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Your Connection to Teen Reads
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The Woods Are Just Trees; The Trees Are Just Wood: Counting Down to “Into the Woods”

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 07:00

True confession time: for how many of you is December 25 not just Christmas, but Into the Woods release day?! I’m so excited to see how the new Disney version compares with the old one I watched so many times on video. Before I ever took a literature class or heard the term “fractured fairytale,” I was amazed at this story which used the common theme of venturing “into the woods” to connect so many familiar stories together using a single setting. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, take a look:

Superfans have probably already heard Anna Kendrick sing Steps of the Palace and seen Johnny Depp’s Wolf interview. With so many actors that teens know and love, and the Disney name to boot, it’s a sure bet that this Sondheim musical is going to pique the curiosity of teen readers. Remember, too, that today’s teens have grown up steeped in middle-grade fairytale mashup worlds. We’ll soon need a meta-Into The Woods just so the characters from The Land of Stories, Sisters Grimm, Ever After High, and Fablehaven can meet up and commiserate about what it’s like to live in all these blended tales. Even the Dork Diaries series got in on the fun with Tales from a Not-So-Happily-Ever-After. And of course, the TV shows Grimm and Once Upon A Time (not to mention the movie version of Shrek) have only fueled the renewed interest in fairy tales.

When we talk about books for Into the Woods fans, we can step through the veritable thicket of retellings and fractured tales and look more carefully for stories that do what Sondheim’s does: make multiple familiar storylines collide. A don’t-miss list for this purpose is Emily Calkins’ February 2013 Hub post The Beanstalk, a Glass Slipper, and a Frog Prince: Fairy Tale Mash-Ups in YA Lit. Alert readers probably know that the Woodcutter Sisters series has continued (Hero, #2; Dearest, #3) and A Tale Dark & Grimm series has finished with, predictably, The Grimm Conclusion. Here are a few additional titles for mashup seekers to add to their lists:

  • Dust City, by Robert Paul Weston. Dust City is a seedy place with a black market of fairydust and a cast of downfallen fairytale characters, including Henry’s father, the Big Bad Wolf.
  • Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty, by Christine Heppermann. These poems place fairytale stories side-by-side with those of contemporary teenage girls, with a message of empowerment.
  • Grim, edited by Christine Johnson. This is an anthology more than a mashup, but these short story retellings by popular YA authors may leave you guessing as to the origin of some of the more obscure tales. If you get stumped, check here.
  • Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan. This dark, vivid story for mature readers uses “Snow White and Rose Red” as its base. In looking up info for this post, I actually had to amend my thinking that another Grimm story was referenced (“The Bearskinner”), when, in fact, the bear story is Margo’s own creation. However, I’m leaving this book on the list due to its nuanced fairytale references (for instance, Lanagan has said, “Muddy Annie is a type of witch, a ‘mudwife,’ that I created for a short story based on Hansel and Gretel”). If you’re ready for something hard to forget, try Margo Lanagan.
  • Dread Locks, by Neal Shusterman. Shusterman kicks off his Dark Fusion trilogy with a blend of fairytale and Greek myth — but to say much more would give too much away.
  • Fables, by Bill Willingham (2004 YALSA Quick Picks; 2007 Great Graphic Novels for Teens). In this now-classic graphic novel series, fairytale creatures and characters forced into exile from their native lands live in disguise among regular New Yorkers.

What else should be on the list? What are your favorite mashups? How are you counting down the days until Into the Woods?! Do you think the Disney version will be any good? Waiting is just — sing it with me — “Agonyyyy!”

–Becky O’Neil, currently reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo

Is This Just Fantasy?: It’s A White, White World–And That’s Got To Change.

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 07:00

As a life-long devotee of fantasy fiction, I’ve frequently defended the value of stories that feature dragons, magically gifted heroines, or angst-ridden werewolves.  And while I’ve often stated that fantasy fiction isn’t necessarily an escape from reality simply because it includes magic or ghosts, even the most committed fan must acknowledge that the genre is incredibly disconnected from reality in fatal ways.  For one, fantasy fiction remains an overwhelmingly white world–an area of literature where you might find vampires or psychic detectives but rarely characters of color.

This lack of diversity is a widespread problem in young adult literature and the larger publishing industry but speculative fiction is especially guilty of inequitable representation within its stories and industry.  Just last week, The Guardian published an article by speculative fiction author & essayist Daniel José Older  discussing the insidious ways that systemic racism and white privilege has permeated the science fiction and fantasy publishing & fan communities.  At last month’s YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium, there was an entire panel titled “Where Are The Heroes of Color in Fantasy & Sci-Fi?”, which Hub blogger Hannah Gómez recapped with great accuracy & insight.

So, how do we, as readers, fans, & promoters of these genres, demand & nurture fiction with imaginary worlds as diverse as the one we live in?  To start, we need to read, buy, promote, and request titles by and about people of color.  Accordingly, I pulled together some authors and titles to check out, focusing on fiction that falls on the fantasy side of speculative fiction.  This list is far from comprehensive; for more titles, I recommend checking out Lee & Low’s genre-specific Pinterest board, Diversity in YA, and We Need Diverse Books.

High Fantasy

2004 Edwards Award winner Ursula K. Le Guin has long been considered one of the best and most beloved high fantasy writers; she’s also consistently written stories with people of color as protagonists–although film adaptions & book covers have often blatantly ignored this, white-washing characters like Ged, the brown-skinned protagonist of A Wizard of Earthsea.  The 2013 Edwards Award winner Tamora Pierce also includes characters of color in her novels; her Emelan books feature both black & multiracial protagonists.

Fans of thrilling adventures & complex heroines should try novels by Cindy Pon, Ellen Oh, or Malinda Lo for rich high fantasy tales rooted in a variety of East Asian cultures.  Cindy Pon’s lush & exciting Silver Phoenix and its sequel, The Fury of the Phoenix follow young Ai Ling as she discovers her unique abilities and battles an ancient evil based in the royal palace. Ellen Oh’s Dragon King Chronicles (beginning with Prophecy) also focuses on a powerful young woman struggling to embrace her destiny–the yellow-eyed demon slayer Kira who might be the key to saving the Seven Kingdoms from destruction.  Malinda Lo’s Ash (2010 Morris Award finalist, 2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults and Huntress (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 Rainbow List, 2012 Amelia Bloomer List) are richly imagined, romantic novels I recommend to all fantasy readers!

Nigerian-American novelist Nnedi Okorafor is a prolific creator of African-based speculative fiction for adults, teens, and children.  Readers eager for highly original fantasy fiction should look no further than her novels Zahrah the Windseeker and Akata Witch (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults), coming of age stories infused with West African cultures & traditions and featuring young black heroines.

Corinne Duyvis‘ Otherbound burst onto the scene this summer, offering an inventive and refreshingly diverse epic fantasy adventure.  When Nolan closes his eyes, he’s transported away from his small Arizona town and into the body of Amara, a mute servant on the run with a cursed princess in another world.  When he’s finally able to communicate as well as observe in Amara’s world, everything changes. The leads are both physically disabled people of color and the supporting cast is equally diverse.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow, and City  of A Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster are all set in multicultural fantasy worlds & feature characters of color.

‘Low’ Fantasy: Urban, Paranormal, & Historical Fantasy

For fantasy set in our world (rather than set primarily in a secondary, invented world), there are also increasingly diverse stories and characters available.  Cynthia Leitich Smith, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and excellent blogger on all things YA, writes delightful paranormal fantasy with distinctly Southwestern flavor and consistently diverse casts of characters.  Her Tantalize (2011 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) and Feral series are perfect for fans of witty supernatural tales looking for a unique take on vampires, were-creatures, and angels.

For another fresh vision of werewolf mythology, check out Joseph Bruchac’s Wolf Mark, an action-packed adventure following Luke King’s journey as he attempts to unravel the truth behind his black ops infiltrator father’s disappearance and his own strange abilities. Like the author, Luke is Abenaki Indian.

Separately, both Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier have written a variety of fantasy novels and both consistently include people of color as protagonists and secondary characters. Their co-written novel Team Human (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults) features a bitingly sarcastic Asian American narrator and clever send-up & ultimately thoughtful subversion of vampire romance tropes.

Amalie Howard’s Alpha Goddess follows a teenager who discovers that she is a reincarantion of Lakshmi, the human avatar of an immortal Hindu goddess while Guadalupe Garcia McCall reimagines The Odyssey through a Mexican American lens in The Summer of the Mariposas (2013 Amelia Bloomer List).

Karen Healey‘s urban/paranormal fantasies Guardian of the Dead (2011 Morris Award finalist, 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults) and The Shattering are set in contemporary New Zealand and accordingly reflect the country’s racial and ethnic diversity in their characters.

For fantasy with a historical twist, readers looking for novels featuring characters of color should investigate Sarah Zettel‘s American Fairy trilogyHammer of Witches by Shana Mlawski, and The Diviners by Libba Bray (2013 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults).

Finally, fantasy fans of all kinds should check out the new anthology, Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, co-edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios. 

Please share more fantasy novels featuring characters of color in the comments!

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

The Monday Poll

Sun, 12/14/2014 - 23:35

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you to choose your favorite wintery YA read. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater took the top spot with 47% of the vote, followed by Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett, with 29%. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

As we head into the last few weeks of the year, we’re pondering what YA literature trends we’ll see in 2015. We here at The Hub have a few ideas, but we want to know what you think! What trends do you think will hit the big time in YA lit next year? Vote in the poll below, and please elaborate or add alternative choices in the comments!

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

YALSA’s 2015 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge Check-In #1

Sun, 12/14/2014 - 07:00

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


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

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

  1. You will have a head start on the Hub Reading Challenge that starts in February and that includes PRIZES!
  2. By reading some great, informative nonfiction, and some books by hot, new authors, you will become the smartest person in the room at any holiday party you attend.

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

The rest of us will leave comments talking about which titles we are most looking forward to reading. I’ll start – for the Morris, I’m excited to read Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, and Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw is the Nonfiction title I am most curious about. You?

~ Geri Diorio, currently reading The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith


Tweets of the Week: December 12th

Fri, 12/12/2014 - 07:00

This was an exciting news in the YA lit world, with news that Rainbow Rowell is writing a book set in Fangirl‘s Simon Snow universe and Malinda Lo’s annual analysis of the LGBTQ titles published during the year. Enjoy!


Movies and TV



Holiday Gift Guides

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga

Notes from a Teens’ Top Ten Book Group Participant: 6 Books Every Teen Girl Should Read

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 07:00

Teens across the nation voted for the 2014 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 book recommendations from Kitra Katz of the Teens Know Best book group in St. Paul, Minnesota. To read more reviews by Kitra and the members of this group, visit the TKB Blog.

As a girl who has soaked in hundreds of books throughout her teenage years, I have found myself sighing at scores of disappointments. My peculiar taste for characters who make me proud to be a young woman and teach me lessons I need to wrap my head around before my last year of legal childhood comes to a halt often makes finding literary role models difficult. Very, very difficult.

I don’t want to jump into the world of a girl who spends more time moping over a boy than building her own story (though sometimes a fun, girly read can be good). Instead, I want a girl who is her own hero, or even the hero of others. A girl who can whip out a sword or witty word faster than she can say, “Maybelline or Covergirl?” A girl who is strong in times of trouble.

Sadly, this girl doesn’t seem to be terribly common in the literary world. So to help all those young women like me out there, I’ve created a checklist of six books every teenage girl needs to read.

1. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (a 2012 Morris Award finalist)

In this tear-jerking piece of fiction, we meet Lina, a fifteen-year-old who faces the most difficult years of her life when her whole family is arrested and sent to various Soviet-run prison camps.

2. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Told as a “memoir-in-comic-strips,” Persepolis is the story of Marjane growing up in the capital of Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Fascinating and eye-opening.

3. The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

To be honest, you could read any story by Tamora Pierce and I would rejoice. Her myriad books center around strong, fierce, hardcore, stereotype-defying women. Pure excellence.

4. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

This one is a shocker, I know. Fickle, stupid teenagers who are infatuated–not in love. I mean, how could Juliet be so stupid as to kill herself over a boy she’s known less than a week? Well, I think we all need a reminder that something as small as a boy you met when you were thirteen isn’t life or death.

Sometimes that’s best learned by shaking our heads at someone else.

5. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

Though I’m sure you already know about her through the (well deserved) media hype she’s received, Malala is an excellent role model who can show us we’re never too young to make a difference.

6. Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

A magnificent nonfiction collection of real princesses throughout history who did crazy, odd, brave, or even dangerous things. What’s better than girls and women who change up the old fairytale archetype?

Diverse Books, Diverse Families

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 07:00

Image courtesy of Flickr user theirhistory

As the holiday season enters into full-swing and all my friends are discussing vacation plans with their families far and wide, I got to thinking about the ways in which families are depicted in YA literature. In particular, the surprising lack of diversity in how family units are portrayed as a general rule. More often that not, YA main characters come from “traditional” heterosexual nuclear families with birth parents who are not divorced. That said, as families across the nation become increasingly more diverse on all sorts of levels, so too are fictional families in YA and adult literature. In honor, then, of diverse families, both the ones we are born into and the ones we find, I’ve rounded up a wide array of titles celebrating the love we give and receive from the most important people in our lives.

Counting by 7s

Holly Goldberg Sloan’s book Counting by 7s is a favorite at my school with both students and teachers alike. It centers on the life of the endearingly quirky 12-year-old genius Willow Chance, the adopted multiracial daughter of loving white parents. When her adoptive parents tragically die in a car crash, Willow finds herself taken in by her Vietnamese friends and their single mom. What I really appreciated about this book is that it emphasizes that family, although always imperfect, is something that can be created and that is ultimately transformative. Featuring a truly unusual and unique set of misfit characters, this is an uplifting book that reads something like a fable or fairy tale come true.

Kate Milford is one of YA’s most underappreciated writers despite a proven track record of extraordinarily deft and delightful novels. Her most recent book, Greenglass House, continues her winning streak and tells the tale of 12-year-old Milo, the adopted son of loving parents who own the smugglers’ inn, the Greenglass House. The story is essentially a mystery that involves a number of odd and unlikely guests, a possible ghost story, and the house itself. At heart though, it is also a story about family and identity. Milo is Chinese with Caucasian parents and he grapples with what that means for him and his sense of self and belonging. Milford addresses these issues with compassion and sensitivity while never losing sense of the larger plot and her intended audience.

Mirka, the heroine of Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deustch (2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens), is a feisty 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl who ardently wants to fight dragons. In her quest to find a dragon, she encounters instead a talking pig, a curmudgeonly witch, and a tricky troll. The story itself is delightful and incorporates Orthodox Jewish culture seamlessly within its narrative. What’s more, it features a remarkably intelligent, caring, and strict stepmother who provides both needed boundaries and loving support.  The inclusion of scenes depicting Mirka’s deceased mother makes the stepparent relationship all the more poignant and heartwarming.

Another hugely popular book amongst my students, Stephanie Perkins’ charming Lola and the Boy Next Door (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults) provides us with another utterly endearing romance as a follow-up to Anna and the French Kiss. Like the latter, the book is a tribute to missed chances, smoldering crushes, and love at long last. Lola is an aspiring costume designer with a hot boyfriend who finds herself emotionally torn by the reappearance of her former best friend and love interest, Cricket, the titular boy next door. Perkins is adept at crafting quirky, yet believable, characters who manage to capture your heart; including two protective, supportive, and equally engaging gay dads who provide more depth and nuance to the larger plot. Although primarily a romance, the book is also a study in the complexity of relationships of all kinds, from friendship to family to first loves.

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults) is the unusual story of two teenage girls, Jill and Mandy, who find themselves living under the same roof when Jill’s mother decides to openly adopt Mandy’s unborn child after her husband dies. Told in alternating points of view, Zarr captures both characters and their often conflicting, raw, and unfiltered emotions beautifully. The unique premise for the novel and the ensuing complications are handled expertly by the always masterful Zarr who approaches her characters, neither one entirely likable, with a keen empathy. In the end, the novel is about finding one’s way through grief and hardship to a place where love, acceptance, and, yes, family can be found.

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults) is that rare gem of a novel where craft combines with content to create an immersive reading experience. A retelling of Peter Pan, the story is narrated by Tinkerbell (called Tink in the book) as she observes the falling in and out of love of Tiger Lily and Peter Pan. Heart-breaking and unique in its tone and presentation, this is a must read for anyone interested in exploring diversity from a very different perspective. The novel delves into racism, colonialism, religion, and gender variance with surprising grace and insight. The relationship between Tiger Lily and the shaman, Tik Tok, who found and raised her is particularly moving in its portrayal of two outsiders who find family within each other.

As I think about my own non-traditional family, I am heartened by the increasing prevalence of YA novels that understand that loving families are necessarily all unique in their construct and composition but similar in their shared sense of responsibility, belonging, and care. Let me know of other favorite diverse families books to celebrate and share!

~Alegria Barclay, currently reading A Thousand Pieces of You

Jukebooks: On a Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 07:00

In the year 2035, the division between rich and poor has grown so severe that a group of gifted young people decide it’s worth their lives to try and bridge the gap. But will courage and intelligence be enough to combat mega-corporations and drug lords? In his final novel, Myers nudges readers to think about what is worth living – and dying – for.

The song that share its name with this book comes from a Broadway musical, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, (music by Burton Lane/lyrics by Alan Jay), which was adapted into a movie in 1970. The movie’s plot is far from the inspirational, change-the-world story line of Myer’s novel. Barbra Streisand plays Daisy, who goes to a hypnotist, Marc Chabot, to help her quit smoking. Turns out, a different personality emerges during hypnosis, the seductive Melinda. As Daisy falls in love with Marc, Marc falls in love with Melinda. The resolution to all this is just bizarre. Daisy, who is clairvoyant, informs Marc that they will be together in 2038, which is just three years after Myers’ book begins.

Speaking of bizarre, take a look at the movie poster on left. Very psychedelic!

But the song, On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever) is beautiful, and Streisand knocks it out of the park.


-Diane Colson, currently reading an advance readers copy of I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Notes from a Teens’ Top Ten Book Group Participant: Book Trailers!

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 07:00

Teens across the nation voted for the 2014 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 we have a couple of book trailers created by Victoria Lorino, a member of the Mount Carmel Academy Book Club in New Orleans, Louisiana. These trailers show that Teens’ Top Ten book club members are creative in addition to being avid readers! 

Book trailer for Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott:

Book trailer for Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson:

Series Binge-Reading: The Perfect Activity for a Wintery Afternoon

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 07:00

Photo by flickr user Robert

Ah, winter! Perfect for marathon reading sessions indoors, bundled against the blustery elements. Whether you have several whole weeks out of classes, or just a few extra days here and there to fit in some seasonal festivities and max out your relaxation, there’s nothing like a winter’s day off for disappearing into another world for the entirety of a story’s arc, however many volumes it takes.

There are lots of definitions floating around for “binge reading.” Some indicate that it’s about cramming to meet a reading deadline, or skimming as much and as fast as possible. Others look to the new(ish) tradition of binge-watching TV series in marathon installments to describe a similar commitment to reading in large doses, especially within the same series. It’s this last definition that really appeals to me: binge-reading as an intensive, immersive experience for hours and hours (or even days and days) on end. Series titles lend themselves admirably to this sort of extended reading escape. Binging on a series lets you completely submerge yourself in another world, spend inordinate amounts of time with your favorite (and most loathed!) characters, and learn how it all turns out in one fell swoop, all without interrupting the momentum of the plot, or muddying the motives of the characters in your mind with too long a pause between volumes.

So, to help you strategize your total reading immersion during this binge-reading (ahem, I mean holiday) season, here is a list of series worth disappearing into. To help prevent the dreaded, stomach-sinking realization that there are at least ten months between you and finding out what’s happened to your new favorite characters in the next book, every series on the list has every planned volume published. With one notable exception, because I just couldn’t help myself.

Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men)

The first book in this pulse-pounding series (The Knife of Never Letting Go, a 2009 Best Books for Young Adults pick) launches readers into a world where the thoughts of all boys and men are audible to everyone around them; and all the girls and women have disappeared. The plot careens around with young Todd, our confused but generally well-meaning protagonist, and then pulls up at the edge of a serious cliffhanger of an ending; for your binge-reading enjoyment, make sure you have the next volume (The Ask and the Answer) lined up to keep going without pause! For readers who like their binge in auditory formats, The Knife of Never Letting Go was also a 2011 Odyssey Honor book.

Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore (Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue)

If you love two powerful characters sparring – with both dialogue and physical blows – then there are scenes in the first book of Cashore’s wonderful fantasy series (Graceling, a 2009 Morris Honor book, a 2009 Best Books for Young Adults book, and a 2009 Teens’ Top Ten pick) that you will want to read again and again. Or perhaps your favorite fantasy convention is a solid quest through difficult terrain? The Graceling Realm has you covered there too. Palace intrigue? Check. Complex characters grappling with issues of identity, morality, and fraught relationships? Yep. The second book in the series, Fire, was a 2010 Best Books for Young Adults book, and a 2010 Teens’ Top Ten pick as well. If you hit the end of the series shaking your first because Cashore doesn’t have any more books out for you to read right now, then make sure you’ve read…

The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce (Alanna: The First Adventure, In the Hand of the Goddess, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, and Lioness Rampant)

Pierce was recognized for the “significant and lasting contribution” this series (and the also-excellent Protector of the Small quartet) has made to YA literature with the 2013 Margaret A. Edwards Award; these books are essential YA fantasy reading. Originally published in the 1980s, Alanna’s determination to train for combat while keeping her gender secret rings as true today as it did 20 years ago. And she’s stubborn as anything, which makes for entertaining (and sometimes frustrating!) reading.

Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta (Finnikin of the Rock, Froi of the Exiles, and Quintana of Charyn)

Attention, readers who love some serious angst in the relationships between characters, crazy-high stakes for everyone with pretty much every turn of the plot, and decades of tension, strife, and prophecy contributing to all interactions; Marchetta’s high-drama fantasy is for you! A web of conflicting motives, buried secrets, and deep wounds drives a sprawling cast of characters from a war-torn land through each volume, with generous doses of love, loss, betrayal, desire, and revenge to keep the pages turning. The first in the series, Finnikin of the Rock, was a 2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults book, and the audiobook production was also a 2011 Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults pick.

 Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath)

Revisionist WWI history with a firmly steampunk approach, peppered with intricate, captivating illustrations to delight your imagination? Yes, please! An awesome pick for binge-reading for folks who love to get lost in the charm of incredible world-building, the Leviathan series offers page after page of delightful new creatures and contraptions, all anchored by an adventure-driven plot. Another series with an audio edge; all three audiobooks are narrated by the stellar Alan Cumming (accents! score!), and the first volume of the series, Leviathan, was honored as a 2011 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults pick, a 2011 Top Ten Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults pick, and a 2010 Best Books for Young Adults book.

 The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and an as-yet unnamed fourth volume still to be released)

This is where I break my own rule of only pointing you towards series you could actually read all of at your next binge-reading session. The fourth and final volume of this contemporary fantasy series, set in the (mostly) recognizable southern US, is not yet published, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave The Raven Cycle out, even though everyone will have to wait (and wait. and wait!) with me for closure. If you haven’t read any of them yet, three volumes is definitely enough to a) get you completely hooked, and b) disappear for a satisfying chunk of time into rural Henrietta, where Blue Sargent (reluctantly) befriends Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah from the local prep school. Blue comes from a family of psychics, and she already carries a burden of difficult – secret- knowledge concerning one of the boys. This is character-driven storytelling with elements of fantasy woven seamlessly into the whole, and it holds up to repeat visits (a stellar trait in a binge-read if ever there was one!). The Raven Boys was a 2013 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults book and a 2013 Teens’ Top Ten pick.

Of course this list is only the tip of the serial iceberg, but I hope you enjoy contemplating a binge-reading session as the temperatures drop and the holidays approach; please share your favorite series to binge-read in the comments!

-Carly Pansulla, currently reading The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston



YALSA’s 2015 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge Begins!

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 07:00

It’s official: there are now eight weeks until ALA’s Youth Media Awards, where the winners of the William C. Morris Award, the Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, and all of YALSA’s other book awards will be announced– so it’s time to start our annual Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge here on The Hub! We’re hoping the challenge will encourage you to read as many of these outstanding titles as possible.

Challenge objective Read all of the 2015 finalists for the William C. Morris Award for debut YA authors, all of the 2015 finalists for YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, or both between now and the Youth Media Awards on February 2.

Challenge rewards Beyond experiencing the best of the best that new YA authors and YA nonfiction have to offer, everyone who finishes the challenge may use what they read toward our 2015 Hub Reading Challenge. The Hub Reading Challenge includes prizes (!!!), so by participating in the Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge, you’re getting a head start on reading some of the best books published this year and you’re giving yourself an advantage in trying to win those prizes. 

Challenge guidelines

  • The challenge begins at 8:00AM Eastern Time on Monday, December 8 and ends at 7:45AM Central Time on Monday, February 2. (And in case you’re wondering, the challenge ends on Central Time because the awards will be announced live at the 2015 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Chicago– which is on Central Time.)
  • Participants may count the reading they have done since the finalists for each award was announced last week (December 3rd for the Morris and December 4th for the Nonfiction Award, to be exact). If you read one of the finalists before the announcement of the shortlist for that award, you must re-read it for it to count.
  • Participants may read either all of the finalists for the Morris Award, all of the finalists for the Nonfiction Award, or both. The challenge cannot be completed simply by picking five titles between the two lists; participants must read the entire list of finalists for one or both awards.
  • Just about everyone who doesn’t work for ALA is eligible to participate. That means non-ALA/YALSA members are eligible. Teens are eligible! Non-US residents/citizens are eligible! (More eligibility questions? Leave a comment or email us.)

How to participate

  • Ready to start reading? Great! Comment here announcing your intention to participate. If you’re going to be tracking what you read on your blog, Goodreads, LibraryThing, YouTube or some other site, include a link to your blog/shelf/channel/profile in your comment. If you’re not tracking your reading online, keep a list some other way.
  • Still undecided? It’s okay to take your time. You may register for the challenge by leaving a comment here and starting your reading any time during the challenge period.
  • Every Sunday, we’ll publish a check-in post. Leave a comment letting us know what you’ve read since the last check-in post. If you’ve reviewed those titles somewhere online, include links to those reviews! Otherwise, let us know what you thought of the books in the comments. We are eager to hear your thoughts.
  • If you’ve finished the challenge since the last check-in post, fill out the embedded form with your name and contact information. Please fill out the form only once.

If you have any questions or problems, let us know in the comments or via email. And if you want to talk about the challenge on Twitter, use the hashtag #hubchallenge. Happy reading!

-Allison Tran, currently listening to The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Big Hero 6 readalikes

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 07:00


When I first heard about the Big Hero 6 movie, I got really excited! It has two of my favorite things in it: a group of diverse, geeky friends who love science and a giant robot that looks a bit like the Michelin Man! What could be better?

The movie, which is loosely based on a comics series which I’ll talk about shortly, revolves around teenaged science genius Hiro Hamada. After an accident at a lab where he is working, he decides to transform Baymax, his brother’s “personal healthcare companion” robot into a fighting machine. Enlisting the help of his other science genius friends: Wasabi; Gogo; Honey Lemon; and Fred; the six of them decide to take on the man who orchestrated the lab explosion.

It was a great movie filled with lots of laughter, exciting action sequences, and I’ll admit, a few heartfelt moments that brought tears to my eyes! If you liked the movie and are looking for some readalikes that feature teams of super-powered teens, some awesome science, and diverse characters, check these out:

Big Hero 6 Comics originally created by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau: There are actually way more than 6 main characters who rotate in and out of the comics, forming Japan’s great superhero team. The style(s) looks really different from the movie version but could be a fascinating read for big fans.

Why you’d like if if you liked Big Hero 6: To get back to the source material, of course! I admit that I haven’t read any of the comics but it would be interesting to see how they differ from the Disney adaptation.

Yup, this looks pretty different! (Source)

Dangerous by Shannon Hale: After winning a contest for a Space Camp experience, Maisie Danger Brown (yes, Danger is her middle name!) encounters technology far beyond her wildest dreams. It changes her and her friends into super-powered beings but at a dangerous cost.

Why you’d like it if you liked Big Hero 6: It’s got a team of smart and diverse teens who become superheros (and villains), cool gadgets, and even marshmallow-y beings!

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: When the FBI assembles a team of teens who are especially gifted in different types of profiling to look at cold cases, Cassie gets involved. A master at reading emotions, she helps the investigators with the other teens until a crime from her past and a current serial killer start to catch up to her.

Why you’d like it if you liked Big Hero 6: This one is definitely for the older set of fans of Big Hero 6 because of the serial killer plot, but also features a group of smart teens working together. Science features as well, but in the more psychological aspects of profiling and criminology.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona: Kamala Khan, a normal Muslim teenager is granted Captain Marvel’s powers and uses them to fight crime in Jersey City.

Why you’d like if if you liked Big Hero 6: Diversity in super-heroics is a big part of the appeal here but Kamala Khan’s sense of humor made me laugh as much as Beymax and Hiro’s antics did. Kamala’s story of being torn between her parents’ more traditional world . . . and the challenges of being a brand new superhero is great for everyone!

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (a 2014 Teens’ Top Ten winner): Ten years after some humans got super powers, the world is struggling to deal with these so-called Epics. After witnessing one kill his father, David wants to take them all out. Joining forces with the Reckoners, a group of non-super-powered humans who want to destroy all Epics, he learns killing them all will be harder than he thought.

Why you’d like if if you liked Big Hero 6: Again we have the theme of a group of super-powered humans, but this time it’s the villains. Plus, there are some pretty cool inventions created by the Reckoners!

On a final note, the short film that aired before the movie, “Feast,” about a food-loving Winston the dog, his owner, and the owner’s love interest made me cry! Worth going to see Big Hero 6 even just for “Feast”!

-Anna Tschetter, currently reading Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

2014 Teens’ Top Ten: An Interview with Janet Edwards

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 07:00

The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list where members of teen book groups in sixteen school and public libraries across the country nominate and choose their favorite books of the year. Nominations are posted on Celebrate Teen Literature Day, the Thursday of National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year.

The votes are in and the 2014 winners have been announced — and we’re featuring them here on The Hub. Today we bring you an interview with Janet Edwards, who is on this year’s Teens’ Top Ten list for Earth Girl (the first book in the Earth Girl Trilogy).

 Do you have a special ritual or tradition to celebrate whenever a new book of yours is released?

The release of a new book is a time of high emotion for me, a mixture of celebration at the achievement and nervous tension as I wait to see what readers think of the book. I expected it to be less emotional with my second book, but it wasn’t. My special tradition is to treat myself to a small piece of jewelry. Later on, when the nervous tension stage is over, I can look at that and re-experience the feeling of celebration.

What do you like most about writing for young adults?

There are two things really. One is that the books that made the deepest impression on me, the ones I still think about many years later, were ones I read as a teenager. That makes it especially rewarding when I get a message from a teenager saying how much they loved reading Earth Girl. Some of those readers may remember Earth Girl the way I remember the books I loved as a teenager.

The second thing is that your readership isn’t limited to teenagers. Young adult books are coming of age tales, a type of story which has always had universal appeal. I’m delighted by the incredible range of people of all backgrounds and ages who have contacted me after reading my books.

 What was the most challenging part of Earth Girl to write? Why?

In Earth Girl, the whole story is told by Jarra. In a future where people can portal between hundreds of colony worlds scattered across space, Jarra was born with an immune system problem that means she can only survive on Earth. She’s out for revenge against a society that dismisses her as a second class citizen, so she pretends she’s a norm and lies her way into a class of off-world archaeology students who’ve come to Earth to study the ruins of the ancient cities.

Writing solely from the view of one character, putting the reader totally inside their head, adds emotional immediacy, but always has its challenges. You can’t tell the reader anything that character doesn’t know. Facts. Events. Other people’s private thoughts. There’s also the complication that your character’s view may be distorted by personal bias. That’s especially true of Jarra at the start of Earth Girl, when she’s bitterly angry at the norms and saying some very unfair things about them. She’s also actively lying about her feelings at times, not to the reader but to herself, especially when she says she doesn’t care about her parents abandoning her at birth. She’s trying to convince herself that’s true, when actually the deep hurt of that abandonment is the driving force behind all her bitterness and anger.

But the most challenging part to write was the point where something dreadful happens that completely overwhelms Jarra. She blots out the reality that’s too painful to bear, and temporarily goes into a defensive fugue state where she starts believing her own lies. I happen to have encountered someone going into a fugue state after a traumatic event, but most readers won’t know much about this, and writing about it happening to your main character in a first person viewpoint isn’t just challenging but impossibly difficult. If I’d had the slightest idea that Earth Girl would be published, I’d never have dared to try it, but I thought I was just writing this book for myself. The feedback I’ve had tells me this part of the book doesn’t work for some readers, but works incredibly well for others, especially those who’ve had experience with stress. Obviously I’d never repeat such a distinctive incident in another book, so I shouldn’t be writing anything quite so impossibly difficult ever again.

Which of your book characters is most like you? (or most different)

My answer to that will sound very odd. All of my characters are both like me and totally different from me. I never base my characters on myself or anyone else in real life. They seem to come from nowhere, walking into my head like actors walking on to a stage, and then telling me about themselves. Sometimes I see something in a character that I could believe came from part of me, but the same character will be totally different from me in other ways.

Take Jarra for example. She’s a history geek, who looks at a ruin and gets deeply emotional at the thought of the people who lived there centuries in the past. I can look at that bit of Jarra, and think she’s like me, but other things about her are shockingly different. At the point where she gets her idea about lying her way into a class of norms, I’d stop and think about the consequences. Jarra doesn’t. She leaps into the situation and only starts thinking about the consequences when she’s already in deep trouble.

Can you share what you’re working on next?

Earth Girl can be read as a standalone book, but it’s actually the first book in a trilogy. The second book, Earth Star, was published in the U.S. this year. The final book is Earth Flight, which is where Jarra has to risk everything she’s fought for. This is already available in the UK, where readers seem to really love the climax to the trilogy. Obviously I’m looking forward to when Earth Flight is published in the States, too.

But I’m working on new things too, of course. There’s a novella. There’s the book I started writing at the start of November (If you’ve heard of NaNoWriMo, this was my project for that), which is set in the same future universe as Earth Girl but in a different period of history, and features one of Jarra’s ancestors. There’s also another book set in an entirely different and exciting future.

As well as all that, I’m posting a collection of free Earth Girl short stories on my website. These stories are set just before the start of Earth Girl, and each story features one of the characters from Earth Girl. The idea is that new readers can meet the characters for the first time, while existing readers have the extra fun of learning more about the characters they already know. You can read the stories at


Janet Edwards lives in England. As a child, she read everything she could get her hands on, including a huge amount of science fiction and fantasy. She studied Mathematics  at Oxford, and went on to suffer years of writing unbearably complicated technical documents before deciding to write something that was fun for a change. She has a husband, a son, a lot of books, and an aversion to housework.

You can find out more about Janet and her Earth Girl trilogy by:

-Lalitha Nataraj, currently reading Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

The Monday Poll: Your Favorite Wintery YA Read

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 23:43

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you to choose your favorite teen read that features letters or letter-writing, in honor of Letter Writing Day on December 7. Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower came out on top with 41% of the vote, followed by Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes, with 33%. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, we’re looking forward to winter. Technically, it’s still late fall, yes– but isn’t it starting to feel like winter? What YA book do you read to get you in the wintery mood? 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.

Women In Comics: Bringing History To Life

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 07:00

While comic books and graphic novels may be synonymous with superheroes and fantastical events in the minds of many, in reality this approach to storytelling can be applied to any genre. One particularly effective use of comic books and graphic novels is to bring history alive through their signature combination of text and artwork. Whether this is done through historical fiction, biographies, or historical texts, authors and artists are able to draw their readers into a historical period by both telling them and showing them what it was like at that time, so it is no surprise that many in the comics field work in this genre.

This month’s post will introduce you to some of the great women who are writing and illustrating comic books and graphic novels that incorporate real historical periods. Some are writing personal stories and some are crafting fictional tales that happen to have a historical setting, but all of them draw readers into the past through their storytelling and artwork.

Moving Pictures by Kathryn & Stuart Immonen – World War II is a popular subject for historical fiction of all types, so it is no surprise that there are many great graphic novels about the time period. Moving Pictures definitely belongs on any list of these works. This tightly focused World War II story centers around Ila, a museum curator who has stays in France to protect artwork in her museum as the Nazis move into the country. This story does an excellent job of hinting at the larger horrors of the war while maintaining its narrow viewpoint and the spare black and white art complements the story perfectly.

The Kitchen by Ollie Masters with art by Ming Doyle and cover art by Becky Cloonan – Issue #1 of this new series introduces readers to Kath, Raven, and Angie, three Irish-American women who are married to mobsters in 1970s era Hell’s Kitchen. When their husbands end up in jail, they must take on the mantle of their husbands’ mob activities to maintain control of the area and to keep money coming in. Though this story is little more than an introduction to the premise of the series, it nevertheless grabs readers from the start, in no small part due to the gritty and evocative artwork by Doyle. She brings the 1970s to life on the page through a series of small details that come together to make it immediately apparent when the story is set even without words. Beyond this setting, she also captures the subtle emotions of the characters as they face their husbands’ incarcerations and take on new roles in the world of organized crime.

Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot – This unique combination of biography and autobiography simultaneously tells the story of Lucia, James Joyce’s daughter, and that of the author, Mary Talbot, whose father was an important scholar focused on Joyce’s works. Because of this dual focus, the book offers readers a peek into both Mary’s childhood starting in England in the mid-1950’s and Lucia’s childhood in the early 1900s starting in Trieste, Italy. The book makes use of different color schemes to separate the different time periods, which gives them each a distinct look. It offers a great introduction into Lucia Joyce and also the events of Mary Talbot’s own childhood. It is a fascinating choice for fans of both history and memoirs.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani with art by Maris Wicks – This book not only includes Maris Wicks’ wonderful art, but also tells the story of three important women who have conducted famous research on primates. Told in Jim Ottaviani’s always compelling style, the book draws readers into each of the women’s experiences as students of Louis Leakey, tracing not only what first interested them about primatology, but also the hard work that they did while working and researching in the field. The combination of adorable artwork and inspiring stories will be sure to spark an interest in primates amongst many readers.

Little White Duck: A Childhood in China by Na Liu and Andrés Vera Martínez – Told through short stories that are really short vignettes from Na Liu’s childhood in China in the 1970’s, this book is written to be approachable to readers of all ages. The stories incorporate elements of traditional folktales, art in the style of Chinese propaganda posters, and the author’s own memories from childhood to offer a window into life in China during this period. Though they are personal stories, they offer insights into some key historical events from the time period as well. The book also includes additional contextual material, such as a timeline of Chinese history, a map of the locations, and translations of the Chinese words that are included throughout the stories.

Under The Apple Tree by Sarah Winifred Searle – This graphic novel, which is available for online download, is set in a small town in Maine during World War II. It focuses on Rosie, a teen whose family has moved from Boston to Maine during the war. In their new home, Rosie encounters the ghost of a Civil War soldier. She must help him to discover the truth about a mystery from his time so that he may find peace. The distinctive artwork, which is characterized by very rich colors, draws readers into Rosie’s world. The story itself will keep you turning pages and by its end you will be wishing you could spend more time with Rosie and her family and friends.

Marzi: A Memoir by Marzena Sowa with art by Sylvain Savoia – Structured, and originally published, as a series of comic strips about the author’s life, this collection offers a view into the history of Poland in the 1980s at the end of the Cold War. While readers will learn plenty about the history, politics, and daily reality of Poland at this time, the book is also full of humorous and relatable stories of the author’s childhood playing and causing mischief in an apartment block in a city behind the Iron Curtain. Readers will be struck by both the similarities and differences from their own childhood. But even more than that, they will be engaged and entertained by Marzi’s stories.

We Are On Our Own by Miriam Katin – In this memoir, Katin brings her experience as a Jewish child in Budapest during World War II to vivid life. The book focuses primarily on the period of time early in Katin’s childhood when she and her mother were continually on the run and in hiding from the Nazis. She balances her own experience of the war through a child’s eyes with her mother’s desperation as she struggled to protect her daughter and eventually reunite with her husband. Color is used particularly effectively, with scenes from Katin’s later life in the U.S. depicted in color and scenes from the war almost devoid of color other than the Nazi and U.S.S.R. flags. The overall effect of this choice in combination with the artistic style is to convey the sense that Katin’s memories of the war beyond these vivid flags are sketchy and less defined, though still traumatic and powerful. By including snippets of her later life in the U.S., readers also see how the war continued to influence her life long after the war’s end. This is a powerful and moving glimpse into one person’s experience of the Holocaust and World War II.

Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan with art by Nathan Fox (2014 Great Graphic Novels for Young Adults)- This one is still on my own to-read list, but it promises to be a great look into the impact that dogs have had on the military across three wars. Told through the stories of three separate pairs of humans and dogs, the book shows the work that dogs did in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. This is a great option for those with an interest in war history or dog lovers.

Do you have any favorite historical graphic novels by women that I have missed? Any time periods that you wish someone would write about? Let me know in the comments!

– Carli Spina, currently reading The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple and Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle

Tweets of the Week: December 5th

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 07:00

Happy December Everyone! You know what December means – lots of Best of 2014 book lists. I have a few here for you today – just in case you missed them. Take a look.

Best of Lists:

Books and Reading:



  • : thanks 2 the great Tweeps who supported YALSA 4 ! We raised $1,636 to send advocates 2 DC to speak up 4 teens & libraries


Just for Fun – plus some holiday book lists

~ Jennifer Rummel, currently reading Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

2014 Teens’ Top Ten: Everything You Need to Know About Rainbow Rowell

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 07:00

The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in sixteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Celebrate Teen Literature Day, the Thursday of National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year.

The votes are in for 2014, and the winners have been announced– and we’re featuring them here on The Hub. Today I’ll highlight Rainbow Rowell, honored for her novel Eleanor and Park, and link you to some great interviews, profiles, fan art, and more.

Rainbow in her own words

Rainbow in other people’s art

Eleanor and Park has inspired a wealth of amazing fanart by talented artists. Here are a few examples:

by Simini Blocker

by Paper Pie

by Yady Kates

Take a look at even more amazing art at this Pinterest page.

Then do your nails to celebrate the book!

Rainbow, as described by others

And, of course, if you missed it earlier this year, we featured an interview with Rainbow Rowell here on the The Hub. And be sure to check out the Jukebooks post inspired by Eleanor and Park, too.

-Hannah Gómez, currently reading Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica

Book Recommendations for Peter Pan Fans

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 07:00

I happen to be a Peter Pan fan. Who doesn’t want to be young forever and be able to fly? I love J. M. Barrie’s book and like the movie versions too, even though they take liberties with Barrie’s original story.

You may not associate Peter Pan with the holidays but Barrie’s Peter Pan was written first as play in 1904 before it was a book, and pantomime adaptations of the play are still frequently staged around Christmas in the United Kingdom. Maybe that’s why Peter Pan Live! starring Allison Williams and Christopher Walken was shown on television last night. If you missed it, or just can’t wait for the Peter Pan movie with Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard coming out July 17, 2015, I have some read-alikes for you.

I’d read Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s Peter and the Starcatchers (2004) when it first came out but I’d never listened to the audio version narrated by Jim Dale, even though I’d downloaded it last summer as part of SYNC’s free summer audiobook program for young adults that pairs classics with required summer reading books. I’d forgotten how funny it was with all the hilarious characters’ names like Smee (from Barrie’s original book) and other new ones like Slank, Black Stache, Tubby Ted and Mr. Grin (the crocodile). The books in this series might seem a little young but I think they’re classics that can be read and enjoyed at any age.

In Peter and the Starcatchers, Peter, an orphan, is forced to sail from England on the ship Never Land with a group of other orphans, and while on broad he befriends Molly, a young Starcatcher, who must guard a trunk of magical stardust from a greedy pirate and the native inhabitants of a remote island.

In the sequel, Peter and the Shadow Thieves (2006) Peter and Tinker Bell travel to England to help save the stardust after they discover that Molly and the other Starcatchers are in danger when the sinister being Lord Ombra visits Never Land and appears to be controlling people through their shadows.

Peter and Molly travel to the land of Rundoon in the third book in the series, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon (2007), where evil King Zarboff rules, because they fear that the sinister Lord Ombra wasn’t destroyed in the previous book.

In Peter and the Sword of Mercy (2009) it’s 1902 and it’s been 23 years since Peter and the Lost Boys returned from Rundoon. Since then, nobody on the island has grown a day older, and the Lost Boys continue their friendship with the Mollusk tribe and their rivalry with Captain Hook. Meanwhile, in London, Molly has married George Darling and is raising three children: Wendy, Michael, and John.

In the last book in the series, Bridge to Never Land (2011), Siblings Sarah and Aidan Cooper, ages 17 and 15, know all about Peter Pan‘s secret origin, having read the Starcatchers books when they were younger, but they never dreamed it could be real until they discover a riddle hidden in an old desk. Following the clues while on vacation in England, they find the last stash of magical starstuff on Earth, only to be stalked by the malevolent Lord Ombra.

Geraldine McCaughrean (2008 Printz Award winner for The White Darkness) won the honor to write the official sequel to Peter Pan called Peter Pan in Scarlet (2006). In her book, dreams are leaking out of Never Land, and the only way to set things right is for the Lost Boys, now grown up with their own families, to travel back to Peter’s magical land where they become young again. When they get there they find that Never Land is in worse condition than they could have imagined.

Tiger Lily (2012) by Jodi Lynn Anderson is a reimagining of Peter Pan from Tinker Bell’s point of view as she witnesses the unrequited love that fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily has for Peter after Tiger Lily meets and falls for Peter, despite being betrothed to someone else she hates. When Wendy shows up, Tiger Lily is forced to make a difficult choice.

Capt. Hook: the Adventures of a Notorious Youth by James V. Hart and illustrated by Brett Helquist (2005) describes the youthful adventures of 15-year-old James Matthew, from his days as a young scholar at Eton to his voyages on the high seas as the future Captain Hook. He’s shown here in a sympathetic light unlike the way he’s portrayed in Peter Pan and other retellings.

Tigerheart by Peter David (2008) published for adults, is about Paul Dear, who, growing up in London on his father’s fantastical tales of a magical land called the Anyplace, journeys into this enchanted world after tragedy strikes the family, seeking a great hero, the Boy of Legend, only to encounter the greatest challenge of his life. This book references J. M. Barrie’s books Peter Pan in Kensington and Peter and Wendy (also called Peter Pan) but changes a lot of the original characters.

In Another Pan by Daniel Nayeri & Dina Nayeri (2010), while attending an elite prep school where their father is a professor, sixteen-year-old Wendy and younger brother John Darling discover a book which opens the door to other worlds and to Egyptian myths long thought impossible. A charismatic new R.A. named Peter reveals that their actions have unleashed an evil that is now seeping into their school. At the same time, Peter is searching for the secret of eternal youth in the pyramids of the underworld.

Seeing how many Peter Pan retellings that have been published validates my love for Barrie’s book and the Peter Pan character. I hope there will be even more books written that reimagine the story. It makes me even more excited for next year’s movie.

What are your favorite fairytale characters and retellings?

-Sharon Rawlins, currently listening to The Martian by Andy Weir


2014 Teens’ Top Ten: An Interview with Leigh Bardugo

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 07:00

The Teens Top Ten winners have been out for a few weeks and I was so pleased to see Leigh Bardugo’s Siege and Storm, the second book of her New York Times bestselling Grisha trilogy on the list. I’m happy to present a brief interview with Leigh about her work and series in general. If you’re interested in reading the rest of our Teens’ Top Ten interview series, take a look!

Congratulations to Leigh; many thanks for answering these questions and letting me clarify on Twitter! If you’re looking for more about Leigh be sure to check out her website, Tumblr, and Goodreads page.

To me there are distinct classes in the Ravka (peasants, Grisha, royalty) and different kids of Grisha who at first stay within their own group. You have set up the binary of light and dark, Alina and the Darkling, but things blur a bit by end. So how does the blending of Alina and the Darkling, dark/light inform your view of Ravka by the end and your view of our world? Are things really so different from each other?

I do think life would be a lot easier if people, decisions, experiences could be categorized as either purely bad or good, but that’s pretty rare, and I try my best to make sure my fiction reflects that. What’s the point in creating a dictator a reader wouldn’t be tempted to follow? Why should a heroine be immune to greed for power just because her cause is supposedly just? The action of the trilogy takes place during a time of tremendous upheaval and I think it’s natural that you’d see a breakdown in the traditional order of things. But I also think it’s worth noting that, even at the end of the trilogy, Ravka remains pretty stratified in terms of class. It was tempting to just tear down all the walls and shout, “Democracy!” but that wouldn’t have been true to the world I created.

Photo by Kevin Rolly

You used to be a makeup artist, so how does working with the creation of an image, models, makeup, and perception influence your work as a writer, other than the perhaps obvious character of Genya?

Interesting question. I think teens are keenly aware of the way beauty and image operate as a commodities, and I wanted to deal honestly with that in the story. Genya is definitely the biggest way my work as a makeup artist carried over into my writing—not just in her skillset, but in the way she embodies both beauty’s power and its limitations. That said, Nikolai and the Darkling are also invested in the power of image. They both have a gift for spectacle and are master manipulators—each playing to his own strengths. But Alina learns from their examples and, by the final book in the trilogy, she’s beginning to use her own public image strategically and become a political player in her own right.

Were you able to travel to Russia for your research, or would you like to travel there? Any particular favorite spots or places you would like to visit? What fascinates you about Russia and its culture(s)? When I wrote Shadow and Bone, I was working a day job and just trying to make ends meet, so taking a research trip to Russia wasn’t an option. But I’ll definitely get there someday. I want to see St. Petersburg and visit Yasnaya Polyana to see Tolstoy’s home. I’m Jewish—Spanish on one side, Russian and Lithuanian on the other—and in my family, Russia was always cast in the role of the glamorous oppressor. Even when I was a kid, it took on a kind of larger than life status, and in a way, it took on the traits of a fantasy world: beautiful but brutal, magical but dangerous. I know this has been covered before, but can I just say your response to an anonymous comment about the “unnecessary lesbians[s]” in your books made me so happy! You say that “story trumps statement or we’d all just write angry pamphlets”  but what are some of the statements you’re trying to make in the Grisha trilogy? To me it’s: the importance of personal histories and how they shape you for good and bad; a great example of female power without falling into a “strong female character” trap; and the effects and hazards of desires for light, darkness, for power, and for love. Can you elaborate on what you wanted to say or create in writing these books?   Thank you! I did worry that responding to that anon would create a false sense that I get lots of angry mail like that. I don’t. The vast majority of the responses to Tamar and Nadia have been positive and I think it’s important to put that out there. As for messages, I really just wanted to tell a good story. I wanted to create a fallible heroine, and a villain you couldn’t just dismiss. I wanted the temptations of the Grisha world to feel real whether they were romantic or political. That said, when I was writing Ruin and Rising, I was definitely aware of the “strong heroine” discussion, and I wanted to show a lot of different modes of strength—male and female. So I have soldiers, teachers, mothers, politicians, and lab geeks playing a part in the war. They’re all valuable in different ways, but they’re not all nice or noble. Finally, anything more you’d be willing to tell us about Six of Crows and your new series? It’s set in Kerch, but will we be seeing any characters from the Grisha trilogy? Six of Crows takes place around two years after the end of the Ravkan civil war. You’ll be hearing a bit about the characters from the Grisha Trilogy and you get to see one of them in a cameo, but the story really belongs to the newcomers. It centers around a team of thugs and outcasts who have to pull off a heist that may turn out to be a suicide mission. Grisha power plays a major role in the plot and one of the team is a Grisha living in self-imposed exile, so there will be some familiar elements for fans of the original trilogy. And I have to admit, I had a good time playing with this new country. Kerch and particularly its capital, Ketterdam, are so different from Ravka—glamorous and seedy, full of warring gangs and shady characters. Maybe not the best spot for a vacation, but a delightful place to start a story. Thank you again, Leigh, and congratulations! -Anna Tschetter, currently reading Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

For Those Who Love Serial (And If You Don’t What Are You Waiting For?)

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 07:00

Happy December, Hubbers!  I am, unfortunately, sick, but that won’t stop me from bringing you a post on something that I’m pretty excited about, and I know a lot of you are, too.  So, show of hands – who likes the podcast, Serial?  I’m betting a lot of you have your hands raised and wildly waving in the air right now, as do I!  Serial is Apple’s #1 downloaded podcast of the moment and has provided many hours of discussion amongst coworkers, family and friends around the country (even though neither my husband nor any of my coworkers listen to it, so I just have to have these discussions in my head).

For those of you who don’t listen, and I’m serious when I say that you really should, the podcast is an episodic telling of a murder case from 15 years ago.  Adnan Syed was tried and convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, while they were both students at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County.  Sarah Koenig, the narrator and co-creator of Serial, leads listeners on a journey each week through ignored evidence, trial transcripts and interviews with Adnan and others involved to create an engaging, well-told story that has intrigued and captivated readers for 10 episodes so far (episodes are released every Thursday morning, which has made Thursday morning the easiest day for me to get out of bed on time).

Since Serial is so popular with teens and adults alike, I thought I’d make a list of books that might interest someone who is obsessed with Serial.  I’ve included not only murder mysteries, but true crime stories and books where you’re not exactly sure how to feel about the narrator.  I’ve heard that the first season of Serial will be done after 12 episodes, which we are getting mighty close to, so hopefully, this list of books will give those of us addicted to the show a way to get through those Serial-less Thursdays until the new season starts again.  Here we go – let’s start with one of my very favorite books from this year…

We Were Liars by E.Lockhart:  I never knew what to think about Cadence, the narrator and star of E. Lockhart’s unbelievably great and haunting book, We Were Liars.  The story of Cadence and her time with her cousins and great love Gat on her family’s private island off of Cape Cod is a story of love, friendship and the joy of being young.  Then, a terrible accident occurs, and neither readers nor Cadence understand just what happened to make her cousins and Gat desert her in her time of greatest need.  With her memory spotty, her pain tremendous, and her need to know what happened two years ago that made everything change, Cadence tells her story through a series of flashbacks to her magical fifteenth summer to the current day, where she is alone and confused.  E. Lockhart tells an engaging story that will keep readers guessing and on the edge of their seats until the end when all is revealed.  Cadence is a character that readers will feel sorry for, but also never exactly trust as she is the epitome of an unreliable narrator.  You just don’t ever know what’s going to happen in the story, and that’s what’s makes you want to keep reading until the bitter end.

The Year We Disappeared:  A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby & John Busby:  This is an interesting and heart-stopping story true crime story told by Cylin and her dad John.  When Cylin was 9 years old, her dad was scheduled to testify in an upcoming trial where it was rumored that mob connections might be involved.  But, someone tried to stop that from happening in a horrible way; as John was driving to work, someone put a shotgun up to his window and blew apart the window and John’s jaw.  John was pretty sure he knew who did this to him, but nothing happened and the family was soon sent into witness protection.  Cylin and John take turns telling the story in their own words in alternating chapters which shows the story from two different perspectives – the actual victim and Cylin, who is narrating from a more emotional point of view.  The descriptions of John’s injuries can be off-putting to those who are sensitive to depictions of pain and suffering, but they are an integral part of the story as this is the pain that John is literally dealing with.  This book is a well-told story that showcases the literal physical pain of a horrific crime, but also the emotional toll it takes on families and communities.

Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday:  Okay, so this one isn’t a serious mystery where you’ll be searching for hidden clues and implied meanings.  This is a fun Veronica Mars-esque romp that I thought would be a nice addition to this list of otherwise somber tomes.  The day that Hartley breaks up with her boyfriend, Josh, is the day that she also finds the president of the Chastity Club, Courtney, deceased at Josh’s house.  She broke up with Josh because he was fooling around with Courtney, and as much as Hartley really, truly hates Josh right now – she does not believe that he is a killer.  So, Josh is on the run, and Hartley is on a quest to clear her ex-boyfriend’s name – and, no, she doesn’t want to get back together with him!  With help from the school’s resident bad boy and editor of the school newspaper, Chase, Hartley soon realizes that by putting her nose in the wrong place, she might be putting herself in danger.  This book is a fun and fast read that is also a pretty good murder mystery.  For those times when you want a mystery to try and puzzle out, but you want a few laughs to go along with it.

Columbine by Dave Cullen:  I’ve been reading a few true crime nonfiction books lately, but this is the one that stands out the most – it is extremely well-written, well researched and accessible to readers who are both familiar with the events as well as those who know nothing about the events of that day.  Dave Cullen does an unbelievable job of not only telling the story of that horrible day at Columbine High School, but also the story of the two teens that orchestrated and carried out the attack.  Like Serial, the storytelling is impeccable and provides information from a multitude of people who were affected, including those who were responsible for the day’s events.  There was also a bit of misinformation that has been repeated throughout the years that Dave meticulous researched and provided the truth on.  For in-depth reporting and a story that is as intriguing as it is heartbreaking, Dave Cullen’s Columbine is  a masterpiece in the true crime genre.

After by Amy Efaw (2010 Best Books for Young Adults, 2010 Quick Picks for ):  Devon is all about not messing up – she is on top of her game in soccer, she is an excellent student, she is just a perfect teenager, and there’s nothing that she wants more than to keep that true forever.  But, then, Devon finds out she’s pregnant and she does the unthinkable; she hides the pregnancy, delivers the baby, and then leaves it in a dumpster.  When the baby is found, so is Devon, and she is taken through the legal system to make her pay for her crime.  However, this book is more than just a cautionary tale; author Amy Efaw takes readers on an emotional roller coaster with readers experiencing everything from anger to pity to understanding.  Devon is such a well-written and developed character that readers will feel a range of emotions for her – we know that she committed the crime she is charged with, however disconnected she has made herself to the situation; however, I know I felt remorse for her as well as anger; just as you’d feel for a real person, there are always nuances in the range of emotions we can feel for other humans, regardless of situations.  Readers will experience Devon’s journey through the legal system as well as beyond, and she will stay with readers long past the final page – I should know – I read this book when it was released in 2010, and I am still thinking about it.

Well, I hope I gave you Serial fanatics some good books to keep you tided over during the upcoming absence of Serial from our ears.  And, for those of you who aren’t listening – I truly hope you decide to, it is a story that will pull at your heartstrings, make you question what you do and don’t know, and give you plenty to think about, that’s for sure!  Do you love Serial and have more awesome suggestions for those of us who are dreading not having it to listen to?  Leave them in the comments!!  Until next time, Hubbers- Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel!

-Traci Glass, currently reading I Was Here by Gayle Forman