Throwback Thursday: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

 

gracelingYou may feel like you just finished reading The Graceling Realm series, but the current reader who is 16 years old was 8 when this book was published.  Some young adult literature has a short shelf-life; pop culture references, trends, technology, even the language teens use to communicate, evolves. Fantasy is often more enduring because the worlds are entirely different from our own, yet the conflicts and themes are universal.

Katsa lives in a world where Gracelings are commonplace.  Gracelings are noted by the fact that they have two different colored eyes and a special skill or ability.  The skill may be as simple as being an excellent baker or climber, or an excellent swordsman or archer, but it can also be more complicated than that.  Katsa’s grace is unique;  Her ability is to kill.  It does not matter the size or strength of her opponent, Kasha will kill them before they even have time to register what is happening.

However, even with this remarkable power, Katsa is being used by the king, her uncle, as nothing more than muscle.  Katsa hates this, but even though she is secretly fighting back and trying to undo the evil her uncle has created, she is still scared to stand up to him.  Until she meets Po.  Running into Po was an accident.  They were both on a mission to save a former king, now known as Prince Tealiff, who was kidnapped.  Kasha is doing this undercover as her way to give back for the cruel services performed through her uncle.  Po is doing this because this former king is his grandfather.  Who kidnapped Prince Tealiff?  Why would he matter now?  Po plans on finding out and asks Kasha to assist him, which her uncle refuses.  Can Katsa find her inner strength to leave the kingdom she has grown up in and help Po and his family?  This fantasy novel will keep you on your feet as you go through the multiple layers of deception, danger, and depth.  The guarded romance adds to the complicated relationship between Katsa and Po. Continue reading Throwback Thursday: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Hub Bloggers Love: Young Adult Fiction Without Romance

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!

HubLoveWithoutRomance

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.

Science Fiction/Fantasy

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston (2015 Morris Award Finalist; 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

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.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

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.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (1997 Best Books for Young Adults; 2003 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults; 1997 Newbery Honor)

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. Continue reading Hub Bloggers Love: Young Adult Fiction Without Romance

Booklist: Genre Reads for Cold Winter Nights

The temperatures are dropping below freezing and the sun sets early, making it the perfect time of year to curl up with a good book. Whether you like thrillers, swoon-worthy romance, or an escape from reality, there’s a book here to warm you up.

This is also a great list for a seasonal book display that can incorporate many genres and appeal to a wide range of readers.

Thrillers and Mysteries for Cold Winter Nights

If you’re in the mood for an adrenaline rush, these books are sure to  get your heart pounding. These mysteries and thrillers will chill you to the bone!

young adult thrillers for cold winter nights

Bonechiller by Graham McNamee (2009 Best Books for Young Adults)

After his mother’s death, Danny moves with his father to a remote Canadian town next to a frozen lake with a terrifying legend that haunts it.

Trapped by Michael Northrup

Seven teens are waiting to be picked up from school when a killer snowstorm hits. Can they survive? This is a good bed for readers who want a thriller without paranormal elements.

As White as Snow by Salla Simukka

Atmospheric Nordic crime thrillers have been popular with adult readers, and this trilogy brings the blood (and cold) to YA and adds a fairy tale twist.

Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujiwinski

When the season turns, more than severe weather threatens an isolated island and residents flee. When a group of teenagers are left behind, they must fight to survive. With hints of supernatural threats in addition to the terror of the elements, this is a spooky thriller for middle school readers.

The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley

This has all the elements of a classic ghost story: an orphan is sent to live in an isolated house in the woods, where he finds a spirits and a mysterious secrets. Fans of staples in this genre, like Poe or Gorey, will delight in this homage to Victorian ghost stories.

The Edge by Roland Smith

The follow up to Peak, this story revolves around a mountain-climbing and documentary film expedition that turns sinister when the director is murdered and other climbers are taken hostage.

Romance for Cold Winter Nights

There are countless summer romances in YA fiction, but sometimes it feels like the winter-themed stories are limited to holiday collections. These novels take place in the winter months.

YA romance for cold winter nights

 

Continue reading Booklist: Genre Reads for Cold Winter Nights

Is This Just Fantasy? : The Chosen One

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.
fantasy series chosen one

 

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.

Continue reading Is This Just Fantasy? : The Chosen One

Teen Perspective: A Trio of Tales about Dragons

The amazing thing about fiction is that it allows us to use our imaginations to come up with whatever our heart desires. From giant rock monsters to hedgehogs that ‘gotta go faster’, modern media has proven how simple it is to take a pre-existing creature and modify it to be more entertaining to the masses.Dragon books

Yet, out of all the creatures out there that mankind has devised for modern media, the dragon seems to be the most popular among boys and girls of all ages. What is it about them that makes them so appealing? Well, I would say that it’s how each creative mind in the world is able to interpret them in their own personal way. Some people see them as mindless beasts that only want to destroy mankind, while others see them as wise and cunning creatures of the land, sea and sky! Continue reading Teen Perspective: A Trio of Tales about Dragons

Is This Just Fantasy? : How To Get Away With Fantasy

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.

fantasy TRW post draft 1

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.   Continue reading Is This Just Fantasy? : How To Get Away With Fantasy

Booklist: Back to (Magic) School

It’s back to school season, which elicits excitement from some, but groans from others. When I first went back to library school, as much as I enjoyed my classes, I sort of wished they were more from the Rupert Giles school of Library Science, with a syllabus that looks something like this.

Suffice to say: I sympathize with teens who may be more excited to get lost in a fantasy world than dig into algebra homework (not that algebra isn’t important. It is). So for those study breaks when one just needs to escape, here are some fantasy and paranormal novels in school settings.

Back to (Magic) School Booklist | YALSA's The Hub

Continue reading Booklist: Back to (Magic) School

Is This Just Fantasy? : Catching Up On Current Series

Just Fantasy catching upAs 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 wishesOf 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 of dreams and rustghost 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.
The Diviners – Libba Bray (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adultsdiviners
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. lair of dreamsThen, 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
the burning sky
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 the immortal heightsin 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.

Continue reading Is This Just Fantasy? : Catching Up On Current Series

Here’s Your Fandom Fix

Game of Thrones just aired its season finale, Doctor Who doesn’t come on until September, and you’ve waited over a year for Sherlock; how are you supposed to cope?

Readalikes are your answer. Novels comparable to popular TV shows have found their way in YA fiction so now you can get for fandom fix during the hiatus of your favorite series.

Game of Thrones Readalikes:

  • false prince jennifer a nielsen coverThe False Prince (The Ascendence Trilogy) by Jennifer Neilsen-  The royal family has been murdered and in order to keep the throne out of the wrong hands, Conner, a nobleman of the court sets off to find the long lost prince who disappeared several years prior. Connor’s plan to is find, train, and groom orphans who resemble the long lost prince to keep the throne in safe hands. Sage is one of those orphans and he must fight three others to win.
  • Falling Kingdoms Series by Morgan Rhodes-The three kingdoms of Mytica fight for power and four teens from different nations are caught in the middle. Magnus, the son of the Blood King, must gain his father’s acceptance while quelling his feeling for his sister Lucia. Lucia discovers she can wield magic but is the daughter of the Blood King who condemns all magic. Cleo is a beautiful and beloved princess and has suffered a terrible tragedy and must find a way back to her rightful throne. Jonas, a rebel, vows to avenge the wrongful death of his brother. They all seek the throne and through this six book series, readers follow their favorite character on their journey to claim Mytica.

Continue reading Here’s Your Fandom Fix

Is This Just Fantasy?: Highlights of Early 20th Century Historical Fantasy

Just Fantasy Hist FantasyHistorical and fantasy fiction have been two of my absolutely favorite genres to read since I was a child.  So it follows that historical fantasy–fiction that combines elements of both genres–is one of my greatest literary weaknesses.  I’m completely incapable of resisting a good historical fantasy novel!

There are already some excellent guides exploring this growing subgenre available online.  Over at their fabulous blog Stacked, Kelly Jensen & Kimberly Francisco have created a number of great genre guides including this one focused on historical fantasy.  Additionally, on her blog By Singing Light,  Maureen Eichner has an entire page devoted to historical fantasies with middle grade, young adult, and adult titles organized by their chronological settings.

So instead of offering an overview of historical fantasy, I’m going to highlight a few titles that fit into a recent trend.  Over the last couple years, I’ve noticed something of an uptick in historical fantasy exploring the first few decades of the 20th century–time periods that have sometimes been underrepresented in this particular subgenre, especially when compared to the medieval and Victorian eras.  But if these recent novels are anything to go by, the years between 1900 and 1940 are especially well-suited to the creation of rich, genre-blending stories.

cure for dreamingThe Cure for Dreaming – Cat Winters (2015 Amelia Bloomer Project List)
 It may be the dawn of the 20th century but for an intelligent and independent young woman like Olivia, living life on her own terms still feels like a distant dream.  She sneaks to suffragist protests and reads literature challenging the traditional vision of docile & subservient womanhood.  But her domineering father, convinced that she’s heading for trouble, hires famed stage mesmerist Henri Reverie to hypnotize Olivia into forgetting her rebellious ways.  But the hypnosis instead leaves Olivia both gifted and cursed; she can now see people’s inner darkness or goodness clearly–and she cannot speak her mind without feeling ill.  But her new vision makes Olivia even more determined to work for her independence and the rights of women.

In the Shadow of the Blackbirds by Cat WintersIn The Shadow of Blackbirds – Cat Winters (2014 William C. Morris Award Finalist, 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
In 1918, the United States has become a country besieged by death and fear as a virulent influenza epidemic rages at home and a global war rages across the Ocean. Even a scientifically minded young woman like Mary Shelley Black can’t completely resist the aura of paranoia—especially since her father has been arrested for treason and her sweetheart Stephen is trapped somewhere in the European trenches. Living in San Diego with her young widowed aunt, Mary Shelley can’t escape the surgical masks, the pervasive scent of onions, or the preoccupation with séances and spirits, particularly after news of Stephen’s death arrives—only to be followed by the appearance of his ghost.

Continue reading Is This Just Fantasy?: Highlights of Early 20th Century Historical Fantasy