When I go to the library, I often have a book or two in mind that I intend to pick up. But what I started doing last summer was picking up a book from the new releases or featured books stands as well. Not anything I’d ever heard of or from authors I knew. Just judge the books by their covers, and pick one I think I might like. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the results, and here I share some of my favorites.
The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand, Gregory Galloway – Adam Strand never dies. He shoots himself, hangs himself, throws himself off of bridges. In fact, it happens so often, he now awakes in his own bed after each attempt, as everyone in town knows not to take him to the hospital. Strand is a disconnected, bored, troubled teen with one sole focus: To figure out how to die. However, as is often the case, it’s about the journey, not then end. Strand realizes he is more connected to his family and friends than he ever realized. I can’t recommend this one enough. It’s considerably less dark than it sounds, and considerably more hopeful. Galloway does a terrific job with Adam’s growth and setting up the community around him.
Four Stages of Cruelty, Keith Hollihan – My least favorite of this group, but still good. Cruelty develops at a reasonable pace, then seems like it ends too quickly. I felt like I need just a bit more development, particularly late in the second act. In this the tale of a female prison guard in a men’s prison who wanders into a conspiracy she is in no way prepared to handle, Hollihan does a tremendous job of building paranoia and, when the time comes, chaos and fear.
Panopticon, Jenny Fagan – Dark. Let me repeat that: Daaaaaark. For anyone who has been a victim of abuse, this novel could trigger some serious issues, so be careful. But this story of a British orphan trying to figure out who she is and who she wants to be while struggling to survive the public foster and orphanage system is also intense and, in its own twisted way, hopeful. Oh, and it’s dark. Very, very dark.
Redshirts, John Scalzi – If you’re a Trekkie, this is a must. I really only have a passing familiarity with the original Star Trek cast, and I thought it was hilarious. What if you found out that you weren’t really explorers, soldiers and adventurers conquering the galaxy, but just expendable secondary characters on a sci-fi TV show … and not a very good one? At one point, a direct connection is made to Star Trek, but I won’t ruin the moment. Scalzi, I’d be willing to bet, had more fun than any of his readers while concocting this tale.
The Vindico, Wesley King – A group of teens learn they have super powers, and they’ve been assembled to train and learn how to harness their abilities … by the bad guys. This is geared more toward a male tween audience, but the tale is fun, in the spirit of the Artemis Fowl series. The nut of this novel is that the kids learn that the good guys aren’t always that good, and the bad guys may not be quite the villains they’ve been portrayed to be. The troubled, gifted teens must figure out where they fit into the fight. I haven’t read the sequel, Feros, yet, but I’m looking forward to it.