Monday, May 30, 2016

New teen books

Check out the following new titles in the Young Adult collection on the main floor. 

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black features Hazel and Ben, siblings from the town of Fairfold, who have always lived with a healthy respect for the magical powers of the "folk" who live in the surrounding forest.  After all, there's a horned boy sleeping in a glass coffin in the forest, much like the fairy tale character Snow White, who has fascinated the pair since childhood.  Hazel's biggest problem at the moment is that she has a reputation for kissing all the boys, except the one she really likes, and Ben can't seem to find a suitable boyfriend.  Everyday worries are soon put aside when the school comes under attack by Sorrow, a horrible tree-like creature that puts anyone nearby under a spell of sadness.  At the same time, the horned boy is released from his enclosure in the forest and finds his way to Fairfold, meeting up with Ben, and putting the brother and sister team into the middle of a fairy war.  Secrets from the past are revealed in both mortal and fairy families as the adventure widens to include a vengeful fairy king and the magical creatures he controls.  Holly Black delivers another exciting teen fantasy full of romance, imagination, and adventure.

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit begins when Anna, only seven years old, finds herself alone on the doorstep of her locked apartment as her father, a linguistics professor, is rounded up with other intellectuals by German soldiers during the Nazi takeover of Poland.  Her father’s friend, Herr Doktor Fuchsmann, deserts Anna when he realizes that her father is not returning from his meeting.  A tall thin man, later named Swallow Man by Anna, recognizes her plight and sees potential for disguising himself, so he acts as her father as they both escape from the city.  While keeping mostly to the forest for safety, the pair meets a Jewish musician, a peddler of questionable character, and an unscrupulous physician.  There’s danger around every corner and the suspense never stops. Anna learns something from each of the father figures in the story, but the most valuable lessons come from her philosophical conversations about war and humanity with the Swallow Man.  Communication is the overriding theme of the story.  Anna’s father is a linguist who taught Anna to be fluent in several languages.  Swallow Man also knows several languages, including “road,” an adaptation to local language that allows you to blend in and acquire what you need to survive while traveling.  He also knows the chirping language of birds and what the vocalizations mean in the natural world, another skill for survival.  This book is a study of relationships, how they evolve when war replaces the rules of civility, and the part of our human nature that is “hope.”

The recipe for outstanding historical fiction like Salt to the Sea begins with author Ruta Sepetys, who just happened to be doing some family research and discovered the sinking of the ocean liner, Wilhelm Gustloff, near the end of World War II (1945), an incident that is not well known by Americans.  Add four substantial characters with different backgrounds and perspectives (and secrets of their own) who each tell their tales, filling in bits of history to make the story complete. Florian, Joana, and Emilia are all refugees who end up traveling together to reach the northern coast of Poland, where they can board a ship to Germany - and safely.  The journey is arduous, especially for Emilia whose pregnancy becomes more apparent with every day, and forces them to modify the social and moral boundaries of their previous lives.  The fourth character is Alfred, a young follower of Hitler and a bully, who thinks he’s finally found his place in the world as a Nazi supporter.  Four stories intertwine to narrate the suspenseful journey through occupied territory to gain a chance for survival on the refugee ship.  In addition to the historical information at the back of the book, learn more about the Wilhelm Gustloff at

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon is categorized as historical fiction because it’s the storyteller’s version of Malcom X’s biography.  The book is written by Malcolm Little’s daughter, who had knowledge of family stories, along with Magoon, award winning author of young adult novels, which may explain why this book was crafted as a work of fiction.  The story, told in first person narrative, covers the years from 1930 to 1948, flashing back to Little’s childhood surrounded by family in Lansing, Michigan during the Great Depression.  His traditional upbringing disintegrates with the loss of Malcolm’s father, the redistribution of the family by social services, and his experiences in foster care.  As a teen, he becomes involved in illegal activities and heads out to the east coast, ending up in Harlem and finally in prison.  With the help of the authors, Malcolm’s story becomes more than just a case study from American history.  It’s a story full of childhood memories and emotions experienced by a young black man in segregated America, leaving clues as to why he transformed into Civil Rights leader, Malcolm X, in his later years. 

--Lynette Suckow, Reference Desk.

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