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Indigo Kids Blog

For parents, kids and kids-at-heart
Tuesday, 10 January 2012 08:30

A Review: The Fault in Our Stars

If you are going to generate buzz for your novel, then promising to sign the entire first printing is certainly one way of doing it. When John Green discovered that the first printing would be 150,000 copies, well let’s just say he had a lot of books to sign.

An award-winning author of An Abundance of Katherines, Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns and the bestselling co-author (with David Levithan) of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Green has mostly enjoyed a cult following of teen readers, librarians, booksellers and Nerdfighters – the online community he runs with his brother, Hank, where they make videos a couple times a week on issues that they care about and support various charities, such as the projectforawesome.com.  Until now.

I’m one of those booksellers mentioned above, who enjoy Green’s videos and stalk/follow him on Twitter.

When I read Paper Towns a few years ago, I instantly fell for Green’s irreverent humour and intelligent prose.  Although I love a good vampire read, it was refreshing to read some good solid fiction. His fiction, like E. Lockhart and Libba Bray, is the kind of novel that I would have loved as a teen, because Green doesn’t hide from the questions teens ask themselves – about God, the universe and one’s place in it.

So, how thrilled was I to receive the manuscript to prepare for this review!  I’m very grateful to my friends at Penguin Canada for making that happen. As it was embargoed, I’ve been jittery – sitting on my hands waiting to tell people about how awesome this book was. I’m so excited that I can finally share this review with you, the day The Fault in Our Stars releases.

I believe The Fault in Our Stars was inspired by loss. One of the people in John Green’s online community, a sixteen-year-old girl named Esther Earl, died of cancer. Inspired by her story, Green wrote a novel about a young woman who has been living with terminal cancer since the age of thirteen, Hazel Grace Lancaster.   When Hazel’s mother forces her to attend a support group for kids who have cancer, she meets the charming and handsome Augustus Waters.

With deep sensitivity and compassion Green takes the “Teen dying from a terminal illness” story and subverts it.  He does not hide from the brutal realities, or the fictions we tell ourselves to make things seem better. His characters are almost too smart, reminding me of a few of my friends in high school, which were quite invested in current events and enjoyed reading the nihilistic prose of Dostoyevsky – okay that was me.

Hazel shies from human entanglements because she doesn’t want people to get to close to her.   A voracious reader, her obsession with the work of a Dutch author becomes an important part of her and Augustus’s story and a cool literary joke for those so inclined.

Augustus chooses humour and philosophy to subvert his story – right down to the cigarette he always has in his mouth but doesn’t smoke. “It’s a metaphor, see. You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing” (Manuscript, page 12).

It has been a long time since I read the novel in one sitting, where:

I simultaneously laughed and cried.

I was impressed by the literary joke, but it also didn’t distract me from the overall narrative.

I’ve been thinking about the characters in my sleep.

The minute I finished the novel I wanted to read it again.

It has been five days since I read it and I’m STILL thinking about it!

Green has written something that I know will resonate with both teen and adult readers who are looking for a solid piece of fiction and continue to ponder the deep questions.  Green doesn’t necessarily give us any answers, but he certainly gives us a lot to think about.

 

Published in Teen
Thursday, 15 December 2011 02:56

December Teen New Releases

Is it December already? Hard to believe that Indigo Teen Blog has been featuring Monthly New Releases posts for a full year now. We're looking forward to offering you a rundown of all the great titles as they come out next year, too.

But first, fifteen titles that look interesting for this last month of 2011. One of the most highly anticipated books, Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Prince is finally here! It shared a release day with Sara Shepard's Ruthless—the tenth installment in the popular Pretty Little Liars series. The middle of the month quiets for the holidays, but we'll be celebrating again on the 27th with the release of Daniel Handler's Why We Broke Up and Jennifer Lynn Barnes' Every Other Day.

Full list below, in order of release date. Unless it's marked with a date, the book is already available at time of posting.

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder. This is probably a book about someone who has cancer, but it sounds lovely and maybe a nice warm-up read while you wait for John Green's The Fault in Our Stars.

Illuminated by Erica Orloff. When Callie finds a journal detailing the ill-fated romance of two lovers in an antique bookstre, their story leads her to handsome August... and perhaps her own ill-fated love as they search for the answers to the journal's story.

Winter Town by Stephen Emond. This has been described as Garden State meets Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. A new illustrated novel from the author of Happyface.

Witch & Wizard: The Fire by James Patterson. The third installment of Whit & Wisty's struggle to free their world from the oppressive One is The One.

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare. The second in The Infernal Devices trilogy returns us to Victorian London and the Shadowhunters who keep it safe. As Tessa continues to search for answers about her strange powers, she takes comfort in how stable Jem is—especially after Will broke her heart. Can Will's curse be broken so he can pursue the woman he loves, or will it be too late and she'll realize her deepening feelings for his best friend? Also in this book: Magnus Bane being awesome.

Deadly Little Voices by Laurie Faria Stolarz. The newest Touch novel. Camelia's psychometric power seem to be changing, as she starts hearing malicious voices.

Melody Burning by Whitley Strieber. This is the story of a boy who lives in the air ducts of a ritzy LA apartment building, and the pop star who he comes to love. Yes, this thriller's premise is a little out there but maybe just enough to make it stand out?

Ruthless: Pretty Little Liars #10 by Sara Shepard. Rekindled by the success of its TV adaptation, Sara Shepard returns to the PPL series. More lies, more intrigue, more delicious revenge! (Yay!)

Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey. Lenzi is a reincarnated Speaker, meant to guide the spirits of the dead. She has a hot guardian who has protected her through all her lives, but in this one she also has a boyfriend. I hope she sorts out her love life, because a dangerous spirit wants her dead... which sort of stops her from being able to date anyone.

Maximum Ride Manga Vol. 5 by James Patterson. The fifth installment of the first comic adaptation of Patterson's popular Maximum Ride.

Still Waters by Emma Carlson Berne. (12/20) The synopsis makes this sound like a book about a girl who's dating a sociopath, but I'm hoping it's really more like that Buffy episode where she and Angelus got possessed by the spirits of those high school students and they had to act out their tragic fates. Either way, it sounds like a creepy alternative to all the warm fuzzy holiday feelings.

Vampire Academy: The Ultimate Guide by Michelle Rowen. (12/25) Hey, Vampire Academy fans, this one's for you! (Our site is saying 12/25, but there is a possibility it may be in stores before then.)

The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten. (12/27) If you've ever felt that there ought to be a book about a secret sisterhood who gain their powers by distilling the tears of boys they've left heartbroken... well, you're in luck! (Admit it, you're totally curious about this book now.)

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. (12/27) Imagine you had the power, skills, and instincts to be a fearsome monster-hunter. Now imagine that you only have them every other day—and the day you discover a classmate has been marked for death by the things you hunt, you're only human. A new book by the author of Raised by Wolves.

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler. (12/27) Does the name sound familiar? You may know him better as Lemony Snicket, the author of the incredible A Series of Unfortunate Events. This is his fantastic first young adult novel. Min Green and Ed Slaterton have broken up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Illustrated by Maira Kalman.

Published in Teen
Monday, 12 December 2011 21:37

Lesley Livingston's Once Every Never

Friend of the blog, Lesley Livingston, was recently given the honour of having her novel, Once Every Never, named YA Science Fiction book of the year in Quill and Quire. We also love Lesley and named Once Every Never as our Best Summer Vacation Book of 2011.

After the announcement, we asked Lesley if she would write a guestpost for us about the process of creating Once Every Never. This book is a little bit of everything and a huge lot of fun. As you read it, you can tell that she had a blast writing it. And here's Lesley to tell you more.

****

Once Every Never, my latest novel and the first in a trilogy, could probably best be described as a time-travel-romance-adventure-historical-fantasy-teen-chick-lit-sci-fi-rom-com-romp. Go ahead. Say that ten times fast—just don’t blame me when you sprain your tongue!

Now… you might think that cramming all of those disparate elements into a single story would have resulted in a weird, torturously convoluted, nigh-impossible writing process (and, if I’d actually paused for a half a rational second before writing the dang thing, I likely would have agreed with you on that very probability). But, in fact, it just so happened that all of those things came together in a smooth, seamless fashion (ha! I can say that now that I’ve blocked out all the late nights spent drawing myself colour-coded timeline diagrams on a white board festooned with sticky notes and speckled with tears of rage and frustration) and what started out as a fairly straightforward, slightly paranormal story of ‘Modern Girl Meets Ancient Super-Hot Druid Prince Boy’ ultimately became something much more than that. The reason it became something more, I think, is that somehow, during the whole process my little time travel tale wrapped itself around my inner nerd, gave her a big old hug, and invited her active participation.

I mean, let’s face it. Time Travel is one of the ultimate stocks-in-trade of genre fiction to begin with. And while my particular brand of Time Travel has its genesis, not in science but in magic, I still had to keep a very close eye on the practicalities and repercussions and theoretical what-ifs that accompany any situation where time-stream monkeying is a key component. So yeah. I think that, in itself, activated the nerdothalamus region of my writer brain.

And then, of course, there is the fact that the story—the actual plot of Once Every Never—itself has gloriously geeky roots: A trip to a museum, an encounter with ancient artefacts (including a bog body!) and a life-long fascination with a legendary figure from a somewhat obscure period of history. The subject matter is kind of… ‘niche’ I guess is a good way to put it. Unless you’re a History Buffy, you’re probably not going to be too overly familiar with the exploits of Boudicca the Iceni Warrior Queen.

So, in order not to risk alienating readers, I decided to approach the story from the perspective of an average teen who has absolutely zero knowledge of the subject matter, and less than zero interest it gaining said knowledge. Clare, at the beginning of the story, couldn’t care less about the perils and pitfalls of 1st Century British history, or the Roman invasion, or Druids—even if one of them (which she later discovers) turns out to be a total hottie. But then, in order to draw her—and the reader—into the story, I gave her a friend who does care about that kind of stuff. Clare’s best pal Allie is all about intellectual puzzles and historical minutiae. She lives to research. She is a nerd, proud and free.

Somewhere along the line, I upped my geek stakes even higher by throwing in Al’s cousin Milo—the uber-dork turned majorly dishy computer genius. Then, just for fun—and because I now had characters who could accommodate such things—I added in a few more conspicuously genre touches like Jedi in-jokes and Dr. Who shout-outs and duelling Star Wars/Star Trek references. And Milo’s T-shirts.

It wasn’t always easy (even if it was a lot of fun) though. I will admit that. Just trying to structure a cohesive plot where time travel is the inciting incident can tie your brain in one big ol’ spatio-temporal knot. In the book, when Clare tries to figure it out, it just gives her a headache. The best she can come up with is:

“It was like one of those word problems in math class crossed with that broken telephone game: if a brooch traveling through time leaves the first century at point A and a girl traveling through time leaves the twenty-first century at point B, then how many purple monkey dishwashers does it take to get to Carnegie Hall…?

Exactly, Clare. Exactly.

The really fun thing about this book is that it gave me the opportunity to unleash all of my geekisms in one swell foop! It was like the science-fiction lover, the fantasy-devourer, the history-buff… they all got together at a cool-kids’ pool party, put in their nose plugs, hung on to their horn-rimmed glasses, and cannonballed en masse into the deep end. The resulting splash was Once Every Never, my time-travel-romance-adventure-historical-fantasy-teen-chick-lit-sci-fi-rom-com-romp. Set thrusters to full, load photon torpedoes, and don’t forget to dodge the flaming arrows and super-cute blue-painted warrior boys!

*******

Thanks, Lesley, and congrats again! Check out this cool video of Once Every Never and remember that the book would make a great gift:

Published in Teen
Friday, 09 December 2011 16:03

Swept Off Our Feet by Clockwork Prince

This week saw the release of one of the hottest teen titles this year, Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Prince. The second in the smoldering Infernal Devices Trilogy, Clockwork Prince continues the story of Tessa Grey, Will Herondale, and James “Jem” Carstairs. We met these three in last year’s phenomenal Clockwork Angel, which took the fun fantasy of The Mortal Instruments and transported it to Victorian London.

We hear a lot of talk in the book selling business about the next Twilight, but if we’re looking for the books that generate passionate debate about Team X versus Team Y… well, obviously the successor to Stephenie Meyer is Cassandra Clare. Team Will or Team Jem? They’re both equally attractive options, and maybe who we choose says more about us than it does about Tessa. Will Herondale is that classic alpha male, arrogant but deeply wounded. We know his bad boy exterior—much like Jace in The Mortal Instruments—is just a front, and it’s that knowing that makes Clockwork Prince so hearbreaking for us to read.

And wonderful Jem, who is the decent and sensitive friendly beta male—much like Simon in The Mortal Instruments—who is there to pick up the pieces. Jem is also sickly and there’s an element of tragedy to any romance with him. Couple all of this with intrigue and a dash of danger, and you get what is essentially an engrossing historical romance.

Think about it… the heroine with the unknown past, the issues of the love interests being of a different class than her, and her heart torn between the good man and the rascal she can’t ignore. (Plus, with The Infernal Devices, there's the added bonus of Magnus Bane.) Have you seen the trailer? It’s a BBC drama begging to be made. And we love it. Unapologetically. Every older reader I talk to about Cassandra Clare books reads them for the fun of it.

So when you start feeling the stress of the season looming, grab the paperback of Clockwork Angel—one of my top ten books of 2011—and Clockwork Prince then take a holiday to a Victorian London that only Cassandra Clare could’ve imagined.

Published in Teen
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 00:29

Teen Top Ten of 2011

I have one rule when it comes to picking the top books for the year: They have to be amazing.

To be amazing, a story has to make a lasting emotional connection with me. I want the book I can’t put down—can’t stop thinking about—can’t walk away from. The book I’d read again. The book I want all of you to read.

Here are—in ascending order—my choices for the ten most amazing teen books published this year.

10. Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts. (Q&A) Bleak and unrelentingly dark—a combination of 28 Days Later and The Road. Destruction so fresh you can smell it and a reminder that hope shines brightest when your soul has been utterly crushed. Dark Inside is not the kind of book I would usually like, but it’s one of the best I’ve read this year. As an added bonus, it’s also written by a BC author and set mostly in Vancouver.

9. Delirium by Lauren Oliver. (review, Q&A) The dystopian romance to which all other dystopian romances are measured. Delirium is a powerful story of love grounded in plausible science, and I loved watching its perfect society slowly unravel through Lena's eyes. The only cure for this book is its follow-up, Pandemonium.

8. Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr. (review) The Wicked Lovely series brought me back to Teen fiction, and its ending is befitting and beautiful. I include this as an example of how to end a series well.

7. The Demon’s Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan. (Q&A) Have you heard of The Demon’s Lexicon trilogy? It’s one of the gems of the teen department. This brilliant trilogy about two brothers who hunt demons is like Supernatural, but better—because Supernatural doesn’t have Jamie. The Demon’s Surrender pulled me in so deeply that it caught me off-guard, even when I should’ve known better.

6. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. (review, Q&A) A lush, evocative novel with rich details, chilling magic and an intriguing cast of characters. Set in Prague, this book about angels stands apart from all the others. I can’t wait to see where this story goes.

5. Divergent by Veronica Roth. (review, Q&A) Special mention as best debut of 2011. What an emotional roller coaster! Divergent is everything I was promised The Hunger Games would be. We got behind this title early and I still feel it is one of the strongest titles this year. If you want to feel empowered to bring big change to the world, then Divergent is the dystopian novel for you.

4. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan. (review) Perhaps you thought this was a 9-12 book. Perhaps you are right. It’s still on my list for the sheer glee that reading it provided. The Son of Neptune marks the return of Percy Jackson, and it’s the best Rick Riordan book so far.

3. Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. (review) I waited all year for this book, and I read it in a single sitting until 2 A.M. When I finished, I wanted to start reading it again. The penultimate book of The Caster Chronicles series answers so many questions I had—and makes me ask more. Book Four, please?

2. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendra Blake. This book reaffirmed my faith in paranormal teenlit. I was done with it, I was walking away, and then Anna Dressed in Blood knocked me off my feet. Scary, romantic, and cool, it made me laugh out loud on the TTC and grin like at idiot at strangers. Plus, major points for being set in Canada.

1. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. (review, discussion, Q&A) Honestly, it was tough to decide between this or Anna Dressed in Blood as the Book of the Year. I love every book on this list, but Beauty Queens is one of the few that have changed the way I think about the world—about what I read, what I write, and what I watch. It’s not just a brilliant and hilarious book, it’s a book that everyone needs to read.

And your honorable mentions:

For the Best Love Triangle: Shift by Jeri Smith Ready. It’s the only love triangle I support. (Q&A)

For the Most Interesting Narrator: Red Glove by Holly Black. Cassel Sharp can lie to me any time he likes. (review)

For the Best Reimagining of a Classic: This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel. Victor Frankenstein before he was the mad scientist. (review, Q&A)

For the Best Summer Vacation Book: Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston. Who doesn’t want to time travel for their holiday? (Q&A)

For the Best Re-Release: Sailor Moon vol 1 by Naoko Takeuchi. What I loved as a teen, you can now love as a teen. How cool is that? (Q&A)

Published in Teen
It’s 1996. Emma has logged on to AOL for the first time, and a prompt at the bottom of her screen asks her to enter her email and password again. Not thinking anything of it, she does so… and finds herself looking at her Facebook profile from 15 years in the future!

Terrified of the miserable future she perceives herself to have, Emma tries to use what she sees in her status updates and on her friends' walls to guide her decisions in the present. If she never meets that boy or never goes to that university, then the future she’s dreading can’t happen…right?

Only one person knows about Emma’s strange situation, her former best friend Josh. Things got a little weird between them when Josh thought she wanted to be more than friends and Emma shut him down. But sharing this secret is bringing them closer together...

What would you do if you got a glimpse of 15 years into your future? It's not a new question, but presenting it through the filter of Facebook gives The Future of Us a fresh take on an old standard. For most of us, Facebook is an ever-present aspect of our lives in 2011. Even if you don't spend a lot of time on FB, you're aware of how it works.

But in 1995, most teenagers didn't have the internet. The biggest innovation in "smart phones" was having a cordless handset, and dial-up was cutting edge technology. Reading The Future of Us is incredibly nostalgic for any child of the 90's; more importantly, it's reaffirming that our teenage desires and rites of passage haven't changed. (Technology has certainly changed the way we execute them, by making them that much more public, but at the core there's not a lot of difference between being fifteen in 1996 and being fifteen in 2011.)

We want to be loved and happy. We want to take care of our friends and sing along with our favourite songs and go to that party everyone is talking about. Because of that, connecting with Emma and Josh is very easy whether you're fifteen or thirty. The Future of Us is another one of those wonderful books that everyone can read.

This is a book of connections--about how technology separates us and then brings us back together. It's also about that intangible thing we call "the future" and how we interact with it. Some of us dread it; some of us long for it, and every choice we make now reshapes what then will look like. Also, focusing too much on what might be can seriously damage what is.

Admittedly, I wondered "how do you log onto Facebook from the past?" There is an explanation given, and because this isn't a science fiction novel it can avoid getting into the wibbly-wobbly mechanics of how it works. It's refreshing to see something where concept doesn't overshadow the story; The Future of Us is about Emma and Josh, with all of these other fantastic discussion points happening in relation to them.

Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler are celebrated contemporary teen fiction authors, and their writing compliments each other as the chapters alternate between Emma and Josh's perspectives. In fact, the success of the co-writing reminds me a lot of Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

The Future of Us is about big questions and five-year-plans and ultimately realizing that what matters are the people right in front of you and not hypothetical strangers you may meet five years from now. Your future happiness depends on your present happiness, and that’s something that’s true if you’re in 1995 or 2011 or 2026.

Published in Teen
Wednesday, 16 November 2011 13:39

November Teen New Releases

The top news in teen books this month is the much anticipated release of Inheritance by Christopher Paolini and Breaking Dawn Part 1 hitting the theatres. But releases like Crossed by Ally Condie and Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi are also getting attention. Books I enjoyed this month are: Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts and The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler.

Here are 15 books and 2 manga titles to get you through this penultimate month of 2011.

Crossed by Ally Condie. Second in the Matched trilogy. Uprisings, double-crosses and Cassia still torn between Ky or Xander.

Dark Eden by Patrick Carman. Patients with crippling phobias are sent to Fort Eden to confront their greatest nightmares in hopes of being cured. But what is really going on in this isolated facility?

Liar's Moon by Elizabeth C Bunce. Bunce's first novel, A Curse Dark as Gold, got a lot of attention when it debuted. Her new novel is a noir fantasy about a girl pickpocket who falls in love with an accused murderer.

Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts. A fantastic and disturbing YA dystopia debut, Dark Inside is like 28 Days Later meets The Road—and set mostly in Vancouver.

Last Breath by Rachel Caine. The latest of The Morganville Vampire novels.

Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul by Leanna Renee Hieber. "The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and set in NYC 1882. Also, the main protagonist is a mute girl.

Reckoning by Lili St Crow. The final book of the Strange Angels series.

Tiger's Voyage by Colleen Houck. Third in the Tiger's Curse series.

Playground by 50 Cent. This is a book about a 13 year old bully from his perspective, and it explores what pushed him to become a bully. Apparently it's inspired by 50 Cent's life.

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini. The finale in The Inheritance Cycle. So ends the epic battle of Eragon and Saphira against Galbatorix.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. Lots of online buzz for this dystopia about a girl whose touch can kill learning to love and trust people. (Which is a good thing to learn to do.) It also has an interesting narrative style where the protagonist is censoring her own thoughts via strikethrough text.

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting. Words are power. Language creates class. A girl named Charlie can understand them all in a kingdom where such a thing can get you killed—or worse. A fresh new world from the author of The Body Finder series.

The Space Between by Brenna Yavanoff. A new novel from the author of The Replacement. I've seen this described as being about a girl learning how to feel and a boy who doesn't want to. (And I wish I could remember who to attribute that description to.) Fallen angel girl, human boy. Our world is scary and strange.

Death Watch by Ari Berk. This boy named Silas learns his father was an Undertaker—he guided the souls to the Afterlife, but something went wrong and he was killed. Silas finds this thing called the Death Watch that allows him to see the dead. And it kind of sounds a little like a teen boy verison of Melissa Marr's Graveminder.

Sailor Moon vol 2 by Naoko Takeuchi. It's got Sailor Mercury on the cover! The second volume in this epic shojo manga series.

Codename: Sailor V vol 2 by Naoko Takeuchi. The second and final volume of the spin-off of Sailor Moon.

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. Jay Asher is famous for 13 Reasons Why. This is his second book and Carolyn Mackler co-wrote it. It's 1996 and two teens are about to log on to Facebook—and get a glimpse of their lives 15 years in the future.

Soul Screamers Omnibus vol 1 by Rachel Vincent. Collected for your reading pleasure the prequel novella (never before in print) and the first two books in this fabulous paranormal series: My Soul to Lose, My Soul to Take, My Soul to Save. (Team Tod all the way!)

Legend by Marie Lu. June is born of the elite class of the Republic (the former US.) Day is the Republic's most wanted crimminal. June's brother gets murdered and Day gets framed for it. But things are not as they seem... Can June and Day overcome their differences to undercover the truth?

Published in Teen
Thursday, 10 November 2011 14:59

L.M. Montgomery and the War

This is part five of a six-part series we are doing this week to commemorate Remembrance Day.

On the 5th of August, 1914, L.M. Montgomery wrote in her journal:

"Good God, I cannot believe it! It must be a horrible dream. It has come up like a thundercloud…It has come. Britain or Germany must fall. But the death-grapple will be awful beyond anything ever known in the world before. Oh, if I could but waken up and find it all a dream….Already Canada is ablaze. Volunteers are being called for Red Cross and patriotic funds are being started. The bottom has fallen out of the world’s markets. Civilization stands aghast at the horror that is coming upon it."

It is no secret that one of my literary influences and favourite authors is L.M. Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables.  It is also no secret that Rilla of Ingleside (1921) is my favourite Montgomery novel. It is also no secret how strongly I feel that this novel should be an essential book on Canadian YA reading lists – particularly when readers are interested in wartime.  The new paperback edition of the fully revised manuscript includes a special introduction by Benjamin Lefebvre and Andrea McKenzie, maps and a glossary of war terms. It is a beautiful edition and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in Montgomery, wartime literature or YA novels that take place during times of war.

When the hardcover edition came out last year, I revisited the novel and second volume of Montgomery’s journals, and was once again moved by her insight into the emotional nuances of grieving and of the arduous kind of waiting that is characteristic of wartime.  It is hard for us to imagine that one hundred years ago, the boys we grew up with, the men we may have worked with and our brothers, husbands and partners would have joined in the wake of that strong call to arms in the belief that Canada, as an English colony, was in real danger.  It is also hard to imagine, that many of those same men never came home.  If we consider Montgomery’s fictional world of Ingleside, as a representation of the different townships across Canada, than I think we will begin to understand the magnitude WWI (and subsequent wars) had on our nation’s history.

Last month, I attended and spoke at a conference in Leaksdale, Ontario, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Montgomery’s move to the area as a newlywed with the Reverend Ewan MacDonald.   A number of themes emerged of this conference, but the most striking was the impact the war had on Montgomery and her work. Her novels, Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside speak to the personal and communal losses, as well as the communal pride for the families who made the ultimate sacrifice.

As a writer and citizen, Montgomery was obsessed with the war. Many of her journal entries give specific details of the battles and her strong opinions on the politics of the day. However, as a minister’s wife, whatever concern or grief Montgomery would have been kept to herself as she had to be the counsellor and support system for her community. Her writing was one of her only outlets.

By the time Rainbow Valley, the seventh novel in the Anne of Green Gables series, was published in 1919 the war may have been over, but its legacy was fresh. Montgomery dedicated the novel to three men from the Leaksdale community who died in the war. “To the memory of Goldwin Lapp, Robert Brookes, and Morley Shier, who made the supreme sacrifice that the happy valleys of their home land might be kept sacred from the ravage of the invader.”

Rainbow Valley focuses on Anne and Gilbert’s young children and their friends. Although it might seem that they live in a romantic, idealized world, there is an undercurrent running through the novel that these nine children will be part of a dark destiny.  At the end of the novel, Walter, Anne and Gilbert’s poetic son, has a vision on the valley in which he sees the piper call the children onto a very different field.  And, when his older brother, Jem, talks about playing soldier, we know that one day he won’t be just playing.

Walter’s vision comes true in Rilla of Ingleside when war is declared and Jem and his friend Jerry head off to war.  Indeed, three of Anne and Gilbert’s children go off to war. Only two come home.

Montgomery wrote in her journals that with Rilla of Ingleside, she wanted to write a novel about Canada at War. It is one of the only contemporary accounts of the Canadian women’s experience on the home front as books on WWI didn’t start coming out until well into the 1920s and those were mostly about the battlefield.  Rilla is Anne and Gilbert’s youngest daughter. Her teenage years are bracketed by the war, as it begins the night of her first party when she’s fifteen, and ends when she’s a young woman of eighteen. Told in multiple points of view, Rilla becomes the record keeper of the war: journaling the anxiety in waiting for news of the front; the work women did for the Red Cross; and the emotional grief at insurmountable loss.

Rilla of Ingleside is one of those books that always gives me shivers.  During the Leaksdale conference, whenever Walter’s name, or, Jem’s faithful dog, Dog Monday, were mentioned, you could hear a silent gasp or someone reaching into their bag for a tissue.  (And those were just the men.)

According to Montgomery scholar, Mary Beth Cavert, who has spent years researching the dedications of Montgomery’s novels, Dog Monday is most likely based upon Goldwin Lapp’s dog, who howled the day that Lapp died.   

The story of Dog Monday may have come from a poem in Montgomery's school reader, "Dog at His Master's Grave." In Rilla, Dog Monday stays at the train station for four years, waiting patiently for Jem to come home.   One cannot help but wonder if Montgomery wrote the scene with Lapp in mind, in which Dog Monday howls for Walter.  The station master tells Rilla that her dog “howled from midnight to sunrise something weird…He was sitting all alone in the moonlight out there at the end of the platform, and every few minutes the poor lonely little beggar’d lift his nose and howl as if his heart was breaking.”  A few days later, Rilla finds out that Walter has died.

At the conference, Cavert told a story that at one of Montgomery’s high school visits many years later in which while she was reading this reunion scene, she got very emotional and almost couldn’t get through it.  “A black and yellow streak shot past the station agent…Dog Monday was a young pup, gone clean mad with rejuvenating joy. He flung himself against the tall soldier, with a bark that chocked in his throat from sheer rapture.” Clearly, this was the scene she would have wished.

When the war finally ended on the 11th of November 1918, Montgomery prophetically wrote:

"Today came the official announcement of the signing of the armistice! The Great War is over – the world’s agony has ended. What has been born? The next generation may be able to answer that. We can never know fully."

I think that we are only now beginning to see what that is.

*********************************

The New Veterans

Highway of Heroes

A Q&A with Scott Chantler Part One

A Q&A with Scott Chantler Part Two

Published in Teen
Tuesday, 08 November 2011 02:12

Christopher Paolini's Legacy

Christopher Paolini is a name that resonates in the world of fantasy fiction. Known for being a young author of YA fantasy, his name carries the same weight as JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer. While each of them writes a completely different series, they all have huge international fanbases. This trio of authors raised a generation of readers.

Even if you didn’t read young adult fiction in 2003 or just skirted the edges of the genre, Paolini’s story of publication is probably one you heard. It’s passed around writer groups and livejournals in whispered tones that bards of old saved for the tales of Beowulf. Paolini is legend.

And like most legends, there were various versions of the circumstances that led to his being published. The actual story is that his parents self-published Eragon when he was fifteen and then it made its way to a publisher. It was edited and then republished by a major publisher when he was nineteen.

Nineteen years old and a New York Times bestselling author. It’s quite the heroic tale, and it convinced a generation of young writers that your age didn’t determine your chances of being published. Whether or not those young writers get published at nineteen, they want to try—and that’s what matters.

Paolini is also known as an author who made his readers wait. The final book of his epic The Inheritance Cycle, Inheritance, was delayed from its original publishing date; this was after what was originally planned to be a trilogy expanded into a quartet. Brisingr, the third of The Inheritance Cycle, was published just over three years ago. Three years between books is an eternity in the Teen section.

When I first started working in a Chapters store, one of the most common questions asked by customers was: “Do you know when book four is coming out?” The second most-common question was: “Why can’t I find Christopher Paolini?” and was always asked by someone standing in the adult fantasy section.

The Inheritance Cycle has huge crossover power. That’s what puts it on the same level as Twilight and Harry Potter. As big as The Hunger Games is, it hasn’t quite gained the same reach (yet.) The Inheritance Cycle is the last of the trailblazers. Regardless of what you think of the books, you have to admit—like Rowling and Meyer—Paolini has left a huge impression on this genre and expanded its readership. These are the titles that broke down the walls so that adults could cheer as Katniss fired her arrows at the Capital and Clary fought demons with Jace.

I can’t imagine what it must be like more than ten years later to finish something that you grew up writing. That’s the end of a personal era, never mind a literary one. So congratulations, Christopher. May you have the happiest of birthdays on November 17th. I hope you’re celebrating it on the NYT Bestseller List.

Oh, and for those of you who have been asking? Inheritance is available now. It even comes in a beautiful complete set.

Published in Teen
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 12:42

Dark Inside Q&A with Jeyn Roberts

Jeyn Roberts has put Canada on the map for post-apocalyptic novels with her debut, Dark Inside. Bleak, terrifying--but ultimately uplifting--Roberts crafts a view of an apocalypse and the world after where zombies and aliens are not the threat, but we humans are. Possessed by the strange "darkness" freed during a massive earthquake, humans turn on each other. These violent Baggers kill and ravage and the only way to know one is by the strange dark veins around their eyes. Worse, no one knows why or how people become Baggers.

Told through the alternative perspectives of four teens--two girls and two boys; two Canadians and two Americans--Dark Inside is chilling. It's the kind of book that crawls beneath your skin and gnaws on your bones. It's The Road meets 28 Days Later with a little bit of The Stand thrown in for good measure, and it's the best of all of them.

Maybe it's knowing Vancouver and being able to see the streets where all of this is happening that drives this novel home, but all the readers I've been talking to about this one are genuinely freaked out by Dark Inside. But if you want to read something that will scare you and make you uneasy and force you to think about the bad so you can better appreciate the good, then Dark Inside is for you. This beautifully terrifying novel would be perfect for next All Hallow's Read.

We're very happy that Jeyn agreed to answer some questions for us about her amazing debut. Welcome, Jeyn!

Indigo Teen Blog: First things first. Where in Vancouver will you be holed up after the apocalypse happens? 
Jeyn Roberts: I’d spend the first few days in my apartment. It’s a good location to a food source at least I’d have my own bed. After that, I’d probably load up the cats and head north. The farther away the better. I’m hoping there would be less Baggers up north.

ITB: You have four main characters: Aries, Mason, Clementine and Michael. How did you choose where in North America to make your characters from?
JR: Because I live in Vancouver, I wanted that city for my main location. Mason is from Saskatoon which is where I grew up. I chose Iowa for Clementine because I love the book What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. That left Michael and I wanted to put him somewhere in the middle so I chose Montana.

ITB: Was it difficult to manage four different plotlines?
JR: Not really. But sometimes I’ll be hooked on a plot line and I don’t want to move on to others.

ITB: I noticed the voice of “Nothing” is the only one who narrates in first person. (Admittedly, it’s also my favourite POV in the book.) Why did you include these interludes?
JR: The book started with Nothing. I had the line in my head ‘I’m standing on the edge of existence’ and it went from there. He/she’s been one of my favourite characters to write about because I get to be so crazy with him/her. He/she can say the weirdest things and they make sense coming from his/her thoughts.

ITB: Can you tell us anything about the sequel?

JR: Book two will be released next year. We still don’t have a working title but there are some good ideas being thrown around. Basically, the story begins a few months after the first one ends. Aries, Michael, Mason, and Clementine are still together and now they’re trying to keep the group together and continue to stay alive. The Baggers have upped the stakes; they’re sending white vans around the neighbourhood, promising sanctuary to those who want it. But of course that’s all a lie. They’re rebuilding society to their own rules. Those who don’t participate, get removed.
      There will be some great new characters introduced, including a Chemistry major named Raj and a crazy leader named Ryder.

ITB: Sounds good. Did your studies of psychology help you write Dark Inside?
JR: I’d like to think so. I also studied sociology in University and I found that helped a lot. I’m very fascinated with the way people behave in groups. I think a lot of that comes out in my writing.

ITB: Your website mentions that you love to travel. What’s the one place that you recommend everyone visit?
JR: Seoul, South Korea. It’s an amazing city and there’s so much to see. I also really love Cuba. The people there are friendly and Havana is a beautiful city.

Thanks, Jeyn! Also thanks to our friends at Simon & Schuster Canada for setting up this interview and providing me with an ARC.

Published in Teen
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