Friday, September 30, 2011

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor YP FIC OKORAFOR

Sunny was born and raised in New York, but lives in Nigeria.  They call her “Akata,” an insulting term for Americans.  The fact that she is an albino makes her even more of an outsider.  When she sees a vision of Armageddon in the flame of a candle she knows she is truly different.  Soon she finds friends that are different too and discovers she is part of a secret world.  The good news is that she has magic powers, the bad news is she’ll need them to hunt down a black-hatted child killer, creatively named Black Hat.

This is my kind of fantasy.  Set firmly in the real world, with characters you believe in, Akata Witch makes you believe in magic.  Okorafor lets you really get to know Sunny and explores her life in Nigeria before the magic really starts moving the plot forward.  This means, that the book has a slow start, but I really didn’t mind.  It also has a super fast ending, but I was able to forgive some plotting problems because so much about the book is really good. It was as interesting to me to see life in modern Nigeria as it was to learn about a secret group of magic users. That’s what makes this book pretty special, you care about the world beyond just the cool powers AND the cool powers are really super cool! It’s also has a super evil and genuinely menacing villain. I’m always looking for paranormal that isn’t so normal and Akata Witch is way better than normal. 

Blood Red Road by Moira Young YP FIC YOUNG

Saba and her twin brother Lugh have always been inseparable.  Living on a small farm in a wasteland called Silverlake (which hasn’t had a lake as long as Saba’s been alive) they egt by one day at a time.  When a dust storm brings with it four horsemen dressed in black, it also brings the destruction of Saba’s world.  Her father is murdered, Lugh kidnapped, and she set to the winds of the wasteland with her little sister in tow.  She learns fast that to survive on the road you must pay a toll of blood: yours or someone else’s.  Thus her epic journey from girl to warrior begins.

This is one of the best dystopian novels I’ve read in a while and I have to read about 3 a day (slight exaggeration)!  Fans of the Hunger Games need look no further for a new series to seek their teeth into.  This has all the blood, carnage, tragedy, character, and world building that make Hunger Games so great. Saba is tough, cool, and a worthy successor to Katniss. She’s a bit tough to like at times, though.  She has a hard time accepting friendship or help and her single-minded drive to achieve her goals makes her hardcore but also off putting. I loved seeing her turn from normal girl into gladiator and warrior, but at times her awesomeness seems kind of unrealistic. Besides a great main character it also has a really interesting writjng style.  Everyone speaks in this odd dialect that takes a while to get used to, but draws you into this new world very well.  What I love was the brave decision to make Saba the narrator, so that we are in her head and that the whole story is in her unique voice.  Great action packed plot, wonderful prose, great strong female protagonist, that clinches it, Blood Red Road is my must read pick for any and all readers!

Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler YP FIC KESSLER

 “The day Melissa Miller killed her cat, she met the Angel of Death.  Except he was no angel-and he wasn’t there for the cat.”

Melissa “Missy” Miller cuts herself to drown out the other pain.  The pain of loneliness, sadness, and humiliation are way worse than the pain of her blade.  But when she cuts too deep and meets Death he has a job for her: War.  She takes her blade and uses it for a sword, able to take her rage and ignite in others.  Will she be able to keep from turning the sword on herself?

This is the sequel to Kessler’s Hunger, which takes an anorexic and makes her into Famine.  That was a very good book, but I liked Rage even better.  It takes a realistic look at self harm and depression and twists things by adding a supernatural element.  This works because Kessler keeps us invested in Missy’s pain and believe her transformation into War.  This is an unflinching and tough read.  Missy goes through enormous pain and the scenes of cutting are detailed and possibly triggering for someone that actually has issues with self harm.  However, for people interested in knowing more about cutting and want something very different this is a unique and satisfying winner.  For more books about self-harm try Scars by C.A. Rainfield (YP FIC RAINFIEL) or Cut by Patricia McCormick (YP FIC MCCORMIC).  

For non-fiction you can check out:
Inside a cutter's mind : understanding and helping those who self-injure 616.8582 CLARK
Cutting : understanding and overcoming self-mutilation616.8582 LEVENKRO
Helping teens who cut : understanding and ending self-injury 618.928582 HOLLANDE

1 800 273-TALK (8255)

Long Story Short by Siobhan Parkinson YP FIC PARKINSO

Jono (14) and Julie (8) hit the road.  That’s because Jono and Julie’s mom hit Julie.  Jono will tell you the whole story and he’ll keep it short.

This is a short read!  Fortunately, Siobhan Parkinson knows how to pack in a lot with a little.  I often wished that the book was just a bit longer in places, but that’s proof that Parkinson is doing her job well: keeping the reader wanting more.  The story itself is nothing new to YA fic:  kids run off and try to make it on their own.  What makes this novel work and stand out is that Jono is a funny, believable, and interesting narrator.  Which is the book’s saving grace, because the plot isn’t very surprising.  I wanted to keep reading not just to know what happened, but to hear how he would tell it.  A great read for people wanting a true slice of life told very well.