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Updated: 21 hours 22 min ago

Librarians Love: Books by Non-US Authors

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 07:00

by Flickr user Kenneth Lu

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

The original request
Does anyone have some suggestions of teen lit by foreign authors? I’m looking for modern authors, with less emphasis on European countries (although, I would still like to hear your European suggestions if you really like the book). Trying to build some diversity here!

Suggested titles

  • Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
  • Ruby Red trilogy by Kerstin Gier
  • Why We Took the Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf
  • Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
  • The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis
  • Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth
  • Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Suggested authors

  • Randa Abdel-Fattah
  • Laura Buzo
  • Cath Crowley
  • Tellulah Darling
  • Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
  • John Flanaghan
  • Karen Foxlee
  • Karen Healey
  • Margo Lanagan
  • Derek Landy
  • Melina Marchetta
  • Juliet Marillier
  • Neesha Meminger
  • Miyuki Miyabe
  • Jaclyn Moriarty
  • Garth Nix
  • Nnedi Okorafor
  • Mitali Perkins
  • Shyam Selvadurai
  • Kashmira Sheth
  • Padma Venkatraman
  • Markus Zusak

Additional suggested resources

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

– Gretchen Kolderup, currently reading The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Andrew Smith

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 07:00

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

My mind is still reeling from Grasshopper Jungle (which I read weeks and weeks ago…will its hold on me ever wane I wonder?) so I want to take a moment to talk about some of the disparate thoughts that have connected themselves in my head.

When I think about Andrew Smith, I think about the guys who hung out in the library at the private Catholic school where I was librarian before my daughter was born: my TA, the members of the anime club, the boys who ate lunch in my office and talked about books and video games with me.  I wish so much that I had been able to give them Winger or The Marbury Lens or 100 Sideways Miles then, at that time, because those books…they would have loved those books.  (Luckily, social media keeps us all in touch and it doesn’t matter that they’re all in college now because they’re awesome and we still talk about books.)  I think about my friend Walter and how I pushed other books aside to read Grasshopper Jungle because he raved about it and because I trust his judgement implicitly, and how his wise comments about books offer more than just literary insight, and how he gave me by far the best parenting advice I ever received.  Thinking about my daughter and Walter’s advice and my hopes for her future brings to mind a man, someone connected to the school, who changed the course of my life, and how much I wish I could sit him down with Grasshopper Jungle and A.S. King’s Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, and ask him to reevaluate.  That’s another connection; I read those two books back to back and they are inextricably linked in my brain now and I doubt I’ll ever recover (at least I hope not!)

And more than anything, thinking about Andrew Smith and his books–all his books–makes me think about my brother, who grew up with seven sisters, and our fascinating, infuriating, wonderful, complicated conversations about representation and cultural expectations.  My brother is so awesome.  And you know what else is awesome?  That a book about identity and history and connections and giant insects who eat people’s heads can tease out so many essential connections, creating a through-line that feels genuine and illuminating to me.  And that’s just one book.

Thank you so much Andrew, for writing honest books and giving honest answers.  Reading them was (and is) a very good idea.

Always Something There to Remind Me

Please describe your teenage self.

As a teen, I was pretty much a loner. I had a few close friends, I suppose, but being so much younger than my classmates in high school was a social obstacle that was difficult to overcome. I read a lot, but came into reading later in high school. And I wrote all the time.

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

I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I still don’t know if I can say why. It was just something that I felt like I had to do. Jobs and employment—a means of simply making money—never really mattered to me at all, and I never once thought I would make a job out of writing until I was challenged by a friend into giving it a go.

What were your high school years like?

I attended high school in Southern California. I also played soccer when I was in high school (don’t hold that against me). I will say that I don’t really have any significant or inspiring adult influences in my background, but one time when I wrote a short story for an English teacher, she gave me an F on it because she said there was no way that a kid my age could ever write a story like that, so, therefore it must have been plagiarized. That made an impact on me. Also, I still remember the story. Oh boy! It was terrible!

What were some of your passions during that time?

Well, like I said, I played soccer and tennis when I was in high school. I also did track and field one year for my father, who was a track coach. I hated track. My dad forced me to do it. I had a brother who was quite older than I was, so I grew up listening to bands like the Who, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and the Doors. And, as far as reading tastes went, when I had money to spend on books, I would buy the thickest paperbacks I could get my hands on because I wanted to get as many pages for my money as possible. So I actually did read Moby Dick, and books like Jude the Obscure and The Idiot when I was a teen.

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

Terrible things happened to me when I was a teen. Nobody wants to hear about that stuff.

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

One year I received Honorable Mention in the Scholastic Writing Awards competition for a one-act play I wrote. It was in blank verse. Oh boy! It was terrible!

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

My teen self has told me to never talk to him, and I’m fine with that.

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

It was a lot easier to get into significant amounts of trouble when I was a teen as compared to today’s teens. I believe my generation—the generation that gave us ozone depletion—also used up just about the entire world’s supply of fun. Sorry kids. I take full responsibility for everything.

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

Oh good lord, nothing. Are you kidding me? I’m a grown up. Seriously, what sane grownup would ever miss that?

Every Day I Write the Book

I think it’s fair to say that many of your books end in ways that defy reader expectations, that turn the story on its head, provide a new perspective, or are unexpected in a myriad of other ways.  After your first novel Ghost Medicine was published you said you’d written a “few different endings …but one of them was so difficult…that I just couldn’t do it, and had to make the ending happier.”  What about your other books?  Are there alternate endings to the Marbury books, Winger, Grasshopper Jungle, or 100 Sideways Miles floating around in your brain?  Do you generally know the end of the story in advance or do you write to find out?  How do you decide which ending is “right” for that particular book?

The endings of my books usually make me aware they’ve arrived, as opposed to me working them out. So, with the exception of Ghost Medicine (and I haven’t thought about that other—even more devastating—ending in a long time), I would have to say that all of my other books kind of wrote themselves to their conclusions. I often don’t know where they will take me. But I will admit that I really wanted there to be real cannibal alien angels in 100 Sideways Miles. I’ve always been fascinated with cannibalism. Go figure.

Can we talk about boys? One of the few elements all your books have in common is a male character who struggles with the labels and expectations of family, peers, and society.  You’ve noted that “the pressure we put on our sons” to “fit perfectly into the constraints of society’s ‘boy box’” is immense, and causes immeasurable harm, and you’ve also said that you found many of the books your son was exposed to lacking in their depiction of “REAL boys…who have to deal with difficulties, who make mistakes, and who sometimes fail…”  Could you talk a little about how expectations can damage young men, and about the repercussions of that damage?  Do you think this particular literary shortcoming fits into the broader, ongoing discussion of the need for diversity in YA?

I think that boys frequently repress themselves because of all the pressure put on them to conform to a standardized definition of what boys should be. Boys have been told an awful lot of things about what they should be—like non-readers, for example, or readers of only certain types of books—and when I see a boy reading one of Marie Lu’s novels, or Gayle Forman’s (and believe me, I have), and I talk to them about those books, I often see this tremendous sense of relief come over them that 1) I think it’s cool they’re reading, and 2) I’m not going to genderize their tastes. As far as diversity is concerned, yes, I do hope we all appreciate that the idea of diversity is all-inclusive and that the push to diversify books is very valuable. On the other hand, honest diversification requires honest and knowledgeable handling of some very critical details in order to avoid tokenism or stereotyping. In other words, there are some things I don’t think I can honestly write about without coming off as forced or ignorant, and I’d be very afraid of offending any subgroup in our society, with the possible exception of book banners.

“Everything is connected,” you’ve said, “our past to our present, urinal factories and Catholic saints, war and sexual confusion,” and you’ve noted that all your books have an “overriding theme of how things connect to each other,” despite their obvious differences.  Would you be willing to connect the dots for us between you, your writing, your audience, and the change you think could happen if people were truly conscious of the myriad ways in which everything connects?

First of all, let me address the issue of me, my writing, and my audience. That’s an easy connection because where one ends and the others begin are really indistinct. When I write, I don’t imagine an audience because I write to please myself as a reader. That’s not to discount my readership, but I think there’s a vast difference between “audience” and “readership.” My readership happens to enjoy, I suppose, the same stuff my audience—which is ME—does. Can you hear me clapping for myself? Well, you’re hallucinating, then, and you might want to get that checked. Now, when people start becoming more sensitive to the interconnectedness of everything, I suppose we’ll stop doing such abhorrent things like waging wars that kill our children and destroying our environment, and so on.

“To avoid any component of the human experience in literature which examines essential adolescent reality is to shortchange readers and weaken oneself as a writer,” you’ve said, though at the same time you’ve described how devastated you were by charges that your writing was inappropriate for young people.  “I take those kinds of things really, really personally. It made me sick, as a matter of fact.”  Your unflinching examination of the adolescent experience conveys an understanding, respect, and acceptance that I think teens often find in short supply.  Could you talk about the importance of honesty when it comes to writing for (or working with) teens, why authentic representation is critical, and why “there’s nothing wrong with you” is such a powerful and important message?

I have a couple things to say about this. First of all, I’m often asked (and it’s always a question coming from boys) if I feel uncomfortable or embarrassed writing about the things that I write about. And I always tell them no, and if there’s anything they want to talk about or ask me about, let’s talk. I’m not afraid of the words. The other thing I’d like to say (because I think this may be where you’re going) is that I think you can’t possibly have an honest portrayal of male adolescence that doesn’t include the significant current of sexuality. Sorry, it can’t be done unless you’re writing about non-human, inanimate, asexual males. And I know kids who define themselves as asexual, but that designation in itself says something about sexuality. So I like to examine that compelling force in all the various directions it can pull or push my characters.

Just Can’t Get Enough

Question from James Dashner:  Something that’s really, really great about your books so far is that they feel so distinct from each other. No one will ever peg you as a certain type of storyteller. That’s not easy. Is that just natural or is there a distinct, concerted effort to make that happen? Let us in on your secret!

I think this is both natural and something of a concerted effort on my part, James. It’s natural because I am easily bored, and turned of by regurgitations of the flavor of the moment, so I force myself to write about things that are different from anything else I know or have done. And yes, it is definitely not easy.

Andrew has contributed a question for the next author in the series, Garth Nix. Watch for an interview with him coming soon!

 

Andrew Smith is the award-winning author of several Young Adult novels, including the critically acclaimed Winger (Starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness—an Amazon “Best of the Year,” and a 2014 ALA Top 10 Best Fiction for Young Adults) and The Marbury Lens (a 2011 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, and Starred reviews and Best of the Year in both Publishers Weekly and Booklist). He is a native-born Californian who spent most of his formative years traveling the world. His university studies focused on Political Science, Journalism, and Literature. He has published numerous short stories and articles. Grasshopper Jungle, a starred novel by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Shelf Awareness, is his seventh novel. 100 Sideways Miles, his eighth, was named a 2014 finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and has received Starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal. The Alex Crow (March 2015) is forthcoming.  He lives in Southern California.

You can find Andrew at his website, blog, and Facebook page, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

–Julie Bartel, currently reading Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds and re-reading A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny

Life, Love, and the Young Adult Novel

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Ryan Goodlett from Kentucky.

Do you ever look back at your life and remember it in segments defined by the relationship you were in at that time? For me, it would be like “the Hayden* phase” or “the Elliott phase” and then “pre-Weston” and now currently “the Weston phase.” (Although I’m one billion times sure I’m gonna marry this one… we’re going on 10 months strong). This is my longest relationship, and I’ve never felt better. I strut through those cold high school hallways like it’s my red carpet, seeing everything through new eyes. I like to think I am very independent. I’m fine on my own or trying to fix the broken, and I won’t be with someone just because I think it’s “the thing to do.” But I didn’t realize that trying to fix the broken can be very painful; after all, broken things have sharp edges.

I met Weston in the midst of my endeavor to repair, and was already covered in cuts, waist-deep in someone else’s pain. I mean, I’ve read so many books about teenage love, where one character goes to the ends of the Earth for another, but the other character will just never be satisfied, but I could not recognize this in my own life.

Most recently, I witnessed this scenario unfold while curled up with John Green’s Paper Towns, an exhilarating mystery/romance novel which features Quentin Jacobson and Margo Roth Spiegelman of Orlando, Florida. As I tapped into Quentin’s thoughts and feelings about Margo, and learned of all the crazy things she did, I found myself feeling so very sorry for Quentin because it was so obvious that Margo Roth Spiegelman was not quite on the same planet (or at least had a very different view of the planet) as him. Such a simple yet intricate storyline, I could compare this story metaphorically to not only my own, but to the stories of many others I knew. Young love, the loss of love and the search for love are all captured beautifully in this novel, giving readers plenty of reason to both laugh and cry.

So let’s get back to my own personal red carpet… now that I’ve got this beautiful relationship going on, and even though Weston’s gone at college, I strut down that thing like I am the queen bee of Martha Layne Collins High School. I listen to my friends talk about how their boyfriends never want to hang out with them and how they just want to be treated like a princess… and I tilt my head to make sure they can’t see my tiara glittering. My ears were recently treated to a lovely little anecdote from my best friend Hunter… within the course of one week: her first boyfriend ever cheated on her and when she broke up with him, he got back together with his ex girlfriend… who was not the girl he cheated on Hunter with. And of course I bought her a Blizzard, rented The Great Gatsby, offered to TP his house, let her cry on my shoulder and sent a little thank-you note to my sweet Jesus for my sweet Weston… but this situation really got me thinking. Being the quirky, creative, deep-thinking girls that we are, Hunter and I started our own tw0-member book club Freshman year. Some of my favorite memories are of us reading books out loud together and discussing them in lengthy, sometimes revelation-provoking and life-changing conversations.

One of the first books we read was The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephan Chbosky. As I looked at poor Hunter on the night of her awful boyfriend’s hideous exposure, crumpled in my arms with her salt-stained, mascara painted face, I couldn’t help but think back to this novel. Filled with controversial topics and lavish descriptions of drugs and sexual experiences, but emphasizing relationships and loyalty, this book embodies life as not only a high schooler, but as a human being in general. A famous quote from this novel says: “we accept the love we think we deserve.” These words spoke to me in a very deep way when I first read them, and on that night they gave me the courage to remind Hunter that I loved her and that she deserved much, much better.

Both Paper Towns and The Perks of Being a Wallflower are young adult books that are very near and dear to my heart. I wanted to share with you what they mean to me personally and how they relate to my life because if there is anything I am passionate about, it is a well-written story. Life (especially life as a teenager) is rough at times, and novels offer the greatest of sanctuaries from reality. As I met and came to love the characters of Quentin, Ben, Radar and Lacey from Paper Towns and Charlie, Patrick, Sam and Mary Elizabeth from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I became inspired by the idea that we are not alone in our experiences, but that there is a grand other world of life and love in literature waiting just behind the cover of a young adult novel.

- Ryan Goodlett is a 16 year old Junior from Shelbyville, Kentucky. She is a cheerleader and lacrosse player and she also enjoys theatre, leading worship with her guitar, and writing creatively.

*All names have been changed.

Jukebooks: Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 07:00

Bailey is under a kind of gag-order regarding fiddle-playing. But she satisfies her need to play by backing up  all the fake Johnny Cashes and Dolly Partons that perform around Nashville. Until she meets Sam, who wants something more from her. Sam wants Bailey to join their band, which Bailey cannot do. She sure would like to play and see more of Sam, but Bailey is bound by a secret that keeps her from her own dreams.

With a Jennifer Echols book, you can expect steamy romance… with complications. Such is the nature of Bailey’s relationship with Sam. But they do  have a song that’s special to them; Lady Antebellum’s “Dancin’ Away With My Heart.” Here it is below, with a little backstory from the band members.

-Diane Colson, who is currently reading The Aftermath by Jen Alexander

Diversify Your YA Contemporary Reads: A Flowchart

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Summer Khaleq from California.

Most of us can attest to the fact that the ever-growing Young Adult genre is one of the most boundless and honest genres in modern-day literature. In terms of innovation, YA wins the gold.

Yet despite the ever-expanding horizons of YA, diversity in general seems to be a taboo topic. There aren’t nearly as many books featuring POC, LGBTQ, and/or disabled characters as there should be, with authors taking the safe route and opting for white heterosexual leads.

I’m certainly not the first to notice this, though. Campaigns supporting and advocating for diversity have been popping up all over the internet (such as the popular #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign), and if you aren’t familiar with any then you’ve either been a) living under a rock or b) hiding under a rock while reading a book. (Really, isn’t it sad the amount of campaigning that must be done in order to implement something that should be expected in this day in age?)

For those who are new to the movement, I’ve created a nifty little flowchart, since it can be cumbersome to look for potential diverse reads (insert expression of disappointment and irritation here). Even for those who have been following the campaigns for years, there are quite a few lesser-known books here that you should definitely give a try.

The flowchart includes diverse books in YA contemporary fiction. There is a mix of everything from older releases to new releases and books that include people of color, LGBTQ characters, disabled characters, or a mixture of those. Loads of chocolate goes to the authors who were gutsy enough to rebel instead of conform to the accepted standards. Fight the powers! Fight for change! Make a difference! (That is me attempting to be revolutionary.)

Click on the flowchart for a larger version with links to Goodreads.

- Summer Khaleq is a 16-year-old girl who is secretly a wizard and a pun-wielding warrior but realizes too late that she has revealed her secret. She ironically prefers the wintertime because even her namesake becomes irritable after a while. When not devouring books she likes writing, surfing (the internet), and being a history nerd. She blogs at MissFictional’s World of YA Books.

Awesome Australian Authors

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 07:00

Thinking about some the most memorable YA books I’ve read over the years, I notice there is a heavy Oz slant.  To name a few of the stand-out titles:

Finnikin of the Rock – Melina Marchetta

The first in a series dubbed the Lumatere chronicles, this fantasy powerhouse can stand alone.  We begin with young Finnikin who hales from Lumatere, a once-great kingdom which been overtaken by usurpers and cursed for the past decade making it impossible to enter or leave.  Exiled Finnikin explores bordering kingdoms in search of a way to break the curse- and he finds Evanjalin, a mysterious young woman with the unique ability to “walk the dreams” of others and she hints that Lumatere’s true heir is alive after all.

It was a challenge for me to narrow down one favorite by  Marchetta.  I loved 2009 Printz Award Winner Jellicoe Road, Froi of the Exiles (I special ordered a copy from Australia after finishing Finnikin because I couldn’t wait for the US version to be published), Quintana of Charyn, Saving Francesca (Best Book for Young Adults 2005) , and basically everything she has ever written.

I am the Messenger- Markus Zusak (Best Book for Young Adults 2006, Printz Honor 2006)

19 year old taxi driver Ed has been coasting through life with no real sense of purpose– until the day he stops a bank robber and begins to receive mysterious messages in the mail sent on playing cards.  This sets Ed off in a series of interconnecting stories which eventually lead him to self-realization.  Zusak’s tale is adventurous, enjoyable, sometimes comical, and ultimately unforgettable.

Zusak (2014 Edwards Award Winner) is best known for The Book Thief (Best Book for Young Adults 2007, Printz Honor 2007) which was originally published in Australia as an adult title.  The Wolfe Brothers Trilogy is wonderful as well.

Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey (Printz Honor 2012)

Small town outcast Jasper Jones appeals to Charlie for help late one night; a local girl has been found dead and Jasper needs Charlie to help him move her body.  The suffocating setting of a stiflingly small Australian town in the heat of summer, and the characterization inspired by American classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” make this one uniquely poignant.

Silvey’s first book, Rhubarb is an adult fiction title.  On my to-do read!

The Midnight Dress- Karen Foxlee

Rose and her father are drifters; making their way through the Australian countryside, stopping where he can get work, and staying until he wears out his welcome (usually by drinking too much).   Typically a loner, in their latest stop (the small coastal town of Leonora) Rose befriends the ebullient Pearl.   Encouraged by her new friend Rose has a special dress made for the annual Harvest Parade, which should have been a happy one but instead ends with death.  Each chapter starts at the end… and this literary mystery will grab on and not let go until the end.

Foxlee’s The Anatomy of Wings is a great read as well!

As Karyn Silverman observes on School Library Journal’s Printz speculation blog, “Someday my Printz will Come” in a discussion of this year’s title Zac & Mia by Australian writer A.J. Betts (http://www.ajbetts.com):

There’s something about Australia that always appeals (it’s an upstart young country like us, but also not, and as a result is familiar enough but still new and a little exciting. This is why Australians win Printz recognition so often).

-Karyn Silverman

If you need further evidence, here is a looooooong list of some more awesome Aussie YA writers:

Randa Abdel-Fattah  (http://www.randaabdelfattah.com)

Alexandra Adornetto

Em Bailey

Maria Boyd

Alyssa Brugman (http://www.alyssabrugman.com.au/)

Rebecca Burton

Laura Buzo

Emma Cameron  (http://www.emmacameron.com.au/)

Isobelle Carmody  (http://www.isobellecarmody.net/)

Lucy Christopher  (http://www.lucychristopher.com/)

Margaret Clark

Bill Condon  (http://www.enterprisingwords.com.au)

Cath Crowley (http://cathcrowley.com.au/)

Marianne de Pierres (http://www.mariannedepierres.com/)

Alison Goodman  (http://www.alisongoodman.com.au/)

Sonya Hartnett  (http://www.sonyahartnett.com.au/)

Steven Herrick (http://www.stevenherrick.com.au/)

Simmone Howell ( http://www.simmonehowell.com/)

Margo Lanagan (http://amongamidwhile.blogspot.com/)

Justine Larabalastier (http://justinelarbalestier.com/)

Brigid Lowry (She is a New Zealander)

Doug MacLeod (http://www.dougmacleod.com.au/)

Jaclyn Moriarty  (http://www.jaclynmoriarty.com/)

Kirsten Murphy

Garth Nix (http://www.garthnix.com/)

Tim Pegler (http://www.timpegler.com.au/)

Penni Russon

Karen Tayleur (http://www.karentayleur.com)

Lisa Shanahan http://www.lisashanahan.com/

Jessica Shirvington http://www.jessicashirvington.com

Tim Sinclair http://www.timsinclair.org/

G.J. Walker-Smith https://www.gjwalkersmith.com

Scott Westerfeld (He is American but lives in Australia) http://www.scottwesterfeld.com/

Lili Wilkinson http://www.liliwilkinson.com.au

Suzy Zail

The proof is in the pudding, so read Aussie YA!

-Tara Kehoe

How You Can Make Change Good: Digging Through the Book Box

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Sharlena Luyen, age 17.

 

A book about love: how cliche. Pre-teen Sharlena didn’t think so. Love was a wonder full of lust, magic, and mystery. Hot, steamy scenes of two people caring for one another: such an overly fantasized situation for the world. At age 12, I was stuck on how Becca Fitzpatrick played me for a fool, for she had me believing that the badass, feisty Patch was out to save Nora Grey’s life, for he was falling in love, “inevitably.” Drawn in closer as the pattern of Patch neglecting Nora was becoming increasingly more common in Hush, Hush, I wanted someone to care for me like they did for each other—no matter what happened, he would always hover over her, ever-so-slightly, to make sure nothing bad would happen to her. In fact, it happened so often that she eventually depended on him to save her life. How great would that be? I’m sure all of our parents could go to bed safe and sound at night, knowing that we would always be alright in the morning. With protection 100% of the time, I think I would live my life a little more on the edge…which is exactly what Nora did.

Not only did she start becoming more dangerous, but she found a new disregard for rules. Perfectly fit, eh? He protects her, she cares about life less. She’s the ying to his yang. And then you guess it, she’s kidnapped. (In a dark shed in the middle of the night at a broken-down amusement park, I might add.)

Once this novel ended, I knew I was in for some trouble.

You know how it is, reading an unfinished series is like setting yourself up for an emotional train wreck: and what comes next? Oh God, the cliffhangers. I was closing in on the third novel, and the fourth was expected a year later: October 5, 2011. Now there I was, just wading in the yellow zone in 2010. Somewhere between 2010 and 2012, a chic white convertible of opportunity and adventure passed by, and I jumped in, heart first. Over the years, I worked with several youth, initiating a community service project with a nationwide nonprofit. And I had a change of heart and learned to be a softer person, no longer having a need or desire for sticky and steamy; my love revolved around the youth of my community, now. Bigger things called and I grew up– from writing business emails with “standard, professional, proper formatting,” to refusing to give up at 4am with tons of things to do. I grew up–over 3 years. (I don’t think I really grew up, but that’s what I’m going with, for now.)

As I dusted the old thoughts of Patch off of Hush, Hush, I read about the young love of Nora and Patch once more, four out of four novels at this point.

This time around, I gawked at Nora’s incompetence and Patch’s lack of aggression for his love. Yes, his real, raw love. His silly games are irrelevant. I couldn’t stand how Nora simply let herself be trapped by Patch’s game. It was now evident that she wanted him to save her; to me, she purposely played the role of a maiden in need of help. It was pitiful to read about her weakness and inability to protect herself.

In high school, we fail to dwell on the necessary attributes of a powerful, intelligent woman. The modern woman is a fighter for woman’s rights — not only do teachers adore the strength of Bronte’s Jane Eyre, but they also mock the indecisive superficial Daisy in Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby. In today’s world, at my age of 17, it is not difficult to tolerate an Incompetent girl like Nora. It just makes me wonder when novels will instill a woman worth admiring. My role models revolve around Meg from Hercules; my skill in life is to have the ability to recite “I won’t say I’m in love,” at any time of day. And let me tell you, I’ve already won the prize for rotten judgment. And Mulan can definitely “Make a Man Out of [Me].” My question to you is, will you remain a pawn in this conformist society and condemn yourself to this predetermined box of capabilities, or will you grow wings with razors as feathers, daring everyone and anyone to challenge your ability?

With time as the only factor that remains constant on this earth, it is a wonder how my ideas and perception changed with 3 mere years. Could it be that my priorities changed? My personality? What made me change the way I look at this simplistic yet complex love story?

- Sharlena Luyen: A flawed perfectionist, Sharlena aims to be the best she can be. A genuine personality. A killer work ethic. A strong, mighty heart of passion. This writer looks forward to talking with you soon!

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