With the newest entry in the Harry Potter universe, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J. K. Rowling has once again proven herself a master of imagination. However, it’s important to remember that there are now two books bearing this same title: the screenplay which is the basis for the movie starring Eddie Redmayne, and the Hogwarts Library edition that serves as a facsimile of Harry Potter’s text book. Both are available through the Chesapeake Library, and both are quick, entertaining reads, but make sure you know which version you’re looking for. (Click on the book covers to go to that item’s catalog page!)
For those of us not overly fond of romance, this time of year can be tricky to navigate. Everywhere I go, I see hearts, pink balloons and other reminders that the Valentine season is upon us. A love story has to be extraordinary in a way I haven’t seen before in order to get me interested. From what I’ve observed, most people who read a lot of teen fiction seem to gobble up love stories the way I devour chocolates from a heart-shaped box, so I don’t know if my situation is a common one.
A. G. Howard’s Splintered is a modern reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, starring skater-girl and macabre artist Alyssa as the main lead. As the last descendant of the Liddell family, Alyssa was born with the ability to hear insects and flowers talk – an ability which landed her own mother in a psychiatric institution. Alyssa works hard to hide this from her friends and family, until one day, a figure from her past reappears to turn her world upside-down. This is the first teen paranormal romance I have truly loved.
The Splintered series, which finally reached its epic conclusion this past January, is dark, unique and just plain fun. I have not been this giddy over a book series since the last days of Harry Potter. So, for this Valentine’s Day, let me tell you why.
First, these books grabbed me on a purely aesthetic level – they are pretty. And I don’t just mean the cover designs, although that’s certainly true. I mean every detail is artistically rendered. The font is purple or maroon instead of black, and the chapter headings are a tangle of curlicues. I always appreciate it when a book delights in its own format, bringing more to the page than mere words. The experience of reading it is like being transported to another world before you even know what it’s about.
Second, this is not your childhood Wonderland. The world of Splintered is wild, gruesome and disturbing on a level that rivals some of the grisliest horror stories I’ve encountered, all without sacrificing the whimsy and brightly-colored chaos you’d expect from this type of setting. Not everyone remembers just how terrifying a fairy-tale landscape can be, but Howard is fortunately one of those who does.
Third, and most importantly, this story features a love triangle which is both completely by-the-book and completely new. Yes, there are two rivals for Alyssa’s affections, and as usual they represent the “normal,” real-world aspect of her life, and the fantastic, escapist aspect respectively. What Howard does with Alyssa’s potential suitors, however, is cut straight to the truth of what those choices really mean: these two young men, Morpheus (the Wonderland trickster) and Jeb (the hometown sweetheart) represent two warring halves of Alyssa’s own personality. This same dynamic lurks under the surface of most love triangles, but in this one, it’s made explicit just how difficult a choice that is to make. Alyssa’s struggle to be true to herself while keeping everyone else happy is so intense that by the last book, it is literally ripping her heart in two.
I won’t give away the ending, but I will say Howard manages to conclude the series on a wholly satisfying note, somehow without bypassing any of the drama and pathos that had built up over the course of the story. If you’re looking for a new twist on a timeless classic, or just a fresh take on a popular archetype, do yourself a favor and check these books out.
A haunted weathervane. A floor that makes all trash magically vanish. A house whose windows open and close, enabling its inhabitants to sneak out. An abandoned circus in the middle of a graveyard. These are just a few of the quirks in the town of Blackfin, and Skylar is about to discover another one.
The town of Sticks, Louisiana, on the other hand, is bordered by swamplands that no one goes near, surrounded by homemade barriers to protect the locals, even though they pretend it’s “just a swamp” whenever you ask them. Sterling is about to discover just what happens to people who venture into the woods — and how to get them back.
Today, I’m talking about two books with a focus on strong characters with mysterious family secrets hidden in the dark, creepy woods: Kat Ellis’ Blackfin Sky and Natalie C. Parker’s Beware the Wild.
TEEN BOOK BATTLE
A Corner of White Versus The Girl Who Never Was
In A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty we encounter Madeleine, who has run away from home seventeen times. This last time was different though because this time her Mother came with her! Continue reading “Magic Girls”
I just finished listening to Blackout by Robison Wells and couldn’t help but notice the similarities to the Xmen. I’m a pretty big fan of the super hero, so this translates to the fact that I liked the book. Here’s the low down on Blackout:
The book takes place in modern America and opens with three teens who have special abilities and are using them to act as terrorists. Then it switches to a single teen at a school dance who is using her special ability (invisibility) to spy on boys. She does not use her ability for good, but she’s no terrorist. The US armed forces bust in on the dance and take all the teens to “camp” (very reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps) where they are swabbed to find out if they have the virus that causes special abilities or not. The teens that have the virus are sent to prison cells and those without the virus are sent to live in tent camps and not allowed to return home. As a matter of fact, there are two thirty foot high, barbed wire fences to ensure they don’t leave camp. I am going to tell you more about the plot, but I will tell you it is a really good read. I am turning into Robison Wells fan and can’t wait for the sequel to this book. I’ve blogged about his other series, Variant here:
So, how does this compare to Xmen:
teens who discover they have abilities (superpowers) that manifest when they are teens: check
teens with abilities are sought out and sent to a special location: check
some of the teens are recruited for good purposes: check
some of the teens are recruited for not so good purposes: check
teens with abilities being used as weapons: check
Charles Xavier and Magneto: nope
Here are some of the abilities of the teens in Variant:
hot breath (yes, you read that right)
ability to manipulate “earth” (i.e., cause avalanches)
I promise you, if you like Xmen, if you like superheroes, you will like this book. It’s one of the best I have read in a while.