Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2025) Featured Review: SWARN by Jennifer D. Lyle

  • SWARM by Jennifer D. Lyle
  • Narrated by Krystal Hammond
  • Blackstone Publishing
  • Release date: November 7, 2023
  • ASIN: B0CCSVDLPP
  • ISBN: 978-1728270913

A super intense story of survival. 

Thanks to climate change the world has warmed and a swarm which has laid dormant for centuries has resurfaced and they are hungry! 

This plot driven story begins as an average school day for 16 year old Shur and her classmates, until she notices an unusually large butterfly outside of her classroom window. Soon after her discovery, cell phones begin buzzing with a flood of emergency reports that these butterfly-like monsters have invaded all 7 continents and people should stay indoors or shelter in place.

As the confusion and tension mounts, Shur, her twin brother Keene, and their 2 best friends, Jennifer and Nathan, flee the high school parking lot in an attempt to make it to their respective homes, but first they must pick up Shur’s brother Sean, aka “Little” from daycare. Terrified, they finally make it to Shur’s suburban home unscathed, only to find this will be their last stop. The Swarm is rapidly increasing and the teens must hole up alone and are forced to fend for themselves.  Shur, the protagonist, is riddled with extreme anxiety and panicked thoughts resulting from the death of her father a few years earlier. What the teens don’t  know is that the butterflies are only the beginning; the next onslaught will be deadlier, and even closer to home.

Krystal Hammond’s narration captures all the fear, anxiety and resolve of each character’s voice. Shur’s coping skills are strained to the max, and yet she is not as fragile as the others think. Hammond’s believable performance conveys Shur’s inner thoughts showcasing her unique perspective on how to navigate this apocalyptic setting to keep them all safe. The angst-filled narration propels the plot forward causing listeners to anticipate what could possibly happen next and to wonder if the world could actually survive such a swarm.

Jennifer D. Lyle has written a vivid portrayal of terror made all the more exhilarating by Krystal Hammond’s narration. Part apocalyptic science-fiction, part horror survival story with a sprinkle of teen crush, makes SWARM an audiobook with a little something for everyone.

Recommend for ages 13 & up.

-Ellen E. McTyre

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2025) Featured Review: Under This Red Rock by Mindy McGinnis

  • Under This Red Rock
  • by Mindy McGinnis
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
  • Release date: March 19, 2024
  • ISBN: 9780063230415

Neely knows the voices she hears are hallucinations, but she’s afraid to burden her family by telling them about her schizophrenia, especially in the aftermath of her brother’s suicide. She finds comfort and stability in the local cavern attraction and is even lucky enough to get a job there as a guide. However, her stability upends after she tries drugs at a party and her coworker and crush, Mila, is found brutally murdered in the caverns. Neely can’t shake the fear that she was the one who did it. 

Under this Red Rock isn’t just a mind-bending psychological thriller. It’s also an open-ended invitation for the reader to reflect on their biases about mental illness, as well as a reminder that it’s okay to ask for help. Hypnotic and harrowing, this book will stay with you long after you put it down.

This book is for teens who like twisty mysteries that remain grounded in realism. Give it to fans of Courtney Summers and Kathleen Glasgow, but note that the story contains depictions of drug use and violent imagery, including a graphic description of a suicide.

-Yona Yurwit

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.
The Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee appreciates teen feedback as members evaluate the nominated titles. Teen librarians are encouraged to share the List of Potential Nominees under consideration with their patrons and solicit feedback using the link: https://bit.ly/BFYA25TeenFB

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2024) Featured Review:The Spirit Bares Its Teeth by Andrew Joseph White

  • The Spirit Bares Its Teeth
  • by Andrew Joseph White
  • Publisher: Peachtree Teen
  • Release date: September 5, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781682636114

Silas Bell has ambitions of being a doctor and has some training on anatomy and surgical technique. However, Silas, a trans boy, has been tutored into submission to hide his autism and will likely be forced to marry as a doting housewife. He is sent away to a school for girls to cure their “Veil Sickness,” a claimed madness that afflicts violet-eyed people who can speak with the dead. Several girls go missing, and their ghosts begin to speak to Silas, launching him into a violent and twisted quest for the truth. 

This is a complex and compelling horror, mixing paranormal and psychological elements that will enchant readers. An exploration of the harm done to those that are “other” by society, with biting critique and deep compassion, White’s story set in the Victorian era feels eerily current.  Silas offers a well-developed protagonist, alongside a powerful cast of secondary characters. 

Teens seeking gory historical horror, with a deeper examination of various forms of oppression will find this a must read.  Readers who loved White’s Hell Followed with Us will definitely want to check out this title. Additionally, this would be a good pick for fans of The Honeys or The Wilder Girls.  

-Kaitlin Malixi

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: January 24, 2023
Release Date: April 18, 2023
Release Date: March 14, 2023
Release Date: May 2, 2023

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.
The Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee appreciates teen feedback as members evaluate the nominated titles. Teen librarians are encouraged to share the List of Potential Nominees under consideration with their patrons and solicit feedback using the link: https://bit.ly/BFYA24TeenFB

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2024) Featured Review: This Delicious Death by Kayla Cottingham

  • This Delicious Death
  • by Kayla Cottingham
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
  • Release date: April 25, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781728236445

When melting ice-caps cause a new pathogen to be released into the world, an event called the Hollowing begins and those infected with the pathogen must consume human flesh or risk turning into a monster. Luckily, scientists are able to quickly create a synthetic meat allowing those infected with the pathogen to lead relatively-normal lives. All is going well until people start disappearing from a music festival. Can Zoey, Celeste and their friends figure out what is happening before the Hollowing takes them over? 

Cottingham has crafted a novel that is equal parts terrifying and responsive to modern-day teen issues. Underneath the body horror there are currents of Covid-19 trauma, fear of global warming, and a queer-normative story. The book is fast paced and keeps readers engaged while meeting teens where they are.

Teens who enjoy horror and thrillers with social commentary will like this book. Similar titles are The Getaway by Lamar Giles and The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson.

Content warnings for: body horror and cannibalism.

-Zoe Smolen

Other Nominated Titles

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.
The Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee appreciates teen feedback as members evaluate the nominated titles. Teen librarians are encouraged to share the List of Potential Nominees under consideration with their patrons and solicit feedback using the link: https://bit.ly/BFYA24TeenFB

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2024) Featured Review: In Nightfall by Suzanne Young

  • In Nightfall
  • by Suzanne Young
  • Narrated by Elena Rey
  • Books on Tape | Listening Library
  • Publication Date: March 28, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780593667934

After their parents’ divorce, Theo and her brother Marco are packed into a car to spend the summer in their father’s hometown of Nightfall, Oregon. The rainy little town is cute in a touristy way, but Theo still misses her friends, the sunshine of Arizona and her mother- even if they aren’t speaking. When the siblings meet their strange, antisocial grandmother she says she has only one rule: be home by dark. On that first day, Marco and Theo meet a group of beautiful, fun girls. Minnow and the other girls seem to take a liking to the siblings and at first, it seems like it won’t be a completely boring summer. But soon, Theo discovers that her grandmother’s warnings weren’t just superstition: the streets of town and its residents change once darkness falls. And when Marco gets pulled into the glamour of their new friends, Theo realizes that she’ll have to be the one to keep her family safe. 

Young’s vampire story is full of an eerie ambiance. Readers who enjoy spooky tales and vampires will be pulled into the story. Rey’s narration keeps the reader engaged, enhances the chilling atmosphere and portrays a realistic teen point of view. Great for readers who enjoyed The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig, The River Has Teeth by Erica Waters and the classic vampire film The Lost Boys.

–Natalie LaRocque

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2024) Feature Review: The Black Queen by Jumata Emill

  • The Black Queen
  • by Jumata Emill
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press
  • Imprint: Penguin Random House 
  • Release date: January 31, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780593568545

Nova is set to be the first Black homecoming queen at Lovett High School. Her friend Duchess is thrilled to finally have representation on the homecoming court and sees it as a start to fighting racism at her school. Popular, white Tinsley was supposed to be homecoming queen and carry on her family’s tradition of being crowned queen. When Nova is found murdered the night of her coronation, everyone, including Duchess, suspects Tinsley. But as the investigation goes on more clues develop and soon Tinsley and Duchess are teaming up to find the true killer and bring justice for Nova.

The combination of social justice, petty high school drama and twisty mystery make this a fantastic ride of a read. The mystery is solved at just the right pace with clues and suspects falling off one by one until the final reveal. The commentary on institutional racism in schools and small towns helps drive the story forward and gives even more depth to the plot. 

Readers who enjoy books that are more than just a thrill will devour this quick read. Also those who enjoy small town murder-mysteries. For those looking for another complex mystery with hints of social justice should read Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé or The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson.

– Rachel Adams

Release Date: April 3, 2023
Release Date: September 13, 2022

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers (#QP2024) Feature Review: Funeral Girl by Emma Ohland

  • Funeral Girl
  • by Emma Ohland
  • Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
  • Imprint: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Release date: September 6, 2022
  • ISBN: 9781728458007

Georgia’s parents run a funeral home so she is surrounded by the dead. It seems only natural that she can also communicate with ghosts by simply touching a corpse.

Initially this ability seems to give Georgia purpose as she can honor one last request from the dead before they cross over. But eventually, one of Georgia’s classmates dies unexpectedly and enters the funeral home. She is torn over if she should reach out to this body and risk learning the truth. What would readers do if confronted with the same situation?

Readers who are curious about life-after-death and interested in ghosts and ghost hunting will find this title appealing. Additional recommendations include Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson, Horror Hotel by Victoria Fulton and Faith McClaren, and Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider.

– Jessica Lorentz Smith

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: November 8, 2022
Release Date: January 24, 2023

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Amazing Audiobooks Featured Review: The Depths by Nicole Lesperance

  • The Depths
  • by Nicole Lesperance
  • Narrated by Phoebe Strole
  • Publisher: Books on Tape/Listening Library
  • Publication Date: September 13, 2022
  • ISBN: 9780593630631

Addie is dragged along on her newlywed mom and step dad’s honeymoon trip to a remote tropical island. She is recovering from a deadly freediving accident and wants nothing but to return to the water. Eulalie Island promises to be the best place to heal, but Addie quickly learns that the island is hiding many deadly secrets. After discovering the trapped spirit of a young girl, Addie is determined to solve the island’s mysteries and set her free. But, she will need to be careful because she could easily become the island’s next victim.

Author Lesperance crafts a setting that feels like a character in its own right. The beauty of the island artfully hides the rotting horrors within and the narration of the story send chills down listeners’ spines. Each time the narrator, Strole, mimics the island’s birds trilling Addie’s name, the story becomes more haunting and impossible to shake.

Fans of Natalie D. Richards, Stephanie Perkins, and Lumara by Melissa Landers will enjoy this suspenseful production of The Depths.

-Sarah Carpenter

Other Nominated Titles

November 8, 2022
January 10, 2023
September 13, 2022
February 7, 2023

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Marvelous Meta-Horror for Halloween Season

Horror is at its scariest when it puts you into the perspective of its terrified victims, but if you’ve read or watched widely in the genre, it can be harder to feel those vicarious thrills, especially when you’re busy yelling at the characters to stop being so stupid. Enter meta-horror: where your extra knowledge of the genre is part of the fun. In meta-horror, the characters may realize that events are happening like in a horror movie; or the story may break the fourth wall and deconstruct horror tropes to do something unfamiliar. It may be as simple as including “wink-wink” references that a horror fiend may be delighted to recognize. Either way, these meta-horror books, movies, and games can be scary, clever, or funny, or all three. You can recommend these titles to your high school teen horror buffs who are looking to put their horror knowledge to good use.

BOOKS

Alone, by Cyn Balog (Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers 2019 nominee)

Seda’s mother inherits a crumbling mansion that was once a murder mystery hotel. Her mother is supposed to renovate and sell it, but she seems more interested in keeping it in the family. Seda likes all of the secret passages and macabre decorations at first, but it turns oppressive when a blizzard strands a group of teenagers at the house. To keep their new guests entertained, her mother decides to host a murder mystery like in the old days.

Continue reading Marvelous Meta-Horror for Halloween Season

Science Fiction and Horror Anime

Is there a void left in your horror-loving heart by the lack of a new season of Attack on Titan? Hopefully this post will get you through until there is an official release date for season two.  All of these recommendations feature graphic bloodshed and gore galore. They have been broken into three categories; steampunk, aliens, and stories from the monster’s’ point of view. The anime titles that headline each category definitely straddle that Teen/Adult territory where violent science fiction and horror media is often caught. Sensitive readers beware, these titles are not for the faint of heart; or stomach, for that matter.

If you like your horror to have a steampunk twist, watch: Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

(This title is so new to the US market that it has not been assigned a rating, but Amazon.com’s Viewing Restriction coding is currently classifying it as a Mature title)

Kabaneri of the Iron FortressThe Kabane have overrun Japan. Once a person is bitten they join the ranks of these difficult to kill and viciously hungry monsters. Set during an alternate industrial revolution where the remaining population of Japan is restricted to fortress stations, the only safe way to travel is by steam powered trains whose transit lines are controlled by elite families.

The twelve episode series has been described as Snowpiercer meets Attack on Titan. An ongoing show, this is a top notch survival-action horror anime with no manga adaptation (…yet).  It has the same alternate reality/history flavor as Attack on Titan.

…then read:

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

This 2011 Michael L. Printz award winner may be set in the future not the past, but the post apocalyptic thriller still deals with class division of the disenfranchised. The action sequences and travel elements are sure to keep the attention of any fan’s of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress.

Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein by Gris Grimly, adapted from the book by Mary Shelley

Want more creatures with consciences and experiments gone awry? This graphic novel adaptation of the trials of OG mad scientist Victor Frankenstein and his gentleman monster is a fresh and visually stunning take on the classic story.

If you prefer alien invasion horror stories, watch: Parasyte: The Maxim

(rated TV-MA on the Internet Movie Database)

ParasyteAlien pods fall from the sky, and the horror that emerges from each casing is driven by one need:  to consume a human host, take over their identity and then continue feasting on humanity until they take over the planet. The alien that attempted to consume high schooler Shinichi Izumi missed his brain and instead takes over his right hand. Now that Migi is fused to his nervous system and the two are neither wholly alien nor human they must work together in order to survive both the aliens’ appetites and the humans defending their lives.

The manga of Parasyte, written and illustrated by Hitoshi Iwaaki, came out in 1988 and the whole series has a classic 80s horror movie vibe. It was clearly heavily influenced by the special effects in John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982, Rated R)(MPAA www.mpaa.org.  A series of extreme violence in all of its iterations, but where the manga suffered from a lack of developed female characters, the anime steps up to the plate and a compelling story emerges that explores personhood while really torturing it’s main character.

…and then read:

The Animorphs Series created by Katherine Applegate

A group of humans and one alien are given the ability to morph into any animal they have contact with. Their goal is to protect humanity from an invading force of extra terrestrials with the power to merge with the brain of their human hosts. Intrigue and fairly gory action abound this 54 book series where the enemy aliens could be anyone and anywhere. No one is safe.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Waves of attacks by aliens technologies have battered all of humanity but Cassie has a mission. She has to rescue her young brother, and she won’t let anything stop her. Even Them. The stakes are high in this series, and, like in Parasyte, the challenges of survival will push the main character to her breaking point.

If you prefer read something from the point of view of the monster, watch: Tokyo Ghoul

(rated TV-MA on the Internet Movie Database)

Tokyo GhoulAn experimental surgery saves the life of college student Ken Kaneki after he barely survives a violent attack. When he discovers that he has inherited the same craving for human flesh as his attacker, he is suddenly immersed in an underground society full of territorial monsters and struggles to find a way to survive without losing his grasp on his humanity.

Both this extremely popular show and the manga it was based on by Sui Ishida show sequences with graphic dismemberment and torture. The newly turned Ken’s isolation and self loathing make the series intense emotionally as well as visually, but the anime’s pace is slightly accelerated and the beautiful animation makes the show a bit easier to engage with than the book.

…and then read:

Dust by Joan Frances Turner

Jessie’s life after death is disrupted when an infection begins to spread through the zombie population. A complex weave of characters, balanced with viscerally grotesque descriptions of mealtimes make this a unique read.  Jessie is a practical sort of zombie and she stirs your sympathies even as she horrifies you with her table manners.

Fracture by Megan Miranda

Delaney survives after eleven minutes beneath the surface of an iced over lake and comes back … different. The only person who seems to understand her inexplicable connection to death is Troy, but can she really trust him? What is she willing to give up to find out more about these new feelings? This book has a slow build, but the subtle sense of dread eventually expands to the same level of intensity as the more introspective sections of Tokyo Ghoul.

— Jennifer Billingsley,  currently reading Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.