Book for 11/7 – Clariel

Image from www.goodreads.com
Image from http://www.goodreads.com

Clariel by Garth Nix

Length: 382 pages

Genre: Fantasy

Prequel To: Sabriel

Library Availability: 4 books and 2 audiobooks at Ramsey County Libraries; 35 books, 2 ebooks, 4 audiobooks, and 3 e-audiobooks at Hennepin County, 2 books and 1 audiobook at St. Paul Public Libraries.

Summary: Clariel wants nothing more than to live a quiet, solitary life in the forest. Unfortunately, her parents have other ideas, dragging her with them to the capital city of Belisaere to learn tame Charter Magic, etiquette, and other dull things to prepare her for her impending betrothal. Robbed of all her choices, Clariel leaps at the chance to help capture a monster, if only to use it as a cover for her escape. But will the lure of the monster’s wild Free Magic be too much for her to resist?

Fans of the series will be delighted to return to the world of the Old Kingdom, while new readers will not be so overwhelmed by detail that they cannot follow the story.

Reviews:

“Readers will hurt with [Clariel] as she longs passionately for freedom, rages at her enforced helplessness, snatches at desperate bad choices, and claws after a faint, bittersweet redemption. A thunderstorm of a tale, bitter and brutal but dazzling in its ferocity.” — Kirkus Reviews

Potential Discussion Questions:

In speculative fiction that takes place outside out world, authors sometimes consider using modern LGBTQA identity labels to be out of place. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?

Clariel is both asexual and aromantic, yet also portrayed as socially aloof and morally ambiguous. Do you consider her good representation, or does she fall into some problematic tropes? Or both?

Have you read any of Nix’s Old Kingdom books before? How does this compare? If you haven’t read any others, do you want to now?

Three of the four books we have read in this club have been speculative fiction. However, most early LGBT fiction has been realistic fiction. Why do you think most of the recent prominent asexual characters have been in speculative fiction? What are the implications of this?

What did you think of the magic and worldbuilding? Was it interesting? Fun? Too complex? Too simple? Original or cliche?

Book for 10/3 – How to Say Goodbye in Robot

Image from www.goodreads.com
Image from http://www.goodreads.com

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

Length: 276 pages

Genre: Literary Fiction

Sequels: none

Library Availability: 4 copies at Ramsey County; 9 books, 1 ebook, and 1 audiobook at Hennepin, 0 at St. Paul Public Libraries.

Summary: Starting at a new school isn’t easy, and Beatrice, whose favorite hobby is pretending to be dead, isn’t expecting to make any friends. But then she meets Jonah, aka “Ghost Boy,” who is also a caller on the bizarre late-night radio show she listens to. Against the odds, the two form a friendship deeper than anyone expected, but nothing like a romance. Even when secrets from Jonah’s family start coming to light, Bea is feeling more real than ever as Jonah starts to fade away. Can Bea hold on to her first true friend? Or will he be torn away from her by his past?

Note: Although no characters are explicitly stated to be asexual, the main relationship is explicitly non-sexual and non-romantic.

Content Warning: The story involves the death of a disabled character to further the plot.

Reviews

” . . . evocative, moody, and thoroughly delightful . . . . Standiford, to her great credit, resists romantic cliches and a pat ending in favor of something more complex, nuanced, and heart tugging.” — John Lewis, Baltimore Magazine

Potential Discussion Questions

Have you ever had a friendship like Bea and Jonah’s? How was it similar? How was it different?

Would you consider the relationship queerplatonic? Did the author do a good job of portraying that?

Do you read either Bea or Jonah as asexual? Why or why not?

What do you think of the ending? Was it a good choice on the part of the author, or could the story have ended another way?

Both Bea and Jonah bond over obscure and bizarre interests. What are some of the weirder things that you’re interested in?

Book for 9/5 – Guardian of the Dead

Image from www.goodreads.com
Image from http://www.goodreads.com

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey

Length: 333 pages

Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal

Sequels: None

Library Availability: 1 copy at Ramsey County Libraries; 1 book, 1 audiobook, 1 ebook, and 1 e-audiobook at Hennepin County; 1 copy at St. Paul Public Libraries.

Summary: 17-year-old Ellie Spencer lives a normal life at a New Zealand boarding school – at least, as normal as life can be with an eye-stealing serial killer on the loose. And when Ellie encounters an eyeless woman who nearly turns her into a tree, things get even less normal. Her crush, Mark, reveals that he is part patuapaiarehe – a magical being from Maori mythology. Soon, she and her best friend Kevin (who is asexual) are battling for their lives against a host of Maori gods and monsters – armed only with a black belt in tae kwon do and their own courage.

Reviews

“The plot is rich and filled with twists and turns to keep even the most astute readers guessing…Filled with mythology, action, wit, and even some romance, Guardian of the Dead is a charmer that will not only leave you thinking, it will leave you with a smile on your face.” — Emma Carbone, New York Public Library

“Strong as the characters are, the depiction of Maori mythology is even stronger. It makes and shapes the book, a rich layering of history and mythic implication that draws you in and makes you care. As a stranger to this particular mythology, I found it both moving and gripping.” — Liz Bourke, Tor.com

Potential Discussion Questions:

As far as I have been able to tell, Karen Healey is a white author. Do the elements from Maori mythology seem to be done appropriately and well?

Would you describe this book as being in the same “paranormal romance” genre as books like Twilight? Why or why not?

Although asexual characters in fiction are rare enough, male asexual characters are even rarer. Why do you think that is? How is Kevin’s experience as an asexual boy different from an asexual girl?

Some readers are frustrated with certain aspects of Kevin’s portrayal as asexual, such as the lack of any mention of a romantic orientation. Do you consider Kevin to be accurate representation?

Various reviews describe Ellie as not being like a “typical” YA protagonist, mostly because she is not conventionally attractive and has a black belt in tae kwon do. Did you like her as a character?

Book for 8/1 – Quicksilver

Image from www.goodreads.com
Image from http://www.goodreads.com

Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson

Length: 318 pages

Genre: Science Fiction

Sequel to: Ultraviolet

Library Availability: 3 copies at Ramsey County, 7 copies + ebook download at Hennepin County, 4 copies at St. Paul Public Libraries

Summary: Niki Johnson has a secret. Well, a lot of secrets, actually. Like the fact that her name isn’t actually Nicola Johnson. Or that for most of her life, she’s been tracked by an alien device implanted in her arm. But now that the device is destroyed, and she and her family have moved halfway across the country and changed their names, she’s hoping for a little peace and quiet to work on her machines. Maybe join the local Makerspace.

But there are two other people who know about the device, and when one of them shows up at her home telling her that the device is still active, the two must join forces to outwit and out-engineer a mysterious interplanetary organization, before Niki is beamed off-planet and away from everyone she knows and loves – including a new boy who just might understand what she wants from a relationship.

Note: This book contains some graphic gore towards the end.

Reviews

“Anderson’s strong characters and rare knack for weaving contemporary realism and emotional authenticity into hard science fiction should keep even readers in the know engaged.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Featuring yet another awesome heroine and a surprisingly high-stakes, unflinching plot, Quicksilver, to put it plainly, rocks.” — Thea James, The Book Smugglers

Potential Discussion Questions:

How do you feel about Niki’s relationship with Milo? Did it feel realistic?

How do you feel about the question of whether Niki is an alien or a human? Is it handled well?

Did you like the science fiction elements of the story? Did you find it too vague, too detailed, or just right?

If you have read the prequel, how does this book compare?

Have you participated in any Makerspace programs? What did you think of it?

R.J. Anderson is not asexual, but spent a lot of time talking to people and frequenting message boards on sites like AVEN. How well did she do? Is Niki good asexual representation?