Teens’ Top Ten: Part 2

And without further ado or yammering on my part, here are the top five selections from ALA’s Teens’ Top Ten list for 2011.

Cover art for The Iron King by Julie Kagawa5. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
Meghan’s half-brother is kidnapped by faeries and replaced with a changeling. Her friend Robbie, who happens to actually be a faery called Puck, leads her to the faery realms to rescue him. But Meghan’s quest will reveal things about the world that she never knew–and things about herself that she might not have wanted to know. This is book 1 of the Iron Fey series, with a fourth book coming out tomorrow, less than two years after the first book. Good news for impatient fantasy fans!

Cover art for I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore4. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
You’d almost think it was meant to be, right? I Am Number Four…is number four. John Smith is hiding out in Ohio, trying to avoid the notice of the Mogadorians. John Smith is a Loric, one of nine who are hiding out on Earth. But the Mogadorians are coming for the Loric children, hunting them down in order. The first three are dead now, and John is next. With a movie and a sequel (The Power of Six) already published, the pseudonymous Lore is popular indeed.

Cover for Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick3. Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
In the sequel to Hush, Hush, Nora Grey and her sort-of-reformed fallen/guardian angel Patch set out to find out what happened to Nora’s father. The journey brings her into contact with Nephilim and worse–her arch-enemy Marcie. In trying to uncover the truth about her father’s death, Nora discovers family ties she never wanted and begins to question the only person she really trusts–Patch himself. Make sure you pick up Hush, Hush first, though, or Crescendo won’t make a darned bit of sense.

Cover of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins2. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
The conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy is probably the weakest of the books, but that still doesn’t mean it’s bad. District 12 has been destroyed because of Katniss’s rebellion, and now the rebels have taken her on as their figurehead. But it’s hard to lead a revolution when you’re just a teenager, and everyone wants to use her for their own agenda. When a daring raid on the Capitol is planned, Katniss chooses to lead it–but the sacrifices might not be worth the gains. In Mockingjay, Katniss spends too much of the book out of the action, having events relayed to her, but the final battles are so intense, you won’t be able to put the book down.

Cover of Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare1. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments universe goes steampunk in this first installment of Infernal Devices. Tessa Fell’s brother has vanished, and when she goes to hunt for him she finds herself drawn into the shady Downworld, where two creepy sisters force her to practice her talent for shapeshifting. She’s rescued by a Shadowhunter with an attitude problem, and she’ll have to learn to trust him and his comrades if there’s any hope of saving her brother.

Trilogy Bloat

When was the last time you read a YA trilogy with a really tightly-plotted, satisfying conclusion?

Go grab a trilogy. I’ll wait.

Okay. Now compare the length of the first volume to the length of the third one. I bet it’s a lot longer than the first one–and I bet you liked the first one better, didn’t you?

Take Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy. A Great and Terrible Beauty: 403 pages. Rebel Angels: 548 pages. The Sweet Far Thing: 819 pages. And if you’ve read it, you know that she could have cut about 300 pages right out of the middle without changing the story’s outcome.

How about the Twilight saga? The third book is 26% longer than the first one, and if we go all the way to Breaking Dawn, it’s 50% longer than Twilight.

Why does this happen? Well, sometimes the author gets to the third book of the series and goes “Oh, poop, look at all of these loose ends! Now I must tie them all up!” Other times, the publisher doesn’t really bother with major edits. If there was a new Harry Potter book, you’d buy it whether it was 600 well-edited pages or 800 sloppy pages, right?

Here are a few trilogies that avoid the dreaded bloat. In each case, the third book is no more than 25% longer than the first book. (Middle books may vary.)

Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy

  • The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Mockingjay weighs in at 390 pages, only 4% longer than Hunger Games at 374 pages. With a movie coming out in 2012 and copies still on hold at the library, you should definitely get your hands on this one.
  • The Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld. Goliath is 543 pages, or 23% longer than Leviathan. (This does not take the fantastic illustrations into account.)
  • Sarah Rees Brennan’s Demon’s Lexicon trilogy. The Demon’s Surrender, at 387 pages, is 20% longer than The Demon’s Lexicon, the first book. (Oddly enough, the second book, The Demon’s Covenant, is 440 pages.)
  • Rosemary Sutcliff’s Roman Britain trilogy. The Eagle of the Ninth, which was made into the movie The Eagle, aka “that movie where Channing Tatum wanders around Roman Britain looking hot and occasionally emoting,” is 210 pages. The Lantern Bearers, the concluding book, is 219 pages, or about 4% longer.
  • The Grassland Trilogy by David Ward. Escape the Mask, the first book, comes in at 195 pages. The third book, Beyond the Mask, is only 227 pages, or 16% longer.
  • The grand prize in anti-trilogy-bloat goes to Julie Kagawa and her Iron Fey series. The first book, Iron King, is actually the longest book of the trilogy–by five whole pages. Talk about consistency!

And that’s it for now. Stay tuned for a Trilogy Edition of Rant ‘n Rave where I get even snarkier about the Gemma Doyle books!

Do you feel lucky, (steam)punk?

So: Steampunk. What is it, and what does it have to do with teen fiction?

The sarcastic answer is “Steampunk is what happens when goths discover brown.” A better answer would be a question: “What if the future happened earlier?” Steampunk goes back to the 1800s and imagines what would happen if we had created advanced technology using the materials available at the time. So instead of plastic and chrome, we get brass and leather–and always, always goggles. Instead of airplanes, there are steam-powered airships. Instead of cars, coal-fired velocipedes. Do you remember the movie version of The Wild Wild West? Okay, it may not have been a great film, but the giant mechanical monsters in the old-west setting is a good example of steampunk.

If steampunk sounds like the thing for you, give a few of these a try–

Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath (out this fall) by Scott Westerfeld. It’s World War I as you never knew it. Austria and Germany have their military strength in giant machines; Britain and her allies use genetically engineered animals to carry their soldiers. When an Austrian prince gets captured by an English airship, he makes friends with a young midshipman who is really a midshipwoman in disguise. Adventure ensues!

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. Matt is a cabin boy on the airship where he’s lived all his life. He rescues an old man who claims to have discovered a species of “beautiful creatures,” but the man dies, leaving behind only a notebook filled with sketches. With the help of Kate, a rich young girl who happens to be the man’s granddaughter, he sets out to find if the creatures are real, or just a figment of a dying man’s imagination.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. Set in the same universe as her present-day Mortal Instruments series, this book delves into a shadowy version of 1878 in England. Tessa travels to London to find her brother. Instead, she’s captured by two sisters who force her to Change, taking on the appearances of other people. She’s accidentally rescued by the handsome but troubled Will, who introduces her to a world full of clockwork wonders–and terrors.

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross. Finley Jayne tries not to cause trouble, but when a young lord makes unwanted advances, she decks him with a punch that knocks him out cold. This isn’t part of a normal young woman’s skills, so Finley goes on the run to avoid questions. She meets Griffin, who shows her that she’s not the only person out there with surprising abilities, but danger is looming in the form of the mysterious Machinist.

The Parasol Protectorate series, by Gail Carriger. A proper Victorian lady never goes anywhere without her parasol–in this case, a brass-cased, steam-powered menace wielded by the formidable Alexia Tarabotti. Combining steampunk with the paranormal–she faces down vampires and werewolves–Alexia has to navigate Victorian society as well as the world of the undead. This one has some mature content, so give it a test run to see if it’s right for you.

But steampunk is more than just a fiction genre–there are communities of steampunk crafters and steampunk costumers as well. So check some of them out and get your ‘punk on!