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In the stacks: New books for young adults

Posted: December 29, 2011 - 1:04am

Look for these and other new books for Young Adults on the shelves at the Juneau Public Libraries — they’re easy to spot with yellow-green stickers above the spine labels.

“Free as a Bird,” by Gina McMurchy-Barber.

Ruby Jean Sharp was born with Down Syndrome at a time when kids like her were institutionalized, but she is luckier than most — until she is eight, she lives with her grandmother, who treats her just like any other little girl. After her grandmother dies, Ruby Jean finds herself living at Woodlands School because her mother doesn’t want her around. This is Ruby’s book — and she tells all — about the small happinesses she finds with friends on Ward 33, the wardens and nurses who treat the kids like unthinking and unfeeling animals, the occasional visits from her mother and her new family, and the teachers she meets who actually believe Ruby Jean is smart, despite her biting and kicking, despite her elective muteness. Told in Ruby Jean’s own words, this is a small, quick, hopeful book.

“How to Ditch Your Fairy,” by Justine Larbalestier.

It may take a few pages to catch the swing of the invented slang in this quirky story, but it’s worth it! (And if you’re too lost, check out the glossary in the back.) Fourteen-year-old Charlie lives in a world where almost everyone is born with a fairy — but you don’t get to choose what kind. So, while her best friend has a clothes-shopping fairy and her mom’s friend has a loose-change fairy, Charlie has a parking fairy. She can’t even drive yet and she hates the faint smell of gasoline that follows her everywhere! Charlie’s trying her best to get rid of her fairy in the hope of getting a new one, even teaming up with her arch-enemy (with an all-the-boys-like-you fairy that she hates). But when the two girls find a way to switch their fairies, Charlie quickly finds that fairy matters are much more complicated than she ever imagined.

“Inside Out,” by Maria V. Snyder.

Trella is a scrub, a nobody who lives and works in the lower levels, making sure everything is maintained for the privileged ones who live in the upper areas. Unlike everyone else in her communal society, she has never taken to group living and prefers to keep to herself, sleeping in the pipes she maintains instead of in the bunk she’s assigned. All her scrambling around on and off the job has given her a uniquely detailed knowledge of the inner workings of her dystopian world, and when her only friend, Cog, asks for her help in hiding one of the many crazy prophets who periodically arise, she agrees. Because this prophet, crazy or not, knows something real, something that will help the scrubs out of their life of servitude and into freedom. Fans of “The Hunger Games” will find both similarities and startling, riveting differences.

“Nickel Plated,” by Aric Davis.

Picture a 12-year-old hard-boiled detective hero in a story written by Andrew Vachss and you’ve got Nickel, a red-headed, bike-riding, pot-growing, pedophile-blackmailing, child-finding boy who has taken himself out of the foster care system and is living on his own. Sounds like a ludicrous premise? Stick around for a chapter or two and you’ll be hooked. Nickel’s natural smarts and early upbringing by a man he called Dad have been sharpened by years in bad foster homes where he learned that to take care of himself, he had to be able to read people and stay one step ahead. He’s good with technology and supports himself by researching pedophiles in chat rooms, offering himself up, and then threatening to expose them. He’s a vigilante who works for other kids for free, just to make sure they stay safe. And right now, he’s working for a girl named Arrow whose little sister has disappeared.

“Rush,” by Jonathan Friesen.

All his life, Jake King has lived for his next hit of adrenaline — it’s the only time his thoughts slow and his head clears. But it’s taking more and more to clear his head lately, and now he’s been betrayed by a rusted safety railing. Jake is fine, but his brother’s friend is hurt pretty badly. At 18, Jake is old enough to join his town’s firefighting squad, and at his family’s urging, he does. And then finds himself recruited to be an Immortal — one of the elite, tight-knit smoke jumpers who get all the most dangerous jobs — perfect for his personality and skills. Sure, the Immortals tend to die young, but that just makes the thrill all that much more intense for Jake. But his training and initiation into the group convince him that there’s more to life than getting the next rush.

•••

Holiday closures: All Juneau Public Libraries will close at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 31, and remain closed for New Year’s Day and Jan. 2. We’ll all be open again for regular hours on Tuesday, Jan. 3 and Story and Toddler Times will resume their regular days and times. For information about upcoming programs, or to place a hold, visit www.juneau.org/library or call 586-5249.

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