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The Monday Poll: Which Character’s Closet do you Want to Raid? (Part 2)

Sun, 06/01/2014 - 23:45

photo used with permission from Rubbermaid

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we inquired about your favorite redeemed character in YA lit. It looks like Severus Snape from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series won your hearts with 66% of the vote. (On a related note, can any of you hear the name Severus Snape anymore without singing this little ditty? It’s not just me, right?) Snape was followed by Froi from Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles, with 25% of the vote. 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 going to revisit a topic we explored way back in 2011, and is due for an update: which YA lit character’s closet would you want to raid? Vote in the poll 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.


2014 Hub Reading Challenge Check-in #17

Sun, 06/01/2014 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2014 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since February 3 counts, so sign up now!

As we enter our final weeks of YALSA’s 2014 Hub Reading Challenge, I am excited to see all the progress everyone is making on their reading. Many are finishing up their pile of books, but even if you haven’t reached your goal yet, there is still time to finish 25 books from the list before midnight on June 22nd.

As you move through the list, be sure to keep us posted. What book have you just finished? Which books have you liked? Are there any that you have discovered that you never would have read without the competition? Did you find new authors or even new genres to love? Let us know in the comments, post your thoughts on Goodreads or share it with us on other social media using the #hubchallenge hashtag!

The 2014 Hub Reading Challenge runs until 11:59 PM EST on June 22nd, so even if you are just starting, you still have plenty of time to read 25 books! Be sure to keep track of what you are reading/listening to as you go along. We’ll be posting these check-in posts each Sunday so you can share your thoughts about the book(s) you read/listened to that week and share links to any reviews you post online. If you just can’t wait for our weekly posts, share your thoughts via social media using the #hubchallenge hashtag, 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

Tweets of the Week: May 30

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 07:00

Here are the tweets from this week. Don’t forget to checkout the #bea14 tweets for more bookish news.




Just for Fun:

~ Jennifer Rummel, Currently Reading Brunette Ambition by Lea Michele

Adoption in YA Lit

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 07:00

I’ve been thinking about the books I’ve read over the years about adoption.

I was adopted (domestic, transracial, closed, as an infant – just because you  may have questions, and just because there are so many ways to be adopted and I want to explain that I can in no way speak competently about all types of experiences). I read books about adoption growing up when I could find them, but that was not often, especially as I grew out of picture books and early readers.

I was always surprised there were not more books that dealt with adoption, since people like to think that it’s something that is fraught with drama (people like to exaggerate what they don’t understand), and nothing works better in a book than drama. Another reason there should be books about adoption is because adoption customs and laws have changed SO MUCH in the two and a half decades since I was adopted. More domestic adoptions are open now than were in the 1970s, 1980s, or even the 1990s. Laws about who can search for whom and when change every five minutes and vary from state to state. Record keeping changes. Cultural taboos change.

And that’s to say nothing about people whose lives are touched by adoption, whether it is as adoptees, adoptive parents, siblings, or birthparents. Some adoptees have zero interest in seeking out their birthparents. Others want a relationship with their birthparents. Still others are more interested in a “Hi, now we both know the other exists” type of interaction. Some children are adopted as babies, others when they are older. Others stay in the foster care system a long time. From the 1960s to the 1970s, giving up a baby for adoption was probably something you did quietly or because you were forced to. Now it is more likely that a birthparent might meet with prospective parents and involve them in the baby’s life before it is born. Even as I try to think of different types of situations, it hits me that there are probably a lot more books than I think there are. Here are some books, old and new, that might be interesting to look at in duos.

Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen Cook
In this one, published earlier this year, high school senior Avery decides to seek out her birthmother when her childhood friend no longer can seek out hers. Dealing with grief and guilt about lost friendships, new romantic interests, and lying to her parents, Avery tries to get around legal obstacles (she is still 17) and goes on some TV movie-esque adventures to try and track down the young woman who gave her up as an infant.

Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye by Lois Lowry
A similar story but from a much earlier time (1978), this book is also about a 17-year-old who, like Avery, seemingly has it all. Natalie shocks her parents when she says she wants to search for her birthmother, but they ultimately give her a car, money, and time to go on her own journey, leaving her to decide whether she’ll be able to handle the results.

Both of these books are great for the way they allow a mature, well adjusted teen to decide for herself whether or not she’s ready (or even interested) in searching for her birthmother, without significant impediments or particular encouragement from the families that have raised them. They might both be limited by their white, upper middle class perspective, which makes the resources they have easier to come by, but they’re interesting in how similar they are, even when laws and technology have changed so much in the 30+ years they span.

Wait…I’m Adopted?
Heaven by Angela Johnson (2003 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)
Marley doesn’t learn she’s adopted until she is 14 years old, and she must reevaluate what family means to her when it turns out that her parents are her aunt and uncle.

Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay
Similarly, in this Saffy learns she is actually a cousin, not a sibling, when she puts together that her siblings’ names all appear on the color wheel and hers does not.

Both of these books straddle the middle grade/YA line and deal with having a big blow dealt to you at an already sensitive time – early adolescence. The main contrast here is that Johnson tends for the lyrical and literary, while McKay has a bit more quirk and humor. These books would be very important to have for a reader going through a life changing discovery and dealing with betrayal.

Cultural Clashes
When the Black Girl Sings by Bil Wright
Lahni is the only black girl at her school, and even though her white parents are loving and sensitive as they can be to her needs, she feels out of place. Then she discovers gospel music and finds something of herself in it.

A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt (2007 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults)
Simone’s parents are the ones who make her forge a relationship with Rivka, her biological mother, who is dying from cancer. Simone is an atheist, and Rivka was raised a Chassidic Jew.

The takeaway here, I think, is how adoptees need parents who are willing to support their adoptive children both when they are their children and when they need to find out who and what they are that their adoptive parents are not. Transracial and transcultural adoptions are wonderful and necessary, but they are also complicated, as it’s the responsibility of the parents and the right of the child to be fully a part of their new family and yet fully able and welcome to learn about and identify with their birthfamily’s ethnic or racial background.

International Adoption
Finding Miracles by Julia Alvarez
Milly is prompted to think about her birthparents when a new boy at school suggests that she looks like she comes from his same village in Central America.

Throwaway Daughter by Ting-xing Ye
When Grace hears about the Tiananmen massacre, it hits home, and she begins to learn about her Chinese heritage. She wants to go to China to seek out her birthmother, but she knows she will have trouble finding her, since she was one of the many baby girls abandoned to an orphanage.

Novels such as these bring up the questions of whether one can be more American than whatever nationality they would have had from birth; whether parents do enough to teach their children about the countries they come from; and what it means to have been born one thing but raised another.

More To Read
Meg Kearney’s novels in verse, The Secret of Me and The Girl in the Mirror, are sensitive reads about a character is perfectly comfortable being adopted but less comfortable speaking about it with others.

Something Real by Heather Demetrios is about a girl who has 11 adopted siblings, all of whom appeared on a reality show with her as a bit of a spectacle.

Remember that rash of very public adoptions by celebrities? Exclusively Chloe by J.A. Yang is told from the perspective of one of a girl whose parents are superstars. Trophy Kid, or How I Was Adopted by the Rich and Famous by Steve Atinsky seems similar.

Separated at birth your thing? Robyn Bavati’s Pirouette deals with twins who meet, Parent Trap-style, when they end up at the same dance camp.

For more intercultural issues, try Janet Taylor Lisle’s The Crying Rocks.

What books about adoption have you read? And why do you think it is that these books are about girls? In all my searching, I found it very difficult to find anything about boys who had been adopted, but I did find more books than I expected that I had not yet read. Here’s to more books on your TBR list!

–Hannah Gómez, currently reading Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

For Fans of The Fault In Our Stars: What to Read Next

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 07:00

Next week, the highly anticipated movie based on John Green’s 2012 Teens’  Top Ten winning title The Fault In Our Stars will be released. The first post I ever wrote for The Hub offered a list of books that fans of The Fault in Our Stars would enjoy and with the movie coming out so soon, now seems like a good time to add to this list.

Since my last post, I have discovered even more books that will appeal to fans of TFiOS, so whether you are looking for a book to occupy you until you see the movie or a list of books to fill your summer, hopefully you will find what you are looking for here.

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy: Alternating between points of view and points in time, this story slowly reveals glimpses of Alice’s battle against cancer, but at its heart it is really the story of the relationship between Alice and her best friend Harvey, who she enlists to help her complete her bucket list. This is a book about what happens when you don’t die, and how difficult it can be to decide to grow as a person.

The F-It List by Julie Halpern: Another book about a bucket list, in this case, Alex is left to complete her best friend Becca’s bucket list when Becca is too sick to do most of the activities herself. After months of not talking due to Becca’s inexcusable actions on the day of Alex’s father’s funeral, the list helps to bring the two back together and allows Alex to work through her grief after her father’s death. Halpern creates characters who are real in both their strength and their flaws. 

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick: Rather than focusing on the battle against cancer, Sonnenblick opts to look at the aftermath of the disease. Jeffrey had cancer as a young boy, but now that he is in remission, he still has to deal with what happens next, which for him means contending with permanent nerve damage and the after effects of his medication which leave him struggling in school and often losing focus. The book also tackles the impact that his cancer has had on his family members and is a great picture of what happens after “getting better.” (2012 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic: Knowing that he will die soon, Austin Parker has decided that he wants to leave his mark on the world. While some of the things he hopes to do are simply experiences he has not yet had, his greater goal is to reach out to those in his life that he sees struggling in an attempt to help them to find a way to improve their own lives. Over the course of one action-packed weekend, Austin attempts to experience everything and save everyone he knows, taking the reader along for the ride.

Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon: Set on the hospice floor of a hospital, this is not necessarily a book focused on making cancer an uplifting topic. Instead, Seamon tells the story of real teens who happen to be living the rest of their lives in hospice. She offers an unflinching view of their experience and, at the same time, creates a very believable and funny protagonist. (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness: This book is much different from any other book on the list. It includes elements of the paranormal, fables, and illustrations by Jim Kay, all of which contribute to a dark and creepy environment. But at its heart, this story is the very real story of a teen struggling to deal with the fact that his mother has cancer. According to the cover of the book, the concept was “inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd,” an author who herself died of cancer, and it proves to be a powerful approach to a difficult topic, one that enhances the emotion of the story rather than detracting from it. (2012 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)

This Star Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl with Lori and Wayne Earl: Fans of TFiOS may recall that it was dedicated to Esther Earl, a teen who died of thyroid cancer in 2010. This book tells her story through her writing, her artwork, pictures of her throughout her life, and passages written by her family and friends. It captures the experience of one girl who had cancer and offers a very personal view of a disease that many readers may not have encountered.

With so many great and very different books available, I hope every TFiOS fan will be able to find something to read on this post or my initial one. Let me know how you feel about these books or any others I may have missed in the comments. And, be sure to watch The Hub for a post on the movie once it is out!

-Carli Spina, currently reading The Nightmare Dilemma by Mindee Arnett

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Laini Taylor

Thu, 05/29/2014 - 07:00

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

It might be possible to resist Laini Taylor’s words and worlds, but I kind of doubt it.  I didn’t even try.  A friend sent me Blackbringer (book one of the Dreamdark series) and I fell headlong in love from the first sentence–”The wolf tasted the babe’s face with the tip of his tongue and pronounced her sweet, and the fox licked the back of her head to see if it was so,” for the record.  When Lips Touch was nominated for the National Book Award I was thrilled, but not surprised (it was a YALSA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults as well.)  And then came Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Karou and Akiva and Brimstone and Zuzana and finally the not-very-well-kept-secret of Laini Taylor exploded and it was wonderful, because there is no resisting Laini Taylor’s words and worlds.  The detail, the scope, the sheer width and breath and depth of them just sucks you in like a beautiful, deadly, whirlpool.  Here there be marionettes and teeth and pomegranates and spiders and bat wings and blackened handprints and death and hope and courage and, of course, love, and how can anyone be expected to resist that?  My advice is not to try.  Just dive into the maelstrom and enjoy the ride.

Thank you so much, Laini, for taking the time to talk; for sticking with me through travel, technical difficulties, and kid time; and for the really excellent description of teen hair fail (been there.)

Always Something There to Remind Me

Please describe your teenage self.
I was ordinary and undistinguished, probably wearing ill-fitting jeans and exhibiting a lack of hair-styling mastery. If I wasn’t reading, I was daydreaming. I had a very good vocabulary and no sense of when not to use obscure words in conversation, so I got a lot of blank looks, and I’m sure I sounded pretentious. I memorized poetry, loved foreign films, and dreamed of escaping to Europe to pursue some grand, artistic life. I was a decent student and a decent athlete, and I had good parents and a small number of good friends. My high school life wasn’t terrible, but it would make a really boring book.

What did you want to be when you grew up?  Why?
I always wanted to be a writer. This has been a constant since very early childhood, with a few other—half-hearted—interests cropping up along the way, generally due to the influence of some book I was reading at the time. Like, thanks to Gerald Durrell, I wanted to travel the world collecting wild animals for zoos. None of these detours were ever serious. I’ve only ever really wanted to be a writer. In high school, specifically, I wanted to be a writer who vanished inexplicably and was believed dead. Yes, really. I would not be dead, of course. I would be living fabulously, secretly, in Tahiti. People would discuss the mystery of my disappearance in cafes the world over. This fantasy was mostly not serious. Mostly. I’ve always had ludicrous, over-the-top daydreams! Plus, I was under the influence of John Fowles novels at that time.

What were your high school years like?
When I was fourteen, my family moved from Brussels, Belgium to Orange County, California. It was 1987ish. This was not a happy move. I’d been living overseas for six years (my dad was in the Navy), first in a small, southern Italian beach town and then a major European capital. I’m sure I thought I was very worldly, but California was not impressed. I was lacking certain critical skills. For example, I didn’t know how to use a curling iron! In Orange County in 1987, you had to use a curling iron. For my first attempt, I curled in the wrong direction and scorched a kink into my hair. It was awesome. But I learned how to do it, sort of, to this effect: I would start out the school day with giant tidal-wave bangs (success!), but by second period the hair spray would start to give out (failure!) and my hair would slowly lose its structural integrity and collapse into a sad, half-resting state. Thinking back, I’m sure that not all of high school was about hair, but it kind of feels that way. I challenge you to look at my year book and notice anything else! “That hair! Oh my god, that hair!”

What were some of your passions during that time?  
Thinking back, I don’t feel like I was really passionate about anything in high school, and I wish that weren’t the case. I wish I’d had some esoteric obsession, or particular area of expertise, but I was kind of a bland generalist. I was on the soccer, diving and track teams, belonged to the Model United Nations club along with my best friends, and had long-running crushes on unattainable boys. Outside of school, there wasn’t much to do. There were no cafes or any other places to hang out. My mom had a convertible VW so I could borrow that and drive my friends to the beach. We would go all the way to Laguna Beach to make jewelry at this one bead store. We rented movies, especially French ones (Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources were faves) and tear-jerker period pieces. Junior and senior year I worked at uninspiring mall jobs to save money for my escape back to Europe. I suppose if I had any passion then, that was it: laying plans for my escape!

Would you be willing to share a difficult teen experience or challenge that you feel shaped the adult you became?
Probably, more than anything, moving around shaped me. As a Navy family, we were always moving, and I took it in stride (which is not to say that it was without drama), but looking back now, I think how difficult it really is to live a life of uprooting. By far the most challenging time for my brother and myself was the move back to the States when we were in high school. For the first time, we were moving into a civilian community. Before, we’d always been integrating into military communities where everyone else was as fluid as we were. We were all equally open to making new friends; it was our normal. It was not the normal in Fountain Valley, California! (Plus there was the hair issue! Oh NO!)

This is a great subject for a YA novel—being the new kid in town—because it’s just such a fraught proposition, and so much can go wrong. I navigated it all right, I guess, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the root reason that I write YA is as some kind of a deeply buried wish to do these years over, and do them better.

(This is certainly a very thought-provoking interview. Maybe it’s weird that as a YA author I never think about my own teen years, but I guess I don’t, because this feels like new territory for me.)

What about a positive experience or accomplishment that had an impact on your adult self?
As soon as I graduated from high school, I was on a plane back to Europe. My parents had said long ago that I could, and I’m sure they imagined that some of my friends would be going too, but it turned out that none of their parents would let them, so it was just me. I was seventeen and had no life skills, but I got a Eurail pass, a big backpack, and a copy of Let’s Go: Europe, and I backpacked around all summer on my own and then stayed on another couple of months in Paris, living in an attic (which sounds more artistic and atmospheric than it was), babysitting French kids, and daydreaming a lot about being a writer. It was my Big Adventure (though it really was a fairly small adventure), and I can’t imagine myself without having done it.

What advice, if any, would you give your teen self?  Would your teen self have listened?
I found myself giving this advice to a young friend recently, knowing I wouldn’t have listened to it myself at her age: Forget about boys until your mid-20s! Sorry, boys, but you’re not worth the trouble until maybe then. (Most of you, anyway. There are probably exceptions!) Teen self, my advice is just to focus on you, your dreams, your friends, your interests, skills, grades (yes, grades!). When it comes to boys, in the words of Karou: “Be that cat.” (This is from Daughter; she’s thinking how she’s sick of being the kind of cat that’s always twining around ankles saying “look at me, pet me, love me”; she wants to be the kind of cat that’s perched out of reach on a high wall, untouchable, needing no one. Not that Karou abided by this advice either, but wow, maybe she should have!)

Do you have any regrets about your teen years?  Anything left undone or anything that might have been better left undone?
I wish I would have written more, painted and drawn more. I wish I would have started a weird zine or something, been more creative—and more individual. In my story-writing efforts at that time, my characters were these quirky girls who drove old ratty French cars like Citroens that they’d written poetry all over, and they belonged to secret societies that read Dante and stuff like that. I daydreamed hard about being quirky, but I really wasn’t. I was awkward and kind of socially paralyzed. I was too self-conscious to dance at parties, and at football games I was even afraid to woo-hoo, as though I might do it wrong! In elementary and middle school, I’d felt very bold and powerful, very much myself, but I lost that in my teens. I wish I could have held onto it somehow.

What, if anything, do you miss most about that time?
My friends, and the good old days when my parents took care of me and life was so easy, before adult concerns—though of course I didn’t appreciate it then!

Every Day I Write the Book

I found it so interesting that you’ve talked about two of your characters—Kizzy (from “Goblin Fruit” in Lips Touch) and Karou—as being similar to your teenage self in some ways, two sides of the coin, as it were.  Kissy, you’ve said, “was my teenage self in a much more direct way…emotionally she was all the big dreams that I had for my life.”  Karou, on the other hand, “was much more the answer to…who I wanted to be.”  Both characters have connected with readers like crazy.  One reviewer noted your intense and “sympathetic understanding of [your] audience,” asking “who as a teenager didn’t feel like a chimera, a mix of seemingly disparate parts forming an uncertain self?”  How do you create your teenage characters, and how do you get the emotional tone so right?  Was writing for and about teens a conscious decision or simply a result of the stories you wanted to tell?
Writing about teens wasn’t a conscious decision. After college, I stopped writing for a long time, for various reasons including not having dealt with my creative hang-ups, and not have discovered my voice as a writer. Time passed and I rediscovered my love of fantasy (thank you Harry Potter!), and when I started writing again, it was middle grade and YA fantasy.

I never even thought about it. I was deeply in love with these books that connect with young readers (and not-so-young) in such a profound way. I’ve since thought a lot about why I’m drawn to write younger characters, and I don’t have a good answer. In so many ways, I still don’t feel like “a grownup,” and in spite of my age, I don’t relate to grownup life all that much. I really don’t know what to make of that!

In a 2013 interview you highlight fantasy’s “ability to universalize themes in a way that lets us look at Big Ideas like war and honor and sacrifice and love…as human themes that are deeply meaningful in our lives, free from the allegiances and prejudices we bring to stories that happen in our real world.”  Both of your series (Dreamdark and Daughter of Smoke and Bone) tackle a number of Big Ideas—war, the power of hope, destiny, the idea of heroes, the search for identity—and I’m wondering if you could talk a little about theme in your own work?  Do you ever set out to tackle a Big Idea in advance or do specific themes present themselves through the story or characters?  What themes tend to resonate most with you, either in your own work or in others?  Is there a particular theme that you’d actively like to explore in the future? 
I don’t really think about themes at the beginning. I’m just telling a story, just following characters. Somewhere in the back rooms of my brain, though, there are strange, wizened alchemists mixing themes together, and drawing lines with string between one thing and another. Making meaning. That stuff happens in the dark, and it’s the best, how it creeps up and surprises you. Meaning! Yay! Thank you, weird shadow-people from the brain alleys!

At some point I begin to see it, and I become more deliberate with it, sculpting the narrative to strengthen ideas as well as plot. There are a set of themes and motifs I find myself returning to over and over again, unconsciously. Self-sacrifice and redemption, impossible choices, the inhumanity of war, family bonds that go beyond blood. It is also very important to note that chocolate has appeared in every one of my books!

I’m trying to figure out how to ask a question about world-building, and how it intersects with your fascinating post on the “Dance of the Known and the Unknown.” Your ability to craft a “well-structured and creative setting…astonishing in both its detail, and the canny way it is woven into the narrative” has been noted by numerous critics, who praise “world-building descriptions…[that] stop your heart,” and the “masterful blending [of] an intricate fantasy world into our own.”  I’m wondering if you could give us a sense of how world-building works for you?  It seems like your “Dance of the Known and the Unknown” started as an explanation of plotting, but the lyrical description is so characteristic of your world-building that I wonder if the idea intersects there as well?    
Yes, definitely! Interesting observation :-).

I try not to do the world-building up front, but prefer to discover it as I go, so that it becomes an organic outgrowth of the storytelling, rather than a set of pre-ordained constraints for the storytelling to navigate. With my Dreamdark books, I did a lot more planning and note-making about the world before I began writing. I have notebooks filled with ideas and inspiration. That was really fun, and I treasure those notebooks, but I can also see that that degree of preparation was motivated by fear of diving into the unknown.

With the Daughter books, and even “Hatchling,” from Lips Touch, I approached it in a really different way, creating situations and characters and then seeing where they took me. Writing that way very much is the dance between the Known and the Unknown!

You host a website that collects past writing essays (from 2007ish) and your regular blog often features musings on the writing process, as well as your answers to questions from aspiring writers.  You’ve talked about the genesis and writing of your Dreamdark books, Lips Touch, and the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, and have been extremely generous with your insight, advice, and honest depiction of life as a writer; clearly you think a lot about the process of writing.  Have you experienced anything truly surprising or unexpected, writing-wise, between your first novel and your current book?  Have you changed your mind about any part of the process over the years?  Have you received any advice along the way that was particularly valuable or pertinent?  And finally, what do you struggle with the most these days and what do you consider to be your greatest strength as a writer?
Great question! I’ve been thinking about this a lot since finishing the trilogy, since it only hit me after the fact how much my process has changed over the course of writing these books. I’ve got a half-written blog post on the subject, and haven’t really put it all into words yet, and probably won’t be able to here, but I’ll try!

Basically, when I got serious about finishing novels (around 2005), I thought I had to plan them out and be in control of them at all times. I had a lot of fear of moving forward into the unknown. I believed that I was a “plotter.” Early in the writing of this series, I did try to plot and plan it out, but it really resisted my efforts. I found I could only see a little way ahead. I had vague ideas for the overall story arc, but no clear and orderly plan, and certainly no outline. This was terrifying but also really freeing.

What I’ve discovered about myself over these five years goes back to that question about the “dance between the Known and the Unknown.” By far most of my story arises from the writing of scenes, from being inside the scene with the characters and letting things happen. It’s a really different headspace than the plotting/outlining headspace, and it feels much more vital and organic, as though the characters are real and alive and I’m not fully in control. It’s magical, the things that happen that I didn’t plan. I love it! The storytelling process ends up feeling to me like swimming from buoy to buoy, with each “buoy” being a story beat I have to reach. Once I do, I can cling to it for a while and catch my breath, take stock, let it sink in. (And also revise and prettify it.) Then when I’m ready, I strike out swimming for the next buoy.

Basically, I’ve learned to have faith in the process. It’s really exciting!

Just Can’t Get Enough

This question comes from Shannon Hale:  “Laini, I don’t just want to read your books, I want to eat them. Your words are delicious. Your scenes are vivid. I feel and smell and experience your stories. I’d love to know a little more about your process. Do you collect words? What’s your process for crafting sentences? How much do your sentences change from first to final draft? And will you secretly revise all my books for me please?”
Oh, Shannon, I feel the same way about your books! *Hug!* Thank you!! I do collect words. In fact, I don’t know that Daughter of Smoke & Bone would exist—at least in anything like the form it does now—if I hadn’t “collected” the word wishbone on the inside cover of a writing notebook shortly before starting it. It was a part of a short list of words I scribbled down for no reason other than that I liked them (along with solstice, disguise, eclipse, and alchemy), and when I found myself, out of nowhere, writing a scene with this blue-haired girl and her monster father, Brimstone ended up wearing a wishbone on a cord around his neck. I have no doubt that this was due to that word being on that list, and it became the key to the story. I heard Susan Cooper speak at a conference once, and she said, “Job number one, for a writer, is to keep a notebook. Job number two: refer to it often.’ This is something I do with great pleasure.

As for writing sentences, oh how I love sentences. For a long time, that’s what “writing” meant to me: crafting sentences. I could happily spend a day on a single sentence, trying out every possibility, polishing it until it was perfect. I actually passed years doing that. It’s a horrible way to try to write a novel! So now I try to find a balance between the love of prose craft and the imperative of storytelling. My happy place is still very much in polishing the prose, so I love to revise.

I don’t have true first drafts because I revise as I go. I can’t move forward unless I love the writing, so I spend a lot of time doing that along the way. It’s incredibly inefficient but my brain needs it. So my “first draft” has already been edited a bajillion times by the time anyone else sees it.

And I’ll revise your books if you revise mine! :-)

Laini has contributed a question for the next author in the series, Marcus Sedgwick.  Watch for an interview with him coming soon!


Laini Taylor is the New York Times bestselling author of Dreams of Gods & Monsters, Days of Blood & Starlight, Daughter of Smoke & Bone (a 2012 YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults), the Dreamdark books Blackbringer and Silksinger, and the National Book Award finalist Lips Touch: Three Times (also a 2009 YALSA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults).  She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, and their daughter, Clementine. 

You can find Laini by visiting her website and blog, the Official Daughter of Smoke & Bone tumblr, or by following her on Twitter.

–Julie Bartel, currently reading Midwinterblood by Marcus Segwick and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Calling All Teens! YALSA announces Teen Blogging Contest for Teen Read Week™

Thu, 05/29/2014 - 07:00

The Hub is thrilled to be a part of YALSA’s Teen Read Week Teen Blogging contest!

Teens aged 12 -18 can sign up now through August 1, 2014 to participate in the contest for a chance to guest blog for YALSA’s young adult literature blog, The Hub. Selected teens will blog about a wide range of topics related to YA literature while also further developing their writing and blogging skills.

Blog posts written by the teen bloggers will be featured during the week of October 12 -18 in celebration of Teen Read Week.   Selected participants will be notified in August.  Visit the Teen Read Week website for all the details and guidelines about the contest. Teen Read Week will be celebrated Oct. 12 -18 this year with the theme “Turn Your Dreams into Reality @ your library.” Join the online discussion with the hashtag #TRW14.

If you’re a teen, we want to hear from you. And if you work with teens, spread the word about this exciting opportunity! We love featuring teen voices on The Hub, and can’t wait for Teen Read Week this year.

-Allison Tran, Hub Manager

What Would They Read? X-Men: Days of Future Past Edition

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 07:00

X-Men: Days of Future Past was certainly the big hit at the box office this holiday weekend, raking in $111 million dollars over four days.

This makes it the fifth biggest Memorial Day weekend opening ever, which is quite the accomplishment for my favorite band of ragtag mutants. We first heard of the premise for Days of Future Past during the credits of the last Wolverine movie. This new X-Men film brings together our old cast of characters that we were introduced to 14 years ago with the new ones from X-Men: First Class (2011), who just happen to be the younger versions of the characters from 14 years ago… Confused yet? Just wait until you get to the end of Days of Future Past. In fact, for an in-depth analysis of the ending to Days of Future Past and its timeline implications, check out this article from Entertainment Weekly.

The basic premise of the film is that the future has gone all-out genocidal on mutants and those that support mutant rights. The government started the Sentinel program as a way to specifically target the mutant gene, and thus kill mutants without collateral damage; however, the program pretty much led to the destruction of humanity as we know it. Pretty bleak future, so the X-Men send Wolverine back in time to try and alter it for the better of mankind and mutants alike. Wolverine is tasked with getting Magneto and Professor X to work together (no small feat there) to stop Raven/Mystique from killing Trask, the founder of the Sentinel program, which is apparently the catalyst for all of the future bad. As with any movie that involves time travel and the butterfly effect, the ending can make your brain hurt while you try to calculate just how much of the original X-Men timeline was impacted by this one movie. Although I have to say even with the brain freeze feeling it left me with, I was pretty satisfied with the whole shebang.

The trailer for the movie is here:

Since the X-Men films in general have never really stuck too close to their source material, I thought it would be more fun to do a “What Would They Read?” list of YA lit for my favorite band of mutants. The characters chosen for the list were the ones heavily featured in this particular film, so I apologize in advance to all of my fellow Rogue fans!

  • Magneto –The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb (2014 YALSA Nonfiction Award) & “The President Has Been Shot!”: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson (2014 YALSA Nonfiction FinalistWhen we first encounter Magneto in the film, he is stuck in a concrete prison underneath the Pentagon. For the simple reason that he has copious amounts of time, he gets two books on this list! The Nazi Hunters tells the story of Adolf Eichmann’s capture. Eichmann was the head of operations for the Nazi’s final solution and was finally found in Argentina 16 years later by Israeli spies. Given that Magneto’s background story is deeply entrenched in the WWII era as well as the Nazi concentration camps, this seems like the perfect read for him. Eric/Magneto dedicated his life to righting the wrongs done to him and others in those concentration camps, and it strongly shaped his distrust in governmental organizations. It seems only fitting that he would enjoy the story of how spies and survivors finally brought Eichmann to justice.The second book chosen for Magneto, “The President Has Been Shot!” has more to do with his Days of Future Past plot line and why when we first encounter Magneto he is imprisoned underneath the Pentagon. Let’s just say that he would definitely enjoy this dramatic retelling of the events surrounding the Kennedy assassination. 
  • Professor X – Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman (2010 YALSA Nonfiction Award)
    Given his professorial role throughout the X-Men series, it seemed necessary to pick a non-fiction title for Charles even though his school for the gifted is closed at the start of the film. Seriously, the 1970s were not a good time for Professor X. This title seemed fitting for Xavier since his academic interests most certainly align with mutations and the theory of evolution. Charles and Emma delves into the personal life of Charles Darwin, author of The Origin of Species. Darwin, an atheist scientist married his adored cousin Emma who was quite religious. It’s an interesting look into how Darwin’s personal life impacted the professional and vice versa. This idea of a struggle between two people who clearly loved one another really resonates when you think of Professor X and Magneto. They clearly have affection for each other as friends and yet they do have fundamental philosophical differences. How do you reconcile that? Maybe this book will help our Professor X answer that question for himself.
  • Wolverine – Phoenix Island by John Dixon
    What sounds more like Wolverine then a story about an orphaned champion boxer stuck in a sadistic, militaristic boot camp?! Carl Freeman has a problem, and it’s punching people who pick on the little guys. This is the entire reason he ends up on Phoenix Island, and it’s the reason he fights so hard to get off the island. Wolverine definitely likes to pretend he doesn’t care about much, but the man does travel all the way back to the 1970s in the hopes of saving all of his friends. It seems like the perfect machismo book for him to read.
  • Beast – Shiver series by Maggie Stiefvater (2010 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers) Beast is a scientist whose experiments cause him to essentially hulk out into a big blue beast. He’s a gentle soul who can kick some serious butt when necessary to save his friends. This definitely makes me think of Sam and Cole in the Shiver series by Stiefvater. The Shiver trilogy is the story of the werewolves in Mercy Falls, Minnesota. Sam and Grace are the central love story although they never seem to be able to stay human at the same time for very long. Beast starts out more like the character of Sam, trying to find a way to stay human and not a werewolf so he can be with his ladylove Grace. But then there is the whole part where the science goes a little wonky and he turns full on blue mutant and is now a little bit more like the science guy Cole trying to solve problems like Professor X’s spinal injury. Although, you could say Beast shoulders a lot of responsibility, for the mutants and the Professor, which is again more like Sam.
  • Raven/Mystique – This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
    Mystique seems so lonely and lost in this film that I felt compelled to pick a really happy book for her. It just seemed necessary! Hopefully the tale of Hollywood superstar Graham and small town girl Ellie’s meet cute romance will cheer our blue girl up. It’s just a really sweet story about two teenagers who couldn’t be farther apart finding the right person for the perfect first romance.

What about you readers, do you have any book recommendations for the  X-Men? What did you think of Days of Future Past?

-Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Jukebooks: Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 07:00

Millie is at another of Honeywell High School’s boring football games. The football coach, “Hollerin’ Hank” Kildare, was screaming so loud that his neck veins stood out and spittle flew at the unfortunate quarterback of the Honeywell Stingers. When Millie’s father, the assistant coach, tried to step in, Kildare almost punched him. This guy’s a nut job, Millie thinks, idling doodling a picture of Hollerin’ Hank with a knife in his chest. Then she amused herself by making a list of the people who’d like to see him dead.

Of course her dad was on the list.

One year later, Millie herself discovers the dead body of Hollerin’ Hank Kildare. She thinks back to her list. She remembers her dad’s name on that list. Millie vows that she will track down the killer herself, if only to keep her dad clear of suspicion.

In a more traditional interpretation of the phrase “buzz kill,” Luke Bryan sings about the follies of falling for a gorgeous but obviously superficial kind of girl in combination with beer that really should have been poured out.

-Diane Colson, currently reading The Riverman by Aaron Starmer

What Would They Read?: YA Lit for the Villains of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Tue, 05/27/2014 - 07:00

We have finally come to the end of my Buffy the Vampire Slayer trilogy of YA book recommendations.  I had people ask me to include Spike and Drusilla as well as other characters that hang out in the dark.  I feel this may be the most challenging entry yet.  I mean, when would Adam find the time from acting like Dr. Frankenstein to pick up a book?  Also, unless Glory’s minions were reading her the story of her life aloud, I can’t see her being interested in much else.  But still, I will do my best to find recommendations for even the most reluctant reader.

Darla – I thought I would work my way through the series chronologically.  Unfortunately, that puts the most difficult character first.  I can easily think of a title or two for every other character.  Darla is a puzzle.  Initially, we don’t learn much about Darla until she appears on Angel.  Everything we know about her consists of her life as a vampire throughout history.  She is the only main villainous vampire with a recurring storyline in Buffy that we do not know the origin story.  It’s not until Angel that we learn that she has been a vampire since the sixteenth century.  This may be a stretch, but I would give Darla Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick (the 2014 Printz Award winner) to read.  Darla and Angelus were together initially 200 years ago, but then were pulled apart when Angelus becomes Angel, the vampire with a soul.  Then, like the characters of Eric and Merle in Midwinterblood, the two are brought back together again through a series of circumstances.  And of course I have to mention, there is a bit of vampire action in the book as well.

Drusilla – Drusilla is also a difficult character to read, as we see two very distinct versions of Drusilla.  In her first appearances, she is bag-of-cats crazy.  She is physically weak, yet full of nonsensical visions and spends her time playing with her dolls.  Then, after Spike’s ritual to get her strength back, she is still crazy but also incredibly strong.  I do have a suggestion for Drusilla although it is more of a middle grade book than a teen title, but the author has several teen books to her name.  I would recommend Doll Bones by Holly Black.  In this book, a group of children are haunted by the doll that may or may not be made up of the bones of a murdered girl.  This twisted and dark story sounds like the perfect tale for Drusilla to read right before bed.

Spike – Spike was one of the easiest of the villains to match up with a book.  The first book I thought about in regards to Spike is Angel Burn by Lee Weatherly.  Aside from the obviously pun in the title (that’s definitely something Spike would want to see happen), the story embodies a few parallels to the bizarre Spike and Buffy love affair.   In Angel Burn, Weatherly tells the story of an angel hunter who falls in love with a half-angel.  In the beginning, the two are thrown together as enemies, but slowly their hatred melts into something else.  Honestly, I can see Spike gulping down any book in which there is a strong relationship built between two star-crossed lovers.  Don’t believe me?  I bring you back to Spike’s origin story in which he was a sensitive, mama’s boy poet who is sired by Drusilla and spends the rest of his afterlife overcompensating and masking his sensitive side.  This revelation brings me to the other book I would recommend to Spike.  Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey is a based on Edgar Allen Poe’s creepy, yet somewhat romantic poem, “Annabel Lee.”  I’m sure Spike would appreciate the romance engulfed with all kinds of creepy evil.

Adam – I also had a simple time coming up with titles for Adam.  Of course, it would be very easy to get Adam to read anything, as he is trying desperately to understand humanity.  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is an easy recommendation, as Adam is a modern-day demonic version of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster.  A more light-hearted option is Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron.  This book follows the road trip of Boy, the son of Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride of Frankenstein.  Finally, I would recommend Eve & Adam by Michael Grant and K.A. Applegate.  This book, which focuses on medical simulation techniques and technology that can build a man from DNA, is full of information that Adam would find useful.

Glory - As I stated earlier, the best book for Glory would be the telling of her life story as that is truly the center of her universe.  However, if it were possible to distract Glory from herself, I would give her Antigoddess by Kendare Blake.  The story tells of a time when Greek gods realize that they may actually die.  In order to prevent their demise, Athena and Hermes seek out the prophet Cassandra for help which leads to the an epic war of the gods.  While this story is not about her, I’m sure Glory will find some entertainment in a battle of god-like proportions.

The Trio (Warren, Jonathan, & Andrew) – I wanted to separate the members of the Trio, but I thought it better to keep them together as Jonathan and Andrew were only ever evil when teamed up with Warren.  Aside for the obvious Star Wars graphic novels and Star Trek novelizations, I would recommend Catherine Jinks’ Evil GeniusEvil Genius is basically a manual on being evil, which the Trio definitely needs a little help achieving.  Along with Evil Genius, I have to include the book I am Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I want to be your Class President by Josh Lieb.  Lieb’s book is a bit more comical than evil.  While Warren would probably scoff at this title, I can easily see Andrew and Jonathan sitting in a corner giggling through the book’s humorous situations.

- Brandi Smits, currently reading Ungifted by Gordon Korman


Beyond The History Books: Genre Guide to ‘Off The Beaten Path’ Historical Fiction

Mon, 05/26/2014 - 07:00


Historical fiction can be a deceptively complex genre to define.  It would seem initially that any fiction set in the past might be considered historical fiction but as we examine this basic distinction, it becomes significantly less simple.  After all, how far into the past does a novel need to be set to be considered historical rather than contemporary realistic fiction?  Do we use a specific range of years? Do we consider the likely cultural memory and lived experiences of the intended audience?  For the purposes of this guide, I’ve decided to define historical fiction as a novel set in the past in which the particular realities of that time and place play a significant role in the narrative.


The genre of historical fiction is vast and varied.  The idea of compiling a definitive genre guide is fairly daunting  so I chose a focus: “off the beaten path” historical fiction–novels set in the past that feature perspectives, places, time periods, or events frequently unexplored in both the average history class curriculum and historical fiction.


These novels expand the genre beyond the ‘white people in interesting clothing’  approach that can dominate the historical fiction shelves. In the process of creating history, many voices have been silenced, forgotten, or shoved aside. Good historical fiction–like all good fiction–weaves an absorbing story with complex characters, providing us with an opportunity to counteract simplified or biased versions of history.  Through fiction, readers can look at well-known events from a new perspective, immerse themselves in unfamiliar cultures, or see an exploration of their heritage.

Unexplored Times and Places

Certain chronological and geographical settings dominate this varied genre.  Accordingly there are certain times and places that are rarely featured in historical fiction–making novels that do focus on such settings and topics all the more exciting to read. Here are a few examples of historical fiction set in unexplored times, locations, and cultures. Boxers and Saints – Gene Luen Yang (2013 National Book Award Nominee, 2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2014 Great Graphic Novels) This unique duology of graphic novels explores the Boxer Rebellion in China at the end of the 19th century.  The novels share characters & specific plot moments but from the viewpoints of protagonists on opposing sides of the conflict. Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth (2007 APALA Honor Award), Climbing The Stairs by Padma Venkatraman, A Moment Comes by Jennifer Bloomsbury (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults) all investigate the Indian Independence movement throughout the 20th century and the eventual partition of the nation in the late 1940s from a variety of perspectives. Anahita’s Woven Riddle – Meghan Nuttal Sayres (2007 Best Books for Young Adults) Readers can enter the rich world of nineteenth century Iran in this entertaining tale of a young nomadic weaver determined to use her wits and weaving skill to take her fate into her own hands. Cuban-American writer Margarita Engle has written several novels-in-verse focused on important figures and events in Cuban history, including  The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2014 Pura Belpre Honor). Neglected Perspectives and Events

It’s not just particular time periods or geographic locations that remain largely unexplored in historical fiction.  Recorded history often reflects the biases and power structures of both the historical period in question and the present day.  As a result, many perspectives, events, and stories are ignored or buried.

Native American and indigenous perspectives have been especially silenced in the telling of history and fiction that sheds light on native experiences is especially critical.

If I Ever Get Out of Here – Eric Gansworth (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2014 America Indian Youth Literature Award) The friendship and coming of age story is steeped in the specific experiences and details of Onondaga culture as well as the music and popular culture of 1975 America.

Blessing’s Bead by Debby Dahl Edwardson weaves an Inupiaq family saga through dual story lines set in early 20th century and late 1980s Alaska while her novel My Name Is Not Easy  (2011 National Book Award finalist, 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults) brings to life the buried history of parochial boarding schools, forced family separation & abuse, and the growing push for indigenous rights in 1960s Alaska.

While World War II is some of the most well-traversed territory in historical fiction, that era also contains untold stories.  Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth C. Wein (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2014 Schneider Family Book Award) enters the harrowing world of Ravensbruck, the notorious women’s concentration camp and the site of Nazi medical experimentation. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 William C. Morris finalist2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) reveals the Soviet deportation of Lithuanian families to Siberian prison and work camps.  Meanwhile, both Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith (2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) and Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis (2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) reveal the often forgotten contributions of African American women to the war effort during World War II as pilots and members of the Women’s Army Corps.

Titles such as The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano (2013 Pura Belpre Honor) and The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman introduce readers to other, lesser known aspects of American history–the activities of the Puerto Rican activist group the Young Lords in 1969 Spanish Harlem and the dangerous adventures faced by Chinese immigrants in 1920s San Francisco, respectively. Resources So how do we track down  off the beaten path historical fiction?  The Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction  has been awarded annually since its founding in 1982 and this year, the New-York Historical Society awarded its inaugural Children’s Book Prize.  Additionally, Pura Belpre Award, the Coretta Scott King AwardAmerican Indian Library Association’s American Indian Youth Literature Award, Asian & Pacific American Librarians Association’s Literature Awards, and the Stonewall Book Award often honor historical fiction.  Finally, blogs such as American Indians in Children’s Literature and Diversity in YA  are excellent resources in finding titles. What are your favorite ‘off the beaten path’ historical fiction titles?  

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading an egalley of Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper and This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

The Monday Poll: Favorite Redeemed Character in YA Lit

Mon, 05/26/2014 - 00:50

photo by flickr user ashish joy

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked which famous funny guy you’d like to see author a YA book. Jimmy Fallon took the lead with 37% of the vote, followed by Aziz Anasari with 19%, and Louis C.K. with 13% of the vote. In addition to the choices we offered for this poll, there was a write-in vote for Patton Oswald. Nice choice! 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 want to know your favorite redeemed character in YA lit. Personally, I love a flawed character– someone who may have made a lot of mistakes or have a slightly skewed perception of the world, but isn’t totally beyond redemption.  Everyone deserves a second chance, and their transformation can be so compelling. Vote in the poll 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.

2014 Hub Reading Challenge Check-in #16

Sun, 05/25/2014 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2014 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since February 3 counts, so sign up now!

I’ve spent the past week catching up on the wonderful discussion happening over at the Goodreads 2014 Hub Challenge Group which you should definitely investigate if you haven’t already.  So many insightful comments and lots of diverging opinions–be sure to check it out if you want to talk books with your fellow reading challenge participants.

I’ve really enjoyed reading those Goodreads threads, but I confess I’m not making much progress with the challenge itself.  I’m close, though, and there’s still time.  To be honest, I haven’t even attempted a challenge book since finishing Max Berry’s Lexicon a couple weeks ago, because I’ve been reading interview-related titles in preparation for upcoming One Thing Leads to Another posts.  Thank goodness for the two 2014 reading challenges (this one and the Morris/Nonfiction) which shortened my interview reading list considerably and exposed me to authors and titles that I might have missed otherwise.

What about you?  Are you still making progress?  Stuck in a rut?  Taking a break?  Have you completed the challenge?  Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to join the social media conversation by checking out the Goodreads 2014 Hub Challenge Group and the #hubchallenge hashtag. Here’s some of the awesome tweets we’ve collected over the past week:

[View the story "The 2014 #hubchallenge" on Storify]

The challenge ends at 11:59PM EST on June 22nd so you still have plenty of time to finish, even if you’ve stalled out like I have.  Check in with us each Sunday as we count down the home stretch and let us know how you’re doing.

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

What Would They Read?: My Little Pony

Fri, 05/23/2014 - 07:00

from deviantart user bluedragonhans

As you probably know, the television reboot of the My Little Pony franchise (Friendship Is Magic) has managed to find an older audience than the elementary school-aged girls one would have expected. As a regular viewer of the show and frequent YA reader, I thought it would be fun to take a look at what titles the ponies would read in their free time.

One thing I really like about the show is that it has a strong pro-female message. The show presents female characters who routinely solve problems by conducting research, reaching out to friends, and finding strength within themselves. In addition to encountering magical Big Bads, the ponies encounter real world problems such as bullying, low self-esteem, over-committing, and being too proud to ask for help. Because of this theme, I have selected books with female protagonists for all of the characters.

Today, I am focusing on three of the main six ponies: Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity.

from deviantart user shapeshifter95

Twilight Sparkle

When Friendship Is Magic began, Twilight Sparkle was sent to Ponyville to learn the value of having friends. She was the best student studying under the Princess, but she missing a social component in her education. Twilight lives in a tree-house library, surrounded by books and often encourages research when faced with trouble. However, Twilight is also a unicorn and, therefore, magical. She must find balance between magic, research, and friendship to ultimate solve her problems.

I think that Twilight Sparkle would enjoy The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (2012 Morris Award Finalist, 2012 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults) which is the story of Elisa, a princess and the Chosen One. Married off to a king whose people need her to save them, Elisa lives in a world of magic. She must fight to live long enough to save the people who need her, while avoiding those who hunt her for her power. Twilight has recently become a princess herself and has been forced to save all of Equestria on more than one occasion.

I also think that Twilight Sparkle would enjoy Graceling by Kristin Cashore (2009 Morris Award Finalist, 2009 Teens’ Top Ten, 2012 Popular Paperback for Young Adults) for similar reasons. Royalty, magic, and a strong female fighter would all appeal to Twilight’s love of reading, fantasy, and adventure. 


from deviantart user xpesifeindx

Rainbow Dash

Rainbow Dash is a hot-shot, competitive Pegasus who definitely feels the need for speed. She is most often found zipping around the skies: flying for fun, work, and sport. From the show, we know what fictional series Rainbow Dash would most likely be found reading: the Daring Do series by A.K. Yearling. Despite the fact that the authors name is clearly a reference to J.K. Rowling, the adventures of Daring Do are more Indiana Jones than they are Harry Potter. I think, though, that Rainbow Dash would absolutely love Elizabeth Wein’s historical fiction companion books Code Name Verity (2013 Printz Honor Book, 2013 Amazing Audiobook for Young Adults) and Rose Under Fire (2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young  Adults). These books feature female pilots during WWII, young women who were actively engaged in the war in a manner that was not open to most women. These books are stories of strength and survival, right up Rainbow’s alley.

from deviantart user lextsy


Rarity would totally judge a book by its cover. She is a designer and loves all things shiny and beautiful. This is why I think she would be immediately drawn to Kiera Cass’s Selection series. The covers of these books are gorgeous and Rarity would absolutely love the dresses. I can imagine her immediately running out to make pony-sized versions of them.

I think she would also pick up These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner for the dress depicted on the cover. The fabric flowing over the bottom of the image looks amazing in front of the star-filled night sky behind the couple and complements the girl’s red hair perfectly.

Finally, Rarity would also be drawn to the Daughter of Smoke and Bones series by Laini Taylor. These books do not contain dresses to draw Rarity in, but the close up images of a face obscured by masks, makeup, and other brightly colored designs have a certain drama that Rarity would be more than happy to include in some of her own designs.

Next time, we’ll take a look at what Applejack, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie would likely to be reading!

- Jessica Lind, currently reading To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Fanart Inspired by YA Books

Fri, 05/23/2014 - 07:00

Image by deviantART user AstridRodriguez

One of my favorite things to do with YA books, series especially, is to wait until all the books are out and then devour them in a manner of days or weeks. I’ll admit I did this with Harry Potter when I started reading them in . . . 2007, after the final book was finished! When you read series like this it lets them take over your life a little bit. Soon you are thinking in phrases from the books and seeing images from them everywhere. Even if it’s not a series that is finished, if it’s a book I like, I catch myself envisioning the books intersecting with my real life. I’ve wanted to have magical pigeon friends ever since reading Michelle Tea’s Mermaid in Chelsea Creek and I can’t see wishbones or puppets the same after reading Laini Taylor’s Daughter Smoke and Bone (one of the Top Ten 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults selections).

If I was more artsy, I would allow these book obsessions an artist outlet, but I’m not. Luckily, there this great thing called the Internet and wonderful artists who endeavor to make it more beautiful with art and more inspired by YA books! Fanfiction is a great way to respond to books as well, but I like how fan art opens up many different avenues of interpretations of your favorite characters. It allows us to stretch our visual perceptions of what those characters may be and maybe even help to us envision a world more clearly.

There are tons of places to find great fan art and other visual responses to YA books – even tattoos inspired by YA books as the website Forever Young Adult highlights. Other great places to look are deviantART, a place for digital artists inspired by anything and especially friendly to lots of fandoms. Tumblr is another great place to browse, but be warned that both places, like the unbridled and unexpected wilds of the Interweb, is not always safe for work or school.

Check out some other examples of fanart that I find really lovely… 

The tormented and complicated Ronan Lynch from Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle books (Raven Boys is a 2013 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults selection).

Image by deviantART user allicynallen

Hazel and Augustus from John Green’s The Fault in our Stars (2012 Teens’ Top Ten):

Image by Carlos Lerma

Madrigal gleaming souls in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.

Image by Cecilia Hillway

And finally, a different kind of visual response to YA books that is super awesome: cosplay! Check out this Eleanor cosplay from Rainbow Rowell’s 2014 Printz Honor book, Eleanor & Park.

From the meels on tumblr

Do you have some favorite fan art? Do you or teens you know make fan art or cosplay as book characters? Share it with us!

-Anna Tschetter, currently reading Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Mills

Tweets of the Week: May 23

Fri, 05/23/2014 - 07:00

Here are some tweets you might have missed this week.

The biggest tweet this week: @TLT16: Also today, I make an impassioned plea to the media to do better research when writing about #YALit. …




Just for Fun:

~ Jennifer Rummel, currently reading Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae

YA Books in Real Life: A Group Post for National Photography Month

Thu, 05/22/2014 - 07:00

May is National Photography Month and I thought it would be fun to bring together photos of places that reminded us of YA books, times we dressed up as YA characters, and book titles. I asked my fellow Hub bloggers to share their YA lit-inspired photos, and here’s what we came up with! (Click on the images for larger versions.)

Places in YA Books:

YA Lit Characters:

Book Titles:


~ Jennifer Rummel, currently reading Embers and Ash by TM Goeglein

Jukebooks: Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 07:00

“I kill as a matter of habit and as a consequence of the way I was raised.”

Kit’s mother was an assassin. She carefully trained Kit in the art of murder until Kit’s abilities surpassed her own. Now Kit works solo. She’s known all over London as the “Perfect  Killer” because she never leaves a clue behind. Kit kills by request; people write letters, explaining who they want killed, and Kit simple follows their directions. Is Kit insane? Or is she, as she believes, simply well-trained in serial killing?

The moral ambiguity of the book reminded me of an old Talking Heads song, Psycho Killer. The song was written by David Byrne, Chris Frantz, and Tina Weymouth, who eventually recorded it as the band Talking Heads  in 1975. The lyrics sound like the feverish, tormented mind of a killer, as he reminisces (in French) about an earlier murder. Byrne’s voice is deliciously foreboding with a slight lilt of mockery, complementing the driving beat of the song.

This performance took place at the CBGB music club, which, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, was an early venue for new wave and punk bands.

-Diane Colson, currently reading an advance reader’s copy of No Summit Out of Sight by Jordan Romero

Attention Librarians: Awesome New Readers’ Advisory Tool for Your Teen Patrons!

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 07:00

While not every reader of The Hub is a librarian, we know a lot of you are going to be interested in this new product from YALSA– so if you’re looking for a fast, easy way to promote reading to teens, well… read on!

Reads 4 Teens is a collection of the best in the latest teen literature and includes 37 ready-to-use pamphlets and 8 bookmarks, each featuring a different theme or genre, including STEM.  It’s now available for purchase as a digital download through the ALA Store for $26.10 for members & $29 for others.  Just in time for summer reading and end-of the-school year visits!

All titles featured in this resource appeared on YALSA’s 2014 lists of recommended reading or were honored by a 2014 YALSA book award. Themes that are sure to get your teens reading include “STEM ” “All the World’s a Stage,” “Where in the World Is…,” “Tickle Your Funny Bone,” and “Scares, Spirits, and the Supernatural.”

If you choose, the pamphlets can be customized to include library information, hours or teen specific programming before making unlimited copies available to patrons. All 45 resources included in this digital download can easily be printed in both color and black/white on 8.5” x 11” paper.

Just in time for summer reading!

A Bad Romance– Love Gone Wrong in Teen Lit

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 07:00

By CMEarnest via Wikimedia Commons

Springtime is when love is in the air.  New relationships are blooming, the warmer weather drives people outdoors and puts everyone in a better mood, and it just seems like the perfect time to fall in love…

But what happens when you don’t want to fall in love?  When you just want to snarkily smirk at those silly people holding hands and picking flowers?  How do you avoid, nay how do you embrace the idea that falling in love is just not for you..?

Well, one good way is to read books about love gone wrong.  Luckily, teen lit is filled with excellent examples of books about all the ways love can be so harmful to your well-being.  From bad breakups to unrequited crushes, check out the list below if you want to fall in love with a bad romance!

Star-Crossed Love

The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones

Cassandra comes from a long line of vampire-like creatures who need human tears to survive rather than blood.  Cassandra is very good at collecting tears by being the shoulder for her friends to cry on, and even volunteering as a grief counselor.  However, Cassandra is growing tired of her life and wants to be human, especially when she begins to fall in love with Scott.

Swoon by Nina Malkin

Dice’s cousin Pen awakens an evil spirit, who takes possession of her body. The evil Sin is determined to exact vengeance on their town.  While Sin is  in Pen’s body Dice begins to develop feelings for him, and when he is made flesh Dice’s feelings only grow stronger.  However, Dice is determined to do the right thing and send Sin back to where he came from so he can’t wreak havoc on their town anymore.

Generation Dead by Daniel Waters (2011 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Teens who die are not staying dead–they are coming back to life.  Seen as having a “living impairment,” these teens are still trying to live normal lives. Phoebe is falling in love with Tommy, one of the undead.  Her friends and family can’t understand their connection, and what’s worse is that some people just can’t get over that these teens were once dead.

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama (2013 Odyssey Honor Recording, 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2013 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

17-year-old Hester’s family legacy is one where all the women die in childbirth, so Hester has sworn off love, marriage, and even the thought of children.  What she doesn’t realize is that her family is cursed because of a mermaid’s need for vengeance when she gave up her fins for the love of human man more than 100 years ago.

Eve & Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Eve is lucky to be alive after she loses a leg in an accident.  The reason she’s so lucky: her mother is the powerful CEO of one of the largest pharmaceuticals company around.  While she is recovering in her mother’s state of the lab, Eve is given the opportunity to create the perfect guy as part of an experimental program.  Eve, thinking it is just a computer game, is shocked when her perfect guy comes to life.  Realizing that her mother is playing God, Eve is determined to figure out just what her experiments are for and learns more than she ever wanted about her mother’s plans.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

In this dystopian novel, Aria lives in the protected world of Reverie as the Earth outside of her world is ravaged by harsh weather conditions and mutations.  When she is caught up in illegal activity, Aria is banished to the ravaged land outside of Reverie.  There her fate is intertwined with Perry, who lives in the harsh lands.  While opposites attract here, Perry and Aria are literally from two different worlds and each of their fates are dependent on the other–whether they like it or not.


I Know It’s Over by C.K. Kelly Martin

Feeling emotionally vulnerable after his parent’s divorce, Nick starts dating Sasha.  However, Sasha dumps Nick after things start getting too serious.  Still stinging from the breakup, Sasha shows up out of nowhere and tells Nick she’s pregnant.

The Heartbreakers by Pamela Wells

Four friends are all dumped on the same night.  To help each other get through this rough post-breakup time they develop the break-up code, a list of 29 rules that you can or can’t do.  The test will be whether or not these girls can follow their own rules.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (2007 Printz Honor Book, 2007 Best Books for Young Adults, 2008 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults, 2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Colin has just been dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine.  No, it isn’t the same Katherine doing the dumping; there have been nineteen different Katherines that Colin has dated.  Colin’s best friend Hassan suggests a summer road trip to pull Colin out of his post breakup funk.  Together, they end up in a small town in Tennessee where they find jobs and meet a girl who isn’t named Katherine, all while trying to figure out why Colin is always dumped by Katherines.

The Breakup Bible by Melissa Kantor

Jen is trying to stay positive when her boyfriend dumps her because he “just wants to be friends.”  However, when she catches him kissing another girl, she breaks down and turns to a book her grandmother gave her for advice on how to survive a breakup.

Fury by Elizabeth Miles

Emily is in love with her best friend’s boyfriend. Chase is falling for the new girl in town.  However, what Emily and Chase don’t know is that their fate is being controlled by three new girls in town.  So, when Emily finally breaks down and makes out with her best friend’s guy and Chase scores a date with the new girl, they don’t know that it will only end in tragedy.

Heart’s Delight by Per Nilsson

Our 16-year-old narrator has just experienced his first breakup and the end of his first real love.  Systematically, he takes readers through the destruction of all the  mementos of the relationship as he works through the anguish of heartbreak.

Unrequited Crushes

Thwonk by Joan Bauer (1999 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

A.J. has a huge crush on Peter, so when a Cupid doll comes to life offering to help her with her unrequited love, A.J. jumps at the opportunity.  However, as in most cases with Cupid, Peter’s love and devotion is not necessarily as wonderful as A.J. thought it would be.

I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle (2008 Best Books for Young Adults, 2012 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Denis takes advantage of having the stage as his high school’s valedictorian, by announcing his undying love for fellow classmate Beth Cooper during his speech.  What follows is a graduation night that night that Denis will never forget.

Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger (2000 Printz Honor Book, 2000 Best Books for Young Adults, 2000 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, 2002 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

John is working through a lot of stuff since his parents’ divorce.  He uses his zine, Bananafish, as an outlet for his issues.  When he meets Marisol, the author of one of his favorite zines, they instantly form a friendship.   But then John develops stronger feelings for Marisol, which cannot be returned because she is a lesbian.  Even though John knows this, and knew this even before he met her, he has to reconcile his feelings for Marisol to maintain the important friendship.

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2013 Morris Award Finalist)

Set in Australia, 15-year-old Amelia is falling in love with her 21-year-old coworker, Chris.  Little did Amelia know that when she started her new job at a local grocery store, she would have so much in common with her supervisor. However, what can she do when it is plainly clear, even to Amelia, that a relationship could never develop?

Escape Theory by Margaux Froley

Devon is grieving the loss of her friend and unrequited crush, Hutch, from an apparent suicide.  Sharing what she feels is a deep connection with Hutch, Devon works through her grief by trying to understand and figure out what drove Hutch to commit suicide, believing that there might be another explanation for his death.

Mixed signals

Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (2012 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Best friends Naomi and Ely have a no kiss list because they both like boys and they want to make sure no guy will ever come between their friendship.  However, Ely kisses Bruce (Naomi’s number 2), and sets off a chain of events that causes both friends to take a closer look at what they mean to each other.

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross (2013 Teens’ Top Ten, 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Mira runs away from home only to realize the life she has been living with her two aunts has been a lie.  When she visits the town where her parent’s lived and died, Mira learns the secrets of her parents’ past and gets caught up in a love triangle with two brothers– one who seems to hate her and one that seems too good to be true.

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber (2012 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2013 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Perry is mortified that he has to take his family’s Lithuanian foreign exchange student to his senior prom.  What he doesn’t expect is for the night to turn into a high stakes car chase, complete with explosions and bullets flying, and for Gobi to turn out to be an expert assassin on a mission.  As the night progresses and Gobi gets closer to her end goal, Perry can’t figure out if Gobi wants to kill him or if he is the only hope she has for surviving the night.

Fake Boyfriend by Kate Brian

After their best friend Izzy is dumped, her friends Vivi and Lane create a fake guy online for Izzy to move on with.  However, when Izzy wants to meet him in real life, Vivi and Lane have to deliver.  When they recruit Jonathan for the task, Vivi inadvertently starts to fall in love with him making the rouse even more complicated.

OK, so maybe maybe some of these novels end happily ever after, but at least the star-crossed lovers suffer before they get there first, right?

-Colleen Seisser, currently reading In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin