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ALA Midwinter Highlights: The ARCs (January and February)

On Monday I shared with you things I loved and learned at the ALA Midwinter exhibits. Today, I share with you the best part of ALA – the ARCs (Advanced Reader’s Copy).  So this is not the world’s longest blog post ever, today we will cover titles set to be released in January or February of 2012.  Other attendees got different arcs (Pandemonium *cough cough*) because it depends on what time of day you visit and other factors so I recommend that you visit other blogs throughout the year to get reviews of upcoming titles.  The February 2012 edition of VOYA has a list of recommended blogs so that is a good place to start.  Some that you will definitely want to keep an eye on include Girls in the Stacks and the YA Bookshelf.  Stay tuned here, too, because I will be reviewing my ARCs in order of release date (and bringing you updates about teen issues, programming, marketing and more.)  These next few posts will just be an overview of the ARCs I received for your enjoyment.

January 2012

Pure Love, Pure Life: Exploring God’s Heart on Purity by Elsa Kok Colopy (Zondervan)
Since this is published by Zondervan, you know right off the bat that it has a Christian message, which in this case is sexual purity. This is aimed at older teens so it is filled with a lot of information, stories and discussion questions.  There are no pretty pictures or sidebars to catch one’s eye; it’s focus is on really digging into the meet of the issue and making you think. At the end of each chapter there are a list of discussion/journal questions.

The Boy Project (Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister) by Kami Kinard (Scholastic)
Cover blurb: “I, Katie McAllister, will change my image before the end of the school year. By ‘change my image’ I mean ‘get a boyfriend.’ And I know exactly how I’m going to do it . . . “
First line: I am starting this experiment because I have no choice.
With an appealing cover and some fun internal elements (such as note cards, quizzes, notes, etc.), this title should appeal to readers.  I haven’t read the entire work so I can’t give you a definitive go for it, but the first few chapters have a catchy tone to them, an authentic voice in the narrator and just enough spunk that this should be a success.  It definitely capitalizes on the inclusion of visual elements we see in titles like The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and fans of that will probably like this title as well.

In Darkness by Nick Lake (Bloomsbury)
Cover blurb: A stunning tour-de-force set in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake
Opening line: “I am the voice in the dark, calling out for your help.”
The earthquake in question takes place in Haiti.  There is a note to the reader from the author at the beginning that discusses his response to the Haitian earthquake and claims that little in the book is made up.  A brief browse through the book makes it clear that this is a look at light versus darkness, hope versus despair and how in the midst of darkness one can in fact find hope.  At the end of the author’s note he writes: But we’ve all been in darkness, so we all know the other side of it – that sometimes, afterwards, there is light.  There are not a lot of titles on the topic of Haiti so on that basis alone it seems like it would be a good multicultural addition.  It will be interesting to read.

Fracture by Megan Miranda (Walker & Company)
Back cover description: A lot can happen in eleven minutes.  Decker can run two miles easily in eleven minutes.  I once wrote an English essay in ten. No lie. And God knows Carson Levine can talk a girl out of her clothes in half that time.  Eleven minutes might as well be eternity under water.  It only takes three minutes without air for loss of consciousness. Permanent brain damage begins at four minutes. And then, when the oxygen runs out, full cardiac arrest occurs. Death is possible at five minutes. Probably at seven. Definite at ten. Decker pulled me out at eleven.
First line: The first time I died, I didn’t see God.
To be honest, I can’t wait to read this one.

The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis (Amulet Books)
Back cover blurb: A good girl. A bad boy. A fairy tale that’s true. A truth that is no fairy tale.
First line: Blood. There is blood everywhere.
This is the story of a boy named Abel, who is raising his 6-year-old sister by himself. Anna is drawn to him and the tale he tells about an orphan queen with a diamond heart.  As Abel weaves people into his story, they begin to turn up dead.  Fairy tale themes are popular right now.

Winterling by Sarah Prineas (Harper Collins Childrens)
Cover blurb: “Simmering magic and enchanting adventure. A mischievous delight” Ingrid Law, author of Savvy and Scumble
First line: The dog fled. He raced down a shadowy forest trail lit by the full moon.
This is a fantasy tale where a young woman named Fer discovers an “enchanting, dangerous land” through her reflecting pool.

There is No Dog by Meg Rosoff (G. Putnam’s Sons)
Cover blurb: What if God were a teenage boy?
First line: Oh glorious, most glorious glorious! And yet again glorious!
Meg Rosoff is the Printz Award winner from her previous work, How I Live Now.  This is the tale of Bob, a teenage boy who also happens to be the creator of heaven and earth.  It is also the story of Lucy, who works at the zoo and has a sunny disposition.  One day Bob sees Lucy walking in complete joy and he knows that he must have her. Bob’s assistant, Mr. G., thinks this is a horrible idea because when Bob falls in love, people die.  When his heart breaks and he sheds tears, cities tend to flood.
I read a portion of this book and it is well written and interesting, but I am not sure how people who believe in a God, any God, will react to the premise.  It will be interesting to see how it all wraps up.  It is definitely for more mature, sophisticated teen readers because of the storytelling mechanism and the frank sexual discussion.

The Catastrophic History of You & Me by Jess Rothenberg (Dial Books)
Cover blurb: Brie’s life ends at sixteen: Her boyfriend tells her he doesn’t love her, and the news breaks her heart – literally.
First line: There’s always that one guy who a hold on you.
Based on the description, it seems that this book employs the narrative devise used in If I Stay by Gayle Forman or The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold where the narrator, Brie, is looking down from heaven after her death. The book begins by a quote from a song by Ani DiFranco and every chapter title is a song lyric. The cover is stunning and this is on the top of my “to read” pile.

Irises by Francisco X. Stork (Arthur A. Levine Books)
Cover blurb is an excerpt from the story itself
First line: Kate had finally agreed to pose under the willow tree.
Irises is the story of two sisters, Mary and Kate, who are bound together by a mother who lays in a permanent vegetative state.  The two struggle to find ways to survive and their lives are influenced by 3 separate men. From the description this looks to be a tale about growing up and making important life decisions with some discussion of quality of life.

February 2012

BZRK by Michael Grant (Edgmont)
Cover blurb: Warning: Possession of this material could put you in grave danger.  It contains revelations about a secret high-stakes game – some might call it a war – for control of your brain.
First line: A girl sat just three chairs down from Noah talking to her hand.

BZRK by Michael Grant is a transmedia experience; you can read the book, but there is tons of online content that you will want to check out that enhances the story.  There is even an app you can buy (I have not done so yet so I can’t comment).  I am 160 pages into this book and have some mixed feelings about it: On the one hand, it is great to be reading a more traditional science fiction story. No dystopian future, just advances in modern day technology (in this case nanotechnology) and what it means for contemporary society.  On the other hand, this book has a wide variety of main characters, some of whom are teens and some of whom are adults, and at times it reads like a book written for teens and at other times it reads more like an adult novel. The change can sometimes be disconcerting.  Given some of the adult content, this is definitely for older teens (and adults will also love it).  Grant just jumps right into the story so it takes a while to figure out what some of the terminology means, but it is a compelling read so you want to know and keep reading.  At the heart of BZRK there are two competing factions using various forms of nanotechnology (nanos and biots) to fight for their cause.  One side wants to create a type of insect like hive mind that will result in peace among humans, the other side values the concept of free will (in all of its messy glory).  There are some profound discussions to be had in the pages of this book about science, ethics, free will and more. This book also has one of the most disturbing bad guys I have ever encountered and I appreciated a lot of the creepy elements they brought to the story. Also, this has some of the best opening chapters that I have read in a while; I may not have fully understood yet what was happening, but I was hanging on the edge of my seat to find out more.  This truly is a great example of the emerging transmedia trend in books so you will want to look into for that reason alone.  Full review coming soon, but Michael Grant is a great author (he is the author of the Gone series) and he is not disappointing so far.  Put this book into the hands of Michael Crichton and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card fans.

More about BZRK
Weekly articlePublisher’s
A Q&A at Eleusinian Mysteries
A Youtube Sneak Peek
An you definitely need to check out the official GoBZRK site.  There is an app you can buy that goes along with the book.

Read more about transmedia in School Library Journal

And yes, yes I did only get one arc for the month of February. Next: March (there are so many it has to be its own post) and the Girl Meets Boy giveaway (begins January 29th).


  1. Ahhhh! Just look at all those gorgeous books!!! You are one lucky duck. Enjoy 🙂

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