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August 28, 2014

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Fabulous Debuts

Fabulous Debuts

It’s the end of August, and we still have quite a few reviews of summer books to share with you. So don’t let this somewhat clumsy grouping at all diminish your regard for the following three debut novels. I start with 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas because, well, great title! And it really does [...]

On the Cusp

On the Cusp

High school is behind you, but you’re not quite an independent adult. Today’s reviews cover one book of essays and stories written during–and one graphic novel memoir written about–the college years. Marina Keegan was a talented writer who died days after graduating from Yale. She had lined up a position as an editorial assistant at The [...]

Family Histories and Folktales

Family Histories and Folktales

Today we review two books that offer intriguing, even haunting, stories from unfamiliar cultures. Both are inspired by the family histories and folktales the authors were told by family members, one Native American, one Vietnamese. We begin with House of Purple Cedar, an historical novel that reveals both the daily and spiritual life of one [...]

The Magician’s Land

The Magician’s Land

Is there anything better than a trilogy that improves with each installment? That’s saying a lot when the first book wins an Alex Award (The Magicians) and the second (The Magician King) makes our AB4T Best of the Year list. Lev Grossman wraps up the trilogy with The Magician’s Land (releasing tomorrow) in a singularly satisfying manner. [...]

Two Strong Women in Love

Two Strong Women in Love

Both of today’s novels are about far more than romance, but love is certainly one element they share. Another is a strong cultural setting. Jean Kwok is known by many librarians and teen readers as the author of Girl in Translation, which earned her an Alex Award. Mambo in Chinatown features a slightly older protagonist, [...]

New Books from Alex Award Winners — The Reviews

New Books from Alex Award Winners — The Reviews

Last week Mark put together a terrific list of current books by past Alex Award winners. Today, we offer two reviews from that group. We begin with the second book by Lisa O’Donnell, Closed Doors. O’Donnell’s debut, The Death of Bees, won an Alex Award just last year. Our reviewer called The Death of Bees a [...]

Language in Speculative Fiction

Language in Speculative Fiction

Today we review two speculative novels in which language plays an important role. The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon is all about language and the ways that technology changes words and communication. For teens who are as attached to their devices as to most of their actual body parts, this is ideally relevant literary fiction. (Slate titled [...]

My Salinger Year

My Salinger Year

Joanna Rakoff’s wonderfully engaging memoir, My Salinger Year, shares the author’s experiences during the year she moves to New York City straight out of grad school. She sort of maybe wants to be a poet. She knows she wants to work with books. Maybe publishing? She leaves her boyfriend behind, even though he sounds like [...]

The Queen of the Tearling

The Queen of the Tearling

Is The Queen of the Tearling the next Harry Potter? It is certainly one of the big debuts of the summer. The first in Erika Johansen’s fantasy trilogy releases tomorrow, but many readers are already aware of the book. This is largely thanks to movie news–Harry Potter alumni Emma Watson and David Heyman committed to [...]

Lives of the Rich & Famous

Lives of the Rich & Famous

We’re covering both coasts today — from a novel set in New York City high society to a memoir by a Los Angeles paparazzo. Perhaps all I need to say about The Heiresses is the name of its author, Sara Shepard. Given the success of her novels and of the television series based on them, [...]

A Nightmare that Walks like a Girl

A Nightmare that Walks like a Girl

Is Melanie a monster or a prodigy? The title of this post refers to the first of our thrilling reads of the day, The Girl with all the Gifts, in which one character, Sergeant Parks, thinks of Melanie as “the nightmare-that-walks-like-a-girl.” He’d rather deal with blood-thirsty zombies than with something that walks and talks like [...]

Steal the North with Author Interview

Steal the North with Author Interview

Every other month you can find an AB4T debut author interview in the SLJ Teen Newsletter. Last week featured an interview with Heather Brittain Bergstrom, author of Steal the North. I thought I would include some excerpts from that interview here, but it is definitely worth reading in its entirety. One of the central themes [...]

Bellweather Rhapsody

Bellweather Rhapsody

A mystery that takes place during a high school music festival set in an old resort hotel during a snowstorm? The Bellweather is certainly less terrifying than The Overlook of The Shining fame, but it holds its own secrets–especially room 712. In the introduction to her novel’s playlist on Largehearted Boy, Kate Racculia shares that she played the bassoon [...]

Mixed-Race Relationships

Mixed-Race Relationships

Today we have two stand-out novels involving race and immigration that are told from multiple points of view. Both involve the weight of parental expectations. Everything I Never Told You is Celeste Ng‘s debut novel, and our starred review joins other stars from LJ, Booklist and PW.  This is a dysfunctional family story in which [...]

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

In tribute to Maya Angelou, we offer the words of one of our reviewers who shares the way the author influenced her life, and the way that encounter shapes her work today. Amy Cheney is a librarian at Alameda County Library, CA, where she serves teens incarcerated at the Alameda Juvenile Hall. One of her primary goals [...]

The Bees

The Bees

Laline Paull‘s debut novel, The Bees is different from any I have read before. She uses the life cycle of bees and the workings of a hive for inspiration, and in doing so points out fascinating equivalents to modern society. One ordinary bee, Flora, guides the reader through the novel’s mysterious world. Flora’s story takes [...]

On Top of His Game: SLJ Interviews Margaret A. Edwards Award Winner Markus Zusak

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This month, multiple award-winner Markus Zusak, author of ‘The Book Thief,’ will receive yet another honor: SLJ’s own Margaret A. Edwards Award. The author talks about finding his voice, his responsibility to readers, and his obsession with getting things right.

This article was published in School Library Journal's June 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Survival Stories

Survival Stories

We know that many teens love survival stories for their pacing, suspense and the unexpected trials the characters endure. In both of these historical novels, a young person is displaced from home, loses parents and security, makes a journey into the unknown, and overcomes obstacle after obstacle.  My Name is Resolute is quite a tome, a [...]

BookExpo Preview 2014

BookExpo Preview 2014

BookExpo America is one of my favorite events of the year. It’s all books all the time. And now that the availability of e-galleys effectively lessens my need for paper galleys (well, in some cases), the pressure of making it to this or that booth at a particular time is off. More time and energy [...]

Guaranteed Chills!

Guaranteed Chills!

We begin with Above by Isla Morley. When I first heard about this book in a publisher pitch, it was described as very like Room by Emma Donoghue. A girl is abducted by a survivalist, held underground for years (supposedly for her own protection from the coming apocalypse), during which time she has a child. [...]