Today is Mardi Gras, the cumulation of Carnival celebrations before the start of Lent tomorrow. Lent is a specific time in the Christian calendar when believers are meant to fast and practice self-denial. Mardi Gras is sort of meant to allow people to go a little crazy before the austerity of Lent. The very name means “Fat Tuesday” – as in: eat a lot of rich foods today before you have to fast tomorrow!
In the United States, the celebration of Mardi Gras is most closely associated with New Orleans, Louisiana. There will be parades, balls, and dancing in the streets today and tonight down in “The Big Easy.” Of course New Orleans is more than just Fat Tuesday celebrations. There is a lot of history there including the civil rights movement and Hurricane Katrina. Perhaps some of these New Orleans-set YA novels will transport you mentally down south to New Orleans.
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa (2011 Teens’ Top Ten book)
A teenage girl’s baby brother is taken by fairies and as she chases after him, she discovers secrets about herself. Meghan has always felt different, she’s never fit in anywhere. Perhaps this is because she is half fey, half human, the daughter of Oberon, king of the fairies. As she pursues her brother, she discovers unlikely allies, love, and the fact that the Unseelie Court controls some humans…human who live in New Orleans.
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (2011 Michael L. Printz award winner)
In the future, sea levels have risen so much that the US coastlines have moved far inland. In an area that used to be New Orleans, Nailer works as a ship breaker, taking apart old, wrecked ships for scrap. It is a dangerous and dirty job, and young Nailer is always looking for more money and more opportunities. When a rich person’s gorgeous yacht beaches due to a storm, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot. But when he finds a girl on board, unconscious but still alive, he becomes torn between survival and doing the right thing.
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)
Josie is seventeen and dreaming of leaving home and going to a good college. Nowadays this is not unusual, but in 1950’s New Orleans, those are huge dreams for a girl. Dreams that are even further away when one realizes that Josie is the daughter of a prostitute and lives in a brothel. With her mother’s sketchy underworld connections dragging her down, will Josie ever be able to get out?
Orleans by Sherri L. Smith
In the year 2056, the entire Gulf Coast has been quarantined and separated from the rest of the United States due to an unrelenting outbreak of deadly Delta Fever. 15 year old Fen makes a promise to her dying friend: to get the friend’s newborn over the Wall and to the safety of the Outer States. As she makes this perilous trip, she is helped by Daniel, a young scientist who has snuck across the Wall to Orleans to try to study Delta Fever and find a cure.
Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi (2010 Popular Paperback for Young Adults)
When his mom remarries, Miles chooses to go live in New Orleans with his jazz musician father. They have some issues to work out – Miles much prefers football to jazz -but when hurricane Katrina hits the two begin working out those issues quickly. They have ended up in the Superdome, and what begins as a place of refuge quickly turns into a nightmare survival situation.
My Mother the Cheerleader by Rob Sharenow (2008 Best Book for Young Adults)
Change is coming to 1960s New Orleans: desegregation. Louise’s mother pulls her out of school when young Ruby Bridges becomes the first black person to attend classes at William Frantz Elementary. Her mother also becomes a cheerleader – an adult who stands outside the school each morning yelling racist insults at Ruby. Louise is not affected by these events at first. Everyone she knows understands that segregation is just the way life is. But then a man from New York takes a room at Louise’s mother’s boarding house and his viewpoint is quite different from anything Louise has ever encountered.
~ Geri Diorio, currently reading Seveneves by Neal Stephenson