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Non-Fiction Blog

New thinkers, mavericks and mavens
Thursday, 31 March 2011 15:58

Scaredy Squirrel Hits the Small Screen

It is an exciting year for French-Canadian children’s writer Mélanie Watt, author of the bestselling Scaredy Squirrel and Chester picture books.  In February, she published,  You’re Finally Here and Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday; this weekend, our favourite neurotic squirrel comes to the small screen with his very own cartoon on YTV.  Scaredy Squirrel will premiere on Sunday, April 3 at 9:30 a.m. ET/PT on YTV; with a special sneak peek on Friday, April 1 at 4:30 p.m. ET/PT.

From the clips that I’ve seen on YTV, the show promises to be as funny and quirky as the books themselves. My particular favourite is Richard, Scaredy’s best friend, who is a plant that is also a great listener.

Curious as to what Melanie was thinking about bringing him to TV, Scaredy had a few questions for her. Check out the interview here:

To complete your collection, be sure to check out our Melanie Watt Book Shop!
Published in Indigo Kids
If you were on Twitter on Tuesday, you know that @indigogreenroom spilled about the BIG BIG event that's happening in Vancouver. But in case you missed it: Chapters Burnaby in Metrotown will be hosting HOLLY BLACK and CASSANDRA CLARE on April 18th at 7 pm.

This is huge for us in Western Canada, as we often have to follow—with envy—all the cool events that happen in Toronto via Twitter. If you can't make it to Vancouver, we're going to be tweeting from the event via @IndigoTeenBlog so make sure you follow along.

We have a lot happening in the next couple months: interviews with great authors like Saundra Mitchell, Lauren Destefano, and Jackie Morse Kessler, giveaways on Twitter, and reviews of books we think you're going to love. While Holly & Cassie in Metrotown is probably the highlight of spring, there's one other event that we're really pleased to be bringing you via Twitter.

The Romantic Times Conference is North America's biggest romance fan conference, and it's fast-becoming one of the hot spots for Teen literature. This year the RT Con in Los Angeles is featuring the first ever RT Teen Day from 11 am to 7 pm.

Fabulous YA authors you love like Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Melissa Marr, Kelley Armstrong, Sarah Rees Brennan, Alyson Noel, Ally Carter, Melissa de la Cruz, Carrie Ryan, Richelle Mead, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl will all be there for an entire day of Teen fiction fun.

In the morning, everyone will be at a giant book signing followed in the afternoon by speed-reading sessions and workshops, plus some author speed dating where readers will get some one-on-one time with authors. It all finishes off with a big party.

And the Indigo Teen Blog is going! We'll be tweeting all day long from the conference—and our followers are going to help choose what we do. That's right, you're going to tell us whether you want tweets from the workshops or the speed-reading sessions, passing along your questions, and telling us which authors to seek out.

The following week, we'll have a blog post about everything that happened and giveaways on Twitter of SIGNED books. We need to know which ones you want to win (obviously, we'll ask Kelley to sign a copy of The Gathering!).

So take a look at this list and tell us who are your favorite authors. We'll do our best to get your five top mentions:

Melissa Marr, Rachel Vincent, Melissa de la Cruz, Kelley Armstrong, Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl, Alyson Noel, Sarah Rees Brennan, Ally Carter, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Michele Jaffe, Simone Elkeles, Jackie Morse Kessler, Richelle Mead, Lauren Myracle, Clare B. Dunkle, Jeri Smith-Ready, Tucker Shaw, Mari Mancusi, Colleen Houck, Tera Lynn Childs, Sophie Jordan, Tina Ferraro, Carrie Ryan, Stacey Kade, Heather Davis, Nikki Carter, Kristi Cook and Christie Craig.

Published in Teen
Friday, 11 February 2011 14:18

Fun Reading: A Discovery of Witches

Diana Bishop is a witch. She’s the last in a long line of witches, but she hates that fact and chooses not to use her talents. Instead of conjuring up spells, she has become an academic and has tried hard to forget “the family business.” One day while working in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, she requests an old book on alchemy, which when opened unleashes a great deal of power and brings witches, vampires and daemons flocking to Oxford. One of the arrivals is Matthew Clairmont, a charismatic geneticist who happens to be a vampire, with whom she forms an uneasy bond. Witches and vampires don’t mix, and their friendship becomes very difficult and scandalizes their peers.

Deborah Harkness’ debut novel is a witch/vampire book with a difference, one that will appeal even to those who don’t read or like the current fashion for supernatural books. The author is an academic herself, a historian who is interested in the history of alchemy. She’s spent a great deal of time in university libraries and it shows in her fond descriptions of the Bodleian and its reading rooms. She also writes a wine blog, which shows too; she knows her way around a wine list. Vampires eat infrequently but drink a great deal, so the knowledge is useful. She came up with idea for the book when she wondered what kinds of jobs vampires would have if they existed.

There’s some fascinating detail here about the history and folk law concerning the otherworldly, their uneasy co-existence with each other and with the human world. The book is very funny in places, especially the description of out-of-the-ordinary yoga classes and dinner dates. After reading them you’d know what to serve (carefully) to a witch or vampire (two very different menus). A Discovery of Witches is highly recommended—and the best news of all? There will be a follow-up book.

Published in Fiction
Tuesday, 08 February 2011 20:08

February Teen Releases

February is another big month for releases in the Teen Department. Of course, Delirium is the biggest buzz, but we're hearing a lot about Cryer's Cross and Darkness Becomes Her, too. It's also time for two series by Melissa Marr to come to their ends this month. Titles are already available unless otherwise noted.

Dark Goddess
Sarwat Chadda
Second in the Devil's Kiss series about the only female templar knight, Billi San Grael; this one is supposed to involve werewolves. A head's up, if you'd like to give the series a try, I saw the hardcover for first book in the bargain section.

The Trust
Tom Dolby
The Trust is the follow-up to Secret Society, which also has its hardcover in the bargain section.

Lauren Oliver
First of the Delirium trilogy
One of the most anticipated dystopian novels of the season, Delirium is everything you'd expect from Teen Reads-nominated Lauren Oliver. In the near future, love is a disease and everyone gets cured once they turn 18. Lena can't wait for her cure, but weeks before it's to happen... she goes and falls in love (you can read our review here).

Demon Trapper's Daughter
Jana Oliver
First book in the new Demon Trappers series, this book follows the daughter of a famous demon hunter. Riley wants to follow in her father's footsteps, but she'll have to prove girls can do the job just as well as boys—while dealing with her crush on a fellow apprentice and the fact that a level five fiend is on the loose.

Alex Flinn
From the author of Beastly, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast whose film adaptation hits theatres on March 4th, Cloaked is a mash-up of various fairy tales. It features Johnny, a 17-year-old who dreams of being a shoe designer, helping a princess to rescue her brother who's been turned into a frog. Sounds entertaining.

Shadow Walkers
Bret Hartinger
Set in the Pacific Northwest—Puget Sound, WA. Zach's little brother Gilbert is kidnapped, and Zach tries to find him through astral projection. But Zach isn't the only one exploring the shadow realm... can he save his brother? Can he outwit the ancient creature hungry for his soul—and body? The romance twist for this novel is that it happens between Zach and another astral walking boy named Emory.

The Iron Witch
Karen Mahoney
First in The Iron Witch Saga, and mentioned last month. The official Canadian release on February 8 means this is available online and you should start seeing it in the stores soon. You can read our interview with Karen here.

Cryer’s Cross
Lisa McMann
A tiny town. Two missing teens. And a girl with OCD, whose disorder can help her see the connections between the two disappearances. McMann's Dream Catchers trilogy leads me to believe this book probably has a grounded in reality killer. Twitter's been buzzing about this one; it sounds super spooky.

Tammar Stein
This angel book features fraternal twins pitted against each other. Miriam, a college student who hasn't really given a whole lot of thought to whether or not she even believes in God, is contacted by the angel Raphael. Her brother? Contacted by the other side of the war. Now Miriam wonders which of them is actually cursed/blessed? I like that this features a college-aged protagonist, because it's always good to see more books for older teens.

Father of Lies
Ann Turner
In this historical novel, Lidda must trust her instincts to find the truth while risking being accused of witchcraft during the stake-happy times of the Salem Witch Trials.

Desires of the Dead
Kimberly Derting (2/15)
The follow-up to The Body Finder, which was one of the more refreshing novels from the section, continues the story of Violet Ambrose—a young girl who can sense death "echoes." This time it's the FBI who have an interest in Violet ability and her new romance with her best friend Jay has left her unsure of where they stand. Kim is stopping by later this month to talk to us about the novel, so stay tuned!

James Patterson (2/15)
Hey all you Maximum Ride fans, the latest book is out!

Julie Chibbaro (2/22)
Set during the famous typhoid epidemic in NYC, this is a book about a science-loving girl who works to understand the outbreak and how Typhoid Mary can be the cause of it. I think it sounds fascinating. The novel is written in diary-format and has illustrations from Jean-Marc Superville Sovak.

Darkness Becomes Her
Kelly Keaton (2/22)
Ari is cursed and on the run. Seeking answers, she returns to New 2, the rebuilt city of New Orleans. New 2 is filled with creatures—and all of them are afraid of Ari. Rebuilt future cities, magic, monsters and curses? What more could I want in a book?

The Iron Thorn
Caitlin Kittredge (2/22)
There's an engine beneath the streets of Lovecraft, a necrovirus spreading madness, and strange creatures roaming at night. Each member of Aoife Grayson's family has gone mad on their sixteenth birthday; can she avoid the same fate?

Darkest Mercy
Melissa Marr (2/22)
The amazing, heart-wrenching, glorious ending to the Wicked Lovely series. War walks the streets of Huntsdale and no one is safe. All of the books have been leading to this... You can read our review here. Three months later this book still haunts me.

Desert Tales: Resolve
by Melissa Marr (Feb 22)
The final volume in the Wicked Lovely manga series, Resolve finishes the story of Rika, Jayce, and Sionnach.
Published in Teen
Thursday, 03 February 2011 20:19

Not at all Pirates are Cool

Back in January Saundra Mitchell wrote a very revealing and heartfelt blog about an issue that plagues publishing and is prevalent in YA literature. Using her actual sales figures, she walks the reader through how illegal downloads of her debut novel, Shadowed Summer, has affected her.

At one point she says: “800 copies of my book (worth about $1200 toward my advance, if everyone paid for a copy,) are being downloaded a week.”

But the most upsetting part of her blog entry is when she reveals that her second novel, THE VESPERTINE, which hasn't released yet is already being searched for as a download.

I had a customer during Christmas give me a wink over the cashdesk and tell me that if you know where to look every title is free. He was more than old enough to know better. What horrified me wasn’t that he had no shame in stealing, it was that he thought he was somehow being clever or getting back at publishers for the price.

Yes, some people who download to “try” a book do go out and buy a copy. But that doesn’t negate all the titles they download and don’t pay for or all the other people who never replace their illegal copies with legitimate ones.

Jackson Pearce, author of As You Wish and Sisters Red, made a video that debunks the common excuses people make to justify illegally downloading books. You should watch it—if for no other reason than it features a pirate puppet.

Not everyone has had the opportunity to meet her favorite author face-to-face, but from someone who has: every name on a book spine is a person. A person like you who wants to get new jeans, go out with her friends, and be able to eat something other than tasteless instant noodles.

Maybe you’re reading this thinking, oh, well it’s easy for me to blog and judge. I probably get all my books for free.

I don’t. (Yes, sometimes, I will be sent a review copy from publishers for the purpose of doing a review to help sell more copies of that book. Yes, I have access to books because I work in a bookstore. There are locations all across Canada, and it’s easy to find out if stores in your area are hiring.)

What’s upsetting is when people pretend that there aren’t plenty of ways to get books legitimately. Borrow a copy from your friend. Pool your resources to purchase it, if you have to. There are always libraries, and if they don’t have the books you want, request they get it in. I’ve seen librarians come in with the lists.

Also, we have a bargain teen section in all of our Chapters and Indigo stores. Selection varies store from store, but you can find titles for $4.99.

If you don’t want to wait for something to go into bargain, get a legitimate eCopy. Most of the titles on Kobo are 20–40% below the price of the hardcover.

And if you don’t have an iRewards card…why not? Most teen hardcovers cost $20–$24. Which means that if you only buy one new teen title a month, you’re going to save the cost of your membership. And how many of us only buy one new book a month?

Fighting illegal book downloads starts with each of us. Make the choice to support authors. Tell others why you do. Most readers don’t download because they’re “bad” people; they just don’t realize the impact that it has.

Published in Teen
Thursday, 20 January 2011 19:39

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

While I was reading Across the Universe it reminded me of so much other great science fiction like Brave New World or Battlestar Galactica. I know that Beth Revis has said this is a scifi novel for people who don’t like scifi, but it’s also a scifi novel for people who do.

I loved this book, but there are a few things I want to tell you so you can love it, too. Across the Universe was described to me as being Amy’s story. She’s trying to solve the mystery of who attempted to murder her while falling in love with one of the suspects. Reading the novel, I never believed she was the focus. Amy is an important character—a way for us to explore the ship and relate to its less relatable elements—but she’s the companion. This book is about Elder.

As for the mystery, it’s well-executed but if you’re familiar with how mysteries work, you’ll quickly guess who the actual murderer is. The clues are there for the twists, and I applaud Revis for crafting a solid trail of breadcrumbs.

If it isn’t Amy’s book and it’s not really a super-intense mystery, then what is it?

A great example of accessible, intelligent science fiction. Across the Universe is one smart read, and I love a book that recognizes teens are asking tough questions and they can handle mature subject matter.

Which is my one issue with the actual novel: Amy reads as a very young seventeen, because she’s often surprised by there being consequences to her actions. I just didn’t get the same depth from her chapters that I got from Elder’s. It doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the story, but it is something I’d like to see improve with the next book.

What I do admire most about Across the Universe is the thought that obviously went into it. Revis has spent the time to consider how this world would function. It is complete in her mind, and through Amy and Elder, it is made complete in our minds. We feel that ship closing in us. We can taste its recycled air. Plus, the way Revis puts sentences together is a pleasure to read.

It’s a satisfying first novel in a potentially amazing new series; a dystopia that leaves you with a sense of hope. And what I hope is that Revis can deliver a second book that will make its characters and readers answer all those tough questions Across the Universe asks.

Published in Teen
Thursday, 13 January 2011 21:13

January 2011 New Releases

January marks the beginning of a new year of teen releases, and many eager titles are competing this month for our attention. Here are some of the ones on my radar, as well as mentions of new books in series that our Twitter followers have been anticipating. Unless noted, the books are already available.

Tricksters Girl
Hilari Bell
Raven Duet Book 1
I read about this one on then went out and bought it that day. Only in a few pages in, but Kelsa (our main character) has already captured my attention. There’s a lack of future-set fantasy that owns up to being fantasy, and I have high hopes for Bell’s most recent novel. I also love tricksters and Raven, but what sold me on this book? On the flap jacket, it implies that instead of instantly believing (and falling hopelessly in love with) Raven, Kelsa concludes that he’s probably crazy.

My Soul to Steal
Rachel Vincent
Soul Screamers Book 4
No secret: I love Rachel and her books. This latest installment features the return of Nash’s ex-girlfriend, Sabine, who you learned about when reading the Reaper novella. Nash and Kaylee are already on shaky ground after the events from My Soul To Keep. When teachers start dropping dead in the school, can they work things out enough to, well, work things out?

Prom and Prejudice
Elizabeth Eulberg
Are you looking for another Pride and Prejudice-inspired tale? Well, here's the book for you. Contemporary romance, expensive boarding schools, and a classic plotline.

P.C. & Kristen Cast
House of Night Book 8
Honestly, I don’t read House of Night because the sheer number of books in the series intimidates me. But this cover could change my mind.

Jenna Black
Faeriewalker 2
Second in Jenna Black’s promising fey series that began last year with Glimmerglass.

Cynthia Hand
An angelic debut, with a gorgeous cover and huge buzz. First in a series.

Slice of Cherry
Dia Reeves
Not for the faint of heart. In her second Portero book—the first being Bleeding Violet—Reeves features two sisters who are the daughters of the Bonesaw Killer. Budding serial killers themselves, they only kill people who deserve it and meticulously clean up the evidence. When one of the sisters finds an entrance to another world, it seems like the perfect place to dump the bodies…

I’m intrigued by this one because Bleeding Violet is in my TBR pile, and Slice of Cherry sounds an awful lot like a teen girl version of Dexter—just with sisters and more paranormal elements. However, I hesitate because I enjoy Dexter because of its dark humor and not because of its slice and dice (Dexter hates blood, so his narration is relatively splatter free).

Julie Karr
The concept of this book pushes some buttons for me, and I’m going to label it not for the faint of heart. In the future, once a girls turns 16 she gets a tattoo that advertises she is—how do I put this politely—of the age of consent. Nina Oberon is days after from turning sixteen when her mother gets attacked and left for dead. Nina has to avoid her mom’s killer, while she and her sister unravel a devastating secret of Nina’s past.

The Water Wars
Cameron Stracher
Another science fiction title, this is set in the future after the ice caps have melted and drinkable water is a scarcity. Kai appears to have access to fresh water; Vera and her brother Will are determined to find out why, so when Kai vanishes they set out to rescue him.

Water scarcity is a real issue, and the synopsis for this book reminds me a little of Ship Breakerone of the best books I read last year—which went on to win the Printz Award.

Old Habits (eBook)
Melissa Marr
A Wicked Lovely story
A novella set in between Ink Exchange and Fragile Eternity, Old Habits fills in some gaps while focusing mostly on Niall and Irial. I enjoyed it, because Niall and Irial are two of my favorite characters, and it’ll help tied you over until the release of Darkest Mercy next month.

Across the Universe
Beth Revis
Currently reading this space opera debut by Revis, and very impressed with both the writing and the thought that has gone into how her world works. I love Amy and Elder, and I enjoy how the undertone of romance is definitely there, but it’s not the focus of the story.

Very Lefreak (paperback)
Rachel Cohn
Our online kids editor mentioned this as one of her top reads for 2010, and the paperback has released this month. Very is a technology addict, ad Very Lefreak explores how the obsession is affecting every aspect of her life. Remember how we were talking about the importance of unplugging?

The Iron Queen (Jan 25, 2011)
Julie Kagawa
Iron Fey #3
Third in Juile Kagawa’s Iron Fey series, which I hear mentioned a lot on twitter among teen book bloggers. Meghan is half-faery and caught in the middle of a war between the Summer and Winter courts. First book is The Iron King and the second is The Iron Daughter.

Published in Teen
Monday, 03 January 2011 20:25

Lauren Oliver talks about Delirium

Delirium is a near-future dystopian novel in which the "disease" of love has been cured by science. Once a person turns eighteen, they are cured. I believe the science of this is possible, and the question of whether or not someone has the right to take away that choice from you fascinated me. There isn't a lot of choice in Lena Holoway's world, but it was watching her view of that world change as love opened her eyes that captivated me. Despite all of the dystopian novels I've read, this stands out and stays with you after you've finished reading it.

So I'm thrilled that Lauren Oliver has answered some questions about Delirium for us. There's some wise and practical advice in here for writers.

Indigo Teen Blog: There's a note in Delirium about you staying in Portland. How important do you think it is to do "on-the-ground" research for locations?

Lauren Oliver: I think any excuse to eat lobster for a summer in a beach town is incredibly important! Seriously, though, that’s the type of research I like the best: exploring a place’s geography, its cultures and its attitudes. Writers need to be two things: curious and perceptive. Doing research gives you the opportunity to be both.

ITB: One of the things I admire about Delirium is how subtly you work in the world details. A sentence here; a paragraph there. Can you foresee any of the changes to the US actually happening or was it just the setting you needed for this story?

LO: Funnily enough, after I started writing on Delirium, there was a short article in the New York Times announcing that scientists had isolated some of the biochemical factors responsible for feelings of heartbreak; the article postulated that at some point, we might be able to reduce or manage those feelings with medication. But the larger point of Delirium is simply that we too often inherit the ideas and fears of past generations, or politicians, or the people in control, even when the ideas/fears are nonsensical. It is very, very hard to think independently, but it is critical.

ITB: Do you feel there's a difference between writing stories that take place in present time and stories that take place in times/worlds that aren't our own?

LO: Hmmm. In many ways, no. I think the imaginative work is often the same. Even when you’re writing about a familiar setting or location, you have to reconstruct it in your head and on the page for your readers, and all of that gets funneled through the imaginative and linguistic capacities of the writer. But I guess you do have more parameters to bind you when you’re dealing with “real” places and settings; when you’re working with fantasies or dystopia, the possibilities can be a bit overwhelming. That’s why I tried to keep Delirium grounded in real-life places and technologies.

ITB: You mentioned on twitter that Delirium is the first in a trilogy. When you started the story, did you know it would be a trilogy or did it build to one?

LO: I was hoping it would become a trilogy, yes, although I conceived the first book to have a full arc, so that if my publishers hated it and nixed the idea of sequels, the story would still feel complete.

ITB: I read a press release from Simon & Schuster that announced the sale of the first "packaged" book from you. Can you explain to us how that process works?

LO: My partner and I are really uncomfortable with the word “packaging.” We make books and help grow authors’ careers—we don’t manufacture furniture polish! We see ourselves as match-makers; we pair great book ideas with up-and-coming writers, who have raw talent and dazzling voices but may not have training or experience in completing novels. Then we nurture the project and the writer together. Working with us is kind of like attending an MFA program. Except we pay you! Our writers are awesome—we love them all! And after they work with us for a bit, if they want to fly away and do their own thing, that’s great. We’re really a launching pad for writers who want to publish but still need a lot of education in plotting, structure, etc. They work with us to help build novel-writing skills.

ITB: Would you rather run a restaurant or a bakery?

LO: Definitely a restaurant. That’s one of my dreams, actually! I love to cook.

ITB: As a fellow "let's go to Japan for my birthday" traveler, I have to ask: What would you say are the three things that everyone who visits Japan has to do/see?

LO: Eat handmade soba. Stay at a ryokan, and sleep on the floor. Visit the temples in Kyoto.

Thank you to Lauren Oliver for answering our questions, and to Cory Beatty at Harper Collins for setting up the interview (as well as sending the ARE of Delirium!).

Published in Teen
Wednesday, 08 December 2010 19:08

December Teen Releases

This last month of 2010 features the final books in two series, some debuts from authors new and known, as well as anticipated follow-ups. What are you looking forward to?

Already Out:

Orson Scott Card
(Missed this one on the November releases blog)
A new book from the author of Ender's Game. Rigg can see the paths of people's pasts. He's kept this a secret, but when his father dies Rigg discovers he has the ability not just to see the past—but to change it.

Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings
Helene Boudreau
This debut from Canadian author Boudreau features 14 year old Jade, who discovers when she gets her first period that she’s got her mother’s mermaid heritage, too. But Jade always thought her mother drowned…

The Lying Game
Sara Shepard
The start of a new series from the author of Pretty Little Liars. This one is about two identical twins—who didn’t know they were twins—and if one twin can solve the other’s murder without being discovered.

Vampire Academy: Last Sacrifice
Richelle Mead
The final volume in the Vampire Academy series.

Coming later this month:

Carrie Jones
The third volume in the series that began with Need about pixies, phobias and poisonous kisses.

Vampire Crush
A.M. Robinson
A debut novel that both mocks and honours contemporary vampire romance. It’s got a lot of online buzz for being witty and different, despite how its set-up sounds like every other teen book.

Once In A Full Moon
Ellen Schreiber
A werewolf book from the author of the Vampire Kisses series.

Fallen Angel
Heather Terrell
I'm guessing this is about a girl and a guy who fall in love, but can't be together for reasons that involves angels.

Roses and Bones: Myths, Tales, and Secrets
Francesca Lia Block
Having read the Dangerous Angels collection, I can tell you that Block's stories are whimiscal and lyrical. This is a collection of three titles: The Rose and the Beast—retelling 7 fairy tales; Psyche in a Dress—in which Psyche (of Greek mythology) is lost in California; Echo—a retelling of Echo and Narcissus.

Lesley Livingston
The final book in Livingston's urban faerie trilogy set in New York. Will Kelley and Sonny finally get and stay together?

Bloody Valentine
Melissa de la Cruz
The latest Blue Bloods book reveals how some of the vampires first met and fell in love.

Catherine Fisher
The highly anticipated sequel to Incarceron.

Published in Teen
Thursday, 25 November 2010 22:30

The Painted Boy

One of the most indulgent things I’ve done this month was to take three days off NaNoWriMo and spend the time I would have been writing reading Charles de Lint’s The Painted Boy instead. 

Charles de Lint is one of Canada’s great treasures; he’s pretty much the father of modern urban fairy tales. Enjoy books by Melissa Marr, Holly Black, and Lesley Livingston? You’ll love Charles De Lint.

However, most of my favorite stories by him are up in the adult science fiction and fantasy section (yes, Dingo and The Blue Girl are in the teen section). While there are a lot of Newford stories that teens can read, they aren’t written for teens. A lot of older teens would probably enjoy Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks too, which is another of the books that defined what we call “urban fantasy.”

One of the many things I love about this new Charles de Lint book is that The Painted Boy doesn’t dumb things down (it doesn’t have adult relationships in it, true, but it’s not meant to be a romance). It’s a book about gangs and gang violence. People die and things go wrong, but it neither glorifies the lifestyle nor leaves the reader emotionally numb from beating them over the head with how awful violence is.

It’s a beautiful book and a wonderful story about Jay Li, who happens to be a member of the Yellow Dragon Clan. Yellow Dragons used to serve the emperor, but now they protect places and people. Jay is trying to find his place and understand what he is and how he fits into the world. (Aren’t we all?) Where he ends up is Santo del Vado Viejo, which is in the Arizona Desert. There he meets Rosalie and Roman and Anna, who have all been touched by gang violence but are trying to rise above the hate.

He also meets some cousins—non-humans—like Lupita and Rita (Lupita is my favorite character!). And one of the gang lords, El Tigre, is controlling the magic of the valley, and it’s having devastating effects on both the human and the spirit world.

So you have this story with these giant mystical concepts, but it’s woven into ordinary people and every day life.  That’s why this book is great, because it’s magical in a way that makes you go “maybe that could happen…” That’s what Charles de Lint does best, he writes novels that return wonder to the world.

Reading The Painted Boy reminds you that life can be hard but it’s good and worth fighting for. We’re part of something bigger, and belonging is more than a place—it’s the people who are in that place. That’s part of why this book made my top ten list; when I was finished reading it, I felt better about the world than when I’d started.

Published in Teen
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