Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

Teen Blog

Reading, Wellington, and whatever else – teenblog@wcl.govt.nz

Month: September 2013

The fabulous heroines of graphic novels

One trope that often appeared in the comic books of the last couple of decades was the “woman in refrigerator.” This was started when a Green Lantern came home to discover his girlfriend killed and stuck into a refrigerator. It has come to describe “the use of the death or injury of a female comic book character as a plot device in a story starring a male comic book character. It is also used to note the disempowerment or elimination of a female comic book character within a comic book universe.” Thanks to Wikipedia for the succinct description 🙂 Luckily, this trope is on the way out. Now there are plenty of interesting female protagonists –both superhero and not- who take centre stage in graphic novels. Here are Nicola’s picks for the best heroines in our YA graphic novel collection:

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe Guild

This book is co-authored by the awesome Felicia Day. Joss Whedon fans will know her from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along-blog. Of course, it deals with the nerdiest of nerdy subjects; playing an online game very similar to World of Warcraft. For those who find them mystifying, this is a nice introduction into why they’re so popular. But that’s not the only thing this book has going for it. Cyd Sherman, the protagonist, is feeling adrift in a boring job and an oblivious boyfriend. So she starts playing, and meets a whole bunch of people online. It’s a nice take on modern friendship and the sometimes necessary escape into fantasy. (What do you think reading is, after all?) Of course, not of all the action takes place in the game world. Cyd has some very painful but funny lessons to learn about self worth and consequences. This book also ties into an awesome web series of the same name.

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsRapunzel’s Revenge

So, we all know the story of Rapunzel, right? An evil witch, a tower, and “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.” Well, this Rapunzel doesn’t need any handsome prince to save her; she’s tough, resourceful and determined to get revenge on the witch who stole her from her real mother all those years ago. The re-imagining of the old story is great; high fantasy mixes with Western to make this possibly one of the best altered fairy tale books we have.

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe Girl Who Owned a City

Post-apocalypse stories are really popular at the moment. This one sees the adults of the world all dead after a mysterious illness, and the kids left to defend for themselves. What makes this book different to the majority of post-apocalypse stories is that the enemy is not “the other”; so not zombies, or an evil government, or aliens, or cannibals. The biggest enemy of the survivors is themselves. This is what Lisa Nelson finds as she struggles to keep the kids around her fed and safe from groups of marauding gangs made up of children the same age as her. Lisa is forced into a leadership role, and she has to make tough decisions while keeping true to the principles of fairness and unity that she believes will save her city.

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSerenity Rose

Serenity Rose is quickly discovering that being one of the few witches in the world is not all its cracked up to be; her powers, which she barely understands and sometimes struggles to control, threaten everyone around her. Serenity Rose is a case study for the axiom that interesting female protagonists don’t have to be ‘strong’ in the traditional sense. Sure, she’s powerful but the main conflict point in this book is her inability to cope with this strength. This book also casts a rather skeptical look at the ‘glamorous outsider’ trope; the main character would quite happily give up her powers and fame for a more normal life. The art’s pretty noteworthy too; it’s redolent of A Nightmare Before Christmas with its limited colour palette and scratchy, elongated figures, as well as its Goth inspired aesthetic.

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsBatgirl: Year One

DC has always been pretty good with creating awesome female superheroes; Wonder Woman appeared in 1941! Batgirl appears a little later in 1967, which is still pretty respectable! The mantle of Batgirl has been taken up by a few different women in the 46 years since then, but Barbara Gordon is the most well known. This book is a modern take on what Barbara’s first year as Batgirl would have been like. Not only does she have to face off against dangerous villains, she has to deal with Batman himself, who is none too pleased at someone he sees as an interloper.

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe Plain Janes

Jane struggles when she moves with her family into suburbia. She feels out of place, ignoring the overtures of the popular girls and not quite fitting in with the outcasts, all of whom are called Jane. She’s also recovering from a fairly traumatic incident which precipitated the move in the first place. But Jane loves art, and Jane has a plan, and soon she and her friends are going to change the neighbourhood for ever. It’s nice to find a graphic novel that acknowledges that while and high school are hard, it’s not completely depressing.

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsTina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary

Tina goes to a prestigious Californian High School, has hardly any friends, and is obsessed with Jean Paul Satre. When her best friend ditches her, she is forced to re-evaluate her life and her relationships. Her close-knit Indian family keep her anchored as she tries to work out where she fits in and more importantly, if that’s what she really wants. It’s nice to find a story about an Indian character who’s not struggling with her cultural identity; it plays a major role in the story, but it doesn’t define her problems. It also has some really fascinating philosophical points to make about growing up.

This isn’t an entirely new topic for us. We’ve talked about some kick ass heroines who aren’t superheroes here, and one who is a superhero here. If you want more of Nicola’s recommendations then check out this post.

New Books

with one word titles:

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsFalling, Cat Clarke (72 pages) – It’s a hot summer night, Cam is having the party of the year, and Anna has big plans. Her best friend Tilly’s come out, and Anna wants to set her up with the only other gay girl in school. That should take the heat off Anna and her own guilt over cheating on Cam. As the party hots up, Anna sets off a chain of events that will change all their lives forever.

First lines: “You’re not supposed to kiss someone who ISN’T your boyfriend. It’s pretty much the first rule of relationships. But that’s what I did last night.”

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsStrangelets, Michelle Gagnon (272 pages) – 17-year-old Sophie lies on her deathbed in California, awaiting the inevitable loss of her battle with cancer. 17-year-old Declan stares down two armed thugs in a back alley in Galway, Ireland. 18-year-old Anat attempts to traverse a booby-trapped tunnel between Israel and Egypt. All three strangers should have died at the exact same moment, thousands of miles apart. Instead, they awaken together in an abandoned hospital—only to discover that they’re not alone. Three other teens from different places on the globe are trapped with them. Somebody or something seems to be pulling the strings. With their individual clocks ticking, they must band together if they’re to have any hope of surviving.

First lines: “Sophie Page felt herself getting closer. Every inhalation drew further apart from the previous one until there were measurable gaps between them.”

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsGolden, Jessi Kirby (277 pages) – Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost may be a distant relative of poet Robert Frost, but she has never taken the road less travelled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap – one that might be the key to unravelling a town mystery – she decides to take a chance.

First lines: “There’s no such thing as a secret in this town. But I’m keeping this one, just for today. I fold the letter once, twice, three times and slide it into my back pocket like a golden ticket, because that’s what it is. A ticket out.”

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsCrash, Lisa McMann (233 pages) – Jules lives with her family above their restaurant, which means she smells like pizza most of the time and drives their double-meatball-shaped food truck to school. It’s not a recipe for popularity, but she can handle that. What she can’t handle is the recurring vision that haunts her. Over and over, Jules sees a careening truck hit a building and explode and nine body bags in the snow. The vision is everywhere – on billboards, television screens, windows—and she’s the only one who sees it. And the more she sees it, the more she sees. The vision is giving her clues, and soon Jules knows what she has to do. Because now she can see the face in one of the body bags, and it’s someone she knows.

First lines: “My sophomore psych teacher, Mr. Polselli, says knowledge is crucial to understanding the workings of the human brain, but I swear to dog, I don’t want any more knowledge about this. Every few days I see it. Sometimes it’s just a picture, like on that billboard we pass on the way to school. And other times it’s moving, like on a screen. A careening truck hits a building and explodes. Then nine body bags in the snow.”

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsUnbreakable, Elizabeth Norris (479 pages) – Four months after Ben disappeared through the portal to his home universe, Janelle believes she’ll never see him again. Her world is still devastated, but civilization is slowly rebuilding, and life is starting to resume some kind of normalcy. Until Interverse Agent Taylor Barclay shows up, asking for Janelle’s help. Somebody from an alternative universe is running a human-trafficking ring – kidnapping people and selling them on different Earths. And Ben, with his unique abilities, is the prime suspect.

First lines: “Some days are so perfect, they just don’t seem real. They’re the days when you wake up and aren’t tired, when the sun is shining and the breeze kicks up from the ocean, keeping you from getting too hot or too cold, and everything you do goes right. Like you’re inside of a movie with your own soundtrack, where you’re so happy that you can’t help just spontaneously breaking into a smile. Some days are like magic.”

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsStung, Bethany Wiggins (290 pages) – There is no cure for being stung. Fiona doesn’t remember getting the tattoo on her right hand – the one she knows she must conceal at any cost. She doesn’t remember her world exploding. She doesn’t remember her house falling apart. She doesn’t remember humanity dividing. But it has, into those who have the tattoo and those that don’t. Those bearing the tattoo have turned into mindless, violent beasts that roam the streets and sewers, preying upon the unbranded, while a select few without tattoos live protected inside a fortresslike wall. But Fiona has woken up branded, on the wrong side of the wall and … normal.

First lines: “I don’t remember going to sleep. All I remember is waking up here – a place as familiar as my own face. At least, it should be. But there’s a problem.”

Top 10 Chocolate

chocolateHow is it that a top 10 books with chocolate in the title has escaped me? Here are some YA, some children’s, some other fiction, and the Dewey number of the gods.

The Chocolate War, and Beyond the Chocolate War by Robert Cormier – before young adult literature was something everyone wanted to be doing, there were the Roberts (Cormier, Swindells and Westall). The Chocolate War is classic YA literature. First published in 1974, it’s a disturbing tale of evil and good, corruption and the opposite of corruption (with chocolate as the catalyst). Plus there’s a sequel.

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. A much-loved, pre-Twilight story of a werewolf who falls for a human boy with a very catchy title. Interestingly, the author also wrote a pre-Twilight vampire story (The Silver Kiss).

Bitter Chocolate by Sally Grindlay. The more serious side of chocolate. Bitter Chocolate is set in West Africa during a particularly violent time (Liberia and Sierra Leone were both in a state of civil war in the early 2000s). After rebel fighting kills his family, Pascal is made a child soldier, escapes, and then is forced to work as a slave in a cocoa plantation. For information about Fair Trade products, and an app to help find them, you can visit Fairtrade New Zealand.

Chocolate cake with Hitler by Emma Craigie. Twelve-year-old Helga Goebbels is the daughter of Joseph, the head of Nazi propaganda. As World War II comes to an end, chocolate cake for tea every day with Uncle Leader turns into hiding in an underground bunker, watching the Nazi leadership crumble.

In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin. This is the book that reminded me I hadn’t done a chocolate list, so it goes in too. The Birthright trilogy is set not too far in the future (2083 to start), in a time when chocolate and coffee are illegal (unimaginable!). Anya’s family manufactures chocolate, meaning they’re as good as the Mafia.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. Tita is forbidden to marry, and must look after her mother until she dies. To complicate things, she falls in love with Pedro, who is seduced by her delicious cooking (Tita is a gifted cook, like Remy the rat in Ratatouille). Pedro marries Tita’s sister as a way of staying close to her (like that works, poor Tita). The title is a reference to the best way to make hot chocolate (I am dubious). There are recipes in the book, and it was made into a (Spanish language) film.

Chocolat by Joanne Harris. Another movie conversion (this one with Johnny Depp). One day, quite suddenly, Vianne breezes into a somewhat  uptight French village and opens a chocolate shop, causing consternation among the locals who disapprove of her sinfully good chocolate and her outlook on life.

The Great Chocolate Cake Bake Off by Wellington’s own Philippa Werry. Home-grown chocolatey story about a boy who discovers he has a gift for baking, but can he come up with a great bake-off-winning recipe?

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. This is the most amazing book about chocolate, ever.

Everything at 641.6374. There is an unbelievable collection of chocolate recipes books. You should try one (pictured is one about Whittakers, for example).

Fashion Week(s)

As you’ll know, this week has been New Zealand Fashion Week. Oh to have been there!!

There are plenty of places to get the hottest goss on the week’s happenings… my faves are NZ Style Collective (for every juicy detail, glorious pics plus a fun diary of what they wore to fashion week) and also the official NZ Fashion Week website. Under Fashion @ First Sight, you can view about 20 catwalk looks straight after each show. Woop!!

Today, of course, heralds the start of Fashion Weekend… featuring a range of hot shows, parties, and, of course, the Designer Garage Sale. I think it would pretty much make me weep for joy!! All is not completely lost tho… Gorman, one of my most-coveted brands, is showing on Sunday in the Nuffield Street Show and in a stroke of incredible luck, I managed to pick up a swank Gorman tank brand new at a bargain price. Yeeeeyaaaah!!


Today also marks the start of New York Fashion Week (Thursday the 5th in New York, Friday the 6th here). Along with the standard gloss and glamour, this year’s show features an extra-special event. Cabiria, owned by designer Eden Miller, will be the first plus-size label to showcase in New York Fashion Week’s 70 year history. This is exciting news because it marks the beginnings of a much-needed change in attitude towards plus-size fashion… get the full run-down here!!

Zombie, Dancer, Chocolate, End

Here are some new titles we’ve ordered recently for the YA collection.

Through the Zombie Glass, Gena Showalter (October) – this is the second in the White Rabbit Chronicles, where Alice in Wonderland collides with the undead. “After a strange new zombie attack, Alice fears she may be losing her mind… A terrible darkness blooms inside her, urging her to do wicked things. The whispers of the dead assault her ears and mirrors seem to come frighteningly to life. She’s never needed her team of zombie slayers more – including her boyfriend, Cole – than she does now. But as Cole strangely withdraws and the zombies gain new strength, Ali knows one false step may doom them all.” (goodreads.com)

Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy, Elizabeth Kiem (September) – ballet, spies and a bit of the supernatural come together in this gripping-sounding novel. “Marina is born of privilege. Her mother, Sveta, is the Soviet Union’s prima ballerina: an international star handpicked by the regime. But Sveta is afflicted with a mysterious second sight and becomes obsessed with exposing a horrific state secret. Then she disappears. Fearing for their lives, Marina and her father defect to Brooklyn. Marina struggles to reestablish herself as a dancer at Juilliard. But her enigmatic partner, Sergei, makes concentration almost impossible, as does the fact that Marina shares her mother’s ‘gift,’ and has a vision of her father’s murder at the hands of the Russian crooks and con artists she thought they’d left behind. Now Marina must navigate the web of intrigue surrounding her mother’s disappearance, her ability, and exactly whom she can – and can’t – trust.” (goodreads.com) The title pays homage to John Le Carre, perhaps the ultimate spy novelist.

In the Age of Love and Chocolate, Gabrielle Zevin (November) – any book with the promise of chocolate should be worth reading, and particularly if you’ve read the other two in the Birthright series. “Now eighteen, life has been more bitter than sweet for Anya. She has lost her parents and her grandmother, and has spent the better part of her high school years in trouble with the law. Perhaps hardest of all, her decision to open a nightclub with her old nemesis Charles Delacroix has cost Anya her relationship with Win. Still, it is Anya’s nature to soldier on. She puts the loss of Win behind her and focuses on her work. Against the odds, the nightclub becomes an enormous success, and Anya feels like she is on her way and that nothing will ever go wrong for her again. But after a terrible misjudgment leaves Anya fighting for her life, she is forced to reckon with her choices and to let people help her for the first time in her life.” (goodreads.com) This dystopian series is really well regarded.

Enders, Lissa Price (January 2014) – getting in early with this sequel to Starters. “With the Prime Destinations body bank destroyed, Callie no longer has to rent herself out to creepy Enders. But Enders can still get inside her mind and make her do things she doesn’t want to do. Like hurt someone she loves. Having the chip removed could save Callie’s life – but it could also silence the voice in her head that might belong to her father. Callie has flashes of her ex-renter Helena’s memories, too …and the Old Man is back, filling her with fear. Who is real and who is masquerading in a teen body?” (goodreads.com)

Trailer Tuesday

The big-budget-action-Hollywood-edition.

The lovely Logan Lerman returns for round two in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

The equally lovely Hugh Jackman returns as The Wolverine

We’re sure you’ve seen this one, but if you haven’t, here’s the trailer for the next Hobbit film

Bonus Round! It’s not a trailer, but a behind-the-scenes look at the big screen adaption of Divergent:

Most Wanted: September 2013

These are the top 10(ish) most requested items in the young adult collection so far this month. Allegiant, the final (but who knows?) in the Divergent trilogy has toppled John Green off his perch. Great scott. Also noteworthy, Into the River was the overall winner of the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards this year. Nice to see a New Zealand book in the list!

YA movie trivia: both Hazel and Augustus from the Fault in our Stars movie (2014) also star in Divergent (also 2014).

1. Allegiant, Veronica Roth [up 1]
2. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green [down 1]
3. Light, Michael Grant [no change]
4. The Fall of Five, Pittacus Lore [up 2]
4. Black Friday, Robert Muchamore [up 2]
6. 1D: One Direction: Forever Young [down 2]
7. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins [up 2]
8. Divergent,Veronica Roth [up 1]
8. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins [no change]
10. Into the River, Ted Dawe (New Zealand author) [new]
10. Insurgent, Veronica Roth [back]

New Books

taking place in dystopian worlds:

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe Testing, Joelle Charbonneau (325 pages) – The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few, who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must pass The Testing – their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career. Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate, eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies.

First lines: “Graduation day. I can hardly stand still as my mother straightens my celebratory red tunic and tucks a strand of light brown hair behind my ear. Finally she turns me and I look in the reflector on our living area wall. Red. I’m wearing red.”

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsBZRK Reloaded, Michael Grant (432 pages) – In the second instalment of the series, the entire BZRK cell – including Noah and Sadie – has been left in pieces after the last round of battle with the Armstrong Twins, conjoined brothers who plot to rob mankind of its free will. Vincent’s mind is shattered, and his memories hold dangerous secrets – secrets that Lear, BZRK’s mysterious leader, will stop at nothing to protect. Meanwhile, Bug Man has taken control of the President’s brain, but playing with sanity is a dangerous game. The consequences can spiral way out of control, and the Armstrong Twins are not people Bug Man can afford to disappoint.

First lines: “Vincent felt the laugh building inside him. It was like a build-up of steam in a covered pot. Like a volcano whose time to erupt has come at last. He was being torn apart.”

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsRun For Cover, Eva Gray (207 pages) – In a terrifying new world, four girls must depend on one another if they want to survive. Rosie finds herself running for her life – again (check out the first time here). But this time she’s got Louisa – who can be okay sometimes, Maddie – who can’t stop complaining and Evelyn – the girl with a million conspiracy theories, along with her. If she weren’t so scared, Rosie would be totally annoyed. But one of Evelyn’s theories was right: the boarding school the girls were sent to belongs to the Alliance, the wrong side of the War. Rosie has no choice to run – and no one to rely on but her new friends. Whether she likes it or not.

First lines: “I’m not like the other girls. Louisa and Maddie and Evelyn – it’s like we’re from totally different planets.”

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsIcons, Margaret Stohl (428 pages) – When the Icons landed, everything changed. They called it The Day. The day the windows shattered. The day the power stopped. The day Dol’s family dropped dead. Earth lost a war it didn’t know it was fighting. Since then, Dol has lived a simple life in the countryside, far from the nearest Icon and its terrifying power. Hiding from the one truth she can’t avoid. Dol is different. She survived. Why?

First lines: “One tiny gray dot, no bigger than a freckle, marks the inside of the baby’s chubby arm. It slips in and out of view as she cries, waving her yellow rubber duck back and forth. Her mother holds her over the old ceramic bathtub. The little feet kick harder, twisting about the water.”

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsStorm Thief, Chris Wooding (387 pages) – Rail is lucky. The storm thief only took his breath. He wears a respirator now, but at least he didn’t die. There’s little hope in a the city of Orokos, where strange, dangerous storms rearrange the streets and turn children into glass. Until Rain and his friend Moa unearth a mysterious object, that could hold the key to the secret at the heart of Orokos. But there are others, such as the Chief of the Protectorate Secret Police who would do anything to get their hands on that power. Anything at all…

First lines: “The seabird slid through the black sky beneath the blanket of cloud, its feathers ruffling fitfully as it was buffeted by the changing winds. The ocean was the colour of slate. It bulged and warped in angry swells. Above, spectral light flickered within the thunderheads, and the air boomed.”

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe 5th Wave, Rick Yancey (457 pages) – After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one. Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave. On a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, until Cassie meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan may be her only hope for rescuing her brother and even saving herself. Now she must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up. Cassie Sullivan gets up.

First lines: “There will be no awakening. The sleeping woman will feel nothing the next morning, only a vague sense of unease and the unshakable feeling that someone is watching her. Her anxiety will fade in less than a day and will soon be forgotten.”

Page 2 of 2