Hornbook, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal; nominations from BFYA and Quick Picks)

Ship Breaker – by Paolo Bacigalupi

The latest in a spurt of dystopian fiction.  This first novel, though, stands out because of its incredible atmospheric descriptions of a world where the leftovers of our current civilization are cannibalized by the working poor.  Nailer is a ship breaker on the Gulf Coast, pulling apart old tankers and ocean vessels for salvage.  When the latest hurricane deposits a sleek sailboat on an off-shore island, he feels he’s been handed a lucky break.  But there’s a girl – a rich girl – still alive on the boat, and he needs to decide if he should help her or not.  His decisions lead him on a long journey, chased by people good and bad, across the remains of bayous and submerged cityscapes. (Stars from Booklist, Hornbook, and Publishers Weekly; nomination from BFYA)

The Sky is Everywhere – by Jandy Nelson

Death and sex – it’s a classic pair. And I don’t believe I’ve ever read a better YA book about the way tragedy revs up hormones. Lennie’s sister dies unexpectedly, leaving the teen’s unconventional Northern California family devastated.  Lennie, once bookish and quiet, scatters poems about her loss around town, and finds herself overwhelmingly drawn to two boys – one, a new musician in her high school class; the other, her dead  sister’s boyfriend.  Her steamy confusion and passion are heartbreakingly portrayed.  Follow her as she slowly, painfully, figures out what she needs to do. I found this believable and tender – like a deep muscle bruise. (Stars from The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books and Publishers Weekly; nomination from BFYA)

Wicked Girls – by Stephanie Hemphill

Mean and manipulative girl cliques are nothing new.  At least according to Hemphill.   The clique she writes about here is the ultimate.  They’re the girls from Salem who started the witch scare of the 1690’s.  Hemphill gets into the dynamics of how some simple foolishness led to hangings.  She’s wickedly good at sifting through the multiple motives driving the girls and how they played each other.  While I enjoyed this book, written in blank verse, it raised questions for me.  I’m not sure Hemphill is handing her historicial characters sensibilities that are too modern. Let me know what you think.  (Stars from Booklist, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson – by John Green and David Leviathan

Two boys, same name.  Both are ironic outsiders, yet different.  One’s a North Shore resident dreaming of a cool girl.  The other’s from the western burbs and is hiding that he’s gay.  They meet one night at a porn shop in Chicago… Um, yeah.  Suffice to say it’s a hilarious scene.  The other point of connection between the teens is the straight Will’s best friend, Tiny, a gay football player of enormous proportions and ego, who gay Will falls for.  But complications arise – most of them having to do with an outrageous musical Tiny’s writing and producing.  Give this one to Glee geeks – they’ll eat it up.  (Stars from Booklist, Kirkus, and School Library Journal; nomination from BFYA)