Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

What’s the (Short) Story?

In my review of The Curiosities, I mention that short stories seem to be a hard sell to teens.  Most often, they are also a mixed bag; I have yet to come across a short story collection where I thought every story was a divine work of inspiration (although The Curiosities comes close).  But here are 5 short story collections that I think are must have for teens and the libraries that serve them . . .

Steampunk Poe
They are the original works of Poe with Steampunk illustrations.  You can never go wrong with Poe.

Although there are some good stories about being bullied, standing up to bullies, etc., the reason this book is a must have is for the short story How Auto-Tune Saved My Life, a story that reminds us that sometimes adults in positions of power can be bullies.  This is a must read for all teachers.

Dear Teen Me
It’s such a unique concept and a great look at life as a teenager, and an important reminder that most of us make it out alive and relatively unscathed.

The Letter Q: Queer writers notes to their younger selves
David Levithan, Malinda Lo and more talk about growing up, coming out and surviving as they learned to understand their sexuality and embrace who they are.

And of course, The Curiosities

Now it’s your turn. What short story collections are on your must have list and why?

Book Review: Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (reviewed by Christie G)

“I had an open mind, at least by Gatlin’s standards.  I mean, I’d heard all the theories.  I had sat through  more than my share of Sunday school classes.  And after my mom’s accident, Marian told me about a Buddhism class she took at Duke taught by a guy named Buddha Bob, who said paradise was a teardrop inside a teardrop inside a teardrop, or something like that.  The year before that, my mom tried to get me to read Dante’s Inferno, which Link told me was about an office building that caught fire, but actually turned out to be about a guy’s voyage into the nine circles of Hell.  I only remember the part my mom told me about monsters or devils trapped in a pit of ice.  I think it was the ninth circle of Hell, but there were so many circles down there that after a while they all sort of ran together.
After what I’d learned about underworlds and otherworlds and sideways worlds, and whatever else came in the whole triple-layer cake of universes that was the Caster world, that first glimpse of blue sky was fine by me.  I was relived to see there was something that looked like a cheesy Hallmark card waiting for me.  I wasn’t expecting pearly gates or naked cherub babies.  But the blue sky, that was a nice touch.”

Beautiful Redemption is the fourth and final book in the Beautiful Creatures series.  (If you haven’t read the first three, stop and read them before reading this one, because nothing will make any sense.  Trust me.  I’ll wait.) In other words, there are series spoilers so read on at your own peril if you are a newbie.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1HQ5OP9E8c]

The series, like Hunger Games, Mortal Instruments, and Jonathan Maberry’s zombie series (Rot & Ruin), is being made into major motion pictures, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the casting and plot of the books; already they’ve made some changes with some of the major characters (*cough* RIDLEY *cough*), while keeping others pretty much the same as the descriptions in the books.  (I’m personally in love with the choice for Macon).

When we left off, Ethan had jumped off the water tower to save the Order, and correct the Universe, the Caster and Mortal world, and we were left with a cryptic ending on the last page.  In Beautiful Redemption, Ethan is in limbo, trying to find his way back to Lena, while Lena is breaking the rules to get Ethan back to her side of the world.  Needless to say, since it’s the final book, all the loose ends from the previous three are tied up, and the ending will make fans of the series happy.  Definitely add it to your collection if you already have the series, but not if you don’t have it, as for me it seemed very anti-climatic and forced (see below).  Would recommend the series for teens who love star-crossed lovers and fantasy, like the books of Melissa Marr or Becca Fitzpatrick.

However….  (spoilers sweeties)

I have to say, I LOVED the first three of the series, and I was extremely disappointed with this book.

I love the Southern Gothic genre and the Caster world, the magic and mysticism that flows through along with Amma’s magic and the voodoo thrown in.  I love the twisted histories and the intertwined family trees, and the repeated and tied destinies.  I loved the bad girl Ridley, and Link, and the crazy town with it’s secrets, and the Aunts.  And I want to BE MARION (THANK YOU for reclaiming the Marion the Librarian name from The Music Man). I was SOOOO excited to purchase the final book, thinking that it would live up to the others.

Nope.  Everything was too easy, yet had to be in there for some reason or another.  We touched on every character in the series, if only briefly, so everyone has an appearance.  After all the fights, and all the struggles that they’ve had within the series, it seems like this book was just, we need to tie this off, and this off and this off, so check and check and check.

First, Ethan can actually get himself everywhere he needs to without too much of a trial, even though his mom could only send songs through the Greats.  Then, he has these quests for the magical stones- except it just happens that one of the Greats has it, and Lena has the other.  Done, get it from the Great and then have Lena leave it at the grave.  CHECK.

Then travel to the deep, dark, forbidden place to get the goal.  Except, we never do what the Greats ask (in movies they call that continuity errors) by mentioning things- usually that comes with penalties that never occur in this book.  

Then, he needs The Book of Shadows, so even though we NEVER HAVE before, we get into Lena’s point of view.  She runs around with Link, finds Ridley, somehow Ridley escapes the magic cage she’s been stuck in since the middle of the last book, and then they have to battle the big bad on the Living Side.  And even though Abraham the great grandfather of all evil has the sucker, and has been the almighty boogeyman for the past three books, we can kill him off without loosing anyone else.  CHECK.

So then Ethan has the book, then battles a middle bad on the Dead side, then the BIG Bad on the Dead side (during which we tie up more loose ends), and he’s restored to the Living side, but not before we kill off someone that readers adored (thereby tying up the LAST loose end).  CHECK.

It all felt really anti-climatic and somehow forced, not the spirit uplifting book I was hoping for with the series.  I was left feeling somewhat disappointed and letdown, but I doubt that my teens will considering Ethan and Lena are back together, forever and ever.

Karen’s note: I have already seen the movie trailer and it will be big so you’ll need the series in your library.

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.

My Cybils 2012 Wishlist (and what I’ve reviewed so far)

This year, I am excited (and honored) to be a first round panelist (judge) for the Science Fiction and Fantasy panel of the 2012 Cybils.  The Cybils are the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards.

They are taking public nominations for awards through October 15th.  You can nominate a title published between last year’s awards (late October 2011) and this year’s (October 1, 2012) by filling out a simple form.

I was pretty excited to see that I had read and reviewed a few of the books nominated already:
Adaptation by Malinda Lo
BZRK by Michael Grant
Every Day by David Levithan
Every Other Day by Jenny Lynn Barnes
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Seraphina by Rachel Harman
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Starters by Lissa Price
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Unwholly by Neal Shusterman
Velveteen by Daniel Marks
The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
You can find the complete list of Young Adult nominations here
And you can read all of the TLT book reviews here

My Wish List

I am surprised, however, to see that some of my favorite titles haven’t been nominated yet – including Timepiece by Myra McEntire and Ashes/Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick.  I also really enjoyed Fracture by Megan Miranda earlier this year and hope it will receive a nomination. Also missing? Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross, an interesting world where people are living twisted version of the fairy tales, and Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin, a post apocalyptic tale where people live in fear every day of the plague. I imagine any moment now Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter will appear on the list. And, speaking of zombies, there is a good chance that Rot & Ruin book 3: Flesh and Bone by Jonathan Maberry will probably be nomianted soon; I am surprised it hasn’t yet given the popularity of both zombies and this series. And finally, I think that Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch will definitely be nominated sometime soon – this book steps into the worlds of both Science Fiction AND Fantasy.  Edited to add: I also think that Through to You by Emily Hainsworth is worthy of a nomination and I hope that one pops up.  It was a very emotional read.

I was excited because I was going to nominate Human.4 (or its sequel The Future We Left Behind) by Mike Lancaster in the Middle Grade category, but it looks like it misses the publication cut off date.  It also looks like Crewel by Gennifer Albin will miss it this year as well.

Well, I guess I better get reading.