Category: Books

Teen Author & Artist Cheryl Chan Publishes “The Thing About Things”

cheryl chan

Some teens spend countless hours posting narcissistic selfies or manipulating silly birds on their portable devices. Others spend their times flexing their creative muscles and building careers.

Cheryl Chan is a teenager who falls into the latter group, having just published a children’s book she has both written and illustrated called “The Thing About Things.” According to the synopsis:

“There is nothing worse than being ordinary. At least, according to seven-year-old Joey Jones. When Joey gets picked not first, not last, but right in the middle for playing dodgeball at school, he feels unspecial and unwanted. But through an encounter with a certain monster who has been hiding in his bedroom all along, Joey learns that everyone, every Thing, is special in their own way. With homespun illustrations, clever dialogue and unmistakable heart, “The Thing About Things” is a book that will be enjoyed by both children and adults.”

The seventeen-year-old Chan, born in Hong Kong, says she draws much of her inspiration from her home city and the contrast between its dense, multicultural residential and commercial zones and the scenic mountains and ocean which surrounds it. Here, exclusive to Teens Wanna Know, Chan reveals some of her other inspirations and shares advice to other teenagers wishing to get into the arts.

Why, in such a technological age, did you decide to write and illustrate a classic-style children’s book?

There’s such a magical quality to holding an actual book, rather than a tablet, in your hands. It’s like having something very current and very ancient all at once, since you can flip through the pages when you are a child and then flip through the same pages as an old man or woman and still feel awash in a fantasy land. Also, when I’m 80, I might not know how to press the buttons on whatever fancy holographic, smell-o-vision tablet emerges–but I’ll still be able to turn a page or two!

thing about things 2
Illustration by Cheryl Chan

Joey is a projection of my tendency to overthink.. He’s more afraid of the idea of something than the actual thing, but once he gets past his own mental barriers, he’s very quick to take apart a situation and adapt. I also created Joey as a different interpretation of what it means to be brave–very often children are just told not to be scared, but I’m trying to say that it’s okay to be scared, and only when you accept that can you truly find courage.

Where did you get inspiration for The Thing?

There’s a line from Big Fish that goes something like, “most things that look mean or scary are actually just lonely.” I knew I wanted The Thing to look like a nasty (but not unlovable) creature. I wanted him to be a good mix of cute and creepy. So I tried to think of a real life equivalent to that, and the vampire bat came to mind. Everything else: the green fur, the seven eyes–are all just my attempt to exaggerate things, because that’s what fiction is for, right?

How did you decide to become a writer?

I like having complete sovereignty over what I do, and writing is an exercise that demands that. I don’t have to follow convention to find what motivates me to create–contrary to the portrait popular culture might paint, I don’t spend my days reading classics and hammering away at a typewriter. I am actually inspired by a lot of TV (Doctor Who, Psych), and try to go out of my way to see and experience things as much as possible. It’s a great feeling; to be able to do what I love, exactly how I want to do it.

What is your dream job?

Before, I was completely set on writing children’s books. I still want to do that, but I also want to write scripts and novels, voice cartoons, work in animation…I’m just in pursuit of a good story, no matter what the medium. I want a career in which, on a daily basis, I can apply my imagination to and find humour in new projects. So my dream job would be to work at Pixar.

thing about things 1
Illustration by Cheryl Chan

Ask yourself why you’re doing this. If you feel a little crazy and unsure and terrified, yet at home–then I think that’s a good indicator. A support system is absolutely necessary for inspiration and sanity’s sake, so find one. Don’t be afraid of appearing self-indulgent or inexperienced. Cheer yourself on like you’re the first of your kind. And don’t rely on a single “lucky break”. It’s so much work. But it’s fun!

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I’m on the Speech and Debate team at school, I spend a lot of time on Yelp planning weekend food excursions, and I’ve started vlogging. Whenever I come across song lyrics, concept art, quotes, etc. that I like, I collect them in a folder. I chat online with my brother a lot, since he is away at university. Our personalities are very different; while he nerds out about video games and trial law, I prefer a day of doodling and daydreaming. He’s my best friend, even if he is a little embarrassed to admit it sometimes.

Buy “The Thing About Things” on Amazon

Young Scribes – Determined Teen Authors Self-Publish “Tale Hunters,” Look to Greater Success

The Tale Hunters Paperback CoverWhat do you get when you combine a group of aspiring teen authors, one dedicated and caring English teacher, and a lot of determination and creativity? You get something like the Young Scribes.

This group of students from  Shelly High School in Shelly, Idaho has taken on an unusual project and turned it into a career-building, self-published book called The Tale HuntersThe students each wrote short stories and then, with the help of their teacher, created a wrap-around plot to tie everything together into one cohesive narrative.

According to Coach/Editor/Contributing Writer Eric DuPuis, “In these sad days when our legislature is studiously cutting opportunities for Idaho students, we wanted to do something special for our youth: provide them with a truly unique opportunity to acquire real world experience in the publishing field.

“As a team, we created a fiction project, and rigorously edited it to a publishable quality. The resulting manuscript is like nothing we’ve ever seen from high school students before. But we are not stopping there.  Our goal is to become agented writers.  Our students are busily crafting query letters and sending them to agents and publishers.  They are learning about publicity and participating in interviews.

“We’ve gained a whole new respect for writers, and for the hard work it takes to succeed in a highly competitive business.”

We got the chance to do a brief Q & A with this unique group of kids, and here is what they had to say:

Tell us about the Tale Hunters and how it came together.
Hard at WorkYoung Scribes: The Tale Hunters is a youth fantasy novel written by high school students.  Collaborating with their English teacher, ten young writers from Shelley High School in Idaho created and published a one-of-a-kind adventure – the story of a small town girl chosen to represent Earth in a high-stakes contest of tale-swapping before the throne of the terrifying Ifrit, king of the jinn.

We had a dedicated group of writers at SHS.  Many of us were serious about a future as novelists… you know… someday, when we’re older.  Everybody knows that teens don’t write novels – not old enough yet.

But, one day, we challenged that assumption!  Why can’t teens write novels?  We saw teen collections of essays (Chicken Soup for the Teen SoulFreedom Writers), even teen collections of short stories.  But could teens actually come together and write a novel?  We were just audacious enough to believe that we could!


It took a year to write the book, longer to edit it, and even longer to publish it.  But The Tale Hunters is a reality at last, a 292-page novel available in paperback or Kindle ebook at Amazon.com. 

Can teens really write a novel?  If you’ll give us a chance, we’ll prove to you that we can!
 
What was the hardest part about working together?
 
L to R - Standing - Bobby Nelson, Nate Osburn, Calvin Boll, Brennan Taylor, Eric DuPuis - Sitting - Maryssa McLeish, Arielle Smith
L to R – Standing – Bobby Nelson, Nate Osburn, Calvin Boll, Brennan Taylor, Eric DuPuis – Sitting – Maryssa McLeish, Arielle Smith

We had a lot of meetings and discussions.  We had so many different styles, ideas, and genres.  We needed a way to put a little of everything together in one novel and make it a coherent story, not a confusing mess.  We thought of Queen Scheherazade telling stories to save her life, and The Arabian Nights became our inspiration. 

From that root grew the idea for our frame story, a magical palace in the sky where jinn would gather storytellers from a thousand worlds to compete for magical treasures and the granting of wishes.  In this way, we could each write our own stories – any style, any genre – and they would all make sense when we brought them together.

Nate Osburn: We had to have a lot of discipline.  There was no class time, no teacher to give us a grade or take away points for late work.  We had to manage our own schedules.  We had to learn self-discipline.  And that was what made it so rewarding when we finished our work.  We did this!  We had to work hard and stay motivated, and we did it.

What challenges did some of you face while writing and how did you overcome them?

Maryssa McLeish: We didn’t get the support we thought we were going to get.  This wasn’t like sports.  This was a bunch of kids who thought they could write!  Our friends were behind us, but the staff and administration… they wouldn’t even let us bring our lunches to meetings so we could have some time to work together at noon!  They just couldn’t catch the vision.

Darrow Felsted
Darrow Felsted
And even now that we’re published, some of us still have parents who don’t take us seriously.  They think this is cute but not headed anywhere!  It’s frustrating, but it just makes you all the more determined to succeed.  We’re going to show you that we have something to say.  We can do amazing things!
 
Are the stories heavily edited, or are they pretty much the way you kids wrote them? If heavily edited, what was the process like–and were there any conflicts? What part did Mr. DuPuis play in the creation of this project, and what role will he play in the future?
 
Eric DuPuis (English Teacher): The students were looking to me for coaching and organization.  They wanted help with proofreading, editing – the technical side of writing.  But we all felt strongly from the beginning, myself included, that the ideas, the tales, should be their own.  I made them work hard to perfect their craft, but the story – that was all them.
 
Darrow Felsted: Some stories were rewritten as many as ten times.  Each story really became a collaborative effort between all the people who edit and write.  In a way, all of us wrote every story.
 
Where do the funds from the book sales go?
 
Young Scribes: College, man!  Most of us are about to graduate and go on to college.  A few of us are already there.  This is about investing in our future in more ways than one.
 
Bobby Nelson: We’ve had our first few sales now.  It isn’t much.  When we divided it up, our first check was for 64¢.  That’s a couple packages of ramen noodles.  (Laughs)  It sounds like a joke, but it isn’t really.  I’m at Idaho State University now.  I’m $20,000 in debt. Ramen noodles come in handy!

We know we’re doing this the hard way.  We don’t have a big name publisher or agent.  We have to take this right to our audience, prove that teen writers have something to say before anyone is going to invest in us, and that’s fine.  We don’t mind working hard.  We believe in ourselves or we wouldn’t be doing this.
 
OK, now, give us a quick pitch about the book—why should anyone read it? Think “elevator speech” or that you just met a literary agent and you have 30 words or less to sell your novel to him or her.
 
L-Bobby Nelson, R-Brennan Taylor
L-Bobby Nelson, R-Brennan Taylor

Rachel Kotter: We haven’t found another group of students who’ve done this.  It’s absolutely unique.  It’s worth reading!

Maryssa McLeish: Don’t discount our book just because it was written by high schoolers.  Read it and discover what we have to offer, because it’s something good!
 
What was the most rewarding part of this project for each of you?
 
Calvin Boll: Writing is what I love!  I was able to take this passion and work together with my friends who share that same passion. We all pushed each other to reach our goal of getting this project published.  I’m serious about being a published writer, and this was the perfect way to get my feet on the ground.
 
Arielle Smith (Illustrator): As soon as I heard about this project, I was fascinated.  I couldn’t not be a part of something like that, something so different!
 
Brennan Taylor: Being a part of this novel taught me humility, because I devour books.  You read the Christopher Paolinis and the Rick Riordans, one after another, and you have no idea just how much work goes into a book like that!  Getting a chance to help write a novel gives me a completely different view.  I respect authors more for how much work they put in.
 
What is next for the Young Scribes?
 
Young Scribes: Publicity.  We wrote to a lot of agents.  Some of them were even interested, but they told us that they just didn’t want to take a chance on a bunch of new, young writers.  There was a time when that was what the publishing world was all about – the search for new talent.  But those days are nearly gone.  Music, books, any of the arts – nobody’s taking a risk.  You have to self-publish or sell your own CDs, build up a proven audience before anyone is going to take a look at you. 

That’s ironic, because everyone likes to say that our youth are our future.  We’re trying to show them that youth can be our today, if you’ll give us a chance, but no one is going to open the door for us. 

That’s all right.  We know it’s how today’s world works, and we don’t mind bringing our book straight to you, our readers; because we believe that when you hear what we have to say, you’ll ask for more!
 
What are your long term goals for the Young Scribes as a group, and each one of you as individuals?
 
L-Jessica Harrison, R-Rachel Kotter
L-Jessica Harrison, R-Rachel Kotter

Young Scribes: We’re all serious about college and our futures.  We’re all serious about writing – all kinds of writing: journalism, novels, verse.  You’ll be seeing more of us individually.

As a group?  That may be more up to you than it is to us.  We’re headed in a lot of different directions soon, and it takes a lot to keep a group like this together in today’s busy world.  We won’t be in high school together anymore.  We’ll need a team: editors, publishers (and some financial resources) to keep Young Scribes going.

We’d love to write other novels, maybe a sequel, a series – maybe all kinds of projects.  And we’d like to help other young writers launch their dreams too, take our success and use it to open doors for others.  But first, we need an audience.  We need you. 

What is the most valuable feedback you have gotten so far, and who was it from?
 
Young Scribes: In our community (the neighboring town of Blackfoot), we have a wonderful friend, a published author of youth fiction named Brenda Stanley, known in our region for years as the beloved news anchor, Brenda Baumgartner.  (Check out her books I am Nuchu,The Color of Snow, and others on Amazon.com.) 

Brenda has been an ally and inspiration to us.  She taught us that writing a novel, difficult as it is, is only the beginning of the work. Publicity, marketing, building an audience, attracting the attention of agents and publishers – all that is even harder than the writing.  But if you want to be a published writer, that’s your world.  Get used to it.
 
Anything else we should know?
 
Arielle Smith - The Sky's the LimitBrennan Taylor: The Tale Hunters offers a little something for everyone.  There’s everything from a sword-and-sorcery quest story, to a realistic medical drama, to a campfire-style spine-tingler.  (We call it a “Calvin”.)  So you should give us a try.  Even if fantasy isn’t your thing, we might have something for you.
 
Visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/talehunters for sample chapters of The Tale Hunters.  You’ll also see local media stories about our project including a TV interview.
And don’t forget to check out The Tale Hunters (paperback or Kindle e-book) on Amazon.com.

 

Films Now, Books First

As a general rule, if there’s a movie or TV show based on a novel or a play, I always try to read the original work first before I see the new version. When the latest film adaptation of The Great Gatsby came out in theatres earlier this year, I begged friends who hadn’t read the book yet to read the book first, so they would be familiar with the original story in case the movie changed things or left things out.

Because book-to-movie adaptations do that a lot – they change things. That’s why they’re called adaptations. Books and plays and films and TV are different mediums. When they shift from one medium to another, stories are going to change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not so much, depending on who you talk to and how attached they are to the source material. When you read books, you might picture characters and settings one way, and another reader might picture them a different way, depending on your experiences and your interpretations of the author’s words.

I recently asked various friends what upcoming book-to-movie adaptations they were most looking for to, and why. Here are a few titles they brought up:


To date, the critically-acclaimed horror writer Stephen King has written over 50 novels and over 200 short stories, many of which have been made into feature films, TV movies, and comics. The current Syfy Channel television show Haven is loosely based on his novel The Colorado Kid. His first published novel, Carrie, took the main character through high school horrors to the extreme. Without spoiling too much, I’ll tell you it’s about a girl who discovers she has telekinesis (the ability to move things with her minds) and uses her powers against people who have teased and hurt her. The latest film adaptation of Carrie, starring Chloë Grace Moretz as the title character and Julianne Moore as her mother, was released in theatres on October 18th. The trailers show the climactic scene at the school dance, which might disturb those who can’t stomach the sight of blood. This iconic scene is well-known by people already familiar with the book or previous films, but putting it so prominently in the commercials might spoil it for some people – but then again, it will probably draw others to it!

More than one person expressed excitement about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which Warner Bros. recently announced. It hasn’t even started production and this Harry Potter-related story already has the world buzzing. “I’ve read the whole book series three times and watched the whole movie series twice,” said Divya, age 16. “I have too many emotions about it!” The new movie will supposedly be written by J.K. Rowling, who wrote the seven original bestselling Harry Potter novels as well as the “supplemental” books: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which was supposed to be a textbook Harry got at Hogwarts; Quidditch Through the Ages, a history of the game; and The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a collection of wizard-related fairy tales. Will any familiar faces pop up in the Fantastic Beasts film? We’ll have to wait and see.

“I’m excited to see The Hobbit Part Two,” chimed in Aidan, age 17. “The D&D [Dungeons and Dragons] club always goes to the openings together, and it’s always fun to see a movie with friends.”  The Hobbit, based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel, was published in 1937. The other books set in Middle-earth, often split into three separate books, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, are collectively referred to as The Lord of the Rings.  Here’s a fun fact: According to Wikipedia, the first authorized adaptation of The Hobbit was a stage production by St. Margaret’s School in Edinburgh in 1953, a year before the first part of The Lord of the Rings was published!

The Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth will appeal to people who like dystopian stories – stories about a community or nation dealing with a society or government which enforces “undesirable” rules and regulations. In Divergent, a 16-year-old girl goes through a required initiation process and challenges the way her society is broken into different virtuous factions. The movie is coming out next March, and Victoria, age 14, plans to check it out. “I’m excited to see Shailene Woodley do the action scenes.” Daniel, age 15, will also be checking out the film. “I like to see book-to-film adaptions to see how other people interpret the book.”

Other books-turned-movies on the radars of kids I talked to include but are not limited to:

  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, starring Jennifer Lawrence
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry, with Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, and Brenton Thwaites
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (My favorite John Green novel is Looking for Alaska)
  • – and many more.

I myself am hoping that the film adaptation of The Book Thief is faithful to Markus Zusak’s original book. I’ll let the cover flap summary speak for itself: “It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery…” Read it. Read it now. It’s positively brilliant, with an unlikely narrator telling a heartbreaking, memorable story.

Like I said before, I like reading books before I see the movie – but I can’t always help it. I first saw the movie Strangers on a Train when I was really, really little, and didn’t read the book until years later. I was really surprised by the events in the book because so much was different! I actually like the movie better than the book. Much better. Alfred Hitchcock directed the movie; multiple writers worked on the adaptation.

Now for some books I love that were made into some really good films: The NeverEnding Story by Michael Ende is an amazing fantasy novel, a story-within-a-story, a nice, long book for those of us who love nice, long books. Note: I love the first movie, which I feel got a lot of things “right.” I like the second movie, which also included events and elements from the book. I didn’t care for the third movie, which I felt deviated too much from the book.

One of my favorite books of all time is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Many adaptations have been made, ranging from silent films to animated movies, from TV mini-series to my favorite version, the 1972 live-action musical starring Fiona Fullerton. Though some of the singers are admittedly better than others, the whole thing is so much fun, and a lot of the lyrics in the songs are taken right from the book. Kudos to John Barry and Don Black for creating such a pretty soundtrack, and to the costume and set designers for creating such a lovely Wonderland.

What book-to-film-adaptations are you looking forward to this fall and winter? Leave a comment below and let me know!


 

allie costaAllie Costa is a Los Angeles-based actress working in film, TV, theatre, and voiceover. She can usually be found on a set, in a theatre, or in a secondhand bookstore. She worked with the hosts of Teens Wanna Know on the film Nerd Wars! Her character, Natalie Grace, was named after legendary actresses Natalie Wood and Grace Kelly.

 

 

Links:
Allie’s Website
IMDb
YouTube
Facebook
Twitter
SoundCloud

Extraordinary Stories: 5 More Sci-Fi/Fantasy YA Series

by Allie Costa

If you like books with a magical or supernatural twist, look no further! Last month, I recommended five fantastic sci-fi/fantasy books for teens: http://teenswannaknow.com/otherworldly-ya-five-fantastic-sci-fifantasy-series-you-should-read-now/

Thanks to the enthusiastic response that article received, I’m now offering up an additional five extraordinary genre series:

The Jenna Fox Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson

– The Adoration of Jenna Fox
– The Fox Inheritance
– Fox Forever

Jenna was left comatose after a tragic accident. One year later, she awakens to a life she can’t recall, a body she doesn’t recognize, two parents and a grandmother doesn’t really know, and a house she can’t leave – they say she has to stay at home for a while in order to make full recovery and avoid a relapse. While watching home videos, Jenna starts to suspect something isn’t right, that they aren’t telling her everything about the accident – that they aren’t telling her everything about herself.

The first book, The Adoration of Jenna Fox, is told from Jenna’s point of view and is very introspective. The second and third books are narrated by her friend Locke, whose story has a lot more action. I recommend leaping into the first book without reading any reviews of it, so nothing gets spoiled for you. I tried to make the introduction intriguing but still somewhat vague because I think it’s cooler if you discover things right when the main characters do, rather than knowing everything in advance…

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

– The Golden Compass (aka Northern Lights)
– The Subtle Knife
– The Amber Spyglass

The story begins when Lyra overhears something she shouldn’t have – and this newfound knowledge changes her whole world. A world which seems a lot like our world, except for the fact that every child is born with a daemon, an animal who can shape-shift until its human gets a little older. Then it stays in a shape which usually matches their human’s personality and job. The daemon is like the human’s best friend, pet, and sibling all rolled up into one: like another version of themselves, just with paws or fur or fangs or a tail!

Through the course of the three books, Lyra, Pant, and a boy named Will take an amazing journey through alternate worlds. You might have seen the movie, which was an adaptation of the first book, but the books are so much better – deeper – stronger. They’ll make you think (and possibly cry!) and they are great book club picks for kids, teens, AND adults.

The Cold Awakening trilogy by Robin Wasserman

– Frozen
– Shattered
– Torn

Lia survived the accident – but she is no longer the person she used to be. Now she’s wired, fixed, changed by technology, and now she feels like she’s just a machine with memories. Soon, she feels torn between her past and her future, between her family and her new “mech” (mechanical) friends. A part of her wants to go home; another part of her doesn’t know where home is anymore. When new developments and new people offer her ways to become even more mechanical, she must decide who and what she is now. The books cover a little over a year in her life. You’ll want to read the three books back-to-back-to-back. Note: If you find the first printing of the books, when they were called the Skinned trilogy, the titles are Skinned, Crashed, and Wired.

The Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray


– A Great and Terrible Beauty- Rebel Angels
– The Sweet Far Thing

This historical fantasy trilogy is set in the Victorian era. After the death of her mother, Gemma is sent to an all-girls boarding school. Plagued by visions that keep coming true, Gemma bonds with three other girls, forming a secret society of sorts that explores the Realms, a place filled with magic and danger. Incredibly imaginative and intriguing, this trilogy is a lovely hybrid of history, mystery, and the supernatural. Libba Bray’s writing is absolutely gorgeous, witty and smart, funny and serious, making each book an intense read. The books are long and lovely.

 

The Young Wizards series by Diane Duane

#1 So You Want to Be a Wizard
#2 Deep Wizardry
#3 High Wizardry
#4 A Wizard Abroad
#5 The Wizard’s Dilemma
#6 A Wizard Alone
#7 Wizard’s Holiday
#8 Wizards at War
#9 Wizard on Mars

Give the Young Wizards series to Harry Potter fans! Nita and Kit, two thirteen-year-olds living in Manhattan, discover that magic is real and happens every day all over the world. After they take the Wizard’s Oath and begin training with adult wizards, they become more and more adept at magic and wizardry. Even with their exciting new abilities, they still have to carry on with their “regular” lives – school, homework, all the “normal” things. The core themes of the series include honesty, acceptance, and inner strength, with plenty of action and adversaries to keep you turning pages.

This is just the tip of the iceberg! There are so many amazing books out there, in all different genres. I hope you’ll check out some of the titles I’ve recommended, and leave me additional suggestions in the comments below.


allie costaAllie Costa is a Los Angeles-based actress working in film, TV, theatre, and voiceover. She can usually be found on a set, in a theatre, or in a secondhand bookstore. She worked with the hosts of Teens Wanna Know on the film Nerd Wars! Her character, Natalie Grace, was named after legendary actresses Natalie Wood and Grace Kelly.

Allie is an active member of readergirlz, a literacy and social media project for teens which was awarded the National Book Award for Innovations in Reading. If you missed this year’s Operation Teen Book Drop and would like to participate in future events, reach out to readergirlz via Twitter – @readergirlz #rockthedrop – or Facebook, or just ask Allie for details!

Links:
Allie’s Website
IMDb
YouTube
Facebook
Twitter
SoundCloud

Otherworldly YA: Five Fantastic Sci-Fi/Fantasy Series You Should Read NOW!

By Allie Costa

Looking for an awesome YA book that will take you out of this world? Dive into one of these fantastic series – You won’t be sorry!

Prowlers by Christopher Golden

At age nineteen, Jack Dwyer’s best friend Artie is murdered. Not by humans, but by Prowlers, a group of ancient creatures whose handiwork is typically thought to be that of wolves.

But these are no wolves. They are animals, but their ability to think, their emotions and their need for revenge makes them as cunning as humans. Jack, as well as most of America, knows nothing of the Prowlers… That is, until Artie travels from the Ghostlands to tell his friend what truly happened. Jack’s life will never be the same.

Christopher Golden’s Prowlers series is positively riveting and inventive. I raced through each book, and I’ve read them multiple times since. Read them in order:

Prowlers
Laws of Nature
Predator and Prey
Wild Things

For those of you who want something to download to your Kindle/Nook/e-reader, keep your eyes peeled: The author has informed me that e-book editions of the entire Prowlers series will be available soon!

The Fallen by Thomas E. Sniegoski

Immortals seem to be one of the hottest storylines these days. The Fallen is the best series with an angel at its core. If you like the similarly-named Fallen series by Lauren Kate, you’ll absolutely love The Fallen books by Tom Sniegoski.

Eighteen-year-old Aaron has always known that he was adopted, but he never suspected he was half-angel – or that he could be a hero in the ultimate fight between good and evil. Shortly after his lineage is revealed, his younger brother is stolen away, and Aaron will do anything to get him back. Along the way, he is accompanied by his loyal Labrador, Gabriel, and discovers an unexpected connection to his beautiful classmate, Vilma Santiago.

Four Fallen books are out so far, with the fifth book, Armageddon, coming out in August.

Fun fact: Before he portrayed Stefan Salvatore in The Vampire Diaries, Paul Wesley starred as Aaron Corbet in the film adaptation of Fallen – and Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad played Lucifer!

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

If you like stories with dystopian societies – think of The Hunger Games or The Twilight Zone – then prepare yourself for Uglies. In Tally’s world, everyone gets an operation at age sixteen that makes them pretty. Oddly enough, this tradition of cosmetic surgery seems to have made society a better place. But things aren’t exactly what they seem…

All three books – Uglies, Pretties, Specials – have action sequences packed with octane. They’ll totally make you wish you could travel by hoverboard. The ending of Specials will challenge readers to think, really think, about what they take for granted and what they should truly value. Go, Tally!

Also check out the Uglies graphic novel series, a non-fiction guide, and a “companion” story called Extras. I also really like Scott Westerfeld’s darkly funny vampire book, Peeps.

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

Looking for something a little lighter? In a fun world where many people have fairies that grant them unusual bits of luck, Charlotte (Charlie) feels cursed by her gift: the ability to always get a good parking spot. She’s not even old enough to drive yet, so others – such as her mum and a dim bully at her school – drag her into their cars to play passenger. Fed up, Charlie teams up with Fiorenze, a popular girl who has an all-the-boys-like-you fairy, and the two attempt to switch their fairies. Comedic chaos ensues.

How to Ditch Your Fairy is utterly delightful. You won’t ditch this funny fantasy — you’ll stay up to finish reading it!

Okay, so this one isn’t a series – but Justine Larbalestier’s other books include the head-tripping fantasy trilogy Magic or Madness, plus she co-edited the anthology Zombies vs. Unicorns with Holly Black, whom I’m about to praise:

The Curse Workers by Holly Black

Recognize her name? Holly co-wrote The Spiderwick Chronicles with Tony DiTerlizzi. For an older audience, there’s her Curse Workers trilogy: White Cat, Red Glove, and Black Heart. Cassel, the youngest of three brothers, is the only person in his family without a magical ability, such as changing people’s memories, luck, or feelings simply by touching them. Cassel and everyone he knows has to wear gloves, whether or not they have powers, to protect themselves from those who would use their abilities for evil.

But, for years, Cassel and his family have been covering up a secret: Cassel killed his best friend, Lila. He doesn’t completely remember what happened; all he knows is she’s gone, and they’ve told him he’s at fault. Then the truth comes out, and it’s not what he was told, and not at all what he expected…

Holly Black also has three interconnected stories about modern faeries: Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside. I’m looking forward to her next book, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, which comes out in September.

Want more book recommendations? Leave a comment below with your favorite books, genres, or authors, and general age range, and I’ll give you a personalized reading list!


allie costaAllie Costa is a Los Angeles-based actress working in film, TV, theatre, and voiceover. She can usually be found on a set, in a theatre, or in a secondhand bookstore. She worked with the hosts of Teens Wanna Know on the film Nerd Wars! Her character, Natalie Grace, was named after legendary actresses Natalie Wood and Grace Kelly.

Allie is an active member of readergirlz, a literacy and social media project for teens which was awarded the National Book Award for Innovations in Reading. If you missed this year’s Operation Teen Book Drop and would like to participate in future events, reach out to readergirlz via Twitter – @readergirlz #rockthedrop – or Facebook, or just ask Allie for details!

Links:
Allie’s Website
IMDb
YouTube
Facebook
Twitter
SoundCloud