Vampire Academy

vampireacademy

Title: Vampire Academy

Author: Richelle Mead

ISBN: 9781595141743

Publisher: Razorbill

Copyright Date: 2007

Plot Summary:

Rose Hathaway and her best friend Lissa Dragomir are on the run from an unknown threat. When Rose and Lissa are caught and returned to St. Vladimir’s Academy, they must face the disdain of their peers and avoid a mysterious enemy who makes thinly veiled threats towards Lissa. Lissa is a Moroi, a living vampire, and is part of a royal vampire family. Rose is her protector in training. Rose is a dhampir, half vampire and half human, which gives her a unique set of abilities. She is bonded with Lissa in a way that they do not understand, and she is very sensitive to Lissa’s needs and emotions. Both Rose and Lissa find themselves drawn into romantic entanglements as they struggle to make sense of the threats made against Lissa. It soon becomes clear that it is dangerous to stay at the academy, but it may be even more dangerous to live outside of it. Bloodthirsty undead vampires called Strigoi live just outside the safety of the walls, waiting to drain the blood from their living counterparts.

Critical Evaluation:

Although certainly not the best book I have read in the paranormal genre, it would definitely fall in the category of guilty pleasure reads. The character of Rose has a great deal of spunk and her flawed nature is endearing. Lissa’s character is more reserved and delicate, but she is also very likeable.

The romance between Rose and her trainer seems a bit inappropriate as he is notably older than her. Rose is still in high school and he is well into adulthood. The only comfort is his character seems aware of the taboo of their relationship and attempts to keep the relationship somewhat professional. I imagine that later in the series, likely when the character of Rose turns eighteen, they will eventually act upon their mutual attraction. In the meantime, the forbidden nature of their relationship lends it more excitement. Forbidden love is always a popular theme and will most likely appeal to teen readers.

Reader’s Annotation: Lissa has a secret, and Rose is sworn to protect her. Unfortunately, the enemy within their school may greater than the one outside it.

About the Author:

Scorpio Richelle Mead is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy books for both adults and teens.  Before becoming a writer, she considered a few different career paths. She has a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, an MA in Comparative Religion, and a Master in Teaching degree for secondary education. In the end, she decided writing was the way for her but believes all of her education prepared her for it.

A life-long reader, Richelle has always had a particular fascination with mythology and folklore. When not writing, she enjoys bad reality TV, traveling, trying interesting cocktails, and shopping for dresses. Lots of dresses. She is a self-professed coffee addict, fights a constant (and losing) battle with procrastination, and has a passion for all things wacky and humorous.”

Genre: Young adult, paranormal romance, adventure

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Talk about the difference between Moroi and Strigoi vampires.
  • Describe Rose’s struggle to get out of Lissa’s thoughts.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Grades 6-8, Ages 13-18

Challenge Issues: strong sensuality, teen sex, teen partying, violence, objectionable language

Defense File:

Violence in the Media: A Joint Statement: 2000-2001 CD #19.3

Challenged Materials: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights: 1989-;90 CD #61.2

Chapter 5 of Youth, Pornography, and the Internet (2002)

Justification of Selection: This book is a unique take on paranormal romance, a widely popular genre among teens, especially girls.

References:

Mead, R. (n.d.). About Richelle. Richelle Mead. Retrieved from http://www.richellemead.com/bio/bio.htm

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Vampire Academy

Uglies

uglies

Title: Uglies

Author: Scott Westerfeld

ISBN: 9780689865381

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Copyright Date: 2005

Plot Summary:

Tally Youngblood eagerly awaits her sixteenth birthday when she will receive cosmetic surgery to become “pretty.”  In her society, everyone goes through this rite of passage and Tally is no exception.  As her birthday approaches, Tally meets another girl about to turn sixteen named Shay.  Shay has a very different opinion of what it means to be “pretty.”  She does not wish to receive any cosmetic operations, and chooses instead to flee.  She leaves cryptic instructions for Tally should she choose to follow.

On Tally’s birthday, she is transported to Special Circumstances, presumably to receive her surgery.  Instead she is approached by a woman who informs her that she will not receive her procedure unless she helps locate Shay and a band of rebels.  Tally feels she has no choice, and accepts the task.

Eventually she finds the hidden town called the “Smoke,” but it is not at all what she anticipated.  Tally’s loyalties are torn as she decides between being “pretty” and freedom.

Critical Evaluation:

This book makes a very critical examination of society’s standards of beauty. Westerfield has created a world where everyone becomes conventionally beautiful as they approach adulthood. The Uglies are isolated from the Pretties and made to feel inferior to their more aesthetically pleasing counterparts. As Tally begins to question what it means to be Pretty, Westerfield successfully gives the impression that appearances are not everything. He leaves readers with the impression that there is beauty in being flawed. This is an important message for teens who are bombarded with photo shopped images of celebrities and ads telling them that they should change their appearances. Tally, and subsequently the reader, learns that beauty does not equate to happiness, and self-worth should not be based on other people’s opinions. Pretty people are not necessarily good people, and Westerfield demonstrates that it is our inner qualities that should hold the most value.

Reader’s Annotation: Tally desperately wants to be pretty. That is until she realizes that being pretty comes with an ugly cost.

About the Author:

“Born: May 5, 1963 Dallas, Texas, USA

Family: Pamela, mother, from West, Texas Lloyd, father, from Crawford, Texas (the same town where George W. Bush bought his fake ranch in 2000) Wendy and Jackie, sisters (both older)

Married writer Justine Larbalestier in 2001. No kids; no plans for kids.

We split our time between Sydney, Australia and New York City. (Summers only, thank you.)

Grew up in Texas, California, Connecticut My dad was a computer programmer in the 1960s-70s, when computers were as big as a house and came with a bunch of people to make them do stuff. He worked for Univac in its various forms, and we lived in Houston for the Apollo missions, in California for Boeing, and Connecticut for submarines, etc.

Education: Arts Magnet High School, Dallas, Texas Vassar Philosophy BA in 1985 New York University, graduate work in Performance Studies 1987-8”

Genre: Young adult, dystopian, science fiction, fantasy, adventure

Curriculum Ties: Social Studies, English/Language Arts

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Describe what it means to be “pretty.”
  • Discuss inner beauty versus outer beauty.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Grades 7-12, Ages 13-18

Challenge Issues: violence, cosmetic surgery

Defense File:

Violence in the Media: A Joint Statement: 2000-2001 CD #19.3

Justification of Selection: This book makes one think very hard on what it means to adhere to the physical standards of beauty espoused by society. It reveals that imperfection has its own kind of perfection.

References:

Westerfield, S. (2015). Scott facts. Scott Westerfield. Retrieved from http://scottwesterfeld.com/about-the-author/scott-facts/

Uglies

Twilight

twilight

Title: Twilight

Author: Stephenie Meyer

ISBN: 9780316015844

Publisher: Little, Brown and Co.

Copyright Date: 2006

Plot Summary:

Seventeen year old Bella Swan is forced to move in with her estranged father when her mother decides to travel with her new, younger husband. Bella moves into her gloomy new home in Forks, Washington with great reluctance. On her first day of school, she attracts the attention of many classmates, including the mysterious Edward Cullen. Although at first seemingly annoyed with her presence, Edward and Bella soon find themselves drawn to each other. Bella begins to suspect that Edward and his family are a coven of vampires, and tells him so directly. When Edward eventually confirms her suspicions, Bella is drawn into a lustful supernatural romance. When a visiting coven of vampires set their sights on Bella, the Cullen family must defend the delicate balance they have established between themselves and the human community they reside in. Edward and Bella must decide if their improbable relationship is worth the risk.

Critical Evaluation:

This book is a smooth read with many elements of good story writing. As long as one does not look too closely, the book simply follows a passionate relationship between a human and her improbable vampire love interest. When one reflects on the nature of their relationship, however, it seems obsessive, all-consuming, and downright creepy. Despite his young appearance, Edward is over a hundred years old and has many lifetimes of experience, yet he is interested in a girl who hasn’t even reached adulthood. He essentially stalks her, and admits to watching her sleep, and yet she is not at all perturbed by this information. It isn’t long before she starts distancing herself from her friends and family in favor of Edward, who she correctly suspects is a vampire. Bella is interested in becoming a vampire so that she can be immortal with her love forever. This is a pretty impulsive decision considering how little she actually knows Edward. In my opinion, this is not a portrayal of a healthy relationship and it gives teens very unrealistic expectations of what a romantic relationship should be like.

In retrospect, all the qualities that I find distasteful in their relationship are probably the same elements that have made this book so popular with teen readers. Although this thought is disconcerting, it is an unfortunate reality.

Reader’s Annotation: Forbidden love is dangerous. It is even more so when the one you love wants to consume your blood.

About the Author:

Stephenie Meyer, née Stephenie Morgan   (born December 24, 1973, Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.), American author known for the popular Twilight Saga, a series of vampire-themed novels for teenagers.

Meyer, who was raised in Phoenix, Arizona, received a National Merit Scholarship and attended Brigham Young University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree (1997) in English literature. She married in 1994 and worked as a homemaker, caring for her three sons.

Inspired by a dream, Meyer completed the manuscript for her first book, Twilight (2005; film 2008), in three months. Soon thereafter Little, Brown and Co. offered her $750,000—the most the company had ever offered a first-time author—for the manuscript and two future books.”

Genre: Young adult, paranormal romance

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Describe Bella seeing the Cullen’s family for the first time.
  • Read an excerpt from the famous “meadow scene.”

Reading Level/Interest Age: Grades 9-12, Ages 13-18

Challenge Issues: strong sensuality

Defense File:

Chapter 5 of Youth, Pornography, and the Internet (2002)

Justification of Selection: This book is a unique take on paranormal romance, a widely popular genre among teens, especially girls. This book is a long running best seller for teen readers. It is a must have for a teen collection.

References:

Moredock, J. (2015). Stephenie Meyer.  Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/biography/Stephenie-Meyer

Twilight

Trickster’s Choice

tricksterschoice

Title: Trickster’s Choice

Author: Tamora Pierce

ISBN: 0375814663

Publisher: Random House

Copyright Date: 2003

Plot Summary:

Alianne of Pirate’s Swoop, called Aly, is the daughter of legendary lady knight Alanna, and the King’s Spymaster, George Cooper. Aly wishes desperately to follow in her father’s footsteps, much to the chagrin of her parents. In an act of defiance, Aly sails her little boat out to open water where she is captured by pirates. Sold to a wealthy family, the Balitangs, Aly soon finds her thirst for adventure quenched as she is swept into a world of political intrigue. Her new home, the Copper Isles, is plagued by racial segregation and distrust. The native Raka are ruled by the Luarin and they bide their time as they wait for their trickster god, Kyprioth, to overthrow his siblings. Kyprioth eventually reveals himself to Aly, and he becomes a benefactor of sorts in exchange for her assistance in protecting the Balitang children. Aly accepts, and with the help of a handsome companion named Nawat, she finds herself acting as spymaster for the Balitang family.

Critical Evaluation:

Pierce once again writes a story with a strong and talented female protagonist. Aly grows up in the shadow of her legendary parents, but wants to be allowed to forge her own path. This is a feeling that is often shared by teens seeking their place in the world.

The gender barriers are not as apparent as they are in Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series, and more emphasis is placed on race relations and social classes. Although Pierce’s story is set in a non-existent realm, it definitely appears that she gleaned inspiration from real life historical events. The dark-skinned Raka represent indigenous people that have been subjugated by light-skinned colonizers known as the Luarin. The islands are in turmoil as social unrest brews below the surface. Aly is also a light-skinned outsider, but her status as a slave gives her access to information that might otherwise be concealed from her.

Reader’s Annotation: Aly seems to have found favor with the trickster god, Kyprioth. But is she being tricked by the ultimate trickster?

About the Author:

“Tamora was born on December 13, 1954. She and her family moved around a lot, but she spent most of her childhood in Pennsylvania. Her father introduced her to writing, and by the time she was in the seventh grade, she was writing her own fiction, poems, and plays. She attended the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a BA in liberal arts in 1976. In her junior year of college, Tamora published her first short story, which inspired her to take a writing class her senior year. She moved to Manhattan to pursue a publishing career, where her agent convinced her to turn a novel she had written her first year after college into four children’s books.

Tamora’s fantasy novels for young readers are noted for their strong female protagonists and their imaginative, well-drawn plots. She enjoys writing for teenagers because she hopes to be helping kids in that difficult age group. She attributes her success to her writing mentors and authors she read growing up. She is actively trying to create more female role models through her works. She says that “guy heroes” still greatly outnumber “girl heroes.” It is not that she has anything against males, and boys often play strong, positive roles in her books. However, she wants to let girls know that they “too can get out there and DO things right along with guys.”’

Genre: Young adult, Fantasy

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Talk about Aly’s frustration with her parents for not allowing her to train as a spy.
  • Read an excerpt of Ally learning to speak Crow

Reading Level/Interest Age: Grades 6-8, Ages 11-16

Challenge Issues: magic

Defense File:

From the Library Bill of Rights: “II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”

Justification of Selection: This is a great adventure story with a strong female protagonist. Teens will enjoy Aly’s cleverness and quick thinking.

References:

Scholastic, Inc. (2015). Tamora Pierce. Scholastic. Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/contributor/tamora-pierce

Trickster’s Choice

To Kill a Mockingbird

tokillamockingbird

Title: To Kill a Mockingbird

Author: Harper Lee

ISBN: 9780446310499

Publisher: Warner Books

Copyright Date: 1982

Plot Summary:

Young Scout Finch and her brother Jem are growing up in Maycomb, Alabama.  Their father, Atticus, is a single father with a successful law practice.  Scout and Jem spend their summers playing make believe with each other and occasionally their friend, Dill.  The three children become fascinated with the mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley, who has not emerged from his house in years.  The children soon come to believe that he is leaving them gifts in the knot of a tree, which further pricks their curiosity.

Meanwhile, Atticus agrees to defend a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman.  Determined to give the man fair representation, Atticus waylays a racist mob intent on lynching the accused before his trial.  Because of Atticus’ involvement with the trial, the Finch family soon find themselves persecuted by the White community.

Determined to do the right thing, Atticus presses onward, despite the consequences to himself and his family.

Critical Evaluation:

This story is especially unique because it is shown through the eyes of a child. Scout must develop her own opinions about what is right and wrong, and find faith in humanity. Through the actions of her father, it is revealed that we should never judge an individual based on stereotypes or prejudice. The story also reveals that doing what is right is not always easy. Scout and her brother suffer because of their father’s decision to defend a Black man in court. Scout could have grown to resent her father for this decision, but instead she learns a valuable lesson about forming your own opinions about people.

This book often appears in high school curriculums, and rightly so. It is a very powerful book that covers a very formative time in the history of America. Books like this reveal the folly of racism and the lasting damage it can have on a community.

Reader’s Annotation: Young Scout must learn the hard lesson that doing what is right isn’t always easy. One must never base their opinions off of appearance.

About the Author:

Writer Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama. In 1959, she finished the manuscript for her Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller To Kill a Mockingbird. Soon after, she helped fellow-writer and friend Truman Capote write an article for The New Yorker which would later evolve into his nonfiction masterpiece, In Cold Blood. In July 2015, Lee published her second novel Go Set a Watchman, which was written before To Kill a Mockingbird and portrays the later lives of the characters from her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.”

Genre: Young adult, realistic fiction, historical fiction, classic

Curriculum Ties: English/Language Arts, Social Studies, History

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Describe Scout’s discovery of gifts in a tree.
  • Describe Scout’s feelings watching her father from the “colored” balcony of the courtroom.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Grades 8-12, Ages 13-18

Challenge Issues: rape, racism, violence, objectionable language

Defense File:

Violence in the Media: A Joint Statement: 2000-2001 CD #19.3

Chapter 5 of Youth, Pornography, and the Internet (2002)

Justification of Selection: This book is a literary classic and it is a staple in high school curriculums.

References:

The Biography.com. (2015). Harper Lee. Bio. Retrieved from http://www.biography.com/people/harper-lee-9377021

To Kill a Mockingbird

The Summoning

thesummoning

Title: The Summoning

Author: Kelley Armstrong

ISBN: 9780061450549

Publisher: Harper Collins Publisher

Copyright Date: 2009

Plot Summary:

Fifteen year old Chloe Saunders just wants to be normal, but that is difficult when you are haunted by freaky ghosts. An encounter with an especially nasty one lands Chloe in Lyle House, a home for disturbed teens.  While at Lyle House, Chloe meets a handful of teens with their own set of problems.  Derek has unusual strength and bursts of anger, his foster brother, Simon, has no apparent issues, but he arrived with Derek at Lyle House when their father disappeared.  Rae is a pyromaniac, Liz believes she has a poltergeist, and Tori is supposedly bi-polar.

After Chloe’s roommate, Liz, is mysteriously transferred, Chloe begins seeing her in the house.  Chloe, who has been diagnosed as a schizophrenic, begins to suspect that she is seeing Chloe’s ghost.   It soon becomes apparent that the other teens in the house are also hiding unexplainable abilities.  Before long, Chloe and her new friends begin planning their escape from Lyle House.  Chloe doesn’t know who to trust, but she knows she has to get out of Lyle House before something truly terrible happens.

Critical Evaluation:

Armstrong is a popular author known primarily for her paranormal adult series, Women of the Otherworld. As an avid reader of this series, I was interested to see how well her style adapted to creating a series for young adults. I ended up being very impressed. For the most part, her writing style remains the same. She incorporates the same type of setting and characters. The characters are just younger.

The biggest adaptation she made was how she portrays romance. To make the book more appropriate for teens, she removes the element of smut that is often threaded throughout her adult books. The romance element in The Summoning is appropriately tame for the younger demographic.

I would highly recommend this book to young readers with an interest in paranormal subject matter and fans of this book will be happy to know that it is the first book in a series.

Reader’s Annotation: Chloe has a gift, but it sure doesn’t feel like a gift when it brings her nothing but trouble. Turns out it’s hard to fit in when you can see dead people.

About the Author:

“When librarians finally granted Kelley Armstrong an adult card, she made straight for the epic fantasy and horror shelves. She spent the rest of her childhood and teen years happily roaming fantastical and terrible worlds, and vowed that someday she’d write a story combining swords, sorcery, and the ravenous undead. That story began with the New York Times bestselling Sea of Shadows and continues with Empire of Night.

Armstrong’s first works for teens were the New York Times bestselling Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising trilogies. She lives in rural Ontario with her husband, three children, and far too many pets.”

Genre: Young adult, fantasy, paranormal

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Describe Chloe’s first encounter with a ghost.
  • Describe the scene when Chloe first realizes her missing roommate is dead.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Grades 7-12, Ages 12-17

Challenge Issues: necromancy, witchcraft

Defense File:

From the Library Bill of Rights: “II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”

Justification of Selection: This book is written by a well-known and popular supernatural fiction writer.

References:

Harper Collins. (2015). Kelley Armstrong. Harper Collins Publishers. Retrieved from http://www.harpercollins.com/cr-102269/kelley-armstrong

The Summoning

The Selection

theselection

Title: The Selection

Author: Kiera Cass

ISBN: 0062059947

Publisher: HarperTeen

Copyright Date: 2012

Plot Summary:

In a dystopian future, the United States has survived several world wars to become the nation of Illea. Illea is a monarchy ruled by a royal family who reign over several factions. The upper factions are served by the lower factions, and it is very difficult to change stations. Sixteen year old America Singer is from a middle class of artists, and she is madly in love with a boy below her station. Her dreams of marrying her forbidden love are dashed when she is chosen to compete in a pageant for the crown. She, along with thirty four other young women, vie for the heart of the handsome Prince Maxon, but America soon discovers that life at the palace is not as idyllic as it seems. When her former love shows up at the palace as a newly enlisted royal guard, she finds herself torn between her ex-boyfriend and her growing affection for the prince.

Critical Evaluation:

The dystopian world described by Cass is not particularly believable. It seems unlikely that after several world wars the United States would decide to adopt a monarchy that rules over strict social castes. Perhaps this is especially hard to imagine because capitalism has so thoroughly engulfed American culture.

This aside, The Selection was a quick, enjoyable read. The makeover scene reminded me of the movie, Miss Congeniality, and the structure of the selection process was like a hybrid between The Bachelor and Miss America. Given the popularity of these tv shows, The Selection has a built in audience. Cass supplements her plot by throwing in a little political intrigue and a passionate love triangle. These are common themes we see in successful dystopian book series, and are sure to attract teen readers who enjoy books such as The Hunger Games.

The sensuality and violence in the book are relatively moderate and it would be a good recommendation for teen readers who fall on the younger end of the age spectrum.

Reader’s Annotation: Most girls dream of marrying a prince and living happily ever after, but to America, this possibility is a nightmare. Selected to participate in pageant for the crown, America must choose between the opportunity of a lifetime, and her first love.

About the Author: The author states: “I am a graduate of Radford University with a B.S. in History. I grew up in South Carolina and currently live in Christiansburg, Virginia with my electrical engineer hubby, car-obsessed son, and princess-loving daughter. I’m a #1 New York Times bestseller, woohoo! I’m also a valued customer at my local cupcake shop.”

Kiera Cass is known for her Selection series, which so far comprises of four books and a number of companion novellas. As she mentioned, this series has landed her on the New York Times bestseller list.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties: Social Studies

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Compare the selection process to popular pageants and shows like The Bachelor.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Grades 9-12, Ages 12-18

Challenge Issues: Mild sexuality

Defense File:

Chapter 5 of Youth, Pornography, and the Internet (2002)

Justification of Selection: This book is a simple and romantic story that is sure to appeal to teen girls. It contains likable character and follows the trend of dystopian novels we see today.

References:

Cass, K. (n.d.). About. Kiera Cass. Retrieved from http://www.kieracass.com/about/

The Selection