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Your Connection to Teen Reads
Updated: 22 hours 53 min ago

Reading with Pictures

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Today’s post is from Ellie Williams from Massachusetts.

I guess it’s my parent’s fault, the reason why I have an unhealthy obsession with words. Although, looking back on it, I suppose it’s my fault too; I didn’t have to like the books that my parents would read to me, but I did. I was always curious about words, and fascinated that writing could be a way to talk without moving my mouth at all. Drawing is sort of the same way, that just with one picture; an author can show the reader what was tucked carefully behind the walls of their heads.

I don’t remember exactly what the first graphic novel that I read was called; I just remember picking it up and being fascinated that you could use both pictures and words to tell a story. It was different for me, and strange. I remember on one occasion, coming into the library for my usual fix, one of my besties, who just so happens to be my favorite librarian, brought me over to a different part of the library that  I guess in my usual blind rampage I had never noticed before. These books had…pictures. I must say I was apprehensive at first; I mean these books were for kids, right? But oh how wrong I was.

One of the first graphic novels I read was called Bones. I loved not only the writing (it was hilarious) of the author, Jeff Smith, but also his stunningly beautiful drawings. The images in the novels flowed so nicely together that they seemed to paint a picture for me to see. If you aren’t familiar with the Bones series, well I’m not sure what you’re doing with your life.Jeff Smith creates a fictional world completely from scratch that has humans and all kinds of different creatures living in it, including the Bones, which are cute cartoonish white creatures. The series, which is nine volumes long, takes you through the perspective of three particular Bone cousins and the unexpected adventure they go on.

Bones is definitely one of my favorite graphic novel series ever, but there are a few others that I’ve read and loved recently as well. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang had a very unusual story line, but I liked it so much that I actually decided to read some more recent graphic novels that he’s published, including Boxers and the companion, Saints. These two books were also quite…different, but I loved how you couldn’t read just one of them, as both graphic novels connected in their story lines, and you needed the other book to fill in the missing pieces.

To finish off my list of my favorite graphic novels I’ve ever read, is Akiko by Mark Crilley. Most of you probably aren’t familiar with this particular work as the first issue was probably published a good ten or fifteen years ago, but trust me when I say this is one of the best graphic novels series ever written. Mark Crilley is already a fantastic artist, but throw in several well developed characters and some humorous dialogue and you got yourself a masterpiece. The novels are about this eleven year old girl named Akiko who travels to planets far from Earth. She makes all sorts of new friends, including a robot and one who doesn’t speak English at all. Here on these far away planets she does her best to help in the best ways she can.

Besides, Rick Riordan’s Blood of Olympus, Robin LaFever’s Mortal Heart, and Marie Lu’s The Young Elites–several books that I have been waiting for, it seems, since the beginning of time *eye twitch*–I’ve also been on the lookout for a series that I only recently started called Brody’s Ghost which just so happens to be by the one and only Mark Crilley. I wasn’t always this eager about graphic novels though. In fact, I’ve never been one for trying new things, but I’ve learned that trying new things can be really rewarding, and I am glad that I gave these graphic novels a shot.

–Ellie Williams

 

Ellie’s the name, reading’s my game. To start with, I guess I should tell you bit about myself. Well I’ll be completely honest with you; I have always been THAT girl. The one that sits in the corner of the room, shy and maybe a little bit odd compared to everyone else; talking had always somehow made me nervous. Instead, I preferred the silent understanding of a book, of the characters that were more real to me than the people that passed by me in the hallways of school. As I grew older I began to read anything I could get my hands on until eventually I realized that I wanted to write; I wanted the thoughts in my head to for once be seen by someone other than myself. So here I sit, typing these words to you. When I’m not obsessing over fictional characters and reading, my hobbies include drawing, playing field hockey (it’s like hockey…but on a fieldJ) and pestering my cat.

Wilde Reads

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 07:00

Happy 160th birthday, Oscar Wilde! In honor of this most fascinating and talented writer, I’ve rounded up some great YA that definitely owes a debt to Wilde’s work – or his life.

Readalike for The Picture of Dorian Gray
It shouldn’t be surprising that Wilde’s novel would resonate with teens – who doesn’t think from time to time about youth and beauty and the fear of growing old? While Wilde’s novel itself is already great for teens, this book may also resonate with them, and it fits into the popular paranormal genre by making what is clearly a supernatural occurrence in the original Wilde work more blatant:

  • Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul by Leanna Renee Hieber
    Natalie is mute, but she is observant and sensitive, which is why she is the one who notices that a new portrait of Lord Denbury has a bit too much life to it. It turns out that the young, handsome man’s soul is actually trapped behind the painting, and Natalie is the only one who can access it and help him escape the magic that binds him there.

 

Readalike for The Importance of Being Earnest
This hilarious play stands the test of time and may convince teens that not everything they read in English class from Ye Olden Tymes is difficult to understand or dense. After they finish that (and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, of course), here is their next read:

  • 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
    Hijinks, road trips, love, and absurdity collide in this irreverent story. It should be great for any reader who enjoys the snark and complete self-centeredness of Algernon Moncrieff.

 

 

Readalike for Wilde’s fairy tales
More mature readers may enjoy digging into Wilde’s fairy tales and then move onto adult writers like Anne Sexton or Angela Carter. But for some lighter reading, try this:

  • Enchanted by Alethea Kontis (2013 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)
    Sunday Woodcutter meets a frog. He talks. He may be a prince. The Woodcutter family may have some beef with the prince’s family. The kickoff to a series that ties in lots of fairy tale tropes and characters in new and unexpected ways with a little bit of humor should be the perfect complement to Wilde’s original and charming fairy tales.

 

Readalike for Wilde’s personal life
Wilde was married to a woman and had children with her, but he was also accused of being gay and put on trial for sodomy. He was generally unapologetic about any aspect of his life or work.

  • Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg
    To be closeted or not to be closeted? That is the question in this novel, which deals with a boy who is given the chance to reinvent himself at a new school. Given that Wilde was unafraid to be the man he was, this thought-provoking book may help questioning teens figure themselves out and allow any teen at all the opportunity to consider what it means to have a sexual identity.

–Hannah Gómez, currently reading Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

From TV to Books: How Movies and TV Shows Bring in a New Reading Audience!

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Sara Boivin from California.

by flickr user o5com

It seems today that the argument “the book is better” intrudes into every conversation about the latest hit film in theaters. But how many people truly know that anymore?

It’s no secret that when it comes to movies and books, movies seem like the much less time consuming and much more entertaining option for entertainment, especially in today’s world where time is scarce to spare.
But as an avid reader, and also a true cinema lover, I’m here to say with all seriousness that reading the book is nothing to shake your head at.
And I get it. Reading a book takes more time and the story isn’t always your cup of tea. A movie will give you that similar conclusion but usually within the much shorter time it takes you to watch it. But out of that conclusion comes a new opportunity. Just bear with me as I explain.

There are many reasons a movie might motivate you to read its book. The first thing to remember is that in the cinema world, it doesn’t matter how long a book is per say when you’re adapting it into a film, but keep in mind that movies can rarely stretch past two and a half hours.

An example of this is one of my all-time favorite sci-fi series called Ender’s Game. I’ve read every book in the series and if you’ve read it too you probably saw this coming. Only the first book in the series was made into a film (I say with all sureness that the rest probably won’t be made simply because the later books lack a lot of the action the first one has and they focus more on philosophical points that most people just won’t get. The first book was successful so I’m happy nevertheless).

However, like most movies adapted from books, many of the major characters’ feelings, and struggles, as well as other details and plot points were glossed over or simply excluded from the film for the sake of time. And I understand why. The director knew that covering the whole book would ruin the budget and make the movie way too long for a regular audience. The book covers a much longer time frame than the movie and has much more extensive detail.

This is where I draw my reasons for reading the book. Let’s be honest, a two and a half hour movie drains you completely. Very rarely after watching a super long movie do I feel like watching another movie. Trimming out the ‘fat’ (the director’s view of what is unneeded) in a book to make a movie is a standard process, but in the book world, that sort of behavior is unacceptable.
Books are different. A book you can put down and come back to. A book, you can still have a story full of love, passion, feeling, detail, and substance. Books are great because you can skip right to the chapter your feeling into and experience the full taste and idea of the story. A quality author would probably rather die than trim out the “fat” in their story that a movie would not hesitate to cut for the sake of time or attention.

That doesn’t mean that movies and TV shows can’t urge you in a good direction though. Like I mentioned earlier, I love cinema. For certain movies I do get upset over directors slicing up my favorite books, but for many others I get excited to see the characters from an imaginary world appear in a real life setting.
A major example of this for me has to be through superheroes. If you haven’t already guessed, on top of my major love of books and movies, I have a certain love for comic books (which I guess do count as reading but it depends for some people). This hobby didn’t come naturally though. My inspiration for looking into reading them came from a well-known all-time favorite movie called Batman Begins.

I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t still a little girl at the time the movie came out, but I was still the same movie junkie I am today. And nothing quite pushed me more towards reading comic books than my newfound curiosity on a superhero I knew of, but knew nothing about. The rest is history.

I noticed that as I grew older, I experienced similar situations with other popular movies and TV shows like The Hunger Games, Jurassic Park, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter (mentioning this was unavoidable), and many more.
For teens nowadays, every time a hit book comes out, the film follows close behind so there’s no time to waste! If you need reassurance, just remember that if a movie or TV show is based off a book, chances are the book is pretty good. Especially if it gets a film adaptation of it.

In particular this formula also applies largely to girls who more often or not are the main majority of fans when it comes to teen novels. While I’m not one to judge the individual male, it’s no secret that a large audience in the hit novel ‘Fault in Out Stars’ is female. This may be because of the heavy emphasis on teen romance amongst today’s options in teen literature as well.

It’s undeniable that film is more money mastered force over books these days. Much more people watch films than read books during their down time. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Movies have proven to drive an audience to the book.

If you find yourself in love and just engrossed in a movie/TV show, look to see if it’s based on a book. You owe it to yourself to find a way to enjoy reading and if a movie leads you to an open door, take it!

- Sara Boivin is a senior in High School who loves to read and watch movies in her spare time. She is really passionate about pop culture and how it affects her generation. She hopes to one day become an accomplished film director and writer. 

Why I Review

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Anjalika Chalamgari from Virginia.

Let’s just imagine that your super awesome blogger (whom you adore immensely) stops by the library, one of her usual hangouts, on a crisp Tuesday morning. Upon arriving, she decides to open a book near the Young Adult section whose cover seems quite interesting to her. (As we all know she never follows the expression “Don’t judge a book by its cover” when it really comes to books- a hater of all things extremely literal). She flips to the first page of the book and begins reading the long narrow text inside. Then she turns to the next page, and then the next, and then… well, I assume get the picture. The main point is I, the blogger in this instance (who else could it be, really?), become rather engrossed in the book I picked up. Unfortunately, all books come to an end. And this one did too. (Why, oh why?)

Like most people, or at least most crazy book-loving people at least, I become inconsolable for quite some time and my mind drifts away to the adventures I took in that book. To the extreme where I call my mom the name of the main character’s mom. Yes- it did happen. All I really need is to do before I end up stuck in a ward for the insane, is extend my adventure for a little more time. So I do that in reviewing books. Reviewing books is like re-telling your stories and your thoughts in your last endeavor. You prolong the story far past the epilogue. It brings that sense of closure in book that the last page really didn’t bring. You’re left without the crazy desire for a sequel to the book- and don’t have to write a huge email to the author about it. Not like I did that… Anyway, the experience is finally complete when you finish up that review. Truly, I might not like to even read some books if I wasn’t able to review them and add my own personal thought to them. I realize that this may not be the case with certain individuals, but I guess an avid writer can’t survive without writing. (I guess I’m being a bit poetic now.)

Sometimes, I don’t just review books because it’s an avid hobby of mine. I’ve read (I do that a lot) that it’s unhealthy for you to swell up any sort of emotion inside of you, so reviewing books lets me release any feeling I have with that books in a more peaceful way. Most of us have some sort of feeling or sentiment with any book we read. I mean, all the books that I’ve read have left me with a certain aftertaste. I can sail through the emotions of inspired, thoughtful, happy, sad, angry, confused, and shocked all in one day of typical reading. I usually swim past the waters of anger more often- which we all do frequently I suppose. I always think at the end of either a really bad or a really good book (that just disappointed me with the ending… you know who you are) “Couldn’t you have written that better?!”There’s usually an array of anger levels, from irritated to slamming your head against the book, which I don’t suggest if you’re reading an e-book on a Kindle or iPad. Reviewing books is like releasing all that energy in a very relaxed way. Unless you’re so angry you break the keyboard of the computer you’re typing it up in. Which, I usually *try* very hard not to do.

I also make it my goal to help out the community by informing them of books that are a must-read-to-live and ones that are total time wasters. (I tried putting it on my community service hour log but to no avail.) I review the book, stamp my seal of approval on it, urge (beg) my friends to read it, and receive a warm noble feeling inside. Call me crazy.

I’m not trying to persuade you to take up reviewing books by elaborating my deep and great love for it- I like to think I’m attempting to explain to you, fellow reader, how some inner thoughts should be expressed, all in different ways. (If you didn’t get that from the whole post, it’s okay, I didn’t either.) Especially those you have with books. Because books are your escape from reality, books are your gate to experiencing, perhaps, a life that may teach you a lot. So go! Escape reality! Read to your heart’s content! (Of course, don’t forget to eat and you know, sleep those 9 hours- oh and do your homework.) And, remember to tell me how that book turned out.

The writer of the blog post you may or may not have just read is a slightly crazy, slightly insane individual that is known for plotting her evil schemes (and writing her next blog posts) in a nice, quaint suburban town next to the nation’s capital. If you can’t find her there, you’ll probably find her at the closest library, where she terrorizes innocent librarians to give up all their books. (No, not really, she usually just ask them really nicely (: ) She lives with her parents and is known for eating large amounts of Indian food (You are what you eat, so they say) and typing rapidly on her keyboard for long periods of time. Apart from her blogging, this writer is also a math nerd (well, a nerd all around) and is currently trying to learn as many digits of pi as she can. (She also likes eating pie) Her favorite saying is “You can have this book for free!!” (Which is not really a saying, I guess, and she’s never actually really heard someone say it… laughs awkwardly… Only in her dreams….). If you’re wondering, perhaps, at this very moment she is most likely curling up with a book or two.

Jukebooks: Get Happy by Mary Amato

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 07:00

Minerva’s heart sank as she opened her mother’s gift to her for her sixteenth birthday. It was not shaped like a ukulele. It was not firm like a ukulele. Thus, by the time Minerva pulled out a blue sweater decorated with large white snowflakes, her hopes were already trampled. Not a ukulele at all.

So when Minerva marched in the music store to purchase the longed-for ukulele, it was a huge deal. The ukulele of her dreams was hers. Minerva began playing one of the few songs she knew, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” People on the street stopped to smile at her. Some began to sing along. Some began to dance.

Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, or “Iz,” was a skilled musician and a leader in the Independent Hawaii movement. His sweet rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on ukulele is irresistible. In 1997, Kamakawiwoʻole died of complications related to obesity.

The video clip below shows images of Kamakawiwoʻole floating over beautiful Hawaiian land and seascapes. At the very end, Kamakawiwoʻole’s ashes are scattered into the water.

5 YA Books to Read During Learning Disabilities Awareness Month

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 07:00

Learning Disabilities Awareness Month is a time to give recognition to folks with LD and to perhaps learn a bit more about these disabilities. “Learning disabilities” is a phrase that can encompass many different things: dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, and dysgraphia. These disabilities give people trouble with reading, writing, maths, and motor skills. Learning disabilities are lifelong issues, they cannot be cured or fixed. But teachers and parents and therapists can work with folks who have LDs to help them develop skills and strategies for dealing with their difficulties. ADHD, auditory processing disorder, visual processing disorder, and autism spectrum disorders can present folks with similar types of challenges, but are not learning disabilities themselves. According to the National Institutes of Health 15% of the US population have some type of learning disorder. So it is little wonder that there are many YA literature characters who have some sort of LD. Here are five titles to explore.

Dying to Know You – Aidan Chambers (Chambers is a Printz winner)
Karl is head over heels in love with Fiorella. She has asked him to write her a series of letters, answering deep questions about love. Karl is dyslexic and is terrified that he will fail to impress her and thus will lose her. He seeks out Fiorella’s favorite author and convinces him to act as a sort of Cyrano de Bergerac, writing down Karl’s spoken thoughts. The two men, though far apart in age, develop a friendship that unexpectedly brings them both much joy.

Carter Finally Gets It – Brent Crawford
Will Carter is just starting high school. He’s a popular guy, has friends, plays sports, but he is insecure and very concerned. He worries about how hard classes will be, he worries about making the team, he worries that his stutter and his LD will keep him from succeeding in many ways, but especially with girls. Crawford has written a realistical teen guy, but leavened the story heavily with humor and good cheer. Carter’s a good guy (if slightly raunchy-minded) and as the title says, he finally figures out how to survive high school.

Graffiti Moon – Cath Crowley
It is the last night of year 12 (senior year in Australian schools) and Lucy just wants to find Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work moves her. Ed, a former classmate who also went on one disastrous date with Lucy, swears he knows how to find Shadow, and so Lucy reluctantly joins him for an all-night jaunt. There is more to Ed than meets the eye. he may have dropped out of school while struggling with his LD, but if Lucy only opens her eyes, she may find an artist within Ed.

Okay for Now – Gary D. Schmidt (Schmidt is a Printz Honor recipient) 
Doug’s father loses his job and moves the family to a new town just in time for Doug to begin eighth grade. No one expects much from Doug, not his teachers, not his new neighbors, not his schoolmates. In their eyes he’s just a skinny thug with learning disabilities. But despite people’s low opinions, despite his abusive father, despite his depressed Vietnam Veteran brother, Doug somehow remains optimistic. He makes two friends in town, a classmate and a librarian who make things okay, for now.

After Ever After – Jordan Sonnenblick (Best Fiction for Young Adults 2011)
Jeffrey is a cancer survivor, but the treatments that sent the cancer into remission have given him some learning disabilities and he has a terrible time concentrating. As if that wasn’t hard enough, Jeff is now in eighth grade, there are cute girls to flirt with, his best friend and fellow cancer survivor Tad has ended up in a wheelchair, and Jeff’s big brother, the person he always looks up to, has “run away” to Africa to find himself. Somehow, Jeff will have to survive eighth grade, and this very funny book show how he does that.

~ Geri Diorio, currently reading The Forest Unseen by David George Haskell

Divining Dystopias

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Rashika Rao, age 14.

Ever since The Hunger Games, the craze for teen dystopias has escalated exponentially- are the novels going past the point of no return? This teen certainly thinks so. As more and more YA dystopian novels are written and published, the authors all seem to be forgetting the difference between writing in the same genre and writing with the same outline.

Recently, I’ve started to realize just how cliché dystopian novels are: it’s getting to the point where, if you just give me the first couple pages and a couple of character names, I can often predict an entire series’ main plot line.

Here is a list of what I think are the top 10 clichés in modern dystopian novels (in no particular order):
1. Dysfunctional government: there is always something wrong with the governmental system.

Some people like to argue that that’s the point of a dystopian novel. But if you look up the definition of a dystopia, it qualifies as a “an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad.” (verbatim from Google).

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d like something worse to happen than corrupt government every now and then.

Another quick point: why are these officials always so violent? Torture, secret kidnappings, you name it, they’ve got it. The excuse is always that no one will stand up to them. But, quoting my AP U.S. History teacher here, “when you keep pushing people into a corner, eventually they’re going to push back.” Well, you defenders will say, that’s the point of the rebellion/rising/see #7! Okay. Fine. But how does our main character oh so conveniently get tangled up with them? And why is she/he (mostly she) always the key to their success?

Something everyone always forgets: These characters are just children. Since when have adults trusted children this much?

2. The age “16″ for the main character:

Okay, this is a HUGE one. Remember that time when all middle-grade book characters were thirteen? This is heading in the same direction. Actually, it’s already there! YA fiction is read by teens, ages 13 through 18. If you keep giving all those adventures to the 16 year olds, what 17 year old is still going to believe in a storybook ending? The younger kids look even more forward to their 16th birthday than they already do. And people wonder why kids grow up too fast….

16. Sweet sixteens, the legal driving age, the square number of a square number. I can see why society might want it as the perfect age. But when every character is pretty much the same age, I might start thinking that either there was a mass giveaway of courage and intellect two years before I was born or that 16 is the only year worth living. And since neither of those is true, I suggest a large shift in how we pick our characters’ ages.

3. Strange society initiations and/or rituals- many times they have to do with bloodshed:

So basically what they’re saying here is that I have to pass some crazy (usually scary or painful) test in order to be accepted. Huh. Sounds like high school.

I don’t think anyone wants real life to be like high school.

4. Love triangles: My #1 problem with dystopian novels. And, more recently, all novels.

Let’s be honest for a second here, the main character ALWAYS chooses the second guy/girl in the triangle.

*I’ll pause while you all try to yell exceptions at the computer screen*

Yes, I know, there are exceptions. But the ratio? About 1….. in a billion.

One other vitally important point here: We’ve already clarified that our main character is sixteen, right? So why on earth does she/he have to pick out their true love right away? Can’t she/he wait, get her/his job done, and then turn to their love life? Or, even better, get an education, and then think about it? I mean, if the guy (or girl) won’t wait for you, they’re not worth it anyways. An easy way of weeding out potentials. Dystopian heroes, you should all thank me.

5. The mysterious ability for key characters (usually adults) to believe the main character and in what they are doing:

I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I tried to convince even my parents that
a) the world was ending
b) the government was secretly controlling our lives
c) there was a rebellion and we should join it
d) we should fight to the death for a cause we barely believe in
and/or
e) everything they knew was a lie
then the most probable response would be a good fit of laughter, and then a temperature check to make sure I wasn’t delirious and running a fever.

So how can our dystopian heroes convince total strangers so quickly?

- It can’t be their charm, because it’s constantly repeated about how they have little to no social skills
- It can’t be their family, because they’ve got to be all alone in this “brave new world”
- Oh, I know! It must be love interest #2 a.k.a. “the winner”! So that’s why main characters keep them along. I understand now!<note my sarcasm>.

But, taking this a little more seriously, there can’t be that many willing-to-trust-on-the-spot people out there, especially adults. Actually, that would make a great novel, one where everyone trusts the main character, who’s secretly part of an evil plot against what they pretended to believe in.

6. Main character’s convenient possession of the one “key trait” that either overshadows all the rest, or is the key to their survival (and sometimes even both):

To clarify what I’m talking about, here are some examples:
Katniss Everdeen’s archery (The Hunger Games)
Malencia Vale’s metalworking skills (The Testing)
West Grayer’s knife skills (Dualed)

Basically, the one skill that just happens to be useful, to be the skill that keeps them alive. I don’t know. You could put up a reasonably decent argument against it, I suppose, but it really does annoy me. It would be interesting to see a ‘jack-of-all-trades, master of none,’ character. Or a character whose strengths lie entirely in the mind. I don’t mean they’re smart so they can build stuff, but smart as in they know things, things that could help them get out of sticky situations simply through wit of the word.

7. Major secret rebellion/rising that always exists and is joined (even temporarily) by the main character:

This in a way wraps back to the ‘dysfunctional government’ theme, but now onto the rebels’ side. Why does there even need to be rebels? And if there is such an oppressing need, why doesn’t the main character start the rebellion instead of just showing up and playing hero? You could also tie this up with the ‘trusting’ adults thing. Many times the main character gets recruited because they are either

a) saved by the rebels
or
b) ‘they’ve been watching’.

And why do these rebellions never really get anywhere without enlisting the help of our sixteen year old M.C.?
^^ If someone can answer that I will give you an internet hug *laughs* but I don’t think anyone can….

8. That one family member that’s secretly allied with the rebels the entire time:

Okay, I don’t know about you, but I would be super annoyed if I found out that my parents or my sister were secretly part of a plan to bring down the (hypothetically controlling) government/start a new society. I don’t know if this would be because I’d be shocked they’d think of something like that, or mad that they didn’t invite me.

On the other hand, if I was the main character in a dystopian novel, then I guess that this could be useful, since we’ve already established that I join this thing too. Someone on the inside on my side is definitely a thing I could use.

‘Course, I wouldn’t want to be them, because 9 times out of 10 that character dies.

9. The parent problem- what happened to regular old wonderful parents?:

Dead parents, abusive parents, runaway parents, secret parents, lying parents, disappearing parents, parents you never knew you had with your siblings you never knew you had….. WHAT happened to regular old amazing loving parents? I love my parents, and I don’t think that their existence would impact a dystopian novel all that much. It would probably actually be helpful. But no author wants parents hanging around their fictional world. They’d interfere with everything (As they should- that’s their job). So why not just get rid of them in some new ‘creative’ way?

And (to relate to #8) it’s a bit hard to believe that our main character’s mom/dad/both were secretly involved in the same challenge their kid is facing now. Because the chances of that are less than the chances of of having a dystopian novel without a love triangle.

Honestly.
Bring back real parents!

10. The “ONLY solution” is always to kill the “corrupt” leader(s):

Well, this ranks number one for violence.

Okay, how many different ways are there to remove a person from office without killing them? (You can think Student Council elections, if you want, it might make it easier.)

There is one glaringly easier way: #gossip.

Gossip. Lies. Slander. All of these could be used to get rid of so-and-so from government. It just needs to be spread in the right way. ‘But there isn’t enough time. There isn’t enough people to do all that!’ my favorite rebuker might say.

Wait. Go back 3 topics ago. Yeah. That major rebellion/rising? Lots of people willing to take down a government, and all conveniently in one place as well. And there’s more than enough time considering how much of it’s been wasted while they sit around ‘training’ and waiting for the main character to show up.

‘Okay, fine. But gossip? Lies? Isn’t that too low?’ they might say.

And killing someone isn’t?

This generation. (Oh wait, that includes me. And I suppose I made up my dystopian defender too…..).

Coming back to the main point, in reality, this list could go on and on (it took me a while to narrow it down), but I doubt anyone would actually be interested in reading it all. Nor I the patience to type it all out.

So, is it just me that’s noticed this? I wrote an entire poem about it in class last year (while supposed to be watching a movie, but still….) and when I showed it to my friends, they seemed to agree with me, so I don’t think I’m just being paranoid.

Now, for every “copy and paste” cliché out there, there are some great counterexamples. (Dystopian defender, I will make you proud.) Some of my favorites, and how they rank on the RAO SIMULATE SCALE (which measures cliché-ness from Outline [1] to Original [10]):

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
dysfunctional government: NO (+1)
age 16: NO (+1)
society initiation: YES (+0)
love triangle: NO (+1)
mysterious ability of key adults to believe in main character: SORT OF (+0.5)
convenient possesion of key trait that overshadows all others: NO (+1)
major secret rebellion/rising: NO (+1)
that one family member secretly allied with the rebels: NO (+1)
parent problem: YES (+0)
only solution = kill corrupt leader: YES (+0)
Final Score: 6.5

For Darkness Shows the Stars - Diana Peterfreund
*quick note- this book is a dystopian adaptation of Persuasion by Jane Austen. But I love it and it’s dystopian, so it’s mentioned here. Just a heads up :)
dysfunctional government: NO (+1)
age 16: NO (+1)
society initiation: NO (+1)
love triangle: NO (+1)
mysterious ability of key adults to believe in main character: SORT OF (+0.5)
convenient possesion of key trait that overshadows all others: NO (+1)
major secret rebellion/rising: NO (+1)
that one family member secretly allied with the rebels: NO (+1)
parent problem: YES (+0)
only solution = kill corrupt leader: NO (+1)
Final Score: 8.5

The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart
Honestly, I have been reading this book since second grade and I didn’t realize it was dystopian until this year.
dysfunctional government: SORT OF (+0.5)
age 16: NO (+1)
society initiation: NO (+1)
love triangle: NO (+1)
mysterious ability of key adults to believe in main character: SORT OF (+0.5)
convenient possession of key trait that overshadows all others: SORT OF (+0.5)
major secret rebellion/rising: NO (+1)
that one family member secretly allied with the rebels: NO (+1)
parent problem: YES (+0)
only solution = kill corrupt leader: NO (+1)
Final Score: 7.5

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
I highly doubt this book will get a very high rating on the RAO SIMULATE SCALE but one thing to consider is that of all dystopian novels, THG was pretty much the first. And best. And one of the best.
dysfunctional government: YES (+0)
age 16: YES (+0)
society initiation: YES (+0)
love triangle: YES (+0)
mysterious ability of key adults to believe in main character: SORT OF (+0.5)
convenient possesion of key trait that overshadows all others: YES (+0)
major secret rebellion/rising: YES (+0)
that one family member secretly allied with the rebels: NO (+1)
parent problem: YES (+0)
only solution = kill corrupt leader: YES (+0)
Final Score: 1.5

I think I should quickly point out here that all of the above books are dystopian novels that I read and really enjoyed. Just because THG got a rating of 1.5 doesn’t mean the actual book is any worse than For Darkness Shows the Stars with a rating of 8.5. The ratings are purely the result of testing a book against my ten observations. So if you decide to test a book on my scale and it gets a low grade, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad book. (Just a very cliché one.)

- Rashika Rao is a fourteen year old Sagittarian sophomore who loves making videos, playing tennis, the study of space, and the number four. (And, obviously, reading.) She learned to read at a ridiculously young age – and thanks her mother heavily for that gift.

For the In-Betweeners

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s KT Massey.

When I was working my way through John’s Green books, I stumbled upon Will Grayson, Will Grayson. At the time I was a person who believed in gay rights the same way I believed my school should win its football games; casually and without much real knowledge or experience. I don’t want to say this book changed my life. But it introduced me to books that were unapologetically about queer people.

Another thing this book didn’t do: make me reach out for other books with non-heteronormative narratives. The novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Bejamin Alire Saenz did. When I picked it up I had no idea it was about two gay teens. But by the end I was struck by the depth of their relationship and the subtlety with which Saenz crafted their world and characters. He didn’t write a book about being gay or Hispanic or poor, so much as a book about being human. After this I scoured Goodreads, YA blogs, and tumblr for more. I can across and read Hero by Perry Moore, The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George, and Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You: A Novel by Peter Cameron, among others. Then I realized something about these books that was different from Aristotle and Dante.

They were all white. All the teens were white. And most were male and gay. I realized the books I was looking at, reading, and being recommended lacked characters of color, characters who were bisexual, characters who weren’t cisgender, and characters who fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum rather than at the two ends. A lack of people who are somewhere in-between. I didn’t just notice this in books. I noticed this in TV shows, in news about only G in LGBTQ, in magazines, in movies, and so many other times of art and media.

If you look at the stats:

Of YA LGBTQ characters:

  • 50% are male
  • 25% are female
  • 4% are trans/queer gender

Of YA main characters:

  • 83% are white
  • 7% are black
  • 3% of characters are Asian, Native American, Latin@
  • >1% are Middle Eastern

If you look hard enough you can find books with characters who are both nonwhite and non-straight. Novels like Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez, I am J by Cris Beam, and Huntress by Malinda Lo are popular.  However, they too often seem lonely because they feature narratives with characters who don’t just have one “difference.” They cross the line that says you only need to be colored OR gay to fill a diversity quota. All too often the narratives we find comfortable, find exciting, find worth publicizing, are the ones with characters of easily definable single labels.

Looking back, the first characters of queerness I ever read were Daja(black and bisexual) from The Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce and Magnus Bane (Asian and bisexual) from The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. They also turned out to be people of color and not just male and gay. Magnus is a effeminate man and Daja is a female.  Daja’s struggle with the color of her skin, and later both her and Magnus’ openness about being bisexual were truly inspiring to me. However, both characters are either part of ensemble cast or a minor character. As complex and diverse as they are, we need more. We need more novels with characters like them and more people not only willing to read books with them, but seek them out.

I am both bisexual and biracial. I am an in-betweener. Somewhere between gay and straight, Chinese and American. Being one in no way demeans the other. But coming to terms with both labels took time, confidence, and a support structure. Books are, and were, a huge part of my, and others’, support structures. Without characters and authors we can look up to and see ourselves in, it will be harder be honest or proud or hopeful about who we are.

So if you aren’t an in-betweener; look at the books you’re reading. Are they only full of white cisgender straight males? If you are an in-betweener; don’t give up. Just look harder, be brave, and keep reading.

For further reading:

~ Between reading and writing, KT likes cooking Tiramisu and shopping at thrift stores.

Hunger Games Actress Willow Shields Invites You to Celebrate Teen Read Week™

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 12:21

Happy Teen Read Week™!

Hunger Games actress Willow Shields, who plays Primrose Everdeen in the franchise, invites you to celebrate Teen Read Week and Turn Dreams into Reality @ your library, October 12-18,2014!

Join in on the conversation by using the hashtag, #TRW14 and feel free to share this video, as well as your events, stories, and pictures with others on our Teen Read Week site!

 

Batgirl of Burnside: A New Take on an Old Favorite

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 07:00

Batgirl is my favorite superhero. Not just any Batgirl, though: Barbara Gordon is my hero. She is smart, strong, and an information professional! She has been portrayed as a librarian, an information broker for other heroes, and, in younger versions, as a tech-savvy student.

Barbara “Babs” Gordon first appeared as Batgirl in 1967, six years after the first ever appearance of a Batgirl. Most often, Babs is the daughter of Commissioner Gordon and works as part of the Bat-family alongside Batman and Dick Grayson’s Robin; however, there are variations to this in the many portrayals of her.

Batgirl has always presented as a strong female character, fighting with male heroes as an equal. She served as an important figure in conversations regarding female representation in comics after she was sexually assaulted and paralyzed during a violent attack in Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke. As this event became part of the canon, the now wheelchair-bound Barbara Gordon once again gave voice to an under-represented population in comics when she left behind her Batgirl cowl and became Oracle, an information broker who supports superheros fighting on the streets.

In 2011, the DC Universe went through a reboot of sorts with the New 52. Under Gail Simone, who had been writing Barbara Gordon as Oracle, this relaunch saw Babs going through rehabilitation, regaining the use of her legs, and heading back out to kick some baddies’ behinds as Batgirl, once again.

Over the summer it was announced that there would be a new run of Batgirl comics by the creative team of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr. The basic breakdown is that Barbara Gordon would be moving to Burnside, the hipster neighborhood of Gotham, where she would experience the life of a young woman trying to balance school, a social life, and a gig as a crime-fighting superhero. In an interview with MTV, Fletcher described their efforts as “the best elements of Veronica Mars and Girls, with a dash of Sherlock thrown in for good measure.” My immediate thoughts? This. Sounds. Awesome.

The first issue of this run was released on October 8th (Batgirl #35). This issue sets the stage for exactly what Stewart, Fletcher, and Tarr said it would be and it does it in the best possible way. Babs is having fun while partying with friends, struggling to pay for her education, and fighting jerks who violate the privacy of others.

There have been many critics of the new take, including many who were turned off by the cover art alone which portrays Batgirl taking a mirror-selfie in a club bathroom (see above). But why shouldn’t there be a comic that appeals to a generation growing up with selfies, hashtags, and online hookup sites? Babs is still using her brain and her fighting skills to solve mysteries and catch the baddie. The comic also portrays characters of color and LGBTQ characters as part of Barbara’s social circle beginning on the first page of the first issue, once again bringing under-represented populations to the pages of a mainstream comic.

This comic is an excellent recommendation for fans of YA, in particular fans of contemporary YA. Overall, it’s a light-hearted, fun, superhero story with a strong female lead. It may not be for everyone, but it may just be the thing for someone who has not found a comic that has spoken to them before.

- Jessica Lind, currently re-reading Paper Towns by John Green

The Hashtag that can Change the (Literary) World

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Amy Yoelin from Colorado.

Earlier this year, during the time that BookCon was being held, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, and noticed a similar hashtag among the authors, publishers, and booksellers I follow: #WeNeedDiverseBooks. These four words capture what has been absent from current and previously published novels of all genres, but especially those pertaining to young adult and children’s fiction.

So why discuss the topic now? For BookCon, they hold the prized panel of “Blockbuster Reads,” which includes the promotion of many buzzed about authors. For example, 2014’s “Blockbuster Reads” panel featured Rick Riordan, James Patterson, Lemony Snicket, and Jeff Kinney. What do these four authors have in common? Besides being male, they are all Caucasian.

Angered by this line-up, lead curator of #WeNeedDiverseBooks Ellen Oh joined forces with twenty-two members of the publishing industry, both official and nonofficial, to do something about this. Hence, the movement #WeNeedDiverseBooks was born and bred.

What exactly does #WeNeedDiverseBooks stand for? The overall message is that diversity of all forms (LQBTQ, race, disabilities, culture, religious) should be represented in novels, especially those for the children and teen audience. Why target this age group, and not adults, per se? Books can have more of an influence on children and teens, helping them develop a more open mind about people from all walks of life. In addition, children and teens can have the opportunity to form (hopefully abundant) connections with protagonists in novels, as opposed to simply relating to various protagonists.

Prestigious authors (especially those who write young adult and children’s fiction) have pledged their full support to this movement. For example, Gayle Forman—author of the popular novels If I Stay, Where She Went and many more—posted a picture of her with her two daughters, expressing the need for novels to highlight diversity. In addition, readers of all backgrounds and ages took a stand in the fight for #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Pictures range from children holding up signs, to teens voicing their opinions. Social media was widely used to promote #WeNeedDiverseBooks, in which various authors, publishers, booksellers, bloggers and readers tweeted why they needed diverse books in under 140 characters.

 

tumblr.com / Via weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com

Maybe you are thinking to yourself, “I want to contribute to this movement, but I’m not an author.” So? You are a reader. You have a voice (unless you have strep throat). Demand a change within the literary realm. Pass along books that underline diversity to friends and family. If you know children or teens, encourage them to read books of diverse backgrounds. If you know a teacher, stress the importance of educating students with diverse texts.

All in all, the best advocacy is to directly publicize the message being presented. By spreading the word of literature that includes diversity, #WeNeedDiverseBooks can become employed by publishers, students, teachers, and readers alike.

 

Hello! My name is Amy Yoelin, and I’m an eighteen-year-old student at the University of Northern Colorado. Yes, my major is English. Yes, I want to work with young adult and children’s literature after I graduate from college. Yes, I like to read and write. Yes, I’ll stop assuming you’re asking these questions.

The Monday Poll: YA Lit Parents Who Deserve Their Own Books

Sun, 10/12/2014 - 23:13

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you to choose your favorite football-themed YA title, and your top pick was Crossing Lines by Paul Volponi, with 35% of the vote, and Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock was a close second with 32%. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, we want to know which parents in YA lit you think deserve their own book. After all, mother knows best. Who would you want to read about? Vote in the poll below, or add your choice in the comments!

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

Assigned Reading: It’s Okay to Love the Enemy

Sun, 10/12/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Today’s post is by Thien-Kim from California.

The other day, while I was looking at the recent #BookChallenge trend on Facebook, where users post a list of their top 10 favorite books, I noticed a comment written by someone who refused to participate. It was something along the lines of “Sorry, not doing this, school has completely deprived me of the ability to enjoy reading anymore.”

Given, this isn’t a particularly uncommon sentiment. But if you think about it, isn’t it a little bit ironic, since that’s the exact opposite of what school is supposed to do—which is to fuel your enjoyment of reading? So that you may learn to Appreciate Literature and become a Productive Member of Society?!

I’ve always wondered how assigned books affect us. Often, we curse them for wasting our time, yet reread them years later. In an article for The Big Read, BBC estimates that out of 100 significant and beloved novels, most people have read approximately six. That number would probably be much lower if schools didn’t assign classics, but whether or not we liked and remembered these books is a whole different topic.

While the idea of being told to do something is not very appealing, if there’s reading involved, it can still result in happy consequences. If I hadn’t been forced to read The Glass Menagerie, I wouldn’t have known that I liked plays, particularly Tennessee Williams plays. Sometimes I’m glad that it was assigned, because there’s no way I would have picked up something that boring-looking in my free time. If I hadn’t, though, I probably wouldn’t have read A Streetcar Named Desire, which has become one of my favorite stories from any kind of fiction.

It’s likely that many of us wouldn’t have found our most beloved tales if we hadn’t been forced to read them first. School-assigned books are often a favorite to complain about (has anyone actually picked up a copy of Les Misérables with one hand?), but they also sometimes turn out to be newfound treasures that we carry throughout our lives. Inevitably, though, we will still have to tread through books we hate, but at least it sharpens our lifelong reading skills so that we can go through the dystopian romance novels a little faster.

Whether you want to read Pretty Little Liars or War and Peace, you’ll still be doing the same thing: enjoying stories, regardless of whether they were found in a classroom or because of a TV show. Even if you fervently prefer one over the other, it’s almost impossible to deny that assigned books and read-for-fun books often share a lot of the same universal appeal. You can find a great love story anywhere, whether you spend your summer vacation with Heathcliff and Cathy, or Hazel and Gus. So if you want to enjoy your assigned reading a little more, don’t think of it as homework—think of it as an excuse to get your hands on another book!

And what better way is there to enjoy books than by finding connections between your very favorite ones? If you are itching to get some (re)reading done, here is a brief list of must-read books that are commonly assigned in high school. Each comes with a corresponding YA book that might strike your fancy if you liked the first!

  • If you enjoyed Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, you might also like Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.
  • Did you like Brave New World by Aldous Huxley? If so, take a quick look at Cinder by Marissa Meyer.
  • If you like The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, check out one modern retelling in Great by Sara Benincasa.
  • If you still like The Great Gatsby, you might be intrigued by The Clay Lion by Amalie Jahn— because who says you can’t repeat the past?
  • If you’re itching to find a new copy of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, you should also get The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare.
  • If you’d rather read The Catcher in The Rye by J.D. Salinger, don’t forget to also pick up Looking for Alaska by John Green.
  • If you really enjoyed The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, you might enjoy Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.
  • If you never got to read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and are thinking of getting it now, also try Miracle’s Boys by Jacqueline Woodson.
  • If you’re obsessed with 1984, try Incarceron by Catherine Fisher.
  • And if you fell in love with Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, you might just like Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

A book assigned by your teacher might not seem like a fun weekend activity, but it might get you interested in things that you never knew about. You might have to stay up until 2 A.M. to catch the movie version of it, or you might become a better reader. It might change your perspective about other books, or about life, or it might actually be fun to read. Of course, even if none of these things are remotely true, at least you can say you polished off yet another one of the great American classics! There’s always a chance that you might need to discuss it at a dinner party someday.

Do you have any fond/traumatizing/significant memories with school-assigned books? Leave a comment below!

Thien-Kim loves fiction (especially dystopian novels and short stories) and is a big fan of The Hub! Her non-writing hobbies include talking about writing, eating ice cream bars, reading, and discussing TV shows. 

Tweets of the Week: October 10th

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 07:00

Happy October Hubbers!! Check out what happened this week in the Twitterverse.

Books

TV/Movies/Pop Culture

Librarianship

Just for Fun

 

-Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross

@LindsaySmithDC

Book to Movie: Soundtracks that Rock

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Dessi Gomez from California.

Movie soundtracks can potentially make or break a movie. It’s great when they complement the movie, and they are even more poignant when they connect to the book off of which the movie is based. I compared the soundtracks of three popular books that have been recently transformed into movies: The Giver by Lois Lowry, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. These soundtracks chosen to help tell each of these stories have different tones that create unique vibes for each and every reader and viewer. The Giver is suspenseful and liberating. If I Stay is indie and quietly heartbreaking. The Fault in Our Stars is modern and mainstream. I wanted to talk about four songs from each soundtrack that I personally think really topped off the movie. [Note: time stamps for specific lyrical references are given at the end of some descriptions.]

The Fault in Our Stars
  • “All of These Stars” by Ed Sheeran

This song does a fine job of closing up the movie as the credits song. I thought of the title of the story when I heard the words, “I saw a shooting star and I thought of you.” Many of the songs in the soundtrack contain references to the stars. The lyric “I can see the stars from America/Amsterdam” connects the two countries in which Hazel and Augustus spend time together. The combination of “the way our horizons meet” and “skyline splits in two” speaks of how Hazel and Augustus are meant to be together, but are cruelly torn apart. “I looked across and fell in love” reminds me of how Augustus couldn’t take his eyes off of Hazel once he saw her in support group.  [Times: beginning-1:37; 2:17-2:35; 3:15 to end]

  •  “All I Want” by Kodaline

After thinking about, “you brought out the best in me, a part of me I’ve never seen,” I realized that it definitely sums up how Augustus lit up Hazel’s life and made her so happy. I wholeheartedly agree with the line, “Our love was made for movie screens.” [Time: 2:02-2:27]

 

  •  “Not About Angels” by Birdy

This song epitomizes Hazel’s sadness. The vocals and piano pack a pining punch of fresh heartache. The following line really relates to how Hazel feels when Augustus tells her that his cancer is back: “How unfair it’s just our luck. Found something real that’s out of touch.” The fact that “it’s not about angels” relates to Augustus’ fear of oblivion and to Hazel’s doubt in what Augustus’ parents call encouragements.

 

 

  •  “Best Shot” by Birdy and Jaymes Young

This melody reflects Augustus’ omnipresence, even after he dies. He will always be there for Hazel. “Stars fall from above, and you’re barely holding on my love” contains another allusion to stars and to Gus’ unwavering loyalty. It is a hopeful duet between a couple, both saying to each other, “I’ll be here givin’ it my best shot, cryin’ from the rooftops, nothing can stop us if we believe.”


The Giver
  • “Ordinary Human” by One Republic

 Another spectacular credits song, “Ordinary Human,” reflects Jonas’ new awareness of the world that he is living without.

“Today I took a walk in the clouds, used to keep my eyes wide shut but now I’m looking down” reflects how Jonas’ eyes have been opened to a whole bunch of new ideas. He “used to be a shadow, now the shadows scream [his] name” describes how he wasn’t very important before he was named Receiver of Memory, but now that he is, every secret tugs at him, compelling him to discover. “In the daylight I could swear, we’re the same” illustrates Jonas’ close bond to The Giver as well as the principle of Sameness that governs the community. I immediately thought of Jonas’ trek to the boundary of Elsewhere and his goal to heal the community when I heard the words, “There’ll be peace in the city tonight, and when I’m gone, I hope that you/they get it right.”

 

  • “One Minute More” by Capital Cities

“Don’t wait for an invitation, no need for a reservation” sounds like Jonas trying to convince his friends to break the strict rules. “You gotta see what I see in you” fits with Jonas’ attraction to Fiona, which was emphasized more in the movie than in the book; it also reflects when he tries to show his friends the colors. “Just think of a destination, I’ll be your transportation. We’ll find there’s a kind of place that can only be seen with the naked mind” sounds exactly like something the Giver would say to Jonas in preparation for a reception of memory. More emphasis is placed on the fact that, despite the Giver and Jonas being two individuals, they work well together as a team by the words, “unleash your imagination, two stars one constellation.”

 

  • “Silent” by Tori Kelly

 Silent is a very strong song when it comes to tying in with The Giver. “No more black and white, this life’s too colorful” definitely reflects how Jonas begins to see the colors. “Same faces around me with the same point of view: everything is perfect and everything’s ok, just swallow their lies and let your emotions fade” perfectly describes how Jonas feels when he is surrounded by other members of the community as well as how they behave. Jonas’ realization that he needs to go past the boundary to Elsewhere is evident in the lines, “gotta go gotta get out of this town, nothin’ left for me here, can’t stick around” and “got my own opinion my own words to say, got my own vision so I know I can’t stay”. He knows deep down that, “[He’s] not meant to be silent.” [Time: beginning to 1:27]

 

  • “Whole” by Rixton

“We’re/you’re tryin’ to take two halves and make them whole” is a sort of double entendre. It speaks of the committee and Chief Elder’s effort to make the community work, but by taking away freedom of choice and feelings and replacing them with obedience in order to help it run smoothly. This in turn is combined with Sameness, a form of Communism, and yes the community functions like a well-oiled machine (except for the occasional release), however it is missing something, therefore it is not whole. The other meaning is the attempt by the Giver and Jonas to replenish the community and fill the gap. “When you wake up, and you find that I’m not there, cry for me. Put on your make-up, and just let down your hair, don’t lose sleep” puts Jonas’ thoughts of leaving his “family unit” and friends for Elsewhere into words. It is basically saying: yes, miss me, but don’t worry.


If I Stay
  • “Promise” by Ben Howard

The lyrics, “Meet me there, under the flowers, we’ll wait through the hours of cold winter,” contain a promise in itself. I love the scene in the movie that this song outlines. “Tearin’ down doors of time” reminds me of how Adam and Mia wouldn’t see each other for long periods of time during their relationship. This song reflects the roughness and rockiness of the relationship with “promise me this, you’ll wait for me only scared of the lonely arms.” They want to stay loyal to each other. I love the crescendo and touch of cello after “and maybe, I’ll come home” as well as the “who am I darlin’ to/for ya?” lyric. This song is a quiet plea from both sides for the relationship to last. [Time: 0:31-0:58; 1:35-1:45; 2:25-3:40]

 

  • “I Will Be There” by Odessa

To me, this song is ultimately about loyalty and steadfastness, qualities that Mia, Adam, and Kim all possess. The following lyrics point this out for me: “If you ever need someone, to cry to/ to hold you/ to just love you/ to simply adore you, I will be there, standin’ by your side” and “mountains to the sea, in every city, from the valleys to the moon, in every country” reminds me of nature in Oregon.

 

  • “Today” by Williamette Stone

I love love love this collaboration between Mia, Adam, and Mia’s family. The simplicity and hominess and togetherness help make the song what it is. The guitar, banjo, and cello sound so harmonious together. Ultimately, I love it because it shows Mia that she really does belong in her family; it dissolves her doubts.

 

  • “Heal” by Tom Odell

This is another perfect credits song because it is saying to heal and move on and let go and that is exactly what Mia needs to do. I love the soothing vibe and similes that Odell uses. “Take my mind and take my pain, like an empty bottle takes the rain” (bottle it up and save it for another day), “take my past and take my sins, like an empty sail takes the wind” (sail on, start a new journey), and “take my heart and take my hands, like an ocean takes the dirty sands” (cleanse). These all contain some reference to water, which flows continuously and pushes through no matter what is in its way. This is what Mia needs to do. [Time: beginning to 2:00]

 

Music plays an important role in movies. It can be a true asset to the film by embodying the occurrences and feelings of the story, or it can distract by disagreeing with the plot, which leaves viewers confused and unsatisfied. These soundtracks served as the icing on the cake and the cherry on top for this trio of popular films.

–Dessi Gomez

 

Hi everyone! My name is Dessi Gomez. I live in California, and I am a sophomore at Santa Margarita Catholic High School. I also play soccer and participate in MUN. My hobbies include writing, going to the beach, and watching movies…when I’m not reading, that is. I love to listen to music, especially Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran. As of right now, my favorite book genres are Young Adult and Contemporary. I was so excited and grateful to be chosen as a guest blogger for The Hub and have enjoyed being part of the team. Hope you like my post!

Your Guide to the Literary References of Doctor Who

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 07:00

I’m a pretty big (although admittedly fairly recent) Doctor Who fan. My TARDIS “Bigger on the Inside” poster has pride of place by my desk at work and my Christmas tree will boast a Dalek and a sonic screwdriver. But some of the dialogue flies past me on the first viewing of each episode (perhaps the phrase “first viewing” gives a fuller sense of my devotion to the show).

I love that the writing is so fast and furious that I have to work to keep up, and I love being able to uncover new jokes and references when I watch again. And one of my very favorite things is when the Doctor makes a literary joke (or, better still, has an entire episode crafted around a literary reference). I mean, come on, how disappointing would it be to have a Timelord with all of time and space at his disposal who wasn’t really, really well read?!

So: what to read to get the Doctor’s best literary jokes so far? Here’s a list to start with:

 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - Doctor Who is a British icon and so is Dickens. Doctor Who Christmas specials have become a bit of a recent holiday tradition (at least in my house), and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is arguably the best-known British holiday story ever; Dickens and the Doctor are a great match, and the show has done both a straight-up Whovian adaptation (titled, helpfully, “A Christmas Carol”), and an episode featuring Charles Dickens, “The Unquiet Dead.” Of the two, I prefer the latter, because the writing is rife with moments where we get to witness the Doctor and Rose influencing future classic literature while also imagining what Dickens might have been like in person. Plus, I like the 9th Doctor a lot.

Shakespeare (all of it) -  The episode written to make lit geeks giggle, “The Shakespeare Code” is so chock-full of great quips and allusions to the Bard’s work I’m still finding new jokes a few years later. Start with the sonnets, then work through the comedies (but make sure to hit Hamlet as well). Extra fun = watching the Doctor coin some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines. 

Anything by Agatha Christie - The Tenth Doctor (ahem. my personal favorite Doctor) and Donna spend an entire episode in a house party whodunit that unfolds as a glorious tribute to Christie’s bestselling mysteries (the bestselling novelist of all time, the Doctor informs us in a later episode. We’ll have to take his word for it!), while also starring Agatha as a guest at the weekend retreat. The episode is built around the real-life, 10-day disappearance of Christie, which makes for many layers of mystery (but fret not; Whovian hijinks like enormous alien insects are also still present. In case you were worried).

 Sherlock Holmes - Matt Smith put in an awesome appearance as the world’s most famous detective in the 2012 Christmas special, and his Doctor-as-Holmes was all the more hilarious with a solid foundation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous character’s many quirks and idiosyncrasies, which have been interpreted by many fine actors, but which originated on the page. This episode added an additional layer of in-the-know jokes because Stephen Moffat, Doctor Who’s then (and current) showrunner, also runs the BBC’s latest Holmes adaptation, Sherlock.

Are you sensing a theme here? Bestselling British lit is what you should probably be reading to get all the layers of Doctor Who dialogue.

Bonus reading:

 A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - Did you know that Douglas Adams wrote and edited for Doctor Who back in the 70’s? He was actually working for the show while he wrote A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; superfans looking for other works with a similar tone would do well to try this beloved modern classic.

 Anything by Neil Gaiman - Did you further know that the magical Neil Gaiman wrote “The Doctor’s Wife”, from season six? Gaiman is also a longtime fan of the show, and just yesterday made a very pointed comment via tumblr about Who’s complete lack of female writers (none since 2008, which is, come on Moffat, extremely ridiculous).

Harry Potter (I’m not specifying a title because I think we can all agree it’s best to revisit all seven books with some frequency to help keep Nargles at bay)  - Let’s not forget “Good old J.K.” as the Doctor fondly refers to Rowling; given his Timelord credentials, the Doctor got to preview the end of the series way before anyone else on Earth, and a well-timed “Expelliarmus” spell has been known to save the Doctor’s day.

Bonus book-themed viewing: “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead,” season five - Two of my favorite Doctor Who episodes ever, and they take place in a fantastical (and frankly terrifying) library. Not to be watched alone, or if getting locked in a library is on your upcoming agenda.

This is really just a start to some literary giants who have received the Doctor Who treatment. Are you a Doctor Who fan? Do you have a favorite literary allusion from the show? Reading suggestions for fellow Whovians? Let me know in the comments!

-Carly Pansulla, currently reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Librarians Love: Books by Non-US Authors

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 07:00

by Flickr user Kenneth Lu

YALSA-bk is a listserv with lively discussions among librarians, educators, and beyond about all things YA lit. Sometimes one listserv member will ask for help finding books around a certain theme or readalikes for a particular title. This post is a compilation of responses for one such request.

The original request
Does anyone have some suggestions of teen lit by foreign authors? I’m looking for modern authors, with less emphasis on European countries (although, I would still like to hear your European suggestions if you really like the book). Trying to build some diversity here!

Suggested titles

  • Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
  • Ruby Red trilogy by Kerstin Gier
  • Why We Took the Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf
  • Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
  • The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis
  • Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth
  • Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Suggested authors

  • Randa Abdel-Fattah
  • Laura Buzo
  • Cath Crowley
  • Tellulah Darling
  • Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
  • John Flanaghan
  • Karen Foxlee
  • Karen Healey
  • Margo Lanagan
  • Derek Landy
  • Melina Marchetta
  • Juliet Marillier
  • Neesha Meminger
  • Miyuki Miyabe
  • Jaclyn Moriarty
  • Garth Nix
  • Nnedi Okorafor
  • Mitali Perkins
  • Shyam Selvadurai
  • Kashmira Sheth
  • Padma Venkatraman
  • Markus Zusak

Additional suggested resources

Have more titles you think should belong on these lists? Add them on the YALSA wiki or leave a comment! Looking for more compiled booklists? Check out the YALSA wiki or other booklists here at The Hub.

– Gretchen Kolderup, currently reading The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Andrew Smith

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 07:00

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

My mind is still reeling from Grasshopper Jungle (which I read weeks and weeks ago…will its hold on me ever wane I wonder?) so I want to take a moment to talk about some of the disparate thoughts that have connected themselves in my head.

When I think about Andrew Smith, I think about the guys who hung out in the library at the private Catholic school where I was librarian before my daughter was born: my TA, the members of the anime club, the boys who ate lunch in my office and talked about books and video games with me.  I wish so much that I had been able to give them Winger or The Marbury Lens or 100 Sideways Miles then, at that time, because those books…they would have loved those books.  (Luckily, social media keeps us all in touch and it doesn’t matter that they’re all in college now because they’re awesome and we still talk about books.)  I think about my friend Walter and how I pushed other books aside to read Grasshopper Jungle because he raved about it and because I trust his judgement implicitly, and how his wise comments about books offer more than just literary insight, and how he gave me by far the best parenting advice I ever received.  Thinking about my daughter and Walter’s advice and my hopes for her future brings to mind a man, someone connected to the school, who changed the course of my life, and how much I wish I could sit him down with Grasshopper Jungle and A.S. King’s Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, and ask him to reevaluate.  That’s another connection; I read those two books back to back and they are inextricably linked in my brain now and I doubt I’ll ever recover (at least I hope not!)

And more than anything, thinking about Andrew Smith and his books–all his books–makes me think about my brother, who grew up with seven sisters, and our fascinating, infuriating, wonderful, complicated conversations about representation and cultural expectations.  My brother is so awesome.  And you know what else is awesome?  That a book about identity and history and connections and giant insects who eat people’s heads can tease out so many essential connections, creating a through-line that feels genuine and illuminating to me.  And that’s just one book.

Thank you so much Andrew, for writing honest books and giving honest answers.  Reading them was (and is) a very good idea.

Always Something There to Remind Me

Please describe your teenage self.

As a teen, I was pretty much a loner. I had a few close friends, I suppose, but being so much younger than my classmates in high school was a social obstacle that was difficult to overcome. I read a lot, but came into reading later in high school. And I wrote all the time.

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

I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I still don’t know if I can say why. It was just something that I felt like I had to do. Jobs and employment—a means of simply making money—never really mattered to me at all, and I never once thought I would make a job out of writing until I was challenged by a friend into giving it a go.

What were your high school years like?

I attended high school in Southern California. I also played soccer when I was in high school (don’t hold that against me). I will say that I don’t really have any significant or inspiring adult influences in my background, but one time when I wrote a short story for an English teacher, she gave me an F on it because she said there was no way that a kid my age could ever write a story like that, so, therefore it must have been plagiarized. That made an impact on me. Also, I still remember the story. Oh boy! It was terrible!

What were some of your passions during that time?

Well, like I said, I played soccer and tennis when I was in high school. I also did track and field one year for my father, who was a track coach. I hated track. My dad forced me to do it. I had a brother who was quite older than I was, so I grew up listening to bands like the Who, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and the Doors. And, as far as reading tastes went, when I had money to spend on books, I would buy the thickest paperbacks I could get my hands on because I wanted to get as many pages for my money as possible. So I actually did read Moby Dick, and books like Jude the Obscure and The Idiot when I was a teen.

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

Terrible things happened to me when I was a teen. Nobody wants to hear about that stuff.

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

One year I received Honorable Mention in the Scholastic Writing Awards competition for a one-act play I wrote. It was in blank verse. Oh boy! It was terrible!

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

My teen self has told me to never talk to him, and I’m fine with that.

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

It was a lot easier to get into significant amounts of trouble when I was a teen as compared to today’s teens. I believe my generation—the generation that gave us ozone depletion—also used up just about the entire world’s supply of fun. Sorry kids. I take full responsibility for everything.

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

Oh good lord, nothing. Are you kidding me? I’m a grown up. Seriously, what sane grownup would ever miss that?

Every Day I Write the Book

I think it’s fair to say that many of your books end in ways that defy reader expectations, that turn the story on its head, provide a new perspective, or are unexpected in a myriad of other ways.  After your first novel Ghost Medicine was published you said you’d written a “few different endings …but one of them was so difficult…that I just couldn’t do it, and had to make the ending happier.”  What about your other books?  Are there alternate endings to the Marbury books, Winger, Grasshopper Jungle, or 100 Sideways Miles floating around in your brain?  Do you generally know the end of the story in advance or do you write to find out?  How do you decide which ending is “right” for that particular book?

The endings of my books usually make me aware they’ve arrived, as opposed to me working them out. So, with the exception of Ghost Medicine (and I haven’t thought about that other—even more devastating—ending in a long time), I would have to say that all of my other books kind of wrote themselves to their conclusions. I often don’t know where they will take me. But I will admit that I really wanted there to be real cannibal alien angels in 100 Sideways Miles. I’ve always been fascinated with cannibalism. Go figure.

Can we talk about boys? One of the few elements all your books have in common is a male character who struggles with the labels and expectations of family, peers, and society.  You’ve noted that “the pressure we put on our sons” to “fit perfectly into the constraints of society’s ‘boy box’” is immense, and causes immeasurable harm, and you’ve also said that you found many of the books your son was exposed to lacking in their depiction of “REAL boys…who have to deal with difficulties, who make mistakes, and who sometimes fail…”  Could you talk a little about how expectations can damage young men, and about the repercussions of that damage?  Do you think this particular literary shortcoming fits into the broader, ongoing discussion of the need for diversity in YA?

I think that boys frequently repress themselves because of all the pressure put on them to conform to a standardized definition of what boys should be. Boys have been told an awful lot of things about what they should be—like non-readers, for example, or readers of only certain types of books—and when I see a boy reading one of Marie Lu’s novels, or Gayle Forman’s (and believe me, I have), and I talk to them about those books, I often see this tremendous sense of relief come over them that 1) I think it’s cool they’re reading, and 2) I’m not going to genderize their tastes. As far as diversity is concerned, yes, I do hope we all appreciate that the idea of diversity is all-inclusive and that the push to diversify books is very valuable. On the other hand, honest diversification requires honest and knowledgeable handling of some very critical details in order to avoid tokenism or stereotyping. In other words, there are some things I don’t think I can honestly write about without coming off as forced or ignorant, and I’d be very afraid of offending any subgroup in our society, with the possible exception of book banners.

“Everything is connected,” you’ve said, “our past to our present, urinal factories and Catholic saints, war and sexual confusion,” and you’ve noted that all your books have an “overriding theme of how things connect to each other,” despite their obvious differences.  Would you be willing to connect the dots for us between you, your writing, your audience, and the change you think could happen if people were truly conscious of the myriad ways in which everything connects?

First of all, let me address the issue of me, my writing, and my audience. That’s an easy connection because where one ends and the others begin are really indistinct. When I write, I don’t imagine an audience because I write to please myself as a reader. That’s not to discount my readership, but I think there’s a vast difference between “audience” and “readership.” My readership happens to enjoy, I suppose, the same stuff my audience—which is ME—does. Can you hear me clapping for myself? Well, you’re hallucinating, then, and you might want to get that checked. Now, when people start becoming more sensitive to the interconnectedness of everything, I suppose we’ll stop doing such abhorrent things like waging wars that kill our children and destroying our environment, and so on.

“To avoid any component of the human experience in literature which examines essential adolescent reality is to shortchange readers and weaken oneself as a writer,” you’ve said, though at the same time you’ve described how devastated you were by charges that your writing was inappropriate for young people.  “I take those kinds of things really, really personally. It made me sick, as a matter of fact.”  Your unflinching examination of the adolescent experience conveys an understanding, respect, and acceptance that I think teens often find in short supply.  Could you talk about the importance of honesty when it comes to writing for (or working with) teens, why authentic representation is critical, and why “there’s nothing wrong with you” is such a powerful and important message?

I have a couple things to say about this. First of all, I’m often asked (and it’s always a question coming from boys) if I feel uncomfortable or embarrassed writing about the things that I write about. And I always tell them no, and if there’s anything they want to talk about or ask me about, let’s talk. I’m not afraid of the words. The other thing I’d like to say (because I think this may be where you’re going) is that I think you can’t possibly have an honest portrayal of male adolescence that doesn’t include the significant current of sexuality. Sorry, it can’t be done unless you’re writing about non-human, inanimate, asexual males. And I know kids who define themselves as asexual, but that designation in itself says something about sexuality. So I like to examine that compelling force in all the various directions it can pull or push my characters.

Just Can’t Get Enough

Question from James Dashner:  Something that’s really, really great about your books so far is that they feel so distinct from each other. No one will ever peg you as a certain type of storyteller. That’s not easy. Is that just natural or is there a distinct, concerted effort to make that happen? Let us in on your secret!

I think this is both natural and something of a concerted effort on my part, James. It’s natural because I am easily bored, and turned of by regurgitations of the flavor of the moment, so I force myself to write about things that are different from anything else I know or have done. And yes, it is definitely not easy.

Andrew has contributed a question for the next author in the series, Garth Nix. Watch for an interview with him coming soon!

 

Andrew Smith is the award-winning author of several Young Adult novels, including the critically acclaimed Winger (Starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness—an Amazon “Best of the Year,” and a 2014 ALA Top 10 Best Fiction for Young Adults) and The Marbury Lens (a 2011 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, and Starred reviews and Best of the Year in both Publishers Weekly and Booklist). He is a native-born Californian who spent most of his formative years traveling the world. His university studies focused on Political Science, Journalism, and Literature. He has published numerous short stories and articles. Grasshopper Jungle, a starred novel by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Shelf Awareness, is his seventh novel. 100 Sideways Miles, his eighth, was named a 2014 finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and has received Starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal. The Alex Crow (March 2015) is forthcoming.  He lives in Southern California.

You can find Andrew at his website, blog, and Facebook page, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

–Julie Bartel, currently reading Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds and re-reading A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny

Life, Love, and the Young Adult Novel

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Ryan Goodlett from Kentucky.

Do you ever look back at your life and remember it in segments defined by the relationship you were in at that time? For me, it would be like “the Hayden* phase” or “the Elliott phase” and then “pre-Weston” and now currently “the Weston phase.” (Although I’m one billion times sure I’m gonna marry this one… we’re going on 10 months strong). This is my longest relationship, and I’ve never felt better. I strut through those cold high school hallways like it’s my red carpet, seeing everything through new eyes. I like to think I am very independent. I’m fine on my own or trying to fix the broken, and I won’t be with someone just because I think it’s “the thing to do.” But I didn’t realize that trying to fix the broken can be very painful; after all, broken things have sharp edges.

I met Weston in the midst of my endeavor to repair, and was already covered in cuts, waist-deep in someone else’s pain. I mean, I’ve read so many books about teenage love, where one character goes to the ends of the Earth for another, but the other character will just never be satisfied, but I could not recognize this in my own life.

Most recently, I witnessed this scenario unfold while curled up with John Green’s Paper Towns, an exhilarating mystery/romance novel which features Quentin Jacobson and Margo Roth Spiegelman of Orlando, Florida. As I tapped into Quentin’s thoughts and feelings about Margo, and learned of all the crazy things she did, I found myself feeling so very sorry for Quentin because it was so obvious that Margo Roth Spiegelman was not quite on the same planet (or at least had a very different view of the planet) as him. Such a simple yet intricate storyline, I could compare this story metaphorically to not only my own, but to the stories of many others I knew. Young love, the loss of love and the search for love are all captured beautifully in this novel, giving readers plenty of reason to both laugh and cry.

So let’s get back to my own personal red carpet… now that I’ve got this beautiful relationship going on, and even though Weston’s gone at college, I strut down that thing like I am the queen bee of Martha Layne Collins High School. I listen to my friends talk about how their boyfriends never want to hang out with them and how they just want to be treated like a princess… and I tilt my head to make sure they can’t see my tiara glittering. My ears were recently treated to a lovely little anecdote from my best friend Hunter… within the course of one week: her first boyfriend ever cheated on her and when she broke up with him, he got back together with his ex girlfriend… who was not the girl he cheated on Hunter with. And of course I bought her a Blizzard, rented The Great Gatsby, offered to TP his house, let her cry on my shoulder and sent a little thank-you note to my sweet Jesus for my sweet Weston… but this situation really got me thinking. Being the quirky, creative, deep-thinking girls that we are, Hunter and I started our own tw0-member book club Freshman year. Some of my favorite memories are of us reading books out loud together and discussing them in lengthy, sometimes revelation-provoking and life-changing conversations.

One of the first books we read was The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephan Chbosky. As I looked at poor Hunter on the night of her awful boyfriend’s hideous exposure, crumpled in my arms with her salt-stained, mascara painted face, I couldn’t help but think back to this novel. Filled with controversial topics and lavish descriptions of drugs and sexual experiences, but emphasizing relationships and loyalty, this book embodies life as not only a high schooler, but as a human being in general. A famous quote from this novel says: “we accept the love we think we deserve.” These words spoke to me in a very deep way when I first read them, and on that night they gave me the courage to remind Hunter that I loved her and that she deserved much, much better.

Both Paper Towns and The Perks of Being a Wallflower are young adult books that are very near and dear to my heart. I wanted to share with you what they mean to me personally and how they relate to my life because if there is anything I am passionate about, it is a well-written story. Life (especially life as a teenager) is rough at times, and novels offer the greatest of sanctuaries from reality. As I met and came to love the characters of Quentin, Ben, Radar and Lacey from Paper Towns and Charlie, Patrick, Sam and Mary Elizabeth from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I became inspired by the idea that we are not alone in our experiences, but that there is a grand other world of life and love in literature waiting just behind the cover of a young adult novel.

- Ryan Goodlett is a 16 year old Junior from Shelbyville, Kentucky. She is a cheerleader and lacrosse player and she also enjoys theatre, leading worship with her guitar, and writing creatively.

*All names have been changed.

Jukebooks: Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 07:00

Bailey is under a kind of gag-order regarding fiddle-playing. But she satisfies her need to play by backing up  all the fake Johnny Cashes and Dolly Partons that perform around Nashville. Until she meets Sam, who wants something more from her. Sam wants Bailey to join their band, which Bailey cannot do. She sure would like to play and see more of Sam, but Bailey is bound by a secret that keeps her from her own dreams.

With a Jennifer Echols book, you can expect steamy romance… with complications. Such is the nature of Bailey’s relationship with Sam. But they do  have a song that’s special to them; Lady Antebellum’s “Dancin’ Away With My Heart.” Here it is below, with a little backstory from the band members.

-Diane Colson, who is currently reading The Aftermath by Jen Alexander

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