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Tag: sarah rees brennan

YA Books to Make You Laugh Out Loud

CC photo by Flickr User Joao Paulo de Vasconcelos
CC photo by Flickr User Joao Paulo de Vasconcelos

One of the most frequent readers’ advisory questions I get is  also one of the most complicated. Often, a reader asks for a “funny” book. But what does that mean?

Humor is subjective. Some readers might be looking for a book with slapstick-y humor, others might appreciate darker humor, like satire. Some readers don’t mind a book with bits of humor but more dramatic themes overall, others just want an easy, breezy comedy.

Bottom line: matching books with readers looking for a funny book can be tricky.

Since April is National Humor Month, it seemed like a good time to break down the subcategories of humor and offer suggestions for readers looking for funny books.

Satire

Satire is the use of humorous exaggeration to expose and criticize, particularly in the context of politics or culture.

beauty queensBeauty Queens by Libba Bray (2012 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 Amelia Bloomer List, 2012 Rainbow List, 2014 Popular Paperbacks) is about a group of beauty pageant contestants who crash land on an island: hilarity ensues. But while a less adept writer might have just mocked the beauty-obsessed girls, but instead, she creates complicated characters who for various reasons—money, love, approval—have all bought into the rigid standards beauty pageant contestants are expected to embody, and in the process, critiques consumerism , reality TV, and of course, pageants.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults) is the story of Jennifer Strange, a wizard for hire who becomes the last dragonslayer. Like Bray, Fforde critiques the corporate world and consumer culture in this fantasy series sure to put a smirk on reader’s faces.

Teen readers who love satire should also check out the classics from authors like George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut. 

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What Would They Read?: Supernatural

There are certain fandoms I’ve been apprehensive to take on due to their immense fanbases.  I definitely breathed a sigh of relief when I coSupernatural_-_Season_9mpleted the blog posts for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly and realized that they turned out to be successful.  I’m still debating when I’m going to dive in and take on Doctor Who.  It’s probably my most frightening concept to date, but I promise it will happen.  I just need a little more psyching up and then I will do it.  Today, however, I will attempt to impart my recommendations for one of my favorite shows of all time: Supernatural.

The basic plot of Supernatural is a something that has been recently retold in a variety of YA books.  It’s a basic story about two guys (in this case, brothers Dean and Sam Winchester) who travel around and take on a plethora of supernatural and paranormal creatures while dealing with their own personal demons which range from recovering from a trip to purgatory to actually being the human embodiment of Lucifer.

anna dressed in blood There are three books in particular that resonate as perfect readalikes for the series.  First, Sarah Rees Brennan has a series that begins with The Demon’s Lexicon(Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten, 2010).  In this book, two brothers, Alan and Nick, hunt demons avenging their dead father and taking care of their crazy mother.  There are definitely similarities between Alan and Nick and Dean and Sam are very evident.  Perhaps the Winchesters can take a break and read a bit about another duo who fight the evils lurking in the dark.

A second selection to seek out is Anna Dressed in Blood and its companion, Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake.  The main character is a  boy named Cas, who coincidentally shares his name with the Winchester’s angelic friend.  Cas travels around with his witch mother and a cat that can sense ghosts.  Dean and Sam will find comradery with Cas as he sets off to avenge his father’s death while wielding an athame with the the power to destroy ghosts.  Like Sam Dean, Cas is challenged to overlook his predispositions to kill ghosts and determine whether or not this particular case involving the spirit called Anna Dressed in Blood is not quite like the others.

Finally, I would definitely hand over Kami Garcia’s new series called “The Legion.”  Garcia’s series begins with Unbreakable.  The story begins with a female protagonist named Kennedy who finds her mother murdered by something supernatural.  She only survives due to twin brothers named Lukas and Jared who whisk her away from danger only to inform her that there will definitely be more danger down the road.  In turns out that Kennedy, the twins, and two others are the descendants of members of a group called The Legion that fight against ancient evil spirits.  Secret societies full of knowledge regarding the killing of all things evil?  Sounds a bit like the Winchester’s new discovery, the Men of Letters, only with a lot less resources.  Now that I covered a few titles that Sam and Dean can share and read together, here are a few titles specifically chosen for each of their personal tastes.

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Contagious Passion: Characters Doing What They Love

“The things that you do should be things that you love, and things that you love should be things that you do.” -Ray Bradbury

Passion is contagious. I love hearing people talk about what they love. I’m sucked into their story, even if they are describing something I didn’t find remotely interesting prior to that moment. This is just as true for me in fiction as it is in real life. I am almost immediately won over by characters in a ruthless pursuit of a passion, whether it manifests in a career aspiration, hobby, vocation or, dare we say, calling. Below are just a few characters and their passions I have enjoyed sharing.

Labors of Love:

CathFangiFANGIRL_CoverDec2012-300x444rl by Rainbow Rowell

Cath is a passionate reader and a fan of the fantasy series featuring boy wizard Simon Snow. But Cath isn’t just a fan, she is an active participant in the fandom.  As “Magicath,” she writes Simon Snow fanfiction, first with her sister and then on her own. Writing fanfiction serves as an escape when her own life is difficult or lonely, and it’s Cath’s own fan base that, in part, helps her gain the confidence she will need to write original characters that tell her own unique story. Fangirl readers not only get to read Cath’s story throughout the novel, but her own Simon Snow fanfiction as well.

Will and her friendsWill and Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge; Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens

If I had to give an award for the most unique hobbies I have ever encountered in fiction, I would give it to Wilhelmina and her friends. As Will introduces her friends to the reader, one of the first things we find out about each of them is what they are passionate about.  Will makes her own lamps mostly out of objects found in her aunt’s antique shop, her friend Autumn practices puppetry, Noel is constantly baking, and his little sister Reece makes up-cycled jewelry.  Readers looking for a graphic novel offering some D.I.Y. inspiration need look no furNothing Can Possibly Go Wrong Coverther than Will and Whit. One thing I love about Will and her friends’ hobbies is the way they find ways to share them with their community.  When Hurricane Whitney sweeps through, causing a town-wide blackout, and leaving locals bored, Will and her friends each contribute their talents to a makeshift arts carnival. With a phobia of the dark and a tragic past, making lamps becomes a way for Will to cope with her fears and, eventually, process and express her emotions.

Nate, the robotics club, and the cheerleaders Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen, Illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks; Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens

Nate is president of the high school’s robotics club, a small but dedicated group, struggling for their school’s meager extracurricular funds.  Unfortunately, the school’s cheerleaders are just as dedicated and want the same funding for their cheer uniforms. Though the two groups initially have it out for each other, they become united by their lack of money, and use a cutthroat robotics competition as a last ditch effort to win prize money.  My favorite part of this graphic novel is that two groups bond over the fact that they both love what they do, even though what they love couldn’t possibly be more different. Nate and his friends have to deal with stereotypes surrounding what they love, but they fight them with an inspirational vengeance. (Cheerleaders are NOT dumb, and don’t EVER tell a girl that she shouldn’t be into robotics!)

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Is This Just Fantasy?: It’s A White, White World–And That’s Got To Change.

Just Fantasy PoC fantasyAs a life-long devotee of fantasy fiction, I’ve frequently defended the value of stories that feature dragons, magically gifted heroines, or angst-ridden werewolves.  And while I’ve often stated that fantasy fiction isn’t necessarily an escape from reality simply because it includes magic or ghosts, even the most committed fan must acknowledge that the genre is incredibly disconnected from reality in fatal ways.  For one, fantasy fiction remains an overwhelmingly white world–an area of literature where you might find vampires or psychic detectives but rarely characters of color.

This lack of diversity is a widespread problem in young adult literature and the larger publishing industry but speculative fiction is especially guilty of inequitable representation within its stories and industry.  Just last week, The Guardian published an article by speculative fiction author & essayist Daniel José Older  discussing the insidious ways that systemic racism and white privilege has permeated the science fiction and fantasy publishing & fan communities.  At last month’s YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium, there was an entire panel titled “Where Are The Heroes of Color in Fantasy & Sci-Fi?”, which Hub blogger Hannah Gómez recapped with great accuracy & insight.

So, how do we, as readers, fans, & promoters of these genres, demand & nurture fiction with imaginary worlds as diverse as the one we live in?  To start, we need to read, buy, promote, and request titles by and about people of color.  Accordingly, I pulled together some authors and titles to check out, focusing on fiction that falls on the fantasy side of speculative fiction.  This list is far from comprehensive; for more titles, I recommend checking out Lee & Low’s genre-specific Pinterest board, Diversity in YA, and We Need Diverse Books.

High Fantasy

2004 Edwards Award winnerearthsea Ursula K. Le Guin has long been considered one of the best and most beloved high fantasy writers; she’s also consistently written stories with people of color as protagonists–although film adaptions & book covers have often blatantly ignored this, white-washing characters like Ged, the brown-skinned protagonist of A Wizard of Earthsea.  The 2013 Edwards Award winner Tamora Pierce also includes characters of color in her novels; her Emelan books feature both black & multiracial protagonists.

silver phoenixFans of thrilling adventures & complex heroines should try novels by Cindy Pon, Ellen Oh, or Malinda Lo for rich high fantasy tales rooted in a variety of East Asian cultures.  Cindy Pon’s lush & exciting Silver Phoenix and its sequel, The Fury of the Phoenix follow young Ai Ling as she discovers her unique abilities and battles an ancient evil based in the royal palace. Ellen Oh’s Dragon King Chronicles (beginning with Prophecy) also focuses on a powerful young woman struggling to embrace her destiny–the yellow-eyed demon slayer Kira who might be the key to saving the Seven Kingdoms from destruction.  Malinda Lo’s Ash (2010 Morris Award finalist, 2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults and Huntress (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 Rainbow List, 2012 Amelia Bloomer List) are richly imagined, romantic novels I recommend to all fantasy readers!

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Popular Characters’ Stories Continued – Only on E-book

What Really Happened in PeruDo you want to read more about Cassandra Clare’s intriguing character Magnus Bane from both her Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series? Are you dying to know more about gorgeously evil Warner, the guy Juliette loves/hates in Tahereh Mafi’s book Unravel Me and its sequel Destroy Me? If so, you’re in luck because a lot of popular authors have written e-novellas, e-novelettes or e-short stories for you to read while you wait for the next print book in the series to be published.

For some reason, I’ve only just realized how many books by my favorite authors are available exclusively in e-book format. I’d say they are the next big trend but I’d be wrong. A number of series have been coming out with e-novellas and e-short stories since at least 2012.

Assassin & the Pirate - Sarah J. MaasThe first e-novellas that I read were the four that were released after Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults). After being lucky enough to get a copy of the sequel Crown of Midnight at BEA in June and reading it immediately, I kept impatiently checking the pub date for the next book in the series. That’s when I found the four novellas (The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, The Assassin and the Desert, The Assassin and the Underworld and The Assassin and the Empire), all set about a year and a half before the events of Throne of Glass, and only available as e-books. All are stand-alone stories that tell how Celaena Sardothien became a feared assassin and ended up imprisoned in the Salt Mines of Endovier.

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Genre Guide: Urban Fantasy for Teens

Urban FantasyDefinition
Urban fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy. For a novel to be an urban fantasy, fantastical elements exist in an urban setting. However, this can be a broad interpretation. Really, an urban fantasy is such where fantastical elements are in play in a real-world setting and not in a fantastical world. Urban fantasies occur in the present day, and can go back in history to around the start of the Victorian Era. When urban fantasies are written for teens, the protagonist or protagonists are often inexperienced when it comes to dealing with the fantastical forces at play. They are also usually drawn into a struggle, find romance, and/or develop their own fantastical abilities.

Authors to Know

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Showing Our True Colors: YA Covers That Got it Right in 2012

Publishing companies aren’t putting out enough YA titles that feature protagonists of color. And when they do, some book covers try to hide or obscure the characters’ race by showing them in silhouette or in shadow, or at times whitewashing them completely. Even the most diverse library collections sometimes look homogenous when you just see the covers. Don’t believe me? Check out my post from last week: “It Matters If You’re Black or White: The Racism of YA Book Covers.”

The problem is insidious, but it’s not completely pervasive, as many of you pointed out in the post comments last week. There are a lot of publishers, authors, and books that have no problem putting people of color on the covers of their books. So I just wanted to take a moment to recognize and celebrate those folks who understand how important it is for everyone to be able to see their own identity validated on the cover of a book. Here are some books covers that got race right in 2012.

Ichiro by Ryan InzanaA.D.D.: Adolescent Demo Division by Douglas RushoffNever Fall Down by Patricia McCormickBoy21 by Matthew Quick

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Staking the Vampire

Smile! Your days are numbered!

It’s the beginning of the end, folks–for the Twilight series that is. As any Twi-fan knows, Breaking Dawn, Part 1 premiered last weekend, and it’s only a matter of time until “Part 2” wraps up the series in a happy little bow. Whether they like the Twilight saga or not, astute commentators must agree that those books changed the shape of teen literature, propelling paranormal romance, and vampires, to the top of the charts.

But have the blood-drinking sophisticates started to overstay their welcome? November 14th’s Hub poll determined that of all the trends in teen literature, “Vampires” was the one most Hub readers wanted to see go. So The Hub is here to ask the question “What next?” Towards which creature should we direct our adulation–or mockery? Who will put the stake in the vampire trend? Let’s examine the options.

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