I am not a librarian (yet!) but I still had a great experience. Besides all the awesome ARCs that were available, I had a chance to see a lot of writer friends, blogger friends, publishing peeps, and meet some great new people as well.
But really, let's get back to the books. I was very lucky that so many publishers were so generous with their galley copies. I have so many good books to look forward to! But after searching through my piles, there are some that stand out as the ones that just MUST be read first. So here, in no particular order, are my top 5 grabs from ALA that I can't wait to read:
1) The Killing Woods, by Lucy Christopher
"Emily’s dad is accused of murdering a teenage girl. Emily is sure he is innocent, but what happened that night in the woods behind their house where she used to play as a child? Determined to find out, she seeks out Damon Hillary the enigmatic boyfriend of the murdered girl. He also knows these woods. Maybe they could help each other. But he’s got secrets of his own about games that are played in the dark."
I saw Lucy read from her novel at Children's Book World on Sunday night, and holy moly listening to her gave me chills! It also put the character's voice perfectly in my head. Lucy is Welsh and has the most adorable accent ever. This book is set in the UK, and listening to Lucy read the MC, Emily's, voice made it so easy to hear Emily's accent in my mind.
I can already tell this book is going to make me wonder about every sound I hear once the sun goes down. It's going to give me nightmares in the best way possible.
Also, lucky for all of you--even if you weren't able to be at ALA, THE KILLING WOODS is already out and available. So check out your local library and/or indie bookseller and put this one of the top of your TBR pile!
2) White Space, by Ilsa J. Bick
"Seventeen-year-old Emma Lindsay has problems: a head full of metal, no parents, a crazy artist for a guardian whom a stroke has turned into a vegetable, and all those times when she blinks away, dropping into other lives so ghostly and surreal it's as if the story of her life bleeds into theirs. But one thing Emma has never doubted is that she's real. Then she writes "White Space," a story about these kids stranded in a spooky house during a blizzard. Thing is . . . “White Space” is virtually identical to a portion of an unfinished novel about characters who jump off pages into other stories. But she’s never seen that manuscript. No one has since the writer, killed years ago, never completed the book. Which means she’s blinked into the head of the dead guy? Or has she tripped into the nightmare of her own story? Because now Emma is trapped in a bizarre, fog-shrouded valley with other kids who have their own dark secrets and strange abilities: Eric, Casey, Bode, Rima, and a very special little girl, Lizzie. Now they must discover why they've been brought to this place--a world between the lines where parallel realities are created and destroyed and nightmares are written--before someone pens their end."
Can you say, "HUH?" This book looks like a serious mind bender, and I am so excited to go along for the ride! It certainly helps that Ilsa's editor is a friend of mine at Egmont, who (even though I had already picked it up and gotten excited about the book) hand sold this book to me. I am ready to get incepted by WHITE SPACE!
WHITE SPACE will be available in mid Februray from Egmont USA.
3) Prisoner of Night and Fog, by Anne Blankman
"In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet. Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command. Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews. As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?"
I almost tackled the Harper rep at ALA to get a copy of this book. World War II!! Romance!! I was kind of obsessed with WWII when I was younger and my 12 year old self would have cried happy tears if I had found this book at the store. But let's be honest, not a whole lot has changed. I can't wait to see how Blankman writes from this point of view and what's in store for the main character Gretchen.
PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG will be available from Balzer + Bray in April.
4) Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith
"Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the storyof how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa. To make matters worse, Austin's hormones are totally oblivious; they don't care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He's stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it's up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition."
Andrew Smith has already established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the YA world. He's the author of WINGER and THE MARBURY LENS and it looks like GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is not going to disappoint. A friend of mine who works at Penguin had an ARC of this book back at Christmas...and I almost stole it from her house. I was so happy to see them promoting it at ALA because it meant I finally could have my own copy!
Thankfully for all of you, you don't have to wait too long, because GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is coming out in a few weeks (mid-Februray) from Penguin!
5) Great, by Sara Benincasa
"Naomi Rye usually dreads spending the summer with her socialite mother in East Hampton. This year is no different. She sticks out like a sore thumb among the teenagers who have been summering (a verb only the very rich use) together for years. But Naomi finds herself captivated by her mysterious next-door neighbor, Jacinta. Jacinta has her own reason for drawing close to Naomi-to meet the beautiful and untouchable Delilah Fairweather. But Jacinta's carefully constructed world is hiding something huge, a secret that could undo everything. And Naomi must decide how far she is willing to be pulled into this web of lies and deception before she is unable to escape."
This was another case of tackle-the-Harper-rep. First off, can we talk about this droolworthy cover? I hadn't heard of this book, no one had hand sold it to me, but just by looking at the cover I knew--just KNEW--this was a retelling of THE GREAT GATSBY. Whoever designed this cover did an amazing job of creating an image that my brain immediately connected with the classic Gatsby cover, all while being fresh and new in itself.
Plus, it's about lady love! In a YA world that is so entrenched in the romantic plot/subplot, it always surprises me that there are so few same-sex couples and same-sex love stories out there. It's a part of the teenage world, so why isn't it more a part of the YA world? I cannot wait to dive into this reimagined world of glitz, glamour, and danger.
GREAT is available from Harper in April.
Honorable Mention: Salvage, by Alexandra Duncan
"Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean, in this thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood."
Confession: I wasn't so sure about this book because I wasn't sold on the cover. Girl in a dress is a pretty standard trope in YA covers these days and to be honest, it makes me kind of wary to pick up a book because it so often isn't representative of what happens in the actual text.
Confession #2: SALVAGE is not about a girl in a dress. It's so much more than that, and Ava--the main character--is so much awesomer than some faceless girl in a dress.
This book gets only an honorable mention just because I've already read this one--I snagged a copy from the galley piles of my favorite local bookstore, Children's Book World. So I already knew going into ALA the awesomeness that is SALVAGE. And soon you will too!
SALVAGE is available from Greenwillow Books in April. (And maybe, if you're really good, we'll be giving a copy away... ;)
What are YOU all excited to read?
(Plot synopses from Goodreads! Thanks Goodreads!)