The Hub

Subscribe to The Hub feed The Hub
Updated: 2 hours 23 min ago

Back to School Anime for Book Lovers

Mon, 08/17/2015 - 07:00

School is back in session so I thought I would soften the end of summer break with some anime set in high schools! This month I submit to you a love story full of laugh out loud moments,  a ghost-seeing duo who can’t stay out of trouble, and a geek who gets drafted to be on a competitive cycling team.  As a bonus, all these shows are ongoing manga series, so you can watch and read (in your vast spare time)!

My Love Story!! (Romantic Comedy)

Takeo Gōda is a first year high school student, and due to his intensity and intimidating size (he is BIG, think pro-wrestler-big) he doesn’t have much luck with girls. Every crush he has ever had immediately falls for his super-handsome best friend, Makoto Sunakawa. This all changes when he meets Rinko Yamato on the train to school.

This show manages to be sweet without ever turning saccharine, due in large part to the depth and sincerity of the characters. There is enough drama and humor to keep viewers interested, and even better, the characters don’t have that malicious edge to them that destroys friendships and leaves many a protagonist alone at the end of an episode.

You will love this series if you can’t get enough of:

Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick


Rin-ne (Funny Ghost Stories)

Sakura Mamiya can see ghosts, and she is not happy about it. She finds the whole concept of her “special powers” awkward so most of the time she ignores anything supernatural that crosses her path… until she realizes that the new boy in her class is invisible to everyone but her. . .

Rinne Rokudo, is half shinigami and 100% broke. When he starts charging his classmates a small fee to banish spirits he thinks he has found the perfect way to make some extra money, until Sakura catches him in the act!

The series is set up with a familiar ghost story at the core of each episode, but while the topics may be familiar, the series injects a ton of humor and fresh life into each scenario.

You will love this series if you can’t get enough of:

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol


Yowamushi Pedal (Bikes and Best Friends)

Onoda Sakamichi is a timid, anime-loving, first-year student at Sohoku High School. He is SUPER excited to join the anime research club. When he discovers that the club has been disbanded because no one else signed up he vows to recruit new members, but he stumbles into the world of competitive cycling instead! Does he belong with these top athletes? Will anyone ever watch anime with him?

Like many sports team anime, making friends is at the core of this series. You will be cheering Onoda on as he discovers hidden talents and wins people over with his positive attitude and enthusiasm.


You will love this series if you can’t get enough of:

Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick

Holy Spokes! A Biking Bible for Everyone by Rob Coppolillo (This title was featured in this Hub post about National Bike Month and if you are looking for more books about bicycling check out this Hub post about stimulating sports stories.)

-Jennifer Billingsley, currently listening to The Diviners by Libba Bray and reading  Ouran High School Host Club (Vol. 1) by Bisco Hatori

The Monday Poll: Adult Fiction Author You’d Love to See Write a YA Book

Sun, 08/16/2015 - 22:58

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked which book you’d most like to assign for summer reading. Your top pick was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie with 31% of the votes, followed by Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein with 25%.

You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted and commented last week!

For this week’s poll, we’re asking about what author who typically writes for the adult market you’d love to see tackle a YA novel. It seems more and more that many authors are crossing into YA fiction. Just this month, it was announced that my dreams are coming true, and Roxane Gay will have a YA novel out in 2017. There are so many more adult authors that I’d love to see write for y0ung adult audiences! Choose from this list or feel free to add your own suggestion in the comments.

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

Tweets of the Week: August 14th

Fri, 08/14/2015 - 08:00
This week was School Library Journal’s virtual conference, so if you missed it, check out #SLJteenlive for lots of helpful links! Here’s some other book, pop culture, and teen library services news you may have missed. Books & Reading

Movies & TV


— Molly Wetta, currently reading Walk the Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Is This Just Fantasy? : Catching Up On Current Series

Fri, 08/14/2015 - 07:00
As summer comes to a close, I inevitably look at my increasingly dusty ‘to be read’ piles and worry about the many books I failed to read during my vacation. Simultaneously, I peer towards the flood of shiny new titles set to be released over the next few months and I am overwhelmed.  This feeling only increases when I consider the number of current fantasy series with new installments hitting the shelves soon! It is a constant dilemma–how to catch up on current series while keeping up with the new ones? I admit I have yet discover a true solution but at the very least, I’ve found that it helps to step back and take stock of the current series that might be most timely to revisit. Here are few series worth adding to any fantasy fan’s ‘catch up’ checklist.   Of Metal and Wishes  – Sarah Fine (2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults)  Wen assists her father in the medical clinic that serves the Gochan One slaughterhouse. While Wen and her family are trapped by their debts to the factory, they remain better off than the Noor, workers brought in as cheap labor.  And now a ghost seems to be haunting the slaughterhouse– a ghost who will do anything to protect and please Wen. As Wen becomes increasingly involved with the Noor and their charismatic young leader, she must face both the volatile ‘ghost’ and the brutal system and decide if she dares to take a stand.  The sequel, Of Dreams and Rust,  was just released earlier this month. The Diviners – Libba Bray (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults It’s 1926 and glamorous New York City is simply the only place to be—at least in small town flapper Evie O’Neill’s mind. So when her parents ship her off to visit her uncle in the Big Apple, Evie is thrilled. However, the trip also means staying in Uncle Will’s highly creepy museum and Evie is hiding her own supernatural secret. Then, within days of her arrival, a young woman is found murdered and branded with strange occult symbols. Uncle Will is asked to consult on the case and soon Evie is in the middle of murder investigation—and perhaps something even more sinister.  The long awaited sequel, Lair of Dreams, will be published the end of this month! The Burning Sky – Sherry Thomas Iolanthe Seabourne is an elemental mage with an special gift for fire.  Brought up in obscurity with her drug-addicted mentor, Iolanthe has never thought of her abilities as particularly extraordinary.  But when she pulls down a massive lightning strike from the sky in an attempt to mend a failed elixir, Iolanthe suddenly gains the attention of Prince Titus,  the young royal determined to follow through on his mother’s visions, revenge his family, and regain power over Atlantis.  Convinced that Iolanthe is the mage prophesied to battle and defeat the tyrannical ruler Bane, he leaps into action to hide her in the non-magical world of London as they prepare for their possibly deadly fate. The second book, The Perilous Sea, is currently available and the third volume, The Immortal Heights, is set to be released in October.

The Young Elites – Marie Lu (2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults Since the blood fever swept through, the island country of Kenettra has not been the same. Most victims of the fever perished and the survivors—all children—were almost all left marked.  Adelina Amouteru lost her mother, her left eye, and any chance at a normal life. She gained silver hair, a lifetime of abuse from her father, and possibly some unusual abilities. Then, in a dizzying series of events, Adelina finds herself living and training in the secret headquarters of the Young Elites, a small group of blood fever survivors who have gained special abilities. But Adelina’s powers are rooted in a darkness that might be too much for this world to bear. The second novel in the popular author’s sophomore series, The Rose Society, bursts onto shelves in October. Etiquette and Espionage – Gail Carriger (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults)  In an alternative version of Victorian England filled with dirigibles and supernatural creatures, Sophronia Temminick drives her mother to distraction with her continued interest in climbing trees and disassembling dumbwaiters.  To tame her daughter into a marriageable young lady, Mrs. Temminick sends her off to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.  To Sophronia’s delight, however, Mademoiselle Geraldine’s is no ordinary finishing school. In addition to learning dance, music, dress, and etiquette, the young ladies practice intelligence gathering, weaponry use, and other skills critical for elegant espionage.  The Finishing School series continues in Curtsies & Conspiracies and Waistcoats & Weaponry.  The newest novel featuring Sophronia’s adventures, Manners & Mutiny, will be available in November. Akata Witch – Nnedi Okorafor (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults) Sunny has always felt different. While her parents and brothers have rich brown skin, Sunny is an albino with skin the color of sour milk who can only play outside at night. And now that their family has moved back to Nigeria, New York City-born Sunny is even more of an outsider.  But then Sunny discovers that she is one of the Leopard people. Joining a quartet of fellow magical students in training, Sunny discovers a whole new world running alongside her own. But a serial killer is kidnapping and killing children and it seems to be up to Sunny and her friends to stop him. Happily, this thrilling Nigerian fantasy adventure is set to gain a sequel titled Breaking Kola later this autumn. Already caught up on these thrilling series and looking to discover  some new fantasy worlds? Luckily, several well-loved authors have the first titles in new series coming out this fall as well.  Established adult fantasy writer Kate Elliott is diving into young adult fiction this month with her new novel, Court of Fives. Meanwhile, Leigh Bardugo continues to explore the rich world of her popular Grishna trilogy in a new series beginning with Six of Crows this September. Additionally, Rae Carson, author of the Fire and Thorns trilogy, kicks off her new historical fantasy series next month with Walk On Earth A Stranger -Kelly Dickinson, currently reading The Safest Lie – Angela Cerrito and Ms. Marvel, Vol. 3: Crushed – G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, & Elmo Bondoc.

Pairing Music with YA Lit: “Give a Little Love” Edition

Thu, 08/13/2015 - 07:00

“With the right music you either forget everything or you remember everything”–Unknown

Music is always around us, linking moments, people, and emotions to songs, genres, and artists that become special to us.  We carry our memories through a song’s lyrics, through the beat of a track, or just through that “feeling” a special song gives us.  Classic rock to bring back memories of an old crush. Anything by The Backstreet Boys to remember a particular summer.  “Paris” by Magic Man to remember a little one’s first dance moves.  We each have our own personal “soundtrack”; a mental playlist that might have a few special tracks, or more songs than there is room for on an iPhone.

You find yourself in music.

YA lit has the same effect.  Just as you can find yourself in a song, you can find yourself in the pages, in the characters, within a book.  So, why not join the two together?  YA authors have often used music in their stories–punk rock songs in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist; or the intro/outro music for Seth’s podcasts in Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto.

Given this, I decided to challenge myself (and my own knowledge of music and YA lit) by pairing YA novels with possible song counterparts.  Not all of us hear music the same way, just as not all of us see the books we read the same way, so these posts to The Hub are my interpretation of both.

And I’m very excited to start with a few recent titles which feature stories of love that overcome some pretty big obstacles.

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (2015)

Summary: At the beginning of her junior year, Samantha must leave behind the relaxed, confident, happy “Summer Sam” she becomes when she is away from her popular group of friends, the Crazy Eights.  To the Eights she is “Samantha”–a follower who maintains her role within the group in worry that they will kick her out.  Especially if they found out about how she suffers from Pure-O (thought obsessed) OCD.  To ease a panic attack, Sam finds a quiet place to control her thoughts.  In doing so, Sam is led to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room where a group of students secretly share their poetry.  This opens up Sam’s world to new friends, to writing poetry, and to AJ, a boy she tormented as “Samantha” but falls in love with as “Sam.”  Through Sam’s writing, AJ sees the person that Sam has become, instead of the person she was with the Eights, and helps her through some difficult times.

Musical pairings:

Samantha actually creates some pretty great playlists throughout the novel with artists like Adele and The Shins.  But as I read Every Last Word I kept thinking: Imagine Dragons.  Particularly a few tracks off their “Smoke & Mirrors” album.  “Polaroid” seems to fit Samantha’s anxiety well, especially her thought spirals (Can’t slow down/ I’m a rolling freight train), and the beginnings of her relationship with AJ (I’m a hold my cards close/ I’m a wreck what I love most).  But Samantha is also plagued by guilt that she feels due to her association with the Eights; that’s where “Shots” comes in (I’m sorry for everything/ Oh, everything I’ve done).  “Trouble” is another Imagine Dragons song that describes how much Samantha wants to be “Sam” (I looked a little lost at sea/ I keep trying to find me).

Shots Embed Code:<iframe src=”” width=”300″ height=”80″ frameborder=”0″ allowtransparency=”true”

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Abertalli (2015)

Summary: Simon hasn’t told anyone he’s gay except for Blue, an anonymous boy he knows only through emails.  Simon and Blue tell each other the things they can’t tell anyone else, support each other through difficult times, and talk about coming out.  Unfortunately for Simon, he forgets to log out of his secret email account on a school computer.  And more unfortunately, his account is discovered by the class goof-ball who, in turn, blackmails Simon.

Musical Pairings:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is an utterly charming story.  Simon and Blue’s email relationship is sweet, funny, and just plain adorable as their love grows throughout the novel.  Because of this, a super sentimental or serious song, like Journey’s “Open Arms,” just doesn’t have the right “feel.”  Instead, a musical pairing for Simon has to have the same soul as the book–something fun, something dance-worthy.  Thus: “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon (Oh we were bound to get together/ Bound to get together) is a great fit.  Especially when Simon realizes Blue’s true identity (Oh don’t you dare look back/ Just keep your eyes on me).  Another fun, cute song that compliments Simon and his feelings for Blue would be “Bubbly” by Colbie Caillat (Wherever it goes/ I always know / That you make me smile).

Going Over by Beth Kephart (2014)

Summary:  Set in the early 1980s, Going Over is a story of star-crossed lovers Ada and Stefan.  They live on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall–Ada in the West amid poverty and freedom;  Stefan in the East under lockdown.  Though they cannot see each other, though they cannot communicate with one another, they are deeply in love and think of each other every day. Ada desperately wants Stefan to find a way to cross over, but Stefan fears for his grandmother’s safety and puts off plans to escape.  But when Ada’s need for him becomes more urgent, Stefan realizes that he must escape the East to be with her, and hatches a dangerous plan to do so.


Musical Pairings:

An obvious choice for a novel set in Germany during the eighties is to pair it with a song or two from The Scorpions, like “Send Me an Angel” or “Winds of Change.”  However, for this story I’m drawn to a more modern song: Say Anything’s “Alive with the Glory of Love.”  Though the song references concentration camps (not the cold war), the feeling of urgency in the music and the need of having someone love you amidst a terrible situation (You’re lovely baby/ This war is crazy/ I won’t let you down) is shared in Going Over.

-Stacy Holbrook, currently reading I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Back-to-School Comics for Tweens

Thu, 08/13/2015 - 07:00

I know, I KNOW. It’s only the middle of August. It doesn’t feel like it’s time to go back to school.

And for lots of districts, it’s not.

But for huge swatches of the South and the Midwest, it’s happening this week or next week. It’s so early, it’s so hot. The kids are so cranky (I would be, too, if I had to go back to school so soon!)

What’s the solution?


Here are some great, recent comics/graphic novels to give to your kids. Throw these up on a display, handsell them, or stealthily slide them across your circ counter. Your tweens will thank you.

Gotham Academy Volume 1 by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl. Do your kids love Batman? This comic is set in a prestigious prep school right in the heart of Gotham. With great supporting characters, secrets, and possibly a ghost, this hits all the superhero buttons. The mysterious Wayne family might even make an appearance…

Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola and Emily Carroll just came out last week. It’s a bit spooky but not outright scary. Masha needs some adventure so when Baba Yaga advertises for an assistant, she decides to try it out. But she has to be clever and wily enough to earn her place.

Oddly Normal by Otis Frampton – Image Comics just reprinted this with a new cover. It’s INCREDIBLY fun. Oddly is a half-witch and having a mother from Fignation isn’t always a walk in the park. It’s even less fun when her parents disappear and she has to go live in Fignation. She’s the only being in the whole world that’s even remotely human. Hijinks ensue.


I am Princess X by Cherie Priest is actually a novel, but there’s a story-within-a-story here that’s told in comics, and it’s a very cool example of mixed-format storytelling. May’s best friend Libby passed away a few years ago in a really tragic accident, and she’s been lonely ever since. But all of a sudden, she sees Princess X popping up all over Seattle: Princess X was a childhood creation that only Libby and May knew about. As May dives into the world of Princess X and webcomics, she begins to wonder–could Libby be alive?

Enjoy the last part of your summer!

-Ally Watkins, ALSC guest blogger. Ally is a Library Consultant at the Mississippi Library Commission.

Spotlight on: Teens’ Top Ten Nominees – Part 3

Wed, 08/12/2015 - 07:00

Welcome back to our 4-part series highlighting the 24 titles nominated (by teenagers; no grown-up opinions polluting the list!) for this year’s Teens’ Top Ten list. You can find Part 1 here, and Part 2 here, if you missed them earlier. Voting starts this week, on August 15, so encourage the teenagers you know to exercise their right to influence sales, movie deals, and publishing trends by voting here.

Here are the penultimate 6 books nominated for the Teens’ Top Ten list this year:

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson – In this, Matson’s third stand-alone contemporary fiction title, relationships and personal growth share center stage with the unique pleasures of summer’s disrupted routines and subsequent possibilities for change. Matson’s first novel, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, was a 2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults pick and a 2012 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults pick, and her second novel, Second Chance Summer, was a 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, so her work is already well-established. Matson has an author page, and is active on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen – The third and final volume in the bestselling, historical-fantasy Ascendence trilogy. The first title in the series, The False Prince, was a 2013 Teens’ Top Ten book and a 2015 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults pick. Nielsen has an author page here (currently highlighting the first book in her newest series, The Mark of the Thief), and she’s also on Twitter and Facebook. A movie adaptation of The False Prince is currently underway (it’s still in the scripting phase, so it’ll be awhile still), and rumor (aka The Hollywood Reporter has it that a Game of Thrones story editor is in charge of the adaptation, so this has certainly has the potential to stick around and continue to attract more readers.

My Life with the Walter Boys by Ali Novak – Very nearly a pure romance novel (angst! multiple romantic contenders! chiseled abs!), Novak began writing this, her fiction debut, when she was just 15, and posted the novel to Wattpad, where it drew a large and enthusiastic following, eventually landing her a book deal. This teen-debut-author angle makes her a fun pick for teens looking for writerly inspiration. Novak still posts work to Wattpad, and she’s also on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and has an author page.


The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson – The author who gave us The Adoration of Jenna Fox (a 2009 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults title) switches gears and starts a new historical fantasy series. The Kiss of Deception has already been listed as a 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, and reviews for the second book of the Remnant Chronicles, The Heart of Betrayal (published last month), are truly stellar. Pearson can be found online here, and she’s also on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.


The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – First in a new series (enthusiastic readers will be pleased to know the second installment, The Winner’s Crime, is out now), The Winner’s Curse is also on the 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and Rutkoski already has several other well-reviewed titles under her belt (The Shadow Society, The Kronos Chronicles middle grade series). She has an author page, and is on Pinterest and Twitter.


Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott – Described by the publisher as Hunger Games meets The Amazing Race (that’s quite a hook!), this thriller already has a sequel available (Salt and Stone), and a new stand-alone title, Titans, is slated for February 2016. Scott has an author page, and is on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, as well as maintaining a YouTube channel.


Discovered something cool about any of the nominees? Please share in the comments! I’m attempting to read them all this year (7 down so far, could be a stretch to finish by October), and have been delighted by the sheer variety of titles.

-Carly Pansulla, currently reading Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon

Hub Bloggers Share What They’ve Been Reading This Summer

Tue, 08/11/2015 - 07:00

Even as busy as library staff can be over the summer months, most still try to squeeze in some time for pleasure reading, and The Hub bloggers are no exception. A few of us have shared what (and where!) we’ve been reading over the last several weeks.

Sharon Rawlins took a reading break with Rachel Hartman’s Shadow Scale, the sequel to 2013 Morris Award winner Seraphina,  in front of the famous Maxfield Parrish Dream Garden mural in the Curtis Publishing Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Laura Perenic read The Devil You Know by Trish Doller’s  to some goats at Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Todd Deck read I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, the 2015 Printz Award winner,  while on a break from paddle boarding on Whiskeytown Lake in California.

Allison Tran spent some time with an advanced reading copy of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo in “the happiest reading place on Earth,”  also known as Disneyland. 

Jenni Frenchman has been trying to beat the heat this summer with some poolside reading. Her she has Anything Could Happen by Will Walton, The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, and Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert.

Kelly Dickinson visited her brother in Poughkeepsie, New York, in the lovely Hudson River Valley area and spent some time reading some egalleys (with some ducks!) on her Kindle, including Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead, The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes, and The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz.

Carly Pansulla checked out a stack of books for her vacation reading, including The False Prince by Jennifer Nielson, How to Be Both by Ali Smith, The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey, Kissing in America by Margo Rabb, and Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon.

Dawn Abron shares a collage of all the books on her reading list for the summer, including More Happy than Not by Adam Silvera, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and Shadowshaper by by Daniel José Older.

I packed nothing but books for a trip to visit my brother in California, where I spent about two weeks reading, including Breakaway by Kat Spears at the beach, Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith with donuts and coffee from Winchell’s, and P.S. I Love You by Jenny Han while sampling some macarons.

Hope everyone spent some time relaxing with a good book during these hot summer months!

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Book Cover Judgements

Tue, 08/11/2015 - 07:00

We constantly hear the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” We try to apply this to ourselves metaphorically when it comes to observing other humans; however this advice is not as applicable in the world of books.

Covers of books are very important because a lot of times they can determine whether or not a reader will pick up the book! And it all depends on which details catch the reader’s eye.

There are many different kinds of book cover designs, and I will elaborate on the kinds that attract me.

  • Simple Background vs. Crowded and Crazy

I prefer a simple background that draws more attention to the title of the book, as the title is often the main focal point of a cover that is bland. I like these kinds of covers because they allow me to think for myself what the book is about rather than already hinting at it for me. If a cover is too chaotic, I might just jump to a conclusion of what it is about rather than picking it up and reading the summary on the back. Some of the books below are examples of what I think are simply covered:

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

  •  Central Symbol

Many popular YA dystopian books have a circular symbol or design on the cover. Readers later discover what this symbol means or refers to if they feel drawn enough to pick up the book and find out. I like these kinds of book covers because they are usually pretty simple as well and they are vague enough to let me imagine for myself what the story might be. Here are some of the popular books that have been adapted from page to screen and/or follow the usual recipe for dystopia:

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth

The Testing Trilogy by Joelle Charbonneau

  • Central Figure

Covers that display a central figure, most of the time the main character of the story, always catch my eye because they are usually depicted in cool profile shots or with interesting outfits or in interesting situations. It is still vague enough to avoid spoiling the story. Below are examples of a few favorites of mine in the types of covers that I just mentioned:

The Selection Trilogy by Kiera Cass

Matched by Ally Condie

The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare

  • Dark/Bright and Mysterious/Vague

I know I have already used these words above but what I mean with this category is that what is shown on the cover is vague or mysterious or unique enough to make me wonder what the story is about. It is compelling and hooks readers because of how different it is. It makes readers wonder why the cover is designed this way. Here are the best examples I can think of:

Hungry by H.A. Swain

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska by John Green


The Giver by Lois Lowry


Cinder by Marissa Meyer

  • Black and White vs. Color

I do not have a preference when it comes to this category, but I just think that the uses of color and b/w can be very effective. Bright colors can make a cover pop out amongst more mundane shades. The same goes for black and white against colored covers. Here are some examples of successful covers (in my opinion):

The Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie

Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor


  • Cute and Cartoony

I am also a sucker for cute book covers whether they have cartoony design or cliché picture but here are a few that I think are cute:

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Paper Towns by John Green

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

  • Hard Cover vs. Paperback

This is actually, in my opinion, a key underdog factor in the purchase of a book. I myself sometimes have to reject a book because the hard cover version is much more expensive than the paperback version for which I will have to wait. Plus, the sleeve on hard backs can be really annoying when you try to read the book, and it is hard to decide whether to take it off or leave it on because it is also pretty and it protects the book.

  • New/Multiple Covers

And then we have the books whose covers change because the publishers feel like changing the covers, or a new edition comes out, or the book gets made into a movie. This is a risky move to make because sometimes readers love the new covers and sometimes they don’t. I like that publishers do this to rekindle interest in the books. And I understand that changing the cover to the movie poster will attract more attention from the movie audience. So I guess, overall, this is usually a good choice.

-Dessi Gomez

National Smile Week Reading Suggestions

Mon, 08/10/2015 - 07:00

“Who Can Turn the World On With Her Smile? Who Can Turn A Nothing Day and Make It All Seem Worthwhile? (*I know many of you know this old TV theme song and are singing along, right?)


Did you know that this week is National Smile Week? I think it is promoting being friendly and welcoming towards one another. It’s summer so it makes sense that many of us are happier and smiling – especially if you’re on vacation as you read this.

Since it’s such an optimistic sounding week, I thought I would try to come up with some books that go along with the topic of smiling.

One book that immediately comes to mind is Smile by Raina Telgemeier (2011 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens and 2011 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Teens). I’ve also seen this on a lot of summer reading lists.

Although this autobiographical graphic novel chronicles Raina’s often painful dental experiences after she accidentally knocked out her front tooth and damaged the one next to it in 6th grade, it does end on a cheerful note and a big smile. The years before that, though, sound very painful as Raina describes in graphic detail (no pun intended) how she underwent numerous dental surgeries, had braces put on several times, had to wear the oh-so stylish headgear at night, as well as a retainer with fake teeth! She is forced to endure all this from sixth grade until she gets her braces off for good in her sophomore year of high school.

Another character you might remember who has braces (and glasses and frizzy hair) is 14-year-old Meg Murray from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, in both the novel and in the graphic novel adaptation illustrated by Hope Larson. Both Raina and Meg learn to stop being so self-critical and to not let their outward appearance affect how they feel on the inside. I can totally relate to both Raina and Meg, because, I too, had to wear braces for years, from 3rd grade until 8th grade (and have had glasses from a young age too). The pain of wearing braces is worth it in the end to have a great smile.

Sooner after Raina’s accident, her dentist tried to put her two damaged front teeth back into place, but they went up even further into her gums instead. She’s horrified and says, “I look like a vampire!!” After more treatment, when her teeth still don’t seem to be responding, Raina fearfully asks, “So am I gonna look like a vampire forever??”

She doesn’t end up looking like a vampire, but teenaged Chris isn’t so lucky in M. T. Anderson’s often graphic novel Thirsty. Chris is having a lot of trouble adjusting to the fact that he appears to be turning into a vampire. He keeps telling himself that he has to, “Keep smiling for another few weeks, until the curse is lifted. Keep smiling, I think, while my teeth are still square.” He’s trying his hardest not to give in to his burgeoning bloodlust. But, it’s almost impossible – and having aching braces just makes it even harder. As his hunger gets the best of him,  he gives in and says, “I lower my mouth. My open lips just nuzzle my forearm…..” and then before he knows it, “My braces are just one big loopy tangle.”

I think getting smiled at by Chris might not be such a welcome sight after all.

There are people who smile too much and appear fake and insincere or those who don’t smile at all. Getting a genuine smile from them is like finding gold.

Bird, née Emily, 17, in Alaya Dawn Johnson’s Love is the Drug (2014 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy) is a brilliant African American student in her senior year at a prestigious DC prep school. She has a  perfect boyfriend named Paul. But, the guy that she’s really falling for is Coffee, a Brazilian diplomat’s son and small-time drug dealer. Coffee wears a habitual dour face so when he actually grins, she thinks, “Coaxing a genuine smile from him has always felt like winning the ringtoss at a street fair.”

Matt from The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds is another teen character who doesn’t smile too much, not that he has much reason to since his mother’s recently passed away. He remembers how obsessed his mother was in having his senior high-school pictures taken. His mom begged him to smile for it but he says, “I couldn’t. Not because I didn’t want to, it’s just that every time a camera is pointed at me, I never knew what to do with my face.” He thinks he looks like a robot because of his inability to smile. But, maybe he will lose his robot face and not “suck at smiling” after he falls for Lovey, a girl who has had a very tough time herself but hasn’t lost her optimism or love of life.

I expected to find a lot more examples of teens’ thoughts and comments about smiling or not smiling in books – especially as it related to getting photos taken for school or for their driver’s license but I didn’t – or maybe I just didn’t have any books on hand that mentioned it. So, if you can think of others, please let me know.

(*The Mary Tyler Moore Show ran from 1970-1977)

-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

The Monday Poll: Assign a YA Lit Title for Summer Reading

Sun, 08/09/2015 - 23:45

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked which summer vacation from YA lit you’d like to take. Your top pick was a summer in Nantucket as evoked by Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland, with 35% of  the vote. This was followed by a trip to the lake as depicted in This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, with 21% of the vote. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted and commented last week!

This week, we want your opinion on assigned summer reading. This time of year, librarians get approached by lots of teens looking for the same-old, same-old classics the librarian was assigned to read when they were in high school. We all know the classics are important- and often even enjoyable!- but it’s refreshing to see a YA lit title on these assigned reading lists now and then, isn’t it? So, readers, let’s say you could assign a YA lit title for high school summer reading, and didn’t have to worry about answering to the PTA or school administration (dreaming big here!). You want to make your students think deeply, and you want them to engage with the material, too, and really enjoy what they’re reading. What would you assign? Choose from the list below, or leave your suggestions in the comments.

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

Wrapping Up the 2015 Hub Reading Challenge

Sun, 08/09/2015 - 07:00

The 2015 Hub Reading Challenge ended earlier this summer and all finishers have been contacted, so I’m here to announce the winner and officially wrap things up!

I’m pleased to announce our randomly selected grand prize winner, Paige R., who will receive a package chock-full of YA books courtesy of YALSA. Congratulations, Paige! Thanks for participating, and we hope you enjoy the books!

This year, we were just shy of 200 participants in the Reading Challenge, with 68 finishers– that’s a higher percentage of finishers compared to last year. Kudos to all of you who took the challenge, and extra kudos to our finishers!

A few facts about our 68 fantastic finishers:

  • 30 of them were first-time participants.
  • There were 59 librarians, 4 teachers, and 5 YA lit fans who didn’t identify as either a teacher or librarian.
  • Every title on the Reading Challenge list was read by at least one finisher, and there was a three-way tie for the most widely-read book! 49 of our finishers read This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, and Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona.
  • Going by list rather than by invidual title, the Printz books were the most widely read, followed by the Morris books and then Quick Picks.

Thanks again to everyone who participated and made this year’s challenge so much fun! We hope you’ll join us for future reading challenges right here on The Hub!

-Allison Tran, currently listening to The Young Elites, written by Marie Lu and narrated by Carla Corvo and Lannon Killea

On Being a Slow Reader

Fri, 08/07/2015 - 07:00

I am a slow reader. I’ve never had any trouble with reading, I just take longer than many to finish books. Most of the time, this doesn’t matter, but it does mean I have more trouble than other librarians at keeping up with the latest book trends. I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in The Hub Reading Challenge earlier this year, but I didn’t complete it. I’m usually the one to hear about a cool new book rather than recommend it.

But I’ve decided I don’t mind being a slow reader. I still want to stay on top of recommending books to my patrons, though, so here are some tricks for those other slow readers out there:

  • Read reviews instead. It’s hard to make myself read reviews regularly (after all, that’s more time that I’m not reading books), but a book review is a lot shorter than a book, and a good book review will give you enough of the book’s flavor to know who it might be a good match for. Reviews can come from journals (School Library JournalBooklist), blogs (The Hub, of course, but there are tons out there), or fellow readers.
  • Use selection lists and awards. YALSA’s extensive book awards and lists are a mine of good YA book suggestions. While I might not be able to make a recommendation for a specific reader just from inclusion on an award list, I do know that if I’m going to take the time to read a full book, the ones listed here are worth my time.
  • Get the patrons (if you are a librarian) to recommend books to you. I might not like every book a patron recommends to me, but I do enjoy many of them. And those that don’t turn out to be a perfect fit for me give me a better picture of what to recommend for that patron.
  • Put a book down if you aren’t enjoying it. This is hard for me. I like to finish books I start, so I’ve started being more selective in which books I’ll pick up to read. But I have also slowly started to abandon books that I’m really not enjoying. Life is too short, right?

Most importantly, remember that life is not a book-reading competition. If you read regularly and enjoy the books you read, then you are just as much a reader as someone who’s “completed” stack is twice as high.

-Libby Gorman, currently reading Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall

Women in Comics: Steampunk

Fri, 08/07/2015 - 07:00

Steampunk continues to be a popular genre with its combination of fantastical steam-based technology, elements of science fiction, and alternate history. With all of these elements, it is a style that can appeal to fans of a wide array of genres. It is also well suited to the graphic novel format since imaginative design is such a core component of these stories. Whether you are already a fan of steampunk or haven’t yet given it a try, these books are fun reads that will pull you into fascinating worlds.

The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare and HyeKyung Baek – Fans of Cassandra Clare’s works will be excited to know that the prequels to her Mortal Instruments stories have been adapted for the graphic novel format. The series is set in Victorian England as many steampunk stories are, but in a somewhat less common twist, follows a sixteen year old girl from America who finds herself alone in the city. As she discovers the world of shadowhunters, the book has a chance to come into its own with artwork that brings to life every piece of the secretive world that Clare imagined. This is a must read for fans of the Mortal Instruments series, but will also appeal to a wider audience.

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua – Though it started as a mini-comic for a friend, this series has developed into a popular webcomic and now a print book. The story takes the real life figures of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage and imagines them in an alternate history where the pair succeed in building the Difference Engine and use it to fight crime. Filled with hilarious jokes, funny (and impressive) artwork, and tons and tons of footnotes about the actual historical research Padua did in creating the comic, this book is perfect for history fans and steampunk fans alike.

Hinges by Meredith McClaren – Hinges is another webcomic turned printed graphic novel and is one I am currently reading. McClaren’s artwork is gorgeous and is sure to keep you engaged in the world she has created. The story focuses on a girl named Orio and her companion Bauble as they explore a new, clockwork city and try to find their place within it. The story is told with very few words but I have found so far that the artwork more than makes up for the sparse text. From the very first page I read, I was excited to dive into the story and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

Soulless by Gail Carriger and REM – You may already be familiar with Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series or one of her other steampunk series, but even if you have read all of her books, the manga adaptation of her Parasol Protectorate series is worth a read. Though the story remains largely the same, its adaptation for the manga format opens up whole new portions of Carriger’s world as imagined by REM. This is sure to be popular with both manga and steampunk fans.

Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Foglio – This Hugo Award winning series by a husband and wife team is set in a world full of genius scientists who continue to let their creations loose on the world. The protagonist of the story is Agatha Clay who wishes to be such a scientist but as the book opens she doubts whether she has the “Spark” necessary to be a success. Over the course of this lengthy series, which is available both as a webcomic and in print, Agatha realizes her own talents and readers are introduced to her amazing world. This is a fun romp of a story that combines wonderful artwork with humorous and engaging writing. If you enjoy the comic, you may also want to check out the series of novels that the Foglios have written about Agatha and her world.

Have you read any other steampunk comics by women? Are you looking forward to any that are coming soon? Let me know in the comments below.

-Carli Spina

Tweets of the Week: August 7th

Fri, 08/07/2015 - 07:00

Happy August (Can you believe it’s August already – where did the summer go?). Here are a few things you might have missed this week. And if you need a laugh, check out the tweets under .

Book News: : By the books, there’s a LOT of new releases this week! Which ones are you most looking forward to? : Cece Bell: how I made El Deafo – in pictures | Guardian : Here’s a list of concrete suggestions curated by ‘s Lin Oliver of ways we can support : Exclusive: signs a new YA trilogy deal: : 15 New Series to Freshen Up Teen Collections : Six Eclectic Debut Novels from our Adult Books 4 Teens column : Teens and Reading: They’ll Do It and They’ll Like It. Here’s why: :If you have read a fabulous debut YA author this year, consider nominating it for ‘s Morris Award.


 Games and Learning in the Library 8 Fascinating/Frightening Facts About How Teens Use The Internet And Social Media : Reading/Discussion Guide is available for ALL WE HAVE IS NOW. Send an email to lisaschroederbooks(AT)gmail(DOT)com if you’d like to have it. : “Comics Connector” Finds Comics Professionals for School Visits : “Apprentice Architect,” an interactive app, allows viewers to design their own buildings : Check out this webinar on measuring the impact of your /learning program!

Just for Fun:

: Kid Lit Style: Decor Inspired by Children’s Books | AP Which character are you? Take the quiz and find out! ~ Jennifer Rummel, currently reading P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

What Would Norrie Read?

Thu, 08/06/2015 - 07:00

I read Stephen King’s Under the Dome several years ago, so I was understandably excited when I found out it was going to be made into a television show.  This show is in its third summer season, and I’ve wondered about the teen characters. If they actually had access to books, what would they want to read? Norrie, in particular, strikes me as a tough customer. She and her moms were on their way to a camp for rebellious teens when they became trapped under the dome. Norrie’s moms see her as rebellious, and her caustic attitude does little to win her any admirers in town, at least among the adult population. If Norrie were to walk in today, what would I recommend that she read?

Backlash by Sarah Littman

In Backlash, Lara’s family and friends soon realize the impact of small things that became bigger, more complicated problems. This book would be a good one to give Norrie to help her understand why her moms were so bothered by her sexting and why they wanted to send her to a camp for troubled teens. Norrie would probably also be drawn to the drama in this story and the way few of the characters are sympathetic.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

More and more books about LGBTQ+ teens are being published every day, but there are still frighteningly few books about teens with LGBTQ+ parents. Norrie would enjoy Lola’s story for the simple fact that Lola has two dads and has to deal with the consequences of this the same way that Norrie deals with having two moms.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina (2014 Pura Belpre Award)

Yaqui decides that the new girl, Piddy, is too smart for her own good and isn’t Latina enough. Thus follows a year of Yaqui torturing Piddy, to the point where Piddy is assaulted outside her home and the assault is recorded and posted online. This book might help Norrie to tone down her caustic attitude a bit and to be able to see things from the other person’s point of view, as this story follows Piddy and how she deals with the torture she’s being put through.

Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon (2009 Best Books for Young Adults)

Ben’s father is tired of putting up with Ben’s rebellion, so he and his new boyfriend take Ben and move to the middle of Montana. Ben doesn’t feel like he fits in in this new small town, and he is still very angry at his father. Norrie would relate to Ben’s anger at his father as well as the small-town setting of this book, which is very similar to Chester’s Mill. 

Looking for Alaska by John Green (2006 Printz Award, 2006 Best Books for Young Adults, 2007 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults, 2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Norrie would definitely enjoy the countdown aspect of the chapter titles in this book, especially as she feels like she has been stuck in Chester’s Mill forever. Norrie would also likely relate to the main characters and enjoy their boarding school antics.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Norrie is trapped in a sort of dystopian-present with the bubble over Chester’s Mill. As such, she’d relate to Lena and her struggles in apocalyptic Maine. Norrie would probably also be drawn to the flowery, angst-y language of this book and Lena’s struggle with her “disease.”

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (2008 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2008 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults, 2008 Best Books for Young Adults)

Hannah kills herself and leaves a mysterious set of cassette tapes explaining the thirteen reasons why she did this. The protagonist, Clay, is tasked with listening to the tapes and visiting the locations Hannah lists in her explanation. Norrie would be drawn to this story while simultaneously exclaiming that what Hannah did was “so messed up.” Norrie would also enjoy reading about someone else’s drama and ignoring the problems in her own life, if even for a short while.

Sweetblood by Pete Hautman (2004 Best Books for Young Adults, 2006 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Lucy has diabetes and is filled with teenage angst. She is obsessed with vampires and considers herself to be one, living her life through online chat rooms. Norrie would relate to Lucy’s angst and would understand the struggles of living with diabetes as one of Norrie’s moms has it as well. Norrie and Lucy would probably be friends if they ever met in real life.

Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac (2014 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)

Norrie likely feels as though nothing is under her control anymore, and she certainly wants to escape both the dome and the reputation of one of the dome survivors. She could relate to Lozen and her desire to escape, and she would definitely be impressed by Lozen’s prowess at hunting. Lozen’s desire to save her family would give Norrie hope that someday she, too, would be able to escape.


–Jenni Frencham, currently reading The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Matt de la Peña

Thu, 08/06/2015 - 07:00

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

I remember thinking when Ball Don’t Lie came out that it was going to be a perfect book to share with the teen patrons of our library.  I hadn’t read it yet, but I booktalked it like crazy and honestly, it practically sold itself.  That book was always checked out.  I also remember when I moved from the public library to a high school library that it was literally one of the first books I ordered for the collection.  The school hadn’t had a librarian for eight years so there were a lot of holes to fill; Ball Don’t Lie was in the first order I placed.  Why? Because in between those two jobs I’d actually snagged a copy for myself, read it, and fell in love.  I was expecting to like it because the reviews were crazy good, and I was so happy to have what I thought was a book that filled a need, that would appeal to certain readers, a book about sports, with a memorable voice and great characters.  But it was so much more than I was expecting

It’s kind of funny that this particular book stands out for me, among the hundreds and hundreds of books I’ve purchased for various collections over the years, but it does.  I’ve been trying to figure out why, and I think it’s partly because even though I expected to like it, Ball Don’t Lie confounded all my expectations and (I hate to say it, but it’s true!) taught me a valuable lesson.  I dove into that book expecting to find a story I could wholeheartedly and enthusiastically recommend to others, but what I found was a story for me.

Ever since then Matt de la Peña has been on both my “books to recommend” list and my “must-read author” list, and he’s never disappointed.  In fact, just the opposite.  And that was before he  wrote some books about natural disasters (my obsession with natural disaster tales is a whole different post.)

Thanks, Matt, for taking the time to talk with me, and for earthquakes and sharks and biker gangs and Shy.  And thank you for Sticky and the quiet stories and for bouncing back and forth.


Always Something There to Remind Me

Please describe your teenage self.

I was a basketball junkie. I’d take buses to the best hoop courts in southern California to see what the regulars there were all about. I had no money. I never went to parties. I didn’t drink. I was a mediocre student who wrote secret spoken word poetry in the back of class. I was very into the ladies.

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

I couldn’t see that far ahead. My dream was to be the first de la Peña to go to college, and I needed basketball to pay my way. That was as far out as I could see. Every night I’d assess whether or not I got closer to my dream that day. I’d think about how cool it would be to go to college as I lay on the floor in my room, shooting a basketball up at the ceiling and letting it fall back into my hands. I wouldn’t let myself go to sleep until I did that for an hour.

What were your high school years like?

I liked school, but I also knew I was never going to get money for college because of my grades. I think I could have done really well in my classes if I would have spent more time on them. But I did the math. If I spent more hours on the game of basketball, I’d have a better chance of getting a free college education. It’s counterintuitive, I know. But I had to study less to go further academically. There were, however, a few teachers who “captured” me. English teachers. Mrs. Blizzard, my 11th grade English teacher was probably the most influential. She told me I was a great writer. And even though I didn’t believe her at the time, I loved her class. She allowed me to keep the school copy of The House on Mango Street

What were some of your passions during that time?

Loved hoops, as I’ve already said. But I also loved pretty girls. And hip hop. I wasn’t too culturally clued in, though. We didn’t have cable, and I had only seen two movies in the theater by the time I was in high school.

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

I really butted heads with my old man. He was a teen parent, and I guess you could say I sort of robbed him of his childhood. I also think he resented the fact (at the time) that I seemingly had more opportunities because I was good at a game. He didn’t really understand basketball. He understood hard work. And here I was playing a game all day. And it was going to pay for my school. I didn’t always live at home during my last year of high school. Things were too tense. (We have a great relationship now.) Those issues made me grow up quickly, I think. I had to become my own person and fend for myself.

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

I learned via basketball that hard work can take you places. I treat writing almost exactly the way I treated basketball back in the day. I clock in and do the work. I know we try to teach young people growing up in tough neighborhoods to have goals greater than professional sports. But I think sports dreams are useful. They teach young people how to aspire. And they also teach defeat, which is a vital thing to understand as a human.

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

I would have told myself to dig in a little more in the classroom. I thought I could learn everything I needed to know on the streets, in gyms, by keeping my mouth closed and observing real life. But committing in the classroom doesn’t mean closing your eyes to real life. I wish I had invested in both types of learning. And, yeah, I think I would have listened. I’ve always listened to old people.

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

I wish I would have let people in more. I was so focused on the future that sometimes I didn’t share my dreams with friends and girlfriends. I think that’s sad. I can remember one girlfriend in particular who was so good to me. I know she wanted to  “know” me. But I was brought up under a very common working class machismo approach: don’t talk about it, be about it. I should have let her in the way she had let me in about losing her father.

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

The freedom. And the sadness. And the little moments of triumph I was experiencing for the very first time.

Every Day I Write the Book

I think most readers know you love sports and that you went to college on a full basketball scholarship, so I’d like to ask you about another passion that you mention briefly in various interviews: music. Given three wishes in a recent VOYA interview, you asked for “the chance to record one album of [the] little singer-songwriter songs” you “currently share with no one,” and talked about the “silly songs” you play for your daughter on the guitar. I’m also struck by the way you describe your editing style as finding the rhythm in your writing, as waiting for “the music…to emerge,” and by your early love of spoken-word style poetry.  Could you talk about the role of music and musicians in your life, and about how it influences your writing?  Will we ever get to hear that secret album?

I love how immediate music is. If I went to a club tonight and listened to a guy play acoustic songs, I would be able to experience his art right then and there. It’s different with a novel. You have to sit with it much longer, usually alone, and you have to do more work. I love the visceral immediacy of music. When I’m writing (and revising), I try to keep musicality in mind. My dream is for a reader to experience the sentences and rhythms and pacing on an immediate, visceral level, while experiencing the overall story and character arcs on a grander, more cerebral level. Hip hop influenced poetry is really fueled by sounds. I think novelists can aspire to that ear. Cormac McCarthy, for instance, is a writer with an amazing ear. I really value that.

One day I have to record an album. I’m not saying it’s going to be any good. But I need to go through that process. I think I’d learn so much. And I have dozens of tiny little songs I don’t want to forget.

“In a starred review, Kirkus called The Living ‘an addictive page-turner and character-driven literary novel'” which, according to Kirkus, made you want to “hug every single person at the company.” The star, while thrilling, wasn’t even the best part, apparently, but rather their use of the word “literary.”  “My one fear of writing a more ‘commercial’ novel is that people would not see it as literary,” you confessed, describing “the literary value of a novel [as] the absolute most important part of a book I’m reading or writing.”  I’m curious because “literary” vs “commercial” fiction is not necessarily a topic that many writers discuss quite so honestly, but it’s obviously an important distinction for you, and one you openly aspire to.  What do those terms mean to you and why do you find the “literary” label so exciting?

I love reading quiet books. “Small” books. That is what I reach for myself. I want a great character and an interesting use of language. For my first four novels I tried to create well-written, character-driven stories set in diverse neighborhoods. Those books are my heart. But I think I needed to challenge myself to try something different. I worried that if I felt too comfortable as the writer, the reader might feel too comfortable, too. So I tried writing a socially-conscious, literary thriller. And, wow, was that hard. My editor said about the first draft of The Living, “Wow, Matt, you’ve managed to write an action-adventure story with no action or adventure.” She basically crushed my dreams. So I started over. I still had to dig into my characters, but I had to turn up the plot/story elements. That’s when I said to myself, “All right, let’s bring in the sharks!” I had a blast writing The Living and The Hunted. And now I’m writing a quieter book again. Moving forward, I hope to bounce back and forth between the two kinds of book.

But, yes, that line in Kirkus made me want to cry with happiness. Because at least one person had connected with the book on those two levels.

One of my favorite things about The Living and The Hunted is the way you explore issues of race and class as “part of the story instead of the story itself,” using their intersection to inform and deepen the plot without becoming the focus. You’ve talked about the need for diverse characters “to feature in stories where race isn’t the story,” and about how more “characters of color need to make [the] leap” from the barrio to Hogwarts, Panem, or the deck of a doomed luxury cruise ship. Would you talk a little about why diversifying the types of stories that feature diverse characters is so critical, and about the current state of the “silent revolution” (getting  “stories about mixed-race kids to end up in the hands of middle-class suburban white kids”) you’re “secretly trying to nudge along”?

I’m a mixed person. I’m as white as I am Mexican. But I’m also as Mexican as I am white. This puts me in an interesting place in the call for more diversity in books for young people. I feel like I have a good vantage point. I think writers who are diverse have to pump out at least one book that’s “about” diversity – a book that hits race head on. For me that book is Mexican WhiteBoy. I didn’t write about the mixed-race experience to provide any answers. I just asked the questions that circled my own head as a young person. But once I’d completed that project, I started to look for stories that weren’t as directly focused on race. If your main character is mixed, race is always going to be a variable, but it doesn’t have to be the variable that drives the plot. In my next two books, race receded into that background a bit more. But I was still labeled an “urban” writer – whatever that means. When I wrote The Living and The Hunted, I tried to focus solely (at least on the surface) on natural disaster and a nefarious drug company. Maybe the book talk version of the story would appeal to the kids in the private schools, too. Subversively, of course, my dream was to get my mixed race characters into the greatest number of hands. I wanted a kid from a rich private school to fall for Shy without consciously thinking about the fact that he/she was falling for a mixed kid from a poor neighborhood. I feel like this part of the process matters. And I can’t wait to encounter a huge Hunger Games-level book that features a diverse character. I feel like that would be analogous to Barack Obama getting voted into office. Pretty wild that kid’s books are a little behind American politics.

You’ve talked about the divide between the barrio and the “fancy private school on the other side of town,” between the wrong-side-of-the-track kids and the middle-class suburban kids, and examined the intersection of race and class in your work. But “most people seem to focus on themes of race in my books,” you’ve said, whereas “class is just as important (if not more important), but…anytime race is involved, it becomes the focus.” So let’s talk about class for a moment.  Fiction definitely has the power to create empathy, but is there more to it than that? Why is examining class struggle in fiction so important and how do your own experiences with income inequality impact the stories you choose to tell and the way you approach your characters? 

I will always write about kids growing up with less. My own experience with poverty is the single most defining piece of my childhood. If my stories create empathy, great. But that’s not exactly what I’m after. I just think the lives of kids growing up in difficult circumstances are beautiful and worthy, too. Even when they’re messing up. Truth is, these kids start the race of life (and America definitely makes us believe there is a race) way behind the pack. For me, the most interesting journey to follow is the kid who’s fighting to catch up. Even if he never gets there, his story is still so valid to me. Class is definitely the unspoken part of the diversity equation. The book I’m writing right now is directly confronting the potholes (real and imagined) one confronts when “getting out” of the neighborhood. The project is making me see all the complexities of my own journey from National City (near the Mexican border) to Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Just Can’t Get Enough

Question from Susan Juby: You switched gears and genres when you wrote The Living and the follow-up, The Hunted. Now you’ve also written a picture book. Can you talk about what it’s like to keep trying new things and what you’ve learned from pushing yourself into new genres and new categories?

I guess I’m trying to keep myself from slipping into a comfort zone. The interesting thing is all these projects might be different in form or genre, but I’m following kids from the same working class world. So in that way, they all have a similar heartbeat. I will say, though, I love the strange mix of innocence and sophistication in great picture books. I have a one-year-old daughter so I read a ton of them. Some are so amazing, even on a 78th read. I bow down to the creators of great, enduring picture books.

Matt has has contributed a question for the next writer in the series, Ernest Cline.  Watch for an interview with him coming soon!


Matt de la Peña is the New York Times Bestselling author of six critically-acclaimed young adult novels: Ball Don’t Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here, I Will Save You, The Living, and his most recent book, The Hunted.  He’s also the author of the award-winning picture book A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis (illustrated by Kadir Nelson) and the multi-starred Last Stop on Market Street (illustrated by Christian Robinson.)  Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific where he attended school on a full basketball scholarship. de la Peña currently lives in Brooklyn NY.  He teaches creative writing and visits high schools and colleges throughout the country.

You can find Matt at his website and on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter or Instagram


–Julie Bartel, currently reading Armada by Ernest Cline and Beautiful Darkness (again) by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët 

Notes from a Teens’ Top Ten Book Group Participant: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Wed, 08/05/2015 - 07:00

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

Books are nominated by members of Teens’ Top Ten book groups in school and public libraries around the country. To give you a glimpse of some of the teens behind this process, we’re featuring posts from Teens’ Top Ten book groups here on The Hub. Today we have a review of a title a teen LOVED nominating– Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone. Thanks to Sam G., age 14, from the Bainbridge Island branch of Washington’s Kitsap Regional Library for this enthusiastic contribution!


The story is so beautiful that I would love to just sit down and have a coffee with the person this book is based on. And if I could, I would sit down with the main character.

Samantha, a sophomore in high school, was diagnosed with OCD at age eleven and has been on meds ever since. Keeping a secret this big from her popular friends is harder than it looks, with Sam’s mind trying to find a way to start the spiral of horrible thoughts she just can’t turn off. Then she meets Caroline, a school outcast who shows her poet’s corner, a place where you can write without being interrupted, cry without being judged and be in an environment that will keep you from losing yourself.

It’s a place where Sam needs, to slow down, think, and understand. Her life begins to take new shape, with her avoiding her old popular buddies while she falls more toward the hot guitar-playing guy named AJ, which is the same guy she teased nonstop in fourth grade and made him switch schools. But beware, this book has a twist ending so crucial and unexpected, that you may find yourself crying and hurting for the main character beyond control. I know I did.

OH. MY. GOSH. This book was THE story of my life. Of course, a doctor hasn’t certified that I have OCD, but I do feel exactly like Samantha, the main character, at times. That made it much more scary. I thought when picking this book up “Well my name is Samantha, maybe it’ll be a good book, I don’t know let’s just try it out” but after finishing it, I think my life has changed forever.

This book is guaranteed to become the next Fault in Our Stars. It has everything: A twisty ending, character conflicts so heartbreaking you wish you loved the book a little less so you could put it down and read something else; romance, poetry; it’s so heartbreaking and humorous at the same time you’ll want to DIE, and the most serious, most correct sequence for life. If this book hadn’t been certified fiction, I would have lived the rest of my life out thinking it was real. No joke. I love this book so much, and I don’t often say that about books.

-Sam G.

Reader Response: The Flawed Heroine of The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Tue, 08/04/2015 - 07:00

The following is a reader response from 2015 Hub Reading Challenge participant Hannah Rapp, who weighs in with her analysis one of the books she read for the challenge: Marie Lu’s The Young Elites, a Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten pick.

When it comes to books, we all have a few things we tend to gravitate towards.  For instance, I’m a sucker for high fantasy, from the rosy-tinged to the dystopian-esque.  For another, I love stories involving complicated female friendships or sibling relationships.  And I usually love a good anti-hero.  So when I picked up The Young Elites by Marie Lu, it didn’t take me long to realize that this book was going to be right up my alley – dark fantasy, a fascinating and deep relationship between the protagonist and her sister, and of course, an angry, vengeful, powerful, and bitter anti-hero.  Adelina Amouteru took this book from good to great for me, and I love her for it.

Of course, it is Adelina’s good qualities, as well as her bad, that make her a good character and anti-hero.  She is loyal, if wary of others.  She does, despite all the anger and bitterness between them, love her sister.  And she comes from a place of righteous rage.  Because we can all understand why someone who was hated and despised for something she couldn’t control, who watched those like her be persecuted, tortured, and executed, would become angry and vengeful.  It makes sense.  And a good anti-hero has to be relatable as well as flawed.

But it is Adelina’s flaws that make her so compelling to me personally.  The way she starts to love the power she can manipulate, and to love the power it gives her over others, is dark and terrifying but still somehow relatable.  The war between the dark parts of her and the gentler ones was more exciting to me than any of the battles she engages in with those around her.  It was like staring at a fight between two wild animals – it was horrifying and brutal, but also beautiful to watch all that power and rage being given form.

It’s not often that we get to see a heroine whose bad qualities are explored as much as their good, much less one whose worse qualities are part of what makes them powerful, exciting, and a protagonist.  But it’s so good to read, and so important.  Because of course, girls and women are just as capable of having dark impulses or cruel streaks as men.  They are not always just “good” or “bad,” and expecting that out of them is part of what makes us judge them so much more harshly than boys and men when they fall short of our expectations.  And so for that reason, readers of any gender don’t just need Heathcliffs and Humbert Humberts and Holden Caulfields – they also need Catherine Earnshaws and Arya Starks and Adelina Amouterus.  And with men so dominant in the realm of my beloved anti-heroes, is it any wonder that I was thrilled when I discovered Adelina, and that I fell for her so entirely?

-Hannah Rapp

Why Me? Reluctant Superheroes in YA Lit

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 07:00

Now that I am all caught up on my television shows, I am starting to look ahead to what will grace my DVR in the fall.  Season premiere time is always exciting, especially when there is some type of literary connection.  However, the upcoming show that is leaving me full of hope and anticipation is Supergirl.

In the DC universe, Supergirl is from the same planet as Superman. In fact, she is his older cousin.  However, something happened where she was suspended in time and came to planet Earth well after Clark Kent already established the house of El.  You know, the big S.

This show seems to be following the proper age gap of Kara Zor-El being younger and more inexperienced with her powers than her super famous cousin Kal-El.  She struggles with using them, controlling them, and what path she is supposed to take with them.

Which led me to thinking about books where our main characters are struggling to deal with their powers, or the implications of their powers, in some way.  I would love to have superpowers!  However, I really don’t know how I would react if power, greatness, and expectations were thrust upon me along with the ability to fly, super strength, and be able to shoot laser beams from my eyes.

So, to celebrate the authentic feelings that Kara is going through, here are a few books where in which our main characters are not always sure what to do with themselves or their powers.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore (2009 Best Books for Young Adults)

Katsa lives in a world where some have gracelings-.  An abilitiesy that allow them to do something exceedingly well.  Some people can work well with animals, some are expert swordsmen or archers.  Katsa’s graceling is the ability to kill.  No matter the size of her opponent, their ability, or strength, she always come out on top.  However, this comes with some complications, especially when her uncle, a ruthless king, decides to use her gifts for his gain. 

Defy by Sara Larson

Alexa, or Alex as she is known by everyone else, is an amazing soldier.  Good enough to be on the Prince’s guard, forced into disguise as a boy of course.  However, when the Prince is kidnapped by magicians, Alexa finds out that her skills as a soldier may not be attributed solely to hard work.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Alina is average.  Just like everyone else.  At least that is what she thought, until her best friend is attacked in the Fold, a place of evil and pure darkness.  Alina is able to save him with a remarkable hidden power that she has no idea how to control.  She is now a Grisha, a group of people with magical abilities and Alina has one of the most rarest and strongest powers of them all:  the power of light.  The entire kingdom is placing hope and faith in Alina to free them from the darkness that has overtaken their lands.  However, she still has no idea how to wield this power within.

The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks

Why can’t she be a better superhero like her older brother?  This is what Superhero Girl hears every time her mother calls.  No origin story, no arch-nemesis.  Just powers and the inability to do anything spectacular with these powers.

And if you are looking to read about a version of Supergirl who has no inhibitions and refuses to stay down after getting a few punches thrown her way, try Supergirl Vol. 1: Last Daughter of Krypton (The New 52).

-Mariela Siegert, currently reading Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A. Nielsen