Monday, July 20, 2009

Teens: Big Fat Series

The end of summer, when you don’t quite want school yet but you’re running out of things to occupy your time, is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in a big fat series—fantasy, historical fiction, or a combination of the two—and escape to other worlds. Here are a few for you to try:

City of Bones / City of Ashes / City of Glass, by Cassandra Clare: Some say “derivative,” and they are, with echoes from Star Wars, Tolkien, and Buffy; but despite that, these three books about the world of the Shadowhunters, hidden in plain sight in New York City, hold your attention first to last. They have it all—tortured heroes and heroines, doomed romance, a larger-than-life villain, vampires, werewolves and faeries, ambiguous characters who could be friend or foe, sacred vessels and swords, high ideals and dastardly plots.

Gifts / Voices / Powers (Annals of the Western Shore), by Ursula Le Guin: Let me start by saying that if you have never read Le Guin’s Earthsea books (beginning with A Wizard of Earthsea), consider those five novels and a book of short stories included in this listing and go do so at once! (Wizards, princes, high priestesses, true love, DRAGONS.) This new cycle of books is less a traditional epic quest and more a personal odyssey, since each is narrated in the first person by its main character, but it still showcases its author’s talent for creating worlds and the societies that have evolved upon them with simple and spare yet beautiful and timeless language. I don’t know how she does it, but her prose and her characters are always both universal and intensely immediate. (They also have some pretty cool mental abilities.) Le Guin is not to be missed.

Bloody Jack / Curse of the Blue Tattoo / Under the Jolly Roger / In the Belly of the Bloodhound, etc. (Bloody Jack Adventures), by L. M. Meyer: This author may benefit from the fact that his last name is spelled the same as that of the author of Twilight, because the juxtaposition in shelving may cause more teen readers to pick him up. And they should—this is a really fun series. It’s a classic tale—almost a cliché: How many books have been written about either running off to join the circus or running off to become a pirate, with the added fillip of girl disguising herself as a boy to do so? But this one is fresh and engaging, with Mary “Jacky” Faber giving her day-by-day description of all the hazards, both insurmountably large and laughably small, of being a ship’s boy in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy in the eighteenth century. Great historical detail and also good storytelling.

Sorcery and Cecelia, or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot / The Grand Tour / The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After, by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, are a winning combination of Regency Romance, historical (ish) fiction, and classic fantasy. Cousins Kate and Cecelia keep up a correspondence—one from her first Season in London, the other from her home in the country—that details their experiences with sorcery and enchantment as well as with fashion and romantic intrigue—the best of all worlds!

Remember that there are still two weeks left of Express Yourself!, our Teen Summer Reading Club. For every book you record in your reading log, and also for every book you review, you get a ticket for our weekly drawing—three chances each week to win Jamba Juice gift cards, AMC movie tickets, and more! It’s not too late to sign up…. Happy Summer Reading!

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