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Monday, January 9, 2012

High School is Hellish (YA fantasies by Sarra Cannon, Lori Devoti, Alyssa Rose Ivy, P.T. Michelle, and Michelle Rowen)

SC Poe's Indie E-book Sampler, #7

As if bullies, gossips, cliques, senseless rules, and the swill they serve in the cafeteria aren't enough. These YAs push the usual high school angst up a notch by injecting supernatural elements.

Reign Fall (Demon Princess #3)

By Michelle Rowen
Self-published January 1, 2012

Poe thinks this is YA high-school-hallway romance/fantasy.

First sentences: My name is Nikki Donovan, your normal, everyday sixteen-year-old. At least, I was normal until a month ago when I found out the truth.

Poe is tempted to call this book "fantasy lite." The sample, if not the whole book, confines the action to the school and bedroom of the MC. Said MC, by the way, is half Demon, and a Princess in the Demon realm. Her best friend is a Demon Hunter; her current crush is a Shadow; and the guy she knows she's fated to marry is a Fae Prince. This is, and isn't, your normal high school.
As for "action," most of it (at least in the sample) relates to Nikki's girlfriend and boyfriend issues. Again, these issues have an everygirl feel, except for their supernatural twists. (Can a Demon and a Demon Hunter still be BFFs? Will Demon Dad object if Nikki dates a Shadow? And why hasn't said Shadow called lately?) The only glimpse of a greater peril comes with a dark, winged figure; he, certainly, will demand more from Nikki than her company at the prom.

NOTE: Walker books published the two earlier Demon Princess titles (Reign or Shine and Reign Check).

Rated If you like contemporary chick-fant, then you should probably sample the whole series.

Brightest Kind of Darkness (Book 1)

By P.T. Michelle
Self-published August, 2011

Poe thinks this is YA contemporary romance/fantasy
First sentence: For me, being surprised was like wearing my best friend’s favorite shirt; cherished for its borrowed uniqueness.

The intriguing hook here is that every night, MC Inara dreams the entirety of her next day. This saves her some worry, but it means she goes through every painful experience, from bad hair days to getting snubbed by a boy, twice. It also makes her a star soccer goalie, because she always knows where the next shot will come from.
But when the book opens, Inara has just dreamt that someone's hiding a bomb in her high school. Shocked awake, dream unfinished, she embarks on a day that will be full of surprises.
Now, it's technically difficult to maintain plot tension if the MC always knows what will happen next. Indeed, Inara stops dreaming altogether soon after the story begins. So the hook's a bit of a cheat. But by the time we learn this, we've been swept up in the characters and plot (or not), as with any other story.

Rated If you're immediately attracted to the mysterious new kid in any fictional high school, especially if he has hollow cheeks and dark circles under his eyes, then this sample may sweep you up.

Demon High

By Lori Devoti
Self-published in 2011

Poe thinks this is YA contemporary fantasy

First sentences: The envelope had arrived open. I wouldn’t have read the page inside otherwise, wouldn’t have thought to, honestly.

Lucinda and Nana are about to lose their home, and Nana's been hiding the problem from Lucinda. Absent Mom was addicted to demons, and got spirited away by one of them. Nana was always the reliable one. But the page inside that open envelope is an eviction notice.

In short order, we are led to a box where Lucinda keeps Mom's secret demon-summoning spellbook; a boarded up door in the cellar; a tiny statue that drinks blood. And behind that cellar door, a gateway to Hell.

On page 10, we're off to school, where the tone lightens while the stakes remain high. In order to save her house (and possibly her soul), Lucinda must find a way to engage the interest and cooperation of cool-rich-popular Brittany.

This book has lots to offer. A great voice. Humor. Muscular prose. Lack of chatter. Complex characters. Mysteries and lies. And, of course, demons.

Rated S for Snapped Up.

Beautiful Demons
ville High Demons #1)

By Sarra Can
Self-published by Dead River Books, 2010

First sentence: Six foster homes in one year had to be some kind of record.

Poe thinks this is YA contemporary fantasy.

Poe likes the MC, Harper Madison. She wants to be good. But wherever she goes, lamps fly. Windows break. Fires start. And, the story hints, a death has occurred. Harper insists that none of it's her fault. But we know it is.

Now she's being sent to the Shadowford Plantation group home. If Harper fails there, her next stop will be juvenile detention. So she wants to do well. But Shadowford Plantation feels. . .evil.

The story moves fast. (It's actually about 45,000 words, a longer novella rather than a novel.) Characters and places are cinematically drawn, in a neat blend of Princess fantasy (Shadowford's accommodations are luxe, and described to the last gilded ruffle) and gothic genres.

Oddly, the sample ends without a "forward," right in the middle of a tour of the mansion. But the sample does everything else right.

Rated Q for Queued to finish later.

Beckoning Light
(The Afterglow Trilogy)

By Alyssa Rose Ivy
Self-published, 2011

Poe thinks this is YA contemporary romance/fantasy

First sentence: We were flying over Canada when the panic set in.

This time, it's the MC herself who's the new kid in school. Shy Charlotte and basketball star brother Kevin have come back to live in the ancestral Southern mansion where their mother died three years ago. The author sometimes shifts to Kevin's POV, so readers can learn that Kevin and Uncle Monty are keeping some important secret from Charlotte.

This popular ebook has a ruminative, girl-writing-in-diary voice that reminded Poe of Twilight (the long middle chapters, before the chase kicked in). Not Poe's own favorite kind of writing. But if you've read this far in a post about YA high school fantasies, then Poe urges you to browse and judge this sample for yourself. Volunteer reviewers who enjoy contemporary fantasy give it 4 and 5 stars.

Poe acknowledges that in the first book of a series like this, the mystery often develops slowly. Here, we take time to get acquainted with the new school, a new boy who seems inexplicably familiar, and an old family friend who might now become something more. We know there's a secret, and Charlotte has a mysterious dream on page 11. At last, on page 50, we learn about the Forbidden Gate in the garden. And on that alluring note, the sample ends.

Rated If you love to get lost in long contemporary fantasy romances, then you may want to follow Charlotte through that Forbidden Gate.

Poe's Rating System:

  • S for snapped up (Poe has already purchased the full)
  • Q for queued (the book is on Poe's to-be-read-someday list)
  • U for underwhelming (Poe will always explain the reason)
  • I for If/then (not Poe's cuppa, but perhaps it's yours)
  • R for rejected (Poe will always explain the reason)
  • E for editorially challenged (Poe will not mince words)

Caveat Emptor Internexi: Poe's samples are intended to provide a springboard for further browsing. Genre and age classifications are Poe's guesses based on short samples, and may or may not accord with the classifications suggested by authors, publishers, or anybody else. The buyer is always responsible for deciding whether the book as a whole is appropriate for the intended reader's age, interests, and reading level.

Poe's opinions do not necessarily reflect those of other members of this blog.

If you'd like SC Poe to sample your ebook on this blog, please follow submission guidelines.

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