Fortune favors the bold
In our four exciting choices for Teen Read Week (October 14-20), readers can root for heroes and heroines who fear near-impossible challenges with uncommon courage and a little magic.
A quest of destiny
There is a long history of prejudice against people with dwarfism, and while today we know it is usually caused by a genetic disorder, author Katherine Marsh details the cruel treatment of Renaissance dwarf jesters in her fascinating new novel. To imagine the world of Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, Marsh drew inspiration from a portrait of a court dwarf to Philip IV of Spain, “Don Sebastián de Morra” by Diego Velázquez—a painting that suggests sympathy for the poorly treated little people of the day.
Jepp leaves home for court, thinking that a whole new world will open for him; what he finds instead is a version of slavery. Punished for helping another dwarf try to escape, Jepp is sent to Uraniborg Castle to serve Lord Tycho, a character based on the real Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe.
Although a brilliant seeker of truth about the stars, Tycho is an eccentric, often cruel master. Jepp’s place at dinner is under the table, and he sleeps in the stable with Tycho’s pet moose. At first given menial tasks like filling inkpots and cleaning Tycho’s celestial globe, Jepp begins to learn from the scholars around him and eventually reveals his secret command of Latin. “Fate has cast me here, but I wish to learn and better myself,” he tells his master.
With an engaging hero and unusual setting, Jepp is compelling historical fiction about the treatment of those who are different and the challenges they face to be viewed as equals.
Run, Will, run
Will West knows how to blend in. He can run 1.2 miles in 3:47 minutes and scores off the charts in aptitude tests, but his teachers can barely remember his name. As the 14-year-old hero of The Paladin Prophecy, the first in a new series from New York Times best-selling author Mark Frost, Will should be showing off his talents; instead, he’s keeping the promise he made to his parents to never reveal his true abilities.
Will and his parents have moved from city to city “like Bedouins every eighteen months.” On a breathtakingly beautiful Southern California morning, though, Will finds out why: Someone is after them—him, especially—and now his father’s admonition to trust no one is proving very helpful.
Whether it’s by dark-suited men in black sedans or yawping, snarling, fleshy masses from the nightmarish Never-Was, Will is being chased. They’ve already gotten to his mother; the proof is in her glassy eyes and eerie smile. “Do whatever you need to do to stay alive,” his father tells him in a video message. And so Will does.
Frost, co-creator of the creepy television show “Twin Peaks,” heads in a more action-adventure, sci-fi direction with The Paladin Prophecy. The result is a fast, fun novel that will spark imaginations like something off the silver screen.
Surviving when order is lost
Newbery Medal-winning author Karen Hesse is known for tales of characters finding rays of hope in situations of despair. In Safekeeping, Hesse envisions a future United States torn apart by civil war. Teenage Radley, returning to Vermont after volunteering at an orphanage in Haiti, looks forward to her parents meeting her at the airport. But her parents are missing—and her credit card and cell phone are useless. Strangers are wary, daylight curfews are violently enforced and the police may be chasing her. Hoping her parents have sought sanctuary in Canada, Radley heads north.
Along the way, Radley cautiously befriends the secretive Celia and her loyal dog, Jerry Lee. As the three travelers seek safety, shelter and food, they also struggle with defining their new identities, accepting their past regrets and learning to live in a world where the rules have suddenly and irrevocably changed.
Fifty of Hesse’s original black-and-white photographs accompany the narration. The photographs, which include panoramic views of landscapes, ghostly images of abandoned buildings and close-up shots of ordinary objects, enhance the story. Sometimes they directly illustrate Radley’s world; other times they set the tone or invite further reflection on a theme.
Readers looking for an introspective view of a post-apocalyptic world, or who enjoyed the use of photographs in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, won’t want to miss this latest example of an emerging form of young adult literature.
Flapper girls and phantoms
The lights and sounds of 1926 Manhattan burst to life in Printz Award-winner Libba Bray’s exciting new historical fantasy series.
When 17-year-old Evie O’Neill causes a scandal in her Ohio hometown, her parents banish her to Manhattan to live with her Uncle Will, a paranormal expert and curator at the failing Museum of the Creepy Crawlies. Evie is thrilled to sneak out to illicit nightclubs, drink “hooch” at speakeasies and drag her best friend into trouble every step of the way. When a young girl is sadistically murdered, the lead detective asks Uncle Will for help, but Evie discovers that as a Diviner (a person with supernatural abilities), she is the key to finding the killer.
Interwoven throughout Evie’s story are the lives of other Diviners. Memphis is a Harlem numbers-runner who can heal with his hands. Theta is a Ziegfeld girl with a violent gift. Sam is a hypnotic pickpocket who’s after Evie’s heart. None of them know about each other’s powers, but as the series progresses, these dynamic characters will come together to stop a growing evil.
Incredibly haunting and at times frightening, The Diviners is well researched and ambitious. The glitzy nightlife, the kitschy slang and the flapper-girl fashion all invoke the glamour of the Roaring ’20s. Readers will love Evie, a fearless and charming protagonist who lights up the book with her carefree attitude and sense of humor. This is Heroes meets the Jazz Age, and one could divine it will be the next big series in YA.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE
Read an interview with Libba Bray for The Diviners.