Monday, January 31, 2011

Why Young Adult Lit?

Last week, Dr. Harold Koplewicz, an adolescent psychiatrist, posted an article in The Huffington Post titled "'Hunger Games': Why Kids Love Disaster, Distress, & Dystopia" which addresses a question/concern I hear quite often about young adult books and the choices students are making. It seems to be a common theme lately with people questioning why teens are choosing and obsessing over the books or genres that are most popular or most commonly talked about. His statements share many similarities with the things I share with parents myself. Teens sometimes need a safe outlet in which to deal with their ever-changing emotions during adolescence - books can provide that safe place in which to figure out how one can or would deal with difficult situations of their own. It's called imaginative rehearsal. Adolescence is all about discovering who oneself is and what one's dreams and desires are for the future - all while dealing with the drama of the middle and high school years when living in that microcosm of a social hierarchy can make every little decision feel like it could change one's life (and sometimes it can). Sure, in the future they may look back at those years with fondness or cringe-inducing mortification, but at that time, everything seems like the most important decision ever because it truly is a time when they're expected to make choices that could impact their entire future (no pressure there!). Teens are at a time in their lives when they're experiencing massive amounts of changes, and they need to know they're not the only ones to have ever gone through that. All of this while building an identity for themselves of what kind of person they want to be for the future.

Teenagers today are living in a very different world than I experienced fifteen years ago. Technology allows immediate access to a world-wide audience and perspectives that I never would have known about when I was their age. Teens need to gain perspectives on the world outside their own little sphere of self-awareness, and to realize that there is a really big world out there where people may deal with different situations and difficulties than they themselves have in their own lives. In addition, teens may find books that help them deal with things that they can't talk to anyone about, but an author may have been able to create a character who speaks to teens and can help them in a way that no one around them could, especially during adolescence where they all feel alone at times. I think the growth in the young adult publishing world only exemplifies the fact that today's teens need access to books that help them discover their own identities, beliefs, feelings, and ideals, and the broad range of topics out there is helping build the next generation into more socially aware citizens of a 21st century global society. Ultimately, I think it comes down to one thing - if they can't grapple with these issues safely in their own heads through reading a book, how else might they choose to experience them or how will they know how they want to handle them? I'd much rather have teens reading about things that may help them to gain perspective on their world and discover ways to make better choices within the safe confines of the pages of a book. That is the true benefit of young adult literature today and why it's so important for teens to have access to a large variety of books to choose from to find the ones that speak to them and open their eyes to the "real" world (whether that be through contemporary-realistic-fiction, fantasy, science-fiction, romance, paranormal, or dystopian genres). This is why young adult literature.

So THANK YOU...
to the authors who keep writing about these topics that engage teens and help them grow,
to the aspiring writers who keep striving to get their stories heard and books published,
to the publishers who keep getting these books out there to be read,
to the bloggers who keep helping to build buzz and support the industry,
to the librarians who keep putting these books into teens' hands,
to the teachers who keep promoting YA lit trying to get students engaged in reading,
and
to all in the YA Lit community for remembering who your audience is and why these books are so important.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

In My Mailbox - New Books This Week (11)

In My Mailbox is a shared posting idea started by Kristi at The Story Siren (read all about it here: In My Mailbox) for bloggers to share the books they've received and will be blogging about and reviewing soon.  IMM is a semi-regular feature here on Teach 8 YA Book Blog to let my students know the books to be looking for on the classroom shelves and for others to know what book reviews to anticipate.

For Review

THE IRON QUEEN (Iron Fey #3) by Julie Kagawa
ARC - Release Date of January 25, 2011
Thanks to Harlequin TEEN!
I really need to read THE IRON KING and THE IRON DAUGHTER now that the third book is out!



BORN AT MIDNIGHT by C.C. Hunter
ARC - Release Date of March 29, 2011
Also got cool bookmarks for this and the sequel and a couple of pens (all purple)
Thanks to St. Martin's Griffin for soliciting a review!







MEMENTO NORA by Angie Smibert
ARC - Release date of April 1, 2011
Requested online from Marshall Cavendish and they sent the next two along with it. Thanks so much Marshall Cavendish!







CRYSTAL BONES (THE FAELIN CHRONICLES Book One) by C. Aubrey Hall
ARC - Release date of April 1, 2011
Thanks Marshall Cavendish!





ZITFACE by Emily Howse
ARC - Release date of April 1, 2011
Thanks Marshall Cavendish!








Won

AMY AND ROGER'S EPIC DETOUR by Morgan Matson
Won during the Best I've Read 2010 event from Books Complete Me Thanks Simon & Schuster and Books Complete Me!









DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth
Won from author's website contest.
ARC - Release date of May 3, 2011
Also got a signed CD with author's Playlist for the book along with notes about each song and why it's included (which I'll be waiting to read until after I read the book so it doesn't get spoiled).
Thanks so much Veronica!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

In My Mailbox - New Books This Week (10)

In My Mailbox is a shared posting idea started by Kristi at The Story Siren (read all about it here: In My Mailbox) for bloggers to share the books they've received and will be blogging about and reviewing soon.  IMM is a semi-regular feature here on Teach 8 YA Book Blog to let my students know the books to be looking for on the classroom shelves and for others to know what book reviews to anticipate.

Won


ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis
Got a signed copy along with a bookmark and ATU watch! 
Won through the facebook contest. Thanks so much Penguin Teen!

There's been a lot of buzz for this one so I'm looking forward to checking it out for myself.






For Review


FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB by Antony John
Reviewing for Book Divas
I'll admit - I was pretty much begging to get this one it sounds so good and different :)

PERSONAL DEMONS by Lisa Desrochers

Title: PERSONAL DEMONS
Author: Lisa Desrochers
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: September 14, 2010
Number of Pages: 365
How I Got It: Bought the paperback after seeing it on so many top 2010 book lists

Goodreads Summary:
Frannie Cavanaugh is a good Catholic girl with a bit of a wicked streak. She has spent years keeping everyone at a distance—-even her closest friends—-and it seems as if her senior year is going to be more of the same . . . until Luc Cain enrolls in her class. No one knows where he came from, but Frannie can’t seem to stay away from him. 

What she doesn’t know is that Luc is on a mission. He’s been sent from Hell itself to claim Frannie’s soul. It should be easy—-all he has to do is get her to sin, and Luc is as tempting as they come. Frannie doesn’t stand a chance. But he has to work fast, because if the infernals are after her, the celestials can’t be far behind. And sure enough, it’s not long before the angel Gabriel shows up, willing to do anything to keep Luc from getting what he came for. It isn’t long before they find themselves fighting for more than just Frannie’s soul.

But if Luc fails, there will be Hell to pay . . . for all of them.
*************************
PERSONAL DEMONS is a fun, humorous, exciting, interesting, romantic, hard-to-put-down book. I hated putting it down and couldn't wait to pick it up again to find out where the story was heading. Lisa has created a fascinating backstory of the battle for souls between Heaven and Hell and the angels and demons that are in charge of tagging and protecting those souls. Even the idea of why each side wants Frannie so badly draws the reader into the story even more by feeling the importance of the task. Sarcasm and wittiness abound and make for a more engaging and distinct voice. Because of this, the story provokes some inner-thinking about religious beliefs and what one thinks and feels about both - while also giving a human face to each side. Ultimately, it's a story about love, forgiveness, pure intentions, and redemption and how those can lead to being a "good" person. It looks at the trueness of the soul and what that means for what happens to that soul.


Frannie is a senior in high school, and has her own inner turmoils to deal with, but now she's stuck between Luc (the demon) and Gabe (the angel) as they battle for her soul and she battles to figure out her attraction to each and what's real. The one problem I had with the book was that it's another young adult with a love triangle where the girl seems to instantly fall into crush with the boys involved, but I was okay with it because Frannie is a strong girl who can stand up for herself and fight for what she wants, so I was willing to buy into the attraction - especially because it's hard not to when reading the scenes of the story when she is with Luc. Interestingly enough, I felt the story was really more about Luc's journey than Frannie's. She has her own journey to make to acceptance herself, but it was demon Luc's transformation that I was most intrigued by that made me want to keep reading. That's probably partially due to it being written with alternating perspectives with Luc and Frannie's first person storytelling. I appreciated the way the main characters were written where I was able to discover more about each one as the book went on, and became more invested in what would happen to all of them in this overwhelming holy battle. This is definitely a more mature book in the overall mood of the romance, but is a really good and entertaining read.

4 1/2 STARS for PERSONAL DEMONS
I will definitely be getting my hands on the sequel, ORIGINAL SIN, as soon as I can when it is released in July, 2011. The 3rd book, title to be determined, will be released in May, 2012.


*Interestingly, Lisa's writing critique partner is Andrea Cremer, author of NIGHTSHADE, one of my all-time favorite books. I would say there is a similar vibe to these two authors in a really good way - so if you like one, you'll probably like the other.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

UNEARTHLY by Cynthia Hand

Title: UNEARTHLY
Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: January 4, 2011
Number of Pages: 435
How I Got It: Bought the Hardcover

Goodreads Summary:  
     In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . . . 
     Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.
     Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.
     As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?
     Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.
************************* 


This is a really interesting paranormal because it reads more like a contemporary. It was hard to put down and moved forward with an urgency to Clara's angel purpose and figuring out the good angels vs. Black Wings showdown that I could tell was coming, and had a take on the angel back story that was really interesting. I also really liked that Clara knew from the start that she was an angel-blood and was figuring out how to deal with it while trying to remain a normal high school girl. Along with this, this story had a true sense of a contemporary with a high school girl stuck between following her purpose to what she's told should do or following her heart to what she wants to do. Of course, those paths tie directly in with the two boys that she is dealing with - Christan (the boy from her purpose vision) and Tucker (her best friend's twin brother). I did definitely have a preference for one through the whole story, even before I knew he could be a real possibility for her, and when something finally developed, I enjoyed those parts of the story - in fact I think they were my favorites.

The story also deals a lot with family dynamics between Clara and her mother as another piece of the typical coming-of-age decision-making process Clara is going through - following the path her mother wants, or striking out on her own. Of course, with the angel background, it also portrays beliefs and fate and faith as thought-provoking conversations. This book, ultimately, is about decisions and choices and why we choose what we do and the impact that can have on others and ourselves. Early in the story, Clara's English teacher is talking about how people really get to know each other and wonders if it based on the actions we take - that nicely sets up the strong undercurrent of choices for the entire book. It also deals with the typical adolescent views on finding one's place in the world and having that change based on situations one encounters.

Another piece of this book that I really liked was the setting. The move to Jackson Hole, Wyoming is a big one for Clara and her family, and the descriptions of the setting and the way the author makes good use of the scenery available by the story taking place there adds greatly to the overall feelings of the story for the reader. I had a good time getting to know Clara and Tucker, but I was left feeling like there were things I was missing from other characters in Clara's life. I wanted to know a little more about some of the characters and what was going on with them - I have some lingering doubts about the intentions of some of them. I was left with a little bit of a sense of a let down by some of the pieces that I felt like I should have known more about, but didn't get in this book. Overall, I liked the book, and read it quickly, but as much as it wraps things up, it still ends with a lot of loose or unsure ends in my mind, and now there will be a long wait until the next book to find out where things go.

4 STARS for UNEARTHLY
The second book in the series will be coming out next year & I'll definitely be looking for it.

Book 2 of 12 for DAC 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

In My Mailbox - New Books This Week (9)

In My Mailbox is a shared posting idea started by Kristi at The Story Siren (read all about it here: In My Mailbox) for bloggers to share the books they've received and will be blogging about and reviewing soon.  IMM is a semi-regular feature here on Teach 8 YA Book Blog to let my students know the books to be looking for on the classroom shelves and for others to know what book reviews to anticipate.

Bought
 

PROM & PREJUDICE by Elizabeth Eulberg
Loved The Lonely Hearts Club (read my review here) - can't wait to read this take off on Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice!








UNEARTHLY by Cynthia Hand
I've had so many people whose opinions I trust (The Story Siren, Andrea Cremer, and more) say that this is a phenomenal new debut author paranormal - and it's one of my Debut Author Challenge 2011 books - can't wait to read it, in fact, it's going to be next!



THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson
Love finding hardcover books I've been wanting to read in the bargain bin at Borders!








ARCs Received for Review
 

THE RENDERING by Joel Naftali
Sounds like a great boy book.  
Thanks Egmont USA!


DEATH CLOUD: YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES - THE LEGEND BEGINS by Andrew Lane
Thanks Macmillan!








THE CHILDREN OF THE LOST (sequel to The Midnight Charter - The Agora Trilogy) by David Whitley
Thanks Macmillan!








Won from the Contemps Challenge
 


FALL FOR ANYTHING by Courtney Summers








FIXING DELILAH by Sarah Ockler
signed copy-Thanks Sarah!

I AM NUMBER FOUR by Pittacus Lore

Title: I AM NUMBER FOUR (Lorien Legacies #1)
Author: Pittacus Lore
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: August 3, 2010
Number of Pages: 440
How I Got It: Bought it at the local indie at another author event
Movie Releasing: February 18, 2011

Goodreads Summary:
In the beginning they were a group of nine. Nine aliens who left their home planet of Lorien when it fell under attack by the evil Mogadorians. Nine aliens who scattered on Earth. Nine aliens who look like ordinary teenagers living ordinary lives, but who have extraordinary, paranormal skills. Nine aliens who might be sitting next to you now.

The Nine had to separate and go into hiding. The Mogadorians caught Number One in Malaysia, Number Two in England, and Number Three in Kenya. All of them were killed. John Smith, of Paradise, Ohio, is Number Four. He knows that he is next.

I AM NUMBER FOUR is the thrilling launch of a series about an exceptional group of teens as they struggle to outrun their past, discover their future—and live a normal life on Earth.

I AM NUMBER FOUR.
I AM NEXT.

**********************
I loved this book - it made me hope, it made me think, it made me cheer, it made me worry, it made me love, it made me cry(!), it made me want to analyze my own life and be a better person, it made me want to keep reading and not stop. The writing is constructed in an interesting way because it really highlights the tension and builds the urgency of the plot with short and to-the-point sentences in the beginning. The book sets up the background premise clearly and engagingly, and then allows the reader to get settled in with John as he makes friends, all the while building the suspense in knowing that something bad will have to happen, he will have to be found, but he's not yet trained and ready. Yet, the background is revealed little bits at a time so the reader discovers it as John does, allowing us to grow along with him as we learn what happened between the Loric and the Morgadorians back on Lorien. This book is packed with action, and if you've read my reviews you know I don't like creepy or scary, and although this deals with aliens and this battle for taking over Earth, I didn't think it crossed the line into too scary or creepy for me at all. It keeps the story moving forward with the tension that is brought from not knowing what is going to happen.

The characters were well-written, although at first a few seemed stereotypical high school roles, as they developed through the story and the events they were pulled in to, I learned about them and liked them all. I cared about them and what was going to happen to them, and loved how the relationships developed and deepened through the events in the story. They seem like honest, real teenager feelings and interactions with the primary and secondary characters. Ultimately, the end is exciting, tense, heart-breaking, and hopeful all in one, and sets up the story nicely for the sequel to come. One of my favorite things about the book was some of the deep thoughts about life; and hope; and love; and will; and goodness; and courage; and trust; and being and standing up for oneself that came clear throughout. It's a smart book and a good book and an exciting book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading (it gains a few bonus points for setting a pivotal part of the story in Athens, Ohio where I went to college at Ohio University and even referencing Court Street, so there was a bit of a nostalgia quotient for me during that part of the story). I can't wait to revisit these characters in the sequel and see how they progress in their battle.
 
4 1/2 STARS for I AM NUMBER FOUR
Sequel is THE POWER OF SIX releasing in August, 2011, and I'll definitely be reading it!

If you like Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books, I think you'll like the Lorien Legacies as well.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

THE EMERALD ATLAS by John Stephens


Author: John Stephens
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 5, 2011
Number of Pages: 432
How I Got It: Free ARC offer from Random House


Things I loved about THE EMERALD ATLAS:

1. The classic fantasy structure to the story and a plot that sets up the beginning of the series nicely. The story is centered around kids who have never known or felt wanted, and can't remember what happened to their parents, but still hold out hope that they will find them again someday. It starts with a shadowy night time extraction of these children to protect them from a terrible power, and then leads into time-traveling secrets, an entertaining villain, a savior, and a hidden treasure (the lost book of time) that needs to be found, all leading to an ancient prophesy that will determine the fate of the world and these children. Along the way they discover more of their history and the history of the magical world.


2. The characters! I loved meeting orphans Kate, Michael, and Emma and discovering more about their sibling relationships. They were so true-to-life as siblings who loved and hated each other based on what was happening at the moment, but when it came down to it would do anything they could to find and help each other out of any jam and save each other. Each had their own distinct personalities and quirks, but they fit together so nicely and ended up really supporting each other through their ordeal. I also loved their (for lack of a better word) sidekick who at first seemed scary, but ultimately was able to help them through his people's ancient ways and beliefs. And who could forget the dwarfs?! I think they may have been my favorite aspect of the book.


3. The heart-warming story. The basis for the story in this first book is about saving a town that has been ruined by a magic sorceress who was using the townspeople to dig for the book she is determined to find. In the process, the children of the town were drowned. As our main characters go back in time to before this happened, they not only try to find the book, but also are trying to save the children of this town.


4. The humor integrated into the interactions between the siblings, the others, the fantasy characters, and even the villian. There were definitely chuckle to yourself parts and lines in this story.


5. The audience appropriateness and appeal! I'm thrilled that this is a middle grades book as I think that it is easily accessible for those readers who are not quite at the level of reading the Lord of the Rings series or have loved The Chronicles of Narnia, and still want to enjoy a great fantasy read. It also will strongly appeal to boys and will be perfect for my eighth graders (and I think all ages)! 

6. And finally, the background of the author, John Stephens. He was a producer and writer for some of my favorite TV shows (The O.C. and Gilmore Girls) and was an executive producer for Gossip Girl as well. This is his first book.


The only thing that bothered me was that the beginning of the story felt a little slow, but once they really got into it and things started moving, I was hooked and couldn't put the book down. I highly recommend this great fantasy read (and have now had an eighth grade boy back me up on this).

4 STARS for THE EMERALD ATLAS 
I will definitely read the rest of the books in the series when they come out!


Book 1 of 12 for DAC2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

CLOCKWORK ANGEL by Cassandra Clare

Title: CLOCKWORK ANGEL (The Infernal Devices Book One)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (A division of Simon & Schuster)
Release Date: August 31, 2010
Number of Pages: 479
How I Got It: Bought one and got one free in my box of books at the ALAN Workshop

As I finally read The Mortal Instruments series over the summer, and loved it, I was soooo happy to be invited back into the world of the Shadowhunters who are dedicated to ridding the world of demons that Cassandra Clare has created! Although, this one was a little bit different, taking place 100 years earlier in London, it was so fun to see some of the same names popping up in The Infernal Devices that I had read in the present-day series (especially my favorite warlock, Magnus!).  Cassandra has created a magical world, full of good and evil magic, a world with demons and avengers, and of course a love interest, oh-and add in some steampunk this time. Her writing continues to be engaging and just sets a scene so clearly with wonderful similes and a sense of urgency and danger that runs through the plot lines creating a story world that is hard to put down and not keep reading.

The book starts off with a journey across the ocean for a lone teenage girl in search of her brother, leading to a kidnapping and imprisonment by Downworlders, then a dazzling rescue and discovery of a magical power never known before - and of course that means everyone wants to get to and use Tessa. She's on her own, but is taken in by the Shadowhunters at the London Institute, all of whom are intriguing characters in their own right. Tessa is a strong girl, and she only gets stronger as she learns more about herself and faces more dangers. I really enjoyed reading the book with her as a main character. And of course, what's a Cassandra Clare book without a love entanglement, and this one pits quiet Jem against dashing and mysterious Will; although, honestly, in my mind, I could totally see the attraction for one and the other one didn't strike me as more than a friendship...but that's just me because I know there are plenty of fans out there that feel differently. There is, of course, a shocking ending that leads to a strong desire to read the next book. The only trouble I had with this book is that I'm not the biggest fan of the automaton, clockwork, and steampunk elements, but it was an intriguing, realistic plot point, so I could still enjoy it.  Overall, I didn't like this one as much as The Mortal Instruments, but I did love the new (old?!?) characters I got to enjoy.

4 STARS for CLOCKWORK ANGEL
I'll definitely read the rest of THE INFERNAL DEVICES series! Clockwork Prince will be released in September 2011 and Clockwork Princess will be out for Christmas 2012.

Monday, January 3, 2011

My Most Anticipated Books of 2011

I am so excited about upcoming book releases for this year!  Some of the ones I am most looking forward to are continuing or finishing a series I already love (seems like almost everything is a series book in YA these days!), but several others are just ones I've heard good buzz about or are by favorite authors and I look forward to finally reading them myself. In honor of the new year starting, I thought I'd share my personal list of the fifteen 2011 releases I'm most eager to get my hands on and read.



Wolfsbane (Nightshade sequel) by Andrea Cremer 

Forever (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #3) by Maggie Stiefvater 

Where She Went (If I Stay sequel) by Gayle Forman 

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (new dystopian series by the author of Before I Fall)

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4) by Cassandra Clare

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Chain Reaction (Perfect Chemistry #3) by Simone Elkeles

Divergent by Veronica Ross





No cover images released yet for the following books, so I'm showing the preceding book's cover.
The Mockingbirds #2 by Daisy Whitney

Uncommon Criminals (A Heist Society novel) by Ally Carter 

Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2) by Rick Riordan

Crossed (Matched sequel) by Ally Condie

Supernaturally (Paranormalcy #2) by Kiersten White

Caster Chronicles #3 (sequel to Beautiful Creatures & Beautiful Darkness) by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl



Edited on 1/5 to add 
Lola and the Boy Next Story (follow up to Anna and the French Kiss) by Stephanie Perkins

Can't believe I forgot it the first time - there are just so many good books coming out in 2011!
 
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