My threshhold for paranormal romance is very, very low, but I was invited to a dinner with Andrea Cremer, the author of Nightshade, by the awesome Penguin sales rep so I read it despite the subtitle: She can control her pack but not her heart, which gave me serious pause (as did the cover, which has more sparkles than I can reasonably tolerate). And even though I didn't end up making it to the dinner it was worth the read. Cremer utilizes the now familiar trope of one girl/two-different-but-both-attractive guys to nice, tense effect, and despite the fact that I am not interested in the subject matter, and did not even particularly care for the sentence level writing style, I was still sucked into the story, in which romance and twists are plenty. The protagonist, Calla, is an alpha female set to mate with the alpha of a rival pack (Ren) in order to create an alliance, and her strength and comfort with her own power made her an appealing lead. But, of course, there's a new boy at school, who's smart (as his pedantic in and out of class eruptions are meant to illustrate) kind and handsome, and Calla finds herself struggling to give herself over to Ren, the cocky, lady-killer, babe-wolf with whom she's been matched. Lust, suspense and monsters aplenty ensue, Calla makes her choice, and a sequel looms on the horizon. A fun, light read with the page-turning propulsion of romance, I would totally recommend this book to lovers of Twilight, Shiver and other vamp/wolf/angel/fairy/zombie/ghost/whatever romances.
Also from Penguin (Dutton, specifically) is Matched, a new romance/dystopia from Ally Condie, which I picked up due to the promise that: "This is a perfect dystopian novel, sure to be a hit with fans of The Giver and The Hunger Games" from Colleen Conway, field sales. While I in no way agree that this book has the same appeal of The Hunger Games, I do see Colleen's point about the Giver; and indeed, Matched reads something like The Giver, if The Giver was wrought with all the teenaged romantic angst that I could handle. Like Nightshade, Condie utilizes the one girl/two guys trope, and again, to pleasantly tense effect. Set in the future, people in Matched are, just as the title promises, matched with the person they will marry by a system of people and computers, and the protagonist in Matched is pleased to find that she has been matched with her handsome best friend. But, just like Nightshade, another boy pops up in her life, and she has trouble giving herself over to the boy with whom she's been matched. However familiar the story, the writing style of this book is lovely, with elegant descriptions and passages of dialog that kept me tuned in, even as the critic in me whined about the overuse of the love triangle in YA. The future Condie imagined is one of cold plastic, tightly controlled art (only 100 poems, 100 songs, 100 paintings remain) and lives that was compelling, and, I imagine, particularly resonant for teens who may feel as though too much of their lives are controlled by outside forces. Come November, I will be pleased to recommend this book as a gift who kids who love dystopian novels.
Lastly was the new graphic novel from Scholastic, Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel. Set in a fuzzily defined Underworld, Ghostopolis is the story of fatally sick boy Garth, and Frank Gallows, the ghost hunter who accidentally sends Garth to the land of the dead. As Garth goes on an adventure, learning his full potential and getting to know the soul of his prodigal grandfather, Frank and his ghostly ex girlfriend Claire Voyant go on the search to bring Garth home to his poor, terrified mother. Though the story and the setting often make little to no sense, I kept reading because the humor and the drawing style were to appealing that I couldn't make myself put it down. I was particularly fond of Frank's face, which ranges in emotion from weary to irreverent, to deeply in love. The limited palatte of colors suits the Underworld nicely, and utilizes more warm hues than one might have imagined would work for the land of the dead. I'm not exactly sure who I should recommend this book to, other than aspiring illustrators, but I'm pleased to see it on our shelf just the same.