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Archive for the ‘Urban/Modern Fantasy’ Category

Beastly
By Alex Flinn
ISBN: 9780061998669
Publisher: HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Date of Publication: 2009
Reader’s Annotation:
Kyle Kingsbury has two years to break the curse that has made him into a beast. The cure? To fall in love and to be loved in return.

Plot Summary:
Kyle Kingsbury has it all. He’s handsome, smart, rich, and is the most popular boy at Tuttle Private School. His father is a famous news anchor and provides Kyle with anything he needs. One day, Kyle notices a strange girl in his English class. She’s dressed in strange, dark gothic clothing and is vocal in her dislike of Kyle’s selfish behavior. On a whim, Kyle asks this girl, Kendra, to the school’s dance, plotting a way to humiliate Kendra in front of the entire school. Kendra says yes, though she remains wary of Kyle’s intentions.

As planned, Kyle ditches Kendra at the dance, mocking her in front of the attendees. Kendra’s reaction frightens Kyle in that she offers no revenge but a warning. When Kyle arrives back home after the dance, he discovers Kendra is waiting for him. She is actually a witch and curses Kyle to become a disgusting beast; a creature who matches Kyle’s ugly soul. Kyle now has two years to find love and to be loved in return, for that is his only cure for the curse. As time slowly melts away, Kyle finds himself learning what it really means to give your heart to someone, that love is how we protect and care for another, and love is not merely a feeling but an action that changes us forever.

Critical Evaluation:
Alex Flinn’s modern take on the Beauty and the Beast story is a delight. It is a quick read and slightly predictable, but still entertaining. Flinn presents Kyle as a genuinely selfish boy, but we can’t help but sympathize with his character in light of his father’s neglect. It is clear that Kyle’s behavior and opinions stem from his father’s influence. There are glimpses of hope for his behavior, but when Kyle is changed into the beast, the reader can’t help but be glad for this inevitable transformation.

The character of Beauty, Lindy, is portrayed as a strong-willed young woman who has been forced to survive on her own. While fairytale mentality often showcase young women longing for a knight in shinning armor to rescue them, Lindy is neither weak or stupid. Her intelligence is celebrated in the book and is a trait that Kyle uses in order to woo her heart.

The ending of the book, which I will not spoil, is very much on par of the original fairy tale. Lessons are learned and everyone involved become better people. But it’s an important lesson in that in shows that people CAN change and that our preconceived notions of our friends or strangers can be altered with time. While the book is not one based on the premise of bullying, it does highlight how being different should be celebrated. And that it is our differences that make us great and beautiful.

Information about the author:
From Alex (Alexandra) Flinn’s Webpage, Flinn was raised in Miami, Florida, where she lives today. After witnessing the after effects of dating violence during an internship with the State Attorney’s Office, Flinn was inspired to write her first book, Breathing Underwater. From the success of her first book, Flinn continued to write realistic fiction and has found continued success in her fairy tale adaptations.

Alex Flinn’s Webpage is a great resource for reading guide for teens and educators.

Alex Flinn on Facebook

Genre:
Fantasy, Romance

Curriculum Ties:
Fairy Tales, Self-Image and Self-Worth

Booktalking Ideas:
How important is a first impression?
Who are we when no one is looking?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews provides an age range of 19-20. Flinn’s prose is geared towards a younger age range and would be ideal for ages 14 and Up.

Challenging Issues:


There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would be drug abuse.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
When I was looking over my selections for this assignment, I realized that I was lacking the fantasy genre. I found this at my local library branch and decided to take a chance as the story of Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales. Retelling of fairy tales seems to be a trend in popular culture and this version of Beauty and the Beast was nice addition to the myth of that tale.

Reference:
Flinn, A. (n.d.). About Alex. Retrieved from http://www.alexflinn.com/html/bio.html

Kirkus Review. (2010). Beastly by Alex Flinn. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/alex-flinn/beastly/

Bonus Features!

Lindy’s Story

(more…)

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Teen Wolf
Developed by Jeff Davis
Produced by MGM Television and Music Television (MTV)
Original Release: 2011
Number of Seasons: 2

Annotation:
After teenager Scott McCall is bitten by a mysterious wolf creature, Scott discovers he had become a werewolf.

Summary:
Scott McCall exists on the fringes of his high school in Beacon Hills. Together with his sarcastic best fried. “Stiles” Stalinski, the pair hopes that this will be the year that they actually get to participate on the school’s lacrosse team instead of spending another season on the bench.

One night Scott and Stiles decide to quietly  follow Stiles’s father, the town sheriff, on an interesting case. A young woman is missing and the boys hope to find the girl first. As the boys roam in the forest, they are attacked by a mysterious wolf creature. Scott is bitten but survives the attack. The boys escape and make it home, scared but alive.

Overnight, Scott begins to feel changes in his body; his senses are heightened, his asthma has disappeared, and he now posses super-strength. In the midst of these changes, Scott meets Allison Argent, the new transfer student whose family has a unique history.As Scott and Stiles begin to discover the reasons behind Scott’s transformation, another figure enters their lives; the mysterious Derek Hale. Scott and Derek share a common trait. Both are actual werewolves and they are not alone.

Critical Evaluation:
From Teen Wolf’s Wikipedia page, loosely based on the 1985 Michael J. Fox comedy film of the same name, the show rarely resembles the original outside of the name and werewolf premise. Teen Wolf’s creator, Jeff Davis, was more inspired by the films The Lost Boys and Stand by Me, using the visual style and the story-lines as inspiration. Davis succeeds in that the show isn’t like any other current teen drama. The character feel like real teenagers and are rightly punished by parents who don’t exist in the sidelines, like many other teen shows often do. The parents are often part of the teens life and rarely are used when the plot calls for a humane lesson.

The horror aspect of the show is surprising in that it really is scary. The show avoids major horror film cliches by reminded the audience that while the main characters are teens, they are now idiots and they do have the common sense to run away from danger if needed. The best part of the program comes during Dylan O’Brien’s performance of Stiles Stilinski. Playing second fiddle to Tyler Posey’s Scott McCall, the character provides great comic relief but is never just the humorous character. Like many characters of the show, there is more depth that what is perceived and that makes for compelling drama.

Information about the Creator:
From Jeff Davis’s Wikipedia page, born in Milford, Connecticut and a graduate of Vassar College, Davis studied film and later received a master’s in screenwriting from the University of Southern California. Davis found success when he helped created the program Criminal Minds. His greatest success has been Teen Wolf. He serves as executive producer, head writer and show creator.

Genre:
Fantasy, Urban/Modern Fantasy, Horror/Thriller, Romance

Curriculum Ties:
Horror Stories, Modern Mythology

Booktalking Ideas:
Why would you refuse to have a power?
How do our surroundings change who we are?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
15 and up

Challenging Issues:
Potential Issues include sexual situations, violence, horrific situations, and child disobedience.

Why did I include this series in the title selection?
I started to watch the program as it kept popping up in discussions with my younger friends. I watched one episode to try it out. Five hours later, I had watched half of season one. The show’s true portrayal of teens is a great choice for teen audiences.

References:
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Jeff Davis (writer). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Davis_%28writer%29

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Teen Wolf. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teen_Wolf_(2011_TV_series)

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Speed Racer
Written and Directed by The Wachowski Brothers
Distrubted by Warner Brothers Entertainment
Date of Release:
Rated: PG

Annotation:
Speed Racer is the best race car driver the world has ever seen.

Plot Summary:
All Speed has ever wanted to do was race cars. His blood runs deep with automobile oil. His older brother, Rex Racer, is a great car racer and encourages Speed’s passion for cars.  Speed’s parents, Pops and Mom, are the owner of his own racing company, Racer Motors. The family is proud and takes great pride in their work.

Rex Racer changes everything when he chooses to join a corporate team, leaving Pops behind. Speed is devasted and he must watch as his brother slowly is destroyed in the completive field. When Rex dies at the ruthless Casa Cristo race, the family mourns and is left with the rumors of Rex’s actions.

Years pass and Speed has become the top driver in the racing world. Speed with his car the Mach 6, only wants to race and take care of his family. When Speed’s skill grows, corporations are eager for Speed to join their ranks. Speed is then approached by E.P. Arnold Royalton, a manipulative businessman who has plans on controlling the racing industry. Trusting his gut, Speed refuses Royalton’s offer and continues to drive on his own. Royalton then plans for Speed’s downfall. It’s within this action that the racing world begins to see a change and it’s up to Speed to finish the greatest race of his career.

Critical Evaluation:
Based on the 1960s Japanese anime of the same name, Speed Racer is an over-the-top thrill ride that pushes the boundaries of technology and animation. The racing scenes are filled with color and imagination as Speed and his enemies fight on the tracks.

The Wachowskis’ use of visual technology adds to the mythos of the original anime and enhances the story. While some might complain about the quick pace of the animation, it fits with the storyline and the characters.

The actors are given a retro look that shares with the presentation of the anime. The female characters, once ignored in the original, are pushed up and given more power. They are strong and are an asset in Speed’s life.

The story is fun and simple. It’s clear that the Wachowskis’ intended this to be a kids/teen film, giving more attention to the visuals over the plot.

Information about the Directors:
From the Wachowski’s Wikipedia page, twins born in Chicago, the Wachowskis (Lana and Andy) are directors who have favored privacy and often do not do interviews. This has recently changed for the promotion of their latest film, Cloud Atlas. Lana, formerly Larry, felt it was important to start doing publicity again due to her recent sex change. Lana hopes that can be a positive influence for those transgender individuals who do not have a role model to look up to. Lana has cited that she suffered from depression and almost committed suicide.

The sibling due is responsible for the Matrix trilogy. They have been heavily influenced by Japanese animation and comic books. The siblings are often very involved in their projects such as writing and directing films as well as producing films. The prefer to have their work push the boundaries of genre, using stories that speak of the human condition beyond anything else.

Genre:
Action, Fantasy

Curriculum Ties:
Race Car Driving History

Booktalking Ideas:
What does it mean to stand up for one’s beliefs?
What’s your favorite way to travel?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
The tim is rated PG and be best suited for viewers 14 and up.

Challenging Issues:
Potential Issues would include violence.

Why did I include this film in the title selection?
The film, through all of its chaos, is still a fun film to watch. Teens will appreciate the visuals of the film as well as the storyline.

Reference:
Wikipedia. (n.d.) Speed Racer. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wachowskis

The original Speed Racer series is available to view on Hulu.

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Weetzie Bat (Dangerous Angels)
By Francesca Lia Block
ISBN: 978-0-06-200740-7
Publisher: Harper Teen, an imprint of HarperCollins
Date of Publication: 1989

Reader’s Annotation:
Weetzie Bat juggles friendship and love in the enchanted city of Los Angeles.

Plot Summary:
Published in 1989, Francesca Lia Block’s tale of romance and friendship proves a mythical, whimsical tale set in the heart of Los Angeles. Weetzie Bat and her best friend Dirk must endure the challenges of love and friendship as they struggle to understand what it means to be an individual in a large and strange world.

Critical Evaluation:
Block’s work has known its share of controversy, primarily due to the wide range of topics presented in the less than 100 page story; sexual abuse, homosexuality, teen pregnancy, and substance abuse. Block presents Los Angeles as both a fantasy land in which dreams can come true and as a harsh reality in where pain is part of even the most happiest of existence. While the material might have a whimsy tone in terms of writing style, it’s because of said writing style that the story becomes endearing. Block’s story is meant to show how a family can be created and how a city can become a playground. Overall, despite the large issues presented, the story is a fairytale and is a fun fast read for anyone interested in magical realism.

Information about the Author:
From Francesca Lia Block’s Webpage, a lifelong resident of Los Angeles, Block is the author of over thirty books. Renouned for her realistic portayl of the city of Los Angeles, Block’s stories have been called mythical, with shades of magical realism scattered throughout her tales.

Francesca Lia Block on Twitter

A recent interview with Francesca Lia Block with the Los Angeles Review of Books

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Magical Realism, Romance

Curriculum Ties:
Modern Mythology, City Histories

Booktalking Ideas:
Why does Weetzie and her friends feel that Los Angeles is a magical place?
What makes a book a fantasy or a realistic title?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Weetzie Bat was originally published for adult audiences. It has now found a home amongst young adult readers. A suggested age range for this book would be fifteen and up.

Challenging Issues:
Block’s Los Angeles fairytale has been challenged several times since it’s publication. Issues such as homosexuality, teen pregnancy, and substance abuse have been the more cited reasons for the challenges.

The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why was this book chosen?
Weetzie Bat was another book that I was assigned to read for my Materials for Young Adults course through San Jose State University. The book was a short read (less than a 100 pages) but the material included in the book was very dense. The various issues the characters endure are relate-able to any age group.

weetzie

Reference:
Block, F.L. (n.d.). Bio. Retrieved from http://www.francescaliablock.com/bio

Kirkus Reviews. (1989). Weetzie Bat. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/francesca-lia-block/weetzie-bat/

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