November 22, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review “A Tyranny of Petticoats,” Time Travel YA, and More

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From a heartbreaking coming-of-age novel for middle schoolers to a historical fiction short story collection, check out the upcoming titles for teens that the Kitsap (WA) Regional Library YA Book Group reviewed this month.

JanSciFi2DUYVIS, Corinne. On the Edge of Gone. Abrams/Amulet. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419719035.
Gr 7 Up–
The year is 2035. A comet is scheduled to hit Earth on the 29th of January, and Denise does not want to hang around for that. But hanging around on Earth seems to be her only option. Or is it?

I honestly loved this book. The plot was amazing and well thought out. The setting was great and described thoroughly in a way to paint a clear picture in my mind. The characters were all unique and well-rounded, especially Denise, who Duyvis describes in rich detail. The writing style was great as well. This book was just all-around awesome, and I’m really glad I read it. —Zoe D., 13

where you'll find me FRIEND, Natasha. Where You’ll Find Me. Farrar. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374302306.
Gr 6 Up–
Anna starts out having just about the worst year anyone’s ever had, her mom’s in the hospital after an attempted suicide, her best friend dumped her, she has to sit with the weirdos for lunch, and to top it all off she’s forced to live with her dad, half-sister, and stepmom (whom she hates). It seems that things can’t get any worse, but what if it’s just a step on the path to getting things better than they ever were?

I really liked the cover and the spine, they were not only fun to look at, but were also a little foreshadowing as well. The rainbow on the spine was a nice touch, I didn’t really know what that was about until she got the dress and I thought that was really cool.

The most compelling aspect of the book to me was the characters. I liked them because they weren’t just people; they each had their own sets of interests and personalities. Even the people who weren’t the main characters, you could tell who they were and how they lived their lives. Another thing that stuck out to me about them was that even if you weren’t going through exactly what they were going through, you could still identify with them in some way.—Rachel F., 14

SLJ’s Starred Review: Where You’ll Find Me by Natasha Friend ­

Medina, Meg. Burn Baby BurnMEDINA, Meg. Burn Baby Burn. Candlewick. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763674670.
Gr 9 Up–
This book is about a girl named Nora and tells us how her life is. She lives with her mom and her younger brother named Hector; he’s a young kid who started going to the wrong path by doing drugs. ­­

What I liked about the cover was the disco ball and the fire.

What I liked the most in this book was how Nora and her friend Kathleen grab her parents car to go show it off. I think other teens would like this book because it could relate on how their lives are going and have something in common with this book.—Israel H., 16

SLJ’s Review Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina

SPOTSWOOD, Jessica. A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers, and Other Badass Girls.Candlewick. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763678487.
Gr 9 Up–
A Tyranny of Petticoats tells the stories of 15 strong women of diverse backgrounds throughout American history, set in chronological order. While there is a good amount of hard historical fiction, it is tastefully sprinkled with elements of fantasy. Girls fight for their lives, debate over whom to marry, rob banks, and above all, carve out identities for themselves.

tyranny of petticoatsThe cover of this book accurately reflects the contents of each heroine’s story, for the most part. The pirate flag and gulls show up in “Mother Carey’s Table,” the gun in various Wild West tales, and the fist with flowers in stories about the 1960s protest movements like “Pulse of the Panthers” and “The World Is Watching.” However, I was confused by the thing with buttons on the bottom left corner. Is it a dress? A corset? The top of an old-fashioned shoe? I still have no idea what that is supposed to be.

I like how the silhouette in the center represents the idea that this is a book featuring the stories of girls of different backgrounds in different times—it acknowledges that there is no image to describe them all.

First of all, my perspective is definitely biased because I grew up on Little House on the Prairie and other historical fiction series like “Dear America” that were marketed towards elementary school girls. That said, I think the most compelling aspect of this book is that it is like a grown-up “Dear America” series with a more diverse set of writing styles and characters, all conveniently packaged into one book.

I also liked how the stories in this anthology were not all “pure” historical fiction; the Three Fates make an appearance in “El Destinos” and some unconventional and powerful minority groups like djinns and werewolves try to affect the course of the coming Civil War in “High Stakes,” for example. Finally, this book had plenty of well-written short stories.

My biggest disappointment was that I felt like some of the short stories could have been novels in their own right. “City of Angels,” “The Red Raven Ball,” “The Journey,” and “Pulse of the Panthers” felt like their authors were constrained by possible length restrictions and wanted to say more about their characters and plots, but couldn’t. Fortunately, these stories were balanced out by a majority of well-developed tales.

Also, I had to read this book in small doses due to the large amount of stories in first person; too much made me feel like I was reading the diary of some reincarnating American History goddess who commented on other worthies as well. But I think that the point of a short-story collection is that it is sampled like a box of chocolates, not read at one sitting.

This is a good quality short story collection that would appeal to anyone interested in feminism and American History. –Angela K., 17

ANOTHER TAKE

American history is a rich and varied tapestry that too often gets the “dead rich white men and dates” treatment. In this 15-story anthology, girls of all ethnicities, sexualities, and classes get the spotlight as we follow their stories chronologically towards the present day.

I love the cover. It’s bold, bright, and readable. Everything about it gets you excited for the anthology and all that it promises. The cover art is a silhouette that doesn’t fall prey to the usual pitfalls of silhouette cover art. The title font is playful and fun, but easily readable, and the subtitle doesn’t go for the usual YA anthology levels of hyperbole and excessive phrasing in an attempt to sound “catchy.” Instead, it gives a very clear description of the contents. The cover is also a very nice shade of red. My one complaint is that the contributors are not listed on the front cover, as that would be quite convenient.

There are several compelling aspects within the anthology, specifically the stories “City of Angels” (Lindsay Smith), “The Color of the Sky” (Elizabeth Wein), “Mother Carey’s Table” (J. Anderson Coats), and “Pearls” (Beth Revis). Out of all of these, “City of Angels” was definitely my favorite story in the collection. Whether it’s because I’m a total sucker for LGBT historical fiction, or whether it’s because it was just that good (probably both), the atmospheric writing and strong characterization made this one a standout.

“The Color of the Sky” is exactly the sort of quality that one would expect from Elizabeth Wein, with a distinctive character voice and a tight, engaging plot.

“Mother Carey’s Table” is lovely and brutal, being magical realism about pirates and the high seas. It’s also got a very nice writing style.

“Pearls” really shines for its characterization and building of setting, as well as the wonderful first-person narration.

In all, this is a very solid anthology with several standout stories. I was incredibly disappointed with how this book was marketed. Everything about it suggests that it’s going to be plain historical fiction, but unfortunately, five out of the fifteen stories were historical fantasy instead. This was really annoying because you go in with false expectations of completely historical fiction, and find vampire stories instead. I personally prefer my historical fiction and my fantasy to be separate unless I’m confident that the story is going to be good or the story is advertised as historical fantasy. This instance feels a bit like bait-and-switch because nowhere are we informed that there is fantasy involved. If I wanted historical fantasy, I would probably pick up a steampunk anthology.

On the content front, some of the stories (mostly those involving the supernatural) were incredibly dull and bland. They felt like the average YA short story, which is to say boringly written, romance focused, and with romance shoehorned in. It was a bit of a letdown, as there was so much promise in this anthology, and I’d been excited to read it for almost two years.

This is definitely not the worst anthology I’ve ever read, but neither is it the best. It’s certainly a nice jumping-off point for newer readers of historical fiction, but otherwise, it’s mainly the usual anthology mixed bag and a lot of tired hi-fi cliches. And unfortunately, it didn’t really do much to prove wrong my usual theory of “YA hi-fi set in pre-WWII eras is usually awful.”

It’s good to read if you’re just getting into the marvels of historical fiction, but if you’re any level of history geek, it’s definitely skippable. But then again, that means you’ll miss “City of Angels,” which is just a fantastic piece of writing. So maybe pick up A Tyranny of Petticoats just for that one story. –Ella W., 16

JanSciFi7TAYLOR, Janet. Into the Dim. HMH. Mar. 2016. Tr 17.99. ISBN 9780544602007.
Gr 8 Up–
Hope is trying to cope with her mother’s death. When her aunt offers a visit to her home in Scotland, she discovers the other world her mom knew—a world full of time travel. Plus her mother isn’t dead but trapped in the year in 1154 and Hope must travel back to save her.

I love how you totally underestimate Hope because of her phobias and lack of experience, but she surprises you. Also I like the other characters, especially Bran.

I couldn’t put this book down! I sincerely hope that there is a sequel. If not, then I will be crushed.—Eleanor C., 14

The Steep and thorny way cat wintersWINTERS, Cat. The Steep and Thorny Way. Abrams/Amulet. March 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419719158.
Gr 8 Up–
Hanalee Denney lost her father a year ago to a drunk driver and now the criminal is back, claiming that there’s more to the story than people previously thought; the Ku Klux Klan holds powerful sway in their town, creating a dangerous environment for African Americans like her father, and this may be linked to the doctor who treated him that fateful night. Her world is thrown upside down as she considers these new pieces of information, including the fact that the same doctor is now her stepfather, and the answers she needs lie with the dead.

When I think of a murder being committed in the 1920s involving the KKK and racism, what comes to mind is a dark stretch of road in the woods lit by ominous moonlight, or an abstract black and white image representing the central themes of the story. Not a girl holding a lantern staring uneasily at the reader, as is the case with this book’s cover. It feels that this story holds the potential to be represented better, and the cover it currently has is doing a very poor job.

I found the most compelling aspect to be the idea that her father didn’t in fact die from a car accident, but the doctor who oversaw his injuries. It sent a chill down my spine when I read about it on the back because doctors are people who people trust with their lives, and for one to kill intentionally for racist views and personal gain is horrifying.

I entered the story expecting for the plot to be the main character putting together the pieces of the night that her father died, using evidence and help from the supernatural to find the real murderer, but instead, within the first 10 pages, that idea was blown out of the water when she’s flat out told what happened, leaving her to decide what to do from there. I was also disappointed with the main character herself. One moment, she’s hardened with anger, pain, and spite, and the next she’s compliant and quiet. In the very first chapter, she’s prepared to shoot and kill who she expects is her father’s killer, but by the time she learns the truth, she wavers in fear at the simple thought of aiming a gun. Everything about her felt unstable, like the author had trouble deciding who she wanted the protagonist to be, so she tried to mash all these traits into one person, creating an uneven mess.—Meghan S., 16

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