School Library Journal - Adult Books For Teens Blog

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A Change of Scene

Wed, 2015-04-29 09:03

We’ve enjoyed a wonderful five year (almost) run here on AB4T, reviewing books and predicting award winners. Today is our last post.

Adult Books 4 Teens is changing format and delivery method, but not going away. When next you encounter AB4T it will be an online column–and its very own section of the print journal!

Mark Flowers will continue as editor. I am stepping down.

It has been a true pleasure to bring this discussion of adult books to an online audience, to write about books and reading and appeal on a weekly basis. I hope that many books have found their way into the hands of teens as a result.

I want to publicly thank all of the excellent reviewers who have contributed their work to this blog. Thank you to all of our publisher marketing colleagues for understanding this project, and for supporting it so generously by responding to our requests for the books we hoped to review. Thank you to everyone at SLJ, especially Brian Kenney, Luann Toth, Trev Jones, Kathy Ishizuka, Kiera Parrott, and Shelley Diaz, for their support and enthusiasm. And thank you for continuing to champion adult books with teen appeal in the future.

And I want to thank YOU for reading. Thank you!

Categories: Library News

The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty

Thu, 2015-04-23 10:50

The title of Amanda Filipacchi‘s latest novel says it all. So many teens are so very conscious of appearances, I can only imagine that this book will incite discussion. The cover and title alone are likely to inspire certain readers to pick it up.

It also fulfills that frequent request for funny books (the humor here is largely satirical), and will satisfy readers looking for a love story, albeit a unique one. I also appreciate that its two main protagonists are artists, a composer and a costume designer. This is a sophisticated read for smart teens.

FILIPACCHI, Amanda. The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty. 332p. W.W. Norton. Feb. 2015. Tr $25.95. ISBN 9780393243871. LC 2014037010.  

A memorable group of five friends are featured in this wholly original novel filled with plot twists and turns that address the themes of beauty, friendship, and love. Barb, 28, an exquisitely beautiful costume designer, every day painstakingly dons a disguise that makes her ugly. Lily, 25, is a brilliant pianist and composer who, by society’s standards, is deemed unattractive. Georgia is a successful novelist with quick wit. Penelope, supported by her wealthy family, is struggling to find her place after having been kidnapped and held in a coffin several years prior. The fifth member is an ex-cop who was injured when he rescued Penelope. Barb and Lily have been friends for eight years and Barb finds Lily “nothing but beautiful,” though Barb’s perception is admittedly “skewed by affection.” In an attempt to have Strad, a man Lily has loved for years, notice her, she composes music that makes her beautiful. She must go to great lengths to have her music playing while they are together, or else wear a mask that Barb has created. The author weaves amusing elements of farce and fantasy into the story without jarring the narrative. Barb and Lily just want to find true love that is not based on appearances and through a host of preposterous circumstances, their wishes come true. VERDICT Though the characters are not teens, this novel is bound to spark a lively debate about the nature of beauty, whether society’s norms can be changed, and the notion of true love.—Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA

Categories: Library News

Two Speculative Fiction Genre Blends

Mon, 2015-04-20 07:00

Two books with huge teen appeal today, both by authors comfortable writing in multiple speculative fiction genres.

First, a fantasy novel by Daryl Gregory. You may have heard of Afterparty, last year’s science fiction novel that created quite a buzz and ended up on a few Best lists. I read Raising Stony Mayhall back in 2011, an unusually thoughtful entry in the zombie canon that made LJ’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy list that year. With Harrison Squared, I believe he has written a book with genuine Alex Award possibilities.

Combining fantasy, Lovecraftian horror, mystery, and humor, the novel starts off with a great title character, adds a wonderfully weird setting, and proceeds to follow the adventures of H2 and his gaggle of allies as they search for his mother after she disappears.

And what can we say about a new collection from Neil Gaiman? Read Sarah’s review–she says it all! Then go listen to Neil speak (briefly) about Trigger Warning on NPR, because no one can talk reading & writing quite like he can.

GREGORY, Daryl. Harrison Squared. 304p. Tor Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780765376954.  

Harrison Harrison, aka H2 or Harrison Squared, is the only child of an AMP (absent-minded professor), a marine biologist who studies squids and other giant sea creatures. Harrison’s earliest memory is of tentacles, teeth, and an upside-down boat in the ocean—the incident in which his father died and he, Harrison, lost a leg. Now, at 16, he and his mother have traveled across the country from San Diego to dreary and isolated Dunnsmouth, on the Atlantic Ocean, so that his mother can continue her research. It’s not long before weird things start happening. School is odd; all the students look as if “they did their shopping at,” they have classes like “Practical Skills” (knot-tying) and cryptobiology, and no one ever seems to go to the library. Then his mother disappears, and Harrison has a hard time persuading anyone that there is something wrong, so he sets out to find her on his own. But things get even weirder in the next few days, as Harrison must deal with a knife-wielding bogeyman called the Scrimshander, a monstrous female of the deep, and a weird cult. Fortunately, he also has some help, including a fish-boy who loves comics, a Dorothy Parker-esque aunt, a ghost, and some humorless but practical friends from school. Harrison is a bright, funny, determined protagonist, and readers will be glad that the ending of this book leaves open the possibility of a sequel. VERDICT Suspense, humor, and weird, creepy monsters combine to make this one a winner for teens.—Sarah Flowers, formerly of Santa Clara County (CA) Library

GAIMAN, Neil. Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances. 310p. William Morrow. Feb. 2015. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780062330260. LC 2014053154.  

Gaiman’s latest collection could serve as a primer on speculative fiction. It’s all here: science fiction, fantasy, horror, even mystery. In his own inimitable way, he mines the various genres, taking off from the existing canon and putting his own particular spin on each. There’s a Sherlock Holmes story here, a Doctor Who tale, several entries based on fairy tales, and a short work set in the universe of his own novel, American Gods. “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” is full of Bradbury-like elements, a another vignette is based on a Jack Vance novel, and a story inspired by lines from a William Blake poem. He sometimes plays with form, as in a work that is composed entirely of responses to an interrogation, and another one that is written in verse. As always, Gaiman’s writing is lovely and his imagination is fascinating to observe. In this anthology, he even provides an aid to that observation by including a lengthy introduction with background and context for each story. Many teens (and adults) are already huge fans of the author—most of whom have probably already been anticipating this collection. No previous knowledge of Gaiman’s work is required for enjoyment of this book—only an openness to the places the mind can take you. VERDICT A surefire win anywhere there are fans of speculative fiction, short stories, or Gaiman.—Sarah Flowers, formerly of Santa Clara County (CA) Library

Categories: Library News

February Fever

Mon, 2015-04-13 13:47

Despite appearances, February Fever is not the second book in Jess Lourey’s “Murder by Month” series, but the tenth. Lourey perversely started this series in May, and now has finally rolled around to February. And despite its obvious teen appeal, this is the first time this blog has gotten around to reviewing a book in the series, which started back in 2006. So if you’ve got teens dying for their next cozy mystery series, this is a great one to offer, since there are already ten books for teens to sink their teeth into.

LOUREY, Jess. February Fever: A Murder-By-Month Mystery. 252p. Midnight Ink. Feb. 2015. pap. $14.99. ISBN  9780738742144.

Private Eye-in-Training Mira James is headed west from her tiny hometown in Minnesota ostensibly to attend the Private Investigator’s Conference in Portland, but mostly to see her boyfriend Johnny who has recently moved there. Mira is not enchanted by the fact that her octogenarian sex-crazed sidekick Mrs. Berns has booked them for “the Valentine Train—a vehicle that encourages singles to “meet and mingle”—but is pushed into going and is joined by her good friend, the ever-cheerful, pot-smoking Jed. The “Valentine Train” answers Mrs. Bern’s desires, but the trip increases Mira’s anxiety. It is late February and a murder has occurred each month for the past nine months. Her newly found skills as a P.I. are indeed put to the test as a young woman, accompanied by her husband and child, is murdered in the room next to hers. Another P.I. and a reality TV show detective onboard join Mira in the search for the killer. Snow-trapped in a train stuck in the Rockies, there are many suspects to consider. Mira must determine who can be trusted and who is adding to the many deadly twists and turns this case takes on. Readers will love the protagonist and the earthy, witty, and quirky partners upon whom she relies. While teens do not need to read the previous nine mysteries, getting Mira’s full story would add depth to this one. VERDICT Fans of cozy mysteries will enjoy this young, sassy detective and her motley crew.—Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA

Categories: Library News