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For Mardi Gras: YA Books Set in New Orleans

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 07:00

Today is Mardi Gras, the cumulation of Carnival celebrations before the start of Lent tomorrow. Lent is a specific time in the Christian calendar when believers are meant to fast and practice self-denial. Mardi Gras is sort of meant to allow people to go a little crazy before the austerity of Lent. The very name means “Fat Tuesday” – as in: eat a lot of rich foods today before you have to fast tomorrow!

In the United States, the celebration of Mardi Gras is most closely associated with New Orleans, Louisiana. There will be parades, balls, and dancing in the streets today and tonight down in “The Big Easy.” Of course New Orleans is more than just Fat Tuesday celebrations. There is a lot of history there including the civil rights movement and Hurricane Katrina. Perhaps some of these New Orleans-set YA novels will transport you mentally down south to New Orleans.

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa (2011 Teens’ Top Ten book)
A teenage girl’s baby brother is taken by fairies and as she chases after him, she discovers secrets about herself. Meghan has always felt different, she’s never fit in anywhere. Perhaps this is because she is half fey, half human, the daughter of Oberon, king of the fairies. As she pursues her brother, she discovers unlikely allies, love, and the fact that the Unseelie Court controls some humans…human who live in New Orleans.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (2011 Michael L. Printz award winner)
In the future, sea levels have risen so much that the US coastlines have moved far inland. In an area that used to be New Orleans, Nailer works as a ship breaker, taking apart old, wrecked ships for scrap. It is a dangerous and dirty job, and young Nailer is always looking for more money and more opportunities. When a rich person’s gorgeous yacht beaches due to a storm, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot. But when he finds a girl on board, unconscious but still alive, he becomes torn between survival and doing the right thing. 

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)
Josie is seventeen and dreaming of leaving home and going to a good college. Nowadays this is not unusual, but in 1950’s New Orleans, those are huge dreams for a girl. Dreams that are even further away when one realizes that Josie is the daughter of a prostitute and lives in a brothel. With her mother’s sketchy underworld connections dragging her down, will Josie ever be able to get out?

Orleans by Sherri L. Smith
In the year 2056, the entire Gulf Coast has been quarantined and separated from the rest of the United States due to an unrelenting outbreak of deadly Delta Fever. 15 year old Fen makes a promise to her dying friend: to get the friend’s newborn over the Wall and to the safety of the Outer States. As she makes this perilous trip, she is helped by Daniel, a young scientist who has snuck across the Wall to Orleans to try to study Delta Fever and find a cure.

Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi (2010 Popular Paperback for Young Adults)
When his mom remarries, Miles chooses to go live in New Orleans with his jazz musician father. They have some issues to work out – Miles much prefers football to jazz -but when hurricane Katrina hits the two begin working out those issues quickly. They have ended up in the Superdome, and what begins as a place of refuge quickly turns into a nightmare survival situation.

My Mother the Cheerleader by Rob Sharenow (2008 Best Book for Young Adults)
Change is coming to 1960s New Orleans: desegregation. Louise’s mother pulls her out of school when young Ruby Bridges becomes the first black person to attend classes at William Frantz Elementary. Her mother also becomes a cheerleader – an adult who stands outside the school each morning yelling racist insults at Ruby. Louise is not affected by these events at first. Everyone she knows understands that segregation is just the way life is. But then a man from New York takes a room at Louise’s mother’s boarding house and his viewpoint is quite different from anything Louise has ever encountered.

~ Geri Diorio, currently reading Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

If Teen Books Could Tweet

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 07:00

As I was checking Twitter – for work! – last week I stumbled upon a woman tweeting a generic dystopian YA novel. Her “novel” has the stereotypical hallmarks of the genre: an oppressive, stratified soceity, some sort of testing, a love triangle, the trope of the “Chosen One.” It’s great. I love dystopian YA novels, so at first I was a little annoyed, but it’s actually really wonderful. Take a look: 

It’s the night before my 17th birthday, which means in a few hours, I’ll have to face the mysterious Test to determine my future.

— Dystopian YA Novel (@DystopianYA) February 11, 2015

So funny! And it got me thinking, “If other teen books could tweet or characters in those books, what would they tweet about?” I came up with a few for fun:

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepherd

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Any other teen books you’d love to see tweet? Also, if you love Twitter, make sure you’re checking out our Tweets of the Week series.

-Anna Tschetter, currently reading Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Genre Guide: Graphic Memoirs

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 07:00


Graphic memoirs are comics or sequential art that tell an autobiographical or semi-autobiographical story. Because they are a sub-genre of graphic novels and comics in general they may sometimes be referred to more generally as “nonfiction graphic novels.”


Most graphic memoirs do not cover the same wide scope a print memoir would. Typically what they lack in breath, the make up for in depth. Since graphic memoirs are instead more focused, they often afford the author the opportunity to focus on one particular event, span of years, or relationship with someone or something and their feelings surrounding it.  A key advantage of using the comics medium is the ability to show rather than merely tell. Everything from the font used for a particular character’s speech, to the size and position of each panel helps to tell the story.  In memoir, this can help the author to communicate a feeling or situation from their past more immediately and, and perhaps more effectively, than if they were relying on text alone. 


Graphic memoirs appeal to traditional memoir readers and traditional comics readers. They can serve as a great entry point into comics and graphic novels because they tend to be stand alone works. Readers looking to get into the comics genre may often feel intimidated by “where to start” especially when considering superhero comics or manga. Furthermore, readers of nonfiction or realistic fiction may not think comics are for them, as they perceive comics to be centered on superheroes, science fiction and fantasy.  Graphic memoirs are, by nature, realistic and may be more accessible. Similarly, they can serve as a great entry point into memoirs, as they are typically less of a time commitment than print memoirs.

Titles to Know

Following the death of her father Bechdel looks back on their relationship. Both highly intellectual, but also sentimental, this memoir focuses on Bechdel’s coping with the possibility that her father’s death may have been suicide, and examining his life as a closeted homosexual, just as she begins to accept her own sexuality and comes out to her family. Bechdel’s memoir is the first graphic novel I read and what made me to a comics reader. It is not a young adult title, but could be a meaningful read for older, mature teens.

Spiegelman uses the comics medium to tell his father’s story of survival through the Holocaust. By drawing his characters as mice and cats, he can use art as well as text to depict racial profiling. Recently, at my library we have moved Maus to the “school readers” section (where we put books that are often required reading in local high schools) as many teachers have realized that comics may be a more engaging choice for reluctant readers who want a change of pace.

Satrapi chronicles her coming of age during the Islamic Revolution in Iran.  Originally published in four volumes and later compiled into two volumes and translated into English, her memoirs begin with Persepolis, The Story of a Childhood, but I recommend checking out The Complete Persepolis to get the whole story of Satrapi’s childhood in Iran and return to Iran following high school in Vienna.  Satrapi’s memoirs were also adapted into the animated film Persepolis. 2009 Fabulous Films for Young Adults

Bell’s memoir focuses on her hearing loss following meningitis at age four.  She learns to lip read, and uses a phonic ear at school that gives her the power to hear her teacher wherever she is throughout the school. Though Bell imagines herself as the amazing superhero, “El Deafo”, she still has trouble dealing with various new friends’ reactions to her deafness. Bell uses the comics medium to portray herself and her family and friends as rabbits. This helps her to emphasize her ears and the self-consciousness she felt about her hearing aids.  Though Bell’s memoir El Deafo swings toward middle grade rather than young adult in terms of the protagonist’s age, this memoir is a worthwhile read for all who can related to the trials and tribulations of making new friends, and all who want to learn more about “various ways to be deaf” as Bell says in her author’s note.  El Deafo recently a Newbery Honor Award for 2015, a huge victory for graphic novels!

Congressman John Lewis tells his story of growing up in segregated Alabama, his relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his work through nonviolent protest in the Civil Rights Movement. Book One is framed as a flashback, as Congressman Lewis recounts his activism to two young boys whose mother takes them to meet him, hoping he can convey to them the continued importance of the Civil Rights Movement. March is a trilogy with Book Two having just been released on January 27th.

These are just a small sample of all the great graphic memoirs out there! Tell me your favorites in the comments!

-Emily Childress-Campbell, Currently reading Laughing at my Nightmare by Shane Burcaw

The Monday Poll: 2015 YA Book-to-Movie Picks

Sun, 02/15/2015 - 23:25

Good morning, Hub readers!

Did you have a fun Valentine’s Day? Our poll last week was all about declarations of love in YA lit, and we asked you to choose your favorite. The top pick by far, with 54% of the vote, was from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, a quote from Augustus to Hazel: “Oh, I wouldn’t mind, Hazel Grace. It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.” 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 YA book you’re most looking forward to seeing adapted for the big screen. Choose from the options below, or add your own suggestion in the comments!

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

2015 Hub Reading Challenge Check-in #1

Sun, 02/15/2015 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2014 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since February 9 counts, so sign up now!

It’s time for the first weekly check-in of the 2015 Hub Reading Challenge and I’m knee deep in Morris Award Winner Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, which I finally managed to get my hands on.  The long hold list for this book at my library was one of the things that kept me from finishing the earlier Morris/Nonfiction Challenge and I’m hoping to do better with this one.  I’m a little worried because I’ve actually read quite a few of the eligible titles this year–more than usual for me anyway–but I guess that just means I’m going to have to pick up some titles well off my radar and outside my comfort zone.  Which is perfect.

One of the best parts of the Reading Challenge, for me, is the social aspect.  I love hearing what everyone thinks of the titles that were named winners or honors, Best of the Bests, and Top Tens this year.  If you’re sharing your thoughts on social media, be sure to include the hashtag #hubchallenge.  You can also join the conversation over at the 2015 Goodreads Hub Reading Challenge group–if this year is anything like last year, that place is sure to be hopping in no time.

Remember, eligible titles read or listened to within the challenge time period count towards your total, with the exception of titles read for the Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge; whether or not you finished that challenge, you can count those books toward your 25 Reading Challenge titles.  I don’t know about you, but that puts me at six titles down, 19 to go, and that feels pretty great.

You have until 11:59 PM EST on June 21st to finish all 25 books which is plenty of time, right?  Keep track of your progress by commenting on the weekly check-in posts to let us know how you’re doing and what you’re reading and/or listening to; if you’ve reviewed those titles somewhere online, please include links to your reviews! Don’t forget to grab the Participant’s Badge for your blog, website, or email signature, and, as always, if you have any questions or problems, let us know in the comments or via email.


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


ALA Midwinter 2015: Best Fiction for Young Adults Feedback Session Recap

Fri, 02/13/2015 - 07:00

On Saturday, January 31, I had the privilege to not only attend the “Best Fiction for Young Adults (BFYA)” feedback session, I also was able to bring four of my local library teens to participate in the session.  Here is a picture of the five of us after the session posing with all of our swag bags.  My four teens joined up with other teen readers to comprise a group of 60, all ready to do what teens do best: share their opinions.

Just a little background, if you are unfamiliar with the BFYA list: throughout the year, librarians add books published that year to a nomination list.  From this nomination list, a committee reads the titles and ultimately whittles the list down to a BFYA Top Ten list.  In order to ensure that the best books make the Top Ten list, the committee holds a feedback session in which teens can share why they think a book should or should not be on the list.  The teens lined up at microphones that faced the committee members rather than the large crowd of librarians and teachers who stopped in to get the firsthand knowledge presented by the teens.  Each teen had no more than 90 seconds to prove their point and were allowed to write up their reviews ahead of time.  Unfortunately, due to the length of the nomination list, not every title was reviewed by the teens during the session.

Before I begin to share the details of the session, here is the BFYA Top Ten list:

The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Jackaby by William Ritter

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston

Vango by Timothee de Fombelle

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

There was one phrase that was constantly heard throughout the BFYA session.  That phrase was, “I completely disagree.”  Whether the next person was praising or poo-pooing the title, it was obvious that there were mixed feelings about the books.  The Crossover was not read by many teens, but the teens that did read it were not used to sports books and felt that they were not the right audience to read the book.  The Crossover definitely has an audience as it was not only on this Top Ten list, it was also the winner of the 2015 Newbery Award.  Vango was not read by many teens, but the teen who did review it spoke very highly of the book.  In fact, she opened her review saying that Vango is “magic.”  Unfortunately teens did not review the following books: The Carnival at Bray (2015 Printz Honor and 2015 Morris Honor), The Gospel of Winter, I’ll Give You the Sun  (2015 Printz Winner), JackabyNoggin, The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim (2015 Morris Honor), We Were Liars and The Young Elites.

There were two books that received positive reviews from all of their teen reviewers.  The first book was Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira.  Teens said that it felt different from other books.  They also said the author used word that teens would use and they understood the references.  Another book that received unanimous praise from the teens who all thought it should be on the list was Girls Like Us by Gail Giles.  The teens thought it had good pacing and was accurate to real life.  Girls Like Us  didn’t make it on the BFYA list, but it did win the Schneider Family Book award which celebrates books that focus on the experiences of characters with disabilities.  While both of these books did not make it on the Top Ten list, they were very well-received by the teens.

Here are some other comments about some of the other books the teens reviewed:

Don’t Look Back by Jennifer Armentrout – There were several positive reviews regarding this book.  Some said it was just like watching a movie.  There were negative comments as well such as the book was unrelatable and it moved at a slow pace.

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman – Some thought it shouldn’t be on the list because it included cliches while others thought this was an interesting history lesson.

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown – One teen said it is the best portrayal of teen life and was gut-wrenching in its storytelling while another lost interest and didn’t finish it.

The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson – This book received a lot of positive feedback.   In fact, one of the teens grew up in the Middle East and said it was very accurate.

Season of the Witch by Mariah Fredericks – The teens liked the mixture of reality and supernatural and viewed this book as an underdog.

Fake ID by Lamar Giles – While one teen couldn’t  put the book down, another thought the author kept adding too much to the story and it was difficult to follow.

The Walled City  by Ryan Graudin – One teen referred to The Walled City as a “Chinese Godfather.”

The opinions are not limited merely to what I conveyed above.  The teens did a terrific job of sharing their thoughts about books and showed that it is almost impossible to get everyone to agree.  It just goes to show that the best way to determine whether or not a book is good is just to read it yourself.

-Brandi Smits, currently reading Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson & Crown at Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Tweets of the Week: Feb 14th

Fri, 02/13/2015 - 07:00

This week was busy with talk of romance books, valentines, and book lists announced. Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you’re all enjoying the weekend with a great book. Here are some tweets from the week you might have missed.


Book News:

  •  ·  w/ We’re organized now! There’s a project outline. Have posts/guests scheduled. Resource hub soon!


TV/Movie News:



Just for Fun: 

~ Jennifer Rummel currently reading I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Some Recent YA Contemporary Romances

Fri, 02/13/2015 - 07:00

Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, here are some recent romances that I loved. I hope you enjoy them too. What I love about these books is that they’re not just about romance, they’re so much more. They talk about guilt, death, dreams, business plans, friendship, loyalty, family, photography, running, fitting in, being in the spotlight, and learning about yourself.

Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
When Lainey’s boyfriend of two years breaks up with her, she’s devastated. She’s determined to win him back. Lainey and her BFF pour over the  Art of War looking for a battle plan. Lainey and her co-worker agree to fake-date each other to woo back their exes with jealousy.  As the summer progresses, she learns a little more about herself and who she wants to be.

Blind Spot for Boys by Justina Chen
Shana’s officially on a boy moratorium since the last one broke her heart. She’s hoping to create one last picture for her photography portfolio when she meets Quattro.  She keeps seeing him wherever she goes – including her family’s trip to Machu Picchu. Could the universe be trying to tell her something?

Breathe Annie Breathe by Miranda Kenneally
Annie’s ex-boyfriend died while in the middle of training for a marathon. Annie’s consumed with guilt since they hung out the night he died. She decides to train for the marathon – running in his honor.  Annie hires a trainer; Matt has all sorts of helpful hints besides just a running plan. But even he can’t get rid of the guilt or her stomach problems. Matt’s brother runs with them occasionally and he makes Annie feel, something she hasn’t been able to do since Kyle’s death. 

Bridge from Me to You by Lisa Schroeder
Lauren’s new to town, she just moved in with her aunt, uncle, and two cousins. Lauren’s trying to put her past behind her and move on, but she can’t move on if she can’t find a place to call home. Colby lives in the same small town, but has visions of escaping.  He doesn’t want to be known for his football skills. In fact, he doesn’t even want to play football in college. In a football loving town, how can he share that secret with anyone? Can the two of them figure out a way to belong?

The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt
Holly’s grandfather dies and leaves his wedding chapel to her in his will. Holly’s happy until she learns the chapel’s in serious financial trouble.  Holly must make some hard choices – offering services that her grandfather refused in hopes of getting out from under debt and keeping the chapel in the family. On top of that, she’s fallen for the grandson of her family’s worst enemy.  Dax is amazing and perfect for Holly. She knows she can’t keep their relationship a secret. She’s terrified to lose anything else, but can she really juggle everything?

I‘ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Skylar can’t wait to leave her hometown behind and spread her wings in the fall when she goes off to art school and escape small town life. When her mother looses her job, Skylar can’t break through the walls of depression.  With her home life in tatters, the only person who can take her mind off her troubles is Josh – a marine veteran who just returned home after losing his leg. Together they attempt to weather the ups and downs of their small town.

Just Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore
Prom season’s coming up and the boys are starting to get creative with promposals. Marijke can’t wait to see how her boyfriend will ask her. He’s not getting her hints. To make matters worse, they have a huge fight. Lily’s views on romance have soured after watching her mother’s bad boyfriends, plus the guy Lily’s crushing over doesn’t know she’s alive. One night, the two girls find themselves unhappy and watching Titanic in a movie theater. They end up ditching the movie and going for coffee where they talk for the first time, confiding in each other. A plan is born – one worthy of Hollywood, where they reenact movie scenes to help them achieve their dreams.

Love, Lucy by April Linder
Lucy made a bargain with father; she’ll major in business instead of theater. For her sacrifice, she will be allowed to spend her summer before college touring Europe.  On the second to last stop in Florence, Lucy meets a boy. Before long, she’s spending her time with Jesse. After a vacation romance, Lucy returns home and back to reality but she’s not ready to give up on her dreams.

Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan
Emma’s grown up on TV – through the awkward situations, including her first kiss. She’s made some bad boyfriend choices in the past and now that she’s about to star in a new teen drama, she’s sworn off dating co-stars. That was before she met Jake. The model turned actor who’s off limits and not just because of her past. Her BFF adores him (or at least the him on paper). The more Emma hangs out with Jake, the more she falls for him. Can she risk  both her friendship and her heart on another co-star?

Wildflower by Alicia Whitaker
Bird’s family plays country music on the road. One night her father can’t speak, so he asks Bird to fill in for him. At first, she’s really nervous but soon she’s shinning in the spotlight. In the audience is a man from one of the biggest recording labels. He wants a meeting with her dad. When her dad gets back, the family has a meeting of their own to share the news. The label doesn’t want the family – just Bird. Bird’s really excited for the opportunity, but she has to think about the business side of the deal. Could she achieve her dreams and become a star?

~ Jennifer Rummel currently reading We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg

Adult Genre Readers: Break out of a Reading Rut with YA

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 07:00

Adults reading young adult  books has been discussed here, and here and here, and let’s keep talking about it!  YA  has clearly been established as a force as we continue to see titles fly off the shelves at libraries and book stores (not to mention those virtually flying onto smart phones, kindles, and nooks.)  Clearly it’s not only teens reading YA anymore.

Speaking of adults reading YA… do you know any adults stuck in a reading rut who might appreciate some suggestions?  Two of the most widely-read adult fiction genres today are horror and romance.   There are some truly wonderful YA alternatives out there — and it can be argued that YA authors take greater risks than their mainstream adult genre counterparts do– resulting in diverse, exciting, and ground-breaking books.  Exclusively reading genre selections which follow an established and familiar formula (even when the formula works)  can become tedious. Here are some suggestions to help a genre reader shake things up.

Horror/Serial Killers

James Patterson fans will enjoy Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers series: a nail-bittingly suspenseful serial killer manhunt trilogy with a flawed hero.  Lyga explores issues of identity, parenthood, nature vs nurture, race, and attraction.

Stephen King readers will like Daniel Kraus’s terrifying Rotters (2012 Odyssey Award winner) and Scowler (2014 Odyssey Award winner) Grave digging, monstrous fathers, rat kings, gruesome imagery… Kraus is truly a master of literary horror; nothing run of the mill here!

Dean Koontz lovers will enjoy The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco: a terrifying tale of vengeful ghost named Okiko. This spooky tale was inspired by Japanese folklore.

Edgar Allen Poe fans can’t help but enjoy Bethany Griffin’s The Fall and Masque of the Red Death couplet. These atmospheric tales were inspired by Poe’s short stories.   It’s also a refreshing change of pace to find quality literary horror featuring strong female characters.


Danielle Steel fans fans will fall in love with David Levithan’s   Boy Meets Boy (2004 Best Book for Young Adult Top Ten , 2006 Popular Paperback for Young Adults, 2004 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.)  Levithan has also done some fun collaborations: with Rachel Cohn in the form of he said/she said alternating chapter romances in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2007 Quick Pick Top Ten, 2007 Best Book for Young Adults) and Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares (2011 Best Book for Young Adults), and with John Green in Will Grayson, Will Grayson.   For a really unique think-piece on identity, gender, and attraction check out Every Day.

Susan Wiggs fans may want to go steady with Sara Farizen’s two YA romance novels. In  If You Could Be Mine two girls in Iran grapple with gender identity and love. Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel explores an inter-racial relationship between two girls at a private high school.

Debbie Macomber lovers will fall for Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park (2014 Printz Honor , 2014 Teens Top Ten, 2014 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers ,2014Best Fiction for Young Adults).  Rowell is unconventional and never boring as she fearlessly tackles topics such as inter-racial relationships, class, abuse, and eighties pop music all framed in a swoon-worthly tale of first love.

Nicolas Sparks fans will want to have an affair with Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2013 Printz Honor Book.) Two boys from different backgrounds come of age in the Southwest and fall in love against the odds.  Unique parent/teen relationships also make this one stand out from the crowd.  Identity, sexual orientation, culture, and religion are also seamlessly interwoven to make this sweet romance.


In addition to simply exploring known genres within the realm of YA, you could recommend folks take it a step further by reading about characters from different racial and/or religious backgrounds, are LGBTQ, live somewhere unfamiliar, or are differently-abled.  I tried to touch on some of these elements in my recommendations, and there are a ton more out there.  It has become clear that in YA and everywhere, we need diverse books.

Have you anything to add to these genre read-alikes?

— Tara Kehoe, currently reading The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black.


Jukebooks: I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Wed, 02/11/2015 - 07:00

Skylar is sooo ready to leave her tiny home town of Creek View and start college in San Francisco. All that lies between her and her dream is the three months of summer. Skylar doesn’t calculate that three months is more than enough to shake her determination to leave Creek View. It begins when Skylar’s mother is fired from her crummy job at Taco Bell, and doesn’t seem interested in finding a new one. Then there’s Josh Mitchell, a Marine who has just returned home to Creek View after being gravely injured in Afghanistan. Why can’t Skylar stop thinking about him? As they work together at the funky Paradise Motel, they seem to be moving towards friendship and maybe more.

The novel is full of songs, but the one that strikes most deeply is “Hotel California.” A hippie couple is playing it in one of the motel rooms as Josh and Skylar dance together in the pouring rain. Josh sings along during the lines:

How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.

The song was written and recorded by the Eagles in 1977. Don Henley’s voice is wistful and weary as he describes a place that pulls you in until it’s impossible to leave. It won the Grammy Record of the Year award in 1977. The recording also includes a wicked guitar fest featuring Don Fender (12 string) and Joe Walsh (awesome) at the end of the vocals.

-Diane Colson, currently reading Lock In by John Scalzi.

Schneider Family Book Award Winner: Girls Like Us

Wed, 02/11/2015 - 07:00

Last week at ALA’s Midwinter Meeting, the ALA Youth Media Awards were announced. This list includes a wide range of types of media, ranging from the Andrew Carnegie Medal for “outstanding video productions for children” to the Alex Awards for “books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.” You can find the full list of YA Awards in The Hub’s earlier post, but today I want to take a look at one specific award, the Schneider Family Book Award. This award “honor[s] an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” Up to three awards are given each year: one for a children’s book, one for a middle grade book, and one for a young adult book. This year, Girls Like Us by Gail Giles won the teen book award.

Girls Like Us is told from two perspectives, interweaving the stories of two teens on the verge of graduating from their high school’s special education program. The book opens from Biddy’s perspective. Biddy can’t read or write and she knows she has “moderate retardation” because she didn’t get enough oxygen at birth. Though she is generally sweet natured, her past has left her guarded and afraid around many strangers. She has always lived with her grandmother, but now that she is graduating from high school, her grandmother, who has only ever tolerated her while calling her cruel names, won’t let her stay any more. Chapter two is told from the point of view of Quincy, who is in special education due to a brain injury she sustained when her mother’s boyfriend hit her over the head with a brick. In addition to her brain injury, her face is also “dented” from this attack. This combined with her subsequent years spent bouncing between foster families and the racism she has faced due to her multi-racial heritage, has left Quincy angry and ready to be mean first before people can be mean to her. She is less than pleased when she learns that she and Biddy will be living together in an apartment owned by the former mayor’s wife, Elizabeth, and helping to care for the woman.

Giles manages to fully realize the different perspectives and voices of these two characters without seeming as though she is condescending to them. She never minimizes the problems that they encounter in life, but she clearly makes the point that the problems they face due to their disabilities are dwarfed by the problems that come from the way other people have treated them throughout their whole life. Biddy and Quincy both have skills, hopes, and desires, but they are often underestimated due to their status as “Speddies” or special education students. When the book opens, one of the few things that both Biddy and Quincy agree on is that no one can care about girls like them. Though for different reasons, they both expect to be treated as worthless and have internalized this feeling in many ways. Both grow over the course of the book, but Giles avoids a storybook tale where their lives magically improve once they go to live with Elizabeth. Biddy continues to confront the fallout of her traumatic past and Quincy faces a similar trauma of her own. This is one of the ways that the girls grow closer, but as Giles slowly reveals the details of both of these traumas, she never suggests that they have been forces for personal growth. Rather she shows the strength that Biddy and Quincy have built over the course of their lives and continue to cultivate as they become more independent and simultaneously become friends and even family. Girls Like Us is a book that will stay with you long after you have finished it and might just change the way you see the world.

If this book leaves you interested in reading more Schneider Family Book Award Winners, you can find the full list on the ALA website or read Hub posts on past winners.

– Carli Spina, currently reading We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist

2015 Amazing Audiobooks Top Ten Listen-a-Likes

Tue, 02/10/2015 - 07:00

Photo by Flickr User jeff_golden

This past year I had the immense pleasure to serve as chair for the 2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee. It was a really great year for audiobooks and my committee was fortunate to consider a total of 395 audiobooks for our selection list!  After hours and hours of listening, we had to whittle down a list of no more than 30 selections that were the year’s best.  If you have not yet had a chance to checkout our list you can see it here.  It was released last week, after the Midwinter Conference.

We also had the even more difficult task of selecting our Top Ten Audiobooks of the year. Below are our Top Ten titles for 2015, along with a suggested listen-a-like, in case you are ahead of the game and have already listened to these Top Ten selections.

2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Top Ten

  • ACID by Emma Pass, read by Fiona Hardingham with Nicholas Guy Smith and Suzan Crowley. Listening Library, 2014. 10 hours, 48 minutes; 9 discs. 978-0-8041-6832-8.

The brutal police state ACID rules all, so when Jenna is broken out of prison by a rebel group she has to fight to survive as ACID’s most-wanted fugitive.  Unique ACID reports and recordings read by Smith and Hardingham’s excellent pace combine with her authentic teen voice to highlight this exciting story.


The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham: For those listeners who are looking for another title narrated by Fiona Hardingham that is packed with action and adventure and that has a strong female main character. (Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2012,  2012 Odyssey Honor  Audiobook)

  • Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger, read by Moira Quick.  Hachette Audio, 2013.  9 hours, 30 minutes, 8 discs, ISBN: 978-1-4789-2648-1.

In the second installment of the Finishing School series, Sophronia and her classmates use their training to search for a dangerous device that may have fallen into the wrong hands.  Quick’s lively narration highlights the wit and humor in Carriger’s story.


The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, read by Miranda Raison: The Finishing School series, narrated by Quirk, is filled with sly humor but also packs a punch with Sophronia’s adventures.  Likewise, The Screaming Staircase is not only is an action-packed steampunk mystery, but Raison brings variety to her narration by highlighting the nuances of the quirky cast of characters characters, including the darkly comedic Anthony Lockwood. (Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2014)


  • Define Normal by Julie Anne Peters, read by Christine Lakin.  Hachette, 2014.  5 hours, 30 minutes; digital download. 978-1-4789-8080-3.

After being assigned as a peer counselor to pierced, black lipstick-wearing Jasmine, the last thing Antonia expects is to find a friend.  Lakin’s natural voicing and great pacing uplift this relevant and timeless novel.


The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin, read by Daniel Passer: Both audiobooks tell the story about families whose mothers are not fit to take care of their children, both Lakin and Passer narrate with realistic teen voices and also bring a timelessness to both productions. (2008 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults)

  • Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach, read by Nick Podehl. Brilliance Audio, 2014. 5 hours, 49 minutes; 1 MP3 disc. 978-1-4805-3324-0.

Gabe wages war when vending machine money promised to the marching band is diverted to the cheerleading squad.  Funny, fast, and angst-filled narration by Podehl takes listeners on a wild ride as Gabe retells his story.


Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford, read by Nick Podehl: Podehl shines at capturing the spirit of guys who are just trying to find themselves.  Both Gabe and Carter are trying to survive high school, and Podehl deftly uses his instinctive comedic timing to convey the awkwardness and revelations as both guys come of age in their respective stories. (2010 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

  • Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by a.s. king, read by Christine Lakin. Hachette Audio, 2014. 7 hours, 5 minutes; digital download. 978-1-4789-5774-4.

When Glory and her friend Ellie drink the remains of a desiccated bat, they find themselves able to see the future and the past, and Glory begins to reconsider her assumption that she’s destined to die young. Lakin’s nuanced narration explores Glory’s anger, grief, confusion, and hope.


The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston, read by Jessica Almasy: Glory and Loa, the main character in The Freak Observer, don’t know if they can trust their own minds. Lakin and Almasy draw listeners in with their exceptional range of emotions in these gut wrenching stories, as well as with their natural ability to portray someone whose mind is unravelling. (Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2013)

  • Half Bad by Sally Green, read by Carl Prekopp.  Recorded Books, 2014. 8 hours, 30 minutes; 7 discs. 978-1-4906-1427-4.

Born an illegitimate son of a white witch mother and a black witch father, no one is sure which side Nathan will join, but both want him. Through Prekopp’s emotive performance, listeners are drawn into Nathan’s horrible torture and physical and emotional pain.


White Cat by Holly Black, read by Jesse Eisenberg: Half Bad and White Cat tell the tales of young men with supernatural abilities who are struggling with not only with choosing between allying with good or evil, but who are also trying to keep their “evil” tendencies in check. Prekopp delivers a tortured performance, and while Eisenberg is a bit more tame in comparison, both narrators deliver on the angst of the struggles of each character warring with good versus evil. (2011 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

  • Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira, read by Julia Whelan. Brilliance Audio, 2014. 8 hours, 30 minutes; 1 MP3 disc. 978-1-4805-6838-9.

While she grieves her sister’s death during her first year of high school, Laurel writes letters to famous dead people ranging from Kurt Cobain to Amelia Earhart. Whelan’s tender characterization of Laurel and her friends brings authenticity to this contemporary story of friendship, love, and loss.


Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going, read by Matthew Lillard: For listeners looking for another story of a teen turning to music to overcome debilitating depression.  While Lillard brings a more humorous tone to his narration, both productions highlight the struggles of depression while also bringing hope through the characters’ journeys. (2004 Selection Audiobooks for Young Adults)

  • Revolution by Deborah Wiles, read by Stacey Aswad and Francois Battiste with J.D. Jackson and Robin Miles. Listening Library, 2014. 12 hours, 10 minutes; 10 discs. 978-0-553-39526-6.

Twelve-year-old Sunny’s life changes forever when volunteers descend upon her Mississippi hometown in the summer of 1964, causing her to question her long-held beliefs and assumptions. A wide cast of narrators and accompanying effects create a powerful soundscape that will transport listeners to the Freedom Summer.


Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals, read by Lisa Renee Pitts: Both titles cover the struggle of African Americans fighting for equality in the late fifties and early sixties.  Though Revolution employs a technique of using a soundscape of original songs, speeches, and other readings to convey the high emotions of this period, Pitts portrays Beals’ first hand account with a strong and stirring voice.

  • Skink–No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen, read by Kirby Heyborne. Listening Library, 2014. 7 hours, 50 minutes; 7 discs. 978-0-8041-6690-4.

When his cousin Malley runs off with a stranger, Richard and Skink, a one-eyed, eccentric ex-governor, must journey into the backwoods of Florida to save her. Heyborne narrates this audiobook flawlessly, coupling a wide range of character voices with an appropriate amount of intensity and humor.


Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman, read by Max Casella: While not completely similar stories, both Heyborne and Casella bring a tone of dark comedy to each production, which has a main character trying to protect his love interest from unusual threats. (2003 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults)

  • William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Collection by Ian Doescher, read by Danny Davis, Jonathan Davis, Ian Doescher, Jeff Gurner, January LaVoy, and Marc Thompson. Random House Audio, 2014. 10 hours, 30 minutes; 15 discs. 978-0-553-54640-8.

Join Luke, Leia, Han Solo, and more in this rich and unforgettable audio adventure, an adaptation of George Lucas’ Star Wars trilogy that is told entirely in Shakespearean verse. This full-cast production will surprise and delight listeners with authentic music and sound effects, as well as passion and pathos aplenty.


The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf, read by Michael Page, Phil Gigante, Christopher Lane, Laural Merlington, and Angela Dawe: It’s definitely hard to find something that compares to Williams Shakespeare’s Star Wars Collection, but The Watch That Ends the Night is a great pick for listeners who are looking for another fantastic full cast production that also employs sound effects to uplift the story.

–Colleen Seisser, currently listening to The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, read by Allan Corduner

ALA Midwinter 2015: Where’s the Red Carpet? An Inside Look at the Youth Media Awards

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 07:00

In the early hours of a Monday in late January or early February, a phone rings. Someone picks up, and then a complete stranger informs them they have just won a prestigious literary award and soon a gold medal sticker will adorn all future copies of their book. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be on the receiving end of that call, but while we don’t get to experience this aspect of the Youth Media Awards unless we are on one of the committees- or one of the winners- the sense of amazement can still be experienced if you attend the ceremony. The whole room is electric with excitement, and chatter, and anticipation. The only thing missing is the red carpet!

If I am at ALA Midwinter, and these last few years I have been lucky enough to be, I always go to the Youth Media Awards. The atmosphere inside the YMAs is definitely enthusiastic. Some people wouldn’t think a room full of librarians would get that loud, or that a book/author could be cheered like a rockstar, but when winners are announced at the Youth Media Awards there are shrieks and cheers from all over the room, and it’s usually a big room. This year there were plenty of seats, but in years past it has been standing room only or even overflowing into other rooms with video feeds. This is a big deal, y’all.

For those who watch the presentation over the live stream, some of the excitement can be felt. The anticipation of learning who is going to win a Printz this year, or a Morris, or a Coretta Scott King can leave some of us bursting at the seams. The committees work hard and long, sometimes reading hundreds and hundreds of books, debating behind closed doors on the merit and value of each title. Selecting the winners and honorees is a long and thorough process, and part of the YMAs is recognizing the efforts of those who have spent the past year sifting through the boxes of books and audiobooks and videos they receive in order to give recognition to the best of the best. Their dedication deserves recognition, too!

If you’re following along with the awards on Twitter, it’s easy to see how big of an event this is. During the ceremony people are frantically typing out who won what honor, and who won the gold medal- or who won several times. Heads are bowed down over phones, phones are held up over heads snapping pictures of the screens, and even as awards are being announced they are being discussed excitedly in little groups around the room. This year the hashtag #alayma was trending nationwide for hours after the ceremony was over. Authors, illustrators, publishers and librarians tweeted and re-tweeted each other with congratulations and many exclamation points. Twitter has become as much a part of the YMAs as the ceremony itself, in part due to its ability to immediately share information with large numbers of people. We all remember Neil Gaiman’s infamous tweet after winning the John Newbery Medal for The Graveyard Book, after all!

It really is a thrilling thing to be at the VMAs, even if you’re not familiar with all of the titles that win (which is the boat I am usually in). This year we have a very diverse group of winners and honorees, all of which can be found here, and all of which I hope to read in the future. Speaking of reading… The Hub Reading Challenge begins today, too, so be sure to click here  for more information on that!

-Carla Land, currently reading Strobe Edge volume 10

YALSA’s 2015 Hub Reading Challenge Begins!

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 00:00

It’s now February 9th, so it’s time to officially kick off YALSA’s 2015 Hub Reading Challenge! We hope this challenge will encourage you to read/listen to more great books than you might have otherwise — and to discover something new in a genre or category you might not have tried.

Challenge objective Read/listen to 25 of the titles on our list of eligible titles [pdf] to finish the challenge. The list includes YA novels, audiobooks, graphic novels, and books for adults, so there’s plenty to choose from. Bonus objective: read/listen to all eligible titles to conquer the challenge! [Please note: at the time of this writing, we are still awaiting the 2015 Great Graphic Novels for Teens top ten list to round out the list of Hub Challenge eligible titles. The list will be updated with that info as soon as it’s available!] 

Challenge rewards Beyond experiencing the best of the best that YA lit has to offer, everyone who finishes the challenge will be invited to submit a response to a book they read for the challenge. The response can be text, graphics, audio, video and will be published on The Hub. Furthermore, everyone who finishes the challenge will be entered into a random drawing for our grand prize: a YALSA tote bag full of 2014 and 2015 YA lit! (If the winner is a teacher or librarian or something similar, we’ll also include a few professional development titles.)

Challenge conquerors will receive an elite digital badge to show off how well-read they are. (And don’t forget major bragging rights and the undying awe and respect of everyone, everywhere.)

Challenge guidelines

  • The challenge begins at 12:01AM EST on February 9 and ends at 11:59PM EST on June 21.
  • Eligible books are the YA titles that were named winners or honor titles for the Schneider Family Book Award and the Stonewall Book Award and those on YALSA’s 2015 Best of the Best list (2015 winners and honor books for the Alex Award, Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, Margaret A. Edwards Award, Michael L. Printz Award, Odyssey Award, and William C. Morris Award, as well as the 2015 Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks, Best Fiction, Great Graphic Novels, Popular Paperbacks, and Quick Picks.) Middle grade titles recognized by these lists and awards are not included in the list of eligible titles for this challenge.
  • Format matters: a title that has been recognized for both the print version and the audiobook version can be both read and listened to and count as two books, but a book that has won multiple awards or appears on multiple lists in the same format only counts as one title. If a book was recognized as a print version, listening to the audiobook does not count.
  • Books must be read/listened to (both begun and finished) within the challenge time period. If you’ve already read/listened to a title, you must re-read/listen to it for it to count. The only exception is for titles you read for the Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge; whether or not you finished that challenge, you may count that reading toward your 25 titles.
  • Just about everyone who doesn’t work for ALA is eligible to participate. Non-ALA/YALSA members are eligible. Teens are eligible. Non-US residents/citizens are eligible. (More eligibility questions? Leave a comment or email us.)
  • Once you finish the challenge, we’ll contact you with details about creating and publishing your response.
  • The grand prize winner will be selected by 11:59pm EST on June 23. The winner will be notified via email.

How to participate

  • Comment here announcing your intention to participate. If you’re going to be tracking what you read/listen to on your blog or on Goodreads, LibraryThing, YouTube or some other site, include a link to your blog/shelf/channel/profile in your comment. If you’re not tracking your reading online, keep a list some other way.
  • You may register for the challenge by leaving a comment here and starting your reading any time during the challenge period.
  • Make it a social experience! Share your challenge progress and get to know other participants by using the hashtag #hubchallenge on Twitter.
  • Every Sunday, we’ll publish a check-in post. Leave a comment to talk about what you’re reading for the challenge. If you’ve reviewed those titles somewhere online, include links to those reviews! Otherwise, let us know what you thought of the books in the comments.
  • There will be an finisher form embedded in each check-in post, so once you’re done with the challenge, fill out the form with your name and contact information. This is how you’ll receive your Finisher’s Badge, how you’ll be contacted about your reader’s response, and how you’ll be entered into the drawing for our grand prize. Please fill out the form only once.
  • If you’ve conquered the challenge, let us know in the comments and we’ll send you your Conqueror’s Badge.

Sound good? If you have any questions or problems, let us know in the comments or via email. Otherwise, grab this Participant’s Badge, put it on your blog or in your email signature, and start reading!

The Monday Poll: The Best Declaration of Love in YA Lit

Sun, 02/08/2015 - 23:23

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we kicked off our Valentine’s Day celebrations early by asking what YA romance title you would recommend to a reader who really doesn’t read romance. Topping the results list was Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, with 39% of the vote.  Next was The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith, with 21%, and The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, with 20%. 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 continue the Valentine’s theme by challenging you to pick the best declaration of love in YA lit. Which one confession would capture your heart? Vote in the poll below, or add your choice in the comments! We deliberately kept this poll brief to invite your suggestions!

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

Tweets of the Week – Feb 6th

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 07:00

Well, I was certainly jealous of you all Midwinter this week. I tried to remember that I had the California weather instead. ;-) Here’s what had everyone tweeting this week, Chicago and elsewhere. Outside of Midwinter, other big news was that BEA announced another mostly white lineup to their Con, proving that some people just don’t learn, lots of books had cover reveals, Black History Month started, and Harper Lee announced a prequel/original version of To Kill a Mockingbird, to be released soon.



Movies/TV/Pop Culture


Youth/Digital Life/Librarianship

Just For Giggles

  • @LaurenDeStefano *opens word doc* *collapses into heap of intimidation and inadequacy* *sunrise turns to sunset five times*
  • @alybee930 Kittens have been super clingy since I got back from I think they missed me.


–Hannah Gómez, currently reading St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

Women in Comics: Love and Relationships

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 07:00

Happy Valentine’s Day by Song Zheng. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

With Valentine’s Day (and Galentine’s Day) just around the corner, February seems like a good month to write a Women in Comics post about books that are focus on love and relationships. Whether this means romantic love (or the lack thereof) or strong friendships, many women have created comics that focus on real or fictional relationships. Check one out to get in the spirit of the season!Soppy: A Love Story by Philippa Rice – In this volume, Rice tells the story of her relationship with her boyfriend through red, white and black images. Told through short standalone comics that form snapshots of their life together, the book alternates between funny, cute and poignant. The art style is a unique one that fits well with the stories Rice is telling and makes the book approachable to even those who do not frequently read comics.

Little Fish by Ramsey Beyer – This memoir focuses on the author’s first year at college. After a lifetime in a small town in Michigan, Beyer decided to move to Baltimore at age 18 to attend art school. In this book, she chronicles this time through a combination of comics, lists, and journal excerpts. Some of the pages are designed as traditional graphic novels and others incorporate elements of collage and typed text to create a personal look at this year in her life. Over the course of the book, readers watch Beyer grow, expand her horizons, and form relationships with her new roommates and classmates and even meet and fall for her first boyfriend. It is a relatable and engaging look at the transition from high school to college.

Festering Romance by Renee Lott – Janet is a college student who shares her apartment with her best friend Paul. While this might sound ideal, there’s just one small problem: Paul is a ghost. When Janet’s friend Freya forces her to go on a blind date, she’ll have to step outside her comfort zone to build a new relationship. But, more importantly, she’ll have to learn how to juggle her ghostly best friend with a new boyfriend.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan with artwork by Fiona Staples – Though most may think of Saga as a science fiction story or a war story, at its heart it is the love story of soldiers on opposite sides of a war who fall in love and must run away to protect their new family. Combining stunning artwork with a compelling story that may be set in an alien world but is relatable to readers everywhere, this book will not disappoint those who are already fans of Vaughan and Staples’ work and has already brought them many new fans. The series is rated for readers aged 17+.

Alone Forever by Liz Prince – In this volume, Liz Prince collects short comics on a range of topics related to relationships, crushes, social awkwardness, friendships, and sometimes preferring a solitary life or a relationship with your cat. Though the comics all share Prince’s style of writing and art, they vary in tone, incorporating humor and emotional insight by turns.

Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy by Fumi Yoshinaga – In this autobiographical manga, author and artist Fumi Yoshinaga takes a self-deprecating look at her life as seen over the course of restaurant outings. Each section of the book shows Yoshinaga and her friends going to various restaurants, which offers a unique window into those she spends time with and her love affair with food. Though the food is a central portion of the story, readers also learn a lot about Yoshinaga’s life and her friendships as she turns an unrelenting eye on herself and her own foibles. All of the restaurants included in the book are real and the book also includes information to help readers plan a trip to any of the restaurants.

I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You by Yumi Sakugawa – This small volume is an ode to the idea of loving someone as a friend rather than romantically. It takes the form of a letter from one character to another confessing a desire for a close friendship that reminds me of the concept of “bosom friends” from Anne of Green Gables. It is a sweet story with unique artwork that will appeal to anyone who understands the desire of the love one feels for one’s closest friends.

Though these books all focus on relationships, they are otherwise very different in terms of art style, genre, and tone, so I hope it offers something for everyone. And, I’m sure I have missed many great relationship comics, so let me know about your favorites in the comments!

– Carli Spina, currently reading Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Garth Nix

Thu, 02/05/2015 - 07:00

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

I’ve had the privilege of working on these Hub interviews for awhile now, and people who know me will often assume that whatever book I’m currently reading is linked to this series.  They’re often right, of course, though not always, and I won’t lie–it’s fun to confirm that yes, Awesome Author you see me reading really is my next interview.  A lot of the time this leads to excellent book talk and mutual gushing, and sometimes it leads to me energetically detailing all the reasons why they need to read said author, like, yesterday.  And then sometimes I find myself sort of tongue-tied by the opportunity I’ve been given and all I can do is just nod appreciatively along with their exclamations and hope that my slack-jawed bobbing conveys the enormity of my glee and awe.  Usually it’s a combination of all of those reactions, driven partly by where I am in the interview process and partly by whoever I’m talking to about it.

Which is all to say that the last couple months working on this interview with (ahhh!) Garth Nix, I’ve noticed something very interesting and unusual about those interactions: no matter who I shamelessly and giddily gushed with, I got a similar reaction.  Intake of breath, widening of eyes, exclamation of jealousy/excitement/surprise and then some variation of ‘Oh-my-gosh-I-love-him-so-much-I’ve-read-all-his-books-I-can’t-believe-you-get-to-interview-him-that’s-so-awesome-you-have-to-ask him about…”  It was weird, really, not because I didn’t feel the same way, but because literally everyone said this.  My 21 year old nephew and my 12 year old niece both said this.  The mother of my daughter’s best friend said this, as did various other middle aged women (like me!) from book club.  My best friend said this.  My 16 year old friend and book buddy said this.  A random father waiting, like me, to pick up his kid from theater school said this.   People 20 years older and 30 years younger than me said this.  Men, women, little kids, and everyone in between said this.  Everyone said this.

Seriously, I am impressed.

Garth Nix, you clearly have a wide and deeply devoted readership that spans just about every age group and publishing category.  “I don’t usually read fantasy, but since it’s Garth Nix…”  “I don’t usually read kids books, but I loved the Old Kingdom series so much I just had to read The Keys to the Kingdom books.” “I don’t like science fiction but A Confusion of Princes was spectacular.”  You get the idea.  And I’m right there with them, reading and marveling at every book and feeling really, really lucky and grateful at the chance to talk teen years, power, and the importance of being able to convey deep enthusiasm with the remarkable Garth Nix.  Thank you!

Always Something There to Remind Me

Please describe your teenage self.

I think like most teenagers, I appeared differently to different people, or at least wanted to present a different version of myself. My thirteen year-old self was also markedly different from my nineteen year-old self, as you would expect. I guess one thing that stayed the same throughout my teenage years was that even though I was spiritually a complete nerd with my love of reading and role-playing games and doing well at school, I kept this compartmentalized so that I could also remain part of the most socially-acceptable group in school, to which I belonged at least in part thanks to my best friend being the most popular boy (and school captain). I was also a curious mix of a dreamer and a realist, I day-dreamed but never at the expense of ignoring what was going on in real life. In a way this is a very useful trait for an author, to have the dreams but learn how to harness and use them rather than just drifting along with them.

I wasn’t really a rebellious teen, though I drank too much alcohol too frequently and smoked a lot of dope at various times, though I did so mainly because everyone else did, not for its own sake. Fortunately I didn’t have an addictive nature and so was never more than a casual user and got it out of my system quite early, having basically given up everything but alcohol (and less of it) by the time I was nineteen. I was also lucky not to get into more serious drug use or trouble, because some of my friends did and I could have been drawn into it, or just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At various times I was a somewhat angry teen, though I was never really sure what I was angry about. Bad tempers run in my father’s side of the family, getting progressively better managed with each generation, but I was still working on that in my teenage years. Because I read very widely, I also knew lots of curious facts or thought I did, and so could be a terrible know-it-all which annoyed people, though I got better at not delivering unnecessary information or showing off my knowledge. I was also really quite shy, though people didn’t know I was, because I put on a good front. Even my best friend wouldn’t believe how difficult I found it sometimes in social situations, because I would appear to be fine.

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

From about fourteen, I thought I would become an officer in the Australian Army. I planned to go to our military college and get my degree there and have a career in the army. I have had a deep fascination for military history from a very young age, and a family tradition of military service of various kinds. However, I joined the part-time Army Reserve when I was seventeen and still at school and though I enjoyed this and had five years basically spending all my summers either doing a course or in field training, by the time I left school I had worked out that being in the regular army would not work for me, because I had become aware that it really constrained you to do nothing else, it was very much a total lifestyle decision. I also realized that I was much more an individualist than a team player, which tends not to work so well in the armed services, apart from in a few very specialized areas.

What were your high school years like?

My early high school years I just went along with the flow and didn’t think about it much. I was in Canberra, the federal capital of Australia, which is a very small city even now and back then was little more than a big country town with a strangely bolted-on Federal government infrastructure of a big city. Almost everyone I grew up with from pre-school continued on to the same schools, so high school was full of familiar faces, my older brother went there as did the siblings of many of my friends, so I knew a great deal about it for years before I even went there. Later, in the last two years of school, I really wanted to get it out of the way so I could go and do something else (though I didn’t know what that something else would be at the time, I just wanted out). If I could have compressed the last two years into one I would have done it, but that wasn’t possible.

I loved the library at school and spent a lot of time there, encountering many books that would be important to me later on. One great year we could do fencing for sport, which I threw myself into, learning épée and sabre, coming second in an inter-school competition through ferocity rather than finesse, much to my teacher’s horror, who went on to show me that ferocity only worked at the very lowest levels of the art. I’ve forgotten his name now, that fencing teacher, because he was only there that year, but he was certainly an influence. My English teacher, Mrs. Thompson was also an important figure who encouraged us all to engage in creative writing and in Year 10 put together a book of our stories. Mine, I recall, was a Sherlock Holmes pastiche about Dr. Watson’s experiences in the British Army in Afghanistan. I also had an important history teacher in Year 11 and 12, Mr. John Carter (not of Mars) whose enthusiasm for the subject was inspirational.

I spent a lot of time role-playing on weekends, mostly D&D and its science fiction equivalent Traveller, and aimlessly riding my bike around with my friends for miles and miles and miles, and going fishing in the lake, and reading, always reading. Then from about fifteen or sixteen, Fridays and Saturdays became about going to the parties that would take place wherever there were parents away or parents who didn’t mind having a dozen or twenty teenagers surreptitiously (or openly) drinking and playing music too loud and trying to at least kiss someone. Later again, from when I joined the Army Reserve at seventeen, I spent one or two weekends a month away with my unit, and all December and January, coming home for a week over Christmas. I was in an Assault Pioneer platoon, so we built things and blew things up and also drove assault boats, it could be very physically and/or mentally demanding at times but was also often a lot of fun.

What were some of your passions during that time?

I was passionate about gaming in general, particularly what was then the very new field of role-playing games. I think this was very much an adjunct of my passion for stories, both reading them and making them up. It also tied in with my interest in history, particularly military history. I listened to pretty much the same music everyone else did, which was a lot of 1960s stuff mixed in with what was coming out in the 70s and then early 80s. Sports-wise I really only like the individual sports, particularly fencing and fishing, but also bushwalking and cross-country skiing, and body-surfing.

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

Looking back, I had a very fortunate childhood, without any major traumas. One of the most formative experiences was joining the Army Reserve at seventeen and going off for recruit training, which was physically, mentally and societally challenging and broadened my horizons considerably. Then at eighteen doing the specialist training to be an Assault Pioneer, dealing with demolitions, mines and so forth. I remember very distinctly placing and detonating my first “confidence charge”, a block of TNT. If I’d somehow got it very wrong I would have been killed. It didn’t worry me at the time, because I had been very well-trained and at that age like everyone I thought I was immortal, but in retrospect I was only a teenager blithely using high explosive. By the time I was nineteen I was familiar with all kinds of different explosives and had narrowly avoided being blown up by someone else’s mistake, a sergeant twice my age who’d served in Vietnam.

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

When I was nineteen, so still just a teenager, my first paid short story was accepted by a British magazine called “Warlock” published by Penguin Books. I’d only recently decided I wanted to try to become a writer, and that story “Sam, Cars and the Cuckoo” was one of the first things I sent anywhere. In fact I’d sent it to a different magazine and so was very surprised to get a telegram (in the last year telegrams were still able to be used in Australia, I believe) from Penguin asking to publish it with a very good payment. It came at exactly the right time to encourage me to embark on my plan to become a writer, and even though I couldn’t sell a story anywhere for quite a few years afterwards, this early sale definitely encouraged my future writing career. (Though, as I’ve said, I’ve always been a realist as a well as a day-dreamer, so I also planned a tandem career in publishing, to ensure I would have a day job to keep me alive.)

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

I think I would tell my teen self to work harder at everything! But I wouldn’t have listened.

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

No. I tend not to look backwards. Far better to look ahead.

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

I don’t miss anything, in part because I know you can’t get it back so there’s no point. This ties in with my general philosophy of looking ahead rather than backwards. You can’t change the past, so it’s best to accept whatever that past is and get on with the present and prepare for the future.


Every Day I Write the Book

“I guess I have always been interested in the use, misuse, and cost of power,” you’ve said, describing your most recent novel Clariel, as being mainly about power and the use of power. And in a recent VOYA interview you list “the Roman Emperor Diocletian (the only supreme ruler of the known world to abdicate and grow cabbages)” as one of five fascinating people you’d invite to dinner, which is another intriguing, if sideways, comment on power and your interest in it. What is it about the concept of power that particularly interests you and why do you think you’re drawn to explore it in your fiction?

I think this comes from my interest in history, but also because it is such a big part of everyone’s lives, whether they realize it or not, and so is tremendous raw material for stories. There are many different kinds of power, and many different ways to pursue power or relinquish it.

In an interview you did back in 2000, you acknowledged that while you “subscribe to the belief that ‘if you want to send a message, use Western Union,’” you also can’t help but infuse [your] moral and ethical views…consciously or not,” into your work. You also talk about the need to confront stereotypes for many reasons, one of which is that “authors that try to undermine stereotypes or twist them around a little, write the most interesting stories.” I’m wondering if your notion of “preaching” has changed over the years, and whether–or how–the “moral and ethical” views that do seep into your work–consciously or unconsciously–have changed?  Do you feel like you’re challenging the same old stereotypes, or have new ones cropped up?  Has the ongoing discussion of diversity in YA fiction influenced your writing or do you feel that you’ve been attempting to tackle that in your own way all along?

I still think that the most important thing is to tell a good story, and overt preaching will always detract from a story and ironically also be less effective in transmitting the desired message anyway. I do probably still infuse my fiction with the same moral and ethical views, because they haven’t changed that much. I try not to be too overt about this, and usually when I’m writing a story I don’t even think about these things. Occasionally I have gone back in the editing process to either make something more overt or to occlude or pull back on something that seems too strident.

Stereotypes, by their very nature, are long-lasting things, very deeply rooted in culture. So while you get variations on a theme, I think the stereotypes that I have tried to consciously challenge have remained much the same. Possibly one thing that has emerged is a kind of meta-stereotype, where a very old stereotype is challenged in exactly the same way so many times that the “challenger” itself becomes a stereotype and sometimes also then reinforces the original construction it was meant to erode.

The ongoing discussion of diversity in YA and other fiction has influenced my writing, as have other discussions in the public arena. I do try to think about the questions raised in discussions of diversity or inclusiveness, and how I am answering them (or not) in my writing.

You’re known for immersive and fantastic world building, but have often noted the dangers of substituting world building for storytelling, as you mentioned in a recent Reddit AMA. Rather than creating extensive backstory or background material, you describe continuously and consciously collecting small ideas, using everything you “observe and experience, either directly or vicariously.”  Ideas come from “observing people in the street; from incidents in or details of history; from myth and legend; from landscape; from the living natural world; from the sciences; from all the fiction” you’ve ever read.  These ideas, “generated by the act of writing [which includes] daydreaming, note-jotting and open-mouthed musing…” all go into the reservoir of the mind.  My question is, how do you keep track of these ideas?  Do you have notebooks or electronic files full of quotes and observations, story ideas, facts, historical oddities?  Are you able to select and develop ideas that have been there for years or do you feel like you lose details to the vagaries of time and memory?

I make notes, but I find that the best ideas (or little factual seeds that will turn into ideas) stick with me anyway. Sometimes I forget them for a while: a week, a month, a year  . . . but they always come back. I quite often will make a note of something, and it will sink deep into my subconscious, only to emerge much later as a more fully-formed idea. Sometimes rather than make a note as such, I will actually write a few paragraphs of prose that encapsulate the idea in the beginning of a story, and then there will be half a dozen key words that I trust will help me sort out the rest of it when (and if) it comes time to actually complete the story.

You’ve described bookselling as being “at its heart about the transfer of enthusiasm for a book,” explaining that “the more enthusiasm, the farther the book will go, at every stage of its life.” That same enthusiasm is evident when you talk about your time working in a bookstore yourself, and you’ve gone so far as to say that you are “firmly of the opinion that everyone in publishing should spend some time…working in a bookstore.” Given your background and your generous praise of influential and favorite writers over the years, could you talk about how you convey deep enthusiasm to a potential reader?

My only real tip for conveying deep enthusiasm is that it does have to be real. If you genuinely love a book, that love will come through, no matter how you express it. Even if you deliver a tongue-tied, confusing babble, it will be apparent to another book-lover that you adore the book. That being the case, chances are they will give it a try. Actually, I guess I do have another tip. If someone is resisting a book recommendation, ask them to read the first two pages and leave it at that. If the transfer of enthusiasm is going to work, those first two pages will do it. If they don’t, chances are that book isn’t for that reader anyway.

Just Can’t Get Enough

Question from Andrew SmithHi Garth! Well, I’m sure you’ve never been asked what kinds of snacks you eat while writing, to describe your office space, or what your favorite stuffed animal was when you were a kid, but I’m going to skip all those deep examinations of your work and ask you this: If you could magically add one thing to the YA book cannon, what would it be?

I’m not sure that there really exists a YA book canon as such, anyway. Even looking at something like Time magazine’s very recent “100 Best YA Books of All Time”, there are books there that I wouldn’t personally include, and many that are not listed that I think should be. There are also books that were very prominent in the last half of the 20th century that are forgotten now, as will happen to some of the biggest books of the current era in fifty years time.

But I can answer the stuffed animal question, because I still have the platypus I called “Bark” when I was three. Admittedly it has lost its bill, eyes, feet and fur and my mother recovered it in a tartan material which is now also very faded, so it resembles a kind of plaid chicken drumstick. But it is still a platypus for all that.


Garth Nix was born in 1963 in Melbourne, Australia. A full-time writer since 2001, he previously worked as a literary agent, marketing consultant, book editor, book publicist, book sales representative, bookseller, and as a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve.

Garth’s books include the award-winning young adult fantasy novels Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen; the dystopian novel Shade’s Children; the space opera A Confusion of Princes; and a Regency romance with magic, Newt’s Emerald.

His fantasy novels for children include The Ragwitch; the six books of The Seventh Tower sequence; The Keys to the Kingdom series; and the Troubletwisters series and Spirit Animals: Blood Ties (co-written with Sean Williams). Garth’s most recent book, Clariel, is a prequel to the Old Kingdom trilogy, released in October 2014.

More than five million copies of his books have been sold around the world, his books have appeared on the bestseller lists of The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, The Guardian and The Australian, and his work has been translated into 40 languages.

He lives in a Sydney beach suburb with his wife and two children.

You can find Garth at his website or Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter.


–Julie Bartel, currently reading Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest and The Sculptor by Scott McCloud


Whatever Happened to Scout? Harper Lee’s Second Novel

Wed, 02/04/2015 - 07:00

It’s the biggest news in publishing since the Gutenberg Bible: Harper Lee is releasing a “sequel” to To Kill a Mockingbird. 

TKAM was once part of a longer novel entitled Go Set a Watchman, which is about a grown-up Scout living in New York. In it, Scout returns to Maycomb, Alabama, to visit her father. Upon reading the manuscript, Lee’s editor advised her to focus on the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood experiences, and thus a Pulitzer Prize winner was born. The discovery of Go Set a Watchman and its upcoming publication gives readers the opportunity to find out what happened later to Scout and Atticus.

To Kill a Mockingbird was made into a movie in 1962, establishing actor Gregory Peck as the embodiment of Atticus Finch. The movie came with the warning, “Not Suitable for Children,” despite the fact that three of the characters, Scout, Jem, and Dill were actual children. As New York Times critic Bosley Crowther wrote: “And for a fair spell it looks as though maybe we are going to be squeezed inside the skin of Scott and Jem as they go racing and tumbling around the neighborhood…. It is when the drama develops along the conventional line of a social crisis in the community—the charging of a Negro with the rape of a white woman—that the children are switched to the roles of lookers-on.”

The charming story of children living in small town Alabama becomes an examination of subjects considered extremely taboo in the mid-twentieth century. There was the intimation of sex between a white woman and a black man, as well as the possibility of incest and child abuse. Maycomb’s inhabitants are exposed as vicious bigots.

Gregory Peck speaks a bit about the book and movie in this trailer:

Despite the fact that many consider To Kill a Mockingbird as the best of their required reading books (Goodreads list), it is among one of the most banned and/or challenged classics, according to the American Library Association. Offensive language, including racial slurs, are repeated throughout the book. The shame of racism, particularly in the courtroom, is a major theme. Toss in rape, lynch mobs, and murder and there is plenty of objectionable material for some parents. Even as recently as 2013, TKAM was banned (or re-banned, as this article explains) in a Louisiana School District.

Nevertheless, millions of readers are dying to know the rest of the story. When Go Set a Watchman (a biblical reference found in Isaiah 21:6) is finally released in June of this year, expect a rush to rival the releases of the Harry Potter books. Mockingbird t-shirts, anyone?

Looking for TKAM read-alikes? Check out teen blogger Bella Cavicci’s article on The Hub!

-Diane Colson, currently reading Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

Jukebooks: I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

Wed, 02/04/2015 - 07:00

At thirteen, twins Noah and Jude are firm fixtures in each other’s lives. They are rivals, co-conspirators, and unshakable allies all at the same time. Three years later, everything about their lives is fractured. Their once strong bond is almost nonexistent, and their family seems broken beyond repair. The creative drive, however, cannot be denied for long, and soon their paths back to art, reconciliation, and passion will bring them back to each other.

Told in two timelines, one from Noah at thirteen and one from Jude at sixteen, the 2015 Printz Award winner I’ll Give You the Sun is an ambitious, evocative study of the power of art to inspire and heal. There is a glorious tension in each narrator’s story, keeping the reader on edge as they race to discover the fates of the various tangled family and romantic relationships.

Jandy Nelson uses evocative language to express emotions, with Noah’s states of mind especially bursting with idiosyncratic colors and motion. The poetry of so many lines linger long after readers finish the last page.

In thinking through what music or song might touch on both the language and powerful longing so key to the novel, I had the thrilling realization that one of my favorite songs of yearning fit the bill.

Michigan born singer songwriter Sufjan Stevens uses the musical equivalent of this novel’s elements in his compositions: image-laden lyrics, a slow build toward a dynamic final verse, and multi-layered choruses and instruments to create a lush, romantic sound. He’s also justifiably famous for his lengthy song titles and deliberate wordplay. “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!” from Stevens’ 2005 album Illinois struck me as a perfect fit for I’ll Give You the Sun, and in particular for the character of Noah.

The song doesn’t line up in all details, but it nails two aspects. First, the lyrics detail the powerfully felt spark of new love and the electric physical brushes that make you tremble before a first kiss even feels possible. The song can be read as featuring platonic or romantic love, and like the best songs reflects the listener as much as the songwriter, but here it fits Noah’s passionate attraction perfectly. The hesitant gestures and the final defiant outpouring of emotion sync with Noah’s tumultuous navigation of his relationship with the object of his affection, Brian.

Second, the narrative and music swirl together to present a timeline that is being remembered, one summer’s moments of longing and regret, and a present reaffirmation of the narrator’s strength of feeling and continued steadfast devotion. I’ve always been impressed by how a few lines in the first verse can so vividly recall summer in precise images, perfectly matched with Stevens’ delicate delivery and quiet pauses. The final undeniable explosion of sound including the repeated chorus of “We were in love…” and joyful horns finish with a strong note of hope and reconciliation.

A sample of the lyrics:

I can tell you, we swaggered and swayed
Deep in the tower, the prairies below
I can tell you, the telling gets old
Terrible sting and terrible storm

I can tell you the day we were born
My friend is gone, he ran away

I can tell you, I love him each day
Though we have sparred, wrestled and raged
I can tell you I love him each day

Listen to the song here:

The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!

Thanks to regular Jukebooks author Diane Colson for letting me join in on this feature for The Hub. While working together on this year’s Printz Committee we discovered a shared love of music and relishing the connections between a well told story and a well wrought song. It’s great to find someone else who composes playlists for favorite novels and characters!

-Robin Brenner