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The Stories That Haunt Our Childhood: Local legends and superstitions in YA lit

Most areas have some type of local legend that gets passed down through the ages.  Sometimes we hear about them on a large scale, like the Loch Ness monster in Scotland or the Mothman legend in Pittsburgh, and other times you only learn them when you visit the area.  Sit in a pub or sit around a campfire and someone will start telling you the story of how a house is haunted, a child drowned in a lake and haunts the shoreline, etc.

While reading Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey, which I reviewed yesterday, I was really struck by the setting and how it was steeped in a rich local mythology.  In this case the legends were true, there really were Otherworlders that interfered with local life.  Often the legends are not true, though they have no less power over the local culture.  Today I am going to share with you 10 (technically 11) more books that have strong local legends and superstitions, compiled in part with the librarians on the YALSA-BK listserv.

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough
Beware of Long Lankin, that lives in the moss. . . .When Cora and her younger sister, Mimi, are sent to stay with their elderly aunt in the isolated village of Byers Guerdon, they receive a less than warm welcome. Cora must uncover the horrifying truth that has held Bryers Guerdon in its dark grip for centuries — before it’s too late for little Mimi.  (synopsis from Goodreads)

The Diviners by Libba Bray
Evie is shipped off to New York to live with her Uncle, the curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”  Set in the 1920s, there is a lot of good stuff here.

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce
Charlotte Miller has always scoffed at talk of a curse on her family’s woolen mill, which holds her beloved small town together. But after her father’s death, the bad luck piles up

Highway to Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore
One dead cow later and it becomes clear that a creature of legend is stalking the ranch.

 Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Amy comes from a long line of witches, but spends her time watching a ranch. Soon bodies are being discovered, a ghost is on the prowl, and everywhere she turns, the hot neighbor cowboy is in her face.

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.
It’s all a fake.
At least, that’s what Ryder thinks.


The Siren series by Tracia Rayburn
Vanessa’s town doesn’t know what to do when a series of dead bodies wash up on the shore, grinning from ear to ear.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . . 

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. 

Fury (Book 1 in the Fury trilogy) by Elizabeth Miles
In Ascension, mistakes can be deadly. And three girls—three beautiful, mysterious girls—are here to choose who will pay. Em and Chase have been chosen.

Have more to add to our list? Please share in the comments.

Keeping Mythology Real (guest post by author P J Hoover)

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On Sunday, March 10th at 3:00 PM, 4 awesome authors will be visiting my library – yay! If you live in the area, come out and support libraries and ya lit.  Today one of those authors, P J Hoover, is talking about her upcoming title, Solstice

Hi! P. J. Hoover here, author of the upcoming dystopian/mythology YA novel, SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 18, 2013), and today I want to talk for a bit about keeping mythology real. See, SOLSTICE has two worlds parallel to each other. There is Earth where global warming is running rampant, and there is the world of mythology where gods battle for control. And in my book, the story is split evenly between the two worlds.

Being a huge mythology buff, I basically wanted to incorporate every single thing I could into my story. But doing this would have made the story cluttered and hard to follow for those who were not as enamored with mythology as I was. So instead, I picked the things I wanted to use and wove them into my story. Did I stick strictly with the mythical “facts?” Maybe. Here are some (not all) of the fun facts I used when creating my mythological world.
Rumors have it Persephone ate three pomegranate seeds. Or was it six? Or maybe four? As an author, I had to pick one and go with it. Curious which one I chose? Good!
There are five rivers in the Underworld: Styx, Cocytus, Lethe, Phlegethon, and Acheron. There is no handy go-to guide for what each of these rivers looks like. Should all the rivers be the same? No way. I got to be creative five times over. Best way to do this? Excel spreadsheet. And a funny aside. While driving one day, I was explaining these rivers to my son (who was eight at the time) and telling him what they each were like. He made an amazing comment. “There would be monsters in the rivers, right?” Um, yeah, as a matter of fact, there would J See, ideas come from everywhere.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05hc1JWqbfA]

The Underworld consists of three regions: The Elysian Fields, The Asphodel Meadows, and Tartarus. Funny enough the hardest of these regions to nail was the Elysian Fields which is basically paradise. You’d think paradise would be all easy, with flowers and smiles, and trust me, this was my first instinct. But I soon realized it was boring. I needed to fill in more details and give the people more to do that sit around and sing songs all day.
There are some evil people hanging around the Underworld. Like Tantalus and Sisyphus and Pirithous for starters. Digging deep in to each of these criminal’s pasts made writing the characters utterly enjoyable. Who’d have thought writing bad guys could be so much fun? It’s not that I’m deep and dark on the inside. It’s just they’re all kind of crazy, and they will say anything. I love that!

Maybe the more fun thing about being an author is the creative liberty we’re allowed to take. Stick to the facts, but twist them how you need to in order to make your story work.
P. J. Hoover first fell in love with Greek mythology in sixth grade thanks to the book Mythology by Edith Hamilton. After a fifteen year bout as an electrical engineer designing computer chips for a living, P. J. decided to take her own stab at mythology and started writing books for kids and teens. When not writing, P. J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing kung fu, solving Rubik’s cubes, and watching Star Trek. Her first novel for teens, Solstice (Tor Teen, June 2013), takes place in a global warming future and explores the parallel world of mythology beside our own. Her middle grade novel, Tut (Tor Children’s, 2014), tells the story of a young immortal King Tut, who’s been stuck in middle school for over 3,000 years and must defeat an ancient enemy with the help of a dorky kid from school, a mysterious Egyptian princess, and a one-eyed cat. For more information about P. J. (Tricia) Hoover, please visit her website www.pjhoover.com.

Take 10: Myths Made Real, when the world of myth invades the real world

“If I wasn’t careful, I had no doubt this monstrous wonderland would swallow Alice whole . . .” – My Soul to Save, Rachel Vincent

With All My Soul, book 7 in the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent, is scheduled for publication on April 1, 2013.  Soul Screamers is an urban fantasy about bean sidhe (banshee) Kaylee Cavanaugh.  Kaylee must balance her life as a high school student while trying to prevent the Netherworld from bleeding over into it.  There are hellions, reapers and more out to steal her soul.  Oh yeah, and we people are about to die, she starts screaming.

A Banshee is a woman from Irish mythology who begins to wail when someone is about to die.  A banshee is considered by some to be a type of fairy or a representative of the Underworld. You can find out more about the Soul Screamers series at http://rachelvincent.com/soulscreamers.htm.  Also, The Soul Screamers series has a huge following on Tumblr so check it out.  If you are not reading the Soul Screamers series, you are missing a great paranormal series that has developed a complex mythology based on characters not typically seen in today’s paranormal romance; there are plenty of vampires, werewolves and angels, so I recommend that you try Soul Screamers for something new and very interesting.

Want to dip your toe into more of the underworld? Check out these books.

The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa
Megan Chase finally learns the reason she has never felt like she truly fit into this world, she is the daughter of the mythical faerie king.
“I licked my lips and whispered, “Is this where you say you’ll kill me?”
One corner of his lips curled. “If you like,” he murmured, a flicker of amusement finally crossing his face. “Though it’s gotten far too interesting for that.”  – The Iron King, The Iron Fey book 1
Misfit by Jon Skovron
Jael discovers that she is part-demon the same time that she discovers that there are those among the demon world that want her dead.
“The stuff you do is way more important than the stuff you believe.”
The Fury Trilogy by Elizabeth Miles
Three strange girls visit the town of Ascension, Maine during a snowy winter and life is never the same as a deadly plan for revenge is put into place.
“Sometimes sorry isn’t enough . . .”
Croak by Gina Damico
Lex gets shipped off to live with her uncle who decides he is going to teach her the family business: reaping.
“Life isn’t fair. Why should death be any different?”
The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
Kate must pass a series of seven tests in order to make a deal with Hades and keep her dying mother alive.
“Me?” The corner of his mouth twitched. “I rule the dead. I am not one of them” 
The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr
Aeslyn has always seen the faeiries, but they suddenly seem to be taking an interest in her.
“And he smiled at her, truly smiled- wicked and lovely…” 
Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
A family curse, a haunting mystery, and the tragic love between a mermaid and a mortal weave their way into this haunting tale of love and death over the years.
“The more she loved, the more she ached.” 
The Reaper Diaries by Michelle Vail
At the age of 16, Molly is sent to an elite boarding school where she is trained to be a necromancer.
“The day I turned 16, my boyfriend-to-be died. I brought him back to life. Then things got a little weird . . .”
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Blue is drawn to the Raven Boys, who are on a quest of their own to wake a sleeping spirit.
“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve, Neeve said. ‘Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

YA Greek Mythology on Goodreads
YA Mermaids on Goodreads

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