After growing up in a small town in southern Louisiana, Rory is excited to spend her senior year of high school studying abroad in London. It is a big change—living in a new culture with a strange academic system and attending a boarding school where you are stuck living with everyone in your class, whether you like them or not. But Rory gradually finds good friends in Jazza and Jerome, and her life settles into a comfortable rhythm. That is, until Jack the Ripper shows up. The murders occur on the anniversaries of Jack the Ripper’s infamous attacks, and they mimic his style exactly. But no one can see the murderer—not even on camera—except Rory. Now her life is turned upside down as she has to figure out who the Ripper is, how she can see him, and most importantly, whether she and her friends are in danger.
What begins as a simple, realistic fiction about girls at boarding school ends a suspenseful supernatural thriller. Starting about halfway through, I couldn’t put it down! As usual, Maureen Johnson was spot on in her portrayal of teen relationship angst and dorm-life drama. And her descriptions of Rory’s life in England took me back to my days of studying abroad in the UK. This book was right up my alley—a fast-paced, character driven, fantasy-but-almost-sci-fi murder mystery. I highly recommend it to teens who enjoy books in any of these genres!
After getting this question for the 80th time this summer, I thought I’d share some of my suggestions. Here are some older, slightly different, or less popular dystopian suggestions that you may find on the shelves:
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Although fantasy and not sci-fi, The Looking Glass Wars is a dark, action-packed adventure trilogy about the overthrow of a dystopian regime.
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
This may not be checked in either, but if it is, HG lovers are sure to appreciate another dystopian thriller with an angsty love triangle.
The Bar Code Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn
This dytopian book is less popular than HG for a reason: it is not nearly as intense or action-packed. But it may tide readers over until the HG comes in.
The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer
Nancy Farmer’s dystopian vision has a sharp division of classes similar to that in Panem, but this story is from the perspective of the rich kids–kidnapped and trying to survive in the slums–and the mutant detectives hired to find them.
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
If they want HG for the action, this is not a good pick. But if their in it for the social commentary, Nancy Farmer’s dark vision of the twisted future of human cloning and drug lord rivalries is thrilling in its horror.
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Despite its Printz win several years ago, Bacigalupi’s dytopian novel about impoverished teen shipwreck divers has declined in popularity. But adventure of Nailer’s attempt to save the life of a rich girl while dodging the wrath of his abusive father should have enough dark, violent action to appeal to HG fans.
Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
A little older and for a little bit of a younger audience, you may find on your shelves this dystopian thriller about a illegal child trying to survive on the run in an oppressive society.
When Jacob was a young child, he believed his grandfather’s stories about growing up in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and fighting monsters. He believed that the photographs of the flying girl, the invisible boy, and his grandfather’s other peculiar playmates were all real. By age 16, however, Jacob has grown to understand that the photographs are fake and his grandfather’s stories merely fantasies invented to mask the horrible reality of growing up in Poland and being hunted by human monsters, the Nazis. But when Jacob finds his grandfather dead in the woods, he has to admit that either he is going crazy or the tentacled creature he saw slithering away from his grandfather’s bleeding body was no fairytale. Finding a letter from Miss Peregrine in his grandfather’s study, Jacob travels to England in search of the Home for Peculiar Children, all too aware that if Miss Peregrine is real, the monsters must be real too.
I absolutely loved this book. From its beginnings playing with the blurred lines between true horrors and fantastical horrors to the full-fledged fantasy of Miss Peregrine and her wards and through all of the photographs in between, the book was fascinating and fast paced. I couldn’t put it down. Unfortunately, the ending was not as strong as the beginning and middle. It was clumsy and poorly timed, and instead of providing the cliff-hanger incentive to read a sequel that the author intended, it just seemed awkward and dissatisfying. If only he had ended it about a page earlier! But I hope that the poor ending will be remedied by the sequel that is promised for 2013. For that reason, I will give this book a strange recommendation: I highly recommend reading it, but if you are picky about endings like I am, you may want to wait to read it until the sequel is released to avoid an awkward interruption in the action.
The letter only had six words, and though they didn’t mean anything to Jonah, he found them somehow disturbing: “You are one of the missing.” When he learns that his friend Chip received the same letter, they realize that something strange is definitely going on. As more mysterious letters arrive, the two friends and Jonah’s sister, Katherine, begin to investigate the situation, which seems to have some connection to the FBI, and the fact that Jonah was adopted. But if things weren’t strange enough, level-headed Katherine claims she’s seen a ghost, and Jonah may have seen a mysterious intruder vanish from his bedroom. As matters get increasingly complicated, the teens begin to suspect that they are caught up in something much bigger than they realized, and perhaps beyond anything they ever imagined to see in this world.
Found is a suspenseful sci-fi mystery that starts off Haddix’s “The Missing” series. It is followed by Sent and Sabotaged, and four more books are likely to join the series in the coming years. It’s a fast, fun read for teens!
“Four days after his own funeral, Albert Wilkes came home for tea.” This sentence begins a novel that is part mystery, part historical fiction, part science fiction, and part horror–with a healthy dose of Victorian London fog. Although few people believe the widow who claims her dead husband came home for a visit, Albert’s coworker George soon begins to suspect that someone murdered the old man to get their hands on a fragment of a scientist’s diary. A top-secret organization recruits George to help them investigate the situation, but George begins doing some sleuthing on his own as well, with the help of a theatrical young woman named Elizabeth, who met when they both had their wallets stolen by a plucky young pickpocket. Eddie, the pickpocket, of course gets mixed up in the mystery as well. The trail of their individual investigations always seem to lead back to the same sinister old man in his mansion. And there may be more than one zombie on the prowl. The question is: can they figure out what is really going on before the maniac’s henchmen catch up with them?
The premise of this book is admittedly outrageous, but the story is truly engaging. I definitely recommend it to those readers who are willing to put the absurdity aside and enjoy a great steampunk suspense story. I know I did!
I listened to the audio book, narrated by Steven Pacey, which was a great performance!