I am a librarian at an independent girls' school in the DC-Metro area. I am a compulsive baker, book addict, and genre fiction fan with passion for social justice. Find me on Twitter as @onesmartcupcake.
As a librarian, I love providing reader’s advisory help to teens with all different interests and preferences. However, I must admit that I especially love helping a fellow fantasy fan discover a new title or author. And as many of our library’s most devoted high school readers remain especially loyal to this genre, I have the opportunity to do this on a regular basis. These voracious readers are constantly looking for new books and they’ve often exhausted the young adult offerings of the moment. And that’s where having a healthy collection of fantasy published for adult fiction market comes in!
The trend of historical fantasy continues to grow in both young adult and adult fiction. These first two titles would be excellent recommendations for teens who favor fantasy and historical fiction or Jane Austen novels.
As the Napoleonic Wars rage abroad, Britain struggles at home as the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers grows increasingly dissatisfied with the newly elected Sorcerer Royal, Zacharias Wythe. Although he was raised and trained by his predecessor Sir Stephen, Zacharias’ dark skin and past as a slave have always barred him from gaining true acceptance in society and the continued magical draught provides the perfect excuse for the Society to oust him. But when Zacharias journeys north to inspect the border with Fairyland, he meets Prunella Gentleman, an orphan whose remarkable magical ability might be wasted in a world where women are not permitted to practice magic. Together, Zacharias and Prunella set out on a quest that will alter the state of sorcery in Britain irrevocably.
Shades of Milk & Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
In another magical alternative version of Regency England, gentlewoman Jane Ellsworth and her sister Melody practice delicate glamour magic and circulate through polite society, all for the purpose of making a good marriage. But while Melody’s beauty attracts suitors easily, Jane is 28 years old, unmarried, and possibly more talented at glamour than a lady should be. The arrivals of the wealthy young Mr. Dunkirk and the gruff glamourist Mr. Vincent to the neighborhood set into a series of unforeseen events that will push Jane’s talents and strength to new limits. The Glamourist Histories series continues in several more novels.
If your readers would prefer a gritty steampunk setting to a Regency drawing room, this next title might be the perfect pick–especially if they like a good murder mystery!
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (2016 Alex Award nominee)
In Rapid City, airships buzz through the air as hopeful miners travel through on their way to Alaskan gold fields and steam-powered robots work the waterfront. And at Madame Damnable’s high quality bordello, a young prostitute named Karen Memery is just trying to make her way through this unforgiving world. Then one night, a pair of injured and abused young women end up on their doorstep, on the run from brutal gangster and brothel owner Peter Bantle. In the days that follow, Karen and the other girls at Madame Damnable’s become involved in horrific murder mystery, tracking down a serial killer slaughtering prostitutes around the city.
While many people might wish to continue celebrating Valentine’s Day with romantic reads, there are plenty of readers who prefer their fiction fairly romance-free. If librarian listservs and Twitter conversations are anything to go by, “books with little to no romance” are a common but surprisingly challenging readers’ advisory request in libraries across the country and all year round. Again, the Hub bloggers are here to help!
This week we gathered together showcase some of our favorite young adult fiction where romance is either absent or plays a minor role in the story. Through the combined efforts of the Hub blogging team, we’ve collected a varied list of primarily recent titles that should provide books with appeal for a wide range of readers. Hopefully, you will spot something to please your readers on a quest for literature with a more platonic focus.
Owen is training to be a dragon slayer, a crucial job in a world where dragons bring death and destruction. With help from their friends and family, Owen and his female bard Siobhan seek the source of a growing dragon threat. Siobhan and Owen’s strong bond is based on their friendship and common goal, but there’s no romance involved. – Sharon R.
Kaz, a member of the Dregs gang, has scored a big heist but he needs help. He enlists five others to help him break into the unbreakable Ice Court to steal some precious cargo. – Dawn A.
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
Ever since she fell into a nearby pond, Triss has been horribly aware that something is wrong. She’s suddenly developed an insatiable appetite, her little sister seems afraid of her and inanimate objects like dolls not only speak–they scream. To discover what’s happened to her and her family, Triss must journey into strange and bizarre worlds within, beyond, and beneath her world. – Kelly D.
Gen is the best thief in the world and can do whatever he wants to do. At least that is what he claims before he is caught and imprisoned by the King of Sounis. The king’s main advisor soon hatches a plan to harness Gen’s skills in order to steal a holy relic and conquer Sounis’ enemies. An adventure full of unusual characters, storytelling, and mythology. – Miriam W.
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
In a different world, the library of Alexandria survived. The library governs the people, selecting knowledge to filter to the people. Jess’s father works as a book smuggler. He decides that Jess’s value lies in his future – at the library as a spy. He forces Jess to take the entrance exam. Jess passes the exam and heads off for basic training. – Jennifer R.
Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac
Lozen grew up in a divided world—there were the Ones, whose genetic and technological augmentation set them apart, and the mere humans who served them. Then the Cloud came. Digital technology stopped working and much of the world is a wasteland, peppered with monsters—the Ones’ genetically engineered pets gone wild. Now, Lozen hunts down these creatures, serving the remaining Ones in exchange for her family’s safety. But Lozen is more than a monster exterminator—she’s destined to be a hero. – Kelly D.
Valentine’s Day might be over but that doesn’t mean some readers aren’t still in the mood to fall in love with a good love story! If you’re looking for some recent titles to spice up a suddenly sparse book display or you’re in need of some new recommendations for your eager romantic readers, the Hub bloggers are here for you!
This week we’ve gathered together to showcase just a few of our recent favorite young adult romances. Some of our picks are well-known titles while others might have slipped under the radar. Either way, we hope you’ll find something new and exciting to read or share. Want even more romantic reading inspiration? Check out Dawn Abron’s latest Diversify YA Life post highlighting interracial couples in young adult fiction or search our tags for past romance book lists.
After several months anonymously corresponding with a classmate he knows only as Blue, Simon Spier is sure of several facts: he is definitely gay, he is falling in love with Blue, and he does not want to share either of these realities with anyone else–at least, not yet. But then Simon’s emails fall into the wrong hands and suddenly, his–and Blue’s–secrets are in serious danger of being revealed. Can Simon find a way to come out on his own terms, without causing even more drama amidst his increasingly complicated group of friends, becoming the center of unwanted attention at school, or–worst of all–losing his chances with Blue, the perfect boy he’s never met? -Kelly D.
What We Left Behind by Robin Talley
In high school, Gretchen and Toni were that couple. They prided themselves on the fact that they never fought and their friends all joked that they were already practically married. Gretchen and Toni had the kind of love everyone else envied. Then Gretchen decides that she’s not coming to Boston with Toni in the fall–she’s going to try out NYU for at least a semester instead, abandoning the plan the two have carefully constructed. Toni is angry and Gretchen is guilty but still they’re convinced that they’re going to make it. But while Toni, who’s quietly identified as genderqueer for about a year, finds a new sense of belonging with a group of older transgender students, Gretchen struggles to redefine herself as someone other than Toni’s girlfriend. Is love enough or is the distance between more than mere geography? – Kelly D.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Sandwiched between the dependable Margot and mischievous Kitty, Lara Jean feels secure as the shy and quirky middle Song sister. She’s content being the one who stays home to scrapbook or bake on Friday night and she finds expression for her unrequited crushes in writing letters that she hides in a hatbox under her bed. But then Margot is heading off to Scotland for college and within weeks, disaster strikes when Lara Jean’s secret letters are mistakenly mailed out. Now all her past crushes are coming back to haunt her as her first kiss, her camp crush, and the boy next door ( also Margot’s ex-boyfriend) each confront her about the letters. And suddenly Lara Jean’s dependable and tidy life is spinning out of control. -Kelly D.
If you read even a moderate amount of fantasy, you are likely familiar with one of its most common tropes: the chosen one, also known as the fated savior or destined heroine. While there are many different types of fantasy being written and read today, certain patterns repeat frequently and the ‘chosen one’ trope is no exception. This trope usually involves the inclusion of a character (usually the protagonist) who has in some way been marked as especially gifted or otherwise uniquely equipped to complete a special mission. Whether they’ve been chosen by a deity, a prophecy, or circumstances of birth, chosen ones in fantasy tales must often complete quests, battle evil forces, and make difficult, pivotal choices in order to achieve their destinies. This particular trope is far from limited to fantasy literature–it shows up in all kinds of science fiction and fantasy media and the template is often connected to mythologist Joseph Campbell’s concept of the monomyth or hero’s journey.
As a longtime fantasy fan, I find the ‘chosen one’ trope can be a double-edged sword for the genre. On one hand, any popular pattern becomes stale after a while and stories that depend heavily on the ‘chosen one’ narrative can easily fall into traps of lazy plotting or derivative content. ‘Chosen one’ stories can include protagonists who are unbelievably talented or inhumanly heroic. These characters often react in their ‘chosen’ status in predictable ways, usually resisting or attempting to escape or avoid their destinies. However, this trope has remained prevalent for a reason, especially in fantasy for and about teenage characters. After all, it’s a narrative that investigates the difficult process of coming to understand one’s role in the larger world and battling with the frightening concept of a future–struggles common to adolescents even without magical prophecies hanging over their heads.
It was pretty much inevitable that I would become a Hamilton addict. As both an American history nerd and a musical theatre geek, I found Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliant musical exploring the story of Alexander Hamilton and the founding of the United States irresistible from the moment I first listened to the opening number. However, my love of Hamilton comes not only from Miranda’s incredibly well-crafted soundtrack and book but also from his clear interest in highlighting perspectives often left out of the historical record, including the voices and experiences of women.
Obviously, I am not the first to notice this; articles like Michael Schulman’s “The Women of Hamilton“ and Constance Gibbs’ “How the Hero of Hamilton the Musical is a Woman” explore the powerful ways that Miranda’s writing and the performances of Phillipa Soo, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Jasmine Cephas Jones illuminate the often unacknowledged perspectives, experiences, and contributions of women in our history. Singing along to songs like “The Schuyler Sisters,” “Satisfied,” and “Burn,” I can’t help but feel the urge to read some great historical fiction that places women and their stories in the spotlight.
Next week is Teen Read Week and around the nation, libraries will be creating programs, book displays, and lists of reading recommendations surrounding the 2015 theme: “Getting Away @ Your Library.” When I realized that I was scheduled to post this month’s edition of ‘Is This Just Fantasy?’ just before Teen Read Week’s kick off, I found myself wishing to reflect on the many connections between this year’s theme and fantasy fiction.
Let’s start with the basic terminology. The word ‘fantasy’ can be defined as the ability, activity, or product of imagining things, especially ideas or concepts that are impossible, improbable, or otherwise removed from our reality. When applied to fiction, the term usually references a genre of literature that takes places within alternative worlds or includes events and characters which operate outside of the rules that govern our universe–usually through the existence of some kind of magic. At its most basic level, the fantasy genre is all about getting away by leaving behind certain rules or limitations of our present reality.
So, first things first, how many of you have a card for your local library?
I hope all of our trusty Hub readers raised their hands with enthusiasm! After all, having a library card is cooler than being cool, as the 2015 honorary chair Snoopy himself tells us. Besides, a library is a gateway to a host of free and fabulous resources! If you haven’t had the chance to saunter on down to your local public library and receive your very own library card, take advantage of this celebration’s last couple weeks to investigate the process.
But if you need a reminder of just why libraries are in fact so cool, check out these examples of excellent and awe-inspiring fictional libraries.
The Hogwarts Library from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
What library fan could resist the cavernous and mysterious space full of magical texts detailing everything from how to take care of baby dragons to the secrets behind the creation of dangerous potions? The Hogwarts Library is located on the fourth floor of Hogwarts castle and contains thousands upon thousands of books. The space is divided into many specific sections, including the Restricted Section–a roped off area which requires a signed note from a professor to access. As far as we know, the librarian is the stern Madam Irma Pince. Additionally, the library is the site of quite a lot of significant moments and discoveries for Harry, Ron, and Hermione during their time at Hogwarts; it’s clearly a cool place to hang out–or at least a good place to conduct research on dark secrets and even darker magic. After all, as Ron so wisely states in his description of Hermione’s particular approach to problems, “When in doubt, go to the library.”
The sun was high in the sky and the air was remarkably low in humidity as thousands of people begins to fill the downtown streets and converge on the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. While many might have left the city for the Labor Day long weekend, others have traveled into the nation’s capital to spend Saturday in an air-conditioned and crowded convention center talking about books. And as I have for the past five years, I joined the throng and headed down to the Library of Congress‘s 15th Annual National Book Festival.
After collecting my trusty guide pamphlet and the all important, traditional Book Festival swag—a large brightly colored tote and at least two copies of the highly collectible poster—I stopped by the Starbucks in the main foyer to arm myself with additional caffeine before trekking back to the Children’s and Teen’s pavilions.
Happily, the Library of Congress documents the multitude of wonderful speakers at this event and makes the recordings available on their website as webcasts. According, I will refrain from verbatim recaps. Instead, I will try to offer a sampling of favorite interesting moments from the presentations I attended.
Rachel Swaby, author of Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World, shared that one of her largest take-aways from the project was everyone (especially women) must find the space that works for them to pursue their ambitions and dreams–and if such a space does not exist, make it!
As summer comes to a close, I inevitably look at my increasingly dusty ‘to be read’ piles and worry about the many books I failed to read during my vacation. Simultaneously, I peer towards the flood of shiny new titles set to be released over the next few months and I am overwhelmed. This feeling only increases when I consider the number of current fantasy series with new installments hitting the shelves soon! It is a constant dilemma–how to catch up on current series while keeping up with the new ones? I admit I have yet discover a true solution but at the very least, I’ve found that it helps to step back and take stock of the current series that might be most timely to revisit.
Here are few series worth adding to any fantasy fan’s ‘catch up’ checklist.
Of Metal and Wishes – Sarah Fine (2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults) Wen assists her father in the medical clinic that serves the Gochan One slaughterhouse. While Wen and her family are trapped by their debts to the factory, they remain better off than the Noor, workers brought in as cheap labor. And now a ghost seems to be haunting the slaughterhouse– a ghost who will do anything to protect and please Wen. As Wen becomes increasingly involved with the Noor and their charismatic young leader, she must face both the volatile ‘ghost’ and the brutal system and decide if she dares to take a stand.
The sequel, Of Dreams and Rust, was just released earlier this month.
It’s 1926 and glamorous New York City is simply the only place to be—at least in small town flapper Evie O’Neill’s mind. So when her parents ship her off to visit her uncle in the Big Apple, Evie is thrilled. However, the trip also means staying in Uncle Will’s highly creepy museum and Evie is hiding her own supernatural secret. Then, within days of her arrival, a young woman is found murdered and branded with strange occult symbols. Uncle Will is asked to consult on the case and soon Evie is in the middle of murder investigation—and perhaps something even more sinister.
The long awaited sequel, Lair of Dreams, will be published the end of this month!
The Burning Sky – Sherry Thomas
Iolanthe Seabourne is an elemental mage with an special gift for fire. Brought up in obscurity with her drug-addicted mentor, Iolanthe has never thought of her abilities as particularly extraordinary. But when she pulls down a massive lightning strike from the sky in an attempt to mend a failed elixir, Iolanthe suddenly gains the attention of Prince Titus, the young royal determined to follow through on his mother’s visions, revenge his family, and regain power over Atlantis. Convinced that Iolanthe is the mage prophesied to battle and defeat the tyrannical ruler Bane, he leaps into action to hide her in the non-magical world of London as they prepare for their possibly deadly fate.
The second book, The Perilous Sea, is currently available and the third volume, The Immortal Heights, is set to be released in October.
Summer camp. For many teens, those two words evoke all sorts of powerful memories and emotions. As someone who attended and later worked at a few different kinds of summer camps, I too associate summertime with that special otherworld of camp life. Whether it’s an academic summer program on an unfamiliar college campus, an wilderness adventure in the woods, or some other uniquely themed summer-only community experience, camp life often seems to be an escape from teens’ everyday lives.
Camp can be the rare place where you suddenly fit in and find others who share your passions. Camp can be a dependable community where you feel the freedom to be a different–and perhaps more authentic–version of yourself. Camp can also be the time and place when you discover new interests or new aspects of your identity. Like all tightly knit and highly organized communities, camp can also be a place that reinforces certain expectations or ideals, making it a trap rather than an escape. In all cases, summer camp also seems to be one of the best settings for diverse and strong coming of age tales. Just check out a few of the fabulous young adult novels set at summer camp!
The Summer I Wasn’t Me – Jessica Verdi
Lexi will do almost anything to maintain her relationship with her mother, especially since her dad’s recent death. But when she figures out that Lexi’s in love with a girl, her mom plunges even deeper into depression and anxiety. Desperate to preserve her family, Lexi agrees to attend New Horizons, a Christian summer camp that promises to teach her how to fight off her SSA–same sex attraction. Lexi’s determined to change–but she wasn’t counting on meeting Carolyn.
Since her aunt used her as a model in local billboard, Sibylla’s fairly mediocre social life has started to shift in unexpected ways. Suddenly, she’s not entirely sure what to expect from the upcoming wilderness term. Handsome Ben kissed her at a party over the holidays but hasn’t said much since and her longtime best friend Holly seems intensely invested in Sib & Ben’s potential romance. Meanwhile, new girl Lou simply wants to muddle through this strange first term without having to discuss her dead boyfriend or her still crushing grief. But in this unfamiliar environment, relationships of all kinds undergo unforeseen transformations.