A lot of girls dream about their wedding day—the dress, the celebration, the groom, the happiest day of their lives—but that’s not how it is for Sudasa. How could it be, when she is being forced to marry a total stranger at the tender age of 17?
In the year 2054, one child policies in India have led to a huge disparity between the genders. Within the walled world of Koyanagar, boys are a dime a dozen. Only one girl exists for every five boys, and it’s essential to the government that all viable females marry and try to produce as many daughters as they can. In order to be sure that the country’s young women are choosing acceptable mates, boys are chosen to compete in a series of tests that determine who will earn wives and security and who will be sent to an early death defending the walls that keep them protected from the rest of the world.
It’s Sudasa’s turn to preside over the Tests. Over the course of three days, it is her duty to award points to the five boys who are forced to endure different challenges to win her hand, and she recounts her experiences in lovely verse.
In alternating chapters, older readers are treated to the thoughts of Contestant Five, an impoverished farm boy who is competing for Sudasa against his will. While most boys are desperate for the rare comforts that a wife can provide, Contestant Five is planning to use his competition as a chance to escape Koyanagar and find his long-lost mother. Meeting Sudasa throws everything off for his plans, though. Rather than the vapid spoiled girl he expected, he finds a gentle beauty with a love of poetry and some subversive ideas of her own.
5 to 1 puts a terrific spin on the dystopian genre, and Sudasa and Contestant Five are wonderful characters who will intrigue readers as their paths become intertwined and their lives become forever, irrevocably changed.
Read alikes: The Selection by Kiera Cass; Matched by Ally Condie
Once upon a time, fairy tales were a whole lot cooler than the ones that you might have heard. Back in the day, the Brothers Grimm wove some totally bloody, awesome stories, many of which have been lost to the ages in favor of flouncy princesses and happy endings.
A Tale Dark and Grimm sets the record straight, retelling some of the best of the Grimm fairy tales in an innovative new way. Hansel and Gretel, famous for their gingerbread house-eating, are cast as the heroes of all of these stories, which are spun together to form one merry gory narrative.
Not all is well in the kingdom of Grimm, and the two unfortunate siblings are forced to find their way in the world, falling head over heels into trouble with every step of their journey. All the siblings want is to reunite with their long lost parents (who, by the way, once chopped off both of their heads…but don’t worry, they got better!), but numerous evil adults, monsters, and even the devil himself keep thwarting them. In the end, all that stands between Hansel and Gretel and happiness is a huge horrible dragon. Not surprisingly, it falls to the children to save the kingdom from the fire breathing beast…and a happily ever after ending is nowhere in sight!
Readers (especially boys) will get a kick out of this twisted fairy tale, which has plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor, daring feats, and severed body parts to go around. Fairy tales are cool again.
Ever since the death of her twin sister, twelve year old Bluebell’s life has been in disarray. With her trusty video camera, Blue captures the aftermath of the Gadsby family life in an alternating combination of short film clips and diary entries. Blue is most comfortable when she can disappear behind the camera, and she has made invisibility an artform in the halls of her school.
Despite her quiet existence, though, Blue’s world is nevertheless filled with a fascinating array of characters like dramatic pink-haired sister Flora, a family of white rats, pesky little sibs Twig and Jasmine, and prickly Bosnian au pair Zoran. Most interesting to Blue, though, is the sudden addition of a next-door neighbor. Specifically, a very cute next-door neighbor named Joss who seems to actually notice and like her.
Over time, Blue gets to remember what it feels like to be noticed, to learn how to be her own person even with the jarring absence of Iris. After Iris is a sympathetic story with a lot of humor and heart that tackles realistic issues in a thoughtful way. The transcripts from Blue’s films let readers see the world as she does, and the chapters told from her point of view are even more insightful and frank. This is a winner.
Living on a farm in the midst of the Great Depression means that times are hard, especially for Charlie Anne and her family, who recently lost their beloved mother. Charlie Anne hears the voice of her mother everywhere she goes, especially the nearby river, where she seeks out refuge from her sadness and troubles. Still, she knows that they will always get by as long as they stay together as a family, a conviction that is shattered when her father leaves them to earn money building roads up north.
Left in the care of their awful cousin Mirabel, she and her siblings have to make by as best they can, wearing hand-me-down clothes, going without shoes and education, and working hard to maintain their home. It’s not the happiest existence, but Charlie Anne tries her best to keep the family united. Everything changes on the day that two strangers move in next door and shake the town upside down. Rosalyn is a free-thinking schoolteacher who runs around in red pepper red trousers, and Phoebe is her African-American daughter, the first person of color that Charlie Anne has ever seen in her life. The two girls become fast friends, and fast funny Phoebe turns out to be the perfect solace for the still-grieving Charlie Anne.
Unfortunately, cousin Mirabel and the rest of the town are not as thrilled with their new neighbors, and they have to keep their playtimes a secret. As racial tensions mount and Rosalyn and Phoebe try to open up an integrated schoolhouse, Charlie Anne learns what people are really made of. Her hard times have just begun as she learns to stand up to injustice for the sake of her friend, finally donning some trousers of her own and realizing that this world still has plenty of surprises and pleasures in it. This is a lovely tale of friendship in the face of adversity, of family and love, of the power of education, and of life after loss.
This tale is a "Beauty and the Beast" like no other, weaving the familiar fairytale tropes around the story of Sarah, a lonely girl with a lonely life. Sarahbear, as her mother calls her, knows that her family is hiding a secret. They are always on the move, running from cold weather and going house to house before Sarah ever has a chance to settle or make friends.
Just when she starts to make the acquaintance of Alan, a compelling older boy, Sarah is shuttled away yet again. This time, though, her parents aren’t staying with her. Instead, she is the reluctant resident of a crumbling old castle in the middle of nowhere, and only her stern and frightening grandmother is there for company.
That’s what she is led to believe, anyway.
Natural curiosity and a bit of magic lead Sarah to discover talking ravens, family secrets, witches, and Beasts. As Sarah puts the pieces of her cursed family history together, older readers will be drawn into the richly detailed mystery and will probably be as surprised by the true identity of the Beast (or Beasts?) as Sarah herself is.
In this dark and thoughtful story, the Beast isn’t who you might think it is.
Read alikes: Bound, by Donna Jo Napoli; The Beast Within, by Serena Valentino
Posts by Mrs. Remington, School Librarian