On Toddâ€™s planet, there is Noise, and nothing but Noise. Infected by the Noise germ since birth, he and all the other males around him are subjected to the unending bedlam of each otherâ€™s thoughts. The same virus that caused this mental chaos proved fatal to women, leaving Todd without a mother in a violent village of men, some teetering on the brink of insanity due to the constant Noise. As Todd nears his thirteenth birthday and the secret ceremony that will usher him into their mysterious adult world, he comes across a pocket of blessed silence in the swamps near his home. Astonished, he tries to uncover the meaning of this unnatural quiet. But as Todd delves deeper into the silence, he realizes that its presence heralds a terrible danger to himself and everyone he holds dear. So he embarks on an arduous quest to find the source of the silence, constantly hounded by enemies that can hear his every thought, only to discover that everything he knows about his own origin is a lie. Armed with only a knife and aided by loyal Manchee, the sweetest, stupidest dog known to man (â€œThe first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs donâ€™t got nothing much to say. About anything.â€), Todd finally becomes a man when he faces down both an army and his single greatest fear. Though this intense and monstrously entertaining novel is just shy of 500 pages, it flies by at rocket speed. With an excellent sense of pacing and action, author Patrick Ness uses short, cliff-hanging chapters to slowly reveal the ugly truth that forms the basis of Toddâ€™s world. Exquisite world building and well-rendered characterizations round out this stellar sci-fi offering. My only gripe? The abrupt ending, which left Todd in peril and several plot questions still unanswered. Luckily, this is only the first book in a trilogy, but oh, what sweet agony waiting for the next one! Though Knife is available now, you might want to wait until you have Book 2 in hand before starting down the path with Todd and sweetly muddled Manchee.
Month: November 2008
The Ghosts of Kerfol by Deborah Noyes
A classic haunted house story is given a gentle face-lift by mistress of modern horror Deborah Noyes, who, with just a few tugs and some careful reconstruction, has created a glowing new work that does tremendous tribute to the original.Â Turn-of-the-century American novelist Edith Wharton wrote â€œKerfolâ€ in 1916, a short story about a controlling French lord who kept his young wife practically imprisoned within Kerfol, his forbidding Baroque mansion. He refused to allow Milady even the comfort of a pet, and because of his suspicions that she was having an affair, ruthlessly murdered each dog she tried to keep in secret. Then the lord turns up dead, seemingly mauled by a pack of dogs. Except, there are no dogs at Kerfolâ€¦none left alive, that isâ€¦First Noyes took Whartonâ€™s story and re-imagined it from the point of view of a young maid who worked in Miladyâ€™s service, interweaving her own writing with some of Whartonâ€™s original phrases and dialogue. Then she moves forward in time to show how future generations continue to be haunted by the ghosts of Kerfol. Right after the French Revolution, a young artist who inherits Kerfol is tormented by the beautiful image of a woman he canâ€™t stop painting, and the pack of sad-eyed dogs who follow him everywhere yet refuse to be touched. In 1926, a spoiled flapper meets her doom when she dons Miladyâ€™s cursed sapphire necklace. In 1982, a college-aged couple on a European tour awaken the vengeful spirit of the jealous lord when they engage in an illicit tryst in his former bedchamber. Finally, in 2006, the spirits seem to settle into an uneasy rest after a deaf young gardener finds and removes the cursed necklace from the manor grounds. Or, will the restless ghosts just follow the jewels to their new home and continue to haunt the young man? Like the linked sparkling gems in Miladyâ€™s necklace, each of Noyesâ€™s stories is a small masterpiece, gracefully strung together by interwoven themes of bitter betrayal, sweet revenge and tempting madness. This gorgeously Gothy title is a just-right read for a blustery November nightâ€”or anytime you want to give yourself a delicious shiver!
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Seventeen-year-old Mia has everything: a promising career as a cellist, awesome former-punk parents that really get her and her music, and best of all, an understanding alterna-rock boyfriend who is the yang to her yin. Then one day on a routine drive near their home, her family is involved in a terrible car accident. Miaâ€™s life is nearly lost. Now treading a fuzzy comatose line between life and death, Mia has to decide whether she wants to give up and let go or stay and fight. As the minutes tick by during the the longest day of Miaâ€™s life, she mentally contemplates the consequences of either choice. Friends and relatives move in and out of her hospital room and her memory, each one weighing in on Miaâ€™s decision, whether they know it or not. As the dawn breaks the day after her accident, Mia finally decides what she wants to do. Then one last person speaks, and everything changes once againâ€¦you may think youâ€™ve read this story before, but you havenâ€™t. Not the way Gayle Forman tells it, in an unsentimental and sincere way that may remind you of certain other well-crafted weep-tastic reads on this list, but which has a unique style all its own. Best of all are Formanâ€™s characterizations, especially of Miaâ€™s punk rock parents, who remain realistically cool for adults, despite their suburban trappings. You wonâ€™t want to miss this evocative tearjerker, which will soon be a movie directed by former Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke. (2 weepies)
Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve
There’s nothing I love more than a good Arthurian legend. And Philip Reeve has written a slamminâ€™ one! In this realistic revamp, Myrddin (Merlin) is a smooth-talking two-bit politician, a slight-of-hand bard who knows thereâ€™s no such thing as magic, only human gullibility and greed. He takes a promising young warrior named Arthur and attempts to use his savage talent to unite the squabbling tribes of Britain, who have fractured into a million warring pieces after the fall of the Roman Empire. But despite all of Myrddinâ€™s efforts to groom the brutish Arthur into something resembling a king, the man known as â€œThe Bearâ€ refuses to be tamed. Arthur continues to loot and terrorize neighboring communities just like the barbarian Saxons he has sworn to protect them from, even as Myrddin grows his legend as a fair and just leader throughout the land. Myrddinâ€™s masterful manipulations and Arthurâ€™s violent exploits are seen through the eyes of Myrddinâ€™s young assistant Gwyna, an orphan girl who becomes an unwitting accomplice in the creation of the enduring, yet wholly man-made legend of Arthur. The players you know well are all here: Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere) Bedwyr (Lancelot) Peredur (Perceval) and of course, the wily Myrddin. Except in this reimagining, there is no fantasy to blunt the sharp edge of Arthurâ€™s broadsword Caliburn (Excalibur). Reeve removes the gilded edges from the traditional Arthur tales and writes Camelot the way it might have been in a real time and place. The result is bleak, and often bloody, but brilliant. If you are as obsessed with Arthurian myth as I am, youâ€™ll also want to read Kevin Crossley-Holland’s and Jane Yolen’s versions of the legendary king.
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci
Geeks of the world, rejoice! Several of the best YA authors around have let their freak flags fly in this nerdalicious collection of dork-shorts, and the result is no less than GEEKTASTIC. Are you an astronomy aficionado? A quiz bowl questioner? A crazy ComicCon-er? Perhaps youâ€™re compulsive online gamer, A Rocky Horror crooner, or just simply a Buffy action-figure collector. Whatever brand of freak you are, you will soon recognize yourself and other members of your nerd herd in this outrageously funny and occasionally tragic collection of stories and comics. Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci imagine the impossible love between a Jedi and a Klingon in the star-crossed â€œOnce Youâ€™re a Jedi, Youâ€™re a Jedi All the Way,â€ while David Levithan explores quiz bowl backstabbing in â€œQuiz Bowl Antichrist.â€ A couple of nerds outsmart their hazers in John Greenâ€™s â€œFreak the Geek,â€ Cassandra Clare explains what happens when online gamers meet in real life in â€œI Never,â€ and Libba Bray will make you cry in â€œItâ€™s Just a Jump to the Left,â€ a gorgeously melancholic ode to the Rocky Horror Picture Show and lost innocence. Plus, thereâ€™s Lisa Yeeâ€™s story of baton-twirling angst, Tracy Lynnâ€™s tale of a cheerleader who finally sees the geek-light, and some totally awesome comic shorts by Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O’Malley. Additional nerd-words are penned Scott Westerfeld, M.T. Anderson, Garth Nix, Kelly Link, Barry Lyga, Wendy Mass and Sara Zarr.Â As a proud former show choir nerd and theater geek, I dug each and every one of these original stories and Iâ€™m sure you will, too. Because when it’s all said and done, “geek” is just shorthand for being passionate about what you love, be it karate or Klingon.Â And who isn’t passionate about something? Jot this one down for next summer’s reading list, as it won’t be beamed down into a library or bookstore near you until August 2009. May the force be with you until then!
Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg
The Janes are back, and this time love is in the air. Itâ€™s nearly Valentineâ€™s Day, and Main Jane Beckless is torn between two boysâ€”Miroslaw, the man she helped save on the day of the Metro City cafÃ© bombing, and Damon, the cutie McCutester who took the fall for her when the P.L.A.I.N. (People Loving Art in Neighborhoods) Janes were caught at the end of their first adventure. Theater Jane is in love with an actor who doesnâ€™t know sheâ€™s alive, science Jane is trying to concoct a pheromone scent that will cause boys to ask her out, while sporty Jane simply takes matters into her own hands by informing the boy she likes that heâ€™s now her boyfriendâ€”and he cheerfully complies. But affairs of the heart arenâ€™t the only troubles plaguing the Janes. The girl-art gang (plus James) is also struggling with low funds and high aspirations when it comes to planning future P.L.A.I.N. projects. To make matters worse, Main Janeâ€™s mom refuses to leave the house after an old friend is killed by an anthrax terrorist attack. Can Main Jane solve her romantic woes, find a way to keep funding P.L.A.I.N., and get her mom to hit the sidewalk, all while dodging the apoplectic Officer Sanchez, whoâ€™s determined to shut down P.L.A.I.N. forever? This spirited sequel to The Plain Janes will bliss out any teen crusader of public art, free speech, or love. Have no idea what Iâ€™m talking about? Then you better run out to your nearest library or bookstore and snag the first Castellucci & Rugg graphic novel collaboration and get up to date with the Janes!