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Volunteer as tribute! (I mean, join our dystopian book club!)

by Jocelyn - 0 Comment(s)

The Nose Hill Library is starting up a dystopian bookclub for teens only. Our first bookclub meeting is January 25th, and runs from 7:30 to 8:30pm. We will be meeting on the last Wednesday of every month to talk about the hottest books with a dystopian theme. And what is the first book we will be starting with? Why, it's Divergent by Veronica Roth - an action based thrill of a read that is also soon to become a motion picture!

This is the latest treat from the folks who brought you The Hunger Games Challenge last October. Phone the Nose Hill library (403-221-2030) to register in our teen dystopian bookclub today.

Dystopian Popularity Continued...

by Adrienne - 5 Comment(s)

So here we continue our dystopian saga, discussing why these current YA novels are so popular... from a Social Studies perspective. Try this analysis on one of your teachers to see what their reaction is!

Divergent by Veronica Roth, calls this into question; what are the most important human character traits to uphold in order to eradicate evil from human nature? Which would you choose: Intelligence, honesty, selflessness, amiability or bravery? Partially inspired by Roth's study of exposure therapy, Divergent questions the very definition of bravery. How do you define bravery? What do you think it means to be brave? Can one character trait exist in isolation or do they always act in multiple possible combinations? What is your utopia? Can utopia be universal? Or is one's person's heaven always another person's hell? What happens in a utopia when people are non-conforming? At what point/what causes a utopian ideology to become dystopian? Real life examples would be communism under Mao or Democracy under Bush.

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale has left both Matched and Wither trailing in its wake. All three deal with genetics, i.e. matching and slavery. Lack of choice is prevalent. Think Star Trek laced with a hint of The Giver by Lois Lowry. If you add undertones of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, a book which I first read when I was 16, you begin to get the picture.

It's rare that I read a YA novel that I immediately want to re-read just to absorb all the poetry of the prose; it's that beautiful! Plus there is so much symbolism embedded into the book that you can tell Ally Condie used to be a High School English teacher. YA novels are often all about action and suspense. Matched, moving along at an ever quickening clip, certainly leaves you breathlessly wanting more at the end. Poetry is however, central to the book. It highlights the power of art to have political influence and be a strong force to fight against the apathy prevalent in coercive societies. There's a reason books/music/art get burned/banned. Matched underscores the power of choice; why it's important to have and why it might be beneficial not to. Implicit is that choice, held either in our own hands or societies, carries with it the ability to make both mistakes and successes. We can cause ourselves and others, both joy and sorrow along the way. Ultimately Matched takes a stance that human dignity; requires it. Otherwise we can all become so en-thralled...

The Hunger Games deals with many themes including survival, loyalty, slavery, and class privilege. It is this book that originally inspired this blog. Going out to schools in Calgary to do presentations for the library I came across many Junior High Social and Language Arts teachers who were using The Hunger Games for a novel study. It's a great book with so many leads for humanities discussions. In this way it follows The Giver by Lois Lowry, a book which is often used in schools as well.Both of these books have been banned in various places but that just gives credence to the fact that they deal with serious issues!

What struck me most about the Hunger Games is how closely it mimics a reality TV show, such as Survivor. The book thus deftly comments on our cultures obsession with entertainment; our need for vicarious living and ever more potent adrenaline boosters. And I admit I was drawn in, fully entertained, gripped by all the action suspense, romance and yes... suffering. This is in combination with a strong female character we can wholly sympathize with. Vicarious living at its finest! We are supposedly far above the Romans in our taste for civilized entertainment. But are we? Movies are simulated; reality TV shows "volunteered" for, and the news? Reality relayed at 6 'O clock each evening full of... human suffering.

For some interesting thoughts on Dystopian Fiction check out the following INFOGRAPHICS:

The Dystopian Timeline to The Hunger Games

If You Liked “The Hunger Games”…

Here's why one fellow YYC teen thinks dystopian novels are so popular these days. Warning: this may be a downer.

Soooo... anyone up for writing the next UTOPIA? We could certainly use some positive societal visioning. Any budding writers out there? Check out this Cartoon version of Thoreau at Walden. We'd LOVE to hear your voices in TEENSCREATE!

Why are Dystopian Novels so popular? Because they deal with reality...

by Adrienne - 3 Comment(s)

Why are Dystopian Novels so popular? This current trend not just with teens, it is also popular with many adults. These YA novels have even your parents following them! Why? Because they deal with real life issues that we either face in the world every day, or that the WORLD at large deals with every day. The proof is in the pudding eh? So what issues DO the current faves and bests deal with?

Wither The main issue this book deals with is the possible unknown side-effects of genetic engineering and insufficiently tested cures. This applies today to more than just genetics research; we have many diseases with unknown cures and unknown causes... Do we know the full effects of a lifetime of eating Kraft diner, painting our nails with formaldehyde polish, or spraying DDT on our vegetables and consequent genetic defects? No... and on and on and on with 100 million products and experiments we conduct every day. Diseases like ALS are New and just popping up and others like AIDS and many cancers still have no known cures.

Wither also deals with objectifying women and young girls solely for their looks (very western), reproductive capacities (prevalent in various countries today) and reproductive slavery. Slavery is slavery even within the confines of comfy couches and pretty lipsticks... As well as taking a look at what love really Is and Is not.

Birthmarked also takes a hard look at reproductive slavery, as well as being a case study for third world vs. first world paradigms. Set in 2403 in a society where our world and time is labeled "the cool age", it is an imaginative rendering of post apocalyptic survival - global warming style. The book even dares to propose how various current energy solutions such as using geothermic energy could have negative effects on society; or certain members of society, whenever dictatorship reigns. Our current world deals with global warming; 1st world vs. 3rd world; class issues and divisions within society (some more stark and apparent than others and some more covert); alternative energies and dictatorships Every Day. Perhaps the resonance of these books is not in their outlandish imaginings, but rather in their expressions of current realities made more digestible through the form of story. Check out the movie trailer here.

The Graceling series is perhaps one of the most multi-layered dystopian series of the bunch, teetering into the verge of fantasy, but striking home so closely to reality that I often found the books very difficult to read (even though this consequently made them my favourites of the bunch.) Dealing with issues of literacy and class, ability vs. disability, dictatorships, sociopaths, murder, justice, memory and healing, they also insert things such as birth-control and GLBTQ as givens, positive aspects of this much troubled society.

Bitterblue is the story of both a girl and a society recovering from the effects of a regime of terror. How does one uncover truth? How are "war crimes" dealt with fairly when the entire society is both implicitly guilty and traumatized at the same time? Can a thief be loyal, just, trustworthy and lovable? Can one be treasonous, break the law and yet be loyal and just under the law at the same time? How can just 4% of the population (the statistical existence of sociopaths) cause so much damage?


For some interesting thoughts on Dystopian Fiction check out the following INFOGRAPHIC: Is It Dystopia?

Social Studies 101 coming up, in the form of case studies presented in really engaging YA novels!

Stay tuned next Sunday for Part 2 of this blog: Dystopian Popularity Continued...

Youth in Revolt

by Tomas Jonsson - 0 Comment(s)

Arcade Fire with Mick Jagger

During their recent set on Saturday Night Live, performing with Mick Jagger, The Canadian band Arcade Fire pointedly and politically wore red squares in solidarity with the student protests in Quebec.

Now over 100 days, the protests in Quebec are an example of a global overflowing spirit of rebellion and dissatisfaction with authority, particularly by youth, an emotional wellspring that Arcade Fire has tapped into throughout their various projects.

As much as I love Karen O and the Children's contributions to the Where the Wild Things Are Soundtrack, to me the defining song of this movie – or rather it's trailer – is still "Wake Up". The song, from Arcade Fire’s breakthrough album Funeral is a pitch perfect complement to Director Spike Jonze’s psychoanalytic take on Maurice Sendak’s classic story. While they weren't included in the soundtrack to his movie, Jones later worked with lead singer Win Butler and his brother Will in creating a 28 minute short film, Scenes from the Suburbs, another dystopian vision of growing up in a future full of alienation and lurking violence, inspired by Arcade Fire's album the Suburbs.

Scenes from the Suburbs - Spike Jonze

Named after John Kennedy Toole’s first novel (written when he was 16), Neon Bible is a darkly melancholic concept album, with many allusions to the recent flooding of New Orleans, the city where Toole grew up, and where he set his follow up novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, whose protagonist wages a Quixotic revolt against the entire 20th Century. Recently, Arcade Fire contributed two songs to the Hunger Games film soundtrack. "Horn of Plenty", which plays several times in the movie as an anthem for the fascist District of Panem. Conversely, their second song, "Abraham's daughter" is a subversive reinterpretation of the biblical story, weaving in a very Katniss-like character that up-ends the overly patriarchal tone of the original story:

Abraham took Isaac's hand
And led him to the lonesome hill
While his daughter hid and watched
She dare not breathe; she was so still

Just as an angel cried for the slaughter
Abraham’s daughter raised her voice

Then the angel asked her what her name was
She said, "I have none."
Then he asked, "How can this be?"
"My father never gave me one."

And when he saw her raised for the slaughter
Abraham’s daughter raised her bow
"How darest you, child, defy your father?"
"You better let young Isaac go."

What do we do when the world falls apart?

by Jilliane - 4 Comment(s)

Although I can't explain it, teen publishing trends clearly demonstrate that we are obsessed with our own destruction.

The truth is, I'm getting a little tired of dystopic reads, but there isn't a lot I can do about it because publishers just keep churning them out. And, truth be told, there are a lot of great dystopic reads out there. Let me tell you about just a few of my favourites:

Bacigalupi paints a bleak future for earth--a world where fossil fuels have all been used and the oceans have risen to drown coastal cities. It is here that we meet Nailer, a ship breaker. He and many others are foreced to scavenge beached oil tankers for things like copper wire and fuel. When Nailer finds a beached clipper he is forced to decide if he will strip the ship of its wealth and become a rich man, or try and save the ships only survivor--a rich girl, daughter of a shipping-company's owner.

Book CoverGeneticists have developed a vaccine for all physical ailments and administered it to a whole generation. What they didn't know, was that their vaccine was a time-bomb. The children of this generation are now susceptible to a virus that claims the lives of men at 25 and women at 20. There are few remaining first-generation individuals who are now aging, and working hard to develop an antidote. Meanwhile, perpetuating the species is of the utmost importance. The need for new births has spawned an ugly breeding program where young women are kidnapped and forced into polygamist marriages. Rhine, a 16-year old, has been taken from her Manhattan home and thrust into the hands of a wealthy young man as his fourth wife. Her determination to escape never wavers, despite the privilge and comfort of her husband's mansion.

book coverCassia Reyes lives in a perfect society. What's more, she is perfect--a model student, daughter and citizen who has everything she needs: food, shelter, education, training and even a future husband that has been carefully chosen just for her. Cassia even knows when she will die--after all, every citizen in this perfectly controlled, perfectly monitored world dies at 80--the perfect age to die.

At Cassia's Match Banquet she is paired with Xander, her best friend and definitely her soul mate, and everything seems fine. But when a computer error shows Cassia Ky's face instead of Xander's, Cassia starts to have questions. Her mind begins to work differently and and suddenly Cassia's society doesn't seem so perfect anymore.

Matched has been compared to Margared Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, Lois Lowry's The Giver as well as George Orwell's 1984. Definitely worth the read.

Book Cover

It is time for Tally Youngblood to party. Her sixteenth birthday is coming up and soon she will be transormed into a great beauty. Scott Westerfeld paints a world where people are perfectly proportioned, perfecly groomed and perfectly lovely. Modern science has developed a surgery that has elimited all forms of ugliness--but at what expense?

Right before her surgery, Tally meets Shay, a wild, willful girl who decides she doesn't want the surgery. To Tally, this is unheard of--or is it?

Tally discovers a group of runaways who have all chosen not to have the surgery and live at a refugee camp -- the Smoke. It is there that Tally and the other refugess start to learn more about the perfection surgery and the price you pay for beauty.

Book Cover

Years ago a grand experiment led to the development of Incarceron -- a gigantic prison made of metal and designed with cutting edge technology. Incarceron was created to lock away all undersirables, resulting in a perfect utopia.

The experiement failed and Incarceron became self-aware, sentient and tyrannical, and generations of inmates have been struggling to survive. Technolgy has now been outlawed and society has reverted to a feudal state.

Claudia, daughter of Incarceron's warden has an arranged marriage to an impending heir. When the marriage is moved forward, Claudia vows to do whatever it takes to avoid it --i ncluding helping a prisoner of Incarceron to escape.

Book CoverIn order to end war, society has been divided into five factions: Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (fearlessness), Candor (truth), Erudite (intellect), Amity (friendship). At sixteen, you are allowed to decide which faction you will spend the rest of your life in.

Beatrice Prior was raised as an Abnegation, but is certain she does not want to remain there. She takes her aptitude test to discover which faction she is best suited to and surprisingly, is given several options. Beatrice is Divergent -- a fact that she cannot reveal to anyone. She chooses to join the Dauntless faction and undergoes an exhausting initiation ritual which will determine if she can remain with the faction or must go factionless.

Beatrice slowly discovers what it means to be Divergent and learns more about how her society has maintained peace.

This is such a popular topic, Tyler posted on it just last year, so if you want to hear abour more dystopic reads check out his post.

Now, one final thought. Because thoughts of our impending destruction (or not) have been on my mind, I've started collecting dystopic songs to make a little 'The world is going to be destroyed and we're all gonna die' playlist. There are tons of great tunes on this topic--clearly people have been thinking about the end of the world for a long time. This is what I've collected so far:

  • You and the Candles Hawksley Workman
  • Tables and Chairs Andrew Bird
  • It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) REM
  • The Beginning After the End Stars
  • The Eve of Destruction Barry McGuire
  • Animals andThe Wall Pink Floyd
  • They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!! Ahhhh! Sufjan Stevens
  • 2+2=5 Radiohead
  • Citizens of Tomorrow Tokyo Police Club
  • Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground) by Mike + The Mechanics

What am I missing? Tell me all your best end of the world songs so I can beef up my list!

Divergent - "The new Hunger Games"

by Alexandra May - 0 Comment(s)

So you've read and own the entire Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins? The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld? And you're hungry for more? (Pardon my pun).

DivergentI am really excited by the buzz around a new series called Divergent by Veronica Roth - apparently worked on during college when she should have been doing her creative writing homework at Northwestern University, a choice, which has transformed her into a graduate and full time writer. I, for one, am really excited because everyone is abuzz about a new series called Divergent by Veronica Roth - apparently worked on during college when she should have been doing her creative writing homework @ Northwestern University - a choice - which has now transformed Veronica into a graduate and full time writer.

A Dystopian novel at it's best, the heroine Beatrice, lives in a society where ONE choice made at the age of 16 determines - your friends - your beliefs - and your loyalties FOREVER. The choice - which of the 5 factions: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful) and Erudite (the intelligent)- to belong to, can seperate or unite you with you family, previous friends, schoolmates and former interests. One is not supposed to be "Divergent" (gifted in more than one faction). If one is - as Beatirce discovers, it can mean death. She makes a choice and renames herself Tris, joining her faction hiding a pretty big secret. Tris then discovers a growing conflict threatening to unravel her seemingly perfect society. Her secret may destroy her or help her save those she loves most...

The first book has just come out and hit CPL's library stacks. There will be two sequels books to follow.

I'm all in!FireGraceling

If you liked the Hunger games you might also check out Graceling by Kirstin Cashore and the companion novel Fire - both gripping all night reads. In Graceling if a person is born with 2 different coloured eyes they are "graced" with a special gift or ability that becomes aparrent as they mature. When Katsa discovers that she is graced with killing she becomes a pawn used by her uncle, the king. Katsa, however, has other ideas about how she wants to live her life and a gripping suspense/romance novel ensues.

And if you like Graceling you will also enjoy The Healer's Keep a companion novel to Vicoria Hanley's The Seer and the Sword

The Healer's Keep The Seer and the Sword

"The Giver" by Lois Lowry will also interest those who like Divergent as well as 1984 (George Orwell) and Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)(both found in our adult fiction collection)

The Giver 1984 Brave New World