Tundra Telegram: Books that will Flip You Upside Down

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we delve into the topics on the tips of readers’ tongues and recommend some recent great books to continue the discussion.

The Duffer Brothers’ Netflix phenomenon, Stranger Things – a blend of horror, science fiction, and 1980s nostalgia – returned to the streaming service this past weekend with seven episodes featuring your friends Eleven, Mike Wheeler, Hopper, Joyce Byers, and all your faves (like my personal favorite, Mr. Clarke). And by all accounts, it’s an ambitious epic, filled with secret government projects, unfathomable horror, and Kate Bush needle-drops galore.

You’ll have to wait until July to watch the final two episodes of Season 4, but we have lots of like-minded reading suggestions for Stranger Things fans of all ages to tide them over through June!

PICTURE BOOKS

It’s a bit difficult to find picture books that are good pairings with Stranger Things, as so few picture books feature anything close to demigorgons, and very few have ample ’80s references. But one exception are the picture books created by Calgary artist Kim Smith. Her Pop Classics Illustrated Storybooks – like Back to the Future, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, and X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird – capture all the classic moments of these pop-culture milestones that are often referenced throughout Stranger Things, and a great introduction for the youngest readers to the genre of science fiction.

MIDDLE GRADE

Probably the closest title in tone and subject matter to Stranger Things is the Last Kids on Earth book series by Max Brallier and Douglas Holgate. Suburban middle schoolers playing video games, eating inhuman amounts of candy, and battling the forces of the supernatural and monstrous (usually zombies)? Check, check, and check! And there’s nine books to enjoy so far. Join Jack Sullivan, his friends Quint, June, and Dirk, and his trusty Louisville Slicer as they battle monstrous hordes in this heavily illustrated book series (which was also adapted into a Netflix series – Finn Wolfhard even voices Jack!).

Another middle-grade title that’s a good match for Stranger Things is Sneaks by Catherine Egan. Three kids (Ben, Charlotte, and Akemi) uncover a secret society in their town to keep interdimensional sprites (called ‘Sneaks’) from slipping into our universe. And while the Sneaks may seem not as dangerous as some of the creatures from the Upside Down, they are planning to pull a much more dangerous creature – along the lines of a Mind Flayer! – into our world!

Most books by Melissa Savage (The Truth about Martians, Nessie Quest) could fit on this list, but we’re going to recommend Karma Moon: Ghost Hunter, in which a girl (Karma), whose father is a TV ghost-hunter, stays in a haunted Colorado hotel to help her dad’s flailing TV series. However, there are a few problems – namely Karma struggles with anxiety, and the Stanley Hotel seems to be home to a real haunted house!

And if you can wait until July – you’ll need to wait until then for the Stranger Things season finale anyway – you might like Strangeville School Is Totally Normal by Darcy Miller and illustrated by Brett Helquist. Harvey Hill is the new kid at Strangeville Middle School, trying to blend in, until he realizes his new school is filled with strange sea creatures, giant rats, and a Bermuda-Triangle-like lunch room. A school that might fit in really well in Hawkins, Indiana.

YOUNG ADULT

For YA reading, you can’t do better than the genuine article – actual licensed Stranger Things books, like Runaway Max by Brenna Yovanoff (which focuses on Sadie Sink’s skateboarding loner, who shows up in Season 2) or Rebel Robin by A. R. Carpetta (which focuses on the inner life of the fan-favorite third-season introduction portrayed by Maya Hawke). And you can pre-order the third book in the series, Lucas on the Line by Suyi Davies, about Lucas Sinclair in his own words, out this July.

Likewise, you may enjoy Matthew J. Gilbert’s How to Survive in a Stranger Things World, a hardcover gift book filled with wisdom and guidance to help you through school, friendships, and your town’s darkest secrets. Plus, it’s jam-packed with photos from the television series.

But if you’re looking for something with a similar feel to the show, rather than an officially licensed book, you might like Wilder Girls by Rory Power, which matches (if not surpasses) the show’s creep factor. A feminist Lord of the Flies with a splash of body horror is how we’d describe this mind-melting debut science fiction novel about three girls locked in quarantine at their island board school as a body-altering illness begins to infect everyone else.

You might also be intrigued by What We Harvest, the debut novel from Ann Fraistat that hinges on dark horror in a small town. Hollow’s End is a town that provides food for much of America with its miracle crops, but that bounty comes – as Wren and her family discover – with a deadly price! A blight called ‘Quicksilver’ poisons the land and turns the livestock into staggering, infected zombies. Can Wren and her ex Derek save Hollow’s End?

And Pete and Alistair Montague may be a bit older than the Party in Stranger Things, but they – along with friends like Charlie, Rachel, and Rowan – investigate mysterious goings on in their town of Port Howl in Nathan Page and Drew Shannon’s The Montague Twins graphic novels. The books in the series have definite ST vibes, but are set about twenty years earlier, so there are more Donovan musical cues than Echo and the Bunnymen. And, like Eleven, the Montagues have a few tricks up their sleeves – including some witchy powers.

Teen Top Ten: June 2021

Wanna know what everyone else has been reading and loving lately? Every month we’ll post our list of top ten bestselling YA books that we publish and sell in Canada. Here are the Teen Top Ten titles for the month of June 2021 – how many have you read?

1. We Were Liars
By E. Lockhart
320 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780385741279 | Delacorte Press
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends – the Liars – whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

2. One of Us Is Lying
By Karen M. McManus
416 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524714680 | Delacorte Press
Pay close attention and you might solve this. On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention. Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.  Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher. And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who is still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

3. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
By Holly Jackson
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984896360 | Delacorte Press
Everyone in Fairview knows the story. Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town. But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer? Now a senior herself, Pip decides to re-examine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.

4. All the Bright Places
By Jennifer Niven
416 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780385755917 | Knopf BFYR
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death. Every day he thinks of ways he might kill himself, but every day he also searches for – and manages to find – something to keep him here, and alive, and awake. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her small Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death. When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school – six stories above the ground – it’s unclear who saves whom. Soon it’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

5. The Book Thief
By Markus Zusak
608 Pages | Ages 12+| Paperback
ISBN 9780375842207 | Knopf BFYR
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

6. Instructions for Dancing
By Nicola Yoon
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735271234 | Penguin Teen Canada
Evie Thomas doesn’t believe in love anymore. Especially after the strangest thing occurs one otherwise ordinary afternoon: She witnesses a couple kiss and is overcome with a vision of how their romance began . . . and how it will end. After all, even the greatest love stories end with a broken heart, eventually. As Evie tries to understand why this is happening, she finds herself at La Brea Dance studio, learning to waltz, fox-trot, and tango with a boy named X. X is everything that Evie is not: adventurous, passionate, daring. His philosophy is to say yes to everything – including entering a ballroom dance competition with a girl he’s only just met. Falling for X is definitely not what Evie had in mind. If her visions of heartbreak have taught her anything, it’s that no one escapes love unscathed. But as she and X dance around and toward each other, Evie is forced to question all she thought she knew about life and love. In the end, is love worth the risk?

7. The Maze Runner
By James Dashner
416 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780385737951 | Delacorte Press
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers – boys whose memories are also gone. Outside the towering stone walls that surround them is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out – and no one’s ever made it through alive. Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying: Remember. Survive. Run. Book one in the blockbuster Maze Runner series that spawned a movie franchise and ushered in a worldwide phenomenon!

8. The Outsiders
By S. E. Hinton
224 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780140385724 | Viking BFYR
The 45th anniversary of a landmark work of teen fiction. Ponyboy can count on his brothers and his friends, but not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids who get away with everything, including beating up greasers like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect – until the night someone takes things too far. Written forty-five years ago, S. E. Hinton’s classic story of a boy who finds himself on the outskirts of regular society remains as powerful today as it was the day it was written.

9. Dear Martin
By Nic Stone
240 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781101939529 | Crown BFYR
Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend – but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out. Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up – way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.

10. Wilder Girls
By Rory Power
400 Pages | 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780525645610 | Delacorte BFYR
It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her. It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything. But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

Putting the YA in FRIYAY: Indigo’s Best Books for Teens

A while back, Indigo released their 2019 Best Books for Teens list, and we’re stoked to see so many of our faves made the cut! There are books that were on our #Penguin10 list, as well as a few that were included in our #FantasyFriday and #SciFiSaturday campaigns (and even one that was part of #IRLWednesday!), not to mention some we just love in general! How many have you read?

Frankly in Love
By David Yoon
ISBN 9781984812209
14+ | Putnam BFYR

Two friends. One fake dating scheme. What could possibly go wrong? In this moving debut novel, David Yoon takes on the question of who am I? with a result that is humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately unforgettable.

Two Can Keep a Secret
By Karen M. McManus
ISBN 9781524714727
14+ | Delacorte Press

Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there – and suddenly another girl goes missing.

Wilder Girls
By Rory Power
ISBN 9780525645580
14+ | Delacorte Press

A feminist Lord of the Flies about three best friends living in quarantine at their island boarding school, and the lengths they go to uncover the truth of their confinement when one disappears.

Spin the Dawn
By Elizabeth Lim
ISBN 9780525646990
12+ | Knopf BFYR

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Aurora Rising
By Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
ISBN 9781524720964
12+ | Knopf BFYR

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but he’s stuck with the dregs nobody else in the academy would touch…not to mention Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space.

The Beautiful
By Renée Ahdieh
ISBN 9781524738174
12+ | Putnam BFYR

New York Times bestselling author Renée Ahdieh returns with a sumptuous, sultry and romantic new series set in 19th century New Orleans where vampires hide in plain sight.

The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust, Volume 2)
By Philip Pullman
ISBN 9780553510669
14+ | Knopf BFYR

The windows between the many worlds have been sealed and the momentous adventures of Lyra Silvertongue’s youth are long behind her—or so she thought.

Four Dead Queens
By Astrid Scholte
ISBN 9780525513926
12+ | Putnam BFYR

Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she’s, in fact, one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves and a liar who soon finds herself entangled in a conspiracy that leaves the four queens of Quadara dead.

The Things She’s Seen
By Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina
ISBN 9781984848789
12+ | Knopf BFYR

Nothing’s been the same for Beth Teller since the day she died. Her dad is the only one who can see her and she needs his help to solve a mystery and get him out of his grief.

Blood Heir
By Amélie Wen Zhao
ISBN 9780525707790
12+ | Delacorte Press

This hot debut, perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone and An Ember in the Ashes, is the first book in an epic new series about a princess hiding a dark secret and the con man she must trust to clear her name for her father’s murder.

How to Make Friends with the Dark
By Kathleen Glasgow
ISBN 9781101934753
14+ | Delacorte Press

That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone.

American Royals
By Katharine McGee
ISBN 9781984830173
14+ | Random House BFYR

Two princesses vying for the ultimate crown. Two girls vying for the prince’s heart. This is the story of the American royals.

Gravemaidens
By Kelly Coon
ISBN 9780525647829
14+ | Delacorte Press

The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honor…and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave.

 

Putting the YA in FRIYAY: Your Guide to #SciFiSaturday

If you’ve been following us on Instagram for the last couple of months, you may have noticed that on Saturdays we were celebrating the science fiction books you need to read. We’ve compiled all those recommendations in this handy guide – breakfast is optional but trust us, these pairings are pretty sweet.

Aurora Rising – Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the academy would touch . . .

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem–that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline cases, and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

NOBODY PANIC.

Breakfast recommendation: Pop-Tarts. The more neon/intergalactic, the better.

Stranger Things: Runaway Max – Brenna Yovanoff

Don’t miss this gripping, emotional prequel to the hit Netflix series, Stranger Things! The never-before-told backstory of the beloved Dig Dug maven, Max Mayfield, written by New York Times bestselling author Brenna Yovanoff.

This must-read novel, based on the hit Netflix series, Stranger Things, explores Max’s past–the good and the bad–as well as how she came to find her newfound sense of home in Hawkins, Indiana.

Breakfast recommendation: Eggos. Because they’re Eleven’s faves (duh).

Wilder Girls – Rory Power

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

Breakfast recommendation: Fruit Loops. Even when you’re dying, you should make sure to eat your fruits and veggies.

Eve of Man – Giovanna and Tom Fletcher

She survived against all odds. The first girl born in fifty years. They called her EVE.

On the first day, no one really noticed. All those babies wrapped in blue blankets–not a pink one in sight. On the third day, people were scared–a statistic-defying abundance of blue. Not just entire hospitals, not only entire countries, but the entire world. Boys. Only boys.

Until Eve. The only girl born in fifty years. The savior of mankind. Kept protected, towering above a ruined world under a glass dome of safety until she is ready to renew the human race.

But when the time comes to find a suitor, Eve and Bram–a young man whose job is to prepare Eve for this moment–begin to question the plan they’ve known all along. Eve doesn’t only want safety, and she doesn’t only want protection. She wants the truth. She wants freedom.

Breakfast recommendation: Doughnuts. Something classic but make sure it’s sweet – you’ll need the energy.

The Virtue of Sin – Shannon Schuren

Miriam lives in New Jerusalem, a haven in the desert far away from the sins and depravity of the outside world. Within the gates of New Jerusalem, and under the eye of its founder and leader, Daniel, Miriam knows she is safe. Cared for. Even if she’s forced, as a girl, to quiet her tongue when she has thoughts she wants to share, Miriam knows that New Jerusalem is a far better life than any alternative. So when God calls for a Matrimony, she’s thrilled; she knows that Caleb, the boy she loves, will choose her to be his wife and they can finally start their life together.

But when the ceremony goes wrong and Miriam winds up with someone else, she can no longer keep quiet. For the first time, Miriam begins to question not only the rules that Daniel has set in place, but also what it is she believes in, and where she truly belongs.

Alongside unexpected allies, Miriam fights to learn–and challenge–the truth behind the only way of life she’s ever known, even if it means straying from the path of Righteousness.

A compelling debut novel about speaking out, standing up, and breaking free.

Breakfast recommendation: Coffee (or black tea). The caffeine will give you the adrenaline boost you need to get through the tough times ahead.

Contagion – Teri Terry

An epidemic is sweeping the country. It spreads fast, mercilessly. Everyone will be infected. . . . It is only a matter of time. You are now under quarantine.

Young teen Callie might have been one of the first to survive the disease, but unfortunately she didn’t survive the so-called treatment. She was kidnapped and experimented upon at a secret lab, one that works with antimatter. When she breaks free of her prison, she unleashes a wave of destruction. Meanwhile her older brother Kai is looking for her, along with his smart new friend Shay, who was the last to see Callie alive.

Amid the chaos of the spreading epidemic, the teens must find the source of disease. Could Callie have been part of an experiment in biological warfare? Who is behind the research? And more importantly, is there a cure?

Breakfast recommendation: Granola. It’ll keep your fiber and iron levels up while you’re fighting diseases. 

Putting the YA in FRIYAY: Pride Reads 2019

Pride month might be almost over but that doesn’t mean you have to stop celebrating! We’ve made a list of some of our recent titles featuring LGBTQ+ characters – check them out below and let us know which ones you’ve read!

BONUS: We put together a #pridemonth playlist for your listening pleasure – we recommend putting it on shuffle and reading (or, let’s be real, dancing) the night away.