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

Thu, 08/06/2015 - 07:00

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

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

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

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

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


Always Something There to Remind Me

Please describe your teenage self.

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

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

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

What were your high school years like?

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

What were some of your passions during that time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every Day I Write the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just Can’t Get Enough

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Wed, 08/05/2015 - 07:00

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

-Sam G.

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

Tue, 08/04/2015 - 07:00

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

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

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

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

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

-Hannah Rapp

Why Me? Reluctant Superheroes in YA Lit

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 07:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defy by Sara Larson

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

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

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

The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks

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

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

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

The Monday Poll: Summer Vacation

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 00:29

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you to weigh in on the most painful unrequited crush in YA lit. Your top pick was Miles “Pudge” Halter and Alaska Young from Looking for Alaska by John Green, with 34% of the vote, followed by Cath and Nick from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, with 25%. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted and commented last week!

This week, we’re revisiting a poll topic from the past with some different titles: which summer vacation from YA lit would you want to take? Choose from the list below, or leave other ideas in the comments.

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

Tweets of the Week – July 31

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 07:00

Wow! Can you believe it’s already the end of July?! (this is where I need an interrobang key) Summer is just flying by; it will be cool and crisp before you know it. There has been some fun stuff on Twitter this week; be sure to check out these tweets of the week with news about the upcoming All the Bright Places movie (yay!), Kate Hattemer’s upcoming book (double yay!) & summer manga (triple yay!).  In case you missed it…I’m here to compile it all for you!

Books & Reading





— Traci Glass, currently reading Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty

Not Just for Adults: Books that Resonate with the Teen Reader

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 07:00

Today’s post is written by teen Jayla Johnson. In her own words: Jayla is an avid reader, and her favorite type of books involve anything with fantasy, dystopias or science fiction. Jayla loves writing nonfiction, giving out recommendations and talking about books; she is really excited to be a guest writer on The Hub, especially since it combines all of these things. She will be attending Denison University this fall, majoring in biology and minoring in literature studies.

Thank you, Jayla, for sharing your thoughts with us! -Rebecca O’Neil, currently reading The Marvels, by Brian Selznick.

As a long time reader, I’ve always felt that in order to truly appreciate books you have to explore and read all types of them: children’s, young adult, and the adult genre all hold gems that deserve to be discovered and treasured. I only read kid- and teen-related books up until I was around fourteen or fifteen; the idea of taking a plunge in the adult fiction section before that was too scary to even imagine. Even when my interest in adult books finally peaked, I was still slightly at loss as to what books to try, and wondered how different they could be. It wasn’t until I read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (2008 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) that I realized, perhaps quite obviously, adult fiction could posses just as interesting and page-turning stories as teen books. And, suddenly, my entire world of book reading possibilities expanded tremendously.

For teens who have not yet ventured to reading non-YA books, or reading them for fun and not for school, it’s easy to get stuck in the thought that adult books are only composed of either dusty, boring classics or lengthy, seemingly unobtainable novels (I’m looking at you War and Peace). Fortunately, that’s far from the truth. There are countless books geared to adults that can generate just as much, if not sometimes more, interest in a teen reader.

Whether you have already read several books from the adult genre or are searching for your first to try, check out the list below of seven books that offer exciting and mature plots, intricate characters and absorbing settings. Ranging from romance to fantasy to poetry, these books, while marketed towards adults, offer plenty of appeal to teenagers.

Parasite – Mira Grant

It is the year 2027 and all diseases have been eradicated thanks to a genetically modified parasite created by SymboGen Cooperation. Once the tapeworm is inserted into the human being, that person begins a life guarded from illness. Behind the success of SymboGen, however, lies deep secrets that the company is hiding. Secrets that may come to light as, all around, the very parasites put in to protect people are now the ones taking over their lives. With zombie and dystopian stories more popular than ever, and especially beloved by teenagers, Grant’s Parasite is a great addition.

The Rosie Project Graeme Simsion

What would you do for love? Professor Don Tillman is an awkward, and incredibly smart genetics professor who decides to create a scientific formula to find his perfect wife. Despite being brilliant, he is clueless when it comes to love and is mostly socially disliked by both his peers and the general public. During his hunt for a wife, proclaiming it as “the Wife Project”, Tillman sets to stick to his strict rules that together form his ideal picture of a wife, yet realizes along the way that, a lot of times, the best people come unexpectedly. Similar to a lot of teen romance books, The Rosie Project features an unlikely couple falling in love, and the trials and trumps of discovering that perfect person the character was destined to be with.

Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

Among the fictional land of Avryn, Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn make their living working for the various nobles and aristocrats. Hadrian, an adept mercenary, and Royce, an expert thief, are hired for a seemingly normal job until they suddenly find themselves charged with regicide and arrested. Now, on the run from authorities and angry over whoever framed them, Hadrian and Royce set out to seek revenge. What starts as a straightforward mission ultimately leads the two partners in crime to ancient conspiracies and on a quest that could alter their whole world. While this book has its plenty share of elves, goblins, and exciting sword-fighting scenes, the witty banter and faithful friendship between Hadrian and Royce are what sets this fantasy book apart from others.

No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay

Perhaps you might recognize her name from her infamous TED talk or spoken poetry performances. If not, Kay’s debut fills in for the moments and locations where it’s not possible to be consumed live. She writes about love, family, traveling, history, friends and dozens of other topics in this debut. Each poem various in length, but they all pack an emotional punch, equally raw and honest.



Bedlam by Nick Spencer

A scientist has believed to have discovered a way to fundamentally change even the worst criminal mind. Yet, in order to test his theory, he needs a subject: enter in Madder Red. Fillmore Press, the man behind the mask of Madder Red, is a violent, sadistic manic who continues to terrorize the city of Bedlam. Caught and cured of his disturbing tendencies, Madder Red now wants to help the very city he had tormented. This graphic novel is definitely not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, but will appeal to teens who love dark stories that deal with psychopaths, crime and mysteries.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (2003 Best Books for Young Adults)

Set in 1964, young Lily Owens is living on a peach farm with her stringent, cruel father who’s entire life has been affected by her obscure memory of her mother. Not a pleasant memory, but one of the afternoon her mother was killed when Lily was four. When Rosaleen, an African American woman Lily views as her surrogate mother, insults a couple of vicious racists they vanish to Tiburon, South Carolina. In this small town that appears to carry the secret of Lily’s mother’s past, they are taken in by an unconventional group of African American beekeeping sisters who welcome them to their world of bees and honey, and Black Madonna. Through friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness Lily is led to the answers of her mother’s history.

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin (2004 Margaret A. Edwards Award winner)

Published in 1971, this book is seen as one of the many building blocks among science fiction literature, and is a true classic. Upon the opening pages, George Orr is stumbling down the hallway of his apartment, delirious, after overdosing to keep himself from dreaming. The reason? George Orr can literally make his dreams come true. Upon waking up, however, George is the only one who remembers the previous reality. To the rest of the world, this new reality is (and has always been) the only one. When George is appointed to psychiatrist Haber, George hopes Haber can once and for all rid him of his dream-making abilities. Haber, though, sees an endless sea of possibilities with George’s power, and soon begins making plans of his own that have dangerous consequences. For teens searching for a story with depth and challenging philosophical questions to think about, The Lathe of Heaven doesn’t disappoint.

~Jayla Johnson, currently reading A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab

Spy Series for Mission Impossible Fans

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 07:00

With MI5: Rogue Nation opening this weekend, whether it’s books or movies, people are drawn to spy series. Here are a few contemporary series with tons of action that will entice fans of this movie – from some newer series to some old favorites in addition to Alex Rider and Gallagher Girls.

For Older Readers:
Devil’s Breath by David Gilman
After an assassin tries to kill him at his boarding school, Max realizes that his father is missing. When he receives a message from his father, he’s determined to locate him. He travels to Africa to uncover the truth.

I am the Weapon by Allen Zadoff (2014 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)
Boy Nobody blends perfectly into the background, making him perfect for a teen assassin. On his latest mission, he makes the cardinal mistake: don’t make friends. Now he has to decide between loyalty to the Program or loyalty to himself. He’s no longer sure of the Program’s mission and it could cost him his life. 

Model Spy by Shannon Greenland (2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)
Kelly James helped the wrong person and her hacking skills have landed her into trouble – unless she agrees to join an agency. Without much of a choice, she packs her bags for training camp. Little does she know the entire plot was a set-up; the person she thought she was helping actually works for the agency.

Sure Fire by Jack Higgins and Justin Richards
Jade and Rich’s mother died, leaving them with a father they never knew. The twins know their father isn’t happy having them around, but they never imagined it’s because he’s a spy. Now he’s gone missing and it’s up to them to save him.

Younger Readers:
Double Vision by F.T. Bradley
Lincoln Baker can’t keep himself out of trouble. After everything goes wrong on a school field trip, he’s contacted by a secret government agency. Linc looks exactly like one of their field agents gone missing. The government offers him a deal – they will sweep away the trouble from the field trip if Linc finishes the mission.

Playing with Fire by Bruce Hale
After the latest disaster with his foster family, Max ends up at the Merry Sunshine Orphanage. It’s not long before he realizes that this is not like any other orphanage – it’s a school for spies. Just when he’s feeling comfortable in his new situation, a message appears from the father he thought was dead. Difficult choices are ahead for Max – dealing with family and loyalty.

Spy School by Stuart Gibbs
Ben would love to work for the CIA one day, he’s visited their site so many times. Unfortunately, he’s not the type that screams secret agent. He’s surprised to learn a spy school is interested in him – until he gets there and learns that he’s been mistaken for someone else. He doesn’t let that get him down and he’s not about to leave without a fight.

~ Jennifer Rummel currently reading Grace Cries Uncle by Julie Hyzy

Special Olympics, YA Lit Style!

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 07:00

Have you  been watching the Special Olympics? What an incredible group of athletes! It occurred to me that we might find some potential participants in young adult novels. Let’s see who might make it on the roster.

Like T. J. in Chris Crutcher’s Whale Talk (2002 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults), we see the potential in Chris Coughlin.  After his training with the Cutter All Night Mermen, he’s ready to take on the the best.

Marcelo, title character of Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork (2010 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults), has a summer job working with ponies. His ability to connect with these animals comes much easier to him than connecting with people. With the right opportunities, Marcelo could demonstrate a natural horsemanship.

Football (Soccer)
In Girls Like Us by Gail Giles (2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults), Quincy is a girl who was terribly injured by her mother’s boyfriend at the age of six, when he hit her on the head with a brick. Understandably, Quincy is dealing with plenty of aggression that she might well work off on the soccer field. As Quincy demonstrates with her cooking, she’s got a good sense for recognizing patterns and envisioning different variations. Sounds like she’s make a good strategist!

Billy D, a boy with Down Syndrome in Erin Jade Lange’s Dead Ends, displays an exceptionally running ability, especially when he’s chased by his pseudo-caretaker, Dane. If Dane can stand the training, Billy D could be able to cover the requisite 13.1 miles.

Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz is about the title character’s analytical expertise in crime solving. This exceptional ability to reason makes his adept at getting a basketball to swoosh through the hoop, but doesn’t help much when teammates push and jostle him. Work with Special Olympic trainers, however, could get Colin in fine shape to play on the team.

In Rules by Cynthia Lord, David’s father demonstrates how painful it can be for a boy with autism to learn a sport. David might do far better with someone who is trained to work with differently abled children. We’ll give him a few years with a good coach, and see if David can fill a spot on the softball team.

All icons obtained from the 2015 Special Olympics website:

-Diane Colson, currently reading an advanced readers copy of Immaculate by Katelyn Detweiler.

Anime Titles for Book Lovers to Watch this Summer

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 07:00

Just like YA literature, anime is broken into a slew of subgenres that focus on everything from high school swim teams to magical moon girls who save the world. If you are new to the genre or a dedicated fan, these shows and movies will help to get you through the slow days and hot nights of summer, so grab your cool drink of choice, kick off your sandals, and settle in for some boredom-killing summer anime!

  • Yona of the Dawn (Fantasy Action-Adventure)

The Kouka Kingdom is prosperous and quiet … at least on the surface. When Princess Yona discovers a bloody plot against her pacifist father, she must escape the palace with the help of  her childhood friend, the warrior Hak. Our princess starts off a bit bratty and cries quite a bit, so please give her a couple of episodes to recover from the events in the first story arc!

A great blend of action, fantasy, political intrigue, and just enough will-they won’t-they romance to grab your attention. The excellent fight scenes and the intense drama will keep your face attached to your screen until the end of the season.

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

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

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults)



  • Chi’s Sweet Home (The Cute and the Cuddly)

A lost kitten finds a home with a new family, but their apartment doesn’t allow pets! Watching this small family fall in love with their new cat is as painfully adorable as you think it will be and as the series progresses, Chi makes new friends so the cast of characters expands to include many more animals and their people.

Each episode is only 3 minutes long, but there are 100+, so this show works as a quick watch while waiting in line for a concert or, if you watch a whole bunch in a row it could easily fill up a lazy afternoon. Chi is a kid friendly series, so it is a great title to watch if you are babysitting.

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

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

A Grumpy Books by Grumpy Cat (2014 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)


  • Summer Wars (Science-Fiction)

Kenji has a summer job doing tech support for OZ, and is taking some time off to visit his crush’s family. He is flattered that she brought him, until she claims that they are engaged. Things go from bad to awful when a rogue AI is unleashed on the OZ system and Kenji is set up as the fall guy!

In the virtual word of OZ you can find anything and anyone. The platform’s instant translation, and immersive gaming have connected the world. Everyone’s on and off-line lives are saved on the OZ servers, so it is as if google, facebook, and world of warcraft merged into one gigantic company. Scary, right?

Even though the technology is a little old (the movie is from 2009 so there are a lot of flip phones on screen), the story is still makes sense and the pacing is fantastic. Take note: this is a feature film and the runtime is almost two hours, so make sure you build in enough time to watch the whole thing if you have made plans for later or are screening this for an anime club.

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

Ender’s Game by 2008 Margaret A. Edwards Award winner Orson Scott Card

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang (2015 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and mentioned in Women in Comics: Science Fiction 2015 JULY 10)

-Jennifer Billingsley, currently reading Ash by Malinda Lo

*fireworks photo courtesy of Hanna Wynne @

Chicago: Read Through the Windy City

Mon, 07/27/2015 - 07:00

Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean” in Millenium Park. Photo by Libby Gorman.

Our family vacation this year was a road trip from our home in Maryland to Chicago, so I thought it would be fun to find books with a connection to this famous metropolis.

Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko (Best Book for Young Adults 2005, 2005 Audiobook for Young Adults). Although NOT set in Chicago, but rather on Alcatraz Island, near San Francisco, the title character was of course famous for his illegal rule of the Windy City. Since we had the fun of eating deep-dish pizza at The Exchequer, known for being one of Capone’s haunts, I couldn’t resist including this title. The story actually focuses on Moose, a twelve-year-old who’s forcibly moved to Alcatraz when his father takes on a guard job there, but the historical details provide some interesting insights on the era when Capone was active.

An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green (2007 Printz Honor Book). Ok, main character Colin Singleton starts this story by needing to get out of Chicago, after he’s dumped by his 19th girlfriend named Katherine. Still, between the road trip and the pictures of his early life around the University of Chicago, the book came to mind when I visited the city myself.

Divergent, by Veronica Roth (2012 Teens’ Top Ten, 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults). I admit it, I haven’t read this series yet. But now that I know it takes place not just in some abstract future, but in Chicago of the future, I will have to get started. If you are one of the few who, like me, haven’t read it yet, Divergent and its sequels follow the story of Tris, a girl who, on her sixteenth birthday decides to change her “faction” from Abnegation to Dauntless. Hunger Games-like tests follow, along with chilling revelations about her society. 

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros (Outstanding Books for the College Bound, 1997 Popular Paperback for Young Adults). A short collection of vignettes follows Esperanza Cordero’s childhood in Chicago, her life in the house that her parents are very proud of, but that doesn’t feel like home to her. The stories read almost like poetry, and the descriptions are as vivid as a film clip.

Standing Against the Wind, by Traci L. Jones (2007 John Steptoe New Talent Award). This story follows Patrice, a young teen who is trying to get away from her inner-city Chicago life by winning a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school. Although it shows many of the difficulties that kids like Patrice face on a regular basis, it has a hopeful tone.

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty, by G. Neri and illustrated by Randy DuBurke (2011 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, 2011 Great Graphic Novel for Teens). This intense graphic novel gives a sadder picture of Chicago life, with the portrait of a real gang member (Roger “Yummy” Sandifer) who lived and died in the 1980s. The book portrays Yummy’s life from the point of view of a fictional neighbor, and it refuses to offer any pat answers to the tragedy of gang involvement.

I’m sure I’ve just scratched the surface of YA books that have a connection to Chicago. What have I missed that I should read right now?

Where have you traveled this summer, either in person or via literature? Please share in the comments below!

-Libby Gorman, currently reading The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen


The Monday Poll: Unrequited Crushes

Mon, 07/27/2015 - 00:17

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked which unusual or distinctive name from YA lit you’d give your firstborn. We had a tie! Blue from The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater and Ismae from Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers both took in 25% of the vote. We had a great suggestion in the comments, too– Jennifer Billingsley reminded us about Sabriel! You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted and commented last week!

This week, we’re curious which unrequited crush from YA lit pulls on your heartstrings the most. Choose from the list below, or leave other ideas in the comments.

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


Have an Adventure This Summer (Or at Least Read About It)

Sat, 07/25/2015 - 07:00

Recently I watched a YouTube video about summer breaks and how as we get older or become increasingly busy, the 3 month hiatus from school becomes a thing of the past. In our teen years, summer is usually met with excitement and possibilities; possibilities of growing up and trying new things. One of the great ways to accomplish any and everything that you want to do for the summer is a Bucket List or Dream List or Wish List or whatever you want to call it. Some folks call it The Buried Life.

“Do one thing every day that scares you” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Words to live by, I think. Why? It’s daring. It’s fearless! (It’s Eleanor Roosevelt! She knows loads about being fearless- learn more about her.) It’s getting out in the world and making mistakes and getting messy, basically living life– and summer can help you get started, whether or not you have a summer vacation planned. So why not get started with a book, to you know, and get your ideas flowing.

Too soon? Not ready for the book recommendation? You want ideas first on having an awesome time during the summer? No problem.

  • Go camping (In the wilderness or in the park or even your backyard. If it’s raining, stay inside, still counts in my opinion)
  • Throw a big water park party in the park (You can have a water fight or even a carnival! Cools you off and you get to meet new people)
  • Try a new sport (I heard bubble soccer is huge)
  • Try a photograph challenge (You can try this or this)
  • Make a movie (Like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl)
  • Take a road trip with friends (Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour or Paper Towns)
  • Create a Summer Scavenger Hunt for your friends (Since You’ve Been Bone)
  • Summer festival
  • Sit under the night sky

Now that we have ideas, how about those book recommendations?

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson (2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
Amy Curry isn’t a fan of driving or even ready to get behind the wheel of car since her father’s car accident. However, her mother, ready for a change of scenery has decided to move the family across the country and now Amy is saddled with the responsibility of getting their car from California to Connecticut. That’s where Roger comes in, an old family friend, who joins in on her road trip venturing into unknown territory and unknown past feelings for Amy.

Paper Towns by John Green
If you’ve been away or completely out of the loop, John Green’s book Paper Towns has been made into a movie. The book details Quentin Jacobsen’s mission to find Margo, the only girl he has ever loved his entire life, who happens to live next door. She reappears in his life asking him to come out for revenge settling fun night, only to disappear the next night leading Quentin to begin a search with help of his friends and little clues she has left.

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Emily’s summer isn’t starting how she originally thought it would be. Her best friend, the bubbly and energetic Sloane, is nowhere to be found and all of their summer plans are now at a standstill. Or are they? Emily receives a list of adventures that Sloane had planned for them and each of them must be completed. Emily sees this as her way of finding out what happened to her mysterious friend and embarks on tackling the long list of challenges that involve apple picking, starting a new job, and meeting new people. Throughout the summer she makes leaps in her introverted nature and starts to learn more about herself and her friends and family.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Greg only has one friend- well, a co-worker as he prefers to call him, Earl. Together Greg and Earl make movies based off cult classics of their choosing and also playing video games to pass the time. That all changes when Greg is forced to befriend Rachel; she has leukemia. Together, Greg, Earl, and Rachel form an odd friendship that will be needed during the toughest time in their lives.

Here are some other awesome books for motivation on jump starting your summer adventure!

  • Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan
  • The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden
  • The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz

Summer is awesome, but it is a great time to start fresh and reinvent yourself or even discover the world in your backyard. Start a blog. Write in a journal. Take pictures. You can even vlog about it to remember what is sure to be an amazing summer. Have fun and stay cool out there!

-Markita Dawson, currently reading Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige (*A real page turner this book


Tweets of the Week – July 24th

Fri, 07/24/2015 - 07:00

In case you missed them, here are some of the tweets that people were buzzing about this week. Last minute additions late Thursday night could have been VidCon and yet another shooting, but I’m frankly too tired and upset to handle all that, so you are going to have to look that up on your own. These are all tweets on the lighter end of things.




Pop Culture

Youth Services/Youth Culture

–Hannah Gómez, currently reading About a Girl by Sarah McCarry

We Can Do It! Feminist Literature for Teens

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 07:00

photo by flickr user Trishhhh

Are we in the dog days of summer, dear Hubbers? It sure feels like it! One thing I know is I sure missed writing for all of you; I’m glad to be back! So, this was a post I was going to write a couple of months ago when the word “feminist” was all in the news thanks to Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. It still kind of is in the news, and I think it’s a very important and relevant topic even though we’re not necessarily talking about it incessantly.

Anyways! Feminist teen literature. I’ve been noticing that a lot of new teen books are being marketed as feminist literature for teens which intrigued me, and I happened upon this article that piqued my interest even more: Book Riot – Feminist Teen Lit. They had so many good recommendations, so I chose a brief few from their list to see what was up.

Now, I know what a feminist is, and I’m proud to call myself one. But, I wondered – what makes a book a feminist book? Are they only stories narrated by girls or women (kind of, but not always)? Are they only powerful and sad stories where the main character goes through a traumatic event and grows through the healing process (sometimes, but not always)? I was so excited to find out the answers to those questions that I decided to dive right in to the books I added to my to-read stack, and I’m happy to share those awesome books with you today.

These books are great reads for anyone who loves stories about strong characters; stories who don’t portray or see women and girls only in relation to or as defined by the men and boys in their lives. These are stories of fully formed people who see the strengths and weaknesses in each other as humans, not in relation to their gender. On a side note, I work with a teen who is a member of the feminist club at her high school (how I wish I’d had one of those!), and she has been thoroughly enjoying these books which range from comedy to dystopian to mystery to a story of pain and redemption. Well, let’s get started, shall we? First up! My favorite book that I’ve read so far this year!

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma: Oh my goodness, you guys. This book is spectacular – really unbelievably wonderful. It’s the story of 3 girls – Violet, Amber, and Orianna – the journeys they will take in their lives, and the paths that have already been established for them. Violet is a ballerina, and Orianna used to be. Orianna was the best ballerina at their school until she was sent to prison for the murder of girls who were tormenting Violet…the same prison where Amber is serving her sentence for killing her abusive stepfather. But, what really happened between Orianna and those other ballerinas, Amber and her stepfather, Violet and Orianna? And, what is happening to Amber as she starts to see the prison in a different light after a very timely and suspicious lightning storm one night. Readers will be glued to their seats to not only see how the story turns out, but also to see how these 3 girls will all become part of each other’s past, present and future.  Ugh!  I can’t say anymore or it will just totally ruin the whole experience for you.  Trust me – you just have to accept that you don’t have to know everything going into this story. However it turns out, these well-developed and realized girls aren’t totally perfect and they aren’t totally flawed, but indicative of real people whose actions, emotions, and lives are highly nuanced. A haunting read that will stay with readers, well, let’s just say, forever. I read it a month ago, and I’m still thinking about it!!

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King: Okay, I know I have talked about this book so much, but in case you missed my earlier posts – this book is amazing!! Here’s what I said about it the last time I went all crazy over this book: So, Glory’s mom killed herself, Sylvia Plath style, and Glory’s worried she’ll turn out the same way. She has no plans for after high school, and she just generally feels lost and adrift in the sea of life. Then, just on a whim, Glory and Ellie (the closest thing Glory has to a friend) find a mummified bat, put it in a jar, put beer in there and drink the bat. Then, Glory starts seeing visions – a person’s infinite past and future. The problem is things aren’t looking so hot for women in the future. Their rights disappear, a new terrifying leader splits the country and there’s a second civil war where women are the pawns and the victims. Glory is a Feminist with a capital F – she’s not afraid to say it or show it, and she’s going to try to figure out everything she can so she can try and stop what seems to be inevitable for the human race. But, what about her? She can’t see a future for herself. But, that’s not going to stop her trying to keep a future for everyone else. Awesome. Thought provoking. Touching. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Just read it – you’ll be glad you did. I loved how Glory owns that word – Feminist. She wants everyone to be happy and have rights in this future society, and it doesn’t matter if she’ll even be around for it – she’s ready to fight for it. Aah! So good!

All the Rage by Courtney Summers: I’m not going to lie. This is a tough book to read. Some people are calling it the Speak of this generation. I don’t like comparing books – I loved Speak, and I loved All the Rage. The story opens with Romy Grey. She’s on the side of the road and she has no idea where she is or what happened that led her to this spot. The book does a bit of time jumping back and forth to give readers an idea of the trauma that Romy has endured. She was raped by the son of a very powerful person in her town, and she’s never been believed or treated the same since. She’s just trying to get through high school, but she’s melting down so slowly, she doesn’t notice when she’s almost melted to nothing. She wants to have a normal life – she likes a boy at the diner where she works, her mom is finally happy after reconnecting with her high school boyfriend – but, her classmates will never let her forget what they think she is. And, after that horrible night that she can’t remember, where she wakes up on the side of the road, things go from bad to worse. This book touched me so deeply; it made me remember how cruel classmates can be to girls who they consider have committed some kind of sexual sin – in Romy’s case – liking a boy, but then accusing him of rape. After watching the Bachelorette Men Tell All program on Monday evening (look, I love The Bachelor & Bachelorette – no judging!), I realized that “slut shaming” doesn’t just stop when high school does. It often follows women their entire lives. This book will hopefully open the eyes of those who judge too quickly and give solace to those enduring it.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby: I didn’t know what to expect when I opened this book. It’s described as magical realism, and I don’t know if I like magical realism. Well, I’m still not sure I do, but I definitely do if Laura Ruby is writing it. This is the story of Finn and Roza and the town they live in, Bone Gap. Roza was a beautiful and bright spark in the lives of Finn and his older brother Sean. She showed up one day, and then, after a while, she disappeared. But, Finn knows what happened; a man who moved like a corn stalk kidnapped Roza, and he stood by and watched it happen. No one believes him and his far out story, especially since he can’t describe what the man looked like. Told from many different voices and perspectives, nothing and everything is what it seems in Bone Gap. Lest you think this is some story of Prince Charming coming to Sleeping Beauty’s rescue, it’s not. Roza is determined to get away from the terrible man who has taken her away from everything she loves, and Finn is dead set on making people see that he’s more than just a “spaceman”; he has hopes and dreams, too – most notably, wanting people to believe him and realize that Roza is more than just her looks. She is a person. Plus, there’s a beautiful horse that takes him on wonderful rides with his sweetie, Priscilla – wait, she likes to be called Petey. If a book could be called ethereal (can it?), this is the epitome.

Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) by Amy Spalding: I realized after reading those first 4 books that they were all laying very heavy on my heart and soul. Fortunately, I found Kissing Ted Callahan, and I realized that feminist teen lit doesn’t have to be all heavy – it can be funny and raucous, too! I’m not quite finished reading this book, but I’ve read enough to know I love it so much, and it’s a perfect humorous book to give to any reader. Riley and Reid are great friends. They are in a band together, and they just both want to have sex. Not with each other, of course. Riley really wants to with Ted Callahan and Reid really secretly luuurves Jane who works with shelter animals. In fact, they’ve created a notebook where they document all the ways they are trying to get to know their respective crushes and share it with each other to offer feedback and advice to each other as members of the opposite sex. But, Riley is our narrator, and she’s the one that made me want to jump into the book and become part of their group of friends. Ted is her crush, and she’s determined to go all the way with him. She’s trying to get to know him, but she also realizes that there are other guys out there, too, that she might like. Garrick is her science partner, and he is such a good kisser. She meets Milo at a record store, and he likes all the same bands as her! Riley had no idea that once she started looking, cute boys were everywhere! But, where does that leave Ted? I have no idea, but I’m excited to find out. The thing is, this book is awesome because Riley is just a regular girl who wants to date and kiss boys and maybe do more than that, and she isn’t shaming herself at all. Neither are her friends. What’s funny is that boys are allowed to do this all the time in books (see: Swim the Fly by Don Calame & Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford – both great books that I loved reading), but girls are always portrayed in the Forever sense (and trust me, I have nothing against Forever – it’s nice to see sex referred to in different ways for different teens). Riley is funny and she’s a teen girl who wants to kiss boys and be in a band. What’s wrong with that? Nothing.

Well, I really loved all of these books, Hubbers! And, you know, these feminist teen picks are good reads for anyone – teen, adult, male, female, anybody! Some of them have romance, some of them have mystery, and some of them are just a fun romp, but all of them show their characters in ways that support women and girls without making them into the dreaded “manic pixie dream girl” trope or so tortured or under-developed that readers can’t identify or relate to them. And, some of the best feminists are boys, which we see in Bone Gap. The thing is feminism is about equality for everyone, and I was happy to see that idea make its way into literature for teens. I hope you’ll join me next month when I’ll be writing about something else that I’m truly excited about – TBD! Ha!

-Traci Glass, currently reading Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) by Amy Spalding

All Your Books Are Belong to Us: YA Lit for Gamers

Wed, 07/22/2015 - 07:00

One of my fondest memories from my childhood is that of long days spent hunched in front of the TV, my NES controller sweaty in my hands as I tried fruitlessly to conquer whatever Mario level I was playing at the time. I couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 when I started playing, but it brought a kind of joy to my life that was unmatched. It was me saving the princess, fighting dragons, and exploring new lands, and it opened my eyes to new kinds of entertainment.

Over the years, I’ve evolved as a gamer. I’ve seen the transition from 2d sprites to fully-realized 3d worlds. I’ve played good games and bad. I’ve refined my tastes and discovered the satisfaction that comes from beating a game after a particularly hard final boss (here’s looking at you, Kingdom Hearts!). And a couple years ago, I accomplished my life-long goal of finally beating the original Super Mario Bros. game that stumped me throughout my childhood!

I love gaming with a passion unmatched by almost anything else, but one of the hobbies I love slightly more is reading. When those two things come together, I fall hard. Every. Single. Time. Anything can happen in a video game, the more outrageous the better, which gives authors an unrestricted amount of freedom to create a living universe peopled with amazing characters and peppered with allusions and references that can make the nerdiest among us swoon with delight. Here are just a few of my personal favorites!

  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

In a futuristic world in which alien invasions and wars are the norm, Ender Wiggins is bred to be a genius and then drafted into a rigorous training program. Torn away from his parents and family, Ender’s new home is the Battle School, where recruits are divided into teams to hold mock battles and test their military strategy. Facing pressure and loneliness, Ender develops as a leader who could hold the fate of the world in his hands. An oldie but goodie, Ender’s Game has definitely stood the test of time, even spawning a recent film adaptation. Orson Scott Card was the recipient of the 2008 Margaret A. Edwards Award for his significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens.

  • Erebos by Ursula Poznanski

Erebos is a game. One that you can’t buy. A game that watches you and knows you and influences you. When rumors of this game begin to float around the halls of Nick’s school, he becomes desperate to get his hands on it. The only catch is that someone has to invite you to play the game. When he does finally obtain a copy, he immediately gets hooked, playing for hours on end. But when the game enters the real world, Nick must reexamine what he thinks he knows…and what he’s willing to do for the sake of a game. 

As the earth slowly sinks into decline, most of the world’s population retreats into the virtual world of the OASIS. When the creator of the OASIS dies, he leaves behind a game – the first person to find the Easter Egg he left behind in the OASIS will inherit his entire fortune and the control of his company and the OASIS itself. To do this, players must find three keys, which open three gates. Wade Watts is one of these players. A loving homage to ’80s culture, this book is the nerdiest of them all. Liberally sprinkled throughout with allusions to gaming, movies, comics, and more, reading the book is pure pleasure. And for movie fans, an adaptation is planned, with Steven Spielberg at the helm.

  • Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde

Heir Apparent is the hottest virtual reality game around – and also one of the most difficult. There are many ways to die and few pathways to safety and victory. But unless Giannine manages to find the magic ring, locate the treasure, and defeat a dragon, she’s going to die…in real life. She’s trapped in the game, facing down the clock and desperately trying to survive.

Coarsegold Online, a popular massively-multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG), is Anda’s favorite game. Online, she can create a whole new persona and make new friends. So she joins a guild and starts playing missions designed to wipe out characters who are collecting powerful items illegally and then selling them for real-life profit. But when she meets one of these players – a poverty-stricken Chinese kid whose livelihood depends on his game performance, she realizes that black and white might actually be more blurry than she thinks.

  • Armada by Ernest Cline

Zack Lightman has grown up playing video games. His favorite game is Armada, an aviation simulator with the premise that its players must join the Earth Defense Alliance and protect Earth from alien invasion. But when an EDA ship lands in front of his school, Zack is shocked to learn that it’s all real. That Armada was a simulator designed to train and recruit the best gamers in the world. And that he must play a role in defending the world.

Bonus! Video Games Invade the Big Screen!

  • The Guild – Starring Felicia Day, this mini web series is about a quirky group of online gamers who end up meeting in real life. As an added bonus, the series is now available to stream on Netflix!
  • The Quest – I’ll admit that I’m something of a reality game show junkie. So The Quest really caught my attention when I realized that it takes contestants, puts them into a fully-scripted fantasy world, and lets them live out their dreams of slaying Orcs, meeting the Fates, and defeating the final boss. One season is on Netflix, and I really hope more are coming soon!
  • Sword Art Online – For anime fans, Sword Art Online is similar to Heir Apparent. Players get trapped in the virtual reality game world and must conquer the game to stay alive!

-Jancee Wright, currently reading Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Get Ready for Paper Towns with Some Readalikes

Wed, 07/22/2015 - 07:00

With the movie Paper Towns coming out in theaters in just a couple days, there seems to be a buzz in the air about John Green once again. Paper Towns, like all Green’s books, holds its own right up there on my bookshelf along with An Abundance of Katherines, The Fault in our Stars, and Looking for Alaska.

The movie is directed by Jake Schreier and is based on the 2009 Teens’ Top Ten winning title by John Green. I love how the story is cleverly declared as an American comedy-drama mystery film. That seems to sum it all up right? Paper Towns features the adorable Quentin Jacobsen who has loved his gal-pal neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman since they were young. One night entices Quentin to go out on the town and play a bunch of revenge pranks on her cheating boyfriend. The night is a whirlwind of fun and outrageous pranks that brings the two closer than ever. Then Margo suddenly decides to disappear without a trace. What I love about Quentin is that he never gives up on Margo and that is so darn romantic. After Margo turns up missing Quentin soon unravels the pieces of the puzzle (literally) that she has left in her wake. Paper Towns comes out Friday, July 24, so don’t miss this coming-of-age story that you know you won’t want to end!

Here are five books that satisfy your taste for the young and the restless until the Paper Towns movie comes out.

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults) – Cath struggles to survive on her own in her first year of college while avoiding a surly roommate, bonding with a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words, and worrying about her fragile father.
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green (2006 Printz Award winner) – Miles’ first year at Culver Creek Preparatory School includes making good friends and playing great pranks. A sudden fatality shakes Miles to the core and he contemplates what life and death are all about and how to carry on after you lose that one person that lights up your life.
  • The Spectacular Now by Tim Thorp – In the last months of high school, Sutter Keely stays drunk or high most of the time, but that could change when he forms a friendship with his classmate Aimee.
  • Struck by Lightning by Chris Colfer – Carson Phillips decides to create a literary magazine to bolster his college application, which means he needs submissions. Carson resorts to blackmailing his classmates and he doesn’t realize how his actions will be the cause and effect of his plans for the future.
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (2008 Best Books for Young Adults) – Clay Jenkins finds a mysterious box with his name on it filled with 13 cassette tapes recorded by Hannah a classmate who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Clay must listen to the tapes and follow the clues that Hannah leaves to find out the mystery of her suicide.

-Kimberli Buckley

Book S’mores

Tue, 07/21/2015 - 07:00

One of my favorite things about summer is the variety of treats that are best eaten during summer months: fruit that comes in season, treats like ice cream that are best eaten in hot weather, and s’mores. I love the process of toasting marshmallows over a fire and sandwiching them between graham crackers with a sliver of chocolate. I sometimes even make them in the microwave, which isn’t nearly as delicious but will do in a pinch.  If I were to make a s’more out of books, here’s what I’d use:

Miss Fortune Cookie by Kay Honeyman. This book would be the first cookie layer. Erin runs a popular advice blog, but things get complicated when her ex-best friend writes in with a question. Soon Erin finds herself entangled in a web of half-lies and drama.

Strawberry Marshmallow by Barasui.  This six-volume manga series could be toasted and become the next layer of my s’more. This cute series featuring the antics of a couple of school girls would add the right amount of sweetness.

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (1991 Margaret A. Edwards Award). Jerry decides not to sell chocolates as a part of the school’s annual fundraiser, and this choice quickly spirals into something much larger than Jerry would ever have imagined.

Sweet Treats and Secret Crushes by Lisa Greenwald. The teens in this story send fortune cookie messages to their neighbors on Valentine’s Day, and these messages turn out to be just what each person needed to hear.  Mix in a few long-held crushes and watch the drama ensue!

Stick by Andrew Smith. This is not an easy book to read, and the main character definitely has more than his share of difficulties to deal with, but many teens enjoy books about characters facing a lot of adversity, so this is the perfect addition to our s’mores recipe.

Fire by Kristen Cashore (2010 Best Books for Young Adults). Without a heat source, the marshmallow would never roast. This second installment in the Graceling Realm series follows the last “human monster,” Fire, as she’s brought to the royal city to use her powers in aid of the king.

If you were to make a dessert out of books, what would you use?

-Jenni Frencham

They Remade Scream? Some Thrilling Reads for Teens Hooked on the TV Remake of the ’90s Classic.

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 07:00

Recently I was chatting with one of the teen volunteers at my library. He told me how he watched Scream last night and how much he enjoyed it. A couple of other teens overheard our conversation and chimed in about how much they enjoyed Scream. I instantly lit up and talked about the Drew Barrymore twist at the beginning being homage to Hitchcock. All the teens looked at me strangely and indicated that they were talking about MTV’s new television program Scream. Not the late ’90s thriller that I was talking about.

I immediately went home and watched the first two episodes of Scream, the TV series. Although the series is clearly a remake of the original film it is firmly standing on its own. Because it’s a series the audience is getting the chance to get to know the characters a bit better versus the film. Like the original film the series is current with its cultural references. For example, instead of a television reporter covering the murders like in the film the show has a Sarah Koenig-esque podcaster covering the murders. Additionally, the Scream TV series does an excellent job of showing how technologically savvy and plugged in modern teens are right now.

Scream the series is much more of a mystery than the original film. If you are a reader that is enjoying the Scream TV series you might find these mystery books very interesting.

  • Killer Instinct by S.E. Green

This  2015 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers title is a fast-paced thrill ride geared specifically for teen readers. Lane on the surface is a typical teenager. However, Lane has a secret hobby/obsession studying serial killers. Now a vicious serial killer has come to her hometown and it is up to Lane to use her skills to stop the serial killer. Scream fans will love this book. It is thrilling; fast paced and has an ending that would make Alfred Hitchcock proud.

  • Green River Killer: A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen

This book is a memoir, true crime and graphic novel all rolled into one amazing story. Jeff Jensen tells the story of his Dad, the lead detective in the hunt for the Green River Killer. What I love best about this story is that it clearly shows empathy for the victims of the crimes and the toll it takes on the law enforcement officers tasked with tracking down the killers. For Scream fans, the imagery will be haunting and it will create a vivid reminder of the ramifications of real violence on society. 

  • Daughters of Eve by Lois Duncan

When this book was first released in the 1970s, it was criticized as being antifeminist. The author maintained that the story is in fact about the dangerous role overzealous adults can play on young people. This is an issue I have been thinking about a lot since I became a teen librarian. I see both points and the author does a very nice job of showing how the world is filled with lots of nice and not so nice people. The theme of the bullied becoming bullies is as relevant today as it was when it was published in the 1970s. Scream fans will enjoy reading how group dynamics affect individual choice and of course get a kick out of how things can feel simultaneously different and the same from 40 years ago.

  • Witches!: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem by Rosalyn Schanzer

This book is mesmerizing. It is a page-turner; visually terrifying and sourced compellingly. The two most crucial parts of this book’s success is the narrative structure treatment of the subject matter. It reads like a traditionally formatted crime television program (Law & Order SVU). This makes the plotting fast-paced and constantly leaves the reader with the feeling of “What happens next?” The second part of this book’s success deals with the treatment of the subject matter as fact not as a dramatic device. Many times our first exposure to the Salem Witch Trials is from Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible.” This is a fine play but at times doesn’t paint a fully realized portrait of the stark reality of puritanism. Schnazer provides a full context of the people and time period. As a chilling result, the reader finds himself or herself not sympathizing with the hysteria of the time but instead having a broader understanding of the time period. This was a fantastic read and a book that we should all reach to whenever a teen patron asks about the television series Scream.

My favorite part about teen reads is how they are constantly changing and evolving. Just when I get my head wrapped around dystopian fantasy I now get to dive deep into the world of teen thrillers. These are just a few of my favorites. Please share some of yours with me?

-Todd Deck, currently reading Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

The Monday Poll: Baby Names from YA Lit

Sun, 07/19/2015 - 23:10

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked about your favorite YA series that wraps up with a book aimed at adults. The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot took the top spot with a whopping 51% of the vote, and Hub reader Leslie C. added a great point in the comments: “While they might not be considered series finales there are a few authors who have books series that have parallel / split off series with characters that are in both their YA and Adult books (Kelley Armstrong’s werewolf characters, Melissa de la Cruz’s witch characters, and Mari Mancusi’s characters).” Thanks, Leslie! You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted last week!

This week, we want to know which distinctive name from YA lit would you give to your firstborn baby? (Because for the purposes of this poll, you are definitely going to name your future baby after a YA lit character with an unusual name.) Choose from the list below, or leave other ideas in the comments.

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