Category Archives: Young Adult

Two Graphic Novels

Local by Brian Wood.

Art by Ryan Kelly

Oni Press, Portland, 2008

From the library.  This one is for high school and up.

Megan McKeenan is stuck in a very bad relationship.  Her boyfriend has her trying to pass off stolen scripts at local pharmacies and she knows she is going to get caught.  Taking matters into her own hands she decides to leave Portland and hit the road.  Thus begins a journey of inter-linked stories through 12 North American cities. from Portland to Minniapolis, Richmond, Virgina to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The drawings are in black and white, highly detailed and the artwork and stories fit together beautifully.  This is an intense road trip.

Ghostopolis By Doug Tennapel

Graphix, Scholastic Publishing, New York 2010

From the library.  Perfect for middle school readers.

Garth Hale has been diagnised with a fatele disease.  Imagine his confusion when he is suddenly transported into the spirit world and finds he has powers that even ghosts do not have.  Chased by an evil ruler who wants to use Garth’s powers all seems lost until Garth meets up with Cecil, his grandfather’s ghost and they solve this spooky problem together.  There is a great mix of monsters including a lovely skeletal horse and some “mad” scientist who travel in and out of Ghostopolis.  Beautiful art and a lovely story.  I want to read more of Doug Tennapel’s work.


Filed under Graphic Novels, Review, Young Adult

Luka and the Fire of Life

Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie

Random House, New York, 2010

Borrowed from the library.

Salman Rushdie is a master storyteller.  He has written dense, historically relevent novels for adults and two books for young people, both of which are enchanting.  Any adult reader who enjoys myths and magical stories will love them.

Luka and the Fire of Life is actually a sequel to Haroun and the Sea of Stories but reading that first book is not a prerequisite to enjoying the second.

Luka’s father, Rashid Khalifa, a  master raconteur and adventurer, has fallen into a strange sleep.  Luka and his companians, Bear the Dog and Dog the Bear, must travel into the Magic World to save his life.

Of course Luka knew all about the World of Magic.  He had grown up hearing about it from his father every day, and he beleived in it, he had even drawn maps and painted pictures of it – the Torrent of Words flowing into the Lake of Wisdom, the Mountain of Knowledge and the Fire of Life, all that stuff; but he hadn’t believed in it the way he believed in dining tables, or streets, or stomach upsets.  It was  only real the way that stories were real while you were reading them, or heat mirages before you got too close to them, or dreams while you were dreaming.  From page 29.

But now the World of Magic is all too real, and dangerous and Luka must find his way to the Fire of Life.  Along the way he meets people and magical creatures  familiar to him, from his father’s stories and his brother Haroun’s adventures.  He also meets many unfamiliar, strange and terrible beings.   There are unloved Gods and Goddesses who behave very badly, virtual lives gained and lost as in a video game, and many references to modern culture, all written in beautiful, crazed poetic language filled with story and myth.

This book is celebration of the power of friendship and of love.  It is also a tribute to the power and importance of stories.  How they nurture us as children and as adults.  How if we lose them we lose a part of ourselves and by remembering them we gain courage and overcome fear.  How they can open our hearts.


Filed under Fantasy, Review, Salman Rushdie, Young Adult

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Chaos Walking: Book Three

Candlewick Press, Somerville, 2010

603 pages. Borrowed from the library.

“War” says Mayor Prentiss, his eyes glinting . “At last.”

That is the opening line of the third book in the Chaos Walking series.   Monsters of Men starts just were The Ask and The Answer left off.  The first pages throw the reader into a violent battle and it is upsetting and exhausting enough that I almost had to put the book down.  It went on and on and on.   Fast and furious.  Thinking about it now, I can only imagine that it is just a hint of what being in war is like.

Patrick Ness has, for me, lived up to the expectations created by The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and The Answer.  He delves into the darkest parts of the human spirit, into the lust for power and control, the desire to annihilate the enemy, never really even bothering to find out who the enemy is.  What is this murderous quality that lives inside our souls?

We find our two main characters, Todd and Viola, separated from each other, almost seeming to be fighting on different sides, but always struggling to make the right choices.  They are bound by their own beliefs, learning as they go, trying to find each other.  Viola’s fellow travelers have reached her, adding multiple layers of intrigue and technology to the battle.  And we are finally introduced to the Spackle. What an amazing culture they turn out to be.  I am amazed at how Ness allows us into each of his characters thoughts.  We are in their heads,  following the stressful and manic thoughts in this violent world of war.

I am afraid to write any more about the story or about the characters for fear of giving too much away, the way I felt about  The Ask and The Answer.   Just know that this is an exceptional series for young adults and that it deals with big issues, terrorism, racism, love, war and the impact of making  choices.  I highly recommend the entire Chaos Walking series.

Patrick Ness has a wonderful website that can be found here.

Other reviews:

Jenny’s Books

Regular Rumination

Stuff As Dreams Is Made On

Things mean a lot


Filed under 42SciFiChallenge, SpeculativeFiction, Young Adult

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

William Morrow, New York, 2001

Originally published in 1962.  Ray Bradbury has received the National Book Award for distinguished contribution to American Letters.  I own this one.

This is true dark fantasy.  Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway have grown up together.  Each is on the verge of their fourteenth birthday, filled with energy and questions, like all young people they are pushing limits.  Will’s father, Charles is fifty-four and filled with regret, for being “old”, for not being more of a pal for his son.  It is the end of October in Green Town, Illinois, and Halloween is just around the corner.

A strange man, a lightening rod salesman, harbinger of storms and bad news, marches into town, finds the boys. Then, in the middle of the night, at the odd hour of 3 AM, an unusual train arrives.  Jim and Will see it, Charles Halloway hears it. The train carries Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, come to entertain, to touch the lives of Green Town.  A traveling nightmare, come to steal souls, by answering dreams and wishes.

And there stood Jim, and  there stood this tall man, each examining the other as if he were a reflection in a shop window late at night.  The tall man’s brambled suit, shadowed out now to color Jim’s cheeks and storm over his wide and drinking eyes with a look of rain instead of the sharp cat-green they always were.  Jim stood like a runner who had come a long way with fever in his mouth, hands open to recieve any gift.  And right now it was a gift of pictures twitching in pantomime, as Mr. Dark made his illustrations jerk cold-skinned over his warm-pulsed wrist as stars came out above and Jim stared and Will could not see and a long way off the last of the towns people went away towards town in there warm cars, and Jim said faintly, “Gosh…” and Mr. Dark rolled down his sleeve.  From page 76.

Through writing full of poetry, dream and desire, Bradbury creates a classic story of good and evil, were self-centered wants lead to devastating results and  hope and laughter are the antidote for fear and longing.  It is dark, creepy and delicious.  This is my third reading and I am still amazed at the density of Bradbury’s lyrical style,  his words convey emotion in ways that are not stilted or sugary-sweet. Deep, heartfelt, real.  Reading this novel as a young adult was one of my introductions to the power of words.

And, of course, it’s all about names.  Knowing the true names of things, of people.  In magic, knowing a name is knowing the inner being. Knowing the inner being means having control over that being.  The weapon against such dark magic is love.

Other reviews:

A Striped Armchair

Book Clutter

Care’s Online Book Club

regular rumination

The Indextrious Reader


Filed under DarkFantasy, Review, RIP V Challenge, Young Adult

Truth and Bright Water by Thomas King

Truth and Bright Water by Thomas King

Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 2000

Borrowed from the library.

I read Green Grass, Running Water some years ago and enjoyed it, but Thomas King had dropped off my radar until I joined the Canadian Reading Challenge.

Truth is a small town in Montana that lies on the Canadian border across from Bright Water, a reserve, the term the Canadian government uses for the lands set aside for First Nations.  The two are separated by a river, the Shield.

Two young men, Tecumseh and his cousin Lum, along with Tecumseh’s dog, Soldier watch as a mysterious women jumps from a hill into the Shield.  They run to help and never find her, or any evidence of her.  Soldier does find a skull, the skull of a small child, the central mystery of the book.

From this opening scene we learn about the lives of the cousins and other members of their twinned community.  Tecumseh’s parents,  his aunt and Grandma, all live and thrive in their own individual ways and wait for the most exciting event of the year, Indian Days.  There is comedy and tragedy and a wonderful image of a native american artist, Monroe Swimmer, painting a church out of the landscape. I could see it disappearing as I read.

King is blessed with the ability to evoke the land, much like Wallace Stegner.  The novel is filled with symbolism, issues of culture, colonialism and race.

I enjoyed Truth and Bright Water and recommend it to anyone wanting to read Native American literature.


Filed under CanadianBookChallenge4, ContemporaryFiction, Young Adult

Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Viking, New York, 2010

Borrowed from the library.

Winner of the World Fantasy Award.

A wonderful fantasy novel by one of my favorite authors.  Maddy and Rogan are first cousins, members of a large group of extended families living in Yonkers in the 1960’s.  There is theater in their background, struggles within their families, and an opportunity to try out for parts in their school production of  Twelfth Night.

Maddy and Rogan are also very much in love. Illyria is a finely wrought tale of first love and blossoming sexuality between two young people in a “taboo” relationship.  Beneath it  are subtle layers of mystery and magic.

Elizabeth Hand is brilliant at creating atmosphere and tension using very direct, simple language and dialogue.  She evokes the dark side without the reader knowing it.  Suddenly you’re there, in a place so fey it is as if you stepped into a fairy ring, fallen down a rabbit hole or walked through that wardrobe into a land of snow and ice.   But Hand’s world is not Narnia.  There is no magic remedy for these two young people.

Illyria is a great introduction to a fine author.  If you would like to dig deeper I would suggest her short stories Saffron and Brimstone or the dark mystery/fantasy Generation Loss.

Other reviews:

Adventures In Reading

things mean a lot

and a brief interview and playlist from

Largehearted Boy


Filed under Fantasy, Once Upon Time IV, Young Adult

Children of the Sea: Volume 1 by Daisuke Igarashi

Children of the Sea: Volume 1 by Daisuke Igarashi

Translation by JN Productions

Viz Media, San Fransisco, 2009

Borrowed from the library.

The first manga I have managed to get through!  For some reason my brain has a hard time wrapping around the right to left format.

Ruka is having a hard time.  Shuttling between her parents is difficult, she is having trouble at school and feels out of place everywhere.  She dreams of a ghost she had seen in the aquarium where her father works, a ghost that turns into light.  Then she meets two brothers,  Umi and Sora.  While the adults around these children struggle with a mystery of disappearing fish, Ruka, Umi and Sora discover a connection and begin to find out things about their past and about their future.

What drew me in was the sea, what kept me there was Igarashi’s stunning artwork.  The library only has volume 1, I am going to have to fine or buy volume 2.

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Filed under Graphic Novel Challenge 2010, Graphic Novels, Manga, Review, Young Adult

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork

Arthur A. Levine Books, New York, 2010

Borrowed from the library.

From the author of Marcelo in the Real World.

Seventeen-year-old Pancho Sanchez is on his own.  After the death of his father and what Pancho believes was the murder of his sister, he is placed at St. Anthony’s until he turns eighteen.  There he meets Daniel Quentin, a young man his age, diagnosed with cancer who, when not taking about things Pancho doesn’t really understand, spends his time writing the Death Warrior’s Manifesto.

“Okay, the answer to the question “Why You?” has no answer at this time.  I don’t know exactly why you.  We’ll find out soon, I’m sure.  But I do know that you’re the one.  I knew you were the one when you drove in yesterday.  The hard part to explain is how I knew.  Let’s just say that one of the benefits of this illness is the increased power to recognize a gut feeling and take it seriously.  I knew someone would come to help me.  It had to be the right person.  You are it.”

“Help you do what?” Pancho leaned backwards and the stool wobbled.  He grabbed onto the wall.

“Help me with…the preparations.  Help me and I will help you.”

“I don’t need help with anything.”

“I can read it in your eyes.  There is something you want to do.  No.  I’d say it’s more like there’s something you feel you need to do.  It’s eating you.

“How do you know that?”  He sounded more alarmed than he wanted to.  From page 40.”

Pancho is filled with anger, on a hunt for his sister’s murderer and planning revenge.  Meeting D.Q., spending time with him and other wonderful characters, forces him out of himself, forces him to look at his life in a different way.  Stork uses wonderfully clear and direct story telling to create a fine novel for young adults.  I believe he wrote this before Marcelo, and even though it is not quite as polished as that book, I enjoyed it and recommend it.

Other reviews:

Alison’s Book Marks

My Favorite Books



Filed under Review, Young Adult

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Arthur A. Levine Books, New York, 2009

A New York Times Notable Children’s Book 2009.

Borrowed from the library.

This book is being marketed as a young adult novel.  I think everyone who loves a good story would enjoy it.

Marcelo is seventeen and hears music in his head.  He has a condition like Asperger’s, somewhere on the Autism spectrum.  His father has never really believed in the music or in Marcelo’s differences and thinks he needs to join the “real world”.  The world of law firms and cut-throat competition.

Marcelo finds entering this world difficult and scary but he is strong, brave and willing to struggle to reach a goal.  Along the way he discovers greed,  dishonesty and the need to make hard choices.  He also discovers love.

…..I feel I need to explain to Jasmine what I felt for the girl, but how can I when I don’t know myself? “It was like a question.  Like a question that had to be answered.”

“What question?”

“There are no words for it.”

“But if you could put it into words, what would the question ask?”

Is there a way to articulate what I feel?  It seems like a long time passes before I speak.  “I guess it would be something like, “How do we go about living when there is so much suffering?”  Does the question make sense?  Is it the type of question that is ever asked?”  From pages 165/166.

Stork has spent time with young people who have different ways of thinking and feeling and it shows in his writing.  Marcelo’s voice is distinct and direct, beautiful in its clarity.  He meets different kinds of people, those who understand and admire his differences and those who try and take advantage.

A true coming of age novel Marcelo in the Real world is a joy to read, with a protagonist I will not forget.

Other reviews:

Becky’s Book Reviews

Book Addiction

Regular Rumination


Did I miss your review?


Filed under Fiction, New Authors 2010, Young Adult

The Rock And The River by Kekla Magoon

The Rock And The River by Kekla Magoon

Aladdin, New York, 2009

Borrowed from the library.

This is a book that should win many awards.  Kekla Magoon has taken a difficult time in civil rights history and brought it to life with grace and lyrical language.

Sam is 13 and the son of  civil rights activist who is close to Reverend Martin Luther King.  He and his older brother, Stick, have grown up making signs and marching in demonstrations.  It is 1968 in Chicago and some people feel that the movement is not bringing change fast enough.  When Stick decides to join the Black Panther Party, Sam has to decide if he will follow his beloved brother or stay on the path his father has chosen.  Magoon expresses Sam’s thoughts in a way that is very rare.  There is deep understanding and compassion here.

As Stick went on, I let myself be captivated by his words, swept up into his vision of the movement.  I had been so deep inside Father’s for so long that it felt good to rise above what I knew.  I entered another space in that moment, as if I could see a corner of Stick’s mind that had long been hidden from me. From page 232.

The anger returned then, in a way I hadn’t imagined possible.  Anger can come to you so tangibly, so physically it’s like a separate person.  As if someone enters your body, stands there with one fist in your throat and the other tight around your gut.  It’s like tears you can’t cry, but stronger, more insistent.  Deeper.  And it won’t let go.  It’s cramped and it’s crying, but it won’t let go.  From page 254.

Writing about the Black Panther Party in a balanced way could not have been easy. The Panther organization should be considered one of the most important political and social movements in American history but, unless you were directly involved or have studied Black history,  they have faded from cultural memory.   Maybe that’s because there are very few things more frightening to a white person then a black person with a gun.  That is how most people saw the Black Panthers.

During the 1960’s the government and the press chose to portray the Black Panthers as radical,  gun wielding thugs.  As a white person, or even a middle-class black person, unless you were willing to look past the lurid headlines, you missed the  attempts to end police brutality, the food programs, free health clinics and systems of social support that were the party’s primary focus.  The federal government developed a program to spy on, infiltrate and destroy them. I’m sure that today they would immediately be labeled “domestic terrorists”.

In The Rock and the River, Kekla Magoon brings the Panther’s goals back into focus and shines a light on divisions within the civil rights community.   I hope this novel gains wide recognition.  It has won the 2010 John Steptoe Award for New Talent and has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award.  Magoon is a brilliant, articulate young women and deserves high praise. Her website is here. Twenty-eight Days Later has an interview with her here.

Other reviews:


Bookshelves of Doom


Have you reviewed this book?


Filed under Historical Fiction, New Authors 2010, PoC, Review, Young Adult