Feel like you’ll miss some big important #yalit news if you’re not checking Twitter constantly? I hear ya. That’s why we do a round-up each week of all the best tweets.
- @sljournal: Star-crossed Love, Diabolical Mean Girls, and Unsolved Historical Mysteries | What’s Hot in YA http://ow.ly/ybhjH #yalit
- @lpltz: Check out the “science” of #yalit from @EpicReads http://www.epicreads.com/blog/the-periodic-table-of-epic-reads/ …
- @hmhkids: Contemporary YA is on the rise! @PublishersWkly points to a few of our favorites: http://bit.ly/1pkCf4g #yalit
- @FierceReads: Announcing #Fairest by @Marissa_Meyer, a NEW book in the NYT bestselling Lunar Chronicles! http://bit.ly/1lJSPYA
- @PheobeNorth: Good afternoon, gentle reader! Want a sneak peek at Starbreak? Tor.com has you covered! tor.com/stories/2014/0…
- @sdiaz101: Nice Diverse list! 25 of the best new middle grade novels CSMonitor.com csmonitor.com/Books/2014/061… #WeNeedDiverseBooks
Twitter is still talking about that one Slate article…
- @SimonPulseCA: We LOVE this amazing Anti-Anti-YA Book List from @publisherswkly, an embarassment of #YAlit riches: http://ow.ly/yb8Jy #YA
- @anniecardi: In which I defend YA and reference both Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech and Mean Girls: http://blog.pshares.org/index.php/five-reasons-not-to-feel-guilty-about-reading-ya/ … @pshares #yalit
- @pwkidsbookshelf: Tess Sharpe: “I believe in the life-saving power of YA fiction. I would not be here now without it” | Guardian http://pwne.ws/1oAONoD
- @LeeandLow: 20 YA novels to recommend to your adult friends: http://mf.tt/esOcX
- @haleshannon: This piece sums up why I turned to YA and genre writing. “My Prestigious Literary Novel” http://the-toast.net/2014/06/19/prestigious-literary-novel/ … via @TheToast
It’s Audiobook Month!
- @donalynbooks: June is National Audiobook Month. Check out these @YALSA‘s Amazing Audiobook Nominees: http://bit.ly/1uxPI6L http://fb.me/2qTsq27AE
- @audiobookSYNC: This week’s FREE audiobooks for Young Adults: CODE NAME VERITY and THE HIDING PLACE http://tinyurl.com/nnarbcm
- @this_is_teen: Love seeing #TakeABow by @ElizEulberg on this @Hypable list of 10 YA books that would make great movies! #IreadYA hypable.com/2014/06/19/ten…
- @gayleforman: You did it. You unlocked #IfIStay‘s Mia and Adam. Here are @ChloeGMoretz & @jamieblackley in all their haunting glory
- @oliverbooks: The unaired DELIRIUM pilot is going to air on Hulu! Let’s have a #DeliriumPilot viewing party on 6/20 at 6:30 EST! http://ow.ly/xYukb
- @cbcbook: Uriah will be in the 2nd installment of the #Divergent film series! http://ow.ly/xBc8s #yalit @vulture @VeronicaRoth
- @bookriot: Stop what you are doing. The Roots did a rap theme for Harry Potter: http://ow.ly/yehiD
- @geekquality: Guest poster @kdc‘s review of the Fan Fiction Studies Reader reveals some serious gaps in its academic analysis. http://ow.ly/ycdAv
Giveaways (and books deals!)
- @alicemarvels: Check out today’s stop on Charlie Higson’s Guide to London Tour + enter to win #TheEnemySeries! http://bit.ly/1oN3DWD #yalit #giveaway
- @epicreads: #FeedYourReader with these $1.99 YA ebook deals! ––> http://bit.ly/M904VO
- @tlt16 We’re giving away a HB copy of PROXY & a signed ARC of GUARDIAN by @ca_london http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2014/06/book-review-and-arc-giveaway-guardian.html … #WeNeedDiverseBooks #YALit
- @thatsoestelle Win a copy of one of my fav books this year + check out my Q&A w/@carriearcos about writing, her characters, more! ht.ly/yec0J
- Molly Wetta, currently listening to The Lost Sun by Tess Gratton
As this recurring feature on The Hub clearly indicates, I love fantasy fiction. But even a fan like myself must acknowledge that the genre has limitations, especially in terms of diversity. Speculative fiction has remained a fairly white, cis-gendered, & straight world for a long time. The fact that there seem to be more dragons and robots than LGBTQ+ characters in fantasy & sci-fi novels is shameful and disheartening, especially to the genres’ LGBTQ+ fans. So in celebration of LGBT Pride Month, I set out to overview the current status of LGBTQ+ representation in young adult fantasy and science fiction.
For readers interested in issues of diversity & representation in speculative fiction, Malinda Lo is one of the most exciting authors and insightful bloggers out there. Her work is also the perfect introduction to high fantasy featuring LGBTQ+ characters. For readers favoring fairy tale retellings, Malinda Lo’s Ash (2010 Morris Award Finalist, 2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) is an ideal romantic read. In this delicate Cinderella story, an orphaned young woman seeks escape from pain in the promises of a dark fairy but begins to question her choice when she falls in love with the king’s huntress. Meanwhile, readers looking for quest narratives featuring complex heroines should pick up Lo’s Huntress (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 Rainbow List, 2012 Amelia Bloomer List), which follows the journey of two very different young women as they attempt to restore balance to the world–and understand their intense connection.
High fantasy readers might also investigate Laura Lam’s Pantomime (2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2014 Rainbow List) and its sequel, Shadow Play. Set in a Victorian-inspired world filled with mysterious magical technology left behind by a past civilization, Pantomime holds the distinction of being one of the only young adult novels–fantasy or otherwise–with an intersex protagonist.
Additionally, Tamora Pierce has included LGBTQ+ characters in her novels. Okha, a trans woman, is a prominent supporting character in Bloodhound while Daja, one of the four protagonists in her Emelan series, is a lesbian. Kristin Cashore‘s novels Graceling (2009 Best Books for Young Adults), Fire (2010 Best Books for Young Adults), and Bitterblue (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2013 Rainbow List) also feature LGBTQ characters. Conversation surrounding her novels inspired Malinda Lo’s fantastic discussion on heteronormativity, same-sex romances, and world-building in fantasy.
Urban & Paranormal Fantasy
Readers who prefer fantasy focused on fae worlds lurking beneath city sidewalks or werewolves and vampires living in modern America need not fret–urban or paranormal fantasy titles featuring LGBTQ+ characters also exist! Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series feature gay and bisexual characters, including the fan favorite Magnus Bane who now has his own spinoff series of short fiction. Holly Black includes LGBTQ+ characters in her Modern Faerie series while her vampire thriller The Coldest Girl In Coldtown (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults) features a trans woman as a prominent supporting character. In Scott Tracey’s Witch Eyes trilogy, Braden sets out to explore his past and stumbles into an ancient magical freud–and a forbidden romance with the enigmatic Trey.
For those seeking some supernatural mystery, The Shattering by Karen Healey incorporates paranormal/horror tropes, Maori tradition & mythology, and diverse characters, including a young lesbian protagonist. Additionally, hannah moskowitz’s gritty fable Teeth (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults) explores family, love, sexuality, loyalty, and humanity through a brutal coming of age tale set on a island home to both magically healing fish and a half-human, half-fish boy.
The complicated history of LGBTQ+ characters in superhero stories deserves its own dedicated article but as a generally inexperienced reader of this subgenre, I’ll simply highlight a couple of titles. Hero by Perry Moore (2008 Best Books for Young Adults, 2008 Rainbow List, 2012 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) is a classic superhero coming of age novel with a protagonist struggling to hide both his emerging superhero powers & his sexual orientation from his ex-superhero father. Meanwhile, Kate Kane, the newest incarnation of Batwoman introduced by DC Comics in 2006, is an out lesbian whose adventures can be followed in relevant issues of the Batman universe comics as well as her solo series, Batwoman: Elegy (2011 Rainbow List, 2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens) and Batwoman Volume 1: Hydrology (2013 Rainbow List).
As we enter the world of science fiction featuring LGBTQ+ characters, we must return to Malinda Lo. Her Adaptation (2013 Rainbow List) and Inheritance duology are perfect for fans of government conspiracies, extraterrestrial encounters, and heart-pounding thrillers. However, these action-packed sci-fi adventures also explore sexuality, sexual orientation, and relationship dynamics, including polyamory. Meanwhile, Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle pays homage to classic B-movie sci-fi as Austin Szerba attempts to navigate the apocalypse and his confused feelings & constant lust for both his girlfriend & best friend.
In her excellent post,”The Goverment Can’t Stop Our Heterosexual Love: YA Dystopia From A Gay Perspective,” Chelsea Condren reasonably asked why we haven’t seen more dystopian fiction featuring LGBTQ+ characters. While the progress is small, I am happy to able to respond with a few titles.
Both Proxy by Alex London (2014 Rainbow List, 2014 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults) and The Culling by Steven dos Santos (2014 Rainbow List) are fast-paced dystopian adventures with young gay male protagonists. The cyberpunk Coda by Emma Trevayne focuses on Anthem, who teams up his girlfriend, ex-boyfriend, and friends to fight the all-controlling Corp and protect his younger siblings.
Meanwhile, Love in the Time of Global Warming (2014 Rainbow List), Francesca Lia Block‘s retelling of Homer’s Odyssey in post-apocalyptic L.A., focuses on four LGBTQ+ teens including the bisexual Pen and her love interest Hex, a young trans man. The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson (2014 Rainbow List, 2013 National Book Award nominee) imagines a matriarchal society in post-apocalyptic Brazil and investigates power, gender, sexuality, and art through the complex coming of age of June, her best friend Gil, and the charismatic Enki–with whom they’ve both fallen in love despite his fatal destiny as the sacrificial Summer King.
Please share your favorite speculative fiction titles featuring LGBTQ+ characters!
-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi and It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by danah boyd.
In just over a week, Las Vegas will be filled with librarians, library workers, publishers, and vendors for the American Library Association Annual Conference. There will be professional development sessions, committee meetings, award ceremonies, receptions, and author appearances galore– and there are plenty of YA literature related events you won’t want to miss. Here’s our round-up of what to mark on your schedule:
Friday, June 27th
- Michael L. Printz Award Program & Reception (8:00 – 10:00 pm, ticketed event)
Saturday, June 28th
- Sci Fi for Librarians Who Don’t Like Sci Fi (8:30 – 10:00 am)
- Margaret A. Edwards Brunch (10:30 am – 12 pm, ticketed event)
- Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Feedback session (1:00 – 2:30 pm)
- The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund – Intellectual Freedom and the Defense of Graphic Novels and Comic Books (1:00 – 2:30 pm)
- YALSA Happy Hour (5:00 – 7:00 pm… and okay, this event isn’t strictly YA lit related, but you know when a bunch of YALSA members get together, we’re going to talk books.)
Sunday, June 29th
Monday, June 30th
- Stranger Than Fiction: Reader’s Advisory for Nonfiction (3:00 – 4:00 pm)
- Odyssey Award Ceremony (3:30pm – 5:30pm)
Additionally, while YALSA’s award committee meetings are closed, the selected list committee meetings are open to all conference attendees, so if you want to see how the titles on lists like Best Fiction for Young Adults, Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults, or Great Graphic Novels for Teens are chosen, sit in on a selected list meeting! You can find the details on these sessions in the conference scheduler.
If you’re not going to Las Vegas, watch The Hub for coverage of events during and after the conference. You can also keep up with conference news on the YALSAblog and on Twitter with the hashtags #yalsa, #alaac14, #bfya.
For those of you who are headed to Vegas next week, what are you looking forward to the most?
-Allison Tran, currently reading Pointe by Brandy Colbert
It’s a gloomy time in the not-so-distant future. The Earth has deteriorated so quickly that people born in our time have witnessed its full and brutal destruction. Now they are around one hundred years old, suffering from memories of fresh ocean breezes, shade-dappled forests, and starry blankets of night sky. All of these are gone. To assuage the pain of this global loss, people can sign a contract to end their lives in a simulation of the good ol’ times. The parents of seventeen year-old Nat and her fourteen year-old brother, Sam, have chosen to do just that. The whole family will fly to Hawaii for a highly scripted good-bye to Mom and Dad.
Part of the presentation involves evoking memories of the lost past. This includes music. On one evening they show a hologram of Maria Callas singing “Peace, Peace, My God” (“Pase, Pase, Mi Dio”), an aria included in Giuseppe Verdi’s The Force of Destiny (La Forza del Destino.) As Nat observes: “I’d never listened to opera before. I thought it would be high and screechy and flat boring, but this was – it is beautiful. I didn’t understand a word.” (p126)
Diane Colson, currently reading Fan Art by Sarah Tregay.
The summer solstice is the longest day of the year, or in other words, the twenty-four hour period with the greatest amount of sunlight. This year in the northern hemisphere the summer solstice will take place on this coming Saturday, June 21st, and in the southern hemisphere on December 21st. Just think of all those hours of natural light to read by in a comfy hammock! This definitely calls for a reading list.
The roots of summer solstice celebrations are pagan and over time also became associated with the Christian St. John’s Day. Currently, the summer solstice is celebrated by many, including practitioners of Wicca and also residents of northern Europe, where it is a secular festivity. The summer solstice is particularly important in the Scandinavian and Baltic countries. In Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania the summer solstice, known as Midsummer, is even a public holiday occurring on June 24th.
There are several young adult novels concerning or including the summer solstice, in particular a few which have been published fairly recently. The following are a sampling. Grab one this Saturday, go relax in the sunshine and enjoy!
Shadow of the Mark by Leigh Fallon
In the first book of the Carrier trilogy, Carrier of the Mark, American teen Megan, who has moved with her family to a small town in Ireland, learns that she is actually the human representation of air, one of the four elements. In book two of the series, Shadow of the Mark, Megan and her boyfriend Adam, who is the element of water, and his siblings Áine (Earth) and Rían (Fire) must get themselves ready for the summer solstice Alignment, a rite in which the four elements become one. There are various complications in the novel, including the fact that any union between Megan and Adam may end up killing him. There are also Druids and knights who are sometimes of assistance to the four teens and sometimes in conflict with each other. Megan herself must decide to take action if things are going to come to a positive resolution in this suspenseful paranormal romance.
Spellbinding by Maya Gold
Although she has a best friend, sixteen-year-old Abby has felt invisible most of her life. Through a genealogy assignment in history class, she learns that she is a descendant of Sarah Good, who was branded a witch and hanged in the seventeenth century. In the course of her research, Abby visits the town of Salem, Massachusetts, where she finds a part-time job and a boy to whom she is incredibly attracted. She develops the powers of telekinesis and fire-conjuring, both frightening and thrilling to her. She begins using spells to strike back at the classmates who have bullied her. Abby eventually realizes that she must choose whether to retain her powers or her humanity. The summer solstice plays an important role in the plot of this mix of magic, romance and the paranormal.
Solstice by P.J. Hoover
Piper Snow is a teen in Austin, Texas, living through a Global Heating Crisis in a dystopian future in which each day is scorchingly hot. The heat bubbles over the world’s cities decrease available resources and increase crime for those who do not live under protective domes. Piper and her mother have a gift for cultivating plants, helping them to provide sustenance in this dire situation. On Piper’s 18th birthday several unusual things arrive, including a mysterious gift from an unknown giver, two good-looking guys and word that her father has located her and her mother. From the bad boy of her two new suitors, Piper learns that the Greek gods are still on earth and below it, in the Underworld, which she begins to explore. It becomes apparent that Piper may play a part in the climate change that is larger than she imagined.
Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith
High school senior Ondine and her best friend, Morgan, have always felt that they were different to others, but could never pinpoint why. Nix, a newcomer to Portland, Oregon, where the two girls live, feels the same about himself. At a summer solstice party in the wild to which the three are invited, they learn that they are actually fay, or changelings. This means that they have fairy blood but mortal bodies and will soon return to their spirit homes. Each teen reacts differently to this revelation about their true natures, whether rejoicing in it, feeling the calm of answered questions, or simply rejecting the news. However, the teens come together to attempt to save a human from the destructive will of a dangerous fairy.
- Anna Dalin, currently listening to A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
With summer just around the corner and the weather improving, summer camp season is almost upon us. This traditional summer activity offers so many possible adventures that it has long been a staple of stories about teens. While there are plenty of other stories set during summer vacation, there is something special about heading away from home for a summer in a cabin or a tent. Whether you are looking for something to read with a flashlight in your cabin after lights out or want to live vicariously, here are some great books about summer camp!
Brain Camp by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan with illustrations by Faith Erin Hicks - When the concerned parents of Jenna and Lucas are told that their children are being invited to spend the summer at Camp Fielding, known for churning out brilliant overachievers, they leap at the opportunity. But once Jenna and Lucas arrive, they realize that not everything is as it seems as campers around them become mindless but superficially smart. Told with just the right mix of creepiness and humor, this book, which appeared on the 2011 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens list, is the perfect book for reluctant campers looking for some laughs.
The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini – Perry Eckert just wants to be left alone to play his role-playing game in peace, but when his family decides that he will benefit from a summer away at camp where he can become more social, he ends up at camp in the middle of the forest. While wandering alone in the surrounding area, Perry stumbles upon a portal to a world populated by the Other Normals, beings much like those found in his role-playing game. In this world, he confronts conflicts he could never have imagined and must strive to find his inner hero.
Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt with illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault – For reasons that she will never understand, Hélène’s classmates have suddenly turned on her, taunting her and making her life miserable. While dealing with feelings of isolation and a gloominess that has come with it, she retreats into the world of Jane Eyre; but when she discovers that her entire class is going on a camping trip, her stress levels rise even higher. At camp, Hélène learns that not all of her classmates are against her. The artwork in this book perfectly complements the story and helps the reader to connect with Hélène. Whether you typically read graphic novels or not, this is a wonderful book that tackles the difficult topic of bullying.
Paul Has a Summer Job by Michel Rabagliati – Set in Quebec in the 1970s, this graphic novel follows Paul as he is forced to abandon his art and his education due to his poor grades. Though he is expecting a nice relaxing summer break, he instead finds himself as a camp counselor, living in tents and bonding with other teens while he takes care of young campers. Illustrated with a simple style of artwork, this is a fun story of camp and the impact it can have on the lives of both campers and counselors.
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan – Just after finding out that he is the son of the Greek god Poseidon and a mortal woman, Percy Jackson is sent to Camp Half Blood where he meets other descendants of gods. While some may have seen the movie based on this book (which was both a Best Books for Young Adults 2006 and a 2008 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults pick), it is definitely worth returning to the books themselves not only for the scenes at camp, but also for the character of Percy, who gains confidence over the course of his adventures after years of struggling with learning disabilities.
Hopefully these books have you ready for summer and possibly even a trip to camp. Let me know in the comments if I have missed any other great books about summer camp!
- Carli Spina, currently reading Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill
Since you are readers of YA and children’s books, you are likely aware of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement, which ignited about a month ago in response to BEA’s all-white lineup for their first ever Book Con. While the hashtag has died down, the furor, uproar, and excitement certainly have not.
Some librarians and authors (myself included) have decided to take a similar effort to Annual later this month. This is something that can be done in person and online, so you can participate whether or not you’ll be at the conference.
The goal is simple: ask reps on the exhibits floor to show you their diverse titles. Ask if they know what those titles are. As many people have noted in the past month (and before), part of the problem with diversity in YA is that publishers do not seem to dedicate the same effort, care, and promotion to these titles as they do to their “mainstream” or “general” ones, so even if they exist, they quickly get lost in the shuffle and then don’t sell, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, since books can’t sell if no one knows they exist. So ask the reps (or, let’s be honest, the editors themselves are often present) to show you what they have in the way of non-white, non-cisgendered, non-heterosexual, or differently abled characters and stories. Are they prepared for the questions? Do they know what kinds of diversity their publisher has in its upcoming catalog? What does it say about them if they know or don’t know? What does it say if they don’t have anything to offer you? If you don’t ask, they won’t know how many people are searching for diverse books.
If you’re fired up about this important topic, tweet about it with the hashtag #DiversityatALA (it’s probably best to use this in conjunction with the official conference hashtag, #alaac14). This is a great way to get buzz going and to ask people to join in on making sure everyone who works at every booth hears this question over and over again. It’s an important one (What are you doing to diversify your list? Does diversity matter to you and your company?), and it’s my belief, at least, that they’re more likely to change for the better if one of their major stakeholder groups (librarians, of course) say they won’t stand for anything less. So tweet your friends and ask them to join in; tweet publishers and editors who will be exhibiting and ask them to be prepared; tweet your favorite authors and tell them you’ll be supporting their works.
It’s up to you what you do with their responses. I, for one, won’t be at Annual this year, but as I’ve been to quite a few conferences in the past few years, I feel pretty saturated with ARCs about the same old characters and the same old problems, and unless it’s an author or a book I’ve heard A LOT of buzz about or I’m personally a fan of, I plan on refusing most ARCs I’m offered if they’re not doing something for diversity in literature. I just don’t care anymore; I don’t need my apartment cluttered with clichés and more books that don’t acknowledge the existence or richness of my story and the stories of the people I know and see in my daily life.
We know you won’t necessarily know what to ask for – upcoming diverse titles don’t always get the publicity spotlight they deserve. So Sharon Rawlins, Allison Tran, and I are preparing a list of upcoming books from major publishers that we think would fit into the #WeNeedDiverseBooks umbrella. Obviously, publishers may not have ARCs for all upcoming titles, but even asking about these titles says that you’re aware of them and want to support them when they do come out. So we’ve scoured fall and winter catalogs to give you some names to drop right away, and Sharon will have a list of recent diverse books you may have missed. Look for that post here on The Hub the week before Annual.
And, of course, I want to know what your plans are for Annual. Do you have any publishers you like to visit? Editors you know are champions of diversity? Books that you’re on pins and needles waiting for and dying to get a sneak peek at? Let us know in the comments! We can’t do this without crowdsourcing.
–Hannah Gómez, having just finished The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson and trying to decide on her next read
Good morning, Hub readers!
Last week, we asked you to weigh in on the most unusual source of magical or supernatural powers in YA lit. The top result, with 49% of the vote, was “choking on your dinner” from Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star. Unusual indeed! Second runner up, with 29% of the vote, was “gemstone in your navel” as depicted in Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. 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 continuing the fantasy theme, but turning our attention to setting. Summer is almost here, and surely your mind must be wandering to vacation plans. Ponder this: what if your travel dreams weren’t constrained to the real world? What if you could visit the setting of your favorite fantasy book? Dangerous, dark, or beautiful– which entirely fictional place from YA lit would be your vacation spot of choice? Cast your vote below, or add your suggestions in the comments!Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
Still 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 3 counts, so sign up now! You have just over a week left!
As The Hub Manager, I’m not officially participating in The Hub Reading Challenge– but I am reading along for fun, and I love the books I’ve encountered so far! I just finished reading the Printz Award winner, Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, and can’t stop thinking about it. I had no idea what to expect, and it was absolutely captivating. Too, I had read Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park before the challenge, but I re-experienced it via the Odyssey Honor winning audio format, and fell in love with the story all over again.
So, with the challenge deadline of June 22 approaching, how’s your reading going? Have you read anything that particularly surprised you? A few of you have signed up in the last few weeks with the intent of powering through, which I think is awesome and admirable. Update us in comments here, or share your thoughts on social media using the #hubchallenge hashtag.
The 2014 Hub Reading Challenge runs until 11:59 PM EST on June 22nd. We’ll have one last check-in post next Sunday morning, so you can share your thoughts about the book(s) you read/listened to this week and share links to any reviews you post online. If you want to share your thoughts immediately, use the social media hashtag #hubchallenge, or join the 2014 Hub Challenge group on Goodreads.
If you have already completed the challenge by reading or listening to 25 titles from the list of eligible books, be sure to fill out the form below so we can send you your Challenge Finisher badge, get in touch to coordinate your reader’s response, and, perhaps best of all, 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/listening to 25 titles.
Almost a year ago, I was sitting in a ballroom in Chicago, watching Benjamin Alire Sáenz deliver a moving, and deeply personal speech during the Printz Award reception. Like most of the people there, I was listening intently and reaching up, at times, to brush away tears. Though his fellow awardees also presented beautifully eloquent remarks, it was Sáenz’s words that left a lasting impression on me. He referred to himself as a “cartographer” who, in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2013 Stonewall Book Award, 2013 Printz Honor, 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten, and Pura Belpre Author Award), created a “roadmap…for boys who were born to play by different rules.”
During Sáenz’s speech, I thought about my friend, Julian, and his struggles during our teens. Jules was just starting to come to terms with his sexuality – the summer before our senior year, he told me that he was pretty certain that he was gay. Growing up during the 1980s-90s in a middle class suburb of Los Angeles, with a predominantly Latino population, we didn’t really have access to the wealth of LGBT resources that are freely available today. Also, people simply didn’t talk about those things (unless it was to make some tasteless, hurtful joke). So it was hardly a surprise that he bided his time, waiting until college to come out and be himself completely. After reading Aristotle and Dante, I sent Julian a text, begging him to pick it up. I said, “This is the book you needed to read at 16.” It took him a while, but he finally read it and wrote me this message: “Thank you for recommending this book so many months ago. It made me laugh from the first few pages. I’ve been savoring every page as it pulls me in and reminds me of the awkwardness and possibilities of adolescence.”
June is Pride Month, which celebrates the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and affirms their right to live visibly in dignity and equality. In honor of Pride, I want to share some amazing LGBTQ novels (some of which aren’t out yet, but you’ll want to add them to your to-read pile) that had me laughing and crying all over the place.
Taking its title from a gorgeous Rufus Wainwright song, Michael Barakiva’s One Man Guy is about a boy who experiences first love and the importance of living one’s life with integrity. After earning less than stellar grades during his freshman year, 14-year old Alek Khederian is forced to attend summer school to improve his academic performance. There, he meets free-spirited skater boy, Ethan and the two share a sweet and funny romance. Alek learns a lot from his boyfriend, but he also imparts some pretty valuable lessons to Ethan, as well. Alek’s pride in his Armenian cultural heritage, as well as his tender relationship with his parents (which is, at times, fraught with tension – he is a teen, after all!) add much depth to this story.
Sara Farizan’s debut novel, If You Could Be Mine (2014 Best Fiction For Young Adults), was a heartbreaking examination of lesbian romance in Iran, where homosexuality is criminalized. Dealing with a situation beyond her control, Sahar makes a desperate decision in order to be with the girl she loves. This thought-provoking book presents a unique and vital glimpse into queer lives in Iran – I could not put it down. In her fabulous sophomore novel, Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel (Algonquin Books, October 2014), Farizan revisits Iranian culture (well, actually this time it’s Iranian-American), and lesbian identity and relationships, but also adds some levity to the story. 16-year old Leila knows she likes girls but hasn’t gotten around to telling anyone yet. When gorgeous new girl, Saskia, arrives in town, the teen is smitten. Farizan deftly balances humor (Leila’s interactions with her friends, as well as her relationship with Saskia) with serious drama (Leila’s fear of coming out to her family).
Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews (September 2014, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). In this uplifting memoir, 17-year old Arin Andrews shares intimate details of his life, including his profound discomfort and confusion at having been born in the body of a girl, as well as his journey towards gender reassignment. Andrews also details his relationship with ex-girlfriend, Katie Hill (who is also transgender), which made national headlines last year and was profiled on 20/20. Hill will be releasing her memoir this fall, Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition (September 2014, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers).
Far from You by Tess Sharpe. Notable for its bisexual main character and frank portrayal of disability. “Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.” (Description from Goodreads.com)
-Lalitha Nataraj, currently reading Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen
A few conferences are coming up, so check out these hashtags for more info: #yallfest You can see the full author line up here. Also check out either #ala14 or #alaac14 (The conference real one is #alaac14, but many people are using #ala14).
After all the anger last week at that article slamming YA (and YA readers), here is something positive:
@maureenjohnson: A good article about YA has apeared in @TheAtlanticENT. Now THIS is the way to start the morning. http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/06/why-fault-in-our-stars-is-not-ya-fictions-savior/372441/ …
- @boothheather: Ten reasons why it is okay to read YA http://www.matthaig.com/ten-reasons-it-is-okay-to-read-ya/ …
- @YABliss: This week’s YA Releases! http://www.yabliss.net/2014/06/ya-releases_9.html … #yalit
- @jenmalonewrites:MG lovers: have you discovered Middle Shelf Magazine yet? I interviewed the editor-in-chief on @TheKidliterati here: http://www.kidliterati.com/2014/06/reaching-readers-through-middle-shelf.html …
- @sljournal:Banned Comics Week is Coming — Good Comics for Kids http://ow.ly/xMMkl
- @this_is_teen: Have you seen @mstiefvater‘s trailer for #Sinner yet? We can’t get it out of our heads! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-XqPxZnMUg&sns=tw …
- @HMHKids:Contemporary YA is on the rise! @PublishersWkly points to a few of our favorites: http://bit.ly/1pkCf4g #yalit
- @BookRiot : The World Cup Reading List: The Best Books About Soccer: http://ow.ly/xQJry
- @4everYA: YA Movie News: IF I STAY prologue, new trailer for THE GIVER, tons of INSURGENT updates and more. http://foreveryoungadult.com/2014/06/10/ya-movie-news-roundup-see-the-prologue-for-if-i-stay/ …
- @BookRiot: New trailer for THE GIVER! http://ow.ly/xN63O
- @DivergentsUK: Finally we have a Uriah! Everyone please welcome @KeiynanLonsdale to the Divergent family! #Divergent #Insurgent pic.twitter.com/B6Xyw6TNWv
- @YAmzine: Who should direct @rainbowrowell Eleanor & Park… http://bit.ly/SzpUuC
- @netflix : Seatbelts, everyone! Reimagined Magic School Bus series coming to Netflix http://nyti.ms/1ph0113
- @Kody_Keplinger:Um, freaking out a little. One of my favorite actresses was just cast in #TheDUFF! http://www.deadline.com/2014/06/cbs-films-sets-cast-for-the-duff/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter …
- @JensBookPage: Good news! RT @tashrow Libraries see light after years of cuts http://buff.ly/1ulvqiq #libraries
- @sljournal: Making Your Maker Space: Building for Hands-on Learning in Libraries http://ow.ly/xPKTF
- @sljournal: ALA Announces First Ever Winner of the Lemony Snicket Prize http://ow.ly/xPAd7
- @BookRiot: Why Isn’t Just Reading Enough Anymore? @kimthedork with a rant about what publishers want from readers: http://ow.ly/xPE7m
- @maureenjohnson: The best response I’ve seen yet to last week’s crappy YA article: http://www.nerve.com/books/a-young-adult-authors-fantastic-crusade-to-defend-literatures-most-maligned-genre …
- @PWKidsBookshelf:The Dudes Who Read Young-Adult Fiction | New York magazine http://pwne.ws/1xynKfh
- @naturallysteph: Absolutely fantastic article by @jkbibliophile, “Harry Potter And The Forbidden Books”: http://www.npr.org/2014/05/31/315204299/harry-potter-and-the-forbidden-books …
- @abbylibrarian: Okay, this post about readers’ advisory and the READING SPA @amyeileenk went on is AMAZING. Read, please. http://showmelibrarian.blogspot.com/2014/06/thoughts-on-readers-advisory.html …
- @quirkbooks : The benefits of reading YA as an adult. http://huff.to/1li3J7i (via @HuffPostBooks)
Just for Fun:
- @Scholastic: Which children’s book character are you? Fun quiz helps promote childhood literacy! http://www.helpthemread.org
- @AALBooks: Looks like we no longer work on floor 9… pic.twitter.com/XpeCRTdMVg
- @sljournal: YA Authors who Give Back, From John Green to Ellen Hopkins http://ow.ly/xQBBb
- @harperteen : RT @EpicReads: That time you fell for a character. . . and then they died. #BookNerdProblems ––> http://shrd.by/j9BTMr
- @LRS_CO : What type of library user are you? Find out by taking @pewinternet ‘s interactive quiz: http://ow.ly/xQJSp
- @sljournal : What’s On Your Summer Reading List? | Authors and Illustrators Respond http://ow.ly/xSVXt
~ Jennifer Rummel currently reading Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.
One of the things I love most about doing this interview series is getting a little sideways glimpse of the incredible people behind the books I love. In order to figure out what questions I want to ask I read a lot of background material–blog posts, interviews, speeches, reviews and such–and I try and read a lot of their work, if I haven’t already. The whole process is very indulgent, and often quite fun in and of itself. And then I send off the interview and am further rewarded with lovely answers to my questions and often the additional treat of trading a handful of emails or whatnot in the process. This is not a terrible gig, that’s for sure.
As usual, I’ve just inhaled half a dozen books, along with years of blog posts and interviews and all sort of other bits and pieces found online, and it’s truly been a strange and wonderful couple of weeks. I’d read a handful of these books before, and sort of knew what I was getting into, but immersing myself in the language, the ideas, the characters and stories turned out to be a bit of a revelatory experience and one I’d highly recommend. White Crow. Midwinterblood. Revolver. These books are not easy to shake, and I don’t really want to. But honestly, the sideways glimpse I’ve been given of the man behind the words, patched together from correspondence and interviews and blog posts, is going to stick with me just as long; being familiar with his books didn’t really prepare me for just how generous and gracious and engaging he is, and I certainly wasn’t aware of his amazing ability to bend time, his excellent taste in music, or his passion for comics.
It’s been one year since the first One Thing Leads to Another post appeared on The Hub, and I feel remarkably honored to start year two, interview 13, with 2014 Michael L. Printz Award Winner Marcus Sedgwick. Thank you so much, Marcus, for your willingness to share the painful details, for showing us what determination can accomplish, and for indulging my ’80s music obsession.Always Something There to Remind Me
Please describe your teenage self.
Oh God, do I have to? Shy, quiet, introspective, shy, gawky, spotty, shy, timid, scared, shy, nervous and did I mention that I was shy..?
What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
I had no idea what I wanted to be when I was a teenager. That worried me I think – I had no idea what life was about, what it could be about, what I wanted, what there even was to think about doing. I found the thought of the adult world very frightening, and still do, in many ways. I had no idea about how things work; things like jobs, money, insurance, mortgages, etc. etc. The adult world seemed so complicated but to be honest, I was just struggling with being a teenager to worry too much about the years to come.
What were your high school years like?
High school was pretty traumatic. I went to a type of English school called a Grammar School. These are typically old establishments – mine was founded in 1563 (and that’s by no means the oldest), and very often in the ’80s, when I was there, they were still stuck in the past. Violence came from not just the other boys (it was a single sex school) but from the masters too. And though being beaten up or hit with a hockey stick was bad, it was the psychological torture that was worse. The school seemed to almost condone such matters. We were told it was ‘character building,’ but it certainly didn’t work for a timid, shy (did I mention that already?), weak young boy. Sorry, this is turning into a therapy session! The whole thing was pretty rough with the exception of two teachers who made life tolerable, so my mental energies were pointed in the direction of home, where I was much, much happier. I am lucky to have come from a truly loving family.
What were some of your passions during that time?
As an older teenager, music began to be really important to me. I was a first generation Goth – I think because it felt more real to me than the commercial pap of the mainstream. Plus the music was great. And the look. My first ever gig wasn’t goth though, but The Smiths, and that probably was a major boost to me – it set me on a course of going to loads of concerts. I was also, and still am, very much into classical music – it was Mozart and Wagner back then. Wagner became Mahler as I grew older, and nowadays, it’s Richard Strauss, who I believe has composed the most sublime music of all time, with the possible exception of Chopin. I did little sport as a teenager, but I read a lot. I was one of those teens who didn’t cause their parents any problems – I sat in my room, listening to music and reading – the most important book of my life then was the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake. That certainly changed my life, and I have my Dad to thank for introducing them to me.
Would you be willing to share a difficult teen experience or challenge that you feel shaped the adult you became?
Oh, whoops, it looks like I did that already! See above… Which is not one specific incident, but rather the accumulated painful experiences of High School. It left me as a very worried individual, but there was the seed of something positive about me, and that thing was…
What about a positive experience or accomplishment that had an impact on your adult self?
… determination. It’s almost the only quality of myself that I am proud of. I am very determined, so on the very day that I arrived at University, I decided that I couldn’t go on being so shy (did I talk about that? Maybe I haven’t spelled out exactly how painful, how disabling, my shyness was – it stopped me from doing almost anything, from answering the phone to making friends to speaking to girls etc. etc). On that day, as I arrived at University, I decided that I would pretend I wasn’t shy. No one knew me. I could reinvent myself. So I did. And after about three months went by, I realized I was no longer shy. I was normal – which is to say, shy sometimes, confident others, sad then happy then calm then excited. But no longer was I permanently disabled by shyness.
What advice, if any, would you give your teen self? Would your teen self have listened?
I would like to be able to give myself lots of advice. Like: stop worrying so much; it will be okay. You won’t be spotty forever. You’re not as ugly as you think you are. You will one day not only be able to talk to girls but will actually go out with them too. I would have listened, but I’m not sure I would have believed any of it. And if I had told myself that one day I would be able to give a presentation to several hundred people for an hour or so without feeling nervous, I would have been sure I was lying.
Do you have any regrets about your teen years? Anything left undone or anything that might have been better left undone?
It’s a shame that I was so timid. But it was me, and it was the way things were. I could have had more fun perhaps, but I think it does mean I won’t ever become too arrogant towards other people, because I know what it is to feel scared.
What, if anything, do you miss most about that time?
My Dad. He died when I was just 20, and apart from him, you can keep my teenage years. But I do miss not having to worry about money/jobs/cars/houses/insurance/mortgages, and all that other deeply dull stuff that adults have invented for themselves.
Your new book, She Is Not Invisible, is about coincidences and you’ve noted that you’ve had some “pretty weird ones happen” to you over the years. Would you be willing to share some of the weird ones? How did the idea of “coincidence”– rather than any particular coincidence in itself—come to fascinate you and what drew you to the idea of writing a whole book about it?
The weirdest thing that ever happened to me, by far, is the coincidence that happens to the writer, Jack Peak, in the book. The thing with the book on the train, the German lady etc. etc. This coincidence is so weird that most people don’t believe me when I tell them, and I have told very few people as a result. So I stopped telling people and decided to put it in the book instead, but actually my interest in coincidences goes back years before that – I didn’t want to write about one single coincidence because, for various reasons, coincidences are very hard to write about. On the one hand, they are what bad writers use to make their plots work. On the other, people aren’t interested in minor coincidences, and, as I found, they don’t believe the major ones. So I thought it would be better to tackle the subject sideways, through the eyes of a writer who is himself obsessed by the subject.
Critics have highlighted various themes in your work—love, loss, and sacrifice, among them—but I’m particularly interested in the things you yourself have had to say about the power of “belief.” You’ve written that Dark Satanic Mills, the graphic novel you wrote with your brother, was heavily influenced by William Blake and that “our message, if we have one, is Blake’s: create your own system of belief, or be enslaved by another man’s.” In other words, “believe what you want to believe, not what you are told to believe.” Your YA novel White Crow also deals explicitly with the ideas of belief and conscience, especially the consequences of questioning beliefs. Could you talk about the power and consequences of belief and how you explore those ideas in your work and in your interaction with readers?
We live in interesting times, and they are times of change in terms of what belief means. The impression I get of the UK and the US is that to a greater or lesser extent, much of the nation is becoming less ‘religious’, while certain sections of it are finding more extreme versions of religion to believe in. The US may well be a little different from the UK, so I shouldn’t speak about what I don’t know about, but in the UK although we are still a nominally Christian country, report after report shows that most people are at most agnostic now, and go to church once a year for Christmas, out of habit, if at all.
But this does not mean that people have stopped needing to believe in things, and so I see many people turning to alternative forms of belief and worship. And all of those are fine by me as long as no one tries to force their beliefs on anyone else. That’s when the problems start. If you take a look at a book like White Crow, its antihero, Ferelith, is obsessed with the matter of life after death, and yet she herself is not religious per se. I wanted to portray a young adult, who I see very often; someone who wants to believe in something, and yet is being offered nothing by the modern pop culture around them. We worship celebrities now, sports stars and film stars, and people with no talent but for making people gossip about them. I think there are lots of people, and among them many teenagers, who feel shortchanged by the vapidity of all of that, and would like something that speaks to them. That was what was at the heart of White Crow.
In a recent interview you explained that folk and fairy tales “are almost my favourite kind of story, and so, ever since I became a writer, I have always tried to find ways of working elements of folklore into my books. How? By using iconic images, words with deep resonance, patterns of storytelling and certain motifs which remind us, subconsciously at least, of those dark stories we all heard at a tender age.” Could you talk a bit more about this? What tales were you drawn to growing up and have they changed over the years? Do you have any favorites? Do you consciously look for ways to work elements into your stories or is it a more subtle process? And finally, in the same interview you say, “if I can’t get away with writing new fairy tales, at least I can enjoy plundering our literary heritage to populate my books,” which leaves me wondering why you don’t think you can get away with writing a new fairy tale, and whether you might change your mind someday?
Yes, I love fairy tales, and folk tales of all kinds, from all cultures and all times. I think they have deep resonance for us, and I have always worked, both explicitly and more subconsciously, to incorporate their rhythms and tropes into my work. There are rich veins of story to be mined, and adapted and plundered! I loved Russian fairy tales as a kid, and Greek and Norse myth. I have read many more varieties of story now, from Sweden to England to North America, and they all have their own special quality and power.
The only reason I said I can’t get away with writing new ones is because I wouldn’t be able to find a publisher for them – publishers will tell you such things don’t sell, and they may be right, but I’d love to find out some time. The closest some people have come is to adapt old stories and recast them in modern clothes, as I did with Cassandra in The Foreshadowing in fact. And yet, in certain countries, eg Slovenia where I was recently, their most famous modern author wrote dozens of new fairy tales that are loved and revered.
Not only do you write and draw, you also play the drums and are clearly an avid music lover. You’ve said that music has inspired many parts of your books, including the chapter titles in White Crow, and “much of the Book of Dead Days [which] was inspired by Schubert’s epic song cycle, Winterreise.” The 2014 Printz Award-winning Midwinterblood includes “lines by Nick Drake and Led Zeppelin…tucked away in the text, but the most significant source for the book is Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, which is probably the piece that made me fall in love with classical music, as well as modern music. I first heard it at the age of around 14 and as the saying goes, it blew my tiny mind. More energy than the Sex Pistols, freakier than Hendrix…” Could you describe your relationship with music over the years and how it colors or inspires your writing? Do you have a sense of why particular songs or bands or musicians or composers resonate for you? And since it sounds like our late teen musical tastes overlap, I have to ask you about your goth days and those early concerts—any memorable moments you’d be willing to share?
Music is something I love almost more than I love words. It’s a close fight between the two. But rather than let it be a fight, I have tried to let music into my head to colour my imagination and to stir my thoughts. I love (almost) all forms of music. It is my belief that the very best of any genre is worth listening to, and as to what it is that resonates for me – it has to be something that is authentic. So I can’t listen to mass-produced chart pap, although I can listen very happily to great pop music if it has something in its heart that is true. I tend to like slightly more obscure pieces of music than the mainstream as a result, but that’s not deliberate – as I say, if a piece of pop music is great, I will happily listen to it as well as the weirdest thing on my iPhone.
I don’t understand why people delineate between the genres they listen to and the ones they don’t. Maybe it’s fear or ignorance that does that, but actually I think we live in much more enlightened and all-embracing times than when I was young. Because what makes two pieces of music similar is not if they are from the same country or genre or year and so on. It’s not even so much about the key signature or the notes or the melody. It’s about emotion, and feeling. So this is how a piece of music like Winterreise by Schubert (some of the bleakest and most beautiful music ever written) can share something of the feel of a mournful ballad by Nick Cave. And it’s those emotions that music creates that are what we listen to it for, and that’s why it has a direct correlation to writing – we read to experience emotion too. So when I’m writing, I play the music that feels like what I am trying to put down on paper, whether that’s happiness or melancholy.
Yes, I was a first generation Goth, and I loved it – the music was intense and the lyrics were dark, and it actually (for all its pretentiousness ) meant something. I have great memories of gigs by Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Sisters of Mercy and so on. The first band I ever saw however, and still one of the best gigs of all time for me, was The Smiths, in their first year of success. It was a mind-changing evening.Just Can’t Get Enough
This question comes from Laini Taylor: “Hi Marcus! Reading about your process, I was struck by two things in particular: your notebooks and your maps. I keep notebooks too, and refer to them often for the same reason you do. I like the way you put it, about making connections between things lurking in your unconscious. That’s it exactly! Are your notebooks a catch-all for stray thoughts, or organized by project? Is there a method to it? And can you explain your maps, and at what point in the writing process you make them, and how you use them? This is fascinating to me, since I feel the need to visualize my structure, but have never tried anything like this. Thank you Marcus, and belated congratulations on the Printz Medal!
Thanks Laini, lovely question. (And thanks for the congratulations – very kind of you!)
Yes, I have some method to the madness in my notebooks, and that is this: I work in them from the front and the back simultaneously – in the front I put ideas/thoughts/notes for the book or project that I am currently working on, and in the back I put ideas for future books. However, these two things are sometimes not clear, and therefore page by page there may be an utter mess of what idea belongs to what project. This is deliberate, however, because I like my ideas to cross pollinate in the notebooks, because sometimes when they do, you come up with things you’d never ever though of. So the notebook fills up as I do my research.
I agree with you entirely that a book has a shape! I love that idea and sometimes it’s not even something you can put into words but it does seem to help make the whole business of writing a book a little bit easier. The maps may have started as small doodles in the notebook, but at some point towards the end of the thinking/research stage, I will start to experiment on large sheets of paper with a map for the book itself. They are in pencil. They change. I may reject two or three until I find the right form. Some are almost purely geographical maps, some are more esoteric. (I blogged about the maps here.) I have to find the right structure for each book, so each map is different, but when I have (most) of it as I want it, I will finally sit down, chapter one, line one, and begin to write…
Marcus has contributed a question for the next author in the series, E. Lockhart. Watch for an interview with her coming soon!
Marcus Sedgwick was born and raised in East Kent in the South-east of England. He now divides his time between a small village near Cambridge, England, and a remote house in the French Alps. Alongside a 16 year career in publishing he established himself as a widely-admired writer of YA fiction; he is the winner of many prizes, most notably the Michael L. Printz Award for 2014, for his novel Midwinterblood. His books have been shortlisted for over thirty other awards, including the Carnegie Medal (five times), the Edgar Allan Poe Award (twice) and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize (four times). In 2011 Revolver was awarded a Printz Honor.
Marcus was Writer in Residence at Bath Spa University for three years, and teaches creative writing at the Arvon Foundation and Ty Newydd. He is currently working on film and other graphic novels with his brother, Julian, as well as a graphic novel with Thomas Taylor. He has judged numerous books awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and the Costa Book Awards. His first title for adults, A Love Like Blood, was published in March 2014 in the UK; US publication will follow in early 2014. His most recent YA novel, She Is Not Invisible, was published in April 2014.
–Julie Bartel, currently reading iZombie Vol. 4 by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred and Saga Vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Seventeen- year-old Aria Morse is indeed an actual oracle, much to the detriment of her high school social life. If someone asks her a question, the true answer bursts from her mouth, unbidden. And it generally comes out in an esoteric oracle-ese language that even Aria can’t always interpret. To protect herself from hearing random questions at school, Aria relies on her headphones and MP3 player. When her ears are filled with music, the questions cannot evoke Aria’s automatic declarations of truth. If only she could wear the headphones all the time.
Each chapter in Ask Me is the title of a song on Aria’s playlist. One of the chapter is named “Candy Case,” which is a song performed by the alternative band Last Summer. As Pauley explains on her web site, she had first intended the chapter titles to have a line or two of the song’s lyrics. Getting permission to use these lyrics turned out to be tricky. But in the case of Last Summer, Pauley not only received permission, but the band prepared a special video for Ask Me.
-Diane Colson, currently reading Boys of Blur by N. D. Wilson
I always thought Maleficent was the scariest and the most fascinating of all the Disney villains. So from the moment I saw the first trailer at Catching Fire back in November, I was thrilled that she was getting her own movie. It turned out to be so much more than I expected.
In recent years, Disney has made a refreshing departure from their standard princess movie to a new generation of tough heroines like Merida and Elsa, who determine their own destinies, fight their own battles, and want more out of life than to marry a prince. (If you have not read it yet, you should really check out Hannah Gomez’s Hub review of Frozen.) In Enchanted, we even saw Disney poke fun at some of its own tropes before sort of reinforcing them. Maleficent goes a step beyond to do something it has never done before. It takes one of those classic princess movies and turns it on its head, not just by telling the story from the perspective of the villain, but by putting ALL the power in the hands of the women.
It is almost impossible to write about the themes of this movie without being spoilery, but I am going to try. Even if you have a Disney-obsessed seven-year-old in your house like I do and have seen all the extended sneak peaks on the Disney Channel, you probably have not seen much that deviates from the 1959 animated Sleeping Beauty. And I am going to try to honor that because I really want everyone to go see it and be surprised…and delighted, and terrified, and maybe even moved to tears.
Here we meet Maleficent as she was long before we first saw her at Aurora’s christening party at the beginning of Sleeping Beauty. Beautiful, powerful, and fierce—the guardian of the fairy realm—she is no tame Disney fairy, but an old-school faerie. So of course, Disney would have to create a vibrant female character like that and then turn around and make her evil. Well, not exactly.
It always confused me that anyone would get so upset over not being invited to a party that she would curse an innocent baby and then spend the next sixteen years obsessing about it. When placed in the context of Maleficent’s backstory, the reasons all become clear, even understandable. After an unthinkable act of betrayal leaves her body maimed, her heart broken, and her soul twisted, Maleficent takes revenge by placing a curse on the child who was the product of that betrayal. Three fairies disguised as peasant women take the infant princess into the forest, hoping to thwart the curse by raising her as their own in hiding. From there, you know the story—and yet you don’t know it at all.
Like Frozen, Maleficent also plays with the idea of what “true love” is and what it is not. There is little romance to be found here, but there is definitely true love—a healing, transformative, redemptive love more powerful than the strongest magic in the world.
I planned on being a bit more objective and critical, but I just can’t. I loved every single thing about this movie. The visuals are breathtaking, especially the richly imagined fairy world of the Moors. Angelina Jolie is so brilliant in the title role I’m not sure anyone else alive could have played it. The whole time I was watching, I kept thinking, Yes, this. This is the version of this story I want my daughters to grow up with.
If you are looking for more twists on “Sleeping Beauty,” there are plenty of YA literature adaptations out there that each take on the fairy tale from a different perspective.
Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross (check out my Teens’ Top Ten interview with the author here) is a deliciously creepy contemporary version featuring characters from other fairy tales. Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose weaves elements of the fairy tale into the story of a Holocaust survivor. In A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn, an American teen traveling in Europe inadvertently awakens the sleeping princess and her kingdom–after three hundred years. Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley is basically the Brothers Grimm version fleshed out into a novel with a fully developed fantasy world and an unexpected protagonist.
Apparently, some controversy has grown up around Maleficent, and a lot of people out there saw the movie differently than I did. What did you think?
—Wendy Daughdrill, currently reading Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
All right fellow YA lovers and nerdfighters, this past weekend was a big one for us. The much anticipated movie adaptation of 2012 Teens’ Top Ten pick The Fault in our Stars came out on Friday with some theaters even previewing it on Thursday night. This heavily anticipated film has received a lot of media coverage as of late because of the book (and certainly John Green’s) large fandom.
Fans of the book and Green have been very vocal about their anticipation and expectations for this film. John Green made the film seem like a collaborative process to get from page to screen, and the filmmakers were pretty vocal about their love of the source material. The collaborative aspect with Green in and of itself is rare since authors usually get NO say whatsoever once the film rights have been sold to the book, so this was huge and something that made me as a fan pretty hopeful for the adaptation.
John Green really gave me hope for this movie, and I daresay this film might just be one of the truest adaptations of a book that I’ve seen in a long time. Now there were changes made from page to screen and for a full rundown of those you can check out this EW article, but the heart of the book was all there. John Green’s words were there.
Shailene Woodley is Hazel Grace Lancaster. Tris who?! She was honestly just beautiful in this movie and not in a Hollywood superficial kind of way, but in that no makeup, hair shorn off and tears in her eyes, heartbreakingly real beautiful. Dare I say even if you went in slightly creeped out that Tris’ brother was now going to be playing her boyfriend, Ansel Elgort made you forget all about dear Caleb. He made Augustus Waters wonderfully adorkable and funny.
My one slight complaint about some of the book to movie changes is that they made the character of Gus a little too perfect. Don’t get me wrong the swoon worthy moments certainly made it worth it, but changes like the removal of his ex-girlfriend also took out a layer of reality that Green had built into the character of Augustus. While you could see how Gus’ ex-girlfriend is not necessary to the film storyline as a whole, it was kind of necessary to his character development. They just took out too many of Augustus’ flaws, which skirted the line for me of making him into too much of the perfect movie boyfriend. He’s not meant to be perfect, neither is Hazel. I liked that about the characters, as I’m sure many fans do. With all of that said, the film always felt like John Green. Even with the changes, it never jumped the emotional shark and for that many fans will be grateful. The love and the humor and the pain are all there. Woodley and Elgort captured it wonderfully. My favorite surprise of the film was Hazel’s mother. Laura Dern packs quite an emotional punch. She nailed that role and broke my heart all at the same time.
It looks like I’m not alone in my love for this adaptation either because 82% of critics and 92% of audiences loved this movie according to Rotten Tomatoes. That’s not even mentioning the cash it’s brought in so far, which as of Friday was already $26.1 million. For a little perspective on how huge that is, TFIOS made more money on its first day then Divergent made in its first weekend. It also totally trounced that Tom Cruise flick. Not bad for the little YA movie that could.
What did others think? Well for some more fan reaction, you can check out this Youtube video put together by 20th Century Fox after initial screenings:
There are also always the unadulterated views of those on Tumblr.
And let’s not forget our friends on Twitter:
That movie theater gave me an infinite amount of crying teenage girls within a number of minutes #tfios
— Kara Knight (@karadiseisland) June 6, 2014
It’s not that often I cry that hard before noon, but damn #TFIOS. Right in the feels…
— Lauren Morrill (@LaurenEMorrill) June 6, 2014
— SparkNotes Editors (@SparkNotes) June 6, 2014
Regardless of the movie > book or book > movie, I could watch it all over again and get the same feels when I first read it. #tfiosfeels
— Eunice ✊ (@euniceADTR) June 6, 2014
— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) June 6, 2014
All in all, it looks like most of us that saw TFIOS had a hard time keeping it together during this movie. Tears and sniffles were all around the theater during the last bit of the film. Tissues were definitely required. Because of this, I was entirely grateful at the ending changes in the movie. This is purely because I don’t think that I would’ve been able to hold it together in a manner polite for movie theaters otherwise. They showed just enough of Augustus suffering and Hazel’s loss for me. This is one of those things that needed to be changed when put up on a screen. It would’ve been far too rough emotionally to visually go through everything that happened on the page. It was just enough to be true to the experience of reading and feeling those pages.
What did you think of the movie, readers? Did you love it or hate it? Did you require a box of Kleenex or were you flabbergasted by the mass sniffles in your theater?
-Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron
Good morning, Hub readers!
Last week, we wanted to know which character’s closet you’d like to raid. The inimitable Lola Nolan from Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door and Evie O’Neill from The Diviners by Libba Bray were at the front of the pack, tied with 24% of the vote each. Have fire extinguishers reader, because Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins followed closely with 16%. Cammie Morgan from The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter was a write-in. Good call! You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted and commented!
This week, we’re curious what you think is the most unusual source of magical or supernatural powers in YA lit. There are a lot of unusual powers out there, but characters are usually born with them. In this poll, we’re taking a look at ordinary people stumbling upon powers in the most unexpected of ways. Cast your vote below, or add your suggestions in the comments!Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
Still 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 3 counts, so sign up now! You only have two weeks left!
Fourteen days and six books. That is where I find myself in The Hub Reading Challenge. We have just two weeks to go, and I have read nineteen books on the list. Since my library just opened a new Teen Center, and I’m building up a Teen non-fiction collection from scratch, I think I’ll focus my final reading push on the non-fiction titles on the list. Branded by the Pink Triangle, Dogs of War, March, and The President Has Been Shot! all sound like good candidates for my fortnight of reading.
How are you doing? Are you close to finishing? What are the final few titles that are piquing your interest? Let us know in the comments here, or share your thoughts on social media using the #hubchallenge hashtag.
The 2014 Hub Reading Challenge runs until 11:59 PM EST on June 22nd. We’ll have another check-in post next Sunday, so you can share your thoughts about the book(s) you read/listened to this week and share links to any reviews you post online. If you want to share your thoughts immediately, use the social media hashtag #hubchallenge, or join the 2014 Hub Challenge group on Goodreads. We will be compiling posts from various places online into a Storify collection. You can see the social media conversation so far below!
If you have already completed the challenge by reading or listening to 25 titles from the list of eligible books, be sure to fill out the form below so we can send you your Challenge Finisher badge, get in touch to coordinate your reader’s response, and, perhaps best of all, 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/listening to 25 titles.
A leader in online education for learner drivers, Driving-Tests.org is offering their valuable driver education program free of charge to a limited number of qualifying libraries. The application deadline is 12:00 PM EST on August 15, 2014.
Learn more and apply here: http://driving-tests.org/library/
As usual, Twitter has been busy this week with YA related news, events, giveaways and more. Here are some of the highlights, in case you missed anything…
Contests and Giveaways
- #NoDawnWithoutDarkness is our #WaitingOnWednesday pick this week! Retweet to enter to win a copy! @DaynaLorentz-@PenguinTeen
- Did you miss #BEA14? Want this awesome @epicreads gift bag I snagged? RT to enter! (US & Canada only)-@AnnaCareyBooks
- RT @Month9Books: Giving away 3 copies of BONESEEKER by @rrsmythe on @goodreads! Enter for your chance to win —>http://bit.ly/1iSRUmU -@cindypon
- Honor thy besties above all others…tweet “I want to read @dvegabooks #TheMerciless” +this img 2 enter 2 win a copy!-@PenguinTeen
- Giveaway: The Fault in Our Stars Movie Tie-In Prize Pack (US only) – The Official YABC Blog http://ow.ly/xwfFn -@yabookscentral
- Giveaway: The Vast & Brutal Sea by Zoraida Cordova (US & Canada) – The Official YABC Blog http://ow.ly/xwfdG -@yabookscentral
- Enter for a chance to win a copy of GUY IN REAL LIFE by @sbrezenoff –> http://ow.ly/xwdu8 -@harperteen
- RT @MartinaABoone #Giveaways of THE STRANGE MAID & your choice of INSOMNIA or PARANOIA + #YAlit Releases 6/2-6/8 http://www.adventuresinyapublishing.com/2014/06/giveaways-of-strange-maid-and-your.html …-@CynLeitichSmith
- Happy book birthday to @lisa_mcmann for GASP, the highly anticipated third book of her Visions series! https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18621651-gasp …-@nielsenwriter
- Happy new book day! See all our latest releases: http://www.epicreads.com/books/ -@harperteen
- Y’ALL. Jennifer Mathieu’s THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE is officially out today, so go forth and buy!! This is a… http://fb.me/2YRtsG7gA -@girlsinthestacks
News and Events
- RT @GalleyCat: Naomi Watts Joins the #Divergent Cast http://shrd.by/zAn4b2 @THR @HarperTeen @Divergent #yalit #movies-@harperteen
- Whitney Etchison, currently reading Sekret by Lindsay Smith
You guys! I’m so excited to be with you again on our journey of comics, social issues and SuperMOOCs. I have now reached the halfway point of the SuperMOOC I’ve been participating in since March – Social Issues through Comic Books, so a few more months of me focusing on issues and then it’s back to focusing on…well, mainly Batman, but other stuff, too, I promise!
For this 3rd module, our SuperMOOC community has been reading comics that deal with Social Inequality, and what an eye-opening and fascinating subject to tackle through comic books. From nonfiction to dystopian to superhero, all the ranges of graphic reads were well represented, and they all looked at social inequality in a different and responsible way. I was happy to see that, yet again, I had only read one of the books that we are studying; all the rest of the required texts were comics that were new to me, but have now moved up to the top of my “must recommend” list.
Keep these in mind for readers who are interested in or grappling with social inequality or for those just looking for a great comic. At this point, I’m really stretching it with the “let’s start with Batman” speech, but let me try it again. Hmmm. Well, our first book is written by Gail Simone, who is the current writer on Batgirl…and it’s set in the world of Metropolis and Gotham City, so there you go.
The Movement, Volume 1: Class Warfare by Gail Simone & Freddie Williams II: If you haven’t read any of Gail Simone’s comics (and start with Secret Six, btw, if you do), you are seriously missing out as Gail is just straight up a great writer. With her new comic book series for DC, The Movement, Gail brings us to Coral City, which, as I mentioned, is part of the same universe in which Metropolis & Gotham City exist. In Coral City, there are the rich and the poor, those that try to help and those that try to hurt and, oh yeah – superheroes. To say that the poor have it rough is an understatement. Not only do the police (well, some of them, not all) run afoul of the laws they are supposed to be upholding, but there’s a killer out there who is targeting the destitute. However, there’s a movement rising…and they call themselves, ahem, The Movement. No longer will this group stand aside and let people be hurt, taken advantage of or killed. They’re using the one thing they’ve got more of…and that’s their minds (slight nod to Jarvis Cocker & Pulp for the misappropriation of that line). They’re also using their technology to catch people in the act and keep them honest. But, can these strong-willed superheroes work together to stop the madness or will the serial killer without a face (well, not really, but no one’s actually seen it) continue to haunt the streets and the downtrodden? Trust me, reading Gail’s work is a joy; never didactic and always thought provoking.
March, Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell: This is such a great nonfiction title to recommend to readers, both teen and adult alike. In March, an engaging, haunting and handsomely illustrated graphic novel memoir written by Congressman John Lewis, he tells his story of being a boy growing up in the segregated south to his time working in the civil rights movement. This first book in his planned trilogy lets readers move with him from his time as a young man on an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to his life as a young adult staging sit-ins at Woolworth lunch counters. Beautiful black and white line drawings perfectly accompany this story of tragedy and heartbreak, but also determination and fortitude. Just a perfect example of what exemplary nonfiction comics can be. (a 2014 Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection)
X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont & Brent Anderson: Okay, so I’ve never, ever read an X-Men comic before. And, to tell you the truth, I don’t think I’ve seen any of the movies, either. Unfortunately for me (and also quite a childish trait, I must admit), I am an unflappable DC comics gal, but after reading this seminal and well-regarded story about hurting mutants only because of “what” they are, I have to admit, that I’ve been missing out not reading more X-Men stories. So, I learned something! Okay, so back to the story – there’s this minister, Reverend Stryker, who only sees the X-Men as abominations of God – no in-between, no caring about them as individuals. He just really wants to eradicate them from the planet, all in the praise of God, and he’s determined to see his plan out until the bitter end. But, unbeknownst to him, Magneto (he’s always fighting Professor X and the X-Men because he thinks that mutants should take over the Earth, that they are the next step in the evolutionary process, but he put that thought aside in this book…well, for the most part…anyways…) has joined the X-Men to search for the missing Professor X as well as expose Reverend Stryker as the very antithesis of a Godly man. They must work fast, though, before the Reverend puts his ultimate plan into motion. A great read for fans of the movies, and trust me – after someone reads this book, they’re going to look long and hard at themselves and our society. It’s one of the most thought-provoking comics I’ve ever read, if not the most. Really good, trust me.
Once again, I’ve come to the end of my list of recommended reads perfect for those interested in the topic of social inequality as well as those looking for good, not your regular run of the mill comic books. A side note: when I’m thinking more deeply about what I’ve read for the month, I always remember the quote I included in my first post on my SuperMOOC readings from Denny O’Neill – if we expose young people to the idea and nuances of a problem to young people through comics, they will be the one to change the society in the future. I especially thought about it this week as I read books that were both painful and empowering at the same time. And, don’t you just love it when you read something “fun” and it challenges you at the same time? I sure do…and on that note, I’ll end for this month.
Be sure to join me in July when I cover comics that deal with immigration! One of them is Superman, which I’ll really just have to force myself to read, but I’ll do it for you, dear readers (FYI – I don’t like Superman in the least. I don’t know why I don’t like him, I just don’t). Oh! I really like that tag line I used last month, so I’ll use it again… See you then – Same Bat Time (approximately), Same Bat Channel (or website)!
- Traci Glass, currently reading No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale