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Updated: 8 hours 47 min ago

2014 Teens’ Top Ten: An Interview with Janet Edwards

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 07:00

The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list where members of teen book groups in sixteen school and public libraries across the country nominate and choose their favorite books of the year. Nominations are posted on Celebrate Teen Literature Day, the Thursday of National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year.

The votes are in and the 2014 winners have been announced — and we’re featuring them here on The Hub. Today we bring you an interview with Janet Edwards, who is on this year’s Teens’ Top Ten list for Earth Girl (the first book in the Earth Girl Trilogy).

 Do you have a special ritual or tradition to celebrate whenever a new book of yours is released?

The release of a new book is a time of high emotion for me, a mixture of celebration at the achievement and nervous tension as I wait to see what readers think of the book. I expected it to be less emotional with my second book, but it wasn’t. My special tradition is to treat myself to a small piece of jewelry. Later on, when the nervous tension stage is over, I can look at that and re-experience the feeling of celebration.

What do you like most about writing for young adults?

There are two things really. One is that the books that made the deepest impression on me, the ones I still think about many years later, were ones I read as a teenager. That makes it especially rewarding when I get a message from a teenager saying how much they loved reading Earth Girl. Some of those readers may remember Earth Girl the way I remember the books I loved as a teenager.

The second thing is that your readership isn’t limited to teenagers. Young adult books are coming of age tales, a type of story which has always had universal appeal. I’m delighted by the incredible range of people of all backgrounds and ages who have contacted me after reading my books.

 What was the most challenging part of Earth Girl to write? Why?

In Earth Girl, the whole story is told by Jarra. In a future where people can portal between hundreds of colony worlds scattered across space, Jarra was born with an immune system problem that means she can only survive on Earth. She’s out for revenge against a society that dismisses her as a second class citizen, so she pretends she’s a norm and lies her way into a class of off-world archaeology students who’ve come to Earth to study the ruins of the ancient cities.

Writing solely from the view of one character, putting the reader totally inside their head, adds emotional immediacy, but always has its challenges. You can’t tell the reader anything that character doesn’t know. Facts. Events. Other people’s private thoughts. There’s also the complication that your character’s view may be distorted by personal bias. That’s especially true of Jarra at the start of Earth Girl, when she’s bitterly angry at the norms and saying some very unfair things about them. She’s also actively lying about her feelings at times, not to the reader but to herself, especially when she says she doesn’t care about her parents abandoning her at birth. She’s trying to convince herself that’s true, when actually the deep hurt of that abandonment is the driving force behind all her bitterness and anger.

But the most challenging part to write was the point where something dreadful happens that completely overwhelms Jarra. She blots out the reality that’s too painful to bear, and temporarily goes into a defensive fugue state where she starts believing her own lies. I happen to have encountered someone going into a fugue state after a traumatic event, but most readers won’t know much about this, and writing about it happening to your main character in a first person viewpoint isn’t just challenging but impossibly difficult. If I’d had the slightest idea that Earth Girl would be published, I’d never have dared to try it, but I thought I was just writing this book for myself. The feedback I’ve had tells me this part of the book doesn’t work for some readers, but works incredibly well for others, especially those who’ve had experience with stress. Obviously I’d never repeat such a distinctive incident in another book, so I shouldn’t be writing anything quite so impossibly difficult ever again.

Which of your book characters is most like you? (or most different)

My answer to that will sound very odd. All of my characters are both like me and totally different from me. I never base my characters on myself or anyone else in real life. They seem to come from nowhere, walking into my head like actors walking on to a stage, and then telling me about themselves. Sometimes I see something in a character that I could believe came from part of me, but the same character will be totally different from me in other ways.

Take Jarra for example. She’s a history geek, who looks at a ruin and gets deeply emotional at the thought of the people who lived there centuries in the past. I can look at that bit of Jarra, and think she’s like me, but other things about her are shockingly different. At the point where she gets her idea about lying her way into a class of norms, I’d stop and think about the consequences. Jarra doesn’t. She leaps into the situation and only starts thinking about the consequences when she’s already in deep trouble.

Can you share what you’re working on next?

Earth Girl can be read as a standalone book, but it’s actually the first book in a trilogy. The second book, Earth Star, was published in the U.S. this year. The final book is Earth Flight, which is where Jarra has to risk everything she’s fought for. This is already available in the UK, where readers seem to really love the climax to the trilogy. Obviously I’m looking forward to when Earth Flight is published in the States, too.

But I’m working on new things too, of course. There’s a novella. There’s the book I started writing at the start of November (If you’ve heard of NaNoWriMo, this was my project for that), which is set in the same future universe as Earth Girl but in a different period of history, and features one of Jarra’s ancestors. There’s also another book set in an entirely different and exciting future.

As well as all that, I’m posting a collection of free Earth Girl short stories on my website. These stories are set just before the start of Earth Girl, and each story features one of the characters from Earth Girl. The idea is that new readers can meet the characters for the first time, while existing readers have the extra fun of learning more about the characters they already know. You can read the stories at


Janet Edwards lives in England. As a child, she read everything she could get her hands on, including a huge amount of science fiction and fantasy. She studied Mathematics  at Oxford, and went on to suffer years of writing unbearably complicated technical documents before deciding to write something that was fun for a change. She has a husband, a son, a lot of books, and an aversion to housework.

You can find out more about Janet and her Earth Girl trilogy by:

-Lalitha Nataraj, currently reading Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

The Monday Poll: Your Favorite Wintery YA Read

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 23:43

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you to choose your favorite teen read that features letters or letter-writing, in honor of Letter Writing Day on December 7. Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower came out on top with 41% of the vote, followed by Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes, with 33%. 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’re looking forward to winter. Technically, it’s still late fall, yes– but isn’t it starting to feel like winter? What YA book do you read to get you in the wintery mood? Vote in the poll below, or add your choice in the comments!

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

Women In Comics: Bringing History To Life

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 07:00

While comic books and graphic novels may be synonymous with superheroes and fantastical events in the minds of many, in reality this approach to storytelling can be applied to any genre. One particularly effective use of comic books and graphic novels is to bring history alive through their signature combination of text and artwork. Whether this is done through historical fiction, biographies, or historical texts, authors and artists are able to draw their readers into a historical period by both telling them and showing them what it was like at that time, so it is no surprise that many in the comics field work in this genre.

This month’s post will introduce you to some of the great women who are writing and illustrating comic books and graphic novels that incorporate real historical periods. Some are writing personal stories and some are crafting fictional tales that happen to have a historical setting, but all of them draw readers into the past through their storytelling and artwork.

Moving Pictures by Kathryn & Stuart Immonen – World War II is a popular subject for historical fiction of all types, so it is no surprise that there are many great graphic novels about the time period. Moving Pictures definitely belongs on any list of these works. This tightly focused World War II story centers around Ila, a museum curator who has stays in France to protect artwork in her museum as the Nazis move into the country. This story does an excellent job of hinting at the larger horrors of the war while maintaining its narrow viewpoint and the spare black and white art complements the story perfectly.

The Kitchen by Ollie Masters with art by Ming Doyle and cover art by Becky Cloonan – Issue #1 of this new series introduces readers to Kath, Raven, and Angie, three Irish-American women who are married to mobsters in 1970s era Hell’s Kitchen. When their husbands end up in jail, they must take on the mantle of their husbands’ mob activities to maintain control of the area and to keep money coming in. Though this story is little more than an introduction to the premise of the series, it nevertheless grabs readers from the start, in no small part due to the gritty and evocative artwork by Doyle. She brings the 1970s to life on the page through a series of small details that come together to make it immediately apparent when the story is set even without words. Beyond this setting, she also captures the subtle emotions of the characters as they face their husbands’ incarcerations and take on new roles in the world of organized crime.

Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot – This unique combination of biography and autobiography simultaneously tells the story of Lucia, James Joyce’s daughter, and that of the author, Mary Talbot, whose father was an important scholar focused on Joyce’s works. Because of this dual focus, the book offers readers a peek into both Mary’s childhood starting in England in the mid-1950’s and Lucia’s childhood in the early 1900s starting in Trieste, Italy. The book makes use of different color schemes to separate the different time periods, which gives them each a distinct look. It offers a great introduction into Lucia Joyce and also the events of Mary Talbot’s own childhood. It is a fascinating choice for fans of both history and memoirs.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani with art by Maris Wicks – This book not only includes Maris Wicks’ wonderful art, but also tells the story of three important women who have conducted famous research on primates. Told in Jim Ottaviani’s always compelling style, the book draws readers into each of the women’s experiences as students of Louis Leakey, tracing not only what first interested them about primatology, but also the hard work that they did while working and researching in the field. The combination of adorable artwork and inspiring stories will be sure to spark an interest in primates amongst many readers.

Little White Duck: A Childhood in China by Na Liu and Andrés Vera Martínez – Told through short stories that are really short vignettes from Na Liu’s childhood in China in the 1970’s, this book is written to be approachable to readers of all ages. The stories incorporate elements of traditional folktales, art in the style of Chinese propaganda posters, and the author’s own memories from childhood to offer a window into life in China during this period. Though they are personal stories, they offer insights into some key historical events from the time period as well. The book also includes additional contextual material, such as a timeline of Chinese history, a map of the locations, and translations of the Chinese words that are included throughout the stories.

Under The Apple Tree by Sarah Winifred Searle – This graphic novel, which is available for online download, is set in a small town in Maine during World War II. It focuses on Rosie, a teen whose family has moved from Boston to Maine during the war. In their new home, Rosie encounters the ghost of a Civil War soldier. She must help him to discover the truth about a mystery from his time so that he may find peace. The distinctive artwork, which is characterized by very rich colors, draws readers into Rosie’s world. The story itself will keep you turning pages and by its end you will be wishing you could spend more time with Rosie and her family and friends.

Marzi: A Memoir by Marzena Sowa with art by Sylvain Savoia – Structured, and originally published, as a series of comic strips about the author’s life, this collection offers a view into the history of Poland in the 1980s at the end of the Cold War. While readers will learn plenty about the history, politics, and daily reality of Poland at this time, the book is also full of humorous and relatable stories of the author’s childhood playing and causing mischief in an apartment block in a city behind the Iron Curtain. Readers will be struck by both the similarities and differences from their own childhood. But even more than that, they will be engaged and entertained by Marzi’s stories.

We Are On Our Own by Miriam Katin – In this memoir, Katin brings her experience as a Jewish child in Budapest during World War II to vivid life. The book focuses primarily on the period of time early in Katin’s childhood when she and her mother were continually on the run and in hiding from the Nazis. She balances her own experience of the war through a child’s eyes with her mother’s desperation as she struggled to protect her daughter and eventually reunite with her husband. Color is used particularly effectively, with scenes from Katin’s later life in the U.S. depicted in color and scenes from the war almost devoid of color other than the Nazi and U.S.S.R. flags. The overall effect of this choice in combination with the artistic style is to convey the sense that Katin’s memories of the war beyond these vivid flags are sketchy and less defined, though still traumatic and powerful. By including snippets of her later life in the U.S., readers also see how the war continued to influence her life long after the war’s end. This is a powerful and moving glimpse into one person’s experience of the Holocaust and World War II.

Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan with art by Nathan Fox (2014 Great Graphic Novels for Young Adults)- This one is still on my own to-read list, but it promises to be a great look into the impact that dogs have had on the military across three wars. Told through the stories of three separate pairs of humans and dogs, the book shows the work that dogs did in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. This is a great option for those with an interest in war history or dog lovers.

Do you have any favorite historical graphic novels by women that I have missed? Any time periods that you wish someone would write about? Let me know in the comments!

– Carli Spina, currently reading The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple and Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle

Tweets of the Week: December 5th

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 07:00

Happy December Everyone! You know what December means – lots of Best of 2014 book lists. I have a few here for you today – just in case you missed them. Take a look.

Best of Lists:

Books and Reading:



  • : thanks 2 the great Tweeps who supported YALSA 4 ! We raised $1,636 to send advocates 2 DC to speak up 4 teens & libraries


Just for Fun – plus some holiday book lists

~ Jennifer Rummel, currently reading Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

2014 Teens’ Top Ten: Everything You Need to Know About Rainbow Rowell

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 07:00

The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in sixteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Celebrate Teen Literature Day, the Thursday of National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year.

The votes are in for 2014, and the winners have been announced– and we’re featuring them here on The Hub. Today I’ll highlight Rainbow Rowell, honored for her novel Eleanor and Park, and link you to some great interviews, profiles, fan art, and more.

Rainbow in her own words

Rainbow in other people’s art

Eleanor and Park has inspired a wealth of amazing fanart by talented artists. Here are a few examples:

by Simini Blocker

by Paper Pie

by Yady Kates

Take a look at even more amazing art at this Pinterest page.

Then do your nails to celebrate the book!

Rainbow, as described by others

And, of course, if you missed it earlier this year, we featured an interview with Rainbow Rowell here on the The Hub. And be sure to check out the Jukebooks post inspired by Eleanor and Park, too.

-Hannah Gómez, currently reading Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica

Book Recommendations for Peter Pan Fans

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 07:00

I happen to be a Peter Pan fan. Who doesn’t want to be young forever and be able to fly? I love J. M. Barrie’s book and like the movie versions too, even though they take liberties with Barrie’s original story.

You may not associate Peter Pan with the holidays but Barrie’s Peter Pan was written first as play in 1904 before it was a book, and pantomime adaptations of the play are still frequently staged around Christmas in the United Kingdom. Maybe that’s why Peter Pan Live! starring Allison Williams and Christopher Walken was shown on television last night. If you missed it, or just can’t wait for the Peter Pan movie with Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard coming out July 17, 2015, I have some read-alikes for you.

I’d read Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s Peter and the Starcatchers (2004) when it first came out but I’d never listened to the audio version narrated by Jim Dale, even though I’d downloaded it last summer as part of SYNC’s free summer audiobook program for young adults that pairs classics with required summer reading books. I’d forgotten how funny it was with all the hilarious characters’ names like Smee (from Barrie’s original book) and other new ones like Slank, Black Stache, Tubby Ted and Mr. Grin (the crocodile). The books in this series might seem a little young but I think they’re classics that can be read and enjoyed at any age.

In Peter and the Starcatchers, Peter, an orphan, is forced to sail from England on the ship Never Land with a group of other orphans, and while on broad he befriends Molly, a young Starcatcher, who must guard a trunk of magical stardust from a greedy pirate and the native inhabitants of a remote island.

In the sequel, Peter and the Shadow Thieves (2006) Peter and Tinker Bell travel to England to help save the stardust after they discover that Molly and the other Starcatchers are in danger when the sinister being Lord Ombra visits Never Land and appears to be controlling people through their shadows.

Peter and Molly travel to the land of Rundoon in the third book in the series, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon (2007), where evil King Zarboff rules, because they fear that the sinister Lord Ombra wasn’t destroyed in the previous book.

In Peter and the Sword of Mercy (2009) it’s 1902 and it’s been 23 years since Peter and the Lost Boys returned from Rundoon. Since then, nobody on the island has grown a day older, and the Lost Boys continue their friendship with the Mollusk tribe and their rivalry with Captain Hook. Meanwhile, in London, Molly has married George Darling and is raising three children: Wendy, Michael, and John.

In the last book in the series, Bridge to Never Land (2011), Siblings Sarah and Aidan Cooper, ages 17 and 15, know all about Peter Pan‘s secret origin, having read the Starcatchers books when they were younger, but they never dreamed it could be real until they discover a riddle hidden in an old desk. Following the clues while on vacation in England, they find the last stash of magical starstuff on Earth, only to be stalked by the malevolent Lord Ombra.

Geraldine McCaughrean (2008 Printz Award winner for The White Darkness) won the honor to write the official sequel to Peter Pan called Peter Pan in Scarlet (2006). In her book, dreams are leaking out of Never Land, and the only way to set things right is for the Lost Boys, now grown up with their own families, to travel back to Peter’s magical land where they become young again. When they get there they find that Never Land is in worse condition than they could have imagined.

Tiger Lily (2012) by Jodi Lynn Anderson is a reimagining of Peter Pan from Tinker Bell’s point of view as she witnesses the unrequited love that fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily has for Peter after Tiger Lily meets and falls for Peter, despite being betrothed to someone else she hates. When Wendy shows up, Tiger Lily is forced to make a difficult choice.

Capt. Hook: the Adventures of a Notorious Youth by James V. Hart and illustrated by Brett Helquist (2005) describes the youthful adventures of 15-year-old James Matthew, from his days as a young scholar at Eton to his voyages on the high seas as the future Captain Hook. He’s shown here in a sympathetic light unlike the way he’s portrayed in Peter Pan and other retellings.

Tigerheart by Peter David (2008) published for adults, is about Paul Dear, who, growing up in London on his father’s fantastical tales of a magical land called the Anyplace, journeys into this enchanted world after tragedy strikes the family, seeking a great hero, the Boy of Legend, only to encounter the greatest challenge of his life. This book references J. M. Barrie’s books Peter Pan in Kensington and Peter and Wendy (also called Peter Pan) but changes a lot of the original characters.

In Another Pan by Daniel Nayeri & Dina Nayeri (2010), while attending an elite prep school where their father is a professor, sixteen-year-old Wendy and younger brother John Darling discover a book which opens the door to other worlds and to Egyptian myths long thought impossible. A charismatic new R.A. named Peter reveals that their actions have unleashed an evil that is now seeping into their school. At the same time, Peter is searching for the secret of eternal youth in the pyramids of the underworld.

Seeing how many Peter Pan retellings that have been published validates my love for Barrie’s book and the Peter Pan character. I hope there will be even more books written that reimagine the story. It makes me even more excited for next year’s movie.

What are your favorite fairytale characters and retellings?

-Sharon Rawlins, currently listening to The Martian by Andy Weir


2014 Teens’ Top Ten: An Interview with Leigh Bardugo

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 07:00

The Teens Top Ten winners have been out for a few weeks and I was so pleased to see Leigh Bardugo’s Siege and Storm, the second book of her New York Times bestselling Grisha trilogy on the list. I’m happy to present a brief interview with Leigh about her work and series in general. If you’re interested in reading the rest of our Teens’ Top Ten interview series, take a look!

Congratulations to Leigh; many thanks for answering these questions and letting me clarify on Twitter! If you’re looking for more about Leigh be sure to check out her website, Tumblr, and Goodreads page.

To me there are distinct classes in the Ravka (peasants, Grisha, royalty) and different kids of Grisha who at first stay within their own group. You have set up the binary of light and dark, Alina and the Darkling, but things blur a bit by end. So how does the blending of Alina and the Darkling, dark/light inform your view of Ravka by the end and your view of our world? Are things really so different from each other?

I do think life would be a lot easier if people, decisions, experiences could be categorized as either purely bad or good, but that’s pretty rare, and I try my best to make sure my fiction reflects that. What’s the point in creating a dictator a reader wouldn’t be tempted to follow? Why should a heroine be immune to greed for power just because her cause is supposedly just? The action of the trilogy takes place during a time of tremendous upheaval and I think it’s natural that you’d see a breakdown in the traditional order of things. But I also think it’s worth noting that, even at the end of the trilogy, Ravka remains pretty stratified in terms of class. It was tempting to just tear down all the walls and shout, “Democracy!” but that wouldn’t have been true to the world I created.

Photo by Kevin Rolly

You used to be a makeup artist, so how does working with the creation of an image, models, makeup, and perception influence your work as a writer, other than the perhaps obvious character of Genya?

Interesting question. I think teens are keenly aware of the way beauty and image operate as a commodities, and I wanted to deal honestly with that in the story. Genya is definitely the biggest way my work as a makeup artist carried over into my writing—not just in her skillset, but in the way she embodies both beauty’s power and its limitations. That said, Nikolai and the Darkling are also invested in the power of image. They both have a gift for spectacle and are master manipulators—each playing to his own strengths. But Alina learns from their examples and, by the final book in the trilogy, she’s beginning to use her own public image strategically and become a political player in her own right.

Were you able to travel to Russia for your research, or would you like to travel there? Any particular favorite spots or places you would like to visit? What fascinates you about Russia and its culture(s)? When I wrote Shadow and Bone, I was working a day job and just trying to make ends meet, so taking a research trip to Russia wasn’t an option. But I’ll definitely get there someday. I want to see St. Petersburg and visit Yasnaya Polyana to see Tolstoy’s home. I’m Jewish—Spanish on one side, Russian and Lithuanian on the other—and in my family, Russia was always cast in the role of the glamorous oppressor. Even when I was a kid, it took on a kind of larger than life status, and in a way, it took on the traits of a fantasy world: beautiful but brutal, magical but dangerous. I know this has been covered before, but can I just say your response to an anonymous comment about the “unnecessary lesbians[s]” in your books made me so happy! You say that “story trumps statement or we’d all just write angry pamphlets”  but what are some of the statements you’re trying to make in the Grisha trilogy? To me it’s: the importance of personal histories and how they shape you for good and bad; a great example of female power without falling into a “strong female character” trap; and the effects and hazards of desires for light, darkness, for power, and for love. Can you elaborate on what you wanted to say or create in writing these books?   Thank you! I did worry that responding to that anon would create a false sense that I get lots of angry mail like that. I don’t. The vast majority of the responses to Tamar and Nadia have been positive and I think it’s important to put that out there. As for messages, I really just wanted to tell a good story. I wanted to create a fallible heroine, and a villain you couldn’t just dismiss. I wanted the temptations of the Grisha world to feel real whether they were romantic or political. That said, when I was writing Ruin and Rising, I was definitely aware of the “strong heroine” discussion, and I wanted to show a lot of different modes of strength—male and female. So I have soldiers, teachers, mothers, politicians, and lab geeks playing a part in the war. They’re all valuable in different ways, but they’re not all nice or noble. Finally, anything more you’d be willing to tell us about Six of Crows and your new series? It’s set in Kerch, but will we be seeing any characters from the Grisha trilogy? Six of Crows takes place around two years after the end of the Ravkan civil war. You’ll be hearing a bit about the characters from the Grisha Trilogy and you get to see one of them in a cameo, but the story really belongs to the newcomers. It centers around a team of thugs and outcasts who have to pull off a heist that may turn out to be a suicide mission. Grisha power plays a major role in the plot and one of the team is a Grisha living in self-imposed exile, so there will be some familiar elements for fans of the original trilogy. And I have to admit, I had a good time playing with this new country. Kerch and particularly its capital, Ketterdam, are so different from Ravka—glamorous and seedy, full of warring gangs and shady characters. Maybe not the best spot for a vacation, but a delightful place to start a story. Thank you again, Leigh, and congratulations! -Anna Tschetter, currently reading Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

For Those Who Love Serial (And If You Don’t What Are You Waiting For?)

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 07:00

Happy December, Hubbers!  I am, unfortunately, sick, but that won’t stop me from bringing you a post on something that I’m pretty excited about, and I know a lot of you are, too.  So, show of hands – who likes the podcast, Serial?  I’m betting a lot of you have your hands raised and wildly waving in the air right now, as do I!  Serial is Apple’s #1 downloaded podcast of the moment and has provided many hours of discussion amongst coworkers, family and friends around the country (even though neither my husband nor any of my coworkers listen to it, so I just have to have these discussions in my head).

For those of you who don’t listen, and I’m serious when I say that you really should, the podcast is an episodic telling of a murder case from 15 years ago.  Adnan Syed was tried and convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, while they were both students at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County.  Sarah Koenig, the narrator and co-creator of Serial, leads listeners on a journey each week through ignored evidence, trial transcripts and interviews with Adnan and others involved to create an engaging, well-told story that has intrigued and captivated readers for 10 episodes so far (episodes are released every Thursday morning, which has made Thursday morning the easiest day for me to get out of bed on time).

Since Serial is so popular with teens and adults alike, I thought I’d make a list of books that might interest someone who is obsessed with Serial.  I’ve included not only murder mysteries, but true crime stories and books where you’re not exactly sure how to feel about the narrator.  I’ve heard that the first season of Serial will be done after 12 episodes, which we are getting mighty close to, so hopefully, this list of books will give those of us addicted to the show a way to get through those Serial-less Thursdays until the new season starts again.  Here we go – let’s start with one of my very favorite books from this year…

We Were Liars by E.Lockhart:  I never knew what to think about Cadence, the narrator and star of E. Lockhart’s unbelievably great and haunting book, We Were Liars.  The story of Cadence and her time with her cousins and great love Gat on her family’s private island off of Cape Cod is a story of love, friendship and the joy of being young.  Then, a terrible accident occurs, and neither readers nor Cadence understand just what happened to make her cousins and Gat desert her in her time of greatest need.  With her memory spotty, her pain tremendous, and her need to know what happened two years ago that made everything change, Cadence tells her story through a series of flashbacks to her magical fifteenth summer to the current day, where she is alone and confused.  E. Lockhart tells an engaging story that will keep readers guessing and on the edge of their seats until the end when all is revealed.  Cadence is a character that readers will feel sorry for, but also never exactly trust as she is the epitome of an unreliable narrator.  You just don’t ever know what’s going to happen in the story, and that’s what’s makes you want to keep reading until the bitter end.

The Year We Disappeared:  A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby & John Busby:  This is an interesting and heart-stopping story true crime story told by Cylin and her dad John.  When Cylin was 9 years old, her dad was scheduled to testify in an upcoming trial where it was rumored that mob connections might be involved.  But, someone tried to stop that from happening in a horrible way; as John was driving to work, someone put a shotgun up to his window and blew apart the window and John’s jaw.  John was pretty sure he knew who did this to him, but nothing happened and the family was soon sent into witness protection.  Cylin and John take turns telling the story in their own words in alternating chapters which shows the story from two different perspectives – the actual victim and Cylin, who is narrating from a more emotional point of view.  The descriptions of John’s injuries can be off-putting to those who are sensitive to depictions of pain and suffering, but they are an integral part of the story as this is the pain that John is literally dealing with.  This book is a well-told story that showcases the literal physical pain of a horrific crime, but also the emotional toll it takes on families and communities.

Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday:  Okay, so this one isn’t a serious mystery where you’ll be searching for hidden clues and implied meanings.  This is a fun Veronica Mars-esque romp that I thought would be a nice addition to this list of otherwise somber tomes.  The day that Hartley breaks up with her boyfriend, Josh, is the day that she also finds the president of the Chastity Club, Courtney, deceased at Josh’s house.  She broke up with Josh because he was fooling around with Courtney, and as much as Hartley really, truly hates Josh right now – she does not believe that he is a killer.  So, Josh is on the run, and Hartley is on a quest to clear her ex-boyfriend’s name – and, no, she doesn’t want to get back together with him!  With help from the school’s resident bad boy and editor of the school newspaper, Chase, Hartley soon realizes that by putting her nose in the wrong place, she might be putting herself in danger.  This book is a fun and fast read that is also a pretty good murder mystery.  For those times when you want a mystery to try and puzzle out, but you want a few laughs to go along with it.

Columbine by Dave Cullen:  I’ve been reading a few true crime nonfiction books lately, but this is the one that stands out the most – it is extremely well-written, well researched and accessible to readers who are both familiar with the events as well as those who know nothing about the events of that day.  Dave Cullen does an unbelievable job of not only telling the story of that horrible day at Columbine High School, but also the story of the two teens that orchestrated and carried out the attack.  Like Serial, the storytelling is impeccable and provides information from a multitude of people who were affected, including those who were responsible for the day’s events.  There was also a bit of misinformation that has been repeated throughout the years that Dave meticulous researched and provided the truth on.  For in-depth reporting and a story that is as intriguing as it is heartbreaking, Dave Cullen’s Columbine is  a masterpiece in the true crime genre.

After by Amy Efaw (2010 Best Books for Young Adults, 2010 Quick Picks for ):  Devon is all about not messing up – she is on top of her game in soccer, she is an excellent student, she is just a perfect teenager, and there’s nothing that she wants more than to keep that true forever.  But, then, Devon finds out she’s pregnant and she does the unthinkable; she hides the pregnancy, delivers the baby, and then leaves it in a dumpster.  When the baby is found, so is Devon, and she is taken through the legal system to make her pay for her crime.  However, this book is more than just a cautionary tale; author Amy Efaw takes readers on an emotional roller coaster with readers experiencing everything from anger to pity to understanding.  Devon is such a well-written and developed character that readers will feel a range of emotions for her – we know that she committed the crime she is charged with, however disconnected she has made herself to the situation; however, I know I felt remorse for her as well as anger; just as you’d feel for a real person, there are always nuances in the range of emotions we can feel for other humans, regardless of situations.  Readers will experience Devon’s journey through the legal system as well as beyond, and she will stay with readers long past the final page – I should know – I read this book when it was released in 2010, and I am still thinking about it.

Well, I hope I gave you Serial fanatics some good books to keep you tided over during the upcoming absence of Serial from our ears.  And, for those of you who aren’t listening – I truly hope you decide to, it is a story that will pull at your heartstrings, make you question what you do and don’t know, and give you plenty to think about, that’s for sure!  Do you love Serial and have more awesome suggestions for those of us who are dreading not having it to listen to?  Leave them in the comments!!  Until next time, Hubbers- Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel!

-Traci Glass, currently reading I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Jukebooks: October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman

Wed, 12/03/2014 - 07:00

Matthew Shepard would have turned 38 years old this week.

Matthew’s story has been told many times since the night of October 12, 1998, when he was brutally beaten, tied to a fence, and left for dead. Matthew was killed because he was gay. In her award-winning novel, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, Lesléa Newman explores the tragedy from multiple viewpoints, writing in powerful free verse.

She writes:

two thin white tear tracks
one red swollen blood-caked face
this is someone’s child

Could it happen again? It can, and does, in large and small ways.

In 2013, an Irish musician named Hozier released the song, “Take Me to Church.” The dark, measured tone of the music, combined with Hozier’s sorrowful voice and heart-wrenching lyrics, call to mind the gravity of dangerous love. In creating this 2014 music video, it was Hozier’s suggestion to show two young male lovers. The fear it evokes reminds the viewer of Matthew Shepard, as well as countless unnamed men and women who have been tortured, and even killed, because they are gay.

-Diane Colson, who is currently reading How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon.

2014 Teens’ Top Ten: An Interview with A.G. Howard

Wed, 12/03/2014 - 07:00

The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in sixteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Celebrate Teen Literature Day, the Thursday of National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year.

The votes are in for 2014, and the winners have been announced– and we’re featuring them here on The Hub. Today we bring you an interview with A.G. Howard, who is on this year’s Teens’ Top Ten list for Splintered.

Could you describe what your journey has been like from working in a school library to published author? Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?

Before Splintered, I had already written several adult books that I still haven’t submitted to publishers. But it was while working at a middle school library that I was exposed daily to young adult novels. Once I started reading them (the covers were too hard to resist!) I fell in love because they were fueled by emotion and drama, the perfect venue for coming-of-age elements and social issues. What attracted me most to YA, though, was that crossing genres was not only acceptable, but encouraged. There aren’t many formulaic limitations like a lot of adult genres have.  This was perfect for me because my voice and stories often blur the lines between commercial and literary / urban and epic fantasy / horror and gothic romance-not an easy thing to ascribe one genre to. So with YA, I knew I’d found a safe haven to let my imagination run free. :)

As for me “always” knowing if I wanted to be a writer? No. I always liked dabbling in words, and English Lit was my favorite subject, but I’d never written a novel when I was young like a lot of writer’s have. In fact, I didn’t take my writing too seriously until after I’d married, had two children, and lost my grandfather to brain cancer. The night he died, I sat down and wrote a tribute to him and his life. My family read it and it touched them so much they asked that it be part of the eulogy. Once I realized I could connect with people’s emotions through my writing, there was no turning back. I hold my grandfather up as my inspiration, because the end of his journey was to be the beginning of mine.

You’ve discussed in previous interviews that you are a very visual author. Were there any particular images or movies that really stick out in your mind as inspiring you during the writing process for the Splintered series? Can you explain how you use them as inspiration for your stories?

I knew I wanted my main character, Alyssa, to be able to converse with bugs and flowers, because the talking flower scenes in Carroll’s two books, the Disney cartoon, and the Tim Burton/Disney movie rendition, were some of my favorites. Also, I always remembered the scene from Through the Looking Glass when Alice is riding a train through the countryside and has a conversation with a gnat. Those were such quirky and indelible images, that I just had to incorporate them somehow.

Also, I wanted a colorful/vivid world edged with creepiness for my Wonderland setting, like the Tim Burton/Disney version. To help me visualize, I started gathering pictures into my Splintered folder which I later transferred to my inspirational Pinterest board. When I Googled for images, I sought out “Gothic” Alice themes. I found that I was drawn to pictures tinged with an “aura of Alice”, but completely different from the original. This led me to go one step further and not only warp the settings, but warp the original characters in unexpected ways-enough that it would throw my heroine and hero for a loop when they first saw them. But there needed to be an explanation for “why” everything was so different, so I came up with one. You’ll have to read the book to find out what that is. ;)

It was so fun listening to the Splintered and Unhinged playlists on your website! What does the creation of these playlists look like, do you create them before starting the book or do they just come together throughout your writing process? Are there any songs or lyrics from the Ensnared playlist that you could share with readers while we wait for its upcoming release in January?

Thanks! I create the playlists while I’m in the planning phases of the book, before the real writing begins, but I build upon them as I’m writing, too. So I usually end up with 100+ songs. These I keep on private playlists that no one can see but me. When I’m ready to reveal them officially, I whittle each playlist down to a more manageable size of around 30 or so. I’ll be revealing a few songs from my official Ensnared playlist during my virtual book tour, so I don’t want to give away too much here. But I’ll be glad to share the chorus from one of the songs on my private Ensnared list that’s not going to make it onto the official one. Alyssa is no longer running from her mistakes in book 3, and this song demonstrates her determination to have the courage to do what’s right:

Stand My Ground by Within Temptation

Stand my ground, I won’t give in
No more denying, I’ve got to face it
Won’t close my eyes and hide the truth inside
If I don’t make it, someone else will
Stand my ground.

If you could spend one day in the real world with one of your characters, who would you choose and why?

Hmmm. Since you didn’t specify “which” world is the real one. earth or Wonderland.  I would choose to hang out in Wonderland and fly with Morpheus, though I’d miss out on all of the amazing sights because I’d have to keep my eyes closed ( I’m terrified of heights), and then here in our world, I’d ride with Jeb on his motorcycle along some country roads. I’d keep my eyes open for that one. ^.^

What is the one question you wish people would ask you and how would you answer it?

If there were any book you wish you could’ve written, what would it be and why?  And my answer: Jane Eyre. Because, in my opinion, it’s flawless. The dark mood, the mystery, the gothic undertones and heart-wrenching romance, the characterization, the era / setting, and the prose. I can’t get enough. I have read that story over and over and over, and still cry at the end. I hope to write something that amazing one day. In fact, Jane Eyre is actually playing a role-mood-wise-in the Phantom of the Opera YA spinoff I’m beginning. My book is set in modern day, but there’s a definite Victoriana / gothic feel to the isolated school where it takes place. I will be rereading both Jane Eyre and the original POTO to inspire evocative and gloomy old-world settings as I dive into the writing.

Did you know that Splintered is trilogy? Check out the book trailers below for Unhinged and the final book in the series to be released this January, Ensnared. 

~Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger

2014 Teens’ Top Ten: An Interview with Joelle Charbonneau

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 07:00

The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in sixteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Celebrate Teen Literature Day, the Thursday of National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year.

The votes are in for 2014, and the winners have been announced — and we’re featuring them here on The Hub. Today we bring you an interview with Joelle Charbonneau, who is on this year’s Teens’ Top Ten list for The Testing (first book of The Testing trilogy). The Testing is also a 2014 Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers.


I really loved The Testing and the way that you so vividly described your novel’s dystopian society, main character Cia’s life in it and her experience during the testing process for university student candidates.  I wanted to ask you first about why you chose a dystopian environment to relate your story/themes, and whether there are any aspects of this environment which you see reflected in present-day society?

Thanks for reading The Testing! You have no idea how much I appreciate that. As for choosing the dystopian setting – to be honest, I didn’t set out to write a dystopian book. I teach voice lessons and have helped a lot of my students go through the college admittance process. Because of that, I’ve seen first hand how stressful the process has become and wanted to explore the stress of modern day tests and our society’s expectations for the next generation. However, as much as I wanted to set it in today’s world, I couldn’t find a way to up the stakes of the tests in the way that I wanted. So, I had to look to the future and a time where there is only one university and the expectation that those who attend it will be able to fix what is wrong with the world. That’s when the world of The Testing was born.

While The United Commonwealth and its issues are fictional, there are a great number of things about the world that do reflect our current society, especially in regards to our current education system. In the last fifteen years, our educational system has become very dependent on high stakes testing. So much depends on tests – school funding, teachers’ careers, and our students’ beliefs in their own abilities and futures. These tests were designed to strengthen our education system, but most teachers, parents and students would argue that it has done the opposite. While most would agree that the system needs to be altered, no one seems to know exactly how to make those changes or has the courage to say that the things we’ve been implementing over the past fifteen years are wrong. Cia’s journey in The Testing trilogy deals with those issues and explores what happens when people allow a less than ideal system to stay in place because it on some level appears to be working.


I admired both the personal qualities and analytical abilities of sixteen-year-old Cia.  You show the depth of her concern for others as well as her alert and observant nature, all of which help her in some way to withstand the intensely challenging situation that is the Testing.  I wondered what you see as Cia’s main motivations or driving forces?

Creating Cia was a great deal of fun. She reflects the hope and optimism that I see in my students as they go off to college. Cia, like most of the students I talk to, truly believes she is going to do something good in the world and she wants to learn and grow in order to make the future a stronger and better place. That desire to do something important with her future drives her to make many of the choices she does in The Testing. And despite her father’s warnings to trust no one, Cia wants to be connected to her fellow students and believe the best about them. While that characteristic is one of Cia’s strengths, it is also one of her biggest weaknesses.


What did you find to be the most challenging aspect of writing The Testing?

Up until writing The Testing, I had only written books set in modern day. Imagining a future world that had been through an intense global conflict and conveying that to the reader was a huge challenge. And telling the story in a way that didn’t cause the details of the world building to slow down the pace was an interesting puzzle which required a lot of thought and a great deal of editing. Thankfully, I have a brilliant agent and editor that helped me make the story better.


I wondered if you could describe a typical day or week in your life as a writer.

Ha! I have a six year old, so I’m not sure there is a typical day or week in my life. Most of what I do is working around my son’s schedule. But the most typical week is one where the kid goes to first grade during the day (hooray for a kid who loves school) and I get to work during those hours. Most days I answer emails in the morning then somewhere around midmorning I try to get some writing done. A good writing day means I end up with about 4-6 pages written. Once the kid gets off the bus at the end of the school day, writing comes to a halt until he goes to bed. Then I try to get another page or so written and a few more emails answered before I call it a night. Also, once a week (sometimes more), I get to do the best part of my job – visit a school either in person or through the wonderful world of Skype. Those days mean I don’t get much writing done, but I always come away from those visits inspired and ready to dive back into my story hoping that those readers will one day embrace the story as their own.


What are three things that you think young writers should keep in mind as they create their works?

Great question! Let’s see….first, give yourself permission to make mistakes. There are no perfect first drafts. Most writers get stuck when they worry about making their story perfect on the first try. Remember that you can always fix a bad page…you can’t fix one that is blank.

Second, try to write a little every day. Making writing a habit is important. Think of it like any kind of sport or exercise…every day you practice makes you stronger. It doesn’t have to be a lot of writing. Just a paragraph each day will do the trick and every paragraph gets you closer to THE END.

Third, get to THE END. So many writers give up in the middle of their work. Why? Because it gets hard. Beginnings are fun. They are filled with excitement about the new idea and the hope that the story will be amazing. Then you reach the middle and the work begins. All authors hate their books at some point in the middle. We think that the story is the worst we’ve ever tried to write and potentially the worst book every written. The middle is filled with self-doubt and angst and stress. That’s when most younger writers give up. They get a new bright and shiny idea they are certain will make for a better story, abandon the one that has gotten hard and they start anew. Don’t do that! Fight through the hard and get to the end. Even if the story isn’t what you hoped it would be, you will have taught yourself something really important – that you can get to THE END! Every time you give up in the middle of the story, you teach yourself that you can’t finish, which makes the self-doubt of the middle harder to get through the next time. Make mistakes. Write every day. Get to THE END. And trust me when I say that reaching THE END is the best moment. You’ll be happy you got there!


Interviewer’s note: Charbonneau is also the author of two adult fiction series, the Glee Club Mysteries and the Rebecca Robbins Mysteries.


-Anna Dalin, currently reading The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Librarians Love: Coming of Age Stories for Male Readers

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 07:00

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

The original request
I have a (male) teacher working with a group of Grade 7 and 8 (male students) who for various reasons need reading support but don’t read far below level. In their regular English curriculum they have been doing a lot of dystopian themed works — 1984, Animal Farm etc. — and he was seeking something that is more about overcoming the odds, coming of age, becoming a man, growing into yourself (for want of better words). It can be a short story (he was thinking Hemingway but I’m reluctant to hold him up as the sole emblem of masculine writers), short-ish novels, graphic novels…

Suggested titles

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • Feed by MT Anderson
  • Empire of the Sun by JG Ballard
  • Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Master of Reality by John Darnielle
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos
  • The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Downriver and River Thunder by Will Hobbs
  • Alabama Moon by Watt Key
  • The Body by Stephen King
  • Catch by Will Leitch
  • Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
  • Kick-Ass by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.
  • Bad Boy: A Memoir by Walter Dean Myers
  • A Small White Scar by KA Nuzum
  • Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins
  • When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
  • Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
  • Winger by Andrew Smith
  • Peak by Roland Smith
  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
  • American Born Chinese and Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang
  • I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak

Suggested authors

  • Chris Crutcher
  • Gary Paulsen

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

— Gretchen Kolderup, currently rereading Flora’s Dare by Ysabeau S. Wilce

The Monday Poll: Letter-writing in YA Lit

Sun, 11/30/2014 - 23:49

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week’s poll invited you to choose your favorite unusual character names in YA lit. The number one pick was My Secret Agent Lover Man from the Weetzie Bat series by Francesca Lia Block, with 35% of the vote, followed by Hallelujah Calhoun from The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes, with 20%. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

December 7 is Letter Writing Day, so this week, we want to know about your favorite teen read in which letters feature prominently. Also, tell us in the comments: when’s the last time you actually wrote a letter? When’s the last time you received one?

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

Lady Lazarus: Sylvia Plath & YA Literature

Fri, 11/28/2014 - 07:00

photo by flickr user Todd Mecklem

So, every year around this time, I reread The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It’s just a habit I’ve had since I was a teenager; it gets to be about time for my birthday, and I suddenly know what book I’ll be reading next. It’s comforting in a way that signals a new year for me and winter’s fast approach. This year, after my yearly reading, I decided to branch out a bit to see how Sylvia Plath has influenced and been incorporated into teen literature.

I had noticed two things over the past year that influenced this decision which surprised me. First one – every year I give away books for our Teen Summer Reading program, and I always have The Bell Jar as a choice. This year, I ran out of copies of that book. That got me thinking, and then what cemented it was an increase in teen patrons asking to check out the book. And, it never being on the shelf – I always had to place a request for interested patrons. I mean, it would have been her 82nd birthday on October 27th – but, not like a major milestone like a 100th birthday like in the case of poet Dylan Thomas. But, I noticed a lot of new books being published on Sylvia that included nonfiction and fiction. Maybe readers are just noticing these new books and wanting to go back to read her seminal work – who knows? All I know is it got me interested enough to want to recommend not only some old favorites that incorporate Sylvia into their story, but some newer titles I think readers might be interested in knowing about.

I’ll lead with the book that started this whole long convoluted journey for me…

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: So, yes – my very favorite book of all time. Originally published under a pseudonym in 1963, The Bell Jar tells the semi-autobiographical tale of Sylvia’s time in New York and beyond, starting with her time as an intern at a very prestigious magazine. Esther Greenwood is having a breakdown – she is questioning her place in the world as a woman, a girlfriend, an intellect, and how all those things feel like weights on her shoulders. Esther brings to life the feelings of confusion, sadness and anger in such a realistic way that I think readers come to see Esther as a friend and someone who might possibly be vocalizing their own real feelings in a way they were unable to do. I’ve had teen readers tell me that in the book they recognized themselves and suddenly the world felt a little less lonely. A story of finding yourself and questioning everything that will certainly appeal to readers who are navigating the tricky waters of personhood.

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer: This is one of the new books I was telling you about! Published just a few months ago, Belzhar tells the story of Jam. Her boyfriend, Reeve, has died and she just can’t cope – the sadness is overwhelming. Her parents decide to send her to The Wooden Barn, a boarding school that helps teens deal with difficult life situations in a way that they can return to their normal lives. What’s interesting about The Wooden Barn is that there is a very special class being offered – Special Topics in English. Doesn’t sound so special, but it is in that the teacher, Mrs. Quenell, specially chooses which students will be in her special topics class. She has chosen 5 students for this year’s class – Mrs. Quenell’s last one – and the special topic they’ll be studying – Sylvia Plath and her writing. All the students are required to write in journals that Mrs. Quenell has given them…and that’s when it turns strange. Jam realizes that when she writes in her journal she travels to a place where Reeve is still alive and she can be with him. But, she has to make a choice – to be with Reeve forever is to leave everything else behind. And, good grief, the big reveal at the end (and there are a couple) made me gasp out loud. An interesting study of Sylvia Plath and the depths of human emotion.

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder: This is another new book – and it’s nonfiction! For readers who have read The Bell Jar (and those who haven’t – it’s not necessary to have read it to enjoy this book), Elizabeth Winder gives an account of Sylvia’s summer in New York as a guest editor for Mademoiselle, as fictionalized in The Bell Jar through meticulous research and interviews with all the women who were there with her. It was interesting to meet the real people and read about the real experiences as detailed by Sylvia in her book. It was also a fascinating look at a young woman’s experience in 1950s New York.   She was on the cusp of adulthood – that time before college graduation, and she was in the greatest city on Earth with its’ specific rules and expectations. From fashion styles to food choices to what it was like to work at a bustling fashion magazine, Pain, Parties, Work is a glimpse into a time that has been lost to history and time. A fun and intriguing look at not only Sylvia’s experience there, but also that time in general that will appeal to readers fascinated with the 1950s and a woman’s place in it.

And, now for the oldies (but, still goodies…)

Your Own, Sylvia: a Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill: For readers wanting to know more about Sylvia, the current crop of biographies might be daunting and overwhelming. Author Stephanie Hemphill gives readers an alternative to straightforward biographies by attempting to show Sylvia through other people’s eyes. Readers will come to know and love Sylvia not through the famous poems she wrote, but through poems written in the voice of those who knew her throughout her life and leading up to her death. Through fictional poetry written by the author, many in the style of Sylvia’s own poems, readers experience the birth, life and death of Sylvia through the eyes of the myriad of people in her life including her husband, Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, her mother, Aurelia Plath, in addition to her many therapists, friends and mentors throughout her life. Readers look in on Sylvia through the happiest and saddest times, experiencing the emotions of others as they were inspired, overjoyed, hampered, and saddened by her actions. We read about her first suicide attempt through the eyes of her brother, Warren and feel the depths of despair at Sylvia’s discovery of her husband’s affair through the eyes of her neighbor and friend. Throughout the book, the poems are supplemented with basic facts and dates from which the fictional poetry was derived, as well as the names of Sylvia’s original poems on which the fictional ones were based. Readers will appreciate these bits of facts interspersed throughout the fictional poems. Your Own, Sylvia is a great introduction for both teens and adults to the life, death, and poetry of Sylvia Plath. Getting to know her so intimately will make both seasoned Plath readers and those new to her literary legacy wanting to find out more about this genius of confessional poetry. (A 2008 Printz Honor Book)

And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky: I really enjoyed this book – the story of Keek who is cooped up in her grandmother’s house with a serious case of the chicken pox. Her parents are separated, thanks to an indiscretion on the part of her father (with her friend!), her boyfriend is being a total jerk, and Keek is feeling alone, feverish and stir-crazy during this technology free summer. All she has is her well-worn copy of The Bell Jar and a typewriter her grandmother has that Keek is using to get all of her feelings out. Keek is just trying to make it day to day, but she feels bogged down both mentally and physically. She is confused and hurt by her father’s actions, she feels like her boyfriend doesn’t understand her, and she feels betrayed by someone who she trusted and thought was her friend. This summer is not what she pictured it would be – alone and hurting in her grandmother’s house – but, by the end, readers will see a transformation and maturity that will inspire those being haunted by those same feelings of confusion and sadness. A great book that weaves the legacy of Sylvia Plath in with a modern teenager’s life. (a 2011 YALSA Reader’s Choice Nominee)

I really enjoyed expanding my Plathian routine to include books, old and new, that show how Sylvia has continued to influence teen literature all this time after her death in 1963. For old and new fans alike, these books will, hopefully, give you something new to read or encourage those new to Sylvia Plath to explore her confessional poetry, novels and correspondence. Until next time, readers!

-Traci Glass, currently reading Pitch Perfect: the Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory by Mickey Rapkin

2014 Teens’ Top Ten: An Interview with Emmy Laybourne

Fri, 11/28/2014 - 07:00

The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in sixteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Celebrate Teen Literature Day, the Thursday of National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year.

The votes are in for 2014, and the winners have been announced– and we’re featuring them here on The Hub. Today we bring you an interview with Emmy Laybourne, who is on this year’s Teens’ Top Ten list for Monument 14: Sky on Fire.



How does it feel to be chosen in the Teens Top 10?
It feels absolutely fantastic that Sky On Fire was chosen as a Teens Top 10. It’s one thing to make it onto lists that booksellers put together, and entirely another to be put forward by teens themselves. Plus, check out the other names on the list! Holy smokes! Brandon Sanderson? Rick Yancey? Rainbow “my hero” Rowell?! I’m floored and honored beyond belief!

Do you think acting helped in your writing career?
Absolutely. It helped me to know how to create a character (and when you’re writing a book with fourteen kids trapped in a superstore together – you are juggling a lot of them). Working as an actor also taught me a lot about taking care of myself so that I can do good work. For example, when I’m drafting a book I go to bed early, I eat three square meals a day (with plenty of protein), I get to my office at the same time each day. I treat myself well so that I can produce!

What’s the best writing advice you can give to those during NaNoWriMo?
Don’t judge! Yes, there’s a time to take a step back and look at your work with a critical eye, but it ain’t in the month of November! Put your foot on the gas and don’t let up. Questions like, “Jeez, is this thing any good?” will completely derail you. Just write until you hit The End.

Is harder to write the first book or the sequel?
It’s harder to write the first book. There’s a lot of work to be done in establishing the world of the story, and the tone of the narrative voice you’re going to use. Once you’ve figured these things out, it’s easier to pick up where you leave off.

If you were forced to spend overnight in one store, what would it be?
I’d head immediately to the closest indie bookstore and settle in for a long, glorious night of books, books, books!

If you had to pick one natural disaster to be stuck in, which one would you choose?
Oof, this is a tough question. I like the drama of severe rainstorms, so I guess I’d say a hurricane, but I’ve seen firsthand the damage they can cause. Could I just say something like a sunshower or a rainbow attack?

Have you ever been in a survival situation- How did you handle it?

The closest I’ve come to a survival situation was when I was on a family ski trip and we got trapped in a blizzard in a rental car. Not very gritty, I know, but we did have to huddle together under a bunch of loose clothing and all we had to eat was a jar of kiddie vitamins…

What’s up for you next?
Sweet, my new book, comes out in June. Sweet tells the story of two teens who meet on a star-studded luxury cruise to launch a new diet sweetener. Only when the sweetener turns out to be highly addictive, the teens must fight to get word to the mainland when the cruise goes comically, then tragically, then terrifyingly wrong.

I just want to say thanks again to the teens who voted for Sky on Fire. I’m writing for you, guys!

~ Jennifer Rummel Currently Reading The Cinderella Murder by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke

Tweets of the Week: November 28th

Fri, 11/28/2014 - 07:00

Happy Day after Thanksgiving, Hub Readers! I hope you all had time to be thankful yesterday; I know I sure did! Be sure to check out these tweets of the week with news about Constantine, an awesome list of songs from some of my fave teen books & of course, Batman!  In case you missed it…I’m here to compile it all for you!

Books & Reading





— Traci Glass, currently reading All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

The Hub Bloggers Give Thanks

Thu, 11/27/2014 - 07:00

It’s a Thanksgiving tradition! At this time each year, the bloggers here at The Hub pause to take stock of what we’re thankful for in the world of young adult literature this year.

    • Sharon Rawlins
      I’m thankful for the continuation of The Walking Dead TV series (it just keeps getting better & better) and it has inspired me to read the comics it’s based on; for the great books I’ve been listening to on my long commute to work (A. S. King’s Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future was my latest “listen/read” and it was great, as all her books are); my fellow bloggers who write such inventive and inspiring posts; and my YA colleagues and the teens I meet who get me when I gush over the latest YA book I’ve read & loved. And, lastly for John Green, because, well, he’s John Green!
    • Faythe Arredondo
      This year I am grateful for Isabel Quintero and her book Gabi, a Girl in Pieces. It was the first time I recognized people I currently know and grew up with and read about situations I have witnessed.  I am also thankful for Lauren Oliver’s Panic which has characters who are low-income and struggling to get by.  We don’t see enough of those characters!
    • Whitney Etchison
      I’m thankful that YA lit creates a love for reading in people young and old!
    • Geri Diorio
      I am thankful for the YA literature community. The authors who write amazing things and who open themselves up on social media so their readers can “meet” them. The librarians who share book recommendations and who do not judge what people choose to read. The teens who are such huge fans of YA lit, who run into the Teen Center at the Library, shouting about the book they just read – they are so ardent in their love for the written word! And the YA Lit bloggers who read and write and argue and share so much because they care so much.

  • Jennifer Rummel
    Here’s what I’m thankful for this year:
    For the librarian world: I’m thankful for all the authors, publishers, and librarians who work hard to put amazing books in to the hands of teen readers.
    For myself: I’m thankful for all the great books I’ve read this year and for social media for the chance to talk about all the amazing books, bookish items, and library issues.
  • Julie Bartel
    I’m thankful for books that take hold and don’t let go, like Grasshopper Jungle, Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, the Raven Boys Cycle, and Midwinter Blood.  I’m thankful for authors who continue to entertain, enlighten, and expand my world. I’m thankful for the work of the amazing team behind We Need Diverse books and the ongoing conversation that is already helping to reshape the YA landscape.  I’m thankful for excellent Twitter conversations, amazing bloggers (especially those here at the Hub), and for the opportunity to write about the books and authors and community I love.  I’m thankful I had the opportunity to work with some amazing teen bloggers during our Teen Read Week extravaganza.  And I’m thankful for the amazing readers, librarians, authors, editors, and other members of the YA community that inspire me and make me laugh and make me think.
  • Carli Spina
    I am thankful that I have access to great libraries and know wonderful librarians who introduce me to interesting new books all the time. I’m also thankful for all the great new graphic novels that have come out this year, especially El Deafo by Cece Bell.
  • Kelly Dickinson
    I’m thankful for the young adult literature I read as a teen that both reaffirmed and challenged my emerging world view, including titles like Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books, and David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy and The Realm of Possibility. I’m thankful for the young adult novels I’ve read as an adult that have continued to pushed me to look at the world and myself with fresh eyes–and have reached right into my chest squeezed my heart with their humanity & emotional honesty; here I think of books like Aristotle & Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, The True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, or I Am J by Cris Beam.  And finally, I’m incredibly thankful for all the diverse books that speak to my students–for both the stories in which they find themselves and the stories that expand their vision of the world.
  • Lalitha Nataraj
    I am grateful to the community of authors, librarians, publishers, and readers who have rallied together to address the critical importance of telling and sharing diverse stories. #WeNeedDiverseBooks
  • Allison Tran
    I’ll wrap up this post by saying I’m also thankful for the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement. I’m so thankful this movement is encouraging readers everywhere to stop and think about their reading, the options presented to them by the publishing world, and the need for books to reflect the realities of all kinds of different people.

For more YA lit warm fuzzies, check out last year’s post and the year before that. What are you grateful for in YA lit this year, readers?

-Allison Tran, currently reading How it Went Down, by Kekla Magoon

2014 Teens’ Top Ten: Appreciating Rick Yancey

Thu, 11/27/2014 - 07:00

Thousands of teens across the country spent the summer reading the Teens’ Top Ten nominees. Voting for the top ten happened this autumn, and Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave is a winner!

This unique alien invasion novel was a critical and popular success when it came out last May. It is also a hit in Hollywood since it is being made into a 2016 movie starring Chloe Grace Moretz. And it certainly is a hit with teens since they voted it number 5 on the YALSA Teens’ Top Ten list for 2014.

The 5th Wave tells the story of life on earth after four waves of an alien invasion. The novel follows two young humans who are trying to survive at all costs: Cassie, a 16 year old whose best friend is her rifle, and Zombie, a 17 year old who used to be known as Ben and who used to be a jock, but who is now a militaristic killing machine. Readers never find out why aliens are invading the planet or why they are trying to eliminate humans, but these questions are almost superfluous as the survival tales of the two teens are so gripping and heart rending.

Yancey is a popular author with two other terrific YA series.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp series follows a young man who gets roped into outrageous adventures by his uncle. Car chases, parachuting, snowmobiling – there is plenty of action in these novels as Alfred goes looking for ancient artifacts like King Arthur’s sword or King Solomon’s seals.

The Monstrumologist series garnered Yancey a Printz honor for the first book. It tells the story of young orphan Will Henry who taken under the wing of a doctor, a doctor of monstrumology. Monsters are real, and Dr. Warthrop hunts them…with Will’s help. The series is scary and gory and a delight to fans of horror.

The Hub encourages you to read The 5th Wave (and all the Teens’ Top Ten titles) and once you have gotten hooked, why not read The Infinite Sea, the second book of The 5th Wave which just came out in September?

~ Geri Diorio, currently reading The Infinite Sea

2014 Teens’ Top Ten: An Interview with Brandon Sanderson

Wed, 11/26/2014 - 16:31

The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in sixteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Celebrate Teen Literature Day, the Thursday of National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year.

The votes are in for 2014, and the winners have been announced– and we’re featuring them here on The Hub. Today we bring you an interview with Brandon Sanderson, who appears TWICE on this year’s list, for his books The Rithmatist and Steelheart.

You’ve been writing for years, why turn towards YA?
I dipped my toes into middle grade with my Alcatraz series soon after I got published. I hadn’t written a YA before, but I wanted to—for the same reason I write epic fantasy: there are awesome things I can do in in epic fantasy that I can’t do in other genres. And there are awesome things I can do in teen fiction that I don’t feel I can get away with in the same way in adult fiction.

Science fiction and fantasy have a very fascinating connection with YA fiction. If you look at some of the series I loved as a youth—the Wheel of Time, Shannara, and the Eddings books, for example—these have enormous teen crossover. In fact, when you get to something like the Eddings books, you’ve got to wonder if they would’ve been shelved in the teen section in a later era.

Back up even further to the juveniles that were written by Heinlein and others, and we see that teen fiction has been an integral part of science fiction and fantasy. Some of the early fantasy writings—things like Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and C.S. Lewis’s works—were foundational in how the fantasy genre came to be.

So YA feels like a very natural thing for me to be writing because I enjoy it and I respect what it has done for the genres.

How did it feel to have 2 books on the Top Ten list this year?
I’m honored and grateful that teens are enjoying my books.

What’s the best writing advice you can give to those during NaNoWriMo?
I’ve actually done a few NaNoWriMo pep talks addressing this very thing, but in a nutshell, my best advice is to just keep at it. The best thing I learned from the two years I did NaNoWriMo prior to my getting a publishing contract is the importance of consistency. Just sitting down, setting a goal, and writing those words day after day. Here’s a few links expanding on that advice.

What are you reading now?
I do a lot of listening to audiobooks these days because I find they fit well into my busy schedule of writing, touring, and spending time with my family. Recently I’ve been listening to Robin Hobb’s latest fantasy Fool’s Assassin. She is not only one of my favorite fantasy authors but one of the best writers in the genre today.

What super power would you choose?
What power I would choose depends on how rational my brain is that day. It makes the most sense to have Wolverine’s regenerative powers. At the same time, it’s not like I’m jumping off cliffs or getting into fights. So I probably wouldn’t do much with this power.

But in the back of my mind, there’s a part of me that says, “Boy, would I really love to be able to fly!” Which is why a lot of the magic systems in my books wind up dealing with people having powers that let them soar in the air.

Would you be an Epic or an average teen?
I would probably have to say an average teen. I wrote David to be able to sympathize with the average person who is up against powers that are seemingly beyond their control. If I gained Epic powers, I worry that I would use them for the wrong reasons, which is part of the idea that inspired me to write Steelheart.

Would you like to be a Rithmatist?
I’m a logical person, so if I lived in the world of The Rithmatist, I’d be drawn to a magic like that. But in their world no one gets to choose whether they’re a Rithmatist or not, so maybe it’s better to live in our world, where I can choose to be a writer and don’t have to rely on the whims of a magic system.

If could create any kind of chalkling creature – what would it be?
I think that everyone in my position is going to say dragon. Many of us got started in fantasy by reading books about dragons, so there’s a special place for cool dragons in a fantasy writer’s heart. For example, Anne McCaffrey’s books are part of what pulled me into fantasy in the first place, so I’d have to take the cliché route and say dragons.

Please note that Brandon’s words are a transcription from audio recorded specifically for these interviews.

~ Jennifer Rummel, currently reading Everblaze by Shannon Messenger

Jukebooks: Every Breath by Ellie Marney

Wed, 11/26/2014 - 07:00

Mycroft and Watts are two very different teens,  but as best friends they balance each other perfectly. James Mycroft – brilliant and scarred  – has found a caretaker and best mate in Rachel Watts – a deceptively ordinary girl. When they discover Homeless Dave in the park with his throat cut, the pair launches an investigation a la Sherlock and Holmes. As they mull over the evidence, one of their friends recalls a line from Chuck Palahnuik’s book, Fight Club: “Live or die – Every breath is a choice.” This line will return later in the book when Watts and Mycroft find themselves in mortal danger, realizing each breath could be their last.

“Every Breath You Take” is a haunting song released in 1983 by the Police, a British trio with roots in 70s the punk scene. The song has a tension to it that creates an ominous mood: Is this a love song or a threat? Lead singer Sting’s intensity in the music video indicates it might be the latter….

-Diane Colson, currently reading an advance readers copy of The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne