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Posts tagged ‘young adult fiction’

Anne Frank and Me

Anne Frank and Me

Image via Fantastic Fiction.

Title: Anne Frank and Me

Author: Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld

Year of Publication: 1997

Genre Keywords: coming of age, culture, family, friendship, high school, history, Holocaust, Judaism, religion, self-expression, teen, time travel, war, World War Two, young adult.

Summary: Teen blogger Nicole Burns is far too busy avoiding her homework, adoring the class hottie, and wishing she could get her kid sister out of her hair; she doesn’t have time to think about things that happened in generations-ago Europe. So she’s not particularly invested in her teacher’s guest speaker, a Holocaust survivor, or their trip to a nearby museum’s Holocaust exhibit. But then the sound of gunfire erupts in the museum, panic ensues, and Nicole awakens to find herself living the life of a Jewish girl in Nazi-occupied Paris. Her new life isn’t so very different from her old one – a gorgeous classmate she adores, an annoying little sister called Liz-Bette, friends and family and all the rest. But she’s also got a yellow star sewn to the front of her coat, and as she watches her freedoms dwindle as the war progresses, Nicole starts searching for a way to make her voice matter.

Who’ll Love It: Who wouldn’t? I recommend it to any reader. If you didn’t find Anne Frank particularly moving or wondered why all those musty old historical stories mattered, this book has the answer: because people who lived those historical experiences are not so different from us.  Conversely, if you’re acutely aware of the lingering evil effects of the Holocaust and the suffering it caused, you’ll find this book deeply moving and hard to put down.

Beyond Books: The novel Anne Frank and Me is based on a play with the same title. Look out for it! Even if there’s no local theatre company bringing this story to life on stage, it would definitely be interesting to consider your own life in light of Nicole’s story. If you traveled back in time to Holocaust-era Europe, what would your life look like? Who would be your parents, teachers, friends, and neighbours? How would you survive? Or would you survive at all?

A community theatre performance of Anne Frank and Me.

Image via Zona Gale Young People's Theatre (ZGYPT) at the Portage Center for the Arts.

Does My Head Look Big In This?

Does My Head Look Big In This?

Image via Journey Online.

Title: Does My Head Look Big In This?

Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah

Year of Publication: 2005

Genre Keywords: coming of age, culture, family, friendship, high school, identity, Islam, multiculturalism, popularity, religion, teen, women’s issues, young adult.

Summary: Amal is an Australian teen like any other . . . except that she’s a Muslim of Palestinian extraction who’s decided she’s ready to wear the hijab full-time. She knows it won’t be easy, attending a posh private school away from her Muslim friends while sporting such a hotly-contested marker of her Muslim identity, but she feels passionately about it. Now she’s dealing with all the usual trials and tribulations of high school – crushes, mean girls, friends with body-image issues, and more – but also with the judgments of teachers, friends, and strangers trying to identify what the hijab says about her life and placing her in the role of a full-time apologist for Islam, even in its most twisted and horrifying iterations.

Who’ll Love It: If you’re open to walking a mile in the shoes of a young Muslim woman, this book is a great way to do it. The central character is one of those rare gems – strong and smart and (mostly) confident, yet still believable. Readers who like a good relationship story that centers around friendships and family relationships (as opposed to romantic ones) will find an added bonus in the wide range of people supporting Amal as she tells her story.

Food For Thought: Does My Head Look Big In This? investigates some of the key assumptions many Westerners make when confronted with a Muslim, particularly a Muslim woman. For instance, when you see a woman in the hijab (or niqab, burqa, or what-have-you), do you assume she’s been forced to wear it by some man in her life? Do you stop to wonder how your assumption affects her or makes her feel? It’s worth spending some time with the idea.

Prom Dates From Hell

Cover art for "Prom Dates from Hell"  by Rosemary Clement-Moore.

Image courtesy of Teens at Random from Random House.

Title: Prom Dates from Hell

Author: Rosemary Clement-Moore

Year of Publication: 2008

Genre Keywords: demons, friendship, girl power, high school, horror, mystery, popularity, prom, suspense, teen, young adult fiction.

Plot Summary: Maggie Quinn, a sharp-tongued  and strong-minded journalist for her high-school paper, has no great love for the petty dramas of high school, especially those manifested by her school’s popular clique, the Jocks and the Jessicas. (Yes, all the pretty, perfect cheerleaders at Avalon High are actually named Jessica.) Then, in the last few months of school, she starts noticing strange things happening to her popular classmates – bad things. And the cause seems to be supernatural. Maggie has always been told she might have some of her ancestors’ fabled second sight, but it will take more than just strong intuition to battle what looks like a demon from Hell. With the help of a clever science teacher and a particularly good-looking local university student, and of course with her own clever wits and powers of observation, can Maggie rescue the Jocks and the Jessicas from disaster? And if she can . . . should she?

Who’ll Love It: Anyone who loved the brains and bravery of Nancy Drew, but always wished she had a bit more of an attitude . . . and that the ghosts in her mysteries actually turned out to be ghosts. Maggie Quinn even compares herself to Nancy from time to time, and the parallels are definitely apt, but Maggie is definitely an updated form to appeal to modern readers in an age of wisecracks and girl power.

Fun Trivia: This is just the first book featuring fearless demon detective and journalist-in-progress Maggie Quinn. Follow her through the college sorority scene in Hell Week, then on to spring break in Highway to Hell. Apparently, unlike Nancy Drew, this girl detective actually ages over time!

Look at some of the spiritual and supernatural issues in Prom Dates from Hell at my paranormal blog, The Shadow Side.

The Drama of Reincarnation

“Conversations with His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama are strange for a Westerner who does not believe in reincarnation. He points out such linkages, nodding his head with pity at how human behaviours continue to spin the web of lives, one after the other, through connections – actions, motivations, associations in past lives – that are impossible for most of us to see. For the Dalai Lama, this is a story of a connection, as he defined it, between two humans, played out over a thousand years, demonstrating a mixture of the divine and the human as manifested in corporeal lives.”

Can you imagine any story more dramatic than that? The relationship between two people playing out, not over a single lifetime, but over more than one. Past history and past emotions intervening in the dynamic of present relationships, changing the way we view one another, adding a layer of richness to our experience. I’ve been reading about that kind of relationship over multiple lifetimes in The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, and it has inspired me to create a booklist of stories that explore past-life relationships in fiction. Thus I give you . . .

The Drama of Reincarnation

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein – The story of a highly intelligent and educated dog named Enzo, who reflects on his life and his relationship with his racecar-driving human companion, Denny. As he prepares to leave this life, Enzo hopes he can become human in his next incarnation.

Audrey Rose by Frank de FelittaA bereaved father comes to believe that his little girl, killed in a horrible car accident, has been reincarnated into another child, one who seems to remember the torment and pain that ended her prior incarnation. Later adapted into a 1977 film.

Avalon High by Meg Cabot – The relationships between teenagers at a seemingly average high school come into sharp focus when Ellie begins to discover that she and her classmates are reincarnations of characters from the legend of King Arthur. YA

A Dog‘s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron – Over several lifetimes, Bailey tries to discover the reason behind his lives and loves as a dog.

Eternal by Craig Russell – A Jan Fabel detective story, in which Fabel and his team pursue a serial killer who believes he is taking revenge on those who wronged him in a past life.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson – The arrogant and cynical narrator plans to kill himself after he is disfigured in a horrible car accident . . . until a mysterious woman enters his life, claiming they were lovers in a past life in medieval Germany. Through her, the nameless narrator begins to question his understanding of reality and even to entertain the possibility of redemption.

The Hypnotist by M. J. Rose – When FBI agent Lucian Glass visits a hypnotist as part of an investigation, he learns about past incarnations in Greece and Persia, which just might be related to his current investigation and also to the unsolved case that haunts him to this day.

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares – In their first incarnation together, Daniel loved Sophia deeply and hurt her deeply. Now, in each successive life, he searches for her and tries to make amends however he can, even when that means he must not be her lover this time around.

Red Earth and Pouring Rain by Vikram Chandra – A seventeenth-century poet-adventurer returns as a monkey, shot by vacationing student Abhay, who strikes a bargain with the gods: he will entertain Abhay and his family with stories from his rich past-life history.

Reincarnation by Suzanne Weyn – Over the history of the human race – in ancient Egypt and Greece, witch-hunt Salem, the American Civil War, Nazi-occupied Paris, 1960s Mississippi, and modern New York – two lovers meet over and over in different incarnations. YA

The Reincarnationist by M. J. Rose – A modern photojournalist remembers a life as a pagan priest in ancient Rome after he almost dies in a terrorist attack. As these memories surface, he begins to sense that a collection of modern-day murders might be related to a relic from his ancient past.

Replay by Ken Grimwood – An award-winning work of fiction in which, after dying of heart failure in 1988, Jeff Winston returns to a point in his life decades earlier to relive the past. He learns he cannot change the time and date of his death, but he can make other changes in the course of his life.

Sengoku Nights by Kei Kusunoki & Kaoru Ohashi – Masayoshi, a Japanese teen, learns that he lived a past life as a legendary witch. As he tries to come to terms with this knowledge, he finds he must also face the restless spirits of men he murdered in his prior incarnation. MA

The Star Rover by Jack London (also published as The Jacket in the U.K.) – Imprisoned for murder, Darrell withstands his guards’ torture by learning to enter a trance in which he roams amidst the stars and discovers the stories of his previous lives.

Yes, My Darling Daughter by Margaret Leroy – Single mom Grace searches for answers when her daughter Sylvie starts acting out in bizarre ways. She manages to trace the child’s troubling behaviour to past-life memories with the help of a professor who studies the paranormal.

MA = manga & anime.
YA = written with Young Adult readers in mind.

Zombie Blondes

Cover art for "Zombie Blondes" by Brian James

Image courtesy of fantasticfiction.co.uk.

Title: Zombie Blondes

Author: Brian James

Year of Publication: 2008

Genre Keywords: friendship, high school, horror, mystery, popularity, suspense, teen, young adult fiction, zombies.

Plot Summary: Hannah has spent her whole life moving from town to town, and she’d love the chance to fit in somewhere – but for the new girl, that’s almost always impossible. In her new town, though, she might have a chance; the popular cheerleaders are taking an interest in her. Unfortunately, her uncool friend Lukas wants her to believe that the cheerleaders and football players – even some ordinary townsfolk! – are actual zombies, the kind he reads about in his horror comics. Hannah figures that’s crazy . . . although it’s true that the identical cheerleaders will ask her to alter her appearance, devote herself to the squad, and even change her name. But is that really too great a sacrifice when Hannah will finally get a chance to fit in?

Who’ll Love It: Anyone who remembers what it’s like to yearn for popularity and acceptance. It’s easy to see that Hannah is walking into trouble, but Brian James does a great job portraying the way Hannah’s desire to be popular overrides her critical thinking, so she finds herself making excuses and rationalizing whatever sets off warning flags in her head.

When I picked up this book I wondered whether Brian James, being male, could pull off writing about the world of high-school girl-fighting. After all, female social arrangements don’t really work the same as male ones. But either he has an inside source or he’s extraordinarily observant: I thought he nailed all the hidden cattiness and manipulation that comes with girl-bullying.

Fun Trivia: If you Google “Zombie Blondes”, theresult that comes up under ‘image search’ is pretty unusual – it features the same title-page image over and over again. It’s positively creepy . . . but I think it goes with the subject matter of the book perfectly. Try it and see what you think.

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