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New teen fiction

Posted: Thursday, July 16, 2009

Neon labels on the spines of books on the adult fiction shelves show they're meant for teen readers, with more intricate and mature plots than chapter books but with themes aimed at young adults. Scan for them on the shelves, look them up in our computer catalogue, or use these titles as a starting point.

"Tales from Outer Suburbia," by Shaun Tan.

As with Tan's other book, "The Arrival," this mesmerizing book is difficult to categorize. The whimsically illustrated short stories seem like they could be for young readers, but the playful and thought-provoking storylines will be of more interest to those heading toward adulthood. Among the characters readers will meet are a very foreign-exchange student, a mysterious deep sea diver lost in the suburbs, and an informative water buffalo who lived on a deserted lot when the narrator was a kid. Reminiscent of Chris Van Allsburg's books ("The Stranger," "The Sweetest Fig," "Polar Express"), these are surreal stories without fanfare, vignettes about brushes with mystery and humorous sketches of life.

"Project Sweet Life," by Brent Hartinger.

Best friends Dave, Victor, and Curtis are ready to kick back and have a great summer, but now that they are 15, their dads have decided the boys ought to have summer jobs. Digging in their heels, the three hatch a scheme to make it look like they have jobs - but the really hard part is going to be bringing home "paychecks" to reinforce the illusions. Some of their ideas really ought to work, some are harebrained from the start, and by the end, the boys are deep in debt and worrying about what to tell their fathers. A chance encounter doing makeovers for senior citizens leads to a final glorious plan: to find hidden treasure from a bank robbery that took place in the 1880s. It's going involve shrewd detective work, scuba diving, and a lot of luck, but maybe they'll survive to see 16.

"Freefall," by Anna Levine.

Aggie, nearly 18, is sure she wants to join a combat unit for her two years of required service in the Israeli Army, but her family and friends aren't too sure she will even be eligible and don't think she'll be able to hack it even if she is accepted. Only two people encourage her: her grandmother, who used to be a freedom fighter, and her best friend's hot brother, Noah, himself a combat soldier. To everyone's surprise but her own, she's accepted into a training program for elite combat soldiers, and then, to her surprise, she finds she fits in well and enjoys learning new skills. And she makes friends - the kind of friends who stick with you forever. No politics, just a great story about testing your limits and spreading your wings.

"Bonechiller," by Graham McNamee.

This supernatural thriller will be giving summer readers flashbacks this winter: Danny and his father have recently moved to the icy town of Harvest Cove in Canada's Big Empty. After an evening spent goofing off with his friends, Danny walks home alone in the dark and soon finds himself stalked by something big. He wakes up in a ditch, the only sign of the beast a tiny blue mark on his hand from where it stung him. But in the days that follow, Danny's world begins to fragment. First, there are horrible nightmares, and then his temperature begins to drop. His friend Howie gets stung, too, and the two boys begin a terrifying journey in and out of madness. Could there be truth to the stories of the creatures called Soul Stealers? And if there is, can Danny and Howie escape?

"The Devil's Breath," by David Gilman.

Fans of Alex Rider and his world of action and danger might want to give this first book in the Danger Zone series a try. Max Gordon is in danger. His father, a whistleblower on industrial polluters, has disappeared and now Max is being stalked by a network of killers. Following his one clue as to his father's whereabouts, Max finds himself in the Namibian desert with a teenage Bushman as his guide, and unfamiliar wildlife joining the attempts on his life. Gilman throws some near-preposterous ideas into the story, but it speeds along so satisfyingly that it's easy to suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride.

• For information about the library's upcoming programs visit www.juneau.org/library or call 586-5249.



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