All We Have Left

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Title: All We Have Left

Author: Wendy Mills

Summary: Alia and Jesse both have trouble understanding their parents and why they act the way they do. Alia wants to be a comic book artist, but her parents insist that she study for a more ‘respectable’ profession. Jesse knows why her parents are heartbroken: Her brother Travis died inside the World Trade center on 9/11, and they have never gotten over it. Both girls break the rules and have to face the consequences of their actions: Alia loses her chance to study at a prestigious art camp after being caught with someone smoking in the school bathroom and Jesse is ordered to volunteer at a local community center after she and her friends are caught vandalizing a local business. These young women have never met, but they are connected to each other, though neither of them knows it: One of them is living in the past, and the other in the future. Alia will be a firsthand witness to devastation, and Jesse will live through the long wake of its aftermath.

This book is thought-provoking and gut-wrenching. As the stories of Alia, Jesse and Travis  weave together, you will find yourself turning the pages faster and faster to see how it works out, hoping things will be different than you already know are in the end. Serious, surprising and deeply moving, this is a fantastic book to share with the adults in your life: You’ll want to understand more about what they experienced on that terrible and tragic day.

Who will like this book: People who like to cry. Anyone interested in what life was like before and during the attacks on September 11, 2001. Readers who like stories where characters are strangers who are secretly somehow connected to each other.

If you like this, try this: The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan.  For mature readers: Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Boxers & Saints

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Title: Boxers & Saints

Author/Illustrator: Gene Luen Yang

Summary: In this stunning masterwork, Gene Luen Yang tells an epic story across two books about young people facing the devastating consequences of war in 18th century China. Little Bao and Vibiana both live in the idyllic but impoverished rural countryside with families that are facing challenges. Soon, inspired and driven by the hidden magic surrounding them (Bao by the god-kings of Chinese mythology and Vibiana by the legend of Joan of Arc), they each embark on a journey through the rapidly-changing world around them, finding themselves as they endure the upheaval, war and devastation that comes when people with different points of view cannot coexist peacefully. When their paths finally cross, neither will be the same.

It probably doesn’t matter in which order you read these dual narratives, but I’d suggest you start with Boxers. You might not learn too much about this famous colonial-era Rebellion in your history classes, but this story will immerse you in the violent and bloody struggle between those who wished to reject foreign influence in China and others who welcomed it. You will  be moved by both of these young people as they find themselves leading their people towards an unthinkable destiny, each believing they are right.

Who will like this book: Graphic n0vel readers. Fans of historical fiction and stories laced with magic and spirituality.

If you like this, try this: Yang’s Printz-winning work, American Born Chinese. Another fantastic graphic novel with a supernatural element, Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brogsol.For another era in Chinese history, take a look at Revolution is not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine. For more on the history of this era, read The Boxer Rebellion by Diana Preston.

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

Symphony for the City of the Dead

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Title: Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

Author: M.T. Anderson

Summary: During World War II, the Russian city of Leningrad, formerly known as St. Petersburg, was bombed and held under siege by Nazi forces for almost three years, unable to obtain fresh food or other necessities for survival. Starving and desperate, residents of the cosmopolitan cultural capital of the nation endured unspeakable horrors. It was the stuff of nightmares, but it was also a source of inspiration, as famous composer Dmitri Shostakovich created a piece of music that would come to demonstrate to the war-torn world the incredible strength of his native city, the Seventh Symphony.

Born before the Russian Revolution, Shostakovich was a living witness to an incredible time in world history. This stunning and impeccably researched work of non-fiction describes the epic story of the war in the U.S.S.R. by telling the story of this one man, an artist who had been held up a both a hero and a pariah by those in charge over the course of his turbulent life. This book is challenging and deeply rewarding, much like author Anderson’s acclaimed fiction including Feed and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. Even if you think you know all there is to know about World War II, this book will surprise you.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who are interested in history. Musicians and artists. People who are curious about everyday life under war conditions.

If you like this, try this: For more on Russian history, try The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming. The Road of Bones by Ann Fine. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. For mature readers, City of Thieves by David Benioff.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Wrath and the Dawn

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Title: The Wrath and the Dawn

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Summary: Khalid, the dangerous and mysterious young Caliph of Khorasan, has an unsettling habit: He marries a new young girl from his city of Rey each night, only to have them killed each following dawn, strangled by a silken cord. One of the most recent victims of his bewildering cruelty was Shiva, the dearest friend of Shahrzad, daughter of a former vizier. Planning to exact revenge, Shahrzad volunteers to be Khalid’s next bride. While she is able to survive the first night of her marriage due to her skill as a charming storyteller, her place in the palace as Calipha is not secure and she is in constant danger from everyone around her. Meanwhile, outside the city, Shahrzad’s childhood friend and first love Tariq plots to free Shahrzad and the kingdom of Khorasan from the tyrannical rule of the hated Khalid. Of course, there is more to the Caliph than meets the eye. As an improbable connection begins to form between the married strangers, a tale of curses, true love and political intrigue begins to swirl that is as mesmerizing as one of Shahrzad’s nighttime tales.

This dynamic, un-put-downable page-turner is an outstanding debut by author Ahdieh. It is a fascinating retelling of The Arabian Nights and a great interpretation of its narrator, Scheherazade. There is romance, intrigue, adventure and even a dash of the supernatural to satisfy most readers, even those who are not interested in the revived trend of updated and fractured fairy tales. With the second book in the series, The Rose and the Dagger, due in 2016, you’ll want to get your hands on this title as soon as possible.

Who will like this book?: Readers who like intrigue and love-triangle romance with a dash of the supernatural. Fans of historical fiction based in non-European settings.

If you like this, try this: The forthcoming A Thousand Nights by Emily Kate Johnson. Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt. The original Arabian Nights tales, found in many translations. For mature readers, another fairy-tale retelling along these themes, Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Archivist Wasp

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Title: Archivist Wasp

Author: Nicole Kornher-Stace

Summary: Wasp was chosen by the goddess Catchkeep to become an Archivist – the person who will protect her desolate village from the hordes of wordless, mindless ghosts that swarm just outside the walls. In order to maintain her position, she must battle – and kill – the three Upstarts who challenge her each year. Wasp is weary of her work, her isolation from the others in her town, the barely-contained hatred of the Upstarts who want to see her fall, and most of all, the abusive mind games of the Catchkeep priest who she reports to. She has a rebellious nature – while she is supposed to catch and destroy ghosts, she finds herself fascinated by them and takes her other responsibility – to study and learn more about them, as seriously as the first.

After a brutal near-defeat at the hands of the latest batch of Upstarts, Wasp goes hunting and makes a startling discovery: She meets a ghost who can communicate with her. He is unlike any other ghost she has encountered – physically strong, mentally aware and very, very persistent. This ghost needs her help. And so begins an incredible, sometimes brutal story about what it means to be a good person, the nature of friendship versus self-reliance, and the potential benefits of breaking all the rules. While this is technically a dystopian story, it has a timeless, almost fairy tale-feeling about it. This impressive novel will leave you with a lot to think about.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers of fantasy who like ‘otherworldly’ tales. Fans of strong, smart female characters. Anyone who likes books that keep revealing details on how they work as you read them.

If you like this, try this: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan. For mature readers, What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Name of the Wind

Title: The Name of the Wind

Author:  Patrick Rothfuss

Summary: In the quiet village of Newarre, the townspeople sense that darkness and danger are gathering. One night, a traveling scribe known as Chronicler is saved from wicked, spider-creatures called Scrael by a local innkeeper named Kote. The scribe soon realizes that this humble man is really the legendary hero Kvothe, made famous in story and song. After much prodding from Chronicler, Kvothe agrees to tell his story and reveal the reasons why he has retreated from the world that seems to need heroes more than ever.

The Name of the Wind is the first book in a planned triology called the Kingkiller Chronicles. In these pages, we learn of Kvothe’s early years as a traveling performer and musician with his family. When his father angers the Chandrian, an ancient, evil force, it brings about an unspeakable tragedy that sets young Kvothe on his life’s mission: revenge. He enrolls at the University to learn, among other things, ‘sympathy,’ a magical skill that allows users to manipulate objects and bend them to their will. Kvothe  makes friends and enemies and even has a sweetly shy romance along the way, but his focus always remains on his goal of discovering how to find and defeat the Chandrian.

Who will like this book?: This book is a great choice for fantasy readers who have read ‘everythingor are looking for another series to begin. Mature readers who like stories set in magical schools and were fans of Harry Potter or Percy Jackson when they were younger.

If you like this, read this: The sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, which continues Kvothe’s story. The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian