Monday, January 25, 2010

Quick Thoughts About Midwinter

The 2010 ALA Midwinter Conference was, as always, full of activity. The YALSA Board voted on the BBYA proposal, AASL adopted the term "school librarian" for their profession, and of course, Random House jumped the gun in announcing the Newbery winner.

Midwinter isn't just about the controversial or the unusual. There's networking, watching committees in action, and advance reader's copies of forthcoming titles. Here are my short takes on 2010 titles I've read so far.

Heist Society
Ally Carter
Publication Date: February 2010

An all-out fun book, evoking the world of Oceans Eleven but with teenagers. Carter shifts from her Gallagher Girls series to bring us Kat Bishop, from a family of high-class thieves. She tries to get out of the family business only to be pulled back in when her father is threatened. Carter has a real knack for creating lively, interesting characters, and that skill is showcased in Heist Society. With a plot that moves smoothly and a dash of romance, there's also just enough complexity to create some tension. There's always a question of how Kat and her teenage crew will pull this off, but the answer isn't taxing reality. For a fun, fast-paced read, Heist Society is a great choice.

This World We Live In
Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publication Date: April 2010

The third book in the Last Survivors series brings together the characters from the two previous books: Miranda and her family from Life As We Knew It with Alex and Julie Morales from The Dead and the Gone. Pfeffer continues to be unafraid to pose hard challenges for her characters to face, ranging from a tornado to running out of food and personal care products, not to mention normal teenage concerns like meeting a cute guy and thinking he doesn't like you. It's unfortunate that the characterization in this volume seems clumsy; Miranda, in particular, does not seem to have any of the maturity she gained over the course of the first eight months since the initial disaster. Aside from this problem, Pfeffer shows her talent at constructing plots and increasing the jeopardy for her characters.

Jekel Loves Hyde
Beth Fantaskey
Publication Date: May 2010

The sophomore effort from Fantaskey once again combines a paranormal story with romance. In this book, she's mined less-popular ground, by using the jumping-off point of Stevenson's novella The Curious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Plain, studious Jill Jekel can't help being drawn to enigmatic, gorgeous Tristan Hyde--and not just for the normal reason. No, they are drawn to each other because Stevenson's story was based on their actual ancestors. And Tristan needs Jill's help to conquer the beast within him. Full of sweeping romance, Jekel Loves Hyde is a compelling read. The character of Tristan is perhaps not successful as a teenage boy, but he's got the Byronic romantic hero part down pat. But it's a minor quibble for readers who are looking to be carried away by romance.

Any opinions on books published in 2010 are my own and do not represent the opinions of the 2011 Printz Committee.

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