Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Releases: Teen Noir Edition

We knew that Katie was a fan of historical fiction and here she takes us to a darker corner of the genre:


When it comes to playing YA favorites we all eventually choose sides. A lot of folks these days flee immediately to the dystopian or vampire corners, others go for steampunk or manga. I’ve already confessed that I got a little thing for historical fiction, but when push comes to shove I’ve got an extra large soft spot for noir. There’s something just irresistible about hard-boiled crime novels with tough talking heroes and intricately plotted mysteries that blur the lines between good and evil and leave you guessing right up to the end.



Judy Blundell marked herself as an author to watch in this genre with her National Book Award winning What I Saw and How I Lied. Her latest book--No Strings Attached--is a worthy follow up. Set in 1950s New York City, aspiring teen actress Kit Corrigan has fled her home in Providence, Rhode Island in hopes of finding fame under the neon lights on Broadway. She quickly discovers though that although you may be able to run away from home you can’t run from your past. Kit’s past catches up with her in the form of her ex-boyfriend’s father and mob lawyer, Nate Benedict. Nate wants Kit to help him patch up his relationship with his son who has just enlisted in the army and is heading off to fight in Korea. He helps her get set up with an apartment of her own and a steady job, but making it in New York City isn’t as easy as the songs may want us to believe, and Kit soon finds that nothing there is free and favors often come with strings attached. Caught in a web of deception that began long before she came to the city, Kit must uncover the secrets of the past if she hopes to have a future.

You Killed Wesley Payne is the first book I’ve read by Sean Beaudoin (and it definitely won’t be the last), so I can’t say whether he is new to the noir game or not. What I do know though is that he’s a natural at it. In short this is the story of 17-year-old Dalton Rev’s work as a private investigator at Salt River High to uncover who killed Wesley Payne. He’s been hired by Wesley’s sister to infiltrate the complex clique system at the school and uncover the secrets that everyone seems to be hiding. In the not-so-short this is one of the most unique books I’ve picked up in years, requiring a Salt River High Clique Chart in the front of the book and a Glossary and Index in the back (far funnier than it may sound) to keep track of the convoluted power structure at Salt River High. Beaudoin pushes the boundaries of imagination and wordplay throughout the novel. It’s dark and crazy and should be deeply disturbing but in the end turns out to be hilarious and charming... so long as you can get used to the idea that more than one student is usually armed, anything and anyone (including faculty and the police) can be bought for the right sum, and trusting anyone could get you a knife in the back. But never fear, Dalton Rev is on the case, and he has an agenda of his own.

If you’re more the film noir sort, check out Veronica Mars, Season 1--the apex of teen noir 
awesomeness. In some alternate universe, I’m pretty sure Dalton Rev and Veronica Mars would live happily ever in a tough-talking, take no prisoners sort of way.

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