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2016 Hub Challenge Check-in #20

Sun, 06/12/2016 - 07:00

Not signed up yet – there’s still time! –  for YALSA’s 2016 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since the awards were announced counts, and the challenge runs until 11:59pm EST on June 23, so sign up now!

Hey Hub Challengers, we’re getting down to the last days of the challenge. There’s only 11 days left to read all the books on the awesome list so if you’re just starting you only need to read about 2 books a day and you’ll make it. Totally doable, right?

I’m currently away from the internet in the woods – this post has been magically posted through the power of planning and blog scheduling – so I’ve got a big stack of comics here to keep me company. I’ve bought Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, as well as some favorite that made the list to read: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Lumberjanes, and Ms. Marvel. I’m so happy that that three comics have gotten so much attention and love from critics and readers a like. They all feature strong, endearing, hilarious, and honestly inspiring women and girls. These are the heroes – or SHEroes – that I want to read about. They all have their own struggles, triumphs, and really care about their friends.

Honestly, I kind of wish Kamala, Doreen, and all the Lumbjane campers were my friends in real life!

What are your last minute Hub Challenge reads or the books you’re reading again because you love them so much?

-Anna Tschetter, currently reading The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood


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Notes from a Teens Top Ten Book Group Member: Heir to the Sky Fantasy Casting

Sat, 06/11/2016 - 07:00

Teens across the nation vote each year for the Teens’ Top Ten book list and the results are eagerly anticipated during Teen Read Week in October– but did you know how the books are nominated for this list in the first place?

Books are nominated by members of Teens’ Top Ten book groups in school and public libraries around the country. To give you a glimpse of some of the teens behind this process, we’re featuring posts from Teens’ Top Ten book groups here on The Hub. Today we have a fantasy cast list for Amanda Sun’s Heir to the Sky (May 2016) created by Carmen Baker.

Publisher’s description:

As heir to a kingdom of floating continents, Kali has spent her life bound by limits—by her duties as a member of the royal family, by a forced betrothal to the son of a nobleman, and by the edge of the only world she’s ever known—a small island hovering above a monster-ridden earth, long since uninhabited by humans. She is the Eternal Flame of Hope for what’s left of mankind, the wick and the wax burning in service for her people, and for their revered Phoenix, whose magic keeps them aloft.

When Kali falls off the edge of her kingdom and miraculously survives, she is shocked to discover there are still humans on the earth. Determined to get home, Kali entrusts a rugged monster-hunter named Griffin to guide her across a world overrun by chimera, storm dragons, basilisks, and other terrifying beasts. But the more time she spends on earth, the more dark truths she begins to uncover about her home in the sky, and the more resolute she is to start burning for herself.

Lily Collins as Kali

Lily Collins looks like the girl on the cover and she looks the most like how I imagined Kali would look.


Alexander Ludwig as Griffin

He looks a lot like the character in the book. He is strong and funny like the character in the book.



Neil Flynn as Kali´s Father, the Monarch

Neil Flynn has a very fatherly look to him and he is what I pictured when I read the book.


Dakota Fanning as Elisha, Kali’s Best friend

She is blonde like how Elisha is in the book and she is a really good actress.


Logan Lerman as Jonash, Kali’s fiance

He looks like he could be royalty and also that you could trust him very much even if you can’t.


Keke Palmer as Aliyah, Griffin’s sister

Keke Palmer is exactly what I envisioned when I pictured Griffin’s sister. They have the same strong independent attitude.


Cara Delevingne as Sayrah, Aliyah’s friend

She could play the timid but joyful role in this movie because she is a great actress.


The post Notes from a Teens Top Ten Book Group Member: Heir to the Sky Fantasy Casting appeared first on The Hub.

Fandom 101: Hamilton

Fri, 06/10/2016 - 07:00

On Sunday, June 12, theater lovers around the country will tune in to watch the Tony Awards. Leading the field with a record sixteen nominations is Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking hip-hop musical about the life of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. Combining historically accurate language with modern vernacular, staging critical decisions about the formation of the American nation as rap battles, and making history accessible in a whole new way, Hamilton has already garnered critical acclaim, racking up a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album, and two Drama League Awards for the 2015-2016 Broadway season.

Not only are critics raving about Hamilton; it’s attracted a broad audience both on- and off-Broadway. Since its 2015 off-Broadway opening, more than 400,000 people have seen it, and only about a quarter of those are from New York. Tickets are sold out through the end of this year. The cast album has gone platinum and, since its release in April, Hamilton: The Revolution, the book containing the show’s libretto with Miranda’s annotations and commentary by Jeremy McCarter, has sold out its first and second printings. Despite the lack of tickets, a devoted fandom has sprung up around the show.

What’s making the story of the ten-dollar founding father so popular?

For one thing, Hamilton has taken steps to be accessible even to those who can’t get to New York (or get tickets once they get there). For most performances, a limited number of seats are sold through a lottery system for $10 each. On matinee days, cast members appear outside the theater to entertain crowds with street performances, often bringing in celebrities to perform. Known as the Ham4Ham Show, it’s recorded and published on YouTube and features familiar faces such as Star Wars director J.J. Abrams, who appeared on May 4 to perform the cantina music Miranda composed for The Force Awakens. Often, Ham4Ham remixes pieces from the show with gender-swapped roles, as when three of the four men who have played King George III appeared as sisters Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy Schuyler, the show’s female leads.

Additionally, the cast and crew are very active on social media. Fans can follow Miranda through his day by watching his Twitter feed, where he regularly engages followers. On the day of the 2016 AP US History exam, he tweeted:

On May 25, Hamilton music director Alex Lacamoire tweeted a video of himself playing a mash-up of Hamilton’s “Burn” with the theme from Game of Thrones, and within an hour, #HamOfThrones was a Twitter trend, generating hundreds of memes, GIFs, and other fan creations.

Miranda refers to Tumblr as “the arts and crafts cabin of the internet,” and he and other cast members regularly take time to praise the numerous blogs and fanworks the show generates. As of this writing, and the Archive of Our Own contain a combined 3,500 works based on the fandom.

Hamilton’s take on history makes it ideal for teaching across disciplines. In a recent School Library Journal article, school librarian Addie Matteson detailed several Hamilton-based lessons she used for a fifth-grade class. Teachers may also find lesson fodder in the complex rhyme schemes of the lyrics and use of primary-source material within the show. An entire section of one song is quoted from George Washington’s Farewell Address, which Hamilton wrote. The entire show is sung-through and characterization established through songs; Daveed Diggs, (Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson), notes in Hamilton: The Revolution each character is given a distinct musical style.

Hamilton embraces its place in education. In 2015, thanks to a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, they partnered with the New York City public schools to present special performances to 20,000 students. Many of these students had never been in a theater. In March, the cast went to the White House to perform for the first family and present their educational program to students in Washington, DC.

In a world struggling to integrate diversity into popular culture, Hamilton stands out. Miranda is the son of Puerto Rican immigrants, and the cast is primarily minorities. Led by Miranda, the race-blind casting makes it easy to see history as pertinent to everyone, regardless of race or background.

The story pivots on Hamilton’s “non-stop” rise from penniless immigrant to statesman through his hard work and determination; then chronicles his fall from grace and (spoiler alert!) eventual death in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr. This work ethic is also reflected in Miranda’s creative process; he first conceived the idea after reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton on vacation, and the show took over seven years to create. Miranda took great pains to make it as historically accurate as possible, bringing in Chernow to consult.

It also addresses current issues such as race, class, immigration, gun violence, and politics in a way that is fully accessible to contemporary audiences, especially teens.

This past week, Miranda announced he’ll leave the Hamilton cast next month to pursue other projects. His mark on the theater world has already been made, however, and no matter the outcome of the Tony Awards, it’s very clear: Hamilton is here to stay.

— Elizabeth Norton, currently reading The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin and listening to Hamilton

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Reality Scoop: Depression in Young Adult Literature

Thu, 06/09/2016 - 07:00

Mental Health Month may be over, but it’s still worth shining a spotlight on teen depression, because it effects people year round. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, recent surveys demonstrate that as many as one in five teens suffers from clinical depression. At this rate, teen depression has become a critical issue that calls for immediate attention and action. There are many different forms of depression, which include major depression, dysthymia, psychosis, situational depression, and bipolar disorder, a condition that alternates between periods of high spirits and then drops to a low or melancholy state of mind.

Depression can sometimes be tough to diagnose in teens because it is frequently normal for teens to act moody or upset. Adolescence is often a time when teens don’t know how to explain how they are feeling or what they are going through. It can be difficult to determine if they experiencing normal feelings of adolescence or actually displaying symptoms of depression.

Mental Health America (MHA) states that it is not unusual for teens to experience “the blues” or feel “down in the dumps” occasionally. Adolescence is always an unsettling time, with the many physical, emotional, psychological and social changes that accompany this stage of life.

According to the Mayo Clinic there are some common emotional changes that could be possible symptoms of teen depression

  • Feelings of sadness, which can include crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Feeling hopeless or empty
  • Irritable or annoyed mood
  • Frustration or feelings of anger, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Loss of interest in, or conflict with, family and friends
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Fixation on past failures or exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure, and the need for excessive reassurance
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Ongoing sense that life and the future are grim and bleak
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide

When depressed teens realize that they need help with depression, this can be a major step in the direction of recovery.  However, MHA notes that very few teens seek help on their own accord.  Teens will need support and encouragement from family and friends to seek out help and follow treatment recommendations.  Listed below are a number of resources to facilitate getting more information about teens and depression.

American Psychiatric Association – Healthy Minds

Erika’s Lighthouse

Mental Health America (MHA)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Here is a list of teen realistic fiction books that focus on teens suffering from depression or mental illness and how this affects their lives and the lives of others.

Challenger Deep by Neil Shusterman – 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2016 Teens’ Top Ten Best Fiction, 2015 National Book Winner – Challenger Deep is an incredible journey into the mind of a mentally ill young man.  Caden Bosch is hospitalized and as the story unfolds we are privy to his delusions.  This book is about a teen living in the throws of schizophrenia as the unique and fascinating alter universe he creates in his mind unfolds.  However, there is a certain element of depression that surrounds Caden when he is going up and down like a roller coaster dealing with medication and therapy, dropping to the depths of despair and trying to head toward the process of recovery and managing his mental illness.  Challenger Deep is a tribute to teens who suffer from mental illness and is a must read for all.


When We Collided by Emery Lord – 2016 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominee – Jonah and Vivi are falling for each other deeper and deeper each day.  As a couple they can take on the world together, separately they each have their own struggles to overcome.  Vivi struggles with bipolar disorder, she suffers from manic ups and downs and doesn’t want to take medication.  Jonah’s struggling with the loss of his father, suffering from grief and trying to be there for his mother through her depression.  It is very difficult because he can’t miraculously heal her sadness.  This is a beautiful love story of two teens going through the process of living with mental illness and how to keep going even when everything seems to be falling apart.  Lord’s style personifies real life because living with depression and bipolar disorder is real life for so many teens.

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – 2016 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults – Theodore Finch and Violet Markey were destined to find each other. Each of them are dealing with darkness and despair and each are deeply depressed. Violet for the loss of her older sister in a freak driving accident and Finch due to his abusive father and bleak family life. When the two meet each other on the roof of the school bell tower, both of their lives are changed forever. This is a true love story and a beautiful look into the lives of teens and the reality of mental illness. One of the amazing aspects of this book is the unfolding of Finch and Violet’s relationship and the school project they work on together. I don’t think that I will ever forget haunting notes and clues in this story and the impression that All the Bright Places has left in my mind forever.


Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – 2010 Best Books for Young AdultsWintergirls is a very emotional and powerful story about Lia a teenage girl suffering from anorexia.  The story written in a realistic journal style, details how depression has affected Lia’s life after dealing with her eating disorder and the death of her best friend Cassie.  Anderson’s amazingly haunting writing is compelling from the beginning to the end of this book.  She mentions in her forward that she wrote Wintergirls to address how many teens suffer from depression, eating disorders, cutting, and feeling lost.  This book hits all of those points and more.



—Kimberli Buckley, currently reading Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

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The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative

Wed, 06/08/2016 - 07:00

This is a guest post from Lyn Miller-Lachmann of The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative.

Today’s teens live in a far more interconnected world than young people of earlier generations. They meet peers in other countries through video games, “sister schools” programs, and study abroad. Many immigrant families maintain ties to their countries of origin, and travel back and forth during school vacations. Air travel and the Internet have brought the world to our living room, and people in the United States to the rest of the world.

Literature plays a unique role in building global connections. Knowing the stories of a culture is key to understanding that culture. Writers who live within the country or culture offer a different perspective from that of writers who travel to the country as tourists or researchers. The We Need Diverse Books movement has highlighted the authenticity that comes from being a cultural insider. The insiders of books with international settings are authors from those countries.

Language, however, remains a barrier. That’s where translators come in. Thanks to the process of translation, young readers are not restricted to English-speaking countries when “traveling” through books. If books can take you anywhere, translators are the pilots or the ships’ captains who make sure you arrive safely at your destination.

In recent months, a group of literary translators and activists have created the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (GLLI). According to the mission statement, “the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative strives to raise the visibility of world literature for adults and children at the local, national and international levels. We intend to do so by facilitating close and direct collaboration between translators and librarians, because we believe translators are uniquely positioned to help librarians provide support and events to engage readers of all ages in a library framework that explores and celebrates literature from around the world.”

On the adult side, Elena Ferrante, Stieg Larsson, Roberto Bolaño, Haruki Murakami, and other international authors have garnered critical acclaim and spots on bestseller lists. If adult readers willingly embrace books in translation, why are our teens and their younger siblings still stuck at home?

Some of the reasons have little to do with the interests of young readers but with the way the children’s publishing industry is structured. For instance, small literary publishers and university presses have often been the ones to introduce adult readers in the U.S. to international authors in translation, and novels from these publishers have received favorable attention in industry publications and major newspapers. On the children’s side, far fewer of these small presses exist, and they struggle to gain recognition for their efforts.

In a future article, we plan to highlight some of those courageous publishers, based in Canada as well as in the U.S., that have taken the risk of translating the world’s literature for children and teens. At the same time, we also want to recognize those major houses that have chosen to publish relatively unknown authors from abroad in translation even though the potential for profit may be less apparent.

While YA and children’s authors in the U.S. have come to expect foreign rights deals—and young readers in other countries regularly read books in translation—somewhere around two percent of books published for young readers in the U.S. are translations. The lack of international literature gives the impression that U.S. teens do not need to learn about the rest of the world—or to listen to people who live in the rest of the world. For teens who live in an increasingly interdependent world faced with environmental crisis, economic change, and mass migration, the lack of access to other perspectives threatens to condemn them to second-class global citizenship, at the mercy of local and global economic and political forces and with opportunities closed off.

Librarians play a key role in counteracting this dangerous insularity. We translators involved with the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative plan to develop topical book lists to use with teen readers. For instance, we’re planning a list focused on literature from Brazil to coincide with the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August, and our reading list for Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month in September will highlight authors from Latin America who write primarily in Spanish. We’re also putting together some fun suggestions for activities to use with the books, such as scavenger hunts, craft projects, film festivals, and more. We welcome your ideas as well! Traveling around the world—even if it’s virtual—is always fun. And, of course, in making books in translation available we’re creating the real-world travelers of the future. As translators, authors, editors, and librarians, we look forward to working together, as we encourage teen readers to explore beyond the boundaries of their own culture and language.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the author of the YA novels Gringolandia, Rogue, and Surviving Santiago and the translator, from Portuguese to English, of the picture books The World in a Second and the forthcoming Lines, Squiggles, Letters, Words. A longtime member of ALA and YALSA and the former editor of MultiCultural Review, she blogs on translation, diversity, writing, and travel at

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Women in Comics: Stories of Summer

Tue, 06/07/2016 - 07:00

As summer begins, it is a perfect time to celebrate comics about all aspects of summer vacation, whether this means camp, family vacations, or lazy days with friends. Hopefully these books will make the ideal companion during your summer travels, reading on a beach, or at your local park.

Slice of Paradise by Kevin Dooley. CC By 2.0.

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash – Camp is a classic summer activity and this book tells the story of a frequent visitor to one such camp. Maggie has spent most of her summers at a traditional all-girls camp in Appalachia called Camp Bellflower for Girls. But, one summer is a bit different from the others. This book chronicles that summer when she was 15 years old and fell in love with one of the female counselors at the camp. Touching on the heartbreak of first loves and the triumph of developing traditional camp skills (in this case amazing abilities on the rifle range), this book will introduce readers to a new voice in graphic novel memoirs.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki – 2015 was a big year for This One Summer, with the book becoming both a Caldecott and a Michael L. Printz Honor Book. Once you read it, you are sure to understand both of these awards and all of the other accolades that the book earned. Set at a lake house at the beach that Rose visits each year with her parents and some friends of the family, this book explores the sometimes tumultuous parts of growing up. Rose finds her summer filled with family drama and the issues of the local teens. Though this isn’t necessarily a light read, it is one that will stay with readers.

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm – Based on their childhood, this graphic novel by the brother/sister team, who write the Babymouse series, follows Sunny, a ten-year old growing up in the last half of the 1970’s. As the book opens, she is arriving alone in Florida to visit her grandfather who lives in a retirement community. Slowly as the book progresses the story jumps back and forth between her time in Florida and the months at home in Pennsylvania where she lives with her parents, older brother and baby brother. Through these flashbacks, readers learn that Sunny’s brother has substance abuse problems that are starting to impact the family. This book is a well-written graphic novel that combines humor with a skillful handling of the heavy topic of substance abuse. It will appeal to a wide range of YA book fans.

Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki – Faced with a boring summer of babysitting and loneliness, Emiko isn’t exactly excited about her prospects. But when she discovers the local underground art scene, new avenues suddenly unfold before her. At first unsure of her place in this new social group, she slowly blossoms into a performance artist using the 1960’s looks of her grandmother and the life story of her employer. This story of growing up and finding yourself features an engaging, biracial protagonist who tackles relatable issues including the traumas of leading a double life.

Chiggers by Hope Larson – After years of going to the same summer camp each year like clockwork, Abby is expecting this summer to be like every other one. But this is the year everything changes. Suddenly her best friend at camp has moved up to cabin assistant, her other friend has new piercings, making Abby feel deeply uncool and alone. And, when she finally finds a new friendship with a girl who comes to camp late, everything just gets more complicated. This book is sure to bring readers back to their own summer camp experiences.

Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge – Wilhelmina “Will” Huxstep is confronting personal tragedy and a (possibly related) fear of the dark by creating beautiful, functional, and fun light fixtures. As summer comes to a close, she is enjoying her chance to hang out with like-minded friends at the local art festival until a hurricane throws their plans into disarray. Faced with her fear in the form of a local blackout, Will must find a way to deal with the darkness. Gulledge’s colorful artwork complements the story and makes it a nice read for the end of the summer.

Let us know in the comments if you do end up reading any of these during your summer break or tell us which perfect summer reads we have missed!

– Carli Spina, currently reading Agatha: The Real Life Agatha Christie by Anne Martinetti and Guillaume Lebeau

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It’s Your Monthly Monday Poll: June – Favorite Romance Tropes for Summer

Mon, 06/06/2016 - 07:00

It’s the first Monday in June, and that means it’s time for our monthly Monday poll!

Last month, we asked who your favorite siblings in contemporary YA are, and the results are in! Cath and Wren Avery from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl *just* edged out the Lynch brothers from Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle series, 29% to 27%. Jenny Han’s Song sisters from the newly-confirmed Lara Jean trilogy (yay! Thank you Jenny Han!) pulled in 17% of the vote, followed by Simon and his sisters from Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda with 14%, and Mikey, Mel, and kid sister Meredith from The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness with 10%. Thanks to everybody who voted.

As the weather heats up, so too do some of our reading lists. Do you enjoy a little extra romance in your summer reading list? Vote for your favorite romantic tropes for a summertime (book) fling below, and let us know in the comments which of your favorite tropes we’ve left out!

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

-Carly Pansulla, currently listening to The Diviners by Libba Bray, narrated by January LaVoy (yes, The Lair of Dreams was such fun as an audiobook I had to go back and listen to the first book as an audiobook too!).

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2016 Hub Challenge Check-in #19

Sun, 06/05/2016 - 07:00

Not signed up yet for YALSA’s 2016 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since the awards were announced counts, and the challenge runs until 11:59pm EST on June 23, so sign up now!

I am pretty excited that it is summer. I know it might not technically be summer yet, but it is definitely in sight and I am personally looking forward to it! Summer is the perfect season to take a good book on vacation or read outside after a day at work, so I’d love to hear from you in the comments about where you’re reading and listening to your books these days.

My most recent Hub Challenge book was Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia. I had no idea what to expect going into this particular book. I wasn’t familiar with Liz Suburbia’s work before this book, but I did know that Sacred Heart had won a number of accolades, including an Alex Award and a spot on the 2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten list. I also knew that it started as a webcomic. With this knowledge, I decided to delve into the story, which is simultaneously a comic about high school that feels as though it will be very relatable to a wide range of readers, and a mysterious story of a town where all of the adults have disappeared. Suburbia chooses to handle this central mystery very peripherally, particularly at first. Though many characters mention parents and other adults and their absence, it is not the focus of the story. This gives the reader a feeling of having been dropped into a world that has been dealing with the absence of adults for some time and allows Suburbia to explore the impact this has over time. While I don’t want to give too much away, I will say that most all readers will find something that surprises them as this story proceeds. If you want to learn more about the book, check out Elizabeth Norton’s Hub interview with Liz Suburbia.

I actually haven’t decided what I am going to read next, so I would love to hear recommendations in the comments! Which book have you read for the Hub Challenge that you loved? Or that you think people might have missed but should really read? Any books that got you interested in a whole new genre? How about a new format, like a book that made you love audiobooks or graphic novels more than ever before? Let me know in the comments! I can’t wait to see what you recommend as my next book. And, be sure to share any other thoughts you have on the books you’re reading for the Hub Challenge in the comments below, on Goodreads, or using the #hubchallenge hashtag on Instagram and Twitter

If you haven’t started the Challenge yet, time is running out! You only have until June 23rd to finish all of your reading. Be sure to sign up in the original post if you haven’t already and jump into your reading! On the other hand, if you’ve already completed the challenge, don’t forget to fill out this form!

– Carli Spina, currently reading The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

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The Margin Project – Socializing Books

Thu, 06/02/2016 - 07:00

How many times have you picked up a book and had so many feelings and reactions while reading it, that you just wanted to share them with the next reader? Look no further than The Margin Project! The Margin Project is something done at many public and school libraries, as well as being championed by writer Jen Malone (find out more about her here). The Margin Project is a great way to bring aspects of social media to reading, thus socializing books!

Courtesy of

I am currently in the process of starting The Margin Project for the teens at my library. I selected 30 books, including fiction and nonfiction, to be a part of this collection. This is a great way to showcase certain titles, including award books likes those on YALSA’s Awards and Selected Lists. I was sure to include some of 2017’s Abraham Lincoln and Rebecca Caudill nominees, to encourage reading those as well. This collection will be specifically labeled so readers know they are able to write in them! Each reader can write using their own pen color and/or symbol to distinguish themselves. From there the sky’s the limit!

Readers can underline their favorite quotes, draw an arrow and write “Pay attention to this!”, draw pictures, write questions, and so much more. I believe that this will also be passive Readers’ Advisory, and will help readers pick new books. If they enjoyed the opinion of a fellow participant in The Margin Project, they may look to see what other books they have read, written in, and loved.

As found on Pinterest.

Participants may also take pictures of and share their writings on social media. The Margin Project is prominent on Pinterest and the hashtag can be found on Instagram and Twitter. This passive program is a great way to bridge the gap between technology and books. This is also a fun way to create a book club. It is great for teens that may not enjoy speaking in large groups, or are unable to attend a regular book club due to scheduling. Creating a book club out of this could be done by circulating 12 titles and having each member alternately read them each month.

There are so many different ways that The Margin Project can impact not only the library’s collection, but the library’s patrons. By seeing which books are popular, it helps with future book selections. This also gives different patrons the ability to communicate with each other when they may not have otherwise. It brings new life to reading and annotating books!

Have any of you participated in The Margin Project at your library or school library? What were your experiences?

-Tegan Anclade, currently reading Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

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So You Want to Read an A.S. King Book?

Wed, 06/01/2016 - 07:00

Whenever I get a request for an “extraordinary teen book” – and, I get that request all the time – I always recommend books by A.S. King.  From real to surreal, love to hate, red helicopters to umbrellas, A.S. King writes books that make the teen experience feel real.

All of the characters in her books – Lucky, Astrid, Glory, and my personal fave, Vera, (just to name a few) are real people to me.  Sometimes I wonder what they might be doing now.  Eating a sandwich?  Feeling happy?  Riding in the red, invisible helicopter?  Her books helped me through reading slumps, a traumatic death, and plain ole’ boredom.

If you haven’t read an A.S. King book, yet – I have to let you know that you are in for a treat.  But!  With so many books and so many topics and subjects, where’s a reader to start?  Lucky for you, I created a super-simple (ha-ha!) flowchart to lead you directly to the book that will blow. your. mind.  Last year, I was lucky enough to have A.S. King visit my library for Teen Read Week.  When I was agonizing over what I was going to say in my introduction, I came upon the following quote, and it’s stuck with me so long because it’s so totally true.  From the New York Times Book Review:  “Maybe there are writers more adept than King at capturing the outrageous and outraged voice of teenagers, but it’s difficult to think of one.” Yes – that’s exactly correct.

So…without further ado…behold my arrow and box skills below…


So You Want to Read an A.S. King Book?


I hope you find as much inspiration, happiness, and joy in her books as I do!  See you next month, dear Hubbers!

—Traci Glass, currently reading The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian

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Reading Fanfiction

Thu, 05/26/2016 - 07:00

This year the teen council at my public library held a fanfiction writing contest. Though I was not a voting member, I did read all of the entries. This was my first foray into the fanfiction world, a world that absorbs many of the teens that I work closely with on a regular basis. Through this, I learned a lot about fanfiction and its appeals, and I had to check some of my assumptions at the door.

In the 2014 August issue of School Library Journal, Chelsey Philpot took an extensive look at fanfiction and teens. This highlights the creative outlet that writing fanfiction can be, and how it can be a place to explore emotions, sexuality, and identity for teen writers. One thing that surprised me through this process was that even though a lot of teens had written some fanfiction at some point, a lot of them just like to read it, and would like others to write it for them. This got me curious as to what were the major platforms they were accessing fanfiction on, especially as I will see mobile devices being passed around with a “have you seen this one?”

First thing I had to learn was some basic terminology of the types of fanfiction that there are, and how it is referred to:

  • Canon  – this is written in the world that the fanfiction is about and is something that could happen.
  • AU – “Alternative Universe” – this is where we are in the canon world but a few elements have been changed.
  • AU divergent – “Alternate Universe – Canon Divergence” – The story is set in a different universe from where the original takes place.
  • Crossover  – There are characters from different fandoms in a story.
  • One-Shot – There is only one body of text, usually a short story that is complete.


Most teens seem to be reading fanfiction on a mobile devices through apps. These are a few of the most common:

Most of the teens I talked to felt that this was a starter site for young readers to access fanfiction. They said that this site “can be a bit sketchy,” and felt dated because of its “bad 90s graphics.” There were some ways to filter and narrow results to whether something was “in-process” or “complete,” word count, and with ratings:

  • K  Suitable for most ages
  • K+ Some content may not be suitable for small children
  • T Contains content not suitable for children
  • M Contains content suitable for mature teens and older
  • MA Contain explicit content for mature adults only


Rebecca O’Neil’s fantastic piece on Wattpad for The Hub earlier this year shows what a great tool this is for writers. For avid readers, this doesn’t offer the easy access that they enjoy elsewhere, and seems to be a least favorite site among the teen readers I interviewed. It is a site where you need to create an account to access most of the content, and it is not as easy to filter to find desired content. However, they report that those that both avidly write and read fanfiction use this to build a writer’s community.


Of the apps, Tumblr is by far the favorite, and where most teens seem to be accessing their fanfiction. The favorite feature of Tumblr is that there are libraries and catalogs housing links to fanfiction pertaining to a particular fandom. An example of this is Phanfic, a catalog of fanfiction relating to YouTube stars Dan Howell and Phil Lester (Phil+Dan=Phan). Favorite features include “fic tags” where you can look for fiction by feels, smut levels and types of smut (smut is a very popular vocab word in the fanfic group), length, relationships, themes, and more. There are also options to submit prompts for those that would prefer to read than to write, but would like something very specific.


Not every fandom has its own catalog on Tumblr though, but teens really like the ability to sort out the type of fanfiction that they are reading. Some of this is easier done through a web browser than through an app.

Archive of Our Own or AO3

This is the most popular site among the teens that I talked to, but doesn’t have an official app. The teens felt that this site had the best selection of fanfiction, and they really appreciated the many ways to filter by ratings (if and how explicit), warnings (how angsty and what types of angst), categories (relationship types), crossover, characters, relationships, and whether is was canon, AU, or canon divergence. You can also filter by word count, if it is a one-shot or if it has chapters, and if it is complete or in-progress. They appreciated that the site gave summaries of the fanfiction, and also liked that you could keep narrowing down by searching tags.


This is a website that many of the teens I talked with said they first started with, and seems to be the most child friendly. Many said this is where they first posted their first fanfictions that they wrote when they were 10-years-old or younger. Some say they still go there to read as it is easier to stay away from the “smut.”

One thing that I see being a big draw for teens to reading fanfiction, and the sites that seem to be the most popular are,  that it offers them the opportunity to manage their own reader’s advisory experience through filters. There is a lot of romance happening in fanfiction, and this allows them to read about very specific situations with characters they know and love.

A lot of the teens that I work with identify as queer, and have mentioned that they mostly seek out queer fanfiction. Fanfiction is filling a hole that publishing hasn’t caught up with yet offering more variety of relationships being represented. Fanfiction seems to encourage more reading, and though a teen may read mostly fanfic it is not replacing published works and they still crave novels. Just the other day  a teen came up looking for reading suggestions of new queer books, saying, “I have been reading so much gay fanfic, I feel that I should read a real book now.”

There are other fanfiction apps and websites out there that weren’t discussed such as Kindle Worlds, Pocket Fiction, AsianFanFics, devianART, ficWad, Facebook, Goodreads, Live Journal, and some apps specific to particular fandoms such as Justin Beiber, One Direction, etc.

What are the teens in your area using? What are their favorites?

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YA Mental Health Resources

Tue, 05/24/2016 - 07:00

You may be familiar with YA fiction books that deal with mental health issues, but in honor of it being Mental Health Month, I’m highlighting mostly nonfiction YA resources  (with a few new or forthcoming fiction titles). When colleagues ask me for nonfiction books to recommend to teens to help them cope with mental health issues, I don’t find many. Sure, there are those written that will be useful for class reports, but not many nonfiction titles that offer real, practical, how-to advice.  Most of the helpful resources I have found are online in the form of blogs, articles, brochures, or pamphlets since that’s what’s easiest to keep up-to-date.

Youth Mental Health Resources – Online Resources

Medlineplus, that has health information from the National Library of Medicine, includes a teen mental health section on its database, that’s free to access.

KidsHealth  is part of the KidsHealth family of websites. These sites, run by the nonprofit Nemours Center for Children’s Health Media, provide accurate, up-to-date health information that’s free of “doctor speak.” Their site has very understandable and helpful information for teens on a variety of topics, including teen suicide.

TeensHealth has information about health  related to teens, such as information about body, mind, sexual health, food & fitness, diseases & conditions, infections, school & jobs, drugs & alcohol, and staying safe.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has information that will help teens learn more about suicide, how to prevent it, cope with a suicide loss, research, and ways to get involved in suicide prevention, such as Out of the Darkness Walks. If you are a teen in crisis, resources are available online on this site for you.

Apps for Youth that Provide Mental Health Assistance –Many of these apps focus on crisis intervention, including:’s Crisis Text Line –Provides teens with free, round-the-clock access to trained counseling and referrals.

Mood 24/7  – This app allows users, including teens, to send a daily text message about how they feel to a doctor, a therapist or loved one.

CodeBlue – This project by Melon Health, scheduled to launch spring of 2016, is designed to help teens alert members of a designated support network with a text message whenever they feel acutely depressed. It is designed to provide teenagers struggling from depression or bullying with support when they need it. Users can choose several contacts to be part of their support group. With just a few taps, the app will alert the support group that the user needs immediate help. Members of the support group can then text or call the user. The app can also share the user’s location with the support group, and members can indicate that they are on their way to see the user in person. Code Blue will be free on both iOS and Android.

BoosterBuddy –This Canadian app provides teens with a list of coping mechanisms, tips for controlled breathing exercises, types of mental health concerns, and ways to manage symptoms. BoosterBuddy was created by Calgary-based developers Robots & Pencils, Island Health, Victoria Hospitals Foundation and a $150,000 donation from Coast Capital Savings. The app helps teens do the following:

  • Check-in with how you are feeling each day
  • Use coping skills
  • Keep track of appointments and medications
  • Get started on tasks
  • Follow self-care routines
  • Increase real-life socialization

Articles or Blogs for Teens on Mental Health Topics

OK2TALK: The goal of OK2TALK is to create a community for teens and young adults struggling with mental health problems and encourage them to talk about what they’re experiencing by sharing their personal stories of recovery, tragedy, struggle or hope. Anyone can add their voice by sharing creative content such as poetry, inspirational quotes, photos, videos, song lyrics and messages of support in a safe, moderated space. The creators hope this is the first step towards getting help and feeling better.

School Library Journal has a helpful bibliotherapy booklist for teens and offers suggestions for teens struggling with depression and suicide, and other tough topics, in this article.

The #MHYALit Discussion Hub– Mental Health in Young Adult Literature posted by TeenLibrarianToolbox on School Library Journal’s online site has regular posts on mental health topics for teens.

An example: #MHYALit: Fight the Stigma, Ask for Help, a guest post by Heather Marie, April 5, 2016


These resources are really helpful but sometimes actually seeing and hearing about a person’s struggle to cope with a mental health issue has more impact than any article or blog post. Kevin Hines, a suicide survivor and speaker and author on bipolar disorder and mental health issues, has created a video entitled, “I Jumped Off the Golden Gate Bridge” that’s unforgettable.


Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt by Kevin Hines (2013) (Nonfiction)

This is the striking story of survival of author Hines, who at age nineteen jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. The fall didn’t end his life; it began a chronicle of facing mental illness – bipolar disorder – and a series of breakdowns that challenged the author’s desire to live mentally well. His is a powerful saga that offers many insights to those struggling with life after a suicide attempt; from living daily with mental illness to navigating the world and discovering keys to better living.

Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson and Dr. Olivia Hewitt (2016) (Nonfiction)

This book, published in the UK, is only available in the US as an ebook on Kindle or Nook.

James Dawson, now writing as Juno Dawson has written a frank, factual and funny book, with added information and support from clinical psychologist Dr Olivia Hewitt. The book covers topics from anxiety and depression to addiction, self-harm and personality disorders. Juno and Olivia talk clearly and supportively about a range of issues facing young people’s mental health – whether fleeting or long-term – and how to manage them. With real-life stories from young people around the world and witty illustrations from Gemma Correll.

Elena Vanishing: A Memoir by Elena Dunkle and Clare B. Dunkle (2015) (Nonfiction)

This co-authored, mother-daughter memoir recounts daughter Elena’s five-year struggle to overcome anorexia nervosa after her diagnosis at 17. Elena’s memories often highlight the interwoven nature of her relationship with food to traumatic events in her life, from childhood feelings of maternal abandonment to a rape at age 13. Ultimately, this memoir illustrates how Elena found her own path out from this illness, and the treatment she received.

(And a few new, forthcoming fiction books, because I couldn’t resist):

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom (forthcoming Jan. 2017)

For sixteen-year-old Mel Hannigan, bipolar disorder makes life unpredictable. Her latest struggle is balancing her growing feelings in a new relationship with her instinct to conceal her diagnosis by keeping everyone at arm’s length. But when a former friend confronts Mel with the truth about the way their relationship ended, deeply buried secrets threaten to come out and upend her shaky equilibrium.

A World without You by Beth Revis (forthcoming July 2016)

Seventeen-year-old Bo attends Berkshire Academy, which he believes is a school for kids with superpowers, and struggles in the aftermath of his girlfriend, Sofia’s, suicide. Convinced he can travel through time, Bo refuses to believe Sofia died. Instead, he’s certain she’s trapped in the year 1692.

The Fall of Butterflies by Andrea Portes (May 2016)

At Pembroke, a tiny East Coast boarding school, Willa doesn’t care about being the poor, rural weirdo among the wealthy elite, because she plans to commit suicide—until she meets the mysterious, charismatic Remy.

These are just a few of the many resources available to help teens who might be struggling with mental health issues or who may be in crisis. I hope teens, or those of you who work with them, will find them useful.

–Sharon Rawlins, currently listening to The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury and reading A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard

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Gaming Anime

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 07:00

The response to the Sports Anime post was so enthusiastic that I am back again to highlight some gaming anime titles! My apologies to fans of the “stuck in a video game world” trope, you will have to wait your turn. These main characters are all into tabletop games! (If you must have a video game anime recommendation, I wrote about Summer Wars last year in my Anime Titles for Book Lovers to watch this Summer post.  

What we have this month is  a series about a haunted strategy board game, a dramatic show about a group of teens who trying to form a competitive memory card team, a slice of life comedy starring a mischievous student who distracts his classmate, and a series focused on trading card game battles.

Gaming is another broad sub-genre. While I attempted to select a range of games and themes, if you feel like I missed a show that this list cannot survive without, feel free to bring it up in the comments!

Hikaru no Go

Hundreds of years ago Sai Fujiwara flung himself into a river when he was dismissed from his position as the emperor’s Go instructor. Since his death, he has haunted a Go board hoping to someday achieve his dream of playing one “Divine Move.” Hikaru Shindo, the sixth grade boy he is currently haunting, doesn’t seem to mind his spectral hitchhiker. Will the two be able to work together to make Sai Fujiwara’s dream come true?

Hikaru no Go is the least spooky ghost story in the world, mostly because the show is so focused on the gameplay of Go and the interpersonal relationships of the players. While the 23 volume manga series is still available in the United States, the DVDs of the show are out of print. But do not despair!  both the subtitled and dubbed versions of all 75 episodes the show are available to stream (with commercials) on Viz’s website and Hulu. If you run an anime club or a convention you can contact Viz directly on their website using this form to ask for permission to screen the show to your group.

About the Game: Go

A two player strategy board game that you can pick up and play for little to no cost. The goal of Go is to capture the opposing player’s pieces by surrounding them. Learn more at the American Go Association’s website.


When she was younger, Chihaya Ayase was inspired by a classmate to take up competitive Hyakunin Isshu karuta, a matching and reflexes card game where the players memorize poetry.  Now that she is in high school she wants to draw her friends back together to compete as a team, but things are more complicated than they seem…

A skillful blend of humor and drama, there are two season so far of this series.  You get to know each character through multiple flashback sequences, so the main plot has a slow and steady build. This slow and steady pacing is balanced out by the aggressive animation of the karuta gameplay sequences. The English translation of the manga is out of print, but both seasons of the show are streaming on crunchyroll and if you are running a convention, anime club or library group you can request a commercial free account through crunchyroll’s outreach page

About the Game: Hyakunin Isshu karuta

The version of karuta played in Chihayafuru deals with poetry. The last lines of 100 different poems are printed on cards.  The goal is to match the beginning lines of these poems, which are read aloud, to the end lines printed on those cards. As each poem is read players compete to select the correct end before each other. There are also monster and regional decks, even a Shakespeare deck! Learn more about karuta here.

Tonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time

Toshinari Seki is busy doing anything and everything except school work. He sits at his desk in the back corner of the classroom; a master of killing time and covering his tracks. Some kids would create a flip book by doodling in the corner of their notebook or textbook. Seki records a voice track for his story, complete with sound effects. Some kids would bring in a remote controlled car and fool around with it during class. Seki sets up an obstacle course and spends all day taking a mock driving test. Rumi Yokoi is the perpetually distracted girl who sits next to him, and you really can’t blame her!

This short form anime is based off of the manga My Neighbor Seki  by Takuma Morishige and each episodes run under 10 minutes.  Since Seki rarely speaks and Yokoi doesn’t want to get in trouble during class, most of the show is Yokoi’s inner monologue and her reactions to Seki’s shenanigans are priceless. At only twenty-one episodes, the series is the shortest one featured today and will leave you begging for more! This show is available on DVD as well as streaming on crunchyroll.

Warning: many games, including a Seki-fied version of Go, make an appearance in Tonari no Seki-kun. Most are not accurate to actual game play. 

About the Game: Shogi

Shogi is played on a board, and is similar to chess in a number of ways. The goal of the game is to capture the opposing player’s king and each game piece may only move in prescribed ways (the king only one spot at a time, in any direction). One major difference is that captured members are absorbed into the aggressor’s forces.  Sadly, there are not usually trap doors, or secret identities in Shogi, that is all Seki. 

Cardfight!! Vanguard

Shy middle school student Sendo Aichi is having trouble making friends. The only thing he has going for him is that he has a super rare ‘Blaster Blade’ card from the popular ‘Vanguard’ card game, but he loses his precious card in his first match! Will he ever make any friends?

Similar to Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh!,  watching this show is like watching people play any trading card battle style game, except the battle sequences are brought to life in epic fashion. This would be a great series for fans of watching twitch or youtube playthroughs of games.  Cardfight!! Vanguard ran for four seasons, has had several spinoff manga, a movie Cardfight!! Vanguard Film: Neon Messiah, and an ongoing “new class” style spin off show, Cardfight!! Vanguard G. Set three years after the end of the original series, one of the main characters from the first series acts as a mentor to a new group of players seeking to be the very best, like no one ever was …

No, wait, that’s Pokémon. If you want more information on Pokémon check out this Teen Perspective post: Digitally Remastered – Comic books for gamers!

About the Game: Cardfight Vanguard

A trading card game of strategy and luck, Cardfight Vanguard has a fairly standard one-on-one battle structure. Each deck of cards is customized based on what is purchased or won from other players. The first player to receive six damage, or run out of cards, looses. In the show you actually get to see these battles taking place on the planet Cray, but in real life, that is left to the imaginations of the players. The two players decks are shuffled before the game begins, which means that a player with a less expensive deck, but a good sense of strategy and a healthy serving of luck, can win against an opponent with more powerful individual cards. 
— Jennifer Billingsley,  currently reading Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin.

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Diversify YA Life: Diversity at BEA and BookCon

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 07:00

Two years ago at Book Expo America 2014, there was some concern about the lack of diversity in an all white all male diversity panel.  The We Need Diverse Books movement formed after BEA 2014 and because of the movement, there has been a steady rise in diverse authors and characters.

Since its start in 2014, We Need Diverse Books has seen support from the publishing community, libraries, authors, and book bloggers.  Book bloggers are a unique group because they volunteer their time and money to promote literacy to the masses.  Over the past two years, many bloggers have hosted diversity reading challenges, Twitter chats, and author interviews to spread the importance of diversity in children’s/ young adult literature.  BEA and BookCon is the event YA bloggers look forward to to connect with friends, meet authors, and find new books to promote on their sites.  I got a chance to meet several YA bloggers of color and interviewed them on the importance of diversity in YA literature-Steph, Erica, and Hafsah.

Meet the bloggers.

With over 1100 website followers and 7,000 Twitter followers, Cuddlebuggery Book Blog is a leader in the YA blogging

Steph from Cuddlebuggery & Laini Taylor

community. Stephanie Sinclair started her blog in 2011 called Stephanie’s Book Nook and in 2012 joined Kat Kennedy to form Cuddlebuggery.  In 2014, Meg Morely joined the team that reviews YA lit, adult crossovers and middle grade books in a fresh, inventive and fun atmosphere.  You can follow Steph and Cuddlebuggery on the following social media sites:  YouTube channelGoogle + pageFaceBook page,Tumblr,Twitter,Instagram andGoodreads.

Erica has been reviewing YA fiction since the start of this year and she hosts a regular feature on Mike the Fanboy called Book Beat.  You can follow Erica and her 1,200 followers on Twitter at @Cambear.

Hafsah began her young-adult book review blog, IceyBooks, in late 2010 because she was homeschooled and had no one to share her love of books with. Over the years, she befriended countless people in publishing, other bloggers, authors, agents, editors, and found some of her dearest friends all because she started blogging. She now blogs on IceyBooks with her sister, Asma. You can follow Hafsah and her 8, 000 followers on Twitter and her 3,000 followers on Instagram at @HafsahFaizal.

How do you think the We Need Diverse Books movement has progressed since its start two year ago?

Steph: It’s definitely grown considerably and I’m impressed with how much its accomplished in such a short time. I feel like I can directly see some of its effects as well. There’s been more books being purchased by publishers written by marginalized people and I’m seeing them more prominently at bookish conventions, such as BEA. It’s been a very “in your face” movement, which is exactly what publishing needed. There have always been people campaigning for diverse books, but this just helps us all scream a little louder.

Erica: I haven’t been covering YA books for that long, but I think there is greater awareness across most media. There’s greater awareness that there is a lack of diversity and I think groups are getting more organized on raising their voices. Certainly the internet is quicker to pounce when something happens.

If you look to commercials, the most sophisticated marketers already know they need to feature diversity because they want to connect with as broad an audience as possible. You can see a better mix of races, ages and family units (gay, straight, adopted) in commercials. The ad industry is much further along than the media companies. They have to be or they can’t sell their product.

So there’s a proven business model out there. We need more opportunities for blockbusters (books, movies and TV) with diverse casts to prove this in other industries as well.

Hafsah: I think the WNDB movement has grown tremendously because of what it represents: the innumerable amount of people looking for themselves in the world of fiction, between the pages of a book. We need diverse books, and the WNDB movement is pushing for just that.

Why do we need diverse bloggers in the YA world?

Steph: Simple answer is that it’s important to see and hear voices of various backgrounds, no matter what field it’s in. Having marginalized voices at every level of the publishing industry is essential and allows people to get more familiar with what they don’t know. It causes everyone to be more socially aware and tolerant.

For diverse bloggers, we also have a very important role as well, and that’s reading, reviewing, supporting and challenging these diverse titles. Many authors are writing outside of what they know, and that’s awesome, but it’s not always a perfect system. I’ve run across books where most of my white blogger friends have praised a book that I found horribly offensive and books where they found the content uncomfortable, yet I felt it was true and accurate. The world is a diverse place and, therefore, by default you’ll have diverse readers. As a reader, I love following bloggers who have similar tastes as me to find my new favorite book, but it’s also good to have others who have different perspectives so I can find books I would have never picked up. Erica: Books, writers and reviewers should reflect the readers and, well, readers aren’t a homogeneous group. The crowd at BookCon this weekend was a full rainbow of all kinds of people.  Each person experiences a book through their own personal lens so having diverse reviewers mean you’re more likely to find someone who might have similar tastes to you. Hafsah: Just like we need diverse books to read, we need diverse people to spread the love for these books, to appreciate them, and to advocate them. There’s no application to become a blogger, there’s no form to fill out. Bloggers in the YA world have come together because of their love for books, and nothing else, regardless of the differences that make us who we are. What would you like publishers to know about the importance of diverse books? Steph: As a kid, I used to wish I wasn’t black because all I saw and read about were white kids going on fantastic adventures. I felt like I was being left behind and it was difficult for me to find stories where I saw myself. Nowadays, that’s changing and I’m starting to see a lot more diverse characters and marginalized voices sitting at the table, fighting dragons and saving the world. It’s fantastic and I’m excited that my kids will have a better selection of stories to dive into. Erica: People often read books to find characters they relate to whether its based on physical appearance, their attitude, their choices or whatever. The books that stay with people resonate the most and one size does not fit all. Mix things up. Check out Steph’s diverse YA book recommendations:

Naila’s parents want her to marry a man that’s been arranged for her but when she meets Saif, she doesn’t want to follow tradition.  In an effort to get Naila to appreciate her heritage, she travels to Pakistan with her parents.  Naila soon discovers that her parents planned a marriage while in Pakistan and the only person to save her is Saif.

Simon isn’t quite out of the closet and neither is Blue, his anonymous email friend. When Martin accidentally sees Simon’s emails, Simon finds himself on the other side of blackmail and is forced to hook up Martin and his friend Abby.

When Michelle runs away from a drug addicted mother, she finds herself in NYC alone and out of money.  She meets a nice looking boy that offers her a place to stay but she soon finds herself in the world of child prostitution.

Check out these diverse YA recommendations by Erica.

Three unrelated stories come together with an interesting twist.

This is the story about Rashad and Quinn, one black and one white, and their experiences with racism in America.

  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Lara Jean writes her crushes love letters because she’s too shy to tell them in person.  When her secret box of letters gets mailed, Lara Jean must meet her crushes face to face.

Erica also recommends Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda.


Hafsah been reading a lot more diverse fiction these days, and she’s especially drawn to fantasy set in the Middle East and Asia, because the majority of fantasy is set in Europe. The ones she most recently loved are:

This is a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights. King Khalid kills all his brides by dawn. When Shazi’s best friend dies by dawn, she vows to avenge her death by becoming Khalid’s bride and killing him.

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.

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?

Dawn is currently reading – The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

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2016 Hub Challenge Check-in #17

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 07:00

Not signed up yet for YALSA’s 2016 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since the awards were announced counts, and the challenge runs until 11:59pm EST on June 23 (that’s still a solid month of reading and listening time), so sign up now!

I’m currently on an audiobook kick. I just finished Randall Munroe’s What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, read to great effect by Wil Wheaton, and I’m partway through Libba Bray’s Lair of Dreams, in which January LaVoy creates a stunning auditory landscape with approximately one million different character voices. What If? frequently had me laughing out loud (on the treadmill, so I was that person in the gym). Randall Munroe is probably most famous for his (beloved) xkcd webcomic, so I was expecting to laugh, and Wheaton’s energetic narration was a lot of fun. For me, it took awhile to get through simply because the content felt more digestible in small-ish doses; I personally wouldn’t have wanted to listen to so many thought experiments for hours on end (for instance, on a road trip), but taken in twenty minute chunks I found them completely delightful. I don’t listen to a ton of audiobooks normally (my listening time tends to go to podcasts and radio), but I love to be read to (file under: things we carry with us from childhood; thanks Dad!), so I’ve been really enjoying the change of format.

I’m loving Lair of Dreams, and I’ve discovered an awesome benefit of listening to this particular title; I’m enjoying the 1920’s slang that is peppered throughout everyone’s (especially our main protagonist from book 1, Evie’s) speech a lot more when I can hear it. The cast of characters is still expanding (and representing an increasingly diverse NYC as it does), and the story is reeling me back in quickly. I almost didn’t start this, because I didn’t feel like I had time to revisit The Diviners first (it’s almost 600 pages!), and I really needed a refresher on everything that had happened (I read it well over 3 years ago), but a quick detour to the time-saving Recaptains site brought me back up to speed quickly (the site is awesome, and designed to refresh readers’ memory about previous volumes in a series, so it’s all spoilers. Consider yourself warned. I use it a lot for next installments, especially if the time between volume publications was long).

I’m also working through The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Geek Girls by Sam Maggs (in print). The overall tone of the text is refreshingly positive – fandom being, at its heart, about celebrating something that moves you – and incredibly direct, leaving zero room for the idea that anyone can shut anyone else out of a fandom, or that any group of fans could be more “legit” or authoritative than any other. I am excited to share this with a ton of my students, and I’m also finding it to be a great overview for me in collection development and reader’s advisory terms; there is so much content out there, it can be overwhelming, and although I certainly am an enthusiastic fan in many arenas (*she wrote, with an eye on her complete Buffy dvd collection*), there are plenty of shows, games, series, etc. that I know some of my students love but that I won’t realistically have time to consume in their entirety. I’ve already found lots of fun ideas for possible displays and read-alike recommendations, and there are a lot of potential programming ideas to be found here too.

What have you been reading for the Challenge lately? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and join the conversation on social media; look for the #hubchallenge on InstagramTwitter, and our Goodreads group. If you’ve finished the Challenge, a) bravo! and b) fill out this form.

-Carly Pansulla, currently reading We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with M.T. Anderson

Thu, 05/19/2016 - 07:00

There are cultures, for example, where teens are not considered to be, first and foremost, consumers.

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

I’ll admit right up front to being horribly intimidated at the prospect of this interview.  I put off drafting questions by collecting other interviews, reviews, and articles; by sifting through YouTube for conference appearances and even more interviews, by reading and re-reading the essays and speeches on his website…you get the idea.  But all that research and preparation just made it worse, actually.  So much worse.  M.T. Anderson’s reputation as one of the nicest and funniest (Whales on Stilts, right?) authors around seems, from my limited experience (which mostly involves award speeches and receptions and secondhand stories from totally reputable sources), to be well founded and supported by evidence.  And I’ve seen with my own eyes (as an audience member etc.) how downright goofy he can be so I know that’s true too.  And yet.

And yet.

You simply can’t read Octavian Nothing, or Feed, or (wow!) Symphony for the City of the Dead without becoming a little overwhelmed at the incredible intellect and spirit behind the words.  And I think it’s impossible to not want to rise to the occasion, so to speak, but when I finally had to sit down and write this introduction (which of course I put off as long as I could) all I could do was sputter and gesture and shake my head because really, what can I say? (Thankfully I was alone.)

So I guess I’ll just say thank you for the opportunity, for–as always–making me think, and for championing teens, intellectualism, and intellectual teens in a climate that routinely dismisses all three.

Always Something There to Remind Me

Please describe your teenage self.

Thin to the point of mantis-like. Eager to explore the world in front of me. Already unhappy that someday I’d have to die.

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

A writer! I always had stories I wanted to tell. I spent a lot of time reading, and I was eager to become part of the ancient conversation of literature.

What were your high school years like?

There was some fun. I was in plays and musicals. I made movies with my friends. I spent an extra high school year in in England, and that was incredible – full of those eccentricities we now would see as Hogwartsian (students wearing black robes, medieval courtyards, all the entertaining rigors of a British boarding school). That place really stepped up my intellectual and artistic game. We studied Anglo-Saxon history, read Lear, sang Renaissance church music, and created a Cubist play about Picasso’s youth on a stage made entirely of cabbages.

What were some of your passions during that time?

When I was younger, I read mainly science fiction and fantasy. By the time I was in my later teens, I was reading a lot of British lit (favorites were Virginia Woolf, Evelyn Waugh, and Ronald Firbank). I loved music written before 1750. Some favorite movies from when I was a teen: The Time Bandits, Brazil, Monty Python and the Holy Grail … wow, the Monty Python team seem to have had a big effect on me … Angel Heart, The Thing, True Stories, and yes, The Breakfast Club.

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

Not in the slightest.

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

For me, a big turning point was going to school in another country and realizing that there were places and cultures where it was actually not embarrassing to know things – that thinking wasn’t discouraged everywhere as something like masturbation that probably everyone did at some point, but did on their own, ashamed, and tried to conceal. In American high schools at the time, there definitely seemed to be the sense that too much thinking was a kind of perversion. The idea of “geek chic,” which saves so many kids now, was definitely not a movement in the 80s. It was so important to me to find other kids who were passionate about knowledge, about history, about joking our way through the echoing, statued halls of human civilization …

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

You don’t need to be as homely as you are. A lot of it is frankly just attitude.

No, I wouldn’t have listened.

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

Are you kidding? Why do you think I became a writer for teens?

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

The sense that the world lay before my classmates and me, ready to be explored – and we were the new generation poised to explore it. We didn’t know enough to realize that the world wasn’t our oyster.


Every Day I Write the Book

In a 2010 piece you say that “ideology is always present, vibrating in the text, whether it’s there consciously or unconsciously,” and you confess to being fascinated by the impulse to explore a particular question without necessarily knowing the answer. In fact, you wonder, might not the books that endure be those where “the author’s ideological certainty and ideological doubt both continue to inspire debate within readers…” Could you give us an example of a book that embodies this tension?  What about your own work? Is there a book that you feel successfully explores a particular question while remaining honest about your uncertainty? 

Choose a book at random … Say, The Great Gatsby. At once, there’s a sly satire of a cheap, capitalist world taken in by glitter and illusion – and yet what’s so powerful about that book is that, at the same time, the narrator (and the reader!) can’t help to some extent be taken in by that glitter, charmed by that illusion, feel empathy for the charlatan Gatz.

And, come to think of it, that’s partially the way my novel Feed worked out. I set out to write a furious assault on a blind, infantilizing consumer culture that I felt had made me miserable as a teenager … but also, as I wrote it, I thought a lot about how that culture had created me, too … I was partially taken in by it. I found myself sympathizing not just with the dissident girl in the book, Violet, but with my irritating narrator, Titus, too, and I think it wouldn’t have been as good a book if I hadn’t found things in him that were dangerously close to dreams and desires I myself had.

“Teens,” you said in your 2009 Printz Honor acceptance speech, “are conspicuously the opposite of bland and blank: They are incredibly eccentric, deeply impassioned about their interests, fantastically – even exhaustingly – knowledgeable…Their commitment to complexity of thought is, if anything, fiercer than an adult’s – because they have to fight so fiercely to defend it.” You’ve spoken elsewhere, and often, about the sophistication and diversity of teen interests and capabilities, and you’ve urged your fellow writers to help woo “readers away from the anti-intellectualism and self-congratulation that imperil our nation,” suggesting that powerful moments “for teens…actually come about precisely because they’re reading things that are complicated and sophisticated.” There seems to be a disconnect between the popularity and rabid consumption of so many elements of “teen culture” and the popular disdain for teen interests, abilities, and certainly, their intellectual capacities. Could you talk a little about that disconnect, and about the way you approach writing for teens? 

It’s important to note that we all, grown and growing, seek out role models and try to match their skills, their attitudes, their excellences. Different cultures hold out different models, and we tend to allow certain parts of us to atrophy if we don’t see them being positively reflected in the culture around us.

There are cultures, for example, where teens are not considered to be, first and foremost, consumers. And here let me segue directly into your next question, which provides a perfect example of what I’m talking about …

You’re clearly inspired by history, not only by the events or people, but by the construction of history itself. “History isn’t just sitting there under a tarp, waiting to be discovered. It’s assembled, each and every time we tell it,” you said in a recent interview, in which you also talked about the importance of connecting the past to the present in ways that illuminate both.  “We assume that our life is our life and history is stuck in the past,” you’ve said, “And then there are those terrifying moments where you realize, ‘Oh, wait a second. My life is a part of history.’…These things could happen to us.” How does your fascination with history and the empathy you bring to your research color the way you view the world today? Have you had that “Oh wait” moment yourself? 

I thought of one of those moments while answering the last question. When I was in college, I remember reading a Time Magazine article about Chinese students gathering in Tiananmen Square to protest the oppressions of their government. I was stunned: Here were students conceived of as radicals, people my own age and just a few years older who were changing the course of their country’s history, standing up for what they believed. I was sitting outside reading the article; I flagged down a friend and told him how incredible it was, these students risking everything.

He waved his hand in a vague, lofty, Cantabridgean flourish, and said, “Oh, yes … I think they all got shot yesterday or something …”

It was true. The Time I was reading was a week out of date. The students had been massacred by their own government since that article came out. Tanks had driven straight into the crowds of protestors. These young men and women had given their life to stand up for what was right.

That was one of the moments when I first realized how differently the idea of “student” plays out in different cultures. In ours – even more now than when I was in college – the student is first and foremost constructed as a consumer. We invite them to understand themselves in that way. They become thinkers despite the role we groom them for. And that’s a tragedy.

Every American child should feel that the world of knowledge – the whole of human history and culture – belongs to them. It’s just waiting for them to pick it up and use it.

Your latest book, Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad, has been described as a story about how music and musicians can change the world, and you’ve spoken yourself about the power of music, about how it can bolster the human spirit and help people “remember to be human,” even in the darkest times. “Music has always been really important to me,” you’ve said, “especially classical music, [which]…is intensely emotional and intensely visceral.” Could you talk a little about the impact classical music has on your work?  Where would you point a classical music novice who was interested in exploring new works and composers?

For me, music plays into how I write in all kinds of ways – though I don’t actually listen to stuff while I write! If I do, I get all moved and think, “Wow, this is incredible … I am ON FIRE today!” And then read it the next day and realize that it’s absolute crap and I was just moved by the music.

As for learning about music, one of the best ways you can explore classical music – even without a streaming service – is YouTube. Find one piece you know about and love, and the margin suggests a bunch more from similar watch lists. I have found some incredible pieces and composers this way – stuff I never would have heard if there hadn’t been algorithms saying, “If you liked that, you may like this …”


Just Can’t Get Enough

Question from Noelle Stevenson: You’re quite prolific in the literary world, but my question is: if you were given a blank check to personally oversee an adaption of any one of your books into another medium, no matter how far-fetched, obsolete, or experimental, what book and medium would you choose? What role would you choose to play in adapting it?

Next year, my graphic novel Yvain, an adaptation of Chrétien de Troyes’s 12th– century epic, will come out with illustrations by Andrea Offermann. It’s already an illustrated version of a script of a medieval epic, so it has already changed form a few times already – and I think it’s absolutely ripe to turn into a French Baroque opera. I’ll bring the plumes!


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


M. T. Anderson is the author of Feed, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, as well as The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party, winner of the National Book Award and a New York Times bestseller, and its sequel, The Kingdom on the Waves, which was also a New York Times bestseller. Both volumes were also named Michael L. Printz Honor Books. Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad was a 2016 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist. M. T. Anderson lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

You can visit M.T. Anderson at his website, or follow him on Twitter.


–Julie Bartel, currently reading The Raven King by Maggie Steifvater and (re-reading) A Stranger Came Ashore by Mollie Hunter

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Adult Books for Young Adults: Psychology & Sociology

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 07:00

As teens become more self-aware and motivated to learn for job training or college preparations, there are some intelligently-researched self-help/psychology books designed to get readers thinking. So while many are targeted to adults, they’re absolutely useful for the inquiring teen.

The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Duhigg shares the mechanisms through which humans form habits and by using examples of every day habits such as smoking or exercising and he automatically gets the readers attention. The book is useful to any teen looking to make a change, little or big, by understanding routine. Not brushing twice a day? It might change after this.

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

Making a decision is a blend of both feeling and reason. This goes for everyone from airplane pilots to serial killers and investors to poker players. Lehrer then blends science and story to share with readers how rational and emotional elements combine to allow us to decide, though we can use recommendations to trick our brains too. This mix is as much entertainment as education.

Your Playlist Can Change Your Life: 10 Proven Ways Your Favorite Music Can Revolutionize Your Health, Memory, Organization, Alertness, and More by Galina Mindlin, Don DuRousseau, and Joseph Cardillo

Knowing that music plays a significant role in teen lives through radio, downloads on the Play Store and iTunes, in movies and video games is motivation enough to read this book with a catchy premise. The repetition and basic idea is that remembering noises and sounds as well as identifying the music you listen to and tweaking it when necessary is akin to having a Rocky Balboa moment with “Eye of the Tiger”. So, similar to Amy Cuddy’s proposals in body posing to prepare for an interview or how someone reacts to defeat, Midlin, DuRousseau, and Cardillo advocate creating playlists for when you’re learning, when you need to de-stress, and when you need to feel happy– mixed tape anyone?

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Appreciate the introverts, that is Cain’s premise. On top of that, be sure to appreciate your introverted qualities since the world tends to value extroverts when the power of introverts can be more useful and valuable. With stories of successful introverts, introverts will be empowered and calmed by the psychology and neuroscience that Cain relays in real-world stories that celebrate the quiet people.

And we couldn’t finalize a piece on psychology books suitable for teens without talking about the most accessible: Malcolm Gladwell. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, Outliers: The Story of Success, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, and Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Each of them offer a different angle on topics that can inspire readers. Easy to read and succinct enough to sustain anyone’s attention, they should be the first offered when wanting to delve into psychology or sociology.


— Alicia Abdul, currently reading Sunny Side Up by Jennifer and Matthew Holm

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School Library Journal 2016 Day of Dialog Recap

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 07:00

Each year, School Library Journal presents a Day of Dialog, which allows librarians, educators, and library students the chance to come together and learn the latest about childrens and teens publishing trends and upcoming releases.  This was the first time I have attended a Day of Dialog and I would definitely recommend future attendance to anyone who works with children and/or teens promoting books and reading. Check out my recap of the middle school/high school panels and speakers from the day!

The day opened with the keynote speaker, Richard Peck.  He spoke about writing, the importance of reading, and his new book The Best Man.  Here are some of his key points from his talk:
  • I am a writer because of a teacher, any writer will tell you that.
  • My junior high students made a writer out of me… They taught me how to write.
  • As a writer, you introduce the reader to the characters they want to be and then you spend six drafts trying to erase yourself from the pages.
  • The only way you can write is by the light of the bridges burning behind you.
  • The Best Man is about a boy putting himself together with parts of various role models, but it will be labeled as a book about same sex marriage because one of his role models wants to marry a man.
  • Putting the right book in the right young hands is no more important than now.
Peck infused his presentation with humor, even inserting a good political zinger at one point, courtesy of Mark Twain:

Peck also read from his new novel, The Best Man:

Panel: Some Nonfiction! Dynamic Information Books for Young Readers Most of the titles listed on this panel were for young readers, but the topics covered are of interest to anyone who enjoys reading both fiction and nonfiction.

Candace Fleming & Eric Rohmann, Giant Squid
Julia Kuo, The Sound of Silence
Mara Rockliff, Around America To Win the Vote
Jane Sutcliffe, Will’s Words
Melissa Sweet, Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White

Moderator: Deborah Stevenson, Director for Children’s Books at GSLIS, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Editor of Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

How does fiction and nonfiction relate? What are the rules?
  • Rockliff: He feels responsible to tell kids the truth. Illustrated nonfiction books can’t be held to the same standard as text only books because the illustrated characters on the page have to be doing something. Her top priority: what are kids going to walk away with.
  • Kuo: The Sound of Silence is the true story of the author’s memory. When you illustrate it’s all about interpretation, but it’s almost impossible to be true with nonfiction because the illustrations are her best way of creating the environment of the story.
What is the role of text in the page design along with illustrations?
  • Fleming: it’s amazing what design can do to tell a story. It is important that illustrations are supporting rather than decorating the text.
What choices did you have to make through the editing process and what was left on the cutting room floor?
  • Kuo: most of the editing was done to the text. Kou drew what was left.
  • Rohmann: there’s a hierarchy and you have to ask questions like: what do you want the reader to see first? Is it a color? Is it a thing? Is it a breather or a break from the imagery? Where do you want the audience to look?
  • Sweet: When the book is done you don’t remember what was lost because it is so right… It is the essence of what you set out to create.
Any unexpected challenges?
  • Most challenges were with the illustrations, like finding references and the best medium for the material.
Panel: Truth Be Told: Big Questions in Middle Grade Fiction and What Adults Keep From Children
The theme for this panel was that all these author’s books all deal with the truth and they also think deeply about the truths that people speak to themselves. Panelists:
Kelly Barnhill, The Girl Who Drank the Moon
Adam Gidwitz, The Inquisitor’s Tale
Jennifer L. Holm, Full of Beans
Jason Reynolds, As Brave As You
Raina Telgemeier, Ghosts Moderator: Betsy Bird, Collection Development Manager at the Evanston Public Library

The panelists introduce themselves and their books:

  • Reynolds: has two middle grade novels to be published this year. As Brave As You is an homage to his “country cousins.” He wanted to write the story about those who migrated north and then as a city kid being sent to the South for the summer.
  • Holm: her new novel Full of Beans, is a companion (prequel) to Turtle in Paradise.
  • Gidwitz: his new novel is The Inquisitor’s Tale. He’s excited and nervous, because this was a big project and dear to his heart. While in Europe, for his wife’s dissertation, he collected stories. One was The Holy Greyhound (written in what was called an inquisitor’s notebook) and was the inspiration for The Inquisitor’s Tale.
  • Barnhill: her latest title is The Girl Who Drank the Moon. She is very interested in the notion that if you change the narrative, you change the world.
  • Telgemeier: her new graphic novel is Ghosts. This is her first foray into magic/supernatural stuff. This is magical realism, though, because she needs to be grounded in realistic stories. This graphic novel also ties in to her interest in the tradition of The Day of the Dead.

How do to make a book truthful to your experiences and also so that the kid will believe them?

  • Reynolds: If you are authentic others will recognize this. There’s a universality of truth if the person is being truthful.
  • Telgemeier: Your emotions are true no matter what the details are. You edit to get to the truth.
  • Barnhill: Memory and imagination are similar. If all memories are partially fictional, what is the truth of the moment? Both the accurate and invented tell about why the moment matters to you. Try to give the reader enough raw materials to create something that is true to them.
  • Holm: Keep things authentic and truthful, and keep it grounded in a young persons point of view. Focus on telling a story using details of what are kids focused (i.e.: eating, family, the media of their time)
  • Gidwitz: He creates his protagonists so that they are avatars of him at that age and then he thinks how would he act and react.
  • Reynolds: It’s not about disseminating the truth it’s about presenting questions that they think about all the time and putting it on the page.


Post lunch speaker: Laini Taylor
Laini Taylor spoke about such things as genre reading, how she became a writer, finding her characters, and her new book: Strange the Dreamer

  • This book, Strange the Dreamer, started out  as stand alone novel but has become a duology.
  • Genres should be encouraged to marry each other and have mutant babies.
  • “Follow your heart” is her creed as a writer.
  • She started writing Strange the Dreamer and the title was “Muse of Nightmares” where the female lead was both the victim and the villain. It was her story… so she thought… but another character ended up stealing the story.
  • When she was 21, she had all of two dramatic life experiences and once she wrote about them she didn’t know what else to write about. She had no trauma or drama in her life. She closed that door (to writing), and went to art school. Thinking back it was probably the worst alternative that she can think of to a career of writing, but it worked out. She learned creative strategies and she met her husband.
  • She read Harry Potter when it was first published and that opened the door for her to reading more fantasy and when she went to write again she found she had so much to write about.
  • How do our minds interact with stories and how do genres affect this?
    • Her Fantasist explanation: think of our mind as a harp. Each string at its own frequency. Frequencies that resonate and play us like music. Genre is about finding these direct and pure resonances and playing them.
  • With fiction it’s feelings we are after. Feels (as the kids say) are the drug of fiction. Genres comes in as the scope for these feelings.
  • How and why did books like Twilight and Harry Potter resonate with readers? They tapped into the craving to be special. We have a “myth hole” that wants to be filled.
Here’s a short clip of Taylor speaking about her new book Strange the Dreamer:

Panel: Mind-Bending Women of YA An all female panel speaks to the struggles females face as writers and stigmas of female characters in YA lit. Panelists:
Sharon Cameron, The Forgetting 
Roshani Chokshi, The Star-Touched Queen 
S. J. Kincaid, The Diabolic
Laura Ruby, Bone Gap
Laini Taylor, Strange the Dreamer Moderator: Janice Del Negro, Associate Professor and Follett Chair at Dominican University What are the expectations of women writers and expectations of the feminine in your work?
  • Kincaid: People are very sensitive to female characters that are weak or timid. There is more criticism towards female characters, in general, when it comes to writing.
  • Taylor: She hasn’t felt pressure with her female characters but she sees this expectation that YA female characters should be Katniss-y and if they aren’t, they are criticized.
  • Cameron: She has felt the expectation for her females to be the Katniss trope. But when she writes characters she wants to write human characters in the way the world is. She asks, are you telling an incredible human story about this character? Her new novel’s character is a quiet rebel. This came about from reaction the Katniss trope agenda. This character has a rich internal life. She always wants to move to the humanness of her characters.
  • Ruby: She wants to limit the word strong when it comes to female characters. She’s lucky that she hasn’t felt the pressure to write a certain type of female character. There are feminine powers that we have that we don’t have to borrow from men.
  • Chokshi: When it comes to female writers, you can’t always shout about how proud you are about what you are doing. You have to wait for someone else to say it first then you can repost or talk about it. Women are power hungry just like men and they shouldn’t have to hide it. We also need to think before we throw around accusations of the girls that are not how we want them to be.
How about depictions of sexual feelings or encounters– can you speak to the depiction of sexuality in your work or in YA Lit in general?
  • Cameron: She has never written a story that warranted an explicit sex scene. She is very Austen about this and likes the tension and when the small things mean a lot. That’s ok, that’s the way her stories go.
  • Taylor: She likes the smolder. But there’s two different kinds of sex scenes: explicit sex when someone is learning about sex is invaluable and helpful when it’s based in reality, but explicit sex scenes like those found in romance novels where everything is perfect is not her favorite thing. She likes the scenes that are about discovery.
  • Chokshi: She would have liked to write more kissing and whatnot scenes, but she was living at home with her parents, and it was weird. She just couldn’t. The way we talk about sex and the different ways we show intimacy in YA novels is beautiful. Sex is not the seal of soul mates and it’s OK to explore. She likes that we are moving towards this message.
  • Kincaid: A lot of what she wrote had to do with her comfort level as a writer. It’s important to be true to the character’s experience.
  • Ruby: has written hazy magical bee sex as well as more realistic sex scenes. She thinks a lot is about point of view. But she does think you can get away with a lot more in fantasy rather than in contemporary fiction.
Do you think sex as a seal for the soulmate is more for feminine readers rather than masculine readers?
  • Taylor: It is promoted towards girls but boys will read it and like it, but don’t tell anyone.
  • Ruby: Boys aren’t allowed to say things like they want a girlfriend.
  • Chokshi: It’s for both. The first time you fall in love is intoxicating.  Romance is often a fantasy and plays to our what ifs.

What do you think of the labels of Boy Books vs. Girl Books?

  • Kincaid: Her first books were packaged as boy books. It was a divide both ways, but an artificial divide that doesn’t need to be there because it has to do with the presentation of the book.
  • Cameron: Covers are changing lately and are not playing one against the other. The attitude of writing for those who are reading books (traditionally females) is changing.
  • Chokshi: Separation is not nice. Story is an incredible treasure that can be given to a person. Reading choices don’t emasculate you, they strengthen you.
  • Taylor: She loves the covers that welcome in anyone. Covers need to reflect the neutrality, if that is what the story is about.
 –Colleen Seisser, currently listening to All Fall Down by Ally Carter

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2016 Hub Challenge Check-in #16

Sun, 05/15/2016 - 07:00

Not signed up yet for YALSA’s 2016 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since the awards were announced counts, and the challenge runs until 11:59pm EST on June 23, so sign up now!


There’s a first time for everything, they say, and Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson has the honor of being the first non picture book that my daughter read first and then recommended to me.  She’s seven, so the recommendations usually flow the other direction, but if Roller Girl is the caliber of suggestion I have to look forward to I am in good hands for sure.  A 2016 Newbery Honor book, in addition to showing up on the 2016 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels & Top Ten Popular Paperbacks lists, Roller Girl tells the story of Astrid’s summer at roller derby camp, her struggles with friendships both old and new, and the looming specter of middle school.

It’s wonderful.  I loved Jamieson’s clever and creative style, full of visual clues and asides, and I especially loved her pitch-perfect and affectionate depiction of preteen angst.  That my daughter has taken up rollerskating (and me too, I guess) is testament to the vivid descriptions and joyful illustrations in Roller Girl, but the fact that she hounded me into reading the book immediately, wrote an unsolicited book review to share with her class, and has already given the book as a gift at multiple birthday parties tells me that this is a story that resonated with her, as it did with me, one I imagine I’ll be reading again.

What have you been reading for the Challenge lately? Have you shared any specific titles with friends or family, or have you read anything on the recommendation of others?  Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and join the conversation on social media; look for the #hubchallenge on InstagramTwitter, and our Goodreads group.  And if you’ve finished the Challenge, a) bravo! and b) fill out this form.

–Julie, currently reading (at last!) Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven King



The post 2016 Hub Challenge Check-in #16 appeared first on The Hub.

So you want to read a Sarah Dessen book?

Wed, 05/11/2016 - 07:00

If you’ve never read a Sarah Dessen book before, it’s time to start. She’s a master of contemporary fiction with female leads. Her books have been nominated for the Teens’ Top Ten list several times. Check out this interview from 2012 when What Happened to Goodbye? landed in the top ten.


You could of course read them in order of publication date. There is something to be said for reading them in order as some of the characters are referenced in later books.

Order of Publication:
That Summer
Someone Like You
Keeping the Moon
This Lullaby
The Truth About Forever
Just Listen
Lock and Key
Along for the Ride
What Happened to Goodbye
The Moon and More
Saint Anything

But it’s not necessary to read them in order. Summer is the perfect time to read Sarah Dessen’s books because most of them take place during the summer. The books are set in two different towns, Colby and Lakeview. You could read them based on setting.

Along for the Ride
Keeping the Moon
The Moon and More

That Summer
Someone Like You
This Lullaby
The Truth About Forever
Just Listen
Lock and Key
What Happened to Goodbye
Saint Anything

Of course you can read them in a random order. If that’s the case and you’re not sure where to start, check out this list to find your answer. (This list has a hint of the book’s subject)

To Read about:
1. Music, read Just Listen
2. Giving up a stuffy library job for chaos in the kitchen, read The Truth About Forever
3. Reinventing yourself, read What Happened to Goodbye
4. Experiencing moments you wish you had in your childhood, read Along for the Ride
5. Falling for your BFFs brother, read Saint Anything
6. The summer before college, read The Moon and More
7. A reluctant Cinderella, read Lock and Key
8. Breaking all your dating rules, read This Lullaby
9. Getting out from your sister’s shadow, read Dreamland
10. Seeing yourself in a new light, read Keeping the Moon
11. Role reversal in your relationship with your best friend, Someone Like You
12. Seeing the past differently, That Summer

Happy Reading!

~ Jennifer Rummel, currently reading Night Study by Maria V. Snyder

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