Urban fantasy is set in magically injected alternate universes where limousines carry lycanthropes around or suburbs conceal super-powered mages. Think Harry Potter, not The Lord of the Rings. These titles range from action adventure, to comedy, slice of life and romance. Today we will travel to alternate universes populated by warring magic users, corporate ladder climbing demons, and undersea middle school students.
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works
The Holy Grail War is a deadly competition. The winning mage has the chance to make a wish and change the world. Some masters will do anything to win this prize. Shirō Emiya has stumbled into this terrifying tournament, and he doesn’t know how to use his powers. Will he be able to survive the coming battles? Who do you trust when at the end of the tournament, you may be may be facing your closest ally?
Each master calls on a Legendary Hero to help them fight in the tournament. Most of the action takes place at night, and the darker color palate of the series leads to some jaw dropping animation of magical duels.
Note: “Unlimited Blade Works” is based off a single storyline from the visual novel Fate Stay/Night the same name (a kind of interactive animated game, like an animated “choose your own adventure” book). There have been numerous video game, manga and light novel adaptations and spinoffs of this series, but the anime “Fate/Zero” is a prequel.
Much of diverse young adult literature is contemporary, realistic fiction, or historical fiction about the struggle of being a person of color. As a teen library worker, I get to know the personal lives of teens and some of their stories are heartbreaking. From poverty to bullying, I recognize that the struggle is real and I am happy to be a non-judgemental adult soundboard. I am also grateful for the plethora of young adult fiction available so that I can hand a book to a teen I feel will provide some insight and comfort.
But when life is tough, many teens also like to escape into fantasy and science fiction. Readers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror also like to see themselves in these books. If people of color can survive slavery and oppression and poverty, they can also survive zombies and maniacal kings and dragons. So, where are the black Hermiones?
I am a teen services specialist and a major part of my job is to connect teens with books. I have an avid reader, who is Middle Eastern, who asks me to recommend fantasy books about once a month. A year ago when the We Need Diverse Books movement started, I asked her to do a cue card about why we need diverse books and she stated that she would like to see more Middle Eastern characters in fantasy. A little over a year later, I gave her The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh and she came back and absolutely raved about the book. She said that she particularly loved the inside cover because there was a girl who looked and dressed like her. This is one reason why we need diverse books.
If you are a library worker looking to enhance your diverse young adult repertoire or a teen reader looking for yourself in a magical world or a speculative fiction reader seeking something new, here’s a list of speculative young adult fantasy/science fiction titles for you to try. Please note that some titles feature characters of color in a supporting role—but that’s okay because Hermione was a supporting character, too. Continue reading Diversity YA Life: Diverse Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror
This is my second year participating and completing The Hub Reading Challenge. I am an avid reader of all things YA- enjoying all genres in YA especially nonfiction, novels in verse, and series books. This year I discovered I had read many books on the list. So I decided to push myself and delve into audiobooks in the Challenge. Below are just a few of the award winning titles I listened to and RECOMMEND in the Amazing Audiobook section of the 2015 Hub Reading Challenge.
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira was awesome. Laurel is still reeling from the death and loss of her older sister, May. Laurel has transferred to a new school. In English her first assignment is to write a letter to a dead person. This assignment begins a year- long letter writing campaign from Laurel to Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, River Phoenix, Amelia Earhart, Amy Winehouse, poets and many more…What I liked about these letters is that Laurel researches each subject and the reader learns about the lives of these dead people and we see parallels to May, Laurel, and her family. As Laurel struggles with her guilt, her silence, her own self- image, and her idealization of May…who will she become? As a reader, I savored the New Mexico setting, the flawed (but real) characters, the letters, and Laurel’s journey. Teens will relate to Laurel, Sky, Natalie, and Hannah in their daily lives and interpersonal relationships in high school.
Acid by Emma Pass – I couldn’t stop listening as Jenna Strong is imprisoned by the police (the most barbaric force known as ACID) for murdering her parents when she was 15 years old. But all is not as it seems; if you love action, suspense, and thrillers; you will not soon forget Jenna’s world of lies, espionage, and sinister brutality—what will she do to remember her life as it was and as it is now? This audiobook has riveting plots, characters (nasty and nice) and a dystopian world you won’t forget! Continue reading Reader Response: Amazing Audiobooks
This past year I had the immense pleasure to serve as chair for the 2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee. It was a really great year for audiobooks and my committee was fortunate to consider a total of 395 audiobooks for our selection list! After hours and hours of listening, we had to whittle down a list of no more than 30 selections that were the year’s best. If you have not yet had a chance to checkout our list you can see it here. It was released last week, after the Midwinter Conference.
We also had the even more difficult task of selecting our Top Ten Audiobooks of the year. Below are our Top Ten titles for 2015, along with a suggested listen-a-like, in case you are ahead of the game and have already listened to these Top Ten selections.
2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Top Ten
ACID by Emma Pass, read by Fiona Hardingham with Nicholas Guy Smith and Suzan Crowley. Listening Library, 2014. 10 hours, 48 minutes; 9 discs. 978-0-8041-6832-8.
The brutal police state ACID rules all, so when Jenna is broken out of prison by a rebel group she has to fight to survive as ACID’s most-wanted fugitive. Unique ACID reports and recordings read by Smith and Hardingham’s excellent pace combine with her authentic teen voice to highlight this exciting story.
Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger, read by Moira Quick. Hachette Audio, 2013. 9 hours, 30 minutes, 8 discs, ISBN: 978-1-4789-2648-1.
In the second installment of the Finishing School series, Sophronia and her classmates use their training to search for a dangerous device that may have fallen into the wrong hands. Quick’s lively narration highlights the wit and humor in Carriger’s story.
The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, read by Miranda Raison: The Finishing School series, narrated by Quirk, is filled with sly humor but also packs a punch with Sophronia’s adventures. Likewise, The Screaming Staircase is not only is an action-packed steampunk mystery, but Raison brings variety to her narration by highlighting the nuances of the quirky cast of characters characters, including the darkly comedic Anthony Lockwood. (Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2014)
Happy Halloween! Out of the many staple characters that pop up every Halloween–the ghosts, the vampires, the mummies, etc.–few have the depth and diversity as the ever-evolving, always enchanting witch. One of the last vestiges of Pagan culture to remain with us, the witch is a reminder of feminine power, of matriarchy, and of the dark histories that have accompanied these women throughout the ages. In honor then of the witch and all she represents, enjoy this round-up of recent and older tales that are steeped in the world of witchcraft and witch lore.
Let’s begin with one of the great classics of Pagan-inspired literature and, by many accounts, the best retelling of the Arthurian legend, Marian Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. The book (and series) relives the events of King Arthur’s court through the eyes of the women involved, namely Morgaine, Gwynhwyfar, Morgause, and Viviane. Largely the story of Morgaine, a sorceress and Priestess, the book is notable not only for its overt feminism but also for providing such a rich, emotionally layered, and ultimately thrilling story centered on the dynamics of power–between men and women, Christianity and Paganism, love and duty. Written for adults, it is entirely suitable for older teens many of which will devour it in one sitting!
Lynne Ewing’s series, Daughters of the Moon (a YALSA Quick Pick), is an older series that deserves to be rediscovered by current teens! It follows the lives of four teenage girls who each possess special abilities because they are daughters of Goddesses. They are destined to fight an ancient evil named The Atrox, a task that drives the majority of the plotline. The series offers a nice blend of romance and adventure, while also realistically exploring the ins and outs of teenage life. Great for both middle and high school students, this epic urban fantasy is a quick read that is sure to appeal to lovers of the Mortal Instruments and Bloodlines. Continue reading By the Pricking of My Thumbs: A Witchcraft Round-up
In an alternative United Kingdom, White witches practice good magic, while reviled Black witches are judged as evil. Nathan is being raised by his maternal grandmother along with his half-siblings, all White witches. Nathan has a different father than the rest of the brood, however. Nathan was conceived in a presumably brutal coupling between their White witch mother and the notorious Black witch, Marcus. He is half White, then, and half Black.
As Nathan grows, it becomes clear that he has Black tendencies: he cannot bear to sleep indoors, he is prone to swift bouts of fury, and he can heal himself miraculously. But Nathan also has his gentle side, and is capable of loyalty and love. And he wonders, why does he have to be White or Black? Why can’t he just be as he is?
The lyrics to the song Demons by Imagination Dragons remind me of Nathan:
When you feel my heat /Look into my eyes
It’s where my demons hide / It’s where my demons hide
Don’t get too close / It’s dark inside
It’s where my demons hide / It’s where my demons hide
-Diane Colson, currently reading an advance reader’s copy of Uncaged by John Sandford & Michelle Cook