by Ally Condie
Dystopian novels for teens have been around for a while, but this particular sub-genre of fantasy got a huge second wind from Susanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy. If a teen you know is looking for a good follow-up, point them toward Matched, a first novel by Ally Condie (Dutton, 2010). The novel is set in a world controlled by an all-powerful group known as The Society, in which everything about each person’s life—food intake, profession, marriage partner, date of death—is determined by statistical formulas. Seventeen year-old Cassia Reyes gets her first hint that something’s not right during the all-important Matching Ceremony when she learns who her husband will be. It turns out that it’s her best friend, Xander. But when she gets home and looks at the picture she’s been given, it’s that of Ky, one of the school outcasts. How could this discrepancy occur in a perfectly regulated society? And is there anything she can do? Can any individual take on The Society—and win? Matched is followed by Crossed, which is due out in November, 2011; but I somehow doubt that the story will end there. Perfect for 7th graders and up.
by Ben Aaronovitch
Mysteries with a touch or more of the supernatural are not hard to find on library and bookstore shelves these days; but I found Ben Aaronovitch’s novel of elastic realism, Midnight Riot, to be something special, mainly because of the voice of the narrator, London Police Constable Peter Grant. Caught in the wrong (or right?) place at the right (or wrong?) time, he stumbles upon a murder scene where a ghost approaches him and claims he witnessed the crime. As a result, Grant is assigned to work with Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, the Department’s go-to man for crimes involving magic. In short order, he finds himself enmeshed in a family feud among the personifications of the various tributaries (both above and below ground) of the Thames River. Meanwhile, this being a police procedural, he and Nightingale plod away at unraveling not only the original murder, but various other nasty events that seem to be related to it. And, under Nightingale’s tutelage, Grant begins to develop the magical abilities that he seems to have a gift for (as evidenced by his having been able to talk to the ghost witness in the first place) but of which he’s been previously unaware. Grant’s voice is colloquial and self-deprecating, the pages turn quickly, and London comes alive in all its squalor and beauty. And did I mention Toby, one of the best canine sidekicks in contemporary fiction? Fans of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere should enjoy Aaronovitch’s novel and its sequels quite a lot. Now to decide whether to shelve it with the mysteries or the fantasies…