Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Take 5: R is for Revenge

Earlier today I reviewed The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine. In this book, there is a nice little revenge subplot. It reminded me that I wanted to finish up this post about books that have revenge themes. So here are 5 more YA titles that deal with revenge. We all want a little revenge at some time in our life.

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Publisher’s Description:
What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, who she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her archnemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she caused irreparable damage to the people around her—and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s Side Effects May Vary is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality

Karen’s Thoughts:
This is a really well written book where a lot of interesting things happen, including some very good character development and issues.  The idea of getting revenge on those who have wronged you as part of your bucket list was very interesting. And then – Alice goes in to remission and has to face the consequences of what she has done. SEMV is also very interesting because it explores the concept of the very angry young woman. There are lots of great Angry Young Men books – including Reality Boy by A. S. King – and it was interesting to explore the psyche of the angry young woman, especially when it is done in such a well developed way. You may not like Alice (though I actually did), but her story is compelling. You can read my complete review here.

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

Publisher’s Description:

Postcard-perfect Jar Island is the kind of place where nobody locks their doors at night, where parents can sleep easy, knowing their daughters are tucked away safe and sound in their beds.

But bad things can happen, even to good girls . . . and sometimes, the only way to make things right is to do something wrong.

Lillia used to trust boys, but not anymore. Not after what happened this summer. And she’ll do whatever it takes to protect her little sister from the same fate.

Kat is over the rumors, the insults, the cruel jokes made at her expense. It all goes back to one person–her ex-best friend. Someone needs to teach her a lesson, and, with Lillia and Mary behind her, Kat feels up to the task.

Four years ago, Mary left Jar Island because of a boy. But she’s not the same girl anymore. Now that she’s got friends who have her back, he’s going to be in big trouble.

Three very different girls who come together to make things right. Will they go too far?

Karen’s Thoughts:
I loved the setting of this story and the way that Han and Vivian weave some paranormal elements into this tale of revenge. It’s the first book in a series, Fire with Fire is the second. As revenge stories go, this is highly entertaining and has a lot of dynamic relationships and tension. Very enjoyable and definitely recommended. I am looking forward to the next book in the series Ashes to Ashes, which comes out in September. 

Marie Antionette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender

Publisher’s Description:
Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots.

But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette.

Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger . . .

Acclaimed author Katie Alender brings heart-stopping suspense to this story of revenge, betrayal, intrigue — and one killer queen.

Karen’s Thoughts:

Ghosts often want revenge and I love a good ghost story. And this one is more fascinating to me because the ghost is Marie Antoinette. I liked the ghost story aspect of the story but didn’t love other elements. But teen readers looking for a fun ghost story won’t be disappointed. 

The List by Siobhan Vivian

Publisher’s Description:
An intense look at the rules of high school attraction — and the price that’s paid for them.

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn’t matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, “pretty” and “ugly.” And it’s also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two

Karen’s Thoughts:

This is a really well done look at the high school pecking order. I highly recommend it. If I am remembering correctly, Vivian based it in part on some true events that were covered in the news. Told from alternating points of view, The List will remind anyone out of high school why they never want to go back. And teens who are trying to run the gauntlet that is high school right now will definitely identify and want to discuss. This is a must read.

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke

Publisher’s Description:
From international phenomenon Cornelia Funke, the bestselling author of Reckless and Inkheart.

Eleven-year-old Jon Whitcroft never expected to enjoy boarding school. Then again, he never expected to be confronted by a pack of vengeful ghosts, either. And then he meets Ella, a quirky new friend with a taste for adventure…

Together, Jon and Ella must work to uncover the secrets of a centuries-old murder while being haunted by terrifying spirits, their bloodless faces set on revenge. So when Jon summons the ghost of the late knight Longspee for his protection, there’s just one question: Can Longspee truly be trusted?

Karen’s Thoughts:
More vengeful ghosts! Technically, this book is MG lit. I checked it out but haven’t read it yet, oops. Publisher’s Weekly said, “Despite the book’s length, the story moves quickly, filled with daring midnight expeditions and close calls with death.” (Publisher’s Weekly 3/19/2012).

Now it’s your turn to share: What are your favorite revenge stories? Please leave a comment and let others know. We’re all looking for a good revenge story to read.

Book Review: Marie Antionette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender

This book was an interesting reminder of how important it is to READ THE WHOLE BOOK before you make a judgment.  I almost didn’t finish this book.  And, although I don’t think it is a great book by any means, it got better so it was an interesting experiment in reading.

Synopsis: Struggling with her dad’s sudden departure and her change in social class, Colette Iselin takes a class trip to France with her classmates.  With a serial killer on the loose, Colette learns that her family may be connected to the carnage in ways she could never have imagined.

So in order for you to understand my thoughts on this book, we’re going to do the review in reverse. In the end, I give Marie Antionette, Serial Killer 2.5 out of 5 stars, which is a huge step up from the original DNF (did not finish) I was going to give it.  The truth is, I can see some teen girls reading it, it’s a fluff, throwaway horror story for those who don’t want to be terrified and it even has a little message at the end about kindness.  I think readers who want to dip their toes into horror but still be able to sleep at night will appreciate this book.  It is reminiscent of some older Stine and Pike titles.  I think that Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick addresses some of the same themes and issues regarding mean girls, popularity and materialism in a much more fun and successful way, but without the horror component.  This could have been a glorious read, but in my opinion it failed to deliver.  My teenage self, however, would have been perfectly satisfied.  But let’s discuss more . . .

Why I Almost Didn’t Finish It
As I mentioned, the beginning of this book was a real slog for me.  I usually read a book a day and it took me 5 to read this one.  Some of the reasons were personal, others had to do with the writing.

1) It has some seriously heavy handed foreshadowing at the beginning of the book.  There is a necklace – dun dun dun.  Colette says time and time again how she hopes this trip will change. her. life.  Then there was the number of times we had to establish that Colette is seriously claustrophobic.  It’s like the author didn’t trust her readers – or herself really – to put the pieces of the puzzle together in natural ways.  This was a real turn off for me.

2)  Name and Price Dropping
Colette is besties with two name dropping, price quoting, high maintenance girls named Hannah and Pilar.  Pilar and Colette is the wannabees, but Hannah is without a doubt the mean girl.  She controls the shots and the other two cower in the power of her shadow.  There is a lot of fashion name dropping and price quoting to help establish the wealth and influence of Hannah.  It was, to me, tedious and, again, heavy handed.  

3) Oh My Goodness I Hate Everyone
Honestly, this way the hardest part of the book for me personally.  All of the main characters introduced are shallow, mean spirited, selfish.  They are not people that I want to spend time with, so at one point I did just throw the book aside and read something else.  But I hate leaving books unfinished and I came back to it.  Colette slowly begins to grow and change, and Pilar does to some extent as well.  For me, this is the only thing that slightly redeemed the book.  It was nice to see Colette make some different choices for herself based on her experiences.  She grew a backbone, she made better choices, she became someone I didn’t loathe and detest.

4) Not enough killing
Seriously, I am not a weird person.  Well, maybe a little bit, but for a book called Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, there was very little serial killing taking place.  And I, personally, was expecting a darker book.  But more importantly, there wasn’t much tension in the story.  The killings are all one offs, people that appear in the story simply to be killed.  You have no reason to care.  Then one person you know, but do not like, is killed and I just couldn’t muster up a reason to care but thought thank goodness because he was just another despicable character in the story.  It is not until the almost end of the story that any real tension and danger for any of our main characters is introduced.  With a title that include the term Serial Killer, you are expecting a darker book.  This book was surprisingly not dark (which would probably make it a good choice for those who want to read light horror).  So I would say the lack of tension is a writing issue, but the lighter tone is a personal preference.

For more serial killers in YA lit, check out

5) Marie Antoinette?
I thought the idea of turning Marie Antoinette into a serial killer was awesome.  This was on my must read list.  First, it is not historical fiction, it is set in the modern day.  Second, there is very little Marie Antionette in the story.  And third, an author’s note at the end of the book basically states that the entire premise of what has caused Marie Antionette to become a serial killer is in fact completely false.  Marie Antionette is simply a devise here, and I don’t know that she is used all that effectively.

Why I am Glad That I Did:

1) The French boy, Jules
Who doesn’t want to go to Paris and fall in love with a French boy? And this boy is such a great character: charming, kind, insightful and he tells Colette straight up that her friends suck.  He was definitely needed in the story.  If I was a teenage girl taking a school trip to France, I would not mind having Jules for my tour guide.

2) France itself
I did love hearing about the various places around France, the nighttime visit to the Eiffel Tower, and the claustrophic look at The Catacombs.  It does feel like you are taking a little trip to France, which is a dream of mine.  The depictions of France are the most successful part of the story and at times you almost feel like you are there.

3) The Reinvention of Colette
As I mentioned, Colette does change.  She consciously chooses to live her life differently in part because of her relationship with Jules and because of what she learns about her family and what they did in service to the queen.  Colette went from being someone I despised to someone I could respect.  And in her character arch there are some good yet subtle lessons made about being yourself, being a good friend, and doing what counts in the moment that needs it.

4) Audrey
There is one other character that serves as a breath of fresh air in this story: Audrey.  Audrey is a nice girl who ends up buddied with Colette – you can’t go on a school trip without a buddy – and she makes several attempts to help Colette.  She is smart, kind, and everything that our main characters are not.  Thank goodness for her.

5) Timing is Everything
It’s coming out at the right time of year and teens will be asking for more horror books.  I think it is an optional purpose, but I also think it will circulate.