Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

H.E. Edgmon’s The Witch King: All Hail the Kings!

The Witch King, by H.E. Edgmon, (June 2021, Inkyard Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781335212795

Ages 14+

Wyatt Croft is a witch on the run. Originally from the fae kingdom of Asalin, Wyatt – a transgender 17-year-old boy – escaped a past loaded with trauma and abuse, finding home and family in our world. That all changes when Wyatt’s fated mate, the fae prince Emyr, shows up and demands that Wyatt return with him to fulfill his role as Emyr’s husband and take the throne of Asalin. Wyatt reluctantly returns to Asalin, with his best friend, Briar, in tow, and learns that relations between witches and fae are heading toward revolution – and Wyatt, who’s trying to resolve his own conflicted feelings about Emyr – is right in the middle of it. An anti-fascist, queer fantasy with incredible worldbuilding and characters you’ll love – and love to loathe – The Witch King has it all: romance, high fantasy meets contemporary fiction, and a wicked sense of humor. There’s powerful storytelling throughout The Witch King: being trans isn’t at the heart of the hatred toward Wyatt; transgender and nonbinary characters are major characters in the story, but Wyatt’s being a witch is the issue. The abuse and abandonment of witches takes the place of being LGBTQ+ in our society here, allowing readers to both see a functioning society where diversity is embraced in theory, but in practice, it’s very different. Sound familiar? Revolution, reform, and the idea of burning everything down to rebuild make The Witch King one of the most readable, relevant novels you’ll read this year.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Authors explore an explosive year in 1789

1789: Twelve Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change, edited by Marc Aronson & Susan Campbell Bartoletti, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Press), $22.99, ISBN: 9781536208733

Ages 12+

America wasn’t the only one feeling growing pains in 1789. Marc Aronson and Susan Campbell Bartoletti, who edited and contributed to 2018’s 1968: Today’s Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change, have put together another stellar examination of a contentious year in global history with 1789: Twelve Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change. All-star authors, including Aronson and Bartoletti, Tanya Lee Stone, Steve Sheinkin, Joyce Hansen, and Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinson, take on the big events and questions that rocked the world that year: what does “The Rights of Man” mean? White men? Nobles and kings? What about enslaved people and indigenous people? The Bill of Rights was ratified in the United States while France burned toward revolution; fishwives took to the streets and Marie Antoinette’s portrait artist captured the human side of an untouchable royal. Sailors mutinied, slaves told their stories, and mathematicians calculated the digits of pi. Organized into sections entitled “Exhilaration”, “Abomination”, “Inspiration”, and “Conclusions”, essays cover the excitement of change and discovery, the horror of enslavement, and the journey toward progress. It’s a truly holistic view of a pivotal year in history, and each essay broadens the reader’s world as they connect the dots to come away with a full picture of how one event can, like a snowball rolling downhill, engulf all in its path.

Publisher Candlewick offers a sample chapter on their website as well as an educator’s guide. Back matter includes comprehensive author notes, source notes, and a bibliography. 1789 has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

Posted in Fiction, Teen

Material Girls: Pop Culture Gone Wild!

material girlsMaterial Girls, by Elaine Dimopoulos (May 2015, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Group), $17.99, ISBN: 9780544388505

Recommended for ages 12-18

Imagine a world where teenagers’ tastes drive commerce. Fashion trends? Voted on my teen judges. Tween programming and music stars rule the day, setting trends and acting out carefully crafted roles and personas. But guess what? A handful of adults are still running the show, sitting behind the scenes, letting this new version of child labor run society.

Material Girls takes place in a not too-distant future, where popularity drives everything. Young tweens are picked, after crafting online portfolios, to be called to creative careers in fashion or entertainment; “adequates” are left to do the boring stuff that holds society up – doctors, accountants, that sort of thing. Fashion is paramount, and trends are fast, furious, and make tons of money. People have trendcheckers that scan clothing labels and let you know whether or not you’re still on trend; teenage judges decide what clothes get made. There are no more superstar fashion designers; designers and drafters are relegated to the less glamorous, lower levels of the operation. “Stay Young!” has replaced “See ya!” as a well-wish greeting.

Two narratives make up Material Girls. Marla is a teen judge who finds herself demoted to drafter after disagreeing with her fellow judges’ outrageous tastes one too many times. Told in the first person, we see Marla slowly gaining awareness of society around her, and work with her fellow drafters and adequates to bring about change, through revolution, if necessary.

Ivy is a teen queen pop star who begins questioning her place in society and society in general. Through a third person narrative, we see her growing discomfort with people spending money they can’t afford on outrageous and uncomfortable trends that she, and other teen pop stars like her, seemingly dictate. Her brother’s “tapping” – the process by which kids are called to special careers – doesn’t go as well as planned. She’s tired of living a scheduled, scripted life and just wants to be free, but does she have the courage to see it through?

Material Girls is a brilliant indictment of today’s pop-culture and youth-obsessed society. Blending shades of Brave New World with reality television, this is as much a cautionary tale as it is a parody of today’s society. I loved this story; it provides great topics to discuss in a tween or teen book club setting, and can be read as a sociological text to generate discussion on youth culture, pop culture, and how it affects society as a whole.

This is author Elaine Dimopoulos‘ first book. She’ll be having a book release party at Boston Public Library on May 5, which sounds great for anyone in the area. There’s going to be a slide show with fashion trends that influenced the book and eco-chic swag to win. Weigh in if you get to go!

Material Girls Release Party!
Tuesday, May 5, 7 p.m.
Abbey Room, Boston Public Library

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Post-apocalyptic/Dystopian, Science Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Meritropolis: Question the System.

meritropolisMeritropolis, by Joel Ohman, (2014), $9.99, ISBN: 9781500189600

Recommended for 14+

In a post-apocalyptic society, the community known as Meritropolis thrives, thanks to the System. Citizens, from infants to the elderly, are evaluated, their numbers marked on their forearms. Anyone below a 50 is sent out of the city gates to fend for themselves.

Time is measured post-event (AE3 for 3 years after The Event), which is never named, merely known as “The Event”; we can assume it had something to do with nuclear war or nature collapse. Animal hybrids, created in pre-Event labs, hunt outside the gates. No one is heard from after being put outside the city’s walls.

Charley, a high-score 17 year-old, hates The System. It took his beloved older brother away from him, and he wants revenge on the System and the man responsible for it. Charley questions the System, the existence of a God who support this way of life, and free will. As he moves within Meritropolis society and gets closer to the people responsible for the System, he plots his revenge, joining forces with other residents. Together, they discover that what they know about the city and the System is only the surface of a very deep well of secrets.

This is an independently published book that makes me wonder why a major house hasn’t snapped it up yet. It’s a fast-paced read with a male protagonist who questions everything and has tremendous anger issues, but at the same time, works to contain his outbursts with common sense and planning. He’s got a plan, and he’s not allowing himself to be swept along, as many dystopian protagonists tend to in YA lit. Charley’s motivation is brutal and heartbreaking, but things he discovers as he works to undo the system from the inside are downright terrifying.

Outside the city walls, we find more craziness. The animal hybrids, and what they’re capable of, are the stuff of nightmares. There are illustrations at the beginning of each chapter – feast on the bion, imaginations! – that help you comprehend exactly what the citizen of Meritropolis are surrounded by, and being left to, once they’re outside city gates.

The book should appeal to both teen boys and girls. In Charley, boys have their Katniss – a male role model they can look up to and relate to, who understands anger, aggression, and most importantly, self-control. Girls will appreciate Charley’s back story and they’ll love Sandy, Charley’s counterpart. There are additional male and female characters, all relatable, that will give kids a reason to keep turning pages.

I’m interested in reading more about the world Joel Ohman has created here. Maybe we’ll get another story about a different post-Event society if enough people read this book. So what are you waiting for? It’s available as an ebook or a paperback, so you have no reason for not checking it out.