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.
The Rose Society, the sequel to Marie Lu’s The Young Elites hit the shelves on October 13th and has spent four weeks on the New York Times Young Adult Bestseller List. In The Rose Society readers revisit Adelina Amouteru, one of the survivors of the blood plague that made her and many others into “young elites” gifted with strange powers. The book opens with Teren Santoro, lead inquisitor set on ridding the kingdom of Adelina’s kind. Fans of the courtly intrigue, fast paced plot, and atmospheric setting in the first book will not be disappointed by the second. If your library’s copy is checked out consider recommending some of these backlist titles to tide over your eager patrons while they wait.
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.” Continue reading Celebrating National Library Card Sign Up Month With Fabulous Fictional Libraries
It’s AP Exams season where I work, and finals time for many a college and high school. Which means legions of bleary-eyed students trying to summon up the discipline for a last surge of studying, even though they just want to be done. The sunshine is calling. I hear it too, and even though I’m well past the exam-taking phase of life, I’m still in crunch mode, trying to power through to many deadlines.
For the dedicated bookworms among us, studying for exams generally requires two sets of reading; the materials we’re actually supposed to be reviewing, and the reading we sneak for “study breaks.” This is a calculated strategy (no, really!) designed to achieve the perfect balance of discipline and release, allowing us to get all the necessary reviewing in while also getting enough of a break to feel revived and ready for…still more reviewing. Because the internet and everything that lives there can rapidly turn into a vast time-suck, all responsible students (and worker-bees) know: if you’re serious about getting something done, you have to stay (temporarily) signed out of all the stuff, especially this close to the finish line. And the pitfalls of streaming-binges are obvious, so the TV’s got to stay off too (as do the game consoles).
But a book…a book feels studious, even if what we’re reading isn’t likely to show up on any exams, or help cross anything off a task list.
So. What to read when you don’t really have time to be reading at all, but you absolutely must get a little escape in if you have any hope of staying motivated long enough to cover everything you’ve still got to do?
Unless you are a reader with very good self-discipline, novels are probably out. Novels are what we get to read when everything on the task list is actually done, when grades are in, school is out, and your to-do list is all inked-out lines.
Page count matters when you’re on a deadline. Short-ish graphic novels and short story collections are what we need when time is at a premium; pieces vivid enough to truly escape into, and short enough that we emerge from our work-respite refreshed and ready to dive back into the task at hand.
Here, then, are some suggestions for quick escapes, to tide you over until the freedom of summer is a reality, and not just a highly-anticipated future fantasy.
Lips Touch, Three Times by Laini Taylor. Are you a fan of sweeping fantasy shot through with romance, like Taylor’s epic Daughter of Smoke and Bone series? Well, here are three short stories about three different girls who’ve never been kissed, told in Taylor’s distinct, dramatic style, with brief page counts (but high pulse rates). A 2010 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults book.
It’s Flashback Friday and The Hub is taking you back to the 1990s! Last week, Jessica Lind discussed the ’90s nostalgia emerging in contemporary pop culture in her post titles The Hub Loves the ’90s. Now we’re going to be flashing back to what young adults were reading in the ’90s. The inspiration for this post was the television show Fresh off the Boat. The show based on Eddie Huang’s best-selling memoir, is about a Taiwanese-American family living in the suburbs of Orlando, FL during the ’90s. The show gave me a very funny librarian thought: what if the tweenage Eddie went to the library on Fresh off the Boat– what would the librarian recommend to him? This thought caused me to crack open the librarian vault and take a journey back to the decade that had us rolling with the homies….
So it’s time to break out your flannel, find those old shoe-lace hair clips, put on Wannabe by the Spice Girls and grab your favorite Pogs, because we’re going to the 90’s!
With all the ways to watch TV today including; on demand, DVR, and instant streaming it is possible to watch an entire series’ episodes back to back rather than in a serialized week to week format. This kind of watching has been dubbed “binge-watching.” Maybe when you hear this term, an image comes to mind of someone mindlessly watching hour after hour of TV whilst eating chips. As fun as that sounds, “binge-watching” can also mean focusing on just one show over the course of many days or weeks. As a reader the way I become immersed in the characters and world of a good book are a familiar, comforting feeling, and binge-watching a quality show can offer a similar (on-screen) experience. Here are some great YA read-alikes inspired by some of my binge-worthy favorites.
Orange is the New Black – One of Netflix’s original binge-worthy series. This is the story of a Piper, a privileged woman who has to serve prison time for a crime committed in her 20s.
* Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. The book that inspired the show; Kerman tells the tale of how she spent a year in prison the humiliations she endured, and the relationships she forged.
March is Women’s History Month. Woohoo! In that spirit, I wanted to dedicate this edition of Is This Just Fantasy? to the fabulous women of fantasy fiction and I asked my fellow Hub bloggers to join in the fun. Here are some of The Hub’s favorite female characters in young adult fantasy fiction.
“The heroine who comes immediately to my mind (and no doubt others as well!) is Alanna. So strong, brave, courageous and while in the first novel she must hide her sex and pretend to be a boy, I really loved how ultimately she embraced being a woman as the series evolved.” – Sarah Debraski
Princess Cimorene from Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
“After first encountering Cimorene in Dealing with Dragons, I was hooked. She is a princess who is bored with everything that goes with being a princess. She wants nothing to do with the not-very-bright princes she encounters and is so eager for more excitement in her life that she leaves her home to find a dragon to ‘capture’ her – the only acceptable alternative for a princess. Once she finds her dragon, she becomes the dragon’s chef and librarian (a fact I had forgotten until I recently reread this book). With Cimorene, Wrede turns princess stereotypes on their head and creates a funny, compelling, and exciting protagonist.” – Carli Spina Continue reading Is This Just Fantasy?: Celebrating The Hub’s Favorite Women In Fantasy Fiction
Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.
I’ve had the privilege of working on these Hub interviews for awhile now, and people who know me will often assume that whatever book I’m currently reading is linked to this series. They’re often right, of course, though not always, and I won’t lie–it’s fun to confirm that yes, Awesome Author you see me reading really is my next interview. A lot of the time this leads to excellent book talk and mutual gushing, and sometimes it leads to me energetically detailing all the reasons why they need to read said author, like, yesterday. And then sometimes I find myself sort of tongue-tied by the opportunity I’ve been given and all I can do is just nod appreciatively along with their exclamations and hope that my slack-jawed bobbing conveys the enormity of my glee and awe. Usually it’s a combination of all of those reactions, driven partly by where I am in the interview process and partly by whoever I’m talking to about it.
Which is all to say that the last couple months working on this interview with (ahhh!) Garth Nix, I’ve noticed something very interesting and unusual about those interactions: no matter who I shamelessly and giddily gushed with, I got a similar reaction. Intake of breath, widening of eyes, exclamation of jealousy/excitement/surprise and then some variation of ‘Oh-my-gosh-I-love-him-so-much-I’ve-read-all-his-books-I-can’t-believe-you-get-to-interview-him-that’s-so-awesome-you-have-to-ask him about…” It was weird, really, not because I didn’t feel the same way, but because literally everyone said this. My 21 year old nephew and my 12 year old niece both said this. The mother of my daughter’s best friend said this, as did various other middle aged women (like me!) from book club. My best friend said this. My 16 year old friend and book buddy said this. A random father waiting, like me, to pick up his kid from theater school said this. People 20 years older and 30 years younger than me said this. Men, women, little kids, and everyone in between said this. Everyone said this.
Seriously, I am impressed.
Garth Nix, you clearly have a wide and deeply devoted readership that spans just about every age group and publishing category. “I don’t usually read fantasy, but since it’s Garth Nix…” “I don’t usually read kids books, but I loved the Old Kingdom series so much I just had to read The Keys to the Kingdom books.” “I don’t like science fiction but A Confusion of Princes was spectacular.” You get the idea. And I’m right there with them, reading and marveling at every book and feeling really, really lucky and grateful at the chance to talk teen years, power, and the importance of being able to convey deep enthusiasm with the remarkable Garth Nix. Thank you!
Always Something There to Remind Me
Please describe your teenage self.
I think like most teenagers, I appeared differently to different people, or at least wanted to present a different version of myself. My thirteen year-old self was also markedly different from my nineteen year-old self, as you would expect. I guess one thing that stayed the same throughout my teenage years was that even though I was spiritually a complete nerd with my love of reading and role-playing games and doing well at school, I kept this compartmentalized so that I could also remain part of the most socially-acceptable group in school, to which I belonged at least in part thanks to my best friend being the most popular boy (and school captain). I was also a curious mix of a dreamer and a realist, I day-dreamed but never at the expense of ignoring what was going on in real life. In a way this is a very useful trait for an author, to have the dreams but learn how to harness and use them rather than just drifting along with them.
I wasn’t really a rebellious teen, though I drank too much alcohol too frequently and smoked a lot of dope at various times, though I did so mainly because everyone else did, not for its own sake. Fortunately I didn’t have an addictive nature and so was never more than a casual user and got it out of my system quite early, having basically given up everything but alcohol (and less of it) by the time I was nineteen. I was also lucky not to get into more serious drug use or trouble, because some of my friends did and I could have been drawn into it, or just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
At various times I was a somewhat angry teen, though I was never really sure what I was angry about. Bad tempers run in my father’s side of the family, getting progressively better managed with each generation, but I was still working on that in my teenage years. Because I read very widely, I also knew lots of curious facts or thought I did, and so could be a terrible know-it-all which annoyed people, though I got better at not delivering unnecessary information or showing off my knowledge. I was also really quite shy, though people didn’t know I was, because I put on a good front. Even my best friend wouldn’t believe how difficult I found it sometimes in social situations, because I would appear to be fine.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
From about fourteen, I thought I would become an officer in the Australian Army. I planned to go to our military college and get my degree there and have a career in the army. I have had a deep fascination for military history from a very young age, and a family tradition of military service of various kinds. However, I joined the part-time Army Reserve when I was seventeen and still at school and though I enjoyed this and had five years basically spending all my summers either doing a course or in field training, by the time I left school I had worked out that being in the regular army would not work for me, because I had become aware that it really constrained you to do nothing else, it was very much a total lifestyle decision. I also realized that I was much more an individualist than a team player, which tends not to work so well in the armed services, apart from in a few very specialized areas. Continue reading One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Garth Nix
Tween readers — those ages 9 to 12 — come to the teen section for a variety of reasons.
In some cases, tweens are drawn to teen books because of popularity and media exposure. For example, many tweens request titles such as The Hunger Games and Twilight. Some tweens are avid readers of a particular genre and have exhausted the titles available to them in the children’s fiction section.
The tweens at the library where I work are a good example. One girl (I’ll call her Alicia) is 11 going on 12. Alicia loves horror and ghost stories and is a huge fan of Mary Downing Hahn. However, she’s read all of the titles that we have, and now she goes downstairs to the teen section in search of new, more intense scares. She’s currently reading The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff.
Last fall I wrote a post on great contemporary YA novels for book clubs, but realistic fiction set in today’s world doesn’t grab every reader, and in my opinion, the best book clubs seek variety in their reading choices. The following titles will appeal to longtime fantasy fans and might hook readers who shy away from fantasy in their normal reading. Some of these are new, some are old, some are more obvious choices, and others are easily overlooked. What they have in common is thought-provoking premises and compelling characters — just what you need for a good book club discussion.
When I think of fantasy novels, I typically imagine a lush forest or vaguely medieval setting, but Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst takes place in a stark and harsh desert environment. This unique fantasy follows Liyana as she works with the Trickster god, Korbyn, to rescue five gods who have been kidnapped and prevented from joining their tribes, thus assuring the continued survival of their people. This is a novel about challenging what one has always been told and making room for a new paradigm or worldview. It’s about the nature of sacrifice and standing up for what one believes in. It’s about tradition and faith as much as about adaptation and instinct. The antagonist isn’t an evil villain, but rather a sympathetic character trying to do what is right. Fantastically written with amazing world-building, this novel will delight long-time fantasy fans but is still accessible to those less accustomed to the realm of fantasy.