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Where the Wild Things are

Where the Wild Things are

by Tomas - 0 Comment(s)

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to see it, Fairy Tales, Monsters and the Genetic Imagination, the current exhibition on at the Glenbow Museum, is well worth the price of admission.

According to Mark Scala, the curator of the exhibition: “Monsters are something that we have created in order to embody what we most fear, and so the whole point behind that fascination in our culture is that these are simply imaginary, simply inventions.” Monsters are examples of how we express fears, hopes and wishes.

A few personal highlights include Kiki Smith’s imagining of Little Red Riding Hood, depicted both as a print and a sculpture, emerging from the belly of the defeated wolf.

Patricia Piccinini’s lifelike sculptures feature fantastically imagined creatures -- perhaps the result of genetic manipulation -- engaged in mundane, day-to-day activities. In one an elderly mer-nursemaid is comforted by a small boy while it sleeps; in another, a weary looking creature nurses a baby while also taking on shopping tasks while the human parents are away.

Seeing this exhibition brought to mind a few complementary literary monsters. These monsters, and the stories they inhabit, reflect our feelings toward the unknown, both beyond and within us.

This Dark Endeavour - Kenneth Oppel

This Dark Endeavour, tells the story of a young Victor Frankenstein, whose later [in]famous exploits were told by Mary Shelley in one of the first books to address mankind’s dangerous emerging interest in genetic manipulation.

MonstrumologistNot for the faint of heart (or stomach), Richard Yancey’s Monstrumologist series follows the exploits of Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, as told through the journal of his young assistant Will Henry as they study and contend with a gruesome assortment of monsters (human and otherwise).

Half WorldDarkest Light

Half World and its sequel Darkest Light by Hiromi Goto apply the concept of Hungry Ghosts to the contemporary urban setting of Vancouver. Half World, the waystation between the physical realm and the realm of spirit, has become separated, and it falls to 13-year-old Melanie to enter the Half World and somehow restore the balance. Half World is a vast cityscape filled with grotesque characters whose monstrous forms are based on the sufferings they endured in the physical realm, such as the eel-armed Lilla, and the aptly named Mr. Glueskin.

A Monster Calls

In A Monster Calls, A young boy is visited nightly by a monster that is inextricably linked to the emotional trauma he experiences, and must eventually face.

Don't be afraid of the dark : Blackwood's guide to dangerous fairies, co-written by Guillermo del Toro and Christopher Golden, is a literary prequel (by 100 years) to del Toro's eerie film by the same name. Be sure also to check out del Toro's stunning modern fairytale Pan's Labrynth, in which a young girl trying to save the life of her ill mother has to contend with fantastic and real-life monsters in Fascist 1940s Spain.

GrokeWith a ghost-like, hill-shaped body, cold staring eyes, a wide row of shiny teeth, and a freezing touch that kills any plants she touches, the Groke is a mysterious character that haunts the otherwise pleasant adventures of the Finn-Family Moomin Troll. As the stories progress, the more we learn about this misunderstood creature; Eventually we come to discover she is the product of a profound lonelieness. In many ways, the Groke is similar to Gollum (currently starring in the feature film version of The Hobbit, as you may have heard), whose disfigured shape reflects his inner turmoil.

Dystopian Popularity Continued...

by Adrienne - 5 Comment(s)

So here we continue our dystopian saga, discussing why these current YA novels are so popular... from a Social Studies perspective. Try this analysis on one of your teachers to see what their reaction is!

Divergent by Veronica Roth, calls this into question; what are the most important human character traits to uphold in order to eradicate evil from human nature? Which would you choose: Intelligence, honesty, selflessness, amiability or bravery? Partially inspired by Roth's study of exposure therapy, Divergent questions the very definition of bravery. How do you define bravery? What do you think it means to be brave? Can one character trait exist in isolation or do they always act in multiple possible combinations? What is your utopia? Can utopia be universal? Or is one's person's heaven always another person's hell? What happens in a utopia when people are non-conforming? At what point/what causes a utopian ideology to become dystopian? Real life examples would be communism under Mao or Democracy under Bush.

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale has left both Matched and Wither trailing in its wake. All three deal with genetics, i.e. matching and slavery. Lack of choice is prevalent. Think Star Trek laced with a hint of The Giver by Lois Lowry. If you add undertones of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, a book which I first read when I was 16, you begin to get the picture.

It's rare that I read a YA novel that I immediately want to re-read just to absorb all the poetry of the prose; it's that beautiful! Plus there is so much symbolism embedded into the book that you can tell Ally Condie used to be a High School English teacher. YA novels are often all about action and suspense. Matched, moving along at an ever quickening clip, certainly leaves you breathlessly wanting more at the end. Poetry is however, central to the book. It highlights the power of art to have political influence and be a strong force to fight against the apathy prevalent in coercive societies. There's a reason books/music/art get burned/banned. Matched underscores the power of choice; why it's important to have and why it might be beneficial not to. Implicit is that choice, held either in our own hands or societies, carries with it the ability to make both mistakes and successes. We can cause ourselves and others, both joy and sorrow along the way. Ultimately Matched takes a stance that human dignity; requires it. Otherwise we can all become so en-thralled...

The Hunger Games deals with many themes including survival, loyalty, slavery, and class privilege. It is this book that originally inspired this blog. Going out to schools in Calgary to do presentations for the library I came across many Junior High Social and Language Arts teachers who were using The Hunger Games for a novel study. It's a great book with so many leads for humanities discussions. In this way it follows The Giver by Lois Lowry, a book which is often used in schools as well.Both of these books have been banned in various places but that just gives credence to the fact that they deal with serious issues!

What struck me most about the Hunger Games is how closely it mimics a reality TV show, such as Survivor. The book thus deftly comments on our cultures obsession with entertainment; our need for vicarious living and ever more potent adrenaline boosters. And I admit I was drawn in, fully entertained, gripped by all the action suspense, romance and yes... suffering. This is in combination with a strong female character we can wholly sympathize with. Vicarious living at its finest! We are supposedly far above the Romans in our taste for civilized entertainment. But are we? Movies are simulated; reality TV shows "volunteered" for, and the news? Reality relayed at 6 'O clock each evening full of... human suffering.

For some interesting thoughts on Dystopian Fiction check out the following INFOGRAPHICS:

The Dystopian Timeline to The Hunger Games

If You Liked “The Hunger Games”…

Here's why one fellow YYC teen thinks dystopian novels are so popular these days. Warning: this may be a downer.

Soooo... anyone up for writing the next UTOPIA? We could certainly use some positive societal visioning. Any budding writers out there? Check out this Cartoon version of Thoreau at Walden. We'd LOVE to hear your voices in TEENSCREATE!

Why are Dystopian Novels so popular? Because they deal with reality...

by Adrienne - 3 Comment(s)

Why are Dystopian Novels so popular? This current trend not just with teens, it is also popular with many adults. These YA novels have even your parents following them! Why? Because they deal with real life issues that we either face in the world every day, or that the WORLD at large deals with every day. The proof is in the pudding eh? So what issues DO the current faves and bests deal with?

Wither The main issue this book deals with is the possible unknown side-effects of genetic engineering and insufficiently tested cures. This applies today to more than just genetics research; we have many diseases with unknown cures and unknown causes... Do we know the full effects of a lifetime of eating Kraft diner, painting our nails with formaldehyde polish, or spraying DDT on our vegetables and consequent genetic defects? No... and on and on and on with 100 million products and experiments we conduct every day. Diseases like ALS are New and just popping up and others like AIDS and many cancers still have no known cures.

Wither also deals with objectifying women and young girls solely for their looks (very western), reproductive capacities (prevalent in various countries today) and reproductive slavery. Slavery is slavery even within the confines of comfy couches and pretty lipsticks... As well as taking a look at what love really Is and Is not.

Birthmarked also takes a hard look at reproductive slavery, as well as being a case study for third world vs. first world paradigms. Set in 2403 in a society where our world and time is labeled "the cool age", it is an imaginative rendering of post apocalyptic survival - global warming style. The book even dares to propose how various current energy solutions such as using geothermic energy could have negative effects on society; or certain members of society, whenever dictatorship reigns. Our current world deals with global warming; 1st world vs. 3rd world; class issues and divisions within society (some more stark and apparent than others and some more covert); alternative energies and dictatorships Every Day. Perhaps the resonance of these books is not in their outlandish imaginings, but rather in their expressions of current realities made more digestible through the form of story. Check out the movie trailer here.

The Graceling series is perhaps one of the most multi-layered dystopian series of the bunch, teetering into the verge of fantasy, but striking home so closely to reality that I often found the books very difficult to read (even though this consequently made them my favourites of the bunch.) Dealing with issues of literacy and class, ability vs. disability, dictatorships, sociopaths, murder, justice, memory and healing, they also insert things such as birth-control and GLBTQ as givens, positive aspects of this much troubled society.

Bitterblue is the story of both a girl and a society recovering from the effects of a regime of terror. How does one uncover truth? How are "war crimes" dealt with fairly when the entire society is both implicitly guilty and traumatized at the same time? Can a thief be loyal, just, trustworthy and lovable? Can one be treasonous, break the law and yet be loyal and just under the law at the same time? How can just 4% of the population (the statistical existence of sociopaths) cause so much damage?


For some interesting thoughts on Dystopian Fiction check out the following INFOGRAPHIC: Is It Dystopia?

Social Studies 101 coming up, in the form of case studies presented in really engaging YA novels!

Stay tuned next Sunday for Part 2 of this blog: Dystopian Popularity Continued...

The Hobbit

by Monique - 0 Comment(s)

How many of you are as excited about upcoming The Hobbit movie? December 14 can’t seem to come fast enough for me. Having said that, I will need to re-read the novel as it seems like it was such a long time ago since I originally read it. Don’t get me wrong, I do remember what the novel is about, but would love to refresh my memory of its details. I don’t know about any of you, but when it comes to the adaptation of books into movies, I tend to like the book better. The odd time, I have found myself enjoying the movie adaptation of a novel as well; The Lord of the Rings Trilogy being one of those rare occasions.

When I was initially talking to people about the movie, I was surprised to hear that the movie was going to be in two parts, but in doing some digging, I have learned that it will be actually in three parts. I find this news to be exciting. I have to question however, why a novel that is shorter than each The Lord of the Rings (LOR) have been done if they were done in two parts, right? The first part of the three part series will be called The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey is set to release on December 14 of this year. The second movie, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, will be released around December 13, 2013. The third movie, will have the same title as the novel, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, with news that it will be released on July 18, 2014. I am glad that Peter Jackson is directing The Hobbit, as it will be nice to see a continuation of his work on a book that is part of The Lord of the Ring series.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that you don’t need to read The Hobbit in order to get the idea of The Lord of the Rings and vice versa, but having read The Hobbit first, does help lay the ground work for The Lord of the Rings. I am also excited to see that a lot of the cast from LOR will be returning to play the characters that they had originally portrayed. Looking at some of the trailers online, I can't wait for the movie to come out in theatres!