Right now, the master of surrealism for teens is Nova Ren Suma. For those unfamiliar with surrealism, it can be an acquired taste. It’s not quite realistic fiction and it’s not quite fantasy or paranormal. Her books leave you with more questions than answers, and you may feel the story was dreamed rather than read. Suma says she was inspired by magical realism, which is a genre that introduces magical elements into an otherwise normal world. This isn’t the magic of Harry Potter, but magic that exists at the edges of things. These books aren’t fully paranormal, but as a reader you can’t shake the feeling that something is amiss. If you’re the kind of reader that likes a solid ending that answers all of your questions, these may not be right for you. If you like open endings and enjoy the psychological heebie-jeebies, then you are in for a treat.
Nova Ren Suma’s YA debut, Imaginary Girls, was released in the summer of 2011. At its surface, this book is about the relationship between two sisters, our narrator Chloe and her enigmatic sister Ruby. There are parties by a reservoir, cute boys, and interesting new friends; but readers will quickly discover that things are not what they appear. The first oddity is the reappearance of a girl who drowned two years prior, but Chloe is the only one who seems to remember. There are also the stories Ruby tells about the former residents of Olive, a town flooded when the reservoir was built. Are the former residents still living beneath the water? This book isn’t a traditional paranormal thriller, but it is certainly unsettling. There is a dreamy quality to Suma’s writing and this novel is unlike anything I have encountered in YA.
“Ruby’s stories didn’t have morals. They meant one thing in the light and one thing in the dark and another thing entirely when she was wearing sunglasses.”
Suma’s most recent novel is 17 & Gone . The narrator, Lauren, is haunted by girls who disappeared the year they turned 17. Police never fully investigated the disappearances because it was believed the girls ran away willingly, but Lauren knows better. The missing girls keep appearing in her car, in her room, on the side of the road; and they want her to find out what really happened to them. The book is a mix of mystery, ghost story, and psychological thriller. There is a bit more action than in Imaginary Girls, but the same unsettling atmosphere remains. Determining what is real and what is just in Lauren’s head may be the focus, but the real horror of the novel is why no one cared to investigate after the girls went missing.
“I was 17. I was a girl. Didn't we matter?”
“How heartless it was for a girl to be forgotten and buried before there was even anything of her to put in the ground."
-Ruth Houston, Youth Services, Teen Underground, Main Library
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Do you like dystopia? Do you like vampires? Then I have the book for you: When the Sea Is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen. Yep you guessed it: it’s vampire dystopia! In the society that is the backdrop for this story, marriages are arranged, class/caste is everything, and vampires are part of society. Felicita is a 17-year-old girl who is a member of the highest class, and her best friend, Ilven, has just committed suicide rather than marry the man her parents chose for her. When Felicita’s family announces that her own marriage has been arranged to a man she has absolutely no wish to marry, Felicita decides to fake her own death and run away. She hides in the city’s slums and becomes a dishwasher in a tea house. She also meets two very different guys: Dash, a charming bad-boy type, and Jannik, a vampire. And then, to top it all off, Ilven’s suicide has called up some sort of sea creature bent on destruction, and Felicita has to save her new friends, her family, and the entire town from the creature’s wrath.
Now for more vampires! This next book is a loose retelling of the Snow White fairy tale with vampires (and a little bit of The Godfather thrown in for good measure). Nameless by Lili St. Crow is about a girl named Camille. When she was a small child, Camille was discovered shivering in the snow by Enrico Vultusino, the head of one of the seven powerful vampire clans. Camille doesn’t remember who she used to be or where all of her scars came from. And then she meets Tor, who has scars similar to her own, and wonders if he could be a link to her mysterious past.
Have a favorite vampire book or story? Share with us below.
-Emily Mauldin, Youth Services, Middletown Branch
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If you need to kill some time while waiting for more lives, here are some ideas:
Sweet Fiction, Non-fiction and DVDs
- Sweetly by Jackson Pearce
- The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull
- L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad (okay it’s not actually about candy but it’s got candy in the title, sue me)
- The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook by Liz Gutman and Jen King
- Candy Making for Dummies by David E.H. Jones
- Candy from the History Channel
Some of these look really cool and fun.
So get reading! Or crafting and baking – you have 30 minutes between lives to waste or until your Facebook friends give you more. And just keep telling yourself, “I can quit whenever I want…” That’s what I’ll be telling myself.
-Heather Lee, Children and Teen Services, St Matthews Branch
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Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
Seventeen-year-old Kami Glass has spent her entire life in a small English town called Sorry-in-the-Vale. She has always had a hard time fitting in; she is Japanese and looks like no one else in her town, and she hears a voice in her head that she has been talking to from the time she was born. But, despite being an outsider, Kami is very bold, constantly pursuing answers to the mysteries that surround her.
She and her best friend and tough sidekick, Angela, run the school newspaper. Life in Sorry-in-the-Vale is fairly dull with few interesting stories to publish outside of children’s cricket camp drama. But everything changes once the Lynburn family returns to town. For starters, the voice in her head, Jared, turns out to be a real person (and not just any person): a Lynburn who seems as gorgeous as he is dangerous. As if that isn’t confusing enough, she also meets his equally attractive cousin, Asher. While Kami is trying to wrap her head around that drama, she is pushed into a well and nearly drowns. Someone is out to kill her, but who, and why? Does the boy in her head hold the answers? Click here for a link to the Library catalog.
The Book of Blood: From Legends and Leeches to Vampires and Veins by HP Newquist
When you think of blood what comes to mind? Gore ? Death? Blood is an essential part of life that has affected human society, both culturally and scientifically. This book explores medical research over several centuries, as well as the folklore, fear, and religious and political barriers that have hindered our understanding of blood and the basic functions of the human body.
Surprisingly, our current knowledge of blood and the circulatory system was not discovered until the beginning of the 19th century. Even after the invention of the microscope, bloodletting continued as standard practice until some doctors began to question it after George Washington’s death.
Beginning with ancient civilizations and mythology, the book follows humanity’s social and scientific relationship with blood through to modern times. The second half of the book details the scientific functions of blood. The last section of the book explores the myths and legends related to blood, such as vampires, that have continued in popular culture. If you want a great read full of information without the dryness of a traditional textbook- I highly recommend the Book of Blood. Click here for a link to the Library catalog.
Have a favorite scary novel or ghost story? Share below in the comments section.
-Melissa McCullough, Children's Librarian, Jeffersontown Branch
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(Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelve_Kingdoms and http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... ngdoms.png)
Her two most popular series The Twelve Kingdoms (linked to LFPL catalog) and Ghost Hunt have both been adapted into anime series. The Twelve Kingdoms has also been translated into English by former manga publisher Tokyo Pop. The story is about another world that exists on the other side of the ocean from Japan where rulers are chosen by mythical creatures, and evil demons plague the land. High school honor student Yoko is taken into the world of The Twelve Kingdoms to become the king of Kei by one of these mythical creatures. Through her eyes, the audience is introduced to an intricate cast of characters in a richly formed fantasy realm.
Ono’s other popular series, Ghost Hunt, has also been adapted into a manga series. This is a modern day horror series that follows the famous psychic Kazuya Shibuya characterized through ghost-hunting high school student Mai. Through her adventures with Shibuya, Mai develops her own psychic abilities and becomes friends with other spiritualists that join Shibuya’s ghost hunts. There are many scary and sometimes gory moments in this series, so it is not for the faint of heart.
Take some time to branch out from manga authors and check out some of the very talented Japanese novelists like Fuyumi Ono!
-Lynn Johnson, Children and Teen Services, Westport and St. Matthews Branch
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