You 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
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.
The Monday Polls were a ton of fun, but as part of the new, expanded coverage on The Hub, we are making a few changes. Instead of just inviting readers to pick their favorite on a topic out of a pre-determined list, we’re going a little more in depth. In addition to sharing five perspectives from Hub bloggers on a topic, we also want to hear what you have to say!
Our inaugural Take Five question is: who is your favorite YA heroine, and why?
I loved (and still love) Enola Holmes (from the series of the same name by Nancy Springer)! She is so smart and quick witted (and figured out how to use her corset to hide a dagger in case she ran into baddies). Plus she could solve any puzzle and disguise herself so that even her brother, the famous Sherlock Holmes, wouldn’t recognize her. She’s a pretty awesome chick (and I totally wanted to be like her)! — Stacy Holbrook Continue reading Take Five: Favorite Heroine in YA Literature
Now that I am all caught up on my television shows, I am starting to look ahead to what will grace my DVR in the fall. Season premiere time is always exciting, especially when there is some type of literary connection. However, the upcoming show that is leaving me full of hope and anticipation is Supergirl.
In the DC universe, Supergirl is from the same planet as Superman. In fact, she is his older cousin. However, something happened where she was suspended in time and came to planet Earth well after Clark Kent already established the house of El. You know, the big S.
This show seems to be following the proper age gap of Kara Zor-El being younger and more inexperienced with her powers than her super famous cousin Kal-El. She struggles with using them, controlling them, and what path she is supposed to take with them.
Which led me to thinking about books where our main characters are struggling to deal with their powers, or the implications of their powers, in some way. I would love to have superpowers! However, I really don’t know how I would react if power, greatness, and expectations were thrust upon me along with the ability to fly, super strength, and be able to shoot laser beams from my eyes.
So, to celebrate the authentic feelings that Kara is going through, here are a few books where in which our main characters are not always sure what to do with themselves or their powers.
Katsa lives in a world where some have gracelings-. An abilitiesy that allow them to do something exceedingly well. Some people can work well with animals, some are expert swordsmen or archers. Katsa’s graceling is the ability to kill. No matter the size of her opponent, their ability, or strength, she always come out on top. However, this comes with some complications, especially when her uncle, a ruthless king, decides to use her gifts for his gain. Continue reading Why Me? Reluctant Superheroes in YA Lit
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
This year on the Hub we are celebrating the Twelve Days of YA with a series of posts loosely based on the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas gifts. We have converted each gift into a related theme common to YA and paired it with a list of relevant titles. You may use the Twelve Days of YA tag to read all of the posts in the series.
Special thanks goes to Carli Spina, Faythe Arredondo, Sharon Rawlins, Geri Diorio, Becky O’Neil, Carla Land, Katie Yu, Laura Perenic, Jennifer Rummel, Libby Gorman, Carly Pansulla, Anna Dalin, and Allison Tran for their help creating the booklists and organizing this series.
On the tenth day of YA, my true love gave to me ten lords-a-leaping.
When looking for lords-a-leaping, there was only one place to turn in YA lit – high fantasy. These lords are often doing a lot more than leaping and pretty frequently they are actually ladies out there kicking butt. We hope you enjoy the high fantasy adventures that we picked and encourage you to share your favorites in the comments!
Ah, winter! Perfect for marathon reading sessions indoors, bundled against the blustery elements. Whether you have several whole weeks out of classes, or just a few extra days here and there to fit in some seasonal festivities and max out your relaxation, there’s nothing like a winter’s day off for disappearing into another world for the entirety of a story’s arc, however many volumes it takes.
There are lots of definitions floating around for “binge reading.” Some indicate that it’s about cramming to meet a reading deadline, or skimming as much and as fast as possible. Others look to the new(ish) tradition of binge-watching TV series in marathon installments to describe a similar commitment to reading in large doses, especially within the same series. It’s this last definition that really appeals to me: binge-reading as an intensive, immersive experience for hours and hours (or even days and days) on end. Series titles lend themselves admirably to this sort of extended reading escape. Binging on a series lets you completely submerge yourself in another world, spend inordinate amounts of time with your favorite (and most loathed!) characters, and learn how it all turns out in one fell swoop, all without interrupting the momentum of the plot, or muddying the motives of the characters in your mind with too long a pause between volumes.
So, to help you strategize your total reading immersion during this binge-reading (ahem, I mean holiday) season, here is a list of series worth disappearing into. To help prevent the dreaded, stomach-sinking realization that there are at least ten months between you and finding out what’s happened to your new favorite characters in the next book, every series on the list has every planned volume published. With one notable exception, because I just couldn’t help myself.
Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men)
The first book in this pulse-pounding series (The Knife of Never Letting Go, a 2009 Best Books for Young Adults pick) launches readers into a world where the thoughts of all boys and men are audible to everyone around them; and all the girls and women have disappeared. The plot careens around with young Todd, our confused but generally well-meaning protagonist, and then pulls up at the edge of a serious cliffhanger of an ending; for your binge-reading enjoyment, make sure you have the next volume (The Ask and the Answer) lined up to keep going without pause! For readers who like their binge in auditory formats, The Knife of Never Letting Go was also a 2011 Odyssey Honor book. Continue reading Series Binge-Reading: The Perfect Activity for a Wintery Afternoon
As someone who is very open about her love of reading, I often find myself in a position of being asked for book recommendations. If I know someone’s reading tastes well, this is usually an easy task. There are also plenty of amazing lists out there that help for making recommendations for someone who is able to give you a specific example of their interests, like The Fault in Our Stars, dystopians, or contemporary romances. It’s those others, though, the ones that don’t consider themselves “readers,” so they are hesitant to name a book they’ve enjoyed that require a little more thought.
Over the past couple of years, I have begun keeping (and updating!) a mental list of “go-to books” that I can easily start with when making recommendations to these individuals. Here are a few of my most frequent go-to recommendations:
For the Simpsons Comics Fans Who Want a Non-graphic Novel:
Bad Unicorn by Platte F. Clark
While this book isn’t for everyone, it does has been very well received when I am able to get it into the right hands. These readers are the ones that will laugh out loud and grab it from you when you explain that it is about a killer unicorn named Princess the Destroyer. I have recommended this many times and have received positive feedback from the readers. I have even heard them telling others about it. Bad Unicorn has been getting many more reads than I anticipated the first time I saw it.
I began recommending Graceling after it popped up a few times here on The Hub. While your reader has to be okay with high fantasy, I have found it to be an easy sell to someone who has worked their way through a variety of dystopian and post-apocalyptic future novels and is ready for something new. I think it is more approachable to readers coming out of the Hunger Games series than other fantasy series such as Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness. Continue reading Go-To YA Book Recommendations
Books and reading have been integral to my identity essentially my entire life. My parents read to me since infancy and my status as a bibliophile has been established nearly as long. We have a fairly infamous home video featuring my toddler self pulling all the books off the shelves in my room and then fiercely babbling at them the way another child might instruct toys. Even now I will occasionally refer to favorite books by their main characters’ first names and I have been known to reprimand characters out loud while reading a particularly tense scene. I have always viewed the world through a sort of double visionâ€”there’s my â€˜real’ life and then there’s my life in fiction. The fictional characters and stories surrounding me have been just as influential â€˜real life’ people and experiences. Unsurprisingly, many of the reading experiences with the strongest memories attached to them are connected to fantasy fiction. Here are a few of the fantasy novels that have now become part of my story.
Like so many people of my generation, Harry Potter was and always will be a huge part of my reading history. I read the first book in middle school, just a few years after it was first published in the U.S. and preceded to read all the subsequent novels, growing up alongside the characters. I’ve spent an incalculable number of hours reading & rereading the novels, engaging in passionate conversations (and arguments) with fellow fans, or reading fanfiction featuring favorite characters. I’ve found that in times of stress or anxiety, I turn to my trusty Harry Potter audiobooks and inevitably find both comfort and inspiration in joining Harry, Hermione, & Ron on their journeys.
I cannot actually recall exactly when I first read these complex and incredibly rich fantasy novels, especially since I’ve re-read them several times since. However sometime in late middle or early high school I was first introduced to Lyra Belacqua and her alternative world–and I’ve been a little bit in love ever since. These novels are multifaceted and intricate; every time I revisit them, I discover new details and layers. During my senior year of college, I wrote a paper exploring the connection between John Milton’s portrayal of Eve in his epic poem Paradise Lost and Lyra’s role as a ‘new Eve’ in The Amber Spyglass. While I enjoyed writing many papers during college, there were few I found as satisfying as that one.
I read my first Tamora Pierce novel in middle school, sometime in 7th or 8th grade. I have a distinct memory of completing Alanna: The First Adventure during the late hours of a sleepover; the evening had only emphasized the fact that while I wasn’t a complete outcast yet, I didn’t have any real friends. At that point in my life, my sense of self felt as tenuous and confused as my social life. But when I read about Alanna (and later Daine & Keladry), I was not only transported–I was transformed. Alanna and Pierce’s other brave, complex heroines refuse to be anyone but themselves; they embrace their strengths and pursue their dreams despite sometimes overwhelming obstacles. And when I disappeared into their world, I felt reassured that I could do the same.
My love for Tamora Pierce’s works also persisted beyond middle and high school. I made connections with friends during orientation week in college when we discovered our mutual love of these books. While working as a counselor and library assistant at my former high school’s summer ESL program, I introduced a student to the Alanna books on a hunch and was overjoyed when she devoured them. At the time I was already seriously considering going to graduate school to become a teen services librarian but that experience confirmed my decision definitively. When Tamora Pierce did an author visit to the school I now work at, it was difficult to tell who has more overwrought with excitement–me or the fans among my students!
While Tamora Pierce’s books provided lots of high fantasy action and complex female protagonists, I was always looking for more and Robin McKinley’s many novels fit the bill perfectly. The Blue Sword & The Hero and The Crown are classic high fantasy adventures and coming of age tales full of action and romance while her many fairytale re-imaginings (including Spindle’s End, Beauty, Rose Daughter, and Deerskin) are by turns whimsical, dark, and fascinating. Also, like the others on this list, they feature compelling and multifaceted heroines. They remain some of my favorite novels to this day and within the last few years I’ve happily recommended to both students and friends; just this past summer, I gave a copy of The Blue Sword to a friend as a wedding/honeymoon present.
During the winter and early spring of senior year of college, I was working on my senior thesis while also nervously awaiting news about graduate school. Amidst this perfect storm of anxiety, I picked up Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore. Both novels focus on highly powerful young women who are seeking not only to protect their countries but to discover truths about themselves and their destinies. I not only fell in love with Cashore’s rich character development and compelling stories, I also felt a strong personal connection with the novels. I might not possess supernatural powers or be able to save a nation but I too was struggling to discern my future and understand my own potential.
Which books have become part of your story?
-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac