I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle

Beth CooperUber-nerd Denis Cooverman (aka “The Coove,” as dubbed by his equally dweeby and possibly closeted best friend, Rich) decides to go for broke in his valedictorian speech and declare his love for head cheerleader Beth Cooper for all to hear. Unfortunately, “all” includes her huge military boyfriend, Kevin, who drives a Hummer and wouldn’t mind driving it over Denis after learning of his latent love for Beth. Even though perpetually sweaty Denis does manage to entice the intrigued Beth over to his house for a little “fat-free sourdough Gorgonzola pretzel dip” and then on to Queen Mean Girl Valli Woolly’s parent-free graduation party, they are dogged by Kevin and his squad of muscle-bound goons every step of the way. Will Denis ever get Beth alone long enough to figure out of they are meant-to-be, or just meant-to-be-friends? This Say Anything send-up is so freakin’ funny that I pretty much giggled my way through each page. Each chapter starts with a quote from some teen movie, (which is a party game in and of itself to try and figure out which movie is being referenced) along with a cartoon image of Denis, showing his increasing anxiety and worsening facial contusions as he continues to collect punches from Kevin and Co. each time they make a pit stop in Beth’s Cabriolet convertible. There were so many priceless moments of almost peeing my pants in this naughty teen sex dramedy that if I started listing them, I’d never stop. I’ll leave it at this: If you heart Superbad, then you are going to be McLovin’ I Love You, Beth Cooper.

Life Sucks by Jessica Abel, Gabe Soria & Warren Pleece

Romanian Lord Radu Arisztidescu, (vampire royalty in his country, but a seller of beer in ours) owns and operates the Last Stop quickie-mart. Keeping good help is hard, so Radu just bites himself a new undead employee when he needs a fresh pair of hands to unload the milk and rotate the hot dogs. Enter Dave, Lord Radu’s latest convenience store wage-slave, and reluctant vampire. Dave just can’t seem to get the hang of the bloodsucker-gig. He hates night shifts, and the sight and smell of fresh plasma makes him gag. So he spends his evenings ogling the hot Goth girls who frequent the nightclub next door, and snacking on Radu’s underground blood beer and beef jerky made out of you-don’t-want-to-know-what. He’s in love with a human Goth princess named Rosa, but between trying hide his pesky fang condition and fending off her other suitors, namely a studly vampire surfer named Wes and a bisexual human Goth named Alistair, Dave’s in over his hemoglobin. What’s a bat boy to do? Can Dave learn to overcome his Type-O revulsion in order to up his vampire strength so he can trounce muscle-bound Wes and win Rosa’s hand? Or is he doomed to an eternity of nursing his lonely heart while ringing up cigarettes and pulling Slurpees? It’s hard to believe that anyone could create anything new from the tired old vampire genre, but Abel (of La Perdida fame), Soria and Pleece have done it with this funny, sexy, scary graphic novel that is equal parts Clerks, Buffy, and Revenge of the Nerds. Although this GN has some moments of real fright, it’s mostly just real funny–especially when Dave’s master Lord Radu comes on the scene. How can you do anything but howl with laughter when Radu, sporting a Tom Selleck ‘stache and some serious chest hair says stuff like “Dave, Dave, Dave…vhat am I do viss you? I give you geeft of eternal life, I promote you to assistant manager, and ziss iss how you repay? By not punching out on break?” God, I love this GN.

The Kayla Chronicles by Sherri Winston

kayla chronicles Kayla and her best friend Rosalie have always viewed themselves as radical feminists warriors in the battle against society’s rampant mental and physical oppression of women. But now loud-mouth Rosalie wants laid-back Kayla to put her burgeoning investigative journalism skills to work by trying out for their school dance squad, The Lady Lions. Rosalie is sure the stacked dance crew won’t have anything to do with Kayla, because even though she’s got moves, Kayla’s a card-carrying member of the “itty bitty” A-cup club. Rosalie’s plan is for Kayla to write a scathing expose of the Lady Lions and their discrimination of those who happen to be bosom-ly challenged. But to both of their amazement, Kayla makes the team, and to her own surprise, actually likes being a Lady Lion. The dance squad girls aren’t nearly as snooty as she imagined, and really seem to want to be friends. But how can Kayla make her bossy BFF understand that she can be a feminist AND a proud, girl-power performer? Newcomer Sherri Winston’s story of a girl on the verge of discovering who she really is and what she stands for is sassy and outrageously funny. Winston’s message that girls can be both feminine and feminist is especially powerful in our current “girls gone wild” American society. And the appended lexicon of “Kayla-isms,” Kayla’s innovative made-up vocab for every occasion, probably won’t be long finding its way into teen text messages everywhere. I’m a personal fan of “crunktacular: an event that’s very nature is hyped-up, psyched-out, and leads to extra-wild reactions” and “blind-sexy: when someone looks so good even a blind person would go, ‘Mmm!'”

Bloodsong by Melvin Burgess

In a future dystopian London, peopled with human-animal hybrids and organic machines that can grow their own flesh, 15-year-old Sigurd is determined to recreate the peaceful kingdom his father Sigmund originated, which was bombed out of existence with his father’s assassination. Now England is ruled by a patchwork of squabbling warlords, and to unite them, Sigurd must make a great show of power. He does so by forging a sword from the shattered remnants of a magic knife that was gifted to his father by the god Odin himself, and slaying the terrifying, half-machine dragon Fafnir. He bathes in the monster’s blood, which makes his skin impermeable to gun or sword, except for one small spot between his shoulder blades. Once gifted with this near-immortality, he sets about his Herculean task, braving Hel-fire, the pain of the grave (and rising from the dead) and horrific battles, while always radiating calm and good cheer. But eventually, his big heart spells his doom when three women become determined to possess him—dead or alive. Does even a demi-god stand a chance against not just one but three scorned women? This brutally violent stand-alone sequel to the equally powerful Bloodtide is based on a 13th century Icelandic legend called the Volsunga saga, and therefore brimming with the sorts of bloody battles and high body count you would expect from a Viking epic. I love the transformative power of this modernized classic (which was one of my 2007 Top Ten), but with an ending worthy of the Saw movies, this is not even PG-13 fare. If you love myth-mashes, but dismemberments make you hurl, try Chris Wooding’s Poison or Donna Jo Napoli’s Sirena instead.

Gravity: Big-City Super Hero by Sean McKeever & Mike Norton

College freshman Greg Willis has a dream he can fly. He’s just moved from the Midwest to New York to attend NYU and become the next great American spandex-ed superhero, like his idol Spider-Man. Ever since “the Accident,” Greg has been able to manipulate the gravitational pull of the earth and use it as his own. As superhero “Gravity,” he hopes to join the elite fighting ranks of other famous masked NYC crime fighters. But it’s tough juggling homework, classes and a girlfriend all day while fighting crime all night, and Greg’s grades are starting to slip. Plus, he’s learning it’s not all fun and games saving lives. He’s had his butt kicked a few times by super-villain Black Death, and even when he does take down someone as infamous as The Rhino, he gets hardly any love from the press! What’s up with these New York reporters? They’d never do that Spidey! Now he’s looking to get Black Death back by planning an ambush with his new best friend The Greenwich Guardian. Only the Guardian is not what he seems, and Greg’s dream is quickly turning into a nightmare. Does he have what it takes to continue fighting crime down the mean streets of Manhattan? McKeever, author of graphic novel series Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane and Sentinel, gets the warring feelings of bravado and insecurity embodied in his naive new character just right, and teens will sympathize with Greg’s difficulty in balancing his crowded college life with his new calling. Give Gravity a spin, I promise it won’t get you “down!”

How it Happened in Peach Hill by Marthe Jocelyn

peach hill Fifteen-year-old Annie is used to twisting the truth to her own benefit. After all, Annie’s Mama is Madame Caterina, a fake medium who claims to speak to spirits, but whose sham séances are about as real as a wooden nickel. Cross her palm with silver, or better yet, cold hard cash, and she’ll tell you anything you want to hear. But now that Mama wants Annie to pretend to be a drooling idiot so people will carelessly speak their deepest thoughts around her—thoughts that Mama can then use when pretending to tell their fortunes—Annie’s decided that she’s sick and tired of lying for Mama. She’s going to hatch a new scam that benefits her, and now Mama’s the one who’s going to have to learn to play along! This totally hip hist. fic., set in upstate New York in 1924, is full of the fascinating tricks of the trade that scam artists used to make grief-stricken people believe that they were communicating with the dead. I had a ball learning how a few strings, a hidden bell, some low light, and a double-jointed big toe could convince folks that they were really speaking to their beloveds who had “crossed over.” How Annie undermines and breaks free of sly Mama will leave you cheering and feeling grateful that instead of grifters, your parents are just ordinary teachers, stockbrokers, or truck drivers!

The Samurai’s Tale by Erik Christian Haugaard

samurai's tale In this oldie-but-goodie tale of adventure and intrigue set in 16th-century Japan, young orphaned Taro is taken under the wing of the great samurai Lord Akiyama, after his father is killed in battle and his mother slain in the aftermath. By using his wits and suppressing his fierce pride, Taro slowly ascends the ranks of his lord’s household until he achieves his greatest goal—becoming a samurai like his father and Lord Akiyama, whom he has come to admire. But the life of a warrior is not easy, and Taro finds himself sacrificing opportunities of love and friendship in order to gain honor and respect. Is Taro willing to give up all the comfortable trappings of hearth and home for the dubious privilege of living–and dying–by the sword? Full of period detail that immerses the reader in the everyday life of a samurai in training, this retro-read will appeal to fans of Lian Herne’s Tales of the Otori (Thanks for the suggestion, Harry!)