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Your Connection to Teen Reads
Updated: 22 hours 12 min ago

2014 Teens’ Top Ten Titles Announced!

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:59

Teens voted and the results are in! Here are the official 2014 Teens’ Top Ten titles!

Thanks to all the teens who voted and congrats to the authors of the “top ten” titles!

Learn more about the Teens’ Top Ten here.

Beta Books: Teens Review Advance Reading Copies

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 07:00

It’s time for another post from the Beta Books club at my library, which reads, reviews, and generally has a grand time discussing ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) of upcoming teen books. Our review form includes a cover discussion, space to share thoughts on the book, and 1-5 star rating. Thanks to today’s reviewers for agreeing to share their thoughts on The Hub! SPOILER ALERT: Some reviews mention plot points.

Reviewer: Piper

Book: The Gospel of Winter, by Brendan Kiely

What did you think of the cover? I really liked the cover, I really think it fit the story quite well. Also I would change nothing about the cover.

What did you think of the book? I enjoyed the overall storyline but at times it could be slow and a bit dragged on. Yes, I would tell a friend to read this book.

How would you rate this book? 3 stars: Pretty good. I wanted to see how it ended.

* * * * * * * *

Reviewer: Izzy

BookSplintered, by A. G. Howard

What did you think of the cover? I liked the cover, I think it matched the story. No, I would not change anything about the cover.

What did you think of the book? I thought it was really good. I liked the romance. I wish it described more with better details. My favorite part was when her mom got better. Yes, I would recommend this to a friend!

How would you rate this book? 5 stars. Unbelievable! I’d rather read this book than sleep!

* * * * * * * *

Reviewer: Chioma

Book: Rites of Passage, by Joy N. Hensley

What did you think of the cover? I actually really liked the cover. It didn’t match the story at all. I would keep the cover the same, but for another version, it could be someone doing a dangerous dare.

What did you think of the book? The summary on the back is good, and so is the first couple pages. I would totally recommend this to a friend.

How would you rate this book? 4 stars: Awesome. I loved it and would give it to a friend.

* * * * * * * *

Reviewer: Mveno

Book: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, by Matthew Quick (2014 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults)

What did you think of the cover? It fit I suppose, the colors were serious so right off the bat I knew it’d have a heavy topic.

What did you think of the book? Meh – I liked it, however in all honesty, I felt like I’ve read this story before, about five times when it comes to a somewhat generic suicide book, I also saw the ending/climax coming, I’d say that his future notes were interesting, but they were given to the reader too soon, to the point where I actually thought he was from the future, or something along those lines…

How would you rate this book? 3 stars: Pretty good. I wanted to see how it ended.

* * * * * * * *

Reviewer: Piper

Book: Freak Boy, by Kristin Clark (2014 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults)

What did you think of the cover? I liked the cover quite well and I think it truly matched the story. I wouldn’t change anything at all about the cover.

What did you think of the book? I liked the book because it told the story of how being trans might end up, in a true manner. I only wish I could find out what happened to Brandon in the end. Yes, I would recommend this book to most of my friends.

How would you rate this book? 3 stars. Pretty good. I wanted to see how it ended.

-Becky O’Neil, currently reading The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti, by Rafael Schacter

Diversity Matters: Privilege & Representation in YA Lit

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Destiny Burnett from Louisiana.

courtesy of flickr user patries71

As someone who’s been an avid reader and lover of YA novels since I was nine years old, I can comfortably say that over the past eight years I’ve accumulated my own little library. In total, today, I own 382 books. Now, books I own are not all that I’ve read, of course, but out of the books that I own (and have read) 27 feature some sort of diversity amongst the characters.

Let me begin by clarifying that I consider a diverse book to be one that features a person of color, a person of a non-Christian faith, an LGBTQ theme or characters, a person with a mental illness or physical disability, or a setting in a lower class area. I consider these factors diverse for YA literature for three reasons

  • most of these are considered a form of diversity in the real world
  • people living with any variation of these characteristics experience an unfathomable amount of adversity
  • these factors are under represented in YA literature, and do not reflect the real world.

So why is representation important in YA literature? To answer that question, one must consider why they read. I read for the enjoyment of experiencing a character’s story. What makes me enjoy a story? Identifying with the character. This is why representation is important; every person who wants to read a book with a character they can identify with should have access to ones where their culture and identity is present. The reality of the situation, especially for YA readers, is that these kinds of books exist very few and far between.

Today I want to recommend some (maybe lesser known) books that promote diversity.

The first is Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah. The novel follows the story of an Australian-Palestinian girl named Amal who decides to begin wearing the hijab full-time. As an American teen living in a relatively conservative area, this book (which I read at ten years old) was an eye opener for me on Muslim culture. I knew next to nothing about Islam at the time, and it felt almost educational to read the novel and be exposed to both Muslim culture and the hardships faced by Muslim women passionate enough to endure the discrimination they experience while wearing the hijab. (For those who don’t know, the hijab is a headscarf worn by Muslim women [and sometimes men] because of a set of verses in the Quran in which Allah (God) tells men and women to lower their gaze and dress modestly.)

Next is Bi-Normal by M.G. Higgins, about a high school football star named Brett Miller who begins to question his sexuality. My favorite thing about this book is the way it depicts Brett’s struggle to understand his sexual orientation. Brett is uneducated on the LGBTQ community–he doesn’t even know what it means to be bisexual–which I think is an important factor to include in his life, because many people who experience some sort of confusion about their identity (sexual or gender) have no idea that what they’re experiencing is completely normal. Also, I love that the book represents the bisexual community specifically, because it is a community that faces discrimination from the LGBTQ community as well as non-LGBTQ individuals. Non-LGBTQ individuals will hopefully come to better understand the confusion some LGBTQ people experience through reading Bi-Normal.

The last book I want to talk about is Read My Lips by Teri Brown. I admit that Read My Lips wavers on the cheesy side, with its high school cliques and questionable character choices, but I also think it stays very true to the daily struggles of deaf people. Read My Lips follows the story of “the new girl” named Serena, a deaf teen just trying to fly under the radar (which, of course, does not at all work). I can specifically remember reading scenes where Serena must ask her parents to repeat something because they don’t look at her as they speak, or where part of a word is  lost in translation as she tries to read lips. As a reader without much experience being around deaf people (or people hard of hearing), Serena’s story definitely made me more self-aware.

In writing this post I realized another reason why diversity in YA literature is important: education. It’s important for people outside of these groups–people who are not facing the same adversities–to be more aware of themselves and other people in order to help everyone be given equal opportunities. The term used by my generation to describe the differences in how people are treated based off of characteristics that make them diverse is “privilege.” Despite being Mexican American, I physically look white, allowing me what is called “passing privilege,” because although I identify as Mexican, I do not face the same discrimination obviously Hispanic people do. Reading about the struggles of diverse groups hopefully allows readers to experience a life outside of their own, something that is both fun to do, and opens the eyes of readers as they realize their own privilege. I hope that knowing one’s own privilege will allow readers to make an effort to ensure all people experience situations with equal amounts of struggle, regardless of their physical appearance, or any other contributing factor.

Of course there are many other books that promote diversity (John Green and David Levithan’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson; Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why) but talking about books with diversity will hopefully produce more of them, which is what I, as a YA reader, yearn to see.

–Destiny Burnett


Destiny Burnett is a Senior at Patrick F. Taylor Academy in Avondale, Louisiana. She is President of the Patrick Taylor Book Club (Bookmarked) and Vice President of the Patrick Taylor Gay-Straight Alliance (SAFE), and is active in the Student Government Association and National Honor Society. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, listening to music, writing, and bettering her high scores in Dance Central.

The Monday Poll: Which Witch Book?

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 23:29

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we wanted to know which parents in YA lit you think deserve their own book. The Weasleys from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books topped the results with 50% of the vote, followed by Natalie Prior from Divergent by Veronica Roth, with 20%. There were some great write-in votes, too, including Mia’s parents from If I Stay, and the parents of Hazel and Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars. Check back on last week’s post to read all the other suggestions, and you can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, we’ve got Halloween on the brain. Goblins, ghouls, ghosts, and witches. Which YA book about witches is your favorite? Vote in the poll below, or add your choice in the comments!

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

Sort of Like Magic

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Morgan Delaney from California.

The mind has to be the most perplexing and magical thing about the human body.


Because no matter how hard you attempt to explain the crazy, beautiful pictures you paint within the realm of your thoughts, no one will ever be able to see them. No one, but you. No one can see the detail, the exact colors, the movements, the sounds, and the vivid and animated life of your thoughts because no one has your exact imagination. It is crazy and strange, but amazing. Because it is entirely and completely your own.

It is even crazier how reading can expand your own thoughts, your imagination, to places you didn’t even know you could create. Beautiful and colorful places that only you get the privilege to see.

It’s sort of like magic.

And it is so unfortunate that so many teenagers are depriving themselves of the beauty of books. I didn’t realize what huge of an epidemic it was that teenagers didn’t read until I went out and asked teenagers the simple question: Do you like to read?

I received answers from, “No, it isn’t entertaining,” to, “No, it isn’t very detailed.”

I was baffled and incredibly disappointed that kids were judging books based on what they assumed reading was like.

It was sad, and truthfully, there was only one thing that stopped me from losing complete hope in proving to the world how wonderful reading actually is.

That was the small group of teenagers that told me they loved to read.

When they responded, “Yes,” to my question, I pushed further, and asked them why. Why did they love to read when so many kids didn’t?

And each answer to that question was like another piece to the puzzle. I began to see the pattern.

And it was strange, because every answer to that question was relatively similar to what my answer would be.

I realized that teenagers that love to read, love to read because books allow them to understand that even though we are all so different, we all go through so many of the same things.

That people constantly fight the same battles I do.

That I am not alone.

Books like The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton, or Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, or Impulse, by Ellen Hopkins, or Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Books like these helped me develop my love for reading because they grasp the raw truth of being a teenager. They don’t create the ideal teenage life full of parties and great relationships and a perfect balance between drama and happiness.

These books uncover the truth that life is full of wrong turns that eventually lead you the right way.

That life can be really hard. Scarily and frighteningly hard, but you can survive.

Books like these that make you realize that this is just the beginning of a crazy but so incredibly beautiful life.

The most amazing things about these books is that the world they help you create is entirely your own. You decide what it looks like.

Because there are no limits to what you can create in your mind.

A movie shows you what to feel, shows you what to see, shows you what it is.

But with a book, you feel whatever you want to feel, you see whatever you want to see, you can make it whatever you feel it should be.

Because when you read, it’s your story.


It’s sort of like magic.

~ Morgan Delaney is a writer, music maker, and a lover of science and politics. I believe that books are the key to the lock of everlasting knowledge, so read on!

Spoken Word Poetry: The Art of Performing and Storytelling

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Natalie Harris from California.

Poetry they say can only consist of roses that are red and little violets that are blue, but they are wrong. There is more depth to poetry than you could ever imagine.

Spoken word poetry is poetry that cannot just be left alone on paper. It demands to be performed, to be shared with someone, and to fill the world with the verses you have created.

Spoken word poetry can be whatever you want it to be about. It can be sad, funny, joyful, serious, even a little bit weird or silly. It’s a way to express yourself, and like Sarah Kay says in her TED Talk in 2011, “It’s not just the average write what you know, it’s about gathering all the knowledge and experience you’ve collected up until now to help you dive into the things you don’t know.”

I had never heard about spoken word until I immediately fell in love watching Sarah Kay’s TED Talk in my 7th grade English class. In the TED talk she performed her poems “B” and “Hiroshima.” She also talked about spoken word and her organization called Project V.O.I.C.E which educates and inspires people about spoken word poetry.

I wanted to know more about spoken word after I heard Sarah Kay, so I looked for more spoken word poets and I loved what each one brought to the table. Taylor Mali continues to make me laugh with his poems “Totally Like Whatever” and “The the Impotence of Proofreading,” I stare in awe when Rives finishes his poem “Mockingbird,” the way Lemon Andersen speaks gives me chills, and the way Phil Kaye pours his feelings and personality into every word and every poem he says is magical. I can only hope one day I’ll be able to do the same, and that all of us will be able to craft our words with such wit and beauty.

I love spoken word for three main reasons:

1. I get to put my thoughts, my feelings, and my stories onto paper

2. I get to share those stories with people.

3. The people that I share my poems with, understand me. They share my happiness, my pain, and my memories.

In a Tedx Talk Phil Kaye talks about how “we tell stories to feel alive” and that we “tell stories to entertain, to warn, to scare, to explain,” and I couldn’t agree with him more. Everyone has stories to tell for we have all experienced memories. Some of those memories are good, and others make us want to tear our heart out, but those good and bad memories cause emotion. I like to write and share my poetry because sometimes it helps sort my emotions out. Yes, it does help to write sad and angry thoughts down when you are going through a painful time, but sometimes I like to write something that makes me laugh, or something that makes me think.

Poetry is all about taking the risk. It takes a lot of courage to get up on a stage and to be a little bit vulnerable. Sarah Kay said in her TED Talk that when she was 14 and went up in front of her peers and performed a poem about “the injustice of being seen as unfeminine”. After she was done with her poem all the teenagers cheered and clapped because they understood her. A girl came up to 14 year old Sarah afterwards and said “Hey, I really felt  that. Thanks.” This just shows how much words can change someone; we all have something to say whether it is big or small, serious or funny. You can be 15 or 51 and still be able to cause someone to feel the same emotion you do. Poetry is powerful, words are powerful, and I guess that’s why I like it so much.

If you want to get started or try out some spoken word, I highly recommend Sarah Kay’s poetry book No Matter the Wreckage and Phil Kaye’s book A Light Bulb Symphony. I also suggest watching these videos:

If you watch their hand movements, the way they walk, and how they talk you can see how all of it combined makes an amazing performance. Even though Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye stand at the microphones and don’t move around as much as Gives and Taylor Mali, the way they move their hands is what emphasizes certain words or verses. There are so many different ways you can perform your poetry, and with time you can develop a style you call your own. I like to watch videos to see different ways people like to perform. A really good movie I suggest to everyone is Louder Than a Bomb. It’s about kids that perform spoken word at a poetry slam for teenagers in Chicago. I watched it in my 8th grade English class, and it was one of my ultimate highlights from last year. It was very cool to see the poems when they performed as a group, to hear all of their unique stories, and to watch the people and their poems grow.

Spoken word is a kind of art anyone can do. All you need is a pencil, a piece of paper, and a story to tell. One day we will change the world with our words, but first we must start with changing each other.  We must tell each other the stories of our heartbreaks, of our little puppies that wake us up in the morning, of our first kiss, of our big adventures we had in small towns. Spoken word poetry is everything, anything we want it to be. So what will your poem be about?

~ Natalie Harris likes to write short stories and poetry in her free time. In-between reading and writing she runs for her school’s cross country team. Her favorite subjects are English (obviously) and science. She loves to volunteer at summer camps and plans on volunteering at her public library. Her favorite book series is the Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson.

Tweets of the Week: October 17th

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 07:00

Last weekend, KidLitCon was held in Sacramento, CA. While not a librarian conference, its focus on blogging, children’s and YA literature, and diversity is incredibly relevant to the work of librarians, and, as many librarians are wont to do, a few of us infiltrated the place anyway. It was also National Coming Out Day on October 11, The Horn Book at Simmons was held on the 11th and 12th, and the National Book Award finalists were announced on Wednesday! Here are some of the top tweets.




Giveaways/Contests/Calls for Submissions

Just For Giggles


–Hannah Gómez, currently reading Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Reading with Pictures

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Today’s post is from Ellie Williams from Massachusetts.

I guess it’s my parent’s fault, the reason why I have an unhealthy obsession with words. Although, looking back on it, I suppose it’s my fault too; I didn’t have to like the books that my parents would read to me, but I did. I was always curious about words, and fascinated that writing could be a way to talk without moving my mouth at all. Drawing is sort of the same way, that just with one picture; an author can show the reader what was tucked carefully behind the walls of their heads.

I don’t remember exactly what the first graphic novel that I read was called; I just remember picking it up and being fascinated that you could use both pictures and words to tell a story. It was different for me, and strange. I remember on one occasion, coming into the library for my usual fix, one of my besties, who just so happens to be my favorite librarian, brought me over to a different part of the library that  I guess in my usual blind rampage I had never noticed before. These books had…pictures. I must say I was apprehensive at first; I mean these books were for kids, right? But oh how wrong I was.

One of the first graphic novels I read was called Bones. I loved not only the writing (it was hilarious) of the author, Jeff Smith, but also his stunningly beautiful drawings. The images in the novels flowed so nicely together that they seemed to paint a picture for me to see. If you aren’t familiar with the Bones series, well I’m not sure what you’re doing with your life.Jeff Smith creates a fictional world completely from scratch that has humans and all kinds of different creatures living in it, including the Bones, which are cute cartoonish white creatures. The series, which is nine volumes long, takes you through the perspective of three particular Bone cousins and the unexpected adventure they go on.

Bones is definitely one of my favorite graphic novel series ever, but there are a few others that I’ve read and loved recently as well. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang had a very unusual story line, but I liked it so much that I actually decided to read some more recent graphic novels that he’s published, including Boxers and the companion, Saints. These two books were also quite…different, but I loved how you couldn’t read just one of them, as both graphic novels connected in their story lines, and you needed the other book to fill in the missing pieces.

To finish off my list of my favorite graphic novels I’ve ever read, is Akiko by Mark Crilley. Most of you probably aren’t familiar with this particular work as the first issue was probably published a good ten or fifteen years ago, but trust me when I say this is one of the best graphic novels series ever written. Mark Crilley is already a fantastic artist, but throw in several well developed characters and some humorous dialogue and you got yourself a masterpiece. The novels are about this eleven year old girl named Akiko who travels to planets far from Earth. She makes all sorts of new friends, including a robot and one who doesn’t speak English at all. Here on these far away planets she does her best to help in the best ways she can.

Besides, Rick Riordan’s Blood of Olympus, Robin LaFever’s Mortal Heart, and Marie Lu’s The Young Elites–several books that I have been waiting for, it seems, since the beginning of time *eye twitch*–I’ve also been on the lookout for a series that I only recently started called Brody’s Ghost which just so happens to be by the one and only Mark Crilley. I wasn’t always this eager about graphic novels though. In fact, I’ve never been one for trying new things, but I’ve learned that trying new things can be really rewarding, and I am glad that I gave these graphic novels a shot.

–Ellie Williams


Ellie’s the name, reading’s my game. To start with, I guess I should tell you bit about myself. Well I’ll be completely honest with you; I have always been THAT girl. The one that sits in the corner of the room, shy and maybe a little bit odd compared to everyone else; talking had always somehow made me nervous. Instead, I preferred the silent understanding of a book, of the characters that were more real to me than the people that passed by me in the hallways of school. As I grew older I began to read anything I could get my hands on until eventually I realized that I wanted to write; I wanted the thoughts in my head to for once be seen by someone other than myself. So here I sit, typing these words to you. When I’m not obsessing over fictional characters and reading, my hobbies include drawing, playing field hockey (it’s like hockey…but on a fieldJ) and pestering my cat.

Wilde Reads

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 07:00

Happy 160th birthday, Oscar Wilde! In honor of this most fascinating and talented writer, I’ve rounded up some great YA that definitely owes a debt to Wilde’s work – or his life.

Readalike for The Picture of Dorian Gray
It shouldn’t be surprising that Wilde’s novel would resonate with teens – who doesn’t think from time to time about youth and beauty and the fear of growing old? While Wilde’s novel itself is already great for teens, this book may also resonate with them, and it fits into the popular paranormal genre by making what is clearly a supernatural occurrence in the original Wilde work more blatant:

  • Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul by Leanna Renee Hieber
    Natalie is mute, but she is observant and sensitive, which is why she is the one who notices that a new portrait of Lord Denbury has a bit too much life to it. It turns out that the young, handsome man’s soul is actually trapped behind the painting, and Natalie is the only one who can access it and help him escape the magic that binds him there.


Readalike for The Importance of Being Earnest
This hilarious play stands the test of time and may convince teens that not everything they read in English class from Ye Olden Tymes is difficult to understand or dense. After they finish that (and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, of course), here is their next read:

  • 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
    Hijinks, road trips, love, and absurdity collide in this irreverent story. It should be great for any reader who enjoys the snark and complete self-centeredness of Algernon Moncrieff.



Readalike for Wilde’s fairy tales
More mature readers may enjoy digging into Wilde’s fairy tales and then move onto adult writers like Anne Sexton or Angela Carter. But for some lighter reading, try this:

  • Enchanted by Alethea Kontis (2013 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)
    Sunday Woodcutter meets a frog. He talks. He may be a prince. The Woodcutter family may have some beef with the prince’s family. The kickoff to a series that ties in lots of fairy tale tropes and characters in new and unexpected ways with a little bit of humor should be the perfect complement to Wilde’s original and charming fairy tales.


Readalike for Wilde’s personal life
Wilde was married to a woman and had children with her, but he was also accused of being gay and put on trial for sodomy. He was generally unapologetic about any aspect of his life or work.

  • Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg
    To be closeted or not to be closeted? That is the question in this novel, which deals with a boy who is given the chance to reinvent himself at a new school. Given that Wilde was unafraid to be the man he was, this thought-provoking book may help questioning teens figure themselves out and allow any teen at all the opportunity to consider what it means to have a sexual identity.

–Hannah Gómez, currently reading Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

From TV to Books: How Movies and TV Shows Bring in a New Reading Audience!

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Sara Boivin from California.

by flickr user o5com

It seems today that the argument “the book is better” intrudes into every conversation about the latest hit film in theaters. But how many people truly know that anymore?

It’s no secret that when it comes to movies and books, movies seem like the much less time consuming and much more entertaining option for entertainment, especially in today’s world where time is scarce to spare.
But as an avid reader, and also a true cinema lover, I’m here to say with all seriousness that reading the book is nothing to shake your head at.
And I get it. Reading a book takes more time and the story isn’t always your cup of tea. A movie will give you that similar conclusion but usually within the much shorter time it takes you to watch it. But out of that conclusion comes a new opportunity. Just bear with me as I explain.

There are many reasons a movie might motivate you to read its book. The first thing to remember is that in the cinema world, it doesn’t matter how long a book is per say when you’re adapting it into a film, but keep in mind that movies can rarely stretch past two and a half hours.

An example of this is one of my all-time favorite sci-fi series called Ender’s Game. I’ve read every book in the series and if you’ve read it too you probably saw this coming. Only the first book in the series was made into a film (I say with all sureness that the rest probably won’t be made simply because the later books lack a lot of the action the first one has and they focus more on philosophical points that most people just won’t get. The first book was successful so I’m happy nevertheless).

However, like most movies adapted from books, many of the major characters’ feelings, and struggles, as well as other details and plot points were glossed over or simply excluded from the film for the sake of time. And I understand why. The director knew that covering the whole book would ruin the budget and make the movie way too long for a regular audience. The book covers a much longer time frame than the movie and has much more extensive detail.

This is where I draw my reasons for reading the book. Let’s be honest, a two and a half hour movie drains you completely. Very rarely after watching a super long movie do I feel like watching another movie. Trimming out the ‘fat’ (the director’s view of what is unneeded) in a book to make a movie is a standard process, but in the book world, that sort of behavior is unacceptable.
Books are different. A book you can put down and come back to. A book, you can still have a story full of love, passion, feeling, detail, and substance. Books are great because you can skip right to the chapter your feeling into and experience the full taste and idea of the story. A quality author would probably rather die than trim out the “fat” in their story that a movie would not hesitate to cut for the sake of time or attention.

That doesn’t mean that movies and TV shows can’t urge you in a good direction though. Like I mentioned earlier, I love cinema. For certain movies I do get upset over directors slicing up my favorite books, but for many others I get excited to see the characters from an imaginary world appear in a real life setting.
A major example of this for me has to be through superheroes. If you haven’t already guessed, on top of my major love of books and movies, I have a certain love for comic books (which I guess do count as reading but it depends for some people). This hobby didn’t come naturally though. My inspiration for looking into reading them came from a well-known all-time favorite movie called Batman Begins.

I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t still a little girl at the time the movie came out, but I was still the same movie junkie I am today. And nothing quite pushed me more towards reading comic books than my newfound curiosity on a superhero I knew of, but knew nothing about. The rest is history.

I noticed that as I grew older, I experienced similar situations with other popular movies and TV shows like The Hunger Games, Jurassic Park, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter (mentioning this was unavoidable), and many more.
For teens nowadays, every time a hit book comes out, the film follows close behind so there’s no time to waste! If you need reassurance, just remember that if a movie or TV show is based off a book, chances are the book is pretty good. Especially if it gets a film adaptation of it.

In particular this formula also applies largely to girls who more often or not are the main majority of fans when it comes to teen novels. While I’m not one to judge the individual male, it’s no secret that a large audience in the hit novel ‘Fault in Out Stars’ is female. This may be because of the heavy emphasis on teen romance amongst today’s options in teen literature as well.

It’s undeniable that film is more money mastered force over books these days. Much more people watch films than read books during their down time. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Movies have proven to drive an audience to the book.

If you find yourself in love and just engrossed in a movie/TV show, look to see if it’s based on a book. You owe it to yourself to find a way to enjoy reading and if a movie leads you to an open door, take it!

- Sara Boivin is a senior in High School who loves to read and watch movies in her spare time. She is really passionate about pop culture and how it affects her generation. She hopes to one day become an accomplished film director and writer. 

Why I Review

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Anjalika Chalamgari from Virginia.

Let’s just imagine that your super awesome blogger (whom you adore immensely) stops by the library, one of her usual hangouts, on a crisp Tuesday morning. Upon arriving, she decides to open a book near the Young Adult section whose cover seems quite interesting to her. (As we all know she never follows the expression “Don’t judge a book by its cover” when it really comes to books- a hater of all things extremely literal). She flips to the first page of the book and begins reading the long narrow text inside. Then she turns to the next page, and then the next, and then… well, I assume get the picture. The main point is I, the blogger in this instance (who else could it be, really?), become rather engrossed in the book I picked up. Unfortunately, all books come to an end. And this one did too. (Why, oh why?)

Like most people, or at least most crazy book-loving people at least, I become inconsolable for quite some time and my mind drifts away to the adventures I took in that book. To the extreme where I call my mom the name of the main character’s mom. Yes- it did happen. All I really need is to do before I end up stuck in a ward for the insane, is extend my adventure for a little more time. So I do that in reviewing books. Reviewing books is like re-telling your stories and your thoughts in your last endeavor. You prolong the story far past the epilogue. It brings that sense of closure in book that the last page really didn’t bring. You’re left without the crazy desire for a sequel to the book- and don’t have to write a huge email to the author about it. Not like I did that… Anyway, the experience is finally complete when you finish up that review. Truly, I might not like to even read some books if I wasn’t able to review them and add my own personal thought to them. I realize that this may not be the case with certain individuals, but I guess an avid writer can’t survive without writing. (I guess I’m being a bit poetic now.)

Sometimes, I don’t just review books because it’s an avid hobby of mine. I’ve read (I do that a lot) that it’s unhealthy for you to swell up any sort of emotion inside of you, so reviewing books lets me release any feeling I have with that books in a more peaceful way. Most of us have some sort of feeling or sentiment with any book we read. I mean, all the books that I’ve read have left me with a certain aftertaste. I can sail through the emotions of inspired, thoughtful, happy, sad, angry, confused, and shocked all in one day of typical reading. I usually swim past the waters of anger more often- which we all do frequently I suppose. I always think at the end of either a really bad or a really good book (that just disappointed me with the ending… you know who you are) “Couldn’t you have written that better?!”There’s usually an array of anger levels, from irritated to slamming your head against the book, which I don’t suggest if you’re reading an e-book on a Kindle or iPad. Reviewing books is like releasing all that energy in a very relaxed way. Unless you’re so angry you break the keyboard of the computer you’re typing it up in. Which, I usually *try* very hard not to do.

I also make it my goal to help out the community by informing them of books that are a must-read-to-live and ones that are total time wasters. (I tried putting it on my community service hour log but to no avail.) I review the book, stamp my seal of approval on it, urge (beg) my friends to read it, and receive a warm noble feeling inside. Call me crazy.

I’m not trying to persuade you to take up reviewing books by elaborating my deep and great love for it- I like to think I’m attempting to explain to you, fellow reader, how some inner thoughts should be expressed, all in different ways. (If you didn’t get that from the whole post, it’s okay, I didn’t either.) Especially those you have with books. Because books are your escape from reality, books are your gate to experiencing, perhaps, a life that may teach you a lot. So go! Escape reality! Read to your heart’s content! (Of course, don’t forget to eat and you know, sleep those 9 hours- oh and do your homework.) And, remember to tell me how that book turned out.

The writer of the blog post you may or may not have just read is a slightly crazy, slightly insane individual that is known for plotting her evil schemes (and writing her next blog posts) in a nice, quaint suburban town next to the nation’s capital. If you can’t find her there, you’ll probably find her at the closest library, where she terrorizes innocent librarians to give up all their books. (No, not really, she usually just ask them really nicely (: ) She lives with her parents and is known for eating large amounts of Indian food (You are what you eat, so they say) and typing rapidly on her keyboard for long periods of time. Apart from her blogging, this writer is also a math nerd (well, a nerd all around) and is currently trying to learn as many digits of pi as she can. (She also likes eating pie) Her favorite saying is “You can have this book for free!!” (Which is not really a saying, I guess, and she’s never actually really heard someone say it… laughs awkwardly… Only in her dreams….). If you’re wondering, perhaps, at this very moment she is most likely curling up with a book or two.

Jukebooks: Get Happy by Mary Amato

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 07:00

Minerva’s heart sank as she opened her mother’s gift to her for her sixteenth birthday. It was not shaped like a ukulele. It was not firm like a ukulele. Thus, by the time Minerva pulled out a blue sweater decorated with large white snowflakes, her hopes were already trampled. Not a ukulele at all.

So when Minerva marched in the music store to purchase the longed-for ukulele, it was a huge deal. The ukulele of her dreams was hers. Minerva began playing one of the few songs she knew, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” People on the street stopped to smile at her. Some began to sing along. Some began to dance.

Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, or “Iz,” was a skilled musician and a leader in the Independent Hawaii movement. His sweet rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on ukulele is irresistible. In 1997, Kamakawiwoʻole died of complications related to obesity.

The video clip below shows images of Kamakawiwoʻole floating over beautiful Hawaiian land and seascapes. At the very end, Kamakawiwoʻole’s ashes are scattered into the water.

5 YA Books to Read During Learning Disabilities Awareness Month

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 07:00

Learning Disabilities Awareness Month is a time to give recognition to folks with LD and to perhaps learn a bit more about these disabilities. “Learning disabilities” is a phrase that can encompass many different things: dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, and dysgraphia. These disabilities give people trouble with reading, writing, maths, and motor skills. Learning disabilities are lifelong issues, they cannot be cured or fixed. But teachers and parents and therapists can work with folks who have LDs to help them develop skills and strategies for dealing with their difficulties. ADHD, auditory processing disorder, visual processing disorder, and autism spectrum disorders can present folks with similar types of challenges, but are not learning disabilities themselves. According to the National Institutes of Health 15% of the US population have some type of learning disorder. So it is little wonder that there are many YA literature characters who have some sort of LD. Here are five titles to explore.

Dying to Know You – Aidan Chambers (Chambers is a Printz winner)
Karl is head over heels in love with Fiorella. She has asked him to write her a series of letters, answering deep questions about love. Karl is dyslexic and is terrified that he will fail to impress her and thus will lose her. He seeks out Fiorella’s favorite author and convinces him to act as a sort of Cyrano de Bergerac, writing down Karl’s spoken thoughts. The two men, though far apart in age, develop a friendship that unexpectedly brings them both much joy.

Carter Finally Gets It – Brent Crawford
Will Carter is just starting high school. He’s a popular guy, has friends, plays sports, but he is insecure and very concerned. He worries about how hard classes will be, he worries about making the team, he worries that his stutter and his LD will keep him from succeeding in many ways, but especially with girls. Crawford has written a realistical teen guy, but leavened the story heavily with humor and good cheer. Carter’s a good guy (if slightly raunchy-minded) and as the title says, he finally figures out how to survive high school.

Graffiti Moon – Cath Crowley
It is the last night of year 12 (senior year in Australian schools) and Lucy just wants to find Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work moves her. Ed, a former classmate who also went on one disastrous date with Lucy, swears he knows how to find Shadow, and so Lucy reluctantly joins him for an all-night jaunt. There is more to Ed than meets the eye. he may have dropped out of school while struggling with his LD, but if Lucy only opens her eyes, she may find an artist within Ed.

Okay for Now – Gary D. Schmidt (Schmidt is a Printz Honor recipient) 
Doug’s father loses his job and moves the family to a new town just in time for Doug to begin eighth grade. No one expects much from Doug, not his teachers, not his new neighbors, not his schoolmates. In their eyes he’s just a skinny thug with learning disabilities. But despite people’s low opinions, despite his abusive father, despite his depressed Vietnam Veteran brother, Doug somehow remains optimistic. He makes two friends in town, a classmate and a librarian who make things okay, for now.

After Ever After – Jordan Sonnenblick (Best Fiction for Young Adults 2011)
Jeffrey is a cancer survivor, but the treatments that sent the cancer into remission have given him some learning disabilities and he has a terrible time concentrating. As if that wasn’t hard enough, Jeff is now in eighth grade, there are cute girls to flirt with, his best friend and fellow cancer survivor Tad has ended up in a wheelchair, and Jeff’s big brother, the person he always looks up to, has “run away” to Africa to find himself. Somehow, Jeff will have to survive eighth grade, and this very funny book show how he does that.

~ Geri Diorio, currently reading The Forest Unseen by David George Haskell

Divining Dystopias

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Rashika Rao, age 14.

Ever since The Hunger Games, the craze for teen dystopias has escalated exponentially- are the novels going past the point of no return? This teen certainly thinks so. As more and more YA dystopian novels are written and published, the authors all seem to be forgetting the difference between writing in the same genre and writing with the same outline.

Recently, I’ve started to realize just how cliché dystopian novels are: it’s getting to the point where, if you just give me the first couple pages and a couple of character names, I can often predict an entire series’ main plot line.

Here is a list of what I think are the top 10 clichés in modern dystopian novels (in no particular order):
1. Dysfunctional government: there is always something wrong with the governmental system.

Some people like to argue that that’s the point of a dystopian novel. But if you look up the definition of a dystopia, it qualifies as a “an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad.” (verbatim from Google).

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d like something worse to happen than corrupt government every now and then.

Another quick point: why are these officials always so violent? Torture, secret kidnappings, you name it, they’ve got it. The excuse is always that no one will stand up to them. But, quoting my AP U.S. History teacher here, “when you keep pushing people into a corner, eventually they’re going to push back.” Well, you defenders will say, that’s the point of the rebellion/rising/see #7! Okay. Fine. But how does our main character oh so conveniently get tangled up with them? And why is she/he (mostly she) always the key to their success?

Something everyone always forgets: These characters are just children. Since when have adults trusted children this much?

2. The age “16″ for the main character:

Okay, this is a HUGE one. Remember that time when all middle-grade book characters were thirteen? This is heading in the same direction. Actually, it’s already there! YA fiction is read by teens, ages 13 through 18. If you keep giving all those adventures to the 16 year olds, what 17 year old is still going to believe in a storybook ending? The younger kids look even more forward to their 16th birthday than they already do. And people wonder why kids grow up too fast….

16. Sweet sixteens, the legal driving age, the square number of a square number. I can see why society might want it as the perfect age. But when every character is pretty much the same age, I might start thinking that either there was a mass giveaway of courage and intellect two years before I was born or that 16 is the only year worth living. And since neither of those is true, I suggest a large shift in how we pick our characters’ ages.

3. Strange society initiations and/or rituals- many times they have to do with bloodshed:

So basically what they’re saying here is that I have to pass some crazy (usually scary or painful) test in order to be accepted. Huh. Sounds like high school.

I don’t think anyone wants real life to be like high school.

4. Love triangles: My #1 problem with dystopian novels. And, more recently, all novels.

Let’s be honest for a second here, the main character ALWAYS chooses the second guy/girl in the triangle.

*I’ll pause while you all try to yell exceptions at the computer screen*

Yes, I know, there are exceptions. But the ratio? About 1….. in a billion.

One other vitally important point here: We’ve already clarified that our main character is sixteen, right? So why on earth does she/he have to pick out their true love right away? Can’t she/he wait, get her/his job done, and then turn to their love life? Or, even better, get an education, and then think about it? I mean, if the guy (or girl) won’t wait for you, they’re not worth it anyways. An easy way of weeding out potentials. Dystopian heroes, you should all thank me.

5. The mysterious ability for key characters (usually adults) to believe the main character and in what they are doing:

I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I tried to convince even my parents that
a) the world was ending
b) the government was secretly controlling our lives
c) there was a rebellion and we should join it
d) we should fight to the death for a cause we barely believe in
e) everything they knew was a lie
then the most probable response would be a good fit of laughter, and then a temperature check to make sure I wasn’t delirious and running a fever.

So how can our dystopian heroes convince total strangers so quickly?

- It can’t be their charm, because it’s constantly repeated about how they have little to no social skills
- It can’t be their family, because they’ve got to be all alone in this “brave new world”
- Oh, I know! It must be love interest #2 a.k.a. “the winner”! So that’s why main characters keep them along. I understand now!<note my sarcasm>.

But, taking this a little more seriously, there can’t be that many willing-to-trust-on-the-spot people out there, especially adults. Actually, that would make a great novel, one where everyone trusts the main character, who’s secretly part of an evil plot against what they pretended to believe in.

6. Main character’s convenient possession of the one “key trait” that either overshadows all the rest, or is the key to their survival (and sometimes even both):

To clarify what I’m talking about, here are some examples:
Katniss Everdeen’s archery (The Hunger Games)
Malencia Vale’s metalworking skills (The Testing)
West Grayer’s knife skills (Dualed)

Basically, the one skill that just happens to be useful, to be the skill that keeps them alive. I don’t know. You could put up a reasonably decent argument against it, I suppose, but it really does annoy me. It would be interesting to see a ‘jack-of-all-trades, master of none,’ character. Or a character whose strengths lie entirely in the mind. I don’t mean they’re smart so they can build stuff, but smart as in they know things, things that could help them get out of sticky situations simply through wit of the word.

7. Major secret rebellion/rising that always exists and is joined (even temporarily) by the main character:

This in a way wraps back to the ‘dysfunctional government’ theme, but now onto the rebels’ side. Why does there even need to be rebels? And if there is such an oppressing need, why doesn’t the main character start the rebellion instead of just showing up and playing hero? You could also tie this up with the ‘trusting’ adults thing. Many times the main character gets recruited because they are either

a) saved by the rebels
b) ‘they’ve been watching’.

And why do these rebellions never really get anywhere without enlisting the help of our sixteen year old M.C.?
^^ If someone can answer that I will give you an internet hug *laughs* but I don’t think anyone can….

8. That one family member that’s secretly allied with the rebels the entire time:

Okay, I don’t know about you, but I would be super annoyed if I found out that my parents or my sister were secretly part of a plan to bring down the (hypothetically controlling) government/start a new society. I don’t know if this would be because I’d be shocked they’d think of something like that, or mad that they didn’t invite me.

On the other hand, if I was the main character in a dystopian novel, then I guess that this could be useful, since we’ve already established that I join this thing too. Someone on the inside on my side is definitely a thing I could use.

‘Course, I wouldn’t want to be them, because 9 times out of 10 that character dies.

9. The parent problem- what happened to regular old wonderful parents?:

Dead parents, abusive parents, runaway parents, secret parents, lying parents, disappearing parents, parents you never knew you had with your siblings you never knew you had….. WHAT happened to regular old amazing loving parents? I love my parents, and I don’t think that their existence would impact a dystopian novel all that much. It would probably actually be helpful. But no author wants parents hanging around their fictional world. They’d interfere with everything (As they should- that’s their job). So why not just get rid of them in some new ‘creative’ way?

And (to relate to #8) it’s a bit hard to believe that our main character’s mom/dad/both were secretly involved in the same challenge their kid is facing now. Because the chances of that are less than the chances of of having a dystopian novel without a love triangle.

Bring back real parents!

10. The “ONLY solution” is always to kill the “corrupt” leader(s):

Well, this ranks number one for violence.

Okay, how many different ways are there to remove a person from office without killing them? (You can think Student Council elections, if you want, it might make it easier.)

There is one glaringly easier way: #gossip.

Gossip. Lies. Slander. All of these could be used to get rid of so-and-so from government. It just needs to be spread in the right way. ‘But there isn’t enough time. There isn’t enough people to do all that!’ my favorite rebuker might say.

Wait. Go back 3 topics ago. Yeah. That major rebellion/rising? Lots of people willing to take down a government, and all conveniently in one place as well. And there’s more than enough time considering how much of it’s been wasted while they sit around ‘training’ and waiting for the main character to show up.

‘Okay, fine. But gossip? Lies? Isn’t that too low?’ they might say.

And killing someone isn’t?

This generation. (Oh wait, that includes me. And I suppose I made up my dystopian defender too…..).

Coming back to the main point, in reality, this list could go on and on (it took me a while to narrow it down), but I doubt anyone would actually be interested in reading it all. Nor I the patience to type it all out.

So, is it just me that’s noticed this? I wrote an entire poem about it in class last year (while supposed to be watching a movie, but still….) and when I showed it to my friends, they seemed to agree with me, so I don’t think I’m just being paranoid.

Now, for every “copy and paste” cliché out there, there are some great counterexamples. (Dystopian defender, I will make you proud.) Some of my favorites, and how they rank on the RAO SIMULATE SCALE (which measures cliché-ness from Outline [1] to Original [10]):

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
dysfunctional government: NO (+1)
age 16: NO (+1)
society initiation: YES (+0)
love triangle: NO (+1)
mysterious ability of key adults to believe in main character: SORT OF (+0.5)
convenient possesion of key trait that overshadows all others: NO (+1)
major secret rebellion/rising: NO (+1)
that one family member secretly allied with the rebels: NO (+1)
parent problem: YES (+0)
only solution = kill corrupt leader: YES (+0)
Final Score: 6.5

For Darkness Shows the Stars - Diana Peterfreund
*quick note- this book is a dystopian adaptation of Persuasion by Jane Austen. But I love it and it’s dystopian, so it’s mentioned here. Just a heads up :)
dysfunctional government: NO (+1)
age 16: NO (+1)
society initiation: NO (+1)
love triangle: NO (+1)
mysterious ability of key adults to believe in main character: SORT OF (+0.5)
convenient possesion of key trait that overshadows all others: NO (+1)
major secret rebellion/rising: NO (+1)
that one family member secretly allied with the rebels: NO (+1)
parent problem: YES (+0)
only solution = kill corrupt leader: NO (+1)
Final Score: 8.5

The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart
Honestly, I have been reading this book since second grade and I didn’t realize it was dystopian until this year.
dysfunctional government: SORT OF (+0.5)
age 16: NO (+1)
society initiation: NO (+1)
love triangle: NO (+1)
mysterious ability of key adults to believe in main character: SORT OF (+0.5)
convenient possession of key trait that overshadows all others: SORT OF (+0.5)
major secret rebellion/rising: NO (+1)
that one family member secretly allied with the rebels: NO (+1)
parent problem: YES (+0)
only solution = kill corrupt leader: NO (+1)
Final Score: 7.5

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
I highly doubt this book will get a very high rating on the RAO SIMULATE SCALE but one thing to consider is that of all dystopian novels, THG was pretty much the first. And best. And one of the best.
dysfunctional government: YES (+0)
age 16: YES (+0)
society initiation: YES (+0)
love triangle: YES (+0)
mysterious ability of key adults to believe in main character: SORT OF (+0.5)
convenient possesion of key trait that overshadows all others: YES (+0)
major secret rebellion/rising: YES (+0)
that one family member secretly allied with the rebels: NO (+1)
parent problem: YES (+0)
only solution = kill corrupt leader: YES (+0)
Final Score: 1.5

I think I should quickly point out here that all of the above books are dystopian novels that I read and really enjoyed. Just because THG got a rating of 1.5 doesn’t mean the actual book is any worse than For Darkness Shows the Stars with a rating of 8.5. The ratings are purely the result of testing a book against my ten observations. So if you decide to test a book on my scale and it gets a low grade, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad book. (Just a very cliché one.)

- Rashika Rao is a fourteen year old Sagittarian sophomore who loves making videos, playing tennis, the study of space, and the number four. (And, obviously, reading.) She learned to read at a ridiculously young age – and thanks her mother heavily for that gift.

For the In-Betweeners

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s KT Massey.

When I was working my way through John’s Green books, I stumbled upon Will Grayson, Will Grayson. At the time I was a person who believed in gay rights the same way I believed my school should win its football games; casually and without much real knowledge or experience. I don’t want to say this book changed my life. But it introduced me to books that were unapologetically about queer people.

Another thing this book didn’t do: make me reach out for other books with non-heteronormative narratives. The novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Bejamin Alire Saenz did. When I picked it up I had no idea it was about two gay teens. But by the end I was struck by the depth of their relationship and the subtlety with which Saenz crafted their world and characters. He didn’t write a book about being gay or Hispanic or poor, so much as a book about being human. After this I scoured Goodreads, YA blogs, and tumblr for more. I can across and read Hero by Perry Moore, The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George, and Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You: A Novel by Peter Cameron, among others. Then I realized something about these books that was different from Aristotle and Dante.

They were all white. All the teens were white. And most were male and gay. I realized the books I was looking at, reading, and being recommended lacked characters of color, characters who were bisexual, characters who weren’t cisgender, and characters who fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum rather than at the two ends. A lack of people who are somewhere in-between. I didn’t just notice this in books. I noticed this in TV shows, in news about only G in LGBTQ, in magazines, in movies, and so many other times of art and media.

If you look at the stats:

Of YA LGBTQ characters:

  • 50% are male
  • 25% are female
  • 4% are trans/queer gender

Of YA main characters:

  • 83% are white
  • 7% are black
  • 3% of characters are Asian, Native American, Latin@
  • >1% are Middle Eastern

If you look hard enough you can find books with characters who are both nonwhite and non-straight. Novels like Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez, I am J by Cris Beam, and Huntress by Malinda Lo are popular.  However, they too often seem lonely because they feature narratives with characters who don’t just have one “difference.” They cross the line that says you only need to be colored OR gay to fill a diversity quota. All too often the narratives we find comfortable, find exciting, find worth publicizing, are the ones with characters of easily definable single labels.

Looking back, the first characters of queerness I ever read were Daja(black and bisexual) from The Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce and Magnus Bane (Asian and bisexual) from The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. They also turned out to be people of color and not just male and gay. Magnus is a effeminate man and Daja is a female.  Daja’s struggle with the color of her skin, and later both her and Magnus’ openness about being bisexual were truly inspiring to me. However, both characters are either part of ensemble cast or a minor character. As complex and diverse as they are, we need more. We need more novels with characters like them and more people not only willing to read books with them, but seek them out.

I am both bisexual and biracial. I am an in-betweener. Somewhere between gay and straight, Chinese and American. Being one in no way demeans the other. But coming to terms with both labels took time, confidence, and a support structure. Books are, and were, a huge part of my, and others’, support structures. Without characters and authors we can look up to and see ourselves in, it will be harder be honest or proud or hopeful about who we are.

So if you aren’t an in-betweener; look at the books you’re reading. Are they only full of white cisgender straight males? If you are an in-betweener; don’t give up. Just look harder, be brave, and keep reading.

For further reading:

~ Between reading and writing, KT likes cooking Tiramisu and shopping at thrift stores.

Hunger Games Actress Willow Shields Invites You to Celebrate Teen Read Week™

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 12:21

Happy Teen Read Week™!

Hunger Games actress Willow Shields, who plays Primrose Everdeen in the franchise, invites you to celebrate Teen Read Week and Turn Dreams into Reality @ your library, October 12-18,2014!

Join in on the conversation by using the hashtag, #TRW14 and feel free to share this video, as well as your events, stories, and pictures with others on our Teen Read Week site!


Batgirl of Burnside: A New Take on an Old Favorite

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 07:00

Batgirl is my favorite superhero. Not just any Batgirl, though: Barbara Gordon is my hero. She is smart, strong, and an information professional! She has been portrayed as a librarian, an information broker for other heroes, and, in younger versions, as a tech-savvy student.

Barbara “Babs” Gordon first appeared as Batgirl in 1967, six years after the first ever appearance of a Batgirl. Most often, Babs is the daughter of Commissioner Gordon and works as part of the Bat-family alongside Batman and Dick Grayson’s Robin; however, there are variations to this in the many portrayals of her.

Batgirl has always presented as a strong female character, fighting with male heroes as an equal. She served as an important figure in conversations regarding female representation in comics after she was sexually assaulted and paralyzed during a violent attack in Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke. As this event became part of the canon, the now wheelchair-bound Barbara Gordon once again gave voice to an under-represented population in comics when she left behind her Batgirl cowl and became Oracle, an information broker who supports superheros fighting on the streets.

In 2011, the DC Universe went through a reboot of sorts with the New 52. Under Gail Simone, who had been writing Barbara Gordon as Oracle, this relaunch saw Babs going through rehabilitation, regaining the use of her legs, and heading back out to kick some baddies’ behinds as Batgirl, once again.

Over the summer it was announced that there would be a new run of Batgirl comics by the creative team of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr. The basic breakdown is that Barbara Gordon would be moving to Burnside, the hipster neighborhood of Gotham, where she would experience the life of a young woman trying to balance school, a social life, and a gig as a crime-fighting superhero. In an interview with MTV, Fletcher described their efforts as “the best elements of Veronica Mars and Girls, with a dash of Sherlock thrown in for good measure.” My immediate thoughts? This. Sounds. Awesome.

The first issue of this run was released on October 8th (Batgirl #35). This issue sets the stage for exactly what Stewart, Fletcher, and Tarr said it would be and it does it in the best possible way. Babs is having fun while partying with friends, struggling to pay for her education, and fighting jerks who violate the privacy of others.

There have been many critics of the new take, including many who were turned off by the cover art alone which portrays Batgirl taking a mirror-selfie in a club bathroom (see above). But why shouldn’t there be a comic that appeals to a generation growing up with selfies, hashtags, and online hookup sites? Babs is still using her brain and her fighting skills to solve mysteries and catch the baddie. The comic also portrays characters of color and LGBTQ characters as part of Barbara’s social circle beginning on the first page of the first issue, once again bringing under-represented populations to the pages of a mainstream comic.

This comic is an excellent recommendation for fans of YA, in particular fans of contemporary YA. Overall, it’s a light-hearted, fun, superhero story with a strong female lead. It may not be for everyone, but it may just be the thing for someone who has not found a comic that has spoken to them before.

- Jessica Lind, currently re-reading Paper Towns by John Green

The Hashtag that can Change the (Literary) World

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Amy Yoelin from Colorado.

Earlier this year, during the time that BookCon was being held, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, and noticed a similar hashtag among the authors, publishers, and booksellers I follow: #WeNeedDiverseBooks. These four words capture what has been absent from current and previously published novels of all genres, but especially those pertaining to young adult and children’s fiction.

So why discuss the topic now? For BookCon, they hold the prized panel of “Blockbuster Reads,” which includes the promotion of many buzzed about authors. For example, 2014’s “Blockbuster Reads” panel featured Rick Riordan, James Patterson, Lemony Snicket, and Jeff Kinney. What do these four authors have in common? Besides being male, they are all Caucasian.

Angered by this line-up, lead curator of #WeNeedDiverseBooks Ellen Oh joined forces with twenty-two members of the publishing industry, both official and nonofficial, to do something about this. Hence, the movement #WeNeedDiverseBooks was born and bred.

What exactly does #WeNeedDiverseBooks stand for? The overall message is that diversity of all forms (LQBTQ, race, disabilities, culture, religious) should be represented in novels, especially those for the children and teen audience. Why target this age group, and not adults, per se? Books can have more of an influence on children and teens, helping them develop a more open mind about people from all walks of life. In addition, children and teens can have the opportunity to form (hopefully abundant) connections with protagonists in novels, as opposed to simply relating to various protagonists.

Prestigious authors (especially those who write young adult and children’s fiction) have pledged their full support to this movement. For example, Gayle Forman—author of the popular novels If I Stay, Where She Went and many more—posted a picture of her with her two daughters, expressing the need for novels to highlight diversity. In addition, readers of all backgrounds and ages took a stand in the fight for #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Pictures range from children holding up signs, to teens voicing their opinions. Social media was widely used to promote #WeNeedDiverseBooks, in which various authors, publishers, booksellers, bloggers and readers tweeted why they needed diverse books in under 140 characters. / Via

Maybe you are thinking to yourself, “I want to contribute to this movement, but I’m not an author.” So? You are a reader. You have a voice (unless you have strep throat). Demand a change within the literary realm. Pass along books that underline diversity to friends and family. If you know children or teens, encourage them to read books of diverse backgrounds. If you know a teacher, stress the importance of educating students with diverse texts.

All in all, the best advocacy is to directly publicize the message being presented. By spreading the word of literature that includes diversity, #WeNeedDiverseBooks can become employed by publishers, students, teachers, and readers alike.


Hello! My name is Amy Yoelin, and I’m an eighteen-year-old student at the University of Northern Colorado. Yes, my major is English. Yes, I want to work with young adult and children’s literature after I graduate from college. Yes, I like to read and write. Yes, I’ll stop assuming you’re asking these questions.

The Monday Poll: YA Lit Parents Who Deserve Their Own Books

Sun, 10/12/2014 - 23:13

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you to choose your favorite football-themed YA title, and your top pick was Crossing Lines by Paul Volponi, with 35% of the vote, and Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock was a close second with 32%. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, we want to know which parents in YA lit you think deserve their own book. After all, mother knows best. Who would you want to read about? Vote in the poll below, or add your choice in the comments!

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

Assigned Reading: It’s Okay to Love the Enemy

Sun, 10/12/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Today’s post is by Thien-Kim from California.

The other day, while I was looking at the recent #BookChallenge trend on Facebook, where users post a list of their top 10 favorite books, I noticed a comment written by someone who refused to participate. It was something along the lines of “Sorry, not doing this, school has completely deprived me of the ability to enjoy reading anymore.”

Given, this isn’t a particularly uncommon sentiment. But if you think about it, isn’t it a little bit ironic, since that’s the exact opposite of what school is supposed to do—which is to fuel your enjoyment of reading? So that you may learn to Appreciate Literature and become a Productive Member of Society?!

I’ve always wondered how assigned books affect us. Often, we curse them for wasting our time, yet reread them years later. In an article for The Big Read, BBC estimates that out of 100 significant and beloved novels, most people have read approximately six. That number would probably be much lower if schools didn’t assign classics, but whether or not we liked and remembered these books is a whole different topic.

While the idea of being told to do something is not very appealing, if there’s reading involved, it can still result in happy consequences. If I hadn’t been forced to read The Glass Menagerie, I wouldn’t have known that I liked plays, particularly Tennessee Williams plays. Sometimes I’m glad that it was assigned, because there’s no way I would have picked up something that boring-looking in my free time. If I hadn’t, though, I probably wouldn’t have read A Streetcar Named Desire, which has become one of my favorite stories from any kind of fiction.

It’s likely that many of us wouldn’t have found our most beloved tales if we hadn’t been forced to read them first. School-assigned books are often a favorite to complain about (has anyone actually picked up a copy of Les Misérables with one hand?), but they also sometimes turn out to be newfound treasures that we carry throughout our lives. Inevitably, though, we will still have to tread through books we hate, but at least it sharpens our lifelong reading skills so that we can go through the dystopian romance novels a little faster.

Whether you want to read Pretty Little Liars or War and Peace, you’ll still be doing the same thing: enjoying stories, regardless of whether they were found in a classroom or because of a TV show. Even if you fervently prefer one over the other, it’s almost impossible to deny that assigned books and read-for-fun books often share a lot of the same universal appeal. You can find a great love story anywhere, whether you spend your summer vacation with Heathcliff and Cathy, or Hazel and Gus. So if you want to enjoy your assigned reading a little more, don’t think of it as homework—think of it as an excuse to get your hands on another book!

And what better way is there to enjoy books than by finding connections between your very favorite ones? If you are itching to get some (re)reading done, here is a brief list of must-read books that are commonly assigned in high school. Each comes with a corresponding YA book that might strike your fancy if you liked the first!

  • If you enjoyed Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, you might also like Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.
  • Did you like Brave New World by Aldous Huxley? If so, take a quick look at Cinder by Marissa Meyer.
  • If you like The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, check out one modern retelling in Great by Sara Benincasa.
  • If you still like The Great Gatsby, you might be intrigued by The Clay Lion by Amalie Jahn— because who says you can’t repeat the past?
  • If you’re itching to find a new copy of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, you should also get The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare.
  • If you’d rather read The Catcher in The Rye by J.D. Salinger, don’t forget to also pick up Looking for Alaska by John Green.
  • If you really enjoyed The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, you might enjoy Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.
  • If you never got to read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and are thinking of getting it now, also try Miracle’s Boys by Jacqueline Woodson.
  • If you’re obsessed with 1984, try Incarceron by Catherine Fisher.
  • And if you fell in love with Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, you might just like Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

A book assigned by your teacher might not seem like a fun weekend activity, but it might get you interested in things that you never knew about. You might have to stay up until 2 A.M. to catch the movie version of it, or you might become a better reader. It might change your perspective about other books, or about life, or it might actually be fun to read. Of course, even if none of these things are remotely true, at least you can say you polished off yet another one of the great American classics! There’s always a chance that you might need to discuss it at a dinner party someday.

Do you have any fond/traumatizing/significant memories with school-assigned books? Leave a comment below!

Thien-Kim loves fiction (especially dystopian novels and short stories) and is a big fan of The Hub! Her non-writing hobbies include talking about writing, eating ice cream bars, reading, and discussing TV shows.