Monday, May 23, 2011

What We're Reading: New Teen Titles

Here are three very different teen fiction offerings--pure science fiction, dark fantasy, and gritty reality--but all a pleasure to read.

The sci-fi book is Black Hole Sun, by David Macinnis Gill (author of Soul Enchilada). It's a Starship Troopers-type action/adventure story set on Mars. Officials on Earth have figured out that if they purposely provoke global warming on Mars, it will hasten terraforming of the planet to make it suitable for human occupation. The fallout from that is that the miners who went there decades ago to set things in motion are now out of a job, the mines have lapsed into disrepair, and their marginal life has become further complicated by attacks from cannibals called Draeu. Enter the Regulators, to save the day. Or rather, one renegade 16-year-old Regulator named Durango, his sworn compadre, the gorgeous and formidable Vienne, and three guys and a kid they hire from a local dive to help. It's not looking like an even contest against the Draeu and their queen...

The fantasy selection is my new favorite book! It's called Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by first-time author Lish McBride, and I devoutly hope she has a sequel in the works, because her characters are clever and funny, verging on snarky, and her writing is both engaging and entertaining. Sam felt directionless after high school, so for now he's working at Plumpy's, a fast-food joint in Seattle. A game of potato hockey in the back parking lot results in a broken taillight that brings him to the attention of Douglas, a guy with a creepy vibe who turns out to be a necromancer (a raiser of the dead). Turns out Sam is a necromancer too, even though he had no idea he had this power and isn't really that interested in it. But Douglas is threatened by competition on his turf, and things go from bad to worse for Sam and his friends as they look for allies--both regular and supernatural--to help them defend themselves from this ruthless dude. Best part of the book? The chapter titles, all taken from popular songs, ranging from "Dead Man's Party" to "These Are A Few of My Favorite Things"!

Reality intrudes in Blink and Caution, the latest by Tim Wynne-Jones, a book filled with suspense and intrigue starring two street kids on the run. Blink just went into the hotel to steal some breakfast from the trays left out in the hall for room service. Instead, he witnesses a fake kidnapping and, after succumbing to the temption of taking the supposedly kidnapped man's cell phone, finds himself in the middle of a mess over which he has no control. Caution is hiding out from her former boyfriend, a nasty drug dealer from whom she has stolen money; but what she's really hiding from goes a year into her past and deep into her damaged spirit. When the two meet up, at first it's a case of the street-smart Caution exploiting a slightly more naive Blink, but soon the two band together to concoct a disastrous blackmail scheme, and in the process pull themselves out of their lives in purgatory. One unusual thing about this book is that Blink's part of it is told in second-person narration, which could be annoying but instead makes this story even more fresh and compelling.

These three books are ample evidence that young adult fiction has transcended its original formula as teen problem novel and moved into mainstream genres with both verve and panache!

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