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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
During the month of October, the capiall uisce are restless. They live in the water, but come up on shore and on land during this cold month. They are dangerous, for the capaill uisce are bloodthirsty and the sea still sings to them.
The town of Thisby is home to The Scorpio Races, because this is the only place capaill uisce exist. Every year, on November 1st, men race on the capiall uisce that they have captured. Every year, someone dies.
One must not trust the capiall uisce. They would sooner kill you and return to the sea from whence they came, then care about winning some foolish race.
Sean Kendrick is the one to beat in the Scorpio Races. His name is known by all. Sean rides Corr, a red capiall uisce that his father rode before he died. Legally, Corr is the property of Sean’s employer, Mr. Malvern, but it’s obvious that Corr truly belongs to Sean. During this scorpio season, Sean takes the biggest risk, because winning the Races isn’t enough anymore. He wants Corr.
Kate Connolly, known as Puck Connolly, never cared about The Scorpio Races, but now she has a reason to. Her older brother Gabe, is planning to leave Thisby, and to stall him, Puck tells him that she is going to be riding in the Races.
What starts as a simple solution, creates discord and havoc among the people of Thisby. The Scorpio Races is not a woman’s game.
This is a Scorpio Race Sean nor Puck can afford to lose.
Anything I say about this book will come up short. Simply put, emotion seeped through the pages, and took hold. This book had the power to make you fall in love with the story.
There was more to the story than just a boy, a girl, and some water horses. It was more than just a horse race. There was so much more.
History is painted and carved into the story’s background. There was a very clear picture of the town and everything Thisby was all about.
Once you got a taste, you couldn't help but want to delve deeper into the story.
The Scorpio Races was very musically written. The writing flowed and held its own rhythm.
The plot was threaded so intricately; there were many story lines woven together.
The chapters alternated between Sean’s and Puck’s point of view, and each chapter ended in such a way that made you wish it would continue. You were sucked in and needed to know what happened next.
This book was completely different from Maggie Stiefvater’s 'The Wolves of Mercy Falls' series, and even though her style could still be recognized, there was a completely different tone to this story.
The Scorpio Races was a piece of art. It was beautiful and memorable.
It was impossible not to love these characters. You begged the story-line to keep certain characters safe, while having a death wish for others.
Sean Kendrick was made for Thisby (or Thisby was made for him, it really could be either). His blood belonged to the sea and the sand. There was one thing that Sean loved more than Thisby, and most everyone thought that thing was the Scorpio Races, but it wasn't. Sean Kendrick loved his capiall uisce. He loved Corr.
Corr was just as strong a character as Sean, and together, they were perfection.
Puck Connolly was grown from Thisby soil, and she loved it deeply. She was very spirited and full of sarcastic humour. She was also extremely brave, and someone not to be tampered with.
Puck's brothers were essential to the story, and they impacted who their sister was. Everything Puck did, she did for or because of Gabe and Finn. It wasn't until the end that Puck realized what she was capable of doing for herself.
Her parents were killed by the capiall uisce, so it shook her brothers when she entered the Races. Only Puck had her best friend beside her: her horse, Dove. It was one regular horse against a group of capiall uisce. Dove shouldn't have stood a chance.
George Holly was a potential buyer who visited the Malvern stables, but he took a liking to Sean and became someone who could be confided in. Mr. Holly didn't miss a thing. He added some sugar and sweetness and surprises. His presence in the plot was very welcome.
The betting, and animosity, and courage that made up the The Scorpio Races was just as important as the actual Race itself.
The Race was fast, bloody, and unbelievable. It was both a wretched and wonderful thing.
This race wasn’t about competition but rather about dominance, death, and dignity. For Sean and Puck it wasn’t about the winning title but about the cash prize that came with it. Even then, the money was only important, because without it, it kept them from what they loved most.
The Scorpio Races was made of many love stories. It was a love story between Sean and Corr. It showed love between Puck and her brothers. It was the loving friendship between Puck and Dove. It was a story between men, greed, and glory. It was a love story between every character and the island of Thisby. It was a story that not everyone survived.
Sean and Puck’s relationship wasn’t rushed or pushed or forced. They were weary of each other, and were unlikely allies, so trust built up throughout the pages. It was very natural for them to be together. Their friendship and budding romance was seamless.
Both the ending and the beginning of this book were so powerful that they couldn't be forgotten. Even so, everything in between wasn’t overshadowed.
The ending was heartbreaking and so lovely.
If given the chance, The Scorpio Races will capture your heart.
I know that The Scorpio Races is a book that I will read again (and again) because I already miss it.
Let the magic of The Scorpio Races draw you in...
I've been working in Indigo for just over three years now, and I'm also a student. About 90% of my spare time is spent with my eyes glued to a book. This year I started reviewing books on my blog, Read & Riot. I love that I have yet another place to talk about books. Harry Potter is still my favourite series, but I read The Princess Diaries (by Meg Cabot) first. I'm very excited to contribute to the Indigo Teen Blog.
You know a good series when you read it, because it stays with you. It occupies a place in your memory—and it’s so solid that you feel like you know its streets. Maybe better than those who live there, because you know its secrets. You also know its residents; you may not like all of them, but you’ve forgotten life before knowing them.
Each time you read a book in a series like this, you go home and you share what’s changed in the time that’s passed since you were last there.
Let’s just say a lot has happened in Gatlin, which is strange considering we were told when we first arrived there—with Beautiful Creatures—that there are no surprises in this small South Carolina town. Funny, because there are always surprises whenever I visit Ethan Lawson Wate and Lena Duchannes.
The Caster Chronicles is the teen series that I wait all year for. There are many good books, but this is the series that continues to stand out and deliver a lush world full of characters who I can’t wait to see again. Each book manages to both delight and reduce me to a weepy mess. While I don’t always like what happens, I never leave Gatlin feeling disappointed.
I received a copy of Beautiful Chaos a week early from HBG Canada, and I swore that I was going to take a few days and really savor it. Then I started reading and I didn’t stop until I ran out of book at 2:00 AM. It’s not that I accidentally read this book in a single setting that you should take heed of, it’s that after I finished I had to stop myself from going back and reading it again.
At the end of Beautiful Darkness, Lena claimed herself—choosing to be both Light and Dark Caster. But her choice has had serious consequences: The Order of Things is broken. Both the Caster world and our Mortal world are suffering—and the price of fixing them is going to cost our friends dearly.
Beautiful Darkness was the book where Ethan and Lena were separated. Because of that, Ethan built—or at least realized he had—a strong support group beyond just his Caster girlfriend. In Beautiful Chaos, Ethan and Lena’s relationship is more stable… and it’s Ethan’s support group who is threatened.
Involving his support group in the tension keeps me from feeling like I’m only reading about relationship drama. It’s also more realistic to me that as a character’s entire world changes and expands, those effects would also impact the people in his life. That’s a big part of why I love this series; it’s never been just about a boy and a girl.
Of course, as it is a teen novel there is a little bit of teen romance drama in Beautiful Chaos. Fortunately, it doesn’t overshadow the plot. There’s this amazing scene where Liv says to Lena everything I was thinking in Beautiful Darkness. It’s cheer-worthy! Also, I enjoyed how this book changed my mind about John Breed. I didn’t like him in Beautiful Darkness, but by the end of Beautiful Chaos I can say that he’s all right.
Another thing I appreciate about these books is that there are adults like Macon and Marion, who are cool and help the young adult characters. These adults don’t necessarily solve the problems for Ethan and Lena, but they remind us that we have people in our lives who care about us. (There are also adults who aren’t supportive, but that’s representative of life.)
As the penultimate book, Beautiful Chaos does feel a little bit like bridge between what happened in Beautiful Darkness and what will come in the final novel. I think the biggest factor in what gives me this impression is the book’s cliffhanger ending that you probably don’t want to reach at two in the morning. Let’s just say it’s hard to get to sleep when all you can think is how desperately you want to know what happens next.
Heavy hitters out this month, and many of them coming out all at once. Here's a look at what's new, hot and/or interesting on the shelves this October.
Eve by Anna Carey—In 2032, a long girl travels the wilds of The New America looking for a place to belong.
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson—well-known contemporary author Johnson brings her trademark humor to a boarding school story with a touch of the creepy paranormal. Has Jack the Ripper returned to London? And is Rory the only one who can see him?
Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick—third in the Hush, Hush series.
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy—Set in 1952, it features a girl from Los Angeles traveling to London. Potions. Amateur British spies. Actual Russian spies. Illustrations!
The Death Cure by James Dashner—the last book of The Maze Runner trilogy. Thomas knows WICKED can't be trusted, but he has one last chance to fix the world.
Bunheads by Sophie Flack—written by a former member of the NYC Ballet company, this novel reveals the pressures and wonders of being a member of a high profile dance company. Like Black Swan...without the trippy mental breakdown (I hope.)
Variant by Robison Wells—You think your school is a prison? Try going to Maxfield Academy.
Tris and Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison—a modern retelling of Tristan and Isolde.
Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl—the third book in the Caster Chronicles returns us to Gatlin, but the Order of Things is broken... and fixing it will cost Ethan & Lena dearly. (Oct 18)
Dearly Departed by Lia Habel—the year is 2195. The place is New Victoria...and there are zombies. What's a proper young lady to do when she finds herself falling for an undead solider? No matter how civilized he may be, he's still not alive. (Oct 18)
Seizure: A Virals Novel by Kathy Reichs—second in the Virals series. Tory & her friends search for lost pirate treasure. (Oct 18)
Destined PC Cast—The latest House of Night book. (Oct 25)
Mastiff by Tamora Pierce—3rd novel in the Beka Cooper series. (Oct 25)
Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow by Daniel Nayeri—a book of 4 novellas, all of them written entirely on an iPhone. Fortunately, the stories sound even more interesting than their quirky means of creation. (Oct 25)
The Vampire Diaries: The Hunters: Phantom by L. J. Smith—What this book is about happens to be a massive spoiler for The Return. So... I'll just leave it as "the new Vampire Diaries book." (Oct 25)The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa—the end of The Iron Fey series. AKA Ash's book. (Oct 25)
Thursday night, I went to a party at Indigo Yorkdale with 1000 of my demigod friends. It was the only Canadian stop on Rick Riordan's Olympian Week tour to celebrate the release of The Son of Neptune, book 2 in The Heroes of Olympus series.
My review for the Indigo Kids Blog of the book explains why I love these books, and I was expecting a lot of people to show up... but I wasn't expecting 1,000. Maybe you think that going to a "kids" book event means there will only be kids there. You'd be wrong. These books are for all ages, as I saw readers from six-years-old to adult. Many of them were reading The Son of Neptune while they waited.
Most of them waited for over 2 hours. But the time and dedication isn't what gets to me. It's the fact that this was a family event. Families celebrating reading and stories together.
Rick Riordan took the stage at stage to cheers. He apologized to us about the joke in The Sea of Monsters where Annabeth calls the [look this word up] "Canadians." To make up for it, Rick made one of the new demigods in The Son of Neptune a Canadian.
"You're represented in The Prophecy of Seven, Canada," he said--and again the crowd cheered.
The cheer was only matched when the second half of the line, waiting patiently on the first floor, were told that everyone was going to get their books signed.
A place to have customized ID tags made.
A photobooth to document all the campers in their orange and purple.
Prior to the signing, I was charged an epic quest to get 3 books signed on behalf of @lostingreatbook for winners of a silent auction at her school benefitting the Terry Fox Foundation. And so no one says "pics or it didn't happen!" here is photo evidence that both I and @readandriot completed said quest. (Our beads, please!)
Want to see more photos from the event? Check out the event album on facebook! All photos were taken at Indigo Yorkdale by Ares Cabin.
Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone impressed me with its elegant prose, quirky characters, and interesting take on angels and magic. Easily one of the most enthralling novels I've read this year, you can read the my review of it here. When we were approached by HBG Canada about doing a possible interview with Laini, we jumped at the chance to find out more about this amazing book.
Indigo Teen Blog: Why Prague? What is it about that city that fits this story so well?
Laini Taylor: Prague is magical, and not in a Disney way (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It has a haunting and haunted quality to it—it is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen, but in a way that—to me—hints at dark history and lurking creatures. I love it!
I first went in 1996, taking a night train across Germany to arrive at dawn, and I was just floored by the sights, the castle, the clock, the Charles Bridge—and by the unexpected discovery of marionettes everywhere! I didn’t know that puppetry was such a thriving art form in the Czech Republic, and that just sealed my fate. I love marionettes, if anything could make a city rise even higher in my estimation, it would either mangoes or puppets!
In 2005, I went back with my husband to hunt vampires. That is, we were researching a graphic novel we wanted to do (I was writing, he would illustrate; our first, The Drowned, had just come out.) So we spent a lovely week and a half lurking around drawing and plotting, deciding on locations, shooting photo reference, and getting to know the city. We ended up not doing that book, which freed it up as a setting when this one came around!
The reason it works for this book is that it creates a kind of dark fairy tale setting while still being real and contemporary. Also, it has a long history of art and music which is a nice fit.
I myself crave travel and the exotic, and I always have, so of course I want to live vicariously through my characters—also, writing a place into a book gives me an excellent excuse to go there, as I did with Morocco shortly after finishing this book.
In future, I imagine I will choose my settings based on where I want to travel next!
ITB: One of the things I admire about Daughter of Smoke and Bone is that Karou and Zuzana are art students. How important are visuals to you when you tell a story?
LT: I went to art school myself, and it interests me as a setting—so much creative energy, and absurdity too. It wasn’t an early element of the story, but when I was dreaming up Karou and really fleshing her out, this felt like a discovery. It was a way to bring life and texture to the opening. The first few chapters depend on an art school situation—the nude model—and also, Karou’s sketchbooks were a great way to introduce the mysterious fantasy element into the story. I have a dream of making her sketchbooks real some day. If I can convince my extremely talented husband, Jim Di Bartolo, to draw them!
Visuals are important to me. I want my stories to have a richness and atmosphere to them; I love interesting and offbeat sensory details—like the marionettes in Prague. I know that one of my early writing foibles when I was starting out was an excess of description, because I loved it. But I’ve toned that down now. I try to keep descriptive passages short and rare, so as not to slow down the narrative. Then they have more impact when they come along as a breathing place. I hope!
ITB: Brimstone’s collecting of teeth is incredibly creepy. Is there a reason you chose it to be teeth instead of, for example, finger bones?
LT: The teeth idea arose from a freewrite I did quite a few years ago. (So many of my ideas come out of freewriting!) I was writing from a prompt, and ended up with a series of vignettes to do with procuring wishes. One told of a creepy underground shop (it was in Caracas), where people bought wishes — and the currency was teeth. It was a random choice. Teeth are cool and creepy and seem to me like they might have some strong mojo. You know, animals kill with those things! And they’re very interesting visually. From there, when this idea found its way into Daughter and became an integral element, it fit in other ways too, which I won’t go into for fear of spoiling!
For me, the sweet spot in writing process is kind of a dance between the conscious and unconscious minds, and I love it when something pops up from goodness-knows-where—like this idea of teeth as currency—and then ends up becoming a major element in a way I could never have predicted. It’s like being given a gift by my muse.
ITB: The Chimaera seem so much fun to create. Do you have a name for all of their tribes? What kind of Chimaera would you be?
LT: I don’t have the world entirely fleshed out as far as having all the tribes imagined and named. I haven’t mapped it geographically either. I would enjoy doing those things! In fact, that is the sort of thing I used to spend a lot of time doing when I was younger—world-building, world-dreaming—and I would call it “writing,” never mind that I generally didn’t make as far as the actual writing, i.e. the storytelling part! My husband and I met a guy once at a party who identified himself as a fantasy writer, and we talked for quite a while before it came to light that he’d spent ten years on world-building for a fantasy series and hadn’t begun to write yet! I understand very well how that could happen.
So, I don’t let myself get diverted into full-immersion world-building any more than I let myself spend hours googling things of dubious research necessity! Both exert their own siren song, and it is astonishing the way time passes while doing them. So though I do work on my worlds, I do not have a full encyclopedia yet the way some authors do. I imagine by the end of the series I will.
As for what chimaera I would be, I’d have to go with Kirin. To be able to fly! The horns would be wickedly cool too, and the hooves, and still to be semi-human.
ITB: Can you give us any indication of how many books there will be in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series? Is there a release date for the second one?
LT: It is planned as a trilogy, and the next book should come out a year following the first.
ITB: If your hair could grow from your head in any color, which one would you want it to be?
LT: Well, I’ve had bright pink hair for four years—the chemical way, alas, not Karou’s way—and I would love to do away with the maintenance! I do like the idea of Karou’s peacock blue, too, but the pink just feels like “me” now after so long.
ITB: If you could meet any other currently publishing author, who would it be?
LT: I can’t help it: I think it would be JK Rowling. For one thing, she is one of those elusive creatures one is unlikely to ever encounter in real life, like at a conference the way I meet many other authors. But the main reason is that it was Harry Potter that reminded me, at a critical time, of the kind of books I love. I am indebted to her, and also: she seems really cool. :)
You're pretty cool, too, Laini. Thanks for answering our questions—and thanks to HBG Canada for arranging the interview.