Showing posts with label Teen Appeal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Teen Appeal. Show all posts

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Black Butler directed by Toshiya Shinohara

If you’re looking for a moody, supernatural anime with memorable characters and suspenseful plot, then this is the show for you!

Black Butler revolves around Ciel Phantomhive. Ciel is the most powerful and influential boy in England. He is rich beyond measure and has the bratty attitude to prove it. But Ciel also has a dark secret; after being forced to watch his parents’ murder and being abducted and tortured, Ciel sold his soul to a demon in exchange for revenge on the people who hurt him and his family. This demon—Sebastian--now serves as Ciel’s personal butler. Sebastian works with Ciel to solve the mystery of his parents’ death and find his vengeance while simultaneously protecting his own investment until it is time for the debt to be repaid.

Each episode in this series is a new adventure for the pair and for the other members of Ciel’s staff (all of which are hiding their own dark secrets) as they encounter other demons, grim reapers, and people who aren’t all that they seem. But as the group comes closer to Ciel’s objective, the price of his revenge weighs heavily. Despite the affection Sebastian shows for Ciel, his ultimate goal is unchanged: to eat Ciel's soul.

This show is suspenseful and dark but somehow manages to maintain a lighthearted playfulness at the same time. I sat in shock as the end drew near and kept thinking to myself, “Sebastian can’t eat Ciel’s soul; He wouldn’t! Would he?”

If you love the anime check out the manga of the same name: Black Butler by Yana Toboso. Or if you’re looking for a similar story without the art, try The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (the first book of The Bartimaeus Trilogy). These and more great titles are available at the Virginia Beach Public Library.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Archie:the Married Life

Who recommends reading Archie comics? They're dated, they're goofy, and they're old-fashioned, right? Well, not this series. Archie: the Married Life written by Michael Uslan and Paul Kupperberg tells the story of two different destinies for our hero. In one life Archie marries Betty and becomes a teacher and in the other Archie marries Veronica and gets involved with the Lodge family business. This is all possible when Archie takes a stroll down Memory Lane, and, in one time, chooses to take the path to the left and in the other takes the path to the right.

I'm not quite sure what originally drew me into picking up one of the Archie: the Married Life comics, but once I'd read one, I knew I had to go back and fill in the gaps. Though the characters are all drawn very true to the original Archie comics, these stories all deal with some very modern themes. There's the introduction of Kevin Keller, an openly gay friend who serves in the military and has an interracial relationship. Other minor characters from older comics come back and are dealing with serious subjects: cancer, divorce, and general life drama. There's also some fun pokes at modern "reality," because in one life Betty and Reggie are the subjects of a reality tv show.

All the favorite characters are there: Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie, Jughead, Midge, Myrtle, and Moose, but they all have sides to them that you've never seen before. You'll want to start reading this series now in Volume One, and you just might get hooked into staying to see that Archie is leading down a path that leads to his ultimate destruction. Let's hope Josie and the Pussycats come to his rescue!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sabriel by Garth Nix

For her protection, Sabriel attends a boarding school across the Wall from the Old Kingdom where her father, the Abhorsen, has the task of sending evil spirits back into Death. She knows something has happened to her father when his Necromancer's bells are brought to the school by magic, but she's scarcely ready to tackle the Old Kingdom's dangers by herself. 
Nix has created a vivid and terrifying world where the only thing more dangerous than magic is the wilful denial that it exists. His conception of Death is powerful and poetic. The Dead Hands and animating spirits are far beyond mere zombies in their menace and Mogget, the Free Magic being that is bound into the form of a small cat, is even stranger.

Fantasy readers who appreciate detailed, believable world-building, unfolding mysteries, and fully developed characters will be glad that this is the first volume of a trilogy. The second book is Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr and the third is titled Abhorsen. They are listed as the Abhorsen trilogy in the catalog, though they are sometimes called the Old Kingdom Chronicles. According to Wikipedia, another book in the series is scheduled for fall publication.   

Sabriel and its sequels remind me more of Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea stories or Patricia McKillip's Riddle-master trilogy than any of Nix's other series. As Nix observes, “A fantasy novel should be like an iceberg. The story is the visible ten percent but the reader should feel like there is another ninety per cent under the surface that they can't see: it's not in the story but they know it's there.“  

PS: The Clayr have the kind of library many would die to work in.  And if you like the series, you'll enjoy the extras on the author's website.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac

Lozen is named for a woman warrior of the Chiricuaha Apache. Because she has the strength and skills to destroy genetically-created monsters, her family is being held hostage by the people who run Haven. They were rich elites who had gene and biotech modifications to consolidate their control over the ordinaries. Then a strange phenomenon fried everything electronic on Earth and civilization was reduced to refuges like Haven, a former prison in New Mexico. The Ones, as they call themselves, still have their genetic enhancements but are crazed and horribly disfigured by the destruction of their implants.

Meanwhile, giant genetically-modified animals are on the loose, as are the Bloodless, victims of a mutated virus that confers vampire tendencies. Lozen is sent out to destroy the monsters that menace Haven. She tells us about her battles and her hopes of rescuing her family with shy dignity and humor. She draws on her Apache heritage for both skills and mystical strength. The result is an engaging narrator and breathless pacing. The landscape of the Southwest is as vividly brought to life as the monsters.

Like some others of Bruchac's novels, you could think of Killer of Enemies as science fiction or as fantasy, particularly because of the way he incorporates Indian beliefs. This book shares many of the aspects that made Hunger Games popular – a dystopian future with an oppressive elite, constant danger, and a heroine you care about.  Killer of Enemies received the 2014 Young Adult American Indian Youth Literature Award.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Summer Wars

Kenji is a typical teenage eccentric boy.  He excels at math, but is not so good with girls.  Kenji spends most of his time in the online world of Oz (basically a mashup between Facebook and Second Life).  He and his friend Takashi are moderators for the online world of Oz.  One day the beautiful Natsuki asks Kenji for a favor – to pretend to be her fiancĂ© at her great-grandmother’s birthday party.  While at Natsuki’s family home, Kenji receives a math problem over his phone, which he solves.  The next morning, the world is in chaos as Oz has been hacked and their prime suspect is Kenji.  Now with a rogue AI in charge of the government and utilities, Kenji and Natsuki’s family work together to make things right.

Summer Wars is an excellent commentary on how we use technology today.  With more and more services and information being kept online, it is easy to see how this information an be corrupted and its real world effects. This is also a story about a family and how old hurts can lead to horrible future consequences.  But, it also shows what wonderful things can happen when people put aside their differences and work together.  The animation in Summer Wars is absolutely breathtaking, with vivid colors and a blend of modern and traditional elements.  It is a treat for the eyes and for the soul.

You can find Summer Wars directed by Mamoru Hosoda on the VBPL Catalog.  If you enjoyed Summer Wars, you may want to try Evangelion 1.01 or Akira.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Jacob Portman used to love hearing his grandfather's stories.  His grandfather lived a fantastical life on an island with peculiar children.  Jacob enjoyed these stories until he was teased at school and then he stopped believing in them.  Years later, Jacob gets a frantic call at work from his grandfather.  Worried, he went to his grandfather's house only to find scenes of a struggle and his grandfather mortally wounded.  The last words his grandfather spoke were for Jacob to find the bird in the loop and to tell "them" what happened.  Just moments after his grandfather dies, Jacob hears a noise and to his horror, sees a monster and passes out.  At his birthday he receives a surprise gift from his grandfather - "The Selected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson," which contained a letter with clues to his grandfather's past.  Jacob convinces his parents a vacation in Wales would help him get better.  So he and his father travel to Wales and Jacob begins an adventure like no other.

Ransom Riggs has created such an eerily atmospheric novel that it is nearly impossible to put the book down. As more of the plot is revealed, you can’t help but read further to see what other photos will be revealed.  The characters are so fascinating and each one has such an interesting history that you cannot wait to learn more about them.  While the pace is slow, it only adds to the atmosphere and enhances the mystery of the narrative.   This is a great read for mystery or suspense fans with a bit of fantasy thrown in to make quite the gripping read.  You may want a light on if you read it at night.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a YALSA Teens’ Top Ten choice for 2012.  It is also on the Readers’ Choice and Best Fiction for Young Adults lists for 2012.

You can find Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs as well as the sequel, Hollow City, on the VBPL Catalog. If you enjoyed Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, you may want to try The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern or Hold me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

From Up on Poppy Hill

The year is 1963 and Japan is still recovering from World War II.  They are also preparing to host the 1964 Olympics.  There is much conflict for the younger generation as they are stepping into the modern area, but still clinging to their traditional past.  Our story takes places in Yokohama, where two high school students, Umi and Shun, discover a friendship.   Romance blooms between them as they both work together to restore a Meiji-era clubhouse.  Shun uncovers a buried secret that threatens to tear them apart.

From Up on Poppy Hill was written by the great Hayao Miyazaki.  As with many of his projects, this film is full of heart.  The animation is beautiful and transports you to this uneasy time in Japan’s history.  The pace is slower than some animated movies, but it makes the film seem more realistic.  As conflicts arise and secrets are discovered, one can’t help but cheer on the main characters.  From Up on Poppy Hill is quite lovely and one does not need to be a fan of anime to enjoy this wonderful film.

You can find From Up on Poppy Hill directed by Goro Miyazaki on the VBPL Catalog.  If you enjoyed From Up on Poppy Hill, you may want to try Wolf Children or My Neighbor Totoro.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Spectacular Now

I love New Adult books. If you don’t have the distinct pleasure of working in a library, allow Wikipedia to explain the genre. “The chief features that distinguish this category from Young-adult fiction are the perspective of the young protagonist and the scope of the protagonist's life experience. Perspective is gained as childhood innocence fades and life experience is gained, which brings insight. It is this insight which is lacking in traditional young-adult fiction”. Whatever that means.  As a great Supreme Court justice once remarked about pornography, “I know it when I see it”. And in Tim Tharp’s Spectacular Now, I see it. (New Adult fiction, that is. Not porn).

The Spectacular Now tells the story of high school senior, Sutter Keely, a young man whose taste for Seagrams 7 and insights on life are developed well beyond those of his teenage peers. Sutter is the guy you want at the party the night of, but don’t necessarily want to clean up after the next morning. Self-described as “God’s own drunk”, he sort of stumbles through life, narrowly skirting disaster, lying to himself and those around him, gathering a legion of admirers and adversaries along the way. What makes Tharp’s handling of Sutter’s story unique is the complete and total lack of a message. There’s no lesson to be learned here, kids;  no ominous warning about where he will end up ten or twenty years down the road because of his questionable choices. There is only The Spectacular Now. And for Sutter, that’s just fine.
Craving New Adult fiction the way Sutter craves a 7 and 7? Check out Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl or Attachments or Jamie McGuire's Beautiful Disaster. Hate reading? That's why they make movies! The Spectacular Now is also available on DVD from VBPL.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

It’s the summer of 1906 and Mattie Gokey has escaped her life on her family’s struggling farm for a paid summer job at a fancy Adirondack hotel on the shores of Big Moose Lake. Torn between following her dreams of being a writer and leaving for Barnard College in New York City, and her feelings of responsibility toward her family and budding romance with the handsome Royal Loomis, Mattie spends the hot summer serving the patrons of the hotel in silent contemplation.

But Mattie’s thoughts are turned upside down when a couple staying at the hotel goes missing and when the young woman, ultimately, turns up dead. The same young woman who urgently pressed a packet of letters into Mattie’s keeping only a short time before.

Left with resounding questions about life, death, and the future, Mattie begins to read the letters and slowly understands the fate of the young woman and realizes what Mattie wants for her own life.

Based around the real-world murder of Grace Brown, Jennifer Donnelly creates an unparalleled coming of age story. If you like A Northern Light, try Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, all available at the Virginia Beach Public Library.

Monday, January 06, 2014

The Scorpio Races [Sound Recording] by Maggie Stiefvater


A 2012 Amazing Audiobook for Young Adults (YALSA)
Maggie Stiefvater’s novel, The Scorpio Races, is a tribute to Welsh mythology. Every November on rocky Thisby island, a colorful celebration occurs centered around life or death horseraces at the edge of the sea. Sixteen year old “Puck” Connolly breaks tradition as the first female to race, riding her gentle mare, Dove, against powerful water horses. Sean Kendrick, four time winner of the race, is captivated by the ginger haired teen’s courage.
Who will win the Scorpio Races?
Stiefvater, entices us with melodic language, building up to a crescendo. Sean Kendrick’s first person narrative alternates with Puck’s, creating a romantic fairytale. You discover in the prologue that water horses, or capaill uisce, are flesh eating predators from the sea, monsters with a thirst for blood. Any rider who falls from his horse during the race is doomed!
Not only is Stiefvater adept at creating well developed characters, she enthralls us with the setting and the high drama of the races ; the ending is a surprise. An accomplished musician and artist, Stiefvater, known for the Shiver trilogy, was invited to speak at the Virginia Beach Central Library last fall. Someone in the audience asked her where she gets her ideas.  “Ideas are everywhere!" she responded, as she mimicked picking a few out of the air, like apples from a tree.
Music on The Scorpio Races compact disc is arranged by Stiefvater and her sister. Together they clap, stamp and, according to Stiefvater, "beat things with sticks" to create an eerie finale. I was so captivated by the story and English accents of the performers, I didn’t want this fantasy novel on audio to end. Afterwards, the author's monologue is the icing on the cake. Stiefvater is transparent, describing how she broke her tailbone when she slipped on kelp covered rocks during her research for The Scorpio Races and how she was inspired by a dusty library book about the Celtic myth of monster horses, embellishing the myth to make it her own.

The irreplicable The Scorpio Races was chosen an Amazing Audiobook for Young Adults (2012) .

If you like the performances of Fiona Hardingham and Steve West on the The Scorpio Races CD, check out the compact disc or audio version of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.  Hartman infuses music into her fantasy novel about dragons masquerading as humans.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Let it Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle.

Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle

When I was in high school, one of my favorite things do in the summer was to ride my bike to the library and check out a stack of Christmas romance novellas (generally published in collections of three).  I would go home and read them one by one, hoping the images of snow and ice would help me forget the heat of my non-air-conditioned bedroom.

Had it been published back then, I would have absolutely loved Let It Snow. This collection by three popular YA authors includes three inter-related novellas, all taking place in the same small town. Maureen Johnson starts off the collection with the story of a teenage girl, separated from her "perfect" boyfriend on Christmas Eve and heading to her grandparents' house by train. When the train is stalled by a blizzard, three different love stories are set into motion.

The perfect read for the holiday season, Let It Snow is light, funny, and romantic -- I can imagine reading it curled up in front of the fire with a cup of hot chocolate.  This is a pretty clean teen read, great for middle school readers and up.

Fans of any of these three authors should definitely check out this collection.  And if you need more Christmas romance? Check out Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan and Debbie Macombers Angels collections (my favorites back in those high school days).

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

Child prodigy Cadel Pigott is much too smart for his own good. At the age of seven he is already hacking into government computers and accessing top secret information. Fearful of Cadel's abilities and unsure how to keep him out of trouble, Cadel's adoptive parents block his access to computers of any kind and force him to attend therapy sessions three times a week with a psychologist by the name of Thaddeus Roth.  Unbeknownst to the Pigott's, Thaddeus actually works for world renowned evil scientist Phineas Darkkon, who also happens to be Cadel's biological father.  Together they encourage Cadel to utilize his talents in secret acts of sabotage, prepping him for the role he will inevitably play in his father's plot for world domination. After an unfortunate hacking incident at his school leaves him expelled, Cadel is enrolled in the Axis Institute for World Domination.  This uncommon institute of higher learning, founded by Cadel's father, specializes in teaching students important skills such as embezzlement, infiltration, and tax evasion. For the first time in his life, Cadel is surrounded by students that seem to understand his idiosyncrasies and share his advanced intellect, allowing him to make friends quickly.  However when students and teachers start disappearing under mysterious circumstances, Cadel starts to question the role he is playing in his father's evil scheme. Shocking twists abound in the highly explosive ending, making this 552 page read worth the investment. 

Large novels often intimidate me so I often found myself moving this book further down on my to-read list.  How could a young adult novel over 500 pages long not written by J.K. Rowling possibly hold my attention? The title of this book says it all. Jinks has written a wholly original story full of swift paced action and adventure that is, simply put, pure genius.

Evil Genius is the first in a decidedly entertaining three part series from Catherine Jinks. Readers who enjoy this series should be sure to check out Jink's other novels, including her newest release, How to Catch a Bogle. For other action adventure stories featuring evil geniuses, check out the Higher Institute of Villainous Education series by Mark Walden.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Attack on Titan, Volume 1 by Hajime Isayama

In the distant future the human race has been decimated by the giant humanoids known as titans.  The surviving humans have built a community encompassed by three walls.  There have been no titans and an era of peace for 100 years.  One day that peace ends by the sudden appearance of the titans.  Eren Yeager is an eager young man who wants nothing more to be on the illustrious Survey Corps, the faction of the military that actively goes out into titan  territory to learn more about them.  The day the titans return is the day that changes Eren’s life, as his mother is taken and killed by a titan.  Eren and his adoptive sister Mikasa are sent with the other refugees behind the next remaining wall to resume their life.  After losing his mother, Eren is more determined than ever to join the military and defeat the titans at any cost.
Isayama has created an interesting and action packed world.  Not all of the rules of this world are known and it is interesting the way pieces are revealed bit by bit.  If you pay attention  you can catch some of the foreshadowed information to see where the story is heading.  There is a lot of action and some violence, so if you have a weak stomach you may want to pass on this.  The art has been criticized for being out of scale and too basic, but I think it fits for the narrative.  I like the stark lines as it adds to what is occurring in the story.  My curiosity has been whetted and I can’t wait to continue on this wild ride and to learn more about the elusive titans as well.
You can find Attack on Titan, Volume 1 by Hajime Isayama on the VBPL catalog. If you enjoyed Attack on Titan you may want to try Berserk by Kentaro Miura or Pandora Hearts by Jun Mochizuki.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

Jessica Brockmole's epistolary debut novel deftly spans both World Wars with two interwoven love stories.

In 1912, just as World War I is breaking out in Europe,  Elspeth Dunn, a young Scottish poet, receives a fan letter from David Graham, an American college student.

Their letters are interspersed with letters from 1940, as Elspeth has disappeared and her daughter Margaret is trying to both find her, and figure out the story of her birth.

These letters are woven together so that details are revealed slowly and deliberately, drawing readers in and holding their interest.  Brockmole paints a lovely picture of the Scottish island of Skye, while also portraying the grim realities of war the rest of Europe.

Fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society or Code Name, Verity will definitely want to check this one out.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Graphic artist Lucy Knisley is known for her webcomics and her graphic memoirs (including her debut: French Milk).  

Her newest title is a chronological account of some of the seminal moments her life -- with food as the focal point.
The daughter of a chef and a gourmet, Knisley has been immersed in food culture since birth, and in this memoir she portrays in vibrantly colored illustrations how tastes have been central in her memories.

Her relationship with food is refreshing, as she enjoys gourmet cuisine and fast-food cheeseburgers with equal passion, and her illustrations make both look absolutely delicious.

Each chapter presents a specific moment in her life, and each includes an illustrated recipe, as shown below.

This memoir will appeal to teens and adults, whether they are graphic novel aficionados or not. (As a side note: my science-fiction-reading husband started reading this over my shoulder and ended up reading the whole thing with me.)

Readers who enjoy Relish might also enjoy Knisley's earlier works French Milk and Radiator Days, or the graphic memoirs of Alison Bechdel or Marjane Satrapi.

Monday, July 08, 2013

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen's books have been my go-to beach read for the last several summers (see my earlier reviews of Along for the Ride and What Happened to Goodbye), so I was very excited to read her newest novel when it was released this June.

Emaline plans to spend the summer working for her family's realty company and hanging out with her perfect boyfriend, Luke, before they both head off to college in the fall.

These summer plans become more complicated, however, when her absent father and younger half-brother come to town.  To complicate matters further, Emaline is asked to assist a documentary filmmaker who is renting one of her family's properties for the summer.

As always, Dessen beautifully describes that precarious moment between adolescence and adulthood, as her heroine struggles to find her place in the world. The Moon and More is set in the same fictional North Carolina town as several of her earlier novels, and her fans will be excited to see a few familiar faces pop up here and there.

Dessen fans will flock to this title, so while you're waiting --  check out the novels of Stephanie Perkins (such as Anna and the French Kiss), Katie McGarry (including Pushing the Limits), and Deb Caletti.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis

I remember talking to Harry Mazer thirty years ago about his semi-autographical teen novel The Last Mission. I'd had to respond to a request for reconsideration because the soldiers in that WWII story used a lot of vulgar words. He confirmed that his purpose was to show how war changed a young man's sensibilities. Over the years since then, we've learned more and more about how war changes people.
Ben has everything – girlfriend, best friend, loving family, a potential career in music or theater, and on the eve of high school graduation a compelling sense of obligation to serve his country. He enlists and is sent to Iraq. Soon there's the all too familiar story of an IED blowing up the humvee carrying Ben and his fellow soldiers. Ben suffers traumatic brain injury.
In the third part of the book Ben, his family, his best friend and his girlfriend, attempt to recover. Ben's mind is so badly injured that he recognizes no one but his younger brother Chris. The stresses of dealing with this strange, memory-less personality inhabiting their beloved Ben are almost too much for the others. Chris, who has autism, finds creative ways to cope and express his feelings. Ariela feels her fiance is gone even though his body looks much the same.
Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am is quite short though it covers a year and a half, and the emotions of all the characters are raw and intense. But the most impressive achievement is how the authors get inside Ben's injured mind and help us see what he is experiencing. For this, the book received the teen level Schneider Family Book Award which is given to a book for the artistic expression of the disability experience.
Drawing on his own teenage war experience, Harry Mazer is one of the finest writers about combat for adolescent readers, so try his other novels too. Another teen novel about the Iraq war is Sunrise over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers which was reviewed here several years ago.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

I've been dreading writing this review. And not because I didn't like the book. Quite the opposite. I absolutely love this book. And because of that I feel a certain obligation to it. Somehow, I have to convey the inexplicable beauty that lives within its pages; the simplicity of language, action, and characters that make this an everyman story even as it turns stereotypes on their head. This is truly great, accessible literature. And I can't tell you much more without completely ruining it for you.

I will tell you I shouldn't like this book. I generally don't care for books written from the point of view of a boy firmly imbedded in what I like to call the awkward years and trying to find himself, and touch boobs, and blah, blah, blah. But that's just where our protagonist is. When we first meet Ari it is summer in El Paso, 1987 and he is 15. And soon he will meet Dante, who is also 15, at the local swimming pool. Dante, "...who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren't meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean, stupid boys." And then neither of them will ever be the same.

When the story ends Ari is 17, and still trying to find himself. He writes, "Senior year. And then life...High school was just a prologue to the real novel. Everybody got to write you-but when you graduated you got to write yourself." Pretty typical YA stuff. But what's so amazing about this novel is that every time you think it's veering into the typical, it proves you wrong, but not with the well-constructed plot twists of a mystery or thriller, just within the confines of its own stark beauty.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz won the Printz Honor for the best writing in teen lit and the Pura Belpre award for excellence in celebrating and depicting Latino culture. Saenz is a poet by trade and his prose reflects it. Read this book because nothing about it appeals to you. And never be the same.

Want to read some other great YA lit? How about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie or I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle. I shouldn't like either of those either. But I do! These titles are all available at VBPL.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

Dennis Ouyang is caught between two worlds. On the one hand he loves to play video games and is really good at them. On the other hand, he is haunted by the words of his father to make more of his life and attend medical school.

When his father dies while Dennis is in high school Dennis cruises through his first couple of years of college until he is expelled for poor grades. And this is when the magic happens. Four supernatural creatures get him reinstated and help him through his undergraduate studies until he gets into medical school. The question is whether or not a second chance at his father’s dream will be enough for Dennis.

The illustrations by Thien Pham work in tandem with Yang’s prose to convey the emotional turmoil of Dennis as he navigates young adulthood. Flashbacks are colored in blues and grays while the present is given a wide range of hues. This is a great book for the reluctant reader who can’t pull away from the video game console.

Give Level Up a try. Yang’s American Born Chinese is a good graphic novel follow-up read if you enjoy the cultural themes explored in Level Up.