Posts Tagged ‘YA fiction’

Booklist: Northern Frights– Canada and Alaska in YA Fiction

Published by Kirsten on July 29th, 2014 - in Uncategorized

Having recently returned from vacation in Alaska and Canada, suddenly I’m finding myself surrounded by YA titles set in those places. While I wouldn’t call these horror in any kind of traditional sense (with the possible exception of Visions) survival stories do possess their own kind of terror and fascination, and there are a lot of survival stories set in the Far North, where the setting, in itself, is often a major character.
The Call of the Wild, White Fang & To Build a Fire  by Jack London

Animals seem to play a large part in stories of the north, and nowhere is that more obvious than in The Call of the Wild. ” To Build a Fire” is actually a short story, and it always terrified me. You can almost feel yourself freezing to death along with the main character. There is no doubt about it that Jack London could truly evoke the wildness and savagery of the far north.
  Visions by Eric Walters

Teenage twin brothers are shanghaied by their biologist mother into “vacationing” on a remote Alaskan island while she studies muskoxen. Mystical visions, ghosts and curses draw the brothers into a situation where only their ability to set spirits to rest will allow them, their mother, and the rest of their scientific team, to leave the island.  Walters does a good job of drawing lively characters, and creates a nicely creepy atmosphere with details that are fitted well to the setting.
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

After teenager Cole Matthews severely injures another boy, he is sent to a remote Alaskan island for a year as an alternative to jail time. In anger, he destroys his supplies, and while there, he is badly mauled by a white bear. Is it really possible for him to survive, much less be redeemed? Mikaelsen has a talent for vivid description and deals with issues here that many boys will have to face in their teen years.
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford

A cat and two dogs travel through the Canadian wilderness on a trek to reach their family and home. That’s a description of the plot, but doesn’t begin to do it justice.  I speak from personal knowledge when I say that this is an unforgettable book.
Brian’s Return by Gary Paulsen

Gary Paulsen is probably best known for Hatchet, a middle grade novel about Brian Robeson, a boy who lives through an airplane crash  and must survive alone in the northern wilderness. There are several sequels to Hatchet, and Brian’s Return, the final book, is definitely NOT a middle grade novel. In Brian’s Return, Brian is a high school student who is having difficulty fitting in after his time out in the wilderness, and he returns to the place where he now feels he belongs. There’s a pretty intense battle with a grizzly bear– parts of Brian’s Return are pretty scary (or were for me when I read it). Survival stories are not typically my thing, but Paulsen knows his stuff and he will grab the attention of many, many reluctant readers. The previous books, in order, are Hatchet, The River, and Brian’s Winter. Brian’s Return can be read as a stand alone novel, but the background knowledge from the three earlier books is helpful.
My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson

This isn’t horror, or an adventure/survival story, but it is a powerful and original piece of writing, and even though it’s a National Book Award finalist, it hasn’t gotten as much exposure as it should. Luke is an Alaskan native sent to a Catholic boarding school with his brothers. His brother Isaac is deemed too young for school and is separated from him and sent into foster care. Tensions between students are high, and the teachers vary from frightening to friendly. The story takes place in the 1960s, during the height of the Cold War, and the students find that they have been involuntarily enrolled in a government experiment that requires them to ingest radioactive iodine, not something Luke is going to take lying down.  My Name Is Not Easy exposes prejudice for a group that is often overlooked, with fantastic descriptions and nuanced characters. Edwardson apparently based the book on her husband’s experiences of growing up in boarding school. If you know a teen who has read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and loved it, this is a good recommendation.
Jason’s Gold by Will Hobbs

How can you have a list of books about Alaska without one mentioning the Gold Rush? On this list, Jason’s Gold is that book. Middle grade students can enjoy this as well as middle schoolers.  Fifteen year old Jason catches gold fever, stows away on a boat to Alaska, and undertakes the difficult, and sometimes frightening, journey through the Alaskan winter to reach the Klondike gold fields, accompanied by… a young Jack London.  The Gold Rush setting gives this survival story a little twist– while you can’t say Jason knows what he’s getting into, he has a definite reason of his own for being there. Jason’s Gold has a sequel, Down the Yukon, that is just as good. Author Will Hobbs has written several other books set in the far north including one titled, you guessed it, Far North.

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George.

You can’t have a discussion of Alaska in YA fiction without bringing up this Newbery Medal award winner. In a different kind of survival story, thirteen year old Miyax was raised in traditional Eskimo ways by her father. After a traumatic experience with her husband (through an arranged marriage) she decides to run away to  her pen pal in San Francisco, who knows her as Julie. Lost in the wilderness, she learns she must depend on the skills her father taught her, even as she attempts to escape her situation, and is adopted into a community of wolves.

Happy travels, and stay prepared!



Book Review: Break My Heart 1,000 Times by Daniel Waters

Published by Kirsten on July 9th, 2014 - in Uncategorized

Break My Heart 1,000 Times by Daniel Waters
Hyperion 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4231-2198-5
Available: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle

The sight of ghosts has become commonplace to Veronica and her friends since the “Event”. Ghosts are everywhere–walking about in classrooms, standing on street corners, going to the mailbox, and even reading books in the local library. Veronica also sees the ghost of her father sitting at the table reading the newspaper every morning, while the ghost of a teenage boy named Brian hangs out in her bathroom. These days though, it seems the ghosts are gaining power.

It’s not long before Veronica realizes maybe it’s not the ghosts she should be quick to step around, but the living instead, as Mr. Bittner, one of her teachers at Montcreif High, begins to stalk her in the creepiest of ways, like popping up at the coffee shop when she stops in for a quick cup of tea, and staring at her a little too long in class. Why is he following her?  What does he want?  And why does the ghost of Mary Greer appear on his front steps every morning?

Fans of author Daniel Waters, who also wrote the Generation Dead series, will likely sink their teeth into this stand-alone supernatural story filled with paranormal suspense, ghostly chills and fast-paced action.

Recommended: YA Ages 12 to 18

Contains: Minor Violence

Reviewed by Tina Mockmore


Book Review: Definitely Not Kansas: Book One in the Nocturnia Cycle by F. Paul Wilson and Thomas Monteleone

Published by Kirsten on May 12th, 2014 - in Uncategorized

Definitely Not Kansas  Curses! The problem with missing out on getting up a review in a timely fashion is that this book, Definitely Not Kansas: Book One in the Nocturnia Cycle, initially published in a limited edition, is not currently available. I hope the publishers will put it out as a trade paperback or at least an ebook soon, though, as that’s the best way to reach the market this is actually intended for. Most readers of YA or middle grade fiction aren’t seeking out small presses for their reading material, and this sounds like a book that would definitely snag their interest. Here’s the review for Definitely Not Kansas, anyway, though, because with a recommendation this enthusiastic, certainly those outside the horror community ought to know about it. You know, like librarians. Who can’t purchase a book that is out of print, so come on, great publishers, and get that book out in a more easily available edition! Read on for a great review and go hassle these folks into getting it out into more hands.

–The Editor



Definitely Not Kansas: Book One of the Nocturnia Chronicles by F. Paul Wilson & Tom Monteleone

Borderlands/Gauntlet Press, 2013.


We’re definitely not home anymore, and I doubt Dorothy would last a minute in Nocturnia. Munchkins would likely find themselves on a menu in this imaginative, fascinating homage to Oz.

The last time Borderlands Press and Gauntlet Press combined their talents to produce a single book, readers were treated to Shadow Show, which garnered a Bram Stoker Award.  So when the two presses decided to collaborate again, fans wondered how the presses could top that title.  The result of their partnership is a young adult novel penned by two well-known authors.  F. Paul Wilson and Thomas F. Monteleone are no strangers to awards, blockbuster books, or each other.  Where many collaborations fall short due to varying factors, these two created a fantastic, delightfully horrific world , with writing that flows effortlessly. It could be due to the fact that they’ve been buddies for decades or that they both know how to tell a lean, mean, story.  Merging styles is difficult– here, however, the writing is seamless and it feels like a single author penned the entire novel.  Not once does the reader feel as if he or she is holding a book; instead, the covers disappear as the reader falls into the grand world Wilson and Monteleone have created.

Definitely Not Kansas owes something to The Wizard of Oz, of course, but that inspiration is merely jumping off point.  Nocturnia is a much darker, more frightening place and when the tornado drops Emma and Ryan into the strange world, the similarities end and all bets are off.  On a quest to find Telly, their missing older brother, Emma and Ryan are pulled through a vortex where reality ceases to exist. Nocturnia operates in parallel to Emma and Ryan’s world, separate and deadly, as readers discover the origins of these creatures on Earth and even the flowers can kill.  The nation of monsters is a nation of states which exist uneasily with each other and something much darker frightens them all.

Humans are considered slaves and cattle, bred for labor– and food — in a land inhabited by vampires, werewolves, zombies, and more. This could be considered a “kitchen sink” story, cashing on popular tropes, and likely would be just that in lesser hands. Yet here, the setting is character, and the creatures reside in a well-constructed world where they are anything but clichés.

Emma and Ryan propel this tale as they take the reader along a journey of survival and discovery. Both are strong lead characters and the cast of monstrous villains are anything but cookie-cutter caricatures. Surprises await around every corner and one can only imagine where the next book will travel.

An interesting afterword is included, on how the series was created by both authors, and will only further intrigue the reader. Monteleone and Wilson obviously love living in Nocturnia, and it shows on the pages.  It’s doubtful that readers will be able to resist, either, on this frightening, but fun, ride.

Nocturnia takes the reader by the throat and the heart, and never relents. Anyone who loves a good story, and who still embraces the youth within, will tumble head over heels into the vortex for this new series.


Reviewed by Dave Simms