Well, here’s a topic that’s going to make everyone’s day more cheerful…
Although we all have to face death at some point, many of us get through our day-to-day lives by putting it at the back of our minds. That doesn’t always work, though, and it’s not always what we need to do. Many churches honor All Saints’ Day on the first Sunday of November (All Saints’ Day being November 1) in part by reading a list of everyone among congregation members, friends, and family who have died in the last year. This year’s list at my church included my husband’s grandfather, my uncle, and a childhood classmate, bringing death squarely to the forefront of my mind right now.
As for many other difficult topics, there are tons of YA books that look death squarely in the face. In many cases, it’s just by including the death of a beloved character or having the protagonist face the very real possibility of death (The Hunger Games, anyone?). However, if you, like me, sometimes need to wrestle with death beyond acknowledging that it’s part of life, consider one of the following:
Death stinks. And while I’ve pretty well decided there’s no good way to go, death by cancer, when you’re a teenager, pretty much takes the cake for rottenness. The Fault in Our Stars acknowledges this right off and it shows snapshots of the horror of dying–but it doesn’t stop with these. Even while not skirting around their illnesses or death, Hazel and Augustus still focus their energy on the business of living. One of my favorite scenes in the book is their dinner in Amsterdam, with champagne that tastes like stars and a snowstorm of spring blossoms. It’s these descriptions of the beauty of life juxtaposed with the ugliness of death that make this book so poignant.
Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
A work of fantasy rather than realism, Incarnate introduces a world in which everyone but the protagonist, Ana, has been reborn. Hundreds of times. And instead of being reborn into a different form or a different class of society, people basically wait until they are old enough to take care of their basic needs and then continue on with their previous lives. They may change appearances, even genders, but they remain basically the same person.
What fascinated me about Incarnate was that while a central feature of death–nonexistence–has been essentially removed from the equation for most of the characters, they don’t fear death any less. In fact, having died so many times, it almost seems like Ana’s friend and protector Sam fears death more than Ana, because he knows what’s coming. Additionally, we find out later in the book that reincarnation is not 100% certain, so there is still the chance that when people die, they will disappear forever. If you like Incarnate, you’ll want to continue on to the other books in the trilogy, Asunder and Infinite.
Death abounds in Harry Potter–two important characters are killed off in the first chapter of the first book, not to mention the many battles, deaths, and near-misses that occur throughout the series. I mention the series, here, though, because death plays such an important role in the ultimate conflict between Harry and Voldemort. First, as Harry finds out over the course of lessons with Dumbledore, eluding death is one of Voldemort’s primary motivations. Behind all of his acts of cruelty is his desire to become immortal. Later on, Harry learns that he himself must embrace death in order to defeat Voldemort–and, as turns out–to have a shot at his own survival.
This book returns to a real-world look at death, although admittedly with the added fantastical element of the protagonist, Mia, able to watch and think while her gravely injured body is tended after a car accident. Mia ponders whether to fight for life or surrender to death, considering all she’s already lost (her parents are killed instantly in the crash) and whether continuing to live is worthwhile. Like in The Fault in Our Stars, it’s the vivid details of Mia’s life that makes her potential death–and the deaths of her loved ones–so hard-hitting.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2007 Printz Award Honor Book, 2007 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults, 2007 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, Ultimate Teen Bookshelf)
My last choice for this list features Death in a unique way: he is the narrator of the story, and a much more kindly character than one might expect. Although The Book Thief doesn’t feature humans dealing with death in quite the same way as the other books mentioned here, it reminds us both how encounters with death throughout our lives shape each of us, just as we see them shape protagonist Liesel. Also, Death’s commentary forms a stark reminder of how death is more present and visible for some–in this case, Europeans enduring World War II–than it may be for us.
Since death is something that we all have to deal with, it can be nice to know that it’s on other people’s mind, too. Whether you want to consider the philosophical reality of death and life after, or just know that others wrestle with loss, too, these (and many other!) books can be part of the process.
I know I’ve barely scratched the surface with this list. For a few more books on dealing with death, see Faythe Arredondo’s post on characters who have to deal with a friend’s death. What else can you suggest that fits in with this topic?
-Libby Gorman, currently reading Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles by Katherine Pancol
Over 32,000 teen readers cast their vote for the 2013 Teens’ Top Ten, and The Hub is celebrating their choices! Today we feature Sarah Cross, whose book Kill Me Softly is #9 on this year’s Teen’s Top Ten list.
We all know that life is no fairy tale–unless you live in Beau Rivage, a city of secrets and curses where familiar stories come dangerously to life. In Kill Me Softly, Mirabelle runs away to Beau Rivage seeking answers about her parents’ death and instead discovers the truth about herself. Like the other inhabitants of the city, Mira is caught between the promise of happily ever after and the power to determine her own destiny–if she can survive that long.
Here is my interview with author Sarah Cross:
If you were a fairy tale character, who would you be?
Maybe Gretel from “Hansel and Gretel.” I have the same lack of common sense (eating someone’s house? It seemed like a good idea at the time …) and I was always really protective of my little brother, who was definitely the type to get himself locked in a cage by a witch. Although I really like the princess from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Traveling Companion.” Her garden is full of the skeletons of suitors who have failed to solve her riddles. It’s one thing to have your suitors killed in fairy tales, but this girl has their bones hanging everywhere like Christmas tree ornaments. And she’s not even an evil queen yet.
Kill Me Softly is definitely a departure from the typical fairy tale retelling or mash-up. How did you come up with the idea of a town full of people doomed to live out fairy tales?
I knew I wanted to incorporate multiple fairy tales, but I didn’t want any of the characters to be the one-and-only Snow White or Cinderella, because who is that, really? There are so many fairy tale variants; there’s no one definitive Cinderella tale, just versions that are more or less familiar to us. And so I liked the idea of fairy tale curses, because you can have more than one version of these characters and their stories can play out a little differently. And since the cursed characters know their stories and have these fates hanging over their heads, some feel like there’s no way out, while others are fighting to have the life they want, instead of the one they’ve been promised by their fairy tale curse. Happy endings are subjective, after all, and not everybody gets one.
I love the clever nods to the Disney versions and, of course, the details from the original fairy tales. Why do you think these stories continue to have such a hold on readers through the centuries?
I think fairy tales have lasted as long as they have because they’re so flexible. They’re short and full of imagery that sticks with you, and because the characters are so flat, their stories are ripe for adaptation. Every generation can have a Snow White that appeals to them, and the core of the story never has to change. Disney’s 1937 Snow White, the vampiric Snow White of Neil Gaiman’s “Snow, Glass, Apples,” the warrior-princess Snow White of ABC’s Once Upon a Time, Ever After High’s blonde fashionista Apple White, the Spanish toreador Snow White of the 2012 silent film Blancanieves… they’re all Snow White. Fairy tales are too alive to ever really get old.
You mention on your website that you are working on a companion novel about Viv. What else can we expect from Beau Rivage? Are there any other characters whose stories you want to explore more fully?
I’d love to introduce Beau Rivage’s Rapunzel, and also to write Layla’s story (Beauty and the Beast). The fun thing about working with a city full of people who are cursed to live out fairy tales is that the fairy tales overlap, so even when you’re telling one or two main tales, you’re brushing up against the other stories as the cursed characters go about their lives. So there’s room for a lot of cameos. You might see the Twelve Dancing Princesses eating breakfast at a diner in the morning, before they’ve even bothered to change their worn-out shoes. Or you might get a text from a girl with a Wild Swans curse, because she needs a ride to the graveyard to collect more nettles for those jackets she’s knitting to save her brothers’ lives. Just another day in Beau Rivage.
What is one weird thing you do when you are writing–a part of your process that is uniquely yours?
Okay, this is pretty weird–I don’t know if I’m the only person who does this but it definitely feels unique to my process. When I’m drafting, very often I’ll write a word or a partial line, and then right away I’ll think of another word or phrase that I might like better. So instead of stopping the flow of words to decide on one of them, I’ll type a forward slash, then type the alternate text right after it. I do this constantly. It’s actually kind of annoying, because it means no one but me can make sense of my drafts until I go back and clean them up. Every few lines there will be, like, a sentence within a sentence within a sentence. But that’s the way my mind works. I like to leave my options open.
If, like me, you cannot bear to wait for Sarah’s next book, you can find a short story set in Beau Rivage on her website!
-Wendy Daughdrill, currently reading The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
Good morning, Hub readers!
Last week, in honor of Halloween, we asked about your favorite ghost story in YA lit. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson came in first with 24% of the vote, with Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood not far behind with 18%. In third place, we had a tie: The Mediator series by Meg Cabot and Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol both garnered 14% 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!
Did you know November is National Adoption Month? In honor of this important topic that’s near and dear to many of our hearts, we’d like to know which fictional family from YA lit you’d want to adopt you. Vote in the poll below, and be sure to comment if we’ve missed your favorite fictional family.Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
Now that ghosts and ghouls have had their day, it seems appropriate to turn to beneficent supernatural beings. In fact, there’s a long tradition of honoring saints (All Saints’ Day) and praying for the souls of departed loved ones (All Souls Day) just after Halloween.
In recent years, we’ve seen countless permutations of teen characters with paranormal qualities. Good vampires, tormented werewolves, hilarious zombies… and so many more. Perhaps it was inevitable that angels, traditionally sacred creatures busy with the work of God, should be incorporated into YA fiction. Hierarchies of angelic responsibilities were created centuries ago by at least four major religions: Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and Zoroastrian. It’s interesting to see what sort of worlds are created for today’s teen angels.
Kissed by an Angel series by Elizabeth Chandler
This is an enduring series that focuses on the relationship between Tristan and Ivy, two beautiful teens who are tragically separated by Tristan’s death. Ivy is completely devastated, but she still feels Tristan’s presence, even feels the touch of his hand. This is because Tristan has returned to Ivy as her guardian angel. His task is protect Ivy from danger, particularly as they team up to track down Tristan’s killer. The first three books in the original trilogy are now published in one volume, Kissed by an Angel. Kissed by an Angel is an early entry in the realm of transcendental love affairs.
A good love story is hard to end, so after the first “arc” of the Kissed by an Angel series ends, Chandler returns with Evercrossed, which picks up after Ivy has moved on with her life and is content with her reliable boyfriend, Will. Tristan is still the love of her life, however, and in the subsequent books, Everlasting and Everafter, Tristan and Ivy continue their fight to be together, despite formidable dark forces that threaten them both.
In this series, angels are supernatural, and governed by absolute laws. Chandler adds some twists that fall outside traditional angel lore, such as fallen angels who are able to inhabit human bodies. This creates tense situations for the characters. As Ivy explains to a bewildered Will in Everafter, “Gregory is in Bryan the same way Tristan is in Luke.” Like many of the angel books below, the main point of interest is the romance, which in this case, is to die for.
Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick
Nora’s biology class becomes infinitely more interesting when the sexiest guy in the senior class, Patch Ciprian0, is assigned to sit with her. Coyly, Nora pretends to have no interest in Patch, even as she is increasingly drawn to him. She suspects that Patch is not the total bad boy he seems to be, although that might be wishful thinking. There is another boy interested in Nora, Elliot, who may have a terrible crime in his past. There seems to be no one Nora can trust.
Fitzpatrick says that she started building this fantasy with the notion of Patch, a boy who was once good but has somehow turned very bad. As she pondered what sort of circumstances would alter a character so thoroughly, Fitzpatrick hit on the idea of a fallen angel. There’s quite a bit more mythology built around Patch – who he is, what he wants, how that effects Nora. Readers will either love Patch for his rakish ways, or despise him for his capacity for real evil.
Fallen Series by Lauren Kate
Readers meet Luce in Fallen when she is sent to Sword & Cross, a reform school for fallen angels. There Luce, who is human, is pulled into the battle between angels on the side of God, and angels who bat for Satan. It is evident that Luce has been involved in this struggle through countless lifetimes, which she can barely remember. The immediate and intense attraction she feel for one of the boys, Daniel Grigori, emphasizes her eternal connections to fallen angels. For his part, Daniel goes out of his way to spurn her. He has insider knowledge of the danger in hooking up with Luce, and is determined to keep her away.
The fallen angels in the series, which continues with Torment, Passion, Rapture, and Fallen in Love, basically behave like kids in school with the same social issues – crushes, jealousy, unrequited love. Things are a bit more life and death, however, considering the fight between good and bad fallen angels. As the series progresses, more beings are introduced. There are Nephilim (half-angel, half-human,) Elders (those who manipulate the balance of power between good fallen angels and bad fallen angels,) Outcasts (turncoats who joined Lucifer in his defiance of God but didn’t accompany him to the otherworld,) and some minor angels. Great drama, but no relation to traditional angelology.
It’s probably fair to say that the intense passions between the central characters is more significant than the fact that they are angels. But many teen readers are hooked on the concept of love that lasts forever. Fallen is being made into a movie that is expected to be released in 2014.
Threshold series by Christa Kinde
In The Blue Door, fourteen year-old Prissie discovers that she is able to see beings that are usually invisible to humans. It’s quickly revealed that these are angels, and that many of the people she knows are angels as well. Kinde uses the Scriptures as inspiration for the hierarchy of these angels, which she helpfully shares on her web site. Kinde translates the esoteric descriptions of angels found in ancient scriptures into language that is meaningful for contemporary readers.
For example, Cherubim are traditionally described as winged creatures with the head of a lion, or sometimes as winged creatures with four heads, that of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. Their main task is to magnify the glory of the Almighty. They also show up guarding the way to the Garden of Eden. Kinde calls these beings, “Protectors.” The Protectors are also primarily occupied by singing the praises of God, but they are the angels who combat the fallen. Kinde describes her Protectors as, “Taller than humanly possible, these muscular warriors are well equipped for battle.”
Prissie is increasingly drawn into the world of the angels over the course of the series, which continues in The Hidden Deep and The Broken Window. Despite the ongoing battles between the angels and the fallen, the series respects the inherent sanctity of the angel population. The characters are friends rather than lovers, making it a good choice for teens who prefer their angels focused on God.
Angelfire series by Courtney Allison Moulton
For most of us, bad dreams are temporal experiences, pretty much over when we wake up. But Ellie’s bad dreams are memories from former lives, when Ellie was something more than human. In her human form she is powerful, but unable to express the magnificence of her true archangel form. In Moulton’s angel world, Archangels are the highest order of angel and the closest to God. There are also Soldier Angels, which sound somewhat like the Cherubim/Protector angels in the Threshold trilogy.
But things get quite complicated when the fallen angels are pulled into the mix. “Reapers” are descended from angels, and their moral inclinations are determined through maternal lineage. If the mother is of an angelic nature, so will the child. The child of a demonic mother, one that has herself descended from fallen angels, will inherit a demonic nature. This allows Moulton to really mix things up in the unavoidable battle between the two groups. Angelfire is followed by Wings of the Wicked, Shadows in the Silence, and A Dance with Darkness.
Sixteen-year-old Clara is a Quartarius, one-quarter angel. With the loving guidance of her mom, Clara is learning what this means in her life, starting with discovering her purpose. Clara is drawn to a lovely, handsome boy named Christian, and comes to believe that saving him (from what, she doesn’t yet know,) may be part of her purpose. But there’s also Tucker, very hot and possessed of a devilish grin. This triangle is familiar to fans of paranormal romances. Clara is deeply involved in the destinies of both these boys. By the end of the first book in the series, Unearthly, Clara comes to learn the tremendous responsibility that comes with angel blood.
When Hand was asked about her angel creations, she responded, “I think Unearthly is different from the other angel-related books in that it is, at heart, a human story. My characters aren’t angels; they’re humans with a bit of angel blood in them.” Nevertheless, the series enjoys comparable popularity in the field of angel lit. The story continues in Hallowed, Radiant, and Boundless.
The Sweet trilogy by Wendy Higgins
Anna is sixteen when she learns that she is a Nephilim, a child born of angelic or demonic parents. In Anna’s case, her parentage is mixed: Mom’s a guardian angel, and Dad’s the demon Belial, The Duke of Substance Abuse. In Sweet Evil, Anna learns that Nephilim are pulled to follow the nature of their parents, which in her case, are completely opposite directions. She’s being schooled in the details of angels and demons by the devastatingly handsome son of The Duke of Lust, Kaiden. Unsurprisingly, there is an attraction between them.
Wiggins took the time to set up her celestial world. The earthly dimension is filled with Dukes and their fiendish Legionaires, also known as “whisperers.” A list of all the Dukes, with descriptions of their evil responsibility, is included at the end of the book. The series continues with Sweet Peril.
Mercy series by Rebecca Lim
Angels that chose the wrong side in the battle between the Fallen and the Loyal may end up doomed to reside in human bodies on Earth, with no memory of their true identity. This is the fate that befalls Mercy, who knows that she is weirdly different from her classmates but doesn’t know why. As it turns out, Mercy is one of the angels who fell with Lucifer, her very own ancient lover, and now must atone for this grievous transgression. Lim doesn’t put much emphasis on the God aspect of angelhood, except to underscore all that is at stake. In the first book in the series, Mercy, Mercy is in the body of a girl named Carmen. While in Carmen’s body, Mercy meets a guy named Ryan, whose younger sister has been abducted. Her angelhood gives Mercy special gifts that she uses to help Ryan find his sister.
Violet Eden Chapters by Jessica Shirvington
Violet has only been seventeen for a few hours when her sort-of boyfriend, Lincoln, reveals that both of them are Grigori -part angel, part human. And that they are meant to be partners. Violet finds this so disturbing that she blames Lincoln for delivering the news. When the two of them go out that night, Violet becomes aware of a very hot guy staring at her. She is strongly attracted to him. He is, of course, a BAD angel, known as Phoenix. With the three central characters poised for a romantic triangle, the scene is set for an epic battle.
Shirvington does set up a backstory for her angels. It begins in the usual way, with all angels serving in the highest realm. As soon as angels begin to desire servants of their own, they are exiled from the kingdom. These exiled angels are able to assume a human form, retaining supernatural abilities and their own immortality. It’s not an ideal situation for them, however. Spiritual beings fit awkwardly in bodies of earthly elements, and the strain of maintaining a human presence can affect their minds for the worse. Both light and dark angels, forever at war with each other, can fall into exile, bringing their terrible battles to earth. To Violet’s annoyance, both light and dark angels hate Grigori.
On her web site, Shirvington address the connection between religious belief and angels. “I find the role of religion fascinating and the power it wields quite frightening,” she says, “but really the story in THE VIOLET EDEN CHAPTERS comes from the mythology and the fantastical more than anything else.”
My Totally Awkward Supernatural Crush by Laura Toffler-Corrie
Angels are mysterious creatures, but who knew you could find one waiting tables at Cowboy Clems Chow House? Jenna is appalled when her family takes her to Clems for her fourteenth birthday, until Cowboy Luke shows up to take their order. He. Is. Gorgeous. When Jenna’s mom gives Jenna a perfectly ugly heirloom necklace for her birthday, Luke is suddenly all in her business. Not just Luke, however, but also a scary-looking boy named Adam. This is a lighthearted parody of supernatural love triangles perfect for younger teens and tweens, though the angel authenticity rating is low.
Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans (Book 1 of the Memory Chronicles)
Lenore died the day before she would have turned eighteen. Since then, she has resided in Level 2, a stark environment where souls are virtually imprisoned by guardians. In Level 2, Lenore is able to play back scenes from her life. Gradually Lenore discovers that there are many factions in this otherworld, some divine and some evil. There is a sense of a hierarchy here, but it’s mostly used as a structure for intrigue and battle. This is another “angel” book that could be re-staged with any sort of magical effects with equal success.
This is but a brief overview of angel books in YA literature. In addition to these, there are books that have angel characters as part of a broader fantasy world. For many of the books included above, the romance overshadows the angel lore, with just a few imaginative elements that reflect back to the traditional angels and their hierarchies. Few even mention God or heaven, sticking to the exploits of fallen angels, half-angels, and eternal soul mates.
As a final treat, here’s a student-created parody of Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush,Hush.
-Diane Colson, currently reading Wise Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin
Welcome to The Hub’s first photo challenge! We are asking all of you to send us a photo of the book (or books!) that you can’t wait to read over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Whether you are finally going to tackle a classic novel that you have never read or you are planning to read the latest release, we want to see the photographic evidence!
Here are all of the nitty-gritty rules:
- For privacy reasons, make sure there aren’t any people in your pictures, please! But, aside from this one caveat, feel free to get as creative as you would like.
All entries must be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by November 24th to be considered.
By submitting your photo, you are consenting to its publication on The Hub, though we are under no obligation to publish all submissions that we receive.
A selection of the best photos from our readers and bloggers will be posted before the holiday weekend, so we’ll all be inspired to find a good read for the Thanksgiving break!
- Carli Spina, Hub Advisory Board member
This is a joint post about marriage in young adult literature. Romance, problems, college, family drama, addiction, and identity are all pretty common themes in YA lit, but marriage is definitely not. So how did we come up with this topic?
Mia: Weddings have been on my mind lately. I got married in September, and like other brides before me I found myself pondering the idea of marriage from lots of different angles, thinking about cultures and traditions and what it means to me personally. But one thing I didn’t consider until Sarah brought it up in an online conversation was how marriage and weddings connect to the world of young adult literature.
Sarah: I was looking through my old books to select one for my “That Was Then, This Is Now” series on The Hub. I was considering one of my favorites- Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones by Ann Head, which was a particular favorite of mine. It features a young high school couple who has to get married when the girl becomes pregnant. It was the only book I ever read about married teenagers and although it was incredibly dated even when I read it (published 1967) I found it romantic, tragic, and fascinating. While I was considering it Mia’s wedding was on my mind, which was how I started thinking about marriage and weddings and YA lit. I particularly wondered if there are any novels showing realistic youngish people getting married.
We both found ourselves coming back to this topic, sometimes with book suggestions we’d dredged up from long-ago memory, sometimes with recent contemporary examples of young adult friends or fictional characters who were planning their own weddings.
The longer we reflected on this topic, the more we realized that we really couldn’t find many realistic stories about young adults preparing for their weddings or marriage. Then we started to wonder why. There seemed to be enough examples we could cite from fantasy or historical fiction (for example, 2012 Morris Award Finalist and 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults selection, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, which features a political marriage of the main character, or Twice Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris, which is a fun fairytale)– but far fewer to be found depicting real teens thinking about marriage. We could think of many other examples of stories depicting important young adult relationships, big life decisions, and even rituals. But as accustomed as we may have become to equating a happy ending with a wedding in romantic comedies and the fairytales we experienced as young readers, there were hardly any books for teens that lead to vows, veils, and gold rings. Which is not to say that marriage is never, ever addressed.
I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan is a switched identity romance in which the swept-off-her-feet heroine is proposed to on her 18th birthday. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (a 2009 Teens’ Top Ten winner) features the long awaited marriage of Bella and her vampire love, Edward. 2009 Printz Honor book Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan is a story in which the ultimate marriage proposal may surprise readers. And Kavita Daswani’s Lovetorn addresses the contemporary practice of arrange marriage, with the teenage protagonist torn between her fiance in India and her high school life and boys in the U.S. While all of these titles have engagements/marriage as a significant part of the story, none of them have particularly shining examples of marriage or a happy ending.
We concluded that perhaps YA lit as we know it today really started to emerge at a point when there were more options for life after high school, and it seems like YA books helped to define their audience by highlighting so many of the less-traditional options that were becoming available paths, rather than the traditional ones. So, in older titles such as Beverly Cleary’s Sister of the Bride (1963) and Carson McCuller’s Member of the Wedding (1946), girls with family members getting married consider their own marital futures, whereas YA in the ’70s and ’80s has older teens considering colleges, and whether or not to stay close to home or break out and go far away. Even in Sarah Dessen’s newest novel, The Moon and More,which is set between high school and college, and has a long term couple in it, marriage is not considered as a serious next step.
With the emergence of the “New Adult” novels, perhaps that is where one might find serious relationships where marriage is a possibility. A perfect example is Meg Cabot’s latest Heather Wells mystery–The Bride Wore Size 12. Teens who read Meg Cabot’s decidely young adult novels and then continued on to the the Heather Wells series will be reading about a bride-to-be.
This was a fascinating subject for us to explore and we would love to hear from you in the comments your thoughts and/or title recommendations!
-Sarah Debraski, currently reading The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle, and Mia Cabana, currently reading Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff
I’m on Twitter a lot and I often see a lot of discussion on what the next big trend will be for YA lit, or people talking about the latest dystopian/paranormal/fantasy/hot new topic, but I don’t often see a lot of talk for contemporary titles by “fringe” authors. I LOVE the contemporary genre and want to see it get more love! I decided I wanted to tackle these books in a new series about contemporary titles for The Hub called: “Is This the Real Life?” (because it pairs so well with Kelly Dickinson’s new series on fantasy: “Is This Just Fantasy?”). I’m going to try and do themes each month (and feel free to suggest a theme in the comments) that will highlight both new and old titles.
In Mexico (and other countries) today is the beginning of the holiday known as Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead. It is a day when family and friends come together to pray for and to remember those who have died. With this in mind, my post this month is about teens that are “haunted” by the death of a friend or classmate.
The most well-known of this type of book is the 2008 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers and Best Books for Young Adult title, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. This is the story of shy Clay Jensen and his emotional journey as he listens to tapes made by Hannah Baker, explaining all the reasons she killed herself. Clay is shocked by what he hears and why HE is included on this list. He learns that what may seem like harmless actions (or non-actions) to others actually had tragic repercussions.
Newly published Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriel, tells the tale of Rebecca “Rebel” Blue. Often in detention,
Rebel is shocked to find perfect Kennedy Green there one day after school. Their assignment is to create a bucket list for themselves. Kennedy tries to connect with Rebel but fails. Rebel trashes both their assignments and thinks nothing more of the lists as they leave. Rebel is shocked the next day when she learns that Kennedy has died in a car accident and begins to feel guilty about the way she treated Kennedy as she was the last one to see her alive. Rebel hunts down Kennedy’s bucket list and sets out to complete it in hopes that she can find something to connect to as she also is still grieving over the death of her mother and their carefree lifestyle.
Printz Award Winner Looking for Alaska by John Green is probably the most highly regarded book of this nature. It has been challenged in schools and is still very popular. Miles “Pudge” Helter leaves his home in Florida to attend a boarding school in Alabama. After he meets his roommate and his friends, some “Weekend Warriors” aka rich kids prank Pudge as payback for something his roommate and friends allegedly did the year before. This makes Pudge part of their group and they go about planning their counter prank. As this happens, Pudge starts falling for the girl of their group, Alaska who is unpredictable and self-destructive. Pudge finally kisses Alsaka and the next day, she dies. What Pudge and his friends try to figure out is if her death was an accident, or if she committed suicide.
Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanches was published in May. Frenchie lives down the street from a cemetery and is slightly obsessed with death and Emily Dickinson. After the death of classmate Andy Cooper, Frenchie begins to act differently and her friends boil this down to her having trouble accepting her best friend’s new girlfriend. What they don’t know is that Frenchie had a crush on Andy, and actually spent the night with Andy the night before he died. She struggles to find out what purpose she had in Andy’s last night and decides to recreate it with the help of new friend Colin.
William C. Morris Finalist and a YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, Hold Still by Nina LaCour explores the life of Caitlin and how she has to go on with life after her best friend Ingrid kills herself. Ingrid leaves Caitlin her journal letting her know a lot had happened to her that she was unable to tell Caitlin. As Caitlin reads the journal, she begins to see what was really happening to Ingrid and begins life without her.
These are just some of the books that are about teens dealing with the death of a classmate or best friend. I know about Wintergirls by Laure Halse Anderson, but what others did I miss? Let me know in the comments!
-Faythe Arredondo, currently reading Confessions of a Hater by Caprice Crane
Here’s some bookish news you might have missed this week:
- @PitchDarkBooks: Prepare for next month with the 15 most anticipated YA books publishing in November via @EpicReads ––> http://bit.ly/Hfbzyz
- @PitchDarkBooks: Watch @VeronicaRoth discuss her @Divergent series – recorded live from the #Allegiant tour! http://youtu.be/8m588VE4MxQ
- @PublishersWkly: Random House Acquires Figment http://pwne.ws/1amutzA
- @catagator: Spend some time with @malindalo‘s data on LGBTQ YA books and mainstream publishing: http://www.malindalo.com/2013/10/lgbt-young-adult-books-2003-13-a-decade-of-slow-but-steady-change/ …
- @PitchDarkBooks: 12 Creepy YA Books That Should Be Made Into Horror Movies ––> http://bit.ly/1g7Cril
- @catagator: If you didn’t read @courtney_s‘s excellent “Writing for Girls,” you need to. Why girl experiences in fiction matter: http://summerscourtney.tumblr.com/post/65383763099/my-books-usually-come-from-a-place-where-im
- @IceyBooks: Hitting Shelves (94) — October 29th, 2013 http://goo.gl/fb/arXUO
@TLT16: 10 #yalit titles dealing with Mental Illness Source: http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2012/08/top-10-books …… http://tmblr.co/Z2IpfrytIYPd
- @PWKidsBookshelf: 5 Series You Probably Missed as a Kid (But Should Read as an Adult) | The Millions http://pwne.ws/17rwdVW
- @TLT16: In today’s Sunday Reflections @robinreads discusses empathy, fiction and new book by Laurie Halse Anderson http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2013/10/sunday-reflections-imagining-others.html?m=1 …
- @sljournal: Remembering JFK : books and websites for students http://ow.ly/qcuKe
- @PWKidsBookshelf: A PW feature: new children’s and YA books tackle bullying http://pwne.ws/1gYIUNP
- @HarlequinTeen: You could win @jkagawa ‘s The Iron Traitor, The Lost Prince and $25 gift cert from GEEKS OF DOOM! http://www.geeksofdoom.com/2013/10/28/contest-25-the-iron-traitor-giveaway?
- @yabooknerd: Tween Tuesday Review (+GIVEAWAY) Double Vision: Code Name 711 by @FTBradleyAuthor -Awesome spy book http://yabooknerd.blogspot.com/2013/10/tween-tuesday-review-double-vision-code.html … @HarperChildrens
- @PWKidsBookshelf: The CW Sets Drama Adaptation Of Sara Shepard Book Series ‘The Perfectionists’ http://pwne.ws/18BRcB9
- @PenguinTeen: Two new #VAMovie stills! Do these little sneak peeks make it harder/easier to wait? Either way we still want them! http://bit.ly/19724vp
- @eonline: #VeronicaMarsMovie teaser footage is here–love triangle alert! Are you Team Logan or Team Piz?! http://eonli.ne/1947asf
- @TLT16: EW has a frame by frame breakdown of the CATCHING FIRE trailer http://tmblr.co/Z2Ipfrytj26b
- @PenguinTeen: The #IfIStay cast poses for pictures & the entire Internet falls in love. Thanks for the inside peek, @gayleforman! http://bit.ly/1aBm4GL
- @seventeenmag: #Divergent fans! We got the juiciest set secrets straight from the cast! Check out our behind-the-scenes video: http://svn.tn/6011bSOZ
- @PenguinTeen: .@Marie_Lu‘s #Champion is full of nonstop action & we have a trailer to prove it! Check it out on @hollywoodcrush: http://on.mtv.com/196EOgN
- @abramskids: Diary of a #WimpyKid Hard Luck hits stores on November 5th. Here’s the official book trailer: http://ow.ly/qggZ3
- @sljournal: Make It @ Your Library Launches Maker Space Project Website http://ow.ly/qg4TG #makerspaces
- @TLT16: GIF 101, I am trying to learn about them, so I thought I would share. http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2013/10/geek-is-new-black-gif-101.html …
- @Teenreads: Wanna be on our Teen Board? Applications for the January-June 2014 term are up on our site! Apply now! http://ow.ly/qkdo6
- @catagator: Some data from that big book blogger survey that’s worth checking out http://www.rivercityreading.com/2013/10/book-blogging-survey-results-your-blogs.html …
- @catagator: On the blog, a look at book packagers and literary development companies and their role (& growth) in YA fiction http://www.stackedbooks.org/2013/10/on-book-packagers-and-literary.html …
Just for Fun:
- @harperteen: RT @EpicReads: How To Get Rid Of Your #Allegiant Hangover (4 proven methods!) ––> http://shrd.by/GTZlwz
- @brokeandbookish: Top ten Halloween costumes inspired by books I’ve read — @EWein2412 @LeilaSalesBooks @marissa_meyer http://www.perpetualpageturner.com/2013/10/costumes-inspired-by-ya-books.html …
- @Scholastic: What would Shakespeare tweet? How about Emily Dickinson? @BookishHQ imagines 12 literary legends on @Twitter: http://bit.ly/1cqQkaV
- @harperteen: #TheBookShimmyAwards are officially happening! Stay tuned to @EpicReads for details and how you can get involved!
When looking for a small town with more literary history, you could be hard pressed to find a place better than Salem, Massachusetts. Not only is the town the home to such literary classics as The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables but the site is a font of inspiration for books because of the horrific witch hunts, trials, and general hysteria that took place there in 1692.
The witch trials, I think, will always be a source of inspiration for writers, and will always draw reader because the hysteria and executions are shocking even as we struggle with our own modern problems of intolerance. It seems unbelievable that something so silly and foolish, and so clearly the product of fear and ignorance, could have happened on our soil even before we were a country.
The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 left 19 people executed and dozens more accused of witchcraft. Dreams and visions were used as trustworthy and legal evidence in a court of law and fear ruled over all. Despite eventually apologizing and attempting to restore the names of the accused and executed, the damage was done. Lives were ruined and the city forever associated with these horrific events. For a brief history of the trials, the Smithsonian has an easy to digest article here. The history of the witch trials lives on in this little city, but in an unexpected way. Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans have taken back the city and every October, the city becomes Halloween central for the whole month. The witch trials are a sad and shameful period in our history, but reading about them is important to understand our own present prejudices and as a way to prevent our own fears from making us cruel.
Witches, magic, and the witch trials in general always make for a popular book, so here are a few titles to keep Halloween going throughout the year.
Witch Child by Celia Rees (a 2002 Best Book for Young Adults selection) - Mary is a girl raised by witches on her way to the New World from England. After seeing her grandmother killed horribly for witchcraft, Mary is determined to make her way in the new colony of Massachusetts. Befriending other lone passengers on the voyage and then Native Americans once she lands, others in the Salem community start to notice. And they start to talk about witchcraft. Set before the hysteria of 1692, this book still is a good example of the fear and mistrust that Mary encounters and that the accused of witchcraft encountered as well. Another great part of this book is an investigation of what life what like in the colonies and how hard it was to be different.
Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan – When Sarah moves to Missouri from California she has trouble fitting in and it doesn’t help that after she volunteers to play a fortune teller at a Halloween fair that she starts to have dreams and visions about Salem, Massachusetts and the witch trials there. While not set in Salem, Sarah’s visions take place there and make the reader curious about the real Gallows Hill. While it is the real place where the witches from the 1692 hysteria were hanged, there is not a consensus on where it actually is located. There is Gallows Hill Park in Salem, but many experts find that the historical description of the place don’t match up to the present location.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katharine Howe - Although this is a book in the adult market, it has some great teen appeal. Connie, a young graduate student moves back to her family home in Marblehead after her mother asks her to help deal with Connie’s grandmother’s house. Soon Connie finds herself in the middle of a mystery involving a key, an old family Bible, the name “Deliverance Dane,” and a physick or spell book. Learning more about the history of her ancestors’ connection to the Salem Witch trials, Connie discovers some shocking truths. The author is actually related to two people who were accused of being witches in 1692, and their stories inspired her to write the book.
Pick up one of these books and allow yourself to be transported back to a time when fear and intolerance rules. Sometimes reading about these issues through the lens of history allows us to see how similar they are to our similar situations.
Further reading includes:
-Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill
-The classic, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
-Time of the Witches by Anna Myers
-Anna Tschetter, currently reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Boo! Happy Halloween, Scorpio! This month will mark a good time to take advantage of the opportunities the world offers. It also offers a rare chance to step back and look inward for the next big thing on the horizon. It is also the perfect month to spend time with those spooky (or sometimes spoopy) tales that will stay with you throughout the year.
Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge, illustrated by Andrea Dezso
We all know the original folktales that have been handed down are more terrifying and gory than the versions on TV and in the movies today. Except for these. Thoroughly modern, deliciously cynical, and even more gruesome than anything the Grimm Brothers wrote, Koertge, with a graphic assist by Dezso, takes you to magical worlds that look a little too much like our own. The truth about Bluebird, Little Red Riding Hood and 12 disobedient sisters will leave you enthralled and terrified.
Cas and his mom move to Thunder Bay, Canada for a new start. Actually, Cas is on the hunt for the ghost that killed his father, the man who taught him everything he knows about ghost hunting. What Cas finds is even more dangerous, the ghost of a young woman, Anna who drips blood on her white party dress before she attacks her victims. While hunting her and finding about her tragic past, Cas finds himself reluctant to kill her and begins to wonder where the ghosts he kills go. A perfect horror read for fans of a good, old-fashioned ghost story.
Soon the leaves will be gone, Scorpio, and another season will be starting. Take this special time to immerse yourself in all the world has to offer.
- Amanda Margis, currently reading Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe and listening to The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, narrated by LeVar Burton
I belong to a book club where we do a role call to see what everyone is reading. I am always interested to know what other people are reading or waiting to read– but just knowing what is popular in Ohio or the whole United States no longer satisfies my curiosity. I want to know what teens are reading all over the world.
Ukraine is the largest country entirely within Europe. Their nation, like Russia, divides land into provinces they call oblasts. Ukraine is a country of 45,000,000 people. It’s capital and largest city Kiev has a population of 3,000,000 of people. Kiev is home to the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine. It houses over 15 million items. (Library) Ukrainian is the main language but they recognize 18 regional languages including a lot I had not heard of like Crimean Tatar, Krymchak and Rusyn. (Ukraine) About 7,000,000 people, or 14.5% of the population are 14 years of age or young. Which makes me wonder: what are all of them reading?
- Where do you work?
- What are the most popular titles for teens at your library right now?
- What languages are the books in your teen collection?
- Do your teens prefer to read print novels or ebooks?
I hope to learn and share about teen reading around the world. If you or someone you know lives overseas and works as a teacher or librarian with teens, please message me so I can do a post about the country they live in. To learn more about what other teens are reading, check out my previous posts What Are You Reading, Russia?
-Laura C Perenic, currently reading The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Alice is young and naive in the way teenagers were before technology; she had no idea of the dangers of drugs, date rape, or life on the streets. So when Alice trips on LSD for the first time, it pretty much blows her mind. This is the beginning of an extended bad trip for Alice, as she tumbles down into a life of degradation and addiction.
It’s been over forty years since Alice’s tragic story was published. Originally, the author was listed as “Anonymous,” which lent a spooky air of authenticity to the book. Now the book is attributed to the writer Beatrice Sparks. Sparks authored a number of histrionic novels as “Anonymous,” such as It Happened to Nancy: By an Anonymous Teenager, A True Story from Her Diary , and Annie’s Baby: The Diary of Anonymous, A Pregnant Teenager. We know that. But for many readers, the book still evokes the desperate struggle of a naive girl caught in the nightmare of druggie-culture, circa 1971.
“Go ask Alice” is a line from the song White Rabbit, performed and recorded by the Jefferson Airplane in 1967. The song had been written by their lead singer, Gracie Slick, a few years earlier, before she had even joined the band. Obvious references to Lewis Carroll’s books, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass are easily re-interpreted as LSD-induced hallucinations. Here is Gracie Slick performing with the Jefferson Airplane on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967.
Go Ask Alice was also adapted into a movie in 1973. Additionally, the phrase, “Go Ask Alice” was used to title Columbia University’s pioneering question and answer web site, established in 1993. The web site provides a safe place for teens to ask questions about health issues, including drugs, sex, and STDs.
-Diane Colson, currently reading Boxers by Gene Luen Yang and listening to Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff, read by Eric Martin
A couple weeks ago a piece called “Young Adult Books that Changed our Lives” appeared on the CNN website, featuring members of the CNN digital newsroom talking about an interesting array of “books that have stuck with them since adolescence.” It got me thinking–what YA books would I pick? What books would others–in this case my fellow Hub bloggers–pick?
A bunch sprang to mind right away, so many that I had to make up some rules for myself in order to make anything resembling a manageable list. I decided to limit myself to at least vaguely YA titles (no adult books, no straight-up children’s books) and to only mention books that literally changed my life, books that caused me to take action in some way, or that fundamentally changed the way I think. The ones I’m highlighting are certainly among my favorites, but more importantly, these books had such a profound impact on me that there were tangible repercussions from reading them.
Let’s start with the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. I remember reading the first book in the series, Betsy-Tacy, when I was 10 years old, and loving it. I loved the next couple but then after Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill…I could never seem to find the next book on the shelf. Years passed and then–bam–the whole rest of the series! Betsy, Tacy, and Tib went downtown, they went to high school, they grew up, and I wanted nothing more than to jump into their world head first. When I found out the entire series was based on the author’s life, that I could go to Deep Valley and climb the Big Hill, that I could visit Betsy’s house…I’m not sure it’s possible to explain how I felt, but it was a lot like finding out that Hogwarts was a real school and I could go there! Skip ahead a few more years and I did, I went to Deep Valley (Mankato, Minnesota) and saw it all and not only that, I did it with a whole bunch of other people who, like me, thought they “were the only one” who loved the gang as much as I did. I made friends at that convention (and online, and at various conferences, and in person) that have had as much of an impact on my life as the books themselves. Plus I know all the words to songs like I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now, Morning Cy, Dreaming, and Tonight Will Never Come Again.
I’m going to lump The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper and A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle together–unfairly, perhaps, but they are inextricably linked in my mind, probably because I first encountered them around the same time, and because they astounded me in similar ways. It’s not overstating much to say that if you read these two books (and a handful of de Lint, and probably Ender’s Game) you would know an awful lot about the way I think, because the sense of wonder Cooper and L’Engle convey, the wondrous connections they draw, and the worldviews they so eloquently describe have become integral to the way I see the world.
Finally, 2006 Printz Honor book I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak is not the sort of book that usually kills me, but it did. Completely. The literary pyrotechnics of the last chapter were like a gift, an idea whose time had come. It’s an excellent book, a completely compelling story, and–for me–a message that literally couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune moment. I got the tattoo (though probably, based on past experience, not the one you might think.)
There weren’t that many YA books around when I was a teen and I read mostly adult books. The one story that had a huge impact on me when I read it in 8th grade was Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery.” I still remember how shocked and horrified I was by the mob mentality of the townspeople as they stoned to death the unlucky woman who drew the marked slip condemning her to death. I never imagined anything like this could actually happen until reading that short story. You can see the influence it has had in books like The Hunger Games.
Three books really sparked my growth as a reader and a librarian. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. Kidnapped was the first book I read that I had to own. I saved my allowance and bought a hard cover copy at the book store. I remember looking at each edition and choosing the volume with illustrations by N.C. Wyeth. This was the first time that a book felt like a treasure and worth protecting. Hatchet was a book that inadvertently got me in trouble. We had to read it for school and I wasn’t paying attention when the teacher said to only read the first 5 chapters. I read the whole book. My teacher scolded me for reading ahead but this was the first time I realized how fast I could read and how hungry I was for adventure stories.
The Sword of Shannara was a book I discovered working as a library aide in junior high school. I was shelving and found this huge paperback. All fiction books at our library that were very long also seemed very boring. This book looked different. I started to read the book while I was supposed to be working. I nearly forgot to check it out when I left for my next class. When I got home from school, I began to read again. I became so wrapped up in the story that the afternoon passed and at dinner time came. I didn’t notice my mom cooking or how it got dark and she put a light on for me. To stop reading was almost like pulling myself out of quicksand, as if the story was reticent it let me go. These experiences let me to a lifetime of literacy and librarianship.
Here are the books that changed me:
The Tiffany Aching Series (The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, I Shall Wear Midnight) by 2011 Edwards Award winner, Terry Pratchett
I read these starting about 9 years ago and they changed the way I thought about…everything. Tiffany and the other witches on the Discworld are eminently practical, down to earth, sensible, and smart. They realize that magic is not fireballs and flashy spells, but “headology” – psychology, therapy, and hard work. Everyone needs them, many fear them, but they do the hard work no one else wants to do. That is incredibly appealing to me. I never want to be flashy; I’d rather put my head down and get 23 things done with hard work than make a fuss over doing one big thing.
Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Doug’s story could have been trite and formulaic. “Boy from abusive home makes good.” But man oh man, can Schmidt write. He spins Doug’s tale out and breaks your heart into little pieces, patches it back together with hope, smashes it again, yet you keep reading. It’s genius-level work and it made me seek out other, realistic, and historical fiction YA works that I might never have tried otherwise. (I tend to get stuck in my fantasy rut.) Thanks for broadening my horizons, Mr. Schmidt! (The audio version of Okay For Now is a 2012 Odyssey Award Honor book.)
The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman
This is the funniest book I have ever read. Period. That it also has some heart-string tugging moments is just a bonus. People often write “LOL” or say “This made me laugh.” But this book made me laugh, out loud, in public. I recommend it to everyone, male, female, adult, teen, families going on road trips (the audio is fun), and everyone has come back to me asking for more of Antsy & co. This book made me realize I need to not pigeonhole writers. Shusterman is so much more than a horror/SF guy.
Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman (2001 Printz Honor book) was incredibly powerful for me. It essentially gave me a vision and perspective on what it might be like to have a severe condition like cerebral palsy that not only confines a person to a wheelchair, but also disallows verbal expression, where I had none before. I still recommend this title to teens because it has the ability to open their eyes to a totally different way of experiencing life, plus it is an entertaining and gripping read. Give teens a book like that and you never know what great things it might inspire!
This isn’t a personal one, but I thought it fit. Recently, I was weeding the YA fiction and came across writing in a book. The book is Willow by Julia Hoban, which is about a girl who self harms. While I have not read it and it seems to have mixed reviews, these comments from three different readers speak to the power of the right book getting into the hands of a teen reader (or any reader) at the right time.
“This book is amazing. It saved my life.”
“Now that I have stopped, my dad looks at me. It took one bad summer and a ride in an ambulance to snap me out of it. Thank you might as well of saved my life.”
“I read this book and stopped shortly after. I came to the realization I needed to move on and I needed help.”
For all those who rail against “dark” YA fiction or are afraid it inspires teens to engage in risky or destructive behavior, this is testament to the opposite. Books don’t just change lives, they save them.
As a (still-sort-of) young black woman, I have not read a lot of YA written by black women. There were a few I found in middle school whose titles I have long forgotten, but by high school I had moved on to Anne Rice, Bridget Jones, and high fantasy of all sorts. When I started revisiting YA as an adult, I found that often times, I had no patience for the dialect I kept encountering while trying to read “Urban YA” and wasn’t going to force myself through it to find the interesting plots that must have been buried underneath them. (I will interject that I have problems with dialect of any sort–Bloody Jack fell to that knife for me as well.) I wouldn’t figure out if these girls thought like me, had the same goals I did, or even liked any of the same things I did, because I couldn’t stand to read them talking. When I started working at a nearly-all-black high school, I scoured my colleagues’ brains and the book sites and stores for worthwhile books to give my students to read: still in their comfort zone, but outside of the norm. And then, out of the ice, a few arose. The first I read was The Kayla Chronicles. Pretty good; well-spoken teenagers with interesting issues who learn real lessons.
They started to show themselves to me: authors like Jacqueline Woodson who could write about anything (though If You Come Softly was the one that left me crying on the floor for an hour). But there was still something missing, in my own personal repertoire. I enjoy contemporary fiction, but my real bread and butter is urban fantasy and paranormal romance. And then, randomly, (in Target of all places!) I found them: The Cambion Chronicles by Jaime Reed. Not only was the series narrated by a spunky black girl who worked in a bookstore and lived off her geek cred, but the supernatural element was off the beaten path as well. Where else are you going to find a tasteful YA novel about a whole race of Succubi? The writing was superb and fun, and it wasn’t all about The Plight of the Black Teen in Urban America. No matter how important that particular story might be, there are other stories to tell. It was reading this series that really gave me both insight into (and hope for) the future of “multicultural fiction.” I still have students who only want to read about Their-Own, but at least there are other things to throw at them as they begin to take the steps toward being willing to read about The-Other.
The book that most changed my life was The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. At the time I was in graduate school pursuing my MLS, but I wasn’t sure what path to take. After reading that book, I knew that I wanted to be a YA Librarian. Ten years later, I’m still loving the work I do and it’s the second best decision of my life.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve got some reading (the Cambion Chronicles sound fantastic!) and re-reading to do!
-Julie Bartel, currently reading A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny (because that’s what I do in October) and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
When you envision a pirate does Johnny Depp from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies immediately come to mind? How about Blackbeard or other famous pirates from the mid 17th to early 18th centuries? Probably, right? The Books for International Talk Like a Pirate Day post by Geri Diorio on September 19th was an excellent look at pirates in YA books. With Halloween nearly here you might see kids dressed as pirates on October 31st too.
But, if you’ve seen the TV ads for upcoming films in the past month or heard the news recently, you know that modern-day piracy exists and is very different from what we usually imagine when we think of pirates. Modern-day pirates are more likely to wear jeans and carry AK47s than cutlasses. The Captain Phillips film starring Tom Hanks that opened October 11 isn’t necessarily geared for teens but its suspenseful plot does have teen appeal. It tells the true story of merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips, who was taken hostage by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean during the Maersk Alabama cargo ship hijacking in 2009. The film’s release has resulted in more attention being made in the press to the issue of modern piracy.
It made me wonder whether there were any YA books written on the topic. Coincidentally (or not?) 2013 Printz Award winner Nick Lake’s latest book Hostage Three is due out November 12 in the US and it’s about modern piracy.
In this taut and exciting psychological thriller, privileged teenager Amy, her wealthy British father and Amy’s stepmother are on a luxurious yacht trip around the world. Their route takes them from Britain’s Southampton, through the Suez Canal towards the east coast of Africa. Just as they reach Somalia’s coast, their yacht is attacked and seized by Somali pirates (who refer to themselves as the coast guard and not pirates). The pirates dehumanize their captives and refer to them by their order of importance. Hostage One is Amy’s father, Hostage Two her stepmother and Hostage Three is Amy. Despite this, Amy finds herself alternately attracted to and terrified of young, good looking Farouz, the pirates’ translator. As her feelings for him grow, she knows it’s an impossible situation yet she can’t help how she feels. Told from only Amy’s point-of-view, readers soon realize she’s a very unreliable narrator. What’s really true and not true? You’ll have to read it to find out. While more straightforward and lacking the magical realism of Lake’s 2013 Printz Award winning title In Darkness, Hostage Three is still a stunningly layered book. It’s not just about surviving an unthinkable hostage situation but also a look at how one often self-centered, self-destructive teenaged girl, who is still grieving her mother’s suicide, begins to grow up, learns to overcome loss and to be aware of her family as individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses. Although it hasn’t been nominated yet for any YALSA awards, it has received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly.
I searched in vain for other modern day piracy stories like this. Paul Rudnick’s hilarious contemporary fantasy book Gorgeous (a 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults nomination) mentions piracy in reference to a huge diamond being sold to random a wealthy family being held by Somali pirates but that was all. I didn’t find other whole books on the subject.
The closest I came was Michael Cadnum’s 2012 thriller Seize the Storm that’s about thieves at sea, but not pirates. It involves a family, including teenaged cousins Susannah and Martin, sailing with Susannah’s unhappily married parents and hired crew from California to Hawaii that encounter a drifting powerboat. When they board her they find two dead bodies and a huge amount of cash. They decide that it’s “finder’s keeper’s” unaware that they are being pursued by air by a plane with a crime warlord’s son and two hired hit men aboard who want their money back. It sounds exciting but the characters’ weren’t written with much depth and the way they seemed so detached from each other and the events left me cold. I just couldn’t make myself care about them or their fate.
Lake did his research and does an admirable job in Hostage Three explaining why piracy is so prevalent in that part of the world by revealing some of Farouz’s background in the story. Readers learn the economic reasons that piracy exists. It’s one of the few ways to make a living and it’s not personal, it’s just business to the pirates. They don’t want to kill hostages if they can help it because the hostages are worth more alive. That’s exactly what I’ve seen written in other articles too.
In 2012 a Danish film called A Hijacking “Kapringen” (original title) was released. This film, which is rated R, probably has more appeal for adults than teens, was made on a shoestring budget with a partly amateur cast, confronts the global scourge of piracy on the high seas through a psychological drama about negotiations to free a vessel and crew seized by Somali marauders. Lake’s book also details the negotiations involved in the hostage crisis and how one deviation from the agreement can make the difference between freedom and continued captivity for those being held hostage.
Given the publicity of Tom Hanks’ film and the frequent stories about piracy at sea in the news (except now there’s more piracy on Africa’s West Coast, not Somalia as much), I hope that there will be more books written on the topic since it’s an important, timely and thought-provoking topic that teens should know about.
If you have other book suggestions let me know. I’d love to hear them!
-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading the galley of Champion by Marie Lu
Good morning, Hub readers!
We are gearing up for Halloween around here: last week we wanted to know your favorite vampire in YA lit. Simon from Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series captured 25% of the vote to take the top spot, followed closely by Baz from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell with 24% – which is pretty impressive, considering Fangirl isn’t actually a vampire story. Vlad from Heather Brewer’s The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series came in third with 13% 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!
Continuing the Halloween theme, we’re asking you to weigh in with your favorite YA lit ghost story this week. There’s a huge variety of ghosts represented in YA lit, from romances to friendships to true horror. Vote in the poll below, and be sure to comment if we’ve missed your very favorite.Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
Cozy mysteries are popular reads, dealing with murder in a not too graphic manner. Many center around a theme: food, fashion, crafting, or owning a shop. Most of the cozies come in a series; here are some that might appeal to teens.
If they like fashion…
- Cloche and Dagger by Jenn McKinlay. After becoming an internet sensation, for the wrong reasons, Scarlett flees to England to help her cousin run their hat shop. Only her cousin isn’t there to greet her and an important client turns up dead. With Mim missing in action, Scarlett attempts to run the shop and uncover a murderer.
- Shoe Done It by Grace Carroll. Rita works at an upscale fashion boutique. When a client steals a very important pair of stilettos, Rita looks for them, only to discover the thief has been murdered. Who ever killed her client has stolen the shoes. Rita keeps her eyes peeled for the stilettos and the murderer.
- Button Holed by Kylie Logan. Josie’s opened her own button shop, becoming a big name in the button world. Her name becomes the talk of the town when a famous Hollywood actress comes to her shop for buttons for her wedding dress. When she’s discovered murdered with a button by the body as the only clue, Josie needs to uncover the truth.
- Veiled Deception by Annette Blair. Maddie returns home for her sister’s wedding. Unfortunately another woman refuses to believe the groom is off the market. When she ends up strangled with the wedding veil, Maddie must clear her sister’s name.
If they like sweets…
- Glazed Murder by Jessica Beck. After a nasty divorce, Suzanne bought a donut shop. Early one morning during her coffee break, she witnesses a body being dumped on her shop’s doorstep. Suzanne doesn’t want the murder to ruin her business, so she starts poking her nose into the investigation.
- To Have and to Kill by Mary Jane Clark. Former soap star Piper Donovan wants more than anything to get back into acting, but she agrees to help her mother out in the family owned wedding cake business until she can make that happen. When a former co-star asks her to create her wedding cake, Piper can’t say no. As the pile of bodies begins to add up, it’s clear someone doesn’t want this wedding to take place.
- Pies and Prejudice by Ellery Adams. Ella Mae heads back home to Georgia fleeing her troubles and city life. Baking has always soothed her soul, but now she’s finding her pies have magical powers. Her pies have a tendency to change people’s moods. Ella Mae can’t wait to open her own pie shop, but when someone in the community is murdered and her rolling pin turns out to be the murder weapon, her dreams might go up in smoke.
If they like the paranormal…
- It Takes a Witch by Heather Blake. Darcy just learned she comes from a family of witches with the power to cast wishes. When she’s asked to investigate a murder, Darcy can’t refuse. She’s still learning the culture and rules of witches. Some of her investigative techniques might land her in hot water.
- The Trouble with Magic by Madelyn Alt. Unhappy in her job, Maggie needs a change. She starts working for Felicity in a shop which features antiques and and fine gifts. She’s a little unnerved to learn that her new boss is a practicing witch. When her boss becomes a suspect in a murder investigation, Maggie delves into the Wiccan world in order to clear her boss’s name.
- A Taste of the Nightlife by Sarah Zettle. Charlotte, a chef, caters to the paranormal nightlife crowd in the club she owns with her brother. After a night of trouble, one of their clients turns up dead on their doorstep. With her brother as the key suspect, Charlotte looks into the murder in hopes of getting her life back to normal.
- Jennifer Rummel currently reading Golden Malicious by Sheila Connolly
It’s almost November, and that means it’s almost time for National Novel Writing Month! Last year I was lamenting the lack of books for teens with realistic diabetic characters (see my blog post here) and said that I was going to write one myself for NaNoWriMo… well, this year I’m actually going to do it!
If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo, the basic concept is this: during the month of November, you write a book. I know, it sounds crazy, but it is totally doable. Your novel doesn’t have to be a ready to publish product come December 1st, but the idea is to have at least 50,000 words of a first draft of a novel by the end of November. The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that a lot of books- really good books- are “born” here. (Take a look at Gretchen Kolderup’s books written during NaNoWriMo post and Jennifer Rummel’s interviews with published NaNoWriMo authors for more!)
In addition to those titles and authors, here are some other books that the NaNoWriMo website lists as books “born in November!”
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, which is about a girl named Mary whose parents are “Unconsencrated” and forced to live outside of the village that is protected by the Sisterhood and the Guardians until the fence that surrounds the village falls and Mary begins to question everything she thought she knew. This futuristic novel, a 2010 Best Books for Young Adults selection, has been a fan favorite in my part of the world and is the begining of a series.
Fang Girl by Helen Keeble, in which Jane tries to have a successful undead social life after becoming a vampire, except she has to contend with a psychotic vampire creator trying to use her for world domination, an annoying younger brother, and an attraction to a really hot vampire hunter. Vampires and comedy always go together in my opinion, and this is a good choice for those who are interested in vampires but might be ready for something less dramatic than the usual paranormal romance.
Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator by Jill Baguchinsky, which combines the mystery solving fun of Nancy Drew with the ability ot talk to ghosts. Violet had been living with her mother, who unfortunately died investigating a haunted house, but now lives with her father, who owns a funeral home. While trying to fit into her new school she meets new people (both living and deceased), and stumbles across a mystery in the locker room that she is determined to solve.
Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington, in which Sarah Nelson deals with her family’s notorious past, finally confronts her father about running from said notorious past, and has her first real crush. Though Sarah is only twelve, she’s got a lot to deal with- her mother is in a mental institution for successfully drowning her twin brother and trying to dorwn her when they were just two years old, which is why she and her father move a lot. With an affinity for Atticus Finch and her friend Charlotte’s brother Finn, Sarah is hardly the typical twelve year old.
I’ve written novels before (I’ve even self-published one) but I’ve never done it in a month. I love writing and even to me this sounds like a daunting task. In fact, I am one of those people who goes back and edits paragraphs over and over as I write instead of getting on with the story. I usually have an idea of where the story is going but I have no idea how I’m going to get there, so I have no idea how exactly I’m going to do this. Fortunately there is a lot of help out there to get me started.
The official NaNoWriMo page not only has tips and support forums, but they’ll email you encouragement throughout the month if you sign up…of course, I can’t even come up with a good user name, so right away I’m feeling the pressure! There are tons of books out there to help with writing, too (my personal favorite is On Writing by Stephen King, which is also just a great read for anyone who’s a fan of King’s work, especially teens interested in writing.) One thing I’ve noticed about this process is how it warps your brain. I’m already looking down at the word count that keeps going up as I write this blog. So far I’m at 742. 743. 744. Well, this could go on forever! (751).
Why would anyone even bother to do this? Why would anyone subject themselves to such a deadline? Well, like the NaNoWriMo website says, “the world needs your novel.” I certainly see a need for teen books with diabetic protagonists. What need do you see to fill? Maybe it’s time you wrote it!
-Carla Land, currently reading Of Triton by Anna Banks
Yes, I went there–I titled my reoccurring feature on fantasy fiction with a lyric from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” But, I swear I have a reason beyond a personal enjoyment of seemingly random pop culture references. Allow me to explain. I love fantasy fiction; it’s one of the few genres I’ve faithfully read from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. Since my first journey into Narnia guided by my mother’s expressive reading voice, I have consumed fantasy fiction of practically every type, style, and sub-genre. I have dressed up as Hermione Granger, nearly hyperventilated upon meeting Tamora Pierce, Susan Cooper, and Kristin Cashore, and disappeared for hours at a time into a faraway fictional world, only to emerge simultaneously invigorated and exhausted. And that’s all just the last five years.
However, my deep affection and passion for this genre is not shared by everyone. Last week, I co-wrote a post with brilliant fellow fantasy fan Chelsea Condren in response to British novelist Joanna Trollope’s disparaging comments about fantasy fiction. While we worked to counter Trollope’s specific arguments, rushing to the defense of fantasy is sadly not a new personal experience. This genre–and its many offshoots–is all too often viewed as ‘merely escapist,’ ‘unconnected to the real world,’ or ‘lacking in substance.’ But as Chelsea and I tried to express, the depth and complexity present in fantasy fiction cannot be so easily dismissed.
Fantasy is a sprawling category of fiction encompassing a constantly shifting list of sub-genres and styles. For an excellent introduction to the many types of fantasy fiction, please go read Jessica Miller’s post on discovering your preferred ‘brand’ of fantasy. And while the wide range of stories available under the fantasy umbrella can make it challenging to navigate, this diversity also allows the genre to maintain a consistently high level of popularity among many different readers. Fantasy fiction is constantly growing and developing, as Annie Schutte’s post exploring “the next big thing” in fantasy illustrates.
For these reasons (and so many others), I felt that this genre deserves its very own recurring feature here on The Hub. Through this series, I hope to explore a range of topics, from the genre’s recent trends and classics to discussions of its key themes and issues.
Recently, the lines between genres in young adult fiction have been blurring more and more frequently, creating exciting new sub-genres. In many ways, fantasy fiction in particular has been blending genres for decades, seamlessly incorporating elements from romance, thrillers, adventure stories, and more into its narratives. But over the past few years, there’s been a particular increase of novels melding rich fantasy adventures with mystery or detective stories. Here are a few highly readable results of this literary hybridization.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (2013 William C. Morris Debut YA Award winner, 2013 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults selection)
Despite forty years of peace between humans and dragons, tension in the kingdom of Goredd remains high. With the anniversary of the peace treaty between the groups approaching, the capital city is buzzing with anticipation. Seraphina, a brilliant young court musician, is especially worried, for both professional and private reasons. When a member of the royal family is killed in a particularly draconian fashion, Seraphina joins Prince Lucian in his investigation. But in the process, Seraphina must delve deep into the secrets of her own past and face unsettlingly truths about her future.
White Cat by Holly Black (2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults selection)
Cassel has always been the odd one out in his family of powerful Curse Workers. As the only member lacking the illegal ability to manipulate memories, luck, emotions, or reality with a mere touch, Cassel is the ultimate outsider–the honest kid in a family of magically talented grifters. At least he was until he killed his best friend Lila three years ago. But for the first time since that horrible night, Cassel has started to build a normal life. Then he starts having urgent & disturbing dreams about a white cat and sleepwalking up to the roof of his dorm. Between his own bizarre actions & his brothers’ secretive behavior, Cassel must face the reality that he will never, ever be normal.
Cassel continues his investigation in Red Glove and Black Heart.
Terrier by Tamora Pierce (2007 Best Books for Young Adults selection)
One day, Beka Cooper will be a legend. But at the moment Beka is just another new trainee in the capital city’s police force, the Provost’s Guards—also known as the Dogs. Beka has been assigned to spend her Puppy year in the city’s most dangerous district: Lower City, land of pickpockets, murderers, thieves, and other rogues. Even with the help of her talented mentors, her mysterious magical cat, and her own unusual powers, Beka is going to have to use all her smarts to survive her first year and her first big case.
Beka’s adventures continue in Bloodhound and Mastiff.
City of A Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster
Left outside its gates as a child, Nisha became one of the countless orphaned girls given over to the City of a Thousand Dolls to be raised and trained for a useful role in society. While others have joined one of the five houses and begun to prepare for lives as healers, guards, high society wives, musicians, mistresses, or even assassins, Nisha works as the Matron’s assistant, conducting business all over the City. But when girls start dying in highly suspicious circumstances, Nisha decides to unravel the secrets surrounding her friends’ deaths–placing her future and life in jeopardy.
Do you have any favorite examples of fantasy-mystery hybrids?
Are there any particular trends or topics in fantasy fiction you’d like to see discussed here?
-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
As usual, Twitter has been busy this week with YA related news, events, giveaways and more. Here are some of the highlights, in case you missed anything…
Contests and Giveaways
- Come enter my TWISTROSE KEY giveaway! Tell me about a beloved childhood pet and you may win a copy! http://www.lainitaylor.com/2013/10/the-twistrose-key.html … @tonealmhjell-@lainitaylor
- Who doesn’t love a signed book? We’ve got an awesome new #giveaway on the blog! Can you guess the author autograph? http://bit.ly/181acbX -@scholastic
- The Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship — $2500 for a female member of the @HorrorWriters. http://www.horror.org/blog/guide-to-applying-for-hwa-scholarships/ …-@DanielDKraus
- GOODREADS GIVEAWAY ALERT! Enter 2 win 1 of 15 ARCs of CRASH INTO YOU by @KatieMcGarry! Ends November 19th! Enter here>http://bit.ly/GYo5ln -@HarlequinTeen
- Goodreads Giveaway!!! – burnforburn: Mega BURN FOR BURN and FIRE WITH FIRE giveaway happening now at… http://tmblr.co/Zm1fOyyJPZBu -@siobhanvivian
- Am I eligible? RT @tamaraistone Who wants a signed hardbound copy of Time After Time? https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/69716-time-after-time … … #yalit #giveaway-@HyperionTeen
- Lots of fun + giveaway! Check out the Cover Reveal Extravaganza from @FillupSeagull, author THE BREAK-UP ARTIST ► http://bit.ly/17IHHAD -@HarlequinTeen
- RT @Tina_Moss: 3 days left! Win $10 to Amazon or B&N & an e-ARC of A TOUCH OF DARKNESS before its release. http://ow.ly/pD9Hk #books-@cindypon
- Cover Reveal: The Other Way Around by Sashi Kaufman + Giveaway (International) – The Official YABC Blog http://ow.ly/q8FNM -@yabookscentral
- Shakefire’s got a great giveaway for The Iron Traitor by @JKagawa enter here! http://www.shakefire.com/contest/the-iron-traitor-by-julie-kagawa … via @shakefire-@HarlequinTEen
- It’s #ALLEGIANT day! Watch Veronica’s midnight video message: http://shrd.by/M2xFrY -@harperteen
- I absolutely adore @BrianFarrey‘s VENGEKEEP books–they’re everything you could want in a MG fantasy. THE SHADOWHAND COVENANT is out today.-@anneursu
- RT @LifeinFiction: Hey, world, @ADRwrites‘s CAPTIVE came out today! Such a steamy, dark, and lovely read! -> Thanks, DJ!!!-@andreacremer
- HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY Release Day to The Dollhouse Asylum by @MaryGrayTweets!!! http://www.amazon.com/The-Dollhouse-Asylum-Mary-Gray/dp/1937053644 …-@girlsinthestack
- Happy book birthday to @AS_King! Reality Boy is Here!-@melissacwalker
- RAGS & BONES is out today, featuring new twists on timeless tales. Read my version of “Rumpelstiltskin” & more by… http://fb.me/2znKWVgGa -@kamigarcia
News and Events
- National Book Award – Shortlist: The shortlist for the National Book Awards have been announced! The Young Peo… http://bit.ly/1bOvzkS -@LizB
- Headed to the big screen: A Tale Dark and Grimm. http://bit.ly/1h1Gf3A -@bkshelvesofdoom
Just For Fun
- RT @BuzzFeedBooks: 18 Literary Pumpkins For A Bookish Halloween http://bzfd.it/16qDdDL -@PitchDarkBooks
- Get the look for every single “Hunger Games” district (PHOTOS) http://huff.to/1ah2TSz -@HuffPostBooks
- RT @torbooks: 22 Things That Belong In Every Bookworm’s Dream Home: http://bit.ly/1auXALS (via @Buzzfeed)-@torteen
- Whitney Etchison, currently reading Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist