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YALSA YA Lit Symposium: The Student Perspective

Tue, 11/11/2014 - 07:00

Are you getting excited? YALSA’s YA Literature Symposium in Austin is just a few days away! If you’ve never been to a YA Lit Symposium, you might be wondering what it’s all about. Leading up this year’s Symposium, we’ve been featuring interviews with Symposium attendees past and present to give you a picture of why you should attend and what to expect.

Our final interview features Alyson Feldman-Piltch, who shares with us the valuable perspective of a library school student. 

What was the most memorable thing about the YA Lit Symposium you attended?

This was the very first conference ever attended, so that in itself makes it fairly memorable.  I just remember being in awe that I was in the same room as all these authors- and that they actually wanted to talk to me; and that other people wanted to talk to me too!  I was nervous that as a student I wasn’t going to fit in, but I talked to people, made some contacts, and even keep in touch with a few!

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

Right before I came to the Symposium I had read No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Michaeux Nelson.  Since I had never been to a conference before, I had no idea if I would actually get a chance to interact with the authors, so I wrote her a letter thanking her for sharing her family’s story and telling her how much I appreciated her book.  In the hubbub of some mixer, I handed her the note and just sort of walked on my way, but later on she came up to me and thanked me for my note.  I was totally on cloud nine.

Since you attended your first Symposium as a library school student, tell us a little about what that was like. Is the Symposium a good experience for students?

One of the reasons that I think smaller conferences and symposiums are important- especially for students- is because it gives you the opportunity to meet others in the field.  At Annual, you may never see the same random person twice, but at events like the Symposium, you get to interact with people on a more one on one basis.   There are group discussions in sessions, and people really get the opportunity to hear one another.  It’s a great networking opportunity.

Additionally, the Symposium, allows you to focus a more specific theme- Young Adult Literature.  The amount of information allows you to really look at what the is in store for YA Librarians and the field, and gives students the opportunity to see if this is a topic they are truly interested in pursuing without necessarily taking a class or even trying a job out!

Let’s talk practical tips– of all the great offerings at the Symposium, how do you decide what to attend? How do you plan out your schedule?

For me, I look for topics that will interest me the most.  My focus of study is in multicultural literature, so I will also scan through to see if there are sessions that can relate to that or cross cultural communication.  Then, I go through and see if there are any sessions on certain trends or themes.  At the last Symposium, that included a panel on Australian authors, and how to incorporate technology into your teen literacy programming.  Finally, I go through and see if there are any about topics I don’t get to hear about often, or are unique.  When we were in St. Louis, it was getting to hear teenage boys speak first hand about finding lit that speaks to them.  After all of that, then I sort of go through all the ones I pick and prioritize between the ones that overlap, and try to establish a game plan.

Which session are you most looking forward to at this year’s Symposium?

There are a lot. But honestly? R.L. Stine because dude scared the bejesus out of me as a kid.  I still have nightmares about the cover of the Night of the Living Dummy: Monster Edition.

Thanks, Alyson! Smooth travels to Austin!

The Monday Poll: Your YA Lit Pick for Veteran’s Day

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 00:01

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you to weigh in on which characters from different YA books should meet. 56% of you would like to see a get-together between Tris from Veronica Roth’s Divergent and Katniss from Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games. They would probably have a lot to chat about! Another popular choice, with 18% of the vote, was Glory from Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King and Frankie from E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, the United States pauses to honor our war veterans by observing Veteran’s Day on November 11. In honor of those who have served, what is your favorite YA book that addresses the veteran experience?  Vote in the poll below, or add your choice in the comments if we missed it.

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

Tweets of the Week: November 7

Sat, 11/08/2014 - 07:00


Books and Reading

Pop Culture, TV, Movies

Libraries and Librarianship

Just for Fun

-Allison Tran, currently listening to Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi


Gearing Up for the YA Lit Symposium: Let’s Talk Reality

Thu, 11/06/2014 - 07:00

We’re just over a week away from YALSA’s 2014 YA Lit Symposium in Austin, Texas. Are you getting excited? We are!

The theme for this year’s Symposium is “Keeping It Real: Finding the True Teen Experience in YA Literature.” Let’s take a minute to mull that over before the Symposium kicks off next week, shall we?

  • What books or authors do you automatically think of when you think “realistic YA fiction?”
  • Is there a pivotal YA book in your life that reflected your experiences so clearly, or conversely, opened your eyes to a totally different reality?
  • Do you naturally gravitate towards realistic fiction, or are you a genre reader?
  • How does today’s realistic YA fiction differ from the YA “problem novel” a lot of us grew up reading in the 70s and 80s?
  • Do you have a “go-to” recommendation for realistic YA fiction that seems to win the heart of most any reader?
  • What forthcoming realistic YA lit titles are you most looking forward to reading in the coming months?

My answers to a few of the above questions…

  • The most recent realistic YA fiction book I can think of that opened my eyes to a different reality is Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark (a 2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults selection). Although I’ve read quite a bit 0f LGBTQ literature, I lacked awareness and knowledge of the transgender experience. Freakboy was insightful and poignant, and ultimately relatable. Even though I had no idea what it might be like to feel at odds with the body you’re born in, this book helped me understand.
  • As far as what type of fiction I gravitate towards, I was more of a genre reader in the past, but nowadays, I tend to go through phases– sometimes I just can’t get enough realistic fiction! As much as I love being transported to a different world through genre fiction, sometimes I find comfort in the familiar.
  • One of my go-to realistic YA titles that I recommend a lot is David Lubar’s Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie (YALSA’s Ultimate YA Bookshelf). It’s funny, it’s touching, and the realistic school setting makes it an appealing and relatable choice for those who aren’t sure they want to delve into a fantasy or science fiction world.

Now that I’ve answered a few of my own questions, please weigh in with your thoughts in the comments! And feel free to bring up your own discussion questions, too. Let’s get the discussion going here, and continue it at the YA Lit Symposium in Austin.

-Allison Tran, currently reading The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming


Jukebooks: Signed, Skye Harper by Carol Lynch Williams

Wed, 11/05/2014 - 07:00

Skye Harper is a fake name. It’s the name of a non-person, someone without family or responsibilities. To fifteen year-old Winston, it’s the name of a mother who left eleven years ago, and is not welcome back. Then Nanny, Winston’s grandmother and caretaker, gets a postcard from Las Vegas. Skye wants to come home. And Nanny decides to “borrow” a motor home to drive out and get her.

As it turns out, they have a stowaway for the trip. Steve Simmons is the teen son of the motor home”s owner, and he’s up for a road trip. Winston finds Steve a happy addition, especially when he gets out his guitar. It’s 1972, and everyone knows the words to “Me and Bobby McGee,” a ballad written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster, as recorded by Janis Joplin. It’s the perfect road song, languid and bittersweet.

Joplin had died in 1970, but “Me and Bobby McGee” hit the top of the charts posthumously the following year. In 2011, Ann Angel’s biography, Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing, won YALSA’s Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award. Below are scenes from Joplin’s life, clearly showing the effects of drug abuse.

Diane Colson, currently reading Clariel by Garth Nix.

Women In Comics: Superhero Edition

Wed, 11/05/2014 - 07:00

Image by Julian Fong. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Last month when I started writing my Find a New Favorite Female Comic Artist or Graphic Novelist post I envisioned it as a one-time list of suggestions, but as I got into the process of collecting books with women in charge of the story, artwork, or both, I realized that (1) there are far too many examples for a single post and (2) I was having way too much fun to only go through the process once. When I published the post and started getting supportive comments with even more reading suggestions, I decided that I wanted to turn it into a recurring series. So, my current plan is to continue writing Women In Comics posts that offer suggestions for those interested in finding great new comics and graphic novels.

As I was preparing to write this post, both Marvel and DC released plans for upcoming superhero movies for the next several years and this gave me the inspiration to focus on the contributions that women have made to superhero comics. This post will highlight a wide range of superhero stories written or illustrated by important women in the field. Without further ado, here are some more great stories to choose from:

Gotham Academy #1: Welcome to Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher with art by Karl Kerschl – Debuting last month, Gotham Academy is set at a fancy boarding school in Gotham City that was attended by Batman during a short period of his childhood. The story follows Olive Silverlock, a young student at the Academy who is struggling to rebound from the mysterious events of the summer. The first issue introduces the main characters and sets the mood for a mysterious school story. The look and feel of Gotham Academy itself and the characters who inhabit it seem to have been designed to appeal to fans of Harry Potter and similar boarding school stories and overall the first issue will leave readers wanting more.

Batgirl #35: Burned by Cameron Stewart & Brenden Fletcher with art by Babs Tarr – With issue #35, Batgirl begins a new arc with Barbara Gordon moving to the hip Burnside neighborhood. This issue manages to be very accessible to those who aren’t familiar with Barbara’s backstory without losing the interest of long-time Batgirl fans. The creators have built a very current world, where emails, text messages, and apps are central to the story and the characters reflect the diversity of any major city. It manages to be approachable and fun at the same time, making it a great option for anyone interested in starting to read Batgirl comics.

Catwoman #35: Comfort to the Hurt of the King by Genevieve Valentine with art by Garry Brown – As with Batgirl, issue #35 of Catwoman starts a new story arc, making it a great place for those unfamiliar with the character to join the story. As the story opens, Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) is taking over the Calabrese crime family (a concept introduced recently in Batman Eternal). This premise makes it just as much a mafia story as a superhero story and the two elements blend nicely together. The style of the artwork complements the mafia themes and brings to life a Gotham City that is dominated by organized crime. This issue only has time to set up the background for the arc, but it nevertheless ends on a note that will leave readers eager for the next issue.

Katana Vol. 1: Soultaker by Ann Nocenti with illustrations by Alex Sanchez – This book takes Katana, a character that has appeared as part of both Birds of Prey and Justice League of America, and gives her a story of her very own. It follows Katana as she journeys to Japan to get her sword, Soultaker, repaired and seeks to avenge her husband’s death. Fans of the TV show Arrow will be particularly interested in learning more about this character as she is joining the cast of the show this season.

Red Sonja Vol. 1: Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone with illustrations by Walter Geovani – The story of Red Sonja, as reimagined by Gail Simone, is not a traditional superhero tale. Rather than a supernatural origin story, Red Sonja’s origin is one of deep pain and captivity. However, I would argue that she is a superhero in the mold of Batman, a person who made herself into the warrior that she needed to be to avenge her family and protect those who were important to her. The story is a dark and violent one with imagery befitting such a story, but it also has elements of humor and hope blended into it. The edition that I read included Simone’s original script, which shows how the illustrations bring to life this world where the normal and the supernatural intermingle. This edition also includes a series of reimagined covers from some of the top female comics artists, which shows some great perspectives on this iconic character.

Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Hot in the City by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner – This Harley Quinn story by husband and wife team Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner is unlike the other stories on this list. From its first pages, it is an irreverent story that opens with short vignettes of Harley Quinn interpreted in a wide range of artistic styles. Throughout this entire section, Harley breaks the fourth wall, interacting directly with the artists who are creating the story around her. Even once the book moves onto a more traditional story, it maintains a gross, violent, silly, bawdy, and just plain unusual sensibility that makes for a read that is unique and yet in keeping with the Harley Quinn character.

The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks – Have you ever wanted a superhero who lives in your world? If so, you will love Faith Erin Hicks’ Eisner-award-winning story of a young woman who happens to be a superhero. Follow her as she deals with all of the good and bad of daily life while also being a superhero. Hicks’ take on life as a superhero is fun and also more relatable than your average story of a caped crusader.

El Deafo by Cece Bell – In this autobiographical story, Bell describes her life growing up with a hearing aid. This may seem like an unusual choice for a list that focuses on superhero comics, but woven throughout the book are Cece’s daydreams about putting on her hearing aid and becoming the superhero El Deafo who uses her super hearing for all sorts of purposes. While the book is on Bell’s early days at school, readers of all ages will enjoy this adorable story in which all of the characters are portrayed as rabbits. It offers an honest and compelling view of Bell’s childhood and her experience using a hearing aid. It is no surprise that it has been getting rave reviews.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore – For those who find themselves wondering about the historic context of superheroes, Jill Lepore’s new book offers a fascinating insight into the creation of Wonder Woman and the way that the character was influenced not only by her creator’s personal life, but also by the suffragist and feminist movements of the early 1900’s. It places Wonder Woman’s many incarnations into a larger historical framework and will give comic book fans a new way of looking at this classic character. I recently had an opportunity to hear the author speak about the book and can’t wait to read the whole thing!

This list is far from comprehensive and new superhero stories are being created by women all the time. Let me know in the comments if I have missed any of your favorites!

-Carli Spina

YALSA YA Lit Symposium: The Value of Making Connections

Tue, 11/04/2014 - 07:00

It’s November, and YALSA’s YA Literature Symposium is right around the corner! We hope you’ll be joining us in Austin! If you’ve never been to a YA Lit Symposium, you might be wondering what it’s all about. Leading up this year’s Symposium, we’ll be featuring interviews with Symposium attendees past and present to give you a picture of why you should attend and what to expect.

Today we have an interview with Dorcas Wong, an active YALSA member from California who recently served as chair of the 2014 Morris Award Committee. 

Dorcas, why do you think someone should attend the Symposium?

The symposium is a professional development and networking opportunity. This is a chance to learn and update yourself on the current reading trends, focus on a genre or area of reading, and get to know your peers and what innovative things they’re doing. What you learn here may inform your future purchases and program development. And it’s just fun to talk about what you’re reading.

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

Talk to people! Introduce yourself to authors, other library staff, YALSA staff, presenters, teens who come in for the panels. Seems like a no-brainer, but do you actively go out and do it, or do you wait for someone to come up and talk to you? Yeah, don’t wait. Get to know new people in your field and don’t just stick with the group you came with.

Plus one side tip, for attending major events in general: If possible, try to schedule a day off before the event and/or after. ‘Before’ you have time to settle in, look around, and ‘After’ you can decompress and relax. You’ll be less stressed about rushing back to work and writing up those reports and what not.

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve had happen at or that you’ve taken away from the Symposium?

At my first symposium, which was focused on graphic novels, I was mainly interested in just hearing what more people were doing with graphic novels, managing the collection, researching and seeking out new titles, and different viewpoints on the spectrum of GNs in general. I was fresh out of graduate school and working part-time/temporary as a librarian. I not only came back from the event with new knowledge, but new connections to different people working throughout the U.S. dedicated to young adult literature. Years later, I ended up working with some of these colleagues that I met through this event in YALSA committees and resource sharing.

If your trip to the YA Symposium was covered by work, how did you convince them to pay for it?

Depending on your system’s budget, you’ll want to think about framing a convincing argument to attend these types of events. Much like what I’ve mentioned in the previous question, this is a continued education or professional development opportunity and many systems allow for this in the budget. You may ask at human resources, or your supervisor, about monetary support. Another talking point, is that you’ll be representing your library system at an important professional level. This shows other people in the library world that your system is interested in keeping active and up to date in your work with young people.

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

Of course! This year’s theme is Keeping It Real: Finding the True Teen Experience in YA Literature. I’ve seen more titles published in realistic fiction or ones that explore diverse experiences recently, and my teens, who still love all the fantasy, mystery, and adventure, are looking for more stories that they can relate to. I’ve been checking out the preliminary program agenda on the website and have marked several panels I want to attend. Some are at the same time, so I’ll be working out some creative time management. And I’m already looking forward to next year’s theme.

I’ve met many colleagues through past library conferences and events who are presenting this year. I’m thinking of putting in a proposal of my own one of these days, but for now, I look forward to reconnecting with my peers and learning something new.

Thanks so much, Dorcas! 

The Monday Poll: YA Lit Characters Who Should Meet

Mon, 11/03/2014 - 00:09

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we were celebrating Halloween and wanted to know your favorite YA zombie book. Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin took the top spot, with 35% of the vote. Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth was also a popular choice, with 26%. There were a few great write-in suggestions, too– Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi, Feed by Mira Grant and World War Z by Max Brooks. So many undead to choose from! You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted and weighed in!

This week,  we want to know which characters from YA lit you think should really meet. Maybe they have something in common– similar circumstances, similar outlooks on life– or maybe they’re so different, they could learn from each other. Maybe they would be BFFs, or maybe they would be arch nemeses. Vote in the poll below, or add your choice in the comments!

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

Fantasy Novels Get a Bad Rap

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 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 Megan Doehner.

Fantasy novels kinda get a bad rep. Sure, when you hear “fantasy” you automatically think of unicorns and princesses, right?

WRONG. Fantasy novels are so much more than that. They let you escape to another place that only exists in the imaginations of authors, and they are generous enough to share their wonderful worlds with us.

Even if you’re not a huge fantasy fan and think that magic and stuff is just a waste of time, I’d still recommend branching out and trying new things. I found some of my favorite books by exploring new reading genres, and firmly believe in the “Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it” attitude.

Here are a few fantasy novels that I think you’ll absolutely love.

Cinda Williams Chima’s novel The Demon King is a perfect example of one of those books that will absolutely blow your mind. Action, romance, adventure, spying, and, of course, who doesn’t love a little magic thrown into the mix? Honestly, this is probably my favorite series in the history of my reading repertoire, and trust me, I have a large library in my collection.

Here’s a little teaser to get you excited.

Han Alister never thought he was going anywhere other than the streets, he was an amazing streetlord to say the least, but he knew that thugs in his position rarely survived past twenty. If only there were something more, a way to get away from it all, a way to get those telltale trademark silver cuffs off his wrists…Raisa ana‘Marianna doesn’t want to get married, plain and simple. She still longs to see the world and find her true love, not be forced into a marriage simply to gain diplomatic ties. She knows she’s in line for the throne, but has never truly met the people she’s bound to rule. What better way to find out about them than to become one of them for a day? Fates have been sealed as these two strangers’ lives slowly intertwine with one another’s, creating a powerful thrill that’s sure to capture your heart.

Unfortunately, when I finished The Seven Realms series I was on vacation in Florida, sitting by the pool. As soon as I read the last sentence, I closed the book, died on the inside from extreme contentment and happiness, and stared off into the distance pondering the meaning of life. THAT’S how you know you’ve read the work of a true master.

Now, to some people I have committed a mortal sin by saying this, but I have yet to finish the Harry Potter series. And no, I have not seen the movies either.

Let’s just say that my caretaker as a child did not approve of “dark magic,” and believed that if I read these books I would become an evil witch and destroy the world as we know it.

To make all you Harry Potter fans feel better, I am currently tackling the series one by one, and am proud to announce that I have joined Pottermore and have discovered my true identity as a member of Hufflepuff. So in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 15 years (or like in my case, under the thumb of a superstitious nanny), here’s the gist of the wonderful tale of our favorite wizard, Harry Potter.

Life as a normal human being is just that- normal. Unless, that is, you are the famous Harry Potter, only survivor of an attack by the dreaded dark wizard, Voldemort. You’d think that you’d be revered for this, right? Get some special treatment? Uh, not so much. Actually, Harry Potter receives the very opposite. After eleven long years of torment and anguish by his gruesome aunt, uncle, and cousin, Harry’s true identity as a wizard is finally revealed to him. He is then free from the clutches of his awful relatives, and is off to the greatest school of wizardry the world has ever known: Hogwarts.

The last recommendation I have for you is actually a mix of fantasy and sci-fi. Everyone knows the story of Cinderella, right? Well, you’ve never heard it told like this before.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Lihn Cinder is just your everyday mechanic, fixing androids and working on hover cars. Of course, it does come naturally based on the fact that she is a cyborg. Graciously, Lihn Audri humbled herself to take in this poor cyborg orphan, or so she says. Truthfully, she keeps Cinder as her family’s servant, holding her hostage with the constant threat of volunteering her for the lethal cyborg draft. But when Cinder has a chance to help repair the android of Prince Kai, the heartthrob of every girl in the Commonwealth, her world opens up to a life of secrets she never knew she had.

You know that feeling when you get your friends to read one of your favorite books and they like it?


Yeah. That’s basically me right now.

I hope you enjoyed my suggestions and try something new, because nothing is better than falling in love with a book. Nothing.

Happy reading!

Your favorite wackadoo,

~Meg, who has read her weight in books, can’t stand it when people do not bend their thumbs (they’re there for a reason), thoroughly enjoys writing and patterns, has four alarms set in the morning to make sure she actually gets out of bed, and is easily distract…wait, what?


By the Pricking of My Thumbs: A Witchcraft Round-up

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 07:00

Happy Halloween! Out of the many staple characters that pop up every Halloween–the ghosts, the vampires, the mummies, etc.–few have the depth and diversity as the ever-evolving, always enchanting witch. One of the last vestiges of Pagan culture to remain with us, the witch is a reminder of feminine power, of matriarchy, and of the dark histories that have accompanied these women throughout the ages. In honor then of the witch and all she represents, enjoy this round-up of recent and older tales that are steeped in the world of witchcraft and witch lore.

Let’s begin with one of the great classics of Pagan-inspired literature and, by many accounts, the best retelling of the Arthurian legend, Marian Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. The book (and series) relives the events of King Arthur’s court through the eyes of the women involved, namely Morgaine, Gwynhwyfar, Morgause, and Viviane. Largely the story of Morgaine, a sorceress and Priestess, the book is notable not only for its overt feminism but also for providing such a rich, emotionally layered, and ultimately thrilling story centered on the dynamics of power–between men and women, Christianity and Paganism, love and duty. Written for adults, it is entirely suitable for older teens many of which will devour it in one sitting!

Lynne Ewing’s series, Daughters of the Moon (a YALSA Quick Pick), is an older series that deserves to be rediscovered by current teens! It follows the lives of four teenage girls who each possess special abilities because they are daughters of Goddesses. They are destined to fight an ancient evil named The Atrox, a task that drives the majority of the plotline. The series offers a nice blend of romance and adventure, while also realistically exploring the ins and outs of teenage life. Great for both middle and high school students, this epic urban fantasy is a quick read that is sure to appeal to lovers of the Mortal Instruments and Bloodlines.

Rachel Hawkins’ incredibly popular series, Hex Hall (2011 Teens’ Top Ten and 2012 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults), is just the right combination of sarcasm, sorcery, and smart. The sarcasm is all due to the highly engaging and entirely authentic Sophie Mercer, the 16-year-old protagonist of the series. Sent to Hex Hall, a school for juvenile delinquents of the paranormal variety, by her mother, Sophie must learn to control her powers while simultaneously navigating the treacherous social seas of her new home. Elements of the book will certainly remind readers of Harry Potter but Hawkins is careful to carve out a unique trajectory for her narrator that is both compelling and thought-provoking.

Next on the list is the best-selling All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness, a series written for adults but that has been immensely popular with my juniors and seniors. I like to think of the series as Twilight written for intellectuals and feminists.  It tells the story of a Diana Bishop, a historian and academic, who is also- much to her dismay- a witch.  While doing research for her book on alchemy, she stumbles upon an ancient manuscript which purportedly contains the answer to some of the central mysteries of the universe.  The discovery of the book sets into motion an epic tale involving vampires, daemons, many of the great historical figures of the past, and a super steamy forbidden love affair.  It’s an immensely readable, intelligent, and satisfying romp…be warned though, it ends on quite a cliffhanger!

For a completely different approach to witches, try Margo Lanagan’s The Brides of Rollrock Island (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults). I am a big fan of Lanagan’s previous novel Tender Morsels and her most recent book does not disappoint in terms of craft or content. It is the story of a lonely young woman, Misskaella, who has the ability to call forth human forms from the bodies of seals; she uses her powers to bring forth wives for the men in her village willing to pay a high price. Although a dark topic and tale, the extraordinary beauty of Lanagan’s prose and the deep insights she makes about human nature and the intersections between love and despair, compassion and cruelty make this one of the most unique YA novels I’ve read in a long while.

I’ll end with a witchcraft book that centers on a male protagonist just to add a little variety to the mix. Half Bad by Sally Green has gotten a lot of press since its publication last year and it’s not hard to see why. Not for the faint-hearted, the book revolves around sixteen-year-old Nathan, the product of a White and Black witch. In the world of the novel, White witches are good and Black witches are evil which leaves Nathan in a socially precarious and emotionally wrenching position. To make matters worse, his father is the most infamous of Black witches, responsible for the deaths of hundreds. The novel is rife with violence, darkness, and abuse, and yet also embraces themes of redemption, survival, and the ambiguity inherent in both good and evil.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this small selection of books about witches and witchcraft. Let me know if I’ve missed any of your favorites!

~Alegria Barclay, currently reading The Martian by Andy Weir

Last Minute Costume Ideas for YA Lit Fans

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 07:00

When I was a kid, my mother sewed homemade Halloween costumes for my sister and me just about every year. They were great; some of the favorites I remember include a princess costume that included flounces on the skirt, several pioneer girl costumes, and April O’Neil from (the original!) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Of course, for mom to have time to make these, we had to select and commit to our costumes the summer before. I’m more of a glue-gun-the-week-before kind of costume maker, but I still enjoy making costumes. My own costume making coups thus far include a cowgirl, Waldo from the Where’s Waldo books, and this year, a ghost (admittedly not the most difficult).

If you are reading this post without already having a costume prepared, however, you need something super fast. It’s amazing what you can throw together at the last minute with one or two key pieces, so here are some literary costume ideas that shouldn’t take too much preparation:

1. If you have a leather jacket (or faux-leather jacket), you could be…

2. If you have a parka or heavy coat, you could be…

  • Eva, Jasper, or Lukas from Relic by Heather Terrell
  • Sam or one of the other Wolves of Mercy Falls, from Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (2010 Best Book for Young Adults, 2010 Teens’ Top Ten, if you can pick up some wolf ears or a mask at a costume store, you could be in the midst of transformation)

3. If you have a bathing suit (paired with leggings and a long-sleeved T-shirt, imperviousness to cold, or an address in a warmer neighborhood than mine), you could be…

4. If none of the above fit, you can probably create a favorite realistic fiction character pretty quickly by digging in your closet, your parents’, or the local thrift store. Additionally, many dystopian/science fiction stories that take place in the near future. Some possibilities:

Hopefully these give you some quick ideas for fun Halloween costumes. Happy costume making, and Happy Halloween!

-Libby Gorman, currently listening to Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Notes from a Teens’ Top Ten Book Group Participant: Speed Reviews

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 07:00

Teens across the nation have voted for this year’s Teens’ Top Ten list, and the winners have been announced- 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 what it’s like to be part of the process, we’re featuring posts from these teens here on The Hub. Today we have a video round-up of quick book reviews from members of Bookhype at the Perry Public Library/Perry High School in Arizona.

Horror Survival Skills from YA Books

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 07:00

Modified from Flickr user Alan Bruce.

It’s the day before Halloween and perhaps this month you’ve watched a horror movie marathon or read a scary book. Have you ever  been watching one of those movies or reading one of those books, and it’s the scene where the hero/heroine walks into the dark, obviously haunted house to hide from the killer and you scream, “Don’t go in there!?”

Then they do. You all know better, right?

I often have this experience and wonder what I would do if I was in those terrifying situations, running from zombies or trying to fend off a serial killer. Since I don’t have a lot of confidence in my survival abilities, I will turn to the hobby I have a lot of confidence in: reading! I propose turning to the examples of plucky, resourceful, and brave heroes and heroines in YA literature to save you from the frights of Halloween and beyond.

Here are a few books you may want to read to prepare you for a few scary situations.

Scary situation # 1: Haunted by Ghosts

Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones: Have you considered reasoning with the ghosts that haunt you? It works out fairly well for Sam Toop even though he is trying to save the ghosts, not save himself from ghosts. A little kindness goes a long away and maybe the ghost haunting you just wants a friend.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults): It’d be great if you could see the ghosts haunting you and could send them away with the tool of a special too like Rory, but if not consider assembling a crackerjack team of ghost hunters. Safety in numbers is always a good idea.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: If all else fails, try to get your hands on a ghost-killing knife like Cas. At the very least get a cat. Tybalt, Cas’s cat, senses ghosts like some people believe all cats to do.

Scary Situation #2: Surviving the horror that is in your mind

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean (2008 Printz winner): Having trouble handling an ill-advised polar expedition and feel like you need a friend to help you make sense of your world? Consider an imaginary friend! If your imaginary friend happens to be a real-life – though long dead – Antarctic explorer, even better!

Conversion by Katharine Howe: Not sure if what is happening to you and your friends is real? Hit the books and look for a literary and historical precedent. It may save you from thinking you’re being driven mad and sick by a coterie of witches.

More Than This by Patrick Ness: It’s hard for Seth what is real, what’s in your head and what is outside of it. To survive this situation, you need to question everything. Is this the real world or is it not? Investigation is key; don’t stop until you get some answers.

Scary situation #3: Surviving a serial killer

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (2013 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers): In a strange way, it’s helpful if you happen to be related to this serial killer and know his methods, like Jasper Dent, but if not, research is again key. As creepy as it is, try getting into his mind to anticipate his next move.

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: Again, try your hand at profiling, reading emotions, and trying to notice everything. But don’t let yourself get too wrapped up in the case, like Cassie, or you will find yourself in the middle of one. And in danger.

Scary Situation #4: Surviving the Apocalypse

Blood Red Road by Moira Young: Learning how to distill water would be helpful here, but so is scavenging, riding a horse, and being able to fight your way out of any situation. Also, if you happen upon a cool, tough girl gang you should probably join them.

Life as we Knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer(2007 Best Book for Young Adults; 2008 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults): After reading this book, I had to fight the urge to clear the shelves of  my local supermarket. Seriously, stock up on some provisions while you still can! It will beat having to venture out into a blizzard-bound climatological disaster-world to try and find food.

Scary Situation #4.5: Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry (2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults): Practice, practice, practice! When your job is killing zombies, that’s what you need to do whether ir be with a samurai sword or whatever you can find. Take a note from Benny Imura’s handbook and always keep your friends close. They will save you in the end.

The Infects by Sean Beaudoin: Four words for you: Don’t. Eat. The. Chicken. Seriously, go for a salad or something. Plus, all those other zombie movies and books you’ve seen and read? It’s all true, so remember the highlights!

Other scary situations you can learn from:

Surviving an evil, fairytale baker: Far, Far Away  by Tom McNeal

Surviving the worst day ever: The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

Surviving scary, not sparkly vampires: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown  by Holly Black

I can’t guarantee that if you read all of these books you’ll be prepared for whatever scary situation may come across your path, but it can’t hurt. If all else fails throw your bag full of all these amazing titles at the bad guys and run!

-Anna Tschetter, currently reading Dangerous by Shannon Hale

Women as Warriors: Why Girls Deserve More

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 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 Rachel Carroll from California.

We see it all the time in young adult literature these days. Blue Sargent, Katniss Everdeen, Beatrice Prior: girls who know how to stand up for themselves and do some serious damage. After spending so long watching Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, and Percy Jackson do their thing – you know, overcoming all odds, saving the world, the usual – a lot of female readers are excited to see some more girl power in the books they pick up and love. This new wave of strong female protagonists is something that I’m really excited to see on account of how empowering it is for women. Except, of course, when it isn’t. Because sometimes, having a female main character isn’t enough.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to making sure that men and women are represented equally in literature and in all other kinds of media. The way that authors write about their female characters and the choices these writers make about how those characters interact with others says a lot about how society as a whole perceives women. So that begs the question: what is a “strong” female protagonist? When put side by side, there are a lot of overwhelming similarities between a lot of girls in recent young adult novels, particularly dystopian books, which are still experiencing a popularity surge. Since trends are always trends for a reason, I think it’s important to look at some of these patterns, as well as to think about why these women may not be as powerful as they’re meant to be.

PHYSICAL STRENGTH Perhaps one of the most obvious examples of a modern day heroine, someone I’ve already mentioned, is Katniss Everdeen. The driving focal point of The Hunger Games is the Games themselves, and the Games are very much a physical competition. Katniss’ strength is necessary for her survival. But when we see female characters over and over again who are only defined by their strength or other physical abilities – archery, for instance – it gives the impression that there are no other ways to be “strong.” (Counter example – Hazel Grace Lancaster, the main character in John Green’s wildly successful The Fault In Our Stars, is chronically ill throughout the entire novel, and is anything but physically fit in any sense of the word. However, this does not keep her from being intelligent, clever, and compassionate.) STRIPPING OF CLASSICALLY “FEMALE” TRAITS Along those same lines, all too often in YA novels, the female characters that we see are described as being “not like other girls”, as if being like a girl is inherently a bad thing. Most female protagonists we see in today’s novels try to distance themselves from things that are traditionally thought of as “feminine” or “girly”. While there’s nothing wrong with a good old fashioned tomboy, seeing too many characters who fit this mold suggests lazy and two dimensional character development. Why can’t we have female leads who love wearing dresses? (Counter example – Hermione Granger, though undoubtedly one of the most rational and logical characters in contemporary YA lit, doesn’t have to compromise her femininity to do so. She still enjoys getting dressed up for the Yule Ball and maintains a sort of emotional maturity that a lot of people associate with teenage girls far more so than boys.)

LOVE TRIANGLES Ah, love triangles. It’s almost impossible to find a novel without them, nowadays. Now, I love a well written, heartwarming romantic subplot as much as the next person, but love triangles have a tendency to get really predictable, really fast. More often than not, it’s our female protagonist caught between two guys: the male friend she’s had forever, and a new, dark, broody fellow. The problem with this is that it perpetuates the idea that girls need a boyfriend (no girlfriends, you’ll notice…), as well as reduces the female character to a sort of window through which we can examine the male characters and compare them. (Counter example – Violet Beaudelaire, the oldest of the three orphans in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, does end up having a romantic relationship with Quigley Quagmire. However, not only does said relationship not last until the end of the series, but there was never another boy competing for Violet’s affections. And ultimately, her most loving relationship is with her siblings, who she spends the entire series protecting and caring for.)

It’s awesome seeing so many more girls in young adult novels, especially when women are the ones doing the writing. For so many years, the only stories that anyone thought were worth telling were the stories of men, told by men. (Even J.K. Rowling was advised by her publicist to use her initials instead of her name – Joanne – because more they said boys would be more likely to buy her book if they didn’t immediately know the author was a woman.) But now that more and more authors are carving out a space that values the female narrative, it’s important that we’re careful when writing – and reading – about our favorite heroines.

~ Rachel R. Carroll, originally from right outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is double majoring in Creative Writing and Gender Studies with a minor in Dramatic Arts. The oldest of four siblings, she enjoys reading, contra dancing, competing in poetry slams, and playing with all the stray cats she finds in Los Angeles.

Jukebooks: Screaming Divas by Suzanne Kamata

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 14:17

Through some mighty strange twists of fate, sixteen year-old Trudy Baxter goes from a juvenile detention facility in South Carolina to spinning records at a New York club. She thinks of starting a band. Changing her name to the more appropriate “Trudy Sin” and gathering together three band mates, Trudy creates ‘Screaming Divas.” Thinking back to her childhood days spent listening to Diana Ross, Trudy envisions their girl band to be “…like the Supremes, with instruments.”

Well, how cool would that be?

Diana Ross was singing with a group by the age of fifteen. Throughout the 1960s, Diana Ross and the Supremes were the most successful act of Detroit’s Motown record label. Thousands of women and men have emulated her glamorous style. Here they are, singing “Where Did Our Love Go?” (It’s hard to imagine a stonier audience!)

-Diane Colson, currently reading Lockwood & Co., Volume 2: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

Realistically Speaking! Some New Realistic YA Fiction for Your Fall Reading

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 07:00

Well, I never thought I’d say this (and I will only admit this to you, Hubbers), but I’m a little burned out on comics right now.  What?!  I know, right?!  Don’t get me wrong, I still love comics, but as the old saying goes too much of a good thing is too much (that is the saying, right?).  So, anyways, I have just been reading so many fiction and nonfiction comics lately that one day a few weeks ago, I put down my copy of Batman: Zero Year/Secret City (and, don’t worry, Batman, you didn’t turn me off of comics – you’re perfect just the way you are) and picked up some of the galleys I had brought home from ALA in June.  I just wanted something a little different than my usual to curl up with on these cold October nights (the best month of the year, if you ask me!).

Luckily for me, and you, dear readers, there is some unbelievably great realistic teen fiction that has been or will be released that book lovers will absolutely swoon over. From feminism to a 1990s semi-love story to a gerbil named Baconnaise and more interrobangs than you can handle (more on that in a sec!), if you like stories of teens being teens, make sure to check out all of these fun and fantastic reads for the fall. Now normally, you know we always start with Batman, but this time, let’s start with Baconnaise!

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer:  You guys.  So, for most of the time I’ve been a Teen Librarian, I’ve had one and only one favorite teen book.  Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King has always had my heart – no runners up; no top five list.  But, now, there is a serious contender for #1 teen book in my heart, and it’s this new one by first time author, Kate Hattemer.  TVPoSA (I wanted to abbreviate the title, so this is it!) tells the story of Ethan and his group of friends who attend Selwyn Academy, a performing arts school in Minnesota.  Much to the chagrin of Ethan and his friends – Luke, Jackson & Elizabeth – their school is now the filming location of the very popular reality show, For Art’s Sake, a show that has Selwyn Academy students competing against each other using their artistic craft to receive money and scholarships.  It’s sleazy and sensationalistic and Ethan’s group hates it so much that the four of them start writing long form protest poems after reading about how Ezra Pound employed the same tactic. But, the problem is– when the producers of For Art’s Sake get ahold of the Contracantos (their super cool name for their poems which they print out and distribute all around the school), they love them and promptly ask Luke to be on the show.  And, the (second) problem is that Luke does it, and he loves it.  Now Ethan is feeling betrayed and is determined to make Luke and the school sorry they ever let this sham of a show film at their school.  The threesome just know that the administration is up to something nefarious and suspicious regarding Selwyn’s involvement with For Art’s Sake, and they won’t stop until they expose everyone and all their lies, even if they discover it might just involve their very favorite teacher in the world.  Plus! There’s a gerbil named Baconnaise that definitely steals the spotlight and just might be their secret weapon in the end.  This book is hilarious and you should read it now, and it introduced me to my new favorite punctuation- move over, semi-colon, there’s a new favorite in town: the interrobang.  Seriously.  Read it now.  I’ll wait.

Sway by Kat Spears:  When I was first sent this book by School Library Journal to review, I took one look at the back cover where the book is described as a “Cyrano de Bergerac for the twenty-first century” and promptly set it right back down on my desk.  The weird thing is, when I was at ALA, someone or something snuck this book into my tote bag sometime during the conference.  I took that as a sign that I should probably read this book since it had managed to work its way into my life and onto my desk twice.  Guess what I discovered!  I discovered that I absolutely love this book.  Jesse Alderman, otherwise known as Sway (much to his chagrin), can get you what you want, no matter what. Drugs, popularity, money, anything– but it’ll come with a cost… maybe it’s your cash or maybe it’s your secrets.  So, when the jerkiest, most popular boy in school, Ken Foster, wants Jesse to get super nice girl, Bridget Smalley to like him, Jesse takes his cash and takes the job.  But, the problem is– (Oh, I’m sensing a pattern here) that once Jesse gets to know Bridget, he doesn’t want to let her go to Ken.  He falls for her hard despite all his best efforts not to.  Bridget just makes him a better person which he isn’t sure he is or deserves to be.  Once you get to know Jesse, you won’t want to leave him behind – and trust me, he makes it hard to root for him.  But, he’s such a well written character and the story is so great, touching on parental death and abandonment, disabilities and coming to terms with yourself, that readers will be sad when the story comes to an end.  Plus, it’s funny!

The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard:  So, maybe you want a little murder, a little mystery to liven up all these cold and dark nights.  Well, Sara Shepard, author of the Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game series, has cooked up another dark and twisted mystery.  Five high school girls in Washington who aren’t really friends discover they all have one thing in common: they all straight-up hate Nolan, a horrible, super popular jerk (way worse than Ken Foster, by the way) at their school who has the dibs on all of their secrets.  After talking in class and thinking about how funny it would be to just murder him, they come to the conclusion that a.) that idea is not plausible or moral or doable, so they decide to just humiliate him.  They give him something at a party to knock him out long enough to write all over his face exactly what they think of him. But, the problem is– (It is a pattern!) that Nolan does indeed end up dead… exactly the way they had all talked about in class, but it wasn’t them.  Now, someone knows their secret and is trying to frame them for Nolan’s murder.  They all have things to lose, so they have to act fast to figure out who killed Nolan, but, the (second) problem is: the killer seems determined to keep them quiet at all costs.  A fun and fast mystery that Sara is saying will only be a 2-book series, so perfect for readers who like murder mysteries, but don’t want to read a 14 book series about it.  Spooky and scary and perfect for dark nights.

Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho:  I was first attracted to this book because the protagonists aren’t that much younger than me; this book is set in the mid-90s, and will definitely appeal to lovers of 2014 Printz Honor bookEleanor & Park.  Anyways, Althea & Oliver have been neighbors and best friends practically forever.  But, the problem is– (I bet I can get this statement in every review in this post- keep reading to find out!) Althea loves Oliver – like loves him loves him, and he’s just not sure he wants to be more than friends.  The (second) problem is– Oliver has some kind of sleeping disorder that causes him to sleep for days, weeks, months at a time.  No one can figure out what’s wrong with him or how to successfully treat him so that he’s not spending half of his life in bed.  That’s when Nicky, Oliver’s mom, sees a report on the news about a doctor who’s studying Kleine-Levin Syndrome and sees similarities between how they’re describing it and what Oliver experiences.  But, then things turn sour between Oliver & Althea when she takes things too far with him one night and Oliver decides to just up and leave to go to the treatment facility where the doctor is doing a clinical study of the disease.  He doesn’t tell Althea.  She’s devastated and will stop at nothing to find him.  What she does find out leads her to New York City and it’s there that she realizes that her life might be more than just Oliver and North Carolina.  She discovers that the world is vast and her life is only just beginning.  A great book that’s melancholy, funny, and heartbreaking in all the right ways.

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King:  Welp.  Every year, A.S. King writes a book, and I love it – no ifs, ands or buts about it.  Glory O’Brien is no different. It’s a book that’s still resonating with me, and it’ rivaling Vera Dietz along with TVPoSA as my #1 favorite teen book.  You should take my advice and read it, but here’s a brief synopsis in case you need convincing. So, Glory’s mom killed herself, Sylvia Plath style, when Glory was just a kid, and now Glory’s worried she’ll turn out the same way.  She has no plans for after high school, and she just generally feels lost and adrift in the sea of life. One night, just on a whim, Glory and Ellie (the closest thing Glory has to a friend) find a mummified bat.  They put it in a jar, put beer in the jar and drink the bat.  Then, Glory starts seeing visions: a person’s infinite past and future.  But, the problem is– (I did it!) as Glory starts seeing more and more of the future, she realizes that things aren’t looking so hot for women in the upcoming years. Their rights disappear, a new terrifying leader splits the country and there’s a second civil war where women are the pawns and the victims.  Glory is a Feminist with a capital F… she’s not afraid to say it or show it, and she’s going to try to figure out everything she can so she can try and stop what seems to be inevitable for the human race.  But, what about her?  She can’t see a future for herself.  So what, she thinks.  That’s not going to stop her from trying to keep a future for everyone else.  Awesome. Thought provoking.  Touching.  Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.  Just read it – you’ll be glad you did.

Well, that’s it!  I guess I should have titled my post “But, the Problem Is” since everyone seems to have at least one in all these books! You’ve got a lot to choose from here: funny to serious to demented to mystery to mummified bat, Baconnaise & interrobangs, but I seriously hope you just decide to snuggle up under your blanket with a hot apple cider or hot chocolate and read all of them in one fell swoop!  As for me, I found one more ARC from ALA that was hiding at the bottom of my bookshelf at home; hopefully, I’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed these gems!  Join me next month for more problems (hopefully not!)! Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel!

-Traci Glass, currently reading There Will be Lies by Nick Lake

The Best Books for Non-Readers

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 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 Lana Gorlinski.

As hard as it is for a bookworm like myself to fathom, many teenagers simply don’t like to read. I know many of the type, and they have a variety of reasons for not enjoying books–they’d rather watch the movie, they find it tedious and can’t sit still for that long, they’d simply rather do other things with their time. Yet I’ve found that most people who “don’t like reading” actually just don’t like the books they’ve read. Indeed, if all I had read growing up were the asinine required reading pieces I was presented with, I too may have learned to loathe the activity. But I’m of the opinion that one can’t hate the act of reading itself, because it’s not a hobby so much as it is a medium for absorbing information of all kinds; saying one hates reading as a whole is just as ludicrous as saying one hates all of music, television, or the internet. Because just as there’s a music or movie genre for every taste, so too exists a near-infinite number of book genres to suit even the most finicky of readers. Below, I’ve listed a variety of books that even the most adamant non-readers should enjoy:

If you can’t put down the video games: Try an action-packed science fiction novel, like Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card! Set in a distant-future Earth, young Ender Wiggins finds himself selected for training in zero gravity to learn how to fight against the alien Buggers that are attacking the earth. Besides the usual awesomeness that comes with aliens and outer space, this quick-paced read is also chock full of action and interesting military strategy at every turn of the page.
What next: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

If you’re obsessed with rom-coms: Get all of that sappy feel-goodiness in a quirky romance novel! John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is super-popular for a reason: it’s beautifully written and completely heart-wrenching! You’ll find yourself unable to put this book down, as John Green has a way of pulling you in and keeping you reading hours after you declared lights out. It’s a book about two teens with cancer, yes, but it’s about so much more, including love, death, and life itself, and as you follow the adventures of Hazel Grace Lancaster you’ll find yourself laughing at some parts and sobbing like an idiot at others, a winning combo.
What next: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

If you’re constantly watching sitcom reruns: There are plenty of light, funny novels to tickle your funnybone. One of the funniest books I’ve read is Douglas Adams’ A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Adams’ brilliant, quick-witted narration will keep you enthralled and laughing all the way as the hilariously hapless Arthur Dent journeys through the universe, eventually discovering the meaning of life (which is certainly not what you’d expect it to be). What this book lacks in plot, character development and all those pesky things your English teacher likes to remind you of, it makes up for in page upon page of gut-splitting laughs.
What next: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

If you spend your weekends at the movie theater: Reading the book before you see the movie will really bring the movie to life! The Giver, by Lois Lowry, is an amazing book that happens to also be playing in theaters. A piece of dystopian fiction written before dystopian fiction was cool, this book presents a strange futuristic society in which people have been deprived of all individuality. The book follows 12-year-old Jonas as he navigates this society, creating a thought-provoking read that you’ll find yourself eagerly finishing in one life-changing sitting.
What next: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If your English teacher is forcing you to read a “classic” book: Do not despair! Though many old books do have their fair share of archaic language that only the most literarily inclined can decipher, there’s plenty of more recent (read: more interesting) books that many English teachers still consider as having “literary merit.” One of my personal favorites is George Orwell’s 1984. Set in an alternate 1984 wrought with constant warfare and a totalitarian government, this novel features Winston Smith as he navigates working for the ironically-named Ministry of Truth while dreaming of rebellion. Written in the modern English that should be intelligible to almost all teenagers, this book should keep you turning the pages in suspense. At the very least, it will certainly make you think.
What next: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

~ Lana Gorlinski adores reading, writer, and spending far too much time playing water polo. She’s currently reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit – Quite Possibly the Best Kick Ass Book Ever

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 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. Today, we have a video post from Raelyn Browning.

- Raelyn Browning: Hi all! My name is Raelyn Browning, a teen with an addiction to red lipstick, good books, and caramel coffee. Thanks for listening to me blather on about reading- see you someday!

Celebrate the Day of the Dead with These YA Novels

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 07:00

Image by violetdragonfly

In just a few days, The Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) will be celebrated in Mexico, other Latin American countries and a large number of U.S. cities.  Celebration dates vary from October 31st through November 2nd. On the Day of the Dead, people remember and pray for family members and friends who have passed.  To celebrate the dearly departed, it is common to visit their graves and to create altars which often include marigolds, photos of the deceased and items that were important to them in life.

Communities, libraries and schools all over are currently making final preparations for their own Day of the Dead celebrations.  I’ve attended the Santa Ana, California celebration several times, and am always amazed by the range of altars that families and local organizations create in honor of loved ones and various causes.  The festivities also include Mexican folk music, face painting, sweet bread (pan de muerto) and Mexican hot chocolate.  If you live near a Day of the Dead celebration yourself, I strongly encourage you to check it out.

You can also see The Book of Life, a beautifully crafted new animated film in current release which includes a Day of the Dead celebration.  And of course you can always celebrate by reading one or more of the following YA novels (and one adult graphic novel) in which the Day of the Dead plays a role!

In The Tequila Worm (2006 Pura Belpré Award winner), Viola Canales writes a semi-autobiographical story about Sofia, a Mexican-American teen who has grown up in a Latino neighborhood in South Texas.  Her excellent work in school earns her a scholarship to attend a prestigious and mainly white boarding school over 300 miles away from her family.  Much of the novel centers on Sofia’s efforts to convince her parents to let her attend this school.  Throughout the novel, family traditions and celebrations are described, including those connected with the Day of the Dead.  There’s lots of humor in this novel, yet it also covers serious ground including discrimination, the difficulty of separation from family and death.


In Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner (2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults nominee) sixteen-year-old Torrey has become quite well-known for her fashion and beauty video blog.  However, she is plagued with guilt over the fact that her little sister was killed by a drunk driver after an argument between the two girls.  When Torrey’s family moves from Colorado to Texas she finds the transition to a new school difficult.  On one hand she begins to join the ultra-popular set and on the other is drawn to Luis, who is not accepted by the leader of this crowd.  Luis brings Torrey into his family’s Day of the Dead traditions, which helps her cope with the loss of her sister.  Ultimately, Torrey must decide what means more to her: popularity or treating true friends with respect.


Peter Kuper’s Diario de Oaxaca: A Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico is a bilingual (English/Spanish) adult level graphic novel.  In 2006, author and illustrator Kuper moved with his wife and daughter from New York to the city of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, partly in an attempt to get away from all things political.  However, they happened to arrive in this new place during the regional government’s violent suppression of a teachers’ strike.  Kuper began to observe these events, sketching and writing illustrated letters.  He also drew scenes of daily life in Oaxaca, including sketches associated with the Day of the Dead, a holiday which is very important in the region.   The book includes sketches, paintings, comics and collages.


In Fated, the first book in her Soul Seekers series, Alyson Noël tells the story of Daire, a sixteen-year-old who is believed to be experiencing disturbing delusions. To avoid institutionalizing Daire, her mother sends her off to her grandmother, Paloma, a healer in the town of Enchantment, New Mexico.  It is Paloma who realizes that Daire’s “delusions” are actually visions which signify that Daire is a Seeker.  As such, Daire is called to assist misled souls.  Paloma helps Daire prepare for the ultimate challenge, fighting the evil beings who intend to take every soul in Enchantment on the Day of the Dead.  In the midst of all this, Daire must adjust to a new high school and two very different twin guys.


In Lauren Sabel’s Vivian Divine is Dead, the mother of sixteen-year-old movie star Vivian has fairly recently been murdered.  Vivian learns through an anonymous letter that someone wants to kill her too.  This news leads her to flee to Mexico in order to reach a safe house.  During her journey, Vivian meets Nick, an attractive yet somewhat mysterious guy who helps her out.  When the two are separated, however, Vivian must navigate solo through a place which is unfamiliar to her.  By doing so she learns that she actually possesses more strength and resilience than she’d realized.  The author’s vivid descriptions of the Day of the Dead are a particularly high point of the book.


– Anna Dalin, currently reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Write What You Want To Read

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 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 Ellie Gardiner from New Mexico.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” —Toni Morrison

by flickr user urbanworkbench

Whether your favorite genre is dystopian, fantasy or science fiction, one thing is perpetually true. There are never enough books. We’ve all run to the store or library, riding a book high, desperately in need of a new novel to feed our crazed bibliophilic hunger… only to be disappointed by the lack of stories that seem to meet our satisfaction.
The truth is, there really are quite a lot of books out there. There is an enormous amount of fiction waiting to change someone’s life for the first time. There is a novel out there right now that is waiting to be loved, and smelled, and hugged, and cried over anew. And a good portion of these sorts of books have been written because someone – someone just like us – couldn’t find the book they wanted, and decided it was up to them to write it.

After I finished Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, I had an experience that changed my outlook on writing. I entered the local book store, still at the top of that aforementioned high, and accosted an employee. “Do you have any books I could read that might help me through the aftermath of this one?” I asked, gesturing to Zusak’s novel excitedly. My face fell as Gladys the Shelver responded, “I don’t know. I’d suggest looking in the teen section.”

Oh, dread.

I do not have the slightest vendetta against teen fiction, but that was the last place I wished to be pointed. I wanted specific suggestions. I wanted answers. Reluctantly, I slumped off to root through the romance novels in search of a historical fiction that would satisfy me.

This experience gave me a distinct hope for my own writing. I’ve written a historical fiction novel, and outlined another. I want my books to be on the shelves. I want other lovers of the genre to find them, and to find some meaning in them.

And this ambition all stems from a combination of passion, knack, and one common goal that I believe all authors share – even if they don’t completely realize it. We want our writing to be read. We want our stories to help people in ways that could be both personal and common. In other words, we want to make a difference in someone’s life, just as other authors have done in ours.
Allow me to spin off for a moment and address the question; what is the most important part of a story? Many people would say it is the characters, the setting, the plot… But I would say that it’s the story goal combined with an innate sense of meaning. What keeps us reading a story is a deep caring for the hero’s cause. And as writers, we have our own cause. Our own story goal. We’re striving to create worlds and people and plots that help people change, and laugh, and cry, and hopefully learn something in the process.

Some of the most useful advice I have ever received is this: write for someone. While you’re sitting there at your computer, brooding over chapter 4, focus on your audience. Are you writing for that girl in the bookstore who can’t seem to find the right science fiction novel? Are you writing for that boy in the library who really just wants to find a swashbuckling adventure story?
Regardless of who (or what!) your focus is, remember at least one thing above all this: when you find yourself in that age-old, bibliophilic conundrum of bookish lacking… write what you want to read. It doesn’t have to be perfect yet. It doesn’t even have to be a fully formed idea, but get it down, outline it, and run with it. See where it takes you, and know that all writers share a common goal. We all want to see our books lining the shelves. We all want someone to take one down, smile, and say, “This is just what I was looking for.”

Ellie Gardiner is a homeschooled sophomore living outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. When she isn’t reading four books at once, she enjoys Hapkido, the BBC, writing on her blog (The Spilled Inkwell), and Venturing. Ellie has completed one fictional novel, is currently outlining another, and hopes to someday traditionally publish these and future stories.