Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Top Teen Reads!

Teen fiction is my profession (I teach 8th grade Reading), so I make it part of my job to read as much of it as I can. Thanks to my blog follower, Ashley, I've made a list of teen fiction reads that you must get your hands on this year! This list is pretty diverse and spans many different time periods and styles of writing. If you click on the picture, it will take you to a full review of the novel. I couldn't rank these in a "top ten list", because so many of them are equal stand outs in my mind. Read them and decide for yourself which is your favorite! Enjoy!

LINGER by Maggie Stiefvater

I've been waiting for this book, ever since I read the last page of Maggie Stiefvater's first novel in this series, Shiver. Teen fiction is saturated with crap at the moment, and Stiefvater's elegant writing and style are a much-needed respite from the junk! Although the tale centers around the trials and tribulations of life as a werewolf, don't bother to make comparisons to that other popular series with buff guys shedding their skins for wolf pelts. (What was the name of that series again??? ;)
In Shiver, we were introduced to Grace Brisbane; a responsible, attractive and lonely teenage girl. Her parents are flightly ding-bats who seem to forget they have a daughter - often coming home at odd hours of the night and often leaving her to take care of herself. Her parents lackadaisical attitude toward caring for Grace is what set the chain of events in motion to tie her to the pack of Mercy Falls wolves that roamed freely in the forests behind her home. Grace was pulled from her tire swing and attacked by a pack of wolves when she was younger, only to be seemingly saved by wolf with mesmerizing yellow eyes. Grace finds an injured Sam in these same forests who also possesses the same yellow eyes as her wolf. As Sam and Grace's relationship develops, Grace is introduced to a world she didn't know existed in her own backyard; humans shifting in to wolves each time the seasons change to cooler weather. Most of Shiver is spent trying to find a way to keep Sam human, and to stop him from shifting in to a werewolf so he and Grace can be together. The two also wonder and theorize why Grace's bites from her previous wolf attack never caused her to shift. Sam's heartbreaking past and the mysteries surrounding the origin of the wolves is also explored and further explained in LINGER.

LINGER continues the love story of Grace and Sam, who are still uncertain if the "cure" they found for Sam will actually stick. Although Sam is seemingly comfortable in his human form, and finally embracing the possibility of a long future with Grace, it is Grace who is beginning to feel changes bubbling beneath the surface of her human skin. Will Sam's cure be forever? Who are the new wolves, and what will their presence mean to the future of the pack? These LINGERing questions are what shape the second novel and make it a sequel as equally enthralling as its predecessor.

Stiefvater's talent for story telling is just as mesmerizing in LINGER as it was in SHIVER.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Tired of vampires? They ARE everywhere, but give Cronin's The Passage a shot before you say you've read enough about blood suckers! The plot is complex, and I'm lazy, so here's the synopsis from Publisher's Weekly:

Fans of vampire fiction who are bored by the endless hordes of sensitive, misunderstood Byronesque bloodsuckers will revel in Cronin’s engrossingly horrific account of a post-apocalyptic America overrun by the gruesome reality behind the wish-fulfillment fantasies. When a secret project to create a super-soldier backfires, a virus leads to a plague of vampiric revenants that wipes out most of the population. One of the few bands of survivors is the Colony, a FEMA-established island of safety bunkered behind massive banks of lights that repel the “virals,” or “dracs”--but a small group realizes that the aging technological defenses will soon fail. When members of the Colony find a young girl, Amy, living outside their enclave, they realize that Amy shares the virals’ agelessness, but not the virals’ mindless hunger, and they embark on a search to find answers to her condition. PEN/Hemingway Award--winner Cronin (The Summer Guest) uses a number of tropes that may be overly familiar to genre fans, but he manages to engage the reader with a sweeping epic style. The first of a proposed trilogy, it’s already under development by director Ripley Scott and the subject of much publicity buzz (Retail Nation, Mar. 15). (June)
It's a hefty read (over 750 pages and set at 10pt font!), but man, it was a riveting novel! The virals reminded me of the creepy antogonists of the Will Smith movie, I am Legend, and I found myself unable to go outside at night for fear of being ripped open from mouth to crotch. Scary stuff, The Passage! These infected humans of Cronin's tale do not sparkle and are not the stuff of romance novels. I love dystopian fiction...take The Forrest of Hands and Teeth, mix it with Stephen King's The Stand, and you have a tiny taste of what The Passage holds for you! I can't wait to see what Cronin does with the second and third books in this trilogy. There's also talk of a movie already in the works for The Passage, so no, folks, vampires (of all shapes, sizes and temperments) are here to stay! Yikes!

The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

Teen fiction is one of the few genres turning a profit in the publishing world. How shocking that many "adult" fiction authors are now penning teen fiction! Candace Bushnell, one of the founding fathers (er, mothers?) of the chick lit movement, and author of the popular Sex and the City novels, has recently released the first installment in her new teen series The Carrie Diaries. Based on the the teen years of her Sex and the City heroine, Carrie Bradshaw, the Carrie Diaries gives us a glimpse in to the awkward pubescent days of Miss B. Even though I wouldn't say the Carrie Diaries is as good as the SATC novels, it is a great start to what I'm sure is to be an even better sequel....that is, if there is a sequel, which there better be!

The novel is set in the early 70s, a time period ingenious to my mother's generation, and a decade I know relatively little about, other than the stories my mother and father have shared about their high school days. Come to think of it, my mom would probably love this book. I'm sure many of the pop culture references and clothing labels were lost on me, but I bet my mom could easily relate. Absent are the cell phones, computers, and fast-paced existence most teenagers are accustomed to today. Teens in Carrie's world take smoke breaks in between classes (the teachers are probably too busy enjoying a smoke to notice the teens puffing away in the bathroom), hang out at burger joints, and drive around in their old, clunker cars for fun. Although Carrie's boredom with small town living is palpable (the reader is bored right along with her for some of the scenes), this boredom is necessary for you to feel her anxiousness to make something more of her life. You can practically FEEL her restlessness to leave the safety of her tiny town and you find yourself cheering her on when she shares her dreams of becoming a writer in New York...a dream her family and friends just don't quite understand.

Carrie is beginning her Senior year at Castlebury High, located in a small, upper-middle class town in Connecticut. Even though Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda are no where to be found (she's yet to meet them, you see), you can easily identify with her group of life-long girlfriends, Lali, Maggie and The Mouse, or Roberta if you're calling her by her God-given name. There's also the new guy that enters onto the scene; Sebastian Kidd. Hot, rebellious, and of course, the guy Carrie can't get off her mind. Bushnell does a fabulous job transporting the reader back to high school. Even though you know Carrie shouldn't be so self-conscious and stupid about her decisions concerning boys, she acts just like most of us gals did in high school. These self-deprecating moments are what she will grow and learn from in the SATC books. We can see the strong and successful woman Carrie will become, learning and growing in the Carrie Diaries. I seriously hope that Bushnell is considering continuing the series. I can't wait to see how Carrie struggles in New York, and it will be fun to live vicariously through her first days as a new writer. If you are looking for an honest, funny and endearing coming-of-age story about one of chick lit's favorite characters, then The Carrie Diaries will be an entertaining journey down memory lane. No zit cream required. :)