Welcome to Smugglivus 2009 – Day 5!
Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2009, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2010.
Today’s guest: Kathryn McKenna, Children’s Marketing & Publicity Assistant for Simon and Schuster UK. Kathryn has a list of what to expect from S&S UK in 2010 and a most awesome and generous giveaway.
Please give it up for Kat!
Wow, what a year we’ve had! I can hardly believe that it’s December, but here I am, celebrating the fabulous Smugglivus with you all and saying farewell to 2009. Just in case you’re wondering who ‘I’ am, my name is Kat and I work for the Children’s Marketing & Publicity team at Simon & Schuster UK. We work on promoting all the books across our great list, from baby to teen. We get to be pretty imaginative, and spend our days dealing with an array of green furry aliens, angel wings, stickers, and somehow manage to fit in getting review coverage and going on tour with our authors! Phew.
Sometimes, though, we like to rave on about our books ourselves, and so I was thrilled that Ana & Thea invited me to blog about what’s happening for us in 2010. I’ve worked together a list of treats to tantalise your reading taste buds, to suit the vast array of readers – I hope there’s something here for everyone! There is so much publishing in 2010 that it was an ambitious undertaking, but I’ve managed to restrain myself to six titles that cover a range across the first six months of the year.
Also, if you get to the end of our enthusiastic ramblings, there’s a competition! Hurrah! First though, some chatter about great books.
THE THIRTEEN CURSES by Michelle Harrison (10+) (JANUARY)
Admittedly, this is a slightly unorthodox book to throw onto the (metaphorical) table as a first offering, given that it is a sequel – but how could I start the year without it?!
A bit of back story: THE THIRTEEN TREASURES published in January 2009, scooping a win under its belt immediately – it won the WATERSTONES CHILDREN’S BOOK PRIZE. And no wonder it did. Harrison’s writing is evocative, stunning, lyrical, dark. Her faeries are not your average sparkly, pink fluttering sidekicks – these are dark, smart and mean faeries, and they hold a secret… as does thirteen year old Tanya. Tanya is the heroine of THE THIRTEEN TREASURES, a story steeped in faery mythology and woodland, and while it holds a younger age bracket, this book goes beyond the appeal of children. It is brilliant – tense and magical and wonderful.
And of course, so is THE THIRTEEN CURSES. While TREASURES transported the real world into the faery realm, CURSES takes the faeries back into the real world, as Tanya is joined by Red in a desperate hunt to find the thirteen charm treasures of book one – will they find them, and when they do, can they account for the sinister changes in each charm?
If you haven’t dipped into this series – what are you waiting for! These books look stunning, too, an irresistible package. Lucky for us then, that a third one is in the works too.
UGLIES/PRETTIES/SPECIALS by Scott Westerfeld (12+) (MARCH)
You’re probably all scratching your heads about this one – “surely these books came out years ago,” you’re saying. “Who is this crazy, ill informed woman?” Well, stay with me – you’re half right! The UGLIES trilogy did indeed originally publish in 2006, and is a total phenomena cult status series in the US. Our UK sales haven’t quite soared as high as on the book’s home turf ¬- and so we’ve redesigned them to give a brand new cover look!
They look completely awesome, there is no way around it. They fit the bill 110% for what these books deliver – high octane, high drama, high visibility.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series, UGLIES is the first of three stories about Tally Youngblood. Tally lives in a world that is much like ours – except that when you reach sixteen, surgery is performed that propels you into aesthetic perfection and removes all flaws, transporting teens into a carefree world of beauty and fun. However, the day before Tally’s sixteenth birthday she is told she cannot have the surgery, to her horror – and this leads to secrets and revelations about the true fates of ‘uglies’ and ‘pretties’…
I read the UGLIES trilogy a while ago, back before I worked in publishing, and I can honestly say they are some of my all time favourite reads. Scott Westerfeld is pretty much a genius – a funny, cool genius who understands the teenage brain perfectly. His observations on society are terrifying, and real, and there is no getting away from the shadow of this looming world when we are surrounded every day by an obsession with aesthetics, beauty and celebrity.
Although, saying that, the new covers really are aesthetic perfection. Even more reason to pick them up if you haven’t already!
THE ISLAND by Sarah Singleton (12+) (APRIL)
Sarah Singleton is, simply put, incredibly talented. She has written five books to an enormously positive reception from national critics and fans alike. And now she has returned with THE ISLAND.
THE ISLAND is a departure for Singleton, who has previous revelled in gothic settings, taking us to abandoned houses, haunted land and 18th century mysteries. However, this book transports Singleton’s beautiful prose to modern day Goa. So begins a suspenseful story about three gap year students – Otto, Charlotte and Jen. Each has taken to Goa for different reasons – photography, an environmental project, the fulfilment of a life long dream – they are close friends looking for a new experience.
…And then Otto meets Maria. The opening sequence of the book is filled with adolescent emotion – fun, lust, the thrill of the unknown. But no sooner does he meet her than he finds her body on the beach, and what was initially an innocent fascination becomes a danger that places Otto as the prime suspect in a murder case.
One of the most important thing about THE ISLAND is this – these teens are written as real people. The setting is a real setting. You can feel sand under your toes, imagine the landscape, taste the exotic flavours. Anybody who has taken a gap year or travelled will read this with a nostalgic excitement, and each of the three leads is relatable in their own unique qualities. This book stands to bring Singleton into the foreground where she belongs. Riveting stuff.
HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins (12+) (APRIL)
How do I even begin to describe the wonder that is HEX HALL? This book is one of the most fun books I’ve read all year. Not only is it funny, it’s clever and original and plays so brilliantly with the oh-so-popular supernatural teen genre whilst managing to tap into the Mean Girls mould, too. Being that supernatural teen books and Mean Girls are two of my very favourite things, HEX HALL just could not go wrong for me. It tells the story of Sophie Mercer, a young witch who has been packed off to Hecate Hall, school for misfit witches, wolves and fey – plus one teen vampire who quickly becomes her friend.
Then Sophie meets Elodie and her band of mean girl witches – a funny, self involved trio who possess enough power between them to cause trouble. Also on the scene is Elodie’s gorgeous boyfriend, Archer. Sophie finds herself constantly crossing his path, a disconcerting but ultimately pleasing problem. However, when Sophie starts to realise that the school has more to it than meets the eye, and maybe so does she, a mystery starts to unravel….
I’ve already said that HEX HALL is immense fun, and it is. One of the even more pleasurable things about Hawkins and her writing, however, is that while the book is thoroughly enjoyable on that level, she also works in a fantastic and suspenseful plot. I could not have guessed the twists that came. HEX HALL will leave you giggling aloud, delighted and awed, and no doubt pawing desperately for its follow up. If you read one book next year, make it this one. It sparkles with fun and reminds you that stale genres can have new life breathed into them.
DARK LIFE by Kat Falls (12+) (MAY)
The opening sequence of DARK LIFE plunges us straight into the deep with its leading character, fifteen year old Ty: a taste into his every day life shows us that he faces shark chases, outlaws, cool gadgets and more every day…
DARK LIFE gives the reader a whole new underwater world to explore. Ty has lived under the ocean for his entire life. Following global warming and the rise of the seas, his family joined an underwater community in hopes of living in the new frontier of the ocean floor. But When Ty meets Gemma, a girl from “topside”, who is searching the seas for her brother, she quickly makes his life very complicated.
This debut from Kat Falls has the makings of a real cult book – Falls packs her world with interesting and ingenious devices. DARK LIFE presents an alternative future that fits in with the problems we are facing as a race all the time – being eco-aware has become more and more important, and Falls reminds us whilst delivering a full throttle, eerie plot. The pace is well measured and the prose is very, very absorbing; it feels like UGLIES has been doused into the ocean (I wouldn’t recommend this unless your copy is laminated, though!) and injected with a burst of crime mystery.
This is not only a teen reader’s dream, but one for those who love science-fiction and fantasy too; Kat Falls writes like she’s been doing it forever.
PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles (12+) (MAY)
This book has already been released in the US, but has been making its way into this country for what seems like forever via export – piles have been spotted on the display tables in various Waterstone’s and Borders chains. However – overpriced export copies no more- S&S UK will be publishing in May!
Perfect blonde Brittany is forced to be chemistry partners with bad boy Alex Fuentes – and for once, nobody turns out to be a vampire! In fact, Alex is quite the opposite to our sparkly, pale skinned friend – he’s human for one thing, and so not interested in Brittany. Which suits her fine – she thinks he’s disgusting, and is happy in the arms of her much preppier boyfriend. Of course, all is not as it seems – Brittany is hiding a complicated home life, and Alex is quick to spot that while she may appear shallow and beautiful, there is more to Brittany than meets the eye.
Of course the same can be said for Alex. On the surface, he’s your typical bad boy and knows it, revelling in the wrong side of the track – but the more and more time he and Brittany spend together, the more he is drawn towards something new…
PERFECT CHEMISTRY is a guilty pleasure of the best kind. This book simply stands out because it is a gritty teen love story that has nothing to do with the supernatural – a quality that has become a selling point alone in bookshops stacked light with fangs and fur. It’s fun, sexy, streetwise and feisty – and long overdue in the UK!
So, there you have it – I’m counting down the days to 2010!! This is just the tip of the iceberg for us here at S&S; we love all our books and hopefully we’ve given you an idea of what to look out for in the first half of the year. If you’d like to keep an eye on what else we have coming around, you can find us at Kid’s Simon and Schuster – or add us on Twitter (@simonkids_UK) where we tweet constantly (too much!) with reviews, giveaways, questions and opinions. We’d love you all to be in touch!
For one lucky reader, however, we’re going to give away one each of these books as soon as they hit our desks in printed form. This could be (and very often is) earlier than they appear in bookshops – THE THIRTEEN CURSES is already glistening in front of me as I type. Simply drop us a comment here, let us know which of the six books is your bag and why – and we’ll ask Ana and Thea to choose a random winner to have ALL SIX throughout the year.
Thanks all for your time, and thanks to The Book Smugglers for asking me to chip in, and for all the amazing reviews they’ve given us in 2009!
Thank you Kat, and to Simon & Schuster UK for the wonderful opportunity!
So, you heard the lady, comment away! The contest is open to everyone and will run till Saturday 12th 11:59 P.M. (PST). ONE entry per person, please! Duplicate and/or multiple entries will be disqualified. Good luck!
Next on Smugglivus: Dan Waters (Our very own Ghost of Smugglivus Past)