Tag Archives: series

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

girl in the steel corset  

Bibliographic Information:

Cross, Kady. The Girl in the Steel Corset. Don Mills, Ontario: Harlequin Teen, 2011. (978-0-373-21070-1) – includes bonus novella The Strange Case of Finley Jayne


The Steampunk Chronicles

            • The Strange Case of Finley Jayne
            • The Girl in the Steel Corset
            • The Girl in the Clockwork Collar
            • The Girl with the Iron Touch


  • Steampunk
  • Paranormal

Plot Summary:

Set in 1897 Victorian England, the novel opens with sixteen-year-old Finley being attacked by her employer’s son. But Finley is no ordinary girl to be taken advantage of by the nobility. She has an alter ego that has supernatural strength and a desire for violence. Even though she was just protecting herself, she knows as a maid in the noble’s house there will be consequences and so she runs – straight in front of the velocycle of Griffin King, the Duke of Greythorne.

While Finley recuperates at Greythorne House, Griffin quickly realizes that there is something dark and dangerous about Finley but he has secrets of his own and he is sure he can help the troubled girl merge the two sides of her personality. Besides, he already has an unusual collection of friends including the brilliant scientist Emily, the part-mechanical Sam, and the American cowboy Jasper who is faster than any normal human. It is difficult to trust an outsider with their secrets and Finley’s arrival adds an added strain to an already complex set of relationships.

Throw into the mix the mad Machinist who plans to take over England and destroy Griffin. Things have gotten tricky

While running away after being attacked by her employer’s son, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne is hit by Griffin King. Now, Griffin says he wants to protect her but Finley has a secret. There’s something dark inside her and it is getting stronger. If she stays, who is going to protect Griffin?

Critical Evaluation:

Cross’ decision to employ an omniscient third person point of view is appropriate. In The Girl in the Steel Corset she introduces the reader to the many characters that will star in the succeeding novels. By moving between her characters, she allows the reader to get a feeling for the internal motivations of Finley, Emily, Sam, Griffin, and to a smaller degree Jasper, although the primary focus of the story remains with Finley. In the following novels, Cross tells her tale focusing on one of the other characters while still developing the relationships and plotlines developed in the first novel.

The author also took the time to provide appropriate backstories for her quintet of stars. By doing do, the reader can empathize with Sam’s mixed feelings about his robotic side; the illusions to Frankenstein are light but resonate. The similarities to the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde also add additional depth to the tale.

Cross aptly describes the Steampunk Chronicles as “Teen X-Men meets League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, minus the extreme violence.” (Steampunk Scholar blog, March 9, 2013). The only thing missing from this summary is the romance that she wove through the narrative.

Bottom Line:

Worth adding to a high school library collection. Fun, light, and sigh-worthy.

Information about the Author:

Kady Cross and Kate Cross are both pseudonyms of author, Kathryn Smith. As Kathryn Smith, she has written a number of adult historical romances. Please see her sites for more information:

Kady Cross: http://www.kadycross.com/about/

Kate Cross: http://www.katecross.com/

Kathryn Smith: http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/19718/Kathryn_Smith/index.aspx

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Young Adult

Challenge Issues:

  • Sexual content (mild)
  • Violence

Department 19 by Will Hill

department 19Bibliographic Information:

Hill, W. (2011). Department 19. London: Harper Collins Children’s. (978-0007424900)

Department 19, bk. 1

The Rising: bk. 2

Battlelines: bk. 3

Plot Summary:

Two years ago Jamie saw his father kill himself. Now, his mother has been kidnapped and he has been rescued by a giant named Frankenstein. So, Jamie finds himself with Department 19, a secret organization that is responsible to hunting the supernatural. Founded over a hundred years prior by Abraham Van Helsing, it turns out that the Carpenter family has been part of the Department since its inception. In fact, Jamie’s father was a member.

Now, Jamie has to train and hunt a vampire to rescue his mother. Unfortunately, the vampire is always just a step ahead of him.

Critical Evaluation:

In recent years the story of Dracula and vampires in general have soften and have been romantized. Department 19 does have good vampires but the focus of the novel is hunting the original evil, interestingly, by man-made monster out of the literary past, Frankenstein.

The plot operates on two levels. First, there is the central plot of Jamie wanting to rescue his mother and chasing down clues. Then, there is the subplot that is told in intermittent chapters of the original hunt 100 years ago which explains how Department 19 originated. These two plots come together and create a cohesive whole by the end of the book.

This book starts quickly and continues the same way. Hill is quoted as saying that Department 19 is “a hundred-mile-an-hour supernatural thriller, full of old-school vampires who would rather tear your throat out than kiss your face off, and who can’t go in the sun because they will burst into flames. There’s no sparkling here – just an action-packed race against time” (qtd in http://bookzone4boys.blogspot.ca/search?q=department+19 ). Along the way, there are fights, death, and, of course, blood.

Reader’s Annotation:

What if Dracula was real? Then it is a good thing that Department 19 is on the job to hunt him down.

Information About the Author:

Will Hill grew up in the north-east of England. Will Hill was in publishing before he became a writer. He has also worked as a bartender and a bookseller.

In his site Hill says that he has always been fascinated with vampires.

For more information about the author, please visit his site.
For more information on the series, please visit the Department 19 website


  • Science fiction
  • Horror fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read the first couple of pages of the book where Will’s father kills himself.
  • Watch the video created by HarperCollins Children’s Books (http://youtu.be/-JvWlKT9src):

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • Violence

Challenge plan:

  1. Listen to the critic to understand what the concerns are.
    • Ask if he/she has read the book
    • Ask if he/she has spoken to his/her child       about the concerns.
  2. Explain rationale for including the book in the collection
    • Provide CLA Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom and CLA’s Position Statement of Diversity and       Inclusion documents
    • Provide school’s selection policy
    • Provide list of reviews/lists
  3. If necessary, provide a “Request for Reconsideration form”

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

I purchased the first book in the series two years ago and read it right away because I knew that my son would want to read it since he is a big Higson fan. I bought a copy for the library as soon I finished and it flew off my shelves. So, I purchased the second book, The Rising, as soon it came out. This year, I had students reminding me when the third book was being released so I would get it that day. I have not seen it in the library since so I have not had a chance to read it yet.


  • Doyle, A. C. (2011). Department Nineteen. School Library Journal, 57(6), 119-120.

“There is plenty of action and gore to hook even reluctant readers despite the 500-plus pages. The author skillfully blends history, classical fiction, and teen fantasy into a unique novel.”

  • Department 19. (2011). Kirkus Reviews, 79(6), 500.

“Readers will identify the inevitable double-crosser long before Jamie does, but they probably won’t mind. They’ll be so happy these vampires don’t sparkle they’ll forgive the novel’s excesses and keep flipping the pages to the next splatter-fest–and then they’ll demand the sequel.”

  • Hutley, K. (2011). Department 19. Booklist, 107(18), 55.

“This surprising, scary genre mash-up will have enormous series appeal.”


Coming up in 2011 #7: Department 19 by Will Hill. (2011). Retrieved 10 May 2013 from http://bookzone4boys.blogspot.ca/search?q=department+19

Will Hill. (2013). Retrieved 10 May 2013 from http://www.foyles.co.uk/Will-Hill

White Cat by Holly Black

white catBibliographic Information:

Black, H. (2010). White cat: #1 of The curse workers. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books. (978-1416963974)

Curse Workers, 2: Red Glove

Curse Workers, 3: Black Heart

Plot Summary:

Cassel Sharpe is an ordinary teenage boy and that’s the problem. In a family of curse works he is expendable. It does not matter that working people is illegal and that everyone wears gloves because it takes skin contact in order to for someone to “work” you. What does matter is that he even without the talent he killed the girl he loved when he was 14 and his family covered it out.

He has the genes for crime so he is the school bookie and can run a con as well as anyone in the family but he is not a worker. So, at school, even though he is as normal as any other kid at school, he still has habits and connections to the Zacharov crime family that he needs to keep hidden. As a result, he really cannot fit into either world.

When he starts having dreams about a white cat and ends up sleep walking he starts to wonder if maybe something is not quite right with his view his world. Could it be that he has been worked? And if so, what possible reason could there be?

Critical Evaluation:

White Cat told from Cassel’s perspective. As a result, the narrative feels slightly jaded and often reads world-weary. Cassel has difficulty making friends because he does not want anyone to know about his connection with organized crime. Besides, it is embarrassing for a guy to admit that his mother is in jail for working a millionaire. Through Cassel’s eyes, the reader can also understand how it feels to be the nobody in a family of talented workers.

Cassel’s reminiscing about his past also provides a detailed backstory that provides the clues for the action of the present. The character of Cassel is one of the greatest strengths of the story. He is a complex character; both bad – he commits crimes and runs a bookie operation – and good. He is sensitive and protective of his friends. He wants to do the right thing but he also has to protect his family. He is both the crook and the victim.

Black has always melded reality with fantasy in her writing. In this series, the two are so intertwined that the magical is just part of the reality. She has created a complex reality where workers suffer discrimination and that discrimination has pushed workers into a world of crime ruled by crime lords.

Reader’s Annotation:

Cassel Sharpe is a con man with a sarcastic wit but he is non-magical and is definitely not a worker. So why is he having crazy dreams and sleepwalking on roofs? It is possible that the con man is being played?

Information About the Author:

Holly Black is a well-established, prolific author for children and young adults. Her bibliography includes The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale and Zombies vs. Unicorns. She has also written poetry and short stories.

Black was born in New Jesey in 1971. She graduated from The College of New Jersey in 1995. She then worked as a production editor and attended graduate school at Rutgers (Biography Holly Black).

For more information please see her website.

Please check out Scholastic site for a video interview with Holly Black.


  • Science fiction
  • Urban fantasy

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Include in booklist of the best of the good bad guys.
  • Read one of the sleepwalking scenes.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up

Challenge Issues:

The Curse Workers series are not likely to be challenged in high schools because there are not graphic descriptions. However, it is possible that the actions of the characters may be objectionable to some.

    • drinking, gambling, stealing, drug use

Challenge plan:

  1. Listen to the critic to understand what the concerns are.
    • Ask if he/she has read the book
    • Ask if he/she has spoken to his/her child about the concerns.
  2. Explain rationale for including the book in the collection.
  3. Provide CLA Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom and CLA’s Position Statement of Diversity and Inclusion document.
    • Provide school’s selection policy.
    • Provide list of reviews/lists
  4. If necessary, provide a “Request for Reconsideration form”

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

I decided to include White Cat because my students will love Cassel’s irony and dry humour. It is dark enough to border on horror without stepping over that line.


  • Sparks, L. J. (2010). White Cat. School Library Journal, 56(6), 94.

“Black has written a dark coming-of-age tale with a likable hero. Teens will empathize with Cassel’s desire to fit in and his occasional clashes with his family while rooting for him to unravel the conspiracy.”

  • White cat: The Curse Workers, Book 1. (2010). Kirkus Reviews, 78(7), 302.

“Forget fairy tales. The first in Black’s new series is a dark, complex Chinese puzzle box, full of cons, criminals and curses–a denigrating term for magic in a world where it’s outlawed.”

“Urban fantasy, con story, coming of age–whatever you call it, read it.”


About Holly Black. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2013 from http://www.blackholly.com/biography.html

Biography Holly Black. (2013). Retrieved May 9, 2013 from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/contributor/holly-black

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

SweetnessBibliographic Information:

Bradley, A. (2009). The sweetness at the bottom of the pie. Toronto: Anchor Canada. (978-0-385-66583-4)

Flavia de Luce series, bk. 1

Plot Summary:

Flavia de Luce is having an interesting day. First, she escapes from being blindfolded and tied up in her closet by her sisters. Then she is present to see the fear on her father’s face when he finds a dead bird with a postage stamp in its’ beak on their doorstep. Later, she overhears her father arguing with a mystery man in his study – only to find this same man dead in their cucumber patch the next morning.

And so, a new detective is born. As she says, “I wish I could say I was afraid but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.” But it will not be her last. In her investigations she will search a man’s room, climb a tower, be kidnapped, and of course, perform some chemistry. In the end, will it be enough to save her father from prison or will she find herself sharing the cell beside him?

Critical Evaluation:

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is an excellent example of how a character comes from a certain place and time. In this case, Flavia needs to come from a home where she has a great deal of freedom so she can investigate the crime but also so she can do her chemistry experiments. Further, she comes from a world where girls are not expected to be adventurous or interested in worldly matters. Much of the humor of the novel comes from Flavia’s unconventional responses or her reactions to people’s expectations of her. Part of this can be attributed to her age. She is young enough at eleven to still be outspoken and be a hoyden. These behaviors may not have been as believable in a heroine at sixteen, for example.

Flavia’s ongoing spates with her sisters and irrepressible personality add a level of normalcy and humor to her character. As a result her character is Anne of Green Gables meets Sherlock Holmes.

Reader’s Annotation:

Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce decides she must solve the murder of the man found in her cucumber patch to save her father from prison.

Information About the Author:

Born in Toronto Ontario in 1938, Alan Bradley has had a long and varied career as a writer, teacher and media technologist. After attending Ryerson University, Bradley worked as a television engineer in Ontario and Saskatoon (Jessop, 2012). Later, he served for 25 years as the Director of Television Engineering in the media centre at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

Bradley has written screenplays and short stories and has taught Script Writing and Television Production Courses at the University of Saskatchewan. He has been involved in the local literary scene. He was the first President of the Saskatoon Writers and a founding member of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild. He is also a founding member of The Casebook of Saskatoon, “a society devoted to the study of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockian writings” (Author’s bio, 2013)

Alan Bradley was 70 when he wrote the Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. The story started out as a 15-page excerpt that he had written and submitted to The British Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger Award, which he won in 2007.

Interestingly, although the novel is set in England, Bradley had not been to England himself until he went to receive his award in 2007. But, he says, he grew up submersed in the English culture through his English grandparents and the English books and magazines he read. He also credits his wife, Shirley, with helping him research the subject (Catto, 2009)

Click here for an interesting conversation between Alan Bradley and Shelagh Rogers about Flavia de Luce and his newest novel, Speaking From Among the Bones.


  • Mystery – detective stories
  • Historical fiction
  • Crossover

Curriculum Ties:

  • Chemistry
  • English
    • Mystery novels
    • Character development

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read from page 11 as Flavia adds poison ivy oil to her sister’s lipstick
    • Talk about pranks between siblings
  • Read from page 24 when she eavesdrops on her father to finding the dead man

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

I do not read detective stories very often but this series has received a lot of press lately. I heard an interview with Alan Bradley a few weeks ago and decided to read it. It was funny, smart, and had a good mystery.


Coon, J. (2009). The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Booklist, 105(17), 35. (star review)

 “Only those who dislike precocious young heroines with extraordinary vocabulary and audacious courage can fail to like this amazingly entertaining book.”

Goldsmith, F. (2009). The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. School Library Journal, 55(5), 140.

“Flavia is brave and true and hilarious, and the murder mystery is clever and satisfying.

The sweetness at the bottom of the pie. (2009). Kirkus Reviews, 77(5), 49.

Brilliant, irresistible and incorrigible, Flavia has a long future ahead of her. Bradley’s mystery debut is a standout chock full of the intellectual asides so beloved by Jonathan Gash readers. It might even send budding sleuths to chemistry classes.


  • 2007 Debut Dagger Award
  • 2009 Agatha Award, Best First Novel
  • 2010 Amelia Bloomer List, Young Adult Fiction
  • 2010 Alex Award nominee
  • 2010 Arthur Ellis Awards, Best First Novel
  • Macavity Awards, Best First Mystery Novel
  • 2010 Best Books for Young Adults


Author’s bio.(2013) Retrieved from http://www.flaviadeluce.com/view-authors-bio/

Catto, S. (2009). Alan Bradley: The old/new face of fiction. Quill & Quire. Retrieved from http://www.quillandquire.com/authors/profile.cfm?article_id=10492

Jessop, P. (2012). Alan Bradley. In The Canadian encyclopedia. Retrieved from


The Knife of Never Letting Go

Bibliographic Information:

Ness, P. (2008). The knife of never letting go. Cambridge, Mass: Candlewick Press. (978-0-7636-3931-0)

Chaos Walking trilogy, book 1

Plot Summary:

Todd Hewitt does not know what it means to have any privacy. He lives in a town where everyone – every male – can hear the thoughts of every other male in the town. There are no women left. They were killed when the Spackle, the native species of the planet, released the germ. The side effect of the germ is that men can hear each other’s thoughts. Now, there is always Noise.

Todd is the last boy in Prentisstown. Before he becomes a man, his adoptive parents, Ben and Cillian, force him to flee before the ceremony. Confused, he takes his mother’s diary and heads into the swamp where he is shocked to find a girl whose spaceship crash-landed, killing her parents.

Now, Todd and the girl start a journey where Todd will learn all he knew was a lie and that it is hard to hide from yourself – and others – when your thoughts can never be private.

Critical Evaluation:

I was once told that a great book will hook you in the first paragraph. The Knife of Never Letting Go has one of the most memorable first paragraphs I have read in a long time:

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. About anything.

“Need a poo, Todd.”

“Shut up, Manchee.”

“Poo. Poo. Todd.”

“I said shut it.”

There are no profound words of wisdom in these lines, no lyrical imagery or evocative phrases. But, there is enough to catch the curiosity of the reader and to hook him into the tale. That light touch of humour is sprinkled throughout this terribly beautiful tale.

Aside from the plot, which I think is tightly woven, there are two things I particularly appreciate in this tale. First, is the pacing. Ness, as a marathon runner, understands the need to set a pace and keep to it even when your legs are burning and you do not think you can catch another breath. Ness writes the same way. He starts the tale in the middle and keeps moving. He has cut away the extraneous pieces; all that is left is the muscle.

I also appreciate Todd’s voice. He has kept Todd real with the rhythm of the language and the slang-like dialect. He is confused. He makes mistakes. He survives. Because the reader can relate to Todd as a real person the rest of the story also becomes believable. He takes the reader into his world.

Reader’s Annotation:

In a town without women where men can hear each other’s thoughts how can one lone boy be alone?

Ness scholasticInformation About the Author:

Patrick Ness has two very different biographies. His personal one is quirky and firmly roots him in the world of supernatural writing. His professional one focuses briefly on his life and delves into his works.

Although Ness was born in Virginia, he admits he has never been back. As an army brat he has lived in Hawaii, Washington, and California. He has called England home since 1999.

Ness studied English Literature at the University of Southern California. He always wanted to be an author so he has tried to make sure all his jobs were related to writing. As a result, he worked as a corporate writer at a cable company, freelanced as a journalist, and taught Creative Writing at Oxford University. He has written for a number of English papers including The Guardian and The Times Literary Supplement.

An interesting factoid about Ness is that “under no circumstances will I eat onions.” Disappointing for me – I don’t think he will be coming to dinner at my home any time soon.

For more information please visit Patrick Ness’ website


  • Science fiction
  • Dystopian
  • Adventure

Curriculum Ties:

  • Media classes to discuss the concept of writing for ones’ audience and tone.
  • Expository writing and persuasive writing.

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Stream of consciousness
  • Books with slang
  • If dogs could take quotes
  • Book trailer by Christie Kimsey created for educational purposes for INLS 530 at UNC Chapel Hill.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up
  • Reading level 5.6

Challenge Issues:

  • Violence

Challenge plan:

  1. Listen to the critic to understand what the concerns are.
  • Ask if he/she has read the book
  • Ask if he/she has spoken to his/her child about the concerns.
  1. Explain rationale for including the book in the collection
  • Provide CLA Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom and CLA’s Position Statement of Diversity and Inclusion documents
  • Provide school’s selection policy
  • Provide list of reviews/lists
  1. If necessary, provide a “Request for Reconsideration form”

Why did you include this book?:

I read a lot of books from a lot of different genres and age ranges. I like to be able to find the right reader for the right book. But when my students ask me for my favorite books I do have to admit I have a preference for two things in a book; a protagonist with a distinct voice and interesting language. I love authors that play with words. Ness revels in words.


  • Winner of the 2008 Booktrust Teenage Prize
  • Winner of the 2008 Guardian Award
  • Winner of the 2008 James Tiptree, Jr. Award
  • Shortlisted for the 2009 Carnegie Medal
  • Longlisted for the 2009 Manchester Book Award


“Patrick Ness” (n.d.). Retreived from http://www.candlewick.com/authill.asp?b=Author&m=bio&id=3327&pix=y

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

seraphina Bibliographic information

Hartman, R. (2012). Seraphina. Toronto: Doubleday Canada. (978-0-385-66839-2)

Plot summary

Sixteen-year-old Seraphina Dombegh is a gifted musician who has just recently found a place in the royal court as a new assistant to the court composer. Her love of music encouraged her to defy her father and come to court even though she had been taught to blend in and hide since childhood as her mere existence is considered an aberration to both sides of her parentage. Her mother was a saarantrai; a dragon in human form. It wasn’t until her death and Seraphina’s birth that her father learned that the woman he loved wasn’t really a human.

Seraphina’s musical talents draw her into the inner circle of the Princess  Glisselda and her fiancé, Prince Lucien Kiggs. As Seraphina’s knowledge about dragons becomes known, she finds herself in the unique position of helping Kiggs, who is also Captain of the Queen’s Guard, try to solve a mysterious murder. She has come into the world of court at a time of high drama; it appears that Prince Rufus was killed by a dragon just before Ardmagar Comonot, the dragon’s leader, arrives to celebrate the anniversary of a treaty between their two nations. Someone is trying to destroy that peace treaty and Seraphina may hold the key to peace – or to war. But the more time she spends with the observant Captain, the closer he gets to learning her terrible secret.

Critical evaluation

Hartman’s debut novel, Seraphina, received a number of richly deserved accolades including the 2013 YALSA Morris Award for Best YA Debut Novel and the Cybils Award for Fantasy and Science Fiction. Seraphina was also a finalist for the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award (Canada), short-listed for the Kitschies’ Golden Tentacle Award (UK), and long-listed for the Carnegie Medal (“Seraphina”).

Hartman’s tightly spun plot tells the story of the musically talented Seraphina. Told through Seraphina’s voice, the reader is first introduced to a scared young woman afraid to be noticed. As the plot develops, however, Seraphina’s character is shown to be increasingly complex as the reader is given glimpses of the depth of her confusion and self-loathing about her dragon heritage as she relates memories of her childhood. This coming-of-age story follows a remarkable heroine on her road to self-acceptance.

The kingdom of Goredd has the flavour of the Italian Renaissance with the rich interest in the arts, opulent dress, and focus on politics. Indeed, Hartman has aptly developed two cultures; one based on humanism focusing on creativity, art and emotion and the other based on the founding ideals of the Enlightenment with its focus the intellect, reason, and objectivity. These two ideals are embodied in the character of Seraphina who, being half dragon and half human, is struggling to accept herself as something more than the monster that both societies view her as.

Reader’s annotation

Seraphina’s gift of music came from her dragon heritage. But, when a dragon becomes the main suspect in a royal murder, that closely guarded secret could undermine her growing relationship with Prince Lucien Kiggs, destroy her family and, perhaps, throw the kingdom into war.

Information about the author

According to her website, http://rachelhartmanbooks.com , Rachel was born in Kentucky. She has lived throughout the United States, England, and Japan and currently lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She has a BA in Comparative Literature but “eschewed graduate school in favour of drawing comic books.”

Challenge issues:

  • none

Seraphina is her first novel.

Genre: Fantasy fiction, subgenre: animal

Curriculum ties: none

Booktalking ideas:

  • Read the section where Seraphina is describing her garden
  • Internal struggle for identity
  • Conflict of the rational vs emotion
  • Use of music as a plot device
  • Fear of the “other”
  • Book trailer

Reading level/interest:

  • 15 and up
  • Grade level 4.6

Why did you include this title?:

  • Canadian author
  • Winner of the 2013 YALSA Morris Award for Best YA Debut Novel, Cybils Award,Finalist for the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award (Canada),Short-listed for the Kitschies’ Golden Tentacle Award (UK),Long-listed for the Carnegie Medal
  • Received starred reviews from Horn Book, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

Rebel Heart by Moira Young

Rebel Heart

Bibliographic Information:

Young, M. (2012). Rebel Heart. Toronto: Doubleday Canada. (9978-0-385-67186-6)

Dust Lands bk. 2

Plot Summary:

Rebel Heart, the second book in the Dust Lands series, follows Saba and her family’s attempt to move on from the deception and destruction sown in Blood Red Road. Lugh wants nothing more than to take their small family and start a new life at the Big Water. He wants to forget his time with the Tonton and all the misery they have lived through.

Saba, however, is being followed by too many ghosts to allow her to find peace. When a message comes from Jack, she decides to risk everything to find him and get him away from the Tonton. While hunting for Jack, Saba is reunited with another of her nightmares, DeMalo.

Critical Evaluation:

First person narrative is a common motif in young adult literature. This narrative mode has many benefits to an author. First, the immediacy of the telling can quickly draw a reader into the plot. It also a great way for an author to control the information the reader is receiving as the narrator’s understanding is limited to, and shaped by, his own experience and what he has been told. Young uses this technique to demonstrate the duality that exists in Saba’s character: she is strong and determined but vulnerable and filled with guilt.

Through allowing Saba to tell her own story, Young depicts the typical flawed hero often associated with high fantasy plots. Young’s post-apocalyptic setting provides a contemporary feeling to the typical hero’s quest. In this, the Dust Land series follows a current trend of post-apocalyptic dystopian novels starring strong female protagonists which includes The Hunger Games, Legend, Shatter Me, and Divergent.

Saba has many similarities to the female protagonists in the books listed above. One of the main differences is her voice. Young’s future is one where literacy is limited; where the very language is decaying. As a result, Saba’s dialect is filled with misspelled words, contractions, and grammatically incorrect sentences. The result is jarring and uncomfortable to a reader used to novels following the rules and conventions of English – which is the point. This devolution of language is echoed in the harsh, barren landscape where Saba lives.

Reader’s Annotation:

Saba, now known as the “Angel of Death,” has successfully rescued her brother Lugh but at what cost? The sacrifices made have marked her and her brother. When a message comes from Jack, she knows she must risk going to New Eden to rescue him but New Eden has some more surprises for her – who is Jack really working for and what does she really want? Maybe there is a place for her in creating this brave new world – maybe she does not have to be its’ destroyer.

Information About the Author:

Although Moira Young was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, she graduated from high school in Winnipeg, Manitoba. After completing a history degree at the University of British Columbia, Moira attended the The Drama Studio in London, England. She had a short-lived career in theatre as both an actor and dancer. After retraining, she continued her stage career as an opera singer (“Moira Young”).

Blood Red Road was her first book.

Young was an avid reader in her youth. Explaining she said, “I was hungry for books, I devoured them. Libraries provided boundless food for my imagination, shelves full of ideas and thoughts and possibilities. I’d quite like to be buried in a library, there among the stacks” (“Moira Young: About the Author”).


  • Dystopian
  • Post-apocalyptic
  • Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • English – voice, hero tale
  • Companion book for dystopian unit

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read-alikes for The Hunger Games
  • Girls kick butt too
  • Unique narrative voices

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up
  • Lexile Level: HL420L

Challenge Issues:

  • Violence
  • Sex

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?:

I chose to include Rebel Heart for the following reasons:

  • Blood Red Road won the Costa Children’s Book Award, was a Cyblis Award Winner for fantasy and science fiction. Rebel Heart received a starred review in Publishers Weekly.
  • Moira Young is a Canadian author with a Winnipeg connection.
  • Dystopian literature is very popular right now.