Category Archives: ya_books

And it’s not even Banned Book or Freedom to Read Week yet…

… which are in October and February, respectively. (ETA: Banned Books Week starts Sept 25, oops…. But Freedom to Read Week is still in February.) This week, I have been talking to people upset about sexual information on our library’s shelves, especially considering its proximity to two high schools.

Somebody’s always trying to ban something. But it’s not always quite as sickening as calling the rape scenes in Speak pornographic. Laurie Halse Anderson speaks eloquently on the matter. More here from the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom blog (You know what also made me feel marginally better? A line by line grammar critique of the letter from the individual who wishes to ban the book. Contains strong language, as the situation warrants.)

Also on the slate of books-some-people-don’t-think-teens-should-read, Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. I KNOW. GAH. An editorial also has links to past articles, to give you a pretty good picture of the whole sordid affair. For some perspective on the awesomeness of the book and Sherman Alexie, From Wellpinit to Reardan: Sherman Alexie’s Journey to the National Book Award from the ALAN Review.

Over at Booklist, Pat Scales (also of SLJ’s Scales on Censorship column) takes on the Common Sense Media organization Weighing In: Three Bombs, Two Lips, and a Martini Glass

If you had asked me a year ago what bombs, lips, and martini glasses have in common, I would have answered, “A fraternity party.” Now I have a different answer. It’s called Common Sense Media. This not-for-profit Web-based organization is in the business of using a “rating” system to review all types of media that target children, but their “ratings” of books are especially disingenuous. They claim that they want to keep parents informed. Informed about what? What their children should read or what they shouldn’t read?

And for a total change of pace, you can find improv everywhere, including reenacting Star Wars scenes on a New York subway car.

New Things I Want to Read

Lots of good stuff on the horizon…

Arthur Slade’s Hunchback Assignments series will continue with a third book Empire of Ruins, in January 2011. Click for the cover art!

It would not not surprise me to learn that Jill Maclean’s third book, Home Truths, follows The Nine Lives of Travis Keating and The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy. I’ll find out once we start reading for next year’s RMBA shortlist, I suspect…

As much as I like Nancy Werlin’s psychological thrillers like The Killer’s Cousin and Rules of Survival, I am thrilled that her latest book, Extraordinary is along the lines of her last book, Impossible, a modern spin on the traditional ballad “Scarborough Fair.”

Yay! New book from Cornelia Funke, Reckless is coming in September: “The story is about Jacob Reckless, who escapes to another world behind a mirror, where witches haunt the forests and fairies and dwarfs roam. It’s also a world locked in a deadly war. Jacob’s secret is safe until one day his younger brother, Will, follows him-with disastrous consequences. The brothers are forced to race against time to find reverse a curse before one of them is lost forever.”

And getting to some of my favourite authors…

Woo-hoo! New Tamora Pierce! A short story collecton this time, Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales.

Also cause for anticipation, new Terry Pratchett in October! I Shall Wear Midnight is the fourth Tiffany Aching book.

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to hear that there is a new Bordertown anthology coming out! Not convinced? Check out the line-up: “Terri Windling’s groundbreaking urban fantasy shared world is back in an all new Borderlands anthology, WELCOME TO BORDERTOWN, to be edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner, featuring new stories from many of the original writers including Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Midori Snyder and Charles de Lint, as well as new work by writers who were inspired by the original series, including Cassandra Clare, Cory Doctorow, Kelly Link and more.”

Over on the adult fiction side of things, a new Newford collection from urban mystic fantasy master, Charles De Lint, Muse and Reverie.

Mmm. New book anticipation.

Bonechiller by Graham McNamee

Bonechiller coverIt’s been a day of spring blizzards here on the prairies, and after five hours without electricity, something with lots of snow seemed apropos…

Danny and his dad are in the middle of nowhere. His dad’s been retreating from the world ever since Danny’s mom died, and he and Danny have recently moved from the big city to a a small, northern Ontario town. Danny is on his way home late at night and he gets the feeling he’s being watched. He starts to run, and when he looks back, there is this huge, white, albino-ish creature chasing him, all hairless and creepy looking. It knocks him down, and the last hing he remembers before passing out is seeing its weird pointed tongue coming at him.

When he comes to, there’s a little blue dot on the back of his hand, like from a pen, but no bite marks, no tracks, no monster. He must have imagined the whole thing, right? It must have been a big dog or something and he must have hit his head.

BUT. He starts having weird dream. And the one guy from school who was hospitalized for a mysterious infection kinda went crazy and ran away and now they can’t find him. Then his friend Pike is out ice-fishing with his brother Howie. When Pike comes in to get donuts and coffee, they hear screaming, and ice cracking. SOMETHING REALLY HEAVY has broken the ice and Howie has fallen in. there is rescue and emergency rooms… but he has this blue dot on his neck…

And then the two of them start sharing nightmares of ice and cold and being stalked by a giant albino creature.

And their body chemistry is changing–they can’t tolerate heat, are most comfortable in the extreme cold, and are really sensitive to light, and keep seeing this THING in their dreams…

And of course, Howie does some research and tracks down a history of disappearances over really cold winters…

And then Danny’s sort-girlfriend Ash’s Ojibwe dad starts telling him stories about the wendigo

Oh man, this was a thrill ride and a half! It’s a combination of monster story plus suspense, with the extremes of a wilderness survival story, with a hefty dose of folklore in the backstory, and that had me hooked. The cliche about Canadian literature is that you can tell it’s Can Lit because the landscape is a character in and of itself. Graham Macnamee, your Canadianness is showing, to excellent effect! There’s a monster after Danny, but the weather could kill him just as easily. And what takes this book out of the realm of just another thriller are how the characters are all fully realized people in their own right and not htere just to push the plot along. Danny’s got his own tensions and issues, and so do his friends. I especially loved tough girl Ash. Plus, I am a sucker for stories that incorporate folklore into them, so I found the riff on the wendigo mythology especially cool.

If you’re feeling brave, read this one on a cold January night–or save it for a sticky hot August afternoon, just for that cold chill down the back of your neck….

Linkalicious: more cover controversy

This slightly haphazard and already dated collection of links is what happens when I suddenly get hit by return of the Martian Death flu cold o’ doom and, er, forget to click post.

More cover controversy, this time around the Mysterious Benedict Society (illustrations and excerpts over at Bookshelves of Doom and Magic Under Glass (book excerpts here. For some situational analysis, head to a great post at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy, and here’s a post on race and representation from Justine Larbalestier. And there’s a discussion on what kids actually relate to at Oz and Ends.

But every once in a while things go right, as you’ll see if you check out this interview with Debbie Dahl Edwardson, author of Blessing’s Bead. For more, check out Mitali Perkin’s post on A Call For Yummy PoC Kid/YA Book Covers That Worked. And an interesting post about covers and author input from Karen Healey and her book Guardian of the Dead, set in New Zealand and based in part on Maori mythology. (I am intrigued, and have added it to my to-read list…)

New Canadian GLBT YA books

I have been remiss in updating! I have not one, not two, but SEVEN more titles added to my list of Canadian YA GLBT books! (I know, it’s a bit of a specific niche, but one near and dear to me all the same.) I haven’t had a chance to read everything on this list yet, so the blurbs are all the back of the book publishers’ copy. But I can tell you that I’m looking forward to trying to read them all.

evilEvil? by Timothy Carter. “Stuart Bradley knows there are a lot of reasons people in his small, conservative hometown might not approve of him. He’s openly gay, he’s mouthy in church, and he conjures demons in his spare time—the usual. So Stuart knows something is odd when his little brother catches him ‘self-pleasuring’ in the shower and, before he knows it, an angry mob is chasing down every teen who ever had an ‘impure’ thought. Stuart soon discovers that the new preacher in town is more than he seems. He’s a fallen angel-fallen because he became too obsessed with a certain harmless adolescent activity. If Stuart and his demon sidekick don’t stop him, blindness is going to be the least of anyone’s worries.”

outOut by Sandra Diersch “No one in Alex’s world is who they seemed to be. Alex struggles with his faith when he witnesses a church member cheating on his wife and learns that his brother is gay. When his brother is brutally attacked, Alex is forced to decide where is loyalties lie and what he really believes in.”




uninvitedThe Uninvited by Tim Wynne Jones . “Mimi Shapiro had a disturbing freshman year at NYU, thanks to a foolish affair with a professor who still haunts her caller ID. So when her artist father, Marc, offers the use of his remote Canadian cottage, she’s glad to hop in her Mini Cooper and drive up north. The house is fairy-tale quaint, and the key is hidden right where her dad said it would be, so she’s shocked to find someone already living there — Jay, a young musician, who is equally startled to meet Mimi and immediately accuses her of leaving strange and threatening tokens inside: a dead bird, a snakeskin, a cricket sound track embedded in his latest composition. But Mimi has just arrived, so who is responsible? And more alarmingly, what does the intruder want? Part gripping thriller, part family drama, this fast-paced novel plays out in alternating viewpoints, in a pastoral setting that is evocative and eerie — a mysterious character in its own right.” Secondary GLBT characters: Jay has two moms.

Wills Garden Cover-1Will’s Garden by Lee Maracle “As Will prepares for his Becoming Man Ceremony, relatives fill the house, bringing with them memories, tradition and customs. As they work together beading, carving and cooking, Will reflects on their stories of working on railroad construction or surviving Residential Schools. The Ceremony takes on new importance for Will. After the Ceremony Will is inspired to take action to make changes in his own life. An outcast at his high school, where racism is commonplace, he befriends the ‘nerds,’ comes to terms with his new friend’s homosexuality and commits himself to a future of change. He is transformed into the man that he promised to become in his Becoming Man Ceremony. Maracle, of Salish and Cree ancestry, is an award-winning author.”

inferno-smallInferno by Robin Stevenson. “Dante thinks high school is an earthly version of hell. She hates her new home in the suburbs, her best friend has moved away, her homeroom teacher mocks her and her mother is making her attend a social skills group for teenage girls. When a stranger shows up at school and hands Dante a flyer that reads: Woof, woof. You are not a dog. Why are you going to obedience school?, Dante thinks she’s found a soul mate. Someone who understands. Someone else who wants to make real changes in the world. But there are all kinds of ways of bringing about change…and some are more dangerous than others.”

skimSkim by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. “It’s the early nineties and “Skim” is Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a not-slim, would-be Wiccan goth stuck in a private girls’ school in Toronto. When a classmate’s boyfriend kills himself because he was rumoured to be gay, the school goes into mourning overdrive, each clique trying to find something to hold on to and something to believe in. It’s a weird time to fall in love, but that’s high school, and that’s what happens to Skim when she starts to meet in secret with her neo-hippie English teacher, Ms. Archer. But when Ms. Archer abruptly leaves, Skim struggles to cope with her confusion and isolation, armed with her trusty journal and a desire to shed old friendships while cautiously approaching new ones.”

Bonus international title from a Canadian publisher:

girl-from-marsGirl from Mars by Tamara Bach, translated by Shelley Tanaka. “Miriam is fifteen and she has lived in the same little town her whole life, going to school with the same kids who know everything about her. But now she’s in high school and wishing she lived in a big city where she could meet new people and see new things. In other words, like fifteen-year-olds everywhere, Miriam is desperately waiting for her life to start happening. Something, anything — a first love, perhaps. And then love comes, in a completely unexpected way, when Miriam meets a new classmate, Laura. Suddenly, life is very complicated and unsettling, as Miriam finds herself lying to her girlfriends, avoiding her brother’s probing questions, and second guessing every move she makes. At the same time she’s constantly on edge trying to figure out Laura’s moods and exactly how her arrogant friend Philip fits into her life. Then Philip, Miriam and Laura take a weekend trip to the big city — a trip that makes everything clear, and more confusing than ever.”

The Blue Helmet by William Bell

This ie one of my catch-up posts from the 48 Hour Book Challenge. I don’t know why it took me as long as it did to read this one–William Bell is pretty consistently awesome, and I do try to read most of the Canadian kids and YA award winners. Maybe because I thought it had more to do with gang life than it does, and I wasn’t in the mood for something gritty. Anyhow, I’ve unreservedly recommended it to several people since then, and I’m glad I finally did read it.

BlueHelmetLee’s used to being on his own. His mom died of cancer when he was seven. His dad has worked two jobs for years, trying  to pay off the trip to Italy that was the last thing he could do for his dying wife–a trip where Lee got left behind with his aunt.

Lee doesn’t need his family. He tells himself he doesn’t need anyone, but he’s still trying to get into the toughest gang in his neighbourhood. When his initiation ends with Lee in the back seat of a police car, he’s forced to face up to the fact that someone betrayed him and tipped off the cops. It just confirms what he already knows. You can never show weakness or give in. You have to stand up and fight for yourself because no-one else will.

Lee gets lucky. Instead of jail time, he finds himself facing exile, sent away from Hamilton to live with his Aunt Reena in the town of New Toronto. Lee’s hugely resentful at first, but gradually finds himself drawn into the routine, and into the lives of the regulars at Reena’s Cafe Unique. Some of them are college students, some of them are down on their luck, and others are just plain wierd. When Lee starts delivering meals for Reena by bike, he gets to know Andrea the pharmacist, Krantz, a meterology buff, and Cutter, a paranoid, possibly schizophrenic conspiracy theorist.

Lee finds Cutter fascinating. Cutter has a brilliant mind, top-notch computer equipment, and when he’s taking his medication and having a good week, he’s eccentric. And amazingly enough, he trusts Lee. But when everything changes abruptly and irrevocably, Lee starts to put together Cutter’s story and finds his own life profoundly altered as a result.

William Bell packs an awful lot into a deceptively skinny book. This is a story of choices, of redemption, and of the far-reaching consequences of violence. It’s also a well-paced, fast-moving book starting in the back of a police car. Lee could have been a totally unsympathetic character, but knowing where he’s coming from and seeing the decisions he makes is part of what makes this such a powerful story. And when I realized where exactly the title came from, it was blindingly obvious, and perfectly fitting.

Wart by Anna Myers

Book nine of the 48-hour Book Challenge binge!

wart_small You could say that it started when Stewar’s cousin declared that he needed to be popular, but would have to ditch his long-time friends Ham and Rachel to do it. But things really started to change when Stewart and Ham’s art teacher showed up hiding in the supply closet, and had to take some time off. Because that’s when Wanda Gibbs, the subsitute came to town. And now she’s a) stuck Stewart with the nickname Wart, b) is dating his dad, and c) is probably a witch who turns her own son Ozgood into a frog periodically to punish him. She’s helped him get a spot on the basketball team, but is brainwashing his little sister. Thanks to her intervention, the most popular girl in the school is interested in him, but now she’s probably going to marry his dad. What’s a guy to do?

It took me a bit to get into this one, but it was a pretty funny, solid middle school read, all things considered. The plot plays off the is-she-or-isn’t-she-a-witch uncertainty quite well right up until the end, Stewart’s geeky friends are awesome in their right–Ham is kind of clueless skinny kid who’s alwasy eating, and Rachel is the sort of girl who collects esoteric bits of trivia and has an elaborate training system worked out to win a local pet show. And his little sister Georgia will throw temper tantrums on demand for Stewart–until Wanda shows up. Then there’s Wanda’s son Ozgood, who plays big band music lous enough to shake the walls, and says things like “I am undone” when he’s upset. An oddball cast and amusing plot–it’s too bad the cover looks like a do-or-die sports story.