February 12, 2011

Jane Austen for a new generation

I believe I have expressed before that I am a cover shopper. I like to browse the shelves to see what jumps out at me. This time it wasn't the cover but the title - Prom & Prejudice. I found myself glancing back at this title several times, never paying attention to the cover nor its author, just that title. I am a sucker for Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth edition), so upon another visit to the book store I picked this book up. Then I noticed the author, Elizabeth Eulberg, and I knew I had to buy this book. After all, I absolutely loved The Lonely Hearts Club (it was the first book I featured in my Spotlight On... page).

I was right! This book had me at its opening line:   
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single girl of high standing at Longbourn Academy must be in want of a prom date.

Brief Synopsis
Lizzie Bennet is a high school junior, extraordinary player of the piano, and a scholarship student at Longbourn Academy. This causes her much strife with many of her classmates who, of course, come from wealthy backgrounds and view Lizzie as an "outsider" as well as competition. She has just two friends on her side, her two roommates Jane and Charlotte. 

Longhourn Academy students have just one thing on their mind: prom. This is no ordinary high school prom. This is how they will be introduced into society. While Jane is enamored with Charles Bingley and hopes he will ask her to prom, Lizzie finds herself repulsed by the entire idea, but most importantly she is repulsed by Bingley's snotty friend, Will Darcy.
Can Lizzie set aside her pride and Will his prejudice in order to make a love connection, or is Lizzie destined to stay in her dorm room the night of prom?

Eulberg does an excellent job paying homage to Austen's masterpiece, using clever names to connect the modern teen to this classic. She stays true to the characterization of the tale, giving Lizzie just as much pride and Darcy just as much prejudice. This novel's cleverness is reminiscent of Meg Cabot's Avalon High, a re-telling of King Arthur. Prom & Prejudice is a strong indication that Elizabeth Eulberg will be a part of the teen writing scene for many years to come, and I for one cannot wait to devour another one of her clever novels.

February 10, 2011

"Hush little students, don't say a word..." The Mockingbirds are here

I am huge fan of YA novels that display empowering characters, especially females. It's one of the reasons I believe Speak should be read by all high school freshmen. The writing is strong, the message is strong, but even more so, the heroine is strong.

I read a lot of tweets about The Mockingbirds. Usually when a book gets this much push, I tend to not enjoy them. I think the main reason is all the hype - sometimes it ruins novels for me. I am proud to say that that was not the case for Daisy Whitney's debut novel. Even more so, it is easily on my top 10 YA novels of all time.

From page one I knew there would be something special about this novel, something that would speak to me as a reader, something that would speak to my students. I knew from page one that the hype was well-deserved and that the book would in fact live up to it.

Basic Synopsis

Alex Patrick awakes to discover three things: "I have morning breath, I'm naked, and I'm waking next to a boy I don't know" (1). And thus begins this cat-and-mouse game of remembering a night that she really wants to forget; however, her discovery is more chilling than what she originally believes happened. She was not just date-raped, she was date-raped twice. Who can she turn to? The exclusive boarding school Alex attends, Themis, does not have a discipline committee. Instead, the students self-police themselves through The Mockingbirds. They are her only hope.

Alex turns to The Mockingbirds at the urging of her sister and her roommate, and the investigation begins. As the pages unfold, Alex's memory of that night comes back piece-by-piece, and the reader discovers what really happened the same moment Alex does, heightening the suspense. As Alex struggles to cope with her new reality, with her friends, with the case, she matures - becoming a stronger character with each page. With solid writing, solid characters, and a solid heroine, this book is worth every moment.

One of my favorite moments in the novel (173)

      Hush, little students, we'll say the word,
     Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird.
     And if that mockingbird won't sing,
     Mama's gonna write down everything.
     And so that book won't look the same,
     Mama's gonna add a brand-new name.
Like Speak before it, The Mockingbirds will leave its mark in literary teen history, and we are the better for it.  If there is one must-read book that you should add to your list, THIS is it!

February 5, 2011

Fallen Angels & Destined Love? More PLEASE!

My first delve into the world of Fallen Angels came in the guise of Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush. After reading her sequel, I decided this was a genre I was interested in exploring in YA. I stumbled upon Lauren Kate's Fallen because of its cover - it just spoke to me. Then I learned it too was a series (YEAH), and I love series books. So, I purchased both Fallen and Torment at the same time. Who knew I would become so addicted to Luce and Daniel?!

What Lauren Kate has given me as a reader is a solid plot, full of heart-pounding (and at times frustrating) moments. I rooted for these two star-crossed lovers and was hoping I would get a glimpse into who or what Luce is. Instead, I read a story of a teenager looking to find herself - without the love of her life, without her current family, without her friends.  Who is Luce? Where did she come from? How did she and Daniel fall in love? And why does she burst into flames every seventeen years after Daniel's kiss?

In the first of the series, Fallen, we are introduced to the character of Luce, a teen with a troublesome past, or at least she is trouble according to the police. Very quickly she becomes attracted to Daniel, but it is the character of Cam who tries to snatch her time and attentions; however, true love trumps all else, and soon Daniel allows himself to be pulled back into Luce's life, anxiously awaiting her "death." This time, something is different. She doesn't burst into flames when Daniel kisses her, and now we have a mystery on our hands. What does this mean for Luce & Daniel, but more importantly, the rest of the world? Is the end near?

Then there is the sequel, Torment. Kate brings out another side of Luce, dropping her out of her element in California. Luce is not there but a mere day and already she is different, more independent, and trying to figure out why she is being placed in hiding. What does all of this mean? What truth is Daniel hiding from her, something that could keep her from ever wanting to be in his arms again? Is she really destined to be with him?

While this series is a love story, its true heart lies in self-discovery. This is an issue with Luce because she has been reincarnated every seventeen years for...well, I'm not too sure for how many years, but it is A LOT! (That is a question I hope Kate answers in Passion). Luce is lost - the world she lives in is becoming too much. She is whisked away to California, has to lie to her parents and best friend, and try to stay alive. After all, she isn't the typical seventeen-year-old gal. She is a part of something bigger, something that could bring End of Days if it isn't stopped. What that something is Kate has yet to reveal to the reader, but I have a sneaking suspicion that she is going to WOW readers with it in her follow-up novel.

And thrown into the mix of this novel is, of course, a love triangle - or is it really a triangle? By the end of Torment you might want to pick a side: Team Daniel or Team Miles. For me, it isn't even close, DANIEL ALL THE WAY! After all, he is her destiny - or is he?

Many sequels sometimes leave something to be desired, but Kate does not disappoint. This novel is packed full of tension & suspense, heart-pounding action, and the beginnings of self-discovery. I will find myself awaiting anxiously, wanting to finish this coming-of-age story with Luce until the final page.