Five Reasons Why You Should Be Reading Rainbow Rowell

1. Rainbow Rowell writes books for teens and adults. They are amazing! Rowell’s books are perfect for adults who don’t typically read “teen” fiction. These are stories anyone will enjoy.

2. Rowell’s books will remind you what it’s like to be young (the good and the bad). Eleanor & Park is set in 1986 and features a soundtrack filled with bands such as The Smiths, U2 and Joy Division. Landline switches back and forth between the present and the late 1990s and authentically represents today’s culture and the 90s alternative scene.

3. Real, imperfect characters. Relatable characters who aren’t perfect, but who are perfectly written, can be found in all Rowell's novels.

4. These books will make you cry, but in a good way.

5. You are looking for a different kind of love story. The characters are not your typical hero and heroine of romantic fiction and their love stories, though agonizingly real and heart wrenching, are just a part of the larger story.

Read one, or all, of Rowell’s books and tell me if you feel the same way. Read Eleanor & Park which is about struggling new girl, Eleanor, who is bullied at school and suffers through a problematic home life. Comic books, a Walkman and mixed tapes unite Eleanor with the unlikely Park. This book isn’t your typical teen romance, and there is lots more going on than just the love story aspect. Fangirl is about a girl, Cath, who uses her obsession with fan fiction as a safety net until she is forced to venture out into the world. If it’s just fiction written for adults you are looking for you can read Rowell’s first published novel, Attachments, which features a love story developed through email. Or you can read Rowell’s newest novel which is written for adults called, Landline. This novel features Georgie McCool, a Los Angeles based sitcom writer, with a struggling marriage. Despite numerous technologies and methods of communication, it is a landline telephone in her childhood bedroom at her mother’s house that connects Georgie to her past and her present in this unconventional love story. Rowell is a great voice in contemporary fiction and one both teens and adults might enjoy. While her next book isn’t due out until late 2015, you can find Rainbow Rowell’s work in an upcoming anthology titled, My True Love Gave to Me, which is set to be published in October 2014.


Book Bomb! Heroes & Sidekicks & Villains, Oh My

With the growing success of the super hero genre in cinema and in broadcast media, stories of wind-blown capes and extraordinary abilities, apocalypses and advanced intergalactic civilizations have unsurprisingly made the leap to the top of current lists of bestselling literature.

Here are titles that have taken familiar ideas of super-powered beings and given them new literary life:

V is for Villain, by Peter Moore, while not completely original, brings something a bit more fresh than the usual fare.  Brad Baron stands out from the other teens at his high school, not because of his genius-level intellect, but because the average teenager at his school is endowed with some form of superpower (ability to fly, super-strength, you get the idea).  On the opposite scale from his brother who is the epitome of a superhero (super-strong, flies, ridiculously handsome, not too bright), Brad feels almost human… until he meets Layla, who shows Brad that while he may not have the typical superhero abilities, what he does have could be just as powerful… and so NOT heroic.

Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson, is a shiny new addition to the superhero genre, the first in The Reckoners series.  Sanderson is known for writing fresh exciting stories with characters you really become invested in, and there is always more to his narrative than what lies on the surface.  In the near future, a mysterious event called Calamity causes some people to develop superhuman abilities which instead of inspiring them to be heroic, unfailingly corrupts them, turning all these powered beings into tyrants and dictators.  David, a human teenager, burns with the need to avenge the death of his father at the hands of the indestructible Epic known as Steelheart.  All Epics have a weakness, and David, who witnessed his father’s death, may have seen Steelheart’s, if he could only figure it out…

In the Mistborn Trilogy, another excellent series by Brandon Sanderson, people gain access to superhuman abilities by “burning” different types of metal they’ve ingested.  For example, steel allows them to push and pull against metal objects, giving them the ability to leap and soar, while tin sharpens all the senses a hundred-fold. Vin, a young girl from the streets, is one of these people, a rare legendary type of Allomancer called a Mistborn.  Read a full review here.

Dark Star, by Bethany Frenette, begins as a typical superhero tale, then *BOOM* there go the tights and knickers.  Audrey Whitticomb has always assumed that her mother, the famous superhero Morning Star, was out fighting crime at night.  Then come the life-shattering discoveries, that what her mother has actually been fighting is so much worse than just bad guys and supervillains, that her mother isn’t actually a superhero, she’s something else, and that Audrey’s own growing powers have a purpose for which she could never have been prepared for.
Burn Bright, sequel to Dark Star, is also available.

In the futuristic world of Icons, by Margaret Stohl, extraterrestrial monolithic structures enslaved the world in a day, arriving on Earth to release a pulse of energy that killed millions instantly and shut down all electrical technology.  No one is immune to this deadly pulse, at least that’s what everyone assumes, but Dol remembers the day the Icons arrived because she was in the blast zone, a toddler as she watched her parents die like a switch going off in their heads *click* and the light was gone from their eyes.  There might be others like her, other Icon Children who cannot be controlled by that alien energy, but the Icons are hunting them, because their immunity is only the least of their potential…

Idols, sequel to Icons, is also available.

The Darkest Minds, by Alexandra Bracken, poses the question: What if the apocalypse has come… and it’s wearing the face of your child?  In a not too distant future, a mysterious disease has killed most of the children in America.  Those that survived are different, with terrifying abilities that forced the government to round them up to live in “rehabilitation camps.”  Sixteen-year-old Ruby has been incarcerated in the worse camp of them all since she was just ten, but when she’s offered the chance to escape she takes it, sending her on the run with people who have an agenda of their own.  And they’re not afraid to use children to get what they want.
Never Fade, sequel to The Darkest Minds, is also available.

Poison Princess, by Cressla Cole, first volume of the Arcana Chronicles, is a smidge more dark and mature than your typical teen dystopian novel, but it’s undeniably suspenseful, with intriguing paranormal elements.  A global cataclysm rocks the world proving that the visions Evie's suffered are not delusions.  Armageddon is only the beginning as she and twenty-one other teens are being called to fill roles that have been played out throughout the course of time immemorial, those of the Major Arcana, each one of them vying for superiority over the others in a supernatural Hunger Games that will leave no survivors except one.  As Evie’s poisonous abilities as the Empress grow, so do her visions of one who has won more games than any other, the immortal youth who has loved her, and killed her, over and over in their past incarnations: the Major Arcana called Death.
Endless Knight, sequel to Poison Princess, is also available.

Starcrossed, the first in a series by Josephine Angelini, reminds me of the Percy Jackson series in that it takes the threads of classic Greek mythology and weaves them into something contemporary.  Sixteen-year-old Helen Hamilton has always tried to hide herself, not the easiest when you’re too tall, too strong, too fast, with a presence that attracts unwanted attention.  Being a wallflower becomes even more difficult when the things from her nightmares spill out into the waking world, strange women only she can see hound her steps, and the members of a new family in town act like they know her, especially Lucas, too tall, too strong, too fast, with that familiar otherworldly presence.  Someone might even call him a Greek god, but the truth… the truth may not be too far off.
Also available is Dreamless, sequel to Starcrossed, continuing Helen's story which concludes in Goddess.

Click on any of the titles to visit the OC Public Libraries website and get a copy today!


What Kind of Person Will You Be?

It’s a familiar story; nerd catches the eye of a bully. Although on the surface Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina is about bullying, ultimately it is about choices. It is told in a genuine language that is a fusion of English and Spanish, showing these struggles aren’t limited to a certain culture or gender.
Piedad “Piddy” Sanchez has to go to a new school when she and her mother move. When Piddy is told Yaqui Delgado wants to beat her up, she has no idea who Yaqui is and what Piddy did to warrant her rage. Piddy doesn’t need this added frustration on top of keeping up her high GPA, working weekends at Salon Corazon, beginning a romance with her old neighbor, Joey Halper and trying to understand why her mother is so secretive about Piddy’s absent father. Piddy’s best friend and confidant, Mitzi, has also moved. Mitzi has a whole set of new friends and doesn’t seem have time for Piddy, so she is on her own. Piddy has to decide whether to live in fear or get help and be a despised narc.

The strong Latina women whose words ring in Piddy’s ear are her single mom, Clara, and her mom’s best friend, Lila. Medina convincingly portrays the circumstantial elements that can lead an urban youth to fall from being an academically accomplished student to a possible drop out. Piddy’s painfully realistic battle to disentangle from this pointless harassment will inspire anyone who has ever been a target, or a witness to bullying to stand up and speak out.


Seal Beach Teens Recommend…

At the Seal Beach Mary Wilson branch of OC Public Libraries we recently set up a display -- creatively collaged by our Teen Advisory Board (TAB) -- at which middle schoolers and high schoolers can recommend titles to their peers.  Quite a few TAB members and other teens have already added their favorite books to the display.  Below I’ve included a few of their suggestions.

Read the graphic novel Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 1: Cosmic Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis before the movie comes out on August 1st!  This first volume in a new series begins with details about the backgrounds of the Avengers included: Star-Lord/Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, Groot and Iron Man.  The Guardians must defend Earth, Star Lord’s home planet, against invading Badoon forces.  This adventure is a mix of humor and dramatic space battles.
Another teen recommendation is Welcome to Bordertown: New Stories and Poems of the Borderlands (Holly Black, ed.).  In this anthology both runaway human and elfin teens go to Bordertown, a place on the border between their two worlds, to find themselves and a little fun too.  The first Bordertown anthology, The Essential Bordertown: A Traveller’sGuide to the Edge of Faerie (Terri Windling, ed.), was published in 1998.  It is credited with being a precursor to the urban fantasy genre.  In 2011 Welcome to Bordertown was published.  Some of the authors of The Essential Bordertown, such as Charles de Lint and Ellen Kushner, return in this new anthology, joined by authors such as Cassandra Clare, Cory Doctorow and Neil Gaiman.  The volume includes twenty stories (including one in graphic novel format), poems and songs.

Teens still love the classics, as evidenced by the several timeless books recommended by Seal Beach teens.  One of these is Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. In this early 17th century novel, Alonso Quixano, a man of modest means who lives in the Spanish countryside, becomes so enamored of the great tales of chivalry that he decides to become a knight himself, righting the wrongs that he encounters. In his travels he is accompanied by Sancho Panza, who acts as his squire.  Fueled by Quixano’s/Quijote’s imagination, the two become involved in a sometimes humiliating and often humorous series of misadventures.

In Helen Eve's Stella Caitlin Clarke lives in New York City, but when her parents decide to divorce she is sent off to a strict boarding school in England.  The prized position in this British school’s social hierarchy is held by the malicious Stella Hamilton, who welcomes Caitlin into her select group of “Stars”.  Stella’s goal is a relationship with the most popular boy in school and election to Head Girl.  And Stella is not one to cross.  As Caitlin herself becomes popular, she learns that many students are not happy with Stella’s power.  Caitlin must decide whether to pursue becoming Head Girl herself or return to the U.S. to see her little brother.  The story is told through Caitlin and Stella’s alternating viewpoints.

Nancy Farmer's The House of the Scorpion won the National Book Award as well as Newbery and Printz Honors.  This unique novel is one of my personal favorites.  In this dystopian tale, lying in between the U.S. and Aztlán (the former Mexico) is an area called Opium, ruled by a 142-year-old drug lord, El Patrón.  Matteo Alacrán is a clone of El Patrón and has spent his childhood in seclusion, raised by a caregiver.  At a certain point Matt begins to live at the Big House on the Alacrán estate.  However, it soon becomes clear that El Patrón plans to harvest Matt’s organs.  With the help of a few allies, including his bodyguard and a good friend, Matt attempts escape.  And the adventure only continues from there.


What is Literary Nonfiction? – Part 2

In Part 1 of this blog, I introduced the concept of Literary Nonfiction: richly written books that foster an interest in reading for information. It is sometimes also called narrative nonfiction. We can expect teachers and students to be looking for this type of book as the Common Core curriculum is implemented over the next few years.

Here are some examples of literary nonfiction that should appeal to a variety of readers.This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few suggestions to get you started. Click on the links for book summaries and OC Public Libraries locations. Add your own suggestions to the "Comments" below!

 Nonfiction for K-3rd Grade

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave. Hill, Laban Carrick. 2010. XP 738.092

Jimmy the Joey: The True Story of an Amazing Koala Rescue. Rose, Deborah Lee. 2013. XP 599.7861

Nasreen’s Secret School: a True Story from Afghanistan. Winter, Jeanette. 2009. XP 371.8234209581

Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle. Dennis, Brian. 2009. XP 636.70929

Owen and Mzee: Language of Friendship. Hatkoff, Isabella. 2007. XP 599.635139

Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum. McCarthy, Meghan. 2010. XP 664.6

Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs. Muntean, Michaela. 2012. XP 636.70887

Waiting for Ice.  Markle, Sandra. 2012. XP 599.7861

Nonfiction for 4th- 6th Grade

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci. D’Agnese, Joseph. 2010. XI 92 FIB

Dewey the Library Cat: a True Story. Myron, Vicki. 2010. XI 636.8009

       XI 92 SCI

Pharaoh’s Boat. Weitzman, David. 2009. XI 932.012

Remember Little Rock: The Time, the People, the Stories. Walker, Paul Robert. 2009. XI 379.263

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball.  Nelson, Kadir. 2008. XI 796.35764