Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic Worlds

Ashes, ashes, they all fall down.

Hello Everyone. At this stop please watch what you say and do. We are in the world of Big Brother futures and post-apocalyptic worlds. Utopias gone wrong or nations destroyed by war, disease, or natural disaster. There is something here for everyone. Just don’t get caught finding it. If the roving gangs don’t steal it, Big Brother will.

“I’m Valkyrie White. I’m fifteen. Your government killed my family,” So begins the harrowing story found in Blythe Woolston’s Black Helicopters. Having experienced their own mini-apocalypse through the death of their mother, and later their father, Val and her brother Bo implement everything their father taught them in an effort to get out the anti-government message their father instilled in them. Crossing paths with various like minded and semi-like minded people, Val travels a path that ends in a horrifying tragedy.

What can lead a young person to the decision to become a suicide bomber? If the message is secular rather than religious does it make the act more horrific? Less understandable? Take a ride with Val, and figure it out for yourself. The answers may surprise you.

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Magical Oddballs

Have you ever wondered where that missing sock goes? Or maybe you’ve been walking in your neighborhood and seen something that couldn’t possibly exist out of the corner of your eye? Maybe it’s just been a cold spot in an otherwise warm room, or chills down your spine that come out of nowhere. All of these fall into that undefined real we find ourselves in. That realm of ghosts and fairies, magic and sock thieves. In this realm we also find the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. they didn’t come with the angels last week. They may be preparing us for the future. But where do they come from? How are they formed? Jackie Morse Kessler knows, and she begins her telling with her book Hunger.

Lisabeth Lewis thinks she is fat. Plagued by her Thin Voice, Lisabeth also suffers from anorexia. Depressed by her inability to get as thin as she would like, she attempts suicide. Death appears and offers her a choice: Does she truly want to die, or will she take up the reins and become Famine. Lisabeth, thinking it all a dream, agrees to become Famine. As she grows in her new found role, she also grows in confidence, eventually finding a way to beat her Thin Voice and live the life she should have been living all along.

Exploring the mysterious world of the Four Horsemen, Kessler also provides a wonderful and realistic look at dealing with anorexia. Take some time to ride with Famine. I’ll see you in the future.

Angels, Demons, and Dead People

Amen.

Whew. I’m glad you all made it. Let’s keep our voices down to a whisper. No need to attract unwanted attention. Yes, I know we are passing through the realm of the apocalypse, but trust me, you do not want to get the attention of these creatures. Winged diaper babies they are not. Thankfully Susan Ee has given us a guide for understanding this. It’s her book, Angelfall.

Just a short six weeks ago the angels descended on Penryn’s world, and apocalypse ensued. Humans are hunted by angels and demons alike, and the world is in chaos. On top of all this, Penryn’s sister is in a wheelchair, and her mother is schizophrenic. It is up to Penryn to take care of them both. One night, as they are moving to a new location, Penryn witnesses five fallen angels beating a “good” angel. She steps in to help, throwing the angel’s sword (an entity in its own right) to him, and turning the tide of the fight. The angel manages to fight off his attackers, but loses his wings in the process, and Penryn’s sister is kidnapped by the retreating attackers. The two form a reluctant team, and set off to rescue Penryn’s sister and restore the angel’s wings. Along the way, Penryn learns more about why the angels are here, as well as what it means to be human. Follow in her footsteps, and hopefully you’ll survive too.

Now quickly! This way! Feathers are falling, and we want to make it to our next stop unnoticed.

Vampires and Beyond

The books of the night, what stories they make.

I do not read . . . flyers.

Ok, enough camp. This week we are exploring the twilight realms (no, not the books) of mythological creatures. For several years now, vampires, werewolves, and zombies have been quite popular. So popular that they have almost sucked the life out of the genre (sorry, couldn’t resist). That’s why I was so excited to come across this gem, Green by Laura Peyton Roberts.

It’s Lily’s thirteenth birthday, and on the porch she finds a package. When she opens it, it explodes in her face. Dazed and embarrassed, Lily retreats from concerned neighbors, and finds little green men waiting for her in her room. No, not aliens. Leprechauns! Turns out Lily, like her grandmother before her, is part leprechaun. She is taken away to the leprechaun’s home where she finds she is supposed to take her grandmother’s place as keeper of the gold. Before she can begin though, she has to pass three tests, and this is where the fun really begins!

In a genre dominated by dark creatures, it was quite refreshing to read a lighthearted book about an often overlooked supernatural creature. To have it wrapped in the gift of a coming of age/empowerment tale was an added bonus. Take some time to meet the Green clan. I think you will love them as much as I do.

Books in Verse

Words written in verse
Form a story quite sublime.
Poetry learned too.

Ok, so maybe I’m not the greatest haiku writer in history, but at least I tried. You know who else tries? Kevin “Shakespeare” Boland. Welcome to the wonderful world of Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs, by Ron Koertge. Kevin is a bit of a Renaissance teen. He plays baseball, has a girlfriend, and since his mom’s death, helps his dad. And oh yeah, he also writes poetry and goes to readings on the side. At one of these readings, he meets Amy, a girl his age, who is also a poetry enthusiast. They become poetry pen pals, writing various poem styles to each other, and eventually falling in love.

Poetry is often daunting for people. For some a bad experience in school soured them on poetry. For others, they fear poetry is only for love or greeting cards. I hope you will spend some time in Kevin’s world, and maybe gain an appreciation of poetry in the process.

‘Til we meet again,
May the words you read sustain
And nourish your soul.

GLBT

For our next stop, Ladies and Gentlemen, we will be traveling the lands of GLBT literature. For those of you who don’t know, GLBT stands for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered. I realize this land makes some people uncomfortable, but I am not asking for approval or confrontation. You don’t even have to accept it if you don’t want, but what I do ask for is understanding. Understanding that relationships no matter what the genders are complicated and wonderful and sad and ultimately human. Understanding that people who are no different from you or me, save in their orientation, love books too. And above all, understanding that sometimes, hopefully more often than not, literature transcends classification and builds bridges of understanding in its passing. That is definitely true of Nancy Garden’s Annie On My Mind.

Liza is the student body president at the small but prestigious private school, Foster Academy. Annie attends public school and lives with her parents and grandmother. One day the girls meet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and instantly bond. As their friendship develops, they find themselves falling in love. Fearing the reaction of their families and peers, they hide their relationship. Things are going well until Liza volunteers to housesit for two of her teachers. Taking advantage of the opportunity to be alone, she and Annie explore the house and their relationship, discovering the teachers are lesbians as well. Ultimately, though, they are discovered, and what happens next is an emotional ride best experienced rather than described.

Spend some time in the lives of these young ladies. Feel the love, the prejudice, the betrayal. Go on. I’ll leave you in contemplation. See you down the road.

Alternating Narrators

Hold on. Wait. Look, I can’t. . . What? Hang on. QUIET!!!

Whew, that’s better. Too many people talking all at once made it difficult to tell you about this week’s stop, the country of alternating narrators.

Have you ever had two friends tell you the same story, and you ended up wondering if both of them were actually there at the same time? That’s kind of how it feels to read Gemini Bites, by Patrick Ryan. Fraternal twins Kyle and Judy Renneker are highly competitive, so much so that they almost despise each other. To make things worse, their family takes in a house guest, a boy their age named Garrett, who may or may not be a vampire. Both Kyle and Judy find Garrett attractive, and neither one can get a read on who Garrett is. Let the competition begin!

Enjoy your exploration of point of view, sibling rivalry, identity, and reconciliation! I’ll see you at the next stop.