It’s a truism of reading that books are judged by their covers, no matter how much we feel in our hearts that we shouldn’t be swayed by looks. In my experience, teen readers feel especially passionate about this. Shabby book? No way. Juvenile or dated-looking cover? Pass! So I pay extra attention when older books are issued with fresh new covers. In the visual world of teen marketing, it can mean a new lease on life for many older books, and discovery by a whole new generation. Here are just a few examples:1990 design vs. 2012 design
1975 design vs. 2014 design 1983 design vs. 2011 design
1981 design vs. 2015 design
Taking Terri Mueller‘s reissue caught my eye, because it’s a book that I tore through as a teen. I can still feel Terri’s anxiety in that phone both, even though today’s teens have no idea what a phone booth *is,* or why she is wearing that weird vest or hairstyle. That 1981 book would never go out at my library, whereas the new one, with its bright, clean design and more timeless teen model, stands a chance. The reboot of Terri is a new offering from Lizzie Skurnick Books, an imprint whose mission fits this topic: to bring back YA literature gems of the 1970s and 1980s (and earlier!).1986 design vs. 2004 design
1988 design vs. 2006 design
Of course, some book cover reissues do not go over so well (looking at you, blonde Anne of Green Gables), and some don’t count as throwbacks at all (Mia Cabana talked about paperback redesigns for the Hub in 2011; some of these titles haven’t been out that long). But as far as taking an older book and giving it new life, there’s nothing like a fresh cover design to bring it back into the limelight.
Do you feel like these are successful cover reissues? Do you have any personal favorites (or fails) that you’ve noticed?
~Rebecca O’Neil, currently reading Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed
The post Throwback Thursday, Book Cover Edition: Everything Old Is New Again appeared first on The Hub.
When people ask me to describe myself, I inevitably reply that I am a reader and a gamer, among other things. Rarely do those two hobbies converge, however. I mean, occasionally I talk about books with my gamer friends. And I realize that some libraries have board game nights. But for the most part, those two parts of my life are compartmentalized, set within specific contexts and situations.
One could argue that this separation exists because the two are so different. And in some ways, I get that. Tabletop games bring people together to cooperate for victory over the game or to war among themselves for individual glory. Either way, there’s going to be a lot of emotion…and noise! Reading is more of a solitary activity by nature. Even if you join a book club or find a community of readers, the actual reading of the book is between you and the book.
But I beg to disagree with this assessment. I think that reading and gaming are more similar than people realize. Let me start to explain by saying that board games have changed a lot over the years. The games of yesteryear (Clue, Monopoly, The Game of Life) have evolved into more complex, dynamic games. Games where strategy is key, risks are rewarded or punished in due measure, and reliance on other players is a routine occurrence. In particular, storytelling has become a huge component of tabletop games. Think about Dungeons and Dragons for instance, where the crux of the game involves players completing a story woven in real time by a game master.
So personally, I think that reading and gaming pair really well. I also think that having a knowledge of games can come in handy for library workers assisting patrons who come in seeking reading recommendations similar to games they’ve played or just looking to extend beyond their favorite YA series. With this list of perfect pairings, hours full of enjoyment lie ahead.
If you like pirates…
Read this: L. A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack series (2008 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults). A massive 12-book series, Bloody Jack should satiate any reader with a thirst for adventure or a strong desire to run away and become a pirate. A bonus of the series is that Jacky Faber, the ship’s boy around whom the series revolves, is actually a girl, which makes this an optimal recommendation for pirate fans and readers who want a strong female lead.
Play this: Dark Seas. The premise of the game is that you are a pirate captain with an island hideaway. You must build up your island by adding docks of different types, recruiting more pirates for your crew, raking in doubloons, and occasionally attacking other players. A fun twist is that your moves around your island are determined by dice rolls – but not necessarily your own. This can be awesome…or extremely frustrating.
If you like space travel…
Read this: Beth Revis’s Across the Universe series (2012 Teens’ Top Ten). When Amy awakens from cryogenic sleep about 50 years too early, long before she will see the planet she was supposed to be traveling to, she realizes that it wasn’t a computer malfunction that set her awakening in motion. So she must explore the ship and determine which of its thousands of residents wants her dead…and why.
Play this: Among the Stars. This is one of my favorite games! Each player chooses an alien race that gives them a specific perk throughout the game. Each player is also given a main reactor with two energy cubes to serve as the foundation of their space ship. The goal of the game is to build a space station with different types of locations that give you varying amounts of victory points, using cards that are passed to you by other players. A fair amount of sabotage and strategy is required to master this game, but my favorite part is trying to make my space station the place to be for entertainment and commerce – even though that doesn’t actually matter in the slightest.
If you like spooky mansions…
Read this: Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. series (2014 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults). For 50+ years, the country has been affected by an epidemic of ghosts, leading to the sprouting of a number of agencies designed to exorcise these ghosts. Lucy Carlyle comes to London and joins the Lockwood & Co. agency, a slightly eccentric agency looking for redemption after a prior case went terribly wrong. The series has plenty of haunted houses and terrifying moments, perfect for the Halloween season.
Play this: Betrayal at House on the Hill. You play as a group of explorers who have stumbled across a spooky old mansion. For the first part of the game, everyone just explores the house, finding new rooms, collecting items, surviving brushes with the supernatural. Later in the game, the haunting begins and one person turns traitor. At this point, the game becomes more story-driven, as players complete one of 50 haunt scenarios within the game. The traitor typically wants to kill the heroes, the heroes want to survive and escape! I love this game because it changes each time, even down to the layout of the house as players place tiles to discover new rooms! It’s also such a fun collaborative game, forcing players to work together and share the victory.
If you like superheroes…
Read this: G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel series (2015 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers). I’ve never been a huge fan of superheroes (Batman excluded), but Wilson’s new Ms. Marvel comic series turned that around for me. I think it’s because Kamala Khan is an ordinary teenager doing ordinary things before superpowers are bestowed on her. She gets freaked out, makes mistakes, and just tries to do the best she can with her new powers, all while dealing with the stresses of strict parents, her religion, and school. It’s a refreshing series, one I’ve come to enjoy immensely.
Play this: Legendary. This is a Marvel deck-building game. That means that you start with a standard hand of cards. Some cards give you buying power, some cards give you attack power. In addition, some cards give you actions or chain together with other cards to do specific things. To build an individual deck, players recruit Marvel superheroes with buying power. Then they can attack villains on the streets and try to defeat a powerful overlord boss before time runs out. This is a cooperative game, so either everyone wins…or everyone loses.
The post Read This, Play That!: Perfect Tabletop Game Pairings for Your Favorite YA Series appeared first on The Hub.
Welcome back readers! We are continuing our discussion of tropes (commonly used themes) in YA literature. So far, we have explored The Old Clunker I Drive and The I Already Know You Introduction. This week let us jump right into one of my favorites!
The I Have to Take Care of my Parent(s) Trope
We read it time and time again. These teens have a lot of responsibility and are oftentimes more capable than their parents. Why is this plot line so often used? Well, parents are not perfect so this is a realistic human experience for many readers. I also think that some wise words J.K. Rowling once said about the unhelpful librarian Madam Pince are relevant here. Sometimes, when you get the assistance you need the story is over. So, let us keep the story going by taking a look at some of the most inept parents (and their very capable children) in YA lit.
- The DUFF (2011 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers) by Kody Keplinger: Bianca takes care of her dad. Bianca’s father, an alcoholic who has been in recovery for most of her life has a terrible relapse when he receives divorce papers from Bianca’s mother. This was one of the most poignant aspects of the book; Bianca is scared of what her father will do next in his alcoholic rages and she is ashamed that someone may find out about his drinking. Bianca holds it together at home very well but uses her boy-slut sometime-friend Wesley as an outlet when she does not know where else to turn. Bianca’s incapable father helps the girl realize what she needs.
- Twilight Saga (Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers: 2006, 2007, Teen’s Top Ten: 2007, 2008, & 2009) by Stephenie Meyer: Bella takes care of both of her parents. Bella is characterized as more of an adult than her flighty mother and her “I’d rather be fishing” father. In this example, I think Bella’s parents are in the wind so that she can become fully immersed in the Cullens’ sparkly world without anybody asking too many questions. Plus making all of those meals for her dad gives Bella something to do when she is not being hunted by vengeful vampires or hanging out with shape shifting wolves.
- Hunger Games Trilogy (2009 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults, 2009 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2010 Best Books for Young Adults, Teen’s Top Ten: 2009, 2010, & 2011) by Suzanne Collins: Katniss takes care of her mom and her sister Prim. And Peeta. And Rue. And basically everybody else in this trilogy that needs help. But there is a question of nature versus nurture. Is Katniss a care-taker by nature– taking after her father who also played that role? Or is Katniss a caretaker out of necessity because her father’s death led her mother to break down?
- No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss: Abigail’s parents would be better off if she took care of them. Twins Abigail and Aaron are living with their parents in a van parked on the streets of San Fransisco. Why? Because a preacher took their father’s “donation” and promised the family salvation at the apocalypse. The date of the end of days has come and gone though, and nothing happened. Abigail’s mother and father have fallen for the deceptive preacher’s promises and now the family is homeless. Though Abigail and Aaron know the church is a hoax, who will listen to them?
- The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson: Hayley takes care of her dad. It has always been Hayley and Andy together, taking care of each other. But as Andy’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms worsen and Hayley has to take care of her father (and herself, and their home) more and more, she finds that she has her own trauma to work through. Hayley might not be the most responsible and capable teen we have seen in lit, but she takes on a lot in this moving tale.
So what other YA tales could never have happened with parents who were involved and on top of things? Thank you to all of those fictional parents out there who have not stepped up to the plate. So many stories would have gone untold without your ineptitude. Join us next week as we explore one of the greatest tropes of our time: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (and Boy)!
—Tara Kehoe, currently reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
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Teens’ Top Ten participants are invited to share reader responses on The Hub. This is a post by a teen in the Jordan Binder, a senior at Mount Carmel Academy in New Orleans.
Jordan says, “I love reading because it is something I have always known. It feels natural to me. I can’t seem to get enough of being transported to another place and getting to live through the mind set of another person.” Jordan wanted to share a playlist inspired by one of her favorite books, Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell.The playlist is what the main character, Rebecca Blue AKA Rebel Blue, would listen to.
Riot! – Cher Lloyd
I Hate The Homecoming Queen – Emily Osment
Feel – Sleeping With Sirens
Thanks for sharing, Jordan! Check out this year’s Teens’ Top Ten nominees and encourage teens to vote for their favorites!
The post Notes from a Teens’ Top Ten Participaint: Rebel Playlist appeared first on The Hub.
I have watched and loved NCIS from the show’s beginning in 2003, and my favorite character has always been Abby Sciuto. She’s smart and funny and not afraid to be herself, even if “herself” isn’t what people expect when meeting a computer and science expert. Someone as accomplished and confident as Abby surely has developed her own taste in reading, but if she were to ask me for book recommendations, this is what I’d offer her:
The Martian by Andy Weir (2015 Alex Award) is a science-packed story about a failed Mars mission. Abby would understand the science behind Mark’s attempts to get himself back to Earth, and she might even have some other suggestions for things he could try in order to survive on the red planet.
Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby (2008 Schneider Family Book Award) chronicles the life of Joey, a 13-year old who is missing out on a lot of things because she is deaf and her mother will not let her learn sign language. She meets a man who is teaching a chimp to sign, and through them Joey is able to find her voice. Abby’s mother was deaf, so Abby and Gibbs occasionally communicate using sign language. That, and the science aspect of this story, would appeal to Abby.
Pink by Lili Wilkinson (2012 Stonewall Honor Book) follows Ava as she trades in her anti-establishment goth persona for a “good girl” look involving lots of pink. Ava finds it difficult to maintain her good-girl guise, though, just as Abby felt uncomfortable when [temporarily] forced to follow a strict dress code at work.
3:59 by Gretchen McNeil features a science whiz named Josie who gets trapped in an alternate universe and has to use her knowledge of physics to return to Earth. The complex science discussed in this book, along with the paranormal/mystery aspect, would definitely appeal to Abby.
The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden takes place in a post-Katrina New Orleans, and in addition to a setting which Abby would love, the paranormal elements would appeal to her love of all things Gothic.
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (2009 Best Books for Young Adults) focuses on hacking and the unfortunate results when Marcus and his friends are wrongfully accused of plotting a terrorist attack. Abby has worked through the mystery of who is responsible for various attacks and crimes, and she’d likely be friends with Marcus and possibly recruit him to help her when she needs to hack into a site.
Notes From the Blender by Trish Cook forces a death-metal fan and bad boy to join with a popular gymnast when their parents choose to marry and combine their families. Abby would sympathize with Declan and his families’ lack of appreciation for his music and clothing choices.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Fairy tales. Cyborgs. Moon People. All things that Abby would find fascinating, and she could be drawn into this series just before the release of the final book, Winter.
–Jenni Frencham, currently reading Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Having been a librarian for 9 years, discussion of libraries and video games has seemed a near constant. Early in my career, I took a webinar on how to use video games in libraries. I even got to spend work time playing Runescape. We held Guitar Hero tournaments. We bought systems. We worked video gaming into our programming. Even after nine years, questions still exist. The videogame landscape constantly shifts. What are libraries doing to offer gaming to their teens? What can they be doing better? What games should libraries own? What systems?source
You have to do what is best for your organization and teens. However, we can discuss some trends and best practices. For a few posts, I will discuss video games for programming.
Conventional wisdom says libraries should offer games where the largest numbers of players can play simultaneously. I wonder how many libraries own Wiis for this reason. Multi-player games are terrific. They get teens involved. They can create community. However, I implore librarians to not ignore single player titles for their library.
With the rise of Youtube and Twitch, teens are accustomed to watching people play games, sometimes never even playing certain titles for themselves. Watching their peers playthrough video games can often be more rewarding for all of the teens involved.
Video games are often lauded for their increasingly complex storytelling. This is something librarians can/should get behind. Unfortunately, multiplayer games like Super Smash Bros. offer little in complex storytelling or to make difficult ethical decisions that affect the rest of the gameplay. Single player games like Portal 2 (which also offers multi-player), Elder Scrolls, or anything by Telltale Games offer players a richer, deeper play experience.
So what about those watching? Well, they can get many of the same experiences of gameplay by offering their own input to the play experience. These single-player game experiences often turn into a more collaborative gameplay for those involved, whereas many multiplayer games are competition based. One of my favorite videogame moments from my library was watching a group of teens play through Portal 2. Portal 2 can often be a complicated puzzle game, so the teens would work together to solve the levels. It is also quite funny, as GLaDOS, the game’s antagonist, has a biting wit. She also creates a common enemy.source
While players can switch off controllers with these single-player games, those aren’t the only experiences available to them. Super Mario Maker offers gamers the experience of building their own levels, which they can then challenge their friends to complete. Mario Maker allows budding game developers a relatively simple platform for building levels without having to know code. To make good levels, though, understanding game design is key. While your teens may not spend hours learning good level design, their peers will reflexively offer it. “This level sucks!” “I like the part with the Goombas!” Using this feedback, teens can improve upon their design to offer better gameplay for their peers. They can, of course, use the level-making as a collaborative experience, as well. High school teachers and college professors who love to require group projects will forever be thwarted by video gamers!source
When purchasing games for your programming, consider games that also offer a multi-player experience. Portal 2, any Lego game, Minecraft, and NBA 2K(insert year) have been popular with teens for both solo play and to face off in multi-player game modes. Minecraft also allows for creative mode. Try out Little Big Planet or Mario Maker, even Super Smash Bros., to allow your teens a chance to design their own levels.
— Scott Rader, currently playing Infinite Loop
The post Video Games in Libraries: Don’t Ignore Single Player Games appeared first on The Hub.
It’s that time of year when readers start looking for spooky, creepy, and scary reads. As the weather turns cooler and Halloween nears, lots of people are craving a bit of horror, suspense, or psychological thrillers.What is the scariest book you’ve read?
Reading Long Lankin by Lindsay Barraclough was a truly haunting experience for me! Between the sing-song rhyme describing the creepy legend behind the title character and the slowly building terror of the narrative, I had to go to bed with the lights still on after finishing this one. — Kelly Dickinson
I’m not sure I could articulate exactly what elements pushed me over the edge, but reading the brilliant Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick creeped me out more than any book in recent memory. In particular, the first and last stories in that collection gave me actual goosebumps, and one ultra-tense scene made me gasp out loud, something I never do. Bloody handprints, shadowy figures, and the crushing certainty of being utterly alone apparently do me in. ::Shiver:: — Julie Bartel
Carrie Ryan’s Forest of Hands and Teeth scared the heck out of me. And of course after that I had to read the sequel, The Dead Tossed Waves, which was even scarier! There is this scene in the book where the main character Gabry goes to this deserted amusement park in the dead of night and it’s filled with creepy zombies stumbling all over the place. She’s looking for this boy named Catcher that she knows who’s been bitten by the Mudo (zombies) and she goes into an abandoned building and everything is very very dark and you just know something is going to jump out and get her. I had to stop reading several times I got so scared. — Kimberli Buckley
I’m still totally creeped out by Daniel Kraus’s Rotters even though I read it when it came out in 2011. The descriptions of grave robbing with their decomposing corpses; the description of a Rat King (a number of rats with their tails entangled into one writhing creature) and, most of all, the character of Boggs, who reminds me a bit of a monstrously horrific Truman Capote. I also listened to it on audio and it’s wonderful but nightmare inducing. — Sharon Rawlins
Nova Ren Suma’s book The Walls Around Us creeped me out super bad. The story of 3 girls who all become a part of the prison in which 2 of them are being held. Who is innocent and who is guilty? And, what exists in that thin space between the living and the dead? Nova Ren writes in a way that makes readers inhabit this magical world where you start to think that you’re part of the story, too. Totally sent chills up my spine and goosebumps up my arms when I got to the end of the book! — Traci Glass
What are your favorite scary books to recommend? Leave us a note in the comments!
— Molly Wetta, currently avoiding scary books and reading The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Happy Friday! Add these links to your #fridayreads (or check them out over the weekend).
Books & Reading
Many librarians and former librarians, including Angie Manfredi and Kelly Jensen, discussed why “Banned Books” Week is a misnomer and why knowing the difference between banned and challenged is so important. Pair it with our post from Miriam Wallen on self-censorship.
Tired of defending your reading of children’s and YA literature? (You shouldn’t have to, but somehow you do anyway, right? Ugh.) This may make you feel better, and it will arm you with more comebacks to those people who say you’re not reading “real” books.
Curious about the most banned or challenged books of the year?
Check out these diverse magical fantasy books.
Pinterest? For brides and homebodies. Instagram? You’ll never look as good as Beyoncé or your favorite food blogger anyway. The new way to internet your internet is Looklist.
Print is dead? ebooks aren’t real books? Digital natives don’t have the attention span for any sort of book anyway? Oh, put it to rest already.
Movies, TV, and Video Games
There’s going to be a Doctor Who spin-off and guess who is writing it? PATRICK NESS.
How does literature influence gaming, and vice versa? Check out this fascinating article on the interplay between the two different forms of storytelling.
What if HBO made The Watchmen into a TV Series?!
What’s the weirdest video game you’ve ever played? Read this article at Game Informer for the comments.
Exciting to see Death Note become a movie, but disappointing that Hollywood didn’t cast a Japanese actor—Nat Wolff will star in the adaptation.
Libraries, Librarianship and Youth Services
At the new blog Reading While White, Sam Bloom posted about the importance of owning and accepting whiteness and privilege.
Look ahead in your career and think about how you’ll serve a huge generation of first-generation Americans in the coming years as 59 million projected immigrants come to the US.
You know well how data and privacy are central to librarianship. Check out this call for case studies.
Do you work with at-risk teens? You should know about the proposed link between antidepressants and violence.
How does outreach impact your collection development strategy? This article from School Library Journal on working with incarcerated youth is a must-read.
Tumblr of the Week: Fandometrics. Ever wonder what pop culture and media is most popular with teens? The Fandometrics Tumblr is a data-driven look at the most discussed fandoms on Tumblr.
Any great news from this week we missed? Share in the comments!
— Hannah Gómez and Molly Wetta
With Halloween just around the corner, this month is the perfect time to explore another exciting genre of graphic novels – horror. While I am the first to admit that this is not a genre I frequently focus on in my reading, my research for this month’s post introduced me to some great stories that I wouldn’t normally read and some authors and artists whose works I had not previously encountered. If you are a fan of scary stories or are simply looking for something to read on Halloween, this list will help you find the perfect horror story!
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll – This collection of creepy and twisted fairy tales will leave you thinking (and possibly sleeping with the lights on) long after you finish the final page of the book. For many of the stories Carroll takes traditional themes and creates stories that look at these themes from a different point of view. The stories are complemented by gorgeous artwork with rich colors and a general creepiness that fits perfectly with the stories themselves. This is a great book for both art fans and comic fans. If you want to check out her style, try her Eisner-award-winning short story, When the Darkness Presses, which is available for free online.
Coffin Hill by Caitlin Kittredge with art by Inaki Miranda – Set in the fictional town of Coffin Hill, Massachusetts, this series follows Eve Coffin, heir to the Coffin legacy of magic and witchcraft, as she returns to her hometown just as an evil she encountered as a teen is rising again. This artwork and story manage to be truly creepy and an excellent example of the horror genre in comics. Definitely a great read for fans of gruesome tales, though it is worth noting that it is rated for mature readers for a reason.
Madame Frankenstein by Megan Levens and Jamie S. Rich – This book combines elements of the story of Frankenstein and the story of Pygmalion to great effect. Set in the U.S. in 1932, it follows Vincent Krall as he experiments with reanimation as a way of restoring life to a woman he loved. As the story progresses, readers learn more about each character’s backstory and true motivations. The tense story, which is perfectly complemented by beautiful black and white artwork, will keep you turning pages and will appeal to fans of the horror genre.
Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson – In a small neighborhood called Burden Hill, paranormal events appear to be increasing all the time. While the humans of the neighborhood are seemingly oblivious, the same cannot be said of their pets. This series follows the dogs (and occasional cat) of Burden Hill has they discover and try to fight against the supernatural events that threaten their peaceful existence. This is a unique series with its almost complete focus on the group of pets, which I found very intriguing.
In the Dark: A Horror Anthology edited by Rachel Deering – If you’re a fan of short stories or want to find a volume that will offer a lot of diversity within the horror genre, look no further than this massive (literally, I was shocked by how heavy this book was!) anthology. Each entry offers a different take on a horror story, making this a great option for anyone who wants to try different styles within the genre. Though not all of the stories in this anthology are created by women, it does include several stories by female authors and artists.
Black Magick by Greg Rucka with art by Nicola Scott – Debuting this month, this book focuses on a police detective who also happens to come from a family of witches. This one looks like it will be somewhere between an urban fantasy series and a horror series, but given the focus on witches it feels like a good fit for this list. I, for one, am looking forward to checking it out.
Survivors’ Club by Lauren Beukes and Dave Halverson with art by Ryan Kelly – Another new title this month, this series sees a bunch of victims of what are basically horror movie plots banding together. Given that it is written by a horror novelist, it promises to be a great option for anyone who wants a good scary story. This looks like it will be a good one to recommend to horror movie fans as well.
I hope this list will help you find something to scare you silly for Halloween! Let me know in the comments if you have any other recommendations that I should add to my to-be-read list.
Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.
I was going to tell you about the time I was reading Libba Bray’s Rebel Angels in a hotel in Belgravia, London, and how we were spending the next day at the Imperial War Museum (housed in the central portion of what was formerly Bethlem Royal Hospital, or “Bedlam”) and how it was all atmospheric and creepy and whatnot (which it totally was) and I was going to tell you about how I dog-eared and sticky-noted The Sweet Far Thing until there were no sticky notes left to stick because I thought (think) it was brilliant and wanted to see if I could connect all the luminous dots and figure out how she’d made it all work. And I was going to tell you how I spent the night before the ACTs at a New Order concert, which, now that I think about it will make a lot more sense once you read on.
But instead I am going to just point you directly to the interview below because it is EPIC. I mean, this is not run of the mill epic, it is Libba Bray level EPIC, which means playlists, life lessons, the influence of PBS, aspirations to royalty, Holden Caufield, Gilda Radner, existential crises, blood, make-up, exceptional teachers, music, boys, theater, George Saunders, thoughtful advice, pathological honesty, and–in what is certainly the most epic author-to-author question ever featured in this series–Chris Pratt. Just go, now. (You might want something to drink, and a snack, fair warning.)
Thank you, Libba, for this jaw-dropping and utterly exceptional interview, and for your willingness to come face to face with the monster time and time again.Always Something There to Remind Me
Please describe your teenage self.
Actually, I feel like that sentence could be the description.
I was a girl of extremes, which I don’t think is terribly uncommon for the teen years: Goofy. Hopeful. Sardonic. Weird. Insecure. Certain I was a freak who would never have a boyfriend. Sometimes melancholy and lonely. An introvert who fronted like an extrovert. Well-intentioned if a bit “high-spirited,” as my high school principal described me that time I got sent home from the Latin trip. A class clown type who was terrified that someone might see how truly vulnerable I was while also wishing someone would see how truly vulnerable I was, preferably a wisecracking, music-playing boy who also read Salinger. I was in love with theater, music, literature, art, fashion, and film. I wanted grand adventures. I wanted to make the world a better, fairer place. I wanted my life to have meaning. And I desperately wanted out of Denton, Texas.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
My first ambition at the age of five was to be Queen of England. After all, we were both named Elizabeth. It seemed logical that I’d step in next. I was rather put out when my mother explained how the succession of kings and queens worked and that it had nothing at all to do with first names. After that, I remember wanting to be a veterinarian. I was the kid who read ALL of the animal stories: Charlotte’s Web, The Wind in the Willows, My Friend Flicka. Black Beauty. Winnie-the-Pooh. Also, James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small had been on PBS. PBS is to be blamed for many of my life choices. I spent a lot of time on our back porch, immersed in drawing—charcoals and watercolors, graduating to oils—but stopped once we moved from Corpus Christi to Denton.
After abandoning veterinary science, art, and the monarchy as careers, I cycled through all sorts of ambitions—actress, filmmaker, sketch comedy performer (I adored Gilda Radner; she was everything I wanted to be), athletic trainer, fashion designer, elementary school teacher, psychiatrist, makeup artist, Peace Corps worker—and pretty much figured I’d work in the arts in some capacity. Interestingly, fiction writer wasn’t on that list at all.
What were your high school years like?
I lived in Denton, Texas, which is a small town north of Dallas and Fort Worth on the road to Oklahoma. It was a rather conservative, deeply religious community, a “Friday Night Lights” town of football games, drill team, 4H Club, and Baptist revivals. It’s also the home of two universities—Texas Women’s University and University of North Texas, which has a killer music school. So it was an interesting mix of old-school Texas and counterculture college students. There was only one high school. (So we wouldn’t lose our 5A football status.) I was aware that I was an odd bird in that environment, but there were actually quite a few odd birds, and, for some reason, I managed to move between social groups fairly easily. I remember our class as being fairly accepting of oddness. Perhaps that’s looking backward through a hazy lens, but with a few exceptions, there was a surprising lack of meanness. I do remember that there was an awful lot of conformity and fear of appearing “different” for many of my classmates, much of it influenced by religious doctrine and southern behavioral strictures. There were boys I knew to be gay who, nevertheless, steadfastly kept up the appearance of being straight out of fear.
It was the early 1980s. Punk and New Wave had hit, and for those of us who were artsy-weird, the burgeoning world of music video on brand-spanking-new MTV was a window into a world we wanted to live in. I can still remember seeing the very first video, The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” and then Mike Nesmith’s (of Monkees fame) “Elephant Parts,” and being hooked. I remember thinking, I want to make weird, abstract, darkly funny videos like this. Going to concerts was a big deal. Spring of my junior year, a few of us road-tripped down to Austin to see The Cars play, and the night before my SAT, we drove into Dallas to see The Police, as one does before a major, life-defining test. (It wasn’t such a life-defining test then.) Trolling record stores like Sound Warehouse for the latest vinyl was another great pastime. Music was identity. It was declaration. It was everything.
My home away from home was definitely the Firehouse Theater, the local community theater, which was housed on top of an active firehouse. If the firefighters got a call in the middle of a show, you had to hold in place while the sirens wailed and then resume, which seems hilarious now that I think about it. I loved everything about that place, especially the people who were a very wild cast of characters. Community theater was the place where I learned not only about acting but also about costume and makeup and set building/set striking and teamwork. It was a family for sure.
I ran cross-country and track. I was in Latin club and National Honor Society. (Nerd alert!) I spent a lot of Saturday nights at the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I was, for one year, a Texas high school cheerleader. And STILL I could not get a date. Once, my friends and I dressed as the members of KISS and walked around our neighborhood for no reason I can fathom except that we were bored and had a drawer full of makeup. When we as a nation are testing the shit out of kids and assigning staggering amounts of homework and forcing them into those high scores-winner-take-all-this-is-all-about-your-future-earning-potential cattle pens, we never take into account how valuable boredom is. How lying fallow allows for thought and creativity and connection. I’m glad I had that.A picture from Libba’s high school yearbook
When I was fourteen, my father came out to the family. It was understood that we couldn’t talk about it outside the house as my father worked in the church and would lose his job if his sexual orientation were known. By the time I was sixteen, my dad had a partner, John, and they lived in Dallas. My best friend (I refused to comply completely with the secret edict) and I would drive to their condo and swim in the pool and eat yogurt raisins and fart at the table, and, bless them, Dad and John were saints of patience. Sometimes, my dad and I would go to Oak Lawn, which was known on the DL as the gay part of Dallas, and we’d sit at a table and decide which waiters were his and which were mine. Of course, they really were all his. So, in essence, I lived a double life, and one of those was in the closet by association. But I loved being part of the gay underground, loved going to the clubs and galleries of Oak Lawn and to hear the Turtle Creek Men’s Chorale (read: Gay Men’s Chorus) and to parties with my father’s friends, where I felt adored and indulged. Fortunately for me, my parents remained close. The first Thanksgiving my father and John were together, my mother invited them over for dinner, and there we were, a very Neil Simon-meets-Paul Rudnick-meets-Soap sort of family.
I struggled mightily with religious questions. Church was a very active part of my life. But the intolerance I began to see, which was heavily tied to the burden of keeping my father’s true self a secret, along with my budding feminism, wore away at my belief. I tried to salvage my faith by joining the Episcopalian church, which had an active youth group. For a while, I was quite devout. I wanted so much to be “good,” whatever “good” was, but it seemed just outside my grasp. I was way too human. Eventually, those disquieting questions I’d pushed back into the far reaches of my soul came bubbling up again, and I left the church. This has been a lifelong struggle, by the way. All those metaphysical questions are still with me: Why are we here? Is there a God? If so, why do such terrible things happen? If the people doing these terrible things in the name of religion are the face of religion, fuck it. I want no part. But then I’ll be lying on my back in the middle of a lake watching clouds shift into new shapes, and I will be taken by such a feeling of love and hope and connection to all life, I will feel so vast and small and completely human that I think, surely, surely there must be something more? That’s why I loved Craig Thompson’s nuanced Blankets. It treats the topic of religious questioning with such grace and forgiveness.
I had this one friend, Jeannie, and all of my wildest teenage stories start with, “Well, you see, I was with Jeannie and…” My mother’s still living, so I won’t go into all of them, but let’s just say they are the sorts of stories that involved parties and rock ‘n’ roll and incredibly precarious situations I am damned lucky to have gotten out of unharmed. Jeannie was a force of nature—beautiful, sexual, a total Penny Lane character. I was the sarcastic, less attractive, voice-of-reason sidekick, ill at ease trussed up in Jeannie’s sexier clothes and makeup, who spent a lot of time saying, “I don’t think we should get in the car with those guys/talk our way into this party/make fake I.D.s/steal your mother’s car/ingest this particular drug.” I always lost. And I was always hopeful some guy would look at me first. I lost there, too.
Up until my senior year, when my restlessness caught up to me for good, I actually liked school. I liked the structure of it because I, myself, had (have) such a chaotic, unstructured, run-wild mind. School was like swaddling; it held me in so that my thoughts could go all Fourth of July. This was before the damned testing and annotated reading. If I were coming up today, I’d be lost. I would absolutely hate school. But I was fortunate enough to come up when testing was minimal and emphasis was placed on discussion, analysis, reading and writing—all of it led by some wonderful, creative, passionate teachers who helped to shape my life. My favorite of those teachers was the late, great Willa Mae Burlage, who was my AP English teacher for 10th and 12th grade. She was about five-feet-nothing, ninety-nine pounds sopping wet, and FIERCE. Her name was whispered in the halls of Denton High School like Keyser Soze—Mrs. Burlage was the Texas you did not mess with. She had the wickedest sense of humor, though—dry as West Texas road. I revered her. She introduced me to William Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, Albert Camus, Joseph Conrad, Richard Wright, Edith Wharton, and Victor Hugo, to name but a few.
Once, in class, she asked how many of us believed in fate. All of the hands went up except for mine. She fixed her gaze on me: “Libba, you don’t believe in fate?” Remember, this was ultra-religious North Texas. “No, I don’t,” I said. “I don’t believe we have no choice over our lives and there’s some great plan.” Well, it seemed like it was quiet for about an hour, though it was most likely about five seconds, and then she said in her imperious, Maggie Smith tone, “I don’t believe in fate, either. Now. Please turn in your books to page…” After class, she had me come up to her desk. “I think you might be an existentialist,” she said. She told me to go to the public library and check out Jean-Paul Sartre, so I did. Then she told me to go to the public library and check out a book called The Catcher in the Rye, which became my favorite book in high school. At the time, I connected deeply with Holden. And that person I was looking for—the one to figure out who I really was? Turns out it wasn’t a boy after all. Turns out it was my high school English teacher, Willa Mae Burlage.
If you are a teacher reading this, please know that the work you do matters tremendously. Sometimes, the seeds you plant don’t sprout until much later (because some of us are late bloomers), but they do take.
What were some of your passions during that time?
I wanted to do everything. That was the trouble. It’s still my trouble! Running was a huge passion. I would run for miles out country roads, past the chicken farm and the parks. I’d run anywhere from six to ten miles daily. I loved—still love—the meditative quality of it.
As mentioned above, I was really, really into music. My older brother was a musician who also worked in a record store in Waco. He’d send me all of these LPs—British imports, Texas blues, funk, New Wave and punk, and more experimental fare like King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Stanley Clarke, and Brian Eno. We had these long-distance phone calls late into the night about music: Was Trevor Horn as important a producer as Phil Spector had been in terms of that “wall of sound”? Was Jeff Beck’s guitar work on “’Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” better than Jimmy Page’s on “The Song Remains the Same”? And so on. He was the first person to call and tell me that John Lennon had been killed.
My junior year, I worked after school at the local independent bookstore, Little Professor Books, near the NTSU campus. I was allowed to take home books and magazines that had their covers ripped off. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Madness was a big seller for some reason, and I read that. But I didn’t love it as much as Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Thorn Birds. I also fell in love with Tom Robbins and Woody Allen in high school. (Though I can’t really bring myself to watch Allen movies now.)
There were only three movie theaters in town, and Star Wars played at one of them for well over a year. So I was a pretty big Star Wars fan. Same with Raiders of the Lost Ark. I must’ve seen Fame about fifteen times, and I practiced the lunchroom dance in my room. Actually, I danced to musicals in my room waaay more than I’d care to admit: West Side Story. A Chorus Line. Gypsy. Sweet Charity. Big Bob Fosse fan. Again, theater was pretty much my life, and I counted the Tony Awards as my High Holy Day every year. I loved horror, and watched a lot of Hammer Horror films as well as Kolchak: The Night Stalker. I never missed Saturday Night Live, and I kind of worshipped Gilda Radner, John Belushi, and Bill Murray. Monty Python’s Flying Circus was my world. I must’ve seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail a hundred times. My brother and I were always quoting Python.
When I wasn’t going, “A-5,6,7,8!” and jumping off the end of my bed (with a few painful results), I was playing air guitar to Blondie, The Pretenders, The Police, Kate Bush, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The B-52s, The Who, and countless other bands. The ritual of cleaning an LP and dropping the needle, the pop and hiss, was magic.
I had a core group of friends. Among these, Eleanor was my best friend. We were practically joined at the hip. At age fifteen, Eleanor’s mother blew out of town with a guy she’d been having an affair with, abandoning her. Eleanor and I were both deeply unsure about ourselves and very out of place in small-town Texas, and I think we found solace in each other’s gallows humor, grand ambitions, and love of glam rock. She was the angriest person I knew, and I was terrified of my own anger, so we fit together well. We have remained life-long friends. We are family.
Would you be willing to share a difficult teen experience or challenge that you feel shaped the adult you became?
My most difficult teen experience was my car accident at age eighteen, three weeks after my high school graduation. I had driven my father to the airport one morning, and on the way back, it started raining. I hit a slick spot, spun out of control, and wrapped my car around a light pole. I demolished my nose, the entire left side of my face, broke my jaw and teeth and right cheekbone, broke bones in both legs, and gouged out my left eye. I spent two weeks in Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas where they started the first of many surgeries to put me back together. At the end of that summer, I was fitted with my first prosthesis and I moved into the dorm at North Texas State University.
It’s no secret that beauty is prized in women and, I’d argue, it’s prized in Texas women especially so. As a teen, I’d never really felt that I was all that pretty—I was more likely to reach for a joke than to rely on my physicality—but now I was disfigured, and the response to my appearance was shocking to me. I was either invisible or mocked and scorned. One man who’d been a customer at the bookstore said, “Part of your face is as beautiful as it ever was. But the rest of you is like Frankenstein.” Yeah, thanks for that, dude. I felt ugly and unwanted. So much of being a teen is feeling that everything is possible. But suddenly, I was aware of my own mortality, of my fragility, and that there was no “do-over” button for this. It was permanent. My life had changed, and I was going to have to learn to live changed.
I was suicidally depressed. I didn’t leave my dorm room for weeks. Other times, I partied very hard to blot out the pain. I think the nadir was a party at which I did all the drugs and drink then got up on the bar to dance, neglecting to notice the metal ceiling fan in motion. It sliced two deep cuts through my head, narrowly missing my one good eye. A friend convinced me that, yes, I did need to go to the ER, and no, I could not just stay at the party, gushing blood, with a towel pressed to my forehead while drinking White Russians. At the hospital, the attending physician said, “Honey, there’s good news and bad news: The bad news is that you’re gonna need about twenty-five stitches in your forehead, and you’re higher than a kite so I can’t give you anything. The good news is, I don’t think you’re gonna feel it when I sew you up.” He was right.
In the cold, sober light of morning, covered in dried blood and my head pounding, I went home to my mother, who stared at me, a hand pressed to her mouth in horror. I said, “Mom, you’ve gotta get me out of here before I kill myself. I want to go to Austin, to U.T. Please help me.” She and my father flew into action, and in the fall, I moved into a dorm at U.T., which was the start of better days. As hard as it was to be me at that time, I cannot imagine how difficult, how painful it must have been to be my parents.
What about a positive experience or accomplishment that had an impact on your adult self?
It sounds very Pollyanna to say, but in many ways, that same experience had a very positive effect on my life. It fostered in me a great deal of empathy and compassion. It taught me never to judge by appearances. In many ways, it showed me what I was made of; it showed me that I had a resilience I have come to appreciate over the years. It was also how I began to write. Everything I felt that I couldn’t say aloud, all of those hard feelings needed some place to go. I wrote them all down in my journal. It helped me find my voice. It was how I kept myself tethered to life. Quite simply, it saved my life. And eventually, I came to enjoy the writing for its own sake.
Sometimes, our worst moments are our beginnings. Sorry for the very Hallmark-card of that sentiment, but it’s true.
What advice, if any, would you give your teen self? Would your teen self have listened?
I’m pretty sure my teen self wouldn’t have listened to a damn word I said. But here’s what I would’ve TRIED to say:
1. Do not give up piano lessons to play basketball. That is the second dumbest idea you will ever have. (The first dumbest will involve dropping acid and going to see Aliens, which is a Category Five mistake.)
2. Wear sunscreen. Also, seatbelts.
3. Sometimes, like a gunslinger with a quick finger, you will want to reach for that sharp retort when you’re hurt. Don’t. It’s harder but much better to reach for forgiveness, to aikido that shit away. Practice kindness. And you, my friend, will need to practice A LOT.
5. Don’t dismiss yourself so readily. There’s a whole world ready to do that. Go after what you want and stop telling yourself that you’re not good enough/smart enough to try. You’re not good enough yet. But that’s what throwing yourself into it is all about. Value the apprenticeship.
6. When a boy hands you his heart, be gentle. He’s as scared as you are. Don’t assume he couldn’t possibly love you simply because you feel you are unlovable.
Looking back, I realize I’ve been the recipient of much kind advice over the years. I’d say the best of it was always about learning to value myself/take my work seriously while also looking out for other people—to share the planet. I remember my mother saying to me once that “all ethics are situational if you are a thinking person,” which was a reminder to me that I had to do the work and not rely on other people to do it for me. She also told me to wash regularly. My mom gave a lot of good advice. ;-)
Do you have any regrets about your teen years? Anything left undone or anything that might have been better left undone?
I’m always slightly amused by people who say their biggest regrets are that they didn’t do something. I want to offer them some of the crazy-ass things I did do, because I’ve got enough regrets there that I could probably sell them off the back of a truck.
I am drawn to that wonderful commencement speech given by George Saunders, whom I admire greatly. He talks about his failures of kindness. I’d agree that those are the regrets I have most often; I regret the times when I should have been more compassionate, when I should have listened for what was being said underneath the sarcasm or bluster or conformist-speak. And I really wish I’d been much, much kinder to my poor mother.
What, if anything, do you miss most about that time?
Honestly, I’m pretty happy not to be a teenager. It’s hard going. I have so much respect for teens navigating the minefields of those years. But probably what I loved most about that time was the newness of everything, how wonderful it is to be discovering yourself and the world around you constantly. It’s very fresh and thrilling. And everything seems possible.
Also, I miss my teenage metabolism.Every Day I Write the Book
You’ve described the Gemma Doyle trilogy as a “Victorian Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and like Buffy showrunner Joss Whedon you have a talent for tackling tough issues, using fantasy, satire, surrealism, and historical distance to offer new perspective and insight. You once asked author Jo Knowles what drives her “to write about these difficult issues,” and I’d like to ask you the same question (hoping you don’t put your head through a window.) What issues trouble you most? What does it cost you to explore them? How do you (as you aspired to some years ago in Publisher’s Weekly) find the true “heart of [the] novel, that painful truth” you want to find but are “afraid to uncover” and what happens when you do?
Well, gosh. Thanks.
Honestly, I’m still trying to figure myself out, to make sense of the world and my place in it. I’m asking myself all of those questions about what it is to be human, why do we do the things we do, especially when those things often bring us such unhappiness. I’m drawn to close the distance between myself and other people, to bridge the miles of existential loneliness, if just for a few pages. I’m driven to explore and examine social ills and personal issues. I want to feel that I am a different person after the writing of a book, that I have come face-to-face with some monster inside of me that needed to be drawn into the light. The only way out is through.
“I’m a stone-cold music freak. A music nerd. A musicaholic,” you’ve said, confessing that you could “cheerfully waste time making an iPod playlist for every conceivable emotional state.” In fact, you talk about playlists kind of a lot, including making lists of playlists that you might want to make: “Happy songs playlist. Slightly melancholy with a twist of lime playlist. Beyond melancholy through sad and right into morose self-pity with delusions of grand opera playlist…” Will you make a playlist for us?
This is the best writing-avoidance exercise ever. THANK YOU, YALSA HUB!
Well, since we are talking about my teen years, I’ll submit a Playlist of Songs I Loved as a Teenager:
1. Message of Love/The Pretenders
2. Sheena Is a Punk Rocker/The Ramones
3. Once In a Lifetime/The Talking Heads
4. The entirety of Quadrophenia/The Who
5. The Ballad of Teenage Violence/Cheap Trick
6. Sweet Transvestite/The Rocky Horror Picture Show
7. Nothing/A Chorus Line
9. Last Dance/Donna Summer
10. Shock the Monkey/Peter Gabriel
11. Aja/Steely Dan
12. Wuthering Heights/Kate Bush
13. So Lonely/The Police
14. Fame/David Bowie
15. Hot Lunch/Fame soundtrack
16. Cruel To Be Kind/Nick Lowe
17. Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)/Michael Jackson
18. Rapper’s Delight/Sugarhill Gang
19. She’s So Modern/Boomtown Rats
20. The entirety of London Calling/The Clash
21. The Last Chance Texaco/Rickie Lee Jones
23. Pretty in Pink/The Psychedelic Furs
24. Beauty Queen/Roxy Music
25. We Got the Beat/The Go-Gos
26. Rock Lobster/The B-52s
27. Genius of Love/The Tom-Tom Club
28. The entirety of Parallel Lines/Blondie
29. Tie Your Mother Down/Queen
30. Kashmir/Led Zeppelin
31. Super Freak/Rick James
32. Pump It Up/Elvis Costello
33. The Diary of Horace Wimp/ELO
34. Ol ‘55/Tom Waits
35. Side B of Divine Madness/Bette Midler
36. School Days/Stanley Clarke
37. Beat Surrender/The Jam
38. No Woman, No Cry/Bob Marley
39. Guyana Punch/The Judys
40. I Might Like You Better If We Slept Together/Romeo Void
41. That Sudden Stop/Lou Ann Barton
42. Let’s Go to Bed/The Cure
43. Romeo & Juliet/The Dire Straits
“The bigness of this novel is so huge, so mammoth, sometimes I have to lie down and put a cool cloth on my head and not have anyone talk to me,” you said, explaining your Printz Award-winning novel Going Bovine. I find this bigness, this expansiveness, to be awesome, and true of all your books, in a really spectacular, everything-including-the-kitchen-sink, the-more-the-merrier kind of way. The Diviners, for example, you describe as “a big Cobb salad of a series,” where you threw together everything you’re interested in, and I think the Gemma Doyle books could quite fairly be described the same way, only gothier. So I’m wondering, what do you leave out? How do you decide which ideas, plotlines, characters, or details to leave in? Have you ever left something out–or in–that you regret?
“So I’m wondering, what do you leave out?” I like to think you’re asking this in a whimpering voice, with a whiff of fear coming off of you. ;-)
I tend to think & write orchestrally. I often wish that I had a more streamlined, linear brain, but I do not. I have to work with what I have. So as I write in this chaotic, symphonic, disjointed way, certain ideas, patterns, and themes emerge. I’m constantly sifting and scanning. That’s why revision is so important. What I *think* the story’s about at first is rarely what it’s about in the end. That first draft is often a false one filled with wrong ideas and emotional defenses. Revising countless times allows me to break through and find the beating heart. My editors, (Wendy Loggia for The GDT, Going Bovine; David Levithan for Beauty Queens; Alvina Ling for The Diviners and Lair of Dreams); my agent, Barry Goldblatt, and some close writer pals often help me to clarify what needs to go or what I feel strongly about keeping. I’m grateful for the dialogue and collaborative nature of the editorial process.
Most of the time, when something doesn’t make the final cut, it’s for a good reason. The talking penis scene in Going Bovine springs to mind. (Sorry. No pun intended.) Ditto the extra narrator in Beauty Queens who was renditioned halfway through the novel. For The Diviners, there was a Gatsbyesque party scene at a house on Long Island that I labored over for weeks. It was a very big, very ornate scene. Alvina said, “Libba, this is a beautiful, but it stops the action dead.” I tried to save it, but in the end, she was absolutely right. It had to go. If there’s anything I learned from my years in advertising, it’s that there are always other ways to approach something creatively, and if you keep at it, you’ll find the right way in.
You’ve explored the idea that silence can be corrosive, both in your books and on your blog, and you’ve spoken quite a bit about the toll keeping secrets has had on you in real life. “It fostered in me a sense of speaking out against injustice, of speaking your truth,” you write, and you have spoken out, about depression, about the impact of AIDS, about marriage equality. One other thing you talk about often and honestly, in a way not many authors do, is fear, especially fear of failure, especially as it relates to writing. “It is my fault. I am a fraud. Real writers don’t struggle this much,” you wrote in one epic blog post, detailing your battle with the “what if I’m just not good enough/smart enough/fast enough/clever enough?” brand of despair. What compels you to share your struggle with readers (which I bet a million aspiring writers appreciate immensely)? Does it help? Do you have any advice for us–aspiring writers, readers, fallible humans alike—on how to keep swimming in the face of existential crisis?
Once, when I was about nine, a neighbor said to my mother, “I worry about your daughter. She’s pathologically honest.” I can only say that I recall always being this way, of blurting out the uncomfortable, awkward-making thing. It’s ironic given that I was trained as a proper southern girl to be always smiling and evasive. And, of course, I grew up thinking that I needed to protect other people—from truth, from my real emotions, from anything they might not want to hear. That secret-keeping is also part of my makeup, and it’s often the source of an internal war. My beloved Gayle Forman, a lady who is not afraid of being honest, will tell me, “I want you to be real Libba, not good southern Libba.” Usually, this means she wants me to go ahead and curse.
Everyone has a personal comfort setting. I know some very private people who would rather die than talk about certain issues publically. I respect that. For me, I feel safer just saying the thing. It might take me a while to say it, and I will angst about it (that internal war). But ultimately, I just have to do it. Everybody has their fears and doubts. Everybody has a story. So often, the emotions that live deep down inside us, the things we are afraid to name for fear that they will separate us from the rest of the world are the very things that, once said, end up connecting us to other humans in a meaningful way. I often think it’s the silence that keeps us feeling isolated and afraid. But of course, your mileage may vary.Just Can’t Get Enough
Question from Patrick Ness: Chris Pratt and I would like to invite you on a double date. You can pick anyone in the world, from history, fiction, anywhere to come with us. They’ll have to talk to you, because I expect I’ll be busy with Chris, but who would you bring? Who, from every possibility available, would you want to go to first base with after a dinner of mozzarella sticks and a horror film with me and my eternal husband Chris Pratt?
Oh, Patrick. Why do you always get to walk off into the sunset with Chris Pratt in these scenarios, you naughty little minx? Is it your ex-pat-ness? (That’s ex-pat American, not ex-Patrickness, which could also be read ex-Patrick-Ness. I’m talking in riddles. Do you see what you do to me, Patrick?) Tell me: When the two of you are alone, you and Mr. Guardian of the Galaxy, do you whisper in his ear, “I’ll be your Crane Wife if you’ll be my Chaos Walking?” I am under no illusions that we’ll all make it to ROSEMARY’S TRIPLETS together, our bellies full of mozzarella sticks. I know you, Ness—you’ll be off sucking face with Pratt, en-Raptor-ed by his tales of a Jurassic World. And then I’ll come home, alone, to the imaginary flat I share with you and see the sock on the door, and I’ll trudge off to an all-night diner to write. You and your hunky faux-husband owe me brunch, Mr. Ness. And I believe you and I had a very firm discussion about the rules of brunch whilst in Australia. See that you abide by them. (Hint: Earlier than noon.)
It’s good to be you, Patrick. The Rest of Us Just Live Here. Le sigh.
The mind boggles at the idea of all of those fascinating people with whom I might dine while waiting out the Pratt-Ness romance. But given everything that has happened in America in the past few years—Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Ferguson, and on and on, everything that is STILL happening—and not so incidentally, I’m writing this answer on the tenth anniversary of Katrina—and given that we are gearing up for another election cycle during which it seems that no horrible racist stone is left unhurled, I’d want to spend that time with Malcolm X. I’d really like to hear what he would have to say about 2015 America. Would he be thrilled about an Obama presidency or disheartened at the obstructionist state of our politics? Would he feel that, with the grassroots organizing and visibility afforded by social media, the revolution was finally being televised? Or would he look at Donald Trump’s poll numbers and go, “Same as it ever was”? And, during my evening with Malcolm X, what would I learn about myself? It would, I’m sure, be life- and soul-changing. ∗
Libba has contributed a question for the next author in the series, writer and comic artist Noelle Stevenson. Watch for an interview with her coming soon!
Libba Bray is the New York Times bestselling author of The Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing); the Michael L. Printz Award-winning Going Bovine; Beauty Queens, an L.A. Times Book Prize finalist; and The Diviners series (The Diviners and Lair of Dreams.) She is originally from Texas but makes her home in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, son, and two sociopathic cats.
–Julie Bartel, currently reading A.S. King’s I Crawl Through It and Democracy by Papadatos, Kawa, and Donna
The post One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Libba Bray appeared first on The Hub.
Welcome back! It’s another hump day and we are exploring some more of our favorite literary tropes in YA fiction. “Trope” is defined as an overused theme, and we embrace and enjoy them again and again. Last week we investigated old clunkers: cars with “character” driven by some of our favorite characters. This week let us delve into the “I already know you introduction.” Typically, it goes something like this:
“Hi, I’m so-and-so.”
“I know who you are, we’ve been going to the same school since [fill in the blank] grade.”
And a friendship is sealed.
Most teenagers’ worlds are confined by the great equalizer: high school. So often when teens “meet” each other, they already know each other. Depending on the size of the school and the all-powerful degree of popularity… this can make for some fun meeting scenes in YA literature. Let’s get to know this trope, shall we?
The Spectacular Now (2009 Best Books for Young Adults) by Tim Tharp: The “I already know you introduction” happens when Sutter meets Aimee; he is passed out on a stranger’s lawn with no memory of how he got there or where his car is; she is up bright and early delivering newspapers. Nice to “meet” you! Aimee knows Sutter– everybody knows Sutter. But Sutter does not know Aimee. In typical Tharp style, he says it all here in just a few sentences. Party boy with heart Sutter is one of the best flawed heroes in YA lit. And book worm Aimee with a hidden zest for life is a wonderful yin to Sutter’s yang.
Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian: Hallie meets Sean at a barn party. Hallie is a senior, beautiful, and popular. She introduces herself to Sean but he of course already knows who she is. Perhaps Hallie chooses Sean because of his younger age, relative inexperience, and puppy-dog like affection for her. What does this say about Hallie’s state of mind?
Knights of the Hill Country (2007 Best Books for Young Adults, 2009 Popular Paperbacks) by Tim Tharp: Hampton’s friends meet Sara. When football ranks higher than God, what does that make the players? Hampton Green is famous at Kennisaw High because he is “knight.” But Hampton is different from his loud, hot-tempered, and conceited teammates. Hampton and quiet intelligent Sara hit it off, despite outward differences. But when the odd couple are sitting together in the local “Tastee Freeze” and the rest of the Knights stroll in, there is a very chilly introduction. Not one of the players have any idea who Sara is, though as she points out, they have been in class together since the eighth grade.
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy: Beautiful outspoken Willowdean and football hero Mitch have been in the same grade for years. But like a good Southern gentleman Mitch introduces himself to her politely. Aww…. Mitch: you are so sweet! Willowdean feels some camaraderie with Mitch, nonetheless, she is interested in someone else whom she thinks is out of her league.
Do you think how you meet is important? Have you ever “met” someone you actually already know? Awkward. And, by the way… has anyone else noticed a lot of introductions in YA lit lately going something like this: “I’m Tara, by the way.”
Join us next Wednesday as we explore another literary trope: “I have to take care of my parent(s).”
—Tara Kehoe, currently reading Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian
The post YA Literary Tropes: The “I Already Know You” Introduction appeared first on The Hub.
If you are like me, you’ve been ready for Halloween since August 1st. Not everyone is so Halloween-happy. Maybe you haven’t bought out the grocery store’s stock of canned pumpkin or purchased a new shade of orange nail polish, but, like it or not, October is upon us, which means you may have teens swarming your stacks in search of something to creep them out and give them nightmares. In my experience I get more requests for “scary stories” than horror novels. With that in mind I’m going to highlight some collections of short stories sure to meet various spine-chilling needs as well as give some horror specific readers’ advisory tips.
- “Scary” is subjective. Every reader is going to be comfortable with different levels of the supernatural, violence, gore, etc. A good way to assess what type of horror a reader wants is to ask them what their favorite scary book is. If they are not an avid reader you may need to ask about their favorite scary movie or scary television show. You are probably going to want to recommend a different book to a fan of The Sixth Sense than you would to a fan of Saw.
- If you are not a horror reader yourself or get scared easily, it’s OK for you to tell teens this. Particularly with younger teens this may help them to be more open about how scary they want their stories to be. If you aren’t a horror reader, however, you will want to familiarize yourself with the popular horror titles in your collection. If you can pick the brain of a fellow staff member or teen volunteer who reads a lot of horror, this is a great start.
- Just because teens ask for “scary” doesn’t necessarily mean they are looking for horror. You may find after asking some follow up questions that they are really looking for mystery or fantasy with horror elements.
- Don’t forget about nonfiction and classics! Familiarize yourself with fairy tales and folklore at 398.2. Don’t underestimate the popularity of urban legends and ghost stories that have been whispered at sleepovers for decades or, in some cases, centuries. Sometimes the mere mention of, “well, let’s look in nonfiction” makes the reader’s experience all the creepier.
Fairy Tales and Folklore
My father swallowed me.
My sister buried all my bones
Under the juniper tree.
-“The Juniper Tree” by the Brothers Grimm
See what I mean about folklore being creepy? Many of the lesser known Grimm’s Tales are pretty chilling. This collection by Philip Pullman is one of my favorites and could be a good recommendation for teens wanting something scary but not too scary or teens into fairy tale retellings who want to get acquainted with the original stories.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3 by Alvin Schwartz are, in my opinion, the definitive collection of scary folklore. Though they are usually shelved in the children’s rather than young adult section, I think their appeal reaches to teens, and particularly to reluctant or struggling readers. If you are lucky enough to have the original editions with Stephen Gammell’s terrifying illustrations, even better.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll is a collection of short stories in the form of comics. Carroll is masterful in her use of color, and makes great use of what we don’t see to invoke a sense of dread. These open ended stories will haunt readers for hours after finishing this slim collection.
Oh, but you must travel those woods again and again…
And you must be lucky to avoid the wolf every time…
But the wolf…the wolf only needs enough luck to find you once.
–Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black is chock-full of horrific creatures: vampires, werewolves, the devil, elves, to name just a few. The first story “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” served as the basis of Black’s later novel of the same name. Recommend this one to fans of vampire fiction, horror fantasy, and readers who want more world-building in their scary stories.
Slasher Girls & Monster Boys is a new YA horror anthology released just this past August. It is edited and compiled by April Genevieve Tucholke with an all-star line up of authors including: Leigh Bardugo, Kendare Blake, A.G. Howard, Marie Lu, Jonathan Maberry, Carrie Ryan and Nova Ren Suma. Proceed with caution when recommending this title. These stories pack a punch. There is implied and described dismemberment, implied sexual assault, and all manner of gore. Each story is inspired by a film, song or book and each story is deeply chilling and disturbing. Recommend this one to older teens or teens accustomed to reading adult horror fiction. In my opinion this title is even creepier on audio.
This is just a tiny sampling of the spooky reading that is out there for teens. Please add your favorite scary story collections in the comments.
— Emily Childress-Campbell, currently reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Books with lots of action are often a home run with readers, especially those who like a plot-driven story. They can cross a wide-range of genres, from spy fiction to murder mysteries.
Action books are often very heavy on the plot with danger pulling the story forward, leaving readers on the edge of their seat desperate to know what happens next. Elements of risk and surprise are key factors in action stories. The events that trigger the action or danger are typically outside the protagonist’s day to day life. Often, at the end of the story, the hero or heroine is never the same.
* Plot twists
With action novels, readers quickly turn the pages – often reading these novels in a single setting. In a series, there is often an overall arc that ties all the books together, even though the primary plot of the book is resolved.
Actions books are perfect escapism reads; this type of story rarely happens in real life.
Readers like rooting for the underdogs. Often times these teen characters go against supposedly smarter more savvy adults and yet, they are victorious in their quest. It’s hard not to root for the underdog.
Sure Fire by Jack Higgins
Traitor by Andy McNab
Cherub Series by Robert Muchamore
Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson
Heist Society series by Ally Carter
Killer Instinct by S. E. Green
Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz
The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Living by Matt de la Peña
See Jane Run by Hannah Jayne
The Night She Disappeared by April Henry
The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall
Fake ID by Lamar Giles
No Safety in Numbers by Dayna Lorentz
I Am the Weapon by Allen Zadoff
The Devil’s Breath by David Gilman
Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond
Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards
— Jennifer Rummel currently reading Shadows of Sherwood by Kekla Magoon
As library workers, especially those of us who work with teens, our role can shift to “social worker” in an instant. Our teen patrons visit the library everyday and they begin to trust and confide in us. Because most of us don’t have the training to work with at-risk youth, we can feel a little helpless but we don’t have to because we have the power of a good book.
About a year ago, a member of my book discussion group seemed to be questioning his sexuality and he never talked about it. I gave him Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith to read because I thought the ending was perfect for his situation. He loved the book and now he’s very open with his sexuality and he accepts who he is. Did my recommendation help him? I don’t really know but I like to think it gave him some perspective. When I see a teen who I think or know is struggling with a personal problem, I’ll strike up a book conversation on their next library visit asking them what they like to read. If they are a reader, I’ll find a book from their favorite genre that deals with the subject they are struggling with.
In my library, I see homeless teens, teens with alcoholic parents, teens living with a dying parent, and teens dealing with gender identity and body image. I used to feel powerless but after I recommended Grasshopper Jungle, I realized that I could be an effective adult in the lives of teens. Below are a list of good books that blend popular genres with social issues. Gone are the days of feeling helpless. Say goodbye to sifting through numerous Google results. You now possess the power of reader’s advisory in a flash. You are the newest member of the Social Justice League!
- Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano –Thriller
Nearly Boswell lives in a trailer park with her exotic dancing mother and is obsessed with newspaper ads. When a serial killer begins leaving cryptic clues in newspaper ads, Nearly maybe the one one who can solve them and the case.
- Sorta Like a Star by Matthew Quick – Humor
Amber lives on a bus but is a glass half full kinda person but when a tragic event occurs, will that event threaten her optimism?
- Tyrell by Coe Booth –Urban
Tyrell lives in a homeless shelter with his mother and brother. His father is in jail, his love life is complicated, and he feels the pressure to get out of the shelter. Will his means to an end land him in jail like his father?
- Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli– Humor
Simon isn’t quite out of the closet and neither is Blue, his anonymous email friend. When Martin accidentally sees Simon’s emails, Simon finds himself on the other side of blackmail and is forced to hook up Martin and his friend Abby.
Austin loves his girlfriend or maybe he’s in love with his best friend, Robbie. Meanwhile, man-sized praying mantises have taking over his little town.
- Beauty Queens by Libba Bray –Humor (2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) (2012 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)
What happens when a plane crashes with twelve teen beauty queens? Will get along? Will they survive? Will they learn the opening dance number in time?
- Paperweight by Meg Haston –Contemporary
Stevie’s life is upside down. Her mother is gone, she drinks too much, she starves herself, and she killed her brother. She now finds herself in an eating disorder rehab facility where she must deal with her mother’s abandonment, her eating disorder, and her brother’s death.
- Elena Vanishing by Elena Dunkle and Clara B. Dunkle– Non Fiction/Memoir
Elena has a daily goal to reduce calories. Elena is vanishing. This story was co-written by Elena’s mother, Clara, and is told over a five year period.
- The Dogs by Allan Stratton – Thriller/Mystery
Cameron and his mother are always on the run from their abusive father/husband. After a suspicious car shows up by their house, they are on the move again and end up in a small town in a creepy farmhouse. After a couple of taunting remarks from his new classmates, Cameron decides to do some research on his new house and uncovers a possible murder 50 years prior.
- Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn –Paranormal (2013 Morris Award Winner) (2015 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)
Andrew is a loner and he sits and waits to shift into a werewolf. Told in the present and the past, Drew flashes back to a tumultuous summer with his siblings and cousins.
- Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell –Romance (2014 Printz Honoree) (2014 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults) (2014 Best Fiction For Young Adults) (2014 Teens’ Top Ten)
Eleanor is the new girl. She has frizzy red hair, she wears baggy men’s clothes, and lives with her 4 brothers and sisters and her mother and stepfather in a two bedroom house. Park is half white, half Korean boy who lives in the shadow of his taller younger brother. Together, Eleanor and Park find love for comics, music, and each other.
- If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch –Mystery
Carey and her younger sister sit in a trailer deep in the woods and wait for their mentally ill mother to return. They are filthy, hungry, and scared when a stranger comes to rescue them. Living with her new family, Carey must learn how to survive in the suburbs while desperately trying to keep a secret.
- Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater –Paranormal/Romance (2013 Teens’ Top Ten) (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
Blue has been told that she will cause her true love to die. When she befriends four private school boys and joins their hunt for a mythical king that promises one wish, Blue finds herself in love. What is she to do?
- This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales -Music
Since the fourth grade, Elise has been ignored by her peers. The summer before her junior year, Elise spend hours trying to become a new person so she can be liked. But when the plan fails she discovers a new passion, DJing.
- Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon -Romance
Madeline suffers from the bubble boy syndrome where she’s allergic to everything and can’t go outside. Her only human contact are her mother and her nurse. One day a new family moves in and she fall in love with Olly.
- Bone Gap by Laura Ruby –Magical Realism
Bone Gap Illinois is a little town that has gaps where one can fall into and never find their way out. When Roza goes missing and creepy Finn doesn’t help her, the town suspects Finn but Finn suspects a mysterious stranger.
- Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid –Road Trip/Romance
Leila is on a road trip to the Northern Lights and along the way she meets Hudson, Bree, Elliot, and Sonia. As Leila sets on a journey to find herself, the lives of these four teens have been greatly impacted by her friendship.
Allyson and her best friend are on a European trip the summer before their freshman year in college when Allyson spends one adventurous day, and night, with a charming actor named Willem. When Allyson awakens the next morning and Willem isn’t there and doesn’t contact her after she arrives back in the states, the mystery of his disappearance consumes her life. Did Willem use her or did something tragic happen? Allyson decides to save enough money to return to Paris for answers and discovers a lot about herself along the way.
- Challenger Deep by Neal Schusterman –Schizophrenia & Fantasy
Caden is a lot of things. He’s an artist, he’s a sophomore, he’s a member of the crew on a sea vessel.
- Mosquitoland by David Arnold –Depression & Road Trip/Humor
Mim is not okay. Her father thinks she’s depressed and needs to be medicated, she hates her new step mother, and now something maybe wrong with her real mother. At this news, Mim gets on the next bus where she befriends a handsome photographer and a homeless down-syndrome boy.
- All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven –Depression & Romance
Violet, the popular girl, is counting the days for high school to end so she can begin a new life. Finn, the weird kid, is counting the days that he stays “awake.” When Violet and Finn become partners in a history project, Finn saves Violet as she comes to term with her sister’s death but can Violet save Finn?
- The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness -OCD & Romance
Have you ever wondered what the teens from District 3 were doing while Katniss and Peeta were saving the world? Well, wonder no more.
-Dawn, currently reading, The Rose Society by Marie Lu
The post Diversify YA Life: Social Justice League-Reader’s Advisory for Teens Dealing with Social Issues appeared first on The Hub.
There are lots of new books hitting shelves this fall, and it seems like some much-loved series are coming to a close or beloved authors are releasing new stand-alone titles. Check out the books some Hub contributors are looking forward to reading soon!
I am super excited for the new book by Patrick Ness, The Rest of Us Just Live Here. I love the idea that in the world of the Harry Potters & Percy Jacksons there are regular kids that go to school with the “chosen ones” who are just trying to make it through the day. Plus! The cover glows in the dark! – Traci Glass
I am super excited for Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. I love how fanfiction has become such an accepted part of pop culture, and am really interested to see how Simon and Baz stand alone without the world of Fangirl. – Molly Wetta
I can’t wait for the October release of Robin Talley’s new novel, What We Left Behind. I really liked her debut novel, Lies We Tell Ourselves, and after being lucky enough to meet Robin when she visited our school this past spring, I was even more excited to read her upcoming projects! I’m especially looking forward to What We Left Behind because it features several topics that sorely need more coverage in YA lit, including the transition from high school to college, the changing dynamics of a long term romantic relationship, and the diverse experiences of LGBTQ+ young adults–including a genderqueer protagonist! – Kelly Dickinson
Winter, the last book in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, comes out on November 10th! I love fairytale retellings, and this series’ science fiction setting is layered and fascinating. I particularly want to get my hands on the audiobook version. Rebecca Soler has done a phenomenal job as a reader, really capturing the different personalities of each heroine. – Jennifer Billingsley
I’m a huge fan of Marie Lu so I can’t wait until the October 13th release of The Rose Society, the second book in her Young Elites series. I love the fact that the main character Adelina is such an anti-hero. She’s very hard to like – almost villainous – yet despite her serious flaws, you sympathize with her anyway because of what she’s had to endure. Lu really knows how to craft unforgettable characters and an amazing fantasy world. – Sharon Rawlins
What new releases in young adult fiction are you most excited to read? Let us know in the comments!
— Molly Wetta, still reading A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
The post Take Five: Fall 2015 New Releases in Young Adult Fiction appeared first on The Hub.
It’s a broad category, but outer space adventure is a defining part of science fiction – both on screen and in YA literature. From Gravity (2013) and Interstellar (2014) to next month’s hotly anticipated The Martian (out October 2!), space travel seems to be just about everywhere.
Between explanations of technology and complex new worlds, science fiction centered around space travel can sometimes be a little heavy for the casual reader. Have no fear, though – YA books are the perfect entry point if you’re new to the genre. Usually combining a fast pace with a compelling story, there’s a science fiction book for everyone.
If you’re looking to broaden the scope of your galaxy hopping beyond Star Wars (out December 18, as I’m sure everyone on the planet knows by now), check out these stellar reads.
Top of my list is Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee. It’s an ambitious pairing of outer space adventure and edge-of-your-seat sports action, but the combination works. Carr Luka is fighting to become the galaxy’s number one zero gravity boxer, and his determination and genuine personality soon make him the top hero of down-on-its-luck Earth. Compared to the successful colonies on Mars, Earth has struggled to keep up – so the athletic success of Carr, a regular Earthling with no advanced genetic modifications, is a big deal. Which means that when Carr discovers his genetic identity isn’t as heroic as he thought, he has a serious problem on his hands. Blow-by-blow sports action (thrilling even for a non-sporty person like myself) combined with impressive world building means this one is a winner.
Entangled by Amy Rose Capetta features a universe that combines the action and pace of Star Wars with the irreverent humor of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Cade is a drifter on a planet where humans are third class citizens. Nothing seems to matter much to her besides playing her beloved guitar – that is, until she’s tracked down by a scientist who explains that because she was genetically “entangled” with another person when she was just a baby, Cade might be the key to saving humans from the debilitating Space Sick. Without becoming Space Sick, humans could travel the galaxy just like everyone else, potentially even find a planet of their very own to replace their abandoned Earth. When Cade feels the mysterious pull of her entangled other half – a boy named Xan – she’s determined to do anything it takes to find him – including joining up with a band of smugglers and outlaws.
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, the first of the Starbound trilogy, is an excellent example of a romance set inside a space-bound science fiction universe. Spoiled belle of the ball Lilac LaRoux is the daughter of the richest man in the universe, so she’s not supposed to have anything to do with lowly soldier Tarver Merendsen. But when they’re the only two survivors of a horrific spaceliner accident, they have to work together to stay alive – and stay sane. The rapport between them is fantastic, and this story about love and loyalty blossoms in the harsh world of an alien planet.
– Savannah Kitchens, currently reading Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, collected by April Genevieve Tucholke.
It’s Banned Books Week! That time of year when we are all encouraged to discuss the importance of intellectual freedom and the problem with banning books. 2015 is not without its share of book challenges and bans making it into the news. For a few examples check out these articles on Ted Dawe’s Into the River, Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, or Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Nighttime.
While news articles like these are a great place to start talking about book banning, there’s another kind of censorship I want to encourage us all to think about – self censorship. A simple search will pull up a number of interesting studies and articles on the subject, especially Debra Lau Whelen’s 2009 survey for School Library Journal and the accompanying article “A Dirty Little Secret: Self-Censorship.”
This Banned Books Week I want to challenge us all to think about self censorship in terms of our own choices, and hopefully keep it in mind as we make decisions for our library patrons throughout the year.
— Miriam Wallen, currently reading Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick
The post It’s Not Just About Banned Books: Self-Censorship and Library Collections appeared first on The Hub.
Happy Fall Hubbers! Here’s your Week in Review for Friday, September 25th!
Books and Reading
- The New York Times has a plot twist for us! E-books sales have slipped, and apparently print is far from dead according to their latest headline.
- In honor of Bi Visibility Day, We Need Diverse Books put together a list of YA books with Bi lead characters.
- Marvel announces new Black Panther comic series to be written by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
- The Mary Sue takes a look back at how comics have dealt with domestic abuse plot lines.
- Are you all ready for Banned Book Week starting this Sunday? Lots of articles coming out in preparation for the big event. Here’s one discussing how most challenged books are either by or about people of color. Here’s the ALA list of the Top 10 most frequently challenged YA titles.
- Goodreads put together their Top 100 YA Books of All Time.
- Pope Francis was in DC this week. Here is the transcript of his speech to Congress.
- Buzzfeed did a spotlight on a series of Harry Potter comics that feature James and Lily as a young couple on Tumblr from artist Julvett.
- Viola Davis became the first African American woman to win an Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama.
- Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones fame is set to star in the film adaptation of The Forest of Hands and Teeth!
- Mary Sollosi from Entertainment Weekly wrote about the 6 Reasons we still love the Pride and Prejudice miniseries after 20 years (has it really been that long?!).
Just for Fun!
- A picture essay from the Guardian: Bookmarks versus dog ears: how you keep track of your reading.
- Get Peanutized! Turn yourself into a Peanuts character.
—Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen
Wibbly wobbly- timey wimey.
Bow ties are cool.
It’s bigger on the inside.
Fantastic! Allons-y! Geronimo!
For the uninitiated, those phrases and words mean little to nothing. To the Whovian Fandom, fans of the British television series Doctor Who, they mean a whole lot. Doctor Who (never Dr. Who!) has been a phenomenon for over fifty years, and with each new Doctor a whole new generation of fans is born. To date there have been 13 different Doctors (if you include the War Doctor, who only appeared in the 50th anniversary special in 2013 and was played by Sir John Hurt). They are all the same person, though- a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who regenerates every few seasons instead of dying. Though he keeps the memories of his past incarnations, every Doctor is a slightly different man, with a different way of dressing, connecting to his companions, and even reacting to the universe around him, and every Whovian has their favorite.
Chances are, if you’re a Whovian, you did just that!
Commonly referred to by either the actor’s last name (for example Tennant’s Doctor, or just simply Tennant) or their number (which is always capitalized) fans have spent the last 50 years touting their favorites as the best and arguing over whether the Daleks or Cybermen or Weeping Angels are the most villainous. Though times and special effects have changed, at the heart of the story (or really at the hearts, since The Doctor has two) is an alien who leads his usually human companions on amazing adventures through time and space while he tries to save as many people and aliens from bad situations as he can- even if it means occasionally losing himself in the process.
Deep, huh? But also a lot of fun! The Doctor travels through time and space in his T.A.R.D.I.S. (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), a space ship-time machine combo that always looks like a 1960’s British Police Phone Box because its chameleon circuit is stuck. Many of the show’s quirks stem from the fact that back in 1963, this “kids’ show” had a limited budget. Therefore, rather than create a new ship for every show the TARDIS has been stuck in its familiar blue box form for fifty years, a shape which has become an icon of the show. The Doctor’s ability to regenerate, too, was less a product of story telling and more a way to keep the show going when William Hartnell, Doctor number One, became too ill to carry on the role.
In the same way that The Doctor is not confined to any one place or time, Doctor Who is not confined to television. Here are some materials that any Whovian would be interested in reading, or would also be great introductions to The Doctor for any non-Whovians who like science fiction, graphic novels, adventure stories, or information about the behind the scenes world of the entertainment industry.
There are several newer Doctor Doctor Who novels available, as well as audio dramas that are often read by the actors in the show. These books read like episodes and may also appeal to non-fans of the show who are fans of action- adventure and science fiction. These are usually about a Doctor and his companions from Ten and on, though there is a short story compilation that was originally published online and recently revised to include 12 tales in it—one for each Doctor, and written by some notable authors (Neil Gaiman, Eoin Colfer, and Holly Black just to name a couple.) For fans of all Doctors this is a real treat, and though it’s a lengthy tome the stories are short and action packed. They are a great introduction to The Doctor in his many forms for new fans and non-fans alike.
If your interest turns to a more graphic literary experience, IDW and more recently Titan Comics have comic series with some stunning artwork as well as adventurous story lines. Doctors from all time periods appear, though Doctors Ten, Eleven and Twelve have gotten more love recently. If you’d rather not collect weekly or monthly installments most of these stories have been bound into graphic novels. There was even a Star Trek: The Next Generation – Doctor Who crossover well worth mentioning, particularly if you’re trying to introduce a Trekker to Who, or a Whovian to Trek, or if, like me, you’re just a fan of both.
If you’re looking to get more of a handle on the Doctor Whoniverse, or know someone who like to see how television shows are pulled together and special effects work, there are some excellent nonfiction titles that delve into the creation of the show, detail the monsters, go in-depth on the characters, and just discuss The Doctor himself. With the Fiftieth Anniversary having just happened in 2013 and a new regeneration of The Doctor coming on the scene about the same time many older non-fiction volumes have been updated with new information. Here are a couple that Whovians in my neck of the woods can’t get enough of as well as some resources to find out more:
Wikipedia’s Doctor Who page: I know, Wikipedia is not a librarian’s favorite tool, but Whovians are fiercely protective of The Doctor, and it’s unlikely that there will be any misinformation to be found on that page!
BBC’s Doctor Who: The BBC Doctor Who site is a great place to go for information on the new series, Doctor Who history, and even games.
IMDb Doctor Who page: The IMDb page that covers all episodes produced from 2005, when the series was rebooted with Christopher Eccleston as Doctor number Nine.
Incidentally, my favorite Doctor is Ten, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Nine since he was technically my first. And of the “classic” Doctors I’m partial to Four and his most excellent scarf.
— Carla land, currently reading Doctor Who: 12 Doctors, 12 Stories again because it was just that good.
Can you believe it’s already almost the end of September? I think I must do a lot of my Hub posts at the end of the month because by the time I’m writing them I’m astounded at how it’s suddenly the end of the month.
Anyways. Hubbers! Exciting news! Nonfiction for teens is getting better and better. I had my whole month filled to the brim with great nonfiction that totally read like fiction. I was on the edge of my seat; I wanted to learn more about each topic as soon as I was finished with each book I read. I was excited (for lack of a better word) about typhoid fever, WWII Russia and WWI Russia.
Teens may think that nonfiction is dull and boring (I’m pretty sure that I did when I was a teen), but I think that nonfiction for teens and adults has come a long way. Instead of rote recitation of facts and figures, nonfiction is including stories of hope, triumph, will, starvation, cannibalism (we’ll get to that later), and more in a way that is lyrically beautiful and hooks readers from the very first page.
I actually wanted to read most of these books because I participated in School Library Journal’s annual FREE all-day virtual conference, SummerTeen. If you haven’t participated in the SummerTeen experience, you totally should. It’s a fun day of presentations (Jason Reynolds’ keynote speech was so unbelievable; I’m still thinking about it 2 months later) that you can attend from your desk or in your pajamas – what could be better than that? So, at SummerTeen, I “attended” a great session on new nonfiction for teens that featured some of the books I’ll be spotlighting today. I’ll also be featuring a couple of additional nonfiction books that I loved that I just know the teens in your life will grab up and absorb knowledge from. Join me, won’t you – on this journey through the world of extraordinary nonfiction.
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming (2015 YALSA Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist): This book is the oldest of all the ones I’ll be talking about today; it came out in 2014 and was a finalist for the 2015 YALSA Nonfiction for Young Adults award as well as a 2015 Siebert honor book. And, it’s well deserved – this book was so engaging and entertaining, I wanted it to never end.
Now, I’m sure most of us know the story of the Romanovs: Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, Empress Alexandra, and their 4 daughters and 1 son loomed over Russia from 1868-1918, and through their policies created mass inequity between classes while living in decadence. When you first open the book and see that huge family chart with names and dates and all the lines connecting them and theirs, you might feel like “I’m not going to understand one thing in this book” (and “you” was actually me) – but, fear not – this book is so easy to read that first chart will be long forgotten after the first chapter. Fleming does a great job of incorporating not only accounts from those high in power in the government, but also accounts from everyday workers and those so poor they could not afford to eat; it provided a nice balance to the Romanovs who thought that everything was perfectly fine in Russia, and that everyone just wanted to complain. When it finally comes to the end that we all know about, I still ended up learning things that I’m still thinking about many months later (just remember the jewels under their dresses when you get to that part of the story. Good grief.).
Plus, Rasputin. People. That could have been a story all to itself. The book ends with the death of Lenin and the realization that Stalin is now coming into power. I was so mad when this book ended. I wanted to know what happened when Stalin came into power! But, guess what? Then I picked up this next book, and my wishes were granted…
Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson (2015 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature Longlist): So, short personal note first: I was listening to Here & Now on NPR Monday morning, and all of a sudden they started talking about this book! I yelped out loud, and my husband thought I had spotted a bug. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the interview here it is: NPR Symphony for the City of the Dead, and they play pieces of Shostakovich’s symphonies, too! Outstanding!
This book is so good, people. So good. It’s the story of Dmitri Shostakovich and his Symphony No. 7 – the Leningrad Symphony which he wrote during the ravages of WWII when Hitler’s army surrounded his beloved city and separated it from the whole world. No food, no fuel, no one coming in or out. Everyone was doomed to die within the city limits, but you know what? Not everyone did – and this symphony that was born out of starvation and fear and terror and sadness might have been a part of that city’s resilience and determination to survive. It’s broken into three parts: telling the early story of Shostakovich, the invasion and surrounding of Leningrad that also includes the composition of the symphony and its eventual performances, and what happened afterward. Plus, you get a whole history lesson on Stalin’s rise to power, and all the horrible things he did that made it so easy for Hitler to invade.
It picked right up where The Family Romanov left off, so it’s great as a stand-alone or paired with that book to provide the history of Russia over 2 World Wars. M.T. Anderson described his book (and I’m paraphrasing here) as a horrific dystopian novel where there’s cannibalism (there it is), espionage, murder, intrigue and more…but, IT’S ALL TRUE. If that doesn’t sell this awesome book to teens, I don’t know what will. I’ve included a link to the Leningrad Symphony below. Since I’ve read this book, it’s all I’ve wanted to listen to.
Terrible Typhoid Mary: a True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti: I really loved Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s other nonfiction works; Hitler Youth and They Called Themselves the KKK. They both are just really great nonfiction books if you’re looking for other titles by her to try. And, I think that this book on Typhoid Mary is just as interesting as her previous works. It’s well-researched, full of “OMG!” moments, and just an overall fascinating and engaging read. Susan gives readers the full story (as best she can with spotty records. Oh, and Typhoid Mary wasn’t big on writing about herself or giving interviews) on the woman history has deemed the deadliest cook in America. Everywhere she was, people contracted typhoid fever, and many people died as a result. But, she never admitted responsibility, never admitted that she had ever even had typhoid. She was held for many years in a prison on an island, but was eventually released…and you won’t believe what happened after that. I didn’t know much about Mary Mallon, so this story definitely piqued my interest in learning more about her.
As I mentioned, there isn’t a lot of information about Mary available besides testimonials from the few people who pursued her over miles and time; Mary was very private, gave no interviews, and hardly ever spoke of herself. But, Susan did a great job at finding all the hidden sources of information and anecdotes to write a book that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. And, also make them deathly afraid of eating homemade ice cream with fresh peaches ever again.
Extraordinary People: a Semi-Comprehensive Guide to Some of the World’s Most Fascinating Individuals by Michael Hearst; illustrated by Aaron Scamihorn: Sometimes I just don’t have the time to read all the nonfiction books or biographies on all the people I want to know about (or on the people that I don’t know that I want to know about). That’s why I really liked Extraordinary People – it’s a book of single page stories of different people – some famous, some not – that gives readers a taste of a certain person’s extraordinariness. For example – did you know that Charlie Chaplin’s body was dug up and held for ransom? Have you ever heard of Jeanne De Clisson, the “Lioness of Brittany” (I hadn’t!)? There’s tons more information to be had in this fun and fast read that will engage readers with interesting stories and beautiful illustrations. I wanted to think that I’d read a story here and there, but once you get started, you just want to keep seeing who is going to pop up next. This book reminded me of a nonfiction book I enjoyed a few years back – How They Croaked: the Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg, illustrated by Kevin O’Malley – it’s a fun nonfiction title of all the weird ways famous people have died. Also, with fun illustrations!
Well, that’s it for this month! I had 2 more nonfiction books to read for this post, but I got so caught up in M.T. Anderson’s Symphony for the City of the Dead, that I lost track of time! I’ll do another nonfiction post soon, I promise! And, next month: a post on the books featured on the Longlist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. As you can see, nonfiction books can be just as exciting and awesome as fiction titles. So, the next time you have a teen asking for a book about disease or scary stuff or beautiful music or they just want an interesting read, make sure to include a nonfiction title in that stack of books you pass along. Until next month, Hubbers! Oh! And, if you have any fun nonfiction you’ve read lately, leave it in the comments.
— Traci Glass, currently reading, Foodprints: the Story of What We Eat by Paula Ayer