Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve.
The idea of Monday's Muse is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.
What I do is go to one of several places, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.
Dystopian - "Old School".
Here are some books that were dystopians before some knew to call them that. Feel free to add to it in the comments!
Shade's Children by Garth Nix.
Plunge directly into a nightmare--a scrawny boy flees monstrous trackers in an urban wasteland. Gradually the reader learns that Earth has been taken over by the terrible Overlords, the laws of physical reality warped, all adults killed, the brains and body parts of children raw material for endless war games. Led by an all-too-human artificial intelligence known as Shade, a forlorn resistance battles on, with hope only because the misfit warriors have special talents that came with the Change. Throughout the struggle, hints that Shade's sympathies are not irrevocably human add additional suspense. Although the trappings here are science fiction, Nix tells essentially the same story as he did in Sabriel: a desperate quest by a talented few, aided by a potentially treacherous Other, to destroy the source of the power of an evil force that has poisoned the world. As in the author's previous book, the alternate world he creates is amply imagined and the twists and turns of the action-filled plot compelling, though the flat banality of the Overlords' evil is disappointing, as is the sketchy characterization of the four major protagonists. But while the book lacks some of the emotional depth of Nix's first work, it will draw (and keep) fans of the genre.--Publisher's Weekly.
The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer.
Set in Zimbabwe in 2194, this sci-fi/fantasy combines a coming-of-age quest with its attendant dangers and rewards and an interweaving of elements from African mythology. Tendai, 13; his younger sister, Rita; and preschool brother, Kuda, are children of Matsika, their country's Chief of Security. Frustrated by their choreographed existence, they attempt a cross-city trip that will fulfill requirements for a Scouting merit badge in exploring. They little realize the opportunity this unchaperoned escapade will afford their father's enemies, and find themselves abducted soon after their trip begins. Prisoners of the "She Elephant," so-called queen of a toxic dump known as the Dead Man's Vlei, the children discover they are not to be ransomed, but to be worked and then sold to a terrorist group called The Masks, deadly and spirit-damning. Matsika calls in "The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm Detective Agency," whose three agents each have a special power to aid in their search for the captives. They are steps behind as the children escape from one dire situation to another. Ultimately, the Masks are unveiled and destroyed, and the family is reunited. Rich in setting, the story is as complex as a weaver's kente pattern, as symbolic as an eijiri figure, as sophisticated as a Benin bronze. Demanding and intricate, but often convoluted, it will be rewarding to readers willing to travel beyond everyday places and to work to untangle its many strands.--Patricia Manning, Eastchester Public Library, NY, School Library Journal.
The Gods and their Machines by Oisin McGann.
To Altiman teenager and trainee fighter-pilot Chamus, the people of bordering Bartokhrin are just Fringelanders--backward religious fanatics whose women wear geishalike makeup and wigs and whose men occasionally appear in Altima to commit a kind of supernatural version of jihad. But when Chamus crashes his plane near the home of a Bartokhrin young woman named Riadni, the two are thrown into a reluctant alliance, with ramifications that are as personally jolting as they are politically far-reaching. Although the protagonists’ coincidental ties to key leaders on both sides require a significant suspension of disbelief, the action hurtles forward deliciously, and the alternating narratives build sympathies for both protagonists as they grapple with “a situation so big and so brutal that there was no way to make sense of it.” The real-world parallels with Western secularism and the more traditional societies of the Middle East are clear, but McGann’s facility with both character and world building makes this impressive debut as rewarding as pure fantasy as it is as provocative allegory. --Jennifer Mattson (December 15, 2004, pg. 736), Booklist.
Among the Hidden by Margaret Petersen Haddix.
Born third at a time when having more than two children per family is illegal and subject to seizure and punishment by the Population Police, Luke has spent all of his 12 years in hiding. His parents disobeyed once by having him and are determined not to do anything unlawful again. At first the woods around his family's farm are thick enough to conceal him when he plays and works outdoors, but when the government develops some of that land for housing, his world narrows to just the attic. Gazing through an air vent at new homes, he spies a child's face at a window after the family of four has already left for the day. Is it possible that he is not the only hidden child? Answering this question brings Luke greater danger than he has ever faced before, but also greater possibilities for some kind of life outside of the attic. This is a near future of shortages and deprivation where widespread famines have led to a totalitarian government that controls all aspects of its citizens' lives. When the boy secretly ventures outside the attic and meets the girl in the neighboring house, he learns that expressing divergent opinions openly can lead to tragedy. To what extent is he willing to defy the government in order to have a life worth living? As in Haddix's Running Out of Time (S & S, 1995), the loss of free will is the fundamental theme of an exciting and compelling story of one young person defying authority and the odds to make a difference. Readers will be captivated by Luke's predicament and his reactions to it.--Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA, School Library Journal.
City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau.
Ember, a 241-year-old, ruined domed city surrounded by a dark unknown, was built to ensure that humans would continue to exist on Earth, and the instructions for getting out have been lost and forgotten. On Assignment Day, 12-year-olds leave school and receive their lifetime job assignments. Lina Mayfleet becomes a messenger, and her friend Doon Harrow ends up in the Pipeworks beneath the city, where the failing electric generator has been ineffectually patched together. Both Lina and Doon are convinced that their survival means finding a way out of the city, and after Lina discovers pieces of the instructions, she and Doon work together to interpret the fragmented document. Life in this postholocaust city is well limned--the frequent blackouts, the food shortage, the public panic, the search for answers, and the actions of the powerful, who are taking selfish advantage of the situation. Readers will relate to Lina and Doon’s resourcefulness and courage in the face of ominous odds. --Sally Este (April 15, 2003), Booklist.
The Giver by Lois Lowry.
In a complete departure from her other novels, Lowry has written an intriguing story set in a society that is uniformly run by a Committee of Elders. Twelve-year-old Jonas's confidence in his comfortable "normal" existence as a member of this well-ordered community is shaken when he is assigned his life's work as the Receiver. TheGiver, who passes on to Jonas the burden of being the holder for the community of all memory "back and back and back," teaches him the cost of living in an environment that is "without color, pain, or past." The tension leading up to the Ceremony, in which children are promoted not to another grade but to another stage in their life, and the drama and responsibility of the sessions with TheGiver are gripping. The final flight for survival is as riveting as it is inevitable. The author makes real abstract concepts, such as the meaning of a life in which there are virtually no choices to be made and no experiences with deep feelings. This tightly plotted story and its believable characters will stay with readers for a long time. --Amy Kellman, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, School Library Journal.
The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick.
In this riveting futuristic novel, Spaz, a teenage boy with epilepsy, makes a dangerous journey in the company of an old man and a young boy. The old man, Ryter, one of the few people remaining who can read and write, has dedicated his life to recording stories. Ryter feels a kinship with Spaz, who unlike his contemporaries has a strong memory; because of his epilepsy, Spaz cannot use the mind probes that deliver entertainment straight to the brain and rot it in the process. Nearly everyone around him uses probes to escape their life of ruin and poverty, the result of an earthquake that devastated the world decades earlier. Only the "proovs," genetically improved people, have grass, trees, and blue skies in their aptly named Eden, inaccessible to the "normals" in the Urb. When Spaz sets out to reach his dying younger sister, he and his companions must cross three treacherous zones ruled by powerful bosses. Moving from one peril to the next, they survive only with help from a proov woman. Enriched by Ryter's allusions to nearly lost literature and full of intriguing, invented slang, the skillful writing paints two pictures of what the world could look like in the future—the burned-out Urb and the pristine Eden—then shows the limits and strengths of each. Philbrick, author of Freak the Mighty (1993) has again created a compelling set of characters that engage the reader with their courage and kindness in a painful world that offers hope, if no happy endings. --(November 1, 2000), Kirkus.
The Diary of Pelly D by L. J. Adlington.
A young driller breaking up rubble in war-devastated City Five unearths an old water can with a diary inside and then breaks Rules and Regulations by keeping it, rather than surrendering it to the authorities. So begins Toni V’s relationship with the diarist, PellyD, a teen who, before the war, had it all. Toni V enters the everyday thoughts and experiences of a privileged girl who, despite her societal status, may not be protected when the most powerful ofthe planet’s three genetic clans demands all citizens be identified and sorted by genetic type. Although inspired by the buried diaries found in the Warsaw Ghetto, Adlington has crafted an original and disturbing dystopian fantasy told in a smart and sympathetic teen voice. Particularly skillful is the author’s use of setting and detail to build slowly toward a full revelation ofthe unique physical, psychological, and political worlds PellyD and Toni V inhabit. This provocative addition to the growing body of dystopian literature for teens is a disturbing book that shouldn’t be missed. --Holly Koelling (May 1, 2005, pg. 1586), Booklist.