Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

SOHO Teen Presents…The Sweet Dead Life by Joy Preble

“I found out two things today. One, I think I’m dying. And two, my brother is a perv.”

So begins the diary of 14-year-old Jenna Samuels, who is having a very bad eighth-grade year. Her single mother spends all day in bed. Dad vanished when she was eight. Her 16-year-old brother, Casey, tries to hold together what’s left of the family by working two after-school jobs— difficult, as he’s stoned all the time. To make matters worse, Jenna is sick. When she collapses one day, Casey tries to race her to the hospital in their beat-up Prius and crashes instead.

Jenna wakes up in the ER to find Casey beside her. Beatified. Literally. The flab and zits? Gone. Before long, Jenna figures out that Casey didn’t survive the accident at all. He’s an “A-word.” (She can’t bring herself to utter the truth.) Soon they discover that Jenna isn’t just dying: she’s being poisoned. And Casey has been sent back to help solve the mystery that not only holds the key to her survival, but also to their mother’s mysterious depression and father’s disappearance.

Let’s give some mad props to Joy Preble for setting this book in Houston, Texas!  I love Southern settings for books that aren’t total overkill.  So, woot for Texas.

Now, let’s also give some mad props to one of the most talked about books amongst myself and other librarians because everyone is wanting to read this book, they all love the cover, and for those who have read it, RAVE about it.   

I love it because it is finally a MG mystery that isn’t Gilda Joyce.  Don’t get me wrong, my teens read Gilda Joyce books but this is one that looks YA and is just as easily enjoyed by MG readers as older adult readers.  Jenna is funny without being overly sarcastically annoying and the whole concept is fresh.  Order it now and read an excerpt…you’ll love it!

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SOHO Teen Presents…Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon

17-year-old Sophie lies on her deathbed in California, awaiting the inevitable loss of her battle with cancer…
17-year-old Declan stares down two armed thugs in a back alley in Galway, Ireland…
17-year-old Anat attempts to traverse a booby-trapped tunnel between Israel and Egypt…

All three strangers should have died at the exact same moment, thousands of miles apart. Instead, they awaken together in an abandoned hospital—only to discover that they’re not alone. Three other teens from different places on the globe are trapped with them. Somebody or something seems to be pulling the strings. With their individual clocks ticking, they must band together if they’re to have any hope of surviving. 

Soon they discover that they’ve been trapped in a future that isn’t of their making: a deadly, desolate world at once entirely familiar and utterly strange. Each teen harbors a secret, but only one holds the key that could get them home. As the truth comes to light through the eyes of Sophie, Declan, and Anat, the reader is taken on a dark and unforgettable journey into the hearts of teens who must decide what to do with a second chance at life.

I am already a huge fan of Michelle Gagnon after reading Don’t Turn Around and while I have only read an excerpt of this novel, she definitely does not disappoint.   The book opens with each character describing their time of death, some sudden and some expected but all three pack a powerful punch into this time-traveling mystery.  

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SOHO Teen Presents…Escape Theory by Margaux Froley

Sixteen-year-old Devon Mackintosh has always felt like an outsider at Keaton, the prestigious California boarding school perched above the Pacific. As long as she’s not fitting in, Devon figures she might as well pad her application to Stanford’s psych program. So junior year, she decides to become a peer counselor, a de facto therapist for students in crisis. At first, it seems like it will be an easy fly-on-the-wall gig, but her expectations are turned upside down when Jason Hutchins (a.k.a. “Hutch”), one of the Keaton’s most popular students, commits suicide.

 Devon dives into her new role providing support for Hutch’s friends, but she’s haunted by her own attachment to him. The two shared an extraordinary night during their first week freshman year; it was the only time at Keaton when she felt like someone else really understood her.  As the secrets and confessions pile up in her sessions, Devon comes to a startling conclusion: Hutch couldn’t have taken his own life. Bound by her oath of confidentialityand tortured by her unrequited love—Devon embarks on a solitary mission to get to the bottom of Hutch’s death, and the stakes are higher than she ever could have imagined.

While the concept of boarding school mystery isn’t exactly new, the way that Escape Theory takes it on totally is.  The chapters are split into sessions that Devon has as a peer counselor and really moves the story along as the mystery of what happened to Hutch starts to unravel.  

I love Devon’s voice and again, another excellent addition to the SOHO Teen imprint.  That’s three months of excellent mysteries back to back…I couldn’t be any more pleased! 

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SOHO Teen Presents…Who Done It?

Can you imagine the most cantankerous book editor alive? Part Voldemort, part Cruella de Vil (if she were a dude), and worse in appearance and odor than a gluttonous farm pig? A man who makes no secret of his love of cheese or his disdain of unworthy authors? That man is Herman Mildew.

The anthology opens with an invitation to a party, care of this insufferable monster, where more than 80 of the most talented, bestselling and recognizable names in YA and children’s fiction learn that they are suspects in his murder. All must provide alibis in brief first-person entries. The problem is that all of them are liars, all of them are fabulists, and all have something to hide…

Okay, so a few things before I talk about this book.  This anthology featuring stories from some of the gods and goddesses of YA literature was written to benefit 826NYC which you may or may not have heard of.  I had not.  So, I went to their website and was amazed.  From their mission statement: 826NYC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around our belief that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. With this in mind we provide drop-in tutoring, field trips, after-school workshops, in-schools tutoring, help for English language learners, and assistance with student publications. All of our free programs are challenging and enjoyable, and ultimately strengthen each student’s power to express ideas effectively, creatively, confidently, and in his or her individual voice.

Super awesome.  This makes me want to buy tons of this book and pass it out to everyone that I know because not only does it benefit a nonprofit which sounds AH-MAZING, but it features stories by some of my favorite authors!

When I first picked up this book, I almost put it down.  I am not a short story kind of person and anthologies remind me of being an English undergrad and give me the heebie jeebies.  But upon opening the book, I quickly realized that this book was not like any other anthology I’d ever seen.

What the synopsis does not mention is that this party is held in an old abandoned pickle factory (mentioned on the invitation) and immediately you realize that this is a book that is just a little different.  You see, all of the 80+ YA authors have written a short story to prove their innocence.  And if you are fans of these authors, the stories are perfect representations of their personalities, their writing styles, their tweets (if you’re a big Maureen Johnson fan), and each one had me rolling on the floor laughing.

Not only is this book perfect for your collections but perfect for your reluctant readers.  I found myself flipping around and reading the book in little five minute segments.  Short attention span readers? Done.

Definitely a perfect addition to the SOHO Teen lineup and shows the big time variety of the books that this imprint plans to publish.  

And now I want to eat pickles.  Maybe that’s just the pregnancy talking…


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SOHO Teen Presents…What We Saw at Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Allie Kim suffers from Xeroderma Pigmentosum: a fatal allergy to sunlight that confines her and her two best friends, Rob and Juliet, to the night. When freewheeling Juliet takes up Parkour—the stunt-sport of scaling and leaping off tall buildings—Allie and Rob have no choice but to join her, if only to protect her. Though potentially deadly, Parkour after dark makes Allie feel truly alive, and for the first time equal to the “daytimers.”

On a random summer night, the trio catches a glimpse of what appears to be murder. Allie alone takes it upon herself to investigate, and the truth comes at an unthinkable price. Navigating the shadowy world of specialized XP care, extreme sports, and forbidden love, Allie ultimately uncovers a secret that upends everything she believes about the people she trusts the most.

I was lucky enough to read this book before the week kicked off and let me just tell you, when it comes to Parkour…in fact, no let me show you.  Because I had to Google and find videos to really understand this concept:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX7QNWEGcNI]

Okay, so now that you understand the concept of this awesome sport it will help you understand how different and awesome this book is!  Allie, Rob, and Juliet with their fatal allergy to sunlight must find some fun thing to do at night when hanging out and this is their newly discovered passion.  However, while scaling buildings one night, Allie is pretty sure she witnesses a murder.  Her friends semi-believe her but it is a bit hard to believe and so Allie decides that she will just figure this out all on her own. This book is rife with new concepts in YA literature and involves such a great cast of characters that it is a perfect read for guys and girls.  

The mystery, the suspense…all there and in perfect amounts for the teen reader who wants more than a hokey mystery novel but a mystery novel that even adults would love too.  All in all, very impressive debut book from SOHO Press and I can’t wait to tell you more about the rest of the books this week!


And now, Jacquelyn Mitchard will share her awesome answers to some of the questions that I sent over for her!

Favorite book when you were a child: Charlotte’s Web, by EB White

Book you’ve faked reading: Remembrance of Things Past (OMG BORING)

Something others think is completely weird about me but I find completely normal is: I have a morbid fear of eggs because they’re one cell

If stranded on a desert island, what are the five items you would bring with you? My iPad (if I had one), my dog (Dante), Nonfat Vente Salted Caramel Mocha Extra Hot with Whip, Philosophy Amazing Grace Body Butter, the Complete Works of Shakespeare, my Maui Jim’s (that’s six, but I don’t really HAVE the iPad)

Most embarrassing teen moment: At awards night, I got up and actually started walking up the aisle to accept the English prize only to realize that they’d called Linda Bubon’s name

What was the happiest day of your life? The day I found out I was pregnant, and the day I found out I wasn’t pregnant

Do you have a favorite mystery writer and what book would you recommend by this writer for all to read? Denise Mina, and it’s called ‘Field of Blood,’ an AWFUL name and an AMAZING book

Zombies or Vampires?  Vampires. Please. A little elegance? Dumb flesh-eating morons versus people who’ve seen epochs of culture and been master of all of them, and then grown bored?

Describe your book in 140 characters: 3 BFF’S, doomed by genetics to live by night, do battle with a human monster

One thing that you wished people would ask you but they never do: What’s your REAL talent? (I can repeat any song lyric I’ve heard once, word for word)


Don’t forget to enter our drawing for some awesome prizes via SOHO Teen!  There will be more than one winner!!!  =)
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Welcome to SOHO Teen!

While in Anaheim at ALA ’12, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Daniel Ehrenhaft and Meredith Barnes who were more than eager to tell me about the new endeavor of SOHO Press, an imprint dedicated to YA mysteries!  I was more than intrigued and after a lovely champagne toast and kickoff, I knew that I wanted to spread the word about this amazing imprint and the books that were coming out in 2013.

After reading the Spring ’13 sampler with some of the titles I’ll be discussing this week and reading the Fall ’13 sampler, I couldn’t resist.  SOHO Teen is a new imprint that will knock your socks off and leave you wanting more and more.  With award-winning authors like Jacquelyn Mitchard and Jon Scieszka and debut authors like Margaux Froley, you are bound to find titles your teens will like and that you will find live up to the mystery genre and the SOHO mystery reputation.

Later today I will bring you a review and a few extra goodies for the first book coming out in this imprint, What We Saw At Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard but for now, I’ll leave you with a book trailer with a little taste of what SOHO Teen has up their sleeves.  And don’t forget to enter our drawing below for some excellent prizes, courtesy of SOHO Teen! 

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Book Review: The Dead and the Buried by Kim Harrington

     “Jade. . .”
The voice came again. Sure now, I threw off the covers and padded into the hallway, wincing at the noisy floorboards. I peeked my head into Colby’s room. He was sleeping- fitfully. He groaned and rolled over, then back again. I tiptoed down to my parents’ room. Marie was sleeping on her side, one hand hanging off the bed. Dad was lightly snoring.
So who’d called me?
I turned slowly, now at the top of the staircase, and peered into the darkness below. This was where it had happened. Where Kayla fell . . . or was pushed.
I placed my hand on the banister, closed my eyes, and imagined Kayla placing her hand in the very same spot, trailing her fingers over the polished wood . . . then feeling her balance go out from underneath her. I imagined what she must have felt in the instant she realized she was falling through the air. The terror that must have gripped her heart. The panic rushing through her veins as she rushed toward the bottom.
I saw the floor coming up to meet her, fast and furious, but then realized in horror that I wasn’t imagining anymore. My hand no longer gripped the banister. I wasn’t picturing Kayla falling.  I was falling.
What happened? Did someone push me? Did I fall on my own?
I screamed but no sound came out. The air rushing at my face told me I was falling fast, but it seemed to be happening in slow motion. I tried to put my arms up, to soften the blow I knew was coming to my head, but I couldn’t move my limbs. I was paralyzed.

And then I hit bottom.

17 year old Jade has just moved to suburban Boston, and is concerned about fitting in with the huge high school and the crowds that have been together forever.  Little does she know that she’s just moved into a murder house- where the Queen Bee and Mean Girl, Kayla, died earlier in the year. Now Kayla’s ghost is haunting the house and threatening her little brother Colby, forcing Jade to find out who killed her before something dangerous happens to her family- or to Jade herself.  Drawn deeper into the mystery and Kayla’s clique of friends and frenemies, can Jade figure out who the murderer is, or will the ghost (or the murderer) win out and destroy Jade instead?

Jade is instantly the talk of the school- not for being the new girl, but for being the girl who moved into the “murder house”, which her dad and step-mom conveniently forgot to tell her about. Her little brother tells her about seeing a shimmery girl in his room, which is the ghost of Kayla- the girl who died under mysterious circumstances earlier in the year.  While Jade would rather try and go through senior year, Kayla has other plans- find her killer, or Jade’s family will suffer.  And the killer seems to be one of those who knew Kayla and felt she had it coming, because as readers find out from Kayla’s journal entries, she gives Regina George a run for her money.

The alternating format gives readers a huge chill and enormous insight into Kayla’s character and the possible motives behind each suspect, while Jade races to find out who the killer is before anything worse happens to her family.  The tension between her stepmother and Jade is extremely believable, and hits just the right note, as does the building of suspicions between suspects.  Will keep you on edge, but do NOT skip to the end of the book, no matter HOW MUCH you might be tempted!!!!  A good pair with Anna Dressed In Blood, although not nearly as much gore, and will go over well with those who like Kimberly Derting (Body Finder series).  4 out of 5 stars.

eARC, and was saving it for after committee readings, and then found it on the shelf at a local chain bookstore while browsing with some of my teenagers, and while they buried themselves in manga, I buried myself in this and read it cover to cover.  I love how Harrington built all of her characters- no one is shiny perfect, everyone has flaws and facets that revel themselves page by page. Jade has her tortuous relationship with her stepmother, as well as her struggle with fitting in and then finding the killer, while trying to figure out who to believe- let alone trying to figure out where she fits in her family and missing her mom. Alexa is wrapped up into her studies and everything has to be perfect, and when it’s not, then her emotions come up to the surface. The secrets are everywhere, and that’s never more apparent than Kayla’s writing.
You’re never quite sure who’s she’s talking about at first in her entries- she’s got people down as numbers instead of names (a little Gossip Girls twist), but little by little you get clues and hints. First from Alexa, then from Faye, Kayla’s supposed best friend, and from others along the way. I didn’t figure out who the killer was until the end, and that is always the sign of a good mystery to me. The reasoning was well thought out and extremely plausible as well- definitely not a “you darn kids” ending like YA mysteries can turn out to be at times.  Absolutely a get signed and save book.  
The Dead and the Buried is currently rated as 3.82 stars on Goodreads as of 1/5.  It is published by Scholastic, ISBN 978-0-545-33302-3.

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

Dead Strange reads

What do Area 51, the Bermuda Triangle and The Great Pyramid at Giza all have in common?  They are some of the great world mysteries that we like to debate and discuss.  They are also some of the topics discussed in Dead Strange: the bizarre truths behind 50 world-famous mysteries by Matt Lamy.  Dead Strange is part of the Zest Books Pop Culture series, which I adore, so is written in the trusted and easy to browse format.  Like other topics in the series, it is a great resource for putting together trivia contests, doing a scavenger hunt and teaching teens how to use an index, and having fun with your various social media sites. 

Fun facts inside:

  • The Dead Sea scrolls do not mention Jesus
  • The Catholic church still performs exorcisms
  • The heads at Easter Island have bodies attached to them
  • Almost all cultures have a Flood myth/story
  • The London police may have invented sneakers while trying to solve the Jack the Ripper case
  • The Knights Templar invented banking – and checks
  • Nessie, the Loch Ness monster, is the most famous thing to come out of Scotland
  • Some Nostradamus prophecies have come true, including Hitler and World War II
  • There is still no verifiable scientific cause for spontaneous human combustion
  • Many of the stones at Stonehenge have been lost, stolen or collapsed

You can also pair up teen fiction titles with the various Dead Strange topics to create a fun display.  Here are a few of my favorites . . .

The Alchemist by Michael Scott (alchemy)
Michael Scott tells the story of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel in this series.  There is magic, adventure and it is accessible to teens of all ages.  Many will recognize the name Nicholas Flamel from the Harry Potter series.  Scott did exhaustive research to write this series and it pays off handsomely.

Jade Green, a ghost story by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Amityville)
Amityville is perhaps one of the most famous haunted house stories, which was made into a very popular movie – twice.  Jade Green is a much more accessible haunted house story, safe for tweens and teens.  Jade Green is just one of many haunted house stories out there, but I love that is has a gothic feel that even younger teens can read.

The Embrace series by Jessica Shirvington (angels)

Shirvington creates a stunning hierarchy of angels in this world where Violet Eden learns that she is an angel with a destiny. Angels are a huge part of the current ya paranormal trend; you can also check out the Hush Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick and The Fallen series by Lauren Kate.

Misfit by Jon Skovron by (demonic possession)
Not about demonic possession per se, but about a teenage girl who discovers that she is part demon (thanks mom!).  This is some great paranormal and one of my teen patrons says this is the best book she has ever read.

Numbers by Rachel Ward (psychics)
When she looks into your eyes, she can see the date you will die.  Really, what more do I need to say?  Part of an awesome series.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (Jack the Ripper)
The Name of the Star is just one of several books out for yas about Jack the Ripper.  Check out this post on serial killers for a couple of other Jack the Ripper titles.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey (Holy Grail)
I really like this adventure series where the very normal Alfred Kropp is thrust on a worldwide adventure when he learns that he is linked to a group that is searching for the Holy Grail.  Think Indiana Jones for teens.

The Once and Future King by T. H. White (King Arthur)
Classic but awesome tale that includes The Sword in the Stone.

Roswell series by Melinda Metz (Roswell)
Aliens try to blend is as high school students in Roswell, New Mexico in this series by Melinda Metz.  It is older, but really good; full of action and romance.  It also was the basis for the once popular WB series, which I also liked.

The Diviners by Libba Bray (seances, Ouija boards)
Probably one of the 10 best books of 2012, an evil force is unleashed when a bored socialite brings out her Ouija board at a failing party.  You know what they say, don’t play with Ouija boards people! Haunting, thrilling and not be read alone late at night.  I heard Libba Bray say this was supposed to be a type of historical Avengers, which is awesome.

Rot & Ruin series by Jonathan Maberry (zombies)
There are a ton of awesome zombie books out there for teens and adults (we talk about them here and here), but this is one of my favorites.  I feel like all I really need to say is this: there are zombies, they eat people.  In other exciting news, this great read is now in the process of being made into a movie. Yay!

Dracula by Bram Stoker (Dracula)
It seems like an obvious choice.  Also, check out this post about Dracula and YA Vampires by Christie G.

Dead Strange is part of the Pop Culture series at Zest Books.net. The entire series has tremendous appeal for teens and adults and is highly recommended.  Trivia buffs will love them, as will fans of the unexplained and those looking for a quick book to flip through.

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.