“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Monday, November 14, 2011

Scored ▪ YA fiction

by Lauren McLaughlin
Available now  Random House Books for Young Readers  Ages 12 and up
You already know you're being watched. But do you know you're being scored?
"The most rounded, thought-provoking and pulse-pounding exploration of the surveillance society I've yet read." - Cory Doctorow
Story: Set in the future when teenagers are monitored via camera and their recorded actions and confessions plugged into a computer program that determines their ability to succeed, everyone is a number in this dystopian near-future.  Surveillance cameras track your every move while a software program scores you on your mental fitness. Score above 90 and you’re set for life--a full college scholarship and the career of your dreams. Score below 75 and you’re on your own.  Scored's reluctant heroine is Imani, a girl whose high score is brought down when her best friend's score plummets.  Where do you draw the line between doing what feels morally right and what can mean your future?  Friendship, romance, loyalty, family, human connection and human value:  all are questioned in this fresh and compelling dystopian novel set in the scarily foreseeable future.
Story behind the story:  Here's what Lauren McLaughlin has to say about the inspiration for SCORED: "I was living in the Hackney section of London a few years ago, a neighborhood that would later make itself known as one of the locations of the London riots. Not a posh neighborhood. Every day as I walked to the park for a picnic lunch, I’d notice piles of shatterproof glass on the ground and a few cars with smashed-in windows. The cars that thieves couldn’t steal, they’d merely break into and take whatever they could find. Then one day I noticed there hadn’t been any piles of glass or smashed in windows for a while. I also noticed on that day that someone had installed surveillance cameras up and down the street. They were obviously working. The thieves had moved on. I remember thinking this was a perfect test case for the effectiveness of surveillance in crime prevention. And the conclusion was obvious: put surveillance cameras everywhere and you could eliminate street crime entirely. This was a lightbulb moment for me. I’d always been more or less anti-surveillance until then. I had opposed the Patriot Act’s warrantless wiretapping and, like many, I worried that we were “sleepwalking into a surveillance society.” But it wasn’t until that moment that I understood how seductive surveillance could be. I wanted those cameras there. Despite everything I feared about government overreach, corporate snooping and the vast potential for abuse that surveillance affords, I wanted more cameras. I wanted them everywhere. That’s when I became truly frightened of surveillance--not because it would be forced on us by a domineering government or a corporate giant, but because we would invite it. That was the genesis of Scored."

"The most rounded, thought-provoking and pulse-pounding exploration of the surveillance society I've yet read." - Cory Doctorow

"A tense and chilling look at a near future that's all too recognizable. Scored will bring out the rebel in every reader." -Scott Westerfeld, author of Goliath

"The bold, aggressive narrative condemns both No Child Left Behind-style testing and current financial policies, cautioning about what could happen to social mobility in the face of stark inequity." - Kirkus

"Most dystopian fiction takes place within an established totalitarian regime, but Scored allows readers to witness the very first stages of a changing society." - VOYA

Interested in sharing SCORED with teens?  Here's a discussion guide to help you get the talk going.

FYI:  All the review copies for this title have been sent.  Please check back and see the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Always a Witch ▪ YA fiction

Always a Witch
Available now  Clarion Books  Ages 12 and up
Since the gripping conclusion of Once A Witch, Tamsin Greene has been haunted by her grandmother's prophecy that she will soon be forced to make a crucial decision—one so terrible that it could harm her family forever. 
Story:  When Tasmin discovers that her enemy, Alistair Knight, went back in time to Victorian-era New York in order to destroy her family, she is forced to follow him into the past. Stranded all alone in the nineteenth century, Tamsin soon finds herself disguised as a lady's maid in the terrifying mansion of the evil Knight family, avoiding the watchful eye of the vicious matron, La Spider, and fending off the advances of Liam Knight. As time runs out, both families square off in a thrilling display of magic. And to her horror, Tamsin finally understands the nature of her fateful choice.
Story behind the story:  From author Carolyn MacCullough: "Writing Always a Witch, the sequel to Once a Witch, was a bittersweet experience for me.  I was so happy to be back with these characters that I had come to love, yet I knew I was going to be saying goodbye to them soon.  Also, I was a brand new mom for the first time and was stumbling around in a stage of euphoric exhaustion.  All of a sudden, I looked at my main character, Tamsin, differently.  I was putting her in some dangerous situations and I couldn’t help but ask myself, “oh, no!  What will her mother think of this?”  The importance of family, which was always a central theme of the books, became even more resonant for me."

We featured Once A Witch on The Picnic Basket pre-publication (yes, you get some great sneak peeks here) in August 2009 -- 86 comments seem strong evidence of its popularity!  Read what your colleagues had to say about it here.  Plus, a few fairly popular authors and review journals liked it too:

"A fantastic urban fantasy with an enchanting romance at its heart." --Cassandra Clare, New York Times bestselling author of City of Bones

"Carolyn MacCullough casts a mesmerizing spell with Once a Witch. Family secrets and sibling rivalry, time-travel and magical 'Talents' all brew together to create a superlative--and supernatural--coming-of-age story. Add an epic battle of good versus evil and an enchanting first kiss and this bewitching novel commands a sequel." --Megan McCafferty, New York Times bestselling author of the Jessica Darling series 

"A light urban fantasy that goes down easy and will have readers asking for its sequel." --Kirkus Reviews

FYI:  All the review copies for this title have been sent.  Please check back and see the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say...