Monday, July 30, 2012

Funny YA Reads

Earlier this month, Sharon Rawlins over at The Hub, the blog for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), posed the question "Where has all the humor gone in YA books?"

A fair question. Sometimes, you're not in the mood for vampires, dystopias or melodramatic dramas. Luckily Rawlins included several suggestions to get the ball rolling when it comes to funny YA reads (be sure to check out comments left on Rawlin's post for even more ideas!).

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
by John Green and David Levithan
also on audiobook
Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie
by David Lubar
Going Bovine
by Libba Bray
Beauty Queens
by Libba Bray
The Wee Free Men
(part of the Discoworld series)
by Terry Pratchett
also on audiobook
An Abundance of Katherines
by John Green
All-American Girl
by Meg Cabot
I'd Tell You I Love You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You
(first in the Gallagher Girls series)
by Ally Carter
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Alexie Sherman
Son of the Mob
by Gordon Korman
The Death-Defying Pepper Roux
by Geraldine McCaughrean
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
by Lish McBride
My Awesome Awful Popularity Plan
by Seth Rudetsky

Ichiro by Ryan Inzana YP FIC INZANA

Ichiro is lost between worlds.He has a Japanese mother and an American father who died in a war before he ever really knew him. He feels out of place in New York and when he has to stay with his grandpa in the Japanese countryside, it’s more like another planet than another country. But none of this prepares him for when he catches a raccoon that’s really an ancient Japanese spirit that pulls him into the realm of the gods and in a fight for his life.  Now he has to find his way home when he's not even sure where or what his home is.

This is a graphic novel with pretty big ambitions. It tackles war, national identity, religion, violence, and even the fallibility of gods. It does this all within the backdrop of myths and legends of Japanese folklore. Inzana takes the risky move of explaining only the major figures of the mythology and leaving the rest for readers to research on their own, so you’ll learn a good deal about Japanese folklore but have even more to find out for yourself. I actually think this works out for the best, it lets readers feel as lost and bewildered as Ichiro. This makes his adventure more effecting and exciting than if every page was littered with footnotes explaining what a kappa is. The art is a mix of manga style, Japanese ukiyo-e wood prints, and American art. This fits the story and themes of the book perfectly and is also just gorgeous to look at. Inzana uses color sparingly to highlight important objects and for startling contrasts. This is a unique, original, and touching story with superb art throughout. It is a must read for any and all comics fans looking for a great story and great art, but especially for anyone interested in Japanese culture.

You can check our catalog for Ichiro here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick YP FIC BICK

Jenna Lord has already died three times in her short life: twice by fire and now by ice.  She’s made it through all that to realize she may have nothing left to live for.  She sits in the hospital telling her story for the detective in the recorder he gave her.  But there’s a story and there’s the truth and sometimes people can’t know which is which.  There’s her teacher that’s more than just her teacher, her brother that’s more like a ghost, her parents that want to live a lie, and then there’s her.  Telling this story is a bit like drowning. The deeper she gets the more she struggles for air, and the more likely she is to pull someone down with her.

Leave it to Bick to write a novel MORE depressing than her book about a zombie apocalypse (Ashes YP FIC BICK). Then again, for us Kevin Brooks, Laurie Halse Anderson, Ellen Hopkins, etc. fans, dark and depressing makes for the best reads!  This is a gut wrenchingly tough read at times and it is certainly not for everyone.  I really loved Jenna’s dark sarcastic voice and found her compelling and real. The first person talking into a recorder trick really works to make the book feel intimate and conspiratorial; since this is a book about secrets and lies, it brings the novel to another level. Jenna is a self-described ‘liar’ and even when she’s telling ‘the truth’ it’s her ‘truth’. I highly recommend this to fans of very dark contemporary fiction, but be aware: this book is dangerous*. The ‘relationship’ that develops between Jenna and Mr. Anderson is presented entirely from Jenna’s POV and that’s where things get tricky. Jenna doesn’t see this as a predator/victim relationship and we get her point of view of falling in love with her adult teacher. That moral gray area in something as absolutely inappropriate, immoral, unethical, and illegal as the relationship actually is makes for very uncomfortable reading.  However, Bick wants her readers uncomfortable and packs enough sad and sick gut punch twists throughout the book that even the most jaded of readers is going to eventually start to get involved in the book on a real emotional level.  The most impressive thing is that this doesn’t feel crass and manipulative like it might in the hands of a lesser writer.  This is my favorite feel-bad book of the summer!  I won’t say it was fun, I didn’t quite ‘enjoy’ it, but I’m glad to have read it and I’ll be thinking about it for a long while.

*Lots of great fiction is dangerous, but it’s also not for everyone.

You can check our catalog for Drowning Instinct here.

Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge YP FIC KOERTGE

Whats grimmer than Grimms’ Tales?  A collection of fairy tales skewed and skewered with a modern sensibility and dark, wicked humor.  See the dark side of a princesses’ hyper-sensitivity to peas (a dog lick can cause a scar!), Hansel and Gretel’s vengeance, murders most foul and terrible (and these are committed by the ‘heroes’), and where happy ever after is the worst after of all.

Good news: this is smart, funny, dark satire that looks at all sorts of modern, ancient, and timeless hypocrisies; and the power of storytelling to celebrate, lament, explain, obscure, and change the best and worst of things that cannot be explained and things we wish we could wish away.  Bad news: this excellent and slender volume of wickedly funny verse is almost entirely unintelligible if you don’t know the original fairy tales by heart. Conundrum!  Fortunately we have a solution! You can read the absolutely wonderful Grimms’ tales in Grimms' Tales for Young and Old: The Complete Stories at call number 398.210943 GRIMM. And they are AWESOME!  They are creepy, dark, and filled with the fear of the unknown that makes for the best horror and the worst sleepless nights.  What’s great is that Koertge gets that and his modern retellings just look at the same fears, insecurities, and longings in the original stories in a modern light.  I especially enjoy the tales where Koertge looks at the primal fascination with danger and death these stories represent.  This is a truly unique read and it isn’t for everyone, but everyone that it is for will be very glad they read it.

You can check our catalog for Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Morning Glories Volume 1 by Nick Spencer art by Joe Eisma by Ian McDonald YP FIC SPENCER

Morning Glory Academy is the most prestigious and secretive prep school in the country.  Students are dying to get in, but the students at Morning Glory are just plain dying. The newest crop of students soon discovers that the school has dark secrets, murderous teachers, and tests that are pass/die.  

This is an intriguing new mystery.  Spencer does an excellent job of putting a slew of twists and turns to confound the reader ate every turn.  Every couple of pages we are introduced to a new freaky character, someone is brutally murdered, characters hint at mysterious unrevealed secrets, or other insanity pops up.  There are mysterious artifacts with unexplained power, doppelgangers (Clones? Evil twins? We don’t know yet!), psychic ghost like murderers, and secrets galore.  The plot moves fast and furiously and keeps the reader off balance through each page.  My only real complaint is that a lot of the dialogue sounds like Joss Whedon (Writer/Creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Dollhouse, etc.) light.  Modern teenagers do not make super detailed Star Wars jokes.  Sorry, they just plain don’t and they won’t and your nerd fixations are not his generation’s nerd fixations, Mr. Spencer.  That being said, there is loads of humor that does not feel like it was written by 30-somethings for teenagers and the book is one of the genuinely surprising comics I have read in years. 

You can check our catalog for Morning Glories here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Planesrunner by Ian McDonald YP FIC MCDONALD

Everett Singh’s father has been kidnapped right before his eyes.  Everett knew his father was working on something important, but had no idea it was a worlds-shattering invention: the infundibulum.  A map of all the multiple universes and where they intersect and can be traveled to and from. The infundibulum shows up on Everett’s computer and now he’s the most wanted teen in the multiverse.  He lands in a London populated by airships, pirates, and pursued by the villainess Charlotte Villiers. 

This is a fast-paced, fun, and exciting start to a series.  The plot moves whip fast from point to point. However, McDonald pays great attention to little details in description to help ground the reader, so they feel like they are along for the journey.  McDonald does a great job of making the alternate Earth seem strange and exciting, but also building a plausible history.  I loved the air pirates and their slang language, palari.  McDonald very wisely includes a glossary at the back and also a brief history of the origin.  My only gripes are that the characters are fun and likeable enough, but hardly complex.  Are hero is a bit too hyper competent to be believable as a 14 year old in mortal danger.  Also our villainess is just too plainly evil to be a truly interesting.  It helped that she sort of looks like Lady Gaga with an afro on the cover, so that I could imagine the book as a story of what will happen when Gaga mobilizes her monsters and starts a multiverse spanning evil empire. I really enjoyed the book even with my character complaints and hope to see more character development in future volumes of the series.  It’s got a fun concept that can be easily spun into loads of interesting worlds and sci-fi or adventure fans should definitely get on board.

You can check our catalog for Planesrunner here.