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Month in Review: May 2017

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 07:00

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

At the Hub

Books & Reading
  • SLJ’s Xpress Reviews of May releases, including Melissa De la Cruz’s new novel.
  • Do you know yet about Salaam Reads? See this interview with Hena Khan and Karuna Riazi.
  • YALSA’s Bookfinder is fully up and running and is such a great resource.  Check it out now if you haven’t yet!
  • New Releases for May including some from our favorite authors: Sarah J Maas, Julie Murphy, Jenny Han, and Renee Ahdieh.
  • May was Mental Health Awareness month, and mental health is a topic very popular in YA lit currently.  See this reading list from YA Highway for books featuring depression, anxiety, eating disorders and more.
Movies & TV
  • A Grasshopper Jungle movie continues to inch forward.
  • Have you been following #FindFinch?  Jennifer Niven is posting weekly on Mondays with a new potential actor to play Finch in the film adaptation of All the Bright Places (Elle Fanning is set to play Violet).
  • Shadowhunters, the wildly popular TV show based on Cassandra Clare’s books is renewed for a third season coming in 2018, while we impatiently wait for the drop of new episodes (Season 2B) on June 5th. 
Video Games In the News
  • Let’s get our government to support libraries in the federal budget!
  • 13 Reasons Why, opening communication?  Or encouraging suicide ideation?  Tara’s post on the Librarian who doesn’t say shhhh blog about paternalism and censoring for the sake of the children is spot on for librarians promoting the Right to Read (and view :) )  Also check out these reusable infographics about teen dating violence and suicide.
Just for Fun
  • Fan Art – Have you ever daydreamed about how your favorite characters look IRL?  Have you wished you could have their faces plastered all over your walls?  Welcome to the world of Fan Art.  Think of your favorite characters, and I guarantee someone has drawn them for you.  Tumblr is a great place to discover artists, and if you want to buy prints, Etsy, RedBubble, and society6 are great places to shop.


— Cathy Outten, currently reading Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner


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Women in Comics – 2017 Eisner Award Nominees

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 07:00

The 2017 Eisner Award nominees are here and once again they include a number of female creators. Though there are too many to list, below are some noteworthy nominees that you may want to add to your reading list or library collection.

Beasts of Burden returns this year in a standalone story named What The Cat Dragged In, which earned a Best Single Issue/One-Shot nomination for Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, and Jill Thompson. In addition to being a good new story in this universe, it is a great starting place for those who haven’t read Beasts of Burden in the past. This is also a great recommendation for any horror fans you may know.

Not surprisingly, Fiona Staples has two personal nominations (for Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team and Best Cover Artist) and a nomination with Brian K. Vaughan for Best Continuing Series all for her great work on Saga. If you don’t already have this series in your library, you should definitely consider it for your older comic fans.

The Best Limited Series has two great nominees by women. Marjorie Liu and Mark Brooks’ Han Solo limited series is perfect for your library’s Star Wars and science fiction fans. Follow Han’s adventures as a spy for the rebellion and find out more about this iconic character along the way. Kim & Kim, Volume 1: This Glamorous, High-Flying Rock Star Life by Magdalene Visaggio and Eva Cabrera is a very different take on interplanetary adventure, which follows two queer women named Kim as they become space bounty hunters. Filled with fun, friendship, diversity and great art, this book will thrill your comic book fans.

This year is also a good one for female-led superhero comics. Both Faith by Jody Houser, Pere Pérez, and Marguerite Sauvage and Mockingbird by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk are nominated in the Best New Series category and both of them offer fresh takes on the superhero genre that is sure to appeal to fans of high-quality female representation and excellent superhero comics.

In the Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17) category, four of the five nominees come from female creators. The nominees in this category also include two more great female superhero series, with both Batgirl by Hope Larson and Rafael Albuquerque and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson garnering nominations. Both are great for teen readers and combine humor with fun adventures.

Erica Henderson earned a second nomination in the same category for her work with Chip Zdarsky, Ryan North, and Derek Charm on Jughead (which itself was also nominated for Best Humor Publication). The series focuses on Jughead’s quest to make sure that the school cafeteria doesn’t replace its normal tasty options with healthy food and is perhaps best known for the fact that it features Jughead coming out to his friends as asexual. It’s a good option for fans of both Archie comics and the new Riverdale series on the CW, though it does offer a different take on the character.

Also nominated in this category are Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars by Jessica Abel, which combines roller derby (or in this case hover derby) with life in space for an engaging romp, and Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, which is a dark and violent tale of fantasy set in a steampunk version of Asia where humans and Arcanics are at war.

All of these comics are sure to delight comic fans at your library and entice a whole new audience to give comics a try. Be sure to consider these and other Eisner nominees when you are looking to build your comic and graphic novel collection.

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#QP2018 Nominees: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson and Overturned by Lamar Giles

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 14:54

Questionable Convictions: Guilty, or Not Guilty?

The emergence of advanced scientific forensics has resulted in the ability to re-evaluate convictions. DNA via hair, blood, saliva and other bodily fluids have been used to overturn some guilty convictions for violent crimes. Newer technologies can pinpoint details better. Highly trained dogs can sniff out corpses or drugs. Appeals must be filed, but rarely a change in verdict results. With so many crime fiction and forensic television shows on the air, it may look easier than it is in reality.

These two Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers delve into this world of questionable convictions and their suspenseful plots and gritty topics make them great books for readers interested in the criminal justice system.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen Books
January 24, 2017
ISBN: 9780062422644

The jury said she did it. The media said she did it. Only nine years old and convicted for manslaughter, Mary B. Addison didn’t say anything. Three-month-old Alyssa was in the care of her babysitter, Mary’s mother, when she died of suspicious circumstances while sleeping in Mary’s room. Six years later Mary, now fifteen, is released from “baby jail” and is living in a supervised group home wearing an ankle monitor. The issue-oriented storyline is brought to the forefront when a pregnant Mary now finally wants to attempt to clear her name, so that her own baby is not taken away by social services.

This dramatic hook grabs the reader’s attention very quickly, and pacing intensifies throughout the saga. Although flawed in character, Mary is somewhat vulnerable and garners sympathy at times. Portrayed by the media as a baby killer with rage tendencies, Mary struggles with revealing her true self while in a group home with violent criminals as roommates. The home is a menacing place full of bullying, brutality, theft, and much verbal abuse.  

While performing her community service hours at a local nursing home, she meets Ted and begins a discreet relationship. Ted has his own demons, and does not inquire about Mary’s crime or Alyssa. He supports her quest to take the SAT and go to college, but his methods are sometimes dubious. Readers may find themselves rooting for Mary as she is bullied in the group home, just wanting to study for the SAT and do the best she can for her future baby.

With the looming threat of social services taking the baby, Mary brings a lawyer into the equation. Divulging information that may incriminate her mother while exonerating herself, some involved with the case become swayed. Even baby Alyssa’s mother advocates on Mary’s behalf. The complex relationship Mary has with her own mother unfolds as readers learn more about that fateful night. The intense, gritty descriptions of the group home, cultural implications, and other challenges Mary faces are engaging and hauntingly realistic. The effect of the media condemning Mary’s situation is thought-provoking and on target.

Aficionados of Paul Volponi’s Riker’s High, Gary D. Schmidt’s Orbiting Jupiter, and Piper Kerman’s book inspired television series, Orange is the New Black, are ideal readers for author Tiffany D. Jackson’s first novel.

-Lisa Krok

Overturned by Lamar Giles
Scholastic Press
March 28, 2017
ISBN: 9780545812504

Nikki Tate’s father has been on death row for the past five years. During that time, she has taken the lead on running their family owned casino, running illegal card games to save money for escaping Vegas and going away to college. When new evidence overturns her dad’s conviction, he is released from death row, obsessed with finding out who set him up for killing his best friend over a gambling dispute. However, Nikki’s time with her dad is limited, as he is murdered shortly after returning from prison. Nikki is determined to find both her father’s killer and the person who set him up to go to jail in the first place.

The Las Vegas atmosphere is fast paced and intriguing.  The attention-grabbing premise and the drama of her father’s release and sudden violent death drives the plot. A strong African-American female, Nikki embraces her independence, which surfaces in her character as both spirited and gutsy.  At first, cash is what entices Nikki, as she maneuvers wagers to exploit easy marks in back room games of Texas Hold’em.  Pacing intensifies as Nikki investigates her father’s ordeal. Along the way, she begins a relationship with Davis Carlino, son of rival casino owner, “Big Bert” Carlino.  When Nikki’s reveals her new relationship to her mother, a deeper rivalry with secrets from the past emerges.  Readers become further engrossed in what could be Nikki’s biggest gamble of all, her safety, as the gritty dark side of Vegas threatens to keep its secrets at all costs.

Overturned is a great fit for crime fiction readers, especially Jennifer Lynn Barnes series, The Naturals and The Fixer, and Joe Schreiber’s Con Academy. Additionally, television viewers of Riverdale and the original CSI, set in Las Vegas, will relish this casino-based crime mystery.

-Lisa Krok and Jessica Ormonde

Find all of the 2018 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers nominees in the index or browse the posts.

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Monthly Monday Poll: Favorite Dual-Market *Nonfiction* Author

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 07:00

It’s time for the monthly poll!

Last month, a reader (and YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Honor writer!) pointed out that while I said the poll was asking about “authors,” based on the options provided, what it was really asking about was fiction authors. So true! My *personal* reading habits are heavily biased towards fiction, and it’s showing in the poll! So this month, I’m taking up the excellent suggestion to run a poll featuring nonfiction authors who write for multiple audiences. I’m sure I’ve missed some good ones; please shout them out in the comments!

The results for Fiction dual-market authors were as follows: Neil Gaiman and J.K. Rowling ran away with the 1st and 2nd spots, with 34% and 25% of the vote, respectively. Next up was Meg Cabot (11%), then Sherman Alexie (9%). Kelley Armstrong and James Patterson both snagged 6%, then Victoria/V.E. Schwab (5%), Isabel Allende (3%), and Julie Buxbaum (1%). Fiction authors I neglected to include given shout-outs in the comments are: Kim Harrison, Melissa de la Cruz, Melissa Marr, Stephanie Meyer, MaryJanice Davidson, Ellen Hopkins, Holly Black, and Rick Riordan. Also, you guys, I can’t believe I forgot to include Terry Pratchett!!

Putting the below poll together showed me that a) there are a lot of nonfiction authors who write exclusively for either adults or young people. It was challenging to find those writing for both, although as we’ve established above, Nonfiction is not my greatest area of strength! Please let me know in the comments authors I’ve neglected to include, and b) I’ve been missing out on way too many fascinating-looking titles in my fiction cave. I must’ve added over 20 titles to my to-read list while putting this poll together!

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

—Carly Pansulla, currently reading The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

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Interview with Alex Award winner Ryan North

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 07:00

I didn’t read too many Young Adult books as a teenager because I was a fool and thought I was better than them. Obviously, the joke is on me because YA books are incredible and that’s basically all I read these days. But this is one of the reasons why I love the Alex Awards. Sometimes teens just fit better with adult books and I love that YALSA supports those teens. Maybe they’ll even come to revisit young adult books in their adulthood just like me. So when we Hub writers were offered the chance to interview Alex Award winners, I jumped at the chance. When I heard Ryan North was one of the interviewees, I LEAPT at the chance.

Image via Goodreads

If you don’t know Ryan North’s work you should get on that yesterday. North is the writer of the hilarious Dinosaur Comics as well as the Harvey and Eisner award winning writer of the Adventure Time comics. North is no stranger to the Youth Media Awards as his Adventure Time comics as well as his Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comics have won entry to the Great Graphic Novels for teens lists in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Most recently his “chooseable path adventure” Romeo and/or Juliet won an Alex Award in 2017. I was able to chat with Ryan via email. Check it out!

Anna Tschetter: You’ve done “chooseable path adventure books” with To Be or Not to Be and now Romeo and/or Juliet and even your Adventure Time comic. Did you read a lot of the classic “Choose your Own Adventure” books as a kid (or a grownup in preparation to write your versions?)

Ryan North: I did! I loved them as a kid and could not understand why adults weren’t reading them. They’re books where YOU get to decide what happens next: what is not to like?  When 30 years later I realized that if I wanted to see these books I guess I should write them myself, I had two advantage, I think: there’s not a lot of books written in the CYOA style for adults, and I could write my book on a computer.  Earlier non-linear narratives tended to be of the “put pieces of paper on a pinboard and connect strings between them for choices”, which obviously limits the scale of stories you can tell, but I could use software to keep track of all the different paths and how they interact with each other – and that really freed me up to try all sorts of new things.

Just as an example: there’s a page early on in the book where you choose your character: Romeo or Juliet.  But then if you play through the book as either of these characters and follow a certain path to its conclusion, you unlock a third playable character: Rosaline!  We figured out how to have unlockable characters in books.  Normally that’s tricky, since you can’t change the state of the book, but what I realized was that you can always change the state of the reader.  So the book tells you a secret for how to unlock Rosaline, and then on your next playthough, when you get to the character select page – which hasn’t changed, obviously – you can now see a way to play as Rosaline.  It’s a neat trick, and I was really happy that we were able to get it to work so well!

AT: Do you think Shakespeare would have been a fan of Romeo and/or Juliet, if we could magically transport him to our age?

RN: I think so!  Shakespeare lived in an era before copyright, so lots of his stories were based on stories he’d read elsewhere.  Romeo and Juliet is of course based on a book he read (“The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet”, Shakespeare definitely improved the title) and the whole “star-crossed lovers” story shows up again in as “Pyramus and Thisbe” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream – characters which are themselves taken from earlier sources.  We think of Shakespeare as being this towering singular genius who invented his stories full cloth, but that wasn’t the case.  I think there’s also room to look at Shakespeare as the world’s greatest remixer, and the world’s greatest fanfic writer.  He took characters and stories he liked and he told them in his own way.  So given all that, I think he’d be into my Romeo and/or Juliet.  I think he’d be into all the Shakespeare stuff that’s around us, actually.

AT: I have to know, any particular thread or ending that is your favorite?

RN: One of my favourite endings is the one I decided on the earliest.  I was trying to look at which Shakespeare play to adapt into the nonlinear choice format, and they don’t all fit.  Hamlet works because it’s structured like a game: get a mission from a ghost to kill the king, build up to it, finally kill the final boss, the end.  It’s a total videogame structure!  But other plays don’t work quite as well: Macbeth’s structure is get a mission from a witch to kill the king, kill the king, and then feel really really guilty about it for 300 pages.  It’s fun to watch on a stage, but less fun in an interactive format: there’s only so far “turn to page 145 to be wracked with guilt” gets you, you know?

And looking at Romeo and Juliet, the one thing that I always found so frustrating was the ending.  It’s a tragedy, and so the tragic ending works, but part of that tragedy is how close it could’ve been to a happy ending.  Juliet (and here I should warn about spoilers for a 400 year old play) fakes her own death, Romeo sees her and thinks she’s dead, kills himself, Juliet wakes up right afterwards, sees Romeo is dead, and kills herself.  THE END, everyone died.  But if Romeo had just delayed five minutes on his way to go see Juliet’s body, just five minutes, then he would’ve arrived when she was waking up, and it would’ve been the happiest ending ever.  I love how that one minor choice – stop to get Juliet some flowers – could swing the story from “total tragedy” to “ridiculously happy ending” so easily.   And so while it was one of the last endings I wrote – I went through the play almost chronologically – it was one of the first endings I knew I wanted to get to, and it’s one of my favourites.  After spending all this time with these characters as I wrote the book, I just wanted to give these kids at least one perfect ending, you know?

AT:.You’ve collaborated with a bunch of other amazing artists for this book, as well as in your work in comics like The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Adventure Time. What is that collaboration process like? And what is your favorite thing about working with other writers and artists?

RN: My favourite thing about working with other artists is getting to see their version of what you wrote.  It’s the greatest feeling in the world!  Even though you were imagining these people in your heads when you wrote it, seeing them drawn – especially by people so talented – makes them real in a way I can’t duplicate.  I can’t get enough.

The process began by meeting with my friend Kate Beaton, who did the original character designs for Romeo, Juliet, and Rosaline.  We’d talk about the characters and what they’re like, then she’d send me some sketches that evolved into final art!  Once we knew the basics (Juliet’s amazing dress and muscles, Romeo’s heart-shaped belt-buckle) I’d send those sketches to the artists, along with a complete map through the book that led to their ending – each ending is illustrated, so each artist got a map to reach their particular ending.

Rather than go to each artist and say “you must draw the characters like this”, I’d say to use Kate’s illustrations as a benchmark, but not do whatever they wanted in their own style.  I think it’s not a HUGE surprise, given the nature of Romeo and/or Juliet, I’m big into seeing other artists’ take on the same source material, and part of the joy of commissioning that art (and, hopefully, in seeing that art as you unlock it with each ending) is seeing the different ways these characters are realized, and how different artists make them cartoony, realistic, emotional, slapstick – the works.

Once the artists had read their pathways and come up with an ending illustration, they’d send over some sketches, I’d approve them, they’d do final art, and we’d put it in the book!  For Noelle Stevenson’s cover, we came up with the idea of showing a bunch of different scenes with Romeo and Juliet and putting arrows between them, and she just took that ball and ran with it.  The result is super great: there’s smooching, there’s fighting, there’s running from a giant robot – everything you want in a cover (and in a book, really)!

AT: Do you have any plans for another Shakespearian Choose Your Own Adventure? Maybe an Othello where he realizes Iago is a jerk or a less power hungry MacBeth?

RN: Haha, I don’t just yet!  I put all the Shakespeare I could think of into this book.  When Juliet fakes her own death she has a dream (a Midsummer Night’s Dream, if you will), that you then get to play through, and when Romeo is banished to Mantua he can visit the library and read his own choose-your-own-path book based on Macbeth called Fair Is Foul and/or Foul Is Fair (I decided it did work well as a mini adventure after all!), and on top of all that there are tiny cameos and segments crossing over with other Shakespeare characters.  But even after all that there’s still lots of Shakespeare left, and it would be interesting to see what Othello is up to….

AT: Finally, are you reading anything right now that you’re really into that you think teens might like, comics or otherwise? (Assuming that they are already really into Dinosaur Comics, Adventure Time, and Squirrel Girl….)

RN: Oh man, there’s so many great books out right now.  Comics wise, you can’t go wrong with Giant Days, Lumberjanes, or Ms. Marvel.  Those are all ongoing series, but a great standalone graphic novel is Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.  Book wise I’m a huge fan of books that make me feel smarter after reading them, so I’d recommend Thing Explainer and What If, both by Randall Munroe. Thing Explainer explains things using only the 1000 most common words (it’s hilarious, but you also learn how Saturn V rockets work) and What If takes ludicrous premises (what if you could throw a baseball at the speed of light?) and explores them fully using science. Spoiler alert for the baseball moving at the speed of light: it does not work out well for ANYONE.

Thank you so much, Ryan! We were so happy to chat with you and congratulations again on your Alex Award.

-Anna Tschetter, currently reading The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi


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Five Podcasts to Try for Fans of “Welcome to Night Vale”

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 09:00

Audio fiction podcasts are finally getting their comeuppance thanks largely to the success of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast. Serialized fiction podcasts are an engaging storytelling medium that is drawing the attention of teens and listeners of all ages. Since its start in June of 2012, this darkly funny podcast with its premise of local radio news show has been enchanting listeners. Set in the sleepy desert town of Night Vale, it has all the government conspiracies and unexplained phenomena of X Files, but are explored with a “News from Lake Wobegon” flavor ala Prairie Home Companion.

The 2015 book Welcome to Night Vale debuted in the top ten on the New York Time’s best seller list and continues to be a teen favorite. The podcast was first produced by Commonplace Books, but is now being produced by the creators own company Night Vale Presents. Night Vale Presents also produces other podcasts “both from the Night Vale artistic team and from other artists with a similar vision for independent, original podcasting.” Be sure to check out Alice Isn’t Dead, The Orbiting Human Circus, and Within the Wires.

Here are five other audio fiction podcasts that are also worth checking out:

The Bright Sessions

Written and directed by Lauren Shippen, this science fiction podcast takes the audio drama format as it follows the therapy sessions of Dr. Joan Bryant a.k.a. Dr. Bright. The struggles of Dr. Bright’s patients are a little atypical as each has their own supernatural ability such as time travel, hearing other people’s thoughts, or feeling other people’s emotions. Each 10-20 minute episode follows one session with recurring characters.

The Hidden Almanac

Created by children’s author/illustrator, Ursula Vernon (Dragonbreath, Hamster Princess, and Castle Hangnail), it has a Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac feel to it mixed with science fiction and horror. Released every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, this 5-minute podcast gives alternative histories of “what happened on this date” told by the immortal plague doctor Reverend Mord. Saint’s feasts days play a prominent role as well as a note of what is happening in the garden which will have everything from flowers, slugs to vetch.


This seven-part science fiction docudrama series from the fictionalize “American Public Radio” has the feel of an NPR produced show such as This American Life or Radiolab. It follows journalist Lia Haddock as she investigates the unexplained disappearances of over three hundred men, women and children from a small town in Tennessee near the Limetown research facility ten-years prior.


A science fiction podcast is set on Earth’s man-made second moon, Typhon. The monotone Sayer is an artificial intelligence being that is self-aware and highly intelligent. Sayer was created to help the new residents of Typhon acclimate to their new lives on the planet and their work at the research facility Ærolith Dynamics. Eerily funny, the world is created as Sayer communicates to a different members of the community, and we learn about a world where there are no bees, but many ways to die.

Wooden Overcoats

Full of dark humor and snark, this sitcom-like podcast is the story of two rivaling undertakers on the fictional Channel Island of Piffling. Rudyard Funn, who has been running his family’s failing funeral parlour now has competition when a new, and much sexier, undertaker Eric Chapman moves into town setting up shop across the town square. Funn will do what it takes to stay in business.

— Danielle Jones is currently reading The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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