Monday, July 13, 2009

Teens’ Top Ten (again)

Another book from the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) “Teens’ Top Ten” ballot for this year: The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, Book One), by Patrick Ness. I didn’t start out thinking of this book as science fiction, because although you eventually learn that the story is set on another planet to which colonists have gone in search of religious freedom and the rural life, at first it just seems like a coming of age story with a confused teen boy protagonist named Todd. But the story turns ominous as you learn that: all the women are dead; all the men have been exposed to a germ that makes their thoughts (and those of the surrounding farm animals and indigenous “creachers”) constantly audible to everyone (they call it “The Noise”); and there is a mystery surrounding the town in which the boy lives—to do with his imminent achievement of manhood—that causes his guardians to risk their lives to send him away to safety. As Todd runs, the tension ratchets higher and higher as he learns that most of what he grew up knowing to be true was a lie, and the truth is putting everyone on the planet at risk. The issue of being unable to either shut out the thoughts of others or hide his own gives the chase both an additional hazard and a psychological twist, and the villains are truly terrifying. If you don’t like cliffhangers, then wait until just before the sequel, called The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking, Book Two), is released in September to read this book, so your satisfaction won’t be delayed. (A third book is planned.)

Teens are encouraged to read this and 23 more books during the summer, and to vote at between August 25 and September 15 for their 10 favorites. The winners will be announced during Teen Read Week, October 18-24. Ballots with the complete list of 25 books can be found in the Young Adult sections of all three Burbank Libraries. Happy Summer Reading!

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