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New and Forthcoming LGBTQ Young Adult Fiction

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 07:00

This summer, The Hub did a round up of Speculative LGBTQ fiction and highlighted other notable LGBTQ young adult novels. If you’ve worked your way through those lists and are looking for more LGBTQ fiction, you’re in luck! This post is highlighting teen fiction that features lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and otherwise non-heterosexual identifying characters and themes that are coming out in Fall 2014 and Winter 2015.

In some of these novels, the sexual orientation and gender identity are integral to the plot, and in others, it’s just another characteristic of the protagonist. There’s a great mix of genres and styles so that any reader can find a book they’ll enjoy. With titles from debut authors as well as those firmly established in the YA world, it’s great to see such an eclectic assortment of titles.

Realistic: Historical and Contemporary

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

This is the story of two fraternal twins, who are both artists and both struggle with their sexuality in very different ways. Both must overcome a family tragedy and their own betrayals of one another.

This novel is perfect for fans of Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley.

Lies we Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Against the backdrop of desegration in Virginia in 1959, this is a romance between two girls and promises to be an emotional read.

Readers who liked The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth (2013 Morris Award Finalist) or Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Aliré Saenz (2013 Printz Honor Award, 2013 Stonewall Award, 2013 Pura Belpré Award and 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten) should check this one out.

Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman

Already published in Australia, this novel follows Alex, who was born intersexed, raised as a boy, but who identifies as a girl. She struggles through bullying at school and parents who don’t understand to realize her true self.

Put this in the hands of teens who like funny, relatable protagonists and Aussie YA.

Speculative: Sci-fi, Fantasy, Dystopian

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Two novels in one. In alternating chapters, this tells the story of a young debut writer struggling with pressures of publishing and personal issues and the paranormal novel she’s written. Not only does the main character have a romantic relationship with another girl, she also is of East Asian descent.

Give to readers who loved Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, especially the parts about Simon Snow (and you know, all of Westerfeld’s other books).

 Stranger by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith 

Set against a post-apocalpytic Los Angeles that feels like a futuristic Wild West, this novels follows a diverse cast of characters in terms of both race and sexual orientation who must navigate a landscape full of telekinetic squirrels, man-eating trees, and a bounty hunter after an ancient book.

Hand this to readers who enjoyed Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, Legend by Marie Lu, or Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block.

The Darkest Path of the Forest by Holly Black

A brother and a sister were both in love with the same boy as children, but it didn’t matter when he was a mythical creature asleep in a glass coffin. But when he wakes up…

This dark tale of love and betrayal in a world where the fae and human live side by side is a thrilling ride that blends the struggles of contemporary teenagers with the magical world of the fae.

Although Holly Black has her own legions of fans, those who haven’t tried her yet but love Maggie Stiefvater or Laini Taylor should check out her latest.

These are just a handful of LGBTQ titles coming out in the next six months—what other YA novels with LGBTQ characters are you looking forward to reading? 


– Molly Wetta, currently reading Lily Blue, Blue Lily by Maggie Stiefvater

The Monday Poll: Your Most Anticipated Fall Standalone Title

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 23:13

photo by flickr user JustyCinMD

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you to choose your favorite librarian from YA lit in celebration of Library Card Sign-up Month. The results were fairly evenly divided: Lirael from Lirael by Garth Nix came out on top with 28% of the vote, followed closely by Marian from the Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl with 23%. Princess Cimorene from Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles took third place with 18% of the vote, because who doesn’t love a princess librarian? You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, Fall is in the air (well, sort of– it’s 100 degrees here in Southern California!) and we want to know which upcoming standalone YA title you’re most looking forward to this season. Lots of us love series, but some complain of sequel fatigue and are aching to find a good book that stands on its own. Luckily, even though series remain popular in YA, there are lots of good standalone titles to choose from! Vote in the poll below, or be sure to add your choice in the comments if we missed it.

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

Tweets of the Week: September 12th

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 07:00

How was your week? Lots happened online. Take a look!





Just for Fun/Giggles

–Hannah Gómez, currently reading The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum

Back to (Realistic, but Fictional) School

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 07:00

School Room by Rob Shenk

It’s getting to be that time of year; the temperatures are falling, the edges of the leaves are crisping, football is revving up, baseball is winding down, and many of us are getting used to new teachers and new classes.

To help take the sting out of the end of summer (goodbye till next year, reading on the beach with an iced tea…), I like to throw myself into celebrating the beginning of fall (hello again, curling up in an armchair with a hot chocolate while the rain falls outside!). For me, this means: new notebooks, adding apples to pretty much every meal, and diving into books that highlight all the little rituals of the school year. The following are some of my favorite titles with strong school settings, to help us all get excited for the new semester (even if we can’t actually enroll at Hogwarts, which would, let’s be honest, be the ultimate in back-to-school excitement).

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Frankie is really smart (and unaccustomed to hiding her smarts in front of guys, even though sometimes they seem more comfortable if she does), dislikes accepting the status quo, is impatient with her dad’s secretive pride about his own halcyon days at her boarding school, and is (maybe) on the path to becoming a criminal mastermind- an idea she finds morally…ambiguous. A 2009 Printz Honor Book, Teens Top Ten pick, and National Book Award finalist, plus a 2013 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults title, this is one of those books I’m always bothering everyone I know to read.

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Speculative fiction disguised as a coming-of-age story, Never Let Me Go was an Alex Award winner in 2006, and has quickly become a modern classic. Following a trio of students through their years at a seemingly traditional boarding school, Never Let Me Go is about the complex hierarchies and subtle competitions between friends, but it’s also about how to get the truth from adults, and how to live with truths that are shockingly, fundamentally painful to process.


Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

An adult-market book featuring one of my favorite YA protagonists ever, this is the sometimes uncomfortable, always emotionally compelling story of one girl’s journey through all four years of high school at a prestigious boarding school in Massachusetts. Lee Fiora is insecure, lonely, and comes from entirely different economic and social circumstances than most of her classmates. If you hate books where the protagonist makes bad choices and struggles to be likable, skip ahead in the list; Lee does both! But if you love a little angst, and have always felt like books about high school just don’t capture the grim social realities, this is a book for you.

The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The third book in Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, comes out in October (yay! My copy is, ahem, already pre-ordered), and it is my most-eagerly-anticipated fall YA release. The series revolves around Blue Sargent, and the quartet of guys she meets who attend the local all-boys prep school, Aglionby. Elements of fantasy, mystery, drama, and romance combine with deliciously rich character development to create a world so enticing, I included it in this “school stories” list even though time spent at Aglionby is negligible for some of the boys (when was the last time Ronan showed up for class, really?). Still, the presence of the academy looms large in the series, and it’s a place of rich heritage, mostly rich students, and slowly unfolding mysteries deeply rooted in the small town where the the Raven Boys, as Aglionby students are called, sometimes collide with the rest of the community. As LeVar Burton says though, you don’t have to take my word for it; The Raven Boys was a 2013 Teens Top Ten pick, which means the teens of the internet think it’s completely awesome too, and there’s still time to get caught up before the third volume comes out next month.


Bad Machinery

 Bad Machinery Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison

Time for a format shift: a hilarious webcomic (now also released in print by “case”) about a crew of friends, frenemies, cousins, and erstwhile teachers This was excellently highlighted by fellow Hub blogger and John Allison fan Traci Glass back in February. I included it here because I absolutely love the way all the amateur detectives still have to try to pass all their classes in the midst of a lot of paranormal sleuthing.  Hijinks obviously ensue. The Case of the Team Spirit was on the Great Graphic Novels 2014 list, and the webcomic is organized by cases here.

Girl in Translation

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Winner of a 2011 Alex Award, Girl in Translation is the story of Kimberly Chang, recently emigrated from Hong Kong with her mother and attempting to cram two full-time schedules into every day, attending a prestigious prep school during the day, working sweatshop shifts at night (while also finishing all her homework), and living in squalor in an unsafe, unregulated apartment. Kimberly is a studious, talented student, but she’s also trying to fit in with her classmates while helping her mother scrape by. 

These are just a handful of fairly recent books set in and around schools to help ring in the new term; there are so many more good ones out there. I’d love to hear your favorites in the comments!

-Carly Pansulla, currently reading The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Thirty Years at the Inn of the Last Home: Celebrating Dragonlance

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 07:00

Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Laura Hickman, and Larry Elmore at the 2014 Salt Lake Comic Con. Photo courtesy of Margaret Weis.

This past weekend I spent the vastly better part of three days at the truly outrageous 2014 Salt Lake Comic Con (more on that in another post) and one of the highlights, for me, was the Dragonlance 30th Anniversary Celebration panel, featuring Tracy and Laura Hickman, Margaret Weis, and artist Larry Elmore.

Along with a couple hundred other guests, I was treated to stories about the genesis and development of Dragonlance, a series of gaming modules and fantasy novels first published in the mid-1980s that became one of the most popular shared world settings of all time.  Tracy and Laura provided the show and tell, sharing their original draft of the gaming modules, TSR press releases and calendars, and collection of published manuals, while all four guests contributed to an awesome historical slideshow that featured an impressive array of questionable ’80s fashion, some awesome Dragonlance art, and a rare glimpse into the working environment that produced both Dungeons & Dragons and the Dragonlance franchise.

Much has been written about the world of Krynn, especially this past year as various events and outlets marked the 30th anniversary of the publication of Dragons of Autumn Twilight, the first book in the Dragonlance Chronicles (which also happened to be the first full-length novel from TSR.)  Dragonlance history, critiques and praise of the gaming modules and novels, the trials and travails of TSR have all been covered, and I’ve taken the opportunity to indulge my nostalgia by re-watching the tangentially-related 1983 Saturday morning Dungeons & Dragons cartoon (which, to be honest, I watch all the time, especially now that my daughter is into it) and paging through some of the Dragonlance art books and graphic novels I collected back in the day. I’m kind of a Dragonlance nerd, so I find all this history fascinating (and if you do too I highly recommend checking out the Dragonlance pieces at A.V. Club,, and for more great discussion.)  One thing I haven’t done is re-read the novels themselves, but that’s only because I just read them.  I do that every couple years.

One unusual thing about Dragonlance, for me, is how I came to it, and the fact that I remember so precisely how and why and when it happened.  I was a sophomore in high school and had stayed up late finishing Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath the night before, to get it out of the way for English class.  I forgot to grab a new book to take to class, but since I’d lucked into the best of all locker locations that year and was drop-central for all my friends, I had a locker full of other people’s reading material to choose from.  I grabbed the book on top, a thick paperback that belonged to my friend Will, and ran to class.

I was only about five minutes into free reading time when I realized I had no idea what was going on in this book, something called War of the Twins, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.  Oh.  Book Two.  Right.  I kept reading.  It was clear that I was missing a great deal of backstory and motivation, but it was…compelling.  I couldn’t stop reading.  I made it halfway through that book before my compulsion for reading things in order, together with the mounting dread I felt at the thought of Missing Something in the text, forced me to confront Will and demand book one.  Turns out I had to back up even further because I’d started in on book two of the second trilogy, Dragonlance Legends, a crime so heinous (at least to my obsessive mind) as to be unthinkable.  (Non fantasy readers are groaning here, I know!) Will gave me book one of the Dragonlance Chronicles, Dragons of Autumn Twilight and I tore through the series as fast as I could, at first anxious to get back to the story I’d left halfway through, but increasingly anxious just to find out What Happened Next.

The Dragonlance books were the first to be labeled unequivocally “Fantasy” in my head, and they’re what turned me into a Fantasy Reader, with caps, despite the fact that I’d been reading things like Dune (more than once) and Earthsea and Robin McKinley and Mary Stewart and a whole bunch of other genre books and existing on a steady diet of juvenile fantasy before that.  I couldn’t bring myself to read any of the books not written by Weis and Hickman because I didn’t think of them as gaming books or shared world, I thought of them as novels and I demanded authenticity despite the tie-in, franchise-y reality.  I never played through the game modules either, though I played a ton of D&D in high school.  Dragonlance lived in a separate part of my mind, a part reserved for the books that mattered most.

I loved those books.  I love those books.  Tanis, Laurana, Sturm, Raistlin and Caramon, Flint, Tas, Kitiara, Tika, Goldmoon, Riverwind, and Fizban…those characters live on in my head, just as vividly as other old friends rendered in arguably superior prose, tighter storytelling, whatever.  I don’t care. Those characters, that story–I love Dragonlance with a love that is irrational, timeless, and awesome.  I can quote parts of these books (and not just “Sturms sun shattered,” which is guaranteed to be remembered by–and instantly destroy–all Dragonlance fans) and do, and if I think too hard about Sturm, or Bupu, or Raistlin and Caramon I can make myself teary from memory.  I love these books because they turned me, in large part, into the reader I am today, but also just because I love them, truly, madly, deeply, without judgement or expectation.  As  Jason Heller explains in his A.V. Club piece, Dragonlance may appear somewhat cliched, full of been-there-done-that, but

…[the] details are rich, and they work. There’s a cohesive, stick-to-your-ribs quality to Krynn that compensates for its flagrant lack of originality. This was, after all, a book based on an existing intellectual property—and D&D borrowed heavily from other sources in the first place, up to and including…Tolkein, Leiber, and Moorcock. [But] what could have been an echo chamber of tired tropes becomes an amplification of them.

Some of my Dragonlance books.

I’ve read Tolkein, Leiber, and Moorcock, along with a whole bunch of other books that came before and after Dragonlance and I can be as critical as anyone when it comes to prose and plot and pacing and all the rest.  But in this case it just doesn’t matter.  As Raistlin says at the end of Dragons of Spring Dawning, and at the risk of sounding unbelievably cheesy, Dragonlance feels like home to me, and the fact that these books have such a hold on my hyper-critical post-Printz Award psyche is true testament to their unique qualities, I think.  There’s no cynicism or pretension at the Inn of the Last Home, there’s no fancy pyrotechnics or meta-anything; there’s just earnestness, hope, and good storytelling, and that’s why, 30 years later, I’m still adventuring with Tanis and the rest of the Companions and why I expect I’ll be doing so in another 30 years.

–Julie Bartel, currently reading Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King

YALSA YA Lit Symposium – Why Should You Attend?

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 07:00

Are you going to YALSA’s YA Literature Symposium this November? Early Bird registration is open until September 15, so register now and join us in Austin! If you’ve never been to a YA Lit Symposium, you might be wondering what it’s all about. Leading up this year’s Symposium, we’ll be featuring interviews with Symposium attendees past and present to give you a picture of why you should attend and what to expect.

Our first interview is with Gretchen Kolderup, Manager for Young Adult Education & Engagement at the New York Public Library, member of YALSA’s Board of Directors, and previous Hub Manager. She attended YALSA’s YA Lit Symposium in 2010 and 2012.

Share your #1 tip for getting the most out of the Symposium for a first-time attendee.

Make friends! This is true of every conference, but it’s extra-easy and extra-rewarding here since everyone at the Symposium cares about the same thing (teens and their literature) and all of the scheduled events are at the hotel where everyone is staying — it’s like sleepaway camp for YA librarians! Meeting new people at the conference gives you someone to sit with, chat with, and go out to dinner with that weekend — but it also builds a professional connection that you’ll use to keep learning and growing long after you leave Austin! Most of my “best friends” in the YA library world are people I met at the Symposium.

Why do you think someone should attend the Symposium?

Because it’s both useful and fun. Where else do you get to really dig in to teen literature in meaningful ways with hundreds of other fans and the authors themselves over a weekend? You’ll learn a lot; have a great time; and go home with new ideas, more developed expertise, and lots of connections to authors, resources, and other librarians to help you keep learning, growing, and reveling in the best that YA lit has to offer!

What was your favorite author experience/presentation at the Symposium?

When I was in library school, I worked at a synagogue library and had discovered a lot of really wonderful Jewish picture books. One of my favorites was New Year at the Pier by April Halprin Wayland. She was at the Symposium in 2010 signing copies of Girl Coming in for a Landing, and while she was signing my copy, I mentioned how much I loved New Year at the Pier. She was so surprised and delighted that she gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek!

More recently, the 2012 Symposium featured a panel discussion called “Guys Talkin’ to Guys: What Will Guys Read Next?” in which male authors (Andrew Smith, Antony John, Torrey Maldonado, and Greg Neri) and a number of local teen boys talked about their favorite books, the male reading experience, and what motivates them to write and read. I was so grateful to hear from actual teen boys and male authors (many of whom were readers or writers of color) about their experiences — and then to take that with me in the readers’ advisory I did with my own teens at my library.

How has the YA Lit Symposium changed your work experience or reading habits?

It’s definitely turned me on to books, series, and authors that might not have come across my radar otherwise, and getting to meet different authors or see them speak in person has increased my appreciation for them and for their work. It’s also connected me with other librarians who work with teens that I now follow on Twitter and via blogs, and they’re a great source of book recommendations and discussions.

Are you going back or would you in the future? If so, why?

Of course I am! If I could only go to one national conference in any given year, it’d be the Symposium. So many of us who work with teens in libraries are the only ones at our organizations to do so, and it’s invigorating to spend time with others who have the same professional interests and aspirations. And I know I keep saying this, but so much of the value of the Symposium is in the people you meet; when you get back to work and are once again the only one in the building who delivers library services to teens, you’ll have a bigger professional network online of people like you!

Thanks, Gretchen!

Notes From a Teens’ Top Ten Book Group Participant: An All-Time Favorite Series

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 07:00

Voting is open for YALSA’s 2014 Teens’ Top Ten book list- a “teen choice” list where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year. Readers ages twelve to eighteen will vote between August 15 and Teen Read Week, and the top ten titles will be announced on October 20.

Books are nominated by members of Teens’ Top Ten book groups in school and public libraries around the country, and to add to the excitement surrounding this much-anticipated book list, we’re featuring posts from these teens here on The Hub.

First up, here’s Kara Lavery from Bookhype at the Perry Public Library/Perry High School in Arizona, weighing in on Jennifer A. Nielsen’s Ascendance Trilogy:

The Ascendance Trilogy- The False Prince, The Runaway King, and The Shadow Throne- has to be one of my all-time favorite series!  The most recent book was written this last year in 2014.  The author, Jennifer A. Nielsen, did a fantastic job creating an air of mystery and humor.  With its biting sarcasm and the jaw dropping twists, I felt compelled to read more- to keep flipping the pages from the beginning of The False Prince (one of last year’s Teens’ Top Ten winners) to the end of the The Shadow Throne.

I like rollercoasters.  They’re fast, and the twists and turns are unexpected.  The flips and drops make my stomach flip.  It’s exhilarating!  The Ascendance Trilogy has the unique quality of making you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster- twisting your stomach to match the flow of the story.

The storyline is well developed and the characters are like my friends.  I was practically dying of laughter because the main character is such a smart-aleck and just an over-all devilish kind of character.  The dialogue is witty and the writing style is smooth and exciting.  You can’t just read a chapter here and there.  I mean, you could try, but you’ll end up reading half of a book before you could blink.

Unlike many other cover ideas out there, these covers aren’t cheesy or painful to look at.  It’s not that they’re pretty, but they have meaning.  I love that after you read each book, you can understand why each item on the cover is broken.

Along the lines of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, I would suggest this book to anyone and everyone.  If you love action, adventure, surprises, and a subtle taste of romance, you will love these books!

-Kara Lavery, currently reading Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Jukebooks: Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 07:00

Cole St. Clair is returning to a Los Angeles and a life of rock star glory, but it will all be for nothing if he can’t find the infuriating Isabel, a girl he cannot live without. Cole is not an easy person; he is, in his own words, “…a performer, a singer, a werewolf, a sinner.” Isabel wants to believe in Cole’s love, but doubt hardens her heart. When these two thunderclouds collide, expect a spectacular storm of a relationship.

Readers were introduced to Cole and Isabel in the second book of The Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Linger. This book is all about them.

Maggie Stievfater compiled a playlist of the songs she listened to while writing Sinner.  You can find the whole list here:  My favorite is “Unkinder (A Tougher Love)” by Thumpers. It’s a very hip kaleidoscope of sound, combined with video effects that are both nostalgic and surreal. Very L.A.

-Diane Colson, currently reading Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols

No Tense Like the Present

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 07:00

I don’t know if it’s my penchant for once-upon-a-time fairy tale retellings, but when I pick up a book, I expect it to be narrated in past tense. Recently, though, it seems like more and more YA books are being told in present tense. I’m not quite sure why this is a trend, but I find the more frequent use of present tense interesting and occasionally annoying (I write this completely aware of the irony that I am writing this post in the present tense).

I remember clearly the first time I noticed a story was being narrated in present tense–I honestly don’t remember the book or even quite when in my life this was, but I found the narration clunky and distracting, and I put the book down after a chapter or less. Looking back, I’m not sure if the writing was bad or clunky at all, or if I was just completely put off by the present tense. Now that I have encountered many more books that use present tense, I usually find it easier to ignore the tense and fall into the story, but not always. After all, past tense is something of a common language in English narrative writing, and it’s not like an author can’t convey that something is happening now even while using past tense. For example, Sam in Bennett Madison’s September Girls (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults) describes his current whereabouts using past tense: “I had decided to take a walk, and now I was alone at the edge of the water as it came and went” (p. 22).

When I thought about writing a Hub post on this topic, I decided to speculate about reasons why an author might choose to use the present tense instead of the past. This seemed like a good way to try to appreciate this writing technique better. Here are some possibilities I’ve come up with:

  1. Writing in the present tense makes the action and descriptions of a book seem more immediate. I’ve noticed present tense in many of the more action-packed dystopian trilogies, and it does seem to bring the action to life. First to come to mind is, of course, The Hunger Games trilogy (2009 Best Books for Young Adults and the Ultimate YA Bookshelf, among many others), which was also the first set of books where I didn’t find the use of present tense bothersome for enjoying the story. I think Suzanne Collins also may have used present tense in this series to make the readers feel more like TV viewers, given the importance of TV to the plot–present tense reads more like a screenplay, after all. However, the Divergent series (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults), the Matched trilogy (2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults), and Relic, the first in a dystopian series by Heather Terrell, all use present tense, too. Plague in the Mirror, by Deborah Noyes, and The Wicked and the Just, by J. Anderson Coats (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults), are both books with historical settings, and in these the present tense helps make the descriptions of these settings even more vivid.
  2. Alternatively, the present tense can give a section a more lyrical, ethereal sense. In September Girls, the “ordinary” first person narrative which is told by protagonist Sam is in past tense, but interludes between the chapters which are told by “the Girls” are in present tense. These interludes have the feel of prose poetry and they seem outside of regular time.  Similarly, Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell is a novel in verse that retells Arthurian legend of the Lady of Shalott, and the present tense adds to the lyricism.
  3. Using present tense for just a section of a book helps set that section apart. E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars (nominee for Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers) uses present tense for some of the narration and past tense for some of it, in this case because Cadence shifts between what’s going on (or what she says is going on) in her current life, and flashbacks to the past. The shift in tense helps the reader keep track, as much as possible, of what part of the story she is telling. As mentioned before, September Girls also uses two different tenses, and it helps set the two kinds of narration apart.
  4. Present tense is the new way to tell a story? In spite of all this speculation, I don’t know that authors are actually using the present tense for these particular reasons. And there are plenty of other YA books that are using present tense, and the situations above don’t necessarily seem to apply. For example, Anna and the French Kiss (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults) and Isla and the Happily Ever After, both by Stephanie Perkins, are realistic fiction told in present tense, and I can’t think of how the present tense itself enhances these stories. Maybe it’s just a new way of thinking about narration?

I’d love to hear other thoughts about this: Why do you think authors choose to narrate in the present tense? Do you find it distracting? Do you think some authors use it better than others? Is this the new way to write a story? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

-Libby Gorman, currently reading Renegade Magic by Stephanie Burgis

I Fought the Law and I Won: Taking a Stand in YA Lit

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 07:00

Photo by atomicjeep. CC BY 2.0

From dystopian futures, to political protest, to legal disputes, YA literature is full of stories about fighting the rules and even laws. This post rounds up some of the best examples of teens winning these battles in YA literature across genres and time periods. Find a book that will inspire you to stand up for your beliefs.

Dystopian Futures
Many dystopian novels are at their core about teens fighting unjust governments. From The Giver by Lois Lowry to Divergent by Veronica Roth (both of which happen to have been made into movies this year), these stories often center around teens who discover the dark side of their society and decide that they are willing to risk it all to fight for their beliefs and for justice.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (2009 Best Books for Young Adults) - Set in a near future where a terrorist attack prompts an increase in government surveillance, both this book and its sequel, Homeland, show teens fighting back against the government and standing up for their rights. Teens who are interested in hacking will particularly enjoy this one since the main character is a hacker who uses his skills to take down those more powerful than he is.

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson – Set in a far future Brazil, The Summer Prince tackles issues relating to relationships, art, technology, and government control through the story of June Costa, a young artist living in a society that is divided by class, gender, and technology use. Johnson has created a world that feels completely foreign while still being wholly believable and fans of science fiction will enjoy getting lost in it. 

Legal Dramas & Political Protest
Another popular way that books tackle the fight for rights is through legal dramas or stories of acts of political protest. These books show characters taking concrete steps to stand up for themselves or others who lack the power to fight for their own rights. For fans of more realistic fiction, these are a great choice.

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi – When Jack Holloway arrives on a planet almost 200 light years from Earth, he doesn’t plan to get involved with local politics. But, when he meets members of the alien species that lives on the planet – and which had their home taken away by a corporation intent on exploiting all the natural resources it can find – he realizes he can’t stand by and let this happen. Though not marketed as YA, this book will have great crossover appeal, particularly for those who have read any of Scalzi’s other books.

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick – Though primarily about a teen facing the aftermath of his fight with cancer, this book also tackles the injustice of rules that refuse to acknowledge not only the aftereffects of his treatment, but also more generally the differences between all students. To say much more would give away the plot, but if you are interested in acts of political protest, this is a book worth checking out.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Pulitzer Prize & 2001 Audiobooks for Young Adults) - A classic and a perennial selection for high school English classes, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers into the world of Atticus Finch through the eyes of his daughter as he fights against the injustice of racism by defending a man accused of rape. Because the entire book is told from Scout’s point of view, the book offers a unique take on these issues and one that is accessible to a wide range of ages.

Americus by MK Reed with illustrations by Jonathan David Hill – This graphic novel follows the struggle of one teen named Neal who fights back when local activists try to have his favorite books banned from the local library. As a librarian, this is a topic near and dear to my heart and Reed handles it well showing the struggle that both Neal and the local youth services librarian go through to keep the book from being banned.

Historical Fiction
History is full of examples of both successful and unsuccessful legal battles, so it isn’t surprising that historical fiction often tackles these topics. If you are fan of this genre, check out one of these books to learn more about historical examples of protest.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (Schneider Family Book Award) – This year’s Schneider Family Book Award winner tackles issues of protest in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. Even when Rose Justice finds herself imprisoned in Ravensbrück, she doesn’t lose her spirit and continues to fight back in ways both big and small. The book also follows survivors as they fight for some small sliver of justice through the prosecution of their captors.

Sally Heathcoate: Suffragette by Mary M. Talbot with illustrations by Kate Charlesworth – This soon-to-be-released graphic novel follows a maid who joins the suffragette movement in the early 1900’s. I, for one, can’t wait to see how it brings this important historical period to life.

What are your favorite stories about people fighting for justice? Let us know in the comments!

- Carli Spina, currently reading Dotter of Her Father’s Eye by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot

The Monday Poll: Your Favorite Librarian in YA Lit

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 23:20

photo by flickr user aussiegall

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, in the spirit of back-to-school season, we wanted to know which school from a YA novel you’d want to attend. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of you opted for Hogwarts from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, leading with 91% of the vote. Those wands and talking portraits are tempting, aren’t they? But a few of you chose other fictional schools: Ever After High from the series of the same name by Shannon Hale took in 4% of the vote, and Aglionby from The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater garnered 3%. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

Now for this week’s topic! Did you know September is Library Card Sign-up Month? In celebration of this very important occasion, we’re asking you to weigh in on your favorite librarian from YA lit. Vote in the poll below, or add your choice in the comments.

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

Tweets of the Week: September 5th

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 07:00

It’s September! The Twitterverse is filled with chatter about the new schoolyear and football, as well as current events like the recent invasion of celebrity privacy and the passing of 81-year-old comedian Joan Rivers. Did you miss any tweets? We’ve got you covered.



TV/Movies/Pop Culture


Just For Fun

-Allison Tran, currently reading Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Keneally

Is This the Real Life?: Graphic Novels

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 07:00

September brings a lot of things: cooler temperatures, pumpkin everything, the start of a new school year, Library Card Sign-up Month, and Banned Books Week, to name just a few. This year, Banned Books Week is focusing on comics and I thought I would share some contemporary, realistic graphic novels. What other recommendations do you have?

Seconds by Bryan O’Malley
Katie’s life was going pretty well– until it wasn’t. She soon discovers a way to do things over… and soon Katie can’t stop redoing anything that goes wrong.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Rose and her family spend their summers at Awago Beach. This summer is different. Her parents won’t stop fighting and she and her friend get tangled up in some local drama.

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg (2008 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)
Jane moves from a big city to suburbia and thinks life is over. Then she meets some other Janes and they start a secret art gang.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (2014 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)
Knisley’s autobiographical graphic novel detailing her upbringing with foodie parents with a few recipes thrown in.

I Think I Am in Friend Love With You by Yumi Sakugawa
Cute tale of a friendly admirer who wants to make friends.

-Faythe Arredondo


“Grown-Up” Books (For the Kid in You)

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 07:00

When did you start to love reading? Can you remember the first book that did it for you?

Why, yes I do remember–so glad you asked! I was in third grade at my local public library with my friend Margaret (a bookworm and savvy reader a few years older than me). She thrust Lois Lowry’s Anastasia, Again at me so I shrugged and checked it out. I spent the rest of that afternoon on my front porch for hours happily lost in the book. I was a reader. And I haven’t looked back since.

Over the years, I have found that the phase of life in which you read a book affects your outlook on it. Have you ever re-read a beloved book only to find you now despise it? Have you discovered that you still love that same book but notice a lot of different stuff now? If you’ve grown up reading chances are you have many fond memories of the greats you read as a kid. In this line of thinking my colleague Meaghan Darling and I put together some recommendations of titles to try now based on what you liked when you were younger.



* The Witches by Roald Dahl –Beautiful Creatures (2010 Morris Finalist) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Some witches are good, some are bad—but all are powerful!


* How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell – Eragon (2004 Teens Top Ten) by Christopher Paolini

An unexpected meeting. A new training partner. The epic tale of a boy and his dragon.

* Number the Stars by Lois Lowry - The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Both focused on the Holocaust, the brave protagonists of each story secretly help a friend in hiding or in a concentration camp.


* Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (Best Books for Young Adults 1999 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008 & Teens Top Ten 2004, 2006, 2008)- Fan Girl (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults) by Rainbow Rowell

Finally, a book that celebrates the awesomeness of fan fiction!


* Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary  — The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (a 2009 Prinz Honor, 2009 Best Book for Young Adults, 2009 Teens Top Ten) by E. Lockhart

Ramona and Frankie are strong, smart girls who find themselves in some pretty hilarious jams.

* Anastasia, Ask your Analyst! by Lois LowryOCD, The Dude and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn

Mental health is important for a young girl!


* Coraline by Neil Gaiman  — The Graveyard Book (2009 Newbery Medal Winner) by Neil Gaiman

Spooky settings, creepy characters, paranormal beings — oh my!



* Holes by Louis Sachar — Boot Camp (2008 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers) by Todd Strasser

Just a couple of “bad boys” trying to escape unjustified hard labor.





* The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum –Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Dorothy like you’ve never seen her before! Oz is a dystopian society.



* Cinderella by Marcia Brown– Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

Features a crumbling castle, evil stepsisters, and witty dialogue– and bears a striking resemblance to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.


* The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson — September Girls by Bennett Madison

Mermaid adventures for the modern day.


* Peter Pan  by J. M. Barrie -Second Star by Alyssa Sheinmel

In this modern remake of Peter Pan, Wendy Darling sets off to find her missing surfer brothers, John and Michael.  Set in California where all “flying” is done on surfboards.


* Joey Pigza Series by Jack Gantos –Carter Finally Gets It Trilogy by Brent Crawford

A comical look (laced with boy humor) at a boy trying to survive the school year.

* Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney — Miracle Wimp by Erik P. Kraft

Just two dudes trying to navigate the school scene. Doodles and diary entries galore.


* Nancy Drew Series by Caroline Keene — Gallagher Girls Series (2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2010 Teens Top Ten) by Ally Carter

Nancy had it all — mystery, espionage, intrigue, and great hair. Fast forward 25 years to modern technology and cyberstalking and you have the Gallagher Girls.


* Goosebumps Series by R.L. Stine — Anna Dressed in Blood (2011 Reader’s  Choice Nomination) by Kendare Blake & The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco

With stories of ghost hunting and the Japanese legend that inspired the film The Ring, the spook factor goes up a notch… or ten.


* Babysitters Club Series by Ann M. Martin — Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series (2002 Best Book for Young Adults Top Ten, 2003 Teens Top Ten, 2005 Teens Top Ten, 2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) by Ann Brashares

Good friends, funny adventures, and great wardrobes!


Additional requests welcomed!

-Tara Kehoe,  currently reading The Secret Place by Tana French, and guest blogger Meaghan Darling,  currently reading This Star Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl

Jukebooks: Wildflower by Alecia Whitaker

Wed, 09/03/2014 - 07:00

The Barrett Family Band travels the road in Winnie, their trusty RV, playing bluegrass at bars, festivals, and any other kind of venue that likes footstompin’ music. They’re scheduled to play at the Station Inn in Nashville when Dad, the family’s lead singer, comes down with laryngitis. Suddenly the focus is on sixteen year-old Bird, usually the fiddle-player and back-up singer, to take the lead. Nervously, Bird sings one song that she knows very well because she wrote it herself. As it happens, the president of a large record company is in the audience, and he offers Bird a deal.

Fans of the television show Nashville will know it’s a big deal when Bird is invited to play with other young musicians at the Bluebird Cafe. Like Scarlett on the show, Bird uses the words from her journal to compose songs. Her first big hit is “Notice Me.” What does it sound like? Well, no one will really know until the end of September. That’s when the winner of Justine Magazine’s Wildflower Talent Search is announced. Author Whitaker includes the lyrics and sheet music for “Notice Me” in the book. It’s up to the contestants to display their talent through interpretation and performance.

For now, curious readers can listen to “Girl in a Country Song” by Maddie and Tae. Whitaker says:

This is exactly the sort of song I can see Bird writing. I love that these two girls, Maddie and Tae, write music from their hearts. This song really says something – boldly. I picked up on a few of the references about the male heavy world of country music and these girls weren’t shy about it. They are straight calling guys out.

-Diane Colson, currently reading Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Librarians Love: Contemporary Romance Beyond Best Sellers

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 07:00

by Flickr user Leland Francisco

YALSA-bk is a listserv with lively discussions among librarians, educators, and beyond about all things YA lit. Sometimes one listserv member will ask for help finding books around a certain theme or readalikes for a particular title. This post is a compilation of responses for one such request.

The original request
One of my book clubs is looking for a good romance to read but I can’t give them “the usual suspects” (aka John Green, Huntley Fitzpatrick, Rainbow Rowell) because they’ve read all of those highly publicized ones. I’m looking for one that is off the radar, preferably paperback, that will sweep them off their feet and isn’t too brazenly in-your-face with the language and physical stuff (aka Jamie McGuire, Simone Elkeles, Katie McGarry.)

Suggested titles

  • A Blindspot for Boys by Justina Chen
  • Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
  • Something Real by Heather Demetrios
  • Reclaimed by Sarah Guillory
  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
  • The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman
  • OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu
  • Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu
  • Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
  • Like No Other by Una Lamarche
  • Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon
  • Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
  • The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
  • Althea and Oliver by Cristina Moracho
  • Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
  • The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
  • #scandal by Sarah Ockler
  • Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet
  • Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
  • Fan Art by Sarah Tregay
  • Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams

Suggested authors

  • Deb Caletti
  • Susane Colasanti
  • Sarah Dessen
  • Jennifer Echols
  • Elizabeth Eulberg
  • Gayle Forman
  • Maureen Johnson
  • Morgan Matson
  • Stephanie Perkins
  • Leila Sales
  • Suzanne Selfors
  • Jennifer E. Smith
  • Amy Spalding
  • Siobhan Vivian
  • Kasie West

Have more titles you think should belong on these lists? Add them on the YALSA wiki or leave a comment! Looking for more compiled booklists? Check out the YALSA wiki or other booklists here at The Hub.

– Gretchen Kolderup, currently rereading The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Bookish Brew: Summer Smoothie Edition

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 07:00

Image by Flickr user Pamela Bates

I don’t know what the weather’s like where you are, but here in southern California we’ve had some pretty hot days recently.  So I thought that for this entry in my occasional Bookish Brew series, a cool summer smoothie would be more in order than a hot drink.  Make that two smoothies– one for each of the narrators of Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando’s wonderful and authentic Roomies (2015 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers Nominations List)

When Roomies begins, teens Lauren and Elizabeth are a couple months away from starting their freshman year at the University of California, Berkeley.  They have just received each other’s names and email addresses from the campus housing office because they have been matched as dorm roommates.  Lauren lives in San Francisco, California, which is not far from the city of Berkeley.  In her loving two-parent family, she is the eldest of her siblings by several years.  Her responsible nature may stem partly from her heavy child-rearing responsibilities.  She is somewhat shy, concerned with honesty and aims to work in scientific research.  Elizabeth, also known as E.B., lives in suburban New Jersey near the Shore with her single divorced mom with whom she does not have a close relationship.  Elizabeth can be overly sensitive at times and is more impulsive than Lauren, as well as more outgoing.  She plans to study landscape architecture. 

Initiated by Elizabeth of course, the two begin an email correspondence over the summer.  They share the details of their lives and soon after their feelings and frustrations about friends, family and boyfriends.  This is not an epistolary novel, however; these emails are one component of a traditional narrative.  The two girls alternate narrating chapters. 

Initially Lauren and Elizabeth experience a mainly positive interaction, getting a feel for each other’s personalities, leaning on each other throughout a couple situations in their personal lives and sharing the joys of their respective first loves.  A misunderstanding arises, however, connected to Elizabeth’s estranged father, who lives and owns an art gallery in San Francisco.  Both girls are challenged to look at the situation through the other’s eyes and decide whether reconciliation is possible.  In an interview with Harvard Magazine (September-October 2014) Tara Altebrando describes how she and Sara Zarr wrote the book both separately and together over a period of three years and mentions that they are considering either a sequel or another collaborative project.

I highly recommend listening to the audiobook version of Roomies if you can, which is voiced by Becca Battoe and Emily Eiden.  These two readers do an amazing job of vocally capturing the distinct rhythms and personalities of Lauren and Elizabeth, not to mention the differences in regional accents. 

But now the time has come to blend!  When choosing the ingredients for a “bookish brew” I consider the setting and the essential traits or qualities of the main character of a novel.  As there are two quite distinct main characters in Roomies, I’ve created two smoothies. 

The Recipes

Both of the following recipes will make one serving.  Feel free to double or otherwise increase the amount of each ingredient as needed.   Then just throw all of the ingredients into your blender, turn it on at the setting that you prefer for ten to thirty seconds and voilà!


The Ladylike Lauren

Lauren is the more cautious of the two girls, which to me suggests starting with a more traditional smoothie recipe.  Her hometown of San Francisco is also the home of Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, which in my book almost requires the addition of something derived from the cocoa bean!


  • 6 ounces vanilla yogurt
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ cup frozen raspberries
  • ½ tablespoon raspberry jam (optional)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons chocolate syrup


The Electric Elizabeth

Elizabeth seems to feel more at ease with trying new things (e.g., traveling across the country for college).  Given this and her love for plant life, I used a green smoothie as a base.  To make the green “electric” I added a little carbonation in the form of wishniak black cherry soda (a non-alcoholic drink), which is popular in New Jersey, but can be found in most beverage stores elsewhere.


  • 1 cup chopped spinach or kale
  • ¼ of an avocado, peeled and with pit removed
  • ¾ cup apple juice
  • ½ apple, peeled, cored and chopped (make sure your blender can handle apples)
  • 1/2  cup wishniak black cherry soda

I wanted to finally note that Roomies has been included in a few reading lists created by my fellow Hub bloggers.  If you like the fact that Roomies centers around email communication, try the book suggestions at “Teen Tech Week: YA Fiction About Online Life” (3/14/14).  If you want to read more books with alternating narrators, try the titles included on “Is This the Real Life? YA Books with Multiple Perspectives” (3/13/14).  If you’re starting college this semester or in the next couple years, definitely check out the books on “Heading to College? Read These Books First” (9/6/13).

Happy reading and smoothie-making! 


- Anna Dalin, currently listening to The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman

The Monday Poll: Back to School, YA Lit Style

Sun, 08/31/2014 - 23:05

by flickr user jacobite747

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we wanted to know about your preferred mode of travel from YA lit (for your Labor Day weekend travel plans, of course). Most of you would opt for a dirigible from Gail Carriger’s Etiquette and Espionage (28% of the vote). The Panem train also proved a popular choice with 27% of the vote, though as reader Alicia noted, it’s a nice choice as long as you don’t actually have to be in Panem! You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted and commented!

This week sees the end of summer vacation and a return to the classrooms. That’s right, it’s back-to-school time! Which school from YA lit would you want to attend? Vote in the poll below, or add your choice in the comments.

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

Pompeii Portrayed in YA Lit

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 07:00

According to many sources, August 24 is generally accepted as the day Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and killed many thousands of people living in the city of Pompeii. This tragic story has captured people’s interest and imagination for hundreds of years. I’ve visited Pompeii and it is a haunting and fascinating site – the perfect  backdrop for an historical YA book.

Initially, the only YA book that I knew about Pompeii was Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter that came out  earlier this year. In this novel, Lucia’s father, the owner of a gladiatorial school in Pompeii that needs money to expand the business, has betrothed her to a wealthy man old enough to be her grandfather. Lucia loves to read but her future husband doesn’t approve of women reading or studying. Lucia’s also interested in the world around her and its natural mysteries, like the frequent tremors and other odd phenomenon that are occurring in Pompeii. She’s in love with childhood friend & slave Tag, born of a noble family that was enslaved and stripped of its wealth. Tag’s a healer who wants to be a gladiator to earn enough money to win his freedom and escape the curse he bears. They plan to escape the city together but are betrayed to Lucia’s father by another fighter. Tag’s imprisoned by Lucia’s father just as Mt. Vesuvius is about to erupt.  Will they be able to find each other again before the volcano destroys their whole world? 

Shecter’s notes in the afterward refute the fact that Mt. Vesuvius erupted on August 24th. She believes more recent evidence found by archeologists that suggests the city was buried several months later because the victims found were wearing heavier clothing than what they’d be wearing in the summer. The remains of fruit found indicated it was later too – possibly October or November. For this reason, Shecter says she set the book in October of 79 AD. It’s fun to see that Pliny, the naturalist and author who wrote about the eruption of Vesuvius, is a character here too.

Vesuvius Rising (The Gilded Mirror #2) by Jocelyn Murray (2012) is a time travel tale featuring fifteen-year-old Anna who is swept back in time through the forces of a mysterious mirror to 79 AD. She finds herself in Pompeii just days before the deadly volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. As forces conspire against her, she struggles to escape the catastrophe that threatens the lives of thousands.

Kathryn Lasky’s The Last Girls of Pompeii (2007) is set in Pompeii in the summer of 79 AD and features two very dissimilar girls. Julia is the daughter of a wealthy ship-builder; Sura is an orphan. Julia has a withered arm (the Curse of Venus) but Sura is beautiful.  Julia is free; Sura is her slave. Julia’s older sister Cornelia is about to get married so their well-meaning but desperate parents  plan to send Julia off to the Temple of Damia and sell Sura to raise money for Cornelia’s expensive wedding. When Mt. Vesuvius erupts, Julia’s and Sura’s fates are forever altered, forcing them both to face the true meaning of freedom.


For slightly younger teens, Caroline Lawrence’s The Secrets of Vesuvius: The Roman Mysteries: Book II (2001) is an exciting story of what happens after twelve-year-old Flavia, her neighbor Jonathan, Lupus, 8, a slave without a tongue, and Nubia, a freed African slave rescue Admiral Pliny from a boating accident. Pliny rewards them for saving him and also urges them to try to figure out a riddle that will yield a great treasure if they can solve it. He tells them a blacksmith could help them solve it if they can locate him. As the four friends spend the summer in Pompeii with Flavia’s uncle, they find the blacksmith but he’s struggling to solve his own mystery of why he was abandoned by his family.  Just as they are figuring out some of these mysteries, Mt. Vesuvius erupts and they have to run for their lives. Like the other books, Lawrence also includes descriptions of everyday life in Pompeii that offer great insights into what life was like then.

If you’d prefer to read a nonfiction account of the destruction of Pompeii, James M. Deem’s Bodies from the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii (2005)(2006 Best Books for Young Adults) is the book for you. Hundreds of years after Mt. Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii under volcanic rubble, archaeologists excavating the site in the 1700s unearthed the expected buildings and artifacts but also surprisingly unearthed the bodies of those who died that left imprints in the ash like photographic images. Deems devotes a whole chapter covering Giuseppe Fiorelli’s revolutionary technique of creating plaster casts of the victims from the cavities left by their bodies. These imprints were used to recreate plaster casts of the victims to show their last moments and tell a bit about their lives. Deems includes numerous photographs that capture the horror of the volcano’s eruption and helps one imagine the daily life of the inhabitants of Pompeii.

As long as there are natural disasters like the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in which thousands of people lost their lives, like those in Pompeii, there will be books written about them, for those of us who like to read about them.

-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading The Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

Tweets of the Week: August 29th

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 07:00

Can you believe August is almost over? The past week on Twitter brought lots of talk about the screen adaptation of Gayle Forman’s bestselling novel If I Stay, the news that Hello Kitty might not actually be a cat, and more weighty current events– the events in Ferguson are still generating a lot of much-needed conversation. Here’s a round-up of some tweets you might have missed.



TV/Movies/Pop Culture


Just For Fun

-Allison Tran, currently reading The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare