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Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's Raining, it's Pouring Young Adult Books in Litchfield!

The young adult section is an interesting place to find books that can be surprisingly provocative.  These aren’t the safe, comfy stories about nurses or college students I remember from back in the day.  Here are some new titles that promise some great summer reading.

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.”  Ally Carter’s description of her character, Kat Bishop, makes me want to read both “Heist Society” and “Uncommon Criminals,” the second book in the series.  I think of movies like Ocean’s Eleven, or “The Thomas Crown Affair” with criminals that you just have to like in spite of their vocation. 

In the city of Jewel, safety and temperance are prized above all other virtues. Goldie, an impetuous girl with a talent for petty thievery, is eagerly awaiting her Separation, in which her silver guard chain connecting her to her parents for safety is finally cut. When tragedy strikes and the city’s sly and deceptive ruler, the Fugleman, cancels all Separations indefinitely, Goldie decides she’s had enough of safety and runs away to the fascinating, mysterious Museum of Dunt. Yet this museum is no dusty educational edifice, as Goldie soon learns: it has moods and feelings like a living being. Its shape-shifting rooms house not historical artifacts, but great and terrible powers that, if unleashed, could destroy the city. “Museum of Thieves” begins a new series by Lian Tanner, an author who lives in Tasmania with her tabby cat. Interesting characters, twists and turns and a plot full of action make this a promising series to follow.

“Between Shades of Gray,” by Ruta Sepetys, is a novel based on the real experiences of Lithuanians deported to Siberia, whose only crime was that they were Lithuanian, forcibly deported by Stalin in 1941.  The harrowing experiences of Lina, whose life is forever changed, give an authentic voice to people who, according to the official Soviet version of history, don’t exist.  I found this to be one of those books I just had to pick up and scan a few pages while trying to work at the desk.  I’ll just have to bring it home, because I can’t do justice to the subject or characters by reading a page now and then. 

Neal Schusterman, who has written many young adult novels, imagines a terrible future in which teenagers can be forced to give up organs for transplant.  In Schusterman’s horrific society, the second civil war was fought over abortion. To end the war, a compromise was reached that ends the practice of abortion but creates an alternative called "unwinding." Between the ages of 13 and 17, parents or guardians can choose to have their child unwound, which involves having every part of their bodies harvested to be "donated" to another person so, technically, they don't really die. The complex and compelling plot follows three teens whose stories intertwine when they escape while on their way to the harvest camps. Fifteen-year-old Connor's parents can no longer control him. Lev, a tithe, was raised by religious parents for the sole purpose of being unwound. Risa, a ward of the state, is a victim of shrinking budgets since she is not a talented enough musician to be kept alive.  “Unwind” asks the question, “What if your parents could unwind you?” 

Avid readers have recommended many titles to add to the collection, and young people are extremely good at suggesting purchases that fly off the shelves.  Because of the recommendation of a brilliant young man, we have added the five books in “The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica,” by James A. Owen.  Three Oxford men, brought in for questioning in a London professor's death in 1917, become companions on a voyage through the Archipelago of Dreams where they vanquish a usurper and restore the rightful king, proving themselves worthy to be Caretakers of the Imagination of the World. The three men are Jack (C. S. Lewis), John (J. R. R. Tolkien), and Charles (Williams–a lesser known writer of fantasy thrillers who belonged to the same Oxford literary discussion group, the Inklings). Their identities aren't revealed until the end, along with the premise that their journey became the wellspring for their subsequent fiction. Reviews for this series were lukewarm, but my young advisor is usually absolutely right about great fantasy novels for young adults. Look for “Here, There Be Dragons,”  “The Search for the Red Dragon,” “The Indigo King,” “The Shadow Dragons,” and “The Dragon’s Apprentice.”  These great books, and more, are waiting for you at Litchfield Library – see you there!