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Diversify YA Life: Diverse Debuts

Fri, 01/15/2016 - 07:00

Who says the little man can’t make waves?  No one in the book business can say it, just ask the We Need Diverse Books movement. With every new year comes new authors and with 2016 we are seeing not only debuts of color but characters of color. Below is a list of YA debut authors of color and books from debuts that feature characters of color.

Debut Authors of Color

Inspired by Indian Mythology, Maya’s future life of love is cursed with death. When Maya is forced to marry for political reasons, her new reign as the queen of Akaran soon becomes marked with magic and mystery.

Seeking a change and a little adventure, Julie travels to New Orleans with her youth group to build houses.  When she doesn’t find the change she so desperately needs with her group, she sets out on her own to discover the city when she meets and falls in love with Miles.

Reshma is a high school senior and has made it her mission in life to get into Stanford. When a literary agents seeks her out to write a novel, Reshma soon realizes that no one wants to read about a boring over achiever so she sets out to live the life of the average teenager.  Reshma discovers that there’s more to life than studying.

In this steampunk debut, Avrilis changes history and saves a life that she shouldn’t have saved and she finds herself a fugitive in two different worlds.

Taylor’s rep goes from ice queen to the girl who gets around when she’s found drunk and in the bed of the school’s bad boy.  In order to reclaim her good rep, she convinces the bad boy to pretend to be her boyfriend and not just another notch on his belt.

 

Joss Byrd is just trying to please a demanding director and an overbearing mother in the glamorous world that is Hollywood.

Latoya Williams is a black girl in an all white school and makes a wish to make her life easier and to be white.  Find out what happens when Latoya’s wish comes true.

Paloma High School is shrouded with rumors of a teacher student relationship and everyone begins to find someone to blame.

Vika and Nikolai are enchanters and they are being sought by the Ottoman Empire for political gain.  In order to find the best enchanters, the Tsar announces a duel where the losers must die.  Vika and Nikolai see this as an opportunity of varied reasons but what will happen when they fall in love knowing that they both can’t survive?

After the murder of Sefia’s parents, she’s sent to live with her aunt until her aunt is taken.  Armed with survival and combat skills, Sefia sets out to find her aunt and the answers surrounding her father’s murder.

 

Debuts with Diverse Characters

LGBTQ

Tristan and Robbie are estranged twins until they are forced to share a room to keep Robbie from hurting himself. Tristan soon discovers that Robbie is gay and is scared to come out in the world of pro hockey.  When Robbie plans to run away with someone he met online, will Tristan turn him in or go with him?

The lives of four teens will be forever changed when a shooter enters their auditorium.

Amanda is the new girl in town and when she meets Grant she must decide if she should share her secret and let him in or push him away.

Riley is gender fluid, the new teen in town, and has a father who is a congressman. On the advise to start a blog to vent, Riley’s blog becomes viral and someone discovers the blog and Riley’s secret.  Riley must decide abandon the blog or come out.

Kaycee’s southern town is all about Friday night football, boyfriends, and being a good girl.  Kaycee has no interest in boys but will she openly date that girl everyone gossips about?

In his rural hometown, a gay teen must decide to openly date the love of his life or remain in the closet.

In this world, cities are run by clocks and if a clock breaks, time stops.  Danny has been sent to fix a clock when he falls in love with the clock spirit.

Diverse Protagonists

Set in Puerto Rico, Isabel is a legend of a girl with green skin and grass for hair. When Lucas’ family moves to town, he wants to believe especially after a heart break. When mysterious letters begin to appear, Lucas believes.

Nix is a member of a four man crew aboard The Temptation-captained by her father.  Captain Slate is fiercely searching for a map from 1868 to go back into time to save his one true love.  Will Nix help him or sabotage his search?

Amani lives in Dustwalk where nothing happens.  When her sharpshooting skills fails to aid in her escape, she finds a wanted stranger to help.

What was Blackbeard, the pirate, like as a teenager?  Blackhearts imagines Blackbeard as a teen as he falls in love with Anne, his father’s bi-racial servant.

Breezy woke up from a shallow grave but that’s impossible because she was murdered.  Not sure what she is, Breezy travels the country looking for murderers until she encounters a church who can answer all her questions.

Diverse Supporting Characters

Hope’s mother has died and her father ships her off to an aunt she’s never met in Scotland.  After only a couple of hours in Scotland, Hope learns that she comes from a family of time travelers and she must help stop their nemesis.

In this reimagination of Sherlock Holmes, Charlotte Holmes is a distant relative of Sherlock and a high school student in America.  James Watson, a distant relative of Dr. John Watson, is student at the same school and Watson and Holmes eventually meet up to solve a murder.

Do you know of any diverse debuts that we missed? Please share in the comments!

— Dawn Abron, currently reading The Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

 

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Throwback Thursday: Weetzie Bat

Thu, 01/14/2016 - 07:00

With dozens of new YA books released each week, it’s easy to get focused on the new and exciting books soon to hit shelves. That doesn’t mean that we want to forget about old favorites or older titles that may be easily overlooked yet could still be a hit with the right reader. Our Throwback Thursday posts will highlight backlist titles, prolific authors, and classics of YA.

My discovery of Weetzie Bat was a bit of a fluke. This past summer, I recall looking up popular and cult books in the 1990s and cross-referencing those titles with my library’s collection. I came across Weetzie Bat and the synopsis intrigued me. I vaguely recalled the title from my teen years, but I had not read it yet. When I placed a request for the title and it arrived at my library, it was surprisingly small and had acid colors on the cover.

Weetzie Bat, written by Francesca Lia Block, was originally published in 1989 and is the first of five books in the Dangerous Angels series. Other titles in the series include: Witch Baby (1991), Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys (1992), Missing Angel Juan (1993), and Baby Be-Bop (1995).

Weetzie is a quirky girl with a platinum blonde flat top and her best friend is Dirk. Both are searching for love in dream-filled Los Angeles. Weetzie describes her perfect man as My Secret Agent Lover Man and she finds him when Dirk finds Duck, a blond surfer dude. They all live happily ever after in their shared home. Well, sort of.

The surprising part about this story is its breeziness, not only in plot, but with important topics like sexuality, AIDS, and abortion. While the story touches upon these topics, it never comes off as didactic. The story resembles a punk rock fairy tale, just without any saccharin details. You are not entirely sure, though, if Weetzie is a bit shallow since her outlook on these tough topics is without pithiness.

However, I could easily see how the story became a cult classic and helped define the Young Adult genre. As a teen in the 1990s, there weren’t very many books for teens. Mainly, you would either read classic children’s literature or adult books. At my favorite neighborhood bookstore, I recall that the “teen” section was a shelf situated within the children’s area. It is possible that I would have enjoyed this book as a teenager, but I definitely appreciate it as an adult with its magical realism and mature topics. I spent my early years in southern California (yes, technically I’m a Valley Girl), and something about this story reminds me of the late 1980s and early 1990s of my childhood with the descriptions of palm trees and the very California-ness of the plot.

Weetzie Bat still enjoys fictional celebrity status as a style icon according to Rookie Mag. You can check out the article (and fun photos) here. Also, supposedly, the story has been optioned to become a movie that has yet to come out. You can read more about those details on Francesca Lia Block’s website here.

Final thoughts: I recommend this book for readers that like their fiction brief, southern California fairytales, and for those interested in LGBTQ themes.

–Diana Slavinsky, currently listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on audio in her car (though, not writing while driving because that would be dangerous)

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Pairing Music with YA Lit: “My True Love Gave to Me” Edition (Part 2)

Wed, 01/13/2016 - 07:00

Back in December I posted musical pairings for the first six stories of My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins in which YA authors illustrate how the holidays can be a time of first love, caring, and sometimes even a little magic.  As promised, here are songs paired with the last six stories in the collection.

“Krampuslauf” by Holly Black

Summary: At Fairmount’s annual Krampuslauf, an unnamed narrator and her friends, Penny and Wren, decide to confront Roth.  Roth is a “rich kid” who moonlights with Penny even though he already has a girlfriend.  Wren and the main character have had enough of him using their friend.  But when they confront Roth, impulsive Wren ends up inviting him and his preppy friends to a New Year’s Eve party.  And now the girls need to scramble to put one together.

Musical Pairing:  While the main character does find some romance toward the end of the story, more emphasis seems to be on Penny and Roth’s “relationship.”  As such, I chose “Looking Too Closely” by Fink for this short story, because Penny refuses to see Roth’s wrongdoings (The devil’s right there, right there in the details/ And you don’t wanna hurt yourself, hurt yourself/ By looking too closely) and (The truth is like blood underneath your fingernails/ You don’t wanna hurt yourself, hurt yourself/ By looking too closely).  Another great pairing would be “Ghost” by Ella Henderson–especially because Penny can’t see the evidence of Roth’s other, real relationship until it’s right in front of her (I had to go through hell to prove I’m not insane/ Had to meet the devil just to know his name).

 

“What the Hell Have you Done Sophie Roth?” by Gayle Forman

Summary: Sophie Roth has had many “what have you done?” moments as a freshman at U of B (let’s just say it stands for University of “the middle of nowhere”).  As a city girl she stands out in this tiny college in the middle of the country.  In fact she is half expecting Ned Flanders to show himself. But at a Christmas caroling concert, she meets someone who also stands out–Russell.  Russell shares with her the best pie out of town (apple pie with cheddar cheese) and helps her celebrate something she’s missing this holiday at U of B–Hannakah.

Musical Pairing:  Though I’m tempted to pair “Blue Moon” by the Marcels (or another 50’s song that might be a U of B favorite) with this short story, I’m more inclined to pairing it with The Simpsons theme song because Sophie and Russell get together over a shared Ned Flanders joke.

 

“Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire

Summary: Vaughn is the stereotypical class clown/bad kid.  The kind of kid who covers the class rabbit in paste and glitter.  Not that he means to be bad–it just happens.  Years later, as a teen, he accidentally sets the church on fire, destroying all of the pageant props, costumes and the facility itself.  His community service?  Figure out how to keep the pageant going.  But at least he gets to hang out with the Preacher’s daughter, Gracie.

Musical Pairing: When I read this short story, I had a Breakfast Club moment.  Vaughn is misunderstood and rough-around-the-edges; Gracie is the picture perfect preacher’s daughter… or is she? So my song pairing for Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus is: “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds.

 

“Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Keirsten White

Summary: Maria lives in Christmas, California.  Not even a real city or town, just a census designated place.  Every day is pretty much the same.  Her mom’s boyfriend drives her to and from school (a 45 minute drive one way).  Then a shift at her mom’s diner, saving every penny to escape the small “census designated place.” But after their cook dies, a new face appears in Christmas: Ben.  And he completely changes the diner’s food, it’s customers… and, of course, Maria’s outlook on Christmas.

Musical Pairing: Maria is always looking for “home.”  She doesn’t really know what that even means until Ben, through his amazing cooking powers, shows her.  The song that immediately struck me was “Feels Like Home” by Chantal Kreviazuk (And if you knew how I wanted someone to come along/ And change my life the way you’ve done/ It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me).

 

“Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter

Summary: Fate smiles on Lydia when an Icelandic girl named Hulda needs a ticket to New York.  Lydia quickly switches the tickets not caring where Hulda was really going–turns out: the middle of nowhere.  Perfect.  Lydia slips into Hulda’s life; only Hulda’s pretend boyfriend Ethan, knows that she isn’t the Icelandic girl.  But when Lydia’s secret gets out, she finds that she has a family, and a home, in the small town of Bethlehem.

Musical Pairing: Lydia lets her secret be known through her talent: by singing “O Holy Night” at church.  So my pairings for this short story are “O Holy Night” (the N*Sync a cappella version) and also be “Sing” by Travis (But if you sing, sing, sing, sing, sing, sing/ For the love you bring won’t mean a thing/ Unless you sing, sing, sing, sing).

“The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor

Summary: The Isle of Feathers has a tradition: girls are courted during Advent by suitors leaving small gifts for them on each of the twenty-four days.  Neve is all alone, her best friends having died the year before, but she wants no courtship (even if it would bring her out of poverty).  Unfortunately the evil preacher has his eyes set on her, and won’t let her refuse the courtship. Neve does the only thing she can think: she whispers into the night air… and the Dreamer hears her plea.

Musical Pairing: There is a theme of loneliness throughout this story, so I chose “All by Myself” by Eric Carmen–or Celine Dion if you prefer that version (Hard to be sure/ Sometimes I feel so insecure And love so distant and obscure/ Remains the cure).

Of course, not all of us hear music the same way, just as not all of us see the books we read the same way, so this is my interpretation.  What songs would you pair with these stories?

— Stacy Holbrook, currently reading Undertow by Michael Buckley

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2016 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with Kelly Loy Gilbert

Tue, 01/12/2016 - 17:42

Kelly Loy Gilbert is a finalist for the 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award.

Conviction is the story of Braden, a teen baseball phenom who has to contend with not just his father’s expectations for sports stardom, but his estranged brother, and his looming testimony in his father’s trial for the murder of a police officer.

Kelly, congratulations on your Morris nomination for Conviction! When did you start writing or know you wanted to be a writer? 

Thank you!  It’s such an honor, especially to be in the company of Anna-Marie McLemore, Becky Albertalli, Leah Thomas and Stephanie Oakes, extremely talented women (and lovely people) who’ve written truly incredible books that are all must-reads. I got to read both Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Weight of Feathers before they came out, and I remember thinking to myself, oh man, 2015 is going to be a banner year for YA if there ever was one. (And I really think it was!)

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I’ve been able to read, and the first ‘novel’ I ever wrote was in third grade–I wrote it in my favorite fine-tipped turquoise Crayola marker, and it was concerned primarily with the bedroom of my main character–thinly-disguised wish fulfillment, of course (a canopy bed! A fish tank! An art corner with tons of supplies!). And then I wrote all through my school years, mostly novels (well, “novels”) but occasionally short stories, too.

As someone who is familiar with conservative/evangelical Christianity, I thought you portrayed the nuances of that sub-culture very well. Can you tell us a little bit about writing either from a similar background or research that you did?

This shirt makes an appearance in Conviction

I definitely think ‘conservative/evangelical Christianity’ has its own culture and speaks its own language, and it’s one I’ve always felt fluent in–I grew up going mostly to a very pentecostal church in the late 90s/early 2000s, the heyday of Christian phenomena like True Love Waits and Christian boy bands and, like, shirts like this “His Way” shirt. I think the landscape of American Christianity is changing a lot and is much more varied and diverse now, and I know personally faith (which is still a huge part of my life) looks different to me now than it used to. There are many wonderful things from my church growing up that I hope I always hold onto, but at the same time I don’t necessarily believe a lot of the things I did then, and sometimes now I feel like the longer I believe the more questions I have. My current pastor said once that the opposite of faith isn’t doubt, but certainty, and that really resonated with me in a way I think I would’ve dismissed entirely when I was younger.

But for Conviction I wanted to return to that particular sort of faith where everything feels black and white and certain, because I also remember what it felt like to believe that rightness mattered so much, that your highest duty to God was to fall always on the correct side of things. It was important to me to write a story that dealt with faith in a way that felt honest and complicated and nuanced, and so I wanted Braden to have to grapple with what it was like to experience a true crisis of faith–to find that nothing in the world was what he’d always taken for granted, and to have to figure out where that left him. I love reading about people’s journeys and experiences with their respective beliefs, and I’ve read a lot of honest, raw stories about people who left their faith, but (at least when I thought about books I’d read about young people) I didn’t feel like I’d read as many about people whose faith in its current form became untenable and yet they still found shards to cling to and rebuild into something else. And Braden’s faith is really real and defining to him, even if it’s built on certain questionable foundations, and so I didn’t think that ultimately it would be something he’d walk away from entirely; I felt it would be something he’d always have to come to terms with.

Another of the things that I found Conviction does really well is show the truth behind the carefully constructed facade of many families. Braden’s family has many dysfunctions –  violence, abuse, lies, bigotry – and Braden struggles to see and understand all of them. What promoted you to write about such heavy topics?

You know, it’s funny, I didn’t actually set out to write many of those from the beginning, but as I was getting deeper and deeper into the characters and asking why each one was the way they were, thinking about their backgrounds and their world views, a lot of those things came up (and then I think a lot of them are inextricably tied together–abuse and a cycle of violence, et cetera). And many things, particularly many of the family’s secrets, were discoveries along the way.

But I think also, because I was writing about a young person, I was interested in that shift when you start to see your parents as people rather than just your parents, and I wanted to explore that in a character who has everything riding on telling himself the same narrative he always has.

Kelly Loy Gilbert

Slight spoiler warning for readers: do you hope that eventually Braden can accept his brother for who he is?

I hope so, and I think so. I really think he’s most of the way there–I think the biggest hurdle was his reflexive refusal to consider ever having been wrong, and now that he’s questioning a lot of things he used to take for granted, I think he’ll be a lot more open–more accepting of gray areas, less rigid. Also, Trey is the only person in the world who’s ever going to understand so much about him and where he’s come from, and I think that’ll carry them through a lot of what lies ahead.

Obviously, this book also is about baseball which is a sport that has a lot in common with religion: there are fanatics, rituals, and sacrifices, bunts or otherwise. Did you plan to pair these two themes together?

That’s really interesting that you’d say that; I actually never thought about it in those terms!  But I guess they both appeal to really core parts of Braden’s father Mart–the structure, the idea that you can give yourself completely to both, that they’re both pursuits that demand a certain degree of devotion and discipline. And, also, Braden and Mart both use both faith and baseball as a lens to understand the world and themselves, a way to measure their own morality.

What is next for you? Any new writing projects you can speak about?

I’m working on my next book for Hyperion, about an Asian American teen whose parents are undocumented and who begins to suspect his parents are hiding something much bigger than he ever suspected. Danny, the main character, goes to a super-competitive high school much like the one I attended, and it’s its own world–the pressure makes for really interesting social dynamics and ways people cope. Also, I’m really excited to be writing a book with entirely Asian American main characters!

-Anna Tschetter, currently reading Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living by Jes Baker

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2016 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with Stephanie Oakes

Fri, 01/08/2016 - 07:00

Stephanie Oakes is a finalist for the 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award. The award winner will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media (YMA) Awards on Monday, Jan. 11, 2016.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is the powerful story of a teenager without hands, who has spent years of her life in a strict cult. She recounts her horrific life as a cult member as she’s behind bars; including the events that led up to the night a fire destroyed the cult’s encampment and resulted in the Prophet’s death.

Congratulations on being selected as a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award Were you surprised to find out you’d been selected?

I was completely surprised! I knew what an incredible year for debuts it had been, and I thought there was no way my book would be in the running. It was such a great feeling to get that call!

There have been several recent YA books that contain elements of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s fairytale Girl Without Hands. I read that author Rosamund Hodge spoke to you about it when she was writing her book Crimson Bound. Why did you decide to write a retelling of that particular tale?

Yes, Rosamund and I chatted about research while she was working on Crimson Bound—that was a fun connection to make. I just loved the story of the fairy tale so much. It was incredibly rich, while at the same time, there were great swathes of the original story that were pretty blank, so there was room to play around with characters, their motivations, and the setting.

It has a rather timeless feel to it yet I believe it’s supposed to be somewhat contemporary. What time period or year is it set in?

It’s set in modern times. I’m a huge fan of fairy tale retellings, but I hadn’t ever read a retelling in a modern setting, so I wanted to give that a try.

The book’s first words are chilling, “I am a blood –soaked girl.” By starting it with Minnow’s brutal act of violence, it really draws the reader in. Was that always the way you’d intended for readers to be introduced to Minnow?

This book underwent so many revisions and rewrites that the beginning changed more times than I can remember. When I first wrote that line, I think it showed up around the third or fourth chapter, but gradually I realized that opening Minnow’s story on that scene was a real hook, so I shuffled it to the front.

People might think Angel is a monster but she’s actually honest about why she’s in the juvenile justice center and does some decent things for others prisoners, especially Minnow. What are you trying to say about young people – or people of any age – who are incarcerated?

I have a great deal of sympathy for young people in juvenile detention centers. The more I researched the forces that often contribute to young people arriving in juvenile detention (factors like race and poverty level, and other factors often completely out of their control), I knew my depiction of that place and the inmates was not going to be an overly judgmental one. These are such complicated issues with a lot of shades of gray. To me, someone like Angel is not a monster—she’s something much more complicated, which made her such a fascinating character to write.

One of the most shocking events in the book concerns Minnow’s little sister. That was very hard to read. Did you consider altering that or is that just as you’d planned?

That part was at one point much more gruesome and extreme, affecting more characters. Eventually, it was edited down to only focus on Minnow’s sister, at the suggestion of my editor. It was a good call!

This is a very dark story. Did you worry it might be too dark for teens? Was it always meant to be published as YA?

I’m a devoted fan of YA, and this book was always intended for a YA audience. I did wonder that it might be too dark, but I knew that there’s some precedent for that in YA. YA readers are kind of game for anything, which is one of the reasons I love YA so much. I also knew I had to write it, regardless of if it was ever published, so I didn’t worry about that too much.

There’s no possibility of a sequel or a follow up book to this one, is there? I bet readers might like to know how Minnow fares.

No, probably not. I’m happy with the ending, and I like that the readers get to imagine Minnow’s future for themselves.

What kinds of books did you read as a teen? (Dark, edgy stuff?). What authors do you read now?

I was actually not a reader of tons of dark, edgy YA as a teen and I’ve even wondered if teenage me would’ve read this book. I certainly hope so! I was a big reader of fantasy and historical fiction as a kid, but over time, I found creepier and darker stories, and now I’m a fan of anything that pushes an envelope. Nowadays, I’m a pretty diverse reader, but the majority of my reading is composed of YA.

Did you ever imagine you’d be a published author? What or who has inspired you to be a writer?

From the time I was in high school, I dreamed about becoming a published author but I didn’t know how one actually went about doing that until much later. With the help of Google, I learned that, though difficult, there were pretty straightforward steps to getting published. Mostly, I learned, it was about perseverance. Early on, I was very inspired by Shannon Hale, whose book The Goose Girl is an incredibly well-written fairy tale retelling, and inspired me to try it myself. She also has a very informative blog with tons of information about the publication process and her writing journey.

What are you working on now?

I’m revising my second YA novel, The Arsonist, another mystery set alternately in modern day California and 1980s East Berlin. It’ll be out in 2017.

-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading the galley of The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

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Happy Birthday, Sherlock Holmes!

Wed, 01/06/2016 - 07:00

Have you had a chance to take our readers’ survey? We’d love your feedback! 

I have been a huge Sherlock Holmes fan since I was young. I loved the original stories and any story that was based on Holmes and company, including The Great Mouse Detective, which was my favorite Disney movie as a child. Today, in honor of Sherlock’s birthday, I hope to once again share a bit of that enthusiasm with you, through works that are perfect for those who love Holmes and his friends and nemeses.

Sherlock By David_Jones. CC BY 2.0.

Adaptations
Since Sherlock’s debut, his story has been subject to many adaptations, ranging from books that fill in the gaps between the original stories to TV shows such as the BBC’s Sherlock and CBS’ Elementary. The literary world continues to offer new adaptations all the time, including many great young adult examples. If you want to see Sherlock, John, Mycroft, and Moriarty in completely new ways, you should track down these books right away.

Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty – This book explores Sherlock and Moriarty’s lives as teens, though in this case Moriarty is a girl named James “Mori” Moriarty. Shortly after they meet, Lock and Mori are thrown together when a dead body is found in London’s Regent’s Park near their homes. This modern take on the Holmes mythology brings these classic characters to life in a whole new way while tackling issues of friendship, family, and trust.

Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black by Karl Bollers, Rick Leonardi, and Larry Stroman – This volume collects the first story arc in a comic series that reimagines Sherlock and John as African Americans living and working in Harlem in modern-day New York City. The story updates many of the features of Doyle’s original works while maintaining the spirit and style that made those stories so popular. This more Watson-focused work was nominated for an Eisner-award and is a must-read for fans of comics and Sherlock alike.

Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse – Sherlock himself might not like the idea of a story focused on Mycroft Holmes. But, if you have always wanted to know a bit more about Sherlock’s big brother, you might want to check out this new book that sees a young Mycroft venturing off to Trinidad to solve a mystery. This book will give you a new way of looking at Mycroft and his influence on Sherlock.

A Study In Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro – This book, which will be published later this year, will definitely join my to-be-read list as soon as it is available! The story follows the great-great-great-grandchildren of Watson and Holmes as they come together to solve the mystery surrounding a classmate’s death. The first in a planned trilogy, this is definitely one that all Sherlock fans will want to check out.

Readalikes
In addition to all of the books that play with the characters and settings made famous by the original Sherlock Holmes stories, there are many other stories that are clearly influenced by the famous detective and his adventures. If you want to branch out a bit from Sherlock’s friends and family, while still staying within this style, these books will be sure to please.

Grandville by Bryan Talbot – This graphic novel and the others in the series may not actually retell the Sherlock Holmes’ stories, but they do capture much of the spirit of those tales. Set in an anthropomorphic and steampunk-influenced world that is run by animals, the series follows a Detective Inspector in Scotland Yard as he solves mysteries. And, by the way, the DI is a badger. The worldbuilding and artwork in this series will keep you turning pages as will the central mystery of this initial volume.

Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens – This first book in the Wells and Wong series follows two girls at a UK boarding school in the 1930’s. When a teacher dies (and the body then disappears), Daisy Wells finally has an opportunity to be the Sherlock Holmes that she has always known that she could be. Readers are sure to love this setting and the twist it puts on the typical mystery story.

Jackaby by William Ritter – This book combines a detail-oriented investigator with supernatural elements to offer a fresh take on a serial killer investigation, this time set in 1890’s New England. This book made the 2015 YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults list and it is a must read for historical mystery fans.

I hope this post helps you to find the perfect book to celebrate Sherlock Holmes’ birthday! Let me know in the comments if I have missed any of your favorites!

 

— Carli Spina, currently reading All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen

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2016 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults: An Interview with Nancy Plain

Wed, 01/06/2016 - 07:00
The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a Nov. 1 – Oct. 31 publishing year. The award winner will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media (YMA) Awards on Monday, Jan. 11, 2015.

Nancy Plain is a writer for children and young adults. Her works include many books about the American West such as Light on the Prairie and With One Sky Above Us among others. Her most recent book, This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon, has been listed by Booklist as one of the “10 Best Children’s Biographies of 2015” and by Kirkus as “Nine Teen Titles That Adults Shouldn’t Miss.” The book tells the story of Audubon’s travels throughout the United States and his legacy of conservationism and art.


Nancy, Congratulations on your nomination for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award for the lovely This Strange Wilderness: The life and art of John James Audubon! You’ve written a lot about historical persons and especially American Indians and the American West. Why Audubon?

I began writing about the history of the American West mainly because during my travels to national parks and on a long-ago camping trip from Colorado to Alaska, I fell in love with the land–the magnificent mountains, plains, and forests.  And it was Audubon’s connection with the American wilderness that drew me to him as a subject.  That and, of course, his spectacular bird paintings.  As a member of the Audubon Society myself, I’d always been curious about the man who inspired a powerful movement to protect and preserve wildlife and wild places.

A book and bird nerd question: Did you get to look at the double elephant folios of Birds of America for your research? I bet they would incredible to see in person!

Yes!  This book and bird nerd did get to see the Double Elephant Folio and it was mind-blowing!  This was at the fabulous Audubon exhibit held at the New-York Historical Society, in New York City.  But even better than the folio were Audubon’s original life-size watercolors on display.  The New-York Historical Society had audio for each painting, so that when I stood in front of the great horned owl, for instance, I could press a button and hear its haunting call.  This was a very emotional experience, sort of like a visitation from a world that is normally hidden from us.

You have a Masters in Music Education and you write history books. What a fascinating combo! Do you have any plans to write about music or musicians?

I don’t have any plans right now to write about music or musicians, but I’m not ruling it out.  Aside from books, music was my first love.  I used to play piano and was quite a serious cellist for a while.  My first biography, however, was on the artist Mary Cassatt, and I found that I really enjoyed writing about artists.  Whatever I want to say about an artist’s work, the work itself says it better!

Your books are for children and teens. Is there a special appeal to you for writing for that age level or does it just happen naturally?

I love the challenge of writing for young people.  This is the goal always:  to tell the story of my subject’s life in an exciting way, to make a historical period come alive.  Sometimes when history is taught only from a textbook, kids can think that it’s deadly dull.  But history is really an infinite well of dramatic personalities and events–many are stranger than fiction–and I try to bring that to my reader.  I also enjoy introducing young people to a given subject; it forces me to write in a clear and simple way. Do you have a topic or person that you are researching for a future book?​

Well, right now I’m immersed in editing a cookbook for my favorite organization, Western Writers of America.  I’ve been a member since 2008, and WWA is home to an incredibly friendly and talented bunch of people.  As for my next book, I haven’t decided on a topic yet, but I promise I’m going to do it soon!

Thanks, Nancy!

It really is a wonderful surprise that my book has been recognized by YALSA, and it’s a pleasure to be interviewed for The Hub.

— Anna Tschetter, currently between books

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What Would They Read: Jane from Blindspot

Tue, 01/05/2016 - 07:00

Have you had a chance to take our readers’ survey? We’d love your feedback! 

She wakes up inside a duffle bag in the middle of Times Square. Her body is covered in tattoos and she doesn’t remember who she is or how she got there, but she has amazing fighting skills that hint at special forces training. This is Jane Doe from the television show Blindspot. Jane is spending all of her free time trying to remember her past, but if she wanted a book break, this is what I’d recommend to her.

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Cassie is recruited by the FBI to work in a special group of teens with exceptional abilities. The recruits will have to work together to survive and catch the killer before they are killed.

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry. The girl wakes up in a cabin to hear her captors discussing her execution. She doesn’t know who she is, why she’s there, or how to escape, but she knows that if she wants to live, she must get out now.

Mind Games by Kiersten White. Fia has perfect intuition. She always, always knows how to react. Fia is going to need to use all of her powers to rescue her sister, Annie, who is being held captive so that Fia will do her captors’ bidding. Annie is blind, but has visions of the future. Can Fia manage to overcome her captors and rescue her sister?

The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston. Meg has a new name, a new look, and a new address. Her family is in witness protection, and she’s tired of constantly hiding and running. She can’t figure out why they are in hiding and she doesn’t want to follow the rules she’s been given. Meg will need to use all of her ingenuity to ensure her survival – and that of her family as well.

Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac (2014 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers). Lozen is a monster hunter, and the privileged Ones she serves keep her family hostage to guarantee Lozen’s compliance. But as Lozen’s power grows, she wonders if she is fated for something more. Does she have the courage and cunning to rescue her family?

Enclave by Ann Aguirre. Deuce has lived her whole live underground battling the freaks, but when she is exiled from her people, she must rely on Fade and his memories of the topside world.

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau (2014 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers). Cia is thrilled to be chosen for the elite testing program, where applicants compete for slots in the university program. However, her father warns her that all is not as it seems. Will Cia be able to keep her wits (and her memories) and use them to survive the rigorous test?

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill. Em is trapped in prison. She finds a list, written in her own handwriting, hidden inside the drain in the middle of the room. She doesn’t remember writing this list, but she knows that it is up to her to escape and stop horrible things from happening.

I Am the Weapon by Allan Zadoff (2014 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers). The boy was taken from his family and trained as an assassin. Now he goes from mission to mission, always the new kid in school and in the neighborhood, until his mission is complete and he disappears to a new town to start over again. What would happen, though, if the Boy wanted out of this program?

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey. Cassie is certain she’s being followed, but she has to locate and rescue her brother before the final alien invasion occurs. The first four waves wiped out most of the planet and Cassie is determined to reunite with her brother before it is too late.

 

— Jenni Frencham, currently reading Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

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Women in Comics: Looking Ahead to 2016

Tue, 01/05/2016 - 07:00

Have you had a chance to take our readers’ survey? We’d love your feedback! 

It is hard to believe that it is already the start of a new year. But, the good news is that with the new year come new comics to be excited about! This year there are plenty of books and series by female creators to get excited about. Hopefully you will find something here to add to your to-be-read list.

Tsuchiura Fireworks Display by peaceful-jp-scenery. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Zodiac Starforce: By The Power of Astra by Kevin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau – Compared by many in style and story to Sailor Moon, this series has bright colors, great art, a focus on a team of teenage girls, and entertaining adventures. This first volume will collect the first four issues of the series, so it is a great way to introduce it to existing Sailor Moon fans or those who just love action-packed fantasy comics.

Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley – When Lucy Knisley suddenly ends up engaged to her ex-boyfriend, she finds herself unexpectedly planning a wedding. As with her past books, she recorded it all in comic form. This promises to be another great peek at family life from an author who won a 2014 Alex Award and appeared on the Great Graphic Novels 2014 list.

Harley Quinn and Power Girl by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Stephane Roux – In addition to upcoming volumes of the Harley Quinn series, Amanda Conner and her husband Jimmy Palmiotti have a new series in which Harley Quinn and Power Girl team up in a foreign dimension. A great option for fans of this team’s Harley Quinn series, this will also appeal to Power Girl fans and those who want a combination of humor and superheros.

Starfire Volume 1 by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Emanuela Lupacchino – Another collection from the team that brought us the latest Harley Quinn series, this is the first solo series for Starfire. With its Florida setting and battles against threats from the underworld, this series is sure to attract new fans for Starfire.

Tomb Raider by Mariko Tamaki and Phillip Sevy – Mariko Tamaki, author of This One Summer, is taking over the helm of the Tomb Raider series, which is sure to bring new attention to the series. This is a great option for fans of the Tomb Raider game series, especially since it continues the storyline set up in the games.

The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks – Hicks is a perennial fan favorite who has written some great comics, so it is easy to get excited for her upcoming work. This book follows Kaidu, a member of the group that is occupying the Nameless City, and Rat, a native of the city. Though they initially seem like unlikely friends, eventually they must work together for the city they both love.

Mockingbird by Chelsea Cain – If you read the standalone Mockingbird issue that was released as part of the S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary, you will be happy to know that there is more to come from this great character! As with the standalone, the new series will be written by Chelsea Cain and will focus on Bobbi Morse’s adventures. Mockingbird has popped up elsewhere as well, including on TV’s Agents of SHIELD and in the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man, so this title has promise for wide appeal.

Spiderman by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli – With Marvel’s Secret Wars coming to an end, the All-New All-Different series are ready to begin and one of these series is a new Spiderman story. Though limited information has been released about this series, it has an all-star team of Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli, so it looks like it has great promise.

Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran – In this first Octopus Pie collection, readers meet Eve and her roommate Hanna as they live in Brooklyn and tackle complicated relationships. Filled with humor and observations of 20-something life in the city, this will have wide appeal, though it is probably best for older teens given the age group represented.

Black Canary Volume 1 by Brendan Fletch and Annie Wu – In this series, Dinah Lance hits the road with her band Black Canary and along the way they’re going to encounter more than their fair share of trouble. This combines great fight sequences with a rock and roll setting that will have broad appeal, particularly for those who are already fans of Batgirl.

Faith by Jody Houser, Francis Portela, and Marguerite Sauvage – In many ways, Faith Herbert is a standard superhero: she is an orphan with special powers (including flight) who works as a journalist. But, where this could lead to a bland rehash of previous stories, here this serves as a jumping off point for playing with the standard comic tropes. This looks like it is going to be a great series for fans of Batgirl and many more!

These are just some of the great new works from female creators that we have to look forward to in 2016. It promises to be an exciting year for comics and I can’t wait to read these and more. Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any that you want to read in 2016!

— Carli Spina, currently reading Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty

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2016 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview With Leah Thomas

Mon, 01/04/2016 - 07:00

Have you had a chance to take our readers’ survey? We’d love your feedback! 

Leah Thomas is a finalist for the 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut AwardBecause You’ll Never Meet Me is the story of two boys. One is allergic to electricity,  while the other has a pacemaker. Because of the pacemaker, it would be dangerous for the two to meet.  They become pen pals.  It is a fantastic story of friendship, dealing with bullies, doing the right thing and discovering the biggest mystery of why they are who they are.

The storyline is unique.  What was the inspiration for the two main characters, Ollie and Moritz?

It would be easy to say that Ollie and Moritz are opposites, but it’s not strictly true. I sometimes describe Ollie as the extrovert trapped in the woods and Moritz as the introvert stuck in the city, but they’ve got so many things in common: unique science fictional ailments, estranged/unknown family members, a tendency towards social ineptitude, an offbeat sense of humor, a deep sense of isolation and loneliness. To me, what made their story worth writing was the thought that these two characters, were they ever to meet in person, might have suffered for it: even without Ollie’s whimsical allergy to electricity and Moritz’s pacemaker, they’re so different in personality that it seems they would only clash. They might have loathed each other.

But we live in an age where friendship can be formed on a thousand different bases. I wrote most of BYNMM while teaching abroad in Taipei, and that taught me how little proximity matters to friendship. Friends can be people you’ve never met, friends you otherwise might not want to meet, friends you never see. Sometimes this truth feels like the most science fictional aspect of the story, but it’s our reality! Amazing.

Characters with special needs are more popular in young adult novels than ever.  What do you want readers to take away from meeting Ollie and Moritz?

I wanted to write a story about people, not issues, if that makes sense. I’ll be the first to say that we need more representation for people with disabilities, but also the first to say I was certainly concerned about writing characters with disabilities.  I am so grateful to be able to address this topic!  There are lots of wrong ways to write about characters with disabilities, and no exact right way, and the last thing I ever wanted to do was marginalize anyone. I worried and still worry that the science fictional elements of BYNMM, those elements that homage X-men comics, for instance, might alienate readers with disabilities.  I can’t speak for someone who is blind. And though epilepsy has played a role in my family, I also can’t speak for someone with epilepsy. What I can do is create characters with challenges that parallel some of the challenges that people with disabilities face in our real world, and present my characters as people.  The thing is, if you want to see representation in fiction, you have to risk being misinterpreted. I can only hope that my boys, with unrealistic disabilities that parallel real disabilities, do more good than harm! That they raise awareness of the real struggles faced by real people. That they further the notion that characters with disabilities can be presented as people first, disabled second.  There are days where I feel I’ve accomplished that, and days where I feel like I’ve failed. That’s terrifying.”

On page 246, Moritz uses the line in reference to the German people, “haunted by those who came before us.”  What do you want readers to learn from that thought?   

I don’t think this idea is at all exclusive to the people of Germany. I only know that this idea was given a name in German. Many or most countries have terrifying, shameful patches scattered throughout their histories. What did feel unique to me as a student studying German in college was the decision to give the arduous process of working through the horrors of the past a concrete form: a word of its own. Words have substance. Words stick with us and can’t be ignored.

Vergangenheitsbewältigung strikes me as a very human attempt at tackling a feeling that might be universal: whether on a global or personal scale, we all have inherited aspects of the people who came before us, and we have to live with that. We aren’t necessarily stuck on the same path as our forefathers, but it behooves us to know what led us to where we are. It behooves us to learn and do better.

Did you know where Moritz and Ollie would end up or did the story evolve while you were writing?

I am very much a character-driven writer, which is, erm, pretty sorely obvious in book one! (Plot? What art thou?) But I always had a pretty strong notion of where these characters would end up emotionally. And really saw it as two people coming from opposite sides of a storyline – Ollie, trying so hard to be linear as an avoidance tactic, and Moritz more or less telling his story back-to-front, also as an avoidance tactic.

 Young readers will like the funny reference when Ollie tells Moritz that “They left us in the toilet… we are not the poop.”  How did you come up with that analogy? 

I seriously dreaded anyone ever asking about the poop jokes. Oh, gosh, the poop jokes. But you know, my family members can hardly get through a gathering without dropping a deuce joke or two. (Sorry, not sorry.)  Basically, Ollie is intentionally juvenile sometimes because it’s jarring for Moritz – it grounds him, just like it grounds us all. Because it’s the lowest humor, but it’s also something very universal: every culture on the planet has some brand of scatological humor. Honestly, when I read “How did you come up with that analogy?” my smirking eight-year-old self wanted to answer, “I pooped, of course.”  My sister reminded me that our favorite high school English teacher used to say, sagely, “I’d rather be pooped on than be the pooper.” So maybe that inspired me.  Or maybe I’m just totally gross and I shouldn’t be allowed to do interviews like this.

What is your favorite childhood book?  What are you reading now?

I can’t pick a favorite childhood book! Let me try to narrow some general children’s/YA things down by age:

Elementary school: Roald Dahl, Animorphs, anything with a cat on the cover

Middle School: Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, Diana Wynne Jones

High School: Feed, House of the Scorpion, His Dark Materials series

Right now I’m finally reading Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle books, because literally everyone and their MOMS hounded me about it for so long. I am not disappointed. Who isn’t a sucker for boarding schools and horrifying nightmare creatures?

What is your next project?

The sequel to Because You’ll Never Meet Me, titled Nowhere Near You, is in the late stages of revisions and due out in early 2017. So huzzah for that! Things get a bit weirder and darker this time through, surprising no one.

The winner of the William C. Morris Award will be awarded on January 11th, 2016 at the Youth Media Awards in Boston, MA. 

— Kris Hickey, currently reading Grayling’s Song by Karen Cushman

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2016 Morris/NF Reading Challenge Check-in

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2015 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. If you’re finished, fill out the form at the bottom of this post to let us know!

Greetings!

Are you busy with holidays or end-of-the-year activities? It can be an intense time of year, and you may be debating about jumping into the Hub’s Morris/Nonfiction reading challenge but I am here to encourage you to DO IT!

There are two very good reasons to take part by reading as many of the 2015 finalists for the William C. Morris Award for debut YA authors, and/or the 2015 finalists for YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, or both between now and the Youth Media Awards on February 2:

  1. You will have a head start on the Hub Reading Challenge that starts in February and that includes PRIZES!
  2. You get to read some great, informative nonfiction, and some books by hot, new authors.

Here’s what some of our participants are saying on social media — join the discussion by tagging your tweets and instagram photos with #hubchallenge!

Now get started! Or, if you have miraculously already completed the challenge, won’t you please fill out the form at the bottom of this post so we can all be amazed by you?

The rest of us will leave comments talking about which titles we are most looking forward to reading. I’ll start – for the Morris, I’m enjoying The Weight of Feathers.

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— Molly Wetta, currently reading The Weight of Feathers by Anne-Marie McLemore

 

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The Hub End of Year Readers’ Survey

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 07:00

Hello!

Whether you’re a new reader or have been following The Hub for years, thanks for your support!

Over the last few months, we’ve changed the design and layout of The Hub, and also broadened our focus beyond just YA literature to focus on other issues related to collection development and content curation for and with teens in libraries, both school and public.

We wanted to check with our readers and get a sense of what you like about The Hub and what we can do to make it an even better resources. We’d really appreciate if you would take a few minutes (less than 5! we promise!) and answer a dozen questions about your experience as a reader of The Hub. It’s completely anonymous, but if you do have feedback or questions, don’t hesitate to contact me via email at yalsahub@gmail.com or on Twitter (@molly_wetta).

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— Molly Wetta, currently reading The Weight of Feathers by Anne-Marie McLemore

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Loss of Limbs in YA Books

Wed, 12/23/2015 - 07:00

I’m seeing more books about characters who have suffered the loss of a limb in the past few years. Despite this, all the characters have learned to cope really well. It makes me really grateful for what I have and makes me have more empathy for those who aren’t as fortunate. I’m seeing more realistic portrayals of characters with disabilities who are strong main characters and not secondary ones, maybe due to the diverse books trend.

It seems that there are a range of different types of books with characters lacking limbs. There are fantasies set in the past, science fiction books set in the future and realistic fiction often related to sports or the arts. And, fairy tale retellings, including two published recently based on Grimm’s Girl Without Hands, one of their less well-known tales.

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge is a lush fantasy that incorporates a number of fairy tales into her story of Rachelle who is forced to fight deadly creatures on behalf of the realm to atone for a reckless act. When the king forces her to guard his bastard son Armand, Rachelle forces Armand to help her hunt for the legendary sword that might save their world. Armand isn’t a warrior like Rachelle because the forestborn that marked him cut off his hands (an homage to Grimm’s Girl Without Arms) but Armand is shrewd and uses his great intelligence to make up for it.

 

Stephanie Oakes’ The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly (2016 Morris Award Finalist and 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominee) is unique in that it’s not a fantasy, nor is it SF, it is realistic fiction. The year isn’t specific, but it seems to me to take place in a relatively current time period but since the community is off the grid in a secluded area, it has a more historical feel. This story of one teen’s struggle to break away from the life she’s known in a cult since she was five is gritty and often hard to read but unforgettable. Minnow no longer believes in the Prophet after he announces that God told him to marry her. She dares to attempt to escape but is caught and punished for her disobedience – her hands are cut off. The Prophet even keeps Minnow’s skeletal remains of her hands on his mantel. Minnow tells her story of what happened to her in the cult before and after that horrific event to an FBI psychologist as she’s in juvenile detention on charges of seriously assaulting a mentally unstable young man.

 

Anyone familiar with Grimm’s story will notice that there are a number of elements that Oakes faithfully includes from Grimm’s original tale, although Oakes adds an even more shocking twist to her story. (For another version of Grimm’s Girl Without Hands, read Philip Pullman’s Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm (2012) and his commentary about why he dislikes this tale).

 

 

In Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King (2014) published for adults but just as appealing for teens, Prince Yarvi was born a weakling in the eyes of his father the King because he was born with only one good hand. All he has on his other hand is a thumb and part of one finger. His was destined to be in the Ministry as a healer and adviser, not become King and be forced to marry his cousin. Yarvi swears an oath to avenge the death of his father and brother against those who killed them. Since Yarvi can’t hold a sword or swing an ax, he relies on his wits and intelligence to defeat his foes. He gathers a motley crew of companions to help him. It’s full of political intrigues, double-crosses and surprising twists that will keep you reading and guessing what will happen next. The other two books in this Shattered Sea series include Half the World (2014) and Half a War (2015).

The characters in these fantasies mostly rely on cunning to compensate for the loss of a body part. Characters in science fiction books with missing limbs rely on highly sophisticated technology such as prosthetics.

Dan Wells’s upcoming cyber-thriller Bluescreen (February 2016), is set in 2050 where most of the population are connected to the net 24/7 through their djinni, a smart device implanted in their heads. Brilliant gamers and hackers like teenaged Mari and her friends find themselves in over their heads when they discover a virtual drug that plugs into their djinni that supposedly gives them a safe high. Even though Mari lost her arm in a car accident as a child, she has a hi-tech prosthetic arm. This first book in a series is fast-paced, full of diverse characters and is a fascinating glimpse of where we’re might be headed in the near future.

Like Mari, the main character Maisie Danger Brown in Shannon Hale’s science fiction book Dangerous (2014) is missing a hand. When Maisie was in the womb amniotic bands had wrapped around her forearm resulting in her being born without a right hand. This doesn’t stop her from entering a contest to be selected into a NASA-like space program. Her skill with science will be needed when she uncovers a conspiracy that threatens all of the teens involved in the training.

 

Padma Venkatraman’s A Time to Dance (2014) is about Veda, a teenaged classical dance prodigy in India who loves to dance. After an accident causes her to lose her leg below the knee, she’s devastated. For a girl who’s known for her gracefulness and dexterity in dancing, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she’s determined to learn to dance again.

 

These books aren’t always easy to read but they are invaluable in allowing me to experience what it is like to live courageously with a disability.

Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Marie Lu’s The Rose Society

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Year in Review: Booklists and Genre Guides

Wed, 12/23/2015 - 07:00

For the last two weeks of the year, we’re rounding up notable posts from throughout 2015. This post compiles our favorite booklists and genre guides from throughout the year!

Booklists

What Would They Read? Genre Guides

Look forward to more genre guide and themed booklists in 2016! 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

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Year in Review: Our Reading Lives

Tue, 12/22/2015 - 07:00

For the last two weeks of the year, we’re rounding up notable posts from throughout 2015. This is a round up of posts that focused on our reading lives: the why and how of what we read.

Do you re-read? I confess I often feel guilty when re-reading, but this post offers some reasons why re-reading can be valuable.

Do you need to de-clutter your to-be-read pile? This post offers helpful tips on culling your bookshelves and nightstands.

How do teens balance between assigned reading and pleasure reading? A teen guest blogger weighs in with her perspective.

What makes a book a page-turner? A teen guest blogger shares her thoughts on those un-put-downable books.

Print and ebooks both have advantages and disadvantages. A teen guest blogger shares her take on the debate over print versus electronic books.

How do you choose which book to read next? Here are some tips for adding a bit of serendipity to your reading life.

What constitutes “real reading”? This post argues that ALL reading — whether print, audio, or graphic — should count, as each offers a unique literary experience.

Even librarians can be slow readers. One Hub blogger offers her experience on trying to keep up with reading when it’s slow going.

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert for The Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge

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Year in Review: 2015 Themes in YA Literature

Mon, 12/21/2015 - 07:00

For the last two weeks of the year, we’re rounding up notable posts from throughout 2015. First up, discussion posts! These will give a snapshot of important issues and themes in YA literature over the past year.

 

In January, TIME Magazine released a Top 100 YA Books list, which prompted this post about what constitutes “best” and how we define young adult literature, as well as offering some suggestions for titles and authors that TIME’s “experts” overlooked.

Throughout 2015, race and diversity were very much in the forefront of people’s minds, both as related to reading and also just as a part of life. This post and its follow up examined how reading can build empathy.

This post looks at the 2015 trends in YA fiction.

Suicide and depression featured heavily in the realistic fiction of 2015.

These quiet books deserve more attention.

Many recent YA books include characters who are poets or incorporate poetry in some way.

With the release of the new movie this December, Star Wars was EVERYWHERE this year. Check out this post on teaching social justice with Star Wars.

” Who is YA literature for?” is another question that came up in 2015, as the category becomes more and more popular with adult readers and marketing teams increasingly target push the crossover titles.

We’re excited to see what important discussions regarding young adult literature are in store for 2016! 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

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Diversify YA Life: Not-So-Skinny POVs

Mon, 12/21/2015 - 07:00

Image is important when you are a teen, especially in the era of the selfie. Posting photos on social media for all to criticize can have ill effects on a teen’s image.

In recent months, body shaming has been headline news due to comedian Nicole Arbour’s vlog called Dear Fat People. Her “satirical” commentary sparked a nationwide conversation about harmful speech.  Celebrities such as Demi Lovato, Kelly Clarkson, and Selena Gomez have spoken out about people who call out their weight in photos.  The common denominator is that fat shaming must stop and we must learn to respect everyone regardless of how they look.

Recent YA novels have addressed body image in different ways. Some novels are about bullying, some focus on relationship issues with parents, some feature boys, and some are just stories that feature characters that aren’t thin.  Regardless of the issue, readers come in all shapes and sizes and all teens should see themselves in books, which is why the latest installment of Diversity YA features not-so-skinny POVs.

Below are a list of YA novels that feature teens of varied size and circumstance.

Male POVs

  • Fat Boy Vs. The Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach (2015 Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

When Gabe finds out that the vending machine money funds the cheer squad instead of the band, he makes it his mission to change it back.

Butter is obese and lonely and decides to eat himself to death live on the internet. When his eventual live suicide results in attention from his classmates, Butter must decide if he’s going to follow through and or cancel and deal with the fall out.

  • Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have by Allen Zadoff

When the new girl April comes to town, Andrew tries to find a way to win her over.  His solution is joining the football team.

Bennett spends time with his father doing their favorite activity, watching the Dodgers and eating burgers and fries.  When his father is sent to the hospital, Bennett is forced to live with his aunt and her crusade to make him healthy.  Bennett can either let his aunt run his life or he can literally step up to the plate and take over his own life.

Romance

Willowdean’s mother is the director of the town’s beauty pageant and has never asked Willow if she’d like to compete.  Willow forms a make-out relationship with the cute guy at work but they never go out it public.  Can the always confident Willowdean, aka Dumplin, maintain an overbearing mother, a private boyfriend, and a skinny best friend or will insecurities set in?

Eleanor is the new girl.  She has frizzy red hair, she wears baggy men’s clothes, and lives with her 4 brothers and sisters and her mother and stepfather in a two bedroom house. Park is half white, half Korean boy who loves comics, music and lives in the shadow of his taller younger brother. On Eleanor’s first day on the bus, Park reluctantly lets her sit next to him as she is verbally assaulted by the other kids.  For weeks, they sit next to each other without conversation until they form a strong bond over comics and music.  Eleanor and Park is about insecurity, abuse, and in the words of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, “Parents just don’t understand.”

Ann Galardi decides she must lose 45 pounds in 2 and 1/2 months for her aunt’s wedding but when her perfect size 6 mother becomes not-so-perfect and a cute guy takes notice, Ann realizes that it’s about being comfortable within your own skin.

Graphic Novels

When super villain Ballister Blackheart is invaded by a pushy girl named Nimona, he reluctantly allows her to assist in his evil plan to bring down the Institute.  When Nimona’s reckless acts cause major destruction, Blackheart rethinks his mission.

Every year Rose and her parents spend the summer in a lake house and Rose always looks forward to spending time with her friend Windy.  This summer, however, is different because of her parents’ constant fighting and Rose and Windy find themselves involved in the town’s teen drama.

So What do Teens Think about Not-So-Skinny POVs?

 

Katie-“These books are important because just like books that have teens of other ethnicities, they don’t always get any recognition and you don’t always get to hear their point of view.”

— Dawn Abron, currently reading The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

 

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Week in Review: December 17th

Fri, 12/18/2015 - 07:00

I’m way into reading the Morris Award and Nonfiction Award finalists, but I did tear myself away to catch up on news of interest to teen librarian and library workers.

Books & Reading

Video Games

  • A new Pew Research Study looked at video games and gaming culture, and looked specifically about attitudes regarding two issues: women in gaming culture and the purported link between playing violent video games and committing violent acts in real live. The results are interesting, and worth a read.

Movies & TV

Comics & Graphic Novels 

Any other news we missed this week? Share a link in the comments! 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading The Weight of Feather by Ann-Marie McLemore for the Hub’s Morris and Nonfiction Award Finalists Reading Challenge!

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Reality Scoop – Holiday Stress Released

Fri, 12/18/2015 - 04:00

 The holiday season is upon us and it can be a very stressful time for many teens and their families.  Some families may have financial problems and the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping can heighten teens stress to an uncomfortable level.  Or they may have divorced parents and have split holiday plans. Worrying about where they will spend the holidays can actually put quite a strain on teens.

It’s important to understand the amount of stress that teens are under during the holidays.  The majority of their usual stress centers around social issues like peer pressure, bullying and homework, and then there’s the money issues that arise when parents and caregivers don’t have enough to get through the holidays.  A recent survey done by the American Psychological Association showed that as many as 45% of teens reported that thy were under a lot of stress during the holidays.  Unfortunately, less than 1/3 of the parents did not even notice that their teens felt stressed.  Sadly, their stress does affect the quality of their lives as it was noted that 42% of teens complained of headaches, 49% mentioned difficulty sleeping, and 39% expressed that they have issues with eating properly.

Realistically, holiday stress is normal.  Stress is a feeling that is created when we react to certain events.  It is definitely a challenge to be faced with tough situations, but with focus, strength, and being aware of these challenges teens can navigate through the stresses.

Here are some ways that can help teens to deal with holiday stress:

Brainstorm some ways to do random acts of kindness.  This can be anything thoughtful like helping others in need, writing a poem, adopting a pet, or making a bird feeder.

Smile and try to laugh at funny things.  Watch comedian acts or listen to a favorite radio DJ show in the morning for some good laughs.  Laughing is a great stress reliever.

Crank up some tunes and sing along to the lyrics and get really into it and start dancing around too.

Go to the gym and exercise.  Try walking or running or anything that exerts energy.  It will feel rejuvenating.

Binge watch some good shows.  There are some great teens shows out there.  Get caught up on Awkward or check out a new show like Finding Carter.

Take some time to learn about other cultures and how they celebrate during the holidays.  There are many winter celebrations and customs from around the world that are very interesting to learn about.

Instead of staying up late online, try to get as much rest as possible.  Plenty of sleep is essential and helps to keep stress away.

Get the whole family together to play fun board games like Monopoly and Scrabble.  Having fun and enjoying family time together is a great stress buster.

Visit your local library and check out some good books over the holiday season.  Enjoy the quiet space and ask a teen librarian what their favorite YA books is.

Here are five YA books that may fill your heart with comfort and joy.  Everyone should take time to read and relax over the holiday season.  Reading is considered a stress-reducing activity that can really make a difference.

Let It Snow:  Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle.  You can’t go wrong with this one! A trio of some of the greatest YA authors today have written a story with all of the magic of the holidays and brought them to life in three funny and charming interconnected tales that will warm your heart and make you smile all through the holidays.

Top Ten Clues Your’e Clueless by Liz Caukas – Chloe is having a bad day.  Here’s why so far:  Top Five Things That Are Ruining Chloe’s Day 5) Working the 6:30 a.m. shift at GoodFoods Market 4) Crashing a cart into a customer’s car right in front of snarky coworker Sammi 3) Trying to rock the “drowned rat’ look after being caught in a snowstorm 2) Making zero progress with her crush, Tyson (see #3) 1) Being accused – along with her fellow teenage employees – of stealing upwards of $10,000 – Choloe would rather be anywhere than locked in work jail (aka the break room) for the holidays.  This day looks like a total disaster, but just might make her list of Top Ten Best Moments.

Decked with Holly by Marni Bates – Holly Dayton is about to have the time of her life…  She going on a Christmas cruise with her two cousins, the worst brats ever and she’s worried that she is going to have a terrible time.  Some funny things happen to Holly while she on this Christmas vacation that will have you rolling on the floor.  There’s sea sickness, pepper spray, and just plain holly jollyness, and more.  And when Holly meets a mysterious stranger who calls himself Nick her whole outlook on her holiday trip changes.

Last Christmas: The Private Prequel by Kate Brian – Ariana Osgood is the perfect girl, but on the frist night of Christmas vacation perfect goes out the door.  She’s caught in a blizzard on campus with the ultimate bad boy Thomas Pearson.  As the school turns into a winter’s dream, Ariana finds herself falling for Thomas.  What both Ariana and Thomas don’t know is that someone is watching them so their secret will not be so secret anymore.

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan – Lily has left a red notebook that has a bunch of challenges for whoever finds the book on the shelf at her favorite bookstore.  She’s hoping the right guy will find the book and complete all of the dares.  Is Dash the one that is destined to share her dares and dreams with her?  Can they find each other through the exchange of notes or will they be destined to  only know each other on paper?

 

Kimberli Buckley, currently reading All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Noelle Stevenson

Thu, 12/17/2015 - 07:00
Can you have a black Walter White or a female Lex Luthor without making an uncomfortable political statement? Can you have a epic, doomed gay love story like Titanic where you’re not just playing into the tired “tragic gays” trope? Can the character lose a fight dramatically and it not be seen as them being inherently less competent or valuable?

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

In the grand scheme of things I’m a relatively new member of the fan club.  Other than sort of intermittently following Looking for Group, I wasn’t clued in to the wonders of web comics until a friend linked me to a random (and perfect) comment about Sky High, which lead to me poking around on tumblr and finding this and this and this.  And this.  I joined immediately, for the pop cultural references, social commentary, comics and, of course, Nimona.  You probably should too, if you haven’t already.  The intermittent Scooby-Doo commentary alone is worth it.

And now here we are, a couple of years later, and Nimona is a real book that I can give to So Many People this holiday season (who are hopefully not reading this intro where I just spoiled their gift) and Noelle Stevenson has won a couple Eisners and been short-listed for the National Book Award (the first ever web comic to be nominated.) Nimona and Lumberjanes have already starting popping up on multiple end-of the year Best lists, including nominations for YALSA’s 2015 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, Quick Picks, and Popular Paperbacks honors.  Not to mention her work on Wander Over Yonder, Runaways (!!!), and in various anthologies (teenage Wonder Woman! Goddess of Thunder!)  In other words, if you haven’t had the pleasure, do yourself a favor.  Seriously.  I dare you to read the interview below or to check out any of Noelle’s work and not go full fangirl or fanguy immediately.  It’s impossible.  

Thank you, Noelle, for your Twitter feed, for making me cry when Nimona [redacted], for your generosity and vulnerability below and on tumblr.  Being a confused woolly little person wandering around making bad weird choices is a lot more fun when you have Nimona and April (and Ballister and Mal and Ripley and…) to keep you company. 

Always Something There to Remind Me

Please describe your teenage self.

I was homeschooled for half of being a teenager and in public high school/college for the rest! It meant that I went from being THE COOLEST homeschooler to being this weirdly overconfident drama club kid who carried a lunchbox, was the only girl in school with short hair, and wore skirts over pants. I was a very try-hard teen who somehow didn’t really care what people thought of me, in practice. I made arm warmers out of socks and had no idea how to apply liquid eyeliner.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I wanted to be an artist, then I wanted to be a singer. Then I wanted to be an artist again. Then I wanted to be an actress and an artist at the same time. Then I wanted to be an actress, and artist and a writer. Eventually I dropped the actress part. For a short time I wanted to be an architect but then my mom told me it involved math and I changed my mind.

What were your high school years like? 

Like I said, I was homeschooled until I was 15, so I was pretty self-directed. I didn’t have a terrible time in high school as much as just being kind of…apathetic about it. It felt like a waste of time, so I made connections with the librarians and the art teacher and the drama club and I’d use those to get out of class all the time and go do my own thing. I cut class kind of a lot, actually. I felt a little like a ghost at public high school, but not in a bad way — it was kind of by design. I knew I’d only be there for two years and I had all these other plans. In the end, I’m really glad I did go to that school, because my art teacher was amazing. She was very overworked and basically taught 2-3 classes simultaneously, like literally at the same time in the same room, but she fought really hard to keep the IB Art track when the school was trying to slash it even when there were only 3 of us. She had the art school recruiters come visit the class and that’s pretty much how I figured out how to get to art school. She was really important in my life. I called her ‘Mom’ once, in front of my actual mom.

What were some of your passions during that time? 

I loved theater. We went to a ton of plays — my favorite ones were at the local university black box, but we went to ones at the bigger playhouses too sometimes. I was really into Sweeney Todd (the movie) at the time so we bought tickets to Sweeney Todd (the play) when it came to town. That one was a big deal! I loved movies in general, going to movies was probably my favorite thing to do. We had friends at the local art house movie theater too so we’d go there because they’d let us in for free. Maybe I was a pretentious teen?? I don’t remember being pretentious but I probably was. I loved reading and I’d hang out at the Barnes & Noble across the street from my school all the time — I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, or I’d just admire the illustrations in the kids’ picture books. I’d even take my friends there and do like, dramatic readings, and pretend to be an art critic while looking at all the book covers. I really, really wanted to have written the books on the shelves there. That store was the first place I went when I was home to see my books on display. It felt pretty good.

Would you be willing to share a difficult teen experience or challenge that you feel shaped the adult you became?

I was a really introverted kid, and a pretty cautious one. I was afraid of everything. I loved routine and I loved being safe and comfortable — I was a major homebody. I’d probably still be that person if I didn’t have the family I did. My family was really extroverted and adventurous, for the most part. We traveled a lot and I was always miserable. I was incapable of enjoying the awesome places we visited until much later. Then one time we were hiking in a rainforest in Guatemala and my parents decided to take us ziplining?? I swear I remember our guide having a wooden leg although I have no idea if that’s true or I made that up. Anyway, I was definitely NOT down for this. We had to climb waaaaay up in these skinny trees and onto these really rickety platforms, and THEN you had to stand on a box to make the jump. And I was like, no. My family was always pressuring me into doing stuff like this to me and I was never down for it. They got me up on the box somehow and I looked and there was NO way I was jumping. Not a chance. And I never would’ve jumped, seriously, except suddenly my mom just straight-up pushed me off the platform. Like she just threw me out of a tree. And I was fine! And I was ziplining! And I had a lot of fun!! As I grew up I stopped thinking that everything was going to kill me and I started thinking more like, well, I could die, but I probably won’t, so I might as well give it a try. It’s weird, but it’s the only way I am where I am now. Sometimes you have to just take a risk and jump. Or else your mom will throw you out of a tree.

What about a positive experience or accomplishment that had an impact on your adult self?

So I was talking about really wanting to see my books on the shelves at the bookstore, yeah? Well, when I was 15, I wrote a book. Actually, I think I finished it when I was 15. I remember reading Eragon when I was like, 11, and the author was a 15 year old homeschooler when he wrote it and I was like OH YEAH?? I CAN DO THAT TOO because even at the time I was super competitive, I guess. And I did it!! I wrote a whole book. It was more than 600 pages. It was really all-consuming for a while. I had great friends who were somehow always willing to listen to me rant about stories and pitch them potential plot ideas. I never shut up about it. I don’t know if anyone will ever see that book but it was so important to me. It taught me how to write and how to tell a story and how to finish something. I’m still really proud of it.

The author of Eragon tweeted that he liked Nimona a while back, actually. It felt like my life had come full circle.

What advice, if any, would you give your teen self? Would your teen self have listened? 

My advice to my teen self would be “stop trying to cut your own bangs.” I don’t know if my teen self would’ve listened. She was pretty hardheaded.

Do you have any regrets about your teen years? Anything left undone or anything that might have been better left undone?

I wish I hadn’t tried to cut my own bangs. Also I wish I didn’t wear so many skirts over pants.

What, if anything, do you miss most about that time?

I don’t know. I’ve never really wanted to go back. I think you’ve gotten a pretty good picture of how obsessive and awkward I was as a teen, and I think I have a better balance now. I’m a more complete human. And I have better hair. I miss the little things, I guess. Like, I miss playing video games with my little brother. I miss my old car and how we used to sing along really loud to every song. I miss our old familiar haunts. I miss being in plays and the feeling of community that comes with that. I miss how every movie I saw was the most amazing thing and just how easy it was to love things back then. But I wouldn’t go back, or even really change anything. Except how embarrassing I was about people I was crushing on. Also those really low-cut jeans that were really popular and one time I mooned everyone by accident. Oh god I forgot about that.

Every Day I Write the Book

You’re a fan of many things, it seems, from ScoobyDoo to lady pirates, Quentin Blake to Sandman. In fact, many of us first discovered your work through tumblr, where you posted comics fan art of characters ranging from the X-Men and Avengers to the “Broship of the Rings”, a series depicting familiar Lord of the Rings characters as hipsters.  “There’s nothing wrong with an influence that shows, in and of itself.  Everyone has them,” you tweeted last year.  In a later interview you expanded on that notion, explaining that every story you tell “comes from me, and from my own interests and my own background and my own life story. Those are connected to each other and they can’t really be separated.”  So I’m wondering what or who are the major influences on you and your work?  What ideas, events, arts (in any medium), people, or places inspire you? 

The first movie I ever saw in theaters was The Prince of Egypt and it blew my tiny brain and I think little bits of The Prince of Egypt still show up in everything I do. My parents were really conservative and didn’t let us watch a whole lot of stuff so everything I had as a kid became really important, almost legendary, to me. Scooby-Doo was one of those too. Lord of the Rings and Star Wars were all-consuming to me for years. A little bit later, Pirates of the Caribbean. The musical Wicked. The Muppets. Kim Possible and Teen Titans. In terms of books, Redwall, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Monster-Blood Tattoo were incredibly formative. These days it’s gotten a bit weirder — I’m inspired a lot by reality TV, 80s music videos, dystopian YA fiction, high school movies, Taylor Swift, and books about mountaineering disasters? I feel really strongly that you should have a really eclectic bunch of inspirations instead of just the “appropriate” things to like. That’s where the really interesting stuff comes from.

Some months ago you published a short but very personal comic on tumblr that you titled a comic about changing your mind. “It feels good to feel right. And changing your mind hurts,” you said, illustrating some of the evolutionary moments you’ve experienced over the years.  The comic ends with a declaration: “I want to know things.  I want to believe them because they are true.  I have been wrong.  I’ll be wrong again.  I don’t know what the truth is.  Maybe I’ll never find it.  But at least I’m looking.”  I’m struck by the way this piece encapsulates so many of the elements that you use to make Nimona, Runaways, Lumberjanes etc. so powerful, like distilling complex emotions into the perfect evocative moment and acknowledging insecurity and discomfort in a way that’s totally inclusive and comforting.  Would you talk a little about that particular short comic, and about what looking for truth and allowing yourself to change your mind means to you?

Well, I grew up in South Carolina. I was one of five kids and we were very heavily involved in the Presbyterian church. We went to church sometimes 3-4 times a week, plus Bible studies. We were homeschooled and super conservative and for a big chunk of my life and I didn’t even really know anyone who was different from me. I was surrounded by people who looked and thought pretty much exactly like me. Still, I was always very outspoken, and a very obsessive thinker who spent a lot of time in my own head, so I got into trouble even early on for asking the wrong questions. It was kind of clear from an early age that I was going to be a bad Christian but I fought for it, I fought REALLY hard because I needed to believe this, I needed this to be true. There’s this idea among evangelicals that you can’t really choose your own salvation, that God chooses you. Everyone else, though, is a vessel destined for destruction and I got kind of hung up on that. God was supposed to come back and separate the sheep (the good ones) from the goats (the bad ones). But it’s not like you could choose to be a sheep if you were a goat. Sucks to be you, see you in hell, goats! I really wanted to be a sheep, but I wasn’t a sheep, and I left the church when I was nineteen and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done because that had been my whole identity up until then.

That theme comes up again and again and again in everything I write. I’d actually say it is THE theme of the things I write. It’s about choice, especially about bad people trying to be good, although never so clear-cut as that. I want to try to humanize even the outright villains if I can, to try and see things from their point of view. I want to give the choice back to them, I guess. My characters make the wrong choice a lot but no one is ever just straight up born a hero or a villain. There are no sheep and goats here. Just a lot of confused wooly little guys milling around making mistakes. They are so often bad people who want very deeply — not to be good necessarily, but to be loved. And they are usually very bad at it.

Identity–exploration of, how it shifts over time, and how perception sometimes shapes reality—is a recurring theme in much of your work, and while the search for identity is certainly not contained to the teen years, they seem to be your focus. “I don’t think naturally I tend toward anything that’s really distinctly branded as adult,” you’ve said.  “I feel like I sort of write for myself as I would’ve been at 12 or 13 years old.”  What draws you to explore the idea of identity, in all its different facets, and why do you think you naturally gravitate towards a younger audience?

Well, practically, I was reading the most when I was 12 or 13. I loved things the most at that age. So when writing, that’s the type of person that I imagine reading my books because that’s the way it feels the most alive to me. Like that 13-year-old is reading it as I’m writing it and I can feel her loving it.

When you’re a teen, you don’t really know yet who you’re going to be, but you really want to find out. I never felt right as a teenage girl. I didn’t like my body and I felt like I didn’t have any control over my life. Of course that’s really common for teenage girls, probably every single teenage girl in the world feels that way, but I didn’t know that at the time. I thought it was just me. So one day I got home and I was I guess 11 or 12 or so and the first X-Men movie was on, and Mystique was flipping around on screen, and she was blue and completely stark naked. And I imprinted on her immediately. She felt powerful in a way that I had never seen before, because you usually think of power as “punching things really hard, or laser beams,” but she was powerful because no one could get the upper hand on her. No one could figure her out, she couldn’t be trapped in a single form, and she didn’t have to do anything she didn’t want to do. She was so confident she didn’t even wear any clothes and I was transfixed. She made ME feel powerful. I KNOW that seeing a naked blue lady on TV is a weird turning point to have, but it’s true. Shapeshifters became a shorthand for the kind of power I wanted. I wanted to look exactly how I wanted whenever I wanted to, and not just that, but to switch between that and any number of other bodies in the blink of an eye, while keeping my real self safe.

And I mean…that’s kind of what stories do, right? You get a new body for a little while, you experience the world through someone else. So maybe I can make someone else feel powerful, too.

Once upon a time you felt that “comics were not for me or by people who looked like me,” and that the stories and characters you were looking for didn’t exist. You’ve talked about your desire to broaden representation in comics, not just in terms of having more female characters, or more characters of color, but by offering readers different types of stories featuring truly complex characters with stereotype-confounding characteristics, to show readers that “there can be a future where limits don’t exist.” Where do you see—or where would you like to see–comics heading, especially given the ongoing, often heated, conversations about diversity and belonging and authenticity?  And what’s next for you personally?  Do you have any interest in exploring other mediums or formats (like becoming more heavily involved in film or television or, say, writing a straight-up young adult novel?)     

Honestly, I want to find a way where we can still have these conversations about gender and diversity, because they’re SO important, but also kind of…give the stories in question a little room to breathe, and expand. It’s great we have role models, and I know it’s making a difference. But I think that’s just the beginning. I want female characters and characters of color to be able to exist in a mundane way too, or in an outright unpleasant or villainous way, and not have them have to carry the weight of portraying every single marginalized person positively, and not have their negative traits be seen as a poor reflection on the group they represent. Can you have a black Walter White or a female Lex Luthor without making an uncomfortable political statement? Can you have a epic, doomed gay love story like Titanic where you’re not just playing into the tired “tragic gays” trope? Can the character lose a fight dramatically and it not be seen as them being inherently less competent or valuable? I want the same nuanced characters, the same diversity of personalities, heck, I just want…MORE characters, and more kinds of characters. We deserve all kinds of stories. But first we have to break those stereotypes down before we can start to rebuild. So we do need role models! But the more positive representation we have, the more freedom we have for characters who aren’t role models, too. I hope that we can explore both at the same time. That’s what I’m trying to do.

Just Can’t Get Enough

Question from Libba Bray: Dear Noelle, you and Lou Grant are so very right: Spunky IS a terrible word. But there aren’t enough adjectives of happy to describe how giddy I feel reading Nimona, though “awesome,” “inspired,” “hilarious,” and “hell’s yes!” come to mind. (Shhh, “hell’s yes” is SO an adjective.) Since you are so knowledgeable about both sidekicks and supervillainy, will you please explain to the rest of us what makes for a great sidekick in life as well as in literature? And can you tell us about the rules of villainy? Who would make your Top Five list of Supervillains? Also, if you were a supervillain, what would your name be, what crimes would you commit, and, most importantly, what would you wear? Tell us, Noelle! Tell us!

Well, a good sidekick should have a real go-getter attitude and also bring something new to the table, such as for example, being able to turn into something that can carry you when you’re tired of walking. Like a dinosaur, but not a horse, because those are hard to draw. You and your sidekick should be a team and you should always take your sidekick’s opinion into account or they might go rogue and blow up a building. And don’t ask your sidekick to file paperwork or make coffee because they will probably do it all wrong on purpose so you never ask them to do it again. Sidekicks: POSSIBLY more trouble than they’re worth.

Top five supervillains: Mystique, obviously. Lex Luthor. Skeletor counts, right? Yes he does. JADIS, EMPRESS OF CHARN. Carmen Sandiego.

If I were a supervillain…well, the obvious answer is shapeshifter, but I’m gonna branch out and say “time traveler.” I’d be a really sneaky villain. It would be easy to get rich because I’d just go back in time and invent things as my own and win at all the horse races. Then I would use my wealth for even more Crimes. I’d wear something really distinctive yet mysterious, like a fur coat and an eyepatch and a really sharp suit and shoes with silver tips, so I’ll appear everywhere through history and everyone will wonder what it MEANS.

Noelle has contributed a question for the next author in the series, M. T. Anderson.  Watch for an interview with him coming soon!

Noelle Stevenson is the New York Times bestselling author of Nimona, short-listed for the 2015 National Book Award and nominated for a 2015 Eisner.  She was awarded the Slate Cartoonist Studio Prize for Best Web Comic in 2012 for Nimona.  A graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art, Noelle is a writer on Disney’s Wander Over Yonder, the cowriter of Boom! Studios’ Lumberjanes, the winner of  2015 Eisners for “Best New Series” and “Best Publication for Teens”, and has written for Marvel and DC Comics. She lives in Los Angeles. In her spare time she can be found drawing superheroes and talking about bad TV.

You can find Noelle at her website, or follow her on Tumblr or Twitter.

— Julie Bartel, currently loving my yearly re-read of Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising while also finishing Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On and diving into Illuminae by Amy Kaufman

The post One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Noelle Stevenson appeared first on The Hub.

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