Favorite Diverse YA from 2013

Narrowing down my favorites for the year was pretty tough. There are so many that I don’t want to leave out. I finally narrowed it down though.

Dystopian

proxy

 

Proxy by Alex London was a fast paced novel that kept me flipping the pages both times I read it. And yes, I did read it twice already. I reviewed it here

prodigy

 

Marie Lu’s Legend series got even more amazing with Prodigy. June and Day are compelling characters and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

unravel

 

Juliette from Unravel Me is another character that fascinates me. Tehereh Mafi is weaving a tale that has completely sucked me in and I’m excited for the next installment.

Contemporary Books

Rogue_JKT_FINAL
Rogue author Lyn Miller-Lachmann visited out blog earlier this year and shared a bit about her writing. After learning about the book, I knew I wanted to read it. This is on the younger side of YA with the main character in middle school. I loved that readers see into the world of a person with Asperger’s syndrome, but Kiara is much more than that. She is an X-Men enthusiast, a loyal friend, a movie maker and much more. Kiara is a character that I wished I could meet in person.

yaqui


In Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, Piddy Sanchez is bullied. This is a gritty book that tugged at my heart. Fortunately, Piddy has some amazing people in her life. This book brought me to tears, but also brought laughter and smiles. Author Meg Medina was kind enough to grant us an interview and Jessica also reviewed Yaqui on Rich in Color back in May.

 

Historical

eleanor and parkEleanor and Park takes place in the 80s so those headphones are leading to a Walkman not an iPod, thus the historical label. It also earns a romance label. The relationship between Eleanor and Park was simply sweet in contrast to some of the rather horrible things in Eleanor’s life.

If I ever get out of here

 

 

If I Ever Get Out of Here was another fabulous book set in the past – specifically the 70s. I reviewed it on my personal blog here, and we also held a group discussion (with spoilers) earlier this month. Gansworth manages to handle some serious issues like bullying and poverty with a nice balance of humor. Lewis, the main character, is a teenager from the Tuscarora Indian reservation and he is attending a mostly white high school. Watching as Lewis navigates the social life of that school is both humorous and heart-breaking. 

Poetry – Historical

dreamer

 

The Lightning Dreamer is based on the life of Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (1814-1873). She was a feminist and abolitionist. Margarita Engle used this novel-in-verse to express some of Avellaneda’s ideas.

Here is a sample:
Beyond these convent gates, books
are locked away
and men
hold
the keys.

 

Graphic Novels – Historical


Screen shot 2013-12-17 at 9.39.08 PMBoxers and Saints is actually two books, but they should be read together. They are both telling the same story during the Boxer Rebellion in China, but from two different perspectives. The first time I read them, I was impressed, but on a second read through, they were even better. I reviewed them here. They are a set of books that should not be missed even if graphic novels are not something you typically read.

Comedy

Asked

Since You Asked was a bunch of fun. I reviewed it here. In it, Holly Kim writes a column in her high school newspaper. She is a bit snarky and has the goal of shaking things up around school. I loved her interactions with her mother and she also has a great group of friends. This one is sure to have you laughing.

Have you read any fantastic books that I might have missed? What were some of your favorites this year? Please share in the comments.
Share

Book Review: Diverse Energies

diverse
Title: Diverse Energies
Edited By: Tobias S. Buckell & Joe Monti
Genre: Dystopia, Science Fiction
Pages: 314
Publisher: Tu Books an imprint of Lee and Low
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: On Shelves Now

Summary:  In a world gone wrong, heroes and villains are not always easy to distinguish and every individual has the ability to contribute something powerful.

In this stunning collection of original and rediscovered stories of tragedy and hope, the stars are a diverse group of students, street kids, good girls, kidnappers, and child laborers pitted against their environments, their governments, differing cultures, and sometimes one another as they seek answers in their dystopian worlds. Take a journey through time from a nuclear nightmare of the past to society’s far future beyond Earth with these eleven stories by masters of speculative fiction. Includes stories by Paolo Bacigalupi, Ursula K. Le Guin, Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, Daniel H. Wilson, and more. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Review: I was excited to get my hands on Diverse Energies. Dystopia is an area of young adult literature that has been flourishing over the past few years especially following the release of The Hunger Games, but there is still a need for more works featuring protagonists from diverse backgrounds. To spell it out more clearly, it would be great to see more young adult dystopias with protagonists that are something other than straight white teens. With Diverse Energies, the editors and contributors were hoping to help fill this need and create change in the landscape of young adult science fiction.

Before the stories begin, readers find a quote from John F. Kennedy: “The wave of the future is not the conquest of the world by a single dogmatic creed but the liberation of the diverse energies of free nations and free men.” This demonstrates the spirit of this book. There is a high value placed on diversity. The stories shared here reveal the strength and beauty of that diversity even in the midst of chaos.

Dystopian stories typically have a corrupt entity taking unfair advantage of the masses often after war or another apocalyptic event. Since that is a fairly standard storyline, I was wondering how unique these short stories could be. It turns out that the voices were distinct and each one has a different storyline with its own particular  flavor. There are stories of war, rebellious robots, child slavery, extreme economic disparity, time travel, among others.

Most of the stories manage to end with a bit of hope, but like many dystopians, they are all pretty bleak so they do tug on emotions. In the very first story by Ellen Oh, the pain took me by surprise. I didn’t expect so much intensity right away. These authors meant business. The very next story, Freshee’s Frogurt by Daniel H. Wilson, is told in a lighter tone though the subject matter is also intense. I appreciated hearing the stories told in radically different ways.

An anthology for me is like an appetizer sampler. The variety almost ensures that there will be something to appeal to everyone. Also, there isn’t such a large investment required of the reader when stories are so brief. I was happy to meet some new authors through this book and will be seeking out more of their works.

Recommendation: Dystopian fans buy it now and even if you aren’t a dystopian fan, I would recommend you read it soon. The worlds and characters are rich and it is amazing to see what the authors have imagined into being within just a few pages.

Extras: 
A Chat with Diverse Energies Authors
Joe Monti Discusses Diverse Energies and Book Covers
Excerpt from Diverse Energies

Share

Book Review: Champion

Title: Ch14290364ampion
Author: Marie Lu
Genres: Dystopian, SciFi
Pages: 369
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers
Review Copy: Target!
Availability: On Shelves now

Review: I wish I could write gushing praise for Champion. I really wanted to say that I loved the novel and everyone needs to run out and buy it right now. I wish I could say a lot of things, but what I truly wish for is a different ending to the book. For me, I might enjoy 80-90% of a book, tv, or movie, but if the ending is not done well, then I usually end up disappointed with the entire product. Unfortunately, I did not like the ending to Champion and it has sullied my entire enjoyment of the novel. I will not say why I didn’t like the book because I’m not one to ruin someone’s reading pleasure and give away the end of the book, so you’ll just have to read it for yourselves.

The rest of the novel, with the exception of the last 20 pages, was tense with almost non-stop action. After all, the entire book encompasses a very short time period (a week, I think) where Day and June are literally fighting for their lives, for the lives of the people of the Republic, as well as trying to find a cure for the new plague. This makes for some very intense moments where Day and June have to make adult decisions that will effect their entire nation. That is a lot of responsibility for teenagers, but as established in Legend and Prodigy, Day and June are not ordinary teenagers. Their relationship begins strained at the beginning of the novel, but they eventually come together and the scene where they finally admit how they feel for each other is one of the best in the book. I cheered for them and hoped against hoped that Day and June would be able to have their happy ending. At that point in the story, it really didn’t look like that was going to happen, so much Kudos to Marie Lu for keeping the reader in such suspense.

One aspect of Champion that I really loved was learning more about the world that Day and June live in. In my copy there was a map of the world that showed how the melting of the glaciers affected the entire globe. We learn that Africa is a superpower and that Antarctica is a thriving continent, with a wonderful super-charged technology advanced city and even has their own language. This attention to world building detail thrilled me and I even wondered what the Antarctican language sounded like and where it’s roots where. While Prodigy explained more of what happened to the United States, Champion gives more information as to how the world changed and the former US’s status among the world’s governments. To me, the world that Lu created feels very real and I can imagine our future turning into Day and June’s familiar world.

Overall, maybe my disappointment comes from having Day and June’s story come to an end. I seriously loved Legend and Prodigy, and was eagerly anticipating Champion. Day and June, for me, are one-of-a-kind characters and I grew to really care for them. I cared for each of their individual stories, their heartaches, and I cared for them as a couple. I felt they were a realistic portrayal of a couple who pushes and challenges the other to be better, while at the same time can work together as a team. That type of relationship is uncommon in Young Adult fiction these days, but I hope that more publishers take note on the popularity of Lu’s series and publish more novels where the teens are equals to each other instead of a lopsided relationship.

Marie Lu, thank you for giving us Day and June. I will miss them greatly.

Share

Nostalgia trip: The House of the Scorpion

house of the scorpionTitle: The House of the Scorpion
Author: Nancy Farmer
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Pages: 380
Publisher: Atheneum Book
Review Copy: the library
Availability: January 1, 2002

Summary: Matteo Alacrán was not born; He was harvested. His DNA came from El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium — a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. Matt’s first cell split and divided inside a petri dish. Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous journey from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster — except for El Patrón. As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister cast of characters, including El Patrón’s power-hungry family, and he is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards. Escape is the only chance Matt has to survive. But escape from the Alacrán Estate is no guarantee of freedom, because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn’t even suspect. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

The House of tlord of opiumhe Scorpion is one of those books from my childhood that I remember oh-so-fondly — it was terrifying and fascinating, and a great introduction to both the dystopian and science fiction genre. It had everything: Clones! Adventure! Political conflict! The worldbuilding was complex yet incredibly easy to fall into. The House of the Scorpion was my first Nancy Farmer book and it led me to read every other Nancy Farmer book I could get my hands on. Reading the book again as an adult did not diminish the experience. If anything, being older lets me truly appreciate the incredible storytelling and sense of adventure in the The House of the Scorpion.

When The Lord of Opium came out a month ago, I’d nearly forgotten about this childhood favorite. Now that the long-awaited sequel is out, I am ready to reread everything Nancy Farmer again.

Share

Review: Proxy

proxy

Title: Proxy
Author: Alex London
Genre: Action and Adventure, Dystopia
Pages: 379
Publisher: Philomel Books
Review Copy: ARC from publisher & final copy from library
Available: On shelves now
Cover image via Amazon

Review: Syd is an orphan and a proxy. He is the one to bear the physical punishment whenever Knox, his patron, breaks a rule. Unfortunately for Syd, Knox is not all that fond of following the rules.

In a nod to the middle grade novel The Whipping Boy and A Tale of Two Cities, Alex London pulls readers along on an exciting and dangerous ride in the future.

This future world is filled with greed, extreme poverty, and corruption. Knox and Syd are both used to the way their world works and have not been trying to change the system, but over the course of a few hours, they start re-evaluating their beliefs.

After Knox crashes a car and kills a girl, Syd is beaten and imprisoned. This sets in motion a chain of events that will radically change both of their lives. The pages of this book are packed with action and suspense and I did not want to put it down.

In addition to being a proxy, Syd also happens to be a gay person who describes himself as brown. These things are not the main point of the story though. This is not an issue book, but a dystopian novel that happens to have a gay main character who isn’t white. We need more stories like this.

All of this may seem very serious, but London does scatter a few doses of humor on the way. I appreciated those light moments.

Recommendation: Buy it now if you are a fan of dystopia and especially if you are a fan of The Whipping Boy with it’s humor and fast pace. If you would like to get a taste, preview the first three chapters below.

Extras:

First three chapters of Proxy

Cover reveal and first three chapters of the sequel Guardian due out May 19, 2014

Post on Diversity in YA: 4 Things I Learned (and 1 thing I didn’t) While Writing Proxy

 

Share

New Releases

This week we have a couple of dystopian adventures and two contemporary works too. Do you know of any others that are being released this week?

Across a star-swept sea
Across a Star-Swept Sea (For Darkness Shows the Stars #2)
By Diana Peterfreund
Balzer + Bray

Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy.

On the neighboring island of Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous aristocrat Persis Blake. The teenager uses her shallow, socialite trappings to hide her true purpose: her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo… is her most dangerous mission ever.

Though Persis is falling for Justen, she can’t risk showing him her true self, especially once she learns he’s hiding far more than simply his disenchantment with his country’s revolution and his undeniable attraction to the silly socialite he’s pretending to love. His darkest secret could plunge both islands into a new dark age, and Persis realizes that when it comes to Justen Helo, she’s not only risking her heart, she’s risking the world she’s sworn to protect.

In this thrilling adventure inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, Diana Peterfreund creates an exquisitely rendered world where nothing is as it seems and two teens with very different pasts fight for a future only they dare to imagine. — Image and summary via Goodreads

unsouled

UnSouled (Unwind #3)
By Neal Shusterman
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Summary: Connor and Lev are on the run after the destruction of the Graveyard, the last safe haven for AWOL Unwinds. But for the first time, they’re not just running away from something. This time, they’re running toward answers, in the form of a woman Proactive Citizenry has tried to erase from history itself. If they can find her, and learn why the shadowy figures behind unwinding are so afraid of her, they may discover the key to bringing down unwinding forever.

Cam, the rewound boy, is plotting to take down the organization that created him. Because he knows that if he can bring Proactive Citizenry to its knees, it will show Risa how he truly feels about her. And without Risa, Cam is having trouble remembering what it feels like to be human.

With the Juvenile Authority and vindictive parts pirates hunting them, the paths of Connor, Lev, Cam, and Risa will converge explosively—and everyone will be changed.

Neal Shusterman continues the adventure that VOYA called “poignant, compelling, and ultimately terrifying.” — Picture via Amazon.com & summary via Goodreads

next

Next by Kevin Waltman
Cinco Puntos Press

Summary: In Indiana, basketball is the next thing to religion. Especially for inner-city black kids like Derrick Bowen. He’s a 6’3″ freshman, lightning quick, and he can slam the rock. He wants to start at point guard for Marion High, but senior Nick Starks has that nailed down. Besides, the coach is old school. He thinks D-Bow needs to work on his game, his shot, and his attitude. That means bench time. And that’s when Hamilton Academy, the elite school in the suburbs, comes sniffing around. They want D-Bow for the next three years. His mom wants no part of that. But his father needs a job, and Uncle Kid, who a bitter ex-star at Marion High, has his own plans. Yeah, there’s a pretty girl and a best friend in the mix. Plus plenty of basketball action and suspense just like high school boys like to read. — cover image and summary via Goodreads

vow

 

The Vow by Jessica Martinez
Simon Pulse

Summary: No one has ever believed that Mo and Annie are just friends. How can a guy and a girl really be best friends?

Then the summer before senior year, Mo’s father loses his job, and by extension his work visa. Instantly, life for Annie and Mo crumbles. Although Mo has lived in America for most of his life, he’ll be forced to move to Jordan. The prospect of leaving his home is devastating, and returning to a world where he no longer belongs terrifies him.

Desperate to save him, Annie proposes they tell a colossal lie—that they are in love. Mo agrees because marrying Annie is the only way he can stay. Annie just wants to keep her best friend, but what happens when it becomes a choice between saving Mo and her own chance at real love? — cover image and summary via Goodreads

 

Share