A Monster Calls

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Title: A Monster Calls

Author: Patrick Ness, inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd

Illustrator: Jim Kay

Summary: When the giant yew tree from Conor’s backyard comes to life it doesn’t really scare  him. Because it’s not the monster he’d been expecting. Not the one from the nightmares he’s been having ever since his mom got sick. This monster is different: He is ancient, wise and a little snarky. As we follow Conor through his days being picked on at school, reuniting with his visiting Dad who has moved to America to start a new family and battling with his grandmother who insists he start planning for a future without his mom, the monster visits at night and tells Conor three stories. They are not what Conor expects them to be, but they force him to confront both the demonic monster of his nightmares and the reasons for its existence.

Like the monster’s stories themselves, this book is not what you expect it to be. It might sound like a typical kid-with-sick-mom story with a monster thrown in for good measure. But just when you think you know how the story will go, it will take another surprising turn. Patrick Ness, author of the terrific Chaos Walking trilogy and talented illustrator Jim Kay, who provides dynamic and just-plain-creepy images throughout, completed this book after Siobhan Dowd’s untimely death. Like her stories, this tale is so much more than the sum of its parts. This short book tells a story about growing up that you will never forget.

Who will like this book?: Readers of all ages who like a lot of heart and soul with their thrills and chills. Fans of fractured fairy tales and illustrated novels.

If you like this, try this: M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman. Harvey: How I Became Invisible by Herve Bouchard.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

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Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

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Title: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Author: Lish McBride

Summary: Sam is just your ordinary college drop-out passing the time working in a fast-food restaurant and hanging out with friends.  It’s a rather unremarkable, bland life until a disturbing encounter with Douglas, a powerful necromancer, changes everything.   Douglas senses Sam’s previously undetected and undeveloped powers as a necromancer and believes him to be a threat with which to be swiftly dealt.  Now Sam has a sinister new archenemy bent on converting him to an evil apprentice or getting rid of him altogether, the undeveloped talent for raising the dead and controlling them, a re-animated friend who is missing her body from the neck down, and a hot werewolf girl for company.     

Who will like this book?:  This fast-paced buddy action book combines humor, horror, supernatural fantasy, and a bit of romance to create a highly entertaining and addicting read for mature teens. 

If you like this, try this: The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series by Heather Brewer, Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins, Thirsty by M.T. Anderson, Cirque du Freak series by Darren Shan

Recommended by: Jen, Fairfield Woods Branch Teen Librarian

Nothing

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Title: Nothing

Author: Janne Teller, translated by Martin Aitken

Summary: Seventh-grader Pierre Anthon announces to his classmates on the first day of school that nothing really matters, so nothing is worth doing. He promptly leaves class and climbs a plum tree where he remains indefinitely, every day taunting and raining down insults on his former friends, driving them to outrage and despair with his new philosophy. Something must be done to prove Pierre wrong, narrator Agnes and her peers decide: Life isn’t pointless. Each member of the class decides to sacrifice the thing that means the most to them, creating a “heap of meaning” in an abandoned sawmill in town. And since they are all friends, they all know what things hold the most meaning for each other…

At first the sacrifices are small: A pair of shoes, a fishing rod. But as each classmate raises the stakes on the person who comes after them, the items added to the pile become more personal, more intense, and more gruesome than the last, with devastating consequences that no one can foresee. This Printz-honor book, originally published in Denmark, takes a philosophical idea to a terrifyingly creepy conclusion. A great piece of psychological horror, this might be the most dangerous (in a good way) book I’ve read in a long, long time. 

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who are into intense fiction, especially ones that start off slow and build in excitement. Budding existentialists. Anyone interested in psychology, or who just like to have their minds warped. 

If you like this, try this: Shattering Glass by Gail Giles. Godless by Pete Hautman. Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Zombies vs Unicorns

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Title: Zombies vs Unicorns

Editors: Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

Summary: It’s a debate as old as time (or, an Internet meme started in February 2007): Flesh eating symbols of the inevitable decay of modern civilization, or rainbow-farting, frolicking  horned creatures. (Okay, you can obviously see my preference.) This collection of 12 short stories by some of today’s best YA writers takes up the debate, alternating zombie and unicorn stories, with editors Black and Larbalestier providing a highly entertaining commentary before each tale begins.

Stories by Carrie Ryan (The Forest of Hands and Teeth) and Diana Peterfreund (Rampant)  explore characters and situations familiar to readers of their books, while Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot, Maureen Johnson and Libba Bray provide new tales that will leave you wishing the pages would turn forever. Like a zombie shambling ever onward. Or a unicorn prancing, I guess. Even if you aren’t a zombie person (which makes you a unicorn person, which is…let’s face it, strange) this collection is a terrific introduction to the many facets of contemporary fantasy, and a definite must-read.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who are fans (or haters) of zombies. Fans (or haters) of unicorns. Anyone who likes fun, fast-paced fantasy stories.

If you like this, try this: The Living Dead, edited by John Joseph Adams.  A good collection of unicorn short stories – if such a thing existed.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

I Am Not a Serial Killer

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Title: I Am Not a Serial Killer

Author: Dan Wells

Summary: John Wayne Cleaver is not a serial killer…yet. He might be a sociopath: He has no empathy for others and cannot relate to their messy, irrational feelings. To keep the monster inside him at bay he meets with a psychiatrist and follows strict rules of his own creation – no stalking, no obsessing, and no imagining what people would look like as bleeding corpses…Until the day a body turns up behind the laundromat.

And not just any dead body – one that has been mutilated and appears to be missing parts. John is convinced it means a serial killer is in their midst. When he decides to track down the killer, John gets much more than he bargained for. As he embarks on an intense, violent journey of self-discovery, John must outwit his demonic adversary and keep the evil inside him under control.

Who will like this book?: This book is recommended for older, mature teens – it is not for the weak of stomach or faint of heart. Readers of intense fiction who don’t mind a little bit of the supernatural mixed in with an otherwise realistic story. If you are a fan of the TV shows Dexter or Criminal Minds, you’ll love this book.

If you like this, read this: My Father’s Son by Terri Fields. Acceleration by Graham McNamee. Killing Britney by Sean Olin.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Pretty Dead

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Title: Pretty Dead

Author: Francesca Lia Block

Summary: Charlotte, with her willowy frame, designer clothes, perfect skin, and long blonde hair is pretty. But she is also dead. A vampire who has traveled the world and been witness to nearly every horror of the 20th century, she longs for a companion to spend her days with, even though she would never curse another with immortality. When she meets the sweet-natured Emily, they develop an intense friendship. But when Emily’s dead body is found, the result of an apparent suicide, Charlotte begins to change. It begins with a torn fingernail. Then, a pimple appears on her perfect forehead.

As Charlotte wonders what is happening to her, her relationship with Emily’s boyfriend Jared intensifies. And when Charlotte’s creator and former companion William, appears, it seems that not even the dead are safe. Can Charlotte reclaim her humanity and keep Jared from succumbing to his desire to become a monster? This fast-paced story takes the traditional vampire tale and twists it just enough to satisfy readers who might be Twilight-ed out.

Who will like this book: Fans of paranormal romances (and not just the ones by Stephenie Meyer.) Readers who have enjoyed the other urban fantasy books by this prolific and award-winning author.

If you like this, try this: The Weetzie Bat books by Francesca Lia Block. The Immortals books by Alyson Noel. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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Title: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Author: Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Summary: It’s Pride and Prejudice…with zombies! Fighting off zombie attacks are a daily chore for the Bennet sisters. During their years of training in China, they have honed their mastery with the sword, becoming famous in their small town for their abilities. Our hero Mr. Darcy happens to also be a famous zombie slayer. It would be a match made in heaven if not for Darcy’s superior status and the disapproving glare of his aunt, the renowned Lady Catherine de Bourgh. With the classic cast of passionate, sharp-mouthed, lovesick characters, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies brings this original tale back to life – literally.

Who will like this book?: If you’re a fan of Gregory Maguire, I’d say this book is for you. If you enjoyed the original Pride and Prejudice, you might enjoy this as well, as it contains many direct passages (and essentially the same plot) from the original.  Even if you don’t like reading the classics, you’ll find this one hard to put down.

If you like this, you should try: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Wicked and Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire. Fool by Christopher Moore. Goose Girl by Shannon Hale.

Recommended by: ZZ, Fairfield resident and avid reader