Thursday, March 31, 2011

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
ISBN: 0446362662
Grand Central Publishing, 1992
608 p.

Plot Summary: Dale, Duane, and a few other childhood friends live in a small Midwest town. They have the same problems as most kids: school, girls, bullies. However, an ancient evil that seems to originate from their old school building starts causing disturbing things to happen. One of the boys, an altar boy, notices that the minister of the church is acting strangely. One day, the minister turns into a horrible monstrosity and starts attacking him. A few other horrible things start happening to the boys, Dale gets pulled into his bedroom closet by an unknown force and nearly loses his life. The boys get together to research the history of their town and discover how to exorcise the evil from it. Now they'll have to infiltrate their old school through a network of tunnels that have mysteriously appeared.

Critical Analysis: Unlike many other horror authors, Dan Simmons knows how to build tension. At 600 pages, Summer of Night is a tome of a book, but Simmons makes the wait worthwhile. The terrifying things start happening very slowly. Simmons teases the reader with what's to come without coming away cheated. Once all hell breaks loose and the five boys are fighting for their lives, Simmons hits his stride and the reader cannot pull away from the page.

Simmons also wrote an immersive and amazing environment. A map of Elm Haven, Illinois is now stamped on my brain because of Simmons' descriptions. This helps give the reader the feeling that this is an epic horror story set in a small town. Summer of Night is also a coming of age story, with the boys tackling issues about self-identity while they live out their nightmares. Both of these elements combined give Summer of Night a Stand By Me type of feel. The same type of story would never have worked with a group of adults, yet Simmons took the risk to put them in scary adult situations.

The main criticism of the book is its length and I can mostly agree with that. Though the book is a bit of a slow burn and needs some extra space, there is some time wasted on ancilliary characters and excessive descriptions. A good editor could have probably told the story in 450-500 pages. This is a criticism of most of Dan Simmons' work: another of his horror epics Carrion Comfort is a bloated 800 pages, half of which were unnecessary. Simmons always writes a great story, but sometimes he makes the reader dig for it.

Reader's Annotation: An ancient evil has taken over Dale's hometown of Elm Haven, Illinois. Now it's up to him and his friends to exorcise their city of it.

Author Information: Born in a small Illinois town himself, Dan Simmons often uses his surroundings as inspiration. He also has a strong interest in history. In fact, two of his novels, The Terror and Drood are heavily researched fictional books based on the arctic Shackleton Expedition (the former) and the end of Charles Dickens' life (the latter). Dan Simmons writes in many different genres including science fiction, horror, detective novels, and suspense.


Genre: horror, adult/teen crossover

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Draw your own map of a fictional town like Elm Haven, Illinois.
Summer of Night features many sterotypical elements of horror, but comes of as fresh and original. Can you think of any other books you've read like this?

Reading Level: 15 to adult

Challenge Issues: disturbing images, blood, violence

Challenge Defense Ideas: Become familiar with the book, keeping the challenge issues in mind. Refer to the library's collection development policy here. If possible, find other opinions from reviews, recommendations, or others who have read the book.

Why I included this title: I'm a big fan of Dan Simmons, I think he's an underappreciated horror author. This was one of the books that got me back into reading during high school and I figured a similar situation could happen if a teen read it now. The book is simply written despite its length and is full of action, a great pick for any teenage boy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
ISBN: 978159514171
Razorbill, 2007
304 p.

Plot Summary: Hannah Baker recently committed suicide. A few days later, Clay Jensen receives a package with no return address for him. Inside are thirteen tapes of Hannah's now disembodied voice describing why she ended her life. The cassettes are to be sent to a handful of people, all of whom played a part in her tragedy. One of the reasons is a hurtful list that was distributed to the student body rating various body parts of women. She was voted "best ass in the Freshman class" much to her dismay. This and a few other rumors about her sexual encounters led to her being treated poorly and unfairly by her male peers. In one of the tapes, Hannah describes that Clay was her savior and potential lover, but his advances and emotions were too little, too late. Clay argues that by that time, she had already made up her mind.

Critical Analysis: I applaud Jay Asher for pulling no punches. In a recent review of Crank, I criticized Hopkins for tacking on a relatively happy ending that completely ignored the protagonist’s drug problem. Thirteen Reasons Why is uncomfortable and compelling to read. Hannah Baker does have many unpleasant experiences that are quite relatable to a high school experience. Surprisingly, Baker’s reasons for suicide are relatively understandable. Asher walks a fine line of showing her mental instability but showing that suicide is something that can cross anyone’s mind.

When starting the book, I was worried that Hannah’s reasons would all be fickle and narcissistic, but Asher actually confronts this possibility. At one point in the book, a class discusses an anonymous suicide note and everyone criticizes the writer for not being forthright about it and how selfish and dumb it was. Clearly, Asher’s message is that teenage suicide certainly can be selfish and narcissistic, but peers and teachers alike cannot treat it that way.

Despite its compelling nature, the structure and narrative of the story loses points for me. Asher has the reader following Clay while he listens to Hannah’s tapes and reacts. This is a fine structure, but it was very confusing to read. Clay’s thoughts are unitalicized while Hannah’s are italicized. They switch back and forth often and both characters are sometimes in the same location, so keeping track is sometimes overly difficult. I read that the audiobook utilizes two different voice actors for each narrative, so perhaps this would be the best format with which to enjoy Asher’s debut novel.

Reader’s Annotation: Hannah Baker recently committed suicide. Now 13 tapes are being distributed to a select few chronicling the reasons why.

Author Information: Jay Asher lived in most of California for his life. During a short stint in Wyoming, he came up with the idea for Thirteen Reasons Why while on an audio tour at a museum. He thought the idea of a disembodied voice describing your surroundings was compelling.

Genre: realistic fiction, drama, young adult

Curriculum Ties: this could be a great tool to use when discussing suicide in a health class

Booktalking Ideas: What are the steps that a student can take when a fellow peer is showing warning signs of suicide?

Why did Asher decide to use cassette tapes instead of CDs or even mp3s?

Reading Level/Interest Age: 15-18

Why I included this title: I needed more realistic fiction selections since I’m heavily a fantasy/science fiction reader. I thought the premise of this book was immediately interesting, much like a Chuck Palahniuk book. I barely tolerate young adult books that treat young adults as if they were children who can’t think for themselves and I thought this title exemplifies what an author can do to avoid that.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
ISBN: 0547119798
Houghton Mifflin, 2010
560 p.

Plot Summary: Clare and Henry De Tamble are star-crossed lovers of sorts. Henry has "chrono displacement disorder," meaning he travels back and forward in time at seemingly random intervals. Clare lives her life chronologically, so she sees Henry from girlhood to womanhood. Henry treats Clare age-appropriately, acting as a loving father-type friend during girlhood and a lover during womanhood. However, all good things must come to an end and Henry must figure out what happens if he travels too far into the future.

Critical Analysis: While The Time Traveler's Wife was a compelling read, Niffenegger fell into many of the literary clich├ęs and traps that time travel books are privy to. She uses downright ham-fisted foreshadowing that lessens the dramatic impact of events in the story. It can be assumed this plays into the theme of fate and inevitable occurrences, but that doesn’t make up for the predictability of most events in the book.

Niffenegger also makes what I feel is a fatal mistake – trying to explain why Henry time travels. He has a genetic disorder called “chrono displacement.” This has very little impact on the story and is hardly followed up on, so why not just leave the mystery to the imagination of the readers? This could have left a (more interesting) open ending, perhaps allowing readers to believe that Henry was a figment of Clare’s imagination, or even a ghost.

Niffenegger feebly tries to portray Henry and Clare as a forward-thinking, gender role-reversing couple. Well, other than a few thin veils, this is all straight out of 1950s sitcoms. Clare patiently waits for Henry to come back from his time traveling adventures, something fictional women have had to do since the days of the Odyssey. Clare is also a stay at home mom. It just felt like Niffenegger had the idea to write a progressive couple but fell back into genre stereotypes and started writing sentimental drivel.

Reader's Annotation: Henry and Clare are in love, but what will time and fate have in store for their star crossed romance?

Author Information: Niffenegger is a Chicago native and this was her first published book. She has also written a few graphic novels. The Time Traveler's Wife was adapted into film in 2010.


Genre: romance, science fiction, teen crossover

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Were Clare and Henry meant to be? Does chrono displacement doom them from the start?

What is the importance of Chicago as a backdrop?

Interest Level/Reading Age: 16 to adult

Challenge Issues: frank sexual discussion and scenes

Challenge Defense Ideas: Become familiar with the book, keeping the challenge issues in mind. Refer to the library's collection development policy here. If possible, find other opinions from reviews, recommendations, or others who have read the book.

Why I included this title: This would be a great teen crossover because the prose flows simply and the vignettes it is told in are nice and bite-sized for those who don't have a lot of time to read. It also deals with both characters in their teenage years, so it is interesting to see them progress into adulthood. Overall, a compulsively readable (even if not nuanced) book.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tithe by Holly Black

Tithe by Holly Black
ISBN: 0689867042
Margaret K. Elderberry, 2004
336 p.

Plot Summary: Kaye is a teenage girl who finds out that she is a pixie in disguise. Ever since she was young, she has interacted with tiny pixies and fairies, but thought nothing of it until she saved the life of a knight named Roiben. She learns his full name, which in the world of Faerie means that he must do what she commands when she says his name. There are two warring factions in Faerie and one wants to sacrifice Kaye as a Tithe in a ritual that will satiate both parties. Kaye, her friend Corny, and her possible interest Roiben will have to figure out how to deal with the friendly but sometimes malevolent world of Faerie.

Critical Analysis: Tithe is a dark and brooding novel. Kaye's mother is an alcoholic who plays in a rock band, it always seems to be raining in her world, and drugs and alcohol are often present. The world of Faerie is both malevolent and friendly, much like Kaye's friend Roiben. At times, he seems interested and protective of Kaye, other times, he comes off as dangerous and cloying.

More than most other young adult books I have read for this project, Tithe is dense. Black has a large vocabulary that she does not shy away from and her prose is full of detail and imagery. Unfortunately, this is both commendable and reprehensible. On one hand, I can appreciate a young adult author who does not dumb down her writing, but on the other, Tithe was difficult to follow. Black introduces elements of the Faerie world or characters and does not revisit them until much later. There is potential for depth, but it would almost require a reread to fully comprehend everything.

Similarly, Tithe falls into a few young adult sterotypes and tropes. Roiben is the archetype of the brooding and mysterious male love interest so often seen in young adult books. He comes off as loving and dangerous and even creepy at some points. Also, the connection between Roiben and Kaye seems forced altogether even despite a spell that was put on him.

Reader's Annotation: Kaye has unknowingly stumbled into an underground world of Faerie. Now two warring factions seem to be fighting over her!

Author Information: Holly Black is the author of the Faerie Trilogy, Tithe being the first. She also created The Spiderwick Chronicles. Black has an Eisner-nominated graphic novel series entitled The Good Neighbors as well.


Genre: urban fantasy, young adult for the ladies

Curriculum Ideas: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Fairies and pixies are not often used in fantasy books. Why is this? Did Black do it justice?

Authors like Neil Gaiman and Holly Black incorporate mythology into their fictional work. Do you think this is becoming a trend in writing?

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 16 and up

Challenge Issues: Drugs, smoking, cussing

Challenge Defense Ideas: Become familiar with the book, keeping the challenge issues in mind. Refer to the library's collection development policy here. If possible, find other opinions from reviews, recommendations, or others who have read the book.

Why I included this title: This was recommended to me by a friend, she said it was a Neil Gaiman readalike. I also thought I should read a few books that appeal more to the female young adult audience. Teens would appreciate the dark tone and risky behavior of Kaye in this book as well.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Undeclared: The Complete Series by Judd Apatow

Undeclared: The Complete Series
Created by Judd Apatow
Starring Seth Rogen and Jason Segel
Run time 615 minutes

Plot Summary: Steven Carp (played by Jay Baruchel) is just starting as a Freshman in college. He meets his roommates, a wise cracking Seth Rogen, a Brit who is popular with the ladies, and an all around crazy dunce. Steven has a crush on Lizzie, but she has a boyfriend. Steven and company go through the difficulties of college, anywhere from paying to get a paper written to getting a job to dealing with a parent's divorce. The friendship and potential relationship between Steven and Lizzie and the tension involved in Lizzie's boyfriend are the driving forces of the show.

Critical Analysis: Undeclared plays as a foil to Judd Apatow's other failed teen-based series Freaks and Geeks. While the latter was a more emotional take on teen life, the former is a more comedy based look at college life.

The casting was very good, many of these actors, such as Seth Rogen and Jason Segel, went on to have successful film careers. The overall sincerity and empathy that Apatow clearly has for individuals in this situation endears the show to its viewers. Each show did not go so far as to have a "lesson," but a new thing was learned about each character in each episode. The writers were very equal opportunity in characterizing each individual.

Unfortunately, most of the way through the series, it was floundering in ratings. In light of this, Judd Apatow desperately brought in celebrities for cameos, which cheapened the impact of later episodes. Although Will Farrell as a paper writing guru and Adam Sandler as himself were entertaining, they added very little to the show overall. It is a shame that Apatow's clever TV shows did not enjoy continued success, but sometimes one shot series' are the best because they don't have time to get stale.

Reader's Annotation: Steven Carp has a long hard road ahead of him at college. Will he be able to make it through unscathed?

Author Information: Other than this show, Judd Apatow created Freaks and Geeks and has directed a few films including Knocked Up and Funny People.

Genre: teen comedy, college humor, sitcom

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Is Apatow's vision of college accurate? What did he get right and wrong?

Reading Level/Interest Age: 14 to adult

Challenge Issues: N/A

Why I included this title: Much like his other work on Freaks and Geeks, Apatow accurately and sympathetically portrays the highs and lows of the lives of young people. His characters are funny, dramatic, and are not perfect, much like the rest of us. I'd recommend this show to anyone, but I think teens especially would be smart to watch this accurate and funny interpretation of freshman year of college.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Viral by Alex Van Tol

Viral by Alex Van Tol
ISBN: 1554694116
Orca, 2011
136 p.

Plot Summary: This story follows the relationship between Mike and Lindsay, two high school seniors. They start out as best friends who hang out and just talk all of the time. At a party at the beginning of summer, Mike realizes his love for Lindsay but she sees a girl named Scarlett forcing herself on him and mistakes it for something serious. Over the summer, Lindsay seems to have ditched her old athletic self for a weight obsessed popularity magnet. Lindsay seems to be making dangerous choices and Mike can't decide whether or not to intervene or just forget about his missed opportunity. Once a viral video of a nude Lindsay gets out, things really start to take a turn for the worse.

Critical Analysis: This line of books is written specifically for reluctant readers. As a result, it was very short and pulpy even. The only backstory is what is necessary and there are almost no other characters besides Mike and Lindsey. The plot is almost soap operatic, but in an entertaining way. Van Tol does not pad the book out with any unnecessary details and makes for a good quick read.

Like many young adult books, Viral tackles many issues that are relevant to teens today. Van Tol treats some well, and others not so well. Mike seems averse to drugs and alcohol, like many young adult protagonists. It is implied that Lindsey is date raped in the book and Mike's reaction is to beat up those responsible. Lindsey's biggest worry is her reputation. While I agree this might be how teenagers think, I was flabbergasted that Van Tol left it at that.

In that same vein, Viral sets up many problems for its characters, but frustratingly does not resolve them. I know this is a pulp book and ambiguous or cut-short types of endings are conducive to the format, but I found it frustrating nonetheless. Overall, I think Viral does hit its target audience in that it is a fast and entertaining read that doesn't take too much thinking to enjoy.

Reader's Annotation: Mike's best friend is Lindsey, but his feelings for her are turning to love. When she starts making dangerous decisions, how will he break through to his former best friend?

Author Information: Van Tol has also written a few other books for Orca, including a book called Knifepoint. He also writes nonfiction books for teenagers.

Source: author page

Genre: realistic fiction, drama

Curriculum Ties: This book could be used in a health class to discuss drug use at parties and the dangers of date rape.

Booktalking Ideas: What is the fate of Lindsey after the last page ends?

Are Mike and Lindsey right for each other as lovers or just friends?

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13-16

Challenge Issues: Drug use, sexual scenes

Challenge Defense Ideas: Become familiar with the book, keeping the challenge issues in mind. Refer to the library's collection development policy here. If possible, find other opinions from reviews, recommendations, or others who have read the book.

Why I included this title: Including a book that is especially tailored towards reluctant readers seems like a good idea. This was also a bit of a guilty pleasure, what with all of the high school drama, sex, and drug use. I think it has that instant appeal much like reality television or soap operas.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block

Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
ISBN: 9780060736255
HarperTeen, 2004
136 p.

Plot Summary: Weetzie and Dirk are punk kids in high school. They strike up a friendship and Dirk reveals that he is gay. The two of them go to punk shows, eat hot dogs, and go boy hunting, or as they call it, duck hunting. Weetzie lives with her grandma Fifi, a very hip old lady who raised Weetzie. In the dream-like setting (Shangri-L. A.) a genie grants Weetzie three wishes. She wishes for a duck (or boy) for Dirk, a secret agent lover man for herself, and a fairy tale house for them all to live in. Weetzie gets her fairy tale house, but only because her grandmother dies and leaves it to her. Dirk meets a duck who happens to be named Duck and Weetzie meets her secret agent lover man. They all live in a house together, find out what love means and the intricacies of having children.

Critical Analysis: The biggest strength of Weetzie Bat is its uniqueness. It has a fairy tale quality to it and reads unlike any other young adult book I have come across. Many of Block's works are controversial and nontraditional and this one is no exception. She represents unconventional families and shows that they can be just as happy if not happier than traditional atomic families.

Adding to the unconventional characters and situations, the setting and prose of Weetzie Bat furthers its uniqueness. Block paints an interesting and dynamic picture of Los Angeles, one that feels dream-like and whimsical. Much like Block's other works, it reads like poetry; the prose is lyrical and Block makes use of many interesting metaphors.

My criticism of Weetzie Bat can be interpreted both as good and bad. The story is not very plot-driven, so if one is not prepared for that, it can be a frustrating read. It reminded me quite a bit of one of my favorite authors Haruki Murakami, who writes about real life situations with dream-like states and occurrences. A reluctant reader or a young adult who is just starting out reading would most likely have trouble appreciating this book. On the other hand, it is unique and edgy, so perhaps that could make up for its lack of a strong story.

Reader’s Annotation: After Weetzie meets a genie and makes three wishes, she finds that there are some obstacles between having true love and a fairy tale house.

Author Information: Block, a Los Angeles native, is known for her magical-realism tales and numerous award-winning young adult novels.

Genre: fantasy, fairy tale, young adult for the ladies

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: How does this book the challenge the convention of a modern family?

If Weetzie had thought more about it more, would she have made different wishes? Why or why not?

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 15-18

Challenge Issues: nontraditional sexuality and families, extramarital sex, homosexuality

Challenge Defense ideas: Become familiar with the book, keeping the challenge issues in mind. Refer to the library's collection development policy here. If possible, find other opinions from reviews, recommendations, or others who have read the book.

Why I included this title: This book doesn’t follow the standard novel format and it reads more like poetry, so it is good for variety. Weetzie Bat is a good example of different writing style and good storytelling. It is a good representation of a nontraditional family, and I think it is important to be inclusive in young adult literature.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wizard magazine February 2011

Wizard Magazine
February 2011
10Ten media

Plot Summary: The February 2011 issue of Wizard magazine is the 2011preview issue, meaning the editors interviewed creators and publishers to find out what comics readers had to look forward to this year. Dark Horse Comics, the publisher of Hellboy, promised a new Hellboy trade and a few other spinoffs. The editors also did a preview of films coming out in 2011, including Captain America, Thor, and Green Lantern. Similarly, they did a story on superhero video games coming out in 2011 including Batman: Arkham City and Captain America: Super Soldier. Finally, as in all publications of Wizard, a price guide for single issues of comics is included in the back.

Critical Analysis: Wizard is perhaps the most trusted publication in the comics world. They always offer concise and accurate reviews of major comics from DC and Marvel but also of independent publishers such as Top Shelf, Fantagraphics, and Top Cow. As is evident from the plot summary, Wizard also keeps its readers updated in the comics world in other mediums such as video games and film. The editors seem to really know their subject and are passionate about it.

Unfortunately, Wizard magazine is very clearly a boy's club. Admittedly, most comics alienate women in the form of blatant sexism or weak female characters, but Wizard magazine does nothing to help. When women are mentioned in an article, they treat them as sex objects, not an important aspect of the comic or film. Comics are becoming more and more inclusive, it's unfortunate to see such a widely used comics publication take a step back in terms of inclusivity.

Wizard magazine is a reliable and well-written publication that many comics fans look to. In the age of the internet, where anyone can and will write about comics, having a trustworthy and long-running publication is an asset. Despite the dated gender views of the editors, Wizard magazine remains a good resource for comics news.

Reader's Annotation: The February 2011 issue of Wizard magazine offers never-before-seen previews on your favorite comics and superhero films.

Author Information: Wizard magazine launched in 1991, promoting releases from independent publishers like Image. The magazine is having difficulty remaining relevant, but continues publication.


Genre: magazine, graphic novels, comics

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Explain the current trend in superhero film adaptations.

Many say that Batman: Arkham Asylum was the first superhero game that developers got right. Why is this?

Interest Level/Reading Age: 12 to adult

Challenge Issues: N/A

Why I included this title: Teens are huge fans of comics, so there's definitely an audience for a publication on comics out there. This is also a great place to start for teens looking to get into comics, there's often a "best of" feature and the editors are good at asking creators about good places to start.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

XVI by Julia Karr

XVI by Julia Karr
ISBN: 9780142417713
Speak, 2011
272 p.

Plot Summary: Nina lives in a near future dystopian world where citizens are constantly bombarded by "verts," or advertisements. Every girl in this society must get an "XVI" tattoo when they turn sixteen to show others that they are sexually available. Nina is nervous about turning sixteen and all of her friends seem to be obsessed with the idea of being promiscuous and sexually active. Meanwhile, Nina's mother dies and starts finding clues that her mother and father were or are NonCons, people who refuse to tolerate the 1984-esque oppressive government. She must juggle her feelings with a new boy, defend herself from an angry stepdad, and figure out what to do when she turns sixteen before everything comes to a head.

Critical Analysis: XVI has a clever premise, but poor execution. Karr is clearly an inexperienced author and it shows in her writing style. The plot is a bit muddled and she portrays the future poorly. Instead of the colloquialism "I dodged a bullet there," the characters instead say "I dodged a laser there." I found this to be a cheesy ad-lib style to try and portray an otherwise interesting dystopian society.

The characters in XVI are decently portrayed, but all of them obviously serve a purpose. Nina's friend Sandy is there to be the oversexed depiction of what this society does to women. Sal is the tall, dark, and mysterious love interest. The relationships in this book were also poorly executed. Nina starts out saying that she doesn't understand love and thinks this oversexed society is wrong, then twenty pages later falls head over heels for Sal. Also, all of Nina's friends conveniently get matched up with each other throughout the course of the book.

XVI is unfortunately a failed execution of clever ideas. Dystopian novels are common these days, but this angle of repressed women and bombardment of advertisements make it unique. However, the injection of other young adult tropes such as forced love interest and distant or dead parents made it seem at other times like no creativity went into the book at all.

Reader's Annotation: Most girls can't wait until they turn sixteen in Nina's futuristic society. Nina, on the other hand, dreads the day and she may have good reason.

Author Information: Karr grew up designing greeting cards and writing poetry. She is also a late starting author, she began writing when her children left the house.


Genre: dystopian literature, science fiction, YA for the ladies

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: What is the importance of the XVI tattoo? Why is Nina so worried about getting it?

Compare XVI to other dystopian literature such as 1984 and more recently Matched.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 14-16

Challenge Issues: sexual content

Challenge Defense Ideas: Become familiar with the book, keeping the challenge issues in mind. Refer to the library's collection development policy here. If possible, find other opinions from reviews, recommendations, or others who have read the book.

Why I included this title: Dystopian literature is a relatively new trend in YA fiction and I thought it would be good to catch up on it. It is also interesting to read science fiction aimed towards young women. I think teens would enjoy the fast paced nature of this book and its interesting premise would help it get off the shelves.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Y the Last Man series by Brian K. Vaughan

Y the Last Man series by Brian K. Vaughan
ISBN: 9781563899805
Vertigo, 2003-2009

Plot Summary: Yorick and his pet Ampersand are the last two living males on Earth. The book begins with a scene of all of the men in the world coughing up blood and collapsing. It seems that the apocalypse has fallen upon Earth and Yorick has to find out why is happened and how he and his male monkey survived. Further complicating matters, Yorick's long distance girlfriend is across the world in Australia. Yorick will have to venture through an apocalyptic wasteland populated only by women to reach his girlfriend and hopefully solve the mystery as well.

Critical Analysis: Vaughan's graphic novel is one of the first in the 2000s to be a truly amazing tale told with no superheroes whatsoever. Since Sandman told a decidedly superhero-averse tale, Vertigo has taken many chances on different types of stories. Thankfully they chose to publish this one, it is one of the best science fiction stories I've read, graphic novel or not.

Vaughan peppers Yorick's dialogue with clever pop culture references that give the book a modern feel. Unlike many melodramatic graphic novels that try to play up every emotion a character has, Y the Last Man has a much more subtle foreboding feel that permeates the entire series. Vaughan's superb writing and Guerra's intense attention to character detail to show the passing of time make this series unlike any other.

Y the Last Man's plot is well-written enough that it feels like Yorick and company always have a purpose. Each issue puts pieces of the mystery into place or takes some out of the equation. Vaughan does a great job of tantalizing the readers with the mysteries of the world, but never making it seem like he's dangling a proverbial carrot in front of the reader's mouths to keep them reading. Vaughan very smartly ended Y the Last Man at fifty issues, or ten trades. No more, no less. The characters will never be revisited. In a world of superhero rebirths and reboots, it's refreshing to read an open and closed series that ends satisfyingly.

Reader's Annotation: Yorick and his pet monkey ampersand are the only males left living on Earth. They'll have to journey across a post apocalyptic world to find the answer.

Author Information: Brian K. Vaughan is a popular comics author who has also done work on Runaways and Pride of Baghdad. He also helped write for television on NBC's Lost.


Genre: science fiction, graphic novel, post apocalypse

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Will the mystery ever be answered or will it all be red herrings? Would it be more satisfying to have a specific answer or not?

What is the significance of Yorick's name?

Interest level/Reading age: 16 to adult

Challenge Issues: nudity, violence

Challenge Defense Ideas: Become familiar with the book, keeping the challenge issues in mind. Refer to the library's collection development policy here. If possible, find other opinions from reviews, recommendations, or others who have read the book.

Why I included this title: Y the Last Man is one of the best graphic novel series I've read in years. It is compelling to the point that I read three or four trades in a night. Sandman is unique has appeal to both male and female readers and I think this series can be put in the same category. It's also a great series to start on for those unfamiliar with graphic novels as a medium.