Category Archives: Teen Books

That REALLY not Inevitable Victorian Thing

that inevitable victorian

Source: Penguin Random House

I got the ARC and loved the title. I assumed this would be a book that poked fun at the teen trope, and laughed at itself a little. I was not prepared for this book to up-end pretty much every one of my expectations. I can’t tell you much without spoiling the book, but it threw 100% of the cliches out the window. This is speculative fiction for sure, and although I’m sure there will be accusations of “SJW utopia, ” I have to say I’m here for it. There is a conscious avoidance of two-dimensional characters, some really interesting concepts, and a lot of things (trans inclusion, lgbtq2+, religious tolerance, indigenous rights) that I was definitely not expecting. This is a very Canadian book, but I hope it finds a wider audience. The role of speculative fiction is to make us question, to be introspective, to think about what we truly want the world to look like. This Victorian world is by no means perfect, but I really like some of the ideas and relationships put forward, and I look forward to getting my kids to read this – and then talking about it with them. It’s releasing next month, and I highly recommend you snap it up. I want to hear what you thought!

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The Masked Truth does a lot of unmasking.

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Kelley Armstrong is not hesitating to go straight for the real stuff with The Masked Truth.  Although there is more representation of mental health in literature lately, there is still not nearly enough, especially in teen fiction, and this book is a valuable addition.

Teens at a group therapy session are taken hostage by masked killers, seemingly for the purpose of ransom – one of the participants comes from a very rich family.  The truth of the situation is far less straightforward, and a lot of secrets are going to come out before it’s all over.

Spoiler alert: if you don’t want to know anything more, stop reading.

I want to stand up and applaud Armstrong for her main characters.  The protagonist is struggling with PTSD, and the love interest has schizophrenia.  Armstrong shoots straight for the heart with the turmoil and fear they feel, and the struggles they endure, with so much compassion for the characters.  You don’t love Riley and Max despite their mental health – it is included in who they are, and are that much braver because of it.  There is great diversity among the characters too, on many different levels, and it makes the story feel much richer than most YA.  Even the villains aren’t one-dimensional.  I would call this YA literature.

There is some very on-point dealing with stigmatization and misunderstandings  – survivor’s guilt, PTSD, schizophrenia, homosexuality, racism.  There’s corruption, ashamed parents, estranged friends.  Well done, Ms. Armstrong – this is a book that a kid dealing with one of these things will read and think “Maybe being different isn’t bad.  Maybe it means you are that much tougher.  That much stronger.  That you are a hero for living every day with something not many other people understand.  And maybe out there, I will find someone who does.”

Bit too neat of an ending, but otherwise great.  Highly, highly recommend it.


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Red Queen is Bloody Good


If you love a good dystopian YA, Victoria Aveyard’s debut novel,  Red Queen is for you.  With a lot (and I mean a lot) of parallels to The Hunger Games & Divergent, the characters and plot twists make this read different enough to still be enjoyable, without feeling like you’re just reading on repeat. If you have read Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, this is like a weird parallel universe to that book.

Red Queen is a little more rooted in fantasy territory, and has a unique take on the dystopian theme.  The nobility of Red Queen‘s world is distinguished by their innate ability to channel fire or electricity, or possess extreme strength or psychic powers.  Their control over the lower class is absolute, who don’t possess any superhuman talents.  Imagine the uproar when Mare, a girl of perfectly common blood, suddenly displays her own power – and no one’s surprise is greater than Mare’s.

I won’t get too deeply into the plot  and spoil it, but there are some great twists, a little romance, lots of intrigue. Lots, and lots, of intrigue.  Like baby Game of Thrones.  If you have a teen who is looking for an entry to more sophisticated story lines, this is a good place for them to start.

This is clearly the start of a series – it should be a fun ride.

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Why You Should Buy a Copy of Walking Home Right Now

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Eric Walters is a bestselling writer of books, ranging from picture books for the littlest to adventure novels for teens.  Kids are drawn to his books because he doesn’t hesitate to tackle major issues – 9/11, war, poverty – but he does it at their level.  He’s also a very cool guy.

He runs an orphanage in Kenya.  He covers all the administrative fees.  He is an elder in the Kumba tribe – as he puts it, “the whitest Kumba ever.”  And Walking Home is based on true events, and some of the kids he has gotten to know there.

In Walking Home, a brother and sister have been forced to move to a refugee camp, after political violence ended in their father’s death and the destruction of their home.  While in camp, their mother dies of malaria.  Rather than be separated into different orphanages, they make the decision to slip away from camp in the night, and try to find their maternal grandparents, who they have never met, in a town no one has ever heard of.  They have no money to speak of, so the journey of hundreds of kilometres will be on foot.

It is a moving story, and it’s enhanced by the fact that Walters walked the walk – literally.  He made the journey they did, and the text has symbols throughout the book where you can go to the book’s website and watch a video clip, or see a photo, or hear the sounds of Kenya.  It is an immersive experience – and listening to Walters talk about Kenya, his compassion for her people, his amazement at their strength – well, I dare you to stay unmoved.  I certainly was touched.

In fact, my whole bookstore was touched to the point where we decided we were going to sell as many copies as we could.  Since the publisher has committed to donating $1.30 from the sale of each copy of walking home to Walters’ charity, Creation of Hope ( )   we found out from Walters that selling 77 copies of the book in store was enough to run the orphanage for a day.

At last count, we had sold almost enough for three days – more than 200 copies.  We received the following photo:


So, help out.  Buy a great book, help a great cause.  You have nothing to lose, and they have everything to gain.


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Boundlessly Entertaining



I am reading my (signed) copy of The Boundless right now.  You know those perfect stories?  Like Harry Potter, or The Princess Bride.  Those books where the story transcends age brackets, genres, and is just perfect?  This is that book.  Give it to everyone as a gift – they’ll thank you.  Would probably make an excellent chapter-a-night bedtime story with ages 9+.  Do not leave adults off your gift list with this one.  It has also won a few awards already, proving that my opinions on books are always right.


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The Hottest Titles for Teens and Tweens

What are the big books this summer? And why should you care?

Well, one of the things that gets people reading, adults included, is recommendations.  If kids are hearing their friends talking about this book, and once they are reading it can talk about it, how great is that? It makes a love of reading something they share, and how many times have you felt a bond with someone because they, too, adored a book dear to your heart?

With that in mind, I’ll share some of the titles that are really hot at my store right now, some of which are excellent reads, and feel free to pick them up for yourself, or steal the book when your kid is done with it.  Or before, I won’t judge you.


Target age: 9-12

This book didn’t arrive on time in-store – which was the cause of much consternation in my household.  My younger daughter is an evangelist for The Land of Stories series, dragging them with her everywhere she goes and forcing other people to read them.  They’re very good, bringing to mind classics like Alice in Wonderland or the Wizard of Oz, mixing fairytales with real life, the bizarre alongside the mundane.  And yes, it’s the Chris Colfer who plays Kurt on Glee who is the author – he really needs to save some talent for other people. A Grimm Warning is the third book in the series, and it’s worth getting them in hardcopy instead of an e-book because of the maps and illustrations in the cover.


Target age 13+, and I really mean the plus

I loved the Divergent trilogy – and Veronica Roth didn’t wuss out on the ending either, unlike the Hunger Games.  Four is a series of short stories that take place before the Divergent trilogy, centred around Four’s life before Tris. This can be read as a present for current fans craving more, or as a prologue to the main trilogy for new readers.  Good beach reading for everyone, and if you haven’t read the original trilogy, summer is a great time to start.

Target: 9-12+

This trilogy, of which the first two are now out, is a kind of interesting twist on the fairytale theme that’s huge right now in this age group.  Every year, two girls or two boys are chosen to attend the school of Good and Evil.  One is trained to be a hero, the other a villain.  When two best friends are chosen, one golden-haired and sweet, and the other dark haired, odd, and fond of goth-y clothes, they know who’s going where.  Their own self-concepts are thrown into disarray when the golden-haired girl is sent to the school of evil, and the goth-in-training is sent to the school of good.  This book is flying off the shelves, and anything that shakes up thinking is great by me.



Target age: 13+

I will admit now, that I haven’t read this trilogy, and may not.  I am not always in the mood for romance and frou frou dresses.  Sometimes, though, that’s exactly what you want, and this series seems to fill that need for teens and adults alike quite nicely.  A sort of dystopian version of The Bachelor, the series started with The Selection, where thirty-five girls were in an elimination competition for the crown, and marriage to the prince.  The competition is winnowed down through the second book, and now in the third, The One is America Singer’s (cringing at the name) final chance to win the Miss America Pageant   heart of Prince Maxon, and the crown.  If you are looking for a frillier version of the Hunger Games, this is it.

Target: 13+

I adore Mercedes Lackey, and read pretty much everything she writes.  I am currently reading this series she is writing with Rosemary Edghill, a kind of Mystery at the Academy trope, but with enough interesting twists to keep it from being formulaic.  Spirit White (hippie parents) ends up at an orphanage after she is the only member of her family to survive a car accident.  She finds out once she arrives there that every single person at the orphanage has magic – except apparently her.  The orphanage – Oakhurst Academy, is run like a private school for the very rich, with the added curriculum of learning to defend yourself, both physically and with magic, against evil mages who could attack at any minute.

It doesn’t contain as much of Lackey’s signature ironic humour as I would like, but it has enough of it to make reading it enjoyable, and smarter than many teen series, since the kids in it don’t just swallow down everything they’re told and do some of their own investigating.  Like a magical Nancy Drew.


Target: 13+ (again, I mean the plus)

Kelley Armstrong is always a really fun read.  I loved her Women of the Otherworld series, I am impatiently waiting for the sequel to Omens to come out, and so I was delighted when this arrived, if for no other reason than I think the cover will be my next tattoo.

A really solid, epic fantasy,  twin sisters Moria and Ashyn live on the edge of the Forest of the Dead, where the worst criminals are exiled.  Moria and Ashyn are the Keeper and the Seeker – charged with keeping the souls of the damned quiet – no easy task.  This year, the souls will not be quieted – and a great evil ambushes the girls, separating them from eachother and their home, the beginning of their quest to find eachother again, and warn the emperor of what is awakening.

This is book one – I really need to cut down on the number of series I’m reading.  Or only read series that are finished.  Haha, like that’s going to happen.  Sigh.

Oh, and as a bonus for you guys, right now I’m reading Warslayer, by Rosemary Edghill, which is a FREE download on Kobo.  Imagine Lucy Lawless getting kidnapped by aliens who think she’s actually Xena and will save them all.  It’s silly fun, and perfect for the patio and a cold drink.

Happy summer reading!


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Pirate Transmission from District 13

So excited!


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Guess who’s back…

After an extended period of being locked out of my WordPress account due to my authenticator malfunctioning, I am back!  I haven’t forgotten you, I promise, and more sarcastic book reviews cometh.

My current summer reading has been a weird mix, trying to catch up on the glut of titles released for pairing with a cold drink on the patio.  I am also trying to catch up on some of the titles others have been recommending.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

A tale that’s very relevant right now, with its themes of bullying, sexual assault, and suicide, anyone who went to high school (or was a teenager) will find something to identify with in this one.

The story begins with Clay, a fairly nice teenaged boy,  discovering a box of audio tapes left on his doorstep (anyone else remember those?), recorded by Hannah – a girl from his school who had recently committed suicide.  She tells him there are thirteen reasons she killed herself – and if you were listening to the tapes, you were one of those reasons.

There are audio files online for the tapes, so you can make the story a multimedia experience, hearing the tapes along with Clay.

This book is not only an excellent read, but could be a really important one for a teen – these experiences can be so isolating, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had a book make you feel a little less alone – and a little more aware that you aren’t the only one out there who has gone through it.   It might not be a bad one for a parent and a teen to both read, and then discuss.

I will be catching up on postings as quickly as I can, so prepare for a deluge!



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In the Shadows

Text Story by Kiersten White, Art and Art Story by Jim Di Bartolo

Intended for age 12 and up


I am really excited about this novel of suspense and horror!  Its main characters are young adults who live in or are visiting a boarding house by the sea. Two sisters share some duties with their mother after their father’s mysterious death. Three young men, one terminally ill, are visiting with them. The boys’ respective fathers are also deeply involved in something sinister. As the plot unrolls, the characters become embroiled in a chilling series of events that seem to involve far more than their sleepy little town. Reluctantly, they find themselves forced into more and more dangerous situations that involve not only their fathers but many of the townspeople they thought they knew well.

I want to hand this book to all my reading friends and order them to read it, and look at the twin story in paintings by Di Bartolo. It is a brand new technique to me. It’s not really manga, because there are no thought balloons or speech balloons or captions or any text whatsoever accompanying the paintings. It’s not really an illustrated narrative either, because the pictures have a purpose beyond accompanying and interpreting the text.  I believe there are two narratives going on in parallel, both delivering the plot in different ways and from different points in the narrative.

At first I had no idea what the paintings showed, because they start the book, and with no captions I was lost. Still, they are so compelling that I spent several moments on each picture, struggling to “read” it. It wasn’t until I had read a fair bit of the text that the pictures started to have a narrative for me too. Then the two media started to work together brilliantly.

The text itself is a verbal wonder that conjures a visual wonder as effectively as the paintings. White creates characters you can see, without wasting a word. The creepy atmosphere of horror is just as much a product of the evocative writing as the shivery paintings. The story is a series of shocks to the nervous system that will keep you turning the pages well in to the night. Now that I am tuned in to the art work, I am going to re-read it to see what I missed at the beginning. This is a book that will merit second or third or even more readings.


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The Fault in Our Stars Trailer – Movie Tickets Should Come With Free Tissue


Mostly, you need the tissue.


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