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Tweets of the Week: May 8th

Fri, 05/08/2015 - 07:00

Here is a roundup of the tweets that you might’ve missed this week!

Books

TV/Movie News

Librarianship

Just for Fun!

-Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading The Heir by Kiera Cass

Women in Comics: 2015 Eisner Award Nominations

Fri, 05/08/2015 - 07:00

This month, I thought I would take a look at some of the great works by women that are nominated for this year’s Eisner Award. The Eisner Awards, or more correctly, the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, recognize the best achievements in American comics on an annual basis. The award nominations are typically announced in April with the awards being presented at San Diego Comic Con in July. This year, some wonderful works by women are nominated and it seems like a great time to consider both those that I have previously written about and some new gems. This post won’t look at the work of all of the Eisner nominated women, but will instead focus on those that will appeal to teens and fans of young adult literature.

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona, Saga by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples, and Bandette by Paul Tobin & Colleen Coover are three of only four titles to have received three or more nominations which doesn’t surprise me at all. Ms. Marvel has been extremely popular for the way that it has reimagined the Ms. Marvel character as a teen Pakistani-American named Kamala Khan who is a huge fan of Carol Danver and ultimately ends up stepping into her shoes as Ms. Marvel. The series received a lot of publicity for the fact that Kamala Khan is the first Muslim character to headline a Marvel series and the story has helped to keep it popular. It earned not only Eisner nominations in the categories of Best New Series, Best Writer (for G. Willow Wilson), Best Penciller/Inker (for Adrian Alphona), Best Cover Artist (for Jamie McKelvie/Matthew Wilson), and Best Lettering (for Joe Caramagna), but also a Hugo nomination and a spot on YALSA’s 2015 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list.

Saga is another well-known and critically-acclaimed work and a big part of this is Fiona Staples’ artwork, which brings Brian K. Vaughn’s story to life. It is exciting to see the story recognized and to see Staples’ work recognized in the Best Penciller/Inker category. Bandette falls into a slightly different category as a webcomic, which earned it a nomination in the Best Digital/Web Comic category, but that didn’t keep it from also earning a nomination in the Best Continuing Series category as well as a separate nomination for Colleen Coover’s work in the Best Painter/Multimedia Artist category.

Emily Carroll, who wrote the creepy short story collection Through The Woods, is nominated for a web-based short story called When The Darkness Presses that manages to be extremely creepy while taking full advantage of the online form. The story is available for free, so if you are a fan of the horror genre, you should check it out right away!

El Deafo by Cece Bell, which was selected as both 2015 Newbery Honor Award book and a 2015 Great Graphic Novel for Teens, has been nominated in the category of Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12). This is a great book that definitely is one of my favorites within the last year and it is really exciting to see it recognized by the Eisners. While it is aimed at the 8 to 12 age group, it is a truly great read for graphic novel fans of any age.

The team of Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson & Brooke A. Allen are nominated for their work on Lumberjanes in both the Best New Series and Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17) categories, which is unlikely to surprise most comics fans. This series burst onto the scene this year and has left many comic fans anxiously waiting for each new issue to come out. Noelle Stevenson’s work has also been recognized in the category of Best Digital/Web Comic for her comic Nimona. If you haven’t already started reading her comics, I highly recommend checking them out.

These nominees are just some of the ones that I have read, but there are plenty of other great nominees this year. So, if you are looking for more of the best comics of the past year, check out the full list of nominations and pay attention in July to see what wins the big awards.

-Carli Spina

A Teen Perspective: School Reading vs. Recreational Reading

Thu, 05/07/2015 - 07:00

photo by Flickr user pedrosimoes

If a teen is passionate about reading and actively reads books, shouldn’t he or she enjoy any book whether it be for school or recreation? What is the difference with reading for school and reading for “fun?” What makes a teen engage in reading books in the first place?

The aforementioned questions are some that I will attempt to investigate in my evaluation of school reading versus recreational reading. School reading consists of reading any book that is required by the school curriculum, typically for English class but sometimes for other subjects as well. Recreational reading is when teens choose to read books in their own free time, there is no requirement for this type of reading. Generally, I believe teens prefer recreational reading to school reading for two distinct purposes—freedom of choice and personal interest.

For the most part, teens enjoy having independence, and this desire for individuality also plays a role when it comes to choosing what book to read. I see reading as an opportunity to absorb more knowledge, learn about new perspectives, and engage in a creative realms. For recreational reading, teens have the freedom to choose which book they would like to delve deeper into. In this case, reading becomes more of an option and an opportunity to partake in intriguing new subjects. However, when it comes to school reading- the books are already selected. Thus, the students no longer have the freedom of choice when it comes to selecting which book to read. School reading is mandatory, whereas recreational reading is entirely discretionary.

Students tend to engage in reading books that they are most interested in. With a vast range of genres and literary styles, the reading possibilities for young adults are endless! The plethora of reading options makes recreational reading that much more exciting. Some students enjoy reading only action packed books, others enjoy romantic novels, while others like to read poetry. When it comes to recreational reading students can choose to read whatever interests them.

Additionally, books selected as a part of the school curriculum typically involve a series of tests and quizzes. For the most part, teens do not enjoy taking tests and quizzes. Thus, applying a test or a quiz to a selected book, tends to divert the readers from the idea of reading for pleasure and makes them focus on the idea of studying the book instead. Although one might argue that tests and quizzes help the reader develop a deeper understanding of the book and its purpose, I think that linking a school book with tests makes it easier for students to become less focused on enjoying the book and more caught up with memorizing facts and quotes that will help them score higher on the test.

On the other hand, when it comes to recreational reading there are absolutely no tests and quizzes involved, there is no deadline to finish reading the book by, and there are no expectations. For these reasons, recreational reading seems to be more appealing to teens as it provides them with more freedom to choose the books they are interested in reading and read the books at their own pace. Eliminating the expectations makes reading more of a pleasurable opportunity rather than a daunting task.

Although there are various differences between school reading and recreational reading, I do believe that some parallels exist. Just because a book is a part of the school curriculum does not mean that it is “boring.” In fact, most of the books that students read in school are some of the most well-known and famous books of all time.

I think that it is important for students to understand that although recreational reading offers more freedom of choice, it seems as though school reading opens the door to new ideas and potential interests! For example, this year in AP/IB English, I read the renowned novel The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. This was a story about the tragic decline of a once very affluent family told through multiple different perspectives and concepts of time. After reading the book and writing an essay on it I realized that I had learned so much about how an author can use both a literal and thematic lens of perspective to convey a deeper, more profound message about the work. I also had the opportunity to read Einstein’s Dreams as a part of the English curriculum. Written by Alan Lightman, Einstein’s Dreams was an intriguing and creative story about different universes, each revolving around a unique concept of time. If students can think of reading school books as an opportunity to become more well-rounded readers and scholars, then they can reduce the overwhelming feelings that are associated with school reading.

After all, according to Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

-Nedda B., currently reading This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer Smith

ALA Annual 2015: Don’t Miss the Stonewall Book Awards Program

Wed, 05/06/2015 - 07:00
Are you going to be at ALA Annual this year in beautiful San Francisco? We hope so! And if you’re going to be there, we have some info for you from our friends at ALA’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table about an event you’ll want to attend.

The Stonewall Book Awards Program will be FREE and open to all this year.  Join in celebrating the winning and honored authors Monday, June 29, 2015 from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm in the Moscone Convention Center 3005 (W).

A fitting end to GLBT Book Month, the very best in GLBT literature will be recognized at the 2015 Stonewall Book Awards Program. Sponsored by the ALA Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT), the Stonewall Book Awards is the first and longest enduring book award series for GLBT literature. The award recognizes English-language works of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience in children’s and young adult literature, literature, and non-fiction. Since the award’s inception in 1971, more than 150 titles have been honored.

You may have read this year’s Stonewall Young Adult Honor books, Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun and Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta, for the 2015 Hub Reading Challenge—  so add the event to your ALA Scheduler: http://alaac15.ala.org/node/28698, and we hope to see you there.

What Would They Read?: Avengers Assemble!

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 07:00

Last weekend the Avengers returned to save the world and entertain us with their witty banter.  We last saw them battle against Loki and the Chitauri he brought to Earth via a wormhole in New York City.  Now they are facing Ultron, an artificial intelligence bent on ridding Earth of humanity.  It’s been three years since the Avengers had to assemble to fight another big bad.  Obviously they must have had some serious down time to focus on their reading.  Last time the Avengers fought evil, The Hub provided a reading list for the Avengers.  I think it’s only right to give them a few more choices to peruse before they are called again to fight.

Captain America/Steve Rogers: Let’s start at the beginning with the first Avenger, Captain America.  Captain America first started fighting evil back in the time of World War II.  Since then he has tried to acquaint himself with the events that have occurred, particularly in pop culture as Tony Stark is quick to fire off a reference or two.  In order for Cap to find some kind of camaraderie in his predicament, I would recommend Eoin Colfer’s W.A.R.P. series, starting with book one, The Reluctant Assassin.  In this book, Riley is pulled from his home in Victorian London along with his mentor Garrick, a dangerous assassin, to help the modern-day FBI capture Garrick before he finds his way back to his own time.  While Cap and Riley come from different time periods, Cap can definitely relate to the out of place feeling.

Ironman/Tony Stark: Tony Stark can be a bit obvious regarding his personality.  He loves being the best, he loves the ladies, and he loves his ability to buy everything.  As we know from the first Ironman movie, his interests expanded when he was captured in Afghanistan.  This is why I decided to give Stark The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith.  This is a fairly new book which tells three different stories.  The first story belongs to Ariel, a Middle Eastern teenage boy who is adopted by an American scientist and his wife.  The second story is Ariel and his adopted brother Max at summer camp.  The third story tells of the ill-fated crew of a ship called The Alex Crow which was sailing in the Arctic Ocean.  The three stories eventually intertwine in a way that Stark would find quite intriguing.  I’ll leave the discovery of the connection to you..no spoilers!

The Hulk/Bruce Banner: Bruce Banner is usually overshadowed by The Hulk.  I mean, it’s pretty easy considering The Hulk is huge and pretty loud.  It’s common to forget about Banner and focus more on the monster side of the man.  That being said, an obvious pairing would include a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde story.  I wanted to pick something that wasn’t as obvious as that.  I chose Subject Seven by James A. Moore.  In this book, a teen boy called Seven discovers that he was a part of a government experiment in which his alter-ego has deadly fighting skills.  Seven, similarly to Banner, must figure out his abilities and how they will affect the rest of his life.

Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff: Black Widow is one of the Avengers who do not rely on superpowers or fancy gadgets.  Natasha is a highly trained assassin.  There is one other highly trained assassin ruling the YA fiction world right now.  That assassin is Celaena Sardothien from the “Throne of Glass” series.  I would absolutely, no questions, not a shadow of a doubt give Natasha these books.  Celaena must use her assassin skills to defeat all the other competitors in hopes of gaining her freedom and the title of King’s Champion.  Celaena has some serious baggage which is obviously a thing that Natasha deals with as well.  I could only imagine what it would be like if Celaena joined up with the Avengers and fought side by side with Black Widow.  It would be truly epic.

Hawkeye/Clint Barton: Hawkeye is another Avenger who doesn’t have a superpower or super suit, but uses his military training as a bow and arrow sniper.  For Hawkeye, I thought I would tape into the government training he received and give him Insignia by S.J. Kincaid.  The first in a series, Insignia tells of a group of teenaged recruits who fight for the Pentagon through a virtual reality set up.  The book is full of action and battle scenes, which sound perfect for Hawkeye.  I would also give him The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston, a 2015 Morris Honor Award.  The main character, like Hawkeye, is just a normal guy who was trained to tackle insurmountable situations.  Hawkeye is armed with a bow and quiver while Owen has a broad sword, but the bravery and the epic battles are quite similar.

Thor: Thor is an Avenger in a class all his own.  His powers weren’t a part of some experiment and he doesn’t don a complicated invention.  Thor is a Norse god.  There are a handful of books that focus on Norse mythology, but Thor should be fairly versed in all of that.  In particular, the series “The United States of Asgard” tells of an alternate America in which Odin rules the country and the main characters seek out the missing god, Baldur.  Instead, I’ve decided to recommend 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults title, White Cat by Holly Black.  In this book, Cassel discovers that his brothers have been using him to carry out their evil plans.  Sounds a bit like Thor’s relationship with Loki told in the movie, Thor, doesn’t it?

There you have it!  Hopefully you found a few of the recommendations that you agree with, but if not, feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments below.

-Brandi Smits, currently reading The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

What Star Wars Taught Me About Social Justice

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 07:00

Image by Flickr user Steve Wilson; Posters by Olly Moss

It’s no secret that my two great passions are science fiction and social justice. My love of both can be traced to my childhood, stemming from an early exposure to Star Wars (although I also owe a large debt to L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time but I’ll save that for another post). So when the Internet exploded recently over the newly released trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I took the opportunity to reflect on the lessons I learned from the original trilogy about social justice and revolution (and if you haven’t seen the new trailer, what are you waiting for??!!?) And since librarianship so often intersects with social justice, I figured I’d share them below:

1. You Can Change the World

I’ll start with the most obvious lesson: revolutions can and do succeed against a larger, more powerful institution when fought with conviction and faith. Margaret Mead’s famous quote says this better than I could: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Thanks Leia, Luke, and the entire ragtag team of revolutionaries for proving this to be true and inspiring legions of 7-year-olds to do the same!

2. Act Don’t React

Luke famously walks away from his Jedi training in order to save his friends, blatantly disregarding Yoda’s wise advice to keep to the task at hand. The end result is a poorly planned rescue mission that ends in Luke losing his hand and Leia rescuing him instead. Nice job, Luke! All sarcasm aside, this may be one of the most valuable lessons for any activists and revolutionaries out there.  How often do we react rather than pausing to consider the best way to act? It’s always tempting to act in the heat of the moment but for any social movement to succeed, planning, patience, and perseverance are key to sustaining the fight and creating long-term solutions–even when this means drawing back or pausing in the midst of the struggle in order to gain more knowledge, power or perspective. 

3. Relationships are Key

 

Image courtesy of Flickr user JD Hancock

The key to a successful revolution are alliances. This becomes particularly clear when looking at Luke and Han Solo’s relationship. Han Solo is an obvious asset to the Rebel Alliance but is initially so motivated by self-interest that he has no interest in joining their rebellion. It takes his friendship with Luke (and let’s admit it, his increasing romantic interest in Leia) to change his mind. So what’s the takeaway? Alliances are built by crafting meaningful relationships with people regardless if they are completely different than ourselves (i.e. Luke and Han). Too many movements fail because an alliance is created based on similar goals but without a strong foundation of trust and mutual respect to cement it. We need to care for each other, first and foremost, for real social change to occur.

4. Not All Power Corrupts

But it is true that there is a definite Dark Side to power that can certainly aid and abet any corruption waiting to happen. Darth Vader’s soaring rise to power and equally spectacular fall from grace serve as a clear reminder of this. For those seeking social change, this lesson is particularly important as understanding your relationship to power and privilege is fundamental to understanding how systemic injustice occurs and what you can do to stop it. Power does often corrupt, if nothing else by making it difficult to acknowledge when you are in possession of it. What Star Wars teaches so well is that one can possess power and wield it without abusing it or losing yourself within it. The key is mindfulness and self-reflection, neither easy to inculcate but both well worth pursuing.

5. Love Sustains, Anger Drains

Image courtesy of JD Hancock on Flickr

Finally, Yoda teaches us that any social movement must be rooted in love, not anger. As he says, “Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.” Anger may be what drives you to seek change but it is love–love of self, love of family, love of humanity and hope–that ultimately will enable the change to occur. Put simply, anger is a draining force, useful for short-term struggles perhaps, but incapable of sustaining long-term movements. For that, we need love. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Of course, all of the above are Lucas’ intended lessons. There are also a number of unintended lessons that can be learned from the trilogy:

6. Sexism Is All Over the Galaxy

Women figure little into these battles over the future of the galaxy…sadly, if you’re a woman, you apparently have to be born into power to possess it (luckily, Leia decides to own her power!)

7. One Person’s Revolution is Another Person’s Exploitation

Oh, the Ewoks. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s no denying that they were essentially pawns in a war not of their making. The blatant lack of respect for their culture and the outright condescension on the part of the rebels only serves to underscore how readily one can move from being righteous to racist.

8. Racism Is Also All Over the Galaxy

Why does Lando have to be the traitor??? Of all the unintended lessons, “Black People Aren’t to Be Trusted” really shouldn’t be one of them. (I know he redeems himself, but still!)

That said, despite the flaws (and ignoring episodes 1-3), Star Wars really does serve as a primer for how to be a revolutionary. I’m grateful for my early indoctrination and am curious if any other people out there credit Star Wars for their love not only of sci-fi but justice as well!

May the 4th be with you!
~Alegria Barclay, currently reading Octavia’s Brood edited by Walidah Imarisha and Adrienne Maree Brown

The Monday Poll: YA Books for a Star Wars Fan

Sun, 05/03/2015 - 23:24

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you to choose the best liar in YA lit, in a twist on National Honesty Day. 36% of you went with Cady from We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, but Noah and Jude from Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun weren’t far behind, with 33%. 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!

Since today is Star Wars Day (“May the fourth be with you!”), we want to know which YA books or series you’d recommend to a Star Wars fan. Choose from the options below, or suggest another in the comments.

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

2015 Hub Reading Challenge Check-In #12

Sun, 05/03/2015 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2015 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since February 9 counts, so sign up now!

With the beginning of May, it feels like summer is just around the corner. And, as summer approaches, so does the end of this year’s Hub Reading Challenge. I’m sure many of you have already finished all 25 of your books (and maybe even some extras), but I’m also sure some of you are behind where you planned to be (or perhaps haven’t even started yet). Though it may seem as though there is no time left before the June 21st deadline, there is actually plenty of time to complete the Challenge even if you haven’t really had a chance to start it.

If you are like me and find it takes longer to read books when you aren’t enjoying them, there are a few strategies for how you can move quickly through 25 books before June 21st. You might take a look at the the 2015 Goodreads Hub Reading Challenge group or the tweets that use the #hubchallenge hashtag to find books that sound like they are particularly appealing. Or, you might look back at all of the Hub’s coverage of Morris and Nonfiction nominees during this year’s Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge. Fans of graphic novels might want to intersperse some of this year’s Great Graphic Novels as some faster reads. Or, if you like audiobook, you might choose to listen to selections from the Amazing Audiobooks or Odyssey Award list so that you can squeeze additional books into your commute. Whatever strategy you adopt, there are a lot of really great books eligible for this year’s Hub Reading Challenge, so you should definitely use the final weeks of the challenge to not only finish 25 books, but also to find some exciting new favorites that will push you beyond your normal reading habits. And, once you have, be sure to let us know all about it in the comments, on Twitter using the #hubchallenge hashtag, or on the 2015 Goodreads Hub Reading Challenge group. Good luck with your reading!

Now for the fine print: You have until 11:59 PM EST on June 21st to finish at least 25 books from the official list. If you participated in the Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge this year, you can count the books that you read for that challenge for this challenge as well. However, if you’ve read any of the other books prior to February 9, you’ll have to re-read them if you want to count them towards your total.

Don’t forget to read the comments to our weekly check-in posts and keep track of your own progress by commenting on what you read! If you review books online, please include links to your reviews. Also, don’t forget to post the Participant’s Badge on your blog, website, or email signature, and, as always, if you have any questions or problems, let us know in the comments or via email.

If you have already completed the challenge by reading or listening to 25 titles from the list of eligible books, be sure to fill out the form below so we can send you your Challenge Finisher badge, get in touch to coordinate your reader’s response and, perhaps best of all, to notify you if you win our exciting grand prize drawing! Be sure to use an email you check frequently and do not fill out this form until you have completed the challenge by reading 25 titles.

 

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May Day!

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 07:00

CC Photo by Flickr user Pete Ashton: Bournville Maypole

Happy 1st of May–otherwise known as May Day, or International Workers’ Day. May Day has long been celebrated as a spring holiday, with the most famous related celebrations including dancing around a May Pole or giving baskets of flowers to friends. While it’s not usually as large a celebration, many people still think of the first of May as a marker of the beginning of spring.

But May Day has become more than that. While most of us in the United States think of Labor Day (the holiday for celebrating the average working men and women) as the last gasp of summer in September, many countries celebrate their workers on May 1.

And finally, you’ve probably heard of “Mayday!” as the official radio cry for help. It comes from the French, “M’aidez!” (Help me!), and is used internationally in emergencies.

So here’s to May Day, and here are some books to help you celebrate:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Outstanding Book for the College Bound). In this now-classic dystopian story, a Christian theocracy has been set up in the former United States. Women are completely disenfranchised, and the protagonist, “Offred,” is a handmaid, a fertile woman assigned to an upperclass family for the sole purpose of bearing children. As the story unfolds, we learn that there is a resistance movement, called “Mayday.” Will Offred join the resistance? Will she even survive?

Mayday by Jonathan Friesen. This one has nothing to do with either holiday, or with radio cries for help, but with the title, I had to include it, right? And the first of May does play an important part of the story. Crow has sacrificed her life to protect her sister, Adele, from someone evil–but it didn’t work. She has the chance to return to her past, but only if she goes in someone else’s body. The outsider’s perspective forces Crow to re-evaluate what really happened.

Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Three girls’ lives collide in during the early 20th century shirtwaist strikes in New York City: Bella, a new immigrant from Italy; Yetta, a bold Russian-Jewish immigrant; and Jane, a privileged daughter of wealth who wants to attend college. The budding labor movement is shown in the circumstances each of these girls faced and the choices they made.

The Minister’s Daughter by Julie Hearn (2006 Best Book for Young Adults). The title character, Grace, falls pregnant after a May Day rendezvous, and conspires with her sister to blame Nell, the local healer. Magic, history, and hysteria weave an enchanting tale about 17th century England, with a link to our own Salem witch hunts.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (2014 Popular Paperback for Young Adults). This real-life story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic racer who joined the Armed Forces when World War II broke out, narrates Zamperini’s survival despite a plane crash in the Pacific Ocean and internment in Japanese POW camps.

Breaking Sky by Cori McCarthy. In this new science fiction thriller, pilot Chase is involved in an experimental Air Force program, flying planes to outrun drones commanded by the United States’ nemesis, Ri Xiong Di. Chase’s greatest danger may not be flying against the enemy, but discovering another experimental pilot who’s supposed to stay a state secret.

I Am Mordred by Nancy Springer. In this original story based on Arthurian legend Arthur’s son, Mordred, has his say. The story opens as 40 boy babies (one, we later learn, survives), all born on May Day, are set adrift on a boat, as a remedy for Arthur’s accidental incest and its natural consequences. Many stories about King Arthur cast Mordred as the villain; this one gives him the chance to tell his side of the story.

-Libby Gorman, currently reading Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith

The Hub Loves the ’90s: ’90s Historical Fiction?!

Thu, 04/30/2015 - 07:00

Happy end of April, Hubbers!  I can’t believe it’s already almost summer; time moves very quickly when you’re not noticing, I guess.  And, with that little rumination on the passage of time, I give to you the third and final installment in our The Hub Loves the ’90s series – great posts from Jessica and Katie have been featured in previous weeks, so be sure to check those out if you missed them the first time around.

The thing is, the 1990s were and continue to be the best decade that’s ever existed, and I’m not just saying that because that was when I was a teenager!  Like Katie said, I developed interests and favorites in the world of pop culture that still stay with me today.  I was just mentoring a teen the other day that was looking at the latest Rolling Stone that features Kurt Cobain on the cover.  She made a really quick comment to me about how great he is.  And, readers, let me tell you – that just sparked such a wonderful feeling in my heart because I could see that things I cared about (Nirvana being the #1 thing I loved as a teen) are still resonating with teens today.  As an adult, you want to think the art that shaped you will matter in the future, and a lot of 90s pop culture is still attracting teens, which is pretty great.

Well, enough with my sappy introspection!  With the influx of 90s culture into the current day, and like Katie mentioned, the influx of 30-somethings into the field of YA literature, we’ve got a bit of a ’90s revival happening in recent teen fiction.  Now, there’s no way I want to call fiction set in the ’90s historical fiction (how old does that make me?!), so how about recent past fiction, instead?  Good.  It’s settled.  So, here’s a list of some recent past fiction set in the 1990s that I thought I’d feature for all you Hubbers – first up, Facebook in the 90s?!

The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler:  In 1996, Josh and Emma are neighbors and former best friends – but, that all changed last year when Josh thought they could maybe be more than friends.  Now things are awkward, to say the least; Josh and Emma are more separate than they’ve ever been.  Then, one day, Emma gets a new computer from her Dad, a guilt gift she calls it, and hurries to install AOL using the CD-ROM that came with the computer – remember those?  Anyways, when she’s signing on to all the screens that pop up, one of them takes her to something called Facebook….and that’s when she sees herself in the future.  She calls Josh up to see if he can explain this; it was his AOL CD that she used, after all.  As they peruse the page together, they suddenly realize that this is a super big deal; every time they do something differently than they originally intend to or even when they just refresh the page, their future changes whether they like it or not.  They soon learn that they can use this to their advantage, working angles to get exactly what they want to be reflected in the status updates of their future selves.  Yet, as they work to get their future to exactly where they want it to be, they start to realize that maybe what they don’t want what they think they should.  That maybe their happy ever after is staring right back at them.  I really thought this was a fun take on the Sliding Doors/Butterfly Effect phenomenon mixed with some romance, as well.  A fun, fast read that will get readers thinking about what their future might hold.

Althea and Oliver by Cristina Moracho:  I first wrote about this book in my Realistically Speaking post from October 2014, so I’m just going to reiterate how much I love this sweet, quiet book that will appeal to readers who loved Eleanor & Park.  Here’s a synopsis, in case you missed it the first time around:  Set in the mid-1990s, Althea & Oliver have been neighbors and best friends for practically forever.  But, Althea loves Oliver – like loves him, loves him, and he’s just not sure he wants to be more than friends.  One thing that is really holding Oliver back is that he has some kind of sleeping disorder that causes him to sleep for days, weeks, months at a time.  With that much time spent asleep, missing all the great things that happen when you’re a teenager, Oliver can’t deal with Althea and the love for him that she’s no longer hiding.  No one can figure out what’s wrong with him much less how to treat him, but one day, Nicky, Oliver’s mom, sees a report on the news about a doctor who’s studying Kleine-Levin Syndrome and sees similarities between how they’re describing it and what Oliver experiences.  Everything seems to be looking up, but, then things turn sour between Oliver & Althea when she takes things too far with him one night and Oliver decides to just up and leave to go to the treatment facility where the doctor is doing a clinical study of the disease.  He doesn’t tell Althea.  She’s devastated and will stop at nothing to find him.  What she does find out leads her to New York City and it’s there that she realizes that her life might be more than just Oliver and North Carolina.  She discovers that the world is vast and her life is only just beginning.  A great book that’s melancholy, funny, and heartbreaking in all the right ways.

Paper Airplanes by Dawn O’Porter:  We’re going across the sea for this one!  In 1994 in Guernsey, a small island located just off France, live 2 young women – Flo and Renée.  Flo is best friends with Sally, out of habit only, to be perfectly honest.  Sally is a jerk, treats Flo quite poorly and seems to only want to come round because of Flo’s handsome older brother, Julian.  Flo feels really alone.  Renee lives with her grandparents and younger sister since her mum died and her dad left.  She has a school friend in Margaret, you know the kind of friend that you only socialize with at school?  She also doesn’t understand why her grandparents won’t talk to her about her mum and why her sister seems to hate her and is spending her days crying in the bathroom at school.  Renée is quite lonely.  Lucky for readers, these 2 lonely girls meet and the rest is history.  This book is part humor, part melancholy, part painful – but, readers will root for Flo & Renée all the way to ending that they both deserve.  There are some rough roads along the way, but maybe Flo & Renée will see that true friendship is something that weathers the storm, and a true friend will be there for you always.

The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley (2015 Printz Honor, 2015 Morris Finalist:  So, I really loved this book so, so much.  A bit of a personal anecdote – I’m back in the town I spent all of my teen years in taking care of a sick parent, and this book, along with being back where I made so many memories, is taking me right back to 1993 and the year I was 16 – just like the main character in our story, Maggie.  Maggie loves living in Chicago and she really loves her Uncle Kevin – he’s everything a cool uncle should be – into awesome alt-rock, he’s in a band, and he loves educating Maggie on politics, religion, and free thinking.  Maggie’s not so thrilled with her mom, Laura.  Ever since Maggie’s dad left, Laura has been falling in and out of love for years until she meets Colm.  Maggie thinks this will be another flash in the pan romance, but Colm asks Laura to marry him…and move back to his home country, Ireland.  Maggie and her younger sister are uprooted from Chicago and their grandma and beloved Uncle Kevin to start new in a totally unfamiliar country.  But, she gets care packages from Kevin and soon falls in love with a wonderful Irish boy.  Horrifically, tragedy strikes, and Maggie must do what she can to fulfill a final request bestowed upon her by someone she loves, and it leads her to places she never thought she’d go, literally and figuratively.  A beautifully written, touching book that will stay with readers long past the last page.  I didn’t want to leave Maggie behind.

So, readers, there you have it – the ’90s are back in book form and better than ever!  You know, I also wanted to included a longer reference to another book I’m reading, Tape by Steven Camden, but I didn’t quite finish it in time for this post – but, I’m really enjoying it, as well.  It’s set in England and involves 2 teenagers – 1 in the ’90s, 1 in modern times who are able to correspond with each other through recordings on cassette tapes.  So far, it’s a really engaging book that will be enjoyed by readers who appreciate dual narration in their stories.  I’ll be back next month with all next book recommendations that deal with something I’ve been noticing a lot when reading descriptions for upcoming books – feminist literature for teens!  Hope to see you then!

Traci Glass, currently reading Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten & Tape by Steven Camden

Getting Graphic: Popular YA Books Adapted as Graphic Novels

Wed, 04/29/2015 - 07:00

I’ve noticed a trend in young adult literature that has been growing over the past year or so- a lot of popular YA books are getting the graphic novel treatment. I first noticed this with Twilight a few years ago, but recently I’ve seen more and more popular YA fiction titles are being reimagined as graphic novels. The reasons for this escaped me for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I like comics. I have nothing but love for Batman and Batgirl. But when books that were successful and popular without pictures suddenly started showing up in my library in a completely new picture-filled format the first thing I asked myself was why?

The cynical side of me realizes it’s a whole new way to make money off of a story. We all know that books that get made into movies tend to sell better, so putting them out in graphic form is another way to extend their moneymaking. Or perhaps by changing the format of the books publishers can get people who already own the originals to buy them again. These are certainly valid reasons, and it’s likely there’s truth there. The non-cynical side of me sees other reasons for this trend.

Graphic novels reach a whole different audience. I like comics, yes, but I tend to read traditional prose (a.k.a. chapter books) and don’t usually gravitate to graphic novels. But there are those who much prefer the marriage of words and art to tell a story, and maybe they would never have picked up The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan if it hadn’t been adapted into a graphic novel by Robert Venditti. Reaching new audiences is good, not just because it sells more books but because it introduces stories to readers who may have otherwise missed hearing that story. Reading the graphic novel may lead someone to reading the original, or may lead them to an interest in an author’s other work. It’s a win-win.

Reading a graphic novel is also a different experience from reading a traditional prose book. While you can let your imagination create a world unique to you when reading traditional prose, a graphic novel introduces you someone else’s stylized vision of a story, much as a movie does. Some might argue that this can limit imagination and get an image stuck in your head (those who read The Hunger Games before the movies probably didn’t see Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, but those who read it after seeing the film probably did.) That may be true, but illustrations can also be shared visual cues that readers can discuss and interpret and argue over just as much as readers discuss, interpret and argue over passages in books. Having illustrations can also make a story more accessible to more visually minded readers or help a reader figure out what an unfamiliar place or thing looks like. The difference between a cutlass and a rapier may be obvious to some of us, but for others a picture can explain it faster than looking it up on the internet!

I think another reason that many popular YA titles are getting graphic is that variety really is the spice of life. While at ALA Annual in Las Vegas last year I picked up a new copy of Pride and Prejudice…the Manga Classics version. Now, Pride and Prejudice is my all-time favorite Jane Austen novel. I’ve read it several times and have seen every movie adaptation I‘ve been able to get my hands on. But a manga version of it? If I could enjoy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies when I don’t like zombies, I was pretty sure I could enjoy a manga version of Mr. Darcy, and I did. Very much, in fact. While I can re-read the original classic over and over sometimes I appreciate the familiarity of the story told in a different way. It’s a chance to relive the story but with a fresh take, which really keeps the story alive.

 

Not every YA book would make a great graphic novel. There are just some stories that really lend themselves to getting graphic, and they are very visual, or action oriented, or take place in a fantastical world that inspires imagination. Take The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, for example. Gaiman is well known for his work in the comic book world, so naturally his award winning prose translates well as a graphic novel, too, as adapted by P. Craig Russell. And the books in Erin Hunter’s Warriors series are also great as graphic novels. The world and characters created in those books are very visual, so adapting them into a graphic novel makes a lot of sense.

Are there any YA titles you’d like to see get graphic?

-Carla Land, currently reading The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Prince by Casandra Clare, art by Hyekyung Beak

Quiet Books: They Deserve More Love

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 07:00

 

 

 

 

When you think about YA fiction, there are the “big” books – The Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars, Divergent, Twilight, Fangirl, Grasshopper Jungle – these are the books that are in the magazines, that have been adapted as movies, that everyone seems to be talking about. They are great books not in need of any additional promotion. Everyone knows about these titles.

But today, I’d like to talk about those other YA books out there. Books that, in my opinion, are just as good, just as heart rending, as powerful, as emotionally satisfying, but for whatever reason, they did not hit the publicity jackpot. They are what I call quiet books. It is not that their plots or characters are quiet, but their fame is quiet. They may not get as much love, but I feel they are worthy of attention. Here are some quiet books; books that I feel deserve more renown. I hope you will read them and discover new authors and stories. Do you know of some quiet books of your own? Please leave a comment and tell us all what books you think are unsung! I’d love to add more quiet books to my ‘To Be Read’ pile.

Dead Ends by Erin Jade Lange
Dane is a high school senior, an excellent student, and one suspension away from expulsion. He has anger management issues. Dane must spend time with Billy, a high schooler with Downs Syndrome, to work off his detentions. To the surprise of both boys, they develop a real friendship based on their similarities: both are fatherless, both have tempers, and both appreciate cute girls. Lange writes realistically about teens with rough lives, and readers will believe in the friendship, will feel Billy’s pain of abandonment, and will appreciate the honesty of the not-tied-up-with-a-bow ending.

Hold Me Closer Necromancer by Lish McBride (A 2011 Morris Finalist)
Is humorous horror a genre? Because that is the best way to describe this unique and charming book. Sam’s life is not the best, but it’s not the worst. He has friends, a job, and a loving mom. He has no idea that he is a necromancer, a magician who can control the dead. A dumb prank brings him unwanted attention from a powerful necromancer who wants Sam to work with him, or be killed. Sam must learn to master powers he never knew he had, fast. McBride writes snarky, funny, sweet, and scary characters and places them in unusual magical jeopardy. She makes death and situations around it scary but also somehow silly. Knowledge of ’80s pop music is not required, but does enhance the reading experience. 

Lost Boy by Greg Ruth
Nate and his parents move to a house where he discovers tape recordings made by a previous inhabitant. They sound like imaginative stories told by a lonely boy, but Nate and his new friend Tabitha soon find out that magic is real in their town, and they are quickly in over their heads dealing with the supernatural. Ruth’s black and white pen and ink drawings are by turns delicate and bold. It is gorgeous art that brings the story to life. The fantasy setting may draw readers into this graphic novel, but the depth of the characters will keep the story in their minds long after they finish reading.

Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian
You may think you know where this book is going, but honestly, you don’t. Tom is a senior in a small Maine town. He’s on the soccer team, has a great girlfriend, and his future could be bright at college if he ever gets around to applying. But with life so simple, why worry about the future? Tom is barely aware when his little town becomes a migration location for Somali refugees fleeing their war-torn country until several Somali boys join his soccer team and prove to be outstanding athletes. But not everyone in town wants the refugees there, and life for these young men is as far from easy as Tom’s life is from hard. Padian shows how Tom is brought up short by learning that life is not the same for everyone. With this same skill she also makes readers think about the wider world.

The Prisoner of Snowflake Falls by John Lekich
Fifteen year old Henry’s mother has died, his guardian uncle Andy (a very nice small time crook) is in jail, and Henry is trying to stay out of the foster care system by making it on his own. Henry is a very a considerate thief: cleaning houses, putting money into piggy banks, and never taking birthday cake. When he eventually gets caught, Henry’s good-natured thoughtfulness saves him from jail. He is sentenced to a rehabilitation program in the tiny town of Snowflake Falls. There is a lot of action, plenty of playful Runyonesque language, several charming old-guy small-time crooks, and a wonderfully silly caper.

 

 

 

 

The Story of Us by Deb Caletti
As her family gathers at an isolated bed and breakfast to celebrate her mom’s marriage, Cricket has a lot on her mind. She’s worried about her mom’s remarriage, she doesn’t know which college to choose, and she did something terrible to her longtime love, Janssen. Something that may mean the end of their steady, sturdy, wonderful relationship. As wacky wedding hijinks ensue, Cricket writes e-mails to Janssen, trying to sort through her feelings and determine whether getting back together is what she wants after all. Caletti tosses the reader into an already moving story, trusting you to keep up. She shows the reader how a rough childhood made Cricket who she is today, making readers care about Cricket and her family. This is a lovely book with a bit more meat to it than many other relationship stories.

Take What You Can Carry by Kevin Pyle
Kyle, a young teen, moves into a new housing development in the late 1970s and falls in with some bored local kids. They wreak minor havoc in their neighborhood, and Kyle begins shoplifting from the local convenience store. When he gets caught, the owner, Himitsu, does not press charges, but insists that Kyle work off his debt. Kyle’s story alternates with that of teenage Himitsu and his family being sent to a Japanese American internment camp during World War II. Himitsu was also not a model youth; he did things in the camp that Kyle echoes 33 years later. Wordless sepia toned panels tell Himitsu’s story, while white and blue art conveys Kyle’s Chicago suburb. Pyle’s images are filled with details to pore over, and although this graphic novel may be quick to get through, it rewards multiple readings. When and where Kyle’s and Himitsu’s stories connect is the heart of the book.

Ten Miles Past Normal by Francis O’Roark Dowell
Not every YA book is full of troubles and gloom. Janie is hopeful about starting high school, but what with playing in a jam band, living on a goat farm, and a friend named Monster, what is “normal” for one person varies for another. There is a love interest (or two), and parental embarrassment, and a cool older sister to look up to. But none of these standard YA tropes are handled in a standard way. O’Dowell smartly shows how Janie is not suffering through anything harsher than trying to find her place in high school, but how that can be harsh enough. Making friends, keeping friends, trying to broaden your horizons, meeting boys, seeing your idols from a different perspective, trying to stay yourself without feeling lost in a big school; throw in an interesting subplot about civil rights history, and you’ve got a rich book that will resonate with young teens who may not enjoy other, darker, YA literature.

Words and Their Meanings by Kate Bassett
Anna is mourning her “bruncle” Joe. (Her uncle was only two years older and raised alongside her; he was practically her brother.) Joe died a year ago, but Anna is nowhere near done grieving. When her loving, wise grandfather gets sick, any progress Anna has made toward healing backslides quickly. And then she finds out that she did not know Joe as well as she thought. The grief-stricken teen is a character that is all too familiar in YA literature, but Bassett writes it fresh. She has created a strong, flawed, loving support group of family and friends for Anna; people who believably stick with her as she lashes out but never acts out. You will want to spend time with Anna, hoping to see her find her way out of her grief and into the rest of her life.

~Geri Diorio, currently reading The Truth Commission by Susan Juby

YA Characters in Love With Poetry

Mon, 04/27/2015 - 07:00

In honor of National Poetry Month, I’m highlighting YA books (and one adult one) that feature teen characters who are obsessed with poets and poetry. I know it’s not a very original idea, although it’s harder to do than come up with a list of YA books written in verse. Still, I’m happy to know that there are still teens today who adore certain poets and yearn to write their own stirring and meaningful poetry, as I did as a teen. I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise that Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath are favorites with YA characters.

When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriquez (2015)

In an emotionally taut novel with a richly diverse cast of characters, readers will relish the poetry of Emily Dickinson and be completely swept up in the turmoil of two girls grappling with demons beyond their control. Goth girl Elizabeth Davis is struggling to control her anger before it destroys her. Her seemingly happy classmate Emily Delgado is struggling with depression. They are both in the same English class studying Emily Dickinson. Which one is driven to suicide? The powerful novel will keep readers guessing.

Kissing in America by Margo Rabb (2015)

Eva, 16, still grieving over her father’s death two years previously in a plane crash, has taken solace in devouring romance novels (118 so far), much to her women’s studies professor mother’s dismay. Eva’s interest in writing poetry is reignited after she starts to tutor Will, a senior, and her long-time secret crush. As she helps him refine his college entrance essay and AP English class assignments, they bond over their mutual love of poetry and grief over losing a family member. When Will unexpectedly moves to CA, Eva and her super-intelligent best friend Annie find a way to travel across the country to visit him. Each section includes poetry by Eva’s favorite poets, including W. H. Auden, Nikki Giovanni, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Adrienne Rich, W. B. Yeats, Mary Oliver, and Marie Howe, as well as Dylan Thomas and Elizabeth Bishop.

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard (2014) 2015 Printz Honor winner

After her boyfriend kills himself in front of her after she ends their relationship because she’s pregnant and then is pressured to have an abortion, a traumatized Emily Beam transfers to a boarding school in Amherst, MA. Inspired by her namesake and favorite poet Emily Dickinson (whose poems appear throughout the novel) Emily writes her own heartfelt poetry about her relationship with her boyfriend, her suffering, and her journey toward healing.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero (2014) 2015 Morris Award winner

Sixteen-year-old Gabi Hernandez chronicles her senior year in high school as she copes with her friend Cindy’s pregnancy, friend Sebastian’s coming out, her father’s meth habit, her own cravings for food and cute boys, and especially the poetry she writes that helps her forge her identity. Some of the poets and poems she likes include “Loose Woman” by Sandra Cisneros, Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”; Pablo Neruda’s “Tonight I Can Write”; and Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”.

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer (2014)

Jam, 16, is sent to a therapeutic boarding school in rural VT for “emotionally fragile, highly intelligent” teenagers after her British boyfriend Reeve dies and she’s having trouble coping. She’s assigned to attend an exclusive class called Special Topics in English where a very small group of teens are studying Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar and Ariel. They are asked to write daily in a journal and through their writing, they discover another world called Belzhar where the untainted past is restored.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian (2014)

Adult book featuring Emily, 16, who strikes out on her own after a nuclear power plant in VT explodes and the area is evacuated. Her alcoholic parents worked at the plant – dad as an engineer and mom as communications director. Both are killed in the disaster that they are rumored to have caused. Fearing she will be called to testify about her father’s alcoholism, Emily assumes a new identity inspired by her favorite poet Emily Dickinson. After bouncing from a Burlington shelter to the home of a drug dealer who exploits her and other young women as prostitutes, Emily rescues 9-year-old Cameron, an escapee from an abusive foster home and they attempt to eek out an existence on their own.

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos (2013) 2014 Morris Award finalist

Probably the most poetry obsessed teen from all the books mentioned here is Walt Whitman-loving, tree-hugging, high school junior James Whitman. “I hate myself but I love Walt Whitman, the kook. Always positive. I need to be more positive, so I wake myself up every morning with a song of myself.” James is struggling with anxiety and depression and talks to an imaginary pigeon therapist named Dr. Bird. He’s trying to understand what led to his self-destructive sister being kicked out of the house by his yawp-hating father, the Brute. James’s affecting sense of humor makes this sensitive, heart-rending novel an unforgettable read.

Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez (2013)

Latino Frenchie is an Emily Dickinson quoting high school grad who hangs out in a cemetery. There she confides in imaginary pal “Em” (for Emily Dickinson) as she tries to figure out why a boy she had a crush on committed suicide after they hung out together one night. Frenchie keeps her guilt and confusion to herself because she’s never told anyone about her feelings for Andy or that she was the last person to see him alive. She embarks upon an all-night trek with Colin, a boy she barely knows, re-creating every step of her spontaneous adventure with Andy as she desperately searches for clues she’s missed.

A Troublesome Boy by Paul Vasey (2012)

Set in Canada in 1959, teenaged Teddy is sent to a grim all-boys Catholic school for troubled kids. A number of the priests are physically abusive and one, Father Prince, sexually molests the boys, particularly Wordsworth-loving Cooper, whose mother is a drug addict who couldn’t care less about her son who’s grown up in foster care. The abuse leads Cooper to commit suicide and when Teddy reports it, nothing is done except that he’s kicked out of school. In a somewhat hopeful ending, Teddy ultimately goes to live with the father who ran out on him.

Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things by Kathryn Burak (2012)

Claire and her father move to Amherst, MA to recover from her mother’s suicide and the disappearance of her best friend that she’s rumored to have had something to do with. Claire finds herself inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poetry, and writes her own to help her deal with her troubled life.

I didn’t realize until I began to compile this list just how many of these books are about suicide and death. Despite this, many of these books contain a lot of humor and are ultimately hopeful, so don’t let the seriousness of the themes deter you from reading them. I’ve tried not to repeat the same titles that have been mentioned in other poetry-related posts from last April. I know I’ve probably missed some. Can you think of others?

-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski and Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor

 

 

 

YA Books to Make You Laugh Out Loud

Mon, 04/27/2015 - 07:00

CC photo by Flickr User Joao Paulo de Vasconcelos

One of the most frequent readers’ advisory questions I get is  also one of the most complicated. Often, a reader asks for a “funny” book. But what does that mean?

Humor is subjective. Some readers might be looking for a book with slapstick-y humor, others might appreciate darker humor, like satire. Some readers don’t mind a book with bits of humor but more dramatic themes overall, others just want an easy, breezy comedy.

Bottom line: matching books with readers looking for a funny book can be tricky.

Since April is National Humor Month, it seemed like a good time to break down the subcategories of humor and offer suggestions for readers looking for funny books.

Satire

Satire is the use of humorous exaggeration to expose and criticize, particularly in the context of politics or culture.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (2012 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 Amelia Bloomer List, 2012 Rainbow List, 2014 Popular Paperbacks) is about a group of beauty pageant contestants who crash land on an island: hilarity ensues. But while a less adept writer might have just mocked the beauty-obsessed girls, but instead, she creates complicated characters who for various reasons—money, love, approval—have all bought into the rigid standards beauty pageant contestants are expected to embody, and in the process, critiques consumerism , reality TV, and of course, pageants.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults) is the story of Jennifer Strange, a wizard for hire who becomes the last dragonslayer. Like Bray, Fforde critiques the corporate world and consumer culture in this fantasy series sure to put a smirk on reader’s faces.

Teen readers who love satire should also check out the classics from authors like George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut. 

Funny Adventures and Mysteries

Readers who enjoy a good mystery don’t have to sacrifice the humor. Ally Carter’s Heist Society (2013 Top Ten Popular Paperbacks, 2011 Amazing Audiobooks, 2010 Teens’ Top Ten, 2014 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers) blends action and hilarity.

Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procastinator by Josh Berk is full of the the hilarious thoughts of teenage boys. When Guy joins the the forensics club, he doesn’t expect to find a real dead body, and he doesn’t expect to find a way to

Even dark dystopian thrillers can be funny. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken is set in a world where teens who have survived a mysterious illness that left most children dead have developed extraordinary powers that land them in government run prison camps. But when Ruby escapes and teams up with other teens on the run, the high stakes don’t stop them from enjoying some witty banter.

Fantasy and Science Fiction

Poison by Bridget Zinn is a light-hearted fantasy that will be sure to make readers chuckle. Kyra, renowned potions master, is on the run when her poison dart misses its intended target and she teams up with Fred to find the princess she was meant to kill while evading the king’s army. Bonus points for an adorable pig sidekick!

Readers looking for a little tongue-in-cheek humor poking fun at the paranormal romance, especially those featuring vampires, should check out Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults).

Sci-fi fans who like their space travel with a dose of humor should check out Mothership by Marin Leicht and Isla Neal. Part Juno, Part Alien, this novel is wacky and full of snark.

Romantic Comedies

Readers looking for YA love stories light on angst and heavy on humor have lots of options. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han is an adorable story. Laura Jean has written love letters to all of her crushes—including her sister’s ex-boyfriend and a popular boy from school—and keeps them hidden in a hatbox in her closet. When the letter are mysteriously mailed to all her former loves, Laura Jean has to confront her true feelings.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Allbertalli is absolutely adorable. When Simon “meets” a fellow classmate on his school’s gossip tumblr and begins exchanging emails with him, he finds himself quickly falling for “Blue”, another not-yet-openly-gay boy. Their witty and flirty emails are so believable. Rounding out the story are a great cast of characters, like Simon’s family, who Skype in his sister who is away at college so they can all watch The Bachelor together.

Even Murder, Suicide, and Cancer can Be Funny

Not many murder mysteries manage to be funny, but No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale is an exception. Full of black comedy, Wisconsin slang, and a bungling police department, this is one deadly funny story.

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand by Gregory Galloway is full of the darkest of humor (and woefully underappreciated, in my opinion). Literary fiction isn’t often funny, but Adam Strand is a modern day Holden Caulfield as imagined by Kurt Vonnegut. Adam has tried to kill himself 39 times, but each time wakes in his bed, completely unharmed. But this book isn’t really about suicide: it’s about family and friendship and finding the will to live while recognizing the inevitability of death.

Readers who balled their eyes out while reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green will find Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (2013 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2013 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers2014 Popular Paperbacks) a refreshing read. When awkward and self-deprecating movie-makers Greg and Earl are forced to hang out with a childhood friend dying of Leukemia, they actually have a good time.

For more from Hub bloggers on humorous YA, check out a 2013 Genre Guide and 2013 Roundup of funny YA titles and be sure to check out the Humor Me list from the 2014 Popular Paperbacks selections.

— Molly Wetta, currently listening to This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner and reading A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith

The Monday Poll: National Honesty Day

Sun, 04/26/2015 - 23:06

Good morning, Hub readers!

There are so many things to celebrate in April! Last week, our poll asked you to choose your favorite YA vampire series in honor of National Garlic Day. We thought we might have been unearthing a somewhat passe trend, but your responses indicate that vampires still have their fans! The results were fairly evenly spread– Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series took top honors with 37% of the vote, followed by Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy books with 20%. LJ Smith’s classic Vampire Diaries won 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 and commented last week!

This week, we’re honoring National Honesty Day on Thursday, April 30. Honesty is a virtue, but let’s turn the tables and talk about characters who seem to have a little problem with honesty. Who’s the best liar in YA lit? Whether they’re lying to others or lying to themselves, choose from the options below, or suggest another in the comments.

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

2015 Hub Reading Challenge Check-In #11

Sun, 04/26/2015 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2015 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since February 9 counts, so sign up now!

My fellow readers, I am having an attention problem. There are two television shows that are just devouring my time right now: The Flash and Game of Thrones. I watch them faithfully. I read reviews and online recaps. I scour Tumblr for behind the scenes information about them. And all of this takes up time that I should be spending finishing up my Hub Reading Challenge!

There are eight weeks left in the challenge, but I need special motivation to tackle some of the books I have left. So here’s the plan: I will read Batman Science: The Real World Science Behind Batman’s Gear because it will appeal to my super-hero loving heart. (And yes, I know Batman doesn’t have super powers – he’s the world’s greatest detective – but if I don’t use this argument, I’m only going to read more Snowbarry fanfic to tide me over in between Flash episodes.) And I shall read The Story of Owen, Dragonslayer of Trondheim. There is not much magic in the book, but there are swords and dragons and songs and that’s good enough to remind me of Game of Thrones! Finally, I will read All the Light We Cannot See. This book has nothing to do with superpowered speedsters or vicious political fighting for a kingdom, but it did just win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and thus must have something going for it.

How about you? Do you have any tricks to motivate you to finish the challenge? Please tell us in the comments and help out your fellow, easily distracted readers! You can also keep in touch with us on social media. Use the hashtag #hubchallenge to post updates on Twitter or join the 2015 Goodreads Hub Reading Challenge group.

You have until 11:59 PM EST on June 21st to finish at least 25 challenge books (here’s the full list of eligible titles).  You can include the Participant’s Badge on your blog, website, or email signature, and, as always, if you have any questions or problems, let us know in the comments or via email.

If you have already completed the challenge by reading or listening to 25 titles from the list of eligible books, be sure to fill out the form below so we can send you your Challenge Finisher badge, get in touch to coordinate your reader’s response and, perhaps best of all, to notify you if you win our exciting grand prize drawing! Be sure to use an email you check frequently and do not fill out this form until you have completed the challenge by reading 25 titles.

 

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Flashback Friday: Books from the ’90s

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 07:00

It’s Flashback Friday and The Hub is taking you back to the 1990s! Last week, Jessica Lind discussed the ’90s nostalgia emerging in contemporary pop culture in her post titles The Hub Loves the ’90s. Now we’re going to be flashing back to what young adults were reading in the ’90s. The inspiration for this post was the television show Fresh off the Boat. The show based on Eddie Huang’s best-selling memoir, is about a Taiwanese-American family living in the suburbs of Orlando, FL during the ’90s. The show gave me a very funny librarian thought: what if the tweenage Eddie went to the library on Fresh off the Boat– what would the librarian recommend to him? This thought caused me to crack open the librarian vault and take a journey back to the decade that had us rolling with the homies….

So it’s time to break out your flannel, find those old shoe-lace hair clips, put on Wannabe by the Spice Girls and grab your favorite Pogs, because we’re going to the 90’s!

Here are some ’90s YA lit titles in chronological order that you might want to think about re-reading or checking out for this first time.

 

 

Full disclosure: The first book in the Dangerous Angels series by Francesca Lia Block was written in 1989 but the other books from the series were published during the ’90s.

Be sure to check back next week for our third installment of The Hub Loves the ’90s when Traci Glass discusses historical fiction set during the decade. Can you believe the ’90s are already considered historical?!

-Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

Tweets of the Week: April 24th

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 07:00

Spring is here – Summer books are coming, BEA is coming, and blockbuster movies are coming.
I’ve got the round up of any news your might have missed this week.


Book News:

 · Enter the “If I were royalty” writing contest!  · Photo: epicreads: The 20 Most Anticipated YA Books to Read in May ––>  · What’s New in LGBTQIA+ This Spring — Teen Librarian Toolbox by  · Photoset: bookriot: If you’re an iPhone user and a reader, check out these awesome bookish apps.  · 25 Films You Might Not Know Were Based On A Book –  · This week’s YA RELEASES!  · Whoa. A never-before-seen passage has been uncovered from ‘A Wrinkle in Time’!

Movie/TV News:

 · New report reveals ‘Star Trek 3’ may finally have an official title –  · Stanley Tucci joins the all-star cast of Disney’s live-action :  · Ewan McGregor cast as Lumière in Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ –  · RT : New Trailer for THE LITTLE PRINCE  · Why the cast of The Mortal Instruments Movie Won’t Be The Cast for The Shadowhunters TV Series  · It’s official: orders revival, 13 episodes to arrive in 2016:  · . sequel, movie score release dates:  · Twitterverse, how are you feeling about being Jace in the new Mortal Instrument TV series?  · ‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’ release date announced, won’t be split –

Librarianship:

 · 16 Random Things You Should Probably Know About Today’s Teens – Buzzfeed  · Turning the School Library into a Community Hub: Here’s How  · Celebrate Teen Read Week this Oct! Apply now thru 6/1 for our $1000 literacy activity grants!  · What are your kids making? Apply for the Build Something Bold Award by April 30  · From YALSABlog: 30 Days of Teen : Low-Stress through Crafternoons  · Banana pianos are just a start. SLJ Reviews MaKey MaKey  · 30 Days of Teen Programming: Engaging All Teens in : Thinking Diversely, w/ a Prog Plan via  · With Minecraft – You Can Now Explore The Tate Museum In Virtual Reality  · Middle Grade Monday – the Power of Doorstops

Blogs:

 · ” Finding the courage to speak your truth is one of the most difficult lessons for teens to learn”:  · Teen Library Program Ideas for Spring with Duct Tape:  · Female friendships are a core theme in . I’m on Bustle today talking about putting the BFF in YA.  · Can you read if you only have 5 minutes, or do you need bigger chunks of time to dive in?  · Your guide to setting the web free for kids: our Great Websites for Kids site!  · Love this list: our librarian on how she spring cleans her personal bookshelves.  · 7 awesome YA heroines who know “girly” doesn’t mean “weak.”

Just for Fun:

 · Think you know your YA? Play this QuizBowl game inspired by ‘s THE START OF ME AND YOU!  · 11 Reasons To Get Obsessed With “Lip Sync Battle” – Lip Sync Battle would be a great teen library program!  · RT : Where’s the Quote from: Classic or YA Lit? Take the QUIZ!

~ Jennifer Rummel currently reading The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

YA Lit Dream Interpretation: Snakes

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 07:00

In your dream you are walking along a path in the woods when suddenly the trail becomes writhing snakes.  You cannot walk, you slip, fall and land among them.  The snakes climb over and above you.  You cannot see the sky.  You are suffocating.  

You wake up suddenly. Startled and confused you wonder, what did it all mean?  Freud might have a lot of explanations for your dream.  But a better interpretation is: you need fiction to solve your nightmarish concerns.  No need to psychoanalyze when some reader’s advisory  has the cure.

As a positive symbol, snakes represent healing, transformation, knowledge and wisdom. It is indicative of self-renewal and positive change. (DreamMoods)

This nightmare about snakes sounds like an impetuous for growth.  Are you heading to college soon?  Are you taking driving lessons this spring?  What other opportunities are you facing?  The following titles will inspire and guide you to reach your potential.

The Look by Sophia Bennett

Ted has the ultimate epiphany about modeling while on a photo shoot.  There is never a wrong time to choose what is right for yourself.  Learn to be yourself by reading about Ted’s struggle to escape her beautiful sister’s shadow.

 

Black Boy White School by Brian F. Walker

Ant is going to get out.  He’s getting out of dangerous neighborhood.  He is going to find a new life at a new school.  Too bad the new school has its own problems.  Now lines have been crossed and choices have been made.  Its time for Ant to take a stand and prove wherever he is, he can make a difference. 

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

David Smith has lost everything.  Desperate and homeless, he bets everything on his art.  He struggles to find inspiration for a gallery opening while learning to love his free spirited roommate.  David desperately wants to be famous but will he find what he truly needs along the way?

Rock the Boat by Sigmund Brouwer

Webb is looking to break into the Nashville music scene.  With minimal cash and few contacts he only has a short amount of time to make it big.  Reduced to busking on the streets, Webb’s talent earn him a strong friendship that will prove valuable. When Webb is accused of plagiarizing lyrics can stand up for himself or will he need a ticket home?

Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter by Stacy King

Celebrate growth and change with a manga edition of the classic redemptive story, The Scarlet Letter.  In this adaptation, Hester’s struggle for piety and forgiveness is admirable and seemingly achievable.  Will Reverend Dimmesdale and Dr. Chillingworth learn from Hester and Pearl and accept change in their lives as well?

 

It’s all about perspective. Fear of snakes is a common phobia that we don’t really understand.  Instead of thinking negatively about your fear, use the emotion to propel you.  Imagine the snakes of your nightmares if they are part of Staff of Asclepius, a symbol from Greek mythology that represents medicine and healing.

-Laura C Perenic,  currently reading Moonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb

No Cheap Thrills Here: Complex, Character-Driven Thrillers

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 07:00

image from AshtonPal’s flickr

As many of my posts here at The Hub illustrate, I am a longtime fan of genre fiction.  My teenage reading habits primarily focused on several kinds of genre fiction including historical fiction, fantasy, and mysteries & thrillers.  I have a particular fondness for that final category as it is also one of my father’s favorite genres and we continue to trade off book recommendations to this day.  Accordingly, I’m always on the look out for new titles to read and to recommend to my equally suspense-addicted students.

As I expressed in my post about the particular appeal of Veronica Mars last spring, I especially enjoy genre fiction that takes advantage of its particular structure and characteristics to tackle larger topics and issues and tell complex stories in a fresh way. So I’ve been thrilled to see an especially rich crop of recent young adult novels that capitalize on specific qualities of the thriller subgenre to tell stories about the complicated intersections between gender, class, race, sexual orientation, mental health,  sexuality, violence, innocence, guilt, and justice.  These novels take advantage of careful pacing to build suspense and hook readers from their opening lines.  Each features narrators hiding secrets from other characters, from the reader, and from themselves.  These novels will not only keep you on the edge of your seat; they will also leave your mind spinning and buzzing for days afterwards.

Far From You – Tess Sharpe

Sophie is a survivor.  She survived a nasty car accident when she was fourteen and the brutal prescription drug addiction that followed.  Then when Sophie and her best friend Mina were attacked by a masked man in the woods, Sophie survived–and Mina didn’t.  To make everything worse, everyone believes that it’s Sophie’s fault that Mina is dead; the police decided that the attack was a drug deal gone wrong and accordingly all fingers pointed towards Sophie.  So even though she’d been clean for months before the murder, Sophie was shipped off to rehab and told be glad it wasn’t juvie.  But now Sophie’s back and she determined to find out the truth behind Mina’s murder.

Complicit – Stephanie Kuehn

It’s been two years since Jamie saw his magnetic and frightening sister Cate and that’s precisely the way he’d like the situation to remain.  But then his parents tell him that Cate has been released from jail where she’s been serving time for her role in a local barn fire that killed several horses and left another girl severely burned.  Now it seems that Cate wants to see him and Jamie is beyond freaked out.  Even after years of therapy, Jamie hasn’t been able to shake his strange bouts of amnesia and the occasional & unpredictable loss of sensation in his hands and the specter of Cate’s return only exacerbates his symptoms.  Determined to gain some control, Jamie begins to dig deep into his past and his memories with possibly devastating consequences.

Pointe – Brandy Colbert

Theo is finally starting to get her life in order again.  Her ballet instructor has singled her out as one of her top students and told her to seriously consider auditioning for specialized summer programs. It’s looking like her dreams of becoming one of the few African American professional ballet dancers might be in reach.    She’s eating again, she’s got some great friends, and she might be on the verge of something special with an almost appropriate guy.  Then Donovan Pratt returns.  Before he disappeared a few years ago, Donovan was Theo’s best friend.  And now Theo has all sorts of long buried memories bubbling up–including memories of her first boyfriend, a much older guy who disappeared around the same time as Donovan.

The Walls Around Us – Nova Ren Suma

Amber and Violet live in separate universes. As a longtime inmate at Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center, Amber understands its rules and the subtle social dynamics.  She treasures the brief moments of freedom in their strictly controlled lives–like the night when all the doors opened.  Meanwhile, Violet thrives on the very different but equally rigid routine of intense ballet training.  She’s counting the days until she can be free of the ugly events of a few years ago and make her escape to Juilliard.  But while their lives seem worlds apart, Amber and Violet’s stories are inexorably intertwined by twisty web of secrets, broken friendships, murder, guilt, and innocence–all centered on Ori, Violet’s best friend and Amber’s cellmate at Aurora Hills.  As she has with her earlier novels, Nova Ren Suma infuses this fascinating narrative with carefully orchestrated elements of magical realism.

Happily, this trend doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.  Lauren Oliver’s newest novel, Vanishing Girlsexplores a complicated relationship between estranged sisters through the lens of a page-turning mystery.  Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton (May 2015) uses the high stakes competition and personal drama of an intense New York City ballet school as the setting for an adrenaline-fueled exploration of three different girls’ quests for dancing stardom. In June, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller and Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn both burst onto the scene and promise to bring mind-bending thrills and thought-provoking chills along with them.

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading The Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella and The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson

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