Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Carrie Ryan

In this post-apocalyptic thriller, Mary lives in a village that has been surrounded by a fence since she was born, staving off the zombies that live in the forest of hands and teeth.  It's been generations since the world has been struck down by this plague, and when Mary's own mother is infected, the stories her mother passed down to her about the vast ocean is one of the images that keeps her going in a world with few possibilities.  Mary has the option to either marry and raise a family or join the Sisterhood.  The best thing about this book is the Sisterhood.  The religious order of nuns runs the village and harbor many dark secrets: secret rooms, journals about the zombies, and knowledge about the gates just past the village that lead into the forest.  It's a really gripping mystery that is slowly unraveled in the first half of the book, before events spiral out of control.  Then it sort of becomes more of your typical zombie story.  Loved ones are bitten, they get surrounded, etc.  It's too bad that Ryan couldn't keep the momentum of the earlier chapters going throughout this entire book, but it was still quite entertaining throughout.  One of my favorite moments actually took place in later chapters, where Mary encounters a chest full of clothes and she wonders about the woman who owned them and what became of her.  It's a haunting moment going through an empty house like that, looking down at zombies amongst whom the owner might be.  I like that this takes place several years removed from the actual infection, as it makes things more interesting, especially as the main characters try to figure things out that seem so foreign, and are so familiar to us.  It's a neat book, and a good choice to read going into October.  The Forest of Hands and Teeth has also spawned two sequels so far.  The Dead-Tossed Waves is in hardcover currently, and features a new character that lives in the world that Mary lives in, with the third title, The Dark and Hollow Places, being a direct sequel to The Dead-Tossed Waves, due out March 22, 2011.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New Releases 9/28

Here are the big teen releases due in stores on Tuesday:

by Lauren Kate

The Exiled Queen (The Seven Realms Book 2)
by Cinda Williams Chima

Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking Book 3)
by Patrick Ness

Belle of the Brawl (Alphas #3)
by Lisa Harrison

I Shall Wear Midnight
by Terry Pratchett

by Diana Peterfreud

Sphinx's Queen
by Esther Friesner

Girl, Stolen
by April Henry

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Teen Retro: Christopher Pike

Christopher Pike's Weekend was the first young adult book that I ever picked up, and I became an insatiable reader of the category immediately after.  Pike's books are well-written, thoughtful and often stick with you, as Pike was quite philosophical in many of his books.  It's really no surprise that this pioneer of the medium is still quite a force in young adult literature since much of it was formed from his pen.  Lately, a few of his series have been republished in omnibus editions, most notably The Last Vampire in the form of Thirst, but others as well.  He still has quite a back catalogue of books yet to be repackaged, many of which are still viable for today's market.  Pike was well ahead of his time, and it shows.  One of the more recent Pike books to get a new edition is Remember Me (1989), one of the earlier books I read from the author, about a girl who wakes up in her bed following a party to discover that she's a ghost.  It's been ruled a suicide, but she knows that that can't be true, and goes on an investigation of her own to uncover the truth.  The book spawned two sequels, which are collected in an omnibus edition with the original book.

Original synopsis, from the publisher:

"She didn't understand that she was dead.

When Shari Cooper awoke at home after being at her girlfriend's birthday party, her family acted like she wasn't there. They didn't hear a thing she said. They wouldn't even look at her. Then the call came from the hospital. Her father and brother paled. Her mother started to cry. Shari didn't know what was wrong. Not until she followed them to the hospital. There she found herself lying on a cold slab in the morgue. The police said that it was suicide, but Shari knew she had been murdered.

Making a vow to herself to find her killer, Shari embarks on the strangest of all criminal investigations: one in which she spies on her friends, and even enters their dreams -- where she comes face-to-face with a nightmare from beyond the grave. The Shadow -- a thing more horrible than death itself -- is the key to Shari's death, and the only thing that can stop her murderer from murdering again."

Also recently collected are two of Pike's first novels, Slumber Party (1985) and Weekend (1986).  When I was reading young adult books in the 90's, much of the young adult "thriller" section was taken up by slasher books.  Lots of mystery and dead bodies.  These earlier works are of this genre, and have been collected together in the book To Die For.

Original synopsis of Weekend, from the publisher:

"The dream became a nightmare.

The weekend in Mexico sounded like a dream vacation.  Four guys, five girls - and a gorgeous oceanside mansion all to themselves.  It should have been perfect.

Except nothing was going the way they'd planned.  There was the girl upstairs who was fighting for her life.  The phone lines that went dead.  And the explosion in the garage that could have killed them all.

But not even that prepared them for what happened next.  Because while they were getting some sun, someone else was getting revenge - and the terror wouldn't stop until the weekend was over."

And The Last Vampire (1994), one of my favorite Pike novels, originally had five sequels, all in a row, and got more philosophical as they went along, but remained completely engrossing.  Even today, the vampires and werewolves are most often the male love interest of female protagonists, so it's nice to see a capable female protagonist vampire in this story, well before the huge vampire boom. The omnibus editions split the six books up into two volumes, and I'm happy to say that Christopher Pike is continuing the series with new material in the form of a third volume of Thirst, also known as The Last Vampire (Volume 7): The Eternal Dawn, avaiable in stores in a few short weeks on October 5.  He has also just released another new young adult book in hardcover called The Secret of Ka

I think The Last Vampire is a good example of not only how Christopher Pike was progressive in terms of storytelling, but how he thought about young adult novels.  The Last Vampire isn't so much as a series of sequels as a cycle of books that continue one into another.  Back when this was first published, teen books were usually around 200 pages, sometimes more, more often less.  But altogether, Pike's The Last Vampire, between the six volumes, is around 1,200 pages, and as we see from the current market, is split nicely into two volumes.  This more long-form story that Pike wanted to tell was ahead of its time, which is why many teen authors from the 80's and 90's have multiple works collected into big omnibus editions.  If someone published a YA book that was 150 pages, it would hardly seem like a young adult novel now so much as a novella.  But that's the type of story that Pike seemed interested in telling, especially toward the latter part of his career when he wrote The Last Vampire, and it seems that the culture has caught up to him.

Synopsis of the original The Last Vampire, from the publisher:

"She thought she was the last vampire.

Alisa Perne is a five-thousand-year-old vampire.  For ages she has hunted humanity, loved humanity, but now someone hunts her.  Who is this person - what is he or she?  Another vampire?  Alisa is not sure.  She thought she was the last of her kind.

Alisa has only one lead to follow.  A detective, Mike Riley, has tried to blackmail her.  In haste, before she could learn everything he knew, she killed him.  Now she must go after the detective's son and find out what his father knew.  Fifty centuries old, and she must enter high school and befriend Ray Riley, a handsome, shy boy who will attract her like no mortal has in centuries.  Ray will make Alisa think the unthinkable, to make another of her kind, something she hasn't done since ancient times.

But will Alisa use Ray to help protect her from the mysterious enemy?  Or will she just use him as bait?"

Monday, September 20, 2010

New Releases 9/21

Here are the big teen releases in stores this Tuesday:

Twelfth Grade Kills (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod #5)
by Heather Brewer

The Replacement
by Brenna Yovanoff

The Genius Wars (Evil Genius #3)
by Catherine Jinks

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Teen Retro: Roswell High

With the success of I Am Number Four, a wave of young adult books featuring aliens can't be far behind.  One YA series of aliens that I read growing up and remember loving was Melinda Metz's Roswell High (from 1998), the book series that was eventually translated to TV as Roswell.  As you can see from the pictures below, after five books of original covers, they released the other books in the series with covers of the actors who played the characters on the show (including Katherine Heigl and the delicious Jason Behr), eventually going back and rereleasing the first five books to match (although it was too late for me by then).  The original covers were pretty cheesy.  When the series came out, they obviously made the books much sleeker (although admittedly, they still look a bit lame), and designed a better logo to go along with them.

Synopsis, of book one, from the publisher:

"Liz has seen him around.  It's hard to miss Max - the tall, blond, blue-eyed senior stands out in her high school crowd.  So why is he such a loner?

Max is in love with Liz.  He loves the way her eyes light up when she laughs.  And the way her long, black hair moves when she turns her head.  Most of all, he loves to imagine what it would be like to kiss her.

But Max knows he can't get too close.  He can't let her discover the truth about who he is.  Or really, what he is...

Because the truth could kill her."

Shortly after Roswell High had concluded, Melinda Metz wrote another YA series called Fingerprints, about a girl who is able to hear what people were thinking at the moment they left their fingerprints behind on objects.  She gets these psychic impressions when she comes into contact with those fingerprints herself.  Back in July, this series began to be collected in those fashionable omnibus collections as Echoes, including the first three books of Fingerprints.  And on September 21st, an original paperback will be released by Melinda Metz, co-written with Laura J. Burns, about vampires, called Crave.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Ally Condie

Not too often does a book come along that's really hard for me to put down, but Ally Condie's debut novel Matched is one such book.  The book is about an Utopian future where the government has a tight leash on its citizens, planning time for all of their activities, exercise, eating, what they eat, where they go, etc.  They also match each person with their ideal genetic mate.  Cassia Reyes doesn't question much in her life.  She wasn't raised to.  But then she is matched to her best friend Xander Carrow.  It's kind of a relief, as she doesn't have to worry about what her husband will be like, but it also takes the excitement out of the event.  Until she takes a look at his datafile, and it is momentarily replaced by another boy, Ky Markham, and she slowly realizes that, while it's forbidden, she may be falling for him.

Like Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, this book is about revolution in the face of an oppressive government.  But while The Hunger Games saw the protagonists fight back with bows and arrows, Matched is much more subtle.  In fact, Cassia doesn't even realize how controlled her life is until she finds a poem that her grandfather has stashed away.  In this Utopian future, only 100 songs, 100 poems, 100 stories, etc have been selected as sufficient entertainment.  The poem that her grandfather has hidden over the years speaks words of rebellion that light a fire in her.  After she reads this poem, she begins to think differently, observing her life in a new light, even speak and talk in different ways.  It changes her life.  And one change that she wants is Ky Markham for herself.

Ally Condie seems to effortlessly build this world with unique characteristics.  And the subtlety of how her prose changes with her character is brilliant.  It's a much slower read than readers of The Hunger Games will be used to, but the ideas in Matched are much more powerful.  I loved this story, its heart-breaking forbidden romance between Cassia and Ky, the dangerous moves that Cassia plays in the face of the government, the startling revelations and turns that the story takes.  It's all executed beautifully and will make people think about what they've read long after they've put it down.

Matched will be in stores 11/30/2010.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Teen Retro: Vampire's Love

Welcome to to my first semi-regular feature on TEEN-sy Little Book Blog.  In Teen Retro, I'll post the covers of some old teen titles and talk about them a bit.  My first subject is the series Vampire's Love by Janice Harrell.  I'm actually pretty surprised that this hasn't been rereleased with all of the repackaging of older material going on.  This two-volume series was originally put out by Scholastic in 1995 and featured, well, a romance between a human and a vampire.  The vampires in this story are much more traditional than the sparkly vampires of nowadays, with vampires turning into mist and whatnot, but still, I see plenty of appeal in this rather action-filled paranormal romance for today's readers.  And I know that Christopher Pike's The Last Vampire was recently republished as Thirst, and features a female vampire, but it would nice to see more ladies taking charge in these paranormal romances as the tortured "monsters."

Synopsis, from the publisher:

"A Tortured Soul...

Rina is beautiful, mysterious, and alone.  She was sixteen when her mortal life was stolen - two hundred years ago.  Now she walks the earth cursed.  Undead.  But that was before James...

A Human Heart...

James knows there is something very strange about Rina.  He has never met anyone so mysterious - or so deadly.  But James has a girlfriend who'd do almost anything to keep Rina away from him.  What Chelsea doesn't know is that Rina is a vampire: Her love for James is almost as powerful as her need for blood.  And Rina always gets what she needs..."

Monday, September 13, 2010

I Am Number Four

Pittacus Lore

I Am Number Four, the first book in the Lorien Legacies, is written by Pittacus Lore, which is a pseudonym for James Frey (author of the controversial biography Million Little Pieces) and Jobie Hughes.  The story follows John, an alien who has been trying to blend in to human society in an effort to hide from alien pursuers.  He has a father figure, Henri, who helps him keep one step ahead of the bad guys.  It's really a neat premise, as a charm was put on nine children from Lorien who escaped, so that the evil aliens (Mogadorians) would be forced to kill them in order.  So if they found number six, they couldn't kill him or her before number five.  Each time the Mogadorians kill one of them, a scar appears on the surviving aliens, letting them know that the next kid is on the chopping block.  John is Number Four, so the moving around that he's been doing all his life is a little more intense this time around, as the third scar has shown up on his ankle, letting him know that it's his turn to be hunted.  A teenager now, powers (called Legacies) begin to emerge in John, giving him the ability to defend himself, but it takes a while for these powers to manifest, and even harder to learn to control.  And with death so near, John moves to Ohio with Henri and begins a new life again.  Unfortunately for him, this time he grows quite attached to the people he meets, and as the stakes get higher and higher, he doesn't want to leave the new life he's built for himself, despite the dangers.

It's not too hard to see the appeal of this book.  And it's refreshing to see a male protagonist in a young adult book, especially one with such a great action premise that's sure to appeal to fans of The Hunger Games.  The authors find a nice balance between the action and the quieter character moments, as John surrounds himself with some pretty amazing friends who go to great lengths to keep him safe.  The biggest thrill of the book is that constant danger of discovery.  He must hide who he is from the press, in case the Mogadorians should get wind of it, but also from his new friends.  He must lie about his past and hide his powers as they grow more noticeable.  Of course, every teenager feels like they don't fit in, and Lore taps into that pretty effortlessly.  The best relationship, however, is between John and Henri.  It's protective and frustrating and satisfying - in other words, very real.  Perhaps the most organic of friendships of any other in this book.

I find that the prose of this book is pretty straight-forward, and is easily accessible to a pre-teen audience.  The only thing that seems to push this into the teen category at all is the age of the characters.  One thing that really bugged me throughout the book was one of the big "reveals" at the end of the book.  The authors beat the audience over the head with something all the way throughout the book, hardly bothering to hide what it was at all.  I found it kind of insulting.  For those who've read this book, I think you know exactly what that secret is.  Despite its flaws, this is a great, fast-paced read.  I can hardly complain much about a book that I read in a few days because it was hard to set aside.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


This is one paranormal series that I really enjoyed when it was first coming out in the early 2000's, and like many series nowadays, it's being repackaged to include several books under one cover.  In this case, the first three books in the series following a group of blossoming witches, complete with a love triangle and struggles between good and evil.  I remember being shocked by some of the events in this series, and I'm sure this is a fine addition to the bookshelf of any Twilight fans out there.

This thick paperback is only $7.99.  And if you've read and love the Sweep series already, like me, then you'll be happy to know that author Cate Tiernan has another book out in hardcover this month, the first book in her Immortal Beloved trilogy, which received a starred review in Publisher's Weekly.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Teen Bestsellers

At my bookstore, we look at sales each week and have a bay designated for the ten bestselling teen hardcovers.  This is this week's breakdown (in order):

The Beginning

I grew up reading young adult novels, well before the current boom.  Over fifteen years ago, teen books were separated into a teen and a teen thriller section at the local B. Dalton where I used to shop in Minnesota.  Things are obviously much different now and young adult books now get much more respect than before.  But since I read that first teen book, Weekend by Christopher Pike (as part of a boxed set that included Diane Hoh's The Accident, that I brought with me on vacation), I was hooked.  Things are very different now, teen thrillers no longer segregated, and in fact, all the rage since Stephenie Meyer came onto the scene.  I read young adult books well into college, until I began to put them away for classic literature and adult books.  But now that I work in a bookstore, I find myself returning to teen fiction.  I still read classics and adult titles (and graphic novels by the dozen), but Young Adult titles still hold a special place in my heart.  Some of my favorite authors growing up were Christopher Pike, Nicole Davidson and L.J.Smith.  My favorite books back then were actually L.J. Smith's The Vampire Diaries (which I admitted during an interview to work in a bookstore to the confused look of the interviewer).  I'm glad to see a renewed interest in some of these older titles, especially L.J. Smith's Night World and Christopher Pike's The Last Vampire (being reprinted as Thirst).  And I also appreciate the high-quality new books we're seeing like Catherine Fisher's Incarceron and Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games.  It's an exciting time for young adult fiction, and as I've been writing teen fiction since I read my first couple of books, I hope to one day be among the scores of books in the booming category.