Carry On

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Title: Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Summary: Orphan Simon Snow is the chosen one – born into the World of Mages to triumph over the Insidious Humdrum, a dark entity that swallows magic whole, leaving devastation and ruin in its path. The problem is that Simon barely understands his power and has almost no control over it. Entering his final year at Watford School of Magicks, he finds himself the focus of an inevitable battle, tutored by a strict and mysterious headmaster, bolstered by support from his best friend, the supremely talented and brilliant Penelope, confounded by his on-again, off-again girlfriend Agatha and tormented by his roommate and nemesis, Basilton, a rich kid from a legendary magickal family.

This sounds…familiar, right? It is supposed to – the story of Simon Snow was introduced to readers of author Rainbow Rowell’s popular book Fangirl, about a college freshman who is also an internet-famous author of slash fiction. But you don’t have to read Fangirl first to fall in love with Simon Snow. As he makes his way through his final year at Watford, he comes face to face with the true nature of the Humdrum, the true motives of his teacher, the mysterious nature of his origin and his true feelings for Baz. This fast-paced and funny fantasy tale is perfect for readers who grew up with The Boy Who Shall Not Be Named (in this post, at least) who are looking for a book with the same sense of emotion and adventure.

 

Who will like this book?: This is the ‘Drarry’ book you’ve been waiting for, shippers!Potterheads. Fan Fic (particularly Slash Fic) devotees. Readers who love coming-of-age adventure stories.

If you like this, try this: The book that inspired this story, Fangirl, also by Rainbow Rowell. For a darker take on fandom, try Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky. Another magical quest/school story with a high page count, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. We don’t need to recommend J.K. Rowling’s stuff, right?

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Only Ever Yours

OEY-USA

Title: Only Ever Yours

Author: Louise O’Neill

Summary: frieda and isabel are eves that have been best friends almost since they were created. Now, at age 16, they are in their final year of training at their isolated academy, both near the top of the class and sure to be selected as companions of the Inheritors – the boys who are born on the outside. The girls have been working towards this goal since they were designed – refining their beauty, maintaining their perfect figures, and learning how to cater to every whim of the men who control the world. Each year, three ‘eves’ are created for each boy born on the outside and those who are not chosen as companions will live the rest of their lives as concubines – set aside for male pleasure only, or as chastities – those considered so undesirable that they remain forever training future eves.

Even the idea of living as anything other than a companion horrifies frieda, so she cannot understand why isabel has drifted away from her during such a crucial time when they are so close to graduation. What’s worse is that isabel seems to have given up her top position – gaining weight rapidly and dropping off the weekly rankings of the eves entirely. As the other eves jockey for position and the introduction of the Inheritors – who will make the decision about their fate – looms, frieda is desperate to hold on to her future in a world where all that matters is your beauty. Can she face this world alone, without isabel’s friendship and support? Or will she be left behind to endure the cruelty of the eves, chastities and men?

This is a gripping dystopia that takes our modern obsession with physical perfection to a horrifying but all-too-plausible end. The sheer brutality of the world created by Irish author O’Neill will be challenging for some readers to engage with, but for those who are interested in dark social horror stories will find much to think about in these pages. It might make you angry, but you won’t soon forget this book and it just might make you look at our world a bit differently.

Who will like this book?: This is an intense book recommended for mature, experienced readers only. People who are interested in feminist theory, or who like to engage in philosophically- or morally-based dystopian ideas. Readers who like books that will keep them up at night, thinking and thinking…

If you like this, try this: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The Wither series by Lauren DeStefano. The Selection series by Kiera Cass.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces

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Title: Gabi, A Girl in Pieces

Author: Isabel Quintero

Summary: During her senior year of high school, Gabi Hernandez keeps a diary about the things that are on her mind: friends, her appearance, guys, family, college and the future. Each piece of her life has its own complications and contradictions: Her best friends are dealing with coming out and an unplanned pregnancy. Her dad is in and out of her life due to his meth addiction. And does a Mexican-American girl from a poor neighborhood really have any chance of getting in to college, let alone her top choice school? Gabi finds herself making serious decisions about her life and the person she wants to be, as well as discovering her talents as a writer and artist over the course of an awful, wonderful, unforgettable year.

Don’t let the strange-looking cover fool you  – this is an incredible book and worthy 2017 High School Nutmeg nominee, as well as a Printz Honor winner, for a reason. If the story sounds melodramatic, that’s because it is – but only a bit more so than the life of any teen girl  growing up today. What makes this book extraordinary is its clear-eyed portrayal of the ups and downs that make up an ordinary life. You will be so glad to have spent time observing the world through Gabi’s eyes and will miss her frank, unsentimental voice in your head once the story is done. This is a book that teens and parents should consider reading together – adults could learn quite a bit about what life feels like for young people today.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who like realistic, contemporary fiction. People who like multicultural stories. People who like reading books in diary format.

If you like this, try this: Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas. Yaqui Delgado…by Meg Medina. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Six of Crows

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Title: Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Summary: Kaz, a criminal prodigy with a mysterious past, has quickly risen to the top of the criminal underbelly in the international trading hub Ketterdam. If you need the impossible done, he is the one you contact.  And, an impossible, deadly heist is just what someone offers to pay him an unbelievable amount of money to commit.  Kaz is up for the challenge so long as he can assemble the perfect crew.  A perfect crew consisting of:

The agile spy whose ability to sneak into just the right spot has earned her the nickname the Wraith;

The sharpshooter with a gambling problem;

A privileged runaway demolitionist;

A Heartrender who has the magical ability to damage a person’s internal organs- from slowing a pulse to snatching the very breath from their lungs;

A former witch hunter and convict torn between the need for revenge and redemption; and

The criminal mastermind who earned the nickname “Dirtyhands” because no job is too despicable or bloody for him.

Oh, and one more thing… if the six fail it could have deadly consequences for everyone in the world.

Who will like this book?:  This smart cross between heist and fantasy will appeal to fans of both genres.  Bardugo alternates telling the story using  five of the six main characters’ points-of-view, so you get more of a chance to understand each character’s motivation.    That means fans of character driven stories will be equally satisfied with this tale.

If you like this, try this: Kristin Cashore’s  Graceling series, Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, The Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard, and An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Recommended by: Jen, Teen Librarian

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States

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Title: Lafayette in the Somewhat United States

Author: Sarah Vowell

Summary: With the surging popularity of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musicalization of Alexander Hamilton’s life, there is new interest in not just the Founding Fathers, but those who fought and served around them. Here with a take on the tale of ‘America’s Favorite Fighting Frenchman,’ is humorist Sarah Vowell. While you may not be familiar with her brand of irreverent historical writings, I bet you have heard her voice: as Violet in The Incredibles. Here, she follows the young French nobleman from his early days in France to his final, farewell tour as the last living Revolutionary general.

This isn’t just a date-by-date retelling of Lafayette’s incredible and improbable life as a rebel and statesman. Instead, like all of her books, Vowell uses his story to consider something deeper – when have these States of ours ever truly been United? Her witty, clear-as-the-Liberty-Bell voice is an excellent guide through parts of our history that have been forgotten or romanticized into mythology. You will learn, you will laugh, and you will perhaps see the world a little differently. As we wander through an intensely combative political season, this books is not only a joy to read, but contains important lessons for us to understand.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers. Fans of the new musical Hamilton. American history buffs. Anyone who likes non-fiction that will make them laugh.

If you like this, try this: For more by Sarah Vowell, start with Assassination Vacation. More non-fiction: try Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow or Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts. For fiction set in the Revolutionary era, try the graphic novel The Sons of Liberty by Alexander Lagos or Fever, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Andreson, or 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Dare to Disappoint

DareToDisappoint

Title: Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey

Author/Illustrator: Özge Samancı

Summary: Özge grew up in a small village on the Mediterranean sea in Turkey, a proud and ancient nation with a tumultuous recent history. While she treasured her dreams of becoming an actress, or an adventurer, or even an underwater explorer like her idol Jacques Cousteau, she also knew that she had an obligation to her family and to herself to study as hard as she could and enter a profession that would allow her to support herself in a time when such opportunities were rare, especially for girls. So at a young age, Özge sets her dreams aside in order to devote herself to one goal: Getting in to the best college possible so she can study the most challenging subjects so she can get a great job to guarantee her future. Will she succeed? Is it worth it? What will she find out about herself along the way?

This bright and charming graphic memoir was written and designed by Samancı, who is now a professor living in Chicago. While it offers a detailed and lighthearted look at growing up in Turkey, what makes it truly fascinating is its terrific depiction of living through the stress of expectations, be they of your family or your society in general, and how it is truly universal, whether you live in the United States today or grew up halfway around the world 30 years ago. Heartfelt and unexpectedly sensitive, this book is well worth your time.

Who will like this book?: Fans of books set in other countries. Memoir readers. Anyone who likes beautiful illustrations – these pages are full of creative and clever visuals.

If you like this, try this: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. For more on Turkey, try Blue Voyage by Diana Renn.

The Song Machine

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Title: The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Machine

Author: John Seabrook

Summary: Have you ever wondered why the music on the radio all sort of sounds the same? This book will tell you why…and basically, you can blame Sweden. Author Seabrook investigates the way most pop music is made today: by armies of technicians individually responsible for each element of the tune, from melody to lyrics to the all-important hooks that grab and keep the listener’s attention. The science of modern song craft is explored in-depth, with details about the rise of Scandinavian hit-makers like Max Martin (who has produced more number 1 hits than anyone besides George Martin, who worked with the Beatles), the type of artists who thrive under the guidance of super-producers, the fate of the session musicians who have been replaced by computer beats, and what the digital future of music means for record labels, artists and the listening public.

This book will resonate with anyone who loves music, especially those who love (or love to hate) today’s top hits and hit-makers including Katy Perry, Rihanna, Taylor Swift and the Weeknd. It’s a great choice for anyone looking for something a little different to read this winter season.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who are interested in the mechanics of music production. Non-fiction fans who like reading about contemporary topics.

If you like this, try this: How Music Works by David Byrne. Decoded by Jay-Z. For younger readers: Learn to Speak Music by John Crossingham. For a perspective on this trend from a different era: Rhythm Ride: A Roadtrip through the Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian