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Book Review: The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson

Look, it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Maureen Johnson. You didn’t know? Do you live under a rock? I follow her everywhere – Tumblr, Twitter, etc. She has a fantastically skewed sense of humor that I find appealing, and I love how much she cares about the young people for whom she writes and the issues that affect their daily lives. But more than her online persona, I love her novels. And her Shades of London series is well written, inventive, tightly paced, and gripping.  The most recent installment, book three of four in the series, more than lives up to expectations set in the first two.

Closely following the events of Madness Underneath, book three, The Shadow Cabinet, details the events of the days following Stephen’s untimely accident. Also BE DO BE DO BE DO! *spoiler alert* if you haven’t read books one and two, please stop here. You should scroll down to the bottom of this post, enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for The Shadow Cabinet, then proceed directly to your local bookseller, library, or best friend with discriminating taste in YA literature to obtain copies of the first two books in the series.

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Okay, so if you’ve read the first two books, you know that book three starts with Rory, Callum, and Boo searching for Stephen’s ghost. Unfortunately, he is nowhere to be found. They are also working closely with Thorpe, their government agent/supervisor/babysitter to locate Rory’s classmate, Charlotte, who has been abducted by the same cult that attempted to abduct Rory. Thorpe is doing his best to keep Rory safe from the cult – and she is doing her best to put herself in harm’s way. And, in the midst of all of this, Stephen’s body is taken by an unknown agency.

There are so many twists and turns in this novel, I’m reluctant to get into too much detail for fear of spoiling the book for those who haven’t read it. I do want to say, though, that those of you who missed Rory’s friends from school will be pleased to find that Jerome plays a much larger role in book three than he did in book two. Also, if you were worried about how the series would proceed without Stephen…um…never fear? I suppose that’s all I can say?

Finally, there is an entirely new character, named Freddie, who plays a large part in the book. Often introducing a new character at this juncture might be seen in a ‘cousin Oliver’ light. This one, however, is my favorite insertion of a new character since Dawn. And, for those of you who understand both of those references, *fistbump* you are my people.

This series hits so many interest points for my students that I have a difficult time keeping copies in stock in the library. I think it’s the mix of the ghosts, cults, and mythology of the series and the quirky characters and sense of humor that combine to make it so appealing. I also enjoy giving my book talk for it that includes detailing the near-death experience Rory has that causes her ability to see ghosts. What can I say, middle schoolers love gross stuff.

Want a chance to win your very own copy of The Shadow Cabinet? Enter our Rafflecopter giveaway! Giveaway is open to residents of the United States.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Take 5: Tumblrs that Rock

I am obsessed with Tumblr.  Blame Robin.  Anyhow, as I see it, Tumblr (outside of Twitter, of course) is so easy to use and I love, love, love the way it handles graphics (which is where its bread and butter is).  So now I am all Tumblr obsessed.  Here are 5 Tumblrs to follow if you are new to the tumble.  If you are not new, share your favorites with me in the comments.  Feed my obsession.

And yes, for the record, every time I am on Tumblr I do in fact sing this song in my head . . .

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwb9-OlQimc]

Diversity in YA

Diversity in YA was originally founded as a blog in 2011 by Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo.  They moved to Tumblr in 2013.  Here, they talk about Diversity in YA, hence the title.  It is a great resource not only highlighting titles, but giving real strong evidence that shows how little diversity there currently is.

Teenager Posts

Teenager Posts takes a standard format – a color block with a simple text statement, similar to Bookfessions – and allows teens to express themselves.  Often sad, sometimes witty, sometimes full of cusswords, this is a way for teens 

YA Book Quotes

 
Exactly what it sounds like – quotes from YA books. Great for reblogging and sharing.

Fishing Boat Proceeds, aka John Green’s Tumblr

John Green is kind of king of the Internet in Geek World, and Tumblr is no different.  It’s obviously heavy on self-promotion, especially with TFIOS movie being filmed, but he is usually the first to take to the Internet and speak up about things with heartfelt intelligence.

Looking for things to make and do?  DIY Fashion has you covered.

Maureen Johnson Books

If John Green is the King of the Internet, one could argue that Maureen Johnson is the Queen.  She speaks passionately about things.  She rants.  She answers questions.  In a word, she is kind of awesome.

Go Book Yourself

This site is your basic “If You Like . . . Try This . . .” site with some visual finesse.  Take a book – say The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – and it will recommend 4 readlikes.  In this case it recommends Ask the Passengers by A. S. King, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.  These are great for sharing, though not always YA.

An Oldie but a Goodie: Bookfessions

More Info: 8 Inspirational Blogs from Huffington Post Teen ; 10 Top Tech related Tumblrs

A Gaggle of Squealing Girls Can’t Love Science?

Some of you may recall the great gender based assignment rage of 2013.  If not, start here.

So, here’s an update.  This year, the Tween gets to research a scientist.  She adores science.  So I asked her the other day, have you picked your scientist yet?  Apparently, she is waiting to be assigned her scientist.  But I asked her, hoping for the best, will it be any scientist or will this be another gender based assignment?  But the Mr., he raised a good point and mentioned that her female scientist options would actually be rather limited because, you know, historically science has been a very hard field for women to break into.  Which still remains true today.  When you review lists of people big in the world of science and tech, the male to female ratio is very skewed and women are significantly under represented.  And when you are talking about history, forget about it.  You probably immediately think Marie Curie and a few other big names and after that, it’s harder to come up with the names.  And to find the books to do the research, even harder.  I know, I looked last night.  (Edited because this link about the Unsung Heroines of Science JUST popped up on Buzzfeed, we’ll call it kismet.)

And then I woke up this morning and Maureen Johnson (man I love her) was raging about this:

The set up of the article is maddening:  There were a group of girls – no, a gaggle of squealing girls – in a room where they were oblivious to the fact that right next to them the big boys were doing important things : Science! Silly, squealing girls.  Real magic is happening in the room next door to you.

So, let’s just dispel a few myths:

Not all fantasy or even Harry Potter fans are girls.  I wasn’t there, but I would presume that a fair number of male Harry Potter fans were in attendance.  I have hosted many a HP program over the last few years and there are always guys in attendance.  Sometimes dressed up.  HP is universally loved and for good reason: it is some amazing storytelling.

You can like fantasy and science.  It’s a big world and the two are in no way mutually exclusive.  In fact, a lot of fantasy has science weaved into the story, which is part of the reason that Fantasy and Science Fiction are often shelved together.

I don’t really get what is wrong with being excited about something or why we must condescendingly describe it as “squealing”.  I mean, I have seen some of my male “techy” friends reaction to the announcement of the newest version of the next Apple product, it’s no different than my reaction to meeting one of my favorite authors.  There is joy and excitement and even sometime squee.  Squee is not bad.  Life is short, get excited about things.

As a mom with a daughter who loves science, I really don’t appreciate the constant barriers put up by the field and the media which tends to send the implicit message: this is not for you.  We can’t write articles saying we need more women involved in science and math and then turn around and set up barriers.  Or call them whores because they want to get paid for their work (oh wait, that was a different story).

Basically, let’s stop being condescending about girls and their interests.  Even if they are not your interests, it’s a big world, let’s respect each other.

And here is a list of books that have girls involved in some kick ass science and tech.

Also, if you want to read an interesting take on Artificial Intelligence, the focus of the New York times article, check out Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron.

Take 5: What’s On the Menu Today? Dessert! Check out these sweet reads

Since earlier today we mentioned Lisa Schroeder’s Cupcake Series, I suddenly have a craving for all things sweet.  Here is a look at what is on today’s menu, book covers with cakes and cupcakes.  Nom nom nom.  Oh, and one slice of pie.  Know any sweet reads?  Share with us in the comments. 

The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski
This is the story of Sheridan, the daughter of a master chef and a cake decorator who has some amazing talent of her own.  In fact, she is known around her small town as Cake Girl.  Unfortunately for her, her fabulous cake decorating mom took off quite a while ago and hasn’t really done a great job of keeping in touch.  When her father makes the announcement that he finally got his own TV show, Sheridan is terrified of making any changes and moving to New York City where her mom is sure to never find her.  As the countdown is on to film the pilot for her dad’s cooking show, things are really unraveling for Sheridan.

Devilish by Maureen Johnson
The only thing that makes St. Teresa’s Preparatory School for Girls bearable for Jane is her best friend Ally. But when Ally changes into a whole different person literally overnight the fall of their senior year, Jane’s suddenly alone—and very confused. Turns out, Ally has sold her soul in exchange for popularity—to a devil masquerading as a sophomore at St. Teresa’s! (Goodreads)

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer
Foster McFee dreams of having her own cooking show like her idol, celebrity chef Sonny Kroll. Macon Dillard’s goal is to be a documentary filmmaker. Foster’s mother Rayka longs to be a headliner instead of a back-up singer. And Miss Charleena plans a triumphant return to Hollywood. Everyone has a dream, but nobody is even close to famous in the little town of Culpepper. Until some unexpected events shake the town and its inhabitants-and put their big ambitions to the test. Full of humor, unforgettable characters, surprises, and lots and lots of heart, this is Joan Bauer at her most engaging. (Goodreads)

Cupcake by Rachel Cohn (Cyd Charisse #3)
Gingerbread (Cyd Charisse #1) and Shrimp (Cyd Charrisse #2)
Follow the adventures of the rebellious spirit Cyd Chariss as she gets kicked out of boarding school, falls in love, and tries to make it on her own in New York City.

You Wish by Mandy Hubbard
Kayla McHenry’s sweet sixteen sucks! Her dad left, her grades dropped, and her BFF is dating the boy Kayla’s secretly loved for years. Blowing out her candles, Kayla thinks: I wish my birthday wishes actually came true. Because they never freakin’ do.  And then, one by one, her old birthday wishes do come true.  Be careful what you wish for.

And 1 for Middle Grade Readers:

Pie by Sarah Weeks
When Alice’s Aunt Polly, the Pie Queen of Ipswitch, passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily fat, remarkably disagreeable cat, Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice.

The tween and I just finished listening to this on audio and it was really very good.

My Emotional Soundtrack: What Keeps Me Sane

So the other day I talked about things that I just couldn’t go back to, even if I wanted to (if you missed it, go here).  Today, I thought that I’d share things that give me comfort.  It’s a rocky place out there, and while I consider myself a stable person, there are things that can rock you to your core- things that happen with your teens/tween, within your professional life, within your personal life, or within the world in general.  We, as teen advocates, should be embodying and modeling ways that are at least generally healthy ways to cope with whatever life throws at us, because you never know who’s watching.  We can (and do) break down in private, but we can’t exactly go screaming through the stacks to let off steam, as much as we would like to.  Someone, unfortunately, is bound to notice, whether it’s our teens, our patrons, or our boss.

So, I thought I’d share what keeps me as sane as I can be [which I’ve been told is up for doubt some days :) ], and please share yours in the comments below.  I think we’d all like to learn different ways to keep on keepin’ on.


Family and friends.  Even if they are over half a world away, and we only connect via social media, text or email, I can send out something and get something back within seconds to minutes.  I have a very expanded definition of family, very different than what most people (and probably those in my “family” would consider) but these are the people that if something happened, I know that they’d drop everything to get to me- and I would drop everything to get to them.  I can contact them with anything and no matter how trivial, or how silly, we can laugh or cry or share and it’ll be OK.  And I have been extremely blessed in that I have found people where ever I have landed throughout my life and have been able to keep adding to my family.

Music.  I really cannot live without music, and I am as bad as my tweens and teens with it- needs to be on constantly.  I listen to just about anything (save for most rap- that’s a whole different discussion), and you can rarely find me without my player.  I name them.  The current one is named Lilith after the Lilith Fair concert series, an ipod Touch, and has a speaker set in my office and has a port in my car.  Plato is quoted as saying, “Music is a moral law.  It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”  I prefer Aldous Huxley, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”  


Tea.  I’m not sure how I grew up with sweet tea in the middle of Illinois, but we always had sweet tea in the house.  I got out of the habit in college, but after I married That Guy, I got back into iced sweet tea, although the sugar got replaced with substitutes.  Now, I’ve gotten into hot teas at work and at bedtime, and oh, man, it is a comfort.  I haven’t gotten the hang of the spiced teas or fruit teas yet (always willing to try) and haven’t been brave enough to try a chai (they seem so expensive), but I’m addicted to black teas that have vanilla caramel or a good English Breakfast tea.  I even got a special cup from my last Disney trip that has Alice and the Mad Hatter having a tea party that I can microwave that has a sippy lid, instead of having to balance an open cup around my crazy kids.  Ah, simple joys.


Fluffy things.  I’ve always been lucky in my library career in that I’ve always had someplace with storage that was mine and mine alone, and I know enough about library worlds to know that my situation isn’t always the norm.  I’ve always been able to have something fluffy to take out to play with the kids, whether it’s a bear or a bunny dressed in different outfits (did you know that those Build-a-Bear animals fit in about size 3-6 month baby clothes?).  And as my space has expanded, so too has my collection of things, as you can see above.  I’ve gone from one teddy bear that was for baby story times to a bear and a bunny (who have been renamed for co-workers by the kids), a chef, two sock monkeys (a pirate and a ninja), a frog, a Dalek, and a Beaker, and there are a basket of Beanie Babies in the closet waiting for the appropriate time.  However, the toys aren’t just for the kids- they’re for me too.  They all mean something, and at times, I need the hugs that they’ve stored up from the kids who have dressed them and babysat them.

Books.  Always, constant, faithful companions are books.  My house is full of them, my work is full of them, and my life is full of them   If they weren’t, I am definitely in the wrong job. When I want comfort, I want the familiar, and I want familiar authors- ones that I know I like and will transport me away for a while.  I don’t want to take a chance on a book and be disappointed.  I take off the librarian and blogger hat, and I put on the consumer/patron hat, and read what makes me feel safe.  And yes, I know there are bloggers and librarians alike out there probably pulling hair out at the thought of using reading as an escape, but sometimes, for me, it is.  

My favorite YA and Adult authors are ones that I know will deliver me to other places and settings, give me a good story, and not jar me with inconsistencies.  I turn to the techno worlds of Cory Doctorow, to the realities Judy Blume (heaven help me if Summer Sisters or Superfudge goes out of print).  I go to the worlds of Anita Blake and Merry Gentry by Laurel K. Hamilton, and Rachel Morgan and Madison Avery from Kim Harrison.  I look for Maureen Johnson, David Levithan, John Green, Rachel Cohn, Jillian Larkin’s Flapper series and Anne Godberson’s Luxe series (all considered teen/young adult materials).  I look for Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series, or Patricia Brigg and Tanya Huff, or Eric Jerome Dickey (all considered adult materials).  I look for Mercedes Lackey (an author that can fall either teen or adult, depending on the reader).

So, those are my comforts.  What are your comfort reads, your comfort things?  Share in the comments below.
 

The Poe in me: ya lit inspired by Edgar Allan Poe

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,. . .” – The Raven
 
 

Most teens get a wad of cash when they graduate high school, and some of them do smart things with them.  I, however, went the next day and bought 1) the ugliest flower shirt known to man, 2) The Whole Story on CD by Kate Bush and 3) The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe.  I love Poe so much that when I found out I was pregnant with my first and second daughter, I wanted to name her Annabelle Lee.  The Mr., however, had something against naming his daughters after dead girls in poetry.  But this – right now – is a great time of year for all things Poe so I bring you books inspired by Edgar Allan Poe.  (I wish I still had that ugly shirt and I would take a pic of me wearing it and holding my Poe anthology, but Poe was ruined in the great flood of 2011 and no one would still own that shirt.)


Steampunk Poe
First, you’ll want to make sure that your teens have access to some of the original works themselves.  But you don’t want no boring stories, which is why you should get Steampunk Poe.  Here the original works of Poe are presented with some very cook Steampunk pictures. (Published October 4th 2011 by Running Press Teens) (ISBN 9780762441921)

 
“TRUE! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad?”  – The Tell Tale Heart

 
“There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion, even by the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made.”  – Masque of the Red Death, Poe

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
This is a stinking dark and brillian re-imagining of the original Poe story.  This time, Griffin presents us with a dystopian future in which a plague roams the land.  In this dark underbelly of a world, Griffin excels in creating an atosmphere that is so oppressive, you feel like you can cut through it with a knife.  Masque of the Red Death is a great addition to this post on epidemics in ya lit. (Published April 24th 2012 by Greenwillow Books) (ISBN 9780062107794)

 
“Ghastly, grim, and ancient Raven, wandering from the Nightly shore,– Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore! Quoth the Raven “Nevermore!”” – The Raven


Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
Isobel finds herself drawn to the strange and aloof Varen and the image of Edgar Allan Poe that he draws in his journals.  These drawings seem almost to come to life; and Poe’s world is a world you wouldn’t want to find yourself in. (published August 31st 2010 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers) (ISBN13: 9781442402003)  ils…

“I know not how it was–but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit.” – The Fall of the House of Usher


Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley
Michael is invited to spend Christmas with a guardian in a desolate house.  As Michael wanders the halls of the desolate home he learns that lonely doesn’t always mean alone and even houses have secrets. An homage to The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe. (Published October 4th 2010 by Bloomsbury UK) (ISBN 9781408800133)

 
“That is another of your odd notions,” said the Prefect, who had a fashion of calling every thing “odd” that was beyond his comprehension, and thus lived amid an absolute legion of “oddities.”  – The Purloined Letter


The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Many teens will not know this, but Poe is actually the originator of the modern day detective story (The Purloined Letter), which is why the Edgar Awards for Mystery is named after him.  In The Name of the Star, Johnson created a gothic mystery that would make Poe proud.  Although it appears that a modern day Jack the Ripper is roaming the streets of London, the truth is even more terrifying than Rory can even imagine. (Published September 29th 2011 by Putnam Juvenile) (ISBN 9780399256608)

And Two Titles Coming Soon . . .

“For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; ” – Annabel Lee
 
Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey
 
Liam MacGregor is cursed. Haunted by the wails of fantastical Bean Sidhes and labeled a demon by the villagers of Dòchas, Liam has accepted that things will never get better for him—until a wealthy heiress named Annabel Leighton arrives on the island and Liam’s fate is changed forever.
 
With Anna, Liam finally finds the happiness he has always been denied; but, the violent, mythical Otherworlders, who inhabit the island and the sea around it, have other plans. They make a wager on the couple’s love, testing its strength through a series of cruel obstacles. But the tragedies draw Liam and Anna even closer. Frustrated, the creatures put the couple through one last trial—and this time it’s not only their love that’s in danger of being destroyed.
 
Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling poem Annabel Lee, Mary Lindsey creates a frighteningly beautiful gothic novel that glorifies the power of true love. (Expected publication June 27, 2013 from Philomel/Penguin)


Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

NYT Bestselling author of THE HOLLOW series, Jessica Verday’s OF MONSTERS AND MADNESS, a series of romantic YA Gothic thrillers inspired by The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, and the works of Edgar Allan Poe, as told by Annabel Lee, a young girl who moves to Philadelphia in 1826 to live with her father and discovers that he may be implicated in a series of murders across the city, and only she can prove his innocence and protect him from the true evil he has created in his basement lab, to Alison Weiss at Egmont, at auction, for publication in fall 2014, by Mollie Glick at Foundry Literary + Media.
Foreign: Rachel Hecht, rhecht@foundrymedia.com
 
Using Poe in the Classroom/Library
  • Read a Poe story and a ya lit book based on or inspired by said story and discuss
  • Have teens chose a Poe short story and write their own inspired by version
  • Study more at poestories.com
What other Poe inspired YA Lit is out there? Add to our list in the comments please.

I eat cereal, but I am not a serial killer (Serial Killers in YA Lit)

This is a completely true story:  One day I was picking my 6 year-old daughter up from Vacation Bible School and when I asked her how it was she said, “It was good.  No one put duct tape on my mouth and locked me in the trunk.”  As you can imagine, this was not the answer I was expecting.  I was thinking she would say, “It was nice to see my friends” or “The snack was good” or “We learned that Jesus loved us”.  Where, you might ask, would a 6 year-old get such a bizarre answer?  Well, you see, I watch Criminal Minds and occasionally, she comes into my room late at night while I’m watching it.  I turn the channel as fast as I can, but yeah, she has seen some of it. (We’re totally not a normal family, are we?)

The appeal of shows like Criminal Minds isn’t necessarily the serial killer, but the comfort in knowing that the serial killer can be found and stopped.  We like to dip our toes into the darkness sometimes, but most of us want to know that at the end of the day (at the end of the book, movie or tv show), the light will shine again.  Lately, serial killers have been slaying in the pages of YA lit.  Who’s making a killing? Read on . . .

The first time I remember reading about a serial killer in YA lit came in the book Tenderness by Robert Cormier.  Tenderness is the story of a teenage serial killer and the young girl who falls in love with him.  I’m not really sure why people fall in love with serial killers, but it apparently happens A LOT.  Tenderness is obviously a very dark book – I mean hello, Robert Cormier wrote it – but it was also a really well written book.  Tenderness was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

Last year I had the joy of reading The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.  The Name of the Star is an interesting twist on the Jack the Ripper tale.  And who isn’t fascinated by Jack the Ripper? (I know some smarty pants reading this is raising their hand and saying me, I’m not fascinated by Jack the Ripper.  Put your hand down and read on.)  When Rory arrives in London to attend school, a series of killings that mimic Jack the Ripper start happening.  The twists in this book are very cool.  I can’t tell you what they are because it will totally ruin the book for you, you’ll have to trust me. There is a sequel, The Madness Underneath, coming in March 2013.

I have previously reviewed I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (read it here), but it is a very compelling look at what it is like to grow up as the son of one of the world’s most notorious serial killers.  Is Jazz destined to be a serial killer like his father? Think Dexter for teens, except Jazz has more heart than Dexter and I am seriously rooting for him.  Because you will want to read more about Jazz, there is a sequel called Game coming.


Velveteen by Daniel Marks is the story of Velveteen Monroe, who is now a ghost.  Velveteen slips in and out of purgatory to torment her serial killer and try and stop him form killing again.  The beginning of this book was so very good – seriously, the Bonesaw parts are amazing.  But when Velveteen slipped into purgatory for the first time there were a lot of characters and world building to sort out and it really slowed down the reading for me.  I’m not sure the concept worked as well as Marks wanted it to, but if you make it through the initial stages of purgatory (no pun intended – okay, maybe a little intended), then Velveteen becomes a satisfying read.


Acceleration by Graham McNamee is one of those sleeper books that just sneaks up on you.  It has never gotten the buzz of a lot of other titles, but it is a good, adrenaline filled read.  Duncan is working in the lost and found of the Toronto subway when he finds a leather journal.  Bored and curious, he begins to thumb through the pages and makes a disturbing discovery:  This journal belongs to a serial killer who is researching his next victims.  Can Duncan stop the serial killer, or will he become the next victim?

Can you guess who Ripper by Stefan Petrucha is about?  I love the tag line: You thought you knew him. You were dead wrong.  The young orphan Carver dreams of becoming a detective, in part so he can track down his biological father.  Soon, he finds himself a part of the Pinkerton Agency, and a part of the investigation of a deadly serial killer.  Loyalties will be tested.

“John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous and he knows it.” See, with a name like cleaver, he is destined to be a serial killer.  But in I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells, John is trying hard not to be one – which I totally support as a goal. When a body turns up at the local Wash-N-Dry, he knows something different is going on. There is a sequel, Mr. Monster.

What if you used your psychics gifts to travel back in time to solve the mystery of Jack the Ripper only to find out that he was part of the family?  That’s what happens in My Grandfather Jack the Ripper by Claudio Apone.

In Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser, Str-S-d writes the names of those he (or she) wishes were dead and then they die.  This is one blog you don’t want to show up on. I’ll begin with Lucy. She is definitely first on the list. You can’t believe how it feels to be in the cafeteria and turn around and there she is staring at me like I’m some disgusting bug or vermin. Does she really think I WANT to be this way? I hate you, Lucy. I really hate you. You are my #1 pick. I wish you were dead.

When I was in school, way back before there was color TV (I kid), we had earthquake and tornado drills instead of “what to do when a serial killer with a gun comes into your school and wants to relive Columbine” drills.  My daughter had her first one in Kindergarten (for the record, she is only in 4th grade now – I am not THAT old).  But you know, creating a Hate List of people you want to kill would in fact make you a serial killer – which is exactly what the very excellent Hate List by Jennifer Brown is all about.  In all seriousness (what? I can totally do serious) this is some seriously good contemporary fiction, read it.

Bonus: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver is not in any way, shape or form a young adult book.  But it is a seriously good book and older teens reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz can definitely handle this.  It is deep, moving, disturbing, worrying, questioning . . . especially if you are a mother.  This is hands down one of my favorite adult books. I have even lead book discussion groups about it.  But it is also a love it or hate it kind of book.  The central question is this: As a mother, what happens if you notice something is not quite right with your child?  And are you to blame?

Want more serial killers?  Check out this Tagmash on Library Thing or this Kirkus blog or, better yet, share your favorites with us in the comments and talk about the ones above.  Why do you think we are drawn to serial killers as readers? 

Please note: No cereal was harmed in the making of this post.  Well, I did have to eat the bowl of cereal pictured above.  You wouldn’t want it to go to waste.