Here are some gritty reads. About REAL STUFF. I thought you might like them because you’re serious people. All the characters in these books are tackling difficult, real-life situations. Some of you guys have been asking about interesting books for your NCEA reading log as well so this could be a helpful list for that too. All of these are well-loved books from our collection:
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
This is also available as an e-book! “In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever. Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily. Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.” Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.” (Goodreads)
First lines: The white people are waiting for us. Chuck sees them first. He’s gone out ahead of our group to peer around the corner of the hardware store. From there you can see all of Jefferson High … the only thing between us and the school is the parking lot. And the white people.
Last Night I sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
“Zach is eighteen. He is bright and articulate. He’s also an alcoholic and in rehab instead of high school, but he doesn’t remember how he got there. He’s not sure he wants to remember. Something bad must have happened. Something really, really bad. Remembering sucks and being alive – well, what’s up with that?” (Goodreads)
First lines: Some people have dogs. Not me. I have a therapist. His name is Adam. I’d rather have a dog. After our first session, Adam asked me a lot of questions. I don’t think he liked my answers.
Bugs by Whiti Hereaka
“Meet Bugs: smart, sarcastic, sixteen and stuck in a small town without a driver’s license. Bugs has been best mates with Jez forever, they’ve always been Jez and Bugs, Bugs and Jez. That is until Stone Cold, the new girl, arrives in town … Why would anyone want to be mates with her? But things are never as they seem on the surface – not the picture perfect postcard views of Taupo, not the drama queen antics of Stone Cold, not the quiet brooding of Jez. Not even Bugs. Now as the future closes in, each will struggle with expectation; either trying to live up to them, or trying to live them down.” (Huia Publishing)
First Lines: They call me Bugs. As in Bunny. Yeah, I know. When I started college I tried to change it to Rāpeti. Not because I’m a born again Māori or anything. Just that Rāpeti sounds hard. Harder than Bugs, anyway. But Bugs stuck.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
“Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens.” (Goodreads)
First Lines: … Where to sit? I’ve never been a backseat wastecase. If I sit in the middle, a stranger could sit next to me. If I sit at the front, it will make me look like a little kid, but I figure it’s the best chance I have to make eye contact with one of my friends, if any of them have decided to talk to me yet.”
Hate List by Jennifer Browne
“Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets … Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year.” (Goodreads)
First lines: FROM THE GARVIN COUNTY SUN TRIBUNE. The scene in Garvin High School cafeteria, known as the “Commons”, is being described as “grim” by investigators who are working to identify the victims of a shooting spree that erupted Friday morning.
Sold by Patricia McCormick
Also available as an e-book! “Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family’s crops, Lakshmi’s stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India … but she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution.” (Goodreads)
First lines: One more rainy season and our roof will be gone, says Ama. My mother is on the log ladder inspecting the thatch and I am on the ground, handing the laundry up to her so it can bake dry in the afternoon sun.
The year of the rat, Clare Furniss (305 pages)
The world can tip at any moment…a fact that fifteen-year-old Pearl is all too aware of when her mom dies after giving birth to her baby sister, Rose. Rose, who looks exactly like a baby rat, all pink, wrinkled, and writhing. This little Rat has destroyed everything, even ruined the wonderful relationship that Pearl had with her stepfather, the Rat’s biological father.Mom, though…Mom’s dead but she can’t seem to leave. She keeps visiting Pearl. Smoking, cursing, guiding. Told across the year following her mother’s death, Pearl’s story is full of bittersweet humor and heartbreaking honesty about how you deal with grief that cuts you to the bone, as she tries not only to come to terms with losing her mother, but also the fact that her sister—The Rat—is a constant reminder of why her mom is no longer around. (Goodreads)
First lines: The traffic light glows red through the rainy windscreen, blurred, clear, blurred again, as the wipers swish to and fro. Below it, in front of us, is the hearse. I try not to look at it.
Torn away, Jennifer Brown (276 pages) Born and raised in the Midwest, Jersey Cameron knows all about tornadoes. Or so she thinks. When her town is devastated by a twister, Jersey survives — but loses her mother, her young sister, and her home. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she’s sent to live with her only surviving relatives: first her biological father, then her estranged grandparents. In an unfamiliar place, Jersey faces a reality she’s never considered before — one in which her mother wasn’t perfect, and neither were her grandparents, but they all loved her just the same. Together, they create a new definition of family. And that’s something no tornado can touch. (Goodreads)
First lines: Marin wanted to teach me the East Coast Swing. It was pretty much her only goal in life. She was constantly pulling on my arms or standing in front of the TV, her hands on her square little hips, sparkle nail polish glinting and ratty rose-colored tutu quivering.
After the end, Amy Plum (322 pages)World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They’ve survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there. At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.
When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie. Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she’s trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past. (Goodreads)
First lines: I crouch low to the ground, pressing my back to the ancient spruce tree, and raise my crossbow in one hand. Keeping my eye on the precious shard of mirror embedded in my weapon, I inch it out from behind the tree. In the reflection, I spot something moving behind a cedar across the snowy clearing.
Take me on, Katie McGarry (455 pages)Champion kickboxer Haley swore she’d never set foot in the ring again after one tragic night. But then the guy she can’t stop thinking about accepts a mixed martial arts fight in her honor. Suddenly, Haley has to train West Young. All attitude, West is everything Haley promised herself she’d stay away from. Yet he won’t last five seconds in the ring without her help. West is keeping a big secret from Haley. About who he really is. But helping her-fighting for her-is a shot at redemption. Especially since it’s his fault his family is falling apart. He can’t change the past, but maybe he can change Haley’s future. Hayley and West have agreed to keep their relationship strictly in the ring. But as an unexpected bond forms between them and attraction mocks their best intentions, they’ll face their darkest fears and discover love is worth fighting for. (Goodreads)
First lines: A door squeaks open at the far end of the barren hallway and the clicking of high heels echoes off the row of mteal post-office boxes. I attempt to appear causual as I flip through the mail. All of it leftovers from our previous life: my brother’s mixed martial arts magazine, an American Girl doll catalog for my sister, another seed and gardening catalog for my mother. Collection notices for my father.
Dangerous creatures, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (327 pages)Ridley Duchannes will be the first to tell you that she’s a bad girl. She’s Dark. She’s a Siren. You can never trust her, or even yourself when she’s around. Lucky for her, Wesley “Link” Lincoln can never seem to remember that; quarter Incubus or not, his heart is Mortal when it comes to Ridley. When Link heads to New York City to start a music career, Ridley goes along for the ride-and she has her own reasons. As if leaving small-town Gatlin for the big city, trying to form a band, and surviving life with a partially reformed Siren isn’t hard enough already, Link soon learns he has a price on his head that no Caster or Mortal can ever pay. (Goodreads)
First lines: There are only two kinds of Mortals in the backwater town of Gatlin, South Carolina-the stupid and the stuck. At least, that’s what they sat. As if there are any kinds of Mortals anywhere else. Please. Luckily, there’s only one kind of Siren no matter where you go in this world or the Otherworld.
Moon at Nine, Deborah Ellis (214 pages)Fifteen-year-old Farrin has many secrets. Although she goes to a school for gifted girls in Tehran, as the daughter of an aristocratic mother and wealthy father, Farrin must keep a low profile. It is 1988; ever since the Shah was overthrown, the deeply conservative and religious government controls every facet of life in Iran. If the Revolutionary Guard finds out about her mother’s Bring Back the Shah activities, her family could be thrown in jail, or worse.
The day she meets Sadira, Farrin’s life changes forever. Sadira is funny, wise, and outgoing; the two girls become inseparable. But as their friendship deepens into romance, the relationship takes a dangerous turn. It is against the law to be gay in Iran; the punishment is death. Despite their efforts to keep their love secret, the girls are discovered and arrested. Separated from Sadira, Farrin can only pray as she awaits execution. Will her family find a way to save them both? (Goodreads)
First lines: Ancient demons roam an ancient land. They dwell in the valleys of lurk in the mountains. They hide among the grains of sand and sleep beside the scorpions. They watch the humans go on about their insignificant business 0 shopping in the markets, heeding the call to prayer, taking care of their children. The humans are busy. The demons go unnoticed.
The other side of nowhere, Steve Johnson (209 pages)When Johnno and his friends survive the freak storm that rips apart their yacht, they’re just glad to be alive. That is, until reality hits: they’ve washed up on an uninhabited island with few supplies, no phone and no way to get home. The situation becomes even more desperate when the four teenagers discover they are not alone on the island. There’s a hideout where men with guns are covering up a dark secret that they will protect at any cost. With nowhere to run, Johnno and his friends are forced into a dangerous game with the criminals as they fight to save one of their own. (Goodreads)
First lines: “Matty?” I puffed. “You still alive back there?” I could see him out of the corner of my eye, his head down and tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth. “Course I am,” he wheezed back, “Doing better than you.”
The Minnow, Diana Sweeny (263 pages)Tom survived a devastating flood that claimed the lives of her sister and parents. Now she lives with Bill in his old shed by the lake. But it’s time to move out—Tom is pregnant with Bill’s baby. Jonah lets her move in with him. Mrs Peck gives her the Fishmaster Super Series tackle box. Nana is full of gentle good advice and useful sayings. And in her longing for what is lost, Tom talks to fish: Oscar the carp in the pet shop, little Sarah catfish who might be her sister, an unhelpful turtle in a tank at the maternity ward. And the minnow. (Goodreads)
First lines: “I think Bill is in love with Mrs. Peck,” I confide to an undersized blue swimmer crab that has become all tangled up in my line. The little crab doesn’t appear to be the slightest bit interested, so I finish pulling it free and toss it over the side of Bill’s dinghy.
Zero Hour, Will Hill (700 pages)When Jamie Carpenter’s mother is kidnapped by strange creatures, he finds himself dragged into Department 19, the government’s most secret agency.
Fortunately for Jamie, Department 19 can provide the tools he needs to find his mother, and to kill the vampires who want him dead. But unfortunately for everyone, something much older is stirring, something even Department 19 can’t stand up against…(Goodreads)
First lines: Eight black-clad Operators made their way silently over the lip of the canyon, spacing themselves evenly out along the length of the ridge. They bristled with weaponry, although not the kind they were used to carrying; they wore no stakes on their belts, no ultraviolet grenades or beam guns, no T-Bones.
Shadows, Paula Weston (387 pages)It’s almost a year since Gaby Winters was in the car crash that killed her twin brother, Jude. Her body has healed in the sunshine of Pandanus Beach, but her grief is raw and constant. It doesn’t help that every night in her dreams she kills demons and other hell-spawn.
And then Rafa comes to town. Not only does he look exactly like the guy who’s been appearing in Gaby’s dreams—he claims a history with her brother that makes no sense. Gaby is forced to accept that what she thought she knew about herself and her life is only a shadow of the truth—and that the truth is more likely to be found in the shadows of her nightmares. Who is Rafa? Who are the Rephaim? And most importantly, who can she trust?(Goodreads)
First lines: I’m running along the boardwalk, wind and sand stinging my arms. It’s after work and I have the track to myself. A handful of surfers are battling the choppy waves, and the Williamsons are walking on the beach like they do every morning in their matching sports gear and orthopedic shoes. Their silver heads are bowed against the wind, but they’re still holding hands. It makes me feel emptier than usual.
My brother’s keeper, Tom and Tony Bradman (106 pages) Alfie signs up for the army aged just 15, carried away by patriotic fervour at the start of the Great War. But life in the trenches is very far from his dreams of glory. It’s hard, and cold, and it’s boring. Alfie is desperate to see some action. But when he volunteers for a raid on the German trenches, against the advice of his comrades, Alfie begins to understand what war means, and to see the value of the lives that are being thrown away on the Western Front every day…(Goodreads)
First lines: Alfie Barnes peered into the darkness shrouding no-man’s land and wished he were taller. Like the rest of the men in his section he was in position on the trench’s fire-step, but he could only just get his head up to the level of the sandbagged parapet.
Shakespeare is taught in most college classes these days; whether you think this is a bad or good thing depends on you! I’m a fan, but I get tired of the same-old same-old productions and books. So here are a few of my favourite Shakespeare related books, websites and DVDs, to make your experience of the great man that much more interesting. I think this post is going to get a lot of flack from English teachers and Shakespeare purists everywhere, but I’m of the opinion that stuff like this should be enjoyable and accessible. I’m sure the Bard would have wanted it that way.
To be or not to be: a chooseable path adventure, by Ryan North, Shakespeare, and you!
This is unquestionably one of my favourite things to come into the YA collection in a while. I have fond memories of choose-your-own adventure books from my childhood, even though I always ended up dying! That’s an option in this book but the great thing is, you can always start again. Especially if you start out as Hamlet Senior…well, that’s not a spoiler. After all, I think the statue of limitations on spoiler warnings runs out after 415 years. Anyway, you can start the game as the aforementioned (deceased) King of Denmark, Ophelia or Hamlet himself. After that, it’s up to you. It’s written more like a YA novel than in prose, and the possible endings get pretty wacky. Added to this are the amazing illustrators; there are too many to namecheck all of them but Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant), Randall Munroe (XKCD) and Faith Erin Hicks (Friends with Boys, Nothing Possibly can go wrong) all contribute. What I find particularly awesome is that this book is the result of a kickstarter campaign: crowd funding for the win! A necessary disclaimer: I wouldn’t recommend using this to write your NCEA essays.
Hamlet: a novel, John Marsden
This book takes a rather more serious look at Hamlet. It keeps fairly close to the original story, but manages to convey the inner emotions of those entangled in the story. Retellings of Hamlet are by far the most popular among YA writers, but I think this one’s the best. The language is fresh and the pace makes the looming disaster all the more tragic. It also doesn’t try to force a happy ending on the characters, which I’ve always find a bit jarring, especially in books that aim to be taken seriously.
Lady Macbeth’s daughter, Lisa Klein
In the text of Macbeth, it is revealed that lady Macbeth has been pregnant before; but this is only mentioned once, and Macbeth’s lack of children plays a central role in the plot of the play. In this novel, Lisa Klein imagines what the life of such a child – a daughter, who is cast out by Macbeth – would be like. The historic Lady Macbeth also had a son, by her first husband, but is Lady Macbeth and Albia, her lost daughter, who tell the story in alternating chapters. The writer says she set out to give “an entirely new perspective on the events of Shakespeare’s play, using a protagonist who is outside the main action but crucial to its unfolding.” She more than succeeds, and manages to incorporate historical facts into the narrative fairly seamlessly, which keeps the book from seeming too fanciful.
The most excellent and lamentable tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare and illustrated by Gareth Hinds
This is the only book included in this blog post which takes its text entirely from the play, although it’s somewhat abridged. What sets it apart from the other graphic adaptations is its attention to detail; the artist, in his postscript, has taken actual features from Verona and uses them in backgrounds in his lavish illustrations. He does admit that he’s moved various places around for aesthetic purposes, but it doesn’t really affect the sense of a real Renaissance city. Gareth Hinds also tries to “fix” parts of the text that are often portrayed incorrectly in the staging.
Shakespeare retold DVD series
There are plenty of “pure” adaptaions out there but sometimes it can be a struggle to get through all that prose. These modern adaptations are a whole lot of fun. They feature some of the best actors England has to offer having a great time chewing the scenery and taking a break from having to memorise 16th century lines. Again, I wouldn’t recommend using these to help write your essay, but I’m a big believer in enjoying Shakespeare because it’s fun, rather than because you have to study it in class. My favourites are Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer night’s dream.
I remember when this film first came out, which, given that this was 15 years ago, is going to date me a bit. I didn’t realise that this was based off Taming of the Shrew until a while later though! It’s considered a classic, and for good reason. Even though the fashion is slightly dated, the movie still holds up: Heath Ledger, in his break-out role, has great chemistry with Julia Stiles, who’s equally impressive as Kat. It’s full of quotable dialogue and great acting, and conveys what it’s like to be young, cynical and in love in college. Well, as far as I can remember, anyway.
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are dead
This is a classic adaptation of an extraordinary play. It concerns the lives of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, two fairly minor characters in Hamlet. There are chunks of the actual play, but for the most part it’s in modern language. It deals with fate, the nature of theatre and performance, and various philosophical problems. It might sound a bit dry, but it’s extremely funny and features some of the best actors working today.
Namesake, Sue MacLeod (225 pages)It started with a history project. Mr. Gregor assigned a research paper on a figure from the Tudor era, and of course Jane Grey had to pick her namesake—Lady Jane Grey, the fifteen-year-old girl whose parents schemed to place her on the throne of England, then abandoned her to face the executioner. The project is engrossing from the start, but when Jane opens a mysterious prayer book and finds herself in the Tower of London in 1553, she ends up literally drawn into her namesake’s story. Soon, Jane is slipping into the past whenever the present becomes too unbearable, avoiding her mother’s demands, her best friend’s fickleness, her crush’s indifference. In the Tower she plays chess with the imprisoned Lady Jane, awed by her new friend’s strength and courage. And it is in the Tower, keeping vigil as the day of the execution draws near, that Jane learns that she, too, must have the courage to fight for her own happiness. (Goodreads)
First lines: She’s living in one of the houses we looked at from the hill. That’s where I see her in a dream sometimes-with a laptop, a phone, all the usual stuff. In another dream I see her at a part-time job. A coffee shop downtown. She’s pouring something for a customer when she glances up and sees her boyfriend. That’s why this dream’s the best.
No surrender soldier, Christine Kohler (198 pages)Growing up on Guam in 1972, fifteen-year-old Kiko is beset by worries: He’s never kissed a girl, and he thinks it’s possible he never will. The popular guys get all the attention, but the worst part is that Kiko has serious problems at home. His older brother is missing in Vietnam; his grandfather is losing it to dementia; he just learned that his mother was raped in World War II by a Japanese soldier. It all comes together when he discovers an old man, a Japanese soldier, hiding in the jungle behind his house. It’s not the same man who raped his mother, but, in his rage, Kiko cares only about protecting his family and avenging his mom – no matter what it takes. And so, a shy, peaceable boy begins to plan a murder. But how far will Kiko go to prove to himself that he’s a man ? (Goodreads)
First lines: Planes swarmed over Guam in droves. For a moment Lance Corporal Isamu Seto though he was home in Japan. He was washing his face in the Talofofo River when he heared the buzzing sounds. He looked up into the overcast sky and thought locusts were coming to destory the crops in his village of Saori. He blinked and shook his head. Aiee, angry locusts turn into bombers. Amerikans must be attacking.
Killer of enemies, Joseph Bruchac (358 pages)Years ago, seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen and her family lived in a world of haves and have-nots. There were the Ones-people so augmented with technology and genetic enhancements that they were barely human-and there was everyone else who served them. Then the Cloud came, and everything changed. Tech stopped working. The world plunged back into a new steam age. The Ones’ pets-genetically engineered monsters-turned on them and are now loose on the world.Lozen was not one of the lucky ones pre-C, but fate has given her a unique set of survival skills and magical abilities. She hunts monsters for the Ones who survived the apocalyptic events of the Cloud, which ensures the safety of her kidnapped family. But with every monster she takes down, Lozen’s powers grow, and she connects those powers to an ancient legend of her people. It soon becomes clear to Lozen that she is not just a hired gun. As the legendary Killer of Enemies was in the ancient days of the Apache people, Lozen is meant to be a more than a hunter. Lozen is meant to be a hero. (Goodreads)
First lines: I’m five miles away from the walls of my prison, up in the hight country abow the Sonoran Desert. This far, surprisingly, nothing has yet attempted to maim or devour me since I settled here half an hour agao. Despite he nearby prescence that I sense of those “little problems” that I deal with out here in the wiles, I have met nothing to worry about…yet.
Panic, Lauren Oliver (408 pages)Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.(Goodreads)
First lines: The water was so cold it took Heather’s breath away as she fought past the kids crowding the beach and standing in the shallows, waving towels and homemade signs, cheering and calling up to the remaining jumpers. She took a deep breath and went under. The sound of voices, of shouting and laugher, was immeadiately muted. Only one voice stayed with her. I didn’t mean for it to happen.
No one else can have you, Kathleen Hale (380 pages)Small towns are nothing if not friendly. Friendship, Wisconsin (population: 689 , no, 688) is no different. Around here, everyone wears a smile. And no one ever locks their doors. Until, that is, high school sweetheart Ruth Fried is found murdered. Strung up like a scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.Unfortunately, Friendship’s police are more adept at looking for lost pets than catching killers. So Ruth’s best friend, Kippy Bushman, armed with only her tenacious Midwestern spirit and Ruth’s secret diary (which Ruth’s mother had asked her to read in order to redact any, you know, sex parts), sets out to find the murderer. But in a quiet town like Friendship—where no one is a suspect—anyone could be the killer. (Goodreads)
First lines: A police officer comforts a woman on the shoulder of a rural highway. Behind them is a cornfield,. The corn is shoulde high, not yet ready to be harvested. The officer has on a Green Bay Packers hat, and the woman is wearing a sweatshirt decorated in teddy bear appliques. She is clutching a cellphone and crying hysterically. She and her husband own the cornfield. She’s just found something terrible in there.
Boy on the edge, Fridrik Erlings ( 219 pages)Henry has a clubfoot and he is the target of relentless bullying. One day, in a violent fit of anger, Henry lashes out at the only family he has — his mother. Sent to live with other troubled boys at the Home of Lesser Brethren, an isolated farm perched in the craggy lava fields along the unforgiving Icelandic coast, Henry finds a precarious contentment among the cows. But it is the people, including the manic preacher who runs the home, who fuel Henry’s frustration and sometimes rage as he yearns for a life and a home. (Goodreads)
First lines: Once again, a book open in front of him, a sea of letters floating before his eyes, the sweat forming on his brow, the pain in his stomach like he’s being punched from the inside. And the whole class around him, holding their breath, waiting for him to read out loud, waiting for him to read out loud, waiting to burst out laughing.
Pawn, Aimee Carter (343 pages)For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country. If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister’s niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter. There’s only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that’s not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she’s only beginning to understand. (Goodreads)
First lines: Risking my life to steal an orange was a stupid thing to do, but today of all days, I didn’t care about the consequences. If I were lucky, the Shields would throw me to the ground and put a bullet in my brain. Sead at seventeen. It would be a relief.
Gilded, Christina Farley (339 pages) Sixteen-year-old Jae Hwa Lee is a Korean-American girl with a black belt, a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows, and a chip on her shoulder the size of Korea itself. When her widowed dad uproots her to Seoul from her home in L.A., Jae thinks her biggest challenges will be fitting in to a new school and dealing with her dismissive Korean grandfather. Then she discovers that a Korean demi-god, Haemosu, has been stealing the soul of the oldest daughter of each generation in her family for centuries. And she’s next.But that’s not Jae’s only problem.
There’s also Marc. Irresistible and charming, Marc threatens to break the barriers around Jae’s heart. As the two grow closer, Jae must decide if she can trust him. But Marc has a secret of his own—one that could help Jae overturn the curse on her family for good. It turns out that Jae’s been wrong about a lot of things: her grandfather is her greatest ally, even the tough girl can fall in love, and Korea might just be the home she’s always been looking for. (Goodreads)
First lines: Stillness fills the empty stage as I press the horn bow to my body and notch and arrow. I pull back the string. The power of it courses through me, a sizzling dire in my veins. I squint just enough so the mark crystallises while everything around it blurs.
Who I’m not, Ted Satunton (186 pages) Danny has survived everything life has thrown at him: being abandoned at birth, multiple abusive foster homes, life as a con man in training. But when his latest “protector” dies suddenly, Danny has to think fast or he’ll be back in foster care again. He decides to assume the identity of a boy who disappeared three years before. If nothing else, he figures it will buy him a little time. Much to his astonishment, his new “family” accepts him as their own–despite the fact that he looks nothing like their missing relative. But one old cop has his suspicions about Danny–and he’s not about to declare the case close(Goodreads)
First lines: It’s easier to tell you who I’m not. I’m not Kerry Ludwig or Sean Callahan. I’m not David Alvierez or Peter McLeod or Frank Rolfe. I’ve kind of wished I was David Alvierez. I don’t look Latino or anything, but it sounds exotic. Anyway, I’ve been all those guys, but none of them was me.
The Nazi hunters: how a team of spies and survivors captured the world’s most notorious Nazi, Neil Bascomb, (215 pages)A thrilling spy mission, a moving Holocaust story, and a first-class work of narrative nonfiction. In 1945, at the end of World War II, Adolf Eichmann, the head of operations for the Nazis’ Final Solution, walked into the mountains of Germany and vanished from view. Sixteen years later, an elite team of spies captured him at a bus stop in Argentina and smuggled him to Israel, resulting in one of the century’s most important trials — one that cemented the Holocaust in the public imagination. (Goodreads)
First lines: A remote stretch of unlit road on a windy night. Two cars appear out of the darkness. One of them, a Chevrolet, slows to a halt. and its headlights blink off. The Buick drives some distance farther, then turns onto Garibaldi Street, where it too stops and its lights turn off.
Us again, and we do hope you’ve been chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool over the Christmas break. To help you along with that all the way through the new year, we’ve come up with a few great movie suggestions from the young adult dvd section, which are just 80c to issue with your young adult library card! Admittedly, you will have to get out of the house to issue them, but that’s a minor detail.
Tomorrow When The War Began
Based on the John Marsden book of the same name, the story follows eight high school friends whose lives are suddenly and violently upended by a war that no one saw coming. They must learn to escape, survive and fight back against a hostile military force. And blow up stuff, a lot of stuff. While looking beautiful.
Under The Mountain
When teenage twins Rachel & Theo investigate the creepy house next door, they discover the Wilberforces – shape shifting creatures that lurk beneath Auckland’s ring of extinct volcanoes. Guided by the mysterious Mr Jones and with the help of their cousin Ricky, the twins must rekindle the unique powers they once shared if they are to destroy this ancient evil. This film does Maurice Gee’s epic story justice with a decent amount of money spent on special effects for once. Forget that they have the same accents as the stars of Shortland Street, this film’s amaze-balls.
The entire collection of the groundbreaking series narrated by David Attenborough. With a budget of unprecedented proportions, Planet Earth has stretched the boundaries of natural history documentary making. This film has breathtaking shots of the planet we all know so well. It’s not like anything you’ve ever seen before with every frame fascinating or beautiful, usually both.
In hopes of wooing a beautiful girl, Tristan promises to bring her a falling star. Yeah it is as awesome as it sounds. This is more than your usual love story as Tristan is in for a magical adventure with wicked witches, scheming princes (who keep dying) and by far the coolest cross-dressing sky pirate you’ll ever see. Possibly the only one you’ll ever see as well. This is an exciting and witty tale along the same vein as The Princess Bride.
Brendan Frye is a loner, someone who knows all the angles but has chosen to stay on the outside. When the girl he loves turns up dead, he is determined to find out the “who” and “why” and plunges into the dark and dangerous social strata of rich girl Laura, intimidating Tug and the ominous Pin. But who can he really trust? Director and screenwriter Rian Johnson (of Looper and The Brothers Bloom) has invented a whole new lingo to fit into the film’s universe. It’s a stylish modern noir thriller at its best.
Dead Poets Society
When charismatic English teacher John Keating arrives at a strict boys academy, his unconventional teaching methods breathe new life into the curriculum steeped in tradition. With his wit and wisdom, Keating encourages his students to be true to themselves and make their lives extraordinary. Equal parts inspirational and heartbreaking – have the tissues ready. O captain! My captain!
We recommended the book, and here’s the film! Essentially the same story as the novel, following Bliss Cavendar on her quest to become a roller derby star while contending with her mother’s obsession with entering her in beauty pageants. Bliss learns a lot about herself and consequences of her actions along the way. Action packed with an awesome and energetic soundtrack and a healthy dose of girl power, Whip It is one of my absolute favourite movies.
Kenji is your typical teenage misfit. He spends most of his time hanging out in the all-powerful online community called Oz. His second life is the only one he has, until the girl of his dreams hijacks him for a starring role as her fake fiance at her family reunion. Things only get stranger. A late-night email containing a cryptic mathematical riddle leads to the unleashing of a rogue AI intent on using Oz to destroy the real world. Kenji and his new ‘family’ have to work together to save the worlds they inhabit.
A Town Called Panic
Based on the tv show of the same name, this movie is MANIC. That is the only word for it. The unlikely trio of Horse, Cowboy and Indian (plastic toys with no opposable limbs) live together in a crooked house on a hill. Cowboy and Indian realise with horror that they have forgotten Horse’s birthday and embark on a series of implausible adventures, taking a journey to the Earth’s core, discovering an aquatic parallel universe and taking part in a breakneck snowball ride across a frozen wasteland. Hilarious. You’ll be in stitches!
Mary and Max
A very clever claymation story of a pair of unlikely penpals – Mary, a lonely 8-year-old Australian girl and Max, a 44-year-old severely obese Jewish man with Asperger’s Syndrome. Their friendship grows and spans over twenty years with a lot of ups and downs, and covers a whole range of topics, from taxidermy to trust to agoraphobia.
Scott Pilgrim vs the World
Another of my absolute favourite films! Meet charming and jobless Scott Pilgrim. A bass guitarist for a garage band trying to make it big through the Battle of the Bands in Canada, the 22-year-old has just met the girl of his dreams – literally. But there’s one catch to winning over Ramona Flowers – he has to meet and defeat her seven evil exes! Based on the graphic novels by Brian Lee O’Malley, the film incorporates multimedia elements which make it feel like both a movie and a video game. Bright colours! Sounds! Flashing lights! This movie has it all.
This is a documentary about krumping. Yes, you read that correctly. Don’t know what krumping is? You have to see this film to believe it. Krumping originated in the early 1990s in inner city Los Angeles and evolved from another dance style called ‘clowning’. Those 90s kids were crazy with their dance names. This doco was made by the photographer David LaChapelle and as such it looks incredibly pretty and hyper-real.
We hope you’ve had a great Christmas, now kick back and relax with some fantastic film fun!
As you may well know, New Zealand Music Month is fast approaching (next month), as is Youth Week (22 – 30 May). What you don’t know, until now that is, is that the Teen Blog is going to be running an amazing, 2.0, cross-media competition to mark these dates. Also to give away some prizes we have hanging about in Teen Blog Towers. Check back here regularly for further details, and start thinking creatively!
Jack White is a prolific man. If his bandmates aren’t ready to release any new material he simply forms a new band and presses on. Dead Weather being active band number three, with The White Stripes and The Raconteurs being the other two. Dead Weather is somewhat of a departure for White, who is banging the drums instead of strumming the guitar on this record. On Horehound, the bands debut, he shares vocal duties with Allison Mosshart (of the Kills), with Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age) and Jack Lawrence (Raconteurs and Greenhornes) rounding out the group. If you’ve ever enjoyed any of the above bands, or even just Rock music in general give Horehound a listen.
The Gossip emerged out of the Nu-Rave scene spearheaded by The Klaxons in 2006 with Standing In The Way Of Control and now return with their new long-player Music For Men. Lead by outspoken front-woman Beth Ditto, it’s more of the same adventurously aggressive, neon-coloured electro-pop.
Metalheads rejoice! A whopping two-thirds of the new CDs this week feature loud guitars and shouty vocals. Beatles fans and Tiki Taane fans can also rejoice, but not quite as much.
Master of Puppetsis considered by many as Metallica’s masterpiece and one of the, if not the greatest metal album of all time. Your parents may not consider it a masterpiece if you play it loud enough, and really, isn’t that the point?
Metallica’s next album …And Justice For All, realeased in 1988 (so too old to have a YA card anymore) saw them break-through on MTV with the video for One. My first memory of Metallica was seeing One on Beavis and Butthead, which means I’m far too old to have a YA card anymore.
Metallica, or the Black Album as it is is commonly referred to due to the black cover, was the one that made Metallica into proper mainstream stars. It includes quite a few big hits like Enter Sandman and slow-dance favourite (at least if you go to bogan schools) Nothing Else Matters.
Before he was a tragic figure on a reality show Ozzy Osbourne cranked out a few top-notch metal albums, the fantastically titled Blizzard Of Ozz being the first of his solo efforts. A cornerstone of 80′s metal.
Diary Of A Madman came next for Ozzy Osbourne in 1981. Building on his previous success, this classic album turned Ozzy into a star. Biting the heads off bats and other craziness would follow…
AC/DC are another classic metal band who operated in the 80s. Highway To Hell was their best record to date and also their most well recieved to date. Includes the classic single Highway To Hell.
A couple of Beatles compilations have turned up, 1962-1966 and 1967-1970, also known as the Red and Blue albums respectively. These are pretty much the definitive Beatles compilations to seek out if you don’t feel like picking up the million or so albums they made.
Flux / Tiki by Tiki Taane has turned up. It’s a remix job for the Past, present, future album and includes a song called David Lange You Da Bomb!, which confused me initially until I realised that David Lange probably was our most rockin’ PM.
Metallica are one of the biggest and longest tenured bands in metal and it all started here on Kill ‘Em All, their 1983 debut record. It’s also probably their fastest and rawest album, if you enjoyed the more recent Death Magnetic then this is right up your alley.
Sticking with metal for a while longer, there is a new Iron Maiden compilation out. Somewhere back in time : the best of 1980-1989 arguably finds the band at their peak. Includes Run to the Hills, Number of the Beast and other headbanging classics.
The Datsuns recently released album number four, Headstunts, and now it’s joined the YA collection. If you’ve ever enjoyed The Datsuns in the past, or are a fan of The White Stripes, The Libertines etc. then pick this one up.
Sate Of Mind are a local drum and bass group who’ve been making waves recently with Faster Than Light. It also comes with a bonus disc of remixes, so, bonus.
Transformers : revenge of the fallen : the album is the soundtrack to the newly released Transformers movie. Green Day, Nickleback, Linkin Park and other similar bands are featured.
Lastly, Hannah Montana : the movie also has a soundtrack that’s been added to the collection. If you’re a fan of Miley’s go out and pick this one up post haste.