Yes, Egmont doesn’t always put on a librarian preview, but once in a while they do and I was pleased to partake of their copious heaps of cheese (cheese = always good) when seeing the latest titles they have on the roster. Meeting in the rehearsal room of a building on the outskirts of the Fashion District, I was pretty sure going in that 90% or so of what I’d be seeing would be YA. As you may have noticed, for big time publishers I tend to avoid reporting on the teen fare, but for smaller folks that wouldn’t make a heckuva lot of sense. Egmont, however, wasn’t lacking for middle grade fare, which gives this list a nice balance.
First up! A book that’s already out. Sorry folks. Or rather (checks watch) it will be out in a mere week or so. Bitter Melon by Cara Chow features a girl who lives in San Francisco with her overbearing Chinese immigrant mother. Now take a gander at that gorgeous cover for a moment. First off, yes it’s great to see a jacket that doesn’t whitewash the race of the main character. But above and beyond that, when was the last time you saw a person of color on a teen book jacket smiling? I said this aloud at home and my husband brought up Elijah of Buxton, which was an interesting point in and of itself. Books with drawn covers aren’t afraid to have smiling kids. Why do photographs fear them so? Are cover models so wrapped up in brooding that they’ve forgotten how to flash some teeth? Ponderables.
Another book due out in about 7 days is The Lost Saint, a follow up to The Dark Divine by Bree Despain. To celebrate this new release there was a selection of nail polish along one side of the room that we were encourage to partake of. I’m not much of a polish gal myself, but it’s the thought that counts. Now some of you may already know that The Dark Divine was a retelling of the parable of The Prodigal Son. In the case of The Lost Saint, the story is a retelling of the parable of The Good Samaritan. I don’t know much about the series aside from these details. I do know, though, that I have a hard time hearing about the Good Samaritan story without thinking of That Mitchell and Webb Look.
Now I missed reading the first Jaguar Stones book Middleworld by the husband and wife team of J&P Voelkel. A pity since apparently if you have the authors visit your school or library they will appear with an eight-foot Mayan costume in tow. Sold as a kind of “Percy Jackson set in the Mayan Underworld”, Al Roker picked #1 to be a part of his children’s Today Show bookclub, which couldn’t have hurt sales any. In #2 our hero hasn’t kept his promise to the Mayan underworld gods to find the 2nd jaguar stone yet. Fortunately this book has possessed monkeys, human sacrifice, a girl named Nastysmith Jones, and an evil band manager. Beautiful.
From the author who brought you the dystopian Candor comes a new and wholly original novel by the name of Drought. In this society a religious group lives as veritable slaves in the woods, gathering a rare dew that apparently extends lives (many in the group are 200 or so). Our heroine appears to be 17 and falls for one of the new guards. Yet it’s not the water that extends lives in this place. It’s something else, and something she happens to possess. And as you can see by the cover, this is a new submission into the world of one-eyed book jackets.
They didn’t call it this but this next book felt like nothing so much as Pamela Service’s Stinker from Space meets last year’s Z-Rex. In The Rendering by Joel Naftali you have a boy who just loves his video games. His aunt is a research scientist, and one day a fellow crazy scientist takes over her center. The result is that a large amount of biotechnology is loaded into the boy’s three . . . um . . . well, the only thing you can call them are cyber skunks. Skunks by the names of Cosmo, Larkspur, and Poppy. Just think of this as your average tale of a boy saving the world with his sidekick skunks.
I was very intrigued by the plot of this next one. So much so that when I started reading the book itself I had a hard time putting it down. Ignore the YA label and cover, by the way, since this sounds like something for the Gail Carson Levine fans out there. One day a princess meets with her parents, the king and queen, only to be quickly disabused of a couple notions. She’s not the princess. They’re not her parents. She was always meant to be a kind of placeholder for the real royalty. You see, when the princess was born a cryptic prophecy foretold that she might undergo harm before her sixteenth birthday. With that in mind, the king and queen switched out their child for a fake one (our heroine). Now that this birthday has passed it’s time for the real princess to take her rightful place. The False Princess is by debut novelist Eilis O’Neal. Intriguing, non?
With books like Will Work for Prom Dress by Aimee Ferris, Egmont is rolling out a whole original paperback line. The governing principal seems to be for books that are fun without being too fluffy. This one should be out in time for prom season. In this book the heroine desperately needs to find an after school job so that she can make some dough for the prom. She ends up as a live model for a fashion design class where everyone there wants her to model for them . . . except for one guy.
A&L Do Summer by Jan Blazanin is the SECOND cover I’d seen today that sported a smiling face. Watch out, Egmont! You’ll be starting a trend if you’re not careful. In this book a city girl has to adjust to a move to the country. There are elements to this that reminded me a little of the upcoming Frances O’Roark Dowell YA novel Ten Miles Past Normal. Egmont also made a point of saying that this might be the funniest book on their list. Noted.
Special props to Mike A. Lancaster’s Human.4. Here, at least, is one plot that I don’t think I’ve seen done before. In this book a boy and his friends go to a local county fair to be hypnotized. When they come to they find that they can move but that no one else in the world seems to be able to. Turns out, the human race has been upgraded . . . and they’ve been missed. The book begins with an explanation that the text of the story comes from a series of cassette tapes that have been found and decoded. Makes it sound like a sci-fi version of Thirteen Reasons Why, doesn’t it?
I came to Patrick Jennings late in his career, but now that I have I ain’t ever looking back. He hit it out of the park with his last two books We Can’t All Be Rattlesnakes and Guinea Dog. Now Jennings moves a bit away from the usual animal pack for a more human story. In Lucky Cap, a kid named Enzo has a dad with an incredibly hot job at a huge sportswear company. As a result, Enzo ends up with prototypes and he gets to tag along when his dad meets huge sports stars and the like. When Enzo returns to school he finds, to his shock, that he’s suddenly popular. Yet rather than place the credit where it is due, Enzo figures it must be all due to his lucky cap. That is . . . before it disappears. Jennings is apparently working at the moment on a story about aliens that kidnap dogs because they want some. The title we were told was “My Homework Ate My Homework”, which is pretty cool. Two thumbs way way up over here.
Those of you familiar with the comic strip One Big Happy will probably have as much difficulty adjusting to the idea of Rick Detorie’s The Accidental Genius of Weasel High as I did. It’s a YA novel with a Wimpy Kid vibe (which is to say, lots o’ comics n’ pics). The story follows a boy who wants to become the next great American filmmaker. To do that, however, he’ll have to get through high school first.
On the opposite end of the high school spectrum, Walter Dean Myers continues to update the classics. This time he’s tackled an opera that makes so much sense as a YA novel that I’m forced to assume it’s been done before somewhere, sometime (help me out here, people). Carmen: An Urban Adaptation takes place in Spanish Harlem. In this story a girl has an affair with a young police officer, before a successful rap star/producer sweeps her away. Violence, as you might guess, ensues. They say it’s hip-hop meets Bizet meets meringue. The book is also written in the screenplay format Myers has come to love so much.
When they told me that The Sweetest Thing by Christina Madelski was perfect for Sarah Dessen fans, I believed them. I mean just look at this cover:
Dessen-rific. Dessert-rific, for that matter.
In this story a girl loves decorating cakes, which is a good thing since much of the rest of her life sucks. To improve her lot, she becomes convinced that if she can just find her missing mom then everything will be peachy keen and roses. Sort of the Keeper way of looking at things. Naturally, this doesn’t quite turn out to be the case.
Oh. Remember when I said that Egmont mentioned that a previous YA book was one of the funniest of the year? Well skip that since THIS is clearly one of the funniest YAs of 2011, bar none. So say they anyway. Notes from the Blender by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin is about a twisted modern family. Think The Brady Bunch crossed with Meet the Parents. In the story a boy’s father marries a hot girl’s mom. They read us this quote from the text: “Adolescence in a nutshell: I had a constant boner and I wanted to cry.” For fans of Will Grayson, Will Grayson or Nick & Norah, they say. Sounds good to me. A pity I can’t show you the original cover they had at the preview for this title. It was hilarious, if mildly misleading.
Speaking of covers, alas the jacket for Hourglass by Myra McEntire isn’t online anywhere for you to see. This is because author Myra McEntire plans on doing a cover release for this title starting January 31st. That’s the only thing keeping me from scanning an ARC right now. In this debut YA you will not find vampires or werewolves (in fact, the entire Egmont list is refreshingly fang free). Our story follows a teen with the ability to hear and see things that others cannot. She lives with her much older brother, who in turn discovers the Hourglass Institute. Turns out that little sis has a problem with time. Being in it, to be exact. And that’s long before someone confronts her about helping to prevent a murder . . .
I was pleased as punch to learn that the special guest that would speak to us this day was none other than local author and smarty Micol Ostow. I blurbed Micol’s last book So Punk Rock back in the day, so I was intrigued enough to hear about her latest venture. Turns out, it’s a doozy.
family is based loosely on the Manson family murders. In this book a girl runs away from her family and is taken in by a guy to a place where she finally belongs and feels whole. It’s the kind of book that shows just how dangerous a charismatic leader can really be. Speaking about the title, Micol tried to explain how she came to write this kind of book. Launching into memory, Micol entertained us all with a story of how when she was a child her mother was an avid reader. One day mom brought home Pet Sematary and young Micol became absolutely fascinated after sneaking a look. From that time on, when she went to the public library she’d creep over to the adult section to read The Shining or whatever other King was there. One day, when she was eleven her dad noted her interest in horror and brought home . . . Helter Skelter. “It’s like Stephen King but even better because it’s true!” So read it she did and she ended up so freaked out that she slept the night on the floor of her brother’s room. When she woke up, her father had left her a note under her pillow. All it said was “Healter Skelter”. He’d even taken the time to misspell it, just for her. So should you wonder what it takes to write a book like family, look no further. Ostow’s got us all beat.
And that is that! Thanks to the good people of Egmont for the goodies. Here’s a great upcoming season and more, I hope, to come.