In Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs (Dutton, 2008), Phoebe’s mother returns from a trip to Greece with an engagement ring, and whisks her daughter off to a secret island in the Aegean Sea. Phoebe enrolls in an ultra-exclusive academy where her future stepfather is headmaster and all her fellow students are descendants of Greek gods and goddesses, complete with corresponding superpowers. The familiar high school setting is populated with cliques like the Zeus/Hera set (who “make Paris Hilton look like a Vestal Virgin”) and the über Goths of the “Hades harem,” and Phoebe’s cross-country competition includes Hermes’ offspring. This lighthearted, imaginative recasting of mythology sparkles with witty dialogue and humorous antics.
Piper McCloud also has supernatural ability, in Victoria Forester’s The Girl Who Could Fly (Feiwel & Friends, 2008). Hidden at home by her elderly parents, Piper’s airborne talent frightens the Lowland County populace. Dr. Letitia Hellion arrives with an invitation to attend a top-secret maximum-security school where Piper joins classmates whose powers include brute strength, telekinesis, X-ray vision, and hyper-speed. Dr. Hellion and her mysterious staff of scientists hide terrible secrets. Piper and super-genius Conrad pursue the truth in a fast-paced, clever story that explores the ethics of scientific experimentation.
Bianca reluctantly enrolls in isolated, gloomy Evernight Academy when her parents take teaching jobs at the eerie boarding school, in Claudia Gray’s Evernight (HarperTeen, 2008). Not feeling beautiful or wealthy enough to fit in, shy Bianca falls in love with fellow outsider Lucas. As their relationship intensifies, each carries a dark secret; Bianca is a vampire, like her fellow Evernight students, and Lucas is a vampire hunter. Gray builds the mood through skillful foreshadowing in this tale of ill-fated lovers, weaving in clever scenarios of thousand-year-old vampires learning to use iPods and microwaves so they will fit into the 21st century.
Frankie also attends a boarding school in The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Hyperion, 2008). A legacy student at Alabaster Prep following in the footsteps of her father and older sister, sophomore Frankie wants to be valued for herself. Underestimated by her senior boyfriend Matthew, she discovers that he and his best friend Alpha are co-leaders of The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, a secret all-male society devoted to pulling pranks. Frankie surreptitiously commandeers the Bassets, leading them through increasingly risky and hilarious mischief. Frankie, a refreshingly strong and cerebral heroine, displays a keen sense of self in this story that explores class, tradition, and feminism.
Self-declared nerd Leon, 17, is stuck with outcast Melody as his class project partner, in Brian Katcher’s Playing with Matches (Delacorte, 2008). Her face severely burned in a childhood accident, Melody is the butt of jokes and snide remarks. When they discover a shared love of offbeat humor, their friendship grows and turns to romance. Then Leon captures the attention of popular beauty Amy, and rationalizes his way to dumping loyal, intelligent Melody with not so predictable results. Full of Leon’s self-deprecating, ironic humor, and relationship angst, Playing with Matches invites readers to look past the surface as each character reveals hidden strengths and struggles.
Tweens and middle schoolers will identify with The Truth about Truman School by Dori Hillestad Butler (Albert Whitman, 2008). Zebby, 14, and her friend Amr set up an uncensored Web site where classmates can post their true thoughts and feelings about their school. When it turns into a place to trash a popular classmate, with vicious anonymous comments and links to fabricated sites like “Lilly’s Lesbian Diary” and “We Hate Lilly Clarke,” Zebby and Amr debate their responsibility, especially when Lilly runs away from home. Told from alternating viewpoints of the various eighth graders involved, this is full of authentically insecure middle school voices, lending itself to consideration of cyberbullying and freedom of speech.
Dust off your classroom and library shelves and make room for these titles offering a bit of lighthearted fun, romance, teen angst, horror, and/or explorations on some provocative themes.