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Coming March 1… 2018 Hub Reading Challenge!

Mon, 02/26/2018 - 07:00

It’s that time again! Are you interested in expanding your literary horizons, learning more about YALSA’s award winners and selected lists, and/or having a new excuse to spend even more time reading? If you answered yes, then stay tuned! More details about the Hub’s 2018 Reading Challenge are coming later this week!

–Stephen Ashley, currently reading The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson

The post Coming March 1… 2018 Hub Reading Challenge! appeared first on The Hub.

2018 Great Graphic Novels for Teens

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 10:30

In case you missed it, The Great Graphic Novels for Teens list was recently announced! Check out the top ten below!

  • The Backstagers. By James Tynion IV. Illus. by Rian Sygh. 2017. BOOM! Studios, $14.99 (9781608869930). Jory, a new student at an all-boys school, feels left out of school life until he stumbles upon the backstage crew of the drama club and the mysterious tunnels they keep watch over.
  • Black Hammer, Volume 1: Secret Origins. By Jeff Lemire. Illus. by Dean Ormston. 2017. Dark Horse, $14.99 (9781616557867). Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Colonel Weird, Madame Dragonfly, and Barbalien are trapped! In their old lives they were superheroes, but because of a strange occurrence in their multiverse they are thrust into life in a rural town from which they cannot escape.
  • Brave. By Svetlana Chmakova. Illus. by the author. 2017. Yen Press, $11.00 (9780316363189). Jensen, a daydreaming artist obsessed with sunspots and NASA, navigates middle school, bullies and math!
  • I Am Alfonso Jones. By Tony Medina. Illus. by Stacey Robison and John Jennings. 2017. Tu Books, $18.95 (9781620142639). Fifteen year old Alfonso Jones is shot by the police while shopping for a suit, and his loved ones and classmates are left behind to address his death and the larger issue of police brutality.
  • Jonesy. By Sam Humprhies. Illus. by Caitlin Rose Boyle. Jonsey’s superpower is that she can make anyone fall in love with anything… except herself!
    • v.1. 2016. BOOM! Studios, $9.99 (9781608868834).
    • v.2. BOOM! Studios, $14.99 (9781608869992).
    • v.3. BOOM! Studios, $14.99 (9781684150168).

  • Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation. By Damian Duffy and Octavia E. Butler. Illus. by John Jennings. 2017. Abrams ComicArts, $24.95 (9781419709470). It’s 1976 and Dana is trying to settle down to a comfortable life with her husband when she finds herself unexpectedly ripped from the present and sent hurtling to the slavery-era past. Here, she is tasked with saving the life of her ancestor, lest she risk never being born.
  • Lighter than My Shadow. By Katie Green. Illus. by the author. 2017. Lion Forge, $19.99 (9781941302415). The author’s personal account of the eating disorders she developed in an attempt to manage the black scribbles of her inner thoughts. Green candidly recounts both her steps and missteps along her path to recovery.
  • My Brother’s Husband. By Gengoroh Tagame. Illus. by the author. 2017. Pantheon Books, $24.95 (9781101871515). After the passing of Ryoji, his twin brother, Yaichi, and his now widowed husband, Mike, come together to learn more about the loved one they have both lost.
  • PashminaBy Nidhi Chanani Illus. by the author. 2017. First Second, $21.99 (9781626720879). Priyanka discovers in her mother’s belongings a magical pashmina that leads her on a journey to India, where she seeks to understand secrets of her family and to claim her own personal identity.
  • Spill Zone. By Scott Westerfeld. Illus. by Alex Puvilland. 2017. First Second, $22.99 (9781596439368). An event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie three years ago, forever changing reality within its borders. When an eccentric collector makes a million-dollar offer, Addison breaks her own hard-learned rules of survival and ventures farther into the Spillzone than she has ever dared.

Head over to the GGNT homepage for the extensive full list, of titles! Also, don’t forget to check out the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers lists, which were released last month! And be sure to visit our Teen Book Finder Database, which was recently updated with diverse affiliate titles! There, you can create and print customizable reading lists for your teen patrons.

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2018 Best Fiction for Young Adults List

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 11:30

Have you heard? The Best Fiction for Young Adults list has been released! Check out the top ten below!

  • Arnold, Elana. What Girls Are Made Of. Lerner/Carolrhoda Lab. 2017. Sixteen-year-old Nina experiences sex, betrayal, loss, and a dysfunctional home life, all while trying to understand what it means to be female in the world and whether love can ever be truly unconditional.
  • Bardugo, Leigh. The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic. Illus. by Sara Kipin. Macmillan/Imprint. 2017. Traditional fairy tales are refreshingly twisted, re-created, and wrapped in gorgeous illustrations in this stand-alone collection of six short stories. The world-building will be familiar to Bardugo’s fans, and readers new to her Grishaverse have the pleasure of knowing they can take further excursions into this world.
  • Lee, Mackenzi. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. 2017. Montague, the son of a British nobleman, embarks on a European tour with his best friend (and secret crush) Percy and his sister Felicity. Along the way, they encounter adventure and conflict that leads them to a very different destiny than the one awaiting their return to England.
  • Moon, Sarah. Sparrow. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. 2017. Sparrow has a secret: her closest friends are birds. When she feels anxious, she goes to the roof and flies. One day, this practice lands her in the hospital, facing questions from the adults in her life. Slowly, she recovers, finds her voice, and makes new friends along the way.
  • Reynolds, Jason. Long Way Down. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum. 2017. Will’s brother has been shot. In this free-verse novel, Will steps into an elevator ready to head downstairs and to follow the rules he’s been taught and avenge his brother’s death, when he encounters the ghosts of victims of a chain reaction caused by a shooting.

  • Taylor, Laini. Strange the Dreamer. Little, Brown. 2017. Lazlo Strange is an orphan raised by monks, and he’s dedicated his life to learning. His favorite story is of Weep, the lost fairytale city that was literally removed from memory. This is the story of his search for the magical city.
  • Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give. Balzer+Bray. 2017. Starr Carter is a black girl caught between two worlds: her poor, black neighborhood, and her suburban, mostly white high school. Occupying this liminal space becomes nearly impossible when Starr witnesses, and is forced to speak out about, the fatal shooting of her unarmed friend by a white cop.
  • Watson, Renee. Piecing Me Together. Bloomsbury USA. 2017. Artist Jade has big dreams, but she recognizes that coming from a rough neighborhood creates barriers. She reluctantly joins Woman to Woman, a mentoring program that promises a scholarship. Her well-intentioned mentor, also black, doesn’t understand Jade has no desire to be “saved.” Each has things to learn from the other.
  • Zappia, Francesca. Eliza and Her Monsters. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. 2017. Fellow students don’t know that, when she’s not at school, reclusive senior Eliza is LadyConstellation, creator of the wildly popular Monstrous Sea. New student Wallace is a huge fan of the webcomic, and hr slowly breaks through her shell. However, trying to keep her two lives separate may cost Eliza everything.
  • Zentner, Jeff. Goodbye Days. Crown Books for Young Readers. 2017. Carver’s three best friends are killed in a car accident soon after he sends the driver a text message, and grief and guilt take their toll. When the grandmother of one of his deceased friends asks for a “goodbye day,” Carver agrees, hoping for closure.

Want to see the full list, which includes an extensive of titles? Head over to the BFYA homepage!

Also, don’t forget to check out the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers lists, which were released last month! And be sure to visit our Teen Book Finder Database, which was recently updated with diverse affiliate titles! There, you can create and print customizable reading lists for your teen patrons.

The post 2018 Best Fiction for Young Adults List appeared first on The Hub.

2018 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with Nic Stone

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 07:00

This is a guest post from Jeff Zentner, author of the 2017 Morris Award winner, The Serpent King.

Nic Stone and I are imprint siblings at Crown and best buds for about as long as either of us have been in the publishing world. She’s the only person on Earth who’s read everything I’ve ever written. We discuss everything from the virtues of kettle corn to the foibles of child-rearing to race relations in America to…story stuff that really requires more context than I have room for here. Point being: I couldn’t be more thrilled for Nic that she’s a Morris finalist and no one is more deserving. I got to talk with her.

Tell us the story of how Nic Stone became a writer.
Once upon a time, six-thousand-five-hundred-seventy-three years ago, a young, brown immortal was conceived under still-mysterious circumstances… #blackdontcrack.


Okay, sorry. Getting serious now.

So I’ve always been a reader—vividly remember hours spent in this treehouse-ish nook within the children’s section of the Kansas City, KS public library—but I didn’t think I could write fiction, so I never really thought to try. I think I wanted to write made-up stories like the ones I was so fond of, but because I didn’t see people like me writing the type of stuff I was into, I think I subconsciously internalized the message that writing stories wasn’t something people who looked like me could do. Then I moved to Israel. And in Israel, I discovered all these stories I felt needed to be told. Which opened my eyes to the fact that MY OWN stories weren’t being told. So when I came back to America, I decided to try and tell them. It worked! (Fun fact: I started writing in 2013. So I’m basically a writing kindergartner.)

The story of how you got your book deal is one of the more unusual I’ve heard. Tell us how you ended up at Crown with your editor.
Before I answer this, I want to issue a disclaimer: this is super atypical, and it’s not as *cool* as it sounds. Trust me.

The long and short of it is: my agent submitted a manuscript I’d written. The first editor to respond liked my style and my writing and my voice, but wasn’t sold on the story I was telling in said manuscript. So she asked if I was working on anything else. Cue twelve-hour scramble of me pulling together probably the roughest proposal I’ve ever written—a synopsis of a current-events-based story that’d been kicking around in my head for a few weeks at most. And by some miracle, Editor was super into the idea. After a couple weeks of rejection after rejection on the full manuscript we initially submitted, Editor came through with an offer.

And I took it. And from these humble beginnings sprang forth Dear Martin. Which is now a finalist for the Morris Award and the reason you’re asking me these questions.

Wild, right?


I read a version of Dear Martin that was very different in some ways than the version that’s currently a Morris contender. Can you speak about the evolution of this book?
The initial drafts of this book were much more… complicated. It was twice as long (literally), there were eight points of view, it was nonlinear, the main character, Justyce, died on like page three, and the scope of the story was a lot broader. We decided to zoom in on Justyce’s experiences, shorten the book, and make it linear largely because… well because it’s a better book this way, I think. It’s harder hitting and more impactful because there’s less to keep up with. And I can’t even tell you how many messages I’ve gotten from kids who had never finished a book until they read Dear Martin. Doubt they would’ve gotten through it had we left it the other way. So I’m glad my editor put her foot down!


On the same day they announced you were a Morris finalist, there was an announcement of your new two-book deal. What can your readers expect from books two, three, and four?
That was probably the best day of my publishing career so far. First lemme say book TWO—wholly unrelated to Dear Martin, but there is a shoutout to Bras Prep—will be out October 2018. Title and summary coming soon, but in a nutshell, it’s a book that follows three teens as they attempt to navigate the intersections of friendship and romance and figure out who it’s okay to love. Excited and nervous and all the things about that one. After that, I’ll dive into mire that is relative poverty, and then book four will return us to the world of Dear Martin… but I’m not allowed to say more than that. #anticlimacticanswer


Do you feel like this is an exciting time to be writing YA books?
Hmm. Hadn’t really thought about this until now, but yeah. I’d say it is. For one, it’s a very dope category—both in regard to the stories themselves as well as the very particular stage of like, human development they focus on, which lends itself to a very specific type of immediacy that can’t be imitated. For another, as an author who LIVES for school visits (they are literally by far far far my favorite part of this job), I think there’s something super magical about kids having the opportunity to interact with the authors of the books they’re reading actually at/through school. No shade or disrespect to the dead white guys, but I mean come one: it’s gotta be lit to, yes: pick a book apart for theme and look for symbolism and yadda yadda #HighSchoolEnglish, and THEN have the author show up to your school where you can actually ask why that vase fell off the mantel at the exact moment Awesome Main Character was stepping out of the shower. (Spoiler alert: it was to highlight that the cat was evil. Or something. What am I even talking about?)

Who do you write for and why?
Nonreaders. Especially Nonreaders of Color. Which I didn’t even realize until so many of them started contacting me. I write for them because I think it’s important to read, and yet I also understand that when you’ve never really seen yourself if the type of stuff you’re assigned, reading seems kinda wack. So I wanna hook the reluctants and get them started reading for enjoyment.


At that moment when someone finishes Dear Martin, what do you hope is going through their head?
Everything. I want people to finish this book and think about everything. My goal for the book itself was to stimulate some critical thinking—which let’s be honest, is in short supply at present considering how quickly we’re expected/expect others to speak and act—about the world we live in and our individual places within it. It’s important if we intend to move forward in a way that benefits as many people as possible.

What’s one of the most memorable experiences you’ve ever had with a reader?
Very recently, a teach tweeted at me about a student in her class who exclaimed “What the freak, bro?!” while reading Dear Martin in the classroom. That quote became a part of my Twitter name: Nic “What the freak, bro?!” Stone. I then had the opportunity to surprise that particular class over Skype, and that student literally jumped out of his chair and ran to the back of the classroom. The teacher told me he spent the rest of the day in a daze, so I decided to follow him on Instagram. The message I received from him was “No No No this can not be the real Nic Stone [shocked face emoji].”

Needless to say, this kid has done a lot for my self-esteem.


What would you write to Dr. King?
I’m literally trying to figure that out for an op-ed piece, LOL!


What are five books you think everyone should read and why?
I’ll give you the five I read while writing Dear Martin: 1. A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD by Jennifer Egan, which is the book that helped me to see that I could play with various storytelling formats in one single novel, 2. WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST by Jason Reynolds, which helped me settle into my black boy character’s voice, 3. GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE by Andrew Smith, which loosened me up a bit and made it clear that irreverence is an okay thing in books written for teens, 4. WHERE THINGS COME BACK by John Corey Whaley, which was SO beautiful and lyrical and helped me find my prose rhythm and 5. GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray, which showed me the power of reaching into the heart of a story and keeping the plot from taking over.

Read all of these definitely.

Setting all modesty aside, what do you love most about Dear Martin?
The dialogue. I love writing dialogue and using that particular element of narrative to draw out the heart of a story because storytelling as a discipline really began with speech—stories orally passed down, generation to generation. Dialogue is just my most favorite thing. In all the stuff I’ve written actually.

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Women in Comics: Some Love Stories for February

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 07:00

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, this month is a good time to consider the comics and graphic novels that you have on your shelf that will appeal to to fans of romance and love in all its forms. These books are just a few options for these readers.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang – Set in Paris in what seems to be La Belle Époque, Prince Sebastian is stuck between the wishes of his parents and his own wishes. His parents desperately want him to find a wife and have been setting him up on ever more pointless dates. He, on the other hand, wants to continue his life as it is, including his secret practice of periodically dressing in traditionally feminine clothes. When he meets Frances, who is an incredibly talented fashion designer and dressmaker, he quickly moves to employ her full time under the guise of having her serve as his personal tailor. Together they develop the fashion and persona necessary for him to take the city by storm as the daringly dressed Lady Crystallia. But, the pressure of his secret increasingly impacts both Sebastian and Frances and will test their friendship and their working relationship. Told with beautiful drawings and a fun-loving spirit, this is a great story about the pressures that society puts on people to conform and on the sorrow of having to hide your true talents and self.

Cast No Shadow by Nick Tapalansky and art by Anissa Espinosa – Greg is used to his quirky life in his off-beat town. He may not have a shadow, but that doesn’t bother him nearly as much as his town’s continual attempts to find the perfect tourist trap. What he isn’t expecting is to find a mansion nestled in the woods just outside his little town where he meets and falls for a beautiful girl. But, it wouldn’t be Lancaster if things were that simple. She may be funny and sweet and cute, but she’s also very definitely dead. As their relationship grows, he’ll not only learn why he is the only person who can see her, but also resolve some of his personal issues along the way. This is a story not only of a budding new relationship, but also a story about the power of family, friendship, and remembering those who have died.

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin with art by Jenn St-Onge and Joy San – This new comic is a love story across the years. After meeting and falling in love in the 1960’s, Hazel and Mari are pulled apart by the demands of society. They marry men, have families, and find a certain type of happiness. But when they find themselves at a church bingo evening when they are grandmothers, they find that the spark has not extinguished even after all of these years. Now they have a second chance for love and the opportunity for the happiness they always wanted.

Louis Undercover by Fanny Britt with art by Isabelle Arsenault – This comic tackles a lot of tough topics, including divorce, alcoholism, being siblings, and first love, but it approaches them all with a deft hand. The story follows Louis as he moves back and forth between his parents’ homes. Louis is in the throes of his first serious crush on a girl in his class named Billie. As they move between his father’s house and his mother’s apartment, he and his brother, Truffle, must confront the realities of their father’s struggles with alcohol. Throughout it all, Louis is also consumed by his efforts to work up the courage to speak to Billie. The story is a relatable and heart wrenching one about both family love and first love that will keep readers rooting for Louis throughout.

I Love This Part by Tillie Walden – Told with spare language and illustrations in black, white and shades of greyish purple, this story shows moments in the lives of two girls as they bond over music, make their way through school, and develop a relationship that shakes both of them. Despite the limited use of text, Walden conveys powerful emotions and makes the reader empathize with both of these characters as they struggle to make sense of their emotions. By the end, readers will be invested in the journey of the two characters and wishing for more of their stories.

What are your favorite comics and graphic novels about love and romance? Let us know in the comments!

– Carli Spina, currently reading A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

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Month in Review: January 2018

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 14:23

What happened in YA this month? Here is a quick round up of featured posts on The Hub and other links to keep you up to date when collecting for your teens.

At the Hub Books & Reading Places to Go Audiobooks Movies & TV In the News


— Cathy Outten, currently reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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2018 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with S. F. Henson

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 07:00

S. F. Henson is a finalist for the 2018 William C. Morris Award for her novel Devils Within. After Nate Fuller kills his father in self-defense, he must find a way to redefine what’s right and wrong and learn to trust again. But when two followers of The Fort, his father’s white supremacist group, arrive in Nate’s new town, he knows blood is going to spill—he’s just not sure whose.

Congratulations on being a Morris Award finalist! Where were you when you heard the news and what was your reaction?
Thank you! I can still hardly believe it. I was at work at my day job when I found out I was a finalist. Funny story, I actually learned the news when everyone else did, through Twitter! I absent-mindedly clicked on a notification and saw a tweet about the Morris Finalists. I stared at it for a minute, unsure why that tweet had come up in my notifications. Then I saw my name. Then I stared harder, not quite believing what I was seeing. Then I cried. My editor called after that and told me she’d been sworn to secrecy and the news had gone public before she had the chance to call. I just kind of wandered around the office all day, stunned. I kept re-reading the press release to make sure it was real!

Devils Within focuses on the impact of white supremacy on contemporary society. What made you choose to tackle this topic in your first novel?
Devils Within was, sadly, inspired by real events. I read an article that I couldn’t shake and this character, Nate, popped in my head. I actually tried really hard to not write this story. I wanted to write an easy love story instead, but it didn’t work. Nate’s voice wouldn’t leave my head. Around that time, an incident happened at Ole Miss, where my brother was a student. Someone had hung a noose around the statue of James Meredith, the first African-American student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. Instead of being appalled, a large contingent of students “protested” in support of the noose. I watched all of this, and I heard Nate, and I knew that his story was more relevant than I wanted to admit. I realized that this story had the potential to effect people, to make them think, and maybe even change their perspective.

You were born and raised in the deep south. How did that impact the writing of Devils Within?
I was raised in a gap. When I was a kid, both sets of grandparents lived in the same predominantly African-American neighborhood, where one grandmother still lives. My mother’s first teaching job was at a predominantly African-American school, where my parents coached basketball and where I sang in a gospel choir. I grew up surrounded by diversity, but make no mistake, there’s still quite the racial divide in the south. I’m still white. My church was all white, my school was mostly white. On one side, I had other white people making racist comments in my presence. On the other, I saw the effects of those comments on people I cared about. The high school my brother attended didn’t see its first African-American student graduate until 2011, my brother’s year. That same area had a public pool where my family would swim in the summers. One summer in middle school a bus load of African-American children from the Boys & Girls Club came to swim. My family watched as all the other white families left after they were unable to keep those children out. The city drained the pool after that for cleaning. These experiences, and so many more like them, have never left me. They’ve simmered in the back of my mind, growing hotter and hotter as I’ve aged, as more experiences were added to the pot, until they finally boiled over, flowing out onto the page to help fill out Devils Within. They’ve helped me write more honestly, which was important for this book. They’re in the little details, conversations and turns of phrase, that I’ve had readers tell me they’ve related to the most because it made the book feel real.

What do you hope teen readers–particularly white readers–will take from your book?
My hope for teens is that Devils Within will make them think more critically and be more willing to challenge prejudice when they encounter it. Not just the overt prejudices, but the small, subtle ones too. The ones they might be more willing to overlook. I hope they learn from Nate that silence equals assent, and that their voice, no matter how small, matters. The main thing I want white readers to take from the book is the idea that they don’t have to believe something just because their parents believe it. They’re free to form their own opinions and belief systems. Too often we get in the pattern of rooting for a certain team or voting for a certain party or forming a view on a certain issue because that’s what we grew up hearing. It’s okay to question those things and break away from your parents’ views.

You have a background as a lawyer. What inspired you to write for teens, and how have your past experiences in law informed your writing?
When most people find out I’m an author and an attorney, they immediately assume that I write legal fiction, but honestly, writing is a means of escaping from my day job. That’s one reason I like writing for teens. I deal with cynical adults all day. Let’s be honest: most adults are jaded. They think they already have everything figured out. Teens are just beginning to expand their world views. They’re figuring out where they fit and how they can make a difference. They still have hope. I like being part of that, and, let’s face it, it’s just more fun to write.

My background does color my writing, just in ways most people don’t expect. 90% of practicing law is writing, and it’s all telling a story. At work, I have a limited amount of space to tell my client’s story. Writing a legal brief is almost like plotting a story. Honing my craft at my day job has bled into my writing life. I can’t keep law completely out of my writing, though. I used to practice criminal and family law, which absolutely helped when it came to telling Nate’s story.

What inspires you as a writer?
Everything. I know that’s a broad response, but it’s accurate. I draw inspiration from all over the place: life, music, art, nature. I keep an Evernote app on my phone, and a notebook in my purse. It drives my husband crazy because I’m constantly jotting down notes about something I saw, or an article I read, or conversation I overheard, or snapping a picture, even in the middle of conversation.  I’m basically a giant sponge, absorbing everything I encounter and squeezing it onto the page later. Sometimes that inspiration takes over the story, like the article that birthed the idea for Devils Within. Other times it’s subtler, like the guy I saw bust his nose at a football game that wound up giving me the details for a fight Nate has in the book. A line from a song can give me a character’s motivation, or a single tree can end up forming the basis for an entire world. Basically, if you’re in my proximity, watch out because those quippy coffee cups sayings like “don’t offend the writer, or she might put you in a book and kill you” are a little truer with me.

What did you like to read as a teen? Looking back, are there any subjects you wish you’d had more to read about?
I liked darker stories. Stephen King and Thomas Harris. I read a lot of Agatha Christie and John Grisham too. I wish I’d read more YA. I loved Madeleine L’Engle and Paul Zindel, but I didn’t really have access to new books. My small town only had a used bookstore. They let you trade books, which was awesome because my family didn’t have a ton of money, but it also meant the selection was limited to what others had brought in. I would’ve loved to have had more YA books like we’re seeing in the market now. More books that spoke to me where I was. Doubling back to a previous question, I think that plays into why I write YA. I write the stories I wish I’d had as a teen.

Can you tell us anything about your next book or other upcoming projects?
It’s taken me a long time to move on from Devils Within. That book took so much out of me, and it’s taken a while for my creative well to fill back up. I’ve started and stopped half a dozen different projects since finishing Devils, but I’m finally working on a story that I think is going somewhere. It’s set in the most haunted forest in the world, in Romania, and is an allegory for my depression. I think of it like a YA Pan’s Labyrinth.

What books and other media are you loving right now?
I’m absolutely in love with Jason Reynold’s Long Way Down. I also made sure to read all of the other finalists’ books, which are gorgeous. In other media, I adore the show This is Us, even though I’m behind because I cry during basically every episode, and I recently discovered the singer Elliot Moss. I can’t listen to music while I write, but I make a playlist for each book. If you want to know what I’m listening to for my new story, you can find it at

–Stephen Ashley, currently reading Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

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2018 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with S. K. Ali

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 07:00

S. K. Ali  is a finalist for the 2018 William C. Morris YA Debut Award for her novel Saints and Misfits. The award winner will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media (YMA) Awards on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018.


Smart, funny, and incredibly hard-working Janna Yusuf, an Arab American hijabi teen, is dealing with the usual teen issues of crushes, family, and friends. She finds her life thrown into personal upheaval after she is sexually assaulted by the seemingly devout cousin of her close friend, someone revered at her local Mosque. She grapples with the challenge of coming forward about the assault and not sure who or whether she can tell. She starts relying on unlikely friends, and finds the strength to stand up for herself.

Congratulations on your first novel and being selected as a Finalist for the William C. Morris Award for debut authors!

Thanks so much for your congrats on being a Morris finalist — a dream I dared not dream coming true!

There is such great representation in this book of fully realized female characters full of their own agency. Characters like Sarah and Sausun feel really established in their identity when we meet them, but we get to watch Janna grow into herself in ways that are so universal. Can you talk a little about the inspiration for her?

Janna is a character who understands some things about herself really well, like what she’s interested in (doing well at school, going to a good college, guys with big foreheads), and then is completely figuring out other things, including how to speak up when you’re suffering. The inspiration for her was teendom in general. I see it in my daughter and her friends, my sons, my nieces and then I remember it from my own teen years: that period when we are extremely self-assured and self-unsure simultaneously. It’s when these two states rub against each other that a sense of cohesive self emerges. I guess then my inspiration was the coming-of-age period — in particular, a Muslim-American teen’s. And yes, I did set Janna’s coming of age amidst a background of very strong women, mostly older than Janna. I have to specify here that the strength of these women were modeled on the ones I’ve seen around me in the Muslim communities I belong to.

Many teens identify as religious, yet so many YA books are centered on teens bumping up against their religious upbringing. It is refreshing in your book to get to see teens that embrace their faith, and how it looks different for each individual. Was this important to you?

Yes, this was important to me because we often shy away from approaching religiosity in contemporary YA (though there are fabulous writers who do so and have been doing so for a while) and I thought this was weird. I mean I understand the reluctance because being religious is seen as outmoded in popular culture generally and breaking the mold is a hard thing to do. But writing contemporary means you write reality. And the reality remains that many teens are proud of their religious identity, especially if it’s an identity that’s under some scrutiny as Islam happens to be in the current climate. The fierce embrace of what it means to be Muslim is all around us, something I’ve seen from my own teen years until now. But because I don’t see this reality reflected much on the page, I knew I’d write it.

I also find it fascinating that you have so much of that search for deeper meaning, otherworld elements and transcendence going on in YA Science Fiction and Fantasy. It’s like the truth of our spiritual searching is being captured through SF/F. I’d love to see it being captured more in contemporary YA.

Janna’s story was published before the #MeToo movement started on the internet this past October. Hers is a powerful #MeToo story. Do you think that Janna would participate on social media? If so, what would she write?

I definitely think she would participate but it would not be from her personal instagram or twitter account. She’d have an alter-ego account that would be a no-holds barred, in-your-face, inner-Sausun raging against the machine type of an account. (She’d have way more followers on that account.) To participate in #MeToo, Janna would write a short message: One by one, we’ll take you down EVERYWHERE. #TIMESUP #MeToo

You have a background as a teacher, how has this influenced your writing?

I actually try very hard to keep those two circles of my life very separate. It’s not a Venn diagram at all (oops, sorry for sneaking that teacher talk in there). I’m very much a single-task focused person so when I’m in writer mode, I take my teacher hat off and fling it hard across the room. I have to. Because if you’re passionate about it (and I am), teaching requires so much of you – you give your all to your students and their voices dominate your headspace long after you’ve left school. To transfer to a state of mind where you listen to your characters and the story, there has to be a switching of gears. I do writing rituals to get me ready and also make sure my jobs are distinguishable visually – like making specialty teas and having an elegant, pristine writing workspace that is so different from my mountainous teacher desk at school. (My classroom desk is a school legend.)

That said, there’s one way teaching has influenced me as a writer: I’m motivated to continue telling stories, diverse stories, because being around the openness of young people makes me hopeful for a more inclusive future.

I have so many favorite characters in this book, but one of my favorite relationships is the one between Janna and Mr. Ram. Is there someone that was inspiration for Mr. Ram?

Mr. Ram, like many of my characters, is a blend of people but he does have some of the same qualities as one of my favorite people in the world: my dad! My father is very well read and has introduced me to books and ideas throughout my life that no one else has. Ideas that, when I was younger, I didn’t want to necessarily listen to at the time he shared them, but then, soon enough, for some class assignment or other, I’d invariably be knocking on his study door asking him to show me that book or two again. He seemed to know the core of what would be interesting to a growing mind. I value that greatly and wanted to incorporate that mentor relationship into Saints and Misfits.

You do such a great job balancing humor and serious issues. What authors have influenced you as a writer?

This was actually a surprise to me! That I wrote with humor when some of the topics were quite heavy. Surprising because most of my short fiction while doing my Creative Writing degree were quite pared-down, serious affairs. When I really think about it, maybe it’s because I have three children and nieces and nephews who are into everything with a big side of humor; they often get into a groove just riffing on topics, sometimes going on and on for a long while. Maybe being surrounded by that kind of symphony instills a light-hearted cadence into the voices-palette of a writer?

As for the authors who have influenced me, I would have to say one from my youth was Judy Blume, especially when she had a Jewish character (I loved those books because I could identify a bit more then!), and her frank approach to things. I knew I’d go that course too when I wrote my own novels.

More recently, an author that I look up to a great deal is Rebecca Stead. Her Newbery winning novel, When You Reach Me, just blew me away with its writing, story and characters. I felt immediately at home in the community she built in that book and I remember the long sigh I let out at the end, thinking, now that’s a story.

From this reading experience, I knew that, for writer-me, incorporating a community of characters was important as well. And I hope I did that in Saints and Misfits.

What’s next?

I’m working on editing my second novel. It’s about a girl who goes to Istanbul to take an art course and falls in love with an artist, amidst a sprinkling of cats, a Turkish wedding, Turkish coffee and lots of good food. The artist is a boy who cooks said good food. And, again, it has an ensemble cast like Saints and Misfits does. Additionally, I’m participating in an anthology called Hungry Heart which is made up of interconnected stories set in one culturally diverse, super foodie neighborhood. Oh, I also have an unannounced picture book coming out that I’m super excited about!

One more thing. I love following you on Twitter, and I am excited about the campaign you have started #MuslimShelfSpace. Can you tell a little about that?

The  #MuslimShelfSpace campaign is an annual call to consider whether we’re making space for narratives authored by writers from Muslim communities, in light of the predominance of stereotyping, misrepresentation and marginalization of Muslims in popular culture.

Here is a video about it:

Danielle Jones is currently reading City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

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2018 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with Akemi Dawn Bowman on Starfish

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 07:00

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman is the powerful and sometimes heartbreaking story of Kiko, a half-Japanese teen who hopes that her artistic talent will help her escape her toxic home life with her white mother who is alternately neglectful and abusive. After Kiko’s dream art school rejects her, she is forced to consider other options. When she reunites with her childhood friend Jamie and embarks on a completely unexpected journey with him, Kiko starts to realize that sometimes second choices can lead to second chances. Starfish is a finalist for YALSA’s 2018 Morris Award. Today I’m thrilled to have Akemi Dawn Bowman here to answer some questions about her debut novel.

Congratulations on Starfish’s selection as a 2018 Morris Award finalist! Where were you when you heard the news? Who was the first person you told about the big news?

Akemi Dawn Bowman (ADB): Thank you so much! I was sitting on the couch with my three-year-old when I read the email. It had actually been sent hours before, but we had been out all day and I wasn’t checking my phone. When I finally did, I had all these messages from my editor and agent. I totally started crying and jumping around the living room, and then my three-year-old asked what was wrong. When I told her my book had been nominated for an award, she looked very unimpressed and said, “That’s not a good thing to cry about.” But my husband got home about fifteen minutes later, and his response was a lot more enthusiastic. And then I had to keep it a secret until they announced it publicly a few days later!

Your debut novel follows Kiko’s journey both literally across the country and figuratively as she tries to figure out how to break away from her toxic home life. What was the inspiration for this novel? What was the first thing you learned as an author about Kiko?

ADB: Starfish is very much the book I needed as a teen. I wanted to write a story that would’ve made me feel like I wasn’t alone—a story that would’ve made me feel like everything was going to be okay. I really wanted that for other readers, because hope is such an important part of healing.

I think the first thing I learned about Kiko was how resilient she was without even realizing it. She has no idea how strong her heart is, because it’s covered in bruises and scars and it constantly aches. And part of her journey is realizing that she has the strength to do things on her own—to make changes on her own—and I could see that in her early on, but she needed thirty chapters or so to figure it out for herself.

Art plays a huge role in Starfish as Kiko describes her paintings and sketches to readers (and dreams of attending art school). Kiko also interacts with other artists including Jamie who is a photographer when they meet again at the start of the novel. I loved these extremely visual and evocative moments in a prose novel. Did you turn to any pieces of art for inspiration while writing this novel? Who are some of your favorite artists? Does Kiko share your artistic tastes?

ADB: None of the artwork Kiko creates was inspired by any specific piece of art. It’s sort of the style that exists in my imagination (and also stays there, because I am laughably bad at drawing and even worse at painting). So I think it’s fair to say our tastes are similar, even if our talent for art is at opposite ends of the scale. But with Hiroshi, his style was inspired by my love of pop surrealism and artists like Mark Ryden and Anne Angelshaug.

Starfish is filled with a lot of empowering moments as Kiko begins to gain confidence and learns about her own resilience and strength. Did you have a favorite scene to write in this novel? Is there one you are excited for readers to discover?

ADB: I really enjoyed writing all the early scenes with Kiko and Jamie. The romance in Starfish very much takes a backseat to Kiko’s journey of self-acceptance and finding a way to move forward, but it’s still such an important part of her growth. Because one of the things Kiko worries about as a biracial teen is that she’s “too Asian” for people to find her beautiful or desirable. She had a couple of bad experiences where people told her they weren’t “into Asian girls,” and it really affected the way she saw herself. And it’s something that hits so close to home for me, because that way of thinking is so difficult to unlearn. I wanted Kiko to have unmistakable proof that the feelings she had for Jamie were mutual, and to show that his affections for Kiko had zero to do with her being half-Japanese. Writing their scenes brought me a lot of joy, because I was letting Kiko essentially unlearn these fears she had about the way others see her. And as for a scene I’m most excited for readers to discover, it would probably be the scene where the meaning of “starfish” is revealed. It’s a pivotal moment for Kiko, and I think it’s the point where she really starts to look at the future differently.

There’s no right or wrong way to write a novel, but there’s lots of advice to be had. What’s the best piece of writing advice you received when you were starting out? Now that your debut is out in the world, do you have any advice that you would share with aspiring authors?

To always be writing the next book. And it’s the same advice I would give aspiring authors now. Because there is so much in this business that will be completely out of your control. But that next book? It’s the one thing you have complete control over. In a lot of ways, the “next book” is my anchor. It keeps me from getting completely lost in the excitement, anxiety, and terror that comes with getting an agent/getting a book deal/seeing your first trade reviews/etc, etc. So ignore the noise, stay focused, and work on the next book.

Thank you to Akemi for taking the time to answer my questions about Starfish. Be sure to watch for the Youth Media Awards ceremony at 8 a.m. MT on Feb. 12, 20l8 to see which Morris Award finalist will be selected as this year’s winner.

— Emma Carbone, currently reading Warcross by Marie Lu

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January 16th is National Day of Racial Healing (#NDORH)

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 07:00

National Day of Racial Healing is a day to “Focusing on ways for all of us to heal from the wounds of the past, to build mutually respectful relationships across racial and ethnic lines that honor and value each person’s humanity, and to build trusting intergenerational and diverse community relationships that better reflect our common humanity.” (From the W.K. Kellogg foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation page.)

Below you will find links to previous Hub posts with information about materials with themes relating to racial healing, social justice, and activism. 

20 Books to Inspire Social Change

Activism Starts with You: 20 Books to Inspire and Instruct

Diversify YA Life: Social Justice League—Readers’ Advisory for Teens Dealing with Social Justice Issues

Narrative Nonfiction with Social Justice Themes

Narrative Nonfiction with Social Justice Themes, Part II

Racial and Social Justice Podcasts for Teens

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Another Year, Another Mock Printz

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 07:00

As the year begins to wind down, so do Mock Printz selection teams! With the Michael L. Printz Award just over 2 months away, we begin to narrow our choices and seriously discuss our contenders.  As a member of my library system’s selection team, I read many amazing and beautiful books this year. The experience was fun, engaging, and exposed me to books and authors I may not have otherwise picked up.

Does your library host a Mock Printz? What is your set up?

My selection team consists of 6-8 Teen Librarians and support staff with interests in teen literature. Our two team leaders set up a Goodreads group where we could add potential titles to our shelf and discuss titles we read throughout the year. We narrowed down our contender pool via a few face to face meetings and plenty of Goodreads discussion threads.  Because of the sheer volume of books we needed to read, we required three team members to give a title “contender” status before it was made a contender. We also required two team members to deem a title “DNR – Do Not Read” before we could scratch it from our lists. Let me tell you, it is challenging! Many passionate discussions were held over the past 12 months.

Because of the time it takes our system to process books, our plan was to choose a few titles published between January and June that we thought were definitely contenders. Then we met again in November to choose a few more titles we felt were worthy of the award. That way, everyone participating in the final mock award selection has time to check out and read all the contenders before the final meeting. This year my team chose seven titles to be discussed at our library’s annual Mock Printz in February. From those seven titles we will chose one to win our mock award. Naturally we base all of our decisions on the criteria set forth by the actual Printz committee. Those can be found on the YALSA website!

If you’re considering setting up your own Mock Printz, here is a little list to get you started!

  1. Select your committee. Send out an email to librarians in the area and gauge interest.
  2. Use a tracking method to add books to a “to read” list (whether that is on a social site like Goodreads, or just a spreadsheet your team can share). We sifted through professional magazines, starred reviews, Goodreads reviews, word of mouth, and our gut instincts to find books.
  4. Discuss! Make sure you are constantly discussing the merits of all the titles you are reading.
  5. Narrow down your titles as you go.
  6. Select your winner!

If your system does not host a Mock Printz, check out this Mock Printz group on Goodreads!

–Megan Whitt, currently reading La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

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Women in Comics – Looking Ahead to 2018

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 07:00

As another year begins, it’s time to look ahead to the exciting new comics and graphic novels by women that we can expect in 2018. Hopefully this list will give you something to look forward to as the new year starts!

All Summer Long by Hope Larson – Hope Larson’s latest graphic novel is all about summer break. Bina’s not so sure about spending her summer without her best friend Austin, but while he’s gone she’s able to forge a new friendship with Austin’s sister and spend plenty of time on her music. When Austin gets back from his time at camp, will their friendship still be as strong as ever?

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol – As an immigrant from Russia, Vera really just wants to be like everyone else. And part of that is going to summer camp, though her mom’s budget means that her only option is to attend a summer camp for Russian kids. But, it turns out that camp may not be everything Vera had hoped for after all. This story is sure to be relatable for kids who’ve attended summer camp and fun for those who have only ever dreamed of a camp experience.

Moonstruck Vol. 1 written by Grace Ellis with art by Shae Beagle and Kate Leth – Set in a town full of fantastic citizens, including werewolves, centaurs, and more, this story follows werewolf barista Julie through work, relationships, and more. With cute artwork and a fun plot, this is a great read for fantasy fans.

Heavy Vinyl written by Carly Usdin with art by Nina Vakueva – When Chris gets a job at a record shop, she just thinks she’ll have a cool workplace. Little does she know that her coworkers are all part of a secret fight club. This book offers a very different take on the typical comic about vigilantes and has a lot of great female characters.

Fab 4 Mania by Carol Tyler – This memoir, based on the author’s own teenage diary, recounts her excitement about the Beatles as a 13-year old. Perfect for those who want to see what fandom was like in the 1960’s and fans of graphic memoirs.

Losing the Girl by MariNaomi – When Claudia disappears, her classmates have no idea what to think, but one option is definitely alien abduction, right? Though this book is concerned with Claudia’s sudden disappearance, it is also about much more than that, tackling relatable teen topics such as romance, friendship, and facing sudden and unexpected changes to one’s life.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang – Prince Sebastian leads a busy life. His parents are eager for him to marry and are looking for a wife for him. But, at the same time he is leading a secret double life as Lady Crystallia, who becomes a fashion icon with the help of his friend and personal dressmaker Frances. But, how will Sebastian’s need for secrecy work with Frances’ desire to become a famous fashion designer?

Algeria Is Beautiful Like America written by Olivia Burton with art by Mahi Grand – This autobiographical work about Burton’s travels to her grandmother’s native Algeria offers an interesting view not only of the country but also into her quest to understand her family history.

Niki de Saint Phalle: The Garden of Secrets by Sandrine Martin and Dominique Osuch – This biographical comic introduces readers to Niki de Saint Phalle, an important female sculptor. With a striking art style and an important story to tell, this is a perfect suggestion for art enthusiasts whether they typically favor graphic novels or not.

Fence written by C.S. Pacat with art by Johanna the Mad – Regular readers of this feature may recall Fence from the November post, but the first collected volume of the series will be released in the summer of 2018. This series has it all, sports, competitions, high school drama, romance! It is well worth adding to your collection, particularly since fencing doesn’t typically get much attention in comics or young adult literature.

The Altered History of Willow Sparks by Tara O’Connor – This book is for anyone who has ever dreamed about having the power to change their life through magic. Willow Sparks is just trying to make it through high school despite her questionable social status. But, when she discovers a book that gives her the power to completely change her life, she has a chance for more than that. The question is will magical popularity be all that it is cracked up to be?

Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir and Steenz – Former librarian Cel finds herself working as an archivist at a museum when she loses her library job. When Cel meets a ghost from the museum’s past, she begins to question herself, but eventually partners with the ghost to help her tackle the problems that still hang over her. With its focus on mental health topics, this book is more than just a fun read.

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide written by Isabel Quintero with art by Zeke Peña – This graphic biography of Graciela Iturbide will introduce readers to a photographer whose work they may not be familiar with. The book chronicles Iturbide’s start as a photographer and her travels around the world taking the photographs that would make her an icon in the field. This is a great example of graphic biography.

The City on the Other Side written by Mairghread Scott with art by Robin Robinson – Set in San Francisco in the early 1900’s and in the fairy kingdoms that connect to the city, this book follows Isabel, a dutiful daughter, who accidentally finds herself in a magical city. There she must find her place and role in a war between two groups of fairies. A fun adventure for anyone who enjoys fantasy tales.

This is only a selection of the great comics and graphic novels by women that are being released in 2018. Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any or which ones you are most excited for!

– Carli Spina, current reading A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

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Month in Review: December 2017

Mon, 01/01/2018 - 07:00

Just a quick round up of December, a month that just seems to keep getting shorter and shorter!

At the Hub Books & Reading Movies & TV In the News

— Cathy Outten, currently reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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