Posts Tagged ‘teens’

skullI’m late to the party when it comes to fall books. I missed Halloween and most of the last month due to a series of unfortunate events. Books went unread, blog posts unwritten, e-mails unanswered. Now we’re catching up: Three books aimed at kids with crossover appeal for teens and grown-ups.

The Screaming Staircase, the first entry in Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. series about teen ghost detectives, was both frighteningly funny and wickedly smart. The follow-up, The Whispering Skull (Disney, digital galley) is all that and more, offering some genuine chills as Anthony, George and narrator Lucy pursue malignant spirits and evil grave robbers in an alternate London. The teens have the necessary psychic abilities — along with swords, silver chains and flash powder — to battle their supernatural foes, but they compete for business with larger, more established firms such as the Fittes agency. The rivalry is exacerbated when Scotland Yard puts both Lockwood and Fittes on the case of the mysterious “bone mirror,” stolen from the corpse of a Victorian doctor who tried to communicate with the dead. The doctor supposedly met a grisly end in a roomful of rats, but such rumors don’t explain the bullet hole in his head, nor the power of the mirror, which strikes such fear in onlookers that they go mad or die on the spot. While George researches the case, Anthony contacts an unusual source and Lucy tries to discern if a skull in a jar ever speaks the truth. Action and adventure ensue as the trio infiltrates a museum, eavesdrops on a midnight auction, leaps from rooftops and crawls through crypts. Don’t miss it.

sisterhoodI bet Julie Berry had fun writing The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place (Roaring Brook Press, library e-book), even with her tongue planted firmly in cheek. I certainly chuckled my way through this madcap murder mystery set in a Victorian boarding school for girls. The seven students, from Dear Roberta to Dour Elinor, are shocked and dismayed when their skinflint headmistress and her no-good brother both drop dead at Sunday dinner. They’re not so worried about a killer on the loose as the prospect of the school being closed and the girls sent home. Then Smooth Kitty proposes a scheme whereby they’ll cover up the murders, bury the bodies in the garden and run the school themselves. One lie leads to another as nosy neighbors keep dropping by, and before long Stout Alice is impersonating the late headmistress while her classmates go sleuthing. So clever. Such fun.

witchboyThe title character in Kelly Barnhill’s coming-of-age fantasy The Witch’s Boy (Algonquin, review copy) is also known as Ned, “the wrong boy,” because his mother’s magic saved him from drowning with his twin brother, Tam, and then bound their two souls together. Ned believes Tam should have been the one who lived; he grows up awkward, shy and unsure himself. In a nearby kingdom, the girl Aine is also suffering from the choices her father — the Bandit King — has made. Ned and Aine’s lives are linked by an ancient prophecy — “The wrong boy will save your life, and you will save his” — as well as by her father’s scheme to steal his mother’s magic. Assertive Aine and quiet Ned make for unlikely friends as they begin a quest to discover the secret of nine stone giants and prevent a devastating war. Barnhill’s lyrical language and use of classic fairy tale elements gives her involving story a magic all its own.






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I was so dismayed by the story in today’s Orlando Sentinel about the Longwood mother holding hostage public library copies of Gossip Girl books (www.orlandosentinel.com) to keep them out of the hands of minors that I posted it on Facebook. Happily, everyone who commented is also opposed to censorship. Alas, the woman was just on TV returning the books — although not paying $85 in fines — saying she had made her point by getting so much media attention. Huh?! Are you thinking about your daughter reading a racy book or your own 15 minutes of fame?

Ok, so I’m going to play along for the moment. I’m not going to rail against people who think that that because they pay taxes they can control who reads what. I personally don’t care what she reads, or doesn’t want her daughter to read, as long as she doesn’t deny me or my kids the opportunity to check out the books we want to read.

I am going to give thanks once again to my mother, who turned me loose in the library and told the librarian I was free to roam the adult section if I wanted. My mom never told me I couldn’t read something; she did put many good books in my hand — Rebecca, Gone With the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird. She trusted me, and she was probably well aware we were passing around a dog-eared copy of Peyton Place on the school bus.

Which brings me to the Longwood woman’s teenage daughter. I really do hope that she has a good relationship with her mother and understands that her mother is doing what she thinks is in her best interest. Maybe she is even proud that her mother has taken up an unpopular cause. 

But my bet is that she’s embarrassed half to death that her mom is treating her as a child in front of her friends, not trusting her to make her own decisions about what’s appropriate. Reading a book with swear words and references to sex and drugs doesn’t turn teens into dope-smoking sex fiends. A deeper pathology is at work there. But slapping a “for mature audiences only” warning on a book practically guarantees that curiosity will out. Ironic, isn’t it? Perhaps a plotline for a future installment of the very popular Gossip Girl series.

Meanwhile, open minds, open books. And vice versa.

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