Tag Archives: dystopian

The Giver (Graphic Novel) by Lois Lowry

The Giver (Graphic Novel) by Lois Lowry. February 5, 2019. HMH Books for Young Readers, 185 p. ISBN: 9780544157880.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The Giver is a modern classic and one of the most influential books of our time.

Now in graphic novel format, Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal–winning classic story of a young boy discovering the dark secrets behind his seemingly ideal world is accompanied by renowned artist P. Craig Russell’s beautifully haunting illustrations. 

Placed on countless reading lists, translated into more than forty languages, and made into a feature film, The Giver is the first book in The Giver Quartet that also includes Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

In this new graphic novel edition, readers experience the haunting story of twelve-year-old Jonas and his seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment, through the brilliant art of P. Craig Russell that truly brings The Giver to life.

Witness Jonas’s assignment as the Receiver of Memory, watch as he begins to understand the dark secrets behind his fragile community, and follow the explosion of color into his world like never before.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Violence

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 14))
Grades 5-8. Color is a potent and central symbol in Lowry’s modern classic. Its absence defines the sameness of Jonas’ future world, in which everyone’s life is neatly prescribed for them, right down to career and family. When Jonas is appointed the receiver of all humanity’s memories, the appearance of color signifies his sense of discovery and, ultimately, his escape. Russell masterfully preserves the flow of story within this world of sameness through clean lines and compositional variation. But he, too, centralizes color. A limited palette of cool blues and somber grays strikes the emotionally sterile tone of Jonas’ community, while humanity’s memories come to the receiver in various hues: the gentle pink of a flower, the saturating red-orange of war. The relief and sometimes shock of these colors allow the power of the memories to reach readers in a way beyond mere sight, and thus the wonder of Lowry’s story is made palpable in a startling new way. Includes illuminating interviews with Lowry and Russell on the adaptation process.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2018)
An eerie graphic version of the Newbery Award–winning classic. Russell (Murder Mysteries and Other Stories, 2015, etc.) pays no more attention than Lowry (Looking Back, 2016, etc.) did to continuity of detail or to justifying the counterintuitive notion that memories can be shed by transmitting them, but without taking significant liberties he skillfully captures the original’s full, creeping horror. By depicting human figures with uncommonly precise realism, bearing calm, smiling demeanors and moving through tidy 1950s style settings, he establishes an almost trite air of utopian normality at the outset…then proceeds to undermine it with disquieting (to say the least) incidents capped by an explicit view of Jonas’ serene dad “releasing” a supernumerary newborn by ramming a hypodermic into its head. He also neatly solves the color issue by composing his many small sequential scenes in blue pencil outlines with occasional pale washes—which makes Jonas’ disturbing ability to “see beyond,” from the red in an apple and a classmate’s hair to the garish orange memories the Giver downloads to his brain, startlingly vivid and presages the polychrome wilderness into which he ultimately vanishes. Jonas and the rest of the cast are uniformly light-skinned and generically European of feature, but that is explicitly established as part of the hideous scenario. A first-rate visual reframing: sensitive, artistically brilliant, and as charged as its enigmatic predecessor with profound challenges to mind and heart. (interviews with the creators) (Graphic dystopian fantasy. 12-14)

About the Author

Lois Lowry is known for her versatility and invention as a writer. She was born in Hawaii and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania, and Japan. After studying at Brown University, she married, started a family, and turned her attention to writing. She is the author of more than forty books for young adults, including the popular Anastasia Krupnik series. She has received countless honors, among them the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader’s Medal, and the Mark Twain Award. She received Newbery Medals for two of her novels, NUMBER THE STARS and THE GIVER. Her first novel, A SUMMER TO DIE, was awarded the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award. Several books have been adapted to film and stage, and THE GIVER has become an opera. Ms. Lowry now divides her time between Maine and Florida.

Her website is www.loislowry.com/

Teacher Resources

The Giver (Graphic Novel) on Common Sense Media

The Giver (Graphic Novel) Educator’s Guide

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The Giver (Graphic Novel) on Amazon

The Giver (Graphic Novel) on Barnes and Noble

The Giver (Graphic Novel) on Goodreads

The Giver (Graphic Novel) Publisher Page

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The Plotters by Un-su Kim

The Plotters by Un-su Kim. January 29, 2019. Doubleday Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9780385544382.  Int Lvl: Ad; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A fantastical crime novel set in an alternate Seoul where assassination guilds compete for market dominance.

Behind every assassination, there is an anonymous mastermind–a plotter–working in the shadows. Plotters quietly dictate the moves of the city’s most dangerous criminals, but their existence is little more than legend. Just who are the plotters? And more important, what do they want?
Reseng is an assassin. Raised by a cantankerous killer named Old Raccoon in the crime headquarters “The Library,” Reseng never questioned anything: where to go, who to kill, or why his home was filled with books that no one ever read. But one day, Reseng steps out of line on a job, toppling a set of carefully calibrated plans. And when he uncovers an extraordinary scheme set into motion by an eccentric trio of young women–a convenience store clerk, her wheelchair-bound sister, and a cross-eyed librarian–Reseng will have to decide if he will remain a pawn or finally take control of the plot.
Crackling with action and filled with unforgettable characters, The Plotters is a deeply entertaining thriller that soars with the soul, wit, and lyricism of real literary craft.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: 

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Reseng, 32, has been a professional assassin for 15 years, minus a short factory-worker stint at 22, while playing house with the love of his life. That he’s survived this long—never mind his risky career, he’s also a two-pack-a-day smoker with a beer-for-breakfast diet—is remarkable. Pulled from a garbage can as an infant, nunnery-raised until he turned four, Reseng then grew up fostered by a killer called Old Racoon, living in his “gloomy, labyrinthine library” named the Doghouse. Discovering literacy at nine (he never went to school), Reseng now avoids boredom and loneliness by reading books, from Sophocles to Calvino, in between his murderous assignments by “the plotters”—the elite, beyond-the-law puppet masters who control their putative democracy in post-military-dictatorship style. Reseng’s life continues smoothly enough until he finds a bomb in his toilet. Fortunately, he was Beer Week-upchucking; other-end purging would have been fatally explosive. His search for the bombmaker leads him to two orphaned sisters and a cross-eyed librarian from his past and onward to an ultimate plot that might save the world—or might not. The winner of prestigious prizes in Korea, Kim makes his anglophone debut, thanks to Kim-Russell, who captures his dark, dark wit and searing sarcasm in an irresistible sociopolitical parable designed to delight and dismay.

Kirkus Reviews (October 1, 2018)
An assassin in Seoul’s underworld is embroiled in a rivalry between the mysterious men who literally call the shots. Reseng, the hero of the first novel by Kim to appear in English, is a coldblooded killer whose lone-wolf persona seems stitched out of equal parts Jack Reacher and Harry Bosch. An orphan, he was raised for most of his life by Old Raccoon, a shady fixer who lives in a massive but neglected library while plotting murders. Reseng has been the don’t-ask-questions type until he learns that a colleague didn’t follow through on killing a prostitute like he was supposed to. And when that colleague is found dead, he’s moved to start investigating the “plotters” who make his world move. The answer to Reseng’s inquiries aren’t particularly engaging or surprising: Corporations and government leaders in South Korea plan killings to preserve power, amassing a small army of “washed-up assassins, gangsters, retired servicemen and former homicide detectives, tired of working for peanuts.” And of course, Reseng is a target himself, via a bomb installed in his toilet. The novel is somewhat redeemed from its stock plotting in its more visceral moments: There’s a lively gallows humor to scenes where Reseng pays regular visits to the man who cremates gang-war victims, and he casually slices off one man’s fingers as coolly as you might make a salad. Kim makes a few gestures toward literary gravitas, like a flashback to a woman in Reseng’s more innocent past and some riffing about the source of human violence. (“A handful of villains isn’t enough to affect the world. The world is like this because we’re too meek.” ) But between the convoluted plotting and myriad stylistic intentions, Kim hasn’t identified a clear target to hit. An energetic mashup of thriller tropes that doesn’t quite jell.

About the Author

Un-su Kim was born in 1972 in Busan and is the author of several highly praised novels. He has won the Munhakdongne Novel Prize, Korea’s most prestigious literary prize, and was nominated for the 2016 Grand Prix de la Littéraire Policière. He lives in Jinhae-gu, South Korea.

 

Around the Web

The Plotters on Amazon

The Plotters on Barnes and Noble

The Plotters on Goodreads

The Plotters on LibraryThing

The Plotters Publisher Page

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia. February 26, 2019. Katherine Tegen Books, 384 p. ISBN: 9780062691316.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In this daring and romantic fantasy debut perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Latinx authors Zoraida Córdova and Anna-Marie McLemore, society wife-in-training Dani has a great awakening after being recruited by rebel spies and falling for her biggest rival.

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children. Both paths promise a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class.

Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her pedigree is a lie. She must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society.

And school couldn’t prepare her for the difficult choices she must make after graduation, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio.

Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or will she give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

Part of Series: We Set the Dark on Fire (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Mild language, Strong sexual themes, Violence

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. In Medio, a myth tells of the Sun God, who took two wives, one wise and loyal, the other sensual and nurturing. Now, selected young women train to become the dual wives of the nation’s politicians: the Primera to be his partner in work and business, and the Segunda to run his home and family. Daniela’s poor parents lied to get her into the school, hoping to secure her a better future, and indeed, Dani has become the top Primera student, keeping her emotions in check and her forged papers a secret. Mateo, her new husband, seems strangely cold and cruel, and it doesn’t help that the family has chosen Dani’s longtime rival, Carmen, as their Segunda. But the worst comes when Dani is contacted by a resistance group and asked to spy on Mateo and politicos like him. As she learns more about Mateo’s narrow-mindedness and oppressive politics—​and as she and Carmen grow startlingly closer—Dani’s sympathy for the resistance grows, but is there even a life for her beyond this one? Like the revolution, Mejia’s world is carefully built. With its achingly slow-burn romance and incisive examination of power structures, this is a masterfully constructed novel, made all the more impressive as it’s a debut. This timely examination of how women move through the world is potent and precise, and readers will be eager for the sequel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2018)
Power, truth, and lies intertwine dangerously in Mejia’s debut novel about oppression and resistance with a cunning Latinx teenage heroine. Medio, an island nation divided by a wall, is literally in between extremes: “On one side there was the might of a nation. On the other, desperation.” Clear parallels to Mexico in imagery and themes abound. Born on the wrong side of the wall without legal papers, 17-year-old brown-skinned Daniela “Dani” Vargas graduates after 5 years of diligent training at an elite finishing school to join the powerful Garcia family as their son’s Primera. In this well-constructed world, an ancient mythology forms the basis for a practice in which husbands have two wives each: Primeras are quick-witted and emotionally restrained while Segundas are brave and passionate. When Dani’s Primera training falters in the face of her ruthless, power-hungry husband, her past overwhelms her present, and she is recruited to spy for the resistance. Excerpts from the Medio School for Girls rulebook precede each chapter, a juxtaposition that effectively reveals Dani’s conflicted self-awakening. An action-packed third-person narrative, smart dialogue, and lush descriptions offer readers a fresh and steely heroine in a contemporary coming-of-age story. This well-crafted fantasy offers a mirror that reflects themes in our own difficult world, namely privilege, immigration, and individualism versus the common good. A queer subplot with sensual tenderness adds rich complexity to the story. Thrilling and timely. (Fantasy. 14-18)

About the Author

Tehlor Kay Mejia is a YA author and poet at home in the wild woods and alpine meadows of Southern Oregon. When she’s not writing, you can find her plucking at her guitar, stealing rosemary sprigs from overgrown gardens, or trying to make the perfect vegan tamale. She is active in the Latinx lit community, and passionate about representation for marginalized teens in media.

Her website is www.tehlorkaymejia.com

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We Set the Dark on Fire on Amazon

We Set the Dark on Fire on Barnes & Noble

We Set the Dark on Fire on Goodreads

We Set the Dark on Fire on LibraryThing

We Set the Dark on Fire Publisher Page

Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw

Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw. February 26, 2019. David Fickling Books, 416 p. ISBN: 9781338277500.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

In this tense, page-turning story of survival in near-future England, Jacob must go to all lengths to find his dog and escape to freedom with a gang of rebel children.

In a frighteningly real near future England, Jacob escapes from the Academy orphanage to reenter a world that is grimly recognizable. The Coalition can track anyone, anywhere, from a chip implanted at birth. Now Jacob must fulfill his promise to his parents, find his dog, Jet, and navigate his way out of England. Their only hope is a band of children who have found a way to survive off the grid: The Outwalkers. Their rules are strict, but necessary if they’re going to get out alive…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, References to drug use and prostitution

 

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Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2018)
In a near future, England has closed its borders, microchipped its citizens, and forced children without two parents into orphanages that are an awful lot like prisons. When 12-year-old Jake’s parents die in a car accident, he is sent to live in a Home Academy to be educated and cared for. Jake escapes to find his dog, Jet, and keep the promise he made to his parents: to flee to his grandparents’ home in Scotland. They also made him promise to keep Jet with him always. But Jake’s chip is like a beacon to the hubbers, and he has no idea how to make the long walk to the border. He meets a group of teens and children who call themselves Outwalkers who agree to take Jake with them as long as he follows the rules. Poacher, with his braided hair and black skin, and Swift, with her pale skin and hard eyes, are the leaders of the motley group. Rumors of a deadly virus and the constant threat of capture haunt their journey. Slow pacing, a vague enemy, and unoriginal plot hamper the intriguing premise. Sacrifice, loyalty, and bravery are rewarded, but Jake’s naiveté quickly becomes irritating. The book adheres to the white default, Poacher a notable exception; that he speaks in an off-putting dialect when most of the rest of the characters do not is an unfortunate detail. A dystopic near future that never manages to come to life. (Science fiction. 8-12)

School Library Journal (January 1, 2019)
Gr 5-8-Jacob Riley escapes from an Academy Home, a Dickensian orphanage in a future England ravaged by a purported virus. He plans to rescue his dog Jet and find his grandparents in Scotland. Immediately upon his escape, Jake is betrayed by former neighbors and chased by government “hubbers” who track him by means of a chip in the back of his neck. Then both Jake and Jet are rescued by a gang of “outwalkers” who excise the chip and invite Jake and his dog to join them on their way north. The gang steals and scavenges food, medicine, and clothing to survive. With skill, luck, courage, and occasional help from strangers, they brave government agents and unscrupulous adults to escape to Scotland and share information that could save England from its totalitarian nightmare. The dystopian buddy trope is well worn, yet Shaw draws such vivid circumstances and strong characters that this novel is impossible to set aside for long. The plot is detailed and exciting, and allegorical comparisons with the present day are compelling. It would be utterly inspiring but for one glaring sexist remark in which a character named Ollie “throws like a girl.” VERDICT A strong additional purchase for collections in need of futuristic, dystopian middle grade fare.-Sheri Reda,

About the Author

Fiona was born in London in 1964. Her place of birth is now a hospital broom cupboard and her first home was on a street later obliterated beneath a superstore off the Cromwell Rd. However, she passed most of her childhood as the eldest of three girls in a lovely and spacious family home near the Thames.

Living in York with her partner and two daughters, Fiona reads a great deal, cycles everywhere, grows vegetables with variable success and acquires more films than she ever gets around to watching. She is working on her fifth novel.

Her website is www.fiona-shaw.com

Around the Web

Outwalkers on Amazon

Outwalkers on Barnes and Noble

Outwalkers on Goodreads

Outwalkers on LibraryThing

Outwalkers Publisher Page

Dry by Neal Shusterman

Dry by Neal Shusterman. October 2, 2018. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 390 p. ISBN: 9781481481960.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

When the California drought escalates to catastrophic proportions, one teen is forced to make life and death decisions for her family in this harrowing story of survival from New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman.

The drought—or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it—has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t fill up your pool, don’t take long showers.

Until the taps run dry.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life—and the life of her brother—is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Underage smoking, Violence, Guns, Sexual exploitation of minors

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. Alyssa and her brother, Garrett, are normal kids in a suburb in Southern California—that is, until surrounding states shut the floodgates to the Colorado River due to prolonged drought. At first, people dismiss the news, but circumstances turn dire quickly when bottled water disappears off store shelves while the spigots remain dry. What ensues is a horrifyingly fast descent into barbarity as neighbor turns on neighbor, government intervention falls short, and society’s civil facade disintegrates. Alyssa and Garrett must travel to find new sources of water, all the while defending themselves against people crazed by thirst. While this book leans on siege-like tropes established in zombie movies, the Shustermans revivify the genre by adding an environmental twist. Using multiple points of view, the authors fully flesh out Alyssa, Garrett, and their travel companions to showcase the various ways people mentally approach calamities. The authors do not hold back—there is death, disease, manipulation, and chaos. None of it is presented simply, and none of it is sugarcoated. Lovers of horror action fiction will feel right at home with this terrifyingly realistic story of our tenuous relationship with the environment and of the resilience of the human spirit in the face of desperate situations.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2018)
When a calamitous drought overtakes southern California, a group of teens must struggle to keep their lives and their humanity in this father-son collaboration. When the Tap-Out hits and the state’s entire water supply runs dry, 16-year-old Alyssa Morrow and her little brother, Garrett, ration their Gatorade and try to be optimistic. That is, until their parents disappear, leaving them completely alone. Their neighbor Kelton McCracken was born into a survivalist family, but what use is that when it’s his family he has to survive? Kelton is determined to help Alyssa and Garrett, but with desperation comes danger, and he must lead them and two volatile new acquaintances on a perilous trek to safety and water. Occasionally interrupted by “snapshots” of perspectives outside the main plot, the narrative’s intensity steadily rises as self-interest turns deadly and friends turn on each other. No one does doom like Neal Shusterman (Thunderhead, 2018, etc.)—the breathtakingly jagged brink of apocalypse is only overshadowed by the sense that his dystopias lie just below the surface of readers’ fragile reality, a few thoughtless actions away. He and his debut novelist son have crafted a world of dark thirst and fiery desperation, which, despite the tendrils of hope that thread through the conclusion, feels alarmingly near to our future. There is an absence of racial markers, leaving characters’ identities open.< Mouths have never run so dry at the idea of thirst. (Thriller. 13-17)

About the Author

Neal Shusterman is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty award-winning books for children, teens, and adults, including The Unwind Dystology, The Skinjacker trilogy, Downsiders, and Challenger Deep, which won the National Book Award. Scythe, the first book in his newest series Arc of a Scythe, is a Michael L. Printz Honor Book. He also writes screenplays for motion pictures and television shows. The father of four children, Neal lives in California.

His website is www.storyman.com/

Teacher Resources

Dry on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

Dry on Amazon

Dry on Barnes and Noble

Dry on Goodreads

Dry Publisher Page

Munmun by Jesse Andrews

Munmun by Jesse Andrews. April 3, 2018. Harry N. Abrams, 407 p. ISBN: 9781419728716.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1170.

In an alternate reality a lot like our world, every person’s physical size is directly proportional to their wealth. The poorest of the poor are the size of rats, and billionaires are the size of skyscrapers.

Warner and his sister Prayer are destitute—and tiny. Their size is not just demeaning, but dangerous: day and night they face mortal dangers that bigger richer people don’t ever have to think about, from being mauled by cats to their house getting stepped on. There are no cars or phones built small enough for them, or schools or hospitals, for that matter—there’s no point, when no one that little has any purchasing power, and when salaried doctors and teachers would never fit in buildings so small. Warner and Prayer know their only hope is to scale up, but how can two littlepoors survive in a world built against them?

A brilliant, warm, funny trip, unlike anything else out there, and a social novel for our time in the tradition of 1984 or Invisible Man. Inequality is made intensely visceral by an adventure and tragedy both hilarious and heartbreaking.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Strong sexual themes, Sexual assault, Marijuana, Drug abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. Here’s a bizarre premise: in Andrews’ scathing satire of economic inequality, rich citizens “scale up” to hundreds of feet tall, towering over “littlepoors” so small they live in shoeboxes. Getting out of poverty is almost impossible when there are no schools small enough to learn in, and it takes hours to traverse the distance a rich person could walk in a single step. But littlepoor Warner is trying to scale up anyway. In a wry, rage-filled voice peppered with A Clockwork Orange–type slang, Warner narrates his Dickensian journey through an unjust system designed to keep bigriches gigantic and littlepoors miniscule. Andrews gives himself a gargantuan task here, and there are elements that don’t deliver. For a novel skewering a system so inexorably tied to race, for instance, the absence of a critique of racism is glaring. And yet, there are pithy, sharp moments, too, particularly the illuminating descriptions of the vast, visible gulf between rich and poor. Though it occasionally misses the mark, it nevertheless offers a unique, caustic, thought-provoking lampoon of America’s obsession with wealth.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2018)
In a world where wealth—the titular munmun—determines physical size and people range from littlepoor (rat-small) to bigrich (10 stories tall), three tiny teens set out to scale up; a wild ride ensues. Rendered a paraplegic by a cat who bats her about like a rat, Warner’s mother orders him to take his sister, Prayer, to law school and help find her an upscale husband. Warner’s skeptical—they’re illiterate, for one thing. Usher, a literate friend with palsy who’s smitten with Prayer, joins them. Trouble starts when they accept a ride from a middlerich man and end up in his model-train layout. Worse is to come. Prayer’s looks, Usher’s smarts, and Warner’s ability to shape Dreamworld (a place accessible only in deep sleep, where all are of equal scale) fail to prevent disaster. Offered a home and education by a politician, Warner insists Prayer be invited, too. They’re hardworking and motivated, but some littlepoor deficits prove intractable. Warner’s distinctive voice and language compel readers to pay attention to this detailed world. Wealth rather than skin color (orange, ruby, plum, gray) confers status. Bankers Scale Up those who’ve acquired wealth and Scale Down those who’ve lost or (rarely) relinquished it. Literally embodied in the characters, income inequality becomes a horrific reality; economic theories and realpolitik sangfroid are juxtaposed with their real-world consequences. Angry and the victim of his best impulses, Warner’s no superhero. Superpowers and soothing bromides won’t mend his broken, fragile world; pull the right thread and it might unravel. Brilliant, savage, hilarious, a riveting journey through a harsh world that mirrors our own. (Dystopian fantasy. 12-17)

About the Author

Jesse Andrews is the author of the New York Times best-selling novel Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Abrams Books, 2012). He is also the writer of the feature-film adaptation of his own book, also entitled Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, the winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

He was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, and is a graduate of Schenley High School and Harvard University. He currently makes his home in Boston, MA.  His website is www.jesseandrews.com.

Around the Web

Munmun on Amazon

Munmun on Goodreads

Munmun Publisher Page

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich. November 14, 2017. Harper, 263 p. ISBN: 9780062694058.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.

Though she wants to tell the adoptive parents who raised her from infancy, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation, to understand both her and her baby’s origins. As Cedar goes back to her own biological beginnings, society around her begins to disintegrate, fueled by a swelling panic about the end of humanity.

There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women. Of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. Flickering through the chaos are signs of increasing repression: a shaken Cedar witnesses a family wrenched apart when police violently drag a mother from her husband and child in a parking lot. The streets of her neighborhood have been renamed with Bible verses. A stranger answers the phone when she calls her adoptive parents, who have vanished without a trace. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time.

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Cedar Hawk Songmaker, the adopted Native American daughter of two white “Minnesota liberals,” is secretly pregnant when she discovers that her birth name is Mary Potts. With this slash of wry cultural irony, Erdrich (LaRose, 2016) launches a breakout work of speculative fiction in which a sudden reversal of evolution is underway, threatening the future of humankind and life itself. The disintegrating, increasingly fascist and evangelical government is rounding up and incarcerating pregnant women, so Cedar heads to her Ojibwe birth mother’s reservation. But no place is safe and she is soon on the run. Throughout her harrowing, often darkly funny ordeal, she keeps a journal for her child—whom she knows she has little chance of raising—recounting, with exceptional sensory and psychological precision, the horrors of her predicament, the wild courage of the underground network helping fugitive mothers-to-be, and, in stark contrast to the violent chaos, the miraculous growth of her fetus.In this feverish cautionary tale, Erdrich enters the realm of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), Emily Schultz’s The Blondes (2015), Edan Lepucki’s California (2014), Laura van den Berg’s Find Me (2015), and Claire Vaye Watkins’ Gold, Fame, Citrus (2015), infusing her masterful, full-tilt dystopian novel with stinging insights into the endless repercussions of the Native American genocide, hijacked spirituality, and the ongoing war against women’s rights. A tornadic, suspenseful, profoundly provoking novel of life’s vulnerability and insistence.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2017)
The idea that evolution could suddenly move backward may seem like an incredible fantasy, but in this dreamlike, suspenseful novel, it’s a fitting analogue for the environmental degradation we already experience. A biological apocalypse has animals suddenly appearing in trippy, shocking manifestations—a dragonfly with a 6-foot wingspan, “golden-green eyes the size of softballs,” for example. Humans aren’t immune to “life dissolving into its mineral components,” which is why the new American government, the Church of the New Constitution, expands the original intent of the Patriot Act and requires all pregnant women to report to birthing centers. During a biological apocalypse set two months in the future, when the borders between Mexico and Canada are sealed off, Cedar Hawk Songmaker—26, pregnant, and with a burning independent streak—eventually learns why the government will do anything to ensure she has her baby under strict surveillance. Not all the pregnant women are as useful to the authorities as Cedar is, because they think she has a rare “normal,” unaltered fetus in her womb. Born Ojibwe but adopted by earnest white liberals in Minneapolis, Cedar is a flinty, determined, spiritual woman whose hesitance to trust others comes in handy in a world where suddenly no one should be trusted. And Cedar has three worlds to navigate: the one she was raised in and the Ojibwe family she is just coming to know, not to mention a United States ruled by a religious government in which a creepy, all-seeing, robotic figure named Mother hunts for Cedar. Framed as a letter to Cedar’s unborn child, this novel is bracing, humane, dedicated to witnessing the plight of women in a cruel universe, and full of profound spiritual questions and observations. Like some of Erdrich’s (LaRose, 2016, etc.) earlier work, it shifts adroitly in time and has a thoughtful, almost mournful insight into life on a Native reservation. If Erdrich hasn’t previously ventured into tropes normally employed by sci-fi writers, she doesn’t show the inexperience here. There is much to rue in this novel about our world but also hope for salvation: “I think we have survived because we love beauty and because we find each other beautiful,” as the novel’s protagonist puts it. “I think it may be our strongest quality.”

About the Author

Karen Louise Erdrich is a American author of novels, poetry, and children’s books. Her father is German American and mother is half Ojibwe and half French American. She is an enrolled member of the Anishinaabe nation (also known as Chippewa). She is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant Native writers of the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance.

 

Teacher Resources

Future Home of the Living God Discussion Questions

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Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway. January 9, 2018. Knopf Publishing Group, 688 p. ISBN: 9781524732080.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

From the widely acclaimed author of The Gone-Away World andTigerman, a virtuosic new novel and his most ambitious book yet–equal parts dark comedy, gripping detective story, and mind-bending philosophical puzzle–set in a not-too-distant-future, high-tech surveillance state.

In the world of Gnomon, citizens are ceaselessly observed and democracy has reached a pinnacle of ‘transparency.’ When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies in government custody during a routine interrogation, Mielikki Neith, a trusted state inspector, is assigned to the case. Immersing herself in neural recordings of the interrogation, she finds a panorama of characters and events that Hunter gave life to in order to forestall the investigation: a lovelorn financier in Athens who has a mystical experience with a shark; a brilliant alchemist in ancient Carthage confronting the unexpected outcome of her invention; an expat Ethiopian painter in London designing a controversial new video game. In the static between these mysterious visions, Neith begins to catch glimpses of the real Diana Hunter–and, alarmingly, of herself, the staggering consequences of which will reverberate throughout the world. Gnomon is a dazzling, panoramic achievement from one of the most original voices in contemporary fiction.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Alcohol, Kidnapping, Murder, Gore

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2017)
Beguiling, multilayered, sprawling novel that blends elements of Philip K. Dick–tinged sci-fi, mystery, politics, and literary fiction in a most satisfying brew.In surveying, a gnomon is a set square used to mark right angles on a chart. “By extension,” writes the genre-hopping British novelist Harkaway (Tigerman, 2014, etc.), “it means something perpendicular to everything else, such as the upright part of a sundial.” It is different from its surroundings, and so is everything that police investigator Mielikki Neith (as in ’neath, where hidden things are to be found) learns about the case just assigned to her: it involves a dissident, now deceased, in a near-future society where citizens patrol each other by means of social media, totalitarianism with a thin veneer of friendly hyperdemocracy, all committee work and political correctness. In this world, Diana Hunter, “a writer of obscurantist magical realist novels” read in fragmentary samizdat editions, harbored antinomian thoughts—and, given the recent news that the brain remains conscious for at least a short time after death, it makes sense that Neith should try to get inside her brain to ferret out subversion. That’s not easy, for Hunter has laid land mines throughout in the form of odd diversionary characters: ancient mathematicians, Roman legionaries, and other formidable obstacles who share Hunter’s “bad attitude.” The possibilities in the story are endless, and Harkaway looks into most of them, it seems, firing off brilliant lines (“The universe has cancer,” “Thousands and thousands of years, thousands of bodies, thousands of minds combined into one, and your best answer to pain is still revenge?”). Although he doesn’t go out of his way to advertise the fact, Harkaway is the son of John le Carré, and from his father he has inherited a feel for the world-weary tediousness of police work. Yet there’s no Smiley in the smiley-face future world where being a fascist busybody is a badge of honor—though enigmas abound, to be sure. Fans of Pynchon and William Gibson alike will devour this smart, expertly written bit of literary subversion.

Library Journal – web only (January 19, 2018)
This latest from Harkaway (Tigerman) is set in a near-future Britain managed by the Witness, a pervasive surveillance system connected to instant plebiscites that has taken the place of government. This system is perceived as the ultimate rule of the people by the people, but, disturbingly, the Witness can see into your mind. When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies under interrogation, investigator Meilikki Neith mentally ingests neural recordings made by the interrogators and thus relives the experience. The book then launches into multiple narrative streams, revealed in the recordings, involving macho Greek banker Kyriakos; fifth-century alchemist Athenais, mistress of Saint Augustine; and Ethiopian expatriate artist Bekele. These narratives are woven together to create a tapestry of meaning and of mystery. The theme of katabasis, the descent and emergence from the underworld, is central. Verdict The book functions as a riposte to the dangers of the surveillance state, demonstrating the interconnectedness of consciousness and the triumph of the all, the gnomon, over totalitarian control of the few. This work goes so far as to invoke the reader’s role in creating the narrative, which is simply astonishing; to be read at all costs! -Henry Bankhead, San Rafael P.L., CA

About the Author

Nick Harkaway was born in Cornwall, UK in 1972. He is possessed of two explosively exciting eyebrows, which exert an almost hypnotic attraction over small children, dogs, and – thankfully – one ludicrously attractive human rights lawyer, to whom he is married.

He likes: oceans, mountains, lakes, valleys, and those little pigs made of marzipan they have in Switzerland at new year.

He does not like: bivalves. You just can’t trust them.

His website is www.nickharkaway.com

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All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry

Al the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry. October 10, 2017. Algonquin Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9781616206666.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 750.

Sarah Jacqueline Crow and James Holt work in the vast maguey fields that span the bone-dry Southwest, a thirsty, infinite land that is both seductive and fearsome. In this rough, transient landscape, Sarah Jac and James have fallen in love. They’re tough and brave, and they have big dreams. Soon they will save up enough money to go east. But until then, they keep their heads down, their muscles tensed, and above all, their love secret.

When a horrible accident forces Sarah Jac and James to start over on a new, possibly cursed ranch called the Real Marvelous, the delicate balance they’ve found begins to give way. And James and Sarah Jac will have to pay a frighteningly high price for their love.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. Lakes have dried up, the earth is dying, and Sarah Jac and James flee southwest, leaving behind a gritty Chicago to harvest maguey in the desert. Surrounded by other transient workers, they hoard their money, hiding their love and scamming other workers while they dream of a different future. After an accident forces them to flee, the two find themselves working at the Real Marvelous, a ranch that’s rumored to be cursed. The owner of the ranch has two daughters, and Sarah Jac, who knows her way around a horse, is asked to give the youngest, timid and angry Bell, riding lessons. At the same time, James catches the eye of the eldest, fierce and beautiful Farrah, ill with a mysterious, terminal disease. As Sarah Jac and James are inexorably drawn into this family and their secrets, strange and magical things begin to happen at the Real Marvelous—things no con in the world can overcome, things that even their love may not be able to withstand. In aching, luminous prose, Mabry (A Fierce and Subtle Poison, 2016) crafts a story impossible to forget, infused with southwestern folklore and magical realism. The harsh desert is exquisitely, painfully rendered, and the characters are flawed and wholly real. A gripping, fablelike story of a love ferocious enough to destroy and a world prepared to burn with it.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2017)
In a dangerous, post-apocalyptic America, Sarah Jac and her boyfriend, James, keep their relationship a secret as they work at a mysterious farm. After environmental collapse, the western half of North America is desert. Seventeen-year-old Sarah Jacqueline Crow, aka “Sarah Jac” (who’s mixed-race), and fellow orphan James Holt (who’s white) specialize in picking the maguey plant for violent overseers and profit-hungry ranch owners whose harvests turn into pulque, mescal, and tequila. After a fatal accident during a dust storm, Sarah Jac is accused of murder, and the two stow away on a train that leads them to the Real Marvelous, a ranch in Texas that’s rumored to be cursed. To protect themselves, Sarah Jac and James pretend to be cousins, fearing that if they’re open about their love, they’ll expose themselves to blackmail or worse. Soon, Sarah Jac is commanded to provide equestrian lessons to the owner’s younger daughter, Bell, while James is commissioned to work in the big house as a groundskeeper—and ends up catching the eye of Bell’s sickly but beautiful older sister, Farrah. A complicated series of plagues, prophecies, and love triangles ensues. The author’s prose is rich and lyrical, but the worldbuilding is lacking, leaving readers wondering about details rather than immersed in the story. In a reverse of most romantic story arcs, the love story goes from initially swoonworthy to deeply unsatisfying. Mabry’s mix of magical realism and dystopia doesn’t live up to its promising start. (Science fiction. 14-17)

About the Author

Samantha was born four days before the death of John Lennon. she grew up in Dallas, playing bass guitar along to vinyl records in her bedroom after school, writing fan letters to rock stars, doodling song lyrics into notebooks, and reading big, big books.

She spends as much time as possible in the West Texas desert. Her website is samanthamabry.com

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Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi

Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi. October 10, 2017. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 336 p. ISBN: 9780316220835.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

This third book in a major series by a bestselling science fiction author, Printz Award winner, and National Book Award finalist is the gripping story of the most provocative character from his acclaimed novels Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities.

Tool, a half-man/half-beast designed for combat, is capable of so much more than his creators had ever dreamed. He has gone rogue from his pack of bioengineered “augments” and emerged a victorious leader of a pack of human soldier boys. But he is hunted relentlessly by someone determined to destroy him, who knows an alarming secret: Tool has found the way to resist his genetically ingrained impulses of submission and loyalty toward his masters… The time is coming when Tool will embark on an all-out war against those who have enslaved him. From one of science fiction’s undisputed masters comes a riveting page-turner that pulls no punches.

Sequel to: The Drowned Cities

Part of Series: Ship Breaker (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Violence, Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. Five years after The Drowned Cities (2012), Bacigalupi returns to his award-winning Ship Breaker series. This opens with a rare moment of peace in the Drowned Cities. Moments later, Havoc missiles rain down death on Tool and his young army, turning humans and city into ash. The Mercier Corporation and General Carora have finally located the DNA-enhanced Tool and are desperate to annihilate their renegade augment. The action is nonstop as Tool is marched through a series of brutal battles, meeting main characters from the earlier books along the way. The number of plot conveniences and narrow escapes is almost as high as the body count as Tool seeks revenge on his corporate makers. The central issue of Tool’s humanity is burdened by plot contradictions that overwhelm character development, and the searing passion of the earlier books seems missing. Still, Bacigalupi’s action scenes are brilliantly cinematic, powering the pacing with breathtaking superhero stunts. Tool, as ever, is a character impossible to forget, and all loose ends are tied up in an epilogue.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2017)
Bacigalupi returns to probe his brutal, post-apocalyptic American landscape and darkly provocative characters in this third installment of the series begun in Ship Breaker (2010) and continued in The Drowned Cities (2012). Following the pattern of existential fracture found in its predecessors’ narratives, this latest novel further explores the consequences of war and corruption with a focus on the DNA–spliced “augment” called Tool. Tool (also called Blood, Blade, and Karta-Kul the Slaughter-Bringer) is a finely honed weapon, bred for massacre, survival, and loyalty. But after breaking free of his conditioned servitude, Tool represents a serious threat to his former masters, who attack with everything available in their considerable arsenal to destroy him lest they be forced to face the terrifying question of what happens when a weapon turns on its creators. For Tool was uniquely designed for more than just the tactical strategy and lethal bloodlust of most augments—he has a power that, now unleashed, could spell the end for a violently factionalized, inhumanly cruel humanity. Told in third person, the novel alternates among the perspectives of several new as well as familiar characters, none of whom shy away from the constant gore and near-paralyzing moral complexities of their war-torn existence. After playing fascinating, catalyzing roles the first two books, Tool is at center stage at last as readers move through Bacigalupi’s exploration of the intricate relationships connecting hunter and prey, master and enslaved, human and monster. Masterful. (Dystopian. 14-adult)

About the Author

Paolo Bacigalupi is the author of the highly acclaimed The Drowned Cities and Ship Breaker, a New York Times bestseller, Michael L. Printz Award winner, and National Book Award finalist. He is also the author of the Edgar Awards nominee The Doubt Factory; a novel for younger readers, Zombie Baseball Beatdown; and two bestselling adult novels for adults, The Water Knife and The Windup Girl. His first work of collected short fiction was Pump Six and Other Stories. The winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Compton Crook, John W. Campbell Memorial, and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards, he lives in western Colorado with his wife and son.  His website is windupstories.com

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Tool of War on Amazon

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