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2017 Hub Reading Challenge March Check-in

Fri, 03/24/2017 - 07:00

Hello everyone, how is your Hub Challenge going?

I am curious to hear how everyone approaches the Challenge. Personally, I start off with good intentions like say, reading through all of the Printz books I haven’t read yet but then get distracted by other books. Look! There’s that comic I’ve been meaning to read! Or, Ooh, I need a new audiobook for my drive home.

I’m easily distracted.

Even though I tend to jump around with my lists and books, I often find that I notice different aspects of the books and pair them together in my mind. In this year’s reading I started to notice a pattern: so many of the books that I really loved focused on female friendships. This is maybe not groundbreaking territory for YA books as friendship is so often a huge part of teens’ lives, but some of the ways in which friendship and the intense bonds between girls stood out to me.

Some of these friendships were of the awesome, ride-or-die, girl gang variety. I love a girl gang so the Paper Girls (Great Graphic Novels) and Giant Days (Great Graphic Novels)comics are great. Even if the titular Paper Girls aren’t the closets of friends, I love that they band together in the face of some seriously weird happenings in Cleveland. Cliff Chiang’s moody art doesn’t hurt either nor the “Stranger Things”-vibe. Side note: I loved “Stranger Things” but can we remake it starring the Paper Girls instead? Also, the hilarious ups and downs of the college lives of Esther, Daisy, and Susan remind me that no matter happens the most important thing is to have your friends by your side.

Other than delightful girl gang escapades, another theme I noticed in my reading was that of the unlikely friendship. Whether it’s between hard, vengeful Alex and social Peekay in The Female of the Species (Best Fiction); worldly Botille and pious Dolssa in The Passion of Dolssa (Printz, Best Fiction); or even shy Katie and her glamorous grandmother Mary in Unbecoming (Stonewall), I loved all these surprising pairs. In all these books one girl or the other sticks their neck for her friend, fighting for her safety. It’s a really nice reminder to all those who think that teen girl-dom is all about cattiness and Mean Girls-style sass that it’s also about being there for your friends.

I know that’s not all of the books in the Hub Challenge that may focus on female friendship but those are some of my favorites. Any suggestions for where I should go from here to find more great lady reads?

Let us know how you are doing with the Challenge and don’t forget about the sortable spreadsheet! Here are the guidelines in case you don’t remember:

  • Format matters: a title that has been recognized for both the print version and the audiobook version can be both read and listened to and count as two books, but a book that has won multiple awards or appears on multiple lists in the same format only counts as one title.
  • Books must be read/listened to (both begun and finished) since the award winners and selected lists have been released and 11:59pm EST on June 22. If you’ve already read/listened to a title, you must re-read/listen to it for it to count.
  • Just about everyone who doesn’t work for ALA is eligible to participate. Non-ALA/YALSA members are eligible. Teens are eligible. Non-US residents/citizens are eligible. (More eligibility questions? Leave a comment or email us.)
  • Once you finish the challenge, we’ll contact you with details about creating and publishing your response.
  • If you have finished the challenge, let us know here!  The grand prize winner will be selected by 11:59pm EST on June 23. The winner will be notified via email.

— Anna Tschetter, Hub Advisory Board

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Teens in Outer Space

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 07:00

In February, NASA scientist discover seven Earth like planets out in space.  Although these planets are 40 light years or hundreds of thousands of years away, that doesn’t stop us from wondering if there’s other life out there.  Luckily, there are authors who have wondered the same thing and you can check out their space stories below.

Nemesis is a diabolic-a killing machine.  When her master and friend is summoned to become a hostage for political gains, Nemesis protects her the only way she knows how-she must become her.

Akos, son of an oracle, lives on the farthest planet from the son-Thuvhe. His life along with many others is fated yet, he doesn’t know his fate until all the fates are announced space-wide. Now that all the fates have been revealed, all the fated including Akos and his family are in danger.  Cyra is the youngest daughter of the Shotet’s elite family. The Shotets live on Thuvhe but are at war with Akos’ people. Cyra’s family will stop at nothing to rule their planet including kidnapping and killing to change their fates.

Cinder is a cyborg and was raised by her adopted family after a crash killed her parents.  After her father dies, Cinder’s evil stepmother sells her to the government for testing to find a cure of a deadly virus.  When Cinder realizes she is immune to the virus she also learns that others may not want to use her to save her people.

Ender is special and when the government begins to notice, he is recruited to lead a team of teenagers to fight the enemy in outer space.

Darrow is a red and a member of the lowest class.  He and the other Reds believe their hard work hard is for a better planet for their kids but when Darrow finds out he’s basically a slave for the richest class, he infiltrates their Institute to find answers.

Zen likes trains especially the rails in his alternate universe in space.  When a mysterious man named The Raven pays Zen to steal a box from the train of the emperor, Zen isn’t sure if The Raven is evil or if it’s the government that’s evil.

Kady and Evan happen to be living on a planet that’s just been invaded by two megacorporations.  As they try to flee on an evacuation ship, they are faced with a new problem-a deadly virus.

Rhee is an empress who will do almost anything to claim the throne and Aly is a rising star of his planet that has been accused of killing Rhee. What happens when their two planets collide?

When a spaceliner crashes leaving two survivors, Lilac who comes from money and Tarver who comes from nothing. They must join forces to find life.

— Dawn Abron,  currently reading A Conjuring of Light by VE Schwab


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Booklist: The Refugee Experience for Teens

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 07:00

The refugee experience is on a lot of teens minds these days. Many teens want to better understand the hardships that refugees face, and what leads to someone needing to flee their home. Here is a list of books for teens that explore a variety of conflicts, and the harrowing journeys that many have faced in hopes of a safer and more stable life.

Young Adult Fiction about the Refugee Experience

City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

When she was a young child, Tina fled with her mother to Sangui City, Kenya from Congo. Now in her teens, five years after her mother’s murder, Tina is determined to get revenge on her mother’s murderer. With her friend Boyboy, and her former best friend, Michael, who is also son of the man she believes is her mother’s murderer, the three sneak back into Congo looking for answers around her mother’s death only to find so much more.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (2017 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2017 Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Based on true events, this World War II novel set in East Prussia during the winter of 1945 follows the plight of refugees as Germany tries to evacuate soldiers and civilians. Four teens, from different backgrounds, and each with a dark secret, connect as they vie for passage on the ship, the Willhelm Gustloff, being used to evacuate the refugees.

The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz

After the local gang kills his beloved cousin, Jaime and his cousin Ángela are targeted as the next recruits. Their families quickly put together the funds to send them north to try to make a crossing to the United States where Jaime’s older brother is living. The two endure multiple hardships as they attempt to make it north.

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosín

Based on true events in Chile during the 1970s, Celeste is sent to America after Chile, is taken over by a militaristic, sadistic government. There she worries over her parents who have disappeared into hiding, and tries to adapt to her new life while still worrying about and missing her old.

The Good Braider by Terry Farish (2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong Learners)

This free-verse novel follows Viola a Sudanese refugee’s journey from her home in ravaged Sudan to Cairo and finally to the Sudanese community in Maine. She is forever haunted by harrowing  memories of she’s lost as she tries to build a new life.

Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

After Deo’s Zimbabwe village is ravaged by soldiers, he must flee with his older brother, Innocent, who is mentally disabled. With no shoes and very little money, the two set out on a journey where they face constant prejudice against refugees and a lion while crossing through a nature preserve, they end up in the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa where they face more brutal xenophobia. Deo is then invited to join the soccer team that will represent South Africa in the Street Soccer World Cup.

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Based on a true story about Sudanese civil war, follows both young Salva, who becomes separated from his family after his village is attacked  in 1985. Salva’s faces a harrowing journey walking across the southern region of Sudan to Kenya, as he and other refugees face hunger,  attacks by soldiers,  lions, and violent marauders. Chapters are prefaced by young Nya, who collects water for her Sudanese village in 2008.

A Time of Miracles by Anne-Laure Bondoux (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Set in the early 1990s in the war-torn Republic of Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Seven-year-old Koumaïl and his guardian, Gloria, flee violent unrest and begin a five-year arduous journey across the Caucasus toward France. In moments of despair, storytelling revive their passion for survival as they weather hardships and welcome unforgettable encounters with other refugees searching for a better life.

The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson

Set during the war in Kosovo during the 1990s this follows Meli, an Albanian Muslim girl, and her family as they flee the violence escalating in their small town. They embark on a terrible two year journey from their uncle’s farm to a crowded refugee camp where they denied permission to cross the border until they are finally sponsored church bringing them to the U.S.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

The sense of displacement and awe are explored of what it feels like to be an immigrant in a new world in this wordless graphic novel.

The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo

After their mother is shot and killed by assassins’ bullets meant for their outspoken journalist father, Sade Solaja and younger brother, Femi, are hastily smuggled out of Nigeria and taken to London and abandoned after their uncle fails to meet them at the airport. Sade and Femi must try and find their own way around a confusing and unknown city.

Blue Gold by Elizabeth Stewart

Told through three different points of view, this explores the human costs of technology with coltan, or  rather “blue gold,” a rare mineral used in making cell phones and computers. One of these voices is Sylvie is a Congolese refugee living in Tanzania.

Young Adult Nonfiction on The Refugee Experience

This Land is Our Land by Linda Barrett Osborne (2017 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist)

Explores the evolution and history of governmental policy around immigration and how it is often driven by popular responses to feelings on race and ethnicity, economic conditions, and fear of foreign political concerns.

An Olympic Dream: The Story of Samia Yusuf Omar by Reinhard Kleist

After Samia Yusuf Omar competed in running at the 2008 Beijing Olympics representing Somalia, she was determined to compete again at the 2012 London games. When the Islamist militia Al-Shabaab harassed and threatened to kill her, she fled through Sudan and into Libya to find a safer place to train only to meet a fateful end attempting to reach Europe.

Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees by Deborah Ellis

Through interviews with displaced Iraqi kids and teens between the ages 8 and 19 they discuss how the Iraq war has affected their lives.

Danielle Jones, currently reading See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

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Going Global: Resources for International YA Literature

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 17:20

Start with the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) (the U.S. chapter of IBBY, the International Board on Books for Young People) Outstanding International Books List, an annual list of about 40 translations and English-language imports for readers K-12. Every year the annotated list appears in the February issue of School Library Journal. The USBBY Outstanding International Books award page links to the SLJ list and also includes a printable bookmark and a very cool Google map showing where the books are set.

You may have heard of these two novels from the 2017 list that have received a lot of buzz: Socorro Acioli’s The Head of the Saint (Delacorte), from Brazil, translated by Daniel Hahn; and The Lie Tree (Amulet Books/Abrams), from UK author Frances Hardinge. But chances are, you have yet to discover Jesper Wung-Sung’s novel The Last Execution (Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum), translated from the Danish by Lindy Falk van Rooyen and based on the true story of the execution of a teenager in Denmark. Or Anna Woltz’s A Hundred Hours of Night (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic), translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson. This is one of those fascinating books that reflects our own country back to us through outsider eyes – in this case, the eyes of a 15-year-old Dutch runaway trapped in New York City during Hurricane Sandy.

Batchelder and Marsh Awards for Translated Books

The Mildred A. Batchelder Award is the U.S. award that recognizes a publisher for the best children’s translation of the year. Very often Batchelder winner and honor chapter books are perfect for tweens and teens, but sometimes the picture books are appropriate for older readers, too. The 2017 Batchelder winner, Cry, Heart, But Never Break (Enchanted Lion Books; written by Glenn Ringtved, illustrated by Charlotte Pardi, and translated from the Danish by Robert Moulthrop) is a good example. The strangely comforting figure of Death tells four children whose grandmother is terminally ill an allegorical story to ease their pain. This poignant and nuanced book provides a great prompt for a teen discussion about life, death, and storytelling.

Translation awards from other countries can also turn up gems. In the U.K., this year’s Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation was awarded to Helen Wang for her translation of Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan, first published by Walker in the U.K. and scheduled for release by Candlewick in the U.S. on March 14. Perfect for tweens, it is the first of this celebrated Chinese author’s books to be translated into English.

Bookbird and the Hans Christian Andersen Awards

With country, genre, and subject theme issues, Bookbird, the quarterly journal of IBBY, is an excellent place to find out about books from other countries. Watch especially for their Hans Christian Andersen Awards issues. Administered by IBBY, the biennial Andersen Awards, commonly called “the little Nobel,” recognize an author and illustrator who have made a lasting contribution to international children’s literature.  

The latest Andersen issue (Vol. 54.4) features articles about the Hans Christian Andersen Award winners and finalists for 2016, while Volume 54.2 featured one-page profiles of the 28 authors and 29 illustrators nominated for the award by IBBY sections around the world. For example, you will learn about the above-mentioned author Cao Wenxuan, the first Andersen winner from China.

USBBY Bridges to Understanding Annotated Bibliographies

Don’t miss the Bridges to Understanding series of annotated bibliographies, a five-volume reference set sponsored by USBBY and published byScarecrow/Rowman & Littlefield.

The most recent is Reading the World’s Stories (2016), edited by myself, Theo Heras, and Susan Corapi, which includes titles published 2010-2014. This project was accomplished over five years with the help of 40 annotators and input from many U.S. and international colleagues. Background essays and listings ofawards, organizations, research collections, and firms that publish global books supplement the geographically organized bibliography. Just for fun, go to a country you know little about and scan the page until you see an entry with a YA reading level. Or look up “Young Adult” in the subject index and randomly choose one of the page numbers. All of the books are recommended, and many have won awards in their home countries, so you are in for a reading adventure!

Don’t forget the Printz…and the Inkys!

Unlike ALSC’s best-known awards, the Newbery and Caldecott, YALSA’s book awards are open to books first published outside of the U.S.. It’s not unusual for Printz winners and honor books to be from Australia (Melina Marchetta, Markus Zusak, Margo Lanagan), Canada (Kenneth Oppel, Allan Stratton, Beverley Brenna), the U.K. (Marcus Sedgwick, David Almond), and on occasion, Ireland (Louise O’Neill) and continental Europe (Janne Teller).

A number of national awards in other countries also embrace books from around the world. Check out the Australian Inky Awards, run by the State Library of Victoria, a teen reader’s choice award. There are two Inky Awards: the Gold Inky for an Australian book, and the Silver Inky for an international book. The 2017 longlist for the Gold Inky includes Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow (Disney-Hyperion), a lyrical novel set in a grim Australian refugee detention center, and Nevernight (Thomas Dunne Books) by Jay Kristoff, the first in a new fantasy series.

Keeping Up

One way to keep up with international books is through USBBY.  Their next conference, with the theme “Radical Change Beyond Borders: The Transforming Power of Children’s Literature in the Digital Age,” will be hosted by the University of Washington Information School in Seattle, October 20-22, 2017. You can also follow GLLI on Twitter, like our new Facebook page, and check the resources on our website. And watch for more GLLI roundups of forthcoming international YA here on The Hub to keep up-to-date on what’s new in international YA!


This guest post was contributed by Annette Y. Goldsmith, a Los Angeles-based Lecturer for the University of Washington Information School, as part of GLLI @ the Hub!

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Booklist: Read-a-Likes for Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 07:00

Nicola Yoon’s debut novel Everything, Everything took the book world by storm when it was published in 2015. This May readers will get to see this much loved story come to life on the big screen when the film adaptation starring Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson hits theaters. In the meantime this booklist has everything, everything you might want to read if you are a fan waiting for the movie to come out.

If You Want a Book Where a Character is More Than Their Illness:

  1. The Memory Book by Lara Avery: Sammie doesn’t believe that one diagnosis can change her entire life. She starts writing down her memories big and small as her degenerative illness, Niemann-Pick Type C, begins to take its toll on her memories and her health.
  2. Zac and Mia by A. J. Betts: Zac and Mia would never be friends friends in the real world. But different rules apply when you’re in a hospital.
  3. Before I Die by Jenny Downham (2008 Best Books for Young Adults, 2015 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults): Tessa knows she is dying. Instead of waiting to disappear without a trace, Tessa decides to complete her “before I die” list in the precious weeks she has left.
  4. Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt: When disaster strikes, Penelope is thrust into a world of secrets and betrayals she is ill-equipped to understand. As she struggles to make sense of her shattered past and shape her own future she’ll also learn that life isn’t always a fairy tale. Sometimes you have to make your own happy ending.

If You Want a Book That Goes the Distance (Literally):

  1. Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid: When Leila arrives right when she’s needed most in her ridiculously red car she changes the lives of Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia forever. But it will take a 4,268 mile road trip for Leila to realize what she needs herself.
  2. So Much Closer by Susane Colasanti: Brooke moved to New York City for Scott Abrams. Will she wind up staying for herself?
  3. In Real Life by Jessica Love: Hannah thinks the Nick she’s known online can’t be that different from Nick in real life. But she only has one night in Vegas to figure that out and decide if she’s ready to risk her heart trying to make their friendship into something more.
  4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults): Anna and Etienne have a lot of near-misses and close calls that bring their friendship to the verge of being something more. Even while Etienne is very much still taken. But anything seems possible in the City of Lights. Maybe Anna and Etienne really are meant to be, maybe Anna will even learn some French.
If You Want a Book With a Sweet Romance:

  1. The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle (2017 Best Fiction for Young Adults): Quinn doesn’t know how to deal with his sister’s death but his best friend insists that it’s time for Quinn to rejoin the living. One haircut later Quinn meets a hot guy at his first college parts and starts to think the movie version of his life might have a happy ending after all.
  2. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (2015 Teens’ Top Ten): No one was ever supposed to see Lara Jean’s love letters except for Lara Jean. They were never meant for anyone else. With all of her feelings laid bare for these five boys, Lara Jean isn’t sure how to go back to the girl she used to be before the letters were delivered.
  3. I’m Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl by Gretchen McNeil: When Bea loses her boyfriend to quirky new girl Toile, she decides to use her mathematically proven Formula for social happiness in high school to reinvent herself as eccentric and adorable “Trixie”.
  4. American Street by Ibi Zoboi:Fabiola Toussaint and her mother arrive in the United States eager to join Fabiola’s aunt and cousins. But her mother is detained by ICE at a facility in New Jersey and Fabiola arrives alone. Fabiola finds new friends and first love, but she also learns that nothing in America is what she imagined back home in Haiti–not even her new home at the corner of American Street and Joy Road.
If You Want a Book That Has Some Unexpected Moments:

  1. Something Real by Heather Demetrios (2015 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers): When their family’s reality show is cancelled Bonnie™ Baker hopes that she and her twelve siblings can start living a normal life. Then her mother announces that Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air and Bonnie™ will have to take drastic measures if she wants to protect the normal life she’s started to treasure.
  2. The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults): What happens when a boy who works at a funeral home meets a girl who never cries?
  3. My Kind of Crazy by Robin Reul: When Hank’s promposal attempt ends with a fiery lawn, budding pyromaniac Peyton Breedlove blackmails him into friendship.
  4. Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley (2017 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2017 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers): Solomon hasn’t left his house in three years. Lisa, with help from her boyfriend Clark, decides to fix Sol and his agoraphobia. And write a scholarship-winning essay about it. But it turns out psychology isn’t so straightforward when love and friendship come into the mix.

— Emma Carbone, currently reading The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu

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Women in Comics: Mysteries

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 07:00

A truly great mystery that can keep you guessing until the last page is tough to create but very satisfying to read. While this genre isn’t particularly common in recent comics, there are some great examples of mystery stories and a biography of one of the most famous authors in this genre that will appeal to mystery fans who also love comics.

Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie by Anne Martinetti and Guillaume Lebeau with art by Alexandre Franc – In addition to writing a long list of famous mystery novels, Agatha Christie led a fascinating life that involved world travel, a stint as a wartime nurse, and multiple archeological trips. This graphic novel tells the story of her life with her most famous creation, Hercule Poirot, popping in several times to provide commentary on her choices and life events. This is a great read for those interested in an introduction to Christie’s life, though at some points the book jumps through time in an abrupt manner that leaves the reader wanting more. The book includes a timeline of Christie’s life and a bibliography of her books.

Goldie Vance by Hope Larson with art by Brittney Williams – Goldie Vance is a teen detective who is ready to join the ranks of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys as a classic of the mystery genre. Goldie lives at a fancy Florida resort managed by her father, where she is determined to become the resident detective. To achieve her goal she helps the resort’s current detective, whether he wants her help or not. In this first volume, that means uncovering a plot of massive proportions and running down the solutions no matter how many problems that might cause. Fans of mystery stories will adore this new series, which combines a truly compelling investigation with colorful artwork that brings these new characters to life.

Mega Princess by Kelly Thompson with art by Brianne Drouhard – This new all-ages comic is a great option for both young readers who are just starting to read mysteries and long-time mystery enthusiasts. In it, Princess Maxine is a young girl who is about to receive her special gift of princessly powers from her fairy godmother on her tenth birthday. Unfortunately, she’d really rather be a detective than a princess. But, when her younger brother is kidnapped, she has a chance to try out her investigative power for real. This fun series from BOOM! Studios, the same publisher that brought us Goldie Vance, is sure to be a hit.

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy by Chynna Clugston-Flores with illustrations by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell – Two of the most popular all-ages titles from the last several years are Lumberjanes and Gotham Academy, so it is no surprise that fans were excited when a crossover title was announced. While either of these comics could have made this list of mystery comics on their own, this team-up mystery makes an even more perfect addition to the pantheon of recent mystery comics. In this story, the characters from each of the series are looking for missing people. In the case of the Gotham Academy crew, their search for a missing teacher leads them to the woods where they run into the Lumberjanes who are looking for their Camp Director. This book will appeal to existing fans of Lumberjanes or Gotham Academy, but can also serve as a great introduction to these characters for new readers. Overall, it is a perfect read for any mystery fan!

Bandette Vol. 3: The House of the Green Mask by Paul Tobin with art by Colleen Coover – With its focus on a fun young thief and her exploits, any volume of Bandette could probably be included in a list of mystery comics, but the latest volume is particularly perfect since it follows Bandette on the search for a mystery location that has become the stuff of legends. Packed with the typical humor and visual appeal of this series, this volume adds in the hunt for the House of the Green Mask and Bandette’s quest for revenge. There is a reason this series has won an Eisner and this volume is a great point of entry for new readers as well as a wonderful continuation for existing fans.

Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu with art by Sana Takeda – While this may not be a traditional investigation, Monstress nonetheless has a mystery at its center throughout the first volume. Set in a world where humans exist side-by-side with mystical creatures, this is a gorgeous, brutal, and complex story of the aftermath of war and trauma. The story follows Maika, an Arcanic, as she allows herself to be captured by the humans in an attempt to solve the mysteries left by her mother while saving the other prisoners. Along the way, she must determine who to believe and how to open up and trust others to achieve her goals. The art deco-style art provides a breathtaking and fantastical backdrop for this tale that weaves together diverse elements of myth and fantasy. This book is definitely one for older readers given the intensity of the story and the art, but for those readers it is likely to become an immediate favorite.

If you are fan of mysteries, hopefully this list will help you to find a new favorite, but if I’ve missed any of your existing favorites, be sure to let me know in the comments!

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Monthly Monday Poll: March – Favorite 90s Fantasy

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 07:00

Happy Monday, Hub readers.

Last month, we asked about circulation of books with screen adaptations currently or imminently available for viewing. Leading the pack by a substantial margin with 51% of the vote was Hidden Figures. Next was Wonder with 15% (the movie’s release date was actually just pushed back to Summer 2017, so we’ll be waiting a little longer on that), then the The Handmaid’s Tale at 12%, 13 Reasons Why with 9%, Before I Fall with 7%, a scant 1% for Riverdale/Archie comics, and no circulation boost to speak of for The Circle (I guess Emma Watson’s probably doing enough for book circs playing Belle this month…).

This month, in honor of the recent (utterly delightful) news that Philip Pullman is publishing a new Book of Dust trilogy, we’re looking back to some beloved 90’s YA fantasy gems. Since the term YA has evolved quite a bit in the past three decades, some of the series I included could be/have been considered Children’s, and some serious classics were published in the late 80s and so had to be left off (cough, Sandman, Howl’s Moving Castle, cough). As always, please share in the comments the titles I’ve overlooked!

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

— Carly Pansulla, currently reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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2017 Nonfiction Award Finalist: An Interview with Linda Barrett Osborne on This Land Is Our Land

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 07:00

In the introduction to This Land is Our Land, Linda Barrett Osborne writes how she hopes her book acts as a conversation starter for such an important part of American history. Not only does she successfully cover the vast topic of immigration in this finalist for YALSA’s 2017 Nonfiction Award, but after reading This Land is Our Land, I was certainly eager for our conversation.

How do you think the topic of immigration can be addressed for different age groups?

Almost any age group can start with finding out their own family backgrounds. Then students can share their histories with their classmates and see how many places people come from in a class. From middle school on, students can talk about what they hear in the media. Do they think the stories/treatments of immigrants are fair? On the other hand, is it a problem to accommodate many new immigrants each year? After discussing how Americans have always been ambivalent about new immigrants, see if they are surprised that our doubts and objections stretch back to the beginnings of settlement in America. How would they wish their families had been treated? How would they like some or all first generation immigrants to be treated?

During your research was there something that surprised you about America’s history?

I knew that many immigrant groups had been discriminated against, but I was surprised by the intensity and disparagement of the rhetoric used against them. There are parallels with the way African Americans have been characterized. I was also surprised at the extent to which Asian immigrants were discriminated against. I didn’t realize that before 1952, most of them were not eligible to become American citizens.

You share so many personal stories and primary resources in TLIOL. Do you feel connected as you conduct research? How do you decide what to include or how much of someone’s history to include?

Yes, I definitely feel connected to other people’s stories as I read them. I am particularly moved by oral histories that tells the stories of ordinary people in natural words. (They are more immediate than written biographies and memoirs, though these can be moving too.) When a book spans so many centuries and countries, as This Land Is Our Land does, I can’t give more than a paragraph or two to any one person. I look for words that are emblematic of the theme but also expressed in a personal and distinct way, so that each quote adds something to the whole.

As a retired senior writer and editor for the Library of Congress Publishing Office, can you tell us how you conducted research for that job? Any research techniques to pass along to students?

I retired from the Library of Congress Publishing Office in October 2011 and my job was to write and edit books using the collections of the Library as a focus, aiming the books at thoughtful lay readers. We did a lot of research before we wrote and documented everything. The Library has so many primary sources—the actual first editions from the 1860s, for example–and many more media than books: prints and photographs, manuscripts, movies and TV, music, maps, rare books, all of which we researched and used to illustrate our books. We often worked with scholars who reviewed our work.  I’ve written and published three books since I retired, using the same methods I learned at the Library to research and compile them.

  • I start with a list of basic sources I compile by looking through a subject catalog and in the library stacks. I also get recommendations from American history professors I know; in the case of your students, I think this would be teachers and librarians.
  • I also look for online sources by subject and use bibliographies from the books I find. I use post-it notes as I read, marking passages I might quote or ideas and events I want to summarize (or copy and paste from a website.)
  • When I’ve finished a book, I type out all the quotes on computer, as well as facts and summaries of ideas. I do this for each source. It really helps to mark a quote as soon as you see it (the few times I think, I’ll find this again, I don’t) and also to indicate where you found it right then. Typing these out helps me think of how I will tell my overall story. I do a chapter outline and indicate topics within the chapters and match the quotes and facts to each one. Then I start to write from the information I’ve gathered.
This Land is Our Land Chapters

You write how immigrants performed important jobs throughout America’s history, but also how people view them negatively. How do you ensure you balance all sides of history in your chapters?

That’s an interesting question. In This Land Is Our Land, I don’t balance the pro- and con-arguments for immigration in each chapter. I was more interested in all the negative feelings about immigrants and how that contrasted with our ideals stated on the Statue of Liberty and the idea of the melting pot. I wanted to show that resistance to immigration has existed through most of our history. But it’s also important to me to get the positive side in. I don’t just write about what was unjust, brutal, racist–I write about what was hopeful, courageous, enduring. Through the words of immigrants themselves, I hope to show ordinary people living lives of dignity and success despite hostility and discrimination. That’s the balance I wanted to attain. In the last chapter, from 1945 to today, I did go back and forth on some pro- and con-immigration arguments, being careful with facts and statistics. I don’t claim to understand how to reform immigration law, but I am pro-immigrant in the sense that I think all people should be treated as human beings, with respect, and not with hatred and contempt.

People know of the importance of Ellis Island which welcomed and processed immigrants on the east coast, but there is less attention given to Angel Island for doing a similar job on the west coast. How did you combat less information being available about Angel Island?

There’s a lot about Angel Island when you start to look for it! There are books, primary source records, statistics, photographs, personal accounts, and newspaper stories—more than I could use in one chapter of a book. But again, your question is interesting, because it points out the bias in the way we emphasize Ellis Island and Europe over Angel Island and Asia, which I think is beginning to change. (There are differences between Angel and Ellis Islands themselves—more people went through Ellis Island for a longer period of time and most got through. It was much harder to get through Angel Island, where hopeful immigrants could be held for years.)

Your books have ranged from points in history from WWI, civil rights, and now immigration. Do you have a favorite period in our history?

My first three middle school books were on African American history starting with slavery and ending in the present, so I think that my interest lay more in a topic than a period. But I was very interested in the period between the late 1890s and 1954 and how segregation developed in the South and discrimination flourished in the North because this was not discussed nearly as much as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. My interest in immigration came out of my interest in my own family background, when my great-grandparents emigrated from Italy in the 1880s and the 1890s. Part of the immigration story takes place during the years before, during, and after World War I, as Americans became more suspicious of foreigners. African Americans participated in the Great Migration from South to North and West during World War I, and their experience has many parallels with that of immigrants from other countries. Everything turns out to be connected. The short answer is probably 1860-1954 is my favorite period to learn more about.

You conclude with a chapter on refugees and how they differ and are, in a way, a “special kind of immigrant”. Immigration and refugees are current topics today. Where do you gather your news and information to have current and reliable information?

I use up-to date online sources or statistics and trends from places like the U.S. Census Bureau and the Citizen and Immigration Services (which is part of Homeland Security and used to be the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization). I look at the actual text of laws (not just summaries in other articles), from university websites—Yale has a useful one. I do use journalism sources like the New York Times and the Huffington Post—when I use them I am quoting opinion, not fact—but I get a lot of quotes in favor of restricting immigration from online newspapers as well. I read a lot of scholarly books written since 2010 by renowned or distinguished professors from universities, often recommended to me by an American history professor. I used United Nations websites to find information on and images of refugees (one of them is I also used organization and agency websites, like those of the Organization of American States and Pew Hispanic Center. Finally, I used the website of the Center for Immigration Studies, a non-partisan, not-profit organization that gave both pro- and con-quotes (without favoring one or the other) for the number and native country of immigration.

What are you currently reading? Or what are you currently working on?

I’m currently reading The Berlin Wall: A World Divided, 1961-1989 by Frederick Taylor, and The Brutal Telling, a mystery by Louise Penny. I love mysteries and often alternate them with reading history. My newest book, Come On In, America: The United States in World War I, is coming out in March 2017. I’m exploring a few ideas for a new children/young adult book, but nothing definite next.

-Sarah Carnahan, currently reading The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

The post 2017 Nonfiction Award Finalist: An Interview with Linda Barrett Osborne on This Land Is Our Land appeared first on The Hub.

Beauty and the Beast and Other Classic Retellings

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 16:43

With the highly anticipated theatrical release of Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens comes a multitude of YA retelling book display ideas.  Below you’ll find a list of YA books inspired by the classic fairy tale. If you’re looking to expand your display or reader’s advisory, I included retellings inspired by Peter Pan, Shakespeare, and Alice in Wonderland.


Beauty and the Beast

In a village surrounded by a magic forest, the people rely on wizard known as Dragon to keep the magical forest’s powers away. But when Dragon requires a young maiden to serve him for ten years to fulfill the duty, Agnieszka knows her beautiful best friend will be chosen. Or will he choose someone else?

Falling on hard luck, Yeva’s family must move to the woods with the fabled beast that is the object of her father’s obsession.  When Yeva’s father is taken while on a hunting expedition, she must return to the woods to get him back.

Belle is a lot of things and one of them is being trapped in a castle by the beast.  When Belle unwittingly touches the Beast’s rose, she discovers that her mother is the reason for the curse and Belle and the Beast search for clues to break it.

Trying to feed her family, Feyra kills a sacred animal and her penance is to live beyond the wall with Tamlin-a fey.  Illiterate and with no means of escaping, Feyra finds her life in danger by an evil queen.

Nyx’s little town is ruled by a demon who grants wishes that always has a catch.  Before she was born, Nyx’s father made a foolish wish and now Nyx must marry the demon-Ignifex.  Nyx has known of the arrangement since she was a child and her father has trained her to kill her soon to be demon husband.

Peter Pan

A deadly virus has infected London’s adults leaving children disease free.  Captain Hook believes a cure lies within children and when he takes Joanna for experimentation, Gwen; her brothers; Pete and the Lost Boys; and Bella band together to get her back.

Gwen is always moving because of her delusional mother.  On their latest move, Gwen has been granted permission to bring her best friend.  When Gwen and her friend are taken to a strange place called Neverland, she realizes that her mother’s delusions are real.  Gwen and her friend must race against time to escape Neverland or be stuck there forever.

Wylie has problems. With a brother heading to juvie and an over-scheduled life, she decides to follow the dazzling boy to his land where no one ever ages.  Wylie soon discovers that someone has been lying to her.

Wendy Darling lives a posh life in London with a great boyfriend but when a dazzling boy with god like powers called Peter enters through her window, she follows only to find a once dreamlike world has turned into a nightmare.


Hanalee, the daughter of a white mother, is mourning the death of her black father when his accused murderer is released from jail.  After claiming his innocence, Joe informs Hanalee that her father was murdered.  During her quest to find her father’s murderer, Hanalee must deal with her strange step father, the rise of the Klu Klux Klan, and her forbidden feelings for a white boy.

People are beginning to die horrible deaths at a private school where Lila and Maria are the most popular couple on campus.  Maria is in line for a prestigious award and together with Lila, Maria will stop at nothing to get it.

  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear (The Winter’s Tale) by EK Johnston

Hermione is determined to make her senior year the best year beginning with cheer camp but when she’s sexually assaulted, Hermione refuses to be the victim as she finds her attacker.

Alice in Wonderland

All Catherine wants to do is open a bakery with her best friend but her parents want her to marry the king.  When the mysterious Jest comes to work for the king, Catherine becomes enamored and quickly finds herself in his world of tea parties and Mad Hatters.  Will her love of Jest make her heartless?

Dinah is the Princess of Wonderland Palace and she’s bored of parties and tea and her only saving grace is visiting her love-the Knave of Hearts.  When a newcomer enters the palace, his presence threatens Dinah’s love and her life at the Palace.

Alyssa is beginning to hear voices and is afraid she’s going to end up in the mental hospital like her mother.  When Alyssa finds herself in a magical land, she realizes her mother isn’t hallucinating and Alyssa must pass a series of tests to save herself and her family.

Alice soon finds out that her father was right and monsters do exist.  Alice must quickly learn how to fight these monsters, zombies, to save her family.

Dawn is currently reading-Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling




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2017 Nonfiction Award Finalists: An Interview with Pamela S. Turner and Gareth Hinds on Samurai Rising

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 07:00

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune is the true story of one of Japan’s greatest samurai warriors and a finalist for YALSA’s 2017 Nonfiction Award. Today I’m thrilled to have the book’s author Pamela S. Turner and illustrator Gareth Hinds here to answer some questions about the book.

Congratulations on Samurai Rising‘s selection as a 2017 Nonfiction Award finalist! Where were each of you when you heard the news? Who was the first person you told about the big news?

Pamela S. Turner (PST): The big news (yay!) arrived one morning via an email from Donna Spurlock, the marketing director at Charlesbridge Publishing. I told my dogs right away but they were notably unimpressed.

Gareth Hinds (GH): I was at a school visit in Vermont when I got the news. They let us know a couple of days before the public announcement, so I was only allowed to tell my wife.

Pamela, what was the inspiration for Samurai Rising? In some ways this story could have focused on numerous samurai, including several of Yoshitsune’s relatives, how did you know you had found your next protagonist in Yoshitsune?

PST: The Tale of the Heike. Yoshitsune impressed me because his tale is so much like King Arthur’s or Luke Skywalker’s: all are heirs to a great tradition, yet raised in obscurity; all become  a hero, yet discover that their greatest enemy is a member of their own family. But Yoshitsune’s story is true.

I never considered writing about anyone else from that time period. Despite Yoshitsune’s faults I find him a deeply sympathetic character. According to the standards of his time and culture Yoshitsune did everything he was supposed to do and yet was betrayed in the most cynical fashion. His military accomplishments had a deep and lasting impact on Japanese history; his personal tragedy had a deep and lasting impact on Japanese art and literature. If you go to my website at, you can see some examples of how Yoshitsune’s life has inspired generation after generation of writers and artists.

Gareth, illustrating Samurai Rising is not the first time you’ve created artwork about Yoshitsune. On your blog you mention that you have an intense interest in Japan and Japanese culture. You even did an illustration project in college about Yoshitsune. What was it like returning to Yoshitsune? How did your past experience influence the choices you made in illustrating this newer book?

GH: Yoshitsune is a legendary figure in Japan, which is to say that many legends have grown up around his life, especially the parts that are a bit mysterious, like how he became such a great warrior when he didn’t go through samurai training as a child. Those legends are what I first encountered and illustrated in college. Returning to illustrate the story of his real life was a fun process of (re)discovery. One thing that stayed the same was my desire to bring Asian influences into the style of the art. I used brush painting with stark silhouettes and strong gestural poses to evoke Sumi-e brush painting — though my materials and process were not exactly traditional.

Yoshitsune’s story begins with the years-long battle between his family (the Minamoto) and the rival Taira samurai. In Samurai Rising, the Minamoto are the heroes of the story but things could easily be flipped to see the Taira as the more heroic (or even “good”) clan. How did you choose how to frame this battle and rivalry, Pamela?

PST: Since I was writing about Yoshitsune, I wanted to show how the conflict looked from his side. But I don’t let anyone off the hook. I point out the stupidity and recklessness of Yoshitsune’s father. I note that this was a struggle between the elites, and that none of the samurai cared much about the sufferings they inflicted on common people. I suggest that Yoshitsune’s loyalty in his clan was misplaced because the ones who stood by him at the very end were not  Minamoto. And I don’t pull any punches when describing the many cruel acts of Yoshitsune’s half-brother Yoritomo, leader of the Minamoto samurai. I don’t view one clan as “good” and the other as “bad.” That would not be a) interesting or b) historically accurate. In the end, an off-shoot of the Taira ends up ruling Japan. Oh, the exquisite irony!

Gareth, on your blog you give a great explanation of the process involved in illustrating Samurai Rising from the initial assignment through your sketches and digital work for each illustration or map. How did creating these illustrations for Pamela’s existing manuscript compare to illustrating and writing your own graphic novels?

GH: The process is sort of similar, but graphic novels are much larger and more complex. For those I do rough sketches of the whole book digitally, arranging pictures and type exactly the way I want them. Then I get feedback from my editors, make revisions, and then do the final art with a combination of digital and traditional materials. For Samurai Rising, I didn’t have to arrange as many elements, I just had to come up with sketches that conveyed the feeling of each chapter, and compose them so they worked opposite the chapter headings. I would do a detailed sketch, make any revisions based on Alyssa (the editor), Susan (the designer) and Pam’s feedback, then do a loose brush painting based on the sketch.

What was the most interesting text you encountered while researching this book, Pamela? What is one fact you were excited to share with readers?

PST: There wasn’t one text that was the most interesting. What was interesting to me was the work of examining the source material against academic sources and making sense of why things happened the way they did. For instance: the period source material describes how the Taira retreat to the fortress of Ichi-no-Tani and the barricades of Ikuta-no-Mori. Why didn’t the Taira defend Kyoto? Why not meet the Minamoto on open ground, especially since they had the advantage of numbers? To understand why they did things the way they did, you have to understand the advantages and disadvantages of mounted archery as a military tactic. None of that is explained in the source documents.

But I confess that as someone who practices kendo (Japanese sword fighting) my favorite set of facts to share involved the classic katana blade: why it’s curved, why it’s sheathed edge-up, why it’s a certain length, why it’s made using two different kinds of steel. None of those things are obvious but when explained make perfect sense.

Gareth, did you have a favorite illustration to make for Samurai Rising? Is there any artwork in the book that you are especially excited for readers to see?

GH: The cover is probably my favorite piece. Of the interiors, one of the hardest pieces was the ship in a storm for chapter 8, but in the end I think it’s one of my favorites. It’s hard to compare them, though, because each piece (hopefully) hits a very different emotional note.

Can you tell us anything about your next projects?

PST: I have a picture book biography, COMET CHASER, coming from Chronicle Books. It’s a Cinderella-like story about Caroline Herschel, the first professional woman astronomer. We are working on finding an illustrator so I’m guessing it won’t be out until 2019.

GH: I have a collection of Edgar Allan Poe stories and poems coming out in August, and I am currently hard at work on The Iliad, which will come out in fall 2018.

Thank you to Pamela and Gareth for taking the time to answer my questions about Samurai Rising!

— Emma Carbone, currently reading Wildlife by Fiona Wood

The post 2017 Nonfiction Award Finalists: An Interview with Pamela S. Turner and Gareth Hinds on Samurai Rising appeared first on The Hub.

Women in Comics: Let The Music Play

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 07:00

Comics may not necessarily seem like a natural fit for music fans, but in reality there are a number of great (and in some cases, even iconic) bands in comics. Best of all, many of these comics feature female musicians and are written or illustrated by women. This list collects a few of the best of these and offers a little something for everyone.

Jem and the Holograms Volume 1: Showtime by Kelly Thompson with art by Sophie Campbell – Jerrica is a skilled singer but she also has a serious case of stage fright. When the band that she and her sisters have formed has an opportunity to play as part of a video contest, she finds that she can’t even record their song due to her shyness. While struggling to live up to her sisters’ expectations, she discovers that her father has left her the technology to create a hologram to sing in her place. This is all just the background though for a story that is really about relationships of all kinds including fans, friendship, family, and romance. The story features a great and diverse cast and it will please both readers who are fans of the 1980’s Jem cartoon series and those who have never met these characters before.

Josie and the Pussycats by Marguerite Bennett and Cameron Deordio with art by Audrey Mok – Starting in the Fall of 2016, Marguerite Bennett, Cameron Deordio, and Audrey Mok reinvented the classic story of Josie and the Pussycats. Built on the same foundation as the classic comics, this new incarnation has a brand new origin and a great focus on the importance of friendship to the band’s success or failure. This is a great read for musicians, Archie fans, and those who want to read a great story about fame and friendship. The first volume won’t be out until August, but you can start catching up on individual issues now.

Zebrafish by Peter H. Reynolds and Sharon Emerson with illustrations by Renee Kurilla – This comic, which is perfect for younger fans, tells a cute story about a bunch of friends who want to launch a band. Unfortunately, only one of them can play an instrument. They’re hardly going to let that stop them though! The book incorporates a message through a discovery that the band members make about one of their new friends, but this isn’t presented in a heavy-handed manner and doesn’t limit the focus of the story. The cartoon-inspired drawing style is engaging and entertaining. Readers will really enjoy this lighthearted book, which also has a sequel entitled SPF 40.

Black Canary Volume 1: Kicking and Screaming by Brenden Fletcher with art by Annie Wu, Pia Guerra, and Sandy Jarrell – Most comics fans may know Dinah Lance as a superhero, but that isn’t her only talent. In this series, Dinah is going by D.D. as the lead singer in the band Black Canary. Along the way, she is protecting her bandmates and particularly their tween guitarist Ditto who may have some powers of her own. With such a great roster of artists, it should come as no surprise that the artwork is distinctive and really pulls the story together, helping to convey not only Dinah’s personality but also the world that the band inhabits. This is a great read for both superhero fans and music fans.

KISS by Amy Chu with art by Kewber Baal – This fall the band KISS is back in comics once again in a new series written by Amy Chu. In it, four friends must join forces to try to solve the mystery of the Council of Elders with a bit of help. Amy Chu has said that the series will appeal to fans of science fiction and fantasy as well as KISS’ existing fan base, so this should be an interesting title to watch.

Who are your favorite bands in comics? Let us know in the comments!

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Monthly Monday Poll: February – Adaptations + Circulation

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 14:30

Hello Hub Readers, and Happy February!

Last month, we asked about your reading goals and priorities for 2017, and a whopping 43% of you responded that your priority this year is to read more content that diversifies your reading list by choosing titles by and/or about people who are different from you in physical or experiential ways. Not far behind, with 38% of the responses, were readers committed to reading more titles in 2017, amassing more options to your arsenal of completed texts. 10% are prioritizing the social connections reading can foster, 5% are focused on reading the most critically-celebrated books on offer, and 4% are focusing their reading efforts beyond the offerings of the Big 5 publishers to seek out indie gems. Just the idea of all these fired up readers applying energy and resolve to the act of absorbing narratives, with all the impacts that can have, makes me more hopeful about the year ahead. If you’re looking to quantify some of these goals, we invite you to join the 2017 Hub Reading Challenge, which offers up titles to fit every one of these priorities!

This month, we’re returning to a favorite theme: page-to-screen adaptations, and their effect on circulation in your library (if your library is anything like mine, it’s considerable!). Have you seen measurable changes in the demand for the book editions of these recent and soon-to-be-released screen adaptations?

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

As always, let us know in the comments if we’ve left off a title that’s flying off your library’s shelves!

— Carly Pansulla, currently reading The Reader by Traci Chee

The post Monthly Monday Poll: February – Adaptations + Circulation appeared first on The Hub.

Announcing the 2017 Hub Reading Challenge!

Sat, 02/04/2017 - 18:44

It’s time to kickoff the 2017 Hub reading challenge! This challenge is intended to encourage librarians, library workers, and YA lit enthusiasts to dive into the award winner and honor books and YALSA selected lists with the hope of providing excellent readers’ advisory and even discovering a new favorite title or exploring a genre outside of your comfort zone.

Eligible books are the YA titles that were named winners or honor titles the following award and selected lists:

How to Participate

  • The goal is to read any 25 books of the titles from the above lists and awards—find the list of 98 unique titles here!

  • Let us know you’re participating by commenting on this post below.
  • If you’re going to be tracking what you read/listen to on your blog or on Goodreads, LibraryThing, YouTube or some other site, include a link to your blog/shelf/channel/profile in your comment. If you’re not tracking your reading online, keep a list some other way.
  • Make it a social experience! Share your challenge progress and get to know other participants by using the hashtag #hubchallenge on Twitter and Instagram.
  • Once a month, we’ll publish a check-in post. Leave a comment to talk about what you’re reading for the challenge. If you’ve reviewed those titles somewhere online, include links to those reviews! Otherwise, let us know what you thought of the books in the comments.
  • There will be an finisher form embedded in each check-in post, so once you’re done with the challenge, fill out the form with your name and contact information.

Challenge rewards

Beyond experiencing the best of the best that YA lit has to offer, everyone who finishes the challenge will be invited to submit a response to a book they read for the challenge. The response can be text, graphics, audio, video and will be published on The Hub. Furthermore, everyone who finishes the challenge will be entered into a random drawing for our grand prize: a YALSA tote bag full of 2015 and 2016 YA lit! (If the winner is a teacher or librarian or something similar, we’ll also include a few professional development titles.)


  • Format matters: a title that has been recognized for both the print version and the audiobook version can be both read and listened to and count as two books, but a book that has won multiple awards or appears on multiple lists in the same format only counts as one title.
  • Books must be read/listened to (both begun and finished) since the award winners and selected lists have been released and 11:59pm EST on June 22. If you’ve already read/listened to a title, you must re-read/listen to it for it to count.
  • Just about everyone who doesn’t work for ALA is eligible to participate. Non-ALA/YALSA members are eligible. Teens are eligible. Non-US residents/citizens are eligible. (More eligibility questions? Leave a comment or email us.)
  • Once you finish the challenge, we’ll contact you with details about creating and publishing your response.
  • The grand prize winner will be selected by 11:59pm EST on June 23. The winner will be notified via email.

If you have any questions or problems, let us know in the comments or via email. Happy reading! 

The post Announcing the 2017 Hub Reading Challenge! appeared first on The Hub.

Amazing Audiobooks and Quick Picks Lists are Moving to The Hub, and You’re Invited to Be a Part of the Team!

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 07:00

As many of you know, the YALSA board voted to change the way selected lists committees operate and share their picks for the best books for teens. You can find all the details on the change in Board Member Franklin Escobedo’s blog post on the YALSAblog.

Rather than repeat Franklin’s detailed explanation of the rationale for the change, I wanted to offer my own reasons for why I am excited about this process and invite you, Hub readers, to be a part of it!

The Hub has always been a collection development resource, highlighting books and other materials and helping librarians and library workers connect the teens they serve with resources that meet their needs and support their interests. We cover everything from podcasts and YouTube videos to manga, anime, and of course, books! But we’ve never really done straight reviews of titles. 

Likewise, the Selected Lists are great tools for collection development, but in today’s world, many library users expect to have access to materials as soon as they’re released, so waiting for the publication of a final list after the year’s already done and librarians and library workers have spent their budgets and are now looking at next year’s releases isn’t as practical as it once was.

Additionally, Selected List Committees have always deliberated and discussed the merits of various titles, but there wasn’t a mechanism for sharing those perspectives with librarians and library workers beyond the final list with very brief annotations. Now, the public will have access to some of the behind the scenes action! The system will be more transparent. Blog posts that feature nominated titles will provide more detail and context to why the YALSA members vetting these titles feel that it is a strong contender and how it fulfills the list’s criteria. Discussion of each book will emphasis its suitability for lists, but also discuss the appeal factors for each book.  This information can help librarians and library workers not only decide if it’s right for their library’s collection, but will also help librarians and library workers match books to readers. More than just collection development recommendations, the discussion of nominations on The Hub will serve as a more in depth readers’ advisory tool.

Does this sound like something you’d be interested in being a part of? Do you love not only discussing books with colleagues, but listening to audiobooks or thinking about what books can best reach reluctant readers? Would you like to grow as a reader and a writer while networking with other professionals? This is the YALSA volunteer opportunity for you!

Ready to submit your volunteer form? Do it here! Have questions or want to talk about it? Feel free to reach out to me at

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

The post Amazing Audiobooks and Quick Picks Lists are Moving to The Hub, and You’re Invited to Be a Part of the Team! appeared first on The Hub.

BFYA Teen Feedback Session at ALA Midwinter 2017

Mon, 01/30/2017 - 10:06

On Saturday, January 21st, in the room as far as you can possibly get from the exhibit hall, a crowd of teen librarians anxiously awaited for the BFYA Teen Feedback Session to begin. Unfortunately, we were missing a key component–the teens!  But they finally made their way down the long hall, loaded with bags of books and swag.

The titles under consideration filled 10 full pages. So the moderator went page by page, inviting teens to step up to the mic and express their feelings about any of the books that were on the page. The teens responses were eloquent and insightful. And they did not hold back at all, for better (or worse). Leave it to teens to be completely and unabashedly honest.

The overall theme of the day: The books that came out this year caused them to have a lot of “compassion fatigue” — too many characters died this year! Also, teens are seeking out diverse stories–they recognize the importance and want to see themselves or others they know represented in the books they read.

The links to the long list and top ten Best Fiction for Young Adult lists are here. Below are the highlights from the feedback session!

Teen Favorites

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

“Great characters that are fully developed. That matters.”

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

“The best Cassandra Clare novel yet!”

Most popular sentiment about this book: “Loved it!”

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

“YES! It is a sweet story. I really loved the great family relationships portrayed.”

The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

“This story felt very realistic with the way it approached this period of history.”

Even though this story took place during World War II, Hanneke felt “real and relatable” to teen readers.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

This was an agreed upon favorite with many of the teens present.

The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

“[Nicola Yoon] is ON POINT!”

One girl talked about how the romances that Ms. Yoon writes are so fantastic and realistic.

One teen approached to express her love for this book: “1. The main girl is black. 2. The guy is Korean, and that’s my ideal kind of guy!”

She later came back up to the mic to make sure we knew this: “The fact that the main character is black is so awesome and means a lot to me.”

Other Positive Feedback

Where You’ll Find Me by Natasha Friend

“The characters in this story were redeemable. I really liked that.”

Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

“This was a breath of fresh air. This story was only kind of a dramatic teen tragedy. Also, the characters all speak in described accents–I could hear them in my head while I was reading. It made it more fun!”

Another teen said: “It taught me that the most stony people are made out of flesh.”

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King

“The surrealism of this story makes it relatable. Because life as a teen is complex.”

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

“One of the best books I have ever read!” She really liked how it showed different sides of what goes on at school.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

“So authentic! In fact, I wanted her to be at lunch with us so I could tell her how AWESOME she is!”

Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick

One teen admitted she “threw it at someone’s head so she would read it!” It was THAT good.

As I Descended by Robin Talley

“I can never read it again because IT WAS JUST THAT AMAZING!”

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

“This had the best-handled death I have ever read.”

Mixed Reviews

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

“Good power of suspense, but sometimes it was really frustrating.”

“It needed to get to the action sooner, but it was still good.”

“This book felt more like a prologue than a first book.”

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

“I really liked it! But it may have had a little too much religion for me.”

The Reader by Traci Chee

“It took a while for me to get into it. But once I got into it I was glad I read it!”

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

One teen expressed excitement: “Me and Jane–we are LITERALLY THE SAME PERSON!”

Another teen expressed her dislike for inaccuracy: “If you have taken AP Euro[pean history] you probably aren’t going to like My Lady Jane. The fantastical elements (like the animorphs) really mess with the history.”

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

“I felt that this book was too long. Some parts just dragged on. I still liked it, but it just went on too long.”

“I appreciate the subject matter addressed in this story. It is really important.”

The Monster in the Road is Me by J.P. Romney

“I shouldn’t have to use Google Translate THAT much to understand what is going on.”

“I watch Japanese TV shows so I got it.”

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

One teen mentioned how it felt a little slow because it focused so much on mental health, but mentioned that it would probably be really helpful for teens who struggled with their mental health.

Another teen reflected on how “the connections between the characters were important.”

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Teen was “a little confused” by how the story was developing, but by the end she would read the sequel.

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach

“Getting the perspective of Ivy League schools was really cool to read about.”

Hard Passes and Critical Analyses

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry


Up to This Point by Jennifer Longo

A couple of teens described it at a “niche” read. For those that read it, it was a little too specific in audience, which made it a little harder to get through.

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

“I didn’t like how [Grace] dragged [Henry] through the mud.”

The Humor

The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín

One teen boy asked his fellow teens: “Was I the only one who felt like I was reading the script to a Predator movie?”

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

“These authors are coming up with more and more creative ways to die! Spontaneous combustion! I laughed a lot while reading this!”

This is a guest post from Jennifer Powell, who is the School Library Media Specialist at Tarrant High School in Birmingham, AL. She is passionate about transforming the library into a place her 7th-12th grade students can find themselves in. She loves all things YA, anything with elephants on it, and Harry Potter Pops. You can find her blogging at and tweeting @Powells_Library.

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Promoting Reading and Reading Diversely in High School Libraries

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 07:00

As high school librarians who value diverse voices, we have always been sure to have and feature books by people of color and other under-represented groups. Like many in our field, we create monthly, thematic displays and reading lists, one example being those that highlight books by and about African-Americans during Black History Month.   Similarly, when we create our list of selected readings for our yearly summer reading program, we have been very thoughtful about being sure that there is something for everyone in terms of demographic representation and genres.

While all these actions are steps in the right direction, this school year we decided to be even more intentional about encouraging our students and staff to read more diversely. By introducing the Raptor Reading Bingo challenge, we have taken our focus on social justice and multicultural literacies to the next level. We created a bingo board that gives students and staff choice in their readings, but is designed to get them to read books by authors of color and featuring other under-represented groups like LGBTQ.

As part of introducing this initiative to students and staff, we have asked all faculty to prominently display their in-progress bingo boards in classrooms, and staff without traditional classrooms, like deans, counselors, and administration, received poster-sized versions that the entire department can contribute to. It has been especially rewarding to hear about teachers asking students for book recommendations that would qualify for a particular square, and the resulting conversations that invite discussion of race and equity within the context of pleasure reading.

As the year progresses, we will continue to promote the Raptor Reading Bingo Challenge within our school by inviting students and staff to share what books they’ve been reading on our giant bingo board (pictured), and we also plan to promote it to the parents and feeder area schools in our community.

We believe there are intrinsic rewards to reading initiatives like this, and we also know that some prizes and extra credit options never hurt. Beginning next semester, we will enter the names of students who complete a bingo into a monthly drawing. The confirming of these books is usually done in a brief conversation with teachers or librarians, and we’re hoping that as the program develops, we can have students film quick and informal “60 Second Booktalks” that can then be posted on social media with the hashtag #rrchallenge. In a school our size, approximately 2700 students, it can be difficult to get full buy-in, but when we approached our English department about offering extra credit to students for completing a bingo, they all agreed.

In addition to the value of modeling a school culture that supports and encourages potentially life-long habit of reading for pleasure, this initiative also intentionally demonstrates a value for books by people of color and other societal minorities. By emphasizing the value of these books, we invite students who are of these minority groups to experience these books as a “mirror” of their own experience, while these same books serve as a “window” into another’s experience for many others.

Raptor Reading Challenge BINGO

Example of suggested reading list: Book with a character or by an author with a disability

Kristin McKeown and Hollie Hawkins are teacher librarians at Eaglecrest High School inCentennial, CO and are the recipients of the 2014 National School Library Program of the Year award from AASL. In addition to a passion for teaching educators about mindfulness through, Kristin is also trying to figure out how many fantasy books she can get to qualify for the bingo squares. Hollie is a dedicated champion of all things YA and promotes it to teens and adults alike.

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An Interview With 2017 Morris Award Finalist, Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 05:00

Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock is a finalist for the 2017 William C. Morris award. Her book, The Smell Of Other People’s Houses, is told in four points of view of teens living in Alaska in the 1970s. Their individual stories weave together in a satisfying ending that will give readers a sense of another time and culture.

Your background is writing news for radio.  How is your writing process different than when you wrote for news? The biggest difference is not having a daily deadline. Working on something for years rather than days is a totally different thing and I think it takes practice transitioning from one to the other. I still write though, as if each chapter is its own story and use a lot of the skills I used when writing a four minute radio piece. I miss interviewing people and using their own voices, which now feels like cheating after having to create characters out of thin air. (Although I did mine some of my past interviewees for personality traits for my characters.)

It feels like the four point of view characters each represent a different feel or culture of Alaska.  What do you want the reader to learn from this? Yes, I think you’re right about that. Alaska is a huge place and each region has its own feel, including differences in climate and culture, so it’s difficult for any one book about Alaska to portray the entire state. I chose to focus on the places that I lived throughout my life and depict those places through the kinds of people I knew and had close experiences with. I’ve heard so many different takeaways from readers about what they got (or didn’t get) from this way of telling the story. I just wanted to show how hard it is to generalize the Alaska way of life. Alaska is many things to many people and all of it is true.

How did the idea of smell and association become such a prominent theme to the book?  Was this always the idea or did it evolve? It totally evolved. I wasn’t even going in that direction until a friend and I wrote together and she came up with the idea for the title. After that, it just kept popping up.


Where did you get the idea for Crazy Dancing Guy? Oh, thank you for asking! I love him and he is based on someone that actually did dance on the street corner every single morning. One day while I was working as a reporter we decided to interview him and ask why he did that. He said, “I just think it makes people feel good when they’re driving to work. It makes people happy.” He did that for so many years that when he died, there was a huge tribute to him. I never forgot him, so was happy to give him a street corner in my story as well.

Where did the story about the red slip come from?  I’m not even sure where that came from. I guess that bit was total fiction. The original story collection was all going to center around a red rubber band and show how one insignificant thing can often connect people. The rubber band became a red ribbon and I guess I just needed a point of origin for the ribbon. So many things did not just miraculously appear, but are a result of many many re-writes, which I think is how writing is supposed to work.

What do you want readers to take away from the experience of this book? If someone isn’t familiar with Alaska I hope they might realize that no matter where we live, we all desperately want to feel that we are safe and loved and that we have something in life to look forward to. For Alaskans, I hope it will resonate and feel authentic.

Who are the authors that influence you? Young Adult authors that I particularly like are Margo Lanagan and A.S. King. I love short stories by Alice Munro and Maile Meloy. But I love the classics and am a huge fan of Tolstoy and Virginia Woolf as well.

What is your next project? Something that is NOT set in Alaska, with a little magical realism thrown in.

What are some of your favorite reads of the past year? I loved Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, When the World Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore, Riverkeep by Martin Stewart and The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas, just to name a few. There are SO MANY!

Kris Hickey is currently reading 18 And Life On Skid Row by Sebastian Bach.




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Using History to Understand Current Social Issues

Wed, 01/18/2017 - 07:00

Many current social issues have long histories, and many teens are expressing interest in understanding the historical context of contemporary politics. To become better informed, teens might want to revisit these issues as they played out in history to gain a deeper understanding of modern day events and attitudes. As teens learn more and judge for themselves how the past compares to attitudes today, it could also inspire a deeper understanding of human rights and our responsibilities as humans in today’s modern society.

While this author is not an expert on these topics, she hopes it will encourage teens and teen advocates to understand the past and how this could foster discussion on our current societal issues.

Nazi Party Rally Grounds (1934) – Wikimedia Commons

Rise of Nationalism vs. Rise of the Nazis

A number of countries have seen an emerging rise in nationalism, including the U.S for 2016. A quick search will sport numerous news articles on the topic. In some cases of both past and recent years, this nationalism has resulted in revolutions and independence for countries, for example, Great Britain’s “Brexit” decision to remove itself from the European Union. However, in the 1920’s through 1930’s, nationalism paired with discrimination and xenophobia resulted in the National Socialist German Worker’s Party and the rise of the Nazis. For more understanding about German nationalism during the Nazi era and those searching for social justice during that time, here are a few online and print resources to give a brief view into available information and viewpoints during that period.

Online Resources:

YA Nonfiction:

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman

Two siblings formerly part of the Hitler Youth form a secret resistance group called the White Rose and distribute anti-Nazi materials.

Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust by Doreen Rappaport (YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults – 2015)

A variety of profiles of Jewish people who defied the current climate to save others and are remembered in this detailed look, including some teens.

Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington (YALSA Nonfiction Award nomination 2014)

This overview documents changes in society with the rise of the Nazi Party, paying specific attention to treatment of homosexuals.

YA/Middle Grade Fiction:

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Best Books for Young Adults 2009, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2014)

A teen joins Hitler Youth but questions his teachings with those of his youth and comes to rebel by distributing underground information of news reports.

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

A close look at the rise of Adolf Hitler in the eyes of his niece who befriends a young reporter who transforms her views.

Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz

An Irish/British spy masquerades as a Hitler youth in this high stakes thriller.

Adult Nonfiction for further research:

Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazis Rise to Power by Andrew Nagorski

American journalists living in Germany gained a first-hand account of the Nazis rise to power.

The Third Reich in History and Memory by Richard J. Evans

An overview of the rise to power, height of dominance, and postwar era in history and memories.

Japanese Internment vs. Anti-Islam

A number of reports have been in the news lately both for the US and other countries against Muslims, especially Muslim refugees. Some reports have related a comparison of the Anti-Islam sentiment and the future possibility of a Muslim registry to the attitude against Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II. At that time, West Coast Japanese Americans were considered potential enemies of the military and were sent through an executive order by then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt into internment camps. Later this period was defined as a human rights violation and some reparations were made towards Japanese American survivors. A few resources following Japanese Americans during this period in history are found below.

Online Resources: 

YA Nonfiction:

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II written by Martin W. Sandler (YALSA Nonfiction Award finalist 2014)

Sandler introduces evacuees and their families and documents their experiences, including those Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military.

Fighting for Honor: Japanese Americans and World War II by Michael L. Cooper

A more extensive look at Japanese Americans in the military fighting during World War II.

Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference by Joanne Oppenheim

 A San Diego children’s librarian writes to her child-age and teenage patrons who were taken into Japanese American internment camps.

YA Fiction:

Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata

A Japanese American girl is sent to an internment camp on the Mojave Indian Reservation and finds that she and a Native American boy share some things in common.

Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II Internment by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

A brief story about a teen girl sent to Manzanar internment camp and its effect on her family.

Adult Nonfiction for further research:

Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II by Richard Reeves

A journalist traces a detailed and comprehensive history of Japanese American internment camps and the events by political leaders that led to the decision.

Silver Like Dust: One Family’s Story of America’s Japanese Internment by Kimi Cunningham Grant

Author learns and recounts her grandmother’s experience in a Japanese internment camp and comes to accept her heritage.

Latin American Politics

The recent death of Fidel Castro, leader/dictator of Cuba, has spurred talk of the era of Latin American dictators, whose practices and policies are still ongoing since Cuba still has a one-party dictatorship under Raul Castro with no opposition permitted. Additionally, recent news articles have compared certain political leaders to Latin American dictators in possessing a similar style in address and authority. Though there is less material published overall on these specific topics, especially in young adult literature, here are a few sources to explore.

Online Resources:

  • Encyclopaedia Britannica – Challenges to the Political Order and Latin American Since the Mid-Twentieth Century covers an overview of developments in Latin America from revolutions and military regimes to political changes and populism
  • The Mapping History Project by the University of Oregon and Universitat Munster records the changes in the Caribbean, Central and South America from the end of the 19th century and the predominant oligarchies and flows into the late 20th century with notes about military regimes, juntas, and one-party states.

YA Nonfiction:

Leaving Glorytown: One Boy’s Struggle under Castro by Eduardo F. Calcines (YALSA Nonfiction Award nominee 2010)

A memoir about life in Cuba at the beginning of the Communist revolution and immigrating to the United States as a teen.

Che Guevara: You Win or You Die by Stuart A. Kallen

A revolutionary who became friends with Castro and together they overthrew the dictator in Cuba but Guevara was assassinated.

Augusto Pinochet’s Chile by Diana Childress

Covers military leader Pinochet’s rise to power in a military coup and his control through a junta and naming himself president of Chile and becoming a dictator despite trying to save his country from Communism.

Note: Readers might find this particularly interesting as the president Pinochet overthrew was Salvador Allende, the uncle of author Isabel Allende, found below.

Latin American Fiction

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

Three sisters are murdered and the fourth is left to tell their stories of life under the horrors of dictator’s rule in the Dominican Republic

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

A history of Latin America and Chile as seen through the tragic lives of the Truebas family.

The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The investigation into the murder of a South American dictator reveals his evolution from leader to dictator.

Adult Nonfiction for further research:

Red Heat: Conspiracy, Murder, and the Cold War in the Caribbean by Alex von Tunzelmann

A history of three dictators of the Caribbean during the Cold War.

Looking for History: Dispatches from Latin America by Alma Guillermoprieto

A series of essays in which the author describes Latin American politics and society of Colombia, Cuba and Mexico as well as references to Argentina and Peru.

Gringo: Coming-of-Age in Latin America by Chesa Boudin

A man travels through Latin America recounting his experiences in history and local political views.

Additional note:

Readers might be interested to know educational database JSTOR publishes some so-termed ‘scholarly news’ articles that relate history to current events; however, articles are written by a variety of authors with many points of view.

We welcome any informational contributions to these resource lists by commenting below!

—Kara Hunter, currently reading The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

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2017 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with Jeff Zentner

Wed, 01/18/2017 - 07:00

Jeff Zentner is a finalist for the 2017 William C. Morris Award YA Debut Award, which will be presented at the ALA Midwinter Youth Media Awards on Monday, January 23, 2017.

The Serpent King is about three teenaged outcasts in the small town of Forrestville, Tennessee, who are seniors  in high school trying to overcome their family’s histories and expectations to make their own choices for how they want to live their lives.

Congratulations on being a Morris Award finalist. What was your reaction when you got the news?

Great surprise! I actually found out on twitter from a librarian who’s totally unconnected with my publishing network (editor, agent, etc.) from whom I normally learn information like this. And my first reaction was “oh man, I hope this guy isn’t pulling my chain.

The difficult relationships between fathers and sons and the sins of the fathers being visited on the sons is a major part of the book. Did you have a difficult relationship with your father? How autobiographical is your book?

I had and have a great relationship with my dad, so those parts of the story aren’t autobiographical. I did grow up in a strict religious faith that often left me feeling alienated and isolated from my peers at school, like Dill. But, like Dill, I managed to make a few very great friends who were my lifeline.

I was heartbroken over the fate of one of the characters and actually burst into tears while reading your book on a train. You didn’t pull any punches here and it’s an honest and sometimes unflinching look at these three characters’ lives. Were you worried that readers would be angry about what happens to one of the characters?

I honestly didn’t think beforehand that I was capable of writing a character that people would feel deeply enough to be angry with me about. I discovered that I was from my first reader, my buddy Jarrod. I gave him my manuscript to read and sort of forgot that he was reading it until one day I got a text from him that simply said: “You [expletive] [expletive].” I was like “??????” and he texted back “[Character name].” It makes me very happy that readers are forging a connection with these characters, even if I have to endure occasional wrath.

Religion, especially Pentecostalism isn’t a religion that I’m very familiar with – especially the unusual practice of snake handling. It’s certainly not something that’s explored in YA fiction very often. What made you include this? Do you have personal experience with unusual worship practices?

I wanted to explore the effects of struggling inside with a strange faith that outsiders don’t understand—a faith that isolates you socially to begin with and even more when decide you have to find your own. I also wanted to include a religious tradition specific to the American South, which is the place I write about. Finally, I loved how the practices of snake handling and drinking poisonous things functioned on a metaphorical and symbolic level in my main character’s story arc. I do have personal experience with unusual worship practices, so I was on comfortable ground.

The expectations of parents and how children are burdened by trying to live up to those expectations or obey their parents is a huge part of this book. His mother, especially, is putting Dill, in an impossible position. How were you able to write such an uncompromising and unflinching portrayal of her?

I’m very familiar with the thinking of religious fundamentalists who may have little to hope for or little to rejoice in in this earthly life, so they orient their life and thinking toward the next life and the hope that lies there. And when that’s your only hope, you develop a certain rigidity of thought and behavior designed to keep you on the path to that hope. I believe, sadly, that there are many parents who love God more than they love their own children, so I wrote Dill’s mother as someone who put her son second in her life after God. From there, it was simple to intuit her choices.

Dill, Lydia and Travis feel like they’re outcasts. Did you feel like you were too as a teen?

Absolutely. I felt very isolated and alone. I was a weird, angsty kid.

There’s a beautiful sense of place in this book. Like most teens, Lydia just wants to escape her small town for the big city but her father says some really thoughtful things about why their small southern town isn’t so bad. Did you grow up on a similar type of community?

I did. The town I grew up in was substantially larger than Forrestville, but definitely not a big city. I grew thinking that driving an hour to the nearest city with a mall was the height of cosmopolitanism. That’s a hard place for a kid, but as I get older, I find myself viewing that place with a certain nostalgia and wistfulness, so I understand both Lydia and her father.

Music is also a huge part of the plot. I know you’re a musician too. How did that influence your decision to write a YA book? Did you listen to music to inspire you to write? If so what? If you had to associate a song with each of the main characters, what would they be?

It was my music career that led me to volunteer at Tennessee Teen Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp, which is where I really fell in love with young people and wanted to create art for them. The problem being, of course, that I was about 15 years too old to make the kind of music marketed to young adults. Plus, I had no idea how to make it. So I knew that I needed to switch horses. Publishing is much more forgiving age wise, as in you don’t have to have made it big before you’re 30, like in music. I’d always loved reading; I’d worked at bookstores; so I thought maybe I’d try my hand at writing books for young adults. And here we are.

I knew I would love this book right from the beginning when you mention that there’s a copy of The Secret History by Donna Tartt in Lydia’s car, What authors and/or books have influenced you? (Besides the obvious references to George R. R. Martin, that is!).

I love southern lit: Jesmyn Ward, Cormac McCarthy, and Charles Frazier are my favorites. I love deeply lyrical writing like Leslie Marmon Silko, Michael Ondaatje, Donna Tartt, Joan Didion, Anthony Doerr, Emily St. John Mandel, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Patti Smith. I loved funny writers like David Sedaris and David Rakoff.  I have always deeply loved Stephen King, and The Body and It were big influences on how I wrote the friendship in The Serpent King. I had not read tons of YA before I wrote it, but I had read and loved John Green, David Levithan, Sherman Alexie, John Corey Whaley, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Rainbow Rowell, and Jenny Downham.

What’s one surprising thing that you want readers to know about you?

I’m related to Wilford Brimley by marriage.

Jeff, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions and for writing such a beautiful book.

-Interviewed by Sharon Rawlins, currently reading the galley of Empress of a Thousands Skies by Rhoda Belleza

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2017 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with Sonia Patel

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 07:00

Sonia Patel is a finalist for the 2017 William C. Morris YA Debut Award for her novel Rani Patel in Full Effect. The award winner will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media (YMA) Awards on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017.

Rani Patel in Full Effect grabs the mic to tell a story of hip hop, healing, and the path to self-understanding. Set in the 1990s, Rani, a 16-year-old Gujarati Indian teenager, is growing up on the remote Hawaiian island of Moloka’i and is isolated from her peers. She also has a very complicated relationship with her parents to say the least. Her mother doesn’t seem to see her, and when her father gets a new girlfriend, things come out for Rani about her relationship with him that she hasn’t been to admit to herself. Her father’s betrayal has her feeling like widow, in a bold stroke, and like widows in India are often made to do, she shaves off her hair. Rani finds solace and power in writing slam poetry taking on the patriarchy in the island’s underground hip-hop scene as MC Sutra. She soon attracts the attention of the swoony Mark, who is much older than Rani. Even though there is plenty to warn her against him, she falls head over heels. This could easily be the undoing of Rani, but through pain and art, Rani is able to connect with parts of herself lost and unknown.

Sonia Patel is a Gujarati American and the daughter of immigrant parents. She lives in Hawaii where she works as a psychiatrist working mainly with teens and their families. You can follow her on her website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

Congratulations on your first novel and being selected as a Finalist for the William C. Morris Award for debut authors!

Thank you so much for reaching out! I am honored and grateful for being a Morris Award finalist and for the opportunity to be interviewed for the YALSA Hub!

You are a psychiatrist with a busy career as a therapist working predominately with teen girls and families, what drew you to writing books for teens?

When I provide psychotherapy to a teen in my child & adolescent psychiatry practice, the teen is often not the only patient. It is not uncommon for the teen’s family to have dynamics that are dysfunctional. And it is this unbalanced family system that is many times my real “patient.” In cases like this I provide family psychotherapy. This can be a hard sell if the family does not accept that the system is flawed and needs work. I try to help them understand that treating the teen alone will not entirely address the problems. Knowing this from my medical training as well as from my own dysfunctional family experiences growing up, I am always thinking about ways to facilitate positive family system change. During many family therapy sessions I want to tell the families about my own experiences in hopes of giving a real life example of why my recommendations might be helpful. But there are reasons psychiatrists generally steer clear of self-revelation in direct patient care. So of course I mostly bite my tongue.

Meanwhile I had a binder full of rap I’d written over the years. My own therapy for my personal struggles. One day flipping through the binder, it hit me. I could write a teen novel highlighting family dysfunction and how it can affect a teen. I could base it on a combination of my real life family experiences and those of some of patients and my imagination. That was how Rani Patel In Full Effect was born.

Once I started writing I knew I was onto something unique, especially given my perspective as a psychiatrist. A perspective that isn’t represented in the YA world as far as I’ve seen. I think of it as diversity in diversity. In Rani I can best describe it as this: Rani is a POC. She’s growing up disconnected from two diverse cultures, Gujarati Indian and Native Hawaiian. She doesn’t have the luxury to cope only with normal teen developmental issues. She’s been her father’s object her entire life. She has to gain insight into the impact of the abuse on how she thinks, feels, and acts before she can even begin to make positive changes in her life and get back to normal teen developmental issues.

There seems to be some similarities with you and Rani, you are both first generation Gujarati American that spent their youth in Connecticut and Hawaii. What was the transition like for you to move to Hawaii as child? What drew you back to Hawaii after leaving to attend college at Stanford?

The transition to Hawaii was difficult. First, it was a decision my father unilaterally made without input from my mother or I. Second, I had to watch my mother cope with being torn away from the Gujarati immigrant family and friends with whom she was so close. Third, the island my father picked wasn’t Oahu. That island might have been a bit easier for my mother since there were other Indians there. But my father picked Moloka’i. It’s a beautiful island with a strong Native Hawaiian activist movement. But it was difficult for my mother to fit in there since she was completely cut off from her Indian roots. For me, it wasn’t as bad because I did whatever my dad wanted anyway. For a number of reasons similar to Rani, I didn’t have my own identity separate from him. Looking back, it’s clear that the move destroyed our already dysfunctional family.

I grew to love Hawaii. Especially the cultural diversity, weather, and chill vibe. For my own reasons, I always knew I’d return to live and work in Hawaii.  That wasn’t a questions for me even when I was at Stanford. I’d made my own connections to the islands, apart from my father’s influence. And this time when I moved to Hawaii it would be on my terms. I chose to live on Oahu. For a number of years I also flew over to Moloka’i to provide child & adolescent psychiatry services at the public schools. Today, I count my blessings that I get to wake up everyday in such a lovely place.

One of the most rewarding transformations of the book is Rani’s relationship with her mother. As a reader we see Rani’s mother through Rani’s eyes, and we are allowed to see the shifts as Rani starts to see her differently. Are there similarities to your relationship with to your mother?

Absolutely. In fact, I modeled Rani’s relationship with her mother on my own relationship with my mother. My mother is my rock. She always has been. And I have an amazing relationship with her now. But it took years to get there. With time I’ve come to understand why it took so long. It wasn’t that I was a bad daughter, which I used to think. Or that she was a cold mother. She was reacting to her circumstances. Though she’d immigrated to America with my father after their arranged marriage, she never fully acculturated. She loved India and her connections to India (Gujarati family & friends in America). She was raised with a confusing blend of progressive “don’t get married-be a doctor instead” and “get married-do what your husband says.” My mother really was told that “husband is god.” So unlike some of her Gujarati female friends and family, she couldn’t stand up to her husband. Like Rani, I watched her do my father’s bidding while suffering inside and growing increasingly emotionally distant from me. Like Rani, my distant relationship with my mother and my observations with how she handled her life unconsciously affected my own life—I couldn’t be assertive with my thoughts and feelings, I hated myself, and I had a difficult time in female friendships. The one major difference between Rani’s relationship with her mother and mine is that it took years for my mother and I to heal our relationship. And it started with insight. Insight usually takes a long time, rarely does it occur over the course of a school year. I talk about this in my author’s note. But in the novel I wanted to show the progression within a shorter timespan that teens could perhaps relate more to. I wanted to show teens what a healed relationship can look like. I wanted to show teens that it’s worth it to work towards healing relationships that will ultimately be a source of strength, nurturance and love.

Much of Rani’s experience and coming of age has a timelessness about it. What drew you setting her story in the early 1990’s?

That was the time of my own coming of age. It seemed perfect because it was the golden age of hip hop (late 80s-early 90s). It was a time of tremendous innovation, diversity, and quality in the hip hop culture. It was kind of like hip hop formed its true identity, just like Rani formed hers. Also, it was a time before cell phones and social media dominated teen life. Without the distraction of all that I was hoping to show that Rani was alone in her head most of the time. And this reinforced her one sided perspective on and expectations of relationships. She wasn’t getting much input from outside sources so it was difficult for her to see that it was a problem that she only had guy friends and no female friendships. I intentionally tried to present the other characters in the book with not as much change or depth as perhaps people want to see in novels. This is realistic in terms of how an incest survivor might view relationships—only from the point of view of how the relationship can serve them. So all the characters are from Rani’s one sided, narrow perspective. Until she gains insight into how her trauma affected her, she can only relate to people in her life in terms of how they “serve” her needs. That’s how she learned to have relationships being her father’s “object.”

Rani finds an outlet through hip hop and poetry. What is your relationship to both, and why did you choose that medium for Rani? (Also, you have great videos posted of you doing some of the poems from the book, is there one we can share on the blog?)

Rani Patel In Full Effect was a product of my love of hip hop and rap. The way hip hop and rap gave Rani a positive way to cope with her family’s dysfunction is also what it did for me. By writing rap Rani could fake her self-worth until it became real.  Something I did as well. Hip hop was Rani’s culture when she couldn’t find solace in her own Gujarati culture. Same for me. Once I found hip hop and rap as a child there was no going back. Nothing else could give me that same healthy comfort. The lyrics and beat of rap let me express my thoughts and feelings in a way I couldn’t in real life. Later I also found the same healing quality in poetry.

(Thanks for the props on the videos! Please feel free to share one on the blog.)

I appreciated the authenticity of Rani’s struggle to work through the issues surrounding her abuse. Often times in young adult literature the path presented to healing is more linear.  Reading this book I felt that readers got a more realistic perspective of how hard it is to work through the issues, how it is anything but linear, and how humans are more complex and can be a lot of things at once. Have you read a lot of other YA that look at issues of incest and abuse, and are their some authors you think do it well?

I am glad you took that away from the book. It was my intention to show how difficult, repetitive, and frustrating healing from sexual trauma can be. I’ve read other YA novels that look at issues of rape. I really like Christa Desir’s Fault Line. I think she does an amazing job of discussing the complexities of the aftermath of sexual assault. In terms of books with incest themes, I like Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas, Identical by Ellen Hopkins, and Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma. Each of these books offers interesting, unique ways to tell such stories.

Layered into this book are some environmental and social issues around water rights and Native sovereignty on Moloka’i during the early 1990s. This brings in the setting of the island and the community into focus and also is a place where Rani intersects with her father. How have things progressed in regards to these issues since that time?

The EPA designation of Moloka’i as a sole source aquifer was huge for the island. In the end, Moloka’i Ranch did not get the access to the water they wanted for their west end condo and golf course. Also in the 2000s the Ranch wanted more water to build a luxury development on some sacred land on the dry west end, La’au Point. Moloka’i people resisted and the Ranch lost their bid on the development project.  Moloka’i continues to resist unnecessary development to this day. The high percentage of Native Hawaiians on the island continue to work towards preserving their culture and traditions. Current issues on Moloka’i include water access for Hawaiian Homestead lands, farming, and unemployment. There is conflict in terms of GMO vs. non-GMO farming. Many islanders prefer non-GMO farming because it is more in line with ancient Hawaiian ways. But there are also many islanders who fear job loss if GMO farming is restricted.

Can you talk a little about your upcoming project The Calamitous Love of Jaya and Rasa?

I am very excited about this YA novel (the title will be shorter)! I present the lives of two teens from opposite sides of the track—a transgender Gujarati boy from a wealthy family and a mixed ethnicity girl from a poor, broken family. The characters and their stories are based on a blend of real patients I’ve worked with over the years. I try to present various themes, including depression, sex trafficking, LGBTQ issues, alcoholism, and bulimia in a way that patients I’ve treated experienced. I also try to present some of the social issues on Oahu as I’ve experienced and as described to me by patients. Things like wealth, elitism, privilege, private vs. public school differences. Then there’s the sweet love story. That’s where I hope readers will see Jaya and Rasa’s true colors. Away from the challenges that life throws them. I’m working on edits now and it’s so much fun. I love Jaya and Rasa and I hope teens will too!

— Danielle Jone currently reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

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