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Because Love is a Deadly Disease: The REQUIEM ARC giveaway

So, here’s the situation.  If you followed TLT last year, you know that I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver.  I woke up in the middle of the night and wrote here a love letter.  I dragged my family across the city to meet author Lauren Oliver.  Christie went to ALA Annual with one instruction: Do Not Come Home unless you bring me an ARC of REQUIEM by Lauren Oliver.  Which she did. (Who loves you Christie? That’s right – ME!)

BUT THEN . . . I turns out that neither Heather or Christie have read Delirium.  Insert for shame face here.  It’s like, I have somehow failed them.  So, we are going to be doing a group reading and discussion.  Please join us.

The first week of February: read Delirium and join us on Friday, February 8th for a Twitter chat.  We’ll see what Heather and Christie – and YOU! – think of book one in the series. #TLTDelirium, 2/8/2013 (time TBA)

The second week of February is Harlequin Teen week, so you’ll have 2 weeks to read PandemoniumWe’ll have a Twitter chat on Friday, February 22nd to see what everyone thinks. #TLTDelirium, 2/22/2013 NOON CENTRAL, 1 Eastern

Then in March, we’re all about the Requiem.  Live Tweetchat Friday, March 15th at NOON Eastern. #TLTDelirium

To help facilitate this discussion of one of Karen’s favorite YA book series, we’re giving away a copy of the ARC for Requiem.  That’s right, I am going to give you Christie’s copy.  Not mine, don’t be silly.  We are opening the contest today and it will run through Saturday, February 9th so that we can get that copy into your hands.  The CAVEAT is, you have to do a book review for us after you read it.  I can do it but it would probably go like this: Oh I loved this book so much . . . . Or, what?! How could it have ended that way?! See, I am totally not a reliable source at this point in the game.  But don’t worry, I will share with you all the feels as I read the book.

And you did hear, right? They are going to be making Delirium into a TV series.

All the info you need to enter the contest appears below.  Don’t let the amor delirium nervosa get to you.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu (reviewed by Chris D)

Legend by Marie Lu was a pretty unconventional choice of reads for me in the sense that it has some pretty strong romantic undertones (you know… actual human feelings.)  But I needed to pull the car out of the ditch and read something with some emotional depth rather than just for a good story.  Fortunately this has both.

In my opinion, you can never go wrong with dystopian, but this one really played to my love of history.  The book takes place, from what I can gather, about 100 years in the future and revolves around the lives of two distinctly different characters living in the flooded remains of Los Angeles, California in the “Republic of America”.  Chapters alternate between the two characters, one being a 15 year old criminal known as Day, trying to save his younger brother from a fatal flu.  The other, June, is a young, prodigious military cadet born into one of the Republic’s elite families.
After some unknown calamity (possibly a global flu pandemic or runaway climate change) the continental US is broken up into two countries; the Republic and the Colonies.  Another faction is mentioned, the Patriots, who seem to be a terrorist organization working against the Republic government.   The constant state of war among the groups reminds me of the civil war and brings to mind other works of fiction concerning a “second civil war,” such as many of the Harry Turtledove novels.

Every child on their tenth birthday takes a “trial,” consisting of physical fitness tests, aptitude tests, and a string of interviews with Republic officials.  Those that pass are assigned various duties of the state (the higher the score, the more prestigious) and those that fail are sent to “work camps.”  What makes June a prodigy is she is the only child in the history of the trials to score a perfect 1500, she flies through college, and is the youngest cadet the military has ever seen. 
The differences between the rich and poor play a big part in this novel and presumably will continue to do so throughout the series.  The elite are given free flu vaccinations each year, have access to education, and tend to have very few worries. While the poor (such as Day’s family) live in squalor, die of the flu, and are denied even the most basic of assistance.  It’s no surprise then that the children most likely to fail the trials and be sent away come from the poor areas of the city.
Raised in an elite, military family June’s loyalty to the Republic is absolute and she is more than happy to perform any duty in the name of “Elector Primo.” But when she is sent undercover to capture Day, the Republic’s most notorious criminal and Robin Hood of Los Angeles, she begins to discover that her country, her superiors, and even her best friend are not what she was raised to believe. Conspiracies and corruption abound and June begins to question her loyalty to the system as she becomes more disillusioned by the actions of those around her.
An enjoyable read and what looks to be a great series forthcoming. It’s in the same ilk as The Hunger Games, Ship Breakers, and Divergent.  Think of it as 1984with a pandemic plague thrown in. 3.5 out of 5 stars.  Make no mistake though; this book has the feel of a movie just waiting to happen.

These are a few of my favorite reads: the 2012 Karen edition

Raindrops on roses and zombies eating kittens,
Bright copper boys and warm fuzzy kisses,
Page after page, turning with need
These are a few of my favorite reads . . .

MG Reads, approved by my tween
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Wonder by R J Palacio
The Cavendish Home for Boys &Girls by Claire Legrand
Whatever After: Fairest of All by Sarah Mlynowski
(the complete top 10 post is here)

Heartwarming Reads
Guitar Notes by Mary Amato
The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Wonder by R J Palacio

The Books That Make You Go Hmmm (aka Thoughtful Reads)
Ask the Passengers by A. S. King
Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown
The Downside of Being Charlie by Jenny Torres Sanchez
The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna
Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Mindbending Reads (aka What the Heck is Happening Here?)
The Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby
Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross
Every Day by David Levithan
BZRK by Michael Grant
Through to You by Emily Hainsworth

Sci Fi Awesomeness
The Future We Left Behind by Mike A. Lancaster
BZRK by Michael Grant
Crewel by Gennifer Albin
Insignia by S J Kincaid
Across the Universe/A Million Suns by Beth Revis

Dystopian Worlds I Wouldn’t Want to Live In, But Love to Read About
Delirium/Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Starters by Lissa Price
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
Unwind/Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

Grrr, Arrr . . . Brains . . . Nom, Nom (Zombie Reads)
Rot & Ruin series by Jonathan Maberry
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
Ashes/Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick
Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Reality Bites, But These Books Rock
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein
Speechless by Hannah Harrington
Skinny by Donna Cooner

Literary Masterpieces
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Riddle Me This, Batman (Mysteries)
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison
Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock

Fantastic Fantasies
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

These Girls Kick Ass
Ashes/Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick
Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
Stormdancer (The Lots War Book One) by Jay Kristoff

These Guys Do Too
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer/Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride
Quarantine, book 1: The Loners by Lex Thomas
Tap Out by Eric Devine
Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Books That Can Make Even Me Like History
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
The Diviners by Libba Bray

Pop Spewing Reads (aka Dude, I think I just peed myself aka Book That are Side Splitting Funny)
Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand
The Necromancer series by Lish McBride
Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Best Road Trips of the Year
In Honor by Jessi Kirby
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Just Pure Aweseomeness (My top 5 of the Year – today)
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Ask the Passengers by A. S. King
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Book Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

So I am starting a new list, 10 MORE books you should read if you are a Buffy fan.  And the first book that goes on that list you ask? The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa. (You can read the original list of Buffy related reads here.)

At this point, I am only interested in vampire books if 1) there is a twist on typical vampire conventions, 2) the vampires in no way sparkles and 3) they have a female character who doesn’t play into typical female stereotypes and make me want to give 1,000 warnings of please don’t do this to my teens as I hand them the book.  Okay, obviously there are a few things I wouldn’t want my teens to do I think as I hand them this book – like become a vampire – but you know, all in all I can hand this book to my teens without that twinge in my conscience.  In fact, this is a really good book.  Let me tell you why.

“You don’t dwell on what you’ve lost, you just move on.”-Allison 
Julie Kagawa, The Immortal Rules

1.  A Different Point of View
Our main character, Allison, starts out as a Unregistered Human.  This means she has to stay below the radar because she is offered no protection and isn’t giving a regular “donation” of blood to help keep the vampires alive.  BUT, on page 78 of the book our Allie is forced to make a life saving decision that will render her kinda of alive – she becomes a vampire.  So the rest of our tale is a journey into the heart and soul of a vampire that we already know and admire as a human and watching her struggle to not become the very monsters that she hates.  Kagawa introduces us to a character we care about, changes her into the monster she despises, and then let’s us journey with her into this new, uncharted territory.

“Hunger flickered, always there, but I pushed it down. I was a vampire. Nothing would change that. But I didn’t have to be a monster.”
Julie Kagawa, The Immortal Rules

2. A Different World View
In The Immortal Rules, a plague has killed a large portion of humans and vampires rule supreme.  These vampires are not hiding out in the shadows hoping not to be discovered; they are large and in charge.  Also, humans are basically cows.  Humans are herded up to give blood “donations” to keep the vampires alive.  Mooooooo.  It’s a unique enough twist on the traditional vampire tale to give this story some real legs.  (I wish I had a really good cow tipping joke to put right here, but alas – I do not.)

“Growing up on the fringe, you came to accept hard truths. Nothing was fair. the world was cold, unforgiving, and people died. it was just the way things were.”
Julie Kagawa, The Immortal Rules

3.  The Bad Guys are Bad to the Bone with a Capital B
Make no mistake about it, these vampires do not sparkle all pretty like when they step in the sun.  You will not fall in love with them; no, you will tremble in fear.  At one point in our story Allie’s friends are taken hostage to old Chicago and brutal things happen.

“Sometime in your life, Alison Sekemoto, you will kill a human being. Accidentally or as a conscious, deliberate act. It is unavoidable. The question is not if it will happen, but when.”
Julie Kagawa, The Immortal Rules

4. There is Backstory
Allie is saved and turned by a vampire named Kanin, who then spends some time teaching Allie everything she needs to know about being a vampire.  But Kanin has secrets that come back to haunt them both.  In fact, many of the character’s she meets on the road have back stories that intersect and look to bring about some major blows (this is book 1 in a series).

5.  There is a Subtle But Messed Up Love Story
After her stay with Kanin, Allie is forced to flee for her life.  I told you, secrets.  So she finds herself travelling with a nomad group of humans searching for Eden (a city, not the holy land) AND trying to keep her secret.  Most humans aren’t okay with vampires after all.  Remember, they are Bad to the Bone with a Capital B.  In this group Allie meets Zeke, who is a strong leader dedicated to keeping his people alive.  There are sparks.  There are secrets. There is also the risk that Allie might get really hungry and eat his face off.  In all seriousness, Zeke is an honorable character and it was a nice, slowly growing attraction.  It was also engaging to see Allie struggle with her emotions, her hunger, and the need to make some hard decisions.

“I wasn’t thinking of his blood, rushing just below the skin. I wasn’t thinking of his heartbeat or his touch or the pulse at his throat. Right now, all I was thinking of was Zeke.”
Julie Kagawa, The Immortal Rules

6.  There is More Mad Science
Yesterday we talked about Mad Science in Origin by Jessica Khoury and shared some other titles where people do bad things with science.  Because of some bad science, you are just as likely to turn into a Rabid as you are a vampire if one tries to turn you.  It’s a gamble.  Rabids are – well – rabid; think rabid dogs but with vampires.

7.  Books!
The ruling vampires have taken one thing out of the dystopian playbook: books are forbidden.  Let’s face it, an uninformed populace is much easier to control.  Nope, there is absolutely no current day implications for this little nugget at all (she said with a wink and a nudge).  Reading is against the law. Libraries have been burned.  But our girl Allie, she is a reader and can’t help but think that if people learned to read and how the world used to be they would no longer be content with how the world currently is.

“Words define us,’ Mom continued, as I struggled to make my clumsy marks look like her elegant script. ‘We must protect our knowledge and pass it on whenever we can. If we are ever to become a society again, we must teach others how to remain human.”
Julie Kagawa, The Immortal Rules

In the end, The Immortal Rules has everything you would want: 8) Thrills and Chills, 9) Big Questions about humanity, government, etc. and 10) Heart.  Yes, a vampire story can have heart. 

This is not your typical vampire story; well written, unique and fully developed – The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa gets 4 out of 5 stars.  One of my few gripes with the story was the convenient way all the characters backstory intertwine themselves to bring our various groups to what will surely be major blows, but a story definitely has to have conflict and outside of the convenience of the relationships, this is certainly an interesting one. Highly recommended.

The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden, book 1) by Julie Kagawa. Published in 2012 by HarlequinTeen.  ISBN: 978-0-373-21051-0

Book Review: Gravity by Melissa West

“President Cartier is the smallest of the five, so petite she looks almost like a child in an adult’s chair. Her brown hair curls in perfect waves, just like Lawrence’s. Her olive skin shows her age, creasing in fine lines across her face, the heaviest lines around her eyes. To her right sits Alaster Krane, the European president, known for his stunning height and overpowering attitude. His skin and eyes and hair are as black as the night sky. Down the table to President Cartier’s left are the African and Asian presidents. The African president is the only other female, and her skin is as fair as mine, but while I have nearly black hair, hers is fiery red. The Asian leader sits quietly. He’s always quiet, as though he prefers to think more than speak, a quality I wish some of the other leaders would possess. His looks are perfectly symmetrical, and I imagine he was very beautiful when he was young.

Then my eyes drift to Zeus, my breath catching. He stares into the screen, ominous and powerful, like he knows so much more than any of the others. I’ve never met him, and I pray I never will. I study him as though I’m seeing him for the first time. Long white hair that must reach the center of his back. Eyes like a predator. He looks human, like Jackson and the other Latent Ancients, but now that I’m looking at him closely I realize that nothing about him is warm. From his expression, to his face, to his posture. Everything about Zeus oozes danger. I clear my throat to push back my fear.
They begin with the regular stuff—the laws of the treaty, discussion of amendments (there never are any), and a reminder of our responsibilities as humans. I almost scream for them to get to the attack. Law looks as tense as I feel.

Finally, President Cartier focuses on the main camera, her face solemn. “Today, there were four attacks across the world, one in each of the four governing territories. We believe the actions were that of a vigilante Ancient group. They have all been apprehended, returning our world to safe order.” She turns to Zeus. “Mr. Castello, to your knowledge, can you guarantee there are no other threatening groups, and furthermore, do you agree to maintain our peaceful separation until coexistence can safely commence?”
“Vigilante Ancients?” Law asks, but I’m too shocked to respond. Because Zeus Castello has just walked off the stage.

The leaders jump up. One yells after him.

The screen cuts to black.”

Evidently we as humans do not learn our lessons from history very well, because in Melissa West’s Gravity human-kind nearly destroys itself with nuclear war.  Enter The Ancients, an alien race who steps during the aftermath  and offers to restore our shattered planet, for a price- that once a human turn ten, they participate in The Taking, when The Ancients come at night through the trees and take antibodies from their human hosts so that they can become acclimated to Earth and survive.  

In 2140, seventeen year old Ari is daughter of the Engineer Commander of the Americas, and has her life laid out before her.  She has been studying to become an OPS agent, training for the day when she will take over for her father.  Her future as wife to the future President of the Americas has been secured for her by their parents.  Yet her life changes on the night when she discovers that the Ancient assigned to her isn’t some strange being after all- it’s one of the most popular boys in her school.  Jackson and her accelerated training soon make her question everything she’s ever known- that the Ancients are a plague, that they are intent to destroy mankind, and that humans must defend at all costs.  And as a single choice changes Ari forever, can she choose human or Ancient, or will she have to?

I really enjoyed Gravity, and it was a quick read.  Ari is more of a humanist (if that can be the word when you’re talking about humans and aliens) than you are lead to believe in the beginning, and a lot of readers will compare and contrast her to dystopian heroines Katniss from The Hunger Games series and Tris from Divergent series, and it’s a fair comparison, as Ari has both good and bad points.  Gravity ends on a whale of a cliffhanger, leaving readers definitely wanting more.  Secondary characters Lawrence and Gretchen add to the mix, and I really want to see what happens with them as well.  I did see some of the twists coming, but readers will be engrossed.  And for those who like their science fiction with romance, there is plenty to go around; absolutely a hit with readers who like love twists with their sci-fi, but might be a turn-off to readers who want more straight out action.  

Definitely good for libraries, and a good pairing for The Host by Stephanie Meyer, Starters by Lissa Price, or Across the Universe by Beth Reevis if you want to delve into the replacement/alien factor.  Recent and hot dystopias would be The Hunger Games and Divergent while older readers could be edged  into Wells’ War of the Worlds (oh, what an awesome book/movie night, even if you did the most recent one with HIM ), and David Weber’s Out of the Dark.

Gravity gives you no room to breathe AT ALL, and I really like that in a book sometimes.  Ari is really a complete character when you think about it.  You’re lead to believe that she’s a hard military operative in her father’s domain, but secretly, I think she would be more at home in her mother’s world of chemistry and advancement.  The fact that she looses her patch, discovered that her Ancient is the most popular boy in school, and everything she’s been taught may be a lie and she is still going is a huge plus.  She’s not reacting the way that you would expect with the build-up of her training, which keeps a reader guessing- there’s the love interest (which I really hope is explained the way I imagined it works in the series), the shock of what’s really going on in the Engineering and Chemist facilities with the Latent Ancients that have been discovered (think the movie District 9), and then her seemingly foreshadowing dreams.

And the twists aren’t just with Ari- there are twists between Lawrence and Gretchen, Lawrence and Jackson, the different viewpoints of the history of the Ancients and the Humans, on and on and on.  It’s definitely a fast and gripping read.  The only drawback would be that there is definitely more love stuff than some of my readers would like, so it will be a hard sell to some of them.  Others will eat it up.  And the fact that there is someone (at least at the beginning of the series) who is willing to learn first and shoot later is something to be excited about in a dystopia.

Gravity by Mellisa West. Published November 20, 2012 by Entangled Teen. ISBN: 9781620610916

Random Dystopia Generator; a journey through genre fatigue and what happens when the market becomes oversaturated (a not a book review)

Without a doubt, Dystopian is a hot genre right now.  I have read a ton – I have bought a ton – and my teens are definitely asking for them.  But after a while, they are all starting to blend together.  Recently I began reading The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse (awesome cover), and I began to realize what my problem as a reader has become.  Let me take you on a trendy reading journey. (Please note, this is not a review.)

In the beginning of our book, Alenna sits at home with her family when the government comes to arrest her parents for being rebels.  As I read this opening sequence, it immediately brought the beginning of Crewel by Gennifer Albin to mind.  Crewel came out earlier, but I had already read it.

Then Alenna is taken to a facility to watch a live feed of lost souls that are sent to a place called The Wheel.  The purpose of this feed is to demonstrate how you don’t want to be a lost soul; it’s all about reinforcing government control.  This brings about almost every dystopian to mind, but particularly ones like Delirium by Lauren Oliver and Matched by Allie Conde.

Then Alenna is taken to a place where she has some testing done to determine whether or not she will stay in her community or be sent to The Wheel; to determine whether or not she is a Lost Soul.  Again, it has the familiar ring to it.  Whether they are testing you to see what your skill is or whether or not you are “Divergent“, it seems the government is very much in to testing.  Beware government testing.

Then we get to The Wheel.  Think Katniss being placed in The Arena or kids coming up the elevator in The Maze Runner by James Dashner, or even the outer areas in Unwind by Neal Shusterman.  The Wheel has a Lord of the Flies survival feel to it.  If you learn one thing from reading dystopian fiction, learn this: the end of the world brings out the basest, most survivalist tendencies of mankind.  It ain’t pretty.

Of course, when the teens arrive at The Wheel they divide up into factions who compete for power.  Think Variant by Robison Wells or Quarantine by Lex Thomas.  Although some of the groups are truly bad guys, even the good guys have to resort to questionable tactics to survive – see my point above.

Don’t get me wrong, this post is not meant to dismiss The Forsaken, which may or may not be a good book (I’m still in the process of reading it).  What it is is a statement about the flooding of a genre market and how all the pieces start to bleed over into one another.  As a reader, you begin to compare each element to all the others that have come before.  Every dystopian hero gets compared in your mind’s eye to Katniss.  Every renegade society on the outskirts of civilization gets compared to the districts, or the maze, or the area outside the fence in Delirium.  At times, it almost seems like there is a formula and a writer steps up to a row of jars and pulls an element out of them:

Jar 1 – plucky heroine (sometimes hero)
Jar 2 – intrusive government agency
Jar 3 – test for social acceptedness
Jar 4 – unique location to be banished
Jar 5 – quirky gangs fighting for power, etc. 

Viola’! There’s your random dystopian generator.

Thankfully, there are always those twisty element that separates it from all the other dystopian novels and  keeps us coming back for more.

Don’t get me wrong, many of the dystopians that I have read have truly been great.  I am a huge fan of The Hunger Games, Delirium, and Crewel, to name just a few.  I loved Unwind and the sequel Unwholly.  And I freely admit that The Forsaken may be a good book (I am not in a position to write a review as I have not finished reading it).  I understand the value of reading in our comfort zone: I went through a phase where I was reading every single Star Trek the Next Generation book because they were exactly what I needed at that time in my life and they made me happy.  But there is also value in revelation, in being challenged, being stretched, and thinking.  To be fair, The Forsaken may end up being that revelation for some readers, it may even end up being that for me after I finish it. But I am setting it aside for the moment to read some fantasy and science fiction that are not dystopians.  In the immortal words of Ross Gellar, dystopian and I are “on a break.”

I will say this about The Forsaken, the back cover has this as its blurb: “What if you were imprisoned for a crime that hasn’t even happened yet?”  Although this is certainly not a new concept, see Minority Report, it certainly is turning out to be a timely one in light of the Aurora, Colorado shootings.  If you read any of the news on the topic, there has been a lot of discussion around the concept of trying to keep guns out of individuals who have mental illness and may be likely to snap, which definitely fits into the concept of pre-crime.  That will make The Forsaken an interesting discussion.  And, of course, like all dystopian novels, there is good discussion to be had around the concepts of government control and what role every day citizens play in trying to curb excessive government regimes.

So there you have it, our journey through the random dystopian generator.  What are your favorite dystopian conventions (and favorite dystopian titles)? And what dystopian conventions are you ready to retire?  Do you think Dystopians are finally reaching their saturation point?  What do you think will be the big trends in 2013?

Random note: The word dystopian was used 12 times in this post.

What do I call that? Genre 101 with Georgia McBride

I love speculative fiction so much that when I started Month9Books, I added the commonly misunderstood term to our tagline: “speculative fiction for teens and tweens where nothing is as it seems.” Those of you who are genre fiction fans, and in particular speculative fiction fans, may already know what it means. But for those of you who hear only the “wah wah wah” of Charlie Brown’s teacher when I use it, this one’s for you.

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term used to encompass a variety of genres and sub-genres. The easiest way to understand what it means is to break down the word speculative. It has “speculate” in it. According to Barron’s Reference Guides Pocket Dictionary and Thesaurus, to speculate means to “form an opinion without any definite evidence.” As a transitive verb, Merriam Webster says in essence, to speculate is to theorize or wonder. As in, I wonder what would happen if, or I think if  X happened, we would all do Y.

I like to say that speculative fiction encompasses all of the “what if” genres. Like, what if your boyfriend were a vampire? Or, what if you had to fight to the death on national TV so that your family and everyone in your district would survive? What if you found out you were a wizard endowed with the power to defeat the greatest evil ever known? The previous “what if” scenarios are taken from Twilight, The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, classified as paranormal romance, dystopian fiction, and fantasy respectively, and all under the speculative fiction umbrella. See how easy that was?

Also included under the speculative fiction umbrella are science fiction, horror, high fantasy, urban fantasy, utopian/totalitarian, steampunk, and supernatural. I may be missing a few sub-genres here, but these are the most commonly referenced ones.

 The boundaries between these genres aren’t entirely set in stone, and many novels can be fairly classified under two or more of them. That said, below are my personal definitions for various genres of speculative fiction, as well as some examples of recent books, TV shows or films that fall into them.

Science Fiction: One of my favorite genres has been making a comeback in young adult literature. Though we tend to enjoy watching our science fiction (SciFi), including shows and films like Star Wars, Star Trek, A.I., War of the Worlds, and even Transformers,  those of us in children’s book publishing have also enjoyed titles like Across the Universe, Mila 2.0, Beta, Ender’s Game, and classics like Fahrenheit 451. Fans of science fiction might also like films like Minority Report; I, Robot; 12 Monkeys; Terminator; etc.

Star Wars helped make science fiction popular. But today purists may ask whether certain works are really science fiction or are something else. The answer, IMHO, lies within the name of the genre itself. I like to say that science fiction is a story that presents circumstances and outcomes that would not be possible outside of the realms of science and/or technology, and often a science or technology not yet created. In other words, a world where robots replace service personnel, or a where inter-galaxy travel is possible, or where clones are standard fare, would not be possible were it not for imagined future advancements in science and technology.
Fantasy: Another favorite of mine, this genre includes stories that are made up of fantastical occurrences (superhuman powers, magical creatures, etc.), and characters, beings, and settings that seem to come from the imagination and folklore, rather than from scientific fact or speculation. Generally, comic books fit into this category. Fantasy normally unfolds due to magic or some other supernatural force, and may be set in either the real world or in an imagined one. Most fantasy involves a quest or adventure. Some of my favorites include The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Emissary, which releases in December, 2013. On TV, look for shows like Once Upon a Time, and check out films like Snow White and the Huntsman, Avatar, and The Avengers.

Paranormal: This includes stories where supernatural or otherworldly elements influence the outcomes and occurrences in a story, whether those elements be a force, a being (person), or an idea. The genre is often associated with otherworldly beings, such as vampires, angels, ghosts, zombies, werewolves, etc. Some of my favorites include Shiver, Anna Dressed in Blood, Rot and Ruin, and A Shimmer of Angels, which releases January 29, 2013. On TV, look for The Vampire Diaries, The Walking Dead, Teen Wolf, Arrow, 666 Park Avenue, and Grimm, Heroes (no longer on the air). Check out films like Underworld, Wrath of the Titans, Hellboy, and The Mummy.

Dystopian: Some of you were first introduced to this type of book via The Hunger Games. These stories show the evolution of characters as they navigate a society in which conditions are less than ideal, or even the complete opposite of a utopian (or ideal) world. Other examples include Breathe, Divergent, and one of my favorites: Lord of the Flies. On TV, shows like The Walking Dead, Revolution and Falling Skies represent the dystopian genre.
High Fantasy: This genre, like other fantasy, usually includes magical or imaginary events and ideas, but it is also normally set in a fantastical or alternate world other than what we understand to be the “real” world, whose existence may or may not be acknowledged. Some of my faves are The Girls of Fire and Thorns and Graceling. In both book and film formats, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are also standouts.

Steampunk movies like the (IMHO) ill-conceived Wild, Wild West (starring Will Smith), or one of my favorites, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, have never really caught on. I fear the same is true for books set in a time when steam powered the world, although titles such as Leviathan, Boneshaker, and Clockwork Angel lead the pack in young adult and are wonderful examples of how to use steampunk elements to drive a story.

Next time we will devote an entire post to one of my favorite genres, horror!

Georgia McBride
Georgia loves a good story. Whether it’s writing her own, or publishing someone else’s, story is at the heart of everything Georgia does. Founder of YALITCHAT.ORG and the weekly #yalitchat on Twitter, Georgia spends most of her days writing, editing, or talking about books. That is, of course, when she is not reading submissions for Month9Books or Swoon Romance.
With a particular interest in and passion for genre fiction, Georgia seeks to fill the gap left by major publishers who may have had their fill of paranormal, horror, and fantasy novels. And it’s a good thing, because Georgia has never met a vampire, angel, or werewolf she didn’t like.
In Month9Books, Georgia seeks to create a niche imprint that publishes deeply emotive works for teens and tweens set in worlds not too unlike our own.
Georgia is seeking middle grade stories with heart and engaging characters who experience life a bit differently. She especially enjoys mysteries, fantasy, and superhero and antihero stories. For young adult, Georgia seeks works that make readers think, and aren’t afraid to be smart, different, or off the beaten path. She is especially interested in genre mash-ups, and welcomes character-driven, coming of age stories with a romantic element. Fangs and zombies welcome.

Dystopian Week Recap

Last week was Dystopian Week over at Random Buzzers, the amazingly cool website for Random House.  Don’t say I didn’t tell you because I did: I tweeted it and put it up on the TLT FB wall multiple times.  The Random Buzzers website and tweets focused on the topic of dystopian fiction, which you may have heard is all the “buzz” right now.  See what I just did there?

Random Buzzers is the wicked cool website for Random House aimed at teens.  Here they have interactive forums, quizzes and more for teens to engage in the discussions and this week the discussion was all about dystopians.  I am sure it has something to do with the success of a little movie called The Hunger Games (actually a Scholastic title).  But it also has to do with the success of the genre as a whole (everyone is talking about it and publishing it these days), including some of their own titles including The Maze Runner series by James Dashner (I say read it, it’s good) and the debut work by Lissa Price entitled Starters (reviewed).  And let’s not forget the glorious Forest of Hands and Teeth series by Carrie Ryan, which made the TLT Teen Reviewer’s list of Top 10 Zombie novels.  Goodreads has put together a great dystopian infographic based on its user data that you will want to check out.

A dystopian society is a society with high government intrusion into the lives of it’s people in the interest of safety, security or morality.  The government usually insists they have created a utopian society but if you look closely you see the cracks under the surface.  One of the perennial questions associated with dystopian fiction is what are you willing to sacrifice for perfection?  Can you be a perfect society if you have no freedoms?

Some popular classics that deal with this topic include 1984 by George Orwell, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (two of my all time favorite books) and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (which I am ashamed to say I have still never read).  Other titles include of course The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the Matched series by Ally Condie and the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver.  You may have heard, but I am a huge fan of the Delirium series.  To be honest, I am a huge fan of dystopian fiction.

Part of the discussion last week focused on whether or not post apocalyptic fiction was dystopian fiction and vice versa.  Arguments can definitely be made that post apocalyptic fiction is its own genre and there is often the government intrusion into our lives that is missing in true dystopian fiction; however, a lot of dystopian titles start out with some type of cataclysmic event whether it be war, natural disaster, or a lack of natural resources that make governments come in and take over “for the good of the people.”  In Delirium, you see that love has been deemed an illness and the genuine belief that society is better when the illness is eradicated.  In Matched the government has chosen 100 poems and 100 paintings that are deemed fit for society, all others have been eradicated.  In worlds like Starters or The Hunger Games there are groups of citizens that benefit from the new rules and those that don’t, often the poor and children.

Part of the discussion last week was also why, exactly, are dystopian titles suddenly so popular?  The answer seems to be that many feel we are already living in a dystopian world.  I am not sure that we are truly there yet, but you can definitely see us marching in that direction if you listen close enough (which I discussed earlier in my post Why We Hunger for the Hunger Games).  Author Moira Young also discusses the appeal of dystopian fiction in The Guardian stating, “books set in either chaotic or strictly controlled societies mirror a teenager’s life; at school, at home, with their peers and in the wider world. Let’s call it the “my own private dystopia” theory” (The Guardian, Why is dystopia so appealing to young adults?, October 23, 2011).

The fun part of the conversation occurred when we started discussing survival tips and strategies for living in a dystopian or zombie apocalypse world.  What kinds of skills would you need?  You’ll want to travel light so you can only take 1 novel with you to read, so which one would it be?  My #1 tip, when you wake up and notice that the world is suddenly quiet and abandoned, DO NOT run around town yelling “hello, hello – is anywhere there?”.  That is a sure fire way to draw unnecessary attention to yourself either from the zombies or the bad guys.  For me, one of the most fascinating lessons that we learn over and over again from dystopian titles is the true nature of the human condition.  In the movie Platoon there is a voice over where the character Chris Taylor says, “I think now, looking back, we did not fight the enemy, we fought ourselves, and the enemy was in us.” (Platoon, quote found on IMDB.com).  It’s easy to sit in the theater and watch a movie like The Hunger Games and say we would never, and yet we know that in Ancient Rome the gladiators were their primary source of entertainment and many people sat silently while millions of Jews lost their lives during World War II. 

Dystopian fiction is an important reminder of who we can become.  It is a reminder to value our freedoms and exercise them; to read, to vote, to hold those in positions of authority accountable, to protect even the weakest among us so we don’t become monsters.

My Personal Top 10 Dystopian titles (including post apocalyptic and zombie apocalypse titles)

1. 1984 by George Orwell
2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
3. Delirium and Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
4. Rot & Ruin and Dust & Decay by Jonathan Maberry
5. The Giver by Lois Lowry
6. Unwind by Neal Shusterman
7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
8. Divergent by Veronica Roth
9. Ashes by Ilsa. J. Bick
10. Ashfall by Mike Mullin

And if you haven’t read it already, I do suggest the adult title One Second After by William R. Forstchen.  I do have to say that all the dystopian titles by Random House are really good and I recommend them.  Enders, the companion to Starters by Lissa Price, comes out in December 2012.

The top 10 dystopians as voted on by Random Buzzers can be found at RandomBuzzers.com.
TLT Teen Reviewer Cuyler Creech’s top 10 zombie novels can be found here and his top 10 dystopian novels can be found here.

I highly recommend that you get your teens involved in the Random Buzzers website.  It has an appealing design, is very active, and is a great opportunity for teens to engage in literature in meaningful and thoughtful ways while having fun.

Now it’s your turn: What is your favorite dystopian title and why?  What are your survival tips?

Feed Their Hunger for the Hunger Games

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins imagines a dystopian world in which people are divided into 13 major districts.  1 of the districts no longer exists.  Each year 1 teen boy and 1 teen girl is chosen randomly from each district to participate in The Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death in which there can be only 1 survivor.  The popular series is being made into movies set to be released sometime in 2012.

With the movies coming out next year, The Hunger Games is going to continue to be a popular book series.  Here are some ideas you can use to make a HG program.  You can divide the teens into groups onto teams – Team Peeta, Team Katniss, etc. – and have them compete and earn points to see which team will win the Hunger Games.

Also attached is a program flyer that you can download and personalize for your program.  Just add your library information, date and time, etc. I recommend putting the date and time inside the gray circle.

Activity Ideas

  • Knot Tying – Have teens attempt to tie a variety of different knots.  You should have book resources in your library or you can visit the web.  You can also purchase this game if you have the funds http://www.mindware.com/p/Knot-So-Fast/48014?sg=PMDG2&gclid=CJKOrv7X3akCFRIH2godonGvZA
  • Arrow shooting – You can buy a Nerf bow and arrow (expensive) or a generic bow and arrow in the kids section of most large chain stores that sell toys.  They also have a fun Nerf gun that shoots Nerf darts as part of the Nerf Dart Tag series.  Or bust out some Laser Tag if you have some sitting around.
  • Sardines – Play a game of sardines, a sort of reverse hide and seek.  1 teen hides and everyone seeks them out.  When you find the hiding teen you join them in their hiding space.  The last teen to find the group is the last man out.  This will require you allow teens to roam through the library, but it is a fairly quiet game as you don’t want to be found.  Just invoke Silent Library rules and anyone who is too loud is disqualified.  More info on Sardines can be found at http://wondertime.go.com/create-and-play/article/sardines.html
  • Hunger Games Jeopardy/Trivia – Include topis such as bird calls, Can you eat it?, Survival 101 and more.  You can even include trivia about the books themselves.  This site has a Jeopardy PowerPoint template you can adapt http://www.elainefitzgerald.com/jeopardy.htm.
  • Would You Survive? – You can purchase and play the Worst Case Scenario Survival game http://www.amazon.com/University-Games-Worst-Case-Scenario/dp/B00005EB9MMan vs. Wild has a variety of online survival games you can share.
  • Scholastic.com also has HG survival games online that you can play via computer and overhead projector. http://www.scholastic.com/thehungergames/games/index.htm.
  • Make Your Own Pin – Katniss is given a pin that becomes quite the inspiration.  Provide the resources for teens to make their own inspiring pin (or you can use an acrylic pin kit to accomplish this – I have bought them at Hobby Lobby).  You can also make Marble Magnets and put a pin back on them.  Instructions can be found at http://www.notmartha.org/tomake/marblemagnets/
  • The Costume Game – Have teens come dressed ready to kick of the Hunger Games pageant style and award a prize for the best dressed.  They can recreate costumes right from the books, although I don’t recommend setting oneself on fire, or they can simply create any unique costume worthy of a HG opening pageant.
  • Scavenger Hunt – Create a scavenger hunt and see if teens can “track” down the prize object, or cup if you will.
  • Obstacle Course – Create an obstacle course using hula hoops, large blocks to make walls and whatever else you can think of.
  • Get Creative-Have teens design book covers, movie posters and more.
  • Paracord Bracelet– This youtube clip shows you how to make your own paracord bracelet.  This is a bracelet that you can unravel in times of need and have a piece of paracord rope on hand.
  • Gimme Shelter – Give each team a box of random supplies and see if they can build a shelter like a lean-to.
  • Cornucopia Chef – At the beginning of each Hunger Games, participants rush to the Cornucopia to get their supplies.  Give teens 1 minute to go to the cornucopia (designated space) and get a variety of supplies and then see what they can make out of them.  Have a variety of fun food items that don’t require cooking and see what food masterpieces they can make.

Other elements you can include would be identifying animal tracks, bugs, edible vs. inedible plants, etc.  Discuss with teens how they know whether or not the water they encounter in the wild is safe to drink.

The Hunger Games are a rich dystopian fantasy, and there are many more out there.  Have a book discussion series where you and your teens read a variety of the titles out there and compare and contrast them.  Ask teens to get creative and design their own post apocalyptic world – what would it look like, how would it be organized, what would the focus be?  You can find some good dystopian booklists online at Librarypoint.org and InfoSoup.

What you do in your program will depend on the amount of staff, time and money you have – and of course your space.  But there are so many great options with this book series for programming.  And for a prize, give away a set of the books.  Teens of all ages will love being a part of your Hunger Games program.

Looking for more ideas? Check out the follow-up post: The Countdown is On