Okay, you’ve graduated past teen romances and Anne of Green Gables is so over with! So what’s next? How about some books that show girls standing up for themselves, kicking butt and taking no prisoners? It’s time to fight the power with these girls-rule reads!
“If nothing changed, I wouldn’t be writing this down because this is a book about the time when everything changed. And isn’t that what every book is about? No, seriously, isn’t it? I don’t know. I don’t read books.” Astrid Krieger may not read books, but that’s not going to stop her from writing one in which she tells her side of the story–about how it all went wrong. How her life of power and fear-mongering at her fancy boarding school was going great…until she was expelled for cheating. Until she had to move back home and live in her dad’s rocket ship proto-type in the backyard. Until her parents made her go to (ugh) public school. Now Astrid’s on a mission to discover who fingered her for cheating (which she freely admits to doing, but that’s not the point, is it?) and get her bad ass self back into private school. There’s only one problem, and his name is Dean Rein. The Dean of Students at Bristol Academy thinks Astrid needs to learn to help someone other than herself. So he makes a deal with her that if she can do three good, no GREAT deeds, he’ll consider letting her back in. Being kind to others isn’t something that comes naturally to Astrid, but with the help of new boy Noah and the memory of her little brother Fritz (the last person she really loved) she’ll try. But probably not too hard. While this sardonic, subversive novel was occasionally too clever by half and I didn’t quite believe Astrid’s teenage voice (which often sounded more like cynical, thirty-five-year old, college-educated black jack dealer–which, don’t get me wrong, is still funny, just not as realistic) Astrid’s misanthropic observations about life and relationships did give me a case of the knowing chuckles.
On friendship: “Accomplices are like friends, only they don’t care about you…No one is ever trying to take your friends away, so that’s how you know they’re less important.”
On her mother: “Vivi spends four weeks every year going “skiing,” and she returns at least four years younger. If she is not getting plastic surgery, she is surely a vampire.”
On public school fashion: “I had never owned a pair of jeans, and I didn’t plan on it. I am not a cowboy, a farmer or a 1950′s greaser. I just really don’t get it.”
On birthday parties: “I’d never been invited to a birthday party before, at least never to one that didn’t end with a Brunei prince shooting an endangered condor with a gold revolver off the side of a 450-foot-yacht.”
A perfect book for those times when you feel like you’d like to give the world a wedgie. Or when you feel like the world has given YOU a wedgie.
Celia Door is DARK. “When I say I turned Dark, what I really mean is that I gave up. I gave up on trying to fit in and make everyone like me. I accepted that no one liked me and I didn’t care what they thought…I realized that, in a field of sunflowers, I’m a black-eyed Susan.” It’s freshman year. Celia is turning over a new leaf. And it’s black. She’s never without her black boots, black hoodie and black and white composition notebook that holds her dark poetry. This ensemble helps her get into the correct mindset to enact what she hopes will be a singular, spectacular act of sweet revenge. “I came to Hersey High School for revenge. I didn’t have a specific plan worked out, but I did know this: it would be public, it would humiliate someone, and it would be clear to that someone that I had orchestrated it.” Eighth grade was tough. Celia’s parents split, she lost her best friend and she was publically humiliated. Now she only hopes to take down the individual who made her lose faith in herself that awful year. Enter new kid Drake Berlin, who “had the kind of style that you can only achieve if you were raised in New York City or possibly a foreign country.” Drake is as bright as Celia is dark, as popular as she is unpopular. Shockingly, of all the kids at school, he picks her to be his friend. Celia is flattered, but she can’t let Drake distract her from her plan. And she can’t tell him the terrible truth of what happened last year. But Drake is hiding a secret too. And if Celia and Drake don’t figure out a way to bring their secrets to light, they just might be undone by their own darkness. If you haven’t noticed, I can’t stop quoting pithy passages from this marvelous debut. Celia’s first person narration is sprinkled with humor and pathos in equal measure, which ended up making me laugh or cry every other page. Plus, she is a woman after my own book-loving heart. Celia freakin’ adores the library and isn’t afraid to say so: “I love a library the way a swim team loves towels,” and “Libraries are my power centers.” She even organizes her book crushes by genre. “My classic crush is Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. For fantasy, I’ve chosen Aragon from Lord of the Rings. Sci-fi is a tie between Peeta and Gale from Hunger Games, and my favorite contemporary fiction bad boy is Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye.” In addition to her wonderful wordsmithery and pitch perfect portrayal of a girl in crisis, author Karen Finneyfrock has crafted an all too real tale about the consequences of bullying and the high price of revenge. Celia’s ninth grade journey is painful and wonderful and tragic and true. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss this one.
Liz and Bean are used to being on their own. When their aspiring singer mom takes off for a few days every now and then to follow her dreams, the two girls just hunker down, make chicken pot pies in the toaster oven and tell anyone who asks that she’s just visiting a friend in L.A. and will be back soon. But this time, Mom’s been gone for almost two weeks. The chicken potpies are running low and the neighbors are starting to sniff around. Liz makes the call that the sisters need to hightail it to their Uncle Tinsley’s house in Virginia before they get trundled off to foster care. Once they get to 1970’s small town Byler, they find a safe haven with Uncle Tinsley, an eccentric but kind old man who used to own the cotton mill. Mom visits, but then heads out to New York to scout singing opportunities and apartments, leaving the girls to start school in Byler. Liz and Bean love Byler, but the small town isn’t as idyllic as they first thought. The high school is being integrated for the first time, and racial tensions are high. The girls also find themselves stuck in the middle of a nasty feud between Uncle Tinsely and Mr. Maddox, the mill foreman. When Liz publically accuses Maddox of some downright dirty behavior, the incident sets off a firestorm of rumors, gossip and backstabbing in the small town that changes both girls’ lives forever. How will the sisters turn the tide of negativity that has risen up against them because of Maddox’s lies? And where is their mom when they need her the most? By turns witty, warm and provocative, this all ages read by the author of The Glass Castle is a perfect choice for your high school mother-daughter book club or to throw in your beach bag this summer. Coming to a library, bookstore or e-reader near you June 2013.
It’s hard work fighting evil. Just ask Superhero Girl, the under-appreciated star of Faith Erin Hick‘s tongue-in-cheek graphic novel. Superhero Girl has grown up in the caped shadow of her older brother Kevin, also a crusader for good. But needing to establish her own brand, Superhero Girl moves to a new city, finds a laid back roommate who takes her superheroing in stride and proceeds to get her crime fighting on. No job is too large or too small–Superhero Girl beats up baddies from outer space AND rescues little kitties from trees. But although her calling is fulfilling, being a super hero isn’t always rewarding. Vigilantism doesn’t pay the rent, and so like every other twenty something on her own, Superhero Girl must look for a REAL job. She also finds her dating life hindered by her secret identity. And when a wave of peace comes over the nighborhood she is sworn to defend, Superhero Girl finds herself taking up knitting (with disastrous results.) This snort-out-loud GN is charm on a stick. Hicks takes the superhero mythology we know so well from multiplex hours spent in the company of bat and spider men and turns it on its ear, to hugely hilarious affect. I couldn’t stop chuckling to myself, especially when Superhero Girl is accused of beating up an innocent looking hipster and no one will come to his defense because they “hate his stupid little weather-inappropriate scarf.” Hee hee! (Oh, hipster-bashing. I just can’t quit you.) Superhero Girl started life as a webcomic, which you can read here, but I heartily recommend getting the gorgeous full color GN from your local library, bookstore or comic book shop.
Who’s afraid of vampires, werewolves or zombies anymore? These former baddies have totally lost their fear factor by becoming sparkly, hunky and objects of our affection. Luckily for those of us who still like to get our scare on, there’s a new fright in town. And it’s coming from the sky. Famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said, “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.” Cassie should know. She’s barely survived the first four waves of the alien invasion of Earth. First, the worldwide loss of electricity, then the massive tsunamis, followed by a fatal plague and finally the outright assassinations by roving drones of any humans left alive after all that. She’s lost everyone but her little brother, lost everything but her iron will to live. When men claiming to be American military separate her from her brother Sammy, Cassie decides she will do anything to get him back, even if it means sacrificing the only thing she had left—her life. But her mission is compromised when she joins forces with a mysterious stranger who has a secret agenda that could derail Cassie’s journey before it’s even begun. And the 5th Wave is silently rolling out, even more deadly than the the first four. This tense, high wire, sci-fi thriller could only come from the terrifying mind of Rick Yancey, author of my deeply beloved Monstrumologist series. While this new series opener is not quite as ooey gooey gory as The Monstrumologist, Yancey doesn’t shy away from the visceral violence of an unfriendly alien invasion and the nearly nonstop action is super intense. I could barely sit still while reading this juggernaut of a book, surely annoying everyone around me with my tapping toes, jiggling feet and chattering teeth. Cinematic, epic and downright addictive, The 5th Wave reminded me of one of my fav Stephen King stories, The Stand. Get ready to be swept away when The 5th Wave crashes into a library, bookstore or e-reader near you!
Lady Sybella’s life is a living nightmare. Trained as an assassin by the killer nuns of the convent of St. Mortain (God of Death) she has been assigned to spy on the house of Count d’Albret, a noble who is staging a deadly coup against the young duchess of Brittany. The count is notoriously brutal, simply murdering any and all who oppose him. Sybella’s life is constantly on the line as she gathers information to send back to her Mother Superior, who is on the side of the duchess. She knows that if she is found out, a fate worse than death awaits her. Because Sybella is not just an ordinary spy. She is also d’Albret’s abused daughter. When an order comes from the convent that she must free a highly valued prisoner from d’Albret’s dungeon, she uses the command as an excuse to escape with her wounded charge and join her assassin sister Ismae. This one decision sets her destiny spinning in a direction she could have never anticipated, a future where love and death are intertwined and at any moment she could be utterly destroyed by one or the other. Because war is coming. And d’Albret is used to winning. This smashing second volume in His Fair Assassins series (volume 1= Grave Mercy) is way more bloody and fast paced than the first but just as deliciously juicy. Sybella is a terrific heroine—damaged, self-doubting, angry as hell and ready to take her rage out on the world at large—until love comes along and turns her wrath into righteousness. Though you could read this one as a stand alone, why would you want to? I’d advise digging into Grave Mercy before taking a stab at Dark Triumph. An awfully good sequel to what is shaping up to be a spectacular series. Coming to a library, bookstore or e-reader near you April 2013.
“We are born in one day. We can die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day.” Allyson is on her graduation European tour bored out of her ever loving mind. Instead of having the time of her life, she’s watching movies in her hotel room and counting the days until it’s time to go home. Then IT happens: a chance encounter with a mysterious Shakespeare street performer named Willem who charmingly asks Allyson to skip the rest of the tour and spend the day with him in Paris. She knows what she should do. “It’s totally crazy. I don’t even know him…all this could go disastrously wrong in so many ways…but that doesn’t change the fact that I want to go. So this time, instead of saying no, I try something different. I say yes.” Under Willem’s heady influence, Allyson abandons her rule following ways and adopts the persona of Lulu, a daring girl who isn’t afraid to take risks. But then Willem disappears. And Allyson must go back to her real life and take up the challenges and expectations of college. Except she can’t stop thinking about Willem and Lulu. And who she might have become if she had had just one more day. While it may seem to have all the traditional trappings of a romance, this stunningly good story of self-discovery by the acclaimed author of If I Stay is so much more. It’s a deeply felt character study, an intriguing mystery and a free European tour all in one. Because Allyson does go back to find Willem. But what she discovers is something else altogether. And if the cliffhanger ending kills you as much as it killed me, no worries. Willem’s story comes out fall 2013!
“My mother’s a prostitute. Not the filthy, street walking kind. She’s actually quite pretty, fairly well spoken, and has lovely clothes. But she sleeps with men for money or gifts, and according to the dictionary, that makes her a prostitute.” In 1950’s New Orleans, Josie couldn’t be more different from her mother, a woman who cares about herself first and her daughter only when she manages to remember she has one. Luckily for Josie, her mother’s madam Willie, a smart, sassy businesswoman, has always looked out for Josie and kept her separate from her mother’s sordid life. But now Josie has graduated from high school and wants to be more than just a bookstore clerk and Willie’s sometimes housekeeper. She dreams of attending Smith College in Massachusetts and escaping the sleaziness of the Big Easy forever. But when a wealthy tourist is murdered in the French Quarter and Josie’s mother and mobster boyfriend are fingered for it, Josie becomes caught up in a dangerous game of cat and mouse that could bring a messy end to her college dreams. And there is also the little matter of deciding between the two boys she’s grown up with and loves for different reasons: Patrick because he shares her passion for books and reading, Jesse because shares her feeling of being an outsider always looking in. Can Josie flee her painful past in order to forge a bright new future? Or will her illicit origins dog her footsteps for the rest of her life? Ruta Sepetys, author of the achingly sad Between Shades of Gray, has penned another unusual and provocative historical fiction that goes straight to the heart. But don’t expect heart-pounding action, this is a smart, slow-boiling thriller that focuses more on identity and relationships than strip teases and gun play. If you like the character-driven mysteries of Judy Blundell and Kathryn Miller Haines, then you’ll want to snatch this one up from your nearest library, bookstore or e-reader when it arrives in February 2013.
Rory Deveaux can see dead people, and it’s no picnic in the park. After a run in with a homicidal ghost in the bathroom of her boarding school that almost made her ephemeral, (see Shades of London, bk. 1) Rory is back at Hawthorne and struggling to pick up the pieces of her academic and social life after being Exhibit A in the scandalous Ripper murders. And the worst part is not being able to tell anyone the truth about what really happened.”You cannot tell your therapist you have been stabbed by a ghost. You cannot tell her that you could see the ghost because you developed the ability to see dead people after choking on some beef at dinner. If you say any of that, they put you in a sack and take you to a room walled in bouncy rubber and you will never be allowed to touch scissors again.” But the past won’t leave her alone. When she discovers that the owner of a nearby tavern was brutally murdered under suspicious circumstances, she teams up with her old ghost hunting team: Steven, Boo and Callum to find out if the perpetrator was paranormal. Meanwhile, she’s trying to keep up her grades, maintain a romantic relationship with her crush object Jerome and deal with the fact that since her recent brush with death, she suddenly has the ability to zap ghosts into oblivion. Which makes Rory of great interest to the many different shady organizations around London who would like to harness her power for themselves. My only beef with this second book in the Shades of London series is that there wasn’t enough BLOOD. This time around there is much more about Rory and her relationships, which is great because I quite enjoy Rory’s sarcastic voice, but I did long for more, well, HORROR. However, the book ends on such a gruesome cliffhanger which promises more madness and mayhem to come, that I felt a bit better about the lack of glorious GORE. Intrigued? You should be, these books rock. All your questions will be answered when The Madness Underneath comes to a library, bookstore or e-reader near you February 2013.