EEOnce I devoured Gail Carriger’s excellent Parasol Protectorate series, I was delighted to see that Etiquette & Espionage represents her return to the same steampunk universe of  Soulless et al. It is also a first foray for Carriger into the field of YA. This is a true YA title – it’s perfect for, and I’d recommend it heartily to, almost any teenager/YA reader. It takes place at school; the main character is 14; the gore/sex/four-letter-words are tame or nonexistent. There’s a lot of emphasis on self-discovery, resourcefulness, learning, and intelligence, as well as bravery and friendship. The only element of a typical teen novel missing? ROMANCE!

In Carriger’s adult series, romance and sex were a huge driving force behind both the plot and the characters’ motivations. Without ever being crass or gratuitous, those books are about the way adults fall in love and stay in love – emotionally and physically. But in Etiquette & Espionage, the much, much younger teenage characters are motivated by entirely different things. Sophronia, the main character, is a “covert recruit” at a floating school for future spies; here, she’ll be trained to curtsy perfectly, measure poisons precisely, and wield sewing scissors to deadly ends. Sophronia is interested in boys, and she knows about feminine charms and how she might need to deploy them in her career as a spy, but her motivation is never reduced to the moronic, unimportant whine of “I want a boyfriend!! Why doesn’t a boy love me?!” – a fixture of many other YA titles. As the series goes on and Sophronia grows up, I fully expect Ms. Carriger to allow her to expand her romantic interests in a way that is intelligent and logical for her age, but in the meantime I’m thrilled to read a novel about the teenage experience outside of the desperate “need” for a boyfriend. Etiquette & Espionage is refreshing, exciting, and leaves the door open for a bevy of sequels that will be even better now that the groundwork has been laid.

With the movie version of the book Eclipse due to hit theaters any day now, everyone is checking out what came before it to get pumped up for the film’s release.  After the mega-success that was her first book, Twilight, Stephenie Meyer penned its sequel, New Moon.  This book starts off with a bang:  while celebrating her 18th birthday, Bella gets a papercut, and her blood fuels an attack by Jasper.  This attack leads Edward and the rest of the Cullens to decide that it is time for them to leave Forks, and Bella cannot come with.  Bella spirals into a depression, which she is only brought out of through her blossoming friendship with Jacob Black.  Bella once again finds herself caught up in supernatural occurances that she never expected to face, including finding out that her new best friend is a werewolf and racing through an Italian city filled with celebrating vampires.  This book is a good follow-up to Twilight and contains a bit more action, though Edward fans might not enjoy his limited appearances in the novel.

Following the success of the movie version of Twilight, production was immediately started on the next film.  New Moon follows along very closely with the book, including the birthday party, Sam rescuing Bella in the forest, and and the confrontation between Bella and Laurent.  One of the biggest changes from the book is that not only does Bella hear Edward’s voice when she is doing something dangerous (as she does in the book), she also sees him.  This was no doubt done to keep Team Edward fans happy, since his character didn’t really appear in the book much.  The movie includes some very intense fight scenes, especially once Bella, Alice, and Edward reach Volterra.  The special effects have greatly improved over the first movie, likely the result of a higher budget due to the massive success of Twilight.  As in the first movie, some of the dialogue comes across a bit cheesy, but true Twilight Saga fans won’t mind.  Overall, I think that fans of the book, and even those who wish Edward had been featured in it more, would enjoy this movie adaptation.

Though the book and its companions are often found in the Young Adult section of the library, this series is not just for teens.  People of all ages are engaging in heated debates of Team Edward vs. Team Jacob, and they’re all clearly invested in who Bella ends up with at the end of the saga.  This series is guilty pleasure reading at its best, and the movies have so far stuck to what is in the books, making them a lot of fun to watch.