Ink & Bone by Rachel Caine
About: Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly, but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden … When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life–and soon both heretics and books will burn.
Why I Recommend It: I’ll admit to some self-service when I first picked this up; how could I pass up a book about the Library of Alexandria and possible evil librarians? I really enjoyed how Caine did not dumb down or simplify complex issues like censorship, who should have access to information and freedoms in a dystopian society. A lot of the issues that come up in this book are directly applicable to the real world. Should Amazon be allowed to change things on your Kindle after you purchase a book? Do you own that book or are you just paying for access? How far should leaders and those that control information be allowed to go in the interest of protecting society? The action is exciting and is paced very well. The characters in this book are complex and people the reader can really believe. I cannot wait for the sequel to this one!
In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
About: Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role playing game that she spends most of her free time on. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. Gaming is, for Anda, entirely a good thing. But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer — a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s real livelihood is at stake.(taken from Amazon.com)
Why I Recommend It: The world is becoming a very small place with people on the opposite sides of the world connected through games, social media, and the internet. As the world shrinks a whole new set of rules and issues arise about what is okay, what is safe to do online. This graphic novel illustrates the pros and cons about online gaming in a thoughtful manner. The author does not moralize or treat the reader like an idiot. It also brings up the question of how sometimes issues that seem black and white are much more complex and have further reaching consequences than appear at first glance. Finally, it is really nice to see a book about gaming where many of the main movers and shakers are females who kick butt.
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
About: “Paint a mural. Start a battle. Change the world.”
Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears… Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on. With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one — and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family’s past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come. (taken from the SPL Catalog)
Why I Recommend It: This book has a lot layers. Older is fantastic at world building and creates a wonderful fantastical realm where shadowshapers can infuse graffiti, art, music with spirits and make them come alive. This shadowshaping is interesting and different, I have not read anything like it before and it is nice to see a fresh spin on the world of fantasy. Older places his story in Brooklyn and makes it feel authentic. The characters encountered throughout the book could really live in Brooklyn and do not feel like stereotypes.
Older also looks at communities and the tension between honoring tradition and keeping up with the times. He deftly examines also the pressure of living within a minority community surrounded by a different majority and the subversive desire of conformity. He never hits the reader over the head with his message but allows the strains of trying to balance heritage and modernity, conformity and individualism, new and old to show themselves slowly through the characters’ stories. All while trying to fight off the killer of the shadowshapers! I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy, supernatural, or strong heroines who kick butt and take names!