How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

fairyIn a world where everyone gets his or her own special talent, courtesy of an invisible fairy, fourteen-year-old Charlie is pretty bummed to have scored a parking fairy. I mean, she doesn’t even drive. As a freshman at an elite sports school, she really could have used a no foul, shooting or throwing fairy instead. Determined to discourage her parking fairy, Charlie starts walking everywhere. And I do mean, everywhere. Which is making her late. Which is causing her to collect demerits at her punctually obsessed school. Charlie is so busy slaving away at community service jobs to work off her late demerits that she has very little time to flirt with new cutie Stefan. But its not like he would notice her anyway, because Stefan seems to be under the sway of Charlie’s most hated classmate Fiorenza, she of the “all-the-boys-like you” fairy. What do you do when the fairy you have isn’t the fairy you want? Why, ditch it of course! Even if Charlie is able to shake the parking fairy, there’s no guarantee that her new fairy will be any better. But that’s the risk she’s willing to take for a chance at Stefan’s love and an end to being thrown into the nearest back seat anytime someone needs a good parking spot! I’ll admit, it took me some time to get used to Larbalestier’s odd slang (“doos?” “pulchy?” “spoffs?” ) but since she was kind enough to tuck a glossary in the back, I soon got into the swing of things. Funny and whimsical, this isn’t just a fantasy, but a romance, sports, and even bit of a mystery novel. Larbalestier threads sly pokes at celebrity obsession and adolescent self-centeredness throughout Charlie’s snarky narrative, which will delight close readers and us “older” teens who fancy ourselves above all that☺ Personally, I could use a “no one ever sits too close to me on the subway” fairy, or a “write brilliant book reviews in no time at all” fairy. But one thing’s for sure–Labalestier certainly has a “good book writing” fairy! Or maybe not—read her blog post about the roles of muses in the writing process.

The Good Neighbors, Book 1: Kin by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh

Holly Black leaves the land of Spiderwick for a while to gift us with her first graphic novel, a dark faery tale more along the lines of her gritty Tithe series. Sixteen-year-old Rue (a broody alterna-chick who strongly resembles a “My So-Called Life”-era Claire Danes, except raven-haired instead of red) has been down in the dumps since her beautiful mother disappeared several weeks ago. What makes matters worse is that her devastated professor dad has just been accused of murdering one of his favorite students. Rue has maintained her cool so far by sticking to her usual routine of urban exploring with her best buds and playing groupie at her rocker boyfriend’s shows. But what she can’t ignore are the things she’s starting to see out of the corner of her eye: bubble-blowing nymphs by her locker, goat-headed guys at the local coffee bar, sharp-eared dudes in the alley. When she tries to explain to her friends what’s happening to her, her skeptical boyfriend begins to pull away, and Rue starts to wonder if she’s going a little lulu. So she decides to prove she’s not crazy by conducting her own investigation around her mom’s disappearance and her dad’s alleged crime. And what she discovers is that no one in her family are who they seem to be—and that her own origins are just as mysterious as the faery visions that have begun haunting her day and night. Who are these ephemeral beings? And what do they want from Rue? Book One is only the beginning of Rue’s quest to find her mother and discover her true identity. Ted Naifeh’s edgy, outsider art partners well with Black’s forbidding fairytale, his sharp angles and deep shadows lending anxiety and menace to Rue’s search. Black also includes in Rue’s research about the “good neighbors” one of my favorite lil’ nuggets of supernatural lore: in 1895 Ireland, a woman named Bridget Cleary was murdered by her husband and his brothers because they came to believe that she was a fairy “changling” and not the true Bridget. Of course, they were arrested and imprisoned, as we all know there’s no such thing as fairies. But suddenly Rue’s not so sure…be sure to follow Rue’s adventures in The Good Neighbors, Book 2: Kith.

The Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo

Seventh grade P.I. Matt Stevens has just been handed his toughest assignment to date: discover who took out Nicole Finnegan, a.k.a. “Nikki Fingers,” the most dangerous middle school squirt gun assassin since Machine Gun Kelly was a lad. Just when Nikki had decided to quit wise-guy Vinnie Biggs’ crime ring of hall pass forgers and Pixy Stix dealers and go straight, she is nailed by a mystery shooter using her past favorite weapon of choice: a giant-sized Super Soaker. At Franklin Middle School, once you’ve been soaked in the crotch with a squirt gun in front of everyone, it’s nowhere but the Outs for you. And as Matt has observed far too many times, once you’re Out, it’s impossible to get back In. Lives are RUINED with a single pump of the Soaker. Now Vinnie Biggs has hired Matt to find out who had the guts to splatter his former favorite shooter. Could it be Kevin Carling, Vinnie’s second-in-command, whose heart was broken by Nikki when she was at the height of her sixth-grade fame? Or maybe it was Joey “the Hyena” Renoni, whose signature high-pitched “hehehe” was heard at the scene of the soaking. What Matt is rapidly discovering is that anyone who knew and loved someone splashed by Nikki Fingers isn’t sorry to see her get her just desserts, and they’re clamming up faster than a bunch of eighth-graders who are on their third warning from the middle school librarian. Will Matt be able to solve the crime and earn the twenty bucks Vinnie is waving under his nose like a Snickers to a starving man? (“Twenty bucks was a lot of money. I mean, there’s stuff I wouldn’t do for twenty bucks, but the list was pretty short.”) Or will Nikki just fade away into the ranks of the Outs, a sad victim of her own squirt gun karma? Newbie author Ferraiolo brings the laughs with this hard-boiled middle school homage to classic detective tales like The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. Ferraiolo cleverly mixes Mafioso with middle school in a way that is witty and fresh, while always making sure the bad guys get detention and the good guys get their homework in on time. Like Joey Renoni, I couldn’t stop giggling at the end of every Sam Spade-inspired exchange or turn the pages fast enough to find out whodunit.

100 Girls by Adam Gallardo and Todd Demong

Itty-bitty blondie Sylvia Mark doesn’t look like much. But piss her off, and she’s liable to go all Hulk on you. Except, not green—just really, really strong. Meangrrl Colleen finds that out when she tries to warn Sylvia off her fine boyfriend, and ends up in a Colleen-shaped locker dent with a broken arm for her trouble. While Sylvia at first chalks up her overnight might to puberty-gone-wild, her disturbing dreams of bio-vats and rivers of blood hint at a dangerously different reason. Meanwhile, in a secret government lab, Dr. Tabitha Carver looks over her collection of super-girls in jars, awaiting the return of the missing four so she can activate her army of baby goddesses. Four girls were kidnapped from the lab at the start of Carver’s precious cloning project. Now one of those girls is beginning to manifest her powers. And due to an instinctive impulse that is leading her closer and closer to her test-tube origins, Sylvia is rounding up the other three for a final violent confrontation with Carver that could end up rocking the entire world. My teenage friends, you have no idea how much serious ass-kicking is contained in this lil’ GN. Suffice it to say that it is on the order of my fav comic girl Fray and her bad-ass cousin Tank Girl, and just as cosmically awesome. And if square-jawed, pouty-lipped Sylvia looks familiar, it may be because Simon & Schuster just recently picked up this independent production that originally debuted on Dark Horse’s website, then was published in a seven issue series by Arcana Studios back in ’04. Now S&S have collected all seven issues of Sylvie in this suh-weet paperback for your uninterrupted viewing pleasure. So get off the couch already, head to your closest library or bookstore and get your own Girl! (Batteries and kung fu superpowers not included.)

Paper Towns by John Green

“To find Margo Roth Spiegelman, you must become Margo Roth Spiegelman.” High school senior Quentin Jacobsen has suffered unrequited love for alterna-hipster-grrl Margo Roth Spiegelman since the two of them discovered a dead body in the park of their Orlando subdivision when they were nine years old. Q never forgot how Margo seemed more fascinated by than terrified of the dead man, a fact that began to form the basis of his admiration from afar. Though Q trods the Nerd trail during high school while Margo glides down Popular path, when Margo is wronged by an ex-boyfriend, its’ Q she turns to for help in exacting her revenge. After a fun-filled night of creative pranks from the driver’s seat of his mom’s mini-van, Q is looking forward to exploring his new and improved relationship with the one and only Margo Roth Spiegelman. Except, the next day, Margo disappears. And if Q wants to know what it feels like to kiss those lips he’s worshiped from a distance, he’s going to have to follow the series of cryptic clues Margo left behind. But graduation is looming and time is running out. As the trail grows cold, Q wonders if Margo even wants to be found. And then his thoughts wander to an even darker place: was the best night of his life the last time he would ever see Margo Roth Spiegelman alive? John Green scores again with his own particular brand of smarty-McSmart adolescent-angst awesomeness. His intricate, intimate portraits of intellectual band geeks, gamers and fringe kids are so refreshing in a teen lit. world drowning in the superficial sea of Gossip Girl and her ilk. Plus, he just makes me laugh out loud with descriptions like this: “Those of us who frequent the band room have long suspected that Becca maintains her lovely figure by eating nothing but the souls of kittens and the dreams of impoverished children.” Margo comments that the planning is often more fun than the actual doing, and while I would agree that the end of Q’s crazy quest left me wanting more, I wouldn’t have traded the journey for anything!

The Mystery of the Fool & The Vanisher by David and Ruth Ellwand

vanisherOne day while exploring the South Downs, author David Ellwand saw a will-o’-the-wisp that led him to a dilapidated shack and a mysterious padlocked chest. After taking the chest home and breaking the rusty old lock and chain, Ellwand discovered the box was full of curios, and the crumbling journals of one Mr. Issac Wilde. Wilde was a photographer who helped document the excavation of a famed “faery hill,” in the late 1880’s, coincidentally the same hill Ellwand often visited on his rambles through the English countryside. Wilde’s journal told of a greedy archaeologist named Gibson Gayle who was determined unearth a Neolithic flint mine, despite the claims of the locals that the site was sacred to the Faery folk. Wilde heeded the villagers’ warnings as more and more evidence of the faeries’ existence materialized under the worker’s spades, while Gayle scoffed at all of Wilde’s efforts to dissuade him from digging any further. Dig Gayle did, and what he eventually found caused his mysterious disappearance and an open end to Wilde’s journals. Using clues from the journal, Ellwand tries to find Wilde’s last, great daguerreotype, which would irrefutably support his claim that faeries do indeed exist. But is Elllwand ready to face his fears and travel deep into the woods of the South Downs to look for the missing piece of Wilde’s legacy? Does Ellwand believe in faeries? After reading about what happened to Gayle and Wilde, can he afford not to? I leave it up to you to decide if Ellwand’s gorgeously wrought book, which evokes both Griffin & Sabine and The Blair Witch Project, is fiction or nonfiction. All I can say is that I started leaving a small bowl of milk outside my apartment door…just in case! For more evidence that faeries are real, check out Ellwand’s other famous work.