First Light by Rebecca Stead.
Peter is very excited to be joining his parents on a scientific trip to Greenland. His father is studying global warming, and his mother is happily joining him to work on her book. While Peter is happy to go, he is also dealing with headaches and strange visions that come out of nowhere.
Thea has never left her home beneath the ice, a place of safety for her people when they fled persecution on the surface. Thea believes that her people need to find a way to the surface, even though her own mother died during a similar search. Now if Thea can only convince others in her community that it is worth the risk.
The two stories of these teens are very different, yet meld into something much more complete when together. The skill of weaving the two worlds together is evident in the balancing; neither story dominates. Skill was also necessary when the two worlds collide and neither story is sacrificed at that point either. Equally important are the twists and turns of the story itself. At some points the reader will think they understand it all, just to have it twisted away from them, creating a very thrilling read. Characterization is strong, with even secondary characters having unique personalities and perspectives. There is a real depth to the story, made even deeper by the presence of global warming, social persecution, and destiny.
Highly recommended, this book offers unique world-building without leaving earth. Should be recommended to teen lovers of both science fiction and fantasy who are ready for some depth that doesn’t compromise the ease of reading.
Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst.
This book is a great twisty ride through fairy tales. Julie has a secret under her bed, a huge mass of vines called the Wild. Julie is sick of living with fairy tales all around her. Her mother, Rapunzel is always catering to the seven dwarfs. Her brother, Puss-in-Boots, is only interested in finding a girlfriend. It would be hard enough being a normal kid in junior high, but Julie has all sorts of additional pressures because of her family. When someone makes a wish at the guarded wishing well, it releases the Wild which begins to grow and absorb Julie’s entire town. Because Julie is one of the only people who understands the dangers but is not part of a story, it falls to her to save her family in the Wild.
The writing here is straight-forward and welcoming. I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of a modern teen into the frightening and often horrifying world of fairy tales. Particularly nice is the use of the real versions of tales where people are eaten, maimed, and murdered, rather than the sugar-coated versions we often feed our children. Julie is a wonderful heroine, filled with spunk, humor and angst. Her reluctance to be a hero is wonderfully portrayed as are all of the little fairy tale touches.
Recommended highly for tweens, especially those who enjoy some fantasy. I would also recommend it to older elementary children in grades 4-6. There is nothing particularly “teen” in the book except the protagonist’s age, making it a perfect gateway book to teen novels.
JK Rowling has created a handwritten, illustrated book of fairytales, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which was mentioned in the Harry Potter novels. A copy will be sold at auction next month to raise funds for Rowling’s The Children’s Voice charity. Unfortunately for her myriad of fans, the tales will not be published! She has made just seven copies of the book.