From the Shelf
Diversity and Tropes: Making YA a More Inclusive Space
People like to scorn tropes: a love triangle? Again?! But tropes are an important part of literature that always pop up in young adult books, both subtly and in waves of trends.
Looking at representation in YA over the past few years reveals how diversity in authorship and within books has increased, thanks to organizations like We Need Diverse Books. Books and authorship are now more varied in ways other than race, and characters and topics have expanded beyond the subset of just being "diverse." While these books let teens see themselves represented in literature, the inclusion of tropes lets teens see themselves as part of literature.
Diverse books that feature tropes show that diversity isn't "just a trend" because they're not segregated to a "diverse book" category--they're integrated by subject and content. To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han uses the "fake dating trope"; Pride by Ibi Zoboi places a fresh and much-needed spin on Pride and Prejudice; and They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera takes the "24-hour novel" concept and makes it even more intense. These books are here to stay, their representation and tropes combined allowing teens to see themselves as part of literature and part of a community.
This occurrence is a signal to the book community that diversity is making progress and isn't something that can grow outdated. Diversity is not a trend. It is a sign of growth when so many books by and about marginalized peoples use well-known tropes; they're making YA more inclusive to all readers.
I hope this continues. And you never know--maybe even love triangles will make a comeback! --Vicky Chen, 17
In this Issue...
by Christina Thompson
The origins of the people of Polynesia, as discussed in this spellbinding history, are sure to captivate armchair travelers and historians alike.
by Amy Rose Capetta , Cori McCarthy
This gender-bent YA retelling of the legend of King Arthur is set in space and populated with a cast of diverse heroes.
by Mario Giordano
A fun, cozy mystery about a Bavarian expat-turned-amateur-sleuth on a quest for justice in her adopted Sicilian hometown.
Review by Subjects:
The Joys of Reading at a Pub
"Why is reading in the pub so enjoyable?" The Independent praised "a very British pastime."
The Public Domain Review featured "the art of book covers (1820–1914)."
"Which fictional school would you attend?" School Smart asked.
"This rare vintage typewriter from the 1950s lets you type sheet music," My Modern Met reported.
"Do it yourshelf: the Jakarta libraries with book nooks on tuk-tuks" were explored by the Guardian.
Rediscover: Mrs. Caliban
Rachel Ingalls, an American author who lived most of her life in the U.K., died earlier this month at age 78. She achieved critical acclaim but limited commercial success. Her best-known book, Mrs. Caliban (1982), languished in obscurity until 1986, when the British Book Marketing Council named it one of the 20 greatest American novels since World War II. Her debut novel, Theft, won the 1970 Authors' Club First Novel Award. Her 11 books also include Binstead's Safari (1983; just re-released by New Directions); The Pearlkillers (1986), Days Like Today (2000) and the story collection Times Like These (2005).
Mrs. Caliban follows a lonely housewife named Dorothy, who hears a radio announcement that a monster has just escaped from the nearby Institute for Oceanographic Research. When an amphibious biped named Larry walks into her house, Dorothy finds a kind of companionship otherwise lacking in her life. New Directions recently republished Mrs. Caliban with a new introduction by Rivka Galchen ($13.95, 9780811226691). --Tobias Mutter
The Writer's Life
Arkady Martine: Political Intrigue and Murder--in Space
|photo: Karen Osborne|
Arkady Martine makes use of her knowledge as a historian of the Byzantine Empire in her debut novel, A Memory Called Empire (reviewed below), out now from Tor Books. Martine lives in Baltimore, Md., with her family.
A Memory Called Empire melds plot elements that include a murder mystery, political machinations and science fiction space opera. Can you tell us a bit about what inspired this plot combination?
The plot structure of this book is heavily inspired by classic spy novels. I read a lot of John le Carré, and what I adore about his work is both the intense internality of a protagonist engaged in spycraft--how they have to think about what they're doing from multiple, mutually contradictory angles, all the time--and also how there's usually an inciting incident which drops the protagonist into a political conflict they aren't prepared for. The murder mystery is a great inciting incident: someone is dead, we don't know why, the protagonist needs to figure it out. In a spycraft-based novel, the murder victim usually has information the protagonist really needs, and now they have to work to get it some other way--which also helps kickstart their involvement in the politics. So for me murder mysteries and political thrillers are very close friends, plotwise. Space opera's another thing... sort of.
I'm a huge Star Wars fan, and a huge Frank Herbert fan, in the sense that I love enormous, sprawling, politically rich and visually lush space-based universes that don't have much connection to Earth now... except thematically. Also, science fiction is the genre of my heart--it's what gets me excited, it gives me the freedom to ask big questions from sideways angles, like, "what happens during conditions of cultural imperialism," or "how do we honor the memory of our ancestors, but with unusual, out-of-everyday-scale intensifiers." Cultural imperialism created by wormhole travel mechanics! Ancestral memory that can actually be transmitted person to person! Big questions, weird angles.
And space opera's no stranger to the political thriller or the murder mystery. I am in no way the first person on this ground: Frank Herbert's Dune, as I said above, but also C.J. Cherryh's work--Cyteen especially is a good comparison, since it's also a murder mystery with political consequences, using space opera technology to make the questions it asks much more focused, pointed and strange. And more recently, books like Mur Lafferty's Six Wakes, which is a literal murder mystery in space, or Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice, which is a political thriller in space... there are a lot of us out here. It's a good place to be.
The world-building in the novel is both complex and vivid. Did it come to you fully formed, or piece by piece?
The Teixcalaanli empire is what happened when I put Byzantium, the Mexica and the Mongol Empire in a blender; it is a culturally imperialistic universalizing empire that thinks it is the only real civilization in the universe. And Lsel Station comes from my forever-long obsession with generation ships and cultural transformation in closed societies. (Blame Poul Anderson's Tau Zero for that one, though the best modern examples for me are Elizabeth Bear's Jacob's Ladder trilogy and Rivers Solomon's An Unkindness of Ghosts.) Which is all an elaborate way of saying that I built almost everything in this novel piecemeal: a lot of it came from having a defined aesthetic that I wanted to hit and going looking for what fit that aesthetic. I'm not someone who plans much in advance, in terms of writing things down; I find them when I need them, and the work I do beforehand is just developing for myself a sense of what feels right and what doesn't, for the culture I'm creating.
And how did you go about keeping track of all the moving parts? It had to be tricky, considering how complex the world of the Empire is.
I definitely should have started keeping track earlier than I did! This might have saved me the part where I had to, on edit round #2, write down what everyone's motivations and goals really were. I also keep a list of names: people, places, ships, literary works, etc., which is like a reference bible. A really bad reference bible, as it hasn't got much else but that list in it. I've also got some sketch maps of places that have particular pathways or geometries that I needed to be able to reproduce accurately several times in the book. My wife, Viv, who is a much better artist than I'll ever be, drew Lsel Station as seen from space, which was incredibly helpful.
But mostly I write in a kind of organic-fractal manner, where I have an end goal, and some ideas of what each character wants in a scene, and what the scene needs to accomplish to move towards that goal--and then I improvise. I get better results that way; I can surprise myself, and the relationships between characters are less sterile and designed.
In addition to being an author, you're a historian of the Byzantine Empire and a city planner. How did these influence A Memory Called Empire?
The book is, in a lot of ways, the fictional version of what I did in my post-doctoral project in Byzantine history of imperialism. Here's the short version: in the year 1044 AD, the Byzantine Empire annexed the small Armenian kingdom of Ani. The empire was able to do this for a lot of reasons--political, historical, military--but the precipitating incident involved the Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church, a man named Petros Getadarj, who was determined to prevent the forced conversion of the Armenians to the Byzantine form of Christianity. He did this by trading the physical sovereignty of Ani to the Byzantine emperor in exchange for promises of spiritual sovereignty. When I started writing this book, my inciting question was: What's it like to be that guy? To betray your culture's freedom in order to save your culture?
So I ended up writing a book about the seduction of empire, the problems of linking up identity with memory and how to use an oration contest to start a riot. As for my city planning job, the entire subplot (about the subway and algorithms) is straight out of a "smart cities" course, and how I have been thinking about the way cities see, or don't see, the people who live in them. --Lois Faye Dyer, writer and reviewer
by Greer Macallister
When Charlotte Smith's parents have her sister, Phoebe, committed to Goldengrove Asylum in the dead of night, Charlotte suspects there's something she's not being told. Determined to find--and rescue--her sister from whatever horrors await her there, Charlotte feigns a suicide attempt and gets herself committed. Inside the institution's walls, she discovers firsthand the atrocities of late 19th-century mental health "treatments" for female patients. "I wanted to say that this place made no sense," Charlotte considers not long after her arrival, "but unfortunately, it did. It made a terrible kind of sense... as long as you assumed every woman in the place was mad and that her only worth came from labor or silence, preferably both."
Greer Macallister (The Magician's Lie) notes at the end of Woman 99 that Goldengrove itself is an imaginary place, but the patient treatments she describes were derived from contemporaneous records. This sense of rich historical detail infuses every part of the novel, from Charlotte's dresses to descriptions of San Francisco. Against this backdrop, Charlotte struggles at Goldengrove to shed light on the mistreatment of women at the hands of profit-hungry men; it's impossible not to root for the sisters as they work to combat that mistreatment on behalf of themselves and others. Woman 99 is a fast-paced historical thriller perfect for book club discussions. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm
Discover: This fast-paced historical thriller pits two sisters against a corrupt women's asylum in late-19th century California.
The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack
by H.M. Naqvi
A sprawling, madcap tale set in Karachi, Pakistan, The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack brings one of the biggest cities in the world to life through the hilariously skewed perspective of a 70-year-old aesthete. Abdullah, the narrator and protagonist of The Selected Works, is a man who has managed to spring through life doing very little, and leaving even less of a wake behind him. Now, at the beginning of his eighth decade, a chain of events causes his precarious peace to be upended, and the do-nothing has a great deal to do.
A long-time resident of his father's old house, which he shares with his younger brother and his family, Abdullah learns his relatives are aiming to sell the property out from under him. On the very same day, he is inexplicably saddled with a ward, a young man by the name of Bosco with the heart of a poet and a troubled family history. As events tumble forward, Abdullah runs afoul of a powerful mafioso in Karachi and the political machinations of his own family, meanwhile stumbling into a love affair unlike any he's ever known.
What makes The Selected Works so engaging is Abdullah's voice. Chronicling his life with footnotes, academic asides and a fair amount of self-abasement, Abdullah is a hilarious narrator, and one the reader grows to love. Naqvi keeps the plot churning and characters interesting, but Abdullah makes the novel truly shine. --Noah Cruickshank, director of communications, Forefront, Chicago, Ill.
Discover: The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack is a hilarious, madcap comedy told by a 70-year-old aesthete from Karachi.
by Nathan Englander
When 30-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., resident Larry's father dies in Memphis, Tenn., in 1999, he returns to his sister Dina's home for the funeral and the traditional week of mourning known as shiva. As that ritual ends, Larry devastates Dina with the news that he won't recite the Kaddish, the mourning prayer whose repetition at three services each day for 10 months ensures their deceased father a blessed afterlife. Instead, he registers on the titular website, "like a JDate for the dead," where, for a fee, a yeshiva student in Jerusalem will recite the prayer in his place.
Just when it appears Englander will be satirizing the conflict between the seductions of modernity and the demands of Orthodox belief and practice, he upends that expectation and turns right, onto a more serious path. Fast-forward 20 years, and Larry--now Reb Shuli, a married father of two, teaching Talmud to seventh graders at a yeshiva--has abandoned his upscale Brooklyn neighborhood for one in the same borough amid his fellow pious Jews. A troubled 12-year-old student has lost his father, but is too young to have the obligation of reciting the Kaddish imposed on him. This triggers Shuli's urgent need to connect with the devout Jew he believes has been reciting that prayer in his place, in order to reclaim the sacred duty he forsook so casually.
In kaddish.com, Nathan Englander (What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank) portrays that frantic quest--one that jeopardizes Shuli's marriage, his job, even his sanity--with curiosity and deep sympathy, evoking a response that transcends the boundaries of any particular faith. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer
Discover: Nathan Englander returns to his roots in Orthodox Judaism for an exploration of how one man seeks to right a seemingly irrevocable wrong.
In the Blink of an Eye
by Jesse Blackadder
More than 40 years in the making, Australian author Jesse Blackadder's In the Blink of an Eye is a searing yet mesmerizing look at a family in turmoil following the loss of a child. Finn and Bridget Brennan move from Tasmania to New South Wales with their sons, Jarrah and Toby, hoping for a fresh start. Finn's metal sculpture work is tapped for a big show, and he's busy in his studio one morning while Bridget watches Toby. Neither notices the toddler enter the pool area despite the intricate, decorative safety gates Finn designed and installed.
Toby's death sends each Brennan spinning into their separate hells--"We were like the particles after the Big Bang, flying apart, spreading at the speed of light to different points in the universe." Blackadder's insight into disparate suffering stems authentically from her childhood experience; decades ago she wrote a fictional account of her sister's death. Only recently, after becoming an award-winning author of several books for adults and kids, did she feel emotionally prepared to publish it.
The result is a layered, multi-perspective spiral through grief, blame and the raw emotional and relational shifts that come with tragic loss. Bridget needs, but is repelled by her husband; Finn accepts fault to protect his wife; Jarrah is lost in the fragile reshuffling. Blackadder's writing is fluid, beautifully brutal and no-holds-barred in its depiction of trauma and a family whose need for comfort is lost in the fury "soldered onto the foundations" of their beings. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review
Discover: An author whose art mirrors her own life depicts the rips and ripples in a family following the accidental drowning of a toddler.
Mystery & Thriller
Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna
by Mario Giordano , trans. by John Brownjohn
Sicily's most obstinate Bavarian expat--a retiree turned amateur sleuth--lands in more hot water in the second installment of Mario Giordano's clever, cozy mystery series. Readers were first introduced to Isolde Oberreiter (aka "Poldi")--a spirited, sensual, 60-year-old widow--in Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions. Poldi relocated to a peaceful Sicilian village intending to live out her days while drinking herself to death. Instead, her handsome handyman was murdered, she became swept up in the search for his killer and sparked a romance with Detective Chief Inspector Vito Montana.
Murder and mayhem find Poldi again in the second book, as Mount Etna spews ash, the water supply to Poldi's community is cut off and a neighbor's dog is killed by poison. When an anti-Mafia district attorney dies from a blow to the head with a full bottle of locally produced wine, Poldi deems it part of a larger conspiracy. She's led to the vineyard, where another body is found. Inquisitive, Vespa-driving Poldi goes in search of answers--and justice. Amid her (mis)adventures, she tangles with the locals, the owner of the vineyard, her now-jealous beau and even the Mob.
Poldi's story is narrated by her nephew--an unemployed, aspiring novelist who is often summoned from Germany when Auntie Poldi is in trouble. He, along with a cast of lovable, madcap characters, becomes embroiled in a plot with as many strands as a pasta bowl heaped with steaming spaghetti. Giordano's passion for the dramatic absurdity of Sicilian life, culture and traditions overflows with fun and wit. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Discover: A fun, cozy mystery about a Bavarian expat-turned-amateur-sleuth on a quest for justice in her adopted Sicilian hometown.
Killing Eve: No Tomorrow
by Luke Jennings
Booker Prize nominee Luke Jennings (Atlantic) first introduced the characters of MI6 agent Eve Polastri and the mysterious Russian assassin Villanelle in his exciting 2018 novel Codename Villanelle. The sexual chemistry between the two women added flavor, wit and dimension to the cat-and-mouse spy thriller. It was adapted into the acclaimed BBC America TV series starring Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer. Killing Eve: No Tomorrow is a faster, funnier and more exciting follow-up to the first book. It's also less episodic (Codename was an expanded compilation of four previously published e-book novellas).
While Eve globe-trots around Europe, tracking Villanelle on her hired hits, she begins to realize that the same secret organization (The Twelve) sponsoring Villanelle has infiltrated the top levels of her own British secret service. When Villanelle is told that Eve is her next target, she begins to intuit that The Twelve will soon turn on her, too, unless the two women can work together to foil their plot. Granted, some of the tongue-in-cheek James Bond action goes past overkill. Villanelle dispatches one gay fascist villain--who has donned a dirndl and an Eva Braun wig--with an exploding sex toy.
But it's all good, nasty fun for lovers of James Bond and Modesty Blaise--although Jennings is much more sexually explicit than Ian Fleming or Peter O'Donnell. This espionage romp keeps readers slightly off balance as it brilliantly walks the line between thriller and spoof--and readers will find the experience irresistible. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant
Discover: The second book in Jennings's Killing Eve series of tongue-in-cheek cat-and-mouse thrillers is over-the-top, breathlessly paced and good nasty fun.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
A Memory Called Empire
by Arkady Martine
In Arkady Martine's debut novel, A Memory Called Empire, Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the capital of the Teixcalaanli Empire and discovers that her predecessor died under suspicious circumstances, which explains her emergency appointment to the post. Thrust into court intrigue, she must solve what she believes is a murder, conceal her own people's use of forbidden technology and diplomatically maintain the balance between the demands of the huge Empire and the needs of her home, Lsel Station. Despite a lifetime of preparing for this assignment, finding her balance in the alien culture is difficult. Although she is befriended by her liaison, Three Seagrass, Mahit remains wary of fully trusting anyone. The situation abruptly escalates when a bomb explodes and Three Seagrass is injured. Clearly, whatever her predecessor was involved in now threatens Mahit and those around her. Caught up in sudden violence and threatened by an ever-growing web of interstellar machinations, solving the murder may be the least of Mahit's problems. She must move swiftly in a complicated, dangerous world if she's to save herself, her friends and Lsel Station from destruction.
Packed with knotty personal relationships, career ambitions and assimilation challenges, this expertly plotted novel is perfect for fans of clever heroines and political thrillers. Martine is an author to watch. --Lois Faye Dyer, writer and reviewer
Discover: On a dangerous planet in outer space, a smart, creative woman must solve a murder and save her world.
The Light Brigade
by Kameron Hurley
Kameron Hurley is the Hugo Award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy novels such as The Stars Are Legion. The Light Brigade draws on the classics of military science fiction, though its antiwar themes position it much closer to Haldeman's The Forever War than Heinlein's Starship Troopers. In Hurley's version of the future, Earth is ruled by ruthless corporations who have banded together to wage war against Mars. Hurley's protagonist, Dietz, doesn't enter the war as a clueless naïf. After experiencing the worst of life outside the corporations, she signs up with simple goals: "Be a hero, I thought. Get revenge. End of story."
Dietz seeks revenge for an event called the Blink, when São Paulo was supposedly zapped out of existence by an unknown Martian weapon. After a brutal training, Dietz prepares to be sent to Mars via a technology that allows the "corps" to break the soldiers down into light and almost instantly transport them to the front lines. The process is nowhere near as anodyne as Star Trek's transporter beams: "It's breaking you up like in those old sci-fi shows, but it's not quick, it's not painless, and you're aware of every minute of it." And when Dietz is transported, she doesn't end up where--or when--she's meant to be. The Light Brigade is an overtly political work, critiquing the convergence of capitalism and war, but it works just as well as a timeless depiction of the boring, confusing, terrifying life of a soldier. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Discover: The Light Brigade is a forceful military science fiction novel where the process of turning soldiers into light to transport them to the front lines goes awry.
Biography & Memoir
This Much Country
by Kristin Knight Pace
At 26, reeling from a bitter divorce, Kristin Knight agreed to spend a winter in Alaska, living in a remote cabin and caring for a team of sled dogs. Despite the darkness, penetrating cold and backbreaking difficulties, she fell in love: with the place, the dogs, her neighbors and eventually with Andy, a gentle man who'd hoped to escape his own heartbreak. A decade later, Kristin and Andy are dog mushers and kennel owners, and Kristin chronicles their journey in her memoir, This Much Country.
Life in Alaska is full of challenges, and that goes double for novice mushers training for 1,000-mile races such as the Iditarod or the Yukon Quest, both of which Kristin has completed. She describes the logistics of training and the pure grit required to conquer each mile of the race trail. Despite (or because of) the difficulties, she gets hooked on mushing: "It was a wonder to feel so vulnerable and so electrically alive." She doesn't gloss over the tough parts of Alaskan life: isolation, no running water, almost total darkness in wintertime. But her journalist's eye for detail is strongest when she writes about racing itself and describes the personalities of her beloved dogs. Her descriptions of the wide, wild country will captivate readers, even those who are not wilderness-inclined. "We found a light at the end of the road that was ours," she writes. That northern light shines brightly, drawing readers toward the rugged landscape that has become her home. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams
Discover: Kristin Knight Pace's memoir chronicles her deep love for Alaska and her career as a dog musher.
Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia
by Christina Thompson
Christina Thompson (Come on Shore and We Will Kill You and Eat You All) is married to a New Zealander of Maori descent, which inspired her interest in the Polynesian genome that her sons share. In Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia, Thompson explores their history. Where did Polynesians come from? How can a people group so geographically distant--stretching in a loose triangle that covers thousands of miles from New Zealand in the south, to Easter Island in the east, to Hawaii in the north, be so culturally similar? How did people with no modern technology even find all these tiny islands in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean?
Ever since Captain James Cook first noticed the similarities between the people of these many different islands, people have been mystified by the Polynesians. Over the centuries there have been many different theories about their origins. Some assume they are related to the Melanesians of western Oceania. Abraham Fornander, a Swedish historian, was among many who insisted that Polynesians were "Aryan." Still others fell into Thor Heyerdahl's camp, believing they'd descended from South America royalty.
Cleverly combining Polynesian mythology, the fieldwork of Victorian anthropologists and modern DNA technology, Sea People is a fascinating look at the mystery. As Thompson says, "Virtually everyone who has ever thought about the problem of Polynesian origins has been attracted to the subject by two different things: first by the sheer wondrousness, the impossibility of all these migrations... and second, by the intellectual puzzle." --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: The origins of the people of Polynesia, as discussed in this spellbinding history, are sure to captivate armchair travelers and historians alike.
Teen Readers Recommend
Once & Future
by Amy Rose Capetta , Cori McCarthy
In Once & Future, Amy Rose Capetta (The Brilliant Death) and Cori McCarthy's (Now a Major Motion Picture) first collaboration, the legend of King Arthur is reimagined as a space opera pitting a courageous heroine against the oppressive forces of capitalism.
The tyrannical Mercer Company controls "everything from people's food to healthcare to the freaking government." Ari Helix, an illegal immigrant in Mercer's territory, and her adoptive brother, Kay, flee company enforcers after a scavenging mission goes wrong. The Helix siblings' spaceship crash-lands on Old Earth; Ari explores and finds, "buried in the trunk of [a] thousand-year-old oak," a sword. Knowing somehow that the sword "needed to be set free," she pulls it from the tree, revealing its name: "Excalibur." Soon after, Ari is approached by another teen who introduces himself as Merlin and insists that she is the latest in a line of King Arthur incarnations. Together, he tells her, they must gather the knights of the round table and overthrow Mercer to restore peace to the galaxy.
Capetta and McCarthy update classic Arthurian characters, creating a racially diverse cast that embodies a spectrum of gender identities and sexualities. More than the action-packed quest narrative, it is the complex interactions and relationships among these characters--including a tempestuous romance between Ari and her betrothed, Gweneviere--that make Once & Future shine. Ari is "the thing Mercer feared most... a girl they couldn't control, who wouldn't stop talking," and her story makes the original Arthurian legends' messages of equality and inclusivity relevant for a new generation. --Alanna Felton, 18
Discover: This gender-bent YA retelling of the legend of King Arthur is set in space and populated with a cast of diverse heroes.
The Tesla Legacy
by K.K. Perez
Kristina Perez (Sweet Black Waves) delivers an action-packed coming-of-age tale in The Tesla Legacy.
Diagnosed with epilepsy at a young age, 18-year-old Lucinda Minerva Phelps lives a very sheltered life--her professor parents home-school her and keep her on a strict diet, still treating "her like a live grenade despite the fact that she [hasn't] had a seizure for two years." After an argument leaves her restless, Lucy ventures into her father's office, where she stumbles upon a photograph of her younger self with the phrase Liber Librum Aperit ("One book opens another") scrawled on the back. The saying proves prophetic as the picture leads an intrigued Lucy to a hidden lab designed by Nikola Tesla. There, she touches "a copper egg" and discovers she has dormant electrical powers. Surprised and curious, Lucy immerses herself in research and learns about the Current Wars between Tesla and Edison. Her investigation is aided by the "captivating" British teaching assistant Ravi, who helps her explore the extent of her powers and the world her parents hid from her.
Perez merges history and science to create this brilliant contemporary teen novel. Extensively researched, The Tesla Legacy offers historical and scientific facts throughout, including, for example, the alchemist Cleopatra's research and the concept of tessellation. Lucy's development as a character is extensive: a science prodigy who conformed to traditional logic and reasoning, her beliefs evolve as the story unfolds. Lucy learns that "facts" aren't always true and that sometimes, to learn more, she must push her boundaries. An exceptional work, The Tesla Legacy features witty characters, girl-power and true growth, sure to leave fans hooked for the next installment. --Rifal Imam, 17
Discover: A teen with epilepsy discovers she has dormant electrical powers in K.K. Perez's young adult novel The Tesla Legacy.